Coal Mining

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1973.

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Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover 12:00 am, 7th December 1973

I shall not dwell on the matter any longer. But I thought it was necessary to quote about six examples in order to make it absolutely clear to the House that I was not talking about an isolated situation, and that there are literally scores of examples of phase 2 being broken, and phase 3 will be broken as well, although the miners and millions of other industrial workers will be held back.

It is my job as one of the miners' representatives to expose what is happening on the other front. Those who have had to live on £31 a week and less are being taken for the biggest confidence trick ever. The miners are being offered £2·30 with an accident rate of 80 in the past year, with 700 more dying as a result of pneumoconiosis ; 17,000 have died from that disease and associated diseases during the last 20 years. We should compare the life of the miner with that of the property speculator. I am told there has not been a single accident in the whole history of property speculation.

The struggle will continue. I will not go into the realms of a national energy policy—some of my hon. Friends may develop that argument—except to say that it is perhaps summed up in these words. The oil policy of this country until the present day has been based on the words "We should be all right for oil, chaps, because King Hussein was trained at Sandhurst." That has been the philosophy of successive Governments. The present Government must understand that the oil crisis which they face can be solved only by a national energy programme which, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, means the nationalisation of North Sea oil.

I want to conclude by referring to the words of somebody who has been connected with the mining industry for 50 years. I saw these words in a local newspaper last week. They are very important words, and the House would do well to listen to them. They are : Repeatedly miners' leaders have warned the Government that miners would not be available to get the coal the country needs because of wastage and the fact that men were leaving the pits because there were no incentives for them to stay in an industry that did not give them a standard of living commensurate with their labours in such an environment.Those that are leaving by hundreds every week are acquiring new skills for more congenial and better-paid jobs. I would not utter one word against them going, nor encourage others to take their now vacant places. Miners today are a different class from those of us of the 'Hungry Thirties'. They realise that life has something better to offer than 'the daily trudge down smokey lane to gloomy mine then home again'. Education has broadened their outlook and given them a sense of new values which can enrich their lives outside the hazards of mining. They have a much better opportunity of being able to say at the end of the day 'Life has not passed me by'.I have talked to many of them and without exception they have said 'I wish them all the luck in the world in their struggle for a just settlement. They deserve what they seek. May success crown their efforts' ". Those are the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Beaney) in an article which appeared in a Hemsworth newspaper. He has had more than a little difficulty in expressing those thoughts in the House during the last few years. I thought it necessary to utter a few words which represent the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth, and I echo every one of them.