HC Deb 09 November 1972 vol 845 cc1169-70
7. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider seeking to set up a working party comprising officials of his Department, representatives of the Trades Union Congress and of the police to consider and report on industrial subversion.

Mr. R. Carr

I doubt that it would be helpful to set up a working party of the kind proposed; but I am aware of the concern particularly about suggestions of intimidation in some recent industrial disputes, and am in discussion with chief officers of police.

Mr. Adley

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, although it is not as encouraging as I had hoped. Is he aware—I am sure that he is—that most responsible trade union leaders are as much concerned as everyone else is about some of the incidents which took place recently, particularly during the building strike? Has my right hon. Friend seen the series of articles in the News of the World which, I understand, have drawn an unprecedented response to that newspaper? Further, will he agree that it is coming to something when one has to use the word "courageous" to describe people who are prepared to speak out against this sort of activity?

Mr. Carr

This is a serious problem. We have had it for years, but I think that there is concern lest it should be increasing. We need specific information rather than general accusations, and I hope that anyone who suffers intimidation will come forward, because that is the only way which gives the police opportunity to deal with it. It is a matter which everyone should take seriously, and I was glad to see, for example, that Mr. Jack Jones and the Transport and General Workers Union are taking it seriously, following certain events in the recent dock strike.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Question as framed is far from specific—which he invites us to be? It is couched in broad terms and, in the light of the general view within his party, it represents a libel on the trade union movement as a whole. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that what is referred to amounts to very much a fringe-type activity, and to represent it in the way the Question does is to put it grotesquely out of proportion to the realities of the British industrial scene?

Mr. Carr

It may be a fringe-type activity, but that does not make it unimportant. I agree that the vast majority of trade union members deplore any activity of this kind, but there are minorities who appear to take a different view. For instance, during the miners' dispute at the beginning of this year the executive of a union affiliated to the TUC came to see me personally to express its great concern at the way in which its members were being intimidated.