'A significant cover-up': Ricky Tomlinson criticises Government after it refuses to release all documents relating to Shrewsbury 24 case

 

The Government was today accused of a “significant cover-up” by refusing to release all documents relating to the controversial case of building workers arrested 40 years ago for going on strike.

Actor Ricky Tomlinson, one of the workers imprisoned in 1973, joined politicians and union leaders in calling for action to tackle the "scandal".

The Royle Family star told a London press briefing that he felt "ill and angry" that some paperwork released to campaigners involved in the case was marked "top secret".

The Government has told surviving members of the so-called Shrewsbury 24 that documents relating to the case will be withheld for a further 10 years. The ban will be reviewed again in 2021.

Mr Tomlinson accused ministers of telling "bare-faced lies" in refusing to release all the documents because of "national security", which he believes proves the arrests were politically motivated.

Film director Ken Loach said the case was a "shameful example of state intervention" and urged unions to hold strikes.

"The fact that the Government is refusing to release all the documents shows their guilt."

The Shrewsbury 24 were arrested and charged under the 1875 Conspiracy Act, with six sent to prison.

Campaigners believe the arrests were politically motivated and have urged the Criminal Cases Review Commission to overturn the charges.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said there had been a "web of secrecy" from the Government, adding that it was time the truth was known about why the workers were arrested five months after they went on strike for better pay and conditions.

"If Ricky Tomlinson is a threat to national security, then every decent working man and woman in the country is a threat.

"We back the call for a parliamentary inquiry and the release of these papers."

Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, said previous Labour governments, including those led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, "betrayed" the Shrewsbury 24 by refusing to release the papers.

Labour MP John McDonnell said the Government was involved in a "significant cover-up".

Steve Murphy, general secretary of the building workers' union Ucatt, said: "The news that the government papers will not be published for at least another 10 years is appalling.

"What they are hiding is a massive government conspiracy and shows that the home secretary of the day connived with the police and security forces at the behest of construction companies to make an example of ordinary workers."

Using Jim Royle's catchphrase, he added: "National security, my arse."

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