Business Comment: Don't waste any tears over Asfordby, Minister

Once the great white hope of the British coal industry, Asfordby Mine in North-east Leicestershire, is to close. A copy of a confidential memo on the matter, written by a senior civil servant for the benefit of John Battle, the Industry Minister, has fallen into our hands. In the interests of open Government, we here reproduce it. Given the hurried nature of its preparation, it is uncharacteristically blunt.

"I wouldn't waste any tears over Asfordby if I were you. To tell the truth, everyone knew all along it was a bit of dog; it was only ever built as a sop to the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, who demanded it as part of their price for supporting the Government during the miners' strike. There were actually better sites available, but there you go. As you are no doubt learning, government is all about compromises.

"Actually it's turned out to be a rather higher price than any of us anticipated. Not that you should believe old Budgie's claim that because of adverse geological conditions, it has become impossible to make it safe. Volcanic sills - I ask you! More investment on top of the pounds 300m already spent would undoubtedly have done the trick.

"The real problem here has little to do with safety. As usual it is much more about commerce and the fact that RJB's contracts with the electricity generators come to an end at the beginning of next April. So far Mr Budge has only been able to sign up one contract to support his mines thereafter, and that's only a short-term one. What Mr Budge is saying here is, I've closed Asfordby and I'll close more if you don't force the generators to pay me a decent price for my coal. They don't have to, you see. They are progressively switching to gas and anyway they can buy imported coal much cheaper. With the strength of the pound, these alternative sources of fuel get cheaper by the day. Asfordby is already a lost cause; it's never going to be economic. But the rest is still up for grabs.

"So there you go. If you don't step in and force the generators to pay up, what little is left of the coal industry might all but disappear. There is a perfectly respectable line of argument to say that this would be no bad thing. Your predecessor, Tim Eggar, certainly thought so. Coal is nasty, environmentally unfriendly stuff and nobody could possibly enjoy working in a mine. As for RJB, well the Government certainly doesn't owe Mr Budge a living. He's already made back most of what he paid for British Coal. In any case, the generators will have to buy some coal from him, if not on quite the same lucrative terms as before. They cannot buy all their needs on the spot market.

"If you were wise, then, you wouldn't intervene."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Extras
indybest
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI Designer/ User Interface Designer (UI, User Flow, Design)

£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?