Yorkshire should be proud of the last miners who stayed with the coal industry until the very end, having kept our home fires burning for so many years.
If you saw the BBC programme on the closure of Kellingley on Monday night - The Last Miners - you’ll know exactly what I mean.
But we should also be angry that the last of the miners got such a bad deal, and our coalfield communities are still being let down by this government.
The programme followed the last miners at Kellingley and the fight we had to try to keep the pit open, and to get proper redundancy terms too.
I still believe that the government was completely wrong to let the pit close. At every stage ministers dragged their feet and delayed us getting the investment we needed to open the new faces. And they ditched the clean coal technology that was planned for Drax that could have helped keep the coal industry going and cut carbon emissions at the same time.
Given the way Tory governments in the past have treated coalfield communities, many people won’t be surprised that this has happened. But this time they got a much worse redundancy deal too. The shocking thing - as I said in Parliament at the time - is that the last miners got an even worse deal than under Margaret Thatcher. And even now ministers are trying to block a legal agreement that would give the Kellingley miners the same deal as other pits.
Our coalfield communities deserve better than this. That’s why I’m backing the campaign by the NUM to get more support for the Kellingley Miners, and to reform the rules so the government stops taking money out of the Miners’ Pension Scheme.
We also need the truth on Orgreave where the Home Secretary has refused to hold a proper public inquiry despite new evidence emerging in recent years. I’m still pushing for answers and so far I’ve uncovered that 30 more files are still in the Home Office that no one has ever seen.
And our coalfield communities need more investment in our future. Too often all the new infrastructure investment and jobs go to the big cities. What about our coalfield towns? It’s vital we get new jobs on all our pit sites. Kellingley needs new investment and we also need high skilled jobs like the mining jobs we had below ground. As the Last Miners showed, we have the hardest working, most dedicated and skilled workforce in the world in our area, so this should be a great place to invest in good quality job growth too. Too often, we just get low paid jobs, and that’s not on.
The Last Miners showed Yorkshire grit and all of us from mining families and coalfield towns know how important these jobs have been to our history. Now we need to keep fighting for the Kellingley miners and our coalfield communities for the future.