HC Deb 18 January 1978 vol 942 cc461-9

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give the Home Secretary power to restrict picketing to a limited number of persons, authorised and identified by the trade unions concerned; and to organise separately those who wish to demonstrate in support; and for connected purposes. This Bill simply seeks to enact the desires of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, whose words I have just quoted in the Long Title, and who said on 23rd June when answering Questions: I hope…that legitimate pickets, properly identified, can be allowed to operate. Those who wish to demonstrate in support of the workers who have been dismissed at this factory should be separately organised and clearly distinguished from the pickets. That would make the job of the police very much easier in trying to sort out this dispute. The right hon. Gentleman said a little later: I therefore believe that it is necessary to separate legitimate and authorised pickets from those who latch on to it. That seems to me the best way of doing it. He continued: I have suggested…to limit the number of pickets in this matter, that they should agree who they should be, that they should be easily identified and that others should stay away or demonstrate in a different way."—[Official Report, 23rd June 1977; Vol. 933, c. 1735–37.] As I simply seek to enact those views expressed by the Prime Minister, this Bill is both short and non-controversial. I propose a short Bill to give effect to the suggestion that those who wish to picket should inform the police as to the names of the limited number of representatives who will form the picket lines. It may be that 10 or 12 representatives at each factory entrance or plant would be sufficient. Some believe that it could be based on a percentage of the work force. That would be a good point to be raised in the Committee stage of the Bill, which we shall shortly reach. I leave to the verdict of that Committee which way is chosen. A further clause will seek to implement the Prime Minister's desires, requiring the legitimate pickets to wear arm bands so that they may be identified.

The whole House agreed with the Prime Minister that the ugly scenes at the Grunwick laboratories in the summer revolted the nation. The violent mobs were something from which he rightly wished to dissociate himself politically. I hope that he is not thinking of running away from his laudable intentions now that the dispute is off the boil.

I believe that this is a non-controversial matter because we have the Prime Minister on record as being in favour of these provisions. We know that the police would welcome a move of this sort, because it would enable them to organise demonstrations separately from picketing and would allow the police to keep a better control of public order, which it is its duty to do.

Both the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Defence should welcome this measure It would have saved them having to go to Grunwick to do penance with the pickets in order to sustain their credibility in the eyes of the unions. It would have avoided their having to come out of their Elysian clouds in order to regain the common touch. I am sure that they did not enjoy the afternoon down there. and it would leave them free not to go on another occasion because they would be classed among those who latch on to these things.

I wish also to refer in this context to the activities of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise). I sent her a note to say that I intended to refer to her in this matter. She had an unfortunate experience at Grunwick. Had this Bill then been enacted, it would have saved that hon. Lady the inconvenience of a trip to the police station.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should point out that the case to which the hon. Gentleman so frivolously and unfairly refers is sub judice. I think that you should warn him.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

If that is the case. I know that the case will not be mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ridley

I would immediately withdraw those remarks if the case were sub judice. It is obviously a grave matter if it is being dealt with in the courts. I say to the hon. Lady only "It will never get better if you pick-it".

I call in aid for my Bill a speech made by Lord Birkenhead in the House on 30th March 1906 on the Trades Disputes Bill of that year. He said: We are asked to permit 100 men to go round to the house of a man who wishes to exercise the common law right in this country to sell his labour where and when he chooses, and to 'advise' him or 'peacefully persuade' him not to work. If 'peaceful persuasion' is the real object, why are a hundred men required to do it? I know of no one who is more peaceful than the member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie), and I am sure that no man can be more persuasive…. If I were a man who was wishful to dispose of my labour as I chose, although the member for Merthyr might not persuade me to break a contract, still, if the hon. Member came with fifty other peaceful persuaders to the house where I and my wife live, I fear I should be much more likely to yield to persuasion than if the hon. Gentleman came by himself. We are told that another object of these well-attended deputations is that information may be given. Is it more convenient that information should be given by fifty men, than by one man? Even in this House it is recognised that, as a general principle, it is more convenient that one Member should address the House at one time. That sems to be the kernel of the matter. Picketing is for peaceful persuasion. We must allow peaceful persuasion and the giving of information, but not permit the obvious motive of intimidation to supplant that of peaceful persuasion. Lord Birkenhead said: Every honest man knows why trade unions insist on the right to a strong numerical picket. It is because they rely for their objects neither on peacefulness nor persuasion. Those whom they picket cannot be peacefully persuaded. They understand with great precision their own objects, and their own interests, and they are not in the least likely to be persuaded by the representatives of trade unions, with different objects and different interests. But, though arguments may never persuade them, numbers may easily intimidate them. And it is just because argument has failed, and intimidation has succeded, that the Labour Party insists upon its right to a picket unlimited in respect of numbers. That is why mass picketing is not needed. If the Prime Minister came to the conclusion that mass picketing is not desirable in the interests of public order, I am sure that the whole House will want to pass this little Bill. If, by chance, the Prime Minister should not find himself able to be in my Lobby if there is a vote—and it may be that, as the Bill is so agreed, there will not be a vote—he will be guilty of using words to try to associate himself with a particular objective when he thinks that it is popular for him to do so and chickening out when the time comes to implement those proposals by putting them in the form of legislation as I propose. If there is anyone who is prone to "latch on to it", it will be the Prime Minister if he does not vote with me.

4.4 p.m.

Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)

The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) has put forward a bubble and squeak case in endeavouring to get leave to present his Bill. I call it a bubble and squeak case because it is a rehash of arguments that have been put forward and rejected by the House before.

I am not suggesting that provisions which have remained substantially the same for more than 70 years are not due for review, but in his reference to Keir Hardie the hon. Gentleman should recall that the only change of note occurred in 1971 when the protection from picketing of a person in his home was removed.

I am trying to treat a serious subject in a serious way—in contrast to the way in which the hon. Gentleman approached it. I am sure that he is aware that the Secretary of State for Employment has stated his intention to the House of conducting negotiations with the parties primarily concerned to see whether he can arrive at some amendments or alterations to the law which will command general support. He is in the process of doing that.

The proposed reforms are open to a number of serious objections.

Mr. Ridley

Tell that to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Park

They are one-sided. They take no account of the difficulties faced by pickets and they do not deal with the question of communication with occupants of vehicles trying to get into premises that are being picketed. Bearing in mind the hon. Gentleman's concern for the police, he should recognise that his proposals would make their job more difficult by restricting their discretion in dealing with delicate situations. Nor do the proposals deal with new methods adopted by special police groups for dealing with mass picketing which, on occasions, have amounted to provocation.

The hon. Gentleman knows that several attempts have been made recently to reform the law, with no success. The Conservatives conducted a review during their last Administration and concluded that they could not put forward anything that would command general support. The hon. Gentleman's Bill may be an indication of a new and tougher line by the Conservative Party towards the trade union movement.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that in the original Employment Protection Bill there was a clause designed to clarify the law, but this did not find favour with the Opposition or with several of my hon. Friends. I also remind him, however, that there was a perfectly reasonable amendment dealing with the number of pickets and that he voted against it. There are no easy solutions.

The motion shows that the proposed Bill would be lopsided. It seeks only to restrict the activities of pickets, thereby hobbling the trade union movement, and it could, at the same time, have the effect of tying the hands of the Secretary of State in his consultations which are proceeding.

I submit that the Bill would be likely to exacerbate rather than to help resolve the problems which exist. For all these reasons, I suggest that leave to introduce the Bill should be refused.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 181.

Division No. 64] AYES [4.07 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Ian
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fisher, Sir Nigel McAdden, Sir Stephen
Arnold Tom Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McCrindle, Robert
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fookes, Miss Janet Macfarlane, Neil
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Forman, Nigel MacGregor, John
Baker, Kenneth Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Banks, Robert Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Bell, Ronald Fry, Peter Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Marten, Neil
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mates, Michael
Benyon, W. Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Mather, Carol
Berry, Hon Anthony Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Maude, Angus
Biffen, John Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Mawby, Ray
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhart, Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Victor Mayhew, Patrick
Boscawen, Hon Robert Goodlad, Alastair Meyer, sir Anthony
Bottomley, Peter Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Braine, Sir Bernard Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Brittan, Leon Gray, Hamish Molyneaux, James
Brooke, Peter Grieve, Percy Monro, Hector
Brotherton, Michael Griffiths, Eldon Moore, John (Croydon C)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Grimond, Rt Hon J. More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Buck, Antony Grist, Ian Morgan, Geraint
Budgen, Nick Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Bulmer, Esmond Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Burden, F. A. Hawkins, Paul Neave, Airey
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hayhoe, Barney Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, Mark Higgins, Terence L. Newton, Tony
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Holland, Philip Nott, John
Channon, Paul Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, John (Harrow West)
Churchill, W. S. Howell, David (Guildford) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Richard (Workington)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hutchison, Michael Clark Parkinson, Cecil
Clegg, Walter Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pattie, Geoffrey
Cope, John James, David Penhaligon, David
Cormack, Patrick Jessel, Toby Peyton, Rt Hon John
Costain, A. P. Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Pink, R. Bonner
Critchley, Julian Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Crouch, David Jopling, Michael Prior, Rt Hon James
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Kershaw, Anthony Raison, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kimball, Marcus Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Drayson, Burnaby Knight, Mrs Jill Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lamont, Norman Rhodes James, R.
Dykes, Hugh Langford-Holt, Sir John Rifkind, Malcolm
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lawrence, Ivan Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Lawson, Nigel Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Eyre, Reginald Le Marchant, Spencer Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Fairgrieve, Russell Lester, Jim (Beeston) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ross, William (Londonderry)
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stanley, John Wall, Patrick
Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Walters, Dennis
St. John-Stevas, Norman Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Warren, Kenneth
Scott, Nicholas Stokes, John Weatherill, Bernard
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Stradling Thomas, J. Wells, John
Shepherd, Colin Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Silvester, Fred Tebbit, Norman Wiggin, Jerry
Sims, Roger Temple-Morris, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Younger, Hon George
Spence, John Trotter, Neville
Sproat, Iain Vaughan, Dr Gerald TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Stainton, Keith Wakeham, John Mr. Nicholas Ridley and
Stanbrook, Ivor Walder, David (Clitheroe) Mr. Ian Gow.
Allaun, Frank Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Anderson, Donald Golding, John Pardoe, John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Graham, Ted Park, George
Armstrong, Ernest Grant, George (Morpeth) Parry, Robert
Ashley, Jack Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Pavitt, Laurie
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Hardy. Peter Radice, Giles
Atkinson, Norman Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Reid, George
Bain, Mrs Margaret Hayman, Mrs Helene Richardson, Miss Jo
Bates, Alf Healey, Rt Hon Denis Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Hooley, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley)
Bidwell, Sydney Huckfield, Les Roderick, Caerwyn
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hunter, Adam Rooker, J. W.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Irving. Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Sever, John
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Bradley, Tom Johnson, James (Hull West) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sillars, James
Buchan, Norman Jones, Barry (East Flint) Silverman, Julius
Buchanan, Richard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Skinner, Dennis
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Judd, Frank Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Kaufman, Gerald Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Campbell, Ian Kerr, Russell Snape, Peter
Canavan, Dennis Kinnock, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Cant, R. B. Lamborn, Harry Spriggs, Leslie
Carmichael, Neil Lamond, James Stallard, A. W.
Castle, Rt Hop Barbara Lee, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Clemitson, Ivor Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Strang, Gavin
Cohen, Stanley Lipton, Marcus Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Con[...]an, Bernard Litterick, Tom Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Lyon, Alexander (York) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Corbett, Robin McCartney, Hugh Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Cowans, Harry McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) McElhone, Frank Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Tierney, Sydney
Dalyell, Tam MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Tinn, James
Davidson. Arthur McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Torney, Tom
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil McNamara, Kevin Urwin, T. W.
Davies, Clinton (Hackney C) Madden, Max Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Deakins. Eric Magee, Bryan Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Watkins, David
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Watkinson, John
Dempsey, James Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Dormand, J. D. Meacher, Michael Weitzman, David
Edge, Geoff Mendelson, John White, James (Pollok)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Mikardo, Ian Whitlock, William
English, Michael Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Mitchell, Austin Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Faulds, Andrew Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Woodall, Alec
Flannery, Martin Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Woof, Robert
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Newens, Stanley Wrigglesworth, Ian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Noble, Mike Young, David (Bolton E)
Forrester, John Ogden, Eric
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) O'Halloran, Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Orbach, Maurice Mr. Eddie Loyden and
Garrett, W. E.(Wallsend) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mr. Stan Thorne.
George, Bruce Ovenden, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Who will prepare and bring in the Bill?

Mr. Ridley

The Prime Minister and myself, Sir.

Hon. Members


Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nicholas Ridley.