§ 15. Mr. Canavan
asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next intends to meet the Chairman of the National Coal Board.
§ Mr. Canavan
Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the National Coal Board that it should do its own opencast mining instead of contracting it out to private enterprise? Some private contractors are very hostile to the trade union movement and are forcing workers to work 12-hour shifts and more than 60 hours a week. Will the right hon. Gentleman investigate the activities of J. Murphy and Son, Ltd., some of the management of which were recently convicted for tax swindling?
§ Mr. Benn
This is a matter for the board, in conjunction with the NUM. There was discussion on this subject last year, and a pithead ballot on the matter. I am sure that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to assume management responsibilities in the nationalised industries on matters such as this.
§ Mr. Hardy
In the light of his recent visit to Silverwood colliery, in my con- 1274 stituency, will my right hon. Friend re-emphasise that this Government have taken a series of helpful and wise actions to ensure that Britain maintains a vigorous coal industry and a capacity for energy that will enable this country to be self-sufficient?
§ Mr. Benn
I can confirm that. Although I cannot pretend that there are not outstanding problems in the coal industry, the latest of which is the very strong pressure for early retirement, in general the NUM and the NCB recognise that this Government have helped the coal industry to contribute considerably to national energy needs.