Hinkley Station Throughout the 1960s it was Government policy, both Tory and Labour to allow the coal industry to run down. Some 25,000 men per year left the industry during that period and coal was increasingly replaced by oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Regarding nuclear energy, the government and the media for years claimed the myth that this was a form of cheap energy.
Now it's finally out, that the reverse is the truth when decommissioning and waste disposal are put into the equation. Consequently nuclear power stations were withdrawn from the electricity sell off, and will be kept under state protection by the taxpayers and the coal industry.

Robens knew the grim realities facing the industry, but he was fighting a lonely battle to keep open as many pits as possible, at the same time, trying to get ministers to ensure that new industries were developed in mining areas threatened with pit closures. He argued the social implications of the pit closure program were the responsibility of the Government and not the Coal Board.

In 1960 there were 698 collieries and by 1970/71 when Robens left the Coal Board, the number was down to 292 a cut of 58% this was achieved with little upheaval. The resistance from the N.U.M. was softened by the fact that there was near full employment and expanding opportunities in the rest of industry.

Most of the men who lost their jobs in mining, could find alternative work, or were offered employment in other coalfields. So thousands of miners from Scotland, the Northeast and Wales up-rooted and with their families, moved, in order to maintain their standard of living and quality of life. Having being told, they would have a job for life.

Then economic conditions deteriated and there was mass unemployment, with a Conservative government operating a political and social policy that would have been unthinkable in Will Paynters time. That was the scene, which Arthur Scargill inherited. The workforce was down to 305,100 in 1970 but by 1979-80 jobs declined to 207,600. In 1982-83 another 10,900 jobs went. And there was an even more frightening

Arthur Scargill
prospect, as the specter of large-scale pit closures and manpower losses loomed over the industry.

With a union prediction of 70 pits and 70,000 jobs if government policy was carried out. And this has certainly proved to be an under estimate.

Some areas in the U.K. depended directly upon the coal mining for 50% of employment opportunities, and this devastated whole communities. It was estimated then that the loss of jobs would mean, less spending in that area. So shops close, as the lack of money causes less demand for their goods and services and it's the same with local businesses and leisure amenities. Bankruptcies and other closures are inevitable with the knock on effect.In many mining areas such as Scotland, Northumberland, Durham and South-Wales, unemployment was already very high, 20% in some places that is why resistance to pit closures was so great during 1984-85 strike. A unique strike, by the way, not for pay or conditions or union recognition as most strikes are.

But to preserve jobs, pits and communities, hopefully till alternative jobs could be found.The market forces policy of the Thatcher Government required an impotent Trade Union movement as she saw the unions as an obstacle to this, (market forces should decide the price of labour, not collective bargaining, was the theory.)

They put it very diplomatically in their manifesto saying, there was a need to adjust the balance of power. Starting off with Jim Priors softly softly approach on Trade Union legislation then hardening up with Norman Tebbit and Norman Fowler.

The N.U.M. once the vanguard of the Trade Union movement was a good target; also Thatcher regarded a victory over the N.U.M. as crucial to her overall long-term strategy against the Trade Union movement as a whole, so the state prepared for the 1984-85 strike. There was also an urge to avenge the Tory Government defeat of 1974. Thatcher recognised that a great deal of careful secretive planning was required before the Government would be, and feel able and equipped to confront the N.U.M.


Pit Terminology

John Lumsdon