HC Deb 19 February 1979 vol 963 cc24-5
30. Mr. Adley

asked the Attorney-General if, in the light of his recent statement, he will define legal intimidation.

The Attorney-General (Mr. S. C. Silkin)

Intimidation may be legal at common law or by statute.

At common law, as Lord Reid said in Rookes v. Barnard, to intimidate by threatening what you have a legal right to do is to intimidate by lawful means. By statute, intimidation which in Rookes v. Barnard was held to be unlawful at common law is made lawful if in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute under section 13 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, 1974.

Mr. Adley

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that full answer. Is he not aware that his first use of the phrase in the House made those with ears and eyes feel that he and the Government were totally out of touch with what was going on during the recent lorry drivers' strike when intimidation took place in the normal meaning of the word? As a result of the marvellous new concordat, is there any likelihood of anything being done to ensure that ordinary people have the right to go about their work in peace without fear of intimidation?

The Attorney-General

I do not agree that my use of the term in that context was any more disturbing or likely to frighten people than the use by the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) of the term "peaceable intimidation", which he used twice in the course of his question to me.

I have no doubt that the agreement reached between the Government and the Trades Union Congress will go a long way to solve many of the problems to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. Litterick

The House is grateful, as always, for the characteristic lucidity of my right hon. and learned Friend's answer. For the benefit of Opposition Members, will he tell the House whether the recent threat by the management of British Leyland to close certain factories and cause thousands of redundancies if the workers of British Leyland did not accept their conditions was lawful or unlawful intimidation?

The Attorney-General

Without knowing all the details, I am not able to inform Opposition Members or my hon. Friend. However, it seems highly likely that the action was lawful, whether it was intimidation or not.

Mr. Lawrence

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the concordat makes no attempt to discourage pickets from threatening other workers with the loss of their jobs if they cross picket lines? Does he agree that such threats are a form of blackmail and but for the Employment Protection Act 1975 might even be indictable as such?

The Attorney-General

The concordat does not seek to repeat in every particular the existing law. When matters are unlawful under the existing law, they may be dealt with under the existing law.