Outlook: Kissing goodbye to the coal industry
Thursday 27 November 1997
John Battle, the Energy Minister, is the hapless soul given the task of telling Richard Budge that he has no subsidy, no hope and no future. Yesterday, as he battled through his brief from the despatch box, he was joined by the Prince of Darkness, the Minister without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson - always a sure sign of trouble brewing.
If the Government is to preside over the closure of a third of RJB Mining's 17 deep mine pits and with them 5,000, perhaps 10,000, jobs, then Mr Budge wants to make sure the Energy Minister at least joins the casualty list.
The Budge line is that it would only take pounds 30m of subsidy a year to bridge the gap between what the generators are prepared to pay and the price he needs to keep his pits open. If the Government can find pounds 400m to keep the pensioners warm this winter, then surely pounds 30m is not much to ask to keep a whole industry alive. Alas this misses the point. Even if it were feasible to subsidise one producer in one section of the energy market, it would hardly serve the Government's wider agenda, which is to be seen as the clean man of Europe.
When Mr Blair jets off to Kyoto in three days time, he knows that the best way for Britain to honour its pledge to cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 is to jettison a large chunk of the coal industry. Quite apart from the nasty side-effects like mesothelioma and subsidence, coal is a big pain in the ozone layer and no amount of smart technology can make it environmentally acceptable at a price the market is prepared to bear.
New Labour is about to grasp the nettle and the result will not be edifying. But if the run down of the coal industry can be achieved in a humane manner, then it will surely be worth the pain. It is not easy, particularly for a Labour Government, to say goodbye to the working class culture and traditions of this once mighty industry. But in truth, these things belong now more to a museum than the modern world. The time has come to let go. There are better uses for Government money.
Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'
Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
Islamic State: Pope is 'being targeted by Isis', Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Richard III: Two years after his body was found scientists discover how he died
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...
£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...
£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...
£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...