NCB (Enterprise) Ltd., the National Coal Board's job creation subsidiary, is active throughout the British coalfields. The funds available to the company are not allocated between areas but may be used in support of schemes wherever there is the opportunity to create real jobs. The House has been informed that the funding of the company will be kept under close review as operations progress.
Is the Minister aware that there is acute and growing concern in Scotland about the future of the coal mining industry? Is he further aware that in the area of the Seafield colliery in Fife male unemployment already stands at over 30 per cent. and that unemployment there would be considerably worsened if Seafield colliery were to close? Why does the Minister not do the same trick as was done by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he obtained £150 million from somewhere to get himself out of a hole over rates? If he can do it, why cannot the Secretary of State for Energy do it to create new jobs for miners who are to be thrown out of work because of pit closures?
As I have already pointed out to the House, the funding of NCB (Enterprise) Ltd. will be kept under review. However, the hon. Gentleman must realise, referring in particular to Seafield, that in Scotland we are seeing the result of damage caused by an unnecessary and tragic strike. Scotland suffered great damage during that dispute and, as a result, lost 11 coal-producing faces.
Does the Minister not understand, first, that many people in Scotland believe that damage was caused by the manager of the National Coal Board in Scotland and, secondly, that if the Government, instead of creating NCB (Enterprise) Ltd., had, together with the NCB, put additional investment into new coal faces in Scotland, the unemployment problem would have been taken care of? What proposals does he have to authorise investment in the Musselburgh extension?
First, may I put the record straight. There is no question but that Polkemmet was flooded as a direct consequence of the NUM strike, and I much regret the disgraceful suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman. As to investment, four major projects in Scotland are under way with an estimated capital cost of £91·8 million. In real terms, investment in the Scottish coalfield is 43 per cent. higher under the Conservative Government than it was under the Labour Government.