Coal Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East 12:00 am, 3rd June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with the steps taken by the National Coal Board to protect miners who worked during the recent dispute from intimidation and harassment.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I am confident that the National Coal Board has made strenuous efforts to deal with the problem of intimidation in the coal industry. Firm action, including dismissal, has been, and will continue to be, taken against those indentified as offenders.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

In view of the complaints from the NUM about the need to avoid victimisation, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend has had any indication of support and co-operation from the NUM in order to avoid the intimidation and harassment that have been applied to a number of working miners?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Not exactly, but in the great majority of pits working conditions have very quickly returned to normal and no intimidation is taking place. However, instances have taken place in a minority of pits, and they have been dealt with firmly by the management.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Eastham Mr Kenneth Eastham , Manchester, Blackley

If there is a genuine desire to protect the rights of miners, may I also remind the right hon. Gentleman that many miners have been dismissed even though they have been tried in courts or have appeared before industrial tribunals which have found in their favour? Is it not about time that the Secretary of State made representations to Mr. MaGregor to reduce the number of such cases?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

A considerable review has taken place and management decisions were taken. There are procedures to be followed if anyone considers that such decisions were incorrect. Those procedures are taking place.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

Will my right hon. Friend have words with the chairman of the NCB to ensure that, in the context of continuing and increasing NCB productivity, those who worked throughout the whole of the strike are given absolute preference to allow them to play a major role in the future success of the coal industry?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

They did play, and are playing, a very major role. I am sure my hon. Friend will also agree that a large number of miners were kept out of work by various methods although they have the same desire for their industry to succeed. We need to support them as well.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Is the Secretary of State aware that those who suffered the greatest intimidation and harassment are the 720 miners who did not get their jobs back after the strike ended? Is it not strange that in some NCB areas intimidation and harassment are occurring involving those who have not got their jobs back, whereas in other areas, where seemingly the strike was almost solid, almost every sacked miner has been given back his job? Perhaps someone at NCB level is involved in serious intimidation and harassment on an area basis. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman put that right?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I believe that that is inaccurate.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford East

Does the Secretary of State agree that industrial relations are at an extremely low level following the dispute, and that the NCB has deliberately stirred this matter up and done nothing to ensure that normal relations are resumed? What is the Secretary of State doing about that?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

The facts are that at the majority of pits normal relations have been resumed and production is at a high level, as are deliveries of coal. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not being more positive in encouraging all working to return to normal.