NEWLY-released Cabinet papers from 1984 justify mineworkers' union leader Arthur Scargill's long-held claim that there was a "secret hit-list" of more than 70 pits marked for closure.

That is the view of Carmarthenshire county council leader Kevin Madge who says this week's disclosure proves the Conservative government headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher "had no credibility whatsoever".

Cllr Madge – a young Cwmaman town councillor at the time of the 1984-85 dispute – admits he remains "very bitter" over the closure of pits in his native Amman Valley.

"The government and the National Coal Board said at the time they wanted to close 20 pits, but these documents show they actually planned to shut 75 mines all along," he said.

"In other words, Thatcher and (NCB chairman) Ian MacGregor were saying one thing in public and something totally different behind closed doors – they were hell-bent on destroying our industry.

"My views on Thatcher and what her policies did to places like the Amman Valley are well known. I make no bones about it – that woman turns my stomach. This valley lost so many pits and so many jobs.

"I'm not saying that all pits were viable and should have been saved, but some – including Betws – certainly could have been kept open for many more years in my view.

"I was never really a Scargill supporter, but what's coming out now proves he was right – and the propaganda against him at the time was huge."

Cllr Madge's views were echoed by former county councillor Hugh Evans, who worked "on and off" as a miner at Betws Colliery over a 20-year period.

"Those plans to close all those pits were something we all knew about, but could never prove," he said. "If we had been able to I think we would have had far more support from other unions.

"Betws Colliery made a big profit every year so of course it could have been kept open – I also believe that what happened to the mineworkers' union had a knock-on effect with other unions."

County councillor Anthony Jones, a former chairman of the South Wales branch of the NUM, said: "All the things we said would happen once the mines were closed, like the rise of gas prices and destruction of communities, have now come back to haunt us.

"The Thatcher government set out to destroy the NUM – it's as simple as that."