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Closure of Daw Mill Colliery

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

I want to update the House on developments. On 11 March 2013, Official Report, column 2WS, John Hayes, former Minister for Energy and Climate Change made a statement regarding UK Coal Operations Limited’s (UKCOL) announcement on the closure of their deep mine at Daw Mill in Warwickshire following the serious fire which broke out on 22 February 2013.

Since the fire we have held meetings with the company, the union representatives of the work force and other key stakeholders as well as Members of Parliament. Officials have continued to be in daily contact with the company and have co-ordinated the cross-Government response including the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), BIS West Midlands, Shareholder Executive, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Coal Authority, Insolvency Service redundancy payments service, HM Treasury and Jobcentre Plus.

The fire below ground at Daw Mill appears to have subsided as a result of the mitigation measures agreed by UKCOL and HSE, but large areas of the mine remain polluted by toxic and flammable gases. UKCOL continues to review closure options in consultation with the Coal Authority and HSE. HSE also continue to assure me there is no danger to the general public.

Our priority has to be the employees of Daw Mill colliery and the continuing viability of UKCOL’s business and its other employees. I understand from UKCOL that of the 570 employees at Daw Mill around 100 are being redeployed at their other sites and they continue to look at other redeployment opportunities. The remaining staff in redundancy consultation at Daw Mill have been supported by a fully co-ordinated locally-led response from Jobcentre Plus, BIS West Midlands, North Warwickshire borough council and other local partners. This includes the full deployment of the Jobcentre Plus rapid response service.

A key part of this response was an employee-focused event held in Arley on 22 March 2013, which nearly 200 members of the Daw Mill work force attended. This gave them access to a range of advice and information services on their entitlements and options as well as information about alternative employment opportunities. To follow up the event, employees will receive an information sheet providing details of support available at both local and national level. In addition an information sheet is being prepared for local businesses informing them of support available should they be impacted by the closure of Daw Mill. I would like to commend all the local partners for their joined-up approach in supporting the work force and local community, and particularly in organising the 22 March 2013 event which I know was welcomed by the mining unions and UKCOL. A similar event is being planned in Nottinghamshire in the coming weeks.

The continuing uncertainty in relation to redundancy payments due to 30 members of the Daw Mill work force who took voluntary redundancy at the end of 2012 has been of concern to many Members. I am now able to confirm that we have ensured that this cohort will receive their full statutory redundancy entitlement from the redundancy payments service.

Other Government-related support includes: the Coal Authority has agreed flexibility on certain payments by UKGOL related to their subsidence security obligations; BIS West Midlands has been able to help the company secure a rebate on their business rates from North Warwickshire borough council and other measures are being taken to facilitate a way forward for the company following the loss of revenue from Daw Mill. I should also acknowledge the support that the company has received from its customers, suppliers and insurers through this challenging period.

Through this co-ordinated approach I am determined to continue to do what we can to help the company to continue to operate within the legal framework and state aid rules, to help its employees, and to minimise the impact on the north Warwickshire economy.