by Jack O'Sullivan
AMID LABOUR accusations that the Government is blocking new negotiations in the pit dispute, Archbishop John Ward of Cardiff and other Welsh church leaders met Government ministers and Neil Kinnock to discuss ways of breaking the deadlock.
The churchmen emerged from their hour long meeting with the leader of the Labour Party on Tuesday pleased, said Archbishop Ward, that Mr Kinnock was "taking the Churches' initiative very seriously".
With Archbishop Ward were the Rev Noel Davies, General Secretary of the Council of Churches for Wales and Dr John Morgans, Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales.
Following their discussions, Archbishop Ward told the Catholic Herald that he thought the question of a national ballot in the ten month old strike was now "academic". He said that the offer by the National Union of Mineworkers to begin new negotiations with the coal board "without preconditions" was "worth putting to the test".
The next day. Wednesday, the three churchmen, accompanied by the Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Dr Derrick Childs, met Energy Secretary, Peter Walker and Secretary of State for Wales, Nicholas Edwards. The meeting took place at the Government's invitation to discuss Welsh proposals set out in a letter to the Prime Ministei in late December. The churchmen want an independent review body to be set up to look at the long term future of the coal industry, giving special consideration to the needs of the Welsh mining communities.
Archbishop Ward, prior to going into the talks, called them "a sign of optimism. The four
leaders were briefed before going into the meeting by members of a delegation of the British Council of Churches, which had already met Mr Walker on Tuesday with proposals similar to those laid out by the Welsh churches.
At the BCC talks, Mr Walker emphasised that the Government did not seek a "total victory through the collapse of the strike", said BCC spokesman, Dr Stephen Orchard. The BCC delegation was also heartened by the fact that "the Government would welcome area or district joint discussion on the criteria for judging the future investment in individual pits".
But as Archbishop Ward went into his meeting with the Energy Secretary it was clear that Mr Walker had failed to endorse the proposal of an independent review body and had not agreed to pushing forward new negotiations.