Skip to main content

New Borings

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Minister of Power how many experienced mining engineers are on his staff; and what technical consultations take place between his department and the National Coal Board before new borings and reorganisation are undertaken.


asked the Minister of Power what technical consultations have taken place between his Department and the National Coal Board about new borings for coal seams; and whether he will make a statement.

Except for the Mines Inspectorate, there are no mining engineers on my staff. Responsibility for new borings and other individual projects rests with the National Coal Board and there is no technical consultation with my Department about them.

In view of recent events, including the decision to abandon the major part of the production in some Scottish pits, is it not unwise not to have previous technical consultations between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and the National Coal Board before embarking on these adventures? Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the National Coal Board has to be relied upon exclusively in matters of this sort in spite of the extraordinary expenditure involved?

My appraisal of new projects suggested to me by the National Coal Board or other nationalised industries must be essentially an economic one. If I were going to attempt a technical appraisal of the project, I should have to duplicate the whole staff of the National Coal Board. In fact, the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries endorsed this view with the following words:

"Your Committee are in no doubt that the Ministry are right in their refusal to attempt any kind of technical reconsideration."
I would just like to add that this lack of technical staff, right as I think it is, flows essentially from the organisation set up by the right hon. Gentleman when he held my present office.

Can my right hon. Friend say what success the Board has had in boring new coal seams on the edge of my constituency in recent weeks? Will he bear in mind that I have the highest unemployment figure in the North-East and treat the matter as very urgent?

I will certainly take note of what my hon. and gallant Friend says. I do not know offhand what is the answer to his question, but I will find out and let him know.

How does the right hon. Gentleman arrive at an economic assessment—by himself, apparently—without paying some regard to the technical considerations involved?

I manage to do it in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman managed to do it when he was in my office. I do it by taking the advice of the technical experts advising the National Coal Board, and making my own economic assessment of whether the technical appraisal is correct.