HC Deb 13 December 1972 vol 848 cc434-5
25. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will call for reports from chief constables as to the steps they have now taken to deal with future strike picketing.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend's Department has had discussions with chief constables on this matter, and I am very much aware of the problems of enforcement which the police have had to face.

Mr. Galbraith

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, in so far as it was an answer. Is he aware that there is a great deal of public concern about this matter? Can he say who is the ultimate authority for the maintenance of law and order, so that in the event of failure again to prevent intimidation by unlawful picketing we may know whom to hold responsible for that failure? That is what the country wants to know.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

In specific situations it is obviously the responsibility of the senior police officer present. What I must emphasise is that the problem is not so much what the law is, but its enforcement. It is on the latter point that we have had discussions with chief constables, and we hope that the position has been clarified about how the matter should be handled. I think that we should praise the police for the efficiency and great restraint with which they have handled the problem in recent disputes.

Mr. Ronald King Murray

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the Industrial Relations Act 1971 the Government, while limiting the right to picket, recognised the right to picket? Will he include within the terms of reference of his activities the need to give protection to those who lawfully engage in picketing?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, I agree that there are certain rights relating to picketing. What concerns the great mass of the general public more than anything else, whilst appreciating that the majority of responsible trade unionists do not condone acts of violence, is not only the right to strike but the right to work.