Labour will today (Wednesday 29 January) launch the ‘Justice for the Coalfields’ campaign to urge Conservative Ministers to begin to put right the wrongs with coalfield communities in the North East and across the country.
Earlier this month newly-released cabinet papers revealed that the Thatcher Government had a secret plan to close 75 pits at the cost of some 65,000 jobs; that the Government did seek to influence police tactics to escalate the dispute; and that they actively considered declaring a state of emergency and deploying the Army to defeat the miners and unions.
Labour is now urging Ministers to take the following action:
• Make a formal apology for the actions of the Government during the time of the strike
• Set out all details of the interactions between the Government and the police at the time
• Release all information about Government-police communications around Orgreave, with a proper investigation which might go a little way to rebuild public confidence
Labour believes this must happen before the 30th Anniversary of Orgreave on June 18th this year.
On Wednesday 29th January Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Dugher will raise this in the House of Commons, challenging Francis Maude to make an apology and commit to these actions.
Michael Dugher MP said:
“For those of us who lived through the strike and who saw the events and impact they had firsthand, what was revealed in the cabinet papers may not come as a surprise. But it is no less shocking to consider that, far from being neutral as was claimed at the time, it is clear that the Government took a deliberately calculated political approach guided by a complete hostility to the coalfield communities.
“That is why I am calling for justice for the coalfields.
“Ministers may want to sweep these events under the carpet, but the scars of the dispute and the subsequent closure programme remain on the memories, communities and landscapes of all coalfield communities. They must now apologise and deliver transparency to begin to foster reconciliation with the coalfield communities.”
Welcoming the campaign, Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck said:
“As a former miner and now as an MP for a former mining area, I am delighted that the Labour Party has decided to back the campaign for a formal apology for the actions of the Government during the time of the strike. It is important that we have transparency on what happened during that period. Even though it was 30 years ago, everyone is fully aware about the huge impact it had on individuals and whole communities, especially in the North East. Now is the time to set the record straight.”
Vera Baird QC, Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner, said:
“I represented many miners during the strike and it was evident that the Thatcher government had no respect for mining communities.
“Now is the time for the Prime Minister to put this right. As we move to the 30th Anniversary of Orgreave I call upon David Cameron to order a full and proper investigation in to what happened and to apologise to miners and their families across the country for the action taken by Mrs Thatcher and her Ministers during the strike”