§ 20. Mr. Shinwell
asked the Minister of Power what consultations he had with the Chairman of the National Coal Board about the further closure of pits and the reduction of manpower by another 150,000 by 1970; and in which coalfields the reductions will occur.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am in touch with the Chairman of the National Coal Board about colliery closures as part of our regular meetings, but there has been no discussion about reducing manpower by another 150,000 by 1970. The collieries most likely to be closed by 1970 are those in category "C" of the Colliery Classification list of November, 1965.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Has my right hon. Friend read the recent pronouncement by Lord Robens, the Chairman of the Board? Does he realise that these pronounce- 18 ments create further insecurity among the miners? In the absence of information, what does he expect the miners to do? Are they to retain their employment in pits likely to be insecure? What about local authorities? How is it possible for them to plan housing and the like without the information? Does my right hon. Friend realise that many miners, certainly in my area, although I do not know if he is aware of it, begin to have very grave doubts about nationalisation?
§ Mr. Marsh
The latest pronouncements by Lord Robens last week show that about 330,000 men would be employed in coal mining in 1970. This would imply a reduction of only about 84,000—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] There has been a much bigger reduction in past years without involving great unemployment. One realises that this sort of programme produces very real social problems and very understandable fears among those affected, but the answer is that at the moment there is an increase in colliery manpower. The miners must realise that with an economic coal mining industry there is a very real future indeed for them.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to produce the next edition, as it were, of the energy White Paper? There have been some stories that it will be produced in the middle of the year. Can he say what the whole demand for coal production is likely to be by 1970? Is it not likely that by then it will be down to 80 million or 100 million tons a year?
§ Mr. Eadie
Will my right hon. Friend consider the lines of communication in this matter? In the past when the miners' union met the National Coal Board it has been told that it is the Government who close pits, and when it has met the Government it has been told that it is the Coal Board which closes pits. Can we have some clarification of this matter?
§ Mr. Marsh
I do not think there is any difficulty about this. The position is a very clear one. The responsibility for mining coal efficiently is the responsibility of the National Coal Board. Clearly the 19 Government have, quite rightly and properly, a duty to examine social implications of the policies of any large section of industry, but there is no cause for doubt as to where responsibilities lie.
§ Mr. Varley
Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to a front page article in the Financial Times on 30th September, where it was suggested that if the present drain continued the shortfall of production per annum in the coal industry would be something like 135 million tons and the only way in which it could be made up would be by importing more oil from overseas with a consequent drain on balance of payments?
§ Mr. Marsh
Anyone is entitled to make his own forecast of the possible figures of coal production in years to come. The Ministry of Power is engaged in a very big project in working out optimum energy policy. The future for the coal mining industry lies in producing coal at the most economic price at which it can be produced, but the problem is not one of producing but of selling coal.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear that the fundamental of pits policy in regard to coal mining is that every pit operating shall be utterly efficient and that he will not keep open any "ancient monuments"?