Coal Industry

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:23 am on 10th November 1999.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 10:23 am, 10th November 1999

Those of us who voted against the pit closure programme remember extremely well the sound and fury at the time, not only against the Government but from Labour Members, who claimed that they believed in the coal industry. I shall not utter a word of criticism of any Labour Back Bencher who is taking part in this debate because I know how they are constrained and how much they are fighting for the interests of coal miners. I accuse the Government.

For example, in his pre-Budget statement only yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about the gas, electricity and water regulators promoting competition. What about the coal industry? I should like to hear a little about that. We know that the Chancellor has £9 billion in his so-called war chest. Why is he not using that money to help coal miners? Will somebody tell me? Will the Minister reply to that point, because I should like to know? On behalf of the miners, I am very angry with the Government because of their hypocrisy. Labour Members stirred up feelings while the previous Government were in office, but Labour, in government, is doing exactly the same as its predecessor. They are a bunch of hypocrites.

The Government are doing nothing to help. If Labour Back Benchers are not prepared to say this, I shall say it for them: the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Dr. Clark) on subsidies are absolutely true. It is possible for the Government to provide subsidies, but they will not do so. Can do, but will not is the truth of the matter. The miners are left to take account of that fact and to take it out on the Government for their complete failure to look after mining interests.

The European issue has also provoked sound and fury. I have just heard the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) talking about obeying the European rules. To do so may be one thing, but what are such rules supposed to achieve? We have problems at the moment with the French on beef, but on coal, the rules are wrong. They are canted and stacked against the British coal miner and the British coal industry.

Recently, in my constituency, a massive series of grants have been made in order, in the words of the Government representative, to capture what is known as the Grindley lane site for major investment. Such grants have been used to bribe and blackmail people into accepting the site. Up the road at Madeley, next to Silverdale, where the miners in my constituency have worked and slaved for years, but which is being closed—as is Trentham—not a penny of that money is being made available.

The Government are absolutely hypocritical, and it is time that their Back Benchers turned on them. What we hear about public services can be applied to the coal industry as well. It is time that the British people woke up to the fact that most of this stuff is being driven by a craven surrendering to a European regime. That is the name of the game, and everyone in the House knows it.