§ 8. Mr. Newens
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to limit the grounds on which individuals may be brought before the courts charged with conspiracy.
§ 15. Mr. Nigel Lawson
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the operation and application of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
We are aware of concern over the law of conspiracy: both the common law and the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875. The general law of conspiracy is under urgent review by the Law Commission, and we shall consider any desirable changes as soon as is practicable.
§ Mr. Newens
Does my hon. Friend agree that the way that the severity of penalties can be increased considerably as a result of charges being preferred on grounds of conspiracy has been amply demonstrated in the cases of Dennis Warren and Eric Tomlinson, which Mr. Speaker is to consider? Is there not a need for tremendous urgency in dealing with this issue so that similar cases will not occur which will outrage large numbers of the population of this country?
§ Mr. Lyon
I am well aware of the concern about that matter. My hon. Friend will be interested to know that one of the provisional proposals of the Law Commission is that the maximum penalty for conspiracy should not exceed the penalty for the substantive offence when only one offence was contemplated in the conspiracy. I think that that would deal with the point that he has in mind.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is the Minister aware that considerable concern of a different kind exists throughout the country, namely, that the citizen and the innocent worker need to be protected from intimidation, violence and vicious behaviour of the kind that occurred in the building strike of 1972? Is he also aware that we on the Opposition side of the House look to the Home Secretary to uphold the rule of law in this country, since it is manifestly clear that we cannot rely on his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Will the Minister of State adopt the more robust tone adopted by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on relevant occasions in dissociating himself entirely from the view expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) on the outrage that is felt by those who feel that violence has been unjustifiably punished by the courts? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a sense of outrage was more widely felt among the majority of the people in this country against the violence and intimidation that the courts found had been used in that industrial dispute?