The Conservative Party, trying to remain in power through the 1990s, vowed Wednesday to denationalize Britain’s coal industry--once virtually ruled by the miners’ union.
On the second day of their annual convention, the Tories 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 Prime Minister Margaret 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 caved 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.”
Thatcher’s government has already carried out widespread denationalization of major communications and transportation industries.
In the debate on law and order, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd fended off calls to restore hanging.
“Capital punishment has now been debated in three successive parliaments, each with a strong Conservative majority--and each time there has been a decisive vote against the return of hanging,” he said.
Thatcher favors capital punishment, and many Conservatives argue that while a majority of their members of Parliament oppose hanging, the party grass roots support it.