A speech and motion in support of OTJC and an independent inquiry, from Bath Labour Party.
I want to quickly thank the executive committee and in particular Angela for giving me a few minutes to speak about this.
I am putting forward the motion that this constituency Labour Party supports a full public inquiry into the events that took place at Orgreave in June 1984. I would ask for you to vote for this motion for the following reasons:
As many of you know – and those of you that don’t will tell from my thick northern tones – I am a proud Yorkshireman. I’m extremely proud to be from a mining community and a family of hardworking former miners.
In 1994, when I was three years old, the village that I grew up in was declared the most deprived in the UK and the fourth most deprived in the whole of Europe.
The reason for this was that the village of Grimethorpe was a key battle ground in Mrs Thatcher’s ideological war on working people in this country – a story we know all too well in our movement.
My family were on the breadline and my father – along with his friends and colleagues – stood up for what he believed in against the Tories, who did whatever they could to break the union movement.
But my dad and his colleagues didn’t give up. They stayed out on strike and on the picket line for a day short of a year.
It was thanks to the people within our movement, including Bath Labour – but also miners from across Europe, who showed solidarity with people like my dad, sending food supplies and Christmas presents – who showed that there is such thing as a society – that they were able to sustain their right to legally withdraw their Labour in the face of attrition from Mrs Thatcher.
But at the same time, he and others in the village were victimised and terrorised by police officers – the very people that are supposed to be there to protect. This is a small part of a very big picture – and it happened in mining communities right across the country.
The Government at the time said that there were no secret plans to close pits that were highly profitable and productive. But we now know this to be false.
After graduating from university, I spent three months working on a project for the NUM, where I read thousands of government documents relating to the strike.
Among them were plans to shut profitable pits in order to push the miners out on strike.
Among them were minutes of cabinet papers that showed the Thatcher government was – despite claims from senior ministers – a key actor in masterminding, provoking and micromanaging the strike.
Their plans included putting pressure on local magistrates courts to deal with cases arising from the dispute more quickly, pressuring local police forces to – and I quote “adopt a more vigorous interpretation of their duties”, but possibly most alarmingly, the government made contingency plans to change legislation so that it could declare a state of emergency and deploy the armed forces against striking miners – I thank God that their plans never came to fruition.
The cabinet papers only vindicate many mining communities who knew exactly what was happening, but it is no less shocking to see it there in black and white.
But one of the key events in the miners strike was the Battle of Orgreave as it has become known. It was here that the government deployed an extremely well trained and equipped paramilitary police force to try and break miners – and that they did.
We’ve all seen the images of the police knocking ten bells out of miners who were trying to get away.
During my time at the NUM there was one communication that I had with South Yorkshire Police, the force responsible for policing Orgreave. After submitting a freedom of information request for any communication between the government and police chiefs, I was told that the archives contained “a few scraps of paper” that had been held together by a piece of string.
This is the same police force that a few years later was involved in the biggest cover-up and miscarriage of justice that this country has ever seen – we all know that to be Hillsborough.
There was a riot at Orgreave, but it was a police riot – orchestrated and executed by police chiefs under pressure from a government determined to face down the trade union movement. Media coverage of the dispute has been questioned and everyone that was there – including some police officers – would tell you that the police went well beyond their constitutional duty.
But this year, the Independent Police Complaints Commission on 12th July of this year said that they would not be conducting an investigation into the actions of the police at Orgreave.
What sort of society do we live in when those responsible for such injustices are allowed to slip off the hook?
It is clear to any rational-minded person that this happened as a direct consequence of government pressure on the police. In a modern democracy, we need a police force that is independent, fair and impartial.
The Home Secretary has said that she will welcome and review any calls for an investigation and I believe that we owe it to our movement to support the calls for an investigation.
In former mining communities, we need this closure. Without the truth, there can be no justice, without justice, the wounds that still lay bare in communities like Grimethorpe cannot begin to heal. The Labour Party owes it to these communities to pressure the government to initiate this inquiry.
For those reasons I would ask you to support me in voting for the motion.
“Bath Labour Party will put on record its call for a full public inquiry into the actions of the police at the Orgreave coking plant on 18th June 1984 during the miners’ strike of 1984-85.
Former mining communities, ex-miners, their families and campaigners from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have waited patiently for nearly 2 and half years for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to complete their “scoping” exercise, investigating whether to investigate the actions of the police on that day.
Bath Labour Party is disappointed that the IPCC announced on Friday 12th July 2015 that despite there being findings that police officers did use excessive force against picketing miners, manipulated evidence and told lies to the Crown Court at Sheffield when giving evidence, they would not be conducting an investigation into what has become known as the “Battle of Orgreave”.
The IPCC cited the passage of time and the fact that there had been no miscarriages of justice in the form of wrongful convictions as reasons not to investigate.
Bath Labour Party believes that the issue of Orgreave is of national importance and particular local importance to our movement, many members of which were directly affected in 1984 and beyond. A full investigation into the military style policing used on that day is now long overdue and only a full public inquiry can fully investigate this.
Bath Labour Party therefore calls on the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to order a full public inquiry into the deployment and actions of the police on 18th June 1984.”