HC Deb 15 February 1927 vol 202 cc725-7
21. Commander FANSHAWE

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he has taken and proposes to take with regard to the Communist propaganda which was distributed among the troops under orders for China.

77. Colonel WOODCOCK

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the distribution of leaflets to the troops prior to their embarking for China; and, with regard to the leaflet headed "War," published by the Communist Party of Great Britain and Young Communist League, 16, Xing Street, W.C.2, and printed by the Dorrit Press, Limited, 68 and 70, Lamb Street, S.E.1, will he state what steps have been taken with the distributors of the leaflets, the publishers, and the printers?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

I am aware that the leaflet headed "War!" and other leaflets have been distributed. I am advised that some of them contravene the law, but that others do not. The former bears no imprint and appears to have been distributed sparingly and with great caution. Inquiry is proceeding, but I do not yet know whether evidence will be available to support a prosecution.


Did the right hon. Gentleman see the pamphlet entitled "War!" Is he also aware that an officer took away a whole bunch of them from one of the men distributing them, and threw them away?


Yes. I have said in my answer that I saw the pamphlet entitled "War!" I read it with very great care, and consulted the Law Officers as to what should be done; but I gravely doubt, as this country is not at war with China or any other country, whether it does contravene the law. If we were at. war, it would clearly contravene the law.


Is the right hon. Gentleman going to continue his inquiries from the Law Officers, and make certain? Seeing that there is a Question clown for Thursday, will he consider the matter further, so that he may be able to give a reply?


I shall be only too glad to answer, if I can, any Question put by my hon. and gallant Friend. In regard to the pamphlet entitled "War," which has an imprint, and whose printers we know, I gravely doubt whether it is at the present time actionable. With regard to the other pamphlets, which are much worse, there are no names on them, and I have not been able to get evidence to connect the distributor with the printer.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is time the distribution of pamphlets of this nature was made a penal offence?


I think the answer to that is to be found in an old proverb: "You must first catch your hare before you cook it."