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Plan for Coal (1953)


Main image of Plan for Coal (1953)
35mm, black and white, 19 mins
Production CompanyData Film Productions
SponsorNational Coal Board
ProductionStuart Legg
Narration Howard Marion Crawford
 Michael Goodliffe

An explanation of the National Coal Board's national plan for reconstruction and reorganisation.

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Government control of the coal mines during World War II was consolidated in 1947 when the National Coal Board took over the newly nationalised coal industry. In 1950 the Labour government issued a publication entitled 'Plan for Coal', proposing the industry's next 15 years of development. Two years later a film of the same name offered a more palatable presentation of the document for public consumption.

As coal nationalisation was a reworking of the coal industry during the war, this documentary, Plan for Coal, is a modification of the wartime propaganda film. The appeals to national pride and industry, which previously invoked unity in wartime, are echoed here in the cause of supporting reconstruction and "our future as a great power".

By 1952 a Conservative administration was in command and the complications of managing the nation's energy needs were becoming more apparent. While the new government did not attempt to reverse the nationalisation, it was keen to promote free competition between electricity, gas and solid fuel within a national fuel policy. These complications are absent from the film, which concentrates on coal as the 'wealth of a nation'.

The main objective of the plan for coal was to increase domestic production but, like generals fighting the last war, planning for the British coal industry failed to reflect the emerging realities of global energy use. The opening-up of Saudi Arabian oil, with the completion of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline in 1950, massively increased petroleum supplies to Europe - a commodity the film admits "offers a challenge to coal itself". In fact, the consumption of coal in the UK was about to fall, in a decline mirrored by the rising consumption of this cheaper imported alternative.

James Piers Taylor

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (19:07)
Legg, Stuart (1910-1988)
National Coal Board Film Unit (1952-84)
The National Coal Board - The Documentaries