Orders of the Day — National Coal Board (Additional Powers) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1966.

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Photo of Mr David Marquand Mr David Marquand , Ashfield 12:00 am, 1st November 1966

When private companies compete with each other it is fair competition, but when a nationalised industry competes with private companies it is, for some miraculous reason, unfair. We might pose the riddle: when is competition unfair? When it is done by public enterprise, owned by our people, with the result that benefits will accrue to the people instead of to a narrow section of shareholders. This is an extravagant definition of the word "fair".

I said that I did not want to make a long intervention; I will conclude by saying that we have listened to an extraordinary farrago of ideological prejudice in the course of the debate. In the final moments before I resume my seat I want to make one other point. The Board, in becoming involved in the North Sea gas project, will bring nearer the day when we have one overall board or corporation to deal with fuel policy. In the short time I have had a direct connection with a mining constituency I have been led to the conclusion that if the present situation continues the danger that we shall have to face is the danger not of too much coal but of too little.

We are now having in the mining industry a massive drain of manpower from the pits. This has been brought about largely because of the shocks to morale caused, first, by competition with oil and more recently by the rather exaggerated stories that have gone around about the bonanza to be found in the North Sea.