Scottish Coalfields (Manpower)

Oral Answers to Questions — Coal – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th February 1969.

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Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian 12:00 am, 11th February 1969

asked the Minister of Power if there has now been revision of manpower estimates in the Scottish coalfield for the current year; and how many miners he estimates will be employed in Scottish pits at the end of 1969.

Photo of Mr Adam Hunter Mr Adam Hunter , Dunfermline Burghs

asked the Minister of Power, in view of the recent policy decision on the rate of pit closures in 1969, what he anticipates will be the number of closures in Scotland in 1969.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

asked the Minister of Power what revision of manpower estimates he has made in the Scottish coalfield for 1969; and how many miners he estimates will be employed in Scottish pits by December 1969.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

The National Coal Board expects the net manpower reduction in Scotland this year to be somewhat less than the 1968 figure of 5,800. This would mean end year manpower rather more than 26,000. As my hon. Friends know, colliery closures are a matter for the Board.

Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian

Is the Minister aware that in Scotland there is a crisis of confidence in the mining industry which is shared by miners? Would he agree that he has Ministerial responsibility to do something immediately about this position to avoid the nation being involved in very heavy cost resulting from further contraction this year?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

My hon. Friend has no doubt noticed the speeches made of late by the Chairman of the N.C.B. and myself and the indication given in them that there will be a slower run-down in 1969 than in 1968. I will be able to judge morale for myself when I visit Scotland on Friday.

Photo of Mr Adam Hunter Mr Adam Hunter , Dunfermline Burghs

What discussions are taking place with other Ministerial Departments to ensure that alternative industry is brought to areas where pits are closing?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

There is a continuing dialogue between the Board of Trade, the D.E.P. and my Department on this matter.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Is it not a fact that, thanks to Government policy such as the Redundancy Payments Act and development policy, closures such as that involving the Riddochhill Colliery have gone more smoothly and more satisfactorily than one would have conceived possible five years ago?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that comment, which is absolutely true. It is also noticeable in mining areas where the unemployment figures look relatively high, for one must take notice of the fact that some miners have been prematurely retired on redundancy pay while others are enjoying weekly take-home amounts of a high rate flowing from the over-55 scheme, which means that many men are taking home £15 to £20 a week although they are recorded in the figures of unemployed.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Are these miners likely to have increased confidence in the N.C.B. when the Board increases their rents?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

That is a matter which my hon. Friend must take up with the N.C.B., although I am aware of the anxiety which it is causing in mining districts.