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Sunak refuses to fund coal tip removal

29 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Beth Winter

Martin Shipton

Rishi Sunak was asked to fund the removal of potentially dangerous coal tips but instead of committing to do so banged on about electrifying a rail line in north Wales.

Cynon Valley Labour MP Beth Winter clashed with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons over the UK Government’s failure to pay for the remediation of coal tips in the south Wales Valleys.

During Prime Minister’s Questions she addressed him saying: “There are over 2,500 disused coal tips in Wales. The Welsh Government previously asked the Treasury for £600m to make them safe. Ahead of the Autumn Statement it sought an initial £20m. But this Tory Government provided nothing.

“Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most high-risk coal tips of any local authority, and the spectre of Aberfan looms large over our communities.So, can I ask the Prime Minister, does he think it right the UK took the economic benefit from Welsh coal but won’t fund the safety of its legacy?”

Mr Sunak said in response: “What the UK Government is doing is actually investing in Wales – record investment in north Wales electrification on the line, record investment in communities up and down the country. And it is important to recognise that just recently the UK Government has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to safeguard thousands of jobs at Tata Steel. And the Welsh Government does have access to the largest ever Barnett consequentials on record over the past couple of years and has the resources they need.”

“Barnett consequentials” are funds allocated to the devolved governments by the UK Treasury in proportion to money spent on devolved public services in England.

Disappointed

Responding to Mr Sunak’s answer to her question, Ms Winter said: “I was disappointed by the Prime Minister’s response to my question at PMQs. My concern is it reveals to constituents in Cynon Valley that the UK Government is not on top of the legacy of coal mining – which predates devolution and is a UK Government responsibility.

“I will be asking that the PM and the Welsh Secretary take this matter seriously and meet once again with the Welsh Government to resolve it.”

October saw the 57th anniversary of arguably the greatest tragedy ever to hit Wales: the Aberfan disaster, in which 144 died including 116 children. What made the loss of life all the more appalling was that it resulted from human negligence.

There had been danger signs that the coal tip which overshadowed the village school was unstable and therefore posed a danger, but nothing was done to make the situation safer.

No one today would dispute that the tip should have been removed before the disaster occurred.

Today the legacy of Aberfan remains.

Highest risk

A survey in 2021 confirmed that Wales’ industrial and post-industrial areas still had 2,456 coal tips, with 71 in the highest risk category.

While there are plenty of people prepared to give assurances that none of the tips pose an imminent danger to life, what happened at Aberfan should have taught us the unanswerable merit of the precautionary principle.

There are no two ways about it – the tips should be removed.

But doing so will be enormously expensive, with estimates of the total cost running as high as £600m.

Strangely, a quirk of the devolution settlement has left the Welsh Government responsible for dealing with the tips, even though they were created before devolution existed.

The Welsh Government should not be expected to foot the bill for remedying a situation that was created by agents of the British state long before the Senedd came into being.

Nevertheless, instead of arguing that the UK Government should foot the entire bill for removing the tips, it seems there would be an appetite to devise a programme that would involve all three levels of government – the UK Government, the Welsh Government and relevant local authorities – as partners.

The overriding aim should be to ensure the safety of those who live in the shadow of the tips.

Public authorities have a duty to do what they can in the interests of citizens’ safety.

Waiting more than half a century for a solution is far too long and it’s time this tragic saga ended for good.


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Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
2 months ago

The arrogant P M did not even answer the Question to this Lady he went on waffling about other things the Tory Scum are SUPPOSIDLY doing for Wales Tories hold Wales in contept

Frank
Frank
2 months ago

They took what they wanted and then just legged it out of Wales leaving the spoils and all the other mess. In other words they 💩 on us.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank

They have done that on just about everything

GWYN W EVANS
GWYN W EVANS
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Cofiwch Dryweryn
We learnt nothing, remember that

Alwyn
Alwyn
2 months ago

No Mr Sunak, it’r record investment that goes to five Tory constituencies in a line across North Wales, but which won’t be Tory constituencies, despite the bribes, by the time the money’s spent

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
2 months ago

Perhaps if it were suggested to Sunak that by not funding this work it might affect their beloved motorist in some way and hence lose them some precious votes. Though, there again, Wales is only a second thought on that issue. It’s those in the affluent home counties that are their target. I’d be surprised if he could find Wales on the map, so oblivious to our country many are in the UK government.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
2 months ago

It’s disgusting that he didn’t even give Beth Winter a proper answer, instead he blathered on about where tories are investing some crumbs to (currently) tory held constituencies.

I’m really angry that dealing with the historical coal waste tips are a devolved problem! The mines were closed before the Senedd came into existence, westminster should cover 100% of the cost!

I also believe fishi rishi is ignorant of the Aberfan disaster and that it is seared into the minds of pob Cymry

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
2 months ago

‘We’ve given the Welsh government 50p to sort out those coal tips. What have they spent it on, sweets?’. Well he might as well have said that. Barnett shmarnett!

David
David
2 months ago

Would Starmer commit to fund coal tip removal if he was PM?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
2 months ago
Reply to  David

Probably not.

Frank
Frank
2 months ago

Perhaps a few lorry-loads of s**g dumped outside his home would help him focus on the urgency of the life-threatening situation.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
2 months ago

He really could not care less if we live or die

Jeffrey Hoskins
Jeffrey Hoskins
2 months ago

The Westminster government have never done anything to help Wales. They have used all our resources but never given anything in return. Come on Mr Sunak it time to pay something back.

Alan
Alan
2 months ago

Up to the Welsh government surely

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan

No Never the money that came from coal went into the London governments the pits shut long before was devolved london governments took the money out but put nothing back to Wales so you think it should be up to a Welsh government points to where your loyalties lie the money that was received in London into today terms of being hundreds of Billions of pounds what has Wales got out of it Death to children at Aberfan Deaths to hundreds of miners for underground explosions deaths to Thousands of Miners through dust on their lungs and thousands with accidents… Read more »

Ed C
Ed C
2 months ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

I damn-near had an aneurism trying to read this!

Annette
Annette
2 months ago

Why should he? Coal tips are a devolved issue. If our first minister has enough money to squander on the 20mph fiasco, he can find the funds to pay for the areas he is responsible for. This is not a westminster responsibility. Mark drakeford can’t pick and chose.

Muddyfox
Muddyfox
2 months ago
Reply to  Annette

Correct. People seem to think, with the help of Snakeford, that Westminster are the blame for Welsh problems. It’s not true and hasn’t been for a long time.

Gerald Hallam
Gerald Hallam
2 months ago
Reply to  Annette

Has an x miner Inthe Midlands the local mines cleaned up the tips after closing,doesn’t cost millions to move or flatten tips should be the responsibility of local councils and National Coal Board.to have reached an agreement before closure of whichever colliery,their not doing their jobs at this time caused the problem Wales now has.even a local authority with limited resources could move a mountain in the time that has expired, blame the party’s involved,the government do not have infinite resources to correct everything that goes wrong I have every sympathy for the Welsh greviancys and has a lover of… Read more »

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
2 months ago

England benefited from the coal so should contribute to the clean up. You can bet the cost of decommissioning nuclear power is spread across the UK!

Dewi
Dewi
2 months ago

Should this not be passed to the Crown Estate?

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