My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
“Last week, my honourable friend the Advocate-General for Scotland answered an oral Question by Lord Balfe, of Dulwich, on whether the Government had yet decided whether there will be an inquiry into police actions during the Orgreave miners clash in 1984. He explained that the previous Home Secretary had been considering the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign’s submission, and that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is working with the Crown Prosecution Service to assess whether material related to the policing of Orgreave is relevant to the Hillsborough criminal investigations, with decisions yet to be made by them on whether any criminal proceedings will be brought as a result.
The Government take all allegations of police misconduct very seriously and the then Home Secretary considered the campaign’s analysis in detail. I can tell the right honourable gentleman by that I have today written to the campaign secretary—Barbara Jackson—to say that I would be very happy to meet her and the campaign immediately after the Summer Recess. I would also be happy to meet the right honourable gentleman to discuss this case as I know this is something that he feels very strongly about. This is one of the most important issues in my in-tray as new Home Secretary, and I can assure him that I will be considering the facts very carefully over the summer. I hope to come to a decision as quickly as possible following that”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question asked in the other place. In their response to the Oral Question on 13 July on an inquiry into police actions during the Orgreave miners clash, the Government said:
“The IPCC told Home Office officials that if it announced any action to set up an inquiry or other investigation relating to Orgreave, it would have an impact on the Hillsborough investigation. It is for that reason that the decision will be taken only once that part has been concluded”.—[Official Report, 13/7/16; col. 216.]
The deputy chair of the IPCC has emailed me, quoting the Government’s words. She goes on to say: “I would like to clarify that the IPCC has not taken or offered any position on whether there should be a public inquiry into the events at Orgreave during the miners’ strike. That is a decision that is entirely for the Home Secretary”. Do the Government accept that the IPCC has not taken or offered any position on whether there should be a public inquiry into Orgreave, as the deputy chair of the IPCC says? If so, why did they not make that clear in the answer given on 13 July, bearing in mind they said that, as a result of something the IPCC had said to Home Office officials, a decision could not yet be taken by the Home Secretary?
Do the Government accept there is no reason why ongoing Hillsborough investigations should delay an Orgreave inquiry, and that the delay in agreeing to the inquiry rests squarely at the Government’s door and has nothing whatever to do with any stance taken by the IPCC, as the Government’s answer last Wednesday rather implied—an answer the deputy chair of the IPCC felt so strongly did not represent the position of the IPCC that she felt she had no alternative but to send an email to myself and others clarifying its position on this matter?
My Lords, last week we were under a different Home Secretary. My noble and learned friend answered accordingly last week. This Home Secretary, who is newly in post, has decided she will look at all the relevant material over the summer and come to her own conclusion very early after recess. She has responded to the campaign to that end today. The IPCC, as its name denotes, is an independent body. It will come to its own conclusion.
My Lords, would my noble friend be so kind as to ensure the Home Secretary remembers at all times that the violence at Orgreave arose because Mr Scargill’s men chose to defy the law on peaceful picketing and sought to prevent other working men going to their work? That was the nub of the whole dispute at Orgreave.
Like my noble friend, I remember those years, because I lived in a mining village in the north-east. As she considers all the evidence from the campaign, the Home Secretary will weigh up what it says and decide whether to pursue an inquiry. She will do that quickly.
My Lords, I declare that I was a serving police officer at the time of the miners’ strike, but I played absolutely no part whatever in its policing. Would the Minister agree that holding a public inquiry at the same time as criminal and police misconduct investigations could create legal complexities, and that the Home Secretary needs to take the views of the IPCC carefully into account, along with the views of the others involved, even if the IPCC is not making the decision about the public inquiry itself?
It is important to understand the two roles—the noble Lord of course does. The Home Secretary will arrive at her conclusions based on the evidence she looks at over the next few weeks. The IPCC will take a view as an independent body.
My Lords, having watched the Home Secretary reply to the Urgent Question in another place, I think that any reasonable person would be hugely impressed by the way in which she dealt with it. She made it clear that the matter was a very high priority for her, notwithstanding the fact that, as a new Home Secretary, she has an enormous number of problems on her plate. Her sincerity in approaching this issue is most impressive. She made the point in passing that she is dealing with an issue that occurred 32 years ago, and that subsequent Conservative and Labour Governments have not been notable for moving forward on it. One can only admire the way in which she has approached this.
I thank my noble friend for making that point. My right honourable friend was indeed very impressive. If I can be a fraction as competent as she is, I will feel that I have done a very good job. She stated not once but twice, I think, during the reply to the Urgent Question that she accords this issue top priority in her inbox over the summer.
My Lords, I think we understand that there is a new Home Secretary; we would be hard pressed not to notice that. We also appreciate that the noble Baroness is a new Minister on this topic. However, there is no new IPPC. The point that my noble friend Lord Rosser raised was that in essence the position of the IPPC was misrepresented. Could the Minister tell us how that happened?
My Lords, I can tell noble Lords that the IPCC is working very closely with the CPS to assess whether material related to the policing of Orgreave is relevant to the Hillsborough criminal investigation. Decisions have yet to be made by the CPS on whether any criminal proceedings will be brought as a result.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on her second day in office, and the new Home Secretary on dealing with this matter so expeditiously. The campaigners have told me that they also appreciate the efforts of the previous Home Secretary who dealt with this matter. This is an issue of many years’ standing and deals with a police force which, frankly, does not come out of things in a particularly good light. This is the same police force that dealt with the Hillsborough issues. Therefore, I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary is looking into this matter. The only point I would mention is that I note that she offered to meet Labour Members to talk about this. However, this matter is of concern across the House. Will the Minister encourage her superior, herself or someone to meet Conservative Members who are similarly interested in this matter and, for that matter, anyone else?
During my right honourable friend the Home Secretary’s reply, I noted that she offered to meet a Labour MP. I will certainly put the same request to her that my noble friend makes.
My Lords, for the noble Baroness’s information, I place on record the fact that I have an email from the deputy chair of the IPCC, in which she clarifies that, “the IPCC has not taken or offered any position on whether there should be a public inquiry. That is entirely a matter for the Home Secretary”. Will the noble Baroness also convey to the Home Secretary that this is not just a question of the same officers being guilty of bad practice, and malevolence in the case of Hillsborough, but also that this incident occurred against a background of the unbridled use of state power against the miners? They were stopped miles and miles away on motorways coming from areas such as London and almost extrajudicial methods were used. This serious Orgreave incident needs to be considered in that context.
My Lords, I think I confirmed to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that I understand the IPCC has confirmed by email to a number of noble Lords that it has not made a decision. As regards conveying a message to the Home Secretary about the same officers being involved, that is precisely the sort of information that she will be looking at. She will be looking at the whole file that the campaign has taken six months to compile and give to her. She will not rush to a decision but will come swiftly to a decision after the Summer Recess.