Coal Industry (Productivity)

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 12:00 am, 15th February 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what has been the increase in labour productivity in the coal mining industry, since 1983–84.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

For the week ending 12 December 1987, average deep mined revenue output per man shift was a record 4–11 tonnes. This represents an increase of nearly 70 per cent. on the average of 2·43 tonnes for 1983–84.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands

The figures show a very satisfactory improvement in recent years. Does my hon. Friend agree that Staffordshire miners have made a particular contribution towards that improvement?

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

Yes, I accept what my hon. Friend said. They certainly have. Indeed, as I understand it, they have been working full-time during the NACODS' dispute.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Deputy Leader, Scottish National Party

Will the Minister say what possible use increased productivity in the coal industry will be in Scotland if there is no deep-mined coal as a result of the impasse between the SSEB and British Coal? Should not the Secretary of State now accept his responsibility to intervene in these negotiations? Given that the relationship between the two public sector bodies has been destabilised by the privatisation policy, will the Secretary of State accept his responsibility and intervene to save the Scottish coalfield?

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

That has nothing to do with the privatisation policy. As my right hon. Friend said, the policy of the electricity industry in buying coal where it wants has been in place for some time. It is up to the coal industry throughout the country to respond to that. Although it may not be palatable to Opposition Members, there is a thriving opencast industry in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

Will my hon. Friend confirm that one way to encourage greater productivity is to improve the facilities for the importation of foreign coal into the United Kingdom? Rather than building a new coal-handling facility at Fawley, which the Central Electricity Generating Board wants to do, would it not be better for Parliament to abolish the national dock labour scheme, as I am sure the House would do if the Government only gave us the opportunity?

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

The second part of my hon. Friend's question is not a matter for me or for my right hon. Friend, and nor is Fawley at the moment, because we cannot prejudge the results of the various appeal procedures in the planning process that might be forthcoming.