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Aberfan October 1966: Gross negligence and blame-shifting

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Event description
A members' event (with guests) which is part of the Friends' online talks series exploring the collections held at The National Archives.

About this event

In 1997, having ascertained from contacts at the then Public Record Office that all papers relating to the 1966 Aberfan disaster would be released in the New Year, Iain McLean secured the Observer's press card for the preview of the opening. Over two intensive days, he filled in missing parts of the Aberfan narrative to establish a cover-up. Two subsequent research grants enabled him and his co-author Martin Johnes to publish a definitive book: Aberfan: government and disaster (revised edition Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press 2019).


		Aberfan October 1966: Gross negligence and blame-shifting image

Just before the 55th anniversary of the disaster, Iain will show in his talk how and why it happened, and who subsequently protected the National Coal Board and Lord Robens, its chair, from liability. In a bizarre twist Robens went on to chair the committee on Health and Safety at Work, which has governed all subsequent legislation. In another, the Prime Minister was advised against agreeing an Aberfan memorial service at Westminster Abbey on the grounds that the Welsh Church was disestablished. In a third, the Charity Commission tried to block payments to the bereaved unless they could show that they had been 'close' to their deceased children. There were many scandals at Aberfan, but none of them involved HM the Queen.


		Aberfan October 1966: Gross negligence and blame-shifting image

Iain McLean is Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford, and a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has written widely on contemporary UK history and politics but regards Aberfan as the most important book he has worked on.

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Organiser The Friends of The National Archives CIO

Organiser of Aberfan October 1966: Gross negligence and blame-shifting

The Friends is a registered charity (1185971) and became operational as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in November 2020. It replaced the original unincorporated association charity (328630) established in 1988 to support the then Public Record Office, and subsequently The National Archives at Kew. The Charity's role is to continue the work of the old charity by supporting the work of The National Archives for public benefit through providing funding for projects to enable the public record to be made more easily accessible and for conservation projects. Funding is also provided for outreach and education projects to bring new audiences to the collections held at Kew that covers one thousand years of documented history. Practical support is given through volunteers to help transcribe the records and assist at events held at Kew. We hold events at Kew and online for members and organise external group visits to places of historical and archival importance. We have over one thousand members across the UK and overseas. Events at Kew and external visits are currently suspended and replaced by online events.

 

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