Former MP: ‘press distorted Thatcher papers’

Former Batley and Spen MP Elizabeth Peacock. (D535A346)
Former Batley and Spen MP Elizabeth Peacock. (D535A346)

A former MP has spoken of Margaret Thatcher’s concerns for the families of working miners at the height of the pit strikes.

Former Batley and Spen Conservative MP Elizabeth Peacock, who served under the Iron Lady, said it was a difficult time and criticised the press for sensationalising the 1984 cabinet papers released to the National Archives this month.

Pickets trying to block a road during the miners'strike

Pickets trying to block a road during the miners'strike

The papers have revealed that Mrs Thatcher was secretly preparing to use troops and declare a state of emergency at the height of miners’ strike, fearing Britain would run out of food and grind to a halt.

Plans were drawn up to use troops to move coal stocks and other options developed by government officials included power cuts and a three day working week.

After dockers joined the miners on strike in July 1984, Mrs Thatcher and the Cabinet feared defeat, the papers show.

The threat of a strike by Nacods, the pit deputies’ union, which would have halted British coal production, was another tense moment for the government in October.

But emergency plans were never carried out after the dockers’ strike petered out and the Nacods strike was called off.

Mrs Peacock said the former prime minister tried to support the men who wanted to work in the pits during the strikes.

She said: “A lot of people wanted to go to work, they wanted to keep working and went to a lot of trouble and effort to do so.

“They suffered and their wives suffered.”

She added that some families had their houses attacked, while working miners’ wives were sometimes barred from buying food from local shops.

“It was a very difficult time all round,” she said.

Mrs Peacock said some of the wives affected secretly met with the coal minister at Westminster.

“Mrs Thatcher was concerned about the women at home,” she said.

She said the government’s support for the coal industry had been played down in the press.

“They gave £2m a week to the coal industry from taxpayers at that time, and had for some time,” she said.

“I think the coverage has been a bit distorted.

“The media have not wanted to put out information that might have made the government look slightly better.”