16 October 2015
Police chiefs giving evidence on the proposed Trade Union Bill have told MPs that they ‘dread and fear’ the plan to make the police monitor the online activity of striking workers.
Steve White, the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Goodness gracious me, that fills me with dread and fear. I have to say, in terms of having to vet tweets in advance, I mean crikey – I don’t think that is anything we want to get involved with”.
“I am sorry, I found that quite bizarre. It would be such a massively complex operation and from the police point of a view a dangerous road to go down.”
“It would be a travesty if the police went back to the days of the 70s or the 80s when the police were seen as an arm of a state. We have got to remember that policing in this country is wholly independent of the state. There is not political control of the police.”
Deputy chief constable Charlie Hall of the National Police Chiefs Council pointed out that the proposals would mean trade unions were given uniquely harsh treatment. “We do not do it in any other area.” he said. He also rejected the idea that police should be notified before a picket; “There is no real need in the vast majority of cases for the police to be involved in policing picketing and industrial disputes, and our stance would be that if we could avoid it we would wish to. Many pickets run without any contact with the police at all”.
He continued; “The police role must be impartial to whatever the merits in these industrial disputes, without doubt, and that should be maintained and our role has to be balanced. We have got many priorities and policing industrial disputes is not at the top of the list of our priorities.”