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True Spies Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 04:14 GMT 05:14 UK
Former NUM chief was police informer
Joe Gormley
Special Branch were told about possible strikes
Joe Gormley, former president of the National Union of Miners (NUM), was a Special Branch informant during the 1970s, a BBC investigation has revealed.

In a remarkably candid interview for the new BBC Two series True Spies, a former Special Branch officer claims that Mr Gormley passed on details of Arthur Scargill's and other miners' plans for industrial action in the early 1970s.

But, despite receiving warnings from the top of the union, MI5 and the government failed to head off the 1972 strike.

In fact, the Special Branch officer - referred to only as Alan - claims that MI5 told the government the strike would not happen, with devastating consequences for the leadership of the day.

Gormley 'feared militants'

Edward Heath's government was toppled in 1974, following mass industrial action, in what became known as the "Who Runs The Country" election.

The officer claims that Mr Gormley, a right-wing trade unionist, was increasingly concerned that the Far Left was gaining control of the union and agreed to talk to Special Branch.

Joe Gormley
Joe Gormley kept Special Branch informed
Alan told the programme: "The extreme left were getting the upper hand and were dictating the policy of the unions to some great extent, then we found ourselves actually going to unions and talking to the top union officials about what was going on.

"One of them would be Joe Gormley...certainly he was in a position of power and was in a position to furnish us with what we were looking for."

Scargill 'not surprised'

Alan added that Joe Gormley turned informer because "he loved his country. He was a patriot and he was very wary and worried about the growth of militancy within his own union".

But Arthur Scargill himself was not surprised by Mr Gormley's actions, saying: "The history of our movement is littered with people in leadership positions who were either connected with Special Branch or connected with the State."

Any self-respecting trade unionist should not co-operate in that way

Jack Dromey, TGWU
Joe Gormley, who died in 1993 and was president of the NUM until 1982, was not the only trades union leader to have links with the "Secret State".

True Spies reporter Peter Taylor discovered that Special Branch was talking to more than 20 senior trades union leaders during the early 1970s.

This revelation did not shock Mr Scargill either, who said he was only surprised that there were not even more spies within the unions.

But Jack Dromey, a senior official within the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU), condemned Mr Gormley's informer role as "shameful".

He said: "Any self-respecting trade unionist should not co-operate in that way with those regarding their members to be a threat to the state. [It is] outrageous."

Ford employees 'vetted'

Another Special Branch officer claims that Ford, which had a giant car manufacturing plant at Halewood on Merseyside, only agreed to invest there because of a suspected secret deal with MI5 and Special Branch.

Special Branch Officer Tony Robinson
Tony Robinson: 'It was important to monitor unions'
According to Former Special Branch officer Tony Robinson the entire workforce was routinely vetted.

He said: "My senior officer said: 'One of your responsibilities, Tony, is to make certain that the Ford factory is kept clean of subversives.'

"And part of the plan drawn up was to make certain that work would carry on smoothly at Ford without the expected Merseyside disease of strikes and layoffs."

He told the programme that every week Ford would secretly submit a list of the latest job applicants to the local Special Branch.

"We were expected to check these lists against our known subversives, and if any were seen on the list then strike a line through it," he said.

He added: "It was very, very important that the unions were monitored, and I, as a Special Branch officer, make no apologies for doing it as efficiently as I could.

Activist denied Ford job

"We're talking about thousands and thousands of families dependent on continued have a small group of subversives who can bring that factory to a stop, then I think the ends justify the means."

Reporter Peter Taylor also talked to Tom, a former trades union activist and Communist Party member, who was secretly vetted by Special Branch and denied a job at Ford's Halewood plant.

Tom is very bitter and says: "How can you be proud of Britain when there's things like that going on?"

Others are also outraged that Special Branch should have been able to vet employees.

Jack Dromey said: "The manufacture of Ford Capris is a wee bit different from the production of nuclear warheads. The idea that you blacklist somebody, because of their politics, from going in to make cars is crazy."

A Ford spokesman said: "We cannot confirm that Police Special Branch officers were involved in any way in the checking of job applicants or the alleged agreement with MI5."

The first programme in the True Spies series was shown on BBC Two on Sunday 27 October 2002.
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01 Aug 02 | UK
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