Row flares on cost of coal: The week that was Nov 29 to Dec 5, 1984

Cortonwood Colliery striking miners leave for the TUC conference in Brighton
Cortonwood Colliery striking miners leave for the TUC conference in Brighton
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AS the miners’ strike entered its 10th month, the National Coal Board described as “inaccurate” a report claiming that Cortonwood Colliery, one of the major Yorkshire pits earmarked for closure, could have been profitable.

The report by five accountancy academics concluded that in 1981/82 the colliery would have produced a profit of £5.50 per tonne of coal – as opposed to the £6.20 a tonne loss suggested by the 1983 Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

The academics said the profit would have been made had the pit not been saddled with an £11.70 per tonne payment towards Coal Board costs. They argued that these costs would persist even with the closure of the colliery, and therefore should not have been taken into account when assessing its viability.

A £70m crackdown on so-called ‘seaside scroungers’ – people who used their dole money for holidays at the taxpayers’ expense – was announced in the Commons.

Social Services Secretary Norman Fowler said there was growing evidence of abuse of the Supplementary Benefits system, and it was essential to bring board and lodgings payments under control.

Unemployment dropped by 2,550 to 3,222,586 in November, according to new figures. The small fall was due to a decrease in jobless school leavers. However, the overall trend was still upward, with adult jobless figures at a record 3,103, 200.

Meanwhile, a Yorkshire priest was organising a “national declaration of conscience” against women being ordained in the Church of England.

The Rev Francis Bown, parish priest of St Stephen’s, Hull and chairman of Ecclesia, an Anglo-Catholic group staunchly against women priests, was inviting Anglican clergy including bishops to sign the declaration.

His move followed the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England to approve the preparation of legislation to permit the ordination of women in the provinces of Canterbury and York.

Fr Bown said that “the enemies of the faith” had conducted a brilliant campaign and his organisation had “a fight on its hands”.

Charities said they were worried by allegations of widespread misappropriation of food sent to Ethiopian famine victims. Field officers returning from the drought-afflicted country spoke of substantial quantities of food being siphoned off by the Ethiopian government and militia.

Millions of starving people were in areas held by the rebel Eritrean and Tigre liberation movements, and little aid was said to be reaching them.

The international charity War On Want said that more than half of the six million people in need were in areas controlled by these groups, and they claimed to have evidence that significant quantities of supplies were being traded on the black market.

However, the British charities involved in emergency aid to Ethiopia said they were happy that their aid was reaching its goal.

Back in the UK, an increasing number of people were going to the opera, and more cash was going towards subsidising them, according to Arts Council research.

Opera receipts broke box office records and amounted to nearly £9m in 1983/84. The average price per ticket was £9.78 and the average subsidy per seat was more than £20. Audiences were steady in London but increasing in the regions, rising by 425 per cent over a decade.

Of total attendances outside the capital, the highest were in Leeds – home of Opera North – where there was a five per cent jump to 102,829 between the 1982/83 and 1983/84 seasons.