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Mr. Hain : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Mining records have been centralised in Bretby, which is a considerable distance from places such as Merthyr and Neath in south Wales. Another value of the museums, to which my hon. Friend drew attention, is that they are a source of history about the local area. At least they are relatively near the coalfields, in the case of Big Pit in south Wales, and that is another major reason why they should be preserved.
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) : I shall talk about the living heritage in connection with new clause 1, which I wholly support. You, Madam Speaker, were not able to select amendment No. 59--I certainly do not question your decision--but it would seem to be the appropriate place in which the Minister could consider, when he eventually adopts new clause 1, some way of rescuing the brass bands and associations that have banded together for sporting purposes, and have been fostered by individual collieries. That is most important. I raise this matter at the urging of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, East (Mr. Patchett), who has the Grimethorpe colliery band in his area. Surely, the Grimethorpe band and the Frickley band are two of the finest brass bands that exist.
Mr. Enright : My hon. Friend reminds me of Sharlston. My hon. Friends and I could go through a catalogue of some of the finest sounds in this country. They have reached a high international standard and it is important that they are not swept away. If you were to examine my constituency, Madam Speaker, you would see that it is a series of communities.
Column 149Those communities were brought there essentially to work at the pit. The communities were fostered in part by the pit in terms of the recreational activity, which was extremely important. One only has to look at the multitude of miners' institutes and at the part that they played in improving a life which was hard. They improved that life with better educational and cultural standards.
We must not throw that away, because the communities have no jobs whatsoever. The result is that we are liable to have young folk hanging around with nothing to do, and the devil does indeed create work for idle hands. However, one can find in the brass bands a combination of young and old folk working together. The bands take them off the streets and give them not only a pastime, but a passion.
I ask the Minister to consider seriously the possible inclusion of brass bands and of sporting clubs that were previously supported by individual collieries. They now have nowhere to go because the corporate purse is dwindling in the private sector. Therefore, the urging of the Government is needed.
Mr. Rogers : I want to speak in particular to amendment No. 11, which deals with the provision of rescue and maintenance services to mining museums. That would probably apply uniquely to south Wales, because the area has become a mining museum. We have one colliery, which is due to close.
However, in my constituency there is a mines rescue service station which is manned by full-time brigadesmen. Those are young men--probably the cream of the mining industry--who have been trained to an extraordinarily high level. They would be, if I may use the expression, the "shock troops" of the rescue service in the event of any disaster or calamity.
There are members of my family in the service in Rhondda, and I know of their extraordinary dedication in achieving high levels of personal fitness, as well as acquiring all the skills that are needed. The proposition that we should go to a part-time force fills me with horror. Regardless of how many collieries will be left, if there is a disaster or a calamity--as the Minister knows--the professionalism required is as high as that required from the police, ambulance and rescue services above the surface.
One could argue that those in the mines rescue service require even more skill because of the extraordinary conditions in which they have to operate. If Tower colliery closes by 1 May 1994--that proposition has been made in some quarters--the only nearby underground shaft facility that would be serviced by that rescue station would be the mining museum at Big Pit.
In south Wales, there are 100 small mines. Many of those are in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Mr. Hain) and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and some are in my constituency and throughout the valley communities in south Wales, and they rely on the rescue service.
I know that proposals have been made about the level of service that ought to be maintained and the mechanism under which it would operate. For example, a central service and a service by helicopter that would fly out when emergencies occurred have been proposed. As long as any
Column 150people are working underground, the thought of a reduced service fills me with horror. Often in emergencies the time factor is important.
Not so long ago, there were 63 coal mines in my constituency. Now there are none. There is a half one in a way ; the Maerdy colliery is worked from the Tower colliery, but both the coal and the men are wound in Tower colliery. However, many of my constituents--I say many, but that is a relative term. I should say that some of my constituents work in the coal mines. To withdraw any rescue services while even one man is still working underground would be a criminal abdication of responsibility by the Government. Whatever expenditure is required and however the service is structured in the future, the Minister should take the responsibility extremely seriously. I accept that the demand for the service will decrease. Therefore, the Minister must think about what he intends to do with the young dedicated people, the cream of their profession, who have devoted their working life to developing the mines rescue service. The Minister cannot simply wash his hands of such people. They are in an incredibly difficult position. They must stay in employment. Unlike other miners, they are not allowed to apply for voluntary redundancy even though, as miners, they have come from collieries into the central rescue station.
As they are full-time brigadesmen, they live in the station so that they can be on 24-hour call. They have to arrange their holidays to ensure that the maximum required coverage is available if a disaster occurs. These people have given complete dedication.
The brigadesmen live in tied houses. They cannot apply for houses outside the station. British Coal, as currently constituted, will not allow them to live outside the station. So they cannot purchase or rent a house outside. What will happen to their conditions of employment after the reorganisation ?
Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) : In view of the dedication of the men, is it not odd that British Coal will not even treat with them about the possible sale of those houses to the men ? They want to know what will happen to their homes and property. It is a real shame that British Coal has locked the door and will not talk to them about the possibility of buying the houses that they live in.
Mr. Rogers : I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned that point. It is an absolute scandal. I do not understand why the Government behave in that way. Those in the rescue service, of all people, have given loyalty to the industry. I am not surprised that the Government have done what they have. Some years ago, I was the spokesman for the Opposition when we considered the Bill to provide for the contractorisation of the atomic weapons establishments at Aldermaston and elsewhere. The Government sold those houses over the heads of the occupants.
Will the Minister deal with that point when he replies ? Does the Coal Board intend to sell the houses over the heads of the people who occupy them ? It would be an absolute scandal if that happened. Almost all those young people are under 40 and have young children. They have given up their homes in other areas to live in the rescue station. For their houses to be sold over their heads, as
Column 151happened in Aldermaston under the same Government, would be criminal, just as it was in the case of the Atomic Weapons Establishments police.
What guarantee will be given to the young men who work in the mines rescue service ? Will they be allowed to remain in their houses for six months, 12 months or some other period ? What time period will they be given ? I stress that those people have had to uproot themselves from their communities in order to provide this service. Those young men are the cream of the profession. They have shown dedication, loyalty and, in many instances, bravery of the highest order. They deserve some respect, loyalty and support in return. If the Coal Board is to close these stations these people will have to be treated generously so that they can adjust to the situation outside their current employment. Any action less than that will be a crime committed by the Government.
Mr. William O'Brien : I will dwell briefly on the value of mining museums to the tourist trade throughout the regions, and particularly on their value to the Wakefield and West Yorkshire area. The closure of mines- -in my constituency the last pit, Sharlston, closed last July--has signalled the end of mining in the Normanton constituency. At one time, there were 23 pits in the area and now there is none. The area has a mining background. People will learn of the traditions of the communities and history will be projected into the future through the mining museum situated in the Huddersfield and Wakefield area. Therefore, the proposals in this new clause and the amendments taken with it are significant. They provide some safeguards for traditional inspections, maintenance of underground corridors, maintenance of inspections for safety reasons, and maintenance of winding equipment, cages and other equipment which are necessary if the museum is to continue operating. That is the purpose of the new clause and of the amendments taken with it.
We are asking the Government for assurances that the back-up services that have been provided by British Coal will continue to be provided. Obviously, local authorities will give all the support they can to maintaining the new museum, but their resources are very limited because of Government restrictions on local government expenditure on local government activities. Nevertheless, the involvement of local government in the maintenance of the mining museum is very important.
There are statutory responsibilities also. We will have to rely upon the mining industry--British Coal in particular--to provide the necessary back- up services. I make one plea to Ministers. Mining areas such as mine have a history going back decades--a history of which mining people are proud. Even though we have witnessed disasters in our communities, those disasters are part of the history of our areas. I refer in particular to a recent disaster at Lofthouse colliery in my constituency. Thirteen men perished because of an influx of water into the coal workings, and there is a memorial in the area to them. When people go underground in the mining museum, it helps to explain the situation that developed at Lofthouse colliery and helps the communities to understand what people endured on that occasion. It helps to explain why mining communities are so proud of their attachment to the mine.
Mr. Hinchliffe : I, like my hon. Friend, recall vividly the Lofthouse tragedy. Does he accept that, in a sense, Lofthouse is unique, because the tragedy is commemorated by a memorial above the place where several of the men who were killed remain to this day ? That is not the case in many other parts of Yorkshire and other coalfields where there are no memorials to the thousands of people who gave their lives to the British coal industry, which has been wiped out by the present Government. That fact reinforces the need for museums that offer some insight into what people in our area and elsewhere went through.
Mr. O'Brien : I am grateful for that intervention because it brings out an argument that should have been made earlier--that the mining museum in West Yorkshire is a memorial to many people who worked in the pits and many people who perished in the pits. I believe that the museum is important as a memorial to the people who worked in those pits, and to the people and communities who relied on mining for their livelihood and standard of living.
Therefore, I consider that the new clause and the amendments are important. I appeal to the Minister to take into consideration the importance of maintaining the mining museums, especially the museum in Wakefield, but no less importance should be given to the other museums to which hon. Members have referred. As we need statutory back-up to ensure that those museums continue, it is important that the Minister answers the points that have been made so that we can understand the effects that the Government's proposals in the legislation will have on mining museums.
I said earlier that in the region of Wakefield, Huddersfield and West Yorkshire in general the mining museum is a tourist attraction. Many people visit the museum because it signifies a past industry in the region. The local authorities now need to develop the tourist trade to increase the flow of resources into their districts. It is a new type of local tax, trying to bring in tourists. We need that because the English tourist board is not being financed to the extent that it was a few years ago, so we need to find new attractions. Mining museums are new attractions. The tourist trade in the mining areas is beginning to develop, and the mining museums are a way of attracting tourists to our areas.
Ms Walley : I shall speak briefly in the short time that is available. I want wholeheartedly to support the new clause which has been spoken to so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), and to congratulate all hon. Members who are supporting it today.
I hope that when the Minister replies he will take on board the special lessons that we are now learning in my constituency from the Chatterley Whitfield mining museum. It is important that we should consider what is happening to our coal mining industry. It is ironic, given that we have spoken so much about pit closures, that we should now have to urge the Minister, at the eleventh hour, to prevent coal mining museums from closing.
Chatterley Whitfield is a coal mining museum. It was set up as a trust, and it was successful in so far as it managed to obtain, as we have heard, the whole of the British Coal collection. It was run on a shoestring. It has been successful in that it attracts about 50,000 visitors annually. People can visit the pit buildings and experience
Column 153going down a pit. Those who gave their working lives to the industry work as volunteers to give young people a chance to see what a coal mine was like.
Unfortunately, Chatterley Whitfield mining museum has gone into liquidation. This Friday, I shall have a last-minute meeting with the Charity Commission, the city council and others involved to see whether we can save it. I tabled an amendment to the new clause in the hope that Chatterley Whitfield could be included in the list of museums which the House should have an opportunity to keep open. Three aspects of Chatterley Whitfield museum are important. First, it houses the national collection, which includes a huge number of items. That is in the hands of the liquidators, who are deciding when and how it will be sold. Earlier today, I was speaking to the regional museums office in the west midlands, which does not even have a comprehensive list of the items in the national collection. It is outrageous that it is to be sold because it includes items of national value. The liquidators say that it cannot be separated but must be sold as a job lot. We cannot afford to lose that national collection. It should remain in regional coal mining museums. The second aspect of the museum concerns its local collection. People are rightly proud of how local communities have built up the coal mining museums. They have donated in good faith items such as George crosses and other items connected with their fathers' and grandfathers' work in the industry. Although some items have been returned to people, a large number have been sold.
Thirdly, the Chatterley Whitfield museum is a local archive which includes details about maps, shafts and how different companies operated, even before nationalisation. The collection has been brought together over the years and reflects our industrial heritage in Stoke-on-Trent.
By the second week of April, all that will be sold off. This is an important debate. I shall fight 100 per cent. to keep the collection at the Chatterley Whitfield museum and, despite all the odds, to find a way to keep the collection together. Many people in Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire feel the loss of the mining museum far more than the loss of individual items. I therefore urge the Minister to ensure that we keep intact the proud heritage of our mining traditions in my mining museums.
Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan) : I congratulate hon. Members on their ingenuity in having this subject as the first debate. In some respects, it is appropriate that we begin by giving due recognition to the tremendous contribution that the mining industry has made to this country. It is sad, however, that nowadays hon. Members want to speak more about the museums in their constituencies than about the mines. That is regrettable because of the economic and industrial circumstances that confront us.
We discussed this matter briefly in Committee. At that time, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) was ingenious in finding a way to raise the issue. Since then, there has been a comprehensive, all-party approach by the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) and for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright). This afternoon, the importance of the mining industry to so
Column 154many communities has been clearly expressed by Members on both sides of the House. It is essential that we secure our heritage for the future by ensuring that mining museums with mining facilities receive appropriate technical assistance.
As my hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) and for Wakefield said, it is important that due recognition be given to the rescue services. If it is wrong to send men down the mines without proper safety equipment, it is even worse to send people with no experience of the industry. The very purpose of the museums is to give them an understanding of the industry. The last thing that we want is for people to go down in dangerous circumstances. If we do not preserve the mining museums, all that will be left of the mining industry will be one or two collieries and the unsightly, derelict mine sites that still scar so many mining communities. It is therefore appropriate that, in a debate of this nature, we should draw attention to the great assistance given by British Coal. At a time of limited resources, it has nevertheless backed the development of this "second stage" of the mining industry's life in certain communities.
My hon. Friends have duly recognised mining museums' contribution to tourism. It is sad that museums are all that we have left, but the nature of coal mining is such that people who do not work in the industry or have associations with it have virtually no appreciation of the conditions in that many men worked for so many years. It is therefore essential that people should be able to see the contribution that mining made to people's lives and the price which people paid as a consequence of it.
Reference has been made today to the fact that one or two communities will have, not a mining museum, but a memorial to the miners whose lives have been lost in the winning of coal. Later this year in the village of Fallin in my constituency, where the Polmaise colliery operated for many years, a mining memorial will be erected with the name of every miner who died in the winning of coal in that community. Due to the research carried out by some men who worked in the mining industry, they have tracked down some 150 people who died in the mining industry in that area. Something similar may be happening across the whole country.
We are concerned not just about the past, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsley said. Few people are better equipped for blowing the trumpet of brass bands than my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsley--[Hon. Members : "Hemsworth."] I am sorry. I know the tune, if not the title. We shall discuss the coal industry social welfare organisation later in our deliberations.
Given the extent to which our traditions and heritage are manifest in those museums, it is essential that we have the continuing support of those who will be responsible for running the industry if the Bill is passed. I therefore support the amendment, which is not a matter of party dispute. It is now incumbent on the Government to provide us with good reasons for saying that they cannot support it. If they cannot support it, they must ensure that the Bill is amended in another place to ensure that the contribution that those museums make to the community and our cultural heritage is sustained. Without the Government's
Column 155push and the prodding of the coal authority, it is clear that private mine owners will not fulfil the responsibilities that the mining communities expect of them.
On behalf of the Labour party, I give our overwhelming support to the amendment and hope that the Government will go some way towards meeting the realistic claims of both sides of the Committee for support of the mining museums.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I should like to intervene briefly to register my party's support for the new clause. The Minister will realise that, in educational and cultural terms, it is hugely important that museums be preserved. Experience at places such as the slate quarry museums in north Wales shows how popular they are, not just with local communities but with people at large. If a community cannot have a future in an industry--something to which it can look forward with pride-- it must at least be able to look back with pride at its past.
It is vital that it be able to do so on site, where the action happened, so that the facility may be part of the community. It is important that we reinforce what were coalfield communities and avoid doing anything more to undermine them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin) : What we have heard in the debate so far shows the wide interest among hon. Members in the traditions and heritage of coal mining areas. I have been asked a number of questions, to which, although they are not directly relevant to the subject of museums, I shall try to respond.
The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) asked several questions about houses currently occupied by members of the rescue services. British Coal is considering which properties will be required by successor companies. These will need different treatment. I understand people's concern about the future of their homes, and I can assure British Coal tenants that decisions about ownership will take their interests very much into account. Clearly, the hon. Member for Rhondda will want to pursue the matter further. In view of his experience, I shall probably want to write to him when I have secured more information for him to pass on to his constituents.
I understand the uncertainty surrounding some of the issues that were raised by the hon. Members for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), for Neath (Mr. Hain) and for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien).
The hon. Member for Normanton reminded us of the Lofthouse disaster. This is one of the most recent such events occupying people's thoughts, having occurred, I believe, in 1972 or 1973. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong about the date. In terms of the number of people involved, it was a major disaster, and some of us followed the regular daily news bulletins. As the hon. Member for Wakefield pointed out, some bodies were not recovered, having been sealed within the mine. The decision to stop the recovery process was very emotive. Indeed, such situations are always emotive. I understand very well the history and the circumstances of disasters and other events to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
What we have to consider is the best means of moving forward. There has been extensive reference to underground mining museums. I accept that there is a desire to go underground, and that there is huge interest in
Column 156such facilities. I do not believe, however, that it is necessary to go underground to appreciate the conditions in which miners had to work.
Indeed, by their very nature, some of the more dangerous areas could never be shown in a museum. They are just too dangerous for visitors. Members of the public can be taken only to the stronger and safer areas. There are several examples of the development of mining equipment and the portrayal of mining conditions. The hon. Member for Rhondda made this point. In an intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Neath, he referred to a particular event in his constituency. Perhaps it did not take place underground--I do not know the exact circumstances--but it may clearly have mirrored people's experience on site.
Mr. Rogers : I was referring to the Rhondda heritage park and museum, which is dedicated not only to the history of coal mining in the Rhondda valley--probably the most famous coal mining location in the world- -but to the heritage of miners and their families, who came in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. If the Minister would like to visit the Rhondda, I shall certainly make arrangements for him. He would have to apply to the Secretary of State for Wales for a passport, but I am sure that that difficulty could be overcome.
Mr. McLoughlin : During the passage of the Bill, I have been invited to a few places. Perhaps I shall one day be able to take up some of the invitations. If I were to go to the hon. Gentleman's constituency, it would be a reverse visit, as he regularly visits my old Cannock Chase area.
The park to which the hon. Gentleman referred is not an underground facility such as those we have been talking about. My point is that it is possible to have an above-ground mock-up portraying underground conditions quite realistically. When I was being trained at the Valley training centre in Hednesford, trainees gained experience above ground before going underground.
Mr. William O'Brien : As the Minister suggests, some of these facilities could be provided on the surface. However, it is not possible to re-create on the surface the descent in the cage, travel along underground roadways, or the negotiation, in very limited space, of what we called sleepers. Museums take people from shallow seams--I worked in seams only 3 ft high--to the massive machinery of today. This is the backcloth. These are the significant issues in the portrayal of the history of mining communities. A working pit is the type of museum that we want to see maintained. Because of its importance to communities, I hope that the Minister will not depart from that idea.
Mr. McLoughlin : I certainly will not. I have not visited the mining museum to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, although it is not very far from where I now live. As has been demonstrated, not all facilities are underground.
Several hon. Members rose
Column 157underground working facilities. If that were the case, it would be perfectly proper and logical that a mines rescue service should be available. However, I can see nothing in the provision to the effect that museums must be underground, even though acceptance of the new clause would involve making a rescue service available. Clearly, this is nonsense in the case of facilities that are above ground. Does not the provision need a good deal of tidying up ?
Mr. McLoughlin : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing a distinction between different mining operations, and between different museums. One difference that arises concerns the cost of providing rescue services--a matter to which I shall return shortly. Several hon. Members rose
Mrs. Peacock : I hope that my hon. Friend will not be misled by the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who, although he was not present at the beginning of the debate, talked about the difference between facilities above ground and those underground. Obviously, we are very keen that underground facilities should remain. If the clause is not quite right, we shall accept amendments.
Mr. McLoughlin : I am grateful. I should point out, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton followed the Bill closely in Committee, and is well versed in these matters--but I digress.
Mr. Gunnell : The seam at Caphouse was specially constructed ; nevertheless, if people are to go underground, there must be safety arrangements. The Minister and the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton would not say what they had said if they had been to the Yorkshire mining museum and done the underground visit. Some impression of mining can be gained on the surface, but an underground visit is the most accurate guide.
Mr. McLoughlin : There we are, then : now I have been told that I have never been down a mine. I shall let it pass, however. I have given careful consideration to the views put to me during the passage of the Bill about mining museums and their position once we have privatised British Coal. I should welcome any decision by the privatised mining companies to offer voluntary support similar to that currently offered by British Coal, but I firmly believe that it would be wrong to impose a requirement on the private sector. That applies equally to providing services and to making gifts of obsolete machinery and equipment which may be valuable even if it is no longer of use for mining.
The question whether mining museums should be included in the scope of a mine rescue scheme is a matter for the Health and Safety Commission. The commission will introduce new regulations in June, which will be subject to full consultation with all interested parties.
Hon. Members will be aware that, in its advice to us about the post- privatisation safety regime, the HSC has
Column 158said that responsibility for regulating health and safety must remain clear and unequivocal and must confirm the need to retain a clear separation between licensing and health and safety regulation. The Government have accepted the commission's advice in full. I therefore cannot accept the proposal to include rescue conditions in the Coal Authority licences.
The Health and Safety Executive is preparing draft regulations on rescue, in full consultation with the national advisory committee on rescue work and rescue apparatus. I assure hon. Members that they will be given due consideration. It is for the Health and Safety Commission to decide on the scope of the proposed regulations, which will of course be subject to full formal consultation with all interested parties.
The Coal Authority will not be in a position to provide the help in kind which the new clause seeks. I believe that the best way for mining museums to obtain technical services and advice is to begin now to explore links with the private mining sector. Specialist museums receive support from a variety of sources, including local authorities, and to some extent from central Government, via the Museums and Galleries Commission. It would seem wrong to single out these museums for exceptional access to central funds, as the new clause proposes.
This is an uncertain time for museums, but I see no reason to be pessimistic. Mining museums are obviously a powerful attraction. Several hon. Members have pointed out how some mining areas are attracting many tourists, thereby bringing in welcome new jobs. They enjoy a fund of good will, as this debate has shown. I feel sure that the museums will find their place in a privatised industry if they respond vigorously to changing circumstances. I believe that mining museums can look forward to a valuable and viable future. I believe that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley), who mentioned the Chatterley Whitfield mining museum, has also been associated with the Potteries museum, which has won several national awards
Ms Walley : The point is that we stand to lose the entire national collection at Chatterley Whitfield, not to mention the items donated locally, because, when private business steps in, charity law does not take precedence over company law.
Mr. McLoughlin : I believe that the circumstances surrounding that museum are still in a state of flux. I understand that British Coal gave the exhibits to the museum in the late 1980s. British Coal hopes that it may prove possible so to arrange matters that the exhibits are passed on to another museum, or the like. I know the museum ; I believe that I visited it once. As far as I know, the situation is still changing, and other complicated matters come into play as well--designation, relations with the city council, and so on. I am sure that the hon. Lady will continue to be involved.
Opposition Members have described how these museums were set up in the 1980s in recognition of the historic importance of the industry in mining areas. There is no reason to believe that they will not continue to thrive in the near future.
I must tell the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) that decisions on continued sponsorship of colliery bands are a matter for British Coal. I understand
Column 159that the corporation is sympathetic to the Grimethorpe brass band and has agreed to support it, so that it can stay intact while commercial sponsors are found. The hon. Gentleman may want to revisit that point when we discuss the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.
I hope that the hon. Member for Wakefield will withdraw the new clause. The points that he has raised are important, but are already covered.
Mr. Hinchliffe : I am disappointed with the Minister's response. He has heard Opposition and Conservative Members alike presenting a coherent argument in favour of the new clause and in support of the future operations of the mining museums, including the one in my constituency.
The Minister seemed to rest his case--and he a former miner--on the idea that it is not necessary to go underground to re-create the experience of a working colliery. That is quite wrong. I have visited the Yorkshire mining museum often, and have been down a number of working pits. That museum comes as near as possible to re-creating the environment in which men have struggled for generations. I went down my first pit when I was 15-- Crigglestone in Wakefield. The seam runs underneath the River Calder and is full of water. I remember seeing men in the Manor pit crawling along in seams no more than 2 ft 6 in high. We cannot re-create that for the public, but it is possible to show something akin to the environment in which the work was done.
At the Caphouse museum, there is a crawl-through which children like mine can go through and enjoy, but it does not really re-create the conditions that I could describe to my two children, whose great-grandfather spent six hours pinned under a rock at Walton colliery in Wakefield and broke his back in the process. That should mean something to my children and to future generations of youngsters who will never experience the tragedy of so much that went on in the industry, in Yorkshire and elsewhere.
The Minister's second point--his first would be invalidated by anyone who had been to the Yorkshire museum or any other underground museum--was that museums should talk to private owners in an effort to raise funds. They have done that already. It is thanks to the vision of the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council and Wakefield metropolitan district council that we have a Yorkshire mining museum at all. It is also thanks to support from Europe.
The Minister's answer will just leave the museums to wither and die. That is unacceptable. I know that this issue is being taken seriously in another place. I therefore hope that the Minister will go away and think about the points made today and consider what steps the Government might take, when the Bill reaches another place, to deal with them.
On that basis, I am prepared to withdraw the new clause, but I hope that the Minister will take seriously the important arguments that have been advanced in the debate. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn .
.--(1) It shall be the duty of the Health and Safety Executive to promote best standards of occupational health in the coal industry. (2) To enable the Health and Safety Executive to fulfil its duty under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall make a scheme before the restructuring date which transfers the staff, property functions and duties of the British Coal Medical Service to the Health and Safety Executive.
(3) The Health and Safety executive may impose a levy on licensed operators to meet any costs of providing occupational health services which are not covered by direct charges to users of the service. (4) The local authority, on the advice of the Health and Safety Executive, may impose a levy on the licensed operators.'.-- [Mr. O'Neill.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
(4A) A licence under this Part shall include a condition which ensures that workmen's inspectors appointed in accordance with section 123 of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 receive their normal rate of pay, including any performance-related or production-related bonus, for any time spent performing section 123 duties.'.
Mr. O'Neill : The new clause and the amendment are concerned with two aspects that have already been mentioned--the medical service, which is one of the current, continuing and, we should like to think, future legacies of the coal industry, and health and safety. The medical services provided by British Coal are comprehensive. They employ doctors, nurses and radiologists. No other occupational health service in Britain is experienced in mining--all the nurses are trained or training to be qualified occupational health nurses. Given the decline in mining, it is unlikely that any other organisation will be able to build such a pool of knowledge in the next couple of years. The best way to maintain the expertise of the British Coal medical service is for it to be assumed by the Health and Safety Executive, which will have some responsibility for ensuring that health standards are met in the coal mining industry.
The expertise of the medical service extends far beyond the problems and the conditions of working miners. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) has a private Member's Bill going through the House on the issue of emphysema. Apparently, very few cases of emphysema do not arise from mining. That disease does not emerge immediately, and it is long-term. It is essential that a part of the health service in Britain has the expertise to identify the disease, and that records are kept centrally. New clause 2 seeks to sustain those aspects of the medical service by making them a duty of the Health and Safety Executive.
The executive is perhaps held in some doubt by some sections of the coal industry, because they assume that it is a poor substitute for the pit deputies in certain safety matters. But we can think of no other organisation that is better equipped to take on responsibility for such matters. We recognise that the Coal Authority is not equipped to take them on. After privatisation, the new licensed mine