asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is aware of the drift of manpower out of the mining industry in South Wales and Monmouthshire, and that insecurity of employment consequent upon the announced closures of pits is accelerating the drift; and whether, to re-establish confidence and ensure the availability of labour for economic pits, he will now set up an interdepartmental committee of the Ministers of Power and Labour, the Board of Trade and the Welsh Office, charged with the task of ensuring that no pit is closed without alternative employment being available for any redundant miners.
asked the First Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if, in view of the economic consequences to the nation of the rapid contraction of the coal mining industry and the lack of confidence in the future of the industry, he will consider the setting up of a co-ordinating committee of representatives from the appropriate Ministries with the task, among others, of considering the halting of pit closures until alternative and suitable employment has been found for the redundant personnel.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether, in view of the accelerating drift of manpower from the mining industry as a consequence of the insecurity of employment in the industry, he will make arrangements for co-ordinating the Board of Trade, Ministry of Power and Ministry of Labour to ensure that the present programme is delayed until suitable alternative employment is available in the areas affected.
As regards manpower trends in the coal industry, I would refer hon. Members to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, to the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) on 3rd May. As regards security of employment, there is no shortage of jobs in the coal mining industry for men who will accept work in different pits. The Government have already taken a wide range of measures to ensure employment outside the industry for those miners who are unable to move to the pits which are short of labour. I can assure my hon. Friends that there are completely adequate arrangements for interdepartmental co-operation on these problems.
Is the Minister aware that one of the reasons why we have 5,000 vacancies in the South Wales pits is because the young dynamic miners feel a sense of insecurity about their present position and are rushing into other industries? Would he ensure, in order to gain the confidence of the miners and obtain the 60,000 or 70,000 new jobs required in South Wales within the next five years, that urgent talks take place with the Board of Trade and that what we in Wales regard as complacency about the present position is ended?
I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no complacency. Some of the matters to which he has referred are matters for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, but he can rest assured that within the Government we are taking this matter extremely seriously.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the nation will require an abundance of additional skill for many years to come? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to bring his personal attention to this problem because of the very humane qualities which his right hon. Friend possesses? Will he ensure that he deals adequately with the disabled miners who are thrown out of work?
The position of the disabled miner is a special matter to which we must give special consideration. On the general question, I think my hon. Friend should refer to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the decline in manpower is creating difficulties and imposing very great hardship upon the disabled? Will he ensure that the Board of Trade and other Ministries are able to bring pressure to bear to see that alternative employment is available for them?
I am absolutely convinced that alternative employment will be available. As my hon. Friend knows, this is by no means entirely the whole of the problem. The problem is becoming a rather different one, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power is considering.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the serious problem of wastage of manpower is by no means confined to South Wales? Is he aware that it is taking place in the East Midlands and in the most productive coalfields. Will he bear in mind that if this goes on many of the premises of the National Plan will be entirely vitiated?
We realise this, and that is why my right hon. Friend is continuing his inquiry into the situation.
Can the hon. Gentleman help to reassure his hon. Friends by asserting that the Government will stand by the coal target contained in the National Plan?
Of course, they will.
Does not the Minister agree that the imperative need is for the Government to issue a national fuel policy for the country, giving the coal industry a clearly defined place?
The coal industry has a very clearly defined place in the national fuel policy. It has to sell as much coal as it possibly can produce at an economic price. This has been made absolutely clear, and there is not a shadow of doubt that we shall continue to require a very substantial output of coal for the foreseeable future.