The Pit Closures: Clarke fails to impress UDM lobby

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The Independent Online
MINERS from Cotgrave colliery in Nottinghamshire came face to face with a consummate politician at Westminster yesterday when they lobbied their local MP, Kenneth Clarke.

After separate short sessions involving a dozen miners at a time, the pitmen emerged from the House of Commons none the wiser. Many wondered why they had bothered.

Mr Clarke, the Home Secretary, was being asked to explain to the pitmen, many of them his constituents at Rushcliffe, why Cotgrave was among the 10 mines scheduled to close after a 90-day statutory notice period and not among 21 which were granted a moratorium.

The 2,000-strong lobby of Parliament came after a rally near Euston station in north London organised by Nacods, the pit deputies' union, and attended by members of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, whose members crossed picket lines during the 1984-85 miners' strike.

The UDM believes it has been betrayed by the Government, which is closing two pits in Nottinghamshire. 'Couldn't get any sense out of him,' one member of Nacods said. 'He answers questions by asking another.'

In the High Court, the UDM won permission to have Michael Heseltine joined as co-respondent with British Coal in its attempt to halt the closure programme.

It seeks a judicial review of the refusal to apply the Modified Colliery Review Procedure - which could take nine months - in respect of the 10 threatened pits. Peter Keenan, counsel for the UDM, accused Mr Heseltine of acting as 'judge and jury' in the dispute.

Mr Keenan told the judges he had received complaints from workers at Cotgrave and Silverhill in Nottinghamshire, who said that British Coal was attempting to frighten them into opting for voluntary redundancy by warning that their payments could be affected if they hung on to the end of the consultation period.

Conrad Dehn QC, for British Coal, said that was not the case, as redundancy payments would be calculated on miners' earnings prior to the start of consultation.

Meanwhile, the TUC is to launch a pounds 100,000 newspaper advertising campaign today to publicise Sunday's mass rally for the miners in central London.

(Photograph omitted)