The Secretary of State must be aware that this is the three-month deadline for the South of Scotland Electricity Board and British Coal to reach an agreement on coalburn in power stations and that no agreement has been reached. Does that not show that the armchair speculating policy of his Department during the dispute has failed? Can he confirm the report in The Scotsman today that the dispute may have to be resolved in the courts? He must be aware that thousands of jobs in Scotland are at stake. Is it not time that we knew what the hell was going on?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased, as I am, to hear that agreement has been reached about tonnages and prices, and that only one or two secondary issues remain to be settled. They will be settled quickly, provided that both sides show good will and common sense. The uncertainty will be removed shortly and the news will be good.
There is a good future for the Scottish coal industry, provided that the men work the modern machinery in a modern way. There are good signs that Scottish miners—I congratulate them on this—wish to co-operate and work together with management to ensure that they can be competitive. They deserve all our support in doing that.
I cannot say much more than I already have, but I assure the hon. Lady that I keep in day-to-day touch with this matter and did not make my remarks lightly. The main matter outstanding is secondary, and I have reason to believe that it will be resolved shortly. As soon as it is, I shall ensure that it is reported.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of Ravenscraig in particular—one of the major consumers of electricity in Scotland—that Scottish energy prices should he competitive? Is it not equally important to recognise that much of the coal mined in Scotland is opencast and that there is every reason why the Scots should be able to compete cost-effectively? When that is achieved, there there will be no reason why anyone should fear for jobs in Scotland.