Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party, trying to remain in power through the 1990s, pledged today to denationalize Britain’s coal industry--once virtually ruled by the miners’ union.
On the second day of their annual convention, the Conservatives also called for a “national crusade against crime” with many speakers asking for a restoration of the death penalty during a lively debate.
Making what he called a “historic pledge,” Energy Secretary Cecil Parkinson told delegates at the heavily guarded convention center of the next stage of Thatcher’s campaign of “privatization.”
“Coal will be privatized,” Parkinson declared.
“By the next Parliament (expected in 1991 or 1992), we shall be ready for this, the ultimate privatization,” he said.
The giant British coal industry was nationalized after World War II and the National Union of Mineworkers became a dominant force, helping to bring down a Conservative government in 1974.
But when the miners held a national strike in 1984-85 aimed at torpedoing the Thatcher government, the union was forced to cave in and went back to work.
“Just think,” Parkinson said, “miners will be shareholders with a stake in their own industry. From the days when the miners’ leaders thought they owned the government--to the day when every miner owns part of his own mine.
“That’s the change,” he said, “that’s the British revolution.”
Thatcher’s government has already carried out widespread denationalizations of major communications and transportation industries such as the telephone system and British Airways, along with utilities like gas.
Parkinson was once considered a possible successor to Thatcher but he was forced to resign from the government in 1983 after his secretary announced she was having his baby. Last year Thatcher brought him back into her Cabinet, and he is once again a rising Conservative star.