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Miners’ strike: Fresh calls for inquiry as 30th anniversary nears

INQUIRY CALL ... police officers move into the picket lines at Orgreave, one of the most controversial episodes of the miners' strike.

INQUIRY CALL ... police officers move into the picket lines at Orgreave, one of the most controversial episodes of the miners' strike.

CALLS for a public inquiry into the year-long miners’ strike are being stepped up as communities across the country gear up to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the most bitter industrial conflict in living memory.

A series of events will be held by miners, their families, supporters and union activists in the coming weeks, while the anger and bitterness which characterised the dispute will be re-kindled.

The recent revelation in government papers released by the National Archives that Margaret Thatcher secretly considered calling out the troops at the height of the strike has heightened the belief that a full-blown inquiry should be held.

North East Labour MP Ian Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has tabled an early day motion in Parliament, which “regrets that nearly 30 years after the strike ended, there are still men who were wrongly arrested or convicted during the dispute, who have never received justice”.

More than 60 MPs are supporting the motion.

Mr Lavery, the MP for Wansbeck, said he will continue pressing for an inquiry into the events of 30 years ago.

He said: “People who live in great mining communities across the UK have not forgotten the strike and they will never forget.

“Passions have not waned. In 100 years’ time I am confident that people will say that their great-grandfather was a miner and was proud to have taken part in the strike. That is how deep this thing runs.”

Mr Lavery said the archive papers revealing that ministers considered declaring a state of emergency, amid fears that union action could destroy the government, backed up his belief that MPs and the public were misled.

“The Prime Minister deliberately misled Parliament and the public by saying the NUM was scaremongering about pit closures.

“They played down the impact of the strike, but it is now clear they were considering bringing in the troops.”

The strike started in early March 1984 over pit closures planned by the state-owned National Coal Board, and pitted Mrs Thatcher’s government against the NUM and its fiery president Arthur Scargill.

Mr Scargill always maintained that the government planned mass pit closures as well as attacking the union, a sentiment which was backed up by a now-released note from an official at 10 Downing Street that said the strike was a “unique opportunity to break the power of the militants in the NUM”.

Mr Lavery said the NUM also had a social structure in communities, with officials helping to deal with any problems, and that had been “totally destroyed.”

“Many coal communities are still suffering from the closure of pits because nothing has replaced coal, but it is also devastating to see the impact of the demise of the NUM in these areas too,” he said.

The strike started in Yorkshire but rapidly escalated, with thousands of police officers drafted into Nottinghamshire, the county which became a battleground as some miners continued to work.

Pressure is also mounting for a full public inquiry into one of the most violent days of the miners’ strike, when 96 people were arrested and 51 injured during clashes between pickets and police.

The day started peacefully on June 18 in 1984, when pickets started arriving at the Orgreave coking plant in Yorkshire, but within hours there were pitched battles between miners and police, many on horseback.

The police maintain they were subjected to a hail of missiles from among the thousands of pickets who had gathered outside the plant to try to prevent lorries leaving, but the pickets say the police over-reacted.

 

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