Justice for coalfields

There are times as a valleys MP when it is difficult not to feel angry - the release of cabinet papers about government decisions during the miners’ strike of 1984 was one of those times.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike. Those of us who were around during that period will remember the upheaval as our communities were ripped apart.

The scars left by that struggle are deep. With the closure of Oakdale Colliery in 1989 the era of deep coal mines in Islwyn came to an end. However, their effect on the valleys is still felt today.

It is my belief that government actions during the strike tore at the very fabric of society. In doing so it changed the way of life in the valleys forever.

That is why the revelations that the Thatcher Government had a secret plan to close 75 pits at the cost of some 65,000 jobs were shocking.

Perhaps most disturbing is the revelation that ministers tried to influence police tactics in order to escalate the miners’ dispute.

The papers also reveal that Thatcher actively considered declaring a state of emergency, deploying the Army to defeat mining communities, their families and unions.

The most appalling thing about the revelations is that far from being neutral as was claimed at the time, it is clear that the government took a deliberately calculated political approach guided by a complete hostility to the coalfield communities like those in Islwyn.

That is why I am supporting the ‘Justice for Coalfields’ campaign which has been launched ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave – the mass picket in Yorkshire which ended in violent clashes between police and striking miners.

The campaign calls on ministers to formally apologise for the actions of the government during the strike as well as the release of all interactions between the government and police at the time.

The sheer scale of the Cabinet Office revelations means that ministers need to prove that there are no further hidden facts.

It is the history of the miners’ strike and the legacy of the coalfields which define our towns and villages.

That is why miners and their families deserve the truth about the way in which the Government went about inflicting damage on coalfield communities.

I hope people from across the former South Wales coalfields will fully support the campaign.