Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner has today given his first reaction to the decision by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd not to investigate the events at Orgreave in 1984.
During the Miners’ Strike in 1984 police and striking miners clashed at the Orgreave Coking plant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. During these clashes the police arrested miners, who were later cleared in court. The police handling of the event has long been in question and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign have lobbied the Government to investigate over many years.
Dr Billings said: “I said when I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner that I fully supported the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign in their fight for a proper enquiry into the events of Orgreave. The former miners and their families deserved to know the truth about what happened that day.
I am therefore shocked and dismayed by this decision. The government have marched the Campaign for Truth and Justice to the top of the hill only to march them down again.
I am not convinced by the reasons given for refusing an investigation. No one has ever suggested that the events of Orgreave were comparable in every respect to the disaster at Hillsborough. But the former miners and the former mining communities in South Yorkshire deserve an explanation as to what happened on that day and where Orgreave fits in the wider story of the miners’ strike.
I believe the government has shied away from agreeing an enquiry because of those wider issues.
South Yorkshire suffered at that time from industrial policies that saw the destruction of all our major industries – steel, heavy engineering and coal mining. We live with the consequences today.
South Yorkshire Police were ready to co-operate in any enquiry. We had agreed to look at how the archives could be made available. Steps had already been taken to recruit a professional archivist to ensure all documents and other material would have been available to any enquiry.
This was a critical moment for the police service in South Yorkshire. It could have shown that it had really learned lessons of past mistakes and was ready to co-operate fully with any enquiry. We wanted to see a new era of openness with no attempt to be self-justifying or defensive.
I have offered to meet with the Policing and Fire Service Minister to discuss how the force can move forward under new leadership and having learned the lessons of the past.
But I am deeply disappointed and dismayed by today’s decision.