Miners Strike 1984-85: UK-wide Inquiry

Part of NDAs: Universities – in Westminster Hall at 5:00 pm on 29th June 2022.

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Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero) 5:00 pm, 29th June 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship for the second time today, Ms McVey. I thank Owen Thompson for securing this debate, which comes after the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill. Finally, Scottish miners who were wrongly convicted for defending their livelihoods during the strike will have some form of justice. Justice delayed is better than justice denied, but we should all be clear that the damage caused by this delay has been huge.

As a Sheffield MP with a constituency only a few miles over from the site of the Orgreave coking plant, I understand just how deep this runs. I have heard directly from miners and their families about the ordeal they were put through during the strike. That is why I am proud to join the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign in its annual rally every 18 June to call for justice for the 95 miners who wrongly faced charges for what happened at Orgreave. Many potentially faced life imprisonment; the seriousness of the claims against them was huge. The farce of their trials, the speed at which the prosecutions fell apart and the obviously false testimony given by the police is a stain on our justice system and South Yorkshire’s policing. The policing on that day not only inflicted great physical injury to people at the picket but left long-term scars on individuals and communities, which no one has answered for.

The survivors of Orgreave deserve a full inquiry into what happened and why. This is not about digging up history; it is about understanding the role the police played on that day and why, who was involved in making decisions, and how far to the heart of Government those decisions went. Those are important questions not just for the miners who suffered directly; they are the concern of every single citizen in this country. There is an unbroken line between the police violence at Orgreave and the cost of living crisis today. It laid the foundations for the low-paid, zero-hours economy that we currently live in. It meant defeating and demoralising the trade union movement. The idea that the police were used to that end should chill the bones of everyone in this Chamber. We are already seeing the chilling effect of the anti-protest legislation on street protest. The prosecution of the Scottish miners and those at Orgreave raises questions about the relationship between politics, policing and the justice system. Those questions will be increasingly relevant as we head into what looks like a summer of industrial action, with people rightly seeking to defend their pay and conditions while profits soar.

The need for an inquiry is pressing. It must have the power to require that all the relevant information and evidence is produced and presented to it. Everyone with an interest must be able to participate fully and get their voices heard. The panel should be independent and objective and should have the skills to understand all the issues at stake. It should be transparent, open and not overly long. After the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill, that is the next step in righting the historical wrong that was done to communities up and down the country during the strike.