Yesterday I met leaders of the NUM, Unison and the carbon capture industry, to discuss the future of coal along with some other MPs.
They made a good case, urging that we expand production of domestic coal, both to substitute for the large quantities of imports currently coming into the country and to fuel a new generation of cleaner coal power stations.
They argued that there is a lot more coal for us to mine and quarry, that at present coal prices that production could be economic, and the government should accelerate the pace of development of clean coal technology and carbon capture.
Some looked back nostalgically to the age of the nationalised industry, without any great belief that the present Labour government would want to revisit that approach. It is curious how nationalisation still has a grip on their hearts, when the nationalised industry under governments of both parties so let down the mining communities. The 1970s Labour government was in the business of closing mines and sacking miners, just as the subsequent Conservative government was. Each of those governments did so on the advice and at the command of the nationalised industry, which systematically failed to make mining economic enough to sustain a decent sized industry in the UK.
The miners of Tower Colliery proved the Coal Board wrong when they took over their mine and worked it profitably when the Coal Board management had wanted to close it on the grounds that it was uneconomic. Why would we want to go back to management like that? Isn’t the future a more mechanised, safer industry where those who mine the coal share in the profits?