HL Deb 14 December 1967 vol 287 cc1243-5

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any reason to suppose that there has been, in connection with recent strikes, intimidation or "hazing" of those who have remained at work; and, having regard to the suicides and other horrors which resulted from such maltreatment after the 1955 railway strike, whether they have any plans to deal with any such "hazing" or intimidation.]


My Lords, in recent months there have been a number of incidents involving persons engaged in picketing or demonstrations connected with industrial disputes, as a result of which there have been prosecutions for offences such as assaulting or obstructing the police. The police have powers to deal with offences of actual intimidation and if the noble Lord or anyone else has information that such offences have taken place he will no doubt communicate it to the appropriate chief officers of police.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer, but I do not think it goes sufficiently far, because intimidation occurs in all sorts of ways—I am not making a speech, but one knows that it does occur. Is it not the case that the principal trade union leaders, to their credit, have pronounced against these practices—and very much to their credit, because they naturally tend to reinforce their authority? Is it not also the case that they are the only people in the country who can deal effectively with this evil?


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that trade union leaders have been consistently opposed, and have made their opposition known in every possible way, to the sort of practices which are giving concern to the noble Lord, and indeed to any right-minded citizen. The noble Lord is correct in saying that it is difficult to see what more can be done in this matter, other than hope that the attitude of society will have its effect, unless an actual offence takes place, when of course it will be for the police to intervene.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that this matter has been considered by Royal Commissions dating from over a hundred years ago, and that no remedy, legal or otherwise, has yet been discovered to require men who are suffering from a sense of grievance, real or false, to work in co-operation and willingly with other men against whom they feel that grievance?


My Lords, I accept fully what my noble friend, with his vast experience of these matters, has said. I think the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, was actually on a slightly different point, of actual intimidation that may have occurred. But I do not think I can add anything further to what I have already said.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell me whether there has been any form of inquiry into the case which was mentioned in the Press, of the docker who committed suicide, I believe by hanging himself, during the recent dock strike?


My Lords, I have no direct knowledge of the circumstances of that case, but if there was a suicide no doubt it was the subject of an inquest.


My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly right: I was thinking of those cases in 1955 that led to suicides, and other frightful things. I should like to ask the noble Lord one further question. Is it not extremely regrettable, and possibly reprehensible, that members of Her Majesty's Government who have taken an oath of loyalty to Her Majesty in the discharge of offices such as that of Home Secretary, and other offices, should ignore matters and thus deny to such an important body of Her Majesty's subjects that protection for which they are entitled to look to Her Majesty?


My Lords, I am afraid that at this point the noble Lord loses my sympathy. I think he is completely confused as to the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown, including the Home Secretary. As to actual offences, this is a matter to be dealt with by the due process of law.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether we are not getting this issue out of perspective? Is it not the case that a large number of workers will not go on strike unless they have deeply felt grievances? And, much as we may dislike unofficial strikes, is it not far better to inquire into the grievances which they feel, rather than raising these issues?


My Lords, I think the supplementary questions are going a little wide of the original Question. I do not disagree with the sense behind what my noble friend has said, but I do not think this is the occasion for him to pursue it. The subject of intimidation and where it may be exercised is a difficult issue. I have occasionally even heard remarks in this House which could amount to intimidation.

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