Howells will not be charged for burning miners' union documents linked to killing

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The Independent Online

Kim Howells, the Higher Education minister, will not be charged for burning documents that he thought might have implicated the National Union of Mineworkers in a murder inquiry during the miner's strike.

Kim Howells, the Higher Education minister, will not be charged for burning documents that he thought might have implicated the National Union of Mineworkers in a murder inquiry during the miner's strike.

Police said yesterday that no action would be taken against Mr Howells, who was questioned by detectives this year after he made the admission during a BBC documentary.

The MP for Pontypridd, who was a research officer for the South Wales branch of the NUM at the time of the strike, told the programme he had destroyed files in November 1984 after two striking miners dropped a concrete block from a motorway bridge, killing a cab driver carrying working miners to a pit.

A spokesman for South Wales Police said: "In June 2004, South Wales Police submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) regarding comments made in relation to the death of David Wilkie in 1984. The force has considered advice from the CPS and will take no further action against a 57-year-old man questioned as part of the inquiry."

In the documentary, Mr Howells said: "I was just making myself a cup of tea and the telephone rang ... and I picked the phone up and there was a reporter from PA [Press Association] who I knew and he said to me, 'Are you sitting down?' I said, 'No, come on, what's up?' And he said, 'Well, your boys have just killed a taxi driver up on the Heads of the Valleys road.' And I remember, for only the second time in my life, my knees began to shake because I thought, 'Hang on, we've got all those records we've kept over in the NUM offices, there's all those maps on the wall, we're going to get implicated in this'. And I remember thinking, 'I've got to get to that office and I've got to destroy everything', which I did. I've never told anybody that before."

Although his role in the strike had been to co-ordinate the movement of pickets, the minister said he would never have become involved in action which might have harmed someone. After the programme was broadcast, he said: "People forget the atmosphere we were living in at that time. We were fighting for our jobs and communities. It was desperate, it felt like we were living in a police state and I did not want the information in my office to fall into their hands."

Two men were convicted of Mr Wilkie's murder but the charge was later reduced to manslaughter.