HC Deb 21 March 1918 vol 104 cc1144-6
30 and 31. Mr. LEES-SMITH

asked the Home Secretary whether, by confiscating the Confession of Faith of the Christian Peace Crusade, the Government has signified a definite objection to this movement; and whether, since the movement bases its appeal solely upon the literal interpretation of the words in the New Testament "A new Commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you," it is intended to institute restrictions on freedom of religion; whether he will make a statement as to whether the papers, books, etc., taken from the offices of the Christian Peace Crusade Movement, at 39, Doughty Street, in November, 1917, and ordered to be destroyed on the 15th March last, included 18,000 copies of "The Last Weapon," by Theodora Wilson Wilson, which book was first published in February, 1916, and presented by the author to various distinguished persons, including the Prime Minister, whose secretary sent a letter of acknowledgment at the time; and will he say why this book, having run into several editions, is now after the lapse of two years confiscated and destroyed?


These documents were seized on the ground that they were intended to interfere with the recruiting and discipline of the Army and the success of His Majesty's forces, and were destroyed on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, to whom the matter was referred. I do not agree with the description of the leaflet, "A Confession of Faith," which is contained in this question, or with the inference which the hon. Member seeks to draw from the seizure of that leaflet. Nor do I think that any inference favourable to the book mentioned in the next question can be drawn from the fact that copies of it were presented to distinguished persons.


Has the right hon. Gentleman read the book mentioned in Question 31, and is he aware that it is a touching presentation of what I may call the Quaker point of view of War, and how long has it been an offence to put forward that view even in fiction?


It is not an offence to put forward that view. I cannot claim to have read the book through, but I have read passages of it.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that passages out of very innocent books, as, for instance, the Bible, might be used for purposes detrimental to the War, and will he not read the book as a whole before he allows it to be destroyed?


Has the right hon. Gentleman seized the copy of the book that the Prime Minister has, in order that it may do no harm?


I do not know that he has a copy.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider allowing Members of the House to judge for themselves by placing copies of these suppressed books in the Library?


I do not think it is desirable to spread this teaching in that way.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of suppressing the New Testament?


asked the Home Secretary why, in a raid on the offices of the Christian Peace Crusade movement, which took place in November, 1917, the police confiscated a novel called "The Wrestlers," by Theodora Wilson Wilson, and informed the author on the 15th March last that all the copies in his possession were to be destroyed; and whether, in view of the fact that the subject of the book was the Christian religion and Russian exiles in Siberia, and not in any way connected with the present War, the author will be compensated by the Defence of the Realm Losses Commission?


I am informed that no copies of this book have been seized or destroyed.