Miners Strike 1984-85: UK-wide Inquiry

Part of NDAs: Universities – in Westminster Hall at 5:20 pm on 29th June 2022.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 5:20 pm, 29th June 2022

It is a great pleasure to appear before you, Ms McVey. We have both come a long way since we were teenagers together in south Liverpool.

I am grateful to Owen Thompson for securing the debate. I know he has a long-standing interest in these issues. Obviously, I have listened carefully to all the contributions. I recognise the significance of the miners strike and its impact on mining communities throughout the United Kingdom, including those affected by what occurred at the Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984. I remember the footage well. I was a teenager at the time and a student shortly thereafter in the north-east, and I know that the events of that period continue to resonate in those communities.

The House is calling for a wider inquiry into the policing of the strikes. Successive Home Secretaries have given careful consideration to the issues arising from the calls for an inquiry into the policing of the strikes at Orgreave and, by extension, the miners strikes more broadly. As Members have mentioned, the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the decision in October 2016 not to undertake an inquiry, and her successor, my right hon. Friend Sajid Javid, upheld that decision in September 2018. In the spirit of transparency, in 2017 the Home Office released the files held by the Department to the National Archives, and those files are available there for public review. We have urged other Departments to do the same, and South Yorkshire police is in the process of reviewing its files to release them as well.

The core argument given by the Home Secretaries was that, given the passage of time and the large number of legislative and systemic changes since 1984, an inquiry is unlikely to result in relevant lessons for today’s system. The Government stand by that decision. Crucially, there have been significant changes to policing since then, including major reforms to criminal procedure, changes to public order policing and practice, stronger external scrutiny and greater local accountability. Specifically, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which came into force from January 1985, and other legislative and operational changes made since then, have vastly improved the way police investigations and powers operate. The exemplary standards of behaviour expected of everyone who works in policing were reinforced by the introduction of a statutory code of ethics, which was laid before the House in 2014 and is currently being reviewed.

The introduction of further provisions through the Policing and Crime Act 2017 has increased the powers of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, clarified its investigative processes and further safeguarded its independence. Those reforms were introduced in 2018 and 2020, alongside wider reforms to the police discipline and complaints systems. The legislative reforms in 2020 to overhaul the police complaints and disciplinary systems were wide-ranging and designed to simplify processes while increasing transparency and independence. Furthermore, the creation of the Crown Prosecution Service in 1986, with the introduction of independent CPS prosecutors, fundamentally altered the prosecution of offences and ended the existence of ad hoc prosecution arrangements throughout the country.

Given the fact that the landscape has changed so markedly, it is difficult to see how a review of the events and practices of more than three decades ago would yield significant lessons for the policing system today. In the light of the significant changes since the strikes, there are no plans to undertake an assessment of the potential merits of establishing an independent inquiry into the policing of the miners strike in 1984 to 1985 in England and Wales. The Government do not plan to review the decision not to establish a public inquiry into the events at the Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984. For the Government’s part, we are completely focused on ensuring that policing is the best it can be, including through reforms to improve accountability and transparency. Public confidence is pivotal to our model of policing by consent.