Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Lib Dems' Simon Hughes sees red on his dispatch box debut - under the critical gaze of Ricky Tomlinson

We were plunged into the torrid turmoil of the Heath years

It’s not perhaps what newly appointed LibDem Justice minister Simon Hughes would have chosen for his dispatch box debut—defending the  decision not to release government papers from an industrial dispute of over 40 years ago. And doing it under the fiercely attentive eye of Ricky Tomlinson, sitting in the  VIP seats not as the famous actor he became but as the ex-plasterer and union activist jailed after the 1972 building workers' strike.

Suddenly we were plunged into the torrid industrial turmoil of the Heath years, including the strike against the iniquitous lump—the no tax, self-employment cash payment system then favoured by employers  for uninsured work on the country’s notoriously dangerous construction sites where, as Labour backbencher David Anderson put it, “a building worker was dying every day on average”.

 Anderson described in riveting detail how the picketing “Shrewsbury 24” were  arrested –long after the alleged intimidation offences they were charged with-- how three,  including Tomlinson, were imprisoned  on convictions hotly contested to this day, and how secret intelligence papers withheld despite the 30 year disclosure rule could shed further light on  a “special unit ….. set up in Government to undermine legitimate trade union activity………”

 With Old Labour—literally in some cases as well as ideologically-- represented in force, class war echoed as resoundingly in the chamber as if this had all happened yesterday. But  it was largely ignited by veteran Thatcherite Sir Gerald Howarth. He said—accurately—that Labour as well as Tory Lord Chancellors had ruled against disclosure but lurched into a long eulogy of his heroine’s rescue of the nation, as he saw it.from union militancy. Since she took office seven years after the events in question, the immediate relevance was unclear.

 Trying to polish his Liberal credentials in adverse circumstances, Hughes promised a Cabinet Office review next year. But he failed to explain how national security in 2014 would be threatened by publication. Leaving unanswered Labour MP Tom Watson's argument that “the Stasi published their files after the Berlin wall came down in 1989. I think that we can publish ours now.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones