Coal pledge to pit rebels

MICHAEL Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, will promise to introduce an early Bill to privatise the coal industry at the same time that he announces a pounds 500m pit rescue package. This will probably keep open 13 mines earmarked for closure last October.

The prospect of a coal privatisation Bill in the next session of Parliament will help to quell simmering discontent on the Tory right about Mr Heseltine's plan for further subsidies as he retreats from the plans to close 31 pits.

Although the Cabinet remains divided over what - if any - long-term prospects the reprieved pits will have, the Prime Minister, John Major, has thrown his personal weight behind the plan, which will still mean that more than half the pits originally threatened will be shut.

Ministers regard the report from the all-party Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee as having pointed the way to a solution of the crisis. But privately they have rejected the conclusion of its Labour chairman, Richard Caborn, that it could lead to a reprieve for 20 or more of the threatened pits.

While ministers are relieved that the committee has accepted the case for closing some pits, they are sceptical whether the total of extra coal production can pushed as high as 16 million tonnes, as suggested in the report.

Mr Major's backing for Mr Heseltine is in tune with an assessment of backbench opinion by the Chief Whip, Richard Ryder, and follows a fierce Cabinet debate over the extent of the reprieve. Some hawkish senior ministers pressed for a 'social approach', concentrating more money into helping redundant miners rather than on keeping pits open.

At the last Cabinet meeting 10 days ago, Mr Major issued an unprecedentedly strong reprimand to colleagues over leaks of the Cabinet's differences. Cabinet members passed on this ban on discussion of the coal crisis to junior ministers at a series of Whitehall meetings. But it has emerged that advocates of the 'social approach' included right-wingers such as Michael Howard, the Environment Secretary, and Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Strong reservations were also expressed by Gillian Shephard, the Employment Secretary, and Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary. Further debate is likely over the extent to which the reprieve should be presented as offering long-term hope for the future of the pits, and whether the susbidy should be financed directly from taxation, or, as looks increasingly unlikely, as a surcharge on electricity bills.

As a Nottinghamshire MP, Mr Clarke is said to have been particularly disturbed that miners at 10 of the 31 pits identified as the most viable belonged to the National Union of Mineworkers rather than the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, whose members worked during the 1984-5 strike.

Senior ministers dismissed claims by Robin Cook, the Opposition trade and industry spokesman, that a speech on the coal industry given by Lord Wakeham on Friday night had been an attempt to 'sideline' Mr Heseltine. Lord Wakeham, who chairs the ad hoc coal committee, had a long standing engagement to talk to Leeds Chamber of Commerce, and cleared the entire speech in advance with Mr Heseltine.

Senior ministers are increasingly confident that they can see off right-wing discontent over the rescue package by pointing out that the industry has been subsidised up to now at a level of pounds 1bn a year. Instead of ending this in one fell swoop, it merely intends to phase it out over three to five years.

Mr Cook called for the immediate reopening of 10 pits whose closure was ruled unlawful by the High Court in December, while Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, told a rally that there was a 'very strong case' for keeping every one of the 31 pits open because 'Britain can use the coal.'

world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice