Miners Strike 1984-85: UK-wide Inquiry

Part of NDAs: Universities – in Westminster Hall at 5:12 pm on 29th June 2022.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 5:12 pm, 29th June 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey. I am sorry for my dodgy voice; excuse me occasionally if I have to drink.

I congratulate Owen Thompson on securing this debate. He spoke powerfully to the experience of miners and their communities throughout the strikes, and of how the Scottish review has helped to begin to heal some decades-old wounds. He referred to bowling green bevvies among police and miners; sadly they are no more, and I do not think it is a legacy any of them would have wanted.

I pay tribute to the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign and all those who have campaigned to shine a light on the policing of the 1984-85 strike. My hon. Friend Alex Davies-Jones spoke of the police charges, but she also spoke of her pride in her dad. It is lovely to hear people talk about pride in their dads. My dad is nearly 91, and his dad worked in the mines, so I also have that legacy—it helped to shape me as well.

Labour has long supported calls for a full and independent public inquiry into the matter, and particularly into the events at the Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984. My hon. Friend Olivia Blake spoke of the horrors of what happened there. As I have indicated, I grew up in a mining community with a proud family heritage in the industry, so I understand the impact of the Government’s handling of the strikes on miners and their families and communities. It is an impact that endures to this day.

My hon. Friend Ian Lavery spoke openly and honestly about his own history, but also spoke about those hard-working individuals in the mines who were criminalised during the strike. He also spoke of his continuing pride in his colleagues.

In 2015, and for most of 2016, it looked as though the Government were moving in the right direction on the issue. Following the findings of the Independent Police Complaints Commission scoping exercise in June 2015, Mrs May, then Home Secretary, invited submissions for why a public inquiry was needed. In September 2016, a meeting took place with the subsequent Home Secretary, the former Member for Hastings and Rye, at which the potential format of an inquiry or investigation was discussed.

Many across the House were understandably confused and deeply disappointed when, only a couple of months later in October 2016, the then Home Secretary confirmed, in response to a parliamentary question, that no inquiry of any kind would take place. There was great sadness on that day. Will the Minister confirm that that was not for the reasons raised in Sasha Swire’s book—that an inquiry into Orgreave would

“slur the memory of Thatcher and the…party won’t like it”?

If that was true, it would be disgraceful. That said, even the official reasons given by the former Member for Hastings and Rye are extremely thin.

It is important that we address the wrongdoings of the past—not just for Orgreave, but across the whole country. Just because no one died as a result of the state’s handling of the strikes does not mean there are not valuable lessons to be learned from examining them. This morning, I spoke to Chris Pearce from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, who reminded me that time is of the essence. Many of the miners affected have already died; others are elderly, but still hope for a fair hearing.