Coal Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 25th May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth 4:26 pm, 25th May 1995

Let me explain, Mr. Deputy Speaker. British Coal seeks not only to obtain the money that the order makes available, but to obtain more than it should from the sale of green belt land. That is perfectly logical—but let me take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and say that I hope the Minister will ensure that the Government are not so parsimonious that British Coal must go around selling green belt land to make money when it ought to sell it for the much lesser sum that would be available if the tenant farmer were given the opportunity he should enjoy.

Finally, let me remind the Minister of a point I made earlier. A few months ago, the Church of England Children's Society brought some young people to the House to see me. They were ordinary boys and girls of about 15 years of age who were not the sorts of kids who would go into higher education. I do not suggest that they were below average ability, but they were the sorts of boys and girls who would become skilled and semi-skilled workers—the backbone of our society. In the previous two centuries, they would have been employed in the coal and steel industries. But those jobs have now gone.

The worst moment of my 25 years' service in the House of Commons came when I talked to those ordinary kids of 15 about their outlook, prospects and hopes for the future. The Minister should understand that they have no hope, and they see few prospects or opportunities. Therefore, we are not begging the Minister to provide crumbs for the coal areas and the coalfield communities; we are telling the Minister that a wise Government will ensure that the hope that has been blighted in the past 20 years is somehow restored. This measure will provide a little of the assistance that those people need.