The Week in Review: Home News

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The Independent Online
IT WAS the week that people hung from office windows in posh Kensington, west London, to cheer thousands of demonstrating miners. To John Major it must have seemed an ill-timed realisation of his dream of a classless society.

In the middle of the recession, 30,000 pitmen, facing the dole, found support in a range of strange and wonderful places. It surprised them and floored the Government.

With Lord Neidpath, a Gloucestershire landowner, addressing a 3,000-strong pro-miners rally in Cheltenham and arch Tories and Socialist Workers standing shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the land, the first government U-turn of the week was no bad idea. Public opinion and angry Tory backbenchers forced a stay of execution for 21 of the 31 threatened mines. Meanwhile, academics spent the week deriding the rationale for the closures offered by an unusually uncertain Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who seemed to grow ever more short of allies as the week went on.

The pit row dominated everything. It may have cost Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, a new job as European Commissioner. There was speculation that John Major's veto of the appointment owed most to his desire to appease Tory MPs threatening revolt over coal. The backbenchers feared some unholy alliance between Mr Kinnock and Jacques Delors, the anti-EC lobby's prime bogeyman.

British women fared better than Mr Kinnock in their dealings with Europe. The EC decided to award all pregnant women a minimum of 14 weeks' paid maternity leave no matter how short their service in a job. Embarrassingly, Britain is the only country to really benefit from this watered-down ruling. Other European countries already give their women a better deal. The EC announcement coincided with a report from the Equal Opportunities Commission which showed that the pay gap between men and women is greater in Britain than in any other EC country.

Pits also distracted attention from the IRA's bombing campaign in London. Seventeen people have been injured and one killed in 13 explosions in the city this month. On Wednesday three devices went off, two on rail lines and one in a Territorial Army barracks, injuring at least six.

In a gloomy week, stealth bomber technology must have cheered up those lucky enough to be still in employment. David Clark, an aeronautical engineer, unveiled a radical redesign of the paper dart which incorporated the bomber's distinctive 'flying wing' and produced a paper aircraft that could fly more than twice the distance of its conventional counterpart. Something to do in the office until the Government's second U-turn this week - a new economic policy for growth - begins to get the orders moving again.

But light relief was thin on the ground. The week closed with Lord Justice Bingham attacking the Bank of England over its handling of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the bank which shut last year after a history of theft, drug money laundering and tax evasion.

Robin Leigh-Pemberton, the Governor of the Bank of England, however, was not to be asked to resign. Such a request from the Government might have seemed rather rich.