HC Deb 14 March 1955 vol 538 cc919-20
2. Mr. W. T. Williams

asked the Attorney-General what action he proposes to take to restrain courts set up by trade associations from pretending to exercise lawful jurisdiction and enforcing illegal penalties.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Harry Hylton-Foster)

No action by my right hon. and learned Friend is necessary. The existing law provides adequate remedies for those affected if these tribunals act unlawfully. The courts,including the House of Lords, have recognised the legality of the tribunals on several occasions.

Mr. Williams

Will not the Solicitor-General give a lead on this matter? Surely he will agree that it is most undesirable that British citizens should be penalised by courts that hold their affairs behind closed doors, exercising authority that they know they do not possess. Is the Minister aware that the courts themselves have said that they know they have no power to inflict these punishments, but they take the view that people would rather pay than get into trouble? Whatever the House of Lords may say,does not the Solicitor-General feel that this is very near to getting money by menaces?

The Solicitor-General

If the facts of any particular case did constitute an offence under the Larceny Act for demanding by menaces or the like, the law provides sufficient remedy. In so far as the so-called domestic tribunal goes outside its powers or abuses them in any way, the law provides a remedy.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is not the Solicitor-General aware of the letter which appeared last Thursday in the "Daily Telegraph" from his right hon. and learned Friend the former Attorney-General setting out quite clearly his opinion that these courts are illegal and always have been illegal? Does he disagree with his right hon. and learned Friend, whom many of us would regard as an even better legal adviser to the House than the present Attorney-General?

The Solicitor-General

I am not prepared at the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to make comparisons between any Law Officers of the Crown. I have seen the letter,and I would urge the House to remember that different considerations probably apply to domestic tribunals of this kind than to courts, that is to say, persons or bodies of persons exercising authority under the Crown.

Mr. Woodburn

Could not action be taken against these tribunals for acting in restraint of trade? It is obvious that these people are doing so.

The Solicitor-General

The right hon. Gentleman will not have forgotten that by virtue of the Statute of 1871,trade associations and trade unions are not to have their purposes deemed unlawful merely because they act in restraint.