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British Coal

Volume 113: debated on Monday 30 March 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he or his fellow Ministers last met the chairman of British Coal; what were the issues discussed; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Coal Board; and what subjects he expects to discuss.

I have regular meetings with the chairman of British Coal to discuss all aspects of the coal industry.

I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for his reply, although it was very brief. At the next meeting that the Secretary of State and his Ministers have with the chairman of British Coal, will they seek the chairman's views on the production of coal in the north-east of England relative to the possibility of establishing a new coal-fired power station in the area?

Most certainly. I discuss all the regional aspects. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is already a considerable demand for coal from existing industries in the north-east. I hope that that will continue.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that output at the Nottinghamshire coalfield reached an all-time high of 4·02 tonnes per man shift the other day and reached 5 tonnes per man shift in the Sherwood area. When my right hon. Friend has his discussions with the chairman of the Coal Board, will he suggest that the headquarters of the Coal Board are moved to the Nottinghamshire coalfield, as that is quite clearly where the future lies?

I endorse what my hon. Friend said about the remarkable production figures in north Nottinghamshire. The location of the headquarters of the Coal Board is a matter for the Coal Board. However, I know that the existing management is endeavouring to ensure that much of the existing management is devolved to the regions, where it would be thoroughly welcomed.

Will the Secretary of State discuss with the chairman of British Coal how, as a result of the real achievements in productivity resulting from the closure of a lot of the capacity and of continuing investment, British customers can be persuaded to buy British coal rather that develop a dependency upon dumped coal from overseas or insecure supplies from South Africa? In addition, will he ask the chairman of British Coal to be quite buoyant in his assessment of the situation, not least because in my constituency in the Kilnhurst part of the Manvers complex, which a few months ago British Coal was talking about closing, records are currently being broken?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a keen interest in the coal industry. He should reflect on an industry which now has 42 per cent. fewer people than it had prior to the commencement of the overtime ban before the strike and is producing 97 per cent. of the coal—

As for any suggestion that they have been put on the dole, I am glad to say that many took early retirement and not one suffered compulsory redundancy. If there is a hope for coal now it is because of this Government's actions.

Has the Secretary of State discussed with the chairman of British Coal the progress that British Coal Enterprise Ltd. is making in creating jobs in areas hit by coal mine closures? Can he assure the House that British Coal Enterprise Ltd. has sufficient resources to do the job?

Yes, I can assure the House that, not only does British Coal Enterprise Ltd. have the resources to do the job, but when it runs out of the existing resources, those will be increased. It is doing a marvellous job of work and I am pleased to tell the House that we have heard that it has provided its fifteen thousandth job since it started.

As the Secretary of State knows, the chairman of British Coal undertook to review the question of sacked miners. Has he discussed this with the chairman and has he anything to report to the House?

Yes, the matter was discussed recently and I am told that there will be an announcement shortly.