Coal Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:27 pm on 26th June 1989.

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Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale , Mansfield 9:27 pm, 26th June 1989

I wish to talk about Conservative Members' constant references to the Government's good work in relation to the coal industry. I represent a constituency which is at the heartland of the coal mining industry—Mansfield, Nottinghamshire—in which the headquarters of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and the National Union of Mineworkers are located. It is about time that Conservative Members, particularly those who are from Nottinghamshire, stopped rubbishing the miners of both unions in the Nottinghamshire area.

Those miners know at first hand exactly what the Government have done to the mining industry and they know that every time Conservative Members open their mouths as they have been, all they do is to conjure up fires between the different groups of workers. It is no good Conservative Members saying that they know and understand what is happening, and even smile about it.

We in the Nottingham area are currently spending tens of thousands of pounds via social and other services throughout the county, and in education programmes both voluntary and statutory, to try to douse the flarnes created by the mining strike of the early 1980s. It is about time that Conservative Members stopped rekindling those flames just for the sake of political votes at election times. Instead, we should be concerned about the people from those mining communities and what we can do to help them obtain and retain jobs in their communities.

Today, the Secretary of State mentioned the mining strike. He is the least qualified to come forward with such arguments. If he is concerned about Nottinghamshire, he should do more than visit it once in a blue moon, and call in at Nottingham to speak to those at the chamber of trade who represent a minority of people in the county.

The Secretary of State raised the subject of the Government's good housekeeping. Conservative Members also mentioned harassment, which occurred throughout the Nottinghamshire coalfields in the form of the loss of 16,000 mining jobs, the closure of pits, the rundown of communities and the lack of investment because there was no structural plan for investment in new jobs throughout the county.

Speaking of good housekeeping, today I received a reply from the Minister responsible for coal. I had asked him how much the Government had spent on the privatisation of electricity supply. In 1987–88 they spent £0·8 million on financial advice in connection with the privatisation. In 1988–89 that rose to £5·5 million, and this year the Government have set aside £26·5 million for outside advice on the privatisation of a public industry. It is a disgrace that there should have been a 3,000 per cent. increase in the spending of public money on the privatisation of a public asset.

Finally, Conservative Members representing the Nottinghamshire area should stop their party political battles and should stop putting out press releases asking where particular Labour Members were when there were votes on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill and on similar legislation. In votes on motions such as tonight's, they should vote with the Opposition and support the mining communities in Nottinghamshire.