HC Deb 12 April 1984 vol 58 cc509-10
1. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now able to announce his proposals for new legislation on public order.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has not yet completed his review of public order law.

Mr. Bennett

If the Minister were to find a small group of highly motivated trade unionists holding meetings in secret and coming to decisions about which no one else knew on the upholding of Britain's criminal and civil law, would he not rightly be alarmed? Is that not just what the chief constables are doing at the national reporting centre, and is it not time that they were made accountable to the local police committees and to the House?

Mr. Hurd

That matter was exhaustively explored in the debate on Tuesday and it has been made clear that the operations at the national reporting centre are not unprecendented and fall well within the tradition of policing in Britain.

Mr. Baldry

May I ask a question that is more pertinent to the original question on the Order Paper? The Law Commission's report on public order offences deals simply with offences of riot, rout and affray which, by and large, are not used much as a means of preserving public order because most courts are involved with offences under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1963. May I make this request?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Baldry

Yes, Mr. Speaker. In considering the reform of the law on public order, is it not possible to have a comprehensive reform of the Public Order Act at the same time as the law on riot and the other common law offences?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the Law Commission's report on offences against public order. The report that he mentioned and the review that we are undertaking are parallel but separate. They overlap in some respects.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the use of tens of thousands of policemen in the mining areas a recognition by the Government of a deficiency in industrial relations law, or are they simply too scared to use what they have put on the statute book?

Mr. Hurd

It is a recognition of the situation created by the decision to encourage very large numbers of pickets to operate in circumstances which could, without the police action, amount to intimidation.