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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on