HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc808-9
Q5. Mr. Douglas

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Dorset in 1971.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Douglas

Is the Prime Minister aware of the famous conviction of industrial workers in the County of Dorset for joining a trade union in the first industrial revolution? Is he also aware of the inadequacies of the law in the first half of the nineteenth century to deal with the problems of trade union organisation? Will he not further concede the inadequacies of the present legislation that is going through the House to deal with the problems of the second industrial revolution and will he not withdraw that legislation?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman undoubtedly knows, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were not convicted— [Interruption.] I can understand the hon. Gentleman's embarrassment, because he got the story wrong—under the Combination Acts against forming or joining a trade union. They were convicted under an Act of 1797 against administering an oath by an unlawful society. This was done under Lord Grey's Whig administration, for which I accept no responsibility whatever. They were then in 1836 returned to this country under Lord Melbourne's administration. What would astonish them if they were alive today would be to see the Labour Party and members of the trade unions actively opposing the reform of industrial relations.