Byers to unveil £100m rescue package for coal

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The Independent Online

A multi-million pound rescue package for the coal industry is to be unveiled by the Government this week.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is expected to tell the Commons that he has won approval for a two-year package worth an estimated £100m. It is expected that the money will go towards funding investment in mines and underwriting output to prevent coal prices being undercut by foreign imports.

There are just 17 deep mines left in Britain, 13 owned by RJB Mining, and nearly half are in trouble because of a glut of coal on the world markets. RJB Mining has long argued that it needs help to compete with other European coal industries which get subsidies. Labour MPs also argue that the "dash for gas" under the Conservatives, when large numbers of gas-fired power stations were built, has undermined the British market.

An aid package for coal is expected to be announced at the beginning of this week, according to government sources, but a Department of Trade and Industry spokesman described the subsidies as "speculation".

The aid comes as new research shows people living in former coalfield communities are contending with poverty, sickness and unemployment.