Future of Coal in the UK

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith Conservative, Bassetlaw 2:33 pm, 3rd December 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Mr Holden for giving us this opportunity to discuss the future of coal in the UK.

Bassetlaw has a rich mining history, and historically Nottinghamshire was always a major supplier of coal for industry and home consumption, particularly during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the years, parts of Bassetlaw have suffered from the decline of the coalmining industries, including Worksop, Harworth, Bircotes, Carlton-in-Lindrick and Langold. The Harworth colliery closed as recently as 2006, bringing an end to 86 years of coalmining in Bassetlaw. Harworth coal was in great demand from railway companies such as LNER, and the Flying Scotsman locomotive, now on display in the National Railway Museum in York, was burning Harwood coal when it covered the 392 miles from London to Edinburgh in a record seven hours and 27 minutes in 1932. This is something we can be very proud of.

Today Harworth is an area truly proud of its mining history, parts of which can be found wherever you go, including the stained glass tribute at All Saints church. One of my first sporting events after becoming MP for Bassetlaw was to see Harworth Colliery football club, where I was also lucky enough to win the meat raffle at half-time. It was very refreshing that somebody was shouting “gammon” at me without it being an insult for once.

As a school teacher, I took many students to visit the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield. It is important that we give these generations a chance to learn about local history. While the past is important, it also gives us the chance to look towards the future. Yes, we want to move towards clean, efficient and renewable forms of energy, and the Government have set out an ambitious plan to achieve net zero by 2050. We want to see those 2 million green jobs by 2030 and be able to provide our constituents with highly skilled and well-paid forms of employment as a result. We want to be able to train our workers and help them to remain in our communities without feeling the need to move to big cities for work. We want to see a smooth transition to a new age of energy generation and realise that this cannot simply happen overnight. Keeping emissions down is key, but we must also consider the impact of importing coal when we still have the resources to supply this ourselves, as long as the proposal is environmentally acceptable or the national, local or community benefits outweigh its likely impacts.

There are other opportunities that the transition presents and legacies from the past that can form part of the solution. I have been highly encouraged by the potential of other schemes, such as exploring the possibility of geothermal energy from disused pits, which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield has been championing, along with the mineworkers’ pension scheme and reforms. The UK will host COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 and the future holds many opportunities for us all, so let us be thankful for the role that our coal industry has played and continues to play in that.