Union of Democratic Mineworkers

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th May 1987.

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Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch 12:00 am, 11th May 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has any plans to meet the Union of Democratic Mineworkers to discuss industrial relations in the mining industry; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I am pleased to say that I shall be addressing the Union of Democratic Mineworkers' annual conference, when I expect to discuss many issues with it.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

I thank my right hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Is it not stunning proof of one nation when representatives of working miners get round to inviting a Conservative Secretary of State to address their annual conference? Given the recent expressions of dissent from Mr. Scargill by even the National Union of Mineworkers in south Wales, does my right hon. Friend agree that only the Conservative party could have released miners from the bondage of the NUM?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Obviously, I welcome the opportunity to address the conference of those mineworkers who abided by the traditional position of mineworkers in this country of taking industrial action only after they had balloted. Those miners overwhelmingly balloted not to strike and with great courage continued to work during that period. I welcome the opportunity to discuss matters with the union, especially as its members, too, broke all-time production records last week.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

In the discussions that the Secretary of State may have with members of the UDM, or any other mining unions, will he raise with them the arrears that are due to pensioners and widows as a result of their pensions increase? Will the Secretary of State accept from me that those pensioners have not received their increases, which were due last October? Will he assure the UDM and other mineworkers that that pension increase will be paid? Will he assure the UDM and other mineworkers that the devastating effect on retired miners as a result of not receiving that increase will be erased and that the despicable attitude of British Coal and the trustees of the pension scheme in not paying that increase will be changed? Does he agree that the pension should be increased?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I also agree that, as a result of this Government, more miners have retired on better pensions than ever before. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of that.

Mr. Andy Stewart:

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend will address the members of the UDM at its annual meeting. Is it not because of the present industrial relations attitude adopted by the UDM that we have these record productivity increases? Is not Nottinghamshire the cheapest producer of coal in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Obviously, I am delighted that the week I have just quoted represented an all-time record for the Nottinghamshire miners. Their achievements have been remarkable. The entire nation praises the UDM, not only for what it is achieving at the present time, but for the manner in which UDM members faced the mobs organised against them during the coal dispute.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Is the Secretary of State aware that last Thursday the UDM in Nottinghamshire had a secret ballot and voted overwhelmingly for the Labour party? In my constituency and in Mansfield they were the best results that we have had for many years. Is the Secretary of State aware that the Tories took the city of Nottingham—they won it by one seat, when Labour had previously held it by one seat? In one campaign the Tories won by three votes only and the alliance did not win a seat, although the Communists did?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I note the hon. Gentleman's neurosis about the impending election. Given the lack of support that the Labour party gave to the Nottinghamshire miners I expect some devastatingly bad results for the Labour party in the election.