Page last updated at 04:07 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

PM blocked strike deal - Scargill

Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill said Mrs Thatcher "declared war" on the miners

Former union leader Arthur Scargill has claimed Margaret Thatcher blocked five separate deals during 1984 which would have ended the miners' strike.

Writing in the Guardian 25 years after the start of the dispute, he claims the agreements were "rejected or withdrawn" at the then-prime minister's request.

He also denies that he prevented a national ballot of NUM members.

But his account has been dismissed by Lord Walker, who was energy secretary at the time, as "total rubbish".

'Truly surprised'

The strike, which pitted the miners against Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government in a dispute over pit closures, was a watershed moment in British industrial history.

It lasted a year and will also be remembered for violent clashes on the picket lines, during which around 20,000 miners and police officers were injured.

In his article, Mr Scargill insists that between June and October 1984, his union agreed five settlements with the National Coal Board.

Miners strike
Around 20,000 miners and police officers were injured in the dispute

But he says on each occasion, those deals were vetoed by Mrs Thatcher.

She had, he said, "declared war on the National Union of Mineworkers".

Mr Scargill said he had been prepared for a national ballot on industrial action and had been "truly surprised" when an NUM special conference on 19 April 1984 voted to call for all miners to join the strike instead.

He also says that the pit deputies union Nacods reneged on a deal to join the strike - something Mr Scargill argues would have forced the government to settle.

Mr Scargill, who is still honorary president of the NUM, also defends his decision to focus mass picketing on the Orgreave coking plant in Yorkshire which witnessed the strike's bloodiest confrontation in 1984.

But Lord Walker said there never had been a deal, and insisted that the NUM leader had never deviated from his position that no pit should close.

He also asked why, if deals had been on the table, no mention had been made of them at the time.

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