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Miners’ leader states the case for coal

CASE FOR COAL ... a mass rally of striking miners during the 1984 strike.

CASE FOR COAL ... a mass rally of striking miners during the 1984 strike.

THE National Union of Mineworkers insists it is “alive and kicking”, representing miners and their families and communities, despite seeing membership collapse following the closure of most of the country’s pits.

The union had 250,000 members when Arthur Scargill was elected president in 1982, but that figure has fallen to just 1,800, with many employed in just three traditional deep mines.

The union is helping to organise events to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1984 strike, including a memorial service for Davy Jones and Joe Green, who died during separate incidents in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire during the dispute.

General secretary Chris Kitchen said claims the union and its officials were making at the time of the strike had proved to be correct.

He said he backed calls for an inquiry into the strike, describing what happened as “nothing short of industrial vandalism”.

He said: “There was nothing wrong with the nationalised industry ethos of coal being mined in the UK and being burned in state-owned power stations for use in homes, hospitals, schools and industry.

“Coal is the cheapest form of producing energy, but it has been penalised. The Government has been throwing money at wind farms and solar energy which it knows is unreliable.

“We can’t turn back the tide, but why can’t we invest more in carbon capture and storage and have a part-nationalised coal industry working for the good of the country?”

Mr Kitchen firmly believes the coal industry could be “rekindled” and developed into a clean form of energy, cheaper than gas, nuclear or renewables.

Looking back 30 years ago, the NUM leader says it is increasingly clear that Margaret Thatcher was determined to “take on” the union and “destroy” mining communities.

He holds back from criticising Mr Scargill, saying that as more details emerge from the Cabinet papers of the day, the former president’s warnings of mass pit closures are being proved correct.

But the NUM is still embroiled in legal action against its former leader over legal bills run up by the International Energy and Miners Organisation (IEMO).

Mr Kitchen said the union has received advice that it should take action against Mr Scargill and Alain Simon, general secretary of the Paris-based IEMO over £100,000 of legal costs.

 

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