Industrial Research and Information Service

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Seumas Milne's book The Enemy Within notes:

"New evidence has emerged since 1984 to highlight how covert state-sponsored action against the left in the NUM and other unions went far beyond the operations of the official security. Cabinet papers released in 1995 reveal that in the early 1960s the Conservative government authorized a secret payment of £40,000 - around £650,000 in 2004 prices - to a semi-clandestine anti-communist trade-union organization known as the Industrial Research and Information Service or 'IRIS'. The money was allocated from the 'secret vote', the intelligence services budget, on the orders of the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, with the aim of stemming the advance of the left in the labour movement and 'inspiring' media stories culled from 'secret sources'. The government funding, agreed after an approach from a former Labour minister, Lord Shawcross, was matched by large private companies like Ford and Shell. It was used to hire full-time 'undercover' IRIS organizers in the NUM, the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AUE) and elsewhere to defeat left-wing candidates for union positions and build 'anti-communist cells'...
"More than twenty years later, several right-wing trade-union leaders involved with IRIS woudl play key roles in the 1984-5 miners' strike. Among them was Bill Sirs, then general secretary of the steelworkers' union, the ISTC, who joined the IRIS board in January 1984 and went on to chair the organization.... Sirs was a member of the TUC general council at the time, while Ken Cure of the AEU, another IRIS director, sat on the Labour Party national executive throughout the year-long stoppage...Another IRIS director from 1988 was Sir Jack Smart, former NUM official and Labour leader of Wakefield council and the Association of Metropolitican Authorities.
"By this time, most of the money for IRIS came from a glittering array of British-owned multinational companies... These were made via a charity fund-raising front, the Industrial Trust, whose trustees included the former Coal Board chairman Lord Robens, the Tory peer Lord McAlpine and Lord Boyd-Carpenter... The same conduit also helped pay for the McCarthyite smear-sheet British Briefing, published in the late 1980s by Margaret Thatcher's coal-strike confidant, David Hart.
"IRIS and similar groups, such as 'Common Cause', continued to operate into the 1990s, but they had long since become discredited as transparent cold-war front organizations outside the narrowest of hard-right labour-movement circles. In later years, the more respectable Jim Conway Foundation, which acted as an educational outfit, took over part of IRIS's role as a focus for right-wing networks in the trade-union movement. The foundation's accounts from the 1990s showed that it was being financed by the Dulverton Trust, which was established by a Conservative peer and industrialist and whose trustees included the former Tory ministers Lord Carrington and Lord Gowrie. The same trust also funded IRIS and the Institute for the Study of Conflict, the propaganda outfit run by the CIA and MI6 'alongsider', Brian Crozier." (pp.386-7)


  • Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, Smear! Wilson & the Secret State (1991).

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