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Coal Industry

Volume 76: debated on Monday 1 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has had any discussions with the chairman of the National Coal Board or others with regard to the possible privatisation or development of cooperatives of the coal industry or part or parts of the coal industry.

Is there any fundamental reason why the United Kingdom-based oil industry should not be nationalised, but the coal industry should be nationalised? Will my right hon. Friend tell us what changes he would like to see in ownership and organisation in this monolithic nationalised monopoly, vital as it is, in 10 years' time on 1 April 1995 in the sixteenth year of our right hon. Friend's premiership?

There were few things on which I agreed with Lord Wilson of Rievaulx when he was Prime Minister, but I cherish his statement about a week in politics being a long time. To give my views about happenings in 10 years from now would not be a sensible step for me to take.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that the report issued by the Conservative party, emanating from a committee under the chairmanship of the present Secretary of State for Transport in 1978, is now repudiated by the Government and that there will not be any suggestion of privatising the coal industry? Will he say clearly, therefore, that from now on the miners, NACODS and all others involved in the industry can rest assured that public ownership of the industry will continue and that that report is dead and buried?

I did not read that report because, during the period concerned, I was in that charming place, which the hon. Gentleman knows well, called the wilderness. I have always made it clear that I would be willing to consider ways in which there could be greater participation on the part of those employed in the industry.