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Plean And Airth, Stirlingshire

Volume 656: debated on Monday 19 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he had with the National Coal Board regarding the effect on the future employment prospects of the area of the decision by the Board to suspend work on the sinking of a new pit between Plean and Airth in Stirlingshire; and what are the prospects of alternative employment being made available in the light of the recession in the coal industry in this area.

No precise estimate is available of the number of jobs which the new pit would have provided. Employment prospects in the area remain fairly good. I understand that the National Coal Board expects to be able to offer alternative employment to most of its employees who are likely to be displaced this year.

Is the Minister aware that there is a definite possibility of a number of pits closing down in this area in the not too distant future? The suspension of the sinking of this pit means that there is no possibility of future employment for miners in the area. Will the hon. Gentleman use his influence to get this work resumed so as to get down to the coking coal, which is the only coking coal in Scotland that we have at present? At present this coal is being imported from England to fill the needs of many of our basic industries. In view of the fact that local authorities have also provided a considerable number of houses for coal miners in the expectation that the sinking of this new pit would provide work, will the Minister use his influence to try to get the Minister of Power to influence the Coal Board to sink this pit immediately?

I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate that a technical judgment as to whether or not the sinking of a new pit should be proceeded with is hardly for me to make. It is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power to answer that question. I may be able to assure the hon. Member on one point. The Government are concentrating on areas of high and persistent unemployment, and this area is not so bad as some others. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is keeping a very close watch on any pit closures in areas of this kind, and he will help to steer other industry there as it is needed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we have been told about this close watch on the position in Scotland for a long time, but that many of these mining areas may become derelict as a result of pit closures? Is he aware that there are many areas in Scotland in respect of which we want some real initiative and planning directive from the Board of Trade to bring in alternative employment?

The reason why I suggest that he should do so is that there is already a fair amount of diversification of industry. It includes engineering, brewing and distilling, brickmaking, paper and printing, agriculture, construction and textiles. Therefore, his main point is already being met. This is not a question of the complete disruption of the locality because one pit has closed.

Is the Minister aware that these continuing closures and stoppages of mining in Scotland are having a bad effect? What they do is to reduce the total number of jobs available. That is the question to which the Minister should address his attention, in view of the fact that Scotland now has 85,000 unemployed. What we want from the Ministry is some positive action to provide new jobs in these areas.

I can tell the hon. Member—although he probably knows it—that a good deal of industry has already gone to Scotland. It is not a question of its being in the pipeline.

Some industry has already gone there. We are building up on that. I share with the hon. Member the hope that the real build-up will now go forward. I need mention only Bathgate and Ravenscraig.

On a point of order Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.