Police poll urges change to 'no strike' law

Nearly nine out of 10 police officers are in favour of changing the law so they can strike, it was announced today.

The Police Federation of England and Wales published results of a poll of 140,000 officers which asked whether they should begin lobbying for the same rights as other workers.

Results released at the federation's annual conference in Bournemouth today showed 86 per cent said officers should have "full industrial rights" if the Government was not bound to arbitration deals on pay.

Federation chairman Jan Berry said: "This is a wake-up call for the Government, and one to which they should listen.

"I do not see this as a vote for the right to strike, however, I see it as a vote in favour of binding arbitration."

Turnout in England and Wales was 43 per cent.

A separate, informal survey of 9,000 members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland found 90 per cent were in favour of full industrial rights.

The vote follows a bitter row over pay and raises the spectre of walkouts by police if, in the future, they succeed in changing the law.

More than 20,000 officers marched on Westminster in January over Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to introduce a 2.5 per cent pay rise in stages, effectively reducing the overall award to 1.9 per cent.

The police are currently banned from taking industrial action.

Today's results will pile pressure on Ms Smith, who is expected to receive a frosty reception when she addresses the conference tomorrow.

Conservatives have proposed an arbitration system which could only be departed from with the agreement of the House of Commons.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The way the Government have behaved towards the police is dishonourable and has destroyed the vital bond of trust that should exist between the police and Government.

"Our approach is fair, transparent and will serve the public interest.

"Had the Government accepted our amendment it would have provided our vital public services with greater confidence in the arrangements which have been badly damaged by the Government."