HC Deb 22 November 1917 vol 99 cc1359-60

asked the Home Secretary if he will make further inquiries into the fact that, at a meeting of the Southampton Joint Trades Council, held at the Empire Theatre on Sunday, 11th November, called for the purpose of discussing a local labour dispute, to which meeting admission was obtained by the production of a, trade union card, when near the end of the proceedings two persons were discovered in hiding beneath a grand piano in the balcony, and, on these men being taken to the platform, they admitted that they were police detectives, one named Detective-Sergeant Pugh; and will he say by whose instructions these policemen secretly hid in the hall and what was their purpose?


I have made further inquiry, and am informed that the two police officers in question were in a box at the theatre in which there was a piano, but were not (as alleged) hiding beneath the piano. They were acting on a general instruction to report any local movement of interest, and were not specifically ordered to attend this particular meeting. I may add that when they were noticed they came voluntarily on to the platform, and their presence there was taken in good part by those present at the meeting.


Seeing that the Home Secretary has admitted the truth of the facts that have been stated several times in questions, will he now say upon what authority he based his previous answers to questions of this kind?


I have, on the contrary, reaffirmed my previous answers.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this meeting was called by the workmen to discuss piece rates. and it was assumed by the intelligent local police that it had something to do with peace propaganda?


I am not aware of that. Perhaps I may say that the police have strict instructions not to interfere with meetings connected with trade unions.