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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 Tuesday 20th October 1992.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was retreating on the coal mine closures].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don’t think it is the case in that way at all. What you have seen is a fundamental shift in understanding of what we intend. A very frenetic atmosphere yesterday and I think many of the implications of the moratorium simply weren’t understood but it was never out intention that during the moratorium there should be anything other than a full examination of all these matters. It is right that there should be.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why Michael Heseltine hadn’t admitted the DTI Select Committee should examine the issue].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for the Select Committee, it is not a matter for the Government. The Select Committee are independent of the Government, they were set up for that reason, but it was never a practical likelihood that one wouldn’t have a change of policy to deal with the difficulties of the pits and then not have a proper examination by a Select Committee. It is right there should be. It never occurred to Michael Heseltine or indeed anybody else that this wouldn’t be a matter that the Select Committee would properly look at.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why Michael Heseltine was saying only minor changes would be considered].

PRIME MINISTER:

We didn’t suddenly scratch our heads and decide that this was the right policy. There are some very economic realities. Pit reductions and jobs disappearing in the mining industry isn’t a new phenomenon. During every year in the 1970s, for example, under both governments, governments of all sorts, ministers of all sorts, there were 30,000 jobs lost every single year and is because the demand for coal has been contracting over a very long period of time. That economic reality remains the same today.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there was hope].

PRIME MINISTER:

We are having a moratorium; the pits aren’t closed and our minds aren’t closed. What we will seek to do is to open up the possibility for people to make representations, to make their case. If the miners want to make a case with professional help and make that case to the President of the Board of Trade, they can do so.