Letter to Home Secretary over May's decision to delay Orgreave action

Dear Amber,

Congratulations on your appointment as Home Secretary. I wish you well in your new role and hope we can continue the constructive working relationship which your predecessor and I had developed.

With that in mind, I wanted to write to you about a major piece of unfinished business which has now become urgent in the light of statements made yesterday.

One of the most important developments of recent years has been the willingness of the Government to shine a light on past injustice. This has given hope to ordinary people and communities who have struggled for years to overturn abuses experienced at the hands of the State.

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 Miner's Strike.


Rt. Hon. Andy Burnham MP