Coal Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 26th June 1989.

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Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood , Clydesdale 8:45 pm, 26th June 1989

My hon. Friend is right. We have been given horrific figures showing by how much coal has been subsidised when transported by Shell to capture the so-called market. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend's helpful intervention, because it takes me to my next point.

To add insult to injury for miners, Ministers have acted against them. I remember the Prime Minister introducing a Bill to allow for up to £40 million of imported coal. I remember Nottinghamshire Conservative Members opposing that Bill, obviously because of a certain self-interest.

The Secretary of State has said today that the Government will not be so foolish as to put the market into the hands of foreign importers. I see no evidence to support that. We have been told that only 2 million tonnes of coal comes from South Africa. That sounds fine, but how much South African coal is dumped in places such as Rotterdam and enters Britain through the back door? We know that South African coal has been moved in lorries from Nottingham in the midlands and blended with Durham coal, but that coal is not recorded in the figures.

We might not know the true figures, but we know that there are Conservative Members who willingly support the closure of the mining industry. One Conservative Member—I doubt that he will speak tonight—would probably want to tell us that we should bring all our coal in from South Africa. The South African bovver boys are here, and I see one. They would love to bring in South African coal, selling our natural reserves short.

Britain's natural resources are the envy of the world. We all know what happened in the 1960s and 1970s. I shall not defend the actions of other Governments who fell into the trap of accepting cheap oil but who, when the market was captured and the coal industry started to run down, pulled the rope in and quadrupled prices, almost destroying many western economies. That is the danger that we face. We must recognise that it is a trap into which no Government, regardless of party, should fall. I am not convinced that the Government are sincere in saying that they will not fall into that trap.

The Government support the idea of using coal from China, South Africa or Colombia. As my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Cummings) said, that coal comes from child labour. The Government would sooner have that than British coal. The Government who whinge about Parliament's sovereignty support the idea of placing our energy requirements in the hands of foreign importers.

The Government are on their way out, are they not? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Are they behind 12 per cent. or 14 per cent. this week? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is 14 per cent."] We will soon have a Tory-free Scotland and a Tory-free Nottingham. This country needs its coal produced by British miners. The Government will not achieve that—only a Labour Government will.