New Right of Board to Withdraw Support to Enable Coal to Be Worked.

Part of Coal Industry Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1975.

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Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian 12:00 am, 15th July 1975

I assure the hon. Gentleman that my blood pressure is fairly normal. However, it was right for me to put the reverse of the debating point which he made.

The hon. Gentleman said that I brushed aside the Opposition's argument. We debated this matter extensively in Committee. We gave it a long run. It was a constructive debate, and it is on the record.

I deal now with the activities of the working party, and I address myself especially to those of my hon. Friends who attached some importance to it. The report of the interdepartmental working party, completed last summer, was withdrawn for review so that account could be taken of new evidence and opinions expressed during the preparation of the Coal Industry Bill and its passage through Parliament. All this time, a great deal of study has been going on in the Department and, as soon as the major stages of the Bill were completed and most of the new evidence could be considered as having been presented—although I must inform the House that we are still waiting for a memorandum promised by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities—meetings of the working group were resumed.

Following intensive discussion with the National Coal Board, a meeting of the full group was held on 18th June, and a further meeting is to take place on Friday next. It is expected that the group will be able to finalise its report before the end of the Summer Recess. The House can be assured that the Government will lose no time in coming to their own conclusions, and an early opportunity will be sought to introduce such legislation as may be required.

It would be wrong to leave the clause to stand in its amended form meantime. It would upset completely the present balance—unfairly against the National Coal Board—and it would introduce for many people uncertainty and confusion while the new regime settled down. Then we would have another change when the more comprehensive and long-term solution came into effect.

An interim arrangement of that sort is precisely not what is required at present. We want to try to resolve the problem thoroughly and fairly and to give the House an opportunity to debate it.