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State Intervention in Great Britain: Study of Economic Control and Social Response

In April 1926 the owners locked out the miners because they had rejected the owners’ demands for longer hours and reduced pay in the face of falling prices caused by demand as oil started to replace coal.[179] The general strike was led by the TUC for the benefit of coal miners, but it failed. It was a nine-day nationwide walkout of one million railwaymen, transport workers, printers, dockers, ironworkers and steelworkers supporting the 1.5 million coal miners who had been locked out. The government had provided a nine-month subsidy in 1925 but that was not enough to turn around a sick industry. The TUC hope was the government would intervene to reorganize and rationalize the industry, and raise the subsidy. The Conservative government had stockpiled supplies and essential services continued with middle class volunteers. All three major parties opposed the strike. The general strike itself was largely non-violent, but the miners’ lockout continued and there was violence in Scotland. It was the only general strike in British history and TUC leaders such as Ernest Bevin considered it a mistake. Most historians treat it as a singular event with few long-term consequences, but Martin Pugh says it accelerated the movement of working-class voters to the Labour Party, which led to future gains.[180][181] The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 made general strikes illegal and ended the automatic payment of union members to the Labour Party. That act was largely repealed in 1946.

Coal continued as a sick industry as the best seams were used up and it became more and more difficult to mine the rest. The Labour government in 1947 nationalized coal into the National Coal Board, giving miners access to control of the mines via their control of the Labour party and the government.[182] By then, however, the best seams had played out and coal mining was headed downward. Coal production was 50 million metric tons in 1850, 149 million in 1880, 269 million in 1910, 228 million in 1940, and 153 million in 1970. The peak year was 1913, with an output of 292 million tons. Mining employed 383,000 men in 1851, 604,000 in 1881, and 1,202,000 in 1911.