Parliament and Politics: Tory MPs express concern to Heseltine: Chairman faces questions after independent mining engineers say management is failing to keep promise to preserve the fabric of collieries

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Indy Politics
REPORTS that British Coal has reneged on promises to maintain the fabric of pits during statutory 90-day consultations were raised with Michael Heseltine last night by the new Coal Group of Tory MPs, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Its members fall into three groupings. There are those, like Winston Churchill, the MP for Davyhulme, Hugh Dykes (Harrow East), Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend), and Bill Cash (Stafford), who only voted with the Government in the 21 October Commons debate on the 31-pit closure programme after behind-the-scenes warnings to the whips forced the announcement of a 'full and open' review.

Then there are the six Tories who voted against the Government - Elizabeth Peacock (Batley & Spen), Dr Michael Clark (Rochford), a member of the trade and industry select committee, Richard Alexander (Newark), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) and Ann Winterton (Congleton).

But the majority of members fall into the third grouping, those concerned about the future of coal but who have not yet raised any overt flag of protest.

Mr Alexander said: 'We were given an assurance that conditions would not prejudice the outcome of the review. Michael Heseltine gave me a personal assurance. If there is evidence to the contrary, it should be raised.'

Of the group's wider objectives, Mr Churchill said: 'We want to make the point that we represent a significant body of opinion within the Conservative Party. What we would like to see is careful consideration of the central and enduring role of coal in power generation and explore the various ways a wider market can be found.'