MP demands truth over Miners’ Strike

Arthur Scargill at Easington  pic taken 20 July 1984  old ref number 49402  Roland Boyes
Arthur Scargill at Easington pic taken 20 July 1984 old ref number 49402 Roland Boyes

LABOUR MPs have called for all of the documents relating to the mining strike of the mid-80s to be released in full.

In the House of Commons, Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, who is president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), asked Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude: “What’s the Government got to hide with regard to the miners’ strike? Can you say when the documents that haven’t been released will be released and will they be released unredacted?”

Certain files have recently been published by the National Archives at Kew, west London, which revealed the Government tapped NUM members’ phones.

The 30-year-old documents also outlined a confidential plan to shut 75 mines and cut 64,000 jobs over three years.

At the time, more than 1,400 men were employed at Easington Colliery alone. By 1993, its death knell meant the last of the County Durham pits had disappeared. Ever since, East Durham pitmen and unions have blamed the demise of the industry on the Thatcher Government.

Mr Lavery’s call was echoed by former miner Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, who said: “Isn’t the whole subject of these papers embarrassing to the Government and to the minister?

“Because at the beginning we argued there were 75 pits (due to be closed). The Thatcher government at the time said there were only 20. They lied continually in the House of Commons, repeating that figure, and then the Cabinet papers reveal it was 75 after all and the miners were right.

“Your embarrassment about revealing other papers is simply because they decided to attack the NUM, the manufacturing base of Britain, and it’s carried on by the Tories ever since.”

Ann Clwyd, MP for Cynon Valley, added: “We were lied to by those in authority.

“There are lots of things that have not yet been revealed publicly and I think it is high time the truth came out.”

But Mr Maude replied: “The documents, other than sensitive or personal papers, were released in the usual way under the law that was passed by the previous government. I’m a strong supporter of transparency and I’m proud of what this Government has done to make this the most transparent government in the world.

“This was a very bitter period in our nation’s life but the normal considerations about the protection of personal papers must be followed.”