Notably, the Bill increases the required voting threshold before a strike may be lawfully called and it will make further provision about picketing including notification to the Police. Picketing is, of course, a means by which a Trade Union seeks to make a strike effective and it is lawful provided that it is carried out in accordance with the 1992 Act. Historically, picketing was decriminalised by the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 but this Act contained (section 7) offences relating to intimidation punishable by either a fine or 3 months imprisonment. The 1992 Act repealed section 7 of the 1875 Act and the whole of the 1875 Act has since been repealed.
In 1972, there was a national strike by the building workers’ trade unions which lasted from May to September. The strike concerned the long hours and low pay of craftsmen and labourers. Unions organised flying pickets targeted at building sites in small towns and rural areas. On 6 September 1972 picketing took place in the Shrewsbury area. The picketing was largely peaceful, and no arrests were made or complaints raised by the police following the strike action on this day.
The early 1970s seemed to be a difficult, even unhappy, time. Unemployment was rising. The Industrial Relations Act 1971 had angered the Labour Movement. Money had been "decimalised" in 1971 - (one "new" penny was equivalent to 2.4 "old pennies)! Inflation was on the increase and the government tried to impose an incomes policy. The Shrewsbury cases arose against this backdrop and in an industry where employment was precarious due to the "lump" system by which workers were employed on a job-by-job basis giving them little or no long term security.
Some months following the conclusion of the strike, a number of the picketers involved in the Shrewsbury action were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and conspiracy to intimidate. They were tried at Shrewsbury and six men received lengthy custodial sentences. This is viewed as a "miscarriage of justice" by the Shrewsbury 24 campaign and the cases have been referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). Furthermore, a petition was presented to Parliament and the case was debated in the House on 9th December 2015 - (view the Westminster Hall debate).
On 7th December 2015, The Guardian published an article - The dirty tricks of the Shrewsbury trials exposes the dark heart of the radical 1970s - where it is claimed that the Edward Heath Cabinet and the security services influenced a television documentary entitled "Red Under the Bed" which featured the defendants and was shown during their trial. Further evidence relating to the case is being withheld on national security grounds - see Politics Home 9th December 2015 - Labour threatens to oppose Surveillance Bill because of the Shrewsbury 24.
Those convicted are hoping to have the cases referred by the CCRC to the Court of Appeal. Their request for the CCRC to act was lodged in April 2012.
View the Westminster Hall debate
The Guardian 9th December - Burnham backs call to publish all Shrewsbury 24 papers
The Shrewsbury Trials
John Platt-Mills, the QC who represented Des Warren at Shrewsbury Crown Court, wrote in his autobiography Muck, Silk and Socialism:
'The trial of the Shrewsbury Pickets is the only case I know of where the government has ordered a prosecution in defiance of the advice of senior police and prosecution authorities.'
It appears that the Attorney General at the time (Sir Peter Rawlinson QC) had advised against prosecution. (As mentioned in the Westminster Hall debate).