Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on pit closures, in the light of his correspondence with the Chairman of the National Coal Board in connection with the Question of the right hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian on 2nd November.
The Minister of Power (Mr. Frederick Lee)
I propose to discuss this matter in the course of the debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill on Thursday.
Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the letter sent to me by the Chairman of the Board was completely uninformative? Is he further aware that there is a feeling, certainly in Scotland, that we are being kept very much in the dark about the extent of the proposed pit closures? Can he give us an undertaking that he will put the facts before us so that we may know whether or not we should endeavour to make representations?
I am surprised to hear this because, from what I have read in the Press, people seem to have been very well informed indeed, but certainly I will try to make the situation as clear as possible on Thursday.
asked the Minister of Power if he will make available to hon. Members in a White Paper the information on pit closures announced by divisional boards on Thursday, 18th November, 1965.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I think that it would be more appropriate for the information to be available in the Vote Office, and I have arranged this.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have seen this information and that half a dozen stapled foolscap sheets with a list of the collieries to be closed is hardly an adequate substitute for a comprehensive White Paper on the eve of an important debate on this matter? Is he aware that this situation will affect hundreds of constituencies? Will he think again and provide us with a White Paper with a full analysis of the closures as soon as possible?
I have received no such complaint until today. It certainly is not any objective of mine to leave people under any illusions about this. I will have a look at it again and, if necessary, see what I can do about it.
I am encouraged by the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, but does he not realise that this is the first opportunity that the House of Commons has had of verbally complaining to him and we are now doing this? Will he bear in mind that the Bill that we are to consider on Thursday demands the writing off of £415 million and that in these circumstances the House of Commons is entitled in the national interest to the fullest possible information?
It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's notice that in the last few weeks we have published two White Papers, one on our general fuel policy and one specifically on colliery closures. I should have thought that the information contained in these White Papers dealt adequately with the points the hon. Gentleman is now raising.