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National Union Of Mineworkers

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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

No date has been fixed for my next meeting with Mr. Gormley, but I should be glad to see him at any time.

When Arthur Scargill speaks of us having sufficient coal to last for 1,000 years, compared with the usual estimate of 200 or 300 years, does that mean that he has discovered fresh deposits that were previously unknown or that he foresees a much lower rate of depletion than at present? What prospects can the president of the NUM himself offer for the production of coal reaching target levels in the immediate future?

We should recognise the enormous deposits of coal that we have and the extremely good job that the mining industry—both union members and the NCB—has done, especially this winter, to ensure that massive movement of coal has taken place, in adidtion to the coal being produced. Consumption for the 29 weeks to 21 October was 44·08 million tons, as opposed to 39·61 million tons for the same period last year—a massive improvement and an indication of the size and quality of our coal resources.

Will the Minister take into account the fact that we still have 300 years' supply of coal? Will he bear it in mind that the Government's policy, which evidently is for a tremendous increase in nuclear power, should not interfere with the future of the mining industry?

We must not forget that coal is underground and we need to produce it profitably. That is in the interests of all parts of the industry. Government policy on energy strategy relies on a successful coal industry as well as a successful nuclear and conservation policy.