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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.