Miners’ strike 1984-1985: letter to UK Government

Justice Secretary urges UK Government to reconsider decision to rule out inquiry and payment of compensation to former miners.

To: The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department
 Cabinet Secretary for Justice Keith Brown

Thank you for your letter of 22 July in response to my letter of 14 June which updated you on the progress of the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill and which urged you again to consider undertaking a UK wide public inquiry into the events relating to the 1984-85 strike. It is unfortunate that you did not receive my previous letter of 25 November 2021. I have enclosed a copy of this letter for your ease of reference

I am very disappointed to hear that you have no current plans to undertake a UK public inquiry. I know that sense of disappointment will be shared by many former miners and their families who still seek answers to the unresolved questions which remain for them to this day. It will also be shared by many other parliamentarians – particularly those who showed their support for such an inquiry during the passage of the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) Bill and also during the Westminster Hall debate held on 29 June.

To reiterate the points made by Members at that debate, the release of files and the passage of time since the strike should not be used as an excuse by the UK Government for not undertaking a UK inquiry. In addition, the changes which have taken place in oversight and accountability in policing over the intervening years across the UK - while very welcome - do not obviate the need for an inquiry.

I fully appreciate that policing matters are devolved in Scotland now, but they were not devolved during the period of the strike.

It is for those very reasons that the Scottish Government decided to commission an independent review into the impact of policing on mining communities during the strike. That review recommended a pardon which ultimately led to the Scottish Parliament endorsing the Bill unanimously, with the support of Scottish Conservative MSPs.

The Bill recently received Royal Assent and the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Act 2022 has now delivered, with the legislation taking effect from 27 July. A copy of the Act is available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2022/6/introduction/enacted.

I would also like to be very clear that my calls for a UK public inquiry into the events of the strike should not be interpreted as being limited only to the policing of the strike. My letter of 14 June also made reference to the management of the strike and the payment of compensation.

As you will be aware, Employment, Trade and Industrial Relations matters remain reserved to Westminster. Responsibility for the decisions taken at the time by the National Coal Board (NCB) still lies firmly with the UK Government. In addition, only the UK Government can address for example any allegations of political interference during the strike by a previous UK Government. It is the UK Government that could, and indeed should, be compensating miners who were dismissed for taking part in a strike to save not only their jobs, but also their industry and communities. Many former miners lost out on thousands of pounds in redundancy and pension payments after they were sacked by the NCB. The provision of financial redress now would mean a great deal to many people.

An uncovering of the truth of what happened during the strike - and the taking of responsibility for decisions made - are important to the people still affected by the strike. The quest for answers and for compensation will continue on a cross-party basis - whether that be at Westminster, Holyrood, the Welsh Assembly, or as I hope through our combined efforts on behalf of former miners and their families. In that regard, you may be aware of the motion recently lodged by Plaid Cymru Statement of Opinion - OPIN-2022-0295 - Welsh Parliament.

I would therefore urge you to recognise the depth of feeling in many former mining communities and give these communities the answers and the recompense that they seek, in a spirit of reconciliation. The evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament and previously to the review commissioned by the Scottish Government, clearly shows that anger and the pain of old wounds still run deep in our mining heartlands. The need for a UK inquiry requires serious consideration and should not be dismissed for the reasons you have suggested.

I would be more than happy to discuss these matters further with you. I have copied this letter to the Prime Minister, the Minister of State for Crime and Policing, the Lord Advocate, the Advocate General for Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Welsh Government.

Keith Brown

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