NCB Property (Vandalism)

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1984.

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Photo of Mr Piers Merchant Mr Piers Merchant , Newcastle upon Tyne Central 12:00 am, 17th December 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if, when he next meets the chairman of the National Coal Board, he will discuss the incidence of vandalism against National Coal Board property and the resulting financial cost to the board.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

I deplore the malicious acts of vandalism which have been carried out against NCB property during the present strike. They can only damage further the prospects for the industry.

Photo of Mr Piers Merchant Mr Piers Merchant , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

In view of the serious acts of vandalism which have taken place in many areas, including Easington colliery, near my constituency, where a few weeks ago windows were broken and cars overturned, will my hon. Friend consider encouraging the chairman of the NCB to institute disciplinary proceedings against those miners found guilty of such offences?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

Since the beginning of the dispute about 450 employees have been dimissed by the NCB. These include a significant number for offences associated with vandalism. There can be no possible excuse for causing wilful damage to an industry which, at the start of this pointless strike, had such great potential for the future.

Photo of Mr Allen McKay Mr Allen McKay , Barnsley West and Penistone

When the Minister meets the chairman of the NCB to discuss vandalism, will he suggest to him that as, after seven meetings, he has found himself incapable of bringing the strike to a successful conclusion it is time that he went?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

As my right hon. Friend has already pointed out, in the course of the dispute there has been just one conciliation proposal from ACAS. After careful consideration, that was accepted by the chairman of the NCB but rejected by the president of the NUM.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Stamford and Spalding

Is it not a fact that of all the many speeches that Arthur Scargill has made, he has not made one statement urging his members not to vandalise their own plant and tools, because, when they go back to work, any such damage will be to their detriment?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

The strike has been characterised by most unhelpful remarks from the president of the NUM. Perhaps the most unhelpful came today. Hon. Members may have noticed that he now calls for all forms of industrial action on a massive scale in support of the miners. I am certain that he will receive the same sort of raspberry to that ridiculous irresponsible notion as he has throughout the dispute.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

Is it not strange that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Merchant) should refer to my constituency, Easington, as being near to his, when it is not, and is it not even more strange that he should refer to an incident which took place five months ago? Will he join me in my constituency to see the whole context of what has happened?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

The real damage in the dispute and the real financial cost has been, fòr instance, in the tragic investment situation. It now looks as if the industrial action, if it continues till the end of March, will mean a reduction in investment spending of nearly £500 million.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

Just for once, would it not be wonderful to hear one Labour Member stand up and unequivocally deplore vandalism?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

I believe and hope that I am speaking for the House in condemning without reservation the sort of vandalism that we have seen.

Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian

If and when the Secretary of State meets the chairman of the NCB, will he ask him why he seems to come to life only when there is a move to try to resolve the miners' dispute? He must be about the most expensive chairman of any nationalised industry. Is it not vandalism for the chairman of the NCB to make statements on the eve of the Secretary of State's meeting with the TUC suggesting that there is no prospect of the strike ending? It must surely be unparalleled for a Cabinet Minister to have his authority undermined in that way. Is it not time that Mr. MacGregor was asked to go? He has done too much damage already.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

The chairman of the NCB has made what is undoubtedly the most generous offer that the miners have had since nationalisation. It is interesting to note that not one hon. Member so far has said that it is not unreasonable for the president of the NUM to stick to the irresponsible demand that no pit, however uneconomic, should close while there is still an ounce of coal left in it.