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Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, as the House will know, I expressed concern about the future of the coal industry and CISWO during the passage of the Coal Industry Bill. I am not entirely happy with the partial outcome of the talks between the Government, British Coal and CISWO so far. I do not think that everything has yet been finalised.
I ask, first, is the funding package really acceptable to CISWO? There will be a total sum of £17 million in the form of a charitable trust, £5 million (an annual payment of £1 million for five years) paid by the new coal companies, and £12 million in capital endowments from British Coal. Will that sum adequately cover the costs of securing the future of all those services which cater for CISWO's disabledthe old and the infirmbearing in mind the wide range of welfare services and social welfare and benefits provided for more than 500,000 beneficiaries? We have had assurances only in respect of five years. There is also concern regarding the maintenance of the miners' convalescent homes, which the Minister mentioned.
Can we be assured of the continuation of the welfare trusts which provide recreation and sporting facilities in our coalfields, not only for miners but for everyone? We have to bear in mind the large numbers of unemployed and increasing numbers of part-time workers. As most have more leisure time there is a greater and growing demand for recreation and sports of all kinds in our mining communities. CISWO has built up and maintained a network of activities covering all sports
That leads me to a more serious concernthe disposal of British Coal land. Forty per cent. of the miners' welfare organisations lease all or some of their land from British Coal. It is valuable land, including sports grounds, in all the coalfields. Speculators will be interested in developing those prime sites. How will they be safeguarded?
The Minister and my noble friend Lord Peston have already mentioned the many acres of allotments which may well come under the same threat. In Yorkshire alone almost 200 acres of land are leased by miners' welfare schemes from British Coal.
The changes proposed in the management of CISWO also worry me. Previously it was a balanced representation of management and men, union and Coal Board, with an alternating chairmanship. Under this proposal the trustees are made up of three groupsfour employees, four from the employers and another four with general expertise. Therefore, the CISWO element may well lose out in relation to its future policy requirements since it is bound to be in a minority on the new board.
Furthermore, can the Minister allay anxieties about land leased for recreation and community purposes from the corporation? He mentioned the subject during the course of his contribution to the debate. Can existing users be given long-term leases and, if and when necessary, the leases transferred to, say, the National Playing Fields Association? That would be a useful safeguard, both for our recreation facilities and as a curb on the speculators.
I notice, of course, that the future financial backing of CISWO will in part depend on the new coal companies. I take up the point raised by my noble friend Lord Peston that there will be a total annual contribution from the mine owners of £1 million a year. What if any one of them fails to make that contribution? Is there any penalty or sanction for financial failure?
In the wake of a catalogue of pit closures it was inevitable that CISWO and British Coal had to examine the future of CISWO; a splendid national organisation which has served the miners, their families and the coalfield communities extremely well. I hope that it will not be unduly shackled in the years to come, because I believe that it still has a great task before it.
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me if I repeat two matters which have been raised by my noble friends. They are very important issues and I do so to emphasise their importance.
First, my noble friend Lord Peston concluded on a fundamentally important matter; namely, are the objectives of the new charity the same as the previous objectives of CISWO? I see that the Minister is agreeing with that. It is as well to have that on the record.
The Minister very properly recounted some of the benefits which have accrued to the mining community through CISWO. I am very glad that my noble friend on the Front Bench also mentioned what was in existence before CISWO. Everything was done by the miners themselves. That is something which those of us who come from mining families or mining districts regard as a major achievement under very difficult conditions. We remember the low pay and the difficulties associated with the mining industry at that time. One hopes that those achievements will not be forgotten in the coming years and, perhaps more importantly, in the initial stages. My noble friend Lord Mason gave figures which are on the record. However, we hope that that is not necessarily the end of the matter.
Perhaps I may refer to one aspect which is important to many of us with families in the mining industry. The Minister did not refer to the matter but I know that he will agree with me. Many of us who had the good fortune to undertake higher education received grants from CISWO. The grants were sufficiently important to make the difference between receiving or not receiving higher education. I hope that when considering what will happen in the future the trustees will bear that factor in mind.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether I am right on this aspect. I ask from sheer ignorance on my part. When CISWO becomes a charitable trust, will the bulk of the money, if not all of it, simply come from any outside organisation, body, person or individuals who can make a contribution to what will be the trust? I do not know enough about the legal side of charities to say whether that is the case.
As I understand it, the appointment of four general trustees will be made by the Government. I note that the Minister agrees. The character, nature and type of person are crucially important in the initial stages. Those factors will set the tone for the charity. Perhaps I may say this to the House. Under CISWO, and in pre-CISWO days of miners' welfare, there were two guiding principles regarding the administration of the scheme. First, there was the spirit of CISWOthe knowledge of exactly what was involved in providing help, and the good work which was carried out. Secondly, there was flexibility. That has not been referred to in this short debate. However, I hope that the board of trustees will make flexibility one of the most important guiding principles for the future.
I repeat what my noble friend said: that for all of us from the mining industry it is sad that today we come to what is, in effect, the end of an era. However, having said that, one hopes that the spirit of CISWO (that spirit will now come from the Government) will continue. There is a great deal to do and we look forward to the Government doing it.
A number of noble Lords have indicated a degree of sadness that this is the end of an era. I fully understand that. Indeed, it is the end of an era. Howeverthis is an important pointit is not the end of CISWO. Just as CISWO became statutory in the 1920sI briefly alluded to the history before that periodCISWO now has a future. It will be able to contribute to the communities, as it has in the past, albeit through a different mechanism.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, asked for confirmation that there has been no backsliding between this House and another place about land matters. I can give him that assurance. He then asked about the funding for the coal industry's element. The private coal companies will enter covenants to provide that funding. While nothing on this earth is absolutely certain, that seems to me to provide the necessary assurance.
Regarding the change from being a company under the Companies Act to becoming a charity, the purposes of the charitable trust reflect the purposes of the CISWO deed. If anything, that change (as I hope that I made clear earlier) will provide greater flexibility and possibilities for the work that is to be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, referred to contributions. It will, of course, be easier for people to contribute tax-effectively because of the tax benefits relating to a charity. The order should assist in that regard. The noble Lord also raised the point on trustees. As we see it, the crucial point about the Secretary of State's trustees is that they will bring skills which will be needed in the new era. But clearly it is a joint enterprise and the trustees cannot possibly be effective unless they share the aspirations and spirit of the existing trustees. I believe that we can agree on that matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Mason, asked whether we believe the funding package to be acceptable in the circumstances. It is our belief that in the current environment what we provide will enable the core activities to be properly dealt with in the future. He also commented about the land. We are confident that the steps we are endeavouring to bring forward will come to fruition and that we shall be able to achieve the kind of endeavours that he wishes to see.
In opening the debate, I commended the commitment given and pledged for the future by the directors of CISWO who are now the trustees of the CISWO trust. Noble Lords will not wish me to omit to mention the advisers and staff of CISWO, led by its chief executive, Mr. Vernon Jones. During this time of change, their contribution has been great, and is recognised as such. CISWO has been maintaining its complex and dynamic range of services, which have been well appreciated over the years. Yet during recent months, the advisers and staff have carried much additional work, preparing
A special tribute must equally be paid to the many supporters and voluntary helpers in the coalfield communities who so effectively help to deliver CISWO's services and the services provided by convalescent homes and day centres. Their work is vital. It is well appreciated and long may it continue.