To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if he has any plans to repeal the restriction on deep coal mines which prevents them from employing more than 30 people;(2) if he intends to abolish the royalty that must be paid to the National Coal Board on every ton of coal mined by private opencast pits;(3) if he has any plans to remove the restrictions on marketing to which private coal mines are subject;(4) if he has any plans to seek to reform legislation relating to the licensing of private coal mines;(5) if he intends to facilitate worker buy-outs of local pits by National Coal Board employees.
Under existing legislation the British Coal Corporation is responsible for the issue of licences for private mining operations and is entitled to levy a royalty on coal produced under licence. There are no present plans for changes to that legislation, but the Government are considering the possibility of changing the statutory limits on both deep mined and opencast licensed production. The corporation is considering whether there is scope for increased flexibility and transparency within that legislation. The corporation does not require licensed coal to be delivered to it except by agreement with the licensee. Within existing legislation British Coal is prepared to consider proposals by former employees to establish worker co-operatives.