HC Deb 10 April 1975 vol 889 cc1385-7
2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has had from the TUC regarding the Shrewsbury pickets.

16. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received at the latest convenient date for the release from prison of the Shrewsbury pickets; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have received a number of representations from the TUC and have discussed the case with its representatives on several occasions. I have also received many representations from other organisations and individuals. The position remains that no new considerations have been put before me such as would justify my recommending interference with the decisions of the courts.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the 83 Labour Members of Parliament who have signed the motion for the immediate release of the Shrewsbury Two will almost certainly be, like those who headed the TUC delegation, somewhat disappointed and dismayed? Will he also bear in mind that notwithstanding the fact that the 83 Members represented a minority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, there was seemingly a very large majority of the PLP who neverthless, while not agreeing with us, thought that the sentences were too excessive? If he will not take heed of the somewhat disappointed and dismayed minority, will he take heed of the majority on this matter, because it is going on for a long time?

Mr. Jenkins

I hope my hon. Friend will agree that even if he is disappointed and dismayed, and some others too, at least he will not be surprised by my answer to this Question, it being one which has been put down to me and which I have answered on a number of occasions previously. I shall not enter into competition with my hon. Friend about fractional calculations of minorities and majorities in the Parliamentary Labour Party or any other body. It is in fact the case that at the meetings concerned the majority supported my point of view rather than the other point of view. [Interruption.] I wish that my hon. Friend could for one moment allow a question to be answered. That apart, however, I do not take decisions on difficult matters relating to the exercise or non-exercise of the Prerogative on the basis of minorities or majorities. I try to take them on the basis of what I think is the right decision.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that the vast majority of people do not follow the extreme line of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and prefer that the Home Secretary should carry out his duties as he has said in reviewing the sentences? As there are no new circumstances arising in this matter, the two hooligans who have been imprisoned should stay there and serve their sentences.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt wish to support me, but I do not think it useful to import such adjectives or pejorative nouns into the debate.

Mr. Tomlinson

While endorsing, as would the vast majority of lion. Members on both sides of the House, the general views expressed by my right hon. Friend on this matter, may I ask whether he has any further news about the important statement he made concerning the referral of the general law of conspiracy to the Law Commission and when we may expect action on this issue, on which I think there is generally a degree of unanimity on the part of everyone in the House about the need for progress?

Mr. Jenkins

The Law Commission has been considering the law of conspiracy which has some wide ramifications going far beyond picketing and industrial law, for example, and it has produced interim reports on some aspects of the matter. I have indicated that I am fully prepared to consider whether there should be interim legislation at some stage on matters of this sc rt. The TUC has been in touch with me. I have told the TUC that I would be very anxious to receive its detailed views on this matter, which I shall consider. It clearly cannot be a matter for this Session—one would want any reform of the law to be tidy and sensible—but I certainly have it in mind as a possibility for next Session.