‘Disgraceful’: MP condemned over miners ‘ethnic cleansing’ remark

Dennis Skinner faced condemnation in the Commons chamber this morning after claiming northern mining communities were the victims of "ethnic cleansing".

The Labour veteran had suggested the government "had to be careful" when drilling for shale gas close to old mining communities hit by the clash with Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s.

Skinner said companies like Cuadrilla risked local hostility from towns which he said had been "ethnically cleansed by the old Tory government".

"It's disgraceful in a week where the government has assisted UK Coal in saving 2,000 jobs," energy minister Michael Fallon complained.

But Skinner insisted: "That's exactly what happened."

This week UK Coal, hit by a fire at the Daw Mill colliery in Warwickshire, went into administration and cuts to its pensions scheme are now being shored up.

But 2,000 jobs have been saved at Britain's last two deep coal mines, which together provide four per cent of the UK's annual energy needs.

Fallon's arrival at the Department for Energy and Climate Change earlier this year appears to have derailed a short-term strategy on coal promised by his predecessor, John Hayes.

He told shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex his focus had entirely been on the crisis at UK Coal, which is set to see cuts of around ten per cent to payouts for its 6,800 pensioners.

The comment will only underline concerns that the government's focus has drifted away from coal.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said the £1 billion pot of money earkmarked by the Treasury for the development of carbon capture and storage – seen as essential for the future development of the carbon-heavy fossil fuel – was still available, even though it has not been spent yet.