Government rules out apology over 1984 miners’ strike

1984: 'Riot police line up at Orgreave in South Yorkshire
1984: 'Riot police line up at Orgreave in South Yorkshire
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Ministers will not apologise for the treatment of mining communities by Margaret Thatcher’s government during the 1984/5 miners’ strike because it was held without a proper national ballot, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has said.

Mr Maude said those campaigning for reconciliation and transparency will have to wait to see any Cabinet papers from the time of the strike when they are released under the 30-year rule.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher had demanded an apology and full disclosure of documents and communication between Thatcher’s government and the police during the strike to address the widespread sense of injustice among former mining communities.

Mr Dugher made his appeal in the wake of the National Archives’ release of Cabinet papers from the 1980s which indicated that the Thatcher government had secret plans to close 75 pits and considered sending in troops to break the strike.

The Barnsley East MP, who has launched a Justice for the Coalfields campaign, particularly wants communications relating to the confrontation between miners and police at Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire.

He called for action before the 30th anniversary of the so-called Battle of Orgreave on July 18.

But Mr Maude, who represented a large mining community in North Warwickshire during the strike, said the papers would be released in the normal way and no apology would be forthcoming.

During Cabinet Office questions in the Commons, Mr Maude said: “The documents will be released in the usual way under the law that was passed under the last government.

“I was representing a coal mining constituency during the miners’ strike. I saw first-hand the violence, the intimidation, the divided communities, in a dispute that took place without a proper national ballot being held.

“So you asked for an apology - no.”

Mr Dugher had asked: “In light of the newly released Cabinet papers about the 1984 miners’ strike and given the continued sense of injustice that prevails across the coalfields, will you agree to publish all the documents and communication between the then government and the police at the time of the strike, to a full investigation into the events surrounding Orgreave ahead of the 30th anniversary, to make a formal apology for the actions of the then government at the time of the strike?

“And do you agree that it is only through full transparency and reconciliation that we’ll finally see justice for the coalfields?”