HC Deb 06 August 1924 vol 176 cc2928-30
Mr. SCURR by Private Notice

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why police officers were instructed to raid the offices of the newspaper, "Workers' Weekly," and to arrest the editor; what charges have been laid against the editor; under which Statute he is being prosecuted; whether any further prosecutions are pending, and under whose instructions the present proceedings were instituted?

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Patrick Hastings)

I have been asked to reply. My attention was called by the Director of Public Prosecutions to an article in the "Workers' Weekly" which, in my opinion, constituted a breach of the law. In consequence, the Director of Public Prosecutions has been engaged in the necessary steps to ascertain the identity of the persons responsible for the article. The editor has accepted the responsibility and has been arrested. The raid and the arrest were carried out on the authority of a warrant granted by a stipendiary magistrate. The editor is being charged with an alleged offence against the Incitement to Mutiny Act, 1795. I am not prepared to state whether any charge will be preferred against any other person.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Was this Act in force when certain officers in the Curragh were inciting to mutiny before the War?


May I ask the Prime Minister if he has read this article, and if he is aware that the article contains mainly a call to the troops not to allow themselves to be used in industrial disputes, and that that point of view is shared by a large number of the Members sitting on these benches?

Viscountess ASTOR



The matter is now sub judice, and we must not enter into a debate.


On a point of Order. Does this question not raise the whole right and liberty of the Press in this country, and in view of the fact that this article largely expresses the views and findings of Labour party conferences, and expresses the view of some of the men who are at present sitting on the Front Bench and seeing that it raises the whole liberty of the Press in articles of this kind, does that fact not constitute it a matter of extreme public importance that this House ought to consider?


I must point out to the House that anything said may tend to prejudice the case. I do not think anything ought to be said about the merits of the case. The only matter here is the action of the Attorney-General, acting on the information of the Director of Public Prosecutions.


With all due deference to your ruling, the issue that has been raised is something more—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply we have received, I would like to move the Adjournment of the House.


On a point of Order. Are we not entitled to raise this matter on the Appropriation Bill?


Certainly, in so far as the question of the Attorney-General taking action is concerned, but I do not think we ought to enter into the other matters, for fear of prejudicing the parties.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I ask whether, during the period of the last Government—I think about 13 months—any newspaper offices were raided at all?


I beg to give notice that I will raise this question on the Appropriation Bill.


I wish to ask the Attorney-General if any Members of this House who will be speaking in their constituencies next week express similar opinions to that contained in the article in the "Workers' Weekly," does that mean that we are subject to similar prosecution? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes.''] If so, they will probably lose half their party.

Several hon. Members



I think I have disposed of that question.

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