‘Historic’ coalfields justice vote welcomed by South Yorkshire MPs

Labour MPs and mining representatives at the Justice for Coalfields debate day
Labour MPs and mining representatives at the Justice for Coalfields debate day
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MPs have accepted a motion which says Margaret Thatcher’s Government ‘misled’ the public about pit closure plans.

A vote was held in the House of Commons as part of the Justice for Coalfields campaign.

The Opposition Day motion put forward called for MPs to ‘acknowledge the economic legacy of the pit closure programme in coalfield communities’.

It referred to the recent release of 1984 cabinet papers from the national archives which Labour MPs say ‘showed the Government at the time misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics’.

Papers indicated the Government had secret plans to close 75 pits and considered sending in troops to break the 1984/85 strike.

The motion was not opposed by Government MPs - although in debate Conservative minster Matthew Hancock said it was ‘reliving battles of the past’ rather than focusing on the future.

Shadow cabinet minister Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East, has led the Justice for the Coalfields campaign and said in the Commons: “Just like Savile and Hillsborough, we must face up to the failures of the past, we must acknowledge the truth, and we must learn from what happened.”

Speaking afterwards, he said: “This was a historic debate and vote in the House of Commons.

“It is only right this Government recognises just how badly ministers at the time treated the coalfield communities and acknowledges the full scale of the economic legacy of the pit closure programme.

“The debate has come too late for so many of the miners and families who saw their lives and their communities decimated after the strike, but that sense of injustice endures today across those communities who are still dealing with the devastating consequences.”

The motion said there were still ‘significant’ problems, such as fewer jobs and higher levels of health problems in coalfield areas although it also hailed the regeneration work that has taken place in recent years to try to address it.

Mr Dugher also said a ‘proper investigation’ into the Battle of Orgreave in the form of an independent review was needed if the Independent Police Complaints Commission did not act swiftly.

He added: “What happened at Orgreave 30 years ago was a black day in South Yorkshire.

“The Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to get its act together.”