Digging For Dirt

Andrew Cook examines the latest evidence from MI5 on the miners’ strike and the fall of the Heath government, March 1974.

The industrial unrest of the early 1970s meant that ministers and senior industrialists demanded more detailed intelligence on trade unions and their activists. Files recently released to the National Archives under the thirty-year rule confirm an increased emphasis by MI5’s F Branch on industrial and trade union matters.

Ironically, information about trade union activities was often supplied to MI5 by union leaders, executive members and officials, many of them keen to pass on information concerning the views and actions of those they perceived to be rivals within their unions.

The 1973 National Union of Mineworkers’ pay dispute was a case in point. It also demonstrated that, even with the best inside information, there is no legislating for fate casting its hand.

In July 1973 the NUM had called for a pay increase of nearly 35 per cent, far in excess of anything allowed under Phase Two of the government’s incomes policy, and even counter to Phase Three, which was to be announced in the autumn.

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