MP calls for aid to soften blow of Selby coalfield closure

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The Independent Online

The Government has been urged to pump more aid into the Selby coalfield in Yorkshire after a report warned that closing the complex could cost 5,000 jobs and blow a £420m hole in the local economy.

The Government has been urged to pump more aid into the Selby coalfield in Yorkshire after a report warned that closing the complex could cost 5,000 jobs and blow a £420m hole in the local economy.

UK Coal, the owner of Selby, is in favour of an early shutdown and local MPs fear it could be closed as early as autumn next year.

The report, prepared by researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University for Yorkshire Forward, says that the closure of Selby would lead to the loss of 2,071 jobs directly and a further 909 jobs in related industries. In the longer term, it says, 5,000 jobs would be at risk.

In economic terms there would be a £237m reduction in regional output resulting from the end of coal-mining. But including indirect effects on firms in the supply chain including equipment suppliers, retailers, hotels and the construction companies, the overall drain on the economy would be £420m.

John Grogan, the Labour MP for Selby, called on the Government to ensure that the pit complex was closed in a more humane and planned way than happened during the mining closures of the 1980s and 1990s. "If that requires additional coal aid I think that would be a price worth paying, particularly as for decades in France and Germany the policy has been to gently run down large coal mines over a number of years."

Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is due to receive a report today from a firm of international mining consultants assessing the economic and geological prospects for Selby.

Mr Grogan said Ms Hewitt should publish it immediately so that all the facts were on the table and local representatives could sit down with the Government to discuss a phased closure programme and the preparation of an aid programme to help the regeneration of the area.

Earlier this year the Energy minister, Brian Wilson, ruled out an extension of the coal aid scheme under which the Government has provided £120m so far to support loss-making pits. He said it was not the policy of the Government to prop up uneconomic coalfields simply to win a few favourable headlines.

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