6. Mr. Andy Stewart
asked the Secretary of Slate for Energy how much investment there has been in the coal industry since 1979; and how this compares with the investment in the period 1974 to 1979?
§ Mr. David Hunt
Since 1979 more than £5 billion has been invested in the coal industry. In real terms, the rate of investment has been more than 35 per cent. per year higher than under the previous Labour Administration.
I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Does it not show that record investment has made the coal industry competitive, and does it not refute the allegation that all that the Government have done is to close collieries? Was it not the previous Labour Government who starved the coal industry of its investment funds?
§ Mr. Hunt
Exactly. My hon. Friend is correct. If one excludes the year of the miners' strike, in which, thanks to that tragic and unnecessary dispute, nearly £500 million worth of potential investment was lost, investment under this Administration has been almost 50 per cent. higher per year in real terms than under Labour. We have seen, especially in my hon. Friend's constituency, a massive increase in productivity, which bodes very well for the future of the coal industry.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
Does the Minister acknowledge that if he wishes to make full use of the investment which has been put into the coal industry he must ensure that British miners have access to the best and most up-to-date mining equipment? If he accepts that, will he give an assurance that he will pay special attention to developments at the NCB subsiduary at Tredomen engineering works? Will he 7 give a further assurance that he will take all steps possible to ensure that any orders for mining equipment go to that subsidiary company?
§ Mr. Hunt
The hon. Gentleman knows that decisions on investment at individual pits must be a matter for British Coal management. I assure him, as I think he suggested, that British technology, especially in deep-mining equipment, is the best in the world. In the mines that I have been privileged to visit during the past 18 months I have seen some of the finest equipment in the world and some of the finest miners in the world, which together have produced those tremendous results.
§ Mr. Hardy
Does the Minister accept that investment in the coal industry during the past decade stems from the "Plan for Coal" for which the Labour Government were responsible and which the present Administration have continued? If the logic of that plan is to be maintained, will the Minister ensure further effort to secure greater markets for British coal in Europe, to enable the home base for that superb technology to be maintained?
Will the Minister take steps to ensure that South African coal ceases to enter Britain as it does today?
§ Mr. Hunt
I had thought that the hon. Gentleman needed no lessons from me as to the real position in the coal industry today. I am surprised that he should mention the discredited "Plan for Coal". Under this Government, investment has been far higher in real terms than was ever envisaged under "Plan for Coal". That envisaged a 4 per cent. increase in productivity every year. Under the last Labour Administration productivity fell overall by 2 per cent. Under this Government it has increased by 30 per cent. The hon. Gentleman should get his facts right.
§ Mr. Eadie
Will the Minister confirm that the figures that he has just given took into consideration the two changes in accounting practice by the National Coal Board? I refer, first, to deferred interest counting as capital expenditure and, secondly, to lease assets being included for the first time in 1985–86.
Will the Minister confirm, especially for the edification of the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), who posed the question, that in 1979 total investment in north and south Nottinghamshire was £149 million? I discovered from figures obtained from the Library that, taking that at 1985–86 prices, the investment projected for those two areas totals £97 million.
§ Mr. Hunt
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has some crucial points wrong. He has failed to appreciate that the total investment under the Labour Administration was less than that envisaged in "Plan for Coal", and considerably less in real terms than that provided under this Administration. We have seen record investment, which the Government believe is fully justified, but which evidently the Labour Government did not.