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
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

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

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower