HC Deb 28 February 1889 vol 333 cc598-9

I wish to ask the Home Secretary another Question on a matter affecting my own Constituency, and it is of such urgency that I venture to put it without notice. I have a letter from Mr. James Branch, a well-known manufacturer in Bethnal Green, and a member of the London County Council, in which he says, "A policeman, called here for a copy of the bill enclosed." The bill is simply an announcement of a public meeting at the Bethnal Green Liberal and Radical Club, for the purpose of hearing a lecture by a Member of this House upon, "Democracy and its aims." Mr. Branch writes:— The policeman stated that he was ordered to call for the bill by his sergeant at the Commercial Street Station. I told him to tell his sergeant that he had no right or authority to send for these hills, and I should certainly decline to give him one. They did the same at Bow a few days since, when we instructed our printer to refuse any such application, and I think it is being done for the sole purpose of intimidation. I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman by whose directions this is done, and why these inquisitorial annoyances are committed by the police, seeing that they were absolutely unknown until the advent to power of the right hon. Gentleman?


The circumstances mentioned by the hon. Member are entirely unknown to me; but it is the well-established practice of the police to obtain information of meetings where large numbers of people would probably be gathered together, with a view to preventing any breach of the peace or disorder occurring. The object is not to intimidate, but to protect. The practice was a recognised one long before I became Home Secretary.


I beg to give notice that I will take an early opportunity of calling further attention to this matter.


I happen to be the hon. Member who is to deliver this address. Will the right hon. Gentleman institute inquiries at the Commercial Street Station as to why constables are appointed to guard the street in which a club is situated, at which I have the honour of attending. Is he aware the meeting in question is held on private premises and not in an open space?


Order, order. It will be more convenient for Questions of this character to be given notice of.