Commons to debate pit closures ‘injustice’

A picket inspecting a line of police officers outside the Orgreave coking plant near Rotherham.
A picket inspecting a line of police officers outside the Orgreave coking plant near Rotherham.
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MPs may be asked to vote on whether Margaret Thatcher’s Government misled the public over the extent of pit closures in the 1980s during a Parliamentary debate held by Labour.

An opposition day debate in the Commons on October 28 will also focus on “the economic legacy of the pit closure programme in coalfield communities across the UK”.

Cabinet papers from 1984, released earlier this year under the 30-year rule, revealed Government plans to shut 75 mines over three years. The government and National Coal Board said at the time they wanted to close 20.

According to Labour, the motion being debated next week will call on MPs to acknowledge “that the government at the time misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans”.

Labour is hoping to force a vote on the issue and get MPs to back further regeneration and “much-needed support” in former pit towns across the country.

Michael Dugher MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “It is now only right that Parliament 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 comes too late for so many of the miners and families in Yorkshire who saw their lives and their communities decimated after the strike, but that sense of injustice endures today across those coalfield communities who are still dealing with the devastating consequences of what happened.”

The motion will be put to MPs to see if they agree or not, which may be decided by a formal vote if directed by the Speaker.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Our coal industry has powered Britain for more than a century, but now the UK is on a journey to transform our energy sector so we can reduce our carbon emissions.

“In order to meet our climate change targets we need to change the way we use coal. That’s why the UK is at the forefront of developing Carbon Capture and Storage technology – which could be a game-changer in our efforts to tackle climate change while also providing a huge economic advantage to the whole country.”