asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his latest estimate of Government support for the investment programme of British Coal since 1979–80; and if he will make a statement.
Over £5,500 million has been invested in the coal industry since 1979.
While I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, which shows the Government's commitment to the mining industry, including Asfordby, may I ask him whether he will give priority to the miners of the south Leicestershire coalfield—99 per cent. Of whom live in my constituency—for the jobs in the future development of Asfordby?
I am pleased to assure my hon. Friend that the development at Asfordby is on schedule in terms of time and cost. I know how hard he and other hon. Friends have been lobbying on the future for the miners of south Leicestershire and I am pleased to tell him that the south midlands area management has assured me that such miners will have priority in transferring to Asfordby.
Can the Minister please say when pits other than Asfordby are expected to be opened, bearing in mind that the existing pits in Leicestershire are closing and the huge reservoir of extremely valuable and necessary coal in the Vale of Belvoir? Will it be before all the miners' skills have disappeared from those pits, which are emptying of people?
I wish thatthe hon. and learned Gentleman would cease his negative attitude towards the future of the men in this area. There is a marvellous prospect at south Warwickshire and a tremendous development at Asfordby. Provided that the miners in the area continue the tremendous advances in productivity, their future is extremely bright.