HC Deb 16 November 1925 vol 188 cc25-7
Mr. LANSBURY by Private Notice

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the existence of certain Fascist and other organisations and societies organised as military armed forces similar to that known as the Ulster Volunteer Army which was established in Ireland during the years 1913–14 and supported by leading statesmen in this country; and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these Fascist and quasi-military bodies meet regularly for drill and other military exercise; that they inarch through the streets armed, attend meetings armed, and in a general manner act provocatively toward all who hold opinions different from their own; and has his attention been called to the fact that on 17th October a van carrying parcels of that day's issue of the "Daily Herald" was held up in the City of London by armed men, members of the British Fascisti, and that on the occasion when these men were before the City Justices, the learned Counsel, acting on behalf of the Public Prosecutor, withdrew the serious charges against the defendants and proceeded only to charge them with committing a breach of the peace; and will he inform the House on whose instructions the learned Counsel or Public Prosecutor acted; and, further, will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether instructions have been issued to the police that they may permit, without interference, the drilling and aiming of citizens by any groups of individuals or organisations who may deem it right to organise themselves into a volunteer army?


I am aware of the existence of certain Fascist and similar organisations, and of the fact that certain members have, from time to time, engaged in activities which everyone must deplore, but I have no information that they meet regularly for drill and other military exercises, or that they march through the streets or attend meetings bearing arms. Unauthorised meetings of persons for the purpose of being trained or of practising military exercises are prohibted by law, and no instructions have been issued to the police of the nature suggested in the last part of the question. The police are aware of their duty, and the law will be enforced without discrimination against any persons who infringe it.


May we ask when the law is going to be enforced?


I gave instructions some three or four weeks ago that equal justice should be meted out to all parties, and, on a suitable case being found, prosecution will be taken at once.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what kind of justice was being administered before three or four weeks ago?


Justice was being administered in the ordinary way.


Why did you send out the instructions, then?


May I ask if the same steps are being taken to find out what the Fascisti are doing as to find out what the Communists are doing?


My attention was called to the action of some of the Fascisti, and my instructions were that the same proceedings should be taken against them as against anybody else who broke the peace.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a young man about 18 years of age was carried out of a Conservative Club in the North of London, wounded during revolver practice? Evidently he had not been properly taught.


(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the wide dissatisfaction amongst the public with the action taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions in connection with the case of the four National Fascists who admitted taking possession by force of a "Daily Herald" motor van and further with damaging the van; and whether in view of the serious danger that such action may destroy public confidence in the impartial administration of Justice he can give the House any explanation regarding the action of the Director of Public Prosecutions in this case?


Notice of this question was only received by me about noon to-day, and as my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General is engaged on public duties elsewhere, I have not had an opportunity of discussing the matter with him. I should be much obliged, therefore, if my right hon. Friend would be good enough to postpone his question until to-morrow.


Obviously, one must accede to such a request, which I quite appreciate, but I would ask in advance whether, in the absence of the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister will keep in mind, that whatever may be the answer conveyed by the Attorney-General, the feeling—and in my opinion the right feeling—of indignation in the country is such— Interruption]—because nothing would be so dangerous as the people of this country losing confidence in justice —he will give an opportunity for a full discussion of this question in this House?

Captain BENN

May I ask the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the remarks of the Magistrate in this case when he appeared to recommend that the prisoners should join the police force?


That had better follow the main question to-morrow.


May I ask you, Sir, on a matter of ruling, supposing we desire to take any action on account of the nature of the answer to be given to my right hon. Friend's question, will you then rule that by raising it in this way to-day, our rights have not been forfeited of asking you to give us, say, the Adjournment of the House?


In view of the Prime Minister's answer deferring the question, until to-morrow, I think any rights there may be should be equally good to-morrow.

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