§ 16. Mr. GINNELL
asked under what Statute and on what grounds the ordinary law for the preservation of the peace and the protection of innocent persons is now in suspense as regards such persons advocating peace, and other persons are allowed to forcibly deny the rights of free meeting and free speech to peaceable subjects not violating the law unless exercise of those rights be violation?
§ 61. Mr. SNOWDEN
asked the Prime Minister if the Government intend to take any action to protect the right of free speech which is being prevented in many parts of the country by organised bodies of persons who attend meetings and announce that they will not permit the meetings to be held, and, in particular, is it intended to take any action against an organisation calling itself the Anti-German Union, which has for weeks past broken up meetings organised by the Society of Friends in their own rooms; and further whether, without interfering with the attendance of soldiers in uniform at public meetings which they may desire to attend for their instruction, it is intended to continue to encourage by inaction soldiers deliberately organising opposition and breaking up meetings?
The law with respect to the preservation of order at public meetings is the same now as it was before the 221 War, and is being administered on the same principles. It is the duty of the promoters of meetings to keep order, and if they are unable to do so they can take proceedings in proper cases against disturbers under the Public Meetings Act, 1908. If there is violence and breach of the peace the police may be called in, and, so far as the force available can do so, they will give the necessary protection. With respect to the presence of soldiers at meetings, I would refer to the Prime Minister's reply to a question by the hon. Member for Blackburn on 26th January.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Are we to understand from that reply that the Home Office has no responsibility if direct incitement to violence appears in newspapers to break up public meetings?