Rebel MPs 'bought off in cynical political exercise': Patricia Wynn Davies reflects on a review that had little to do with saving pits
Saturday 19 June 1993
But its title, The Prospects for Coal, showed how little it had to do with 'saving' doomed mines. Those prospects were to depend almost exclusively on commercial considerations - and Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, had repeatedly emphasised that people would not be forced to buy things they did not want.
Well before the Commons vote on 29 March, it was clear that there would be no brake on gas or nuclear power generation, cheap French electricity and imported orimulsion - the measures the trade and industry select committee had said would enlarge the market for coal.
But government whips were confident only six of the 30- strong group of Tory rebel MPs would vote against them. While some Tories remained uncomfortable about the package - 12 mines 'reprieved', and the rest closed or mothballed - only four defied the whip. Two others abstained along with Mr Churchill.
But the final vote was the culmination of one of the most cynical exercises in political manipulation in recent memory. By then six months had elapsed since the plan to shut down half Britain's coal industry first made the headlines.
A promise of a 'full and open' review of the closure plan had initially been extracted from the Government. But Mr Heseltine argued before the Tory 1922 Committee that any review should focus on 'setting out the full case' for the programme. The review of the 21 least-threatened mines made only one deviation from market philosophy - the prospect of subsidy to help British Coal sell coal beyond the 'core' amounts agreed with the two generating companies. But these contracts, as Mr Heseltine made clear later, needed to be signed within months. The figure of 12 to 15 pits that might be saved under the committee's proposals proved false. It was blatantly used, however, as a test of backbench political temperature. By the week of the White Paper's announcement it was considered that 'reprieving' 12 or 13 would be enough to mesmerise the average Tory backbencher.
When the final vote came nothing was left to chance as the Government bought off more rebels with an announcement that miners with chronic bronchitis and emphysema were to get injuries benefit.
The Ulster Unionist MPs were offered a pounds 10m deal to secure price concessions for heavy electricity users. The political fix had not guaranteed the life of a single pit.
- 1 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 2 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 3 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 4 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Head transplant: man will be attached to new body in under an hour and aim is immortality, doctor says
Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...