HC Deb 21 June 1984 vol 62 cc466-7
6. Sir William van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to strengthen police powers to combat intimidation of those not on strike carried out away from picket lines.

Mr. Hurd

We do not believe that the present law is inadequate. The acts of intimidation which have been reported involve the commission of offences under existing law. The problem often lies in obtaining evidence. My right hon. and learned Friend reported to the House on 17 May the steps taken by police to strengthen there efforts on this.

Sir William van Straubenzee

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he at least undertake to keep the law under review, bearing in mind that to the majority of British people the extension of intimidation to miners at home, to their wives and to their families is especially nauseous?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, but the horrifying scenes that we have all witnessed on television are not dealt with by Parliament changing the law. They will be dealt with by the National Union of Mineworkers and its members stopping their systematic defiance of the law.

Mr. Flannery

Let us also consider intimidation by the police, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), against those who are on strike but away from the picket lines. We have given example after example of the police pulling out people who have lodgings for the night and attacking them because they happen to be on strike. Can we consider that intimidation, or can we look only at the other side?

Mr. Hurd

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made plain again and again, including today, there are procedures for dealing with complaints that the police have exceeded their powers, and these procedures are being used. It is not right—this is what is done by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues constantly—to equate the efforts of the police with the efforts of the strikers in breaking the law.

Mrs. Currie

Does my right hon. Friend realise that last Friday, at the Cadley Hall pit in south Derbyshire, pickets descended in their hundreds in what was clearly a well co-ordinated programme? These pickets came from all areas of Britain. As a result, the local villages were full of police vans. Does my right hon. Friend accept that the atmosphere of fear that was prevalent and tangible in those villages was not fear of the police, but fear of what would happen if the police were not present.

Mr. Hurd

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. That is why the police have, unfortunately, to spend so much time which they would wish to spend otherwise in trying to protect the public from this sort of intimidation.

Mrs. Clwyd

Will the Minister comment on the slogan that is now doing the rounds of mining communities, which is, "Do yourself an injury—save police time"?

Mr. Hurd

I think that it is ludicrous.