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Miners’ Strike (Pardons)

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to pardon miners convicted of certain offences committed during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

I welcome the opportunity to speak about a matter of great importance to me and many others in my Midlothian constituency and beyond. A miners’ pardon would be a powerful symbol of reconciliation. It would show we are prepared to put the past behind us and move on. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was one of the most bitter and divisive events in British history. It was a time when miners, who were fighting for their jobs and their communities, were met with the full force of the state. Thousands were arrested and many were convicted of offences such as breach of the peace, obstruction of the police and breach of bail conditions. Those convictions were a travesty of justice. The miners were heroes, not criminals; they were fighting for their livelihoods.

The Scottish Parliament has helpfully already passed a law pardoning miners who were convicted in Scotland during the strike. I believe that now is the time for the UK Government to do the same for those miners in England and Wales. Members may ask why I, a Scottish MP, am bringing in this Bill. It is not only because some miners may have moved from my constituency to England and Wales, but because any kind of compensation scheme would require a UK-wide pardon to be in effect. Beyond that, it is a matter of justice. The miners deserve to have their convictions wiped away; they deserve to be remembered as the heroes they were in their communities.

The miners’ strike was a watershed moment in British history, and it had a profound impact on Scotland especially. The strike was a national dispute, but it was particularly hard-fought in Scotland, where the coal industry was a major employer and a significant part of the culture and identity of many communities. I have spoken several times about the merits of a UK-wide inquiry into the miners’ strike of 1984-85. Over that time, I have gathered the views and memories of many of those who were involved at the height of the strikes.

I moved to my now hometown of Loanhead at the height of the strikes in 1985. Criminal records, lost pensions and social stigma are now the real-world consequences of the actions that many took. Many are still living with the aftermath today. A pardon, and indeed a public inquiry, could be a step on the way to get answers and redress for those affected by the many injustices caused by those events. We need to heal the wounds of the past in order to move forward. Do we learn from injustice and listen to the lessons, or would we do it all again given the chance? Those are the questions that need answered for the sake of communities across the country, especially my own in Midlothian.

Mining in Midlothian dates back all the way to the 12th century, when the monks of Newbattle Abbey first began extracting coal. By the 20th century, mining was integral to my community’s way of life. Midlothian was home to a range of pits, from Bilston Glen and Monktonhall to the first Victorian super-pit at the Lady Victoria colliery, which is still home to the National Mining Museum Scotland. I would welcome any hon. Member who wants to visit at any time—they can let me know that they are coming if they want, but they can also come in their own time. It is a great visit.

By the 1980s, mines meant miners’ strikes. A token picket of six was maintained at Monktonhall, but Bilston Glen and Loanhead saw mass picketing and some of the most bitter conflicts of the strike in Scotland. According to Professor Jim Murdoch, miners’ stories

“showed without doubt that the criminal justice system all too often reacted in an arbitrary and disproportionate manner.”

A former miner at Monktonhall colliery, and a former council colleague of mine, Alex Bennett, who sadly passed away in January this year, told the inquiry in Scotland:

“I was snatched by one of the snatch squads. They went for the union officials and they knew our names. The original charges were for rioting but that wasn’t going to stick so they changed it to breach of the peace.”

The tactic was simply to use whatever means necessary to get miners, especially union officials, off the picket line and into the cells. Breach of the peace, obstructing a police officer, breach of bail and theft—all those charges and more were twisted to justify the snatch squad style of policing. These tactics would not look out of place in North Korea or Putin’s Russia. Serious questions remain about the extent of alleged political interference in the policing of the strike. Arrested strikers were sacked and denied redundancy payments and pension rights.

The Scottish Government rightly recognised the scale of the injustice back in 2018 when they commissioned an independent review, led by John Scott KC, of the impact of policing on communities, but the campaign did not start only then. I pay tribute to former MSP Neil Findlay, who was campaigning as far back as 2012 for an inquiry and compensation for the miners who were caught up in this. That baton was picked up by Richard Leonard, who ensured that the Bill passed through the Scottish Parliament with the support of the Scottish Government. I have already mentioned former councillor Alex Bennett from Danderhall, who sadly died in January. My predecessor, David Hamilton, did so much to support the cause. Then there are those who took part in supporting the Scottish Government’s inquiry, including independent review advisory panel members Dennis Canavan, Jim Murdoch and Kate Thomson.

Following testimony from former miners, police officers and mining communities, the review group made one single recommendation: that the Scottish Government should introduce legislation to pardon miners convicted for certain matters related to the strike. The Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Act 2022 was welcomed by the National Union of Mineworkers for removing the stigma of a criminal record. I am delighted to say that it was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in June 2022. It is never too late. By following the lead of the Scottish Government, healing can start today for other parts of these isles.

Numerous clashes between striking miners and police officers resulted in injuries and arrests. The UK Government imposed tight restrictions on picketing, making it difficult for miners to gather and protest, leading to frustration and anger among many communities. The Government brought in non-union workers, which was seen by many miners as a betrayal and led to further violence and unrest. The carnage of that time saw jobs lost forever, and the economic hardship caused by the strike led to social problems such as poverty, unemployment, social deprivation and alcoholism. That has had a hard knock-on effect on other communities, as industries and businesses that relied on coal were also forced to close. Many struggled to make ends meet. In some ways, it all resembled a civil war, creating huge divisions and strife among families and communities.

The strike was seen as a full-scale attack by the Government and police on miners and their communities. It is only right that this place now takes the chance to recognise the solidarity that miners and their communities had, and still have to this day, by bringing forward a pardon. It would be a lasting symbol of recognition of what went wrong during the decline of the coal industry, of the destruction of towns, villages and their way of life by the Government of the day. The strikes are still remembered with a great deal of bitterness in communities like mine. We could do the right thing by righting the wrongs of that time. I encourage all Members to support the Bill. It is never too late to right the wrongs of the past.

Question put and agreed to.


That Owen Thompson, Martyn Day, Alan Brown, Marion Fellows, Ben Lake, Patricia Gibson, Douglas Chapman, John Mc Nally, Alison Thewliss, Hannah Bardell and Steven Bonnar present the Bill.

Owen Thompson accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 January 2024, and to be printed (Bill 143).

Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill (Allocation of Time)


That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill:


(1) (a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting in accordance with this Order.

(b) Proceedings on Second Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 3 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(c) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 4 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

(2) When the Bill has been read a second time:

(a) it shall, despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill;

(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

(3) (a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the whole House, the Chair shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (1), the Chair or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply:

(a) any Question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment, new Clause or new Schedule selected by the Chair or Speaker for separate decision;

(d) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;

and shall not put any other questions, other than the question on any motion described in paragraph (11)(a) of this Order.

(5) On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chair or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(6) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(d) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chair or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

(7) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(e) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chair shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions.

Other proceedings

(8) Provision may be made for the taking and bringing to a conclusion of any other proceedings on the Bill.


(9) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill.

(10) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(11) (a) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken, to recommit the Bill or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order.

(b) No notice shall be required of such a Motion.

(c) Such a Motion may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(d) The Question on such a Motion shall be put forthwith; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (c) shall thereupon be resumed.

(e) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on such a Motion.

(12) (a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(13) (a) The start of any debate under Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) to be held on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall be postponed until the conclusion of any proceedings on that day to which this Order applies.

(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply in respect of any such debate.

(14) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(15) (a) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at a time falling after the commencement of proceedings on this Order or on the Bill on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders or by any Order of the House, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.

(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business so far as necessary for the purpose of securing that the business may be considered for a period of three hours.—(Scott Mann.)