Obituary: Kevan Hunt

AS HEAD of Industrial Relations at the National Coal Board, Kevan Hunt held one of the most difficult management jobs in post-war Britain.

He assumed responsibility for industrial relations at a critical period of the year-long miners' strike of 1984-85, and then undertook the job of making thousands of miners redundant in preparation for privatisation. Had he been a convinced Thatcherite, both tasks would have been undertaken with relish. However Hunt was no hard-line monetarist and he never forgot his humble origins in the industry; he had begun his career as a colliery electrician in Derbyshire.

Hunt felt like "piggy in the middle" between the Thatcher government, which harboured an ideological passion to defeat the left-led National Union of Mineworkers, and the revolutionary socialism of Arthur Scargill, its leader. During that bitter struggle, in which many mineworkers lost their homes and others saw their families split apart under the pressure, Hunt would privately express his intense frustration with the obduracy of both the government and the leadership of the NUM. He succeeded Ned Smith as head of industrial relations in 1985, just over halfway through the dispute.

The strike took its toll on Hunt. There were prolonged periods of intense activity, often under the glare of the world's media. There was the consciousness that he was a key player in one of the most important periods in post- war British history and there was the realisation that the future of many thousands of miners and their families was partly in his hands. At one stage he believed the great conflict - which saw some of the most oppressive policing in peacetime modern Britain - was near to resolution. The opportunity ebbed away however and Hunt admitted weeping in frustration. He was, he said, "bloody distraught" at the time.

Hunt did not allow his concern for the industry and its employees to interfere with his strongly pragmatic approach. He was a clever, hard- nosed negotiator and often appeared abrasive to those he faced across the table. To ordinary mineworkers Hunt would have appeared as something of an ogre, although they cast most senior managers in such a role. All coal board employees knew was that he was the man who helped to preside over an industrial relations cataclysm and what they saw as the virtual destruction of the industry. In the early 1980s coalmining employed 200,000; today the figure is nearer 10,000.

His single-minded approach to dealing with union negotiators was tempered by his sense of humour. He had the capacity to go toe-to-toe with the trade unionist and then immediately afterwards inquire quite genuinely about their well-being. After the strike Hunt was never to face Arthur Scargill over a bargaining table because the NUM leader refused to negotiate alongside the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, a breakaway organisation which helped to defeat the strike.

If Hunt was responsible for helping to contract the industry - although he fought tooth and nail to keep some collieries open - he was anxious to help ameliorate the impact of the policy on miners and those who relied on collieries. As head of industrial relations from 1985 to 1988, and then as a director of the board until 1991, he attempted to ensure proper financial compensation for redundant pitmen and retraining for those who wanted it. From 1993 to 1996 he was chairman of British Coal Enterprise and helped to involve the private and public sector in the creation of 130,000 jobs in areas affected by colliery closures.

He was active in attempting to regenerate industry in other parts of the country through his presidency of the Prince's Youth Business Trust in Nottinghamshire and through membership of government regeneration agencies. After his retirement the World Bank sought his help in restructuring coal industries in Eastern Europe and Russia. People associated with him in these endeavours tell how senior business people and major players in the public services would always attempt to be at meetings when Hunt was in attendance. They realised that he had been at the "sharp end" of an industry during one of its most turbulent periods.

It was the miners' strike which tested the mettle of the man. Only the far left in the NUM painted him as little better than their sworn enemies in the Thatcher government. Hunt was particularly hurt to receive a letter from Arthur Scargill on his retirement which accused him of relishing the destruction of the industry. Scargill expressed delight at his departure.

Kevan Hunt might have pursued a career in politics. He was a member of the Amber Valley District Council for 12 years and was its leader for three years until 1976 when he moved to the coal board's industrial relations department in London. In later years he was able to go back to his roots, spending more time with former Derbyshire miners with whom he felt quite at home.

His inability to come to terms with Conservative governments, both during and after the strike, cost him a place in the honours list. Last year, however, he became a member of the Royal Victorian Order for his attempts to regenerate the old coalmining communities and for his youth work. Most trade unionists and management colleagues saw not only as a hard-headed manager, but as a warm and generous person.

It was during a medical examination towards the end of his career at the coal board that the leukaemia was diagnosed which led to his death.

Kevan Hunt, industrial relations manager: born Seaham Harbour, Co Durham 13 October 1937; HQ Industrial Relations Director, National Coal Board (renamed British Coal 1987) 1982-84, IR Deputy Director-General 1984-85, Head of IR 1985-88, Executive Director 1988-91; chairman, British Coal Enterprise 1993-96; MVO 1998; married 1958 Valerie Scattergood (two sons); died Derby 17 March 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links