Another betrayal of our dead children


This is a guest post by Brychan Davies, who regularly comments on this blog with commendable erudition. 

It appears the UK government wishes to divest itself of certain responsibilities for the residue of old coal workings. In other words, tips, slag heaps. This responsibility is to be passed to the ‘Welsh Government’, with the carrot being the power to take over land under the guise of ‘environmentalism’ while putting financial burdens on already poor communities.

The only beneficiaries of this transfer of responsibility would seem to be the third sector parasites and the enviroshysters who already plague our benighted land.

Now read what Brychan has to say . . . 

In a crass act of betrayal the BBC are now telling us that the government in Westminster is seeking to replace the Mine and Quarries Act 1969 by dumping those responsibilities on Ministers of the Welsh Government, along with the financial burden onto the shoulders of the Welsh budget.

The Mines and Quarries Act arose from the Aberfan disaster, where as a result of incorrect monitoring and management of a coal tip of Merthyr Vale colliery above the village of Aberfan, most specifically the previously known underground springs and fluidisation of slurry resulted in a tip slide onto the village and Pantglas primary school on 21st October 1966.

The slide resulted in the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the chairman of the National Coal Board, the Baron of Woldingham and former Labour MP, Alfred Robens, stated.

“I wouldn’t have thought myself that anybody would know that there was a spring deep in the heart of a mountain, any more than I can tell you there is one under our feet where we are now. If you are asking me did any of my people on the spot know that there was this spring water, then the answer is, No – they couldn’t possibly . . . It was impossible to know that there was a spring in the heart of this tip which was turning the centre of the mountain into sludge”.

This was despite engineers within the NCB raising the issue, and community groups raising their concerns with Merthyr Council. The result of an enquiry of the disaster was the passing of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. This placed a statutory responsibility for monitoring and remedial action on an “appropriate government minister” to ensure the safety of any remaining tips.

This role was to be carried out by the NCB and then its legacy body the Coal Authority, a public body of the Westminster House currently sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, in London. Most importantly this has responsibility for monitoring and remedial action on water discharges and stability of former coalmines and tips. It is headquartered in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

The Westminster Government has now instructed the Law Commission of England and Wales to open a consultation on a proposal to devolve this responsibility, which has the full backing of the Welsh Government. The consultation can be seen here.

Ownership of actual coal reserves, legacy land assets and licensing is to remain at UK government level. Only the statutory responsibility for safety and the cost of maintaining legacy tips and watercourses is to be devolved.

The consultations asks the following questions.

1. We provisionally propose that the existing regulatory regime for tips associated with operational mines should not be altered. Do you agree?

This would just make Wales responsible for the legacy costs and no control of any future mineral ownership or exploitation.

2. We seek views on whether a satisfactory definition of a disused coal tip could refer to waste from coal mining and whether it should include express reference to overburden dumps, backfill, spoil heaps, stock piles and lagoons.

There are many valuable assets such as ponds (see Glyncorrwg) and land regenerated as nature reserves which are backfill, spoil heaps, stock piles and lagoons. The consultation asks us whether these should be allowed to be under Welsh control.

4: To the extent that liability under the new regulatory framework rests with the owner of land containing a tip, we provisionally propose that the owner should be defined as the freeholder or a leaseholder under a lease of 21 or more years, except where their interest is in reversion upon a term of 21 or more years. Do you agree?

There is an attempt to make any new landowner or leaseholder, grazing rights, farmers, community groups or councils now responsible for the tip underneath.

5: We provisionally propose that a supervisory authority with responsibility for the safety of all disused coal tips should be established. Do you agree? If not, please set out the alternative that you would favour.

Currently, the Coal Authority carries out that role. Monitoring and sampling. There is a proposal of a new ‘supervisory authority’, this may move such responsibilities either to a new Welsh quango, or hand responsibility to local authorities.

9: We provisionally propose that a central tip register should be compiled and maintained. Do you agree?

A tip register doesn’t currently exist, as there are many very old ad-hoc legacy mines of antiquity that only become known when problems become evident. This was recently seen at Skewen. Currently the Coal Authority inherits responsibility. The new legislation seeks to end this, by ‘it’s not on the register so it’s not our problem, butt’.

31: Do you think that the Welsh Ministers should be able to give directions to the supervisory authority and other relevant parties regarding actions to be taken in response to a coal tip emergency?

This relates to ‘upstreaming’ and ‘downstreaming’ of pollution from mines and tips. It seeks to give authority of the Welsh Minister for the Environment to force surrounding landowners to take their own remedial action when a problem becomes evident, such as covering the cost of extra or replacement or augmentation of drainage. This would most likely involve extra liability insurance of households and businesses in the coalfield.

34: Do you consider that new tip safety legislation should be combined with provision for the consideration of tip reclamation? If so, do you favour any particular model?

This would give the power to Welsh Ministers to ‘nationalise’ land holdings that include legacy mine workings in the name of reclamation. Many former, now landscaped, landholdings are used for low-grade agriculture and forestry. It will give statutory powers to Welsh Ministers to ‘grab’ these assets in the name of reclamation, as there is no definition of that constitutes an already reclaimed site.

On the left Gary Haggaty, civil servant, paramour of and adviser to Lesley Griffiths, the ‘Welsh Government’ Minister for the Environment. (Sitting alongside him.) Both believe that Welsh people own far too much Welsh land, and are determined to remedy this unacceptable situation.

The reality is that the Westminster Government wants to wash their hands of the responsibility for historical expropriation of the Welsh coalfields, and are seeking to hand over these responsibilities to the Welsh Government. They have wrapped the proposal in a sugar coating of ‘environmental opportunities’.  It is designed so Welsh Ministers, can pass the costs to the citizens of former mining communities and carry the cost.

A kind of repeat Aberfan Disaster Fund, the original being used to pay the NCB to remove other coal tips, this 21st century equivalent making Welsh communities pay the ongoing costs and it being given a light coloured greenwash.

♦ end ♦


18 thoughts on “Another betrayal of our dead children

  1. Dafis

    Just stumbled on this load of seriously defective rubbish from Yes Cymru on a twitter dialogue linked to someone’s piece in the right hand column of this site

    The opening paragraph reads :

    It’s Pride Month, so we want to let members know about our processes to make sure the independence movement is as inclusive and accessible as possible. And independent Wales needs to be an independent Wales for all peoples! Independence is normal!

    I was unable to lift a copy of the main body of guff but it refers to 3 key themes, surprisingly all to do with good old trans rights crap. – anti harrassment and anti discrimination, trans rights, and diversity and inclusion training.

    Further down the page comes the clincher for me some old dame, or maybe a bloke wanting to be a dame says – ” Equalities has the power to divide a movement like nothing else.
    This has to be got right. In today’s world, not addressing it is not an option. Better to lose a few racists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes etc than split the movement.

    Well, I got news for that panto dame. Few if any of us are hostile to trans people, but we are often very opposed to poseurs and impostors who adopt the “cause” for ulterior motives or pretend to be “in transit” when in fact they are just men dressed as women looking for any chance to jump on an unsuspecting woman and abuse her. So I suggest that she adds “poseurphobe”, “pervertphobe” “ishoophobe” to her list of those to be lost or excluded. As for splitting the movement, it has already split probably irretrievably and it’s all down to a bunch of scheming entryists with hardly an ounce of interest in this country other than exploiting it. Just like so many other shysters that Jac has written about over the years.

    Not so much a betrayal of our dead children but a berayal of our present and future youth who will grow up with the shadow of these maniacs cast over them unless its weeded out soon.

    1. Brychan

      What’s this got to do with colliery tips?

      It appears Dafis you have found another entrance into the same trap as some of the new administration of YesCymru has set. An ishoo that has nothing to do with independence. The reality is that the vast majority of the people of Wales harbour no animosity to transsexuals, and to suggest women are at risk from sexual exploitation due to transsexuals is really quite obscure. The opposing twitter rants of both sides is propagated by loons, ishoo mongers and opposing sides of a student caucus debate that has no basis in the real world, nor the future of our country. At worst it is just playing on irrational fears to get attention, and at best an irrelevant side issue.

      1. Dafis

        In the present climate this distraction has much to do with tips, flood prevention and many other serious matters that need resolving. However YC, a body which promised much a year or more ago, has been swept away on that most ridiculous of tangents when it could have focussed far more intensively on the destruction of our economy, industrial and commercial base, education, culture and heritage. Cymru is being plundered in so many ways by a mixed bag of political and business interests who all contrive to deny us any scope for self determination in these matters.

        So no traps here, just a warning that the body that wants to be centre stage should be ignored and allowed to buzz off to its own ultimate self destruction. Any broad-front body that aspires to take YC’s place should have such matters as I have touched upon earlier at the centre of its agendas. It should not be be distracted by a subject which is best left to private individuals to manage with the support of families, friends and communities. That already happens in many cases but the shouty entryists can’t find much mileage in that kind of progress.

        1. YesCymru may not be lost. A combination of the discrediting of Stonewall and over-playing their hand has landed the fanatics in a bit of a hole. Tweets are being deleted, accounts closed, and discussion limited to the most banal and uncontroversial of subjects. Meanwhile, the more moderate elements, those wanting to focus on independence, appear to be re-grouping.

          1. Dafis

            That they were distracted so easily in the first place does not fill me with enthusiasm or confidence in them. To pinch a phrase from elsewhere in the news – fuckin’ hopeless !

    2. David Robins

      Very interesting, Dafis. Thank you for drawing attention to these developments.

      Create unnecessary division. Do this by weaponising an issue with no bearing on the core goal, but sure to provoke plenty of antibodies. Be as extreme and ‘on-message’ as possible, while insisting the core goal is worthless unless the side issue is prioritised. Treat the rights of others as an obstacle to be overcome. Deny reciprocity: be proactively evil if it’s for a good cause (‘right side of history’). Become incensed if anyone dares call this out (‘we’re all in a war for social justice; casualties are necessary’). Target the dissenters for abuse. Make an example of anyone with real expertise on the side issue, especially if they’re passionate about the core goal. Dismiss their expertise as out-dated and insensitive to modern thought, then do the same for their view of the (pre-cuckoo’d) core goal. Link the two as equally backward – ‘an ethos from the past’ – simultaneously a failure, to be ridiculed, and a threat, to be demonised. Instil fear in the grassroots that they’ll be next. Radicalise the hyperbole, e.g., redefine genocide to include even perceived criticism of the favoured group. Expel the dissenters as a physical threat to that group. Squander the funds on distractions designed to put people off the core goal, while fixing a mental association between it and the side issue. Avoid guilt by victim-blaming. Put people off the scent by claiming rivals in the organisation are doing exactly what’s in fact being done by you.

      ‘Animal Farm’ revisited. Or maybe, since hate is love, and exclusion is inclusion, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Did the useful idiots make it all up themselves, or were they fed the lines by their handlers?

      Of course, aspects of the playbook are available for others to use. Corbyn was brought down by using allegations of anti-Semitism in precisely this way. BLM and events in the SNP follow the same pattern. Will Wall-smasher and fellow quislings find themselves outflanked once their usefulness ends? The deletion of tweets and closure of accounts mentioned here by Jac suggests some co-ordinated, high-level plug-pulling, with regrouping to follow once wounds are licked.

      1. Dafis

        Well said David. You have articulated in a comprehensive way the view and ideas I was attempting to project. People say I’m paranoid but that just misrepresents my highly tuned awareness. I was trained a long time ago to spot wankers and little shits and I haven’t stopped doing it in my old age.

  2. treforus

    Many of us have lamented the atrocious decision by Rhodri Morgan in a fit of pique to wind up the WDA and bring its functions under the rule of Cardiff Bay when it would not automatically do his bidding. One of its functions, and one it did exceedingly well, was the land reclamation of the coalfield’s tips. Generally the tips would be rewashed if they were old. Sometimes the value of the coal recovered was considerable. Then the tips would be regraded, then grassed or afforested and turned over for redevelopment, generally to the local authority. I suspect all that expertise has been lost. It could come back to haunt them if they have to assume this responsibility.

    1. Neil Singleton

      The expertise you refer to has indeed been “lost” if that is the correct word. When the WDA was finally “merged” (ie absorbed) into the then Welsh Assembly in 2006, the Sir Humphreys and pen pushers/bean counters in the civil service could not wait to dismantle the WDA’s renowned technical expertise in land reclamation and after use. What should be realised about these civil servants is that they are suspicious of, and even despise, any “specialism”, so that professionals with qualifications in engineering, property development, business development, planning etc.were marginalised or dispensed with, usually by the age old civil service ploy of “having a restructure”. In other words, in order for the Senior Civil Servants to be eligible for their annual bonuses (on top of their six figure salaries) they were encouraged to carry out regular restructuring in their departments. For example, a team of 6 land reclamation and property experts, and project managers would be advised that it would be “restructured” to 3 so that the existing 6 has to apply for the 3 remaining jobs. The unsuccessful 3 would be transferred to other non-related departments (there being a no redundancy policy in Welsh Assembly, later Welsh Government). Being shoehorned into a (usually) pen pushing non-jobs invariably led many to take early retirement or to go into the private sector where their qualifications and experience were more valued. These restructurings happened year on year from 2006. Thus, the deluded action of Rhodri Morgan has robbed Wales of the wherewithal in expertise to remedy the huge outstanding problems of tips and slag heaps which, even today, threaten communities in Wales.

    2. Brychan

      Treforus is correct.

      Look at any valley in the coalfield and you will see the ‘industrial estates’ which were former collieries, tips or land that was in public ownership of the NCB. These were reclaimed, then handed over, either to the local authority or an ‘anchor employer’ as the landlord, with some reclaimed to be public amenity in the form of ‘country parks’.

      The classic examples are the HQ of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, itself a reclaimed site from the Cambrian Collieries in Clydach Vale, the Dare Valley Country Park which is the old Gadlys colliery site, and Rassau Industrial Estate.

      What we are left with, however, is scrapyards and skip hire firms, community cafes, casual minimum wage jobs, and in the case of the country parks, a plaything for the council or NRW to donate enterprises with no growth, bike parks, zip wire schemes and novelty industrial museums.

      We have to ask the question, where do we go from here?

      The UK government see the cost legacy of these sites, they generate no income from real business activity to HM treasury, just historical legacy exposure in terms of cost, and seek to dump the problem onto the Welsh Government. The question to be asked is: What is the WG strategic Plan for the valleys? Old Smokie, the remaining pyramidal tip in Tylorstown cannot be made safe be revenue earned by flogging cups of tea at the Ferndale Arts Centre. What’s the plan?

  3. Dafis

    Off topic, perhaps, but still relating to the betrayal of children. Interesting to note McEvoy’s tweet and the breaking of a news story about child abuse in Cardiff, or half a story cos no MSM or (self)serving politician will pipe up and acknowledge that McEvoy was ahead of the curve(again) in raising this matter. Those perverts in City Hall and their fellow deviants down the Bay should hang their heads in shame. In my world view they’d all be hanging from lampposts but, there you are, that kind of thought is taboo while inflicting horror on kids is soooo progressive. Will Leanne or Adam or that stupid bitch Elin acknowledge their parts in all this ?

  4. Dai Protheroe

    Thank you for this timely article, Brychan. I had no idea this consultation was underway.

    I have read in another article that Wales has 294 old coal tips that are potentially high risk, that is, if they moved they could adversely affect lives or property. That doesn’t mean they are currently dangerous, but they need regular monitoring.

    I’m always suspicious when Westminster seems to want to hand us more responsibility and look for the catch, and as you and others have said, what are the financial burdens they may be chucking our way? However, in principle, if changing the current system results in any of the more urgent tip remedial works being faster tracked, with no additional cost implications for Wales, it’s worth looking at. A regime that makes perhaps one organisation responsible for these matters, instead of the mixed bag we seem to have now, would be a good thing in my opinion.

    On a wider note, you’ve quite rightly pointed out the legacy of ongoing costs that the Coal Authority has to deal with as a result of old coal mining. Outside of their remit we also have the awful legacy of miners’ ill-health, which doesn’t appear on their balance sheet. Those of us who were in the mining industry will also be aware of the massive amounts of money the Westminster government take off the coal mining pension schemes every year, for their undertaking to prop up said pension schemes should they underperform. That’s been a huge earner for the Exchequer over the years, money that many would say should have gone into workers’ pensions

    When Scotland achieves independence, as it surely must some day, and if Wales ever does, then the centralisation of the Coal Authority function in Mansfield will have to be split and its functions in Scotland and maybe Wales taken off them. I have always felt that running the whole show out of Mansfield was an insult to Wales particularly, bearing in mind the scale of the coal mining industry here. Properly funded, why can’t we perform these duties ourselves? Why can’t we have a Welsh version of what Mansfield does, looking after Welsh concerns? Not in Cardiff either but somewhere in the heart of the South Wales Coalfield?

    Rant over, I feel better now.

    1. Brychan

      Your suspicious eye of Westminster is well founded, Dai. I wonder if any minister or MS in the Senedd has had a copy of the Coal Authority report and put a value on it? It seeks to devolve this legacy to Wales but not Scotland. There’s a reason. It relates to geology and topography. Why now?

      A poison chalice. It’s a bit like when the US Federal government handed the North Dakota badlands over to the Mandan Indian nation. No federal dollars, but you get to keep the alcohol tax, and get a native chief to do a rain dance. Wales is not an independent country and cannot factor in future earnings with borrowing powers to cover for ‘unforeseen events’.

      A trap of devolution.

      Lesley Griffiths MS is donning the feather headgear while Stephen Kinnock MP is brandishing the buffalo spear in London, Boris is laughing all the way to the bank.

      1. Dafis

        At least the Lakota and their allies left a pile of dead invaders at various skirmishes and battlefields. We who have more resource than they ever had ( other than the land) have not left any Anglo stiffs in any quantities since Owain Glyndwr’s rising. If we can’t stop the gallop of colonisation and assimilation then they need to have memories of pain and sorrow etched into their collective memories.

  5. Red Flag

    What isthe Welsh Government’s position? Do they want more devolution with the increase in funding this brings, or not?

    1. Brychan

      There is no funding.

      Whilst the Coal Authority does hold historical records and archives and derives revenue from site searches for property conveyance within the coalfields. It’s main financial liability, costs, rests mainly as an ‘owner of responsibility’. It is open to claims. So if there is pollution from a tip the environment body, environment agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, or Scottish Environmental Protection Agency can require the Coal Authority to act. It does this by commissioning private concerns like Costain to conduct works, the bill footed by HM treasury. Failure to act can result in legal action.

      The classic example is Dippool in Lanarkshire.

      Devolution of responsibility would put Natural Resources Wales, an agency of the Welsh Government, in a position to sue itself. This cannot happen.

      1. Brychan, The Welsh Government’s position to this is it supports and welcomes it being devolved, and extra funding will be in the settlement to pay for the setting up and running of the new regulatory bodies etc that will be established for the administration of it all.

        In other words, the Welsh government supports more reliance on funding from Westminster, and creating even more public sector jobs, quangos and third sector hangers-on apponted by the Comissars of Cardiff and their Gauleiters, entirely relaint on the largesse of Westmintser.

        They’ll be expected to partake in ‘taking the knee’ or other servile garbage next.

    2. Dafis

      But, and a big but, would this bring adequate funding with it ? And, how would you define or compute adequate funding in a matter like this ? It’s likely to be one of those “how long is a piece of string questions” which will be disposed of in the time honoured “duck and dive” style of Westminster at its worst.

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