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Volume 616: debated on Monday 31 October 2016

Following the request of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign for an inquiry or independent review into the events that occurred at the Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984, I have today issued a written statement, setting out my decision. I have concluded that there is no case for either a statutory inquiry or an independent review.

This is an astonishing and, frankly, shameful decision by the Government. They have led those families up the garden path for the last two years. Does the Home Secretary not understand that the disinfecting light of a public inquiry is the only thing that will give those communities and those families the confidence they need in the South Yorkshire police force?

I urge the hon. Gentleman not to leap to anger quite so quickly. This Government have taken the time and looked at the documents. I have been in post for three months, and I have met the families and the campaigning MPs. The fact that I have reached a different decision from the one that the hon. Gentleman wanted does not mean that it is in any way dishonourable. This was a difficult decision to make. I have made it in consideration of all the facts, and I believe that it is the right one.

Once again, the name “South Yorkshire police” besmirches the brave officers on the front line. I have raised this issue in the House on several occasions, and I raise it again now. Will my right hon. Friend, along with my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister, meet me to have a serious discussion about whether South Yorkshire police and West Yorkshire police can be merged to become Yorkshire police, so that the name “South Yorkshire police” does not do an injustice to the officers who are bravely putting their lives on the line every day?

My hon. Friend has raised this matter with me before, and I can tell him that my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister will indeed meet him to discuss it. South Yorkshire police is under new leadership, and I am hopeful that it can make good progress. My right hon. Friend spoke to the police and crime commissioner today to explain the decision that the Government have reached.

Is the Home Secretary aware that her predecessor made it clear to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) some months ago that there would be an inquiry into Orgreave? This decision is not really any different from the one that we suspected beforehand. Why have the Government—and it appears to be the Government—now made a decision that is contrary to the one that the previous Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, announced in response to a question from my right hon. Friend several months ago?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have taken this matter very seriously. I have spoken to the former Home Secretary about the decision, and I have ensured that all matters and papers have been carefully considered. We have taken our time to arrive at this decision. No commitment was made before; there was only a willingness to look at all the evidence—and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that there was no such willingness on the part of the Labour Government—in order to ensure that the right decision was made after all the information had been absorbed.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. While public inquiries can be successful in some instances, too often they cost huge amounts of money, take many years to complete, and do not even answer the question that has been asked.

I thank my right hon. Friend for making that point. In a way, the easier political decision would have been for the Government to agree to an inquiry, but I cannot see that that would be in the public interest, given the substantial policing changes that have taken place since 1984.

Given that the Independent Police Complaints Commission found evidence of perjury and perversion of the course of justice, and given that in the last month new evidence of orchestrated violence and the mass manufacture of police statements has emerged from former police officers who were at Orgreave, are we not right to conclude that the establishment stitch-up that the Home Secretary has announced today is nothing more than a nakedly political act?

No. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. He chooses to politicise the issue when there are no politics here. As he knows, I had a meeting with the campaign group, and we had a frank exchange of information. The fact that he disagrees with the decision I have made does not mean that it is the wrong decision. I have made it honestly, and it is based on the evidence.

If the Government have decided against a public inquiry, I wonder whether the House will have the courage to establish a Select Committee inquiry. I understand why the Government are dubious about setting up another public inquiry, involving wall-to-wall lawyers, costing tens of millions of pounds, and taking years. However, if the Government could free up an ad hoc Select Committee, as can be done under the Osmotherly rules when there is a head of steam behind an issue—a proper Select Committee, led by a senior Member of Parliament and able to interview all witnesses about matters including advice to Ministers—we could deal with issues of this kind much more cheaply than a public inquiry.

That is a very interesting suggestion. I believe that such a set-up would be a matter for the House, but I am sure that other Select Committees have heard my hon. Friend’s suggestion, and they may indeed take up the opportunity themselves.

There will be huge concern across south Yorkshire and further afield at the Home Secretary’s decision. May I therefore ask her specifically if she will meet with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to discuss this matter further?

I spoke to the head of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign this morning, and I am not surprised that she was very disappointed. I set out my reasons and I have written her and the campaign group a six-page letter. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that they be given a chance to digest its contents before we set up any meeting.

I do not think the Home Secretary fully understands how disappointed and let down the Orgreave families and campaigners will be by her decision. A six-page letter does not compensate for the violence and injustice that occurred at Orgreave so many years ago. We know the South Yorkshire police lied about what happened at Hillsborough, yet only five years earlier the same South Yorkshire police, including many of the same commanders, behaved in a very similar way at Orgreave. The Orgreave families and campaigners need the same justice as Hillsborough had; they need the same type of independent inquiry to establish the truth.

I respectfully say to the hon. Lady that the Hillsborough situation was quite different from Orgreave; 96 people died at Hillsborough and it was right that we had an inquiry that analysed exactly what happened on the day. In this situation at Orgreave there were no miscarriages of justice, there were no deaths—[Interruption.] There were no convictions, the hon. Lady should be aware. Therefore Orgreave does not merit the same status as that needed for a public inquiry, which was required for Hillsborough.