HC Deb 18 July 1916 vol 84 cc820-1
7. Sir W. BYLES

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that during the afternoon of Tuesday, 4th July, 1916, a number of Colonial and other soldiers were making inquiries as to the place at which a meeting to consider the administration of the Military Service Acts was to be held by the City of London branch of the Independent Labour Party, and to which public attention had been drawn by a question addressed to the Home Secretary on the 3rd instant by the hon. and gallant Member for Wednesbury; and if, in view of the part which the military have taken in preventing or breaking up this and similar meetings, he will state what steps he is prepared to take to prohibit members of the Army from interfering with the rights of civilians in the matter of free speech?


I am not so aware. The hon. Member's question seems to suggest that orders should be issued to soldiers on pass or furlough prohibiting them from committing acts which, under certain circumstances, would be offences under the civil law, to which they are fully amenable. The hon. Member will doubtless realise that such a course cannot be followed, and, if he will refer again to the answers given regarding this matter, on the 3rd July, he will see that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary stated, in reply to the hon. Member for Hanley, that the usual steps would be taken in regard to this meeting. The meeting, for some reason with which I am not fully acquainted, did not take place then, but I feel sure that my right hon. Friend's statement will continue to apply even should it be found expedient to defer the meeting still further.