HC Deb 28 June 1915 vol 72 cc1455-7
16 and 19. Sir LEO CHIOZZA MONEY

asked the Attorney-General (1) if his attention has been directed to the fact that a publication called the "Labour Leader," believed to be the official organ of the Independent Labour party, has ever since the War began deliberately pursued week by week a policy of misrepresenting the present and past motives and actions of the British Government, of discouraging recruiting, of suggesting that the War was provoked by British diplomacy and aggression, of publishing (and republishing as a pamphlet) an article charging the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary with deliberately deceiving the House of Commons, and in various other ways seeking to make it difficult for the United Kingdom to prosecute the War with success; if he will take action to prevent the continuance of this mischief; and (2) if he is aware that during the last eleven months the "Labour Leader" has published repeated discouragements to its readers to support the national cause or to take part in the War, and that it has published the following amongst many other words calculated to give aid and comfort to the enemy: 6th August, "Down with the War, it is a War of the ruling classes"; 13th August, "Russia is our ally in this crime"; 13th August, "A pretty little game of hypocrisy"; 27th August, "A reply to those who declare this to be a Holy War"; 3rd September, "The pretence that Britain has intervened from a lofty sense of duty"; 1st October, "Still another shining example, the Devonport Labour party has decided to let all communications from the National Recruiting Committee lie on the table"; 5th November, "An unjust war is a tremendous sin"; 19th November, "Within six days I, the editor, have received more than 150 names of men of enlistment age who are not prepared to take the part of a combatant in the War"; 4th February, "As we outwitted the Germans on the point of our intentions, we may perhaps claim to have played the game more cunningly"; 15th April, "I believe the military situation now necessitates our pondering over the best way to peace"; and if he will state whether during this period any warning or admonition has been addressed to the editor or proprietor of this paper?


asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to letters written by a certain Dr. F. C. Conybeare, of Oxford, which were contributed to American newspapers, and which are now being circulated amongst neutral countries in order to promote the interests of the enemy, and which contain grave aspersions against the good faith of His Majesty's Ministers and of this country; and whether he proposes to take any steps against this person?


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been directed to the publications issued by the British Stop-the-War Committee; if he is aware that the free distribution of these publications and the meetings held by the committee are directed to the discouragement of recruiting; and if it is intended to take proceedings against the officials of this organisation under the Defence of the Realm Act?


The matters referred to in these questions are under consideration.


Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the hon. Member who put this question has been endeavouring to discourage recruiting by contributing an article to the Yorkshire Press in opposition to Lord Kitchener's appeal?


May I say, in reply to that accusation, which I do not think ought to be made in the form of a question, that the article referred to simply dealt with the question of the age of recruits, and pointed out to the Government that a very large number of recruits could be got from the unmarried men in this country?


Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman name any day on which this question should be renewed?


No; but the matter will not be delayed.


Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that the suggestion for the suppression of British papers comes from a foreigner in the pay of the Northcliffe Press?


asked the Attorney-General if his attention has been directed to the fact that at the North London Police Court, on Saturday, 19th June, Mr. Richard Sinnott was sent to prison for one month and fined £25 for producing an indiscreet but not badly-intentioned article in a newspaper of small and local circulation most unlikely to reach the enemy, whereas the "Labour Leader" has published and republished with impunity an article of the greatest value to the enemy, which has been translated into German and widely published for the encouragement of the German people, generally charging the British Government with hypocrisy, and saying that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary deliberately deceived the House of Commons, and if he will explain the differential treatment of these two cases?


As stated in the question, on the 19th June Mr. Sinnott was sentenced to a month's imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of £25 for an offence which he was proved to have committed against Regulation 18 of the Defence of the Realm Consolidation Regulations. I do not agree with the description given in the question of the article referred to, nor can I draw comparisons with the actions of others when the circumstances and the law applicable are entirely different. The article in question made certain disclosures after due notice that they should not be made. I am advised that in the interests of public safety the Regulations laid down should be rigidly enforced.