Mark Drakeford slams PM for 'crass and offensive' comments on coal mines

The prime minister had claimed that Mrs Thatcher had given the UK an "early start" in the shift away from fossil fuels Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has faced condemnation from the First Minister of Wales after joking about Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines.

Mark Drakeford said the Prime Minister's comments were "crass and offensive", with the collapse of the coal industry causing "incalculable" damage to Welsh communities.

The prime minister had claimed that Mrs Thatcher had given the UK an "early start" in the shift away from fossil fuels by closing pits.

Mr Johnson's comments, made during a visit to Scotland on Thursday, had already been strongly criticised by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts MP also wrote to the Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart MP asking him to condemn the comments.

A spokesperson for the Wales Office said Mr Hart will "of course reply in due course."

Mr Drakeford added his rebuke to the Prime Minister, highlighting the economic scarring suffered across swathes of Wales by the decline of coal, but Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson recognises the "huge impact and pain" caused by the mines shutting.

The FM told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I'm afraid that those remarks are both crass and offensive.

"The damage done to Welsh coal mining areas 30 years ago was incalculable and here we are 30 years later the Tories are still celebrating what they did."

Mr Johnson made the off-the-cuff remarks as he was pressed on whether he would set a deadline for ending fossil fuel extraction.

He hailed existing action to move to greener forms of power, stating when he was a child 70% to 80% of all electricity had been coal-generated.

"Since then, it's gone right down to 1%, or sometimes less," he stated.

Mr Johnson said: "Look at what we've done already.

"We've transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.

"Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we're now moving rapidly away from coal altogether."

Margaret Thatcher ‘closed so many coal mines across the country’ in her period in office, the PM said Credit: PA

Number 10 declined to apologise for the comments but said Mr Johnson understands the suffering of former mining communities.

The PM's official spokesman told reporters, "The Prime Minister recognises the huge impact and pain closing coal mines had in communities across the UK.

"This Government has an ambitious plan to tackle the critical issue of climate change, which includes reducing reliance on coal and other non-renewable energy sources.

"During the visit the Prime Minister pointed to the huge progress already made in the UK transitioning away from coal and towards cleaner forms of energy, and our commitment to supporting people and industries on that transition."

The Thatcher administration saw the bitter 1984-85 miners' strike which affected pit communities across the country.

Ms Sturgeon responded by saying lives and communities across Scotland were "utterly devastated by Thatcher's destruction of the coal industry" adding that it had "zero to do with any concern she had for the planet".

Labour demanded an apology with party leader Sir Keir Starmer describing the comments as a "slap in the face" for communities suffering from the legacy of Mrs Thatcher's actions.