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1992 - Mr Major’s Comments on Coal Mine Closures

Below is the text of Mr Major's comments on coal mine closures, made in an interview on Friday 16th October 1992.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he would scrap the coal mine closure because of opposition].

PRIME MINISTER:

No-one likes to see closures of this sort and we would not have done it unless we felt it was absolutely unavoidable. There are something like 40 million tons of coal lying at the top of the pit head that nobody wants, there is an extra million tons being added to that each month, the total production of coal is twice as high as we are remotely likely to be able to sell. That is the reality. What we need to do is firstly deal with that problem, painful though it is, and I understand that very well, and then start to put in place measures that will provide permanent jobs and regenerate those areas that at present face difficulties. It is not a decision that could have been delayed forever, it seemed to us to be cleaner, more clear cut and more honest to say frankly what the difficulty was and to seek to deal with it.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he knew the dismay about the closures and if he would resign if defeated in the Commons on this].

PRIME MINISTER:

Who would not be dismayed? Who would actually have wanted to implement closures like this? I certainly would not. Michael Heseltine said earlier this week it was one of the most painful decisions he had ever been connected with, I would echo that. If we could have avoided it we would have avoided it. Right at the very last moment, before the decision was taken, I called the appropriate Ministers together and we had a complete representation of the entire case, whether there was a strategic demand for that coal or likely to be in the future, whether there were marginal pits that could have been saved. We looked again, and again, and again to see if we could change the decision.