Coal Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th February 1980.

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Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock 12:00 am, 11th February 1980

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will take steps to increase the resources available for investment by the coal industry.

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

The NCB's capital expenditure this financial year will be about £610 million compared with £464 million in 1978–79. I expect a further increase in 1980–81.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock

Does the Minister accept that it is important to go ahead with vital projects such as the Park colliery in South Stafford shire? Does he agree that there must be a public inquiry as soon as possible about that type of pit if mining skills and the continuity of jobs at short-life collieries such as West Cannock are to be maintained?

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

I fully understand the problems and worries of that case, but it is for the Department of the Environment, in conjunction with the parties involved, to decide the timing of the inquiry. I shall ensure that that Department is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's point.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

Will my hon. Friend comment on the £22 million deal between the National Coal Board and the BSC to stop coking coal imports? Will he also indicate the impact on investment?

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

If the stories in the press are accurate, the Government will be delighted that the two nationalised industries have been able to come to a commercial arrangement. Such an arrangement will offset the transitional difficulties caused in South Wales and other parts of our coking coal industry by the possibility of further imports. If those reports are accurate, they are to be welcomed.

Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian

The Minister should be more forthcoming. He must know whether there has been an arrangement between the National Coal Board and a nationalised industry about coking coal. We are discussing jobs and employment. As regards Park, I hope that the Minister realises that we are talking about an area that employs highly skilled manpower. Pits do not last for ever. Will the Minister do everything that he can to expedite the Park project, in order to retain that manpower?

Photo of Mr John Moore Mr John Moore , Croydon Central

The Government are aware of the concern about Park. Where it is in the power of the Department of Energy to do so, we shall ensure that those points get across. I have just been informed that a press release has been issued by the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation. Obviously, we welcome their arrangement.