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18 February  
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1981: Thatcher gives in to miners
Mrs Thatcher's Conservative Government has withdrawn plans to close 23 pits in its first major u-turn since coming to power two years ago.

President of the National Union of Mineworkers Joe Gormley is confident the government's intervention will avert the threatened national miners' strikes.

Secretary of State for Energy David Howell made the concessions at two hours' of crisis talks in Whitehall involving union leaders and Department of Trade and Industry officials.

At the negotiations - brought forward several days by the government - Mr Howell acknowledged the miners' main demands about coal imports and subsidies to the National Coal Board.

The government agreed to reduce coal imports from eight million to five-and-a-half million tonnes over the next year and to provide more money for the Coal Board, struggling under the withdrawal of operating subsidies after the 1980 Coal Industry Act.

As a result the Coal Board has dropped the programme of pit closures it announced on 10 February.

'Far from satisfied'

Mr Gormley is due to meet the 25-member executive of the NUM tomorrow morning and says he will advise against an indefinite strike by the nation's 240,000 miners.

"I hope the explanation we shall give to the executive will be enough to convince them there is no need for a ballot. The whole situation is different," he explained.

However vice-president of the NUM and leader of the Scottish pitmen Michael McGahey said: "I am very far from satisfied with the meeting, which only amounts to promises to review the situation.

"On the real issues there are no concrete agreements."

His views are shared by much of the coal industry's left-wing and over half the country's coalfields are already affected by unofficial strikes.

Further talks between union leaders and Mr Howell are planned for a week today when he will give more precise details of the scale of the government's assistance.

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Margaret Thatcher - 1981
Mrs Thatcher is on the verge of a U-turn



In Context
The next day the NUM told all miners to return to work after the executive voted to accept the concessions made by the government and coal board by 15 to 8, with one abstention.

Some left-wing pits maintained unofficial stoppages and there were pickets outside the NUM headquarters in London.

Militant miners' leaders called off these strikes on 20 February.

The government provided £300m of financial assistance to the industry and prevented official strike action, although pockets of discontent remained.

Joe Gormley resigned as president of the NUM in April 1982 to be replaced by leftwinger Arthur Scargill.

Mr Scargill went on to lead the miners in a year-long strike - the longest ever in the UK - from March 1984, when the Coal Board announced the closure of 20 pits.

Stories From 18 Feb


 
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