Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Amber Rudd urged to back parliamentary probe into Orgreave

Published 01/11/2016

Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign on College Green, outside Parliament
Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign on College Green, outside Parliament

A cross-party group of MPs has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to call on her to support a parliamentary inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave.

The MPs gave their backing to proposals for a House of Commons committee inquiry into the events of June 18 1984, and urged Ms Rudd to order the Home Office to co-operate fully with any such probe and release all relevant police and government documents.

Ms Rudd sparked fury in mining communities when she announced on Monday that there would be no public inquiry into the clashes between police and pickets at the South Yorkshire coking plant, which saw some of the most violent scenes of the 1984-85 miners' strike.

Campaigners vowed to continue their fight, telling a press conference at the National Union of Mineworkers' HQ in Barnsley: "We regard the gloves as off now on our side".

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign is studying a six-page letter from the Home Secretary before deciding its next steps, although Michael Mansfield QC, who acted for some miners involved in failed prosecutions following the 1984 clash, said a judicial review was being "actively considered".

Proposals for a select committee inquiry were raised in the House of Commons on Monday by senior Conservative backbencher Sir Edward Leigh, who said it would have the power "to interview all witnesses about matters - including advice to ministers".

A special committee could be set up for the job, or it could be conducted by one of the cross-party panels which scrutinise Government departments, such as the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) chaired by Labour's Yvette Cooper.

Ms Rudd appeared to leave the committee inquiry route open when she described the suggestion as "interesting", but added it was a matter for MPs to decide.

The letter to Ms Rudd, signed by Sir Edward alongside Labour's former shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, former SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry, argues that a parliamentary inquiry would "minimise costs and administration"

The MPs said: " Our purpose in writing to you today is to establish whether you would formalise your support for this process by instructing the Home Office to offer its full co-operation and committing to release all relevant Government or police documents requested by the committee.

"If you were able to give this commitment it would significantly enhance confidence that such an arrangement could work."

Earlier, the OTJC's Barbara Jackson said she was "shocked and devastated" after Ms Rudd rang her personally to tell her of the decision not to order an inquiry.

She said the campaign had been positively received by the Home Office until earlier this year, when Lord Tebbit - who was a cabinet minister in 1984 - " raised his head".

"I was absolutely shocked and devastated to find out that you were not going to be offered anything - not a panel hearing, not an apology, not offer to expunge the criminal records that miners collected during the strike, nothing at all," said Ms Jackson.

"She said there were no deaths, so it doesn't matter if you were seriously injured at Orgreave. So long as you didn't die, that's okay."

Barrister Mark George QC also told the Barnsley news conference he believed the Government's apparent sympathy towards the campaign earlier this year was just "testing the water".

Earlier, the Home Office rejected suggestions that Ms Rudd made any commitment to campaigners to establish an inquiry.

On Tuesday, a Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Secretary met the campaign and their supporters on 13 September to hear their concerns in person.

"The Home Secretary has told the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign that she considered a range of options in reaching her decision, but at no point did she ever commit to establishing any form of inquiry."

The so-called Battle of Orgreave saw the deployment of horseback charges and baton-wielding "snatch squads" as 6,000 police officers from around the country attempted to prevent striking miners from blocking coke deliveries.

Some 95 individuals were charged with riot and violent disorder, but cases collapsed and South Yorkshire Police were later required to pay compensation.

Press Association

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph