Wales politics

Margaret Thatcher met wives of miners during strike, papers reveal

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Media captionMargaret Thatcher had regular updates on coal stocks and the dispute's progress.

Margaret Thatcher secretly met the wives of working miners during the strike of 1984-85, newly released government papers reveal.

The meeting in Downing Street was held at the request of the wife of a south Wales miner who had defied the strike.

Prime ministerial files released by the National Archives give an insight into the government's thinking as it took on the miners.

Mrs Thatcher had regular updates on coal stocks and the dispute's progress.

The files also contain a propaganda leaflet from the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) attacking miners who continued to work.

Jane Fjaelberg, from Beddau near Pontypridd, whose husband Gordon defied the strike at Cwm Colliery, met Mrs Thatcher in Downing Street privately after writing to the prime minister.

The documents show handwritten notes about the meeting made by Mrs Thatcher - who died in 2013 - and alterations she made to a draft statement prepared by officials.

Inevitable decline

Mrs Thatcher changed the word "sympathy" to "understanding" to reflect her view of the impact of the strike.

A ministerial committee on coal met regularly to plan the government's strategy, but Welsh Secretary Nicholas Edwards's request to join it was refused.

Now Lord Crickhowell, he says his priority anyway was to bring new industries to Wales rather than focus on one in inevitable decline. He also wanted to protect the steel industry, particularly at Llanwern in Newport.

Publicly, the government maintained it had enough coal stockpiled to win the strike.

Privately, it was less confident, discussing procedures for calling a state of emergency.

Norman Tebbit, then trade and industry secretary, questioned official figures for how long the government could hold out.

At one point, the former Welsh Secretary and Commons Speaker Viscount Tonypandy rang Downing Street to offer to mediate between the government and the NUM.

His offer was passed on to Mrs Thatcher but an official said he had given Lord Tonypandy no encouragement it would be taken up.

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