Rebel MPs denied coal assurance

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The Independent Online
A SECOND Commons revolt in tonight's vote on the coal White Paper was threatened by Tory MPs yesterday after the time- scale for possible closure for 12 'reprieved' pits was brought forward to Christmas.

As the rebellion gathered pace among disenchanted backbenchers over the paper - hailed last Thursday as a successful buy-off of opponents - the British Association of Colliery Managers also insisted that virtually all the 12 'reprieved' mines among the 31 earmarked for shut-down would be closed by the end of the year.

British Coal said at the weekend that closing down more capacity was 'a situation that we are going to have to be meeting in nine to twelve months' time'.

From April 1994 guaranteed sales to generators will drop from 40 to 30 million tons. The 12 pits currently produce 12.8 million tons.

Elizabeth Peacock, Conservative MP for Batley and Spen, who voted against the Government in last October's revolt, said that she would do so again unless 'positive, bankable assurances' were given over slowing the 'dash for gas', curbing French electricity and orimulsion imports and restricting opencast mining. Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, would not give any assurance yesterday.

The 30-strong Coal Group of Tory MPs, headed by Winston Churchill, the MP for Davyhulme, meets today to discuss tactics. Not all of them are expected to defy the Government, but a second revolt in whatever form would be highly damaging to Mr Heseltine and the Government.