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Miners Dispute (Outstanding Documents)

Volume 590: debated on Wednesday 7 January 2015

2. What progress his Department has made on releasing outstanding documents relating to the miners dispute in 1984-85. (906844)

The documents, other than sensitive or personal papers, were released in the usual way under the law that was passed by the previous Government.

What have this Government got to hide with regard to the miners strike, because only 30 out of 500 digitised documents relating to the strike were released last week? There was no mention of Orgreave, but there was an admission that the Government tapped National Union of Mineworkers members’ phones. When will the documents that have not been released be released, and will they be released unredacted?

I really have nothing to add to what I have already said and what has been said on previous occasions. The same considerations were applied to these papers as apply to the release of Government papers generally, which means that those that are personal or sensitive are not released in the normal time scales. I know that there are very strong feelings about this. I was a Member of Parliament for a coal mining constituency during the mining strike, and the mining community was deeply divided during that period. I am well aware of the sensitivities of that period.

Will my right hon. Friend note that the appetite for everything to be disclosed is shared by some Government Members, most particularly because I can recall the unlawful killing of the taxi driver David Wilkie and the recent revelations from the former right hon. Member for Pontypridd that following the event a number of papers at the NUM offices in south Wales were deliberately burnt and destroyed?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I am a strong supporter of transparency and am proud of what this Government have done to make us the most transparent Government in the world. There is a concern, and that was a very bitter period in our nation’s life, but the normal considerations about the protection of personal papers must be followed in this case as in others.

Is not the whole subject of these papers embarrassing to the Government and to the Minister? At the beginning we argued that 75 pits were to be closed, and the Thatcher Government said at the time that there were only 20. They lied continually in the House of Commons, repeating that figure, and then the Cabinet papers revealed that it was 75 after all and that the miners had been right. He is embarrassed to reveal other papers simply because that Government decided to attack the NUM and Britain’s manufacturing base, and that has been carried on by the Tories ever since.

I think that the hon. Gentleman’s case would be stronger if at that time he had made the case for the National Union of Mineworkers to have a proper ballot of all its members so that they could decide whether they wanted to be brought out on strike, rather than being bullied and intimidated into it.

I was elected in the middle of the miners strike in 1984 and know exactly what happened: we were lied to by those in authority. They said that our pit, Tower colliery, was uneconomic. We kept it going because the miners put their own money into it for another 10 years. There are lots of things that have not yet been revealed publicly, and I think that it is high time the truth came out.

As I say, the papers have been released, subject to the normal considerations about protecting sensitive and personal documents. Again, I do not recollect—the right hon. Lady and I were elected on the same day and were Back-Bench Members of Parliament during that period—hearing her voice being raised to support a proper ballot of mineworkers on whether they wanted to go on strike at all.

Why have not all the papers and memos between the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, and the chief constables and magistrates courts been published?

I can only repeat what I have said already: the papers have been released, subject to the normal considerations about protecting sensitive and personal documents, with the same considerations that are applied to all Government papers.