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National Union Of Mineworkers

Volume 932: debated on Monday 16 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers.

My right hon. Friend and I have frequent meetings with NUM leaders to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Do the Minister and the Secretary of State agree that it is high time that we got rid of this tiresome argument about the construction of Drax B? Has the Minister noticed during the last few days the propaganda—ranging from that put out by Woodrow Wyatt to that of the Financial Times—putting forward the Arnold Weinstock line, of which I thought we had heard the last, especially from the Cabinet? Must we not provide the necessary jobs and incomes and ensure a market for coal?

My hon. Friend must be aware that the matter has been considered by the House and that the Secretary of State intimated to the House, when I was present, that he had met the Central Electricity Generating Board on this matter. I am sure that my hon. Friend saw the statement by the Prime Minister on 12th May giving an assurance that the order for Drax B would be made with the minimum of delay.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the order for Drax B will be put out to competitive tender and that the tender will be discussed by the House?

My understanding is that this project will be put out to competitive tender. I cannot say whether it would be specially brought before the House.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the placing of the order for Drax B should not be dependent on the reorganisation of the industry, which is now going forward, and that the order should be placed, as the Minister has already said, without further delay? Does my hon. Friend also agree that when the reorganisation of the industry takes place we should be one of the vested interests making a noise to ensure that the industry is not dominated by one person and that there is a large public stake in the reorganised industry?

The Secretary of State for Industry is dealing with this matter and I am sure that if my hon. Friend put those questions to him my right hon. Friend would be only too pleased to explain the answers.

Will the Minister assure the House that there is Cabinet unanimity on the matter of Drax B?

Will the Minister clarify his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser)? Did he say quite categorically that the order for Drax B, if placed, would be put out to competitive tender?

I said that I understood that when such orders were placed, they were put out to competitive tender. I qualified my statement by saying that I understood it to be so. As for whether the matter would be specially brought before the House, I said that I was not in a position to answer.