asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the Chairman of the National Coal Board to discuss coal-burn agreements for the generation of electricity.
My right hon. Friend and I meet the Chairman of the Coal Board regularly. When we next meet him we shall wish to discuss the arrangements to implement the Government's decision to make £7 million a year available to enable the National Coal Board and the South of Scotland Electricity Board to conclude a five-year coal supply agreement.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Scottish miners are very grateful to him for his part in negotiating the Government assistance of £35 million over five years to enable the South of Scotland Electricity Board to burn coal in its power stations? Will he ask the NCB to ensure that some of this money is used to benefit collieries such as those in the Longannet project and also Polmaise, in my constituency?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind comments. I think he will agree that the fact that the National Coal Board is about to conclude the agreement will be of advantage not only to people in the Longannet and the Polmaise area but to the whole of the mining industry in Scotland. With the market and the long-term five-year contract, it will mean that the National Coal Board will be able to carry out the new investment and the new sinkings which Scotland requires.
Will the Minister accept my thanks about that investment? Will he also say what kind of consultations his Department and the National Coal Board have with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, as the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for the electricity industry in Scotland?
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments, but I ask him to recall that the £35 million, for example, was the result of a joint working party chaired by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Maximum consultation took place between the office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Department of Energy. Consultation is taking place all the time, largely because, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has responsibility for the South of Scotland Electricity Board.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that with questions of this importance it is necessary to have discussions not only with the Chairman of the National Coal Board but with the chairmen of the generating boards and with the unions in mining and electricity supply?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, but when I answered the previous question I pointed out that the decision arose largely from the recommendations of a working party. All the generating unions were involved in that working party and they all said that there must be a commitment to coal in Scotland.
Will the Minister tell us under what statutory powers he is sanctioning the £35 million?
The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Standing Committee on the Coal Industry Bill. If he studies the legislation about to be passed through the House, he will find that under Clause 2 the statutory authority will be given to my right hon. Friend to earmark this capital sum.