“That this House is seriously concerned at the decision of the Government to refuse to release papers related to the building dispute in 1972 and subsequent prosecutions of the workers known as the Shrewsbury 24 and calls on it to reverse this position as a matter of urgency.”
Labour won 120-3. It is now officially the will of parliament for all papers to be released.
- Time is overdue for the facts surrounding the prosecutions to be brought into the open.
- It has been 40 years since the trial. The campaigners have fought for the release of these papers for a long time and deserve closure.
- At a time when trust in the police and political classes is at an all-time low, it is important to show that the next Labour Government will be open and transparent.
- Previous Governments have withheld these documents for various reasons undisclosed to the public under Section 23 of the FoI Act. This position has been maintained by Chris Grayling.
- Labour is now calling for a break with the past and to release the documents in full to the National Archives.
In September 1972 during the national builders workers’ strike, five coach loads of pickets visited Shropshire to protest against poor work conditions. Five months later on 14th February 1973, 24 of the pickets, including Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren, were arrested and charged with over 200 offences between them. The charges related to picketing in the Shrewsbury area on 6th September 1972. They included charges of unlawful assembly, intimidation and affray. Six of the pickets were also charged with conspiracy to intimidate. None of the pickets had been cautioned or arrested during the strike. Approximately 70 police had accompanied the pickets on the Shrewsbury building sites at all times. No complaints were made to the unions or were laid against the pickets.
Several separate trials further and after several different convictions, the pickets always denied they were guilty of any of the charges which were levelled against them. For 40 years they have maintained that there was government interference in the prosecutions.
Since its inception in 2006, the Shrewsbury 24 campaign has subsequently sought for the complete release of all papers relating to the case and the arrests.
Successive governments has used Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to prevent the release of the papers that might shed light on any role the government of the day played in the prosecutions.
Recent requests for release of the documents
David Hanson MP wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, on 8th October 2012 to ask the Government to release all papers from the period 1972-74 relating to the Shrewsbury trials. In his letter of 20th November 2012, Grayling replied that,
“On the 19th December 2011 Kenneth Clarke signed a new instrument which records that he has given approval for the retention of records within scope of the exemption provided by section 23 of the Freedom Of Information Act. The information relating to the Shrewsbury Trials is covered by this security instrument. The instrument replaced two previous security instruments and will be in force until 31 December 2021. Therefore the reasons for not releasing this information given in Kenneth Clarke’s letter of the 8th November 2010 remain valid.”