HC Deb 10 February 1927 vol 202 cc427-30

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]


I want quite frankly to state that I do not expect a reply to-night on the subject I propose to raise, as I have not given the Government sufficient notice, but I hope the Department responsible will have some inquiry made, as I believe it is an important matter that ought to be inquired into.

An hon. Member of this House agreed to speak at Carlisle at a meeting arranged by the Independent Labour Party of which he is a member. The meeting was fixed for to-morrow night and arrangements were made for it. The Drill Hall there is the most suitable hall for a public meeting. It belongs to the Territorial Force Association and has always been let to all parties. On this occasion the Independent Labour Party engaged the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) as chief speaker and booked the Drill Hall. Then two things happened. First, the Territorial Force Association met and secondly the position in China altered. So far as I can gather, one of the reasons for refusing the hall was that the National Labour Party, one of the chief members of which is the Leader of the Opposition, decided to communicate with Mr. Chen. For that reason the Territorial Force Association refused to grant the use of the hall.

I am not here to apologise for the views of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. They may be extreme, they may be advanced, they may be views that many people dislike, but, after all, a constituency has elected him. Personally speaking, I think he is a moderate Member. I think he is almost as moderate as I am. Certainly, he has been elected by a constituency to this House, and a responsible body in Carlisle asked him to speak. Surely, it is an elementary right that an hon. Member ought in common fairness to have the right to state his point of view for acceptance or rejection by the people. One member of the Territorial Force Association says, "This extremist, we cannot let him have the hall." I wonder what he would do if it was the Home Secretary? If they would refuse the hall to the Member for Bridgeton, what would they do for the Home Secretary? I do not think we can tolerate that position in Carlisle or any other town. There might be logic in the position, although I might not agree with it, if the Territorial Association said that politics was no concern of theirs, and they would not let the hall for any political meetings, but once having let the hall for political meetings, why should they differentiate between two sets of political ideas?

This question is more important than Carlisle. I remember being in Hawick during a general election, and there the Territorial Force had the only hall available for most nights in the week, as the Town Hall was let as a picture house. In many places the Territorial Association own the only available hall, and if this kind of thing is to be tolerated in Carlisle there is no saying where it would end. If our ideas are wrong, the place to meet them is in public. Either the Territorial Force Association in Carlisle are full of political bias, or they are afraid that the views of the hon. Member for Bridgeton are so correct that they cannot allow him to express them. I raise this question now in order to have inquiries made regarding it. I hope the Financial Secretary to the War Office will make full inquiries, and see that no political bias enters into the question of the letting of any Territorial hall, but that all parties are treated alike.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Captain Douglas King)

As the hon. Member (Mr. Buchanan) said in his opening remarks, he did not give me any reasonable notice of this question. It is only within the last hour that I have heard anything about it, and my only knowledge is the description which we have just heard from the hon. Member. From his own showing, this is an isolated case. He has told us that this drill hall at Carlisle has been used for political meetings, irrespective of party, for a considerable time past. Therefore, there is obviously no bias shown by the Territorial Force Association in that area. I think the Territorial Force Association of the country keeps entirely clear of politics. Members of the Territorial Force belong to all sections of politics, and, therefore, politics are kept out of Territorial matters. I shall be pleased to make all inquiries, and will communicate the result of those inquiries to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter after Eleven o'Clock.