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British Coal

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met the chairman of British Coal; and what matters he discussed.

I have spoken recently to the deputy chairman of British Coal and the director of the south Wales coalfield on a range of matters affecting the coal industry in Wales.

What measures does the Secretary of State intend to take to protect south Wales pits and the supplies from them to the Central Electricity Generating Board and British Steel markets in the event of both organisations being privatised?

The announcement of the privatisation of British Steel is good news for the coal industry in Wales. There is no doubt that the two steelworks in question in south Wales are the strongest and most modern in the region, and with all the advantages of commercial freedom in future they are the most likely to be the beneficiaries of substantial investment. I think that this is good news for the coal industry. It will be good news if the negotiations on six-day production succeed and there is investment at Margam.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the proposals by the Opencast Executive in my constituency that are creating disquiet and unease among residents, especially those at Cheapside, Liverpool road? Will the right hon. Gentleman or another Welsh Office Minister visit the area to meet the residents and hear their worries? Does the right hon. Gentleman know that good agricultural land is at risk and that residents fear for nearby amenities?

In former capacities I have become well aware that there is anxiety wherever opencast mining takes place. It must be recognised that opencast mining is an important part of the Welsh coal industry as a whole and makes an exceedingly important contribution to its success.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate British Coal on the new £50 million surface drift mine at Point of Ayr in my constituency, which will enable output to increase by 30 per cent. to 600,000 tonnes a year? In only five weeks the new mine has resulted in an increase in output per man shift from 2·8 tonnes to 3·8 tonnes.

Yes. There are many other examples of substantially increased productivity. Hon. Members on both sides of the House should reflect that since March 1985, £100 million has been invested in the Welsh coal industry.