Conspiracy (Amendment)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th February 1975.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher 12:00 am, 25th February 1975

I do, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) has attempted to blind us with legal points. He is not a lawyer, any more than I am. He was simply reading from a brief. However, I wish to put my opposing arguments in my own way.

The object of the Bill is to nullify the common law offence of conspiracy. As the hon. Gentleman said, it arises from the case of the Shrewsbury pickets and the imprisonment of Warren and Tomlinson for two and three years respectively.

What the hon. Gentleman does not realise fully is that, if the conspiracy charge had not been made and the two men had been tried on the 39 out of 42 other counts on which they were arraigned, far greater sentences could have been imposed, and probably would have been, on the grounds of intimidation and assault.

As I see it, what the hon. Gentleman is not doing is to claim the rights of pickets to go about their business peacefully. He seems to be claiming the right that they should be allowed to picket violently when the need arises, using whatever degree of force to obtain their ends. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

As the trial judge pointed out, there is the right to picket peacefully. But other freedoms and rights are also involved. There is the right for men to work if they wish to. There is the right for them to refuse to withdraw their labour if they wish to continue doing their work. There is the right to go about their work freely without fear of intimidation—