§ 13. Mr. Peter Bruinvels
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has to investigate cases of alleged intimidation and victimisation of miners who continued to work during the recent coal mining dispute; and if he will make a statement.
§ 21. Mr. Greenway
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has to investigate cases of alleged intimidation and harassment of miners who continued to work during the recent coal industry dispute; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
I have taken up with the National Coal Board all such cases brought to my attention and can assure the House that each has received urgent and individual attention.
§ Mr. Bruinvels
I thank my right hon. Friend for that helpful and constructive answer. Has he seen reports in the News of the World and The Sun, which show that an alarming number of families of miners who worked throughout the strike have been severely victimised, threatened and had their houses daubed, and that many miners have been prevented from returning to work? Can my right hon. Friend advise miners who want to go to work, and their families, how they might be protected and will be able to convict those appalling miners—[Interruption.]—who deny peoples' right to go to work?
§ Mr. Walker
I am surprised at the hilarity on the other side of the House at such appalling circumstances. There is no doubt that there has been a lot of dreadful intimidation. I am glad that the Coal Board has made it clear that anybody who is found guilty of intimidation will be sacked immediately. In some cases that has been done. The board has organised transfers, early retirement and other means of helping those concerned. I hope that both sides of the House will condemn the appalling intimidation that has occurred.
§ Mr. Greenway
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that all cases of intimidation are being brought to light? Does he agree that it would be sensible for police in plain clothes or dressed as miners to accompany miners down shafts to get a feel of what is going on? I think that they will find that there is a great deal more intimidation than has been reported.
§ Mr. Walker
I am afraid that my hon. Friend is correct. One of the problems of intimidation is that the person being intimidated is often scared to report it. The police and everyone else are endeavouring to do their best to end these totally criminal actions.
§ Mr. Nellist
Is the Secretary of State aware that in Scotland 70 per cent. of those who were dismissed were lay officials or elected members of strike committees? That is a clear example of victimisation of strike organisers. When the right hon. Gentleman says that miners guilty of victimisation should be sacked, how does he answer the case of a miner in Coventry, Clive Ham, who was accused by the Coal Board of victimisation, found not guilty by a court of law but who still remains sacked? Under the right hon. Gentleman's tutelage, the Coal Board has set itself up as judge, jury and executioner.
§ Mr. Walker
I should like to hear just one utterance from the hon. Gentleman in condemnation of the appalling violence that has taken place. Those of us who watched some of the events at Bilston Glen on television were only happy that those who caused it should be punished appropriately.
§ Mr. Strang
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that both sides of the House oppose intimidation, no matter where it comes from? Does he agree that if the board and the authorities really want to improve industrial relations in the coalfields, they must first reinstate victimised miners?
§ Mr. Walker
The majority of victimised miners are those who worked during the strike, and they have been victimised ever since. As for sackings, each case has been examined individually.