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Coal Industry

Volume 78: debated on Monday 29 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the prospects for the coal industry for 1985–86.

1985–86 will be a year of reconstruction, following the damage done both to mines and to markets by the strike. In order to secure its long-term future, the industry will also need to make progress in bringing down the average costs of production.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the industry should look forward rather than back and regain the customers that it lost during the dispute, and that it could best do that by producing a good product, efficiently, at a competitive price?

Yes. There is obviously a considerable task in hand, but nothing could be better than if we could show that productivity was improving and that the product would be reliably and constantly supplied to the market place that is willing to take it. The coal industry has a considerable potential in Britain.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that prospects for reconciliation in the coal industry in south Wales would be greatly enhanced if the five men sacked from the Phurnacite plant in my constituency on the say-so of Mr. MacGregor were reinstated forthwith? Two of them were sacked for allegedly spitting at the one working miner among 6,000 in the constituency during the strike. Should they not be reinstated forthwith?

Any decisions on individual cases must be taken by the management, which has taken great care in the matter.

The Secretary of State has been asked about the prospects for the industry. Does he agree that if there is to be reconstruction and good prospects there must be new investment and new pit sinkings? Is he aware that, even in Nottinghamshire and the midlands, investment contracted between 1979 and 1983–84? In 1979–80, £78 million was invested in north Nottinghamshire. That figure has been reduced to £55 million. In south Nottinghamshire there was a reduction from £55 million to £27 million. In the south midlands there was a reduction from £77 million to £33 million. There is a great deal of reconstruction to be done. The right hon. Gentleman should tell his hon. Friends who represent those areas that without new investment and new pit sinkings the industry will contract.

If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to compare the record of the Labour Government on investment with that of the present Government, I shall be very happy to do so.