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

My right hon. Friend makes the point clearly and concisely: action needs to be taken. It is about not just the miners who have died, but their families who follow them.

As has been outlined in this debate, a number of developments have occurred since 2016. Home Office files from ’84 and ’85 have been released to the National Archives. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has disclosed the existence and location of files from the Association of Chief Police Officers relating to Orgreave and the miners strike, which I understand were actually embargoed until 2066. I will be 111 in 2066, if I live that long. New evidence has come to light as a result of the ongoing undercover police inquiry, to which others have referred, in which the National Union of Mineworkers is a core participant. I hope the Minister gives each of those developments full and proper consideration.

Perhaps more significant is the trigger for this debate: the findings of the Scottish miners review. I wonder if seeing the support from MSP colleagues for the Scottish review and its outcome will encourage the Minister, Conservative MPs and the rest of the UK to reconsider their position. I certainly hope it will. Over the past six years, however, the Government have continually rejected calls for an inquiry. In November 2021, the Minister present said that such an inquiry:

“is not in the wider public interest or required for any other reason.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2021; Vol. 704, c. 2P.]

Opposition Members completely disagree. We believe that it is only by properly investigating those events that we can secure the justice that has long evaded all those affected.

In the words of the former Conservative Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead, in her speech to the Police Federation annual conference in 2016, we must all understand

“the need to face up to the past and right the wrongs that continue to jeopardise the work of police officers today. Because historical inquiries are not archaeological excavations. They are not purely exercises in truth and reconciliation…they are about ensuring justice is done…We must never underestimate how the poison of decades-old misdeeds seeps down through the years and is just as toxic today as it was then. That’s why difficult truths, however unpalatable they may be, must be confronted head on.”

No matter how long it takes, justice must be done and be seen to be done. The Labour party does not turn a blind eye to and shrug off historic injustices; from the quote I have just read from the former Home Secretary and Prime Minister, we can see that there was once a time that the Conservative party did not, either.

Instead of heeding the lessons of historic heavy policing, the Home Office is presiding over draconian changes in protest legislation, some of which came into force just yesterday, and expanding police powers for protest disproportionately through the Public Order Bill. The deplorable actions of this Home Office show more than ever why learning the lessons of the past through inquiries such as the one we are discussing is the necessary work of good government. I hope the Minister will do the right thing and order the inquiry without further delay.