MP Ian Lavery in campaign for miners' strike inquiry

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery is determined to find out the truth behind the government's role in the miners' strike in 1984

Violent scenes during the National Miners Strike, 5 March 1985 in Wearmouth
Violent scenes during the National Miners Strike, 5 March 1985 in Wearmouth

MP Ian Lavery has vowed to expose the truth behind the Thatcher government’s role in the miners’ strike, after official papers revealed that Ministers were directly involved in the dispute.

The North East MP said he believed a major independent inquiry might be needed to establish the full facts behind the year-long strike, which began in March 1984.

Newly-released Cabinet papers reveal that senior ministers, including Margaret Thatcher, her Chancellor, the Energy Secretary and the Employment Secretary discussed the National Coal Board’s plan to shut 75 pits and cut 64,000 jobs.

But the government at the time explicitly denied claims made by Arthur Scargill, the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, that there was a secret plan to close 70 pits, while the National Coal Board said it intended to close just 20.

The papers also reveal that the government briefly considered calling a state of emergency and getting troops to move coal, after dock workers also went out on strike.

Mr Lavery is arguing that the truth must now be told about the way the Government intervened in the strike while insisting it was a dispute between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.

He has asked Commons Speaker John Bercow to investigate, telling him: “The documents confirmed what the National Union of Mineworkers and the Labour movement fully suspected at the time, but many people in the mining communities and the UK as a whole were alarmed to learn that senior Ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister deliberately misled the people of this country.”

Speaking to The Journal, Mr Lavery said he was determined to get to the truth.

He said: “The whole idea of this is quite simply to expose the fact that a government, a Prime Minister and senior ministers, deliberately misled the country - deliberately misled them from the despatch box.

“Just because it was 30 years ago doesn’t mean to say there shouldn’t be anything done about it.

“The documents that have been released show quite clearly the way in which they were tackling the miners – by deceit.

“I just think it’s so, so important. I’m not going to let this one go.”

Mr Lavery said he hoped the Speaker would chose to investigate, but if this did not happen then he would continue to call for an inquiry.

“What we’ll do now is, we’ll wait and see what the Speaker says and then I’ll decide then which way I need to take it

“If he’s not going to look at it then I will look at alternative channels to try to get justice on behalf of, not just the miners but the whole country really, for the deliberate deceit by the government, the Prime Minister, the senior ministers.”

The MP said he planned to trawl through the documents, which were published by the National Archives, and suggested a major inquiry similar to the independent panel which looked into the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield might be needed.

He said: “I’m going to forensically search through the documents.

“I have already asked for an inquiry into the policing of the miners strike. This could be something similar to an independent inquiry at the same sort of level and structures as the Hillsborough inquiry, whereby we ask for an independent inquiry where all papers are issued, people research the documents, and there is an outcome from an independent inquiry.

“Some people said, ‘Well, the miners knew they were being lied to’. Does that mean we should just accept it? Does that mean as a country we should understand that Prime Ministers can get up to the despatch box and tell blatant lie after blatant lie, and we should accept it because we thought that was the case anyway? Of course it doesn’t.”

A Commons motion drawn up by Mr Lavery which calls for “a full independent inquiry into the then Government’s handling of the miners’ strike” has been signed by 32 MPs.


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