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MPs demand public inquiry into 1980s pit closures

Secret papers show Thatcher lied about plans to shut down coal-mining in Britain

MPs heaped pressure on the government yesterday for a public inquiry into the 1984-5 miners’ strike against pit closures as former mining communities across Britain stage events marking the 30th anniversary of the epic struggle.

Former National Union of Mineworkers president Ian Lavery, now Labour MP for Wansbeck, will raise the issue in a Commons motion — so far backed by 60 MPs — which “regrets that nearly 30 years after the strike ended, there are still men who were wrongly arrested or convicted during the dispute, who have never received justice.”

Demands for an inquiry intensified with the release of secret Cabinet papers revealing that the Thatcher government and the National Coal Board lied about their plans to decimate Britain’s deep coal-mining industry.

The attack on the miners was a prelude to a wider assault on the labour and trades union movement in preparation for privatization of key publicly owned industries, including coal, gas, electricity, telecoms and water.

Dozens of former mining communities are still suffering from the loss of their economic foundation — the local pit — and bitterness over the government’s conduct, the brutal behavior of the police during the strike and the destruction of the industry and its communities, still runs deep.

Mr Lavery said: “People who live in great mining communities across the UK have not forgotten the strike and they will never forget.

“Passions have not waned. In 100 years’ time I am confident that people will say that their great-grandfather was a miner and was proud to have taken part in the strike. That is how deep this thing runs.”

Mr Lavery said the archive papers supported his belief that MPs and the public were misled.

“The prime minister deliberately misled Parliament and the public by saying the NUM was scaremongering about pit closures.”

Across the former coalfields ex-miners, their families and supporters are marking the anniversary of the start of the strike with pride.

Women Against Pit Closures, which played a key role in maintaining the strike, stages an event at the NUM’s headquarters in Barnsley on Saturday, assembling at 10.30am.

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