Crisis in the Pits: The political war of words

'We could import a lot of cheap coal at certain times. That would undermine our industry and we could close all of our pits. Then we would become very dependent upon that imported coal - and when we did so it would no longer be cheap.' Peter Walker (Conservative Energy Secretary), 1986.

'A good deal has been said over the last few days about the Conservatives and coal - some of it pure fiction, some of it pure speculation . . . I want to set the record straight by restating the profound commitment of the Conservative government to the coal industry and to everybody who works in it.' John (now Lord) Wakeham, then Secretary of State for Energy, February 1992.

'No pits will be closed because of privatisation. The future size of British Coal's operations will depend on the size of the UK coal market . . . that they can win.' Lord Wakeham, October 1992.

'Nine years ago I (said) that Tory government had a hit list of pits earmarked for closure. I was told I was telling lies. One hundred and forty pit closures and 140,000 redundancies later, I ask the question: who told the truth and who told the lies?' Arthur Scargill (President of the National Union of Mineworkers), October 1992.

'The bear squeeze on the demand for coal has been scant reward for the efforts which . . . have seen productivity more than double in the past six years.' Neil Clarke, British Coal chairman, yesterday.

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