Thatcher’s secret “hit list” of pits revealed

Guardian News
Guardian News

Arthur Scargill’s claim that Margaret Thatcher had a “secret hit-list” of more than 70 coal mines marked for closure may have been true, newly released 1984 cabinet papers reveal.

The government and National Coal Board publicly said they wanted to close 20 pits.

But 30 year old documents released today outline a confidential plan to shut 75 mines and cut 64,000 jobs over three years.

It includes an instruction that details of the meeting should not be made public.

Mrs Thatcher also secretly considered calling out the troops at the height of the year long miners’ strike, which began in March 1984, amid fears union action could destroy her Conservative government, according to the released files.

They show ministers were so concerned at the outbreak of a national docks strike while the miners were still out, they considered declaring a state of emergency.

Plans were drawn up for thousands of service personnel to commandeer trucks to move vital supplies of food and coal around the country.

It was probably the closest Mrs Thatcher came to defeat in her battle with the miners but the scheme was never implemented after the dockers’ action petered out after less than two weeks.

The epic, 12-month confrontation between the Conservative government and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its left-wing president Arthur Scargill was one of the defining episodes of the Thatcher era.

Since 1981, ministers had been secretly preparing for the showdown with miners which many believed was inevitable - covertly building up coal stocks at Britain’s mainly coal-fired power stations to enable them to outlast a strike without disruption to electricity supplies.

Assured by her officials that power supplies could be maintained well into the following summer and beyond, Mrs Thatcher stuck doggedly to her guns.

On 20th November, the government’s daily coal report noted that since 5th November, 10,442 men had returned to the pits.

“There can be no better evidence that Mr Scargill’s case is failing,” it declared.