Orgreave inquiry delay '˜surprising and unacceptable', warns Andy Burnham

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham has called on the Government to reconsider delaying the decision on ordering an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave.

WIGAN/LEIGH  22-04-16
Leigh MP Andy Burnham officially opens the newly expanded lab at textile testing company, Intertek, Leigh.
WIGAN/LEIGH 22-04-16 Leigh MP Andy Burnham officially opens the newly expanded lab at textile testing company, Intertek, Leigh.

Mr Burnham has written to new Home Secretary Amber Rudd urging her to overturn the ‘surprising and unacceptable’ announcement that no decision will be taken until criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster conclude.

Lord Keen told the House of Lords yesterday the decision has been taken as work takes place to establish potential links between police actions at Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster five years later.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mr Burnham said it appeared the decision was being ‘shunted into the long grass’ by Theresa May.

He said: “Following the conclusions of the Hillsborough Inquest, the evidence trail led unmistakenly in one direction: Orgreave. It is clear to many people that tactics used by the South Yorkshire Police against Liverpool supporters in the aftermath of the disaster had their roots in similar actions deployed against miners in the aftermath of the Battle of Orgreave.

“I have promised the Hillsborough families the full truth. I don’t think we will have that truth until we also know what happened after Orgreave. But, just as importantly, we will never heal the scars that still exist in our former coalfield communities, and repair their trust in the Police, if we are not honest about what happened on their streets in 1984 and 1985.

“As you may know, the Home Office has been in receipt for some months now of a legal submission from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign calling for the establishment of an public inquiry. Yesterday, a letter was sent yesterday by your Principal Private Secretary to Barbara Jackson, the Secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, following the raising of a question in the House of Lords. It makes reference to the ongoing IPCC/CPS investigations into material linking Hillsborough and Orgreave and relays the Government’s position that there will be no decision on Orgreave until these investigations are concluded.

“I have to say that I find this both surprising and unacceptable. If this was the Government’s position all along, why was it not relayed immediately to campaigners in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Inquest?

“The effect of this position could be to delay any potential inquiry into Orgreave by months and even years and I do not consider that to be fair on the former miners who have waited long enough for the truth and are not getting any younger.

“More to the point, I simply do not see how the taking of initial steps to establish an inquiry into the policing of Orgreave - which covers far more than links to Hillsborough - could in any way prejudice these investigations if simple measures were put in put in place to guard against this risk.

“Lastly, the timing of this statement will not escape people’s notice. Why did the Home Office chose this moment to release this news? It suggests that the new Prime Minister’s final act as Home Secretary was to shunt this request, which has a deep resonance for millions of people, into the long grass. This news has caused deep dismay and suspicion amongst campaigners and you will now need to act quickly if you are to assure people that this is not the case.

“Yesterday, outside Downing Street, the new Prime Minster rightly spoke of the need to fight injustice and of our country as a union of citizens. There is no doubt that those bonds of citizenship were badly damaged in the 1980s. We will never close our country’s divides until people have the truth about the past. To show that this new Prime Minister’s words have real meaning, I would ask you to make your first significant act as Home Secretary the ordering of a public inquiry into Orgreave and the policing of the Miners’ Strike.”

It follows the IPCC stating last June it would not investigate alleged police misconduct around the miners’ strike - partly because of the ‘passage of time’ that had elapsed.

Ninety-five people were arrested in clashes between picketing miners and police in June 1984.

All cases were abandoned due to unreliable evidence and South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in out-of-court settlements to 39 pickets.