§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Captain HOLT
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is the same Bill as that which was introduced in another place in 1924, and passed through all its stages there. The object of the Bill is to prevent seditious and blasphemous teaching to children under the age of 16, and may I reassure those who may be anxious as to its provisions, that it in no way prevents the teaching of Socialism provided it is taught in a constitutional manner. This Bill does not touch progaganda amongst adults. The sole object is to protect children of tender age; who, in our view, at any rate, are not sufficiently developed to be able to resist seditious doctrine, and who, in our view, ought to be protected by those of more mature years. The first Clause of the Bill defines the effect, and reads as follows:Any person who—I may remark, in passing, that it appears there has been a certain amount of opposition to this Clause on the ground that the phrase "any person" would include children under the age of 16, and I will say at once that the promoters of the Bill will be willing to agree to an alteration in the form of these words in Committee, in order to confine it to people of adult age. The second Clause defines "seditious matter" and is taken verbatim from Lord Halsbury's "Law 1526 of England." Its proviso reads as follows:
shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
- (a) teaches seditious or blasphemous matter to children under the age of sixteen, or reads to, or sells to, or distributes among such children any written or printed document containing seditious or blasphemous matter; or
- (b) prints, publishes, sells, distributes, or has in his possession for sale or distribution, any document containing seditious or blasphemous matter for the purpose or with the intention of its being used for teaching such children, or being read to, or sold to, or distributed among such children;Provided that nothing in this Act contained shall make it an offence to speak, write, or print words with the object of pointing our errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution with a view to their reformation, or pointing out, to order their removal, matters which are producing or have a tendency to produce feelings of hatred and between different classes of His Majesty's subjects.Clause 3 defines "blasphemous matter," and is taken from a judgment in the House of Lords. The Clause says:For the purposes of this Act blasphemous matter ' means words spoken, written, or printed whereby it is sought to bring the Christian religion into contempt by means of ribald, contumelious, or scurrilous language.Clause 4 lays down the penalty as follows:Any person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months, and to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, and the provisions of section seventeen of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, shall apply.With regard to that last point, it simply means that the accused person has the right to a trial by jury. Clause 5 lays down the Title of the Act. I notice that the rejection of this Bill has been put down by certain Hon. Members opposite, and I am quite sure amongst other objections which they may have to it, they will certainly bring forward two, with which I hope the House will allow me to deal very shortly. The first will undoubtedly be that it is an interference with the freedom of speech. As a matter of fact, this Bill does not interfere in any way with freedom of propaganda or freedom of speech, except in so far as they concern young children under 16. Freedom of speech in this country has always been very highly valued, but I think hon. Members on all sides agree that the line must be drawn somewhere. For instance, if there were real freedom of speech, the Law of Libel could not operate. The best argument, to my mind, is this. Let me put it to Hon. Members opposite, if there were a movement to teach in the schools that Socialism was immoral and that the destruction of Socialists' property should be taught, and there should be personal violence against 1527 them, would that then come under the term "Freedom of Speech"?
The second objection which, I am sure, will be made is that this matter is so unimportant that it is not worth bothering about. I will try to show to the House that this is not the case, and without going very deeply into the history of this movement, I should like to give a rough outline of the foundation and the growth of this, as I think, very subversive movement. As far as I can see, the foundation of the Socialist Sunday Schools was by a gentleman named Tom Anderson, in 1894, but I will say straight away that the Socialist Sunday School Movement and Tom Anderson afterwards parted company, and I cannot find any further reference to him until the first proletarian Sunday School was started in Glasgow about the year 1918. I have no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite will be able to correct me if I am wrong, but my information is that in 1918 the first proletarian school was stared and in all its publications, religion is held up to mockery and class hatred and the subversion of the Constitution is preached. Without wearying the House with a large number of quotations, perhaps I may be allowed to give one or two.
The "Proletarian Song Book" says:The Proletarian School is come into existence to supply the need of a revolutionary movement for the children of the working-class.Tom Anderson's "Manual" says:I have been asked times without number what is the best method to educate children in a Socialist Sunday School. What books would you suggest? My answer is, "Peach them revolutionary Socialism, based on the materialist conception of history.'These quotations have a very familiar sound, but that does not, in our view, mean that they are not without harm. Let me take an extract from a magazine or paper called "Prolecult," which in this case was published in May, 1923. It gives a dialogue between a boy and a girl. The girl asks,Would not the Government suppress your effort to establish Communism?and the boy answers:Yes, I have no doubt they would, but we are preparing to meet force by force." [Laughter.]1528 That seems to cause a good deal of amusement on the other side, but, as far as this side of the House is concerned, I am quite sure that that is not the sort of teaching we would advocate for young children.
They are under no illusion as to what they are themselves doing. Realising the helplessness of children, they use that helplessness as a reason for perverting them. They say:Boys and girls are not so afraid of anything of a revolutionary nature as grownup people. It is 10 times as easy to make a convert of 15 as a convert of 50.If I may take just one example of what I regard as the atrocious blasphemy that is spread by the proletarian schools, I find, in a publication entitled, "How to conduct a Proletarian School":Christ on the Cross dying for sinners is so ridiculous that one despairs of the hold this superstition has on the minds of the working classes.That, I think, is a phrase which would not commend itself to Members of this House, no matter to which party they belong. In passing, I should like to mention the Communist schools, which appear to be another manifestation of this movement, and to quote from the Young Communists' International Manifesto, published in the "Young Communist" of June, 1923. I find that it says:Organise the proletatrian children in the Communist Children's Groups.and:The proletarian child to its class.Hon. Members opposite may, of course, agree with this, but I am trying to prove that on at least one side of the House this movement is regarded as a subversive, unconstitutional movement. There is some difficulty, or has been some difficulty, in finding out the numbers of Communist schools, but I have been able to find out that some four years ago there were 15 in London, 25 in Glasgow, and others in other parts of the country. Recently a new policy has been adopted. Communist schools have been turned into Communist sections, the idea being to form these schools inside the ordinary State schools. This is the well-known Communist principle of "boring from within," which has been manifested, not only in the schools, but, as I have reason to understand, in the trade unions as 1529 well. I should also like to quote from "The Worker's Child," which describes itself as "An International Magazine, with Illustrations"—a very well got-up publication, published by the International Publishing House of the Young Communists' International, 38, Great Ormond Street, London, W.C.I. In September, 1926, it said:The Communist Children's Movement is of the highest significance to the Communist parties in the education of a new revolutionary generation. The class struggle must be carried into the school. Also, our children's organisation must be developed into a big, militant mass organisation.In the same publication, in January, 1927, I find this:Our Communist Children's Organisation must, under the direction of the Communist Party and the Young Communist or Comrades' League, carry on propaganda work in support of any action of the adult workers.Again, in the same issue:Mass action by' the children is necessary ";and, later on, also in that issue:Proletarian children must conduct a determined revolutionary struggle hand in hand with the adult proletarians against the whole bourgeois order. We must penetrate all these places where there are masses of children, in order to fulfil some of our revolutionary requirements in conjunction with the struggle against the whole capitalist machine.If this can mean anything but that they intend to penetrate the ordinary State schools of this country, I confess that I myself ant not able to see it. They have been very thorough, like all Communist organisations. The same magazine describes methods of carrying out this scheme. In the issue of "The Worker's Child" for September, 1926, I find this:School groups of not less than five children were to be formed in every elementary school, where possible, who should elect from amongst the children themselves a group leader. These group leaders were to form the School Group Executive Committee.I find that, even in the children's organisation, they have just as high-sounding and resounding titles as those to which we are so accustomed in other Communist organisations. It goes on to say:—Larger bodies, called 'Communist Children's Sections,' were to be formed out of the school groups with schools in the locality, and these sections were to form 1530 section committees with a member of the Young Communists' League as their leader.It appears to me that this is a very insidious and clever attempt to get at the children of parents who are absolutely in opposition to the methods and policy of the Communists. As it has been started only very recently, one cannot judge whether it has been successful, but, if one may take the success which has attended "boring from within" in other organisations, I would submit to the House that it has every opportunity, especially amongst young and immature children, of being very largely successful in perverting the minds of a large number whose parents, as I have said, are entirely opposed to the policy of the Communist party. I would ask the House to bear with me while I give yet one more quotation, again from the "Worker's Child":On the 24th April, 1926, Conference of the Communist International decided to help the new children's organisation in every way possible, including consultation of party members, especially school teachers, by propaganda, by education of active comrades for this movement, and by money placed at the disposal of the Children's League for the supply of literature and other propaganda purposes.This undoubtedly shows the foreign origin of the movement. The Communist International is entirely controlled by Moscow, and, in my opinion, at any rate, a very large proportion of the money which finances these subversive activities must undoubtedly come from outside this country. An extensive literature is provided from Communist sources. There are various papers which are issued in this movement. As far as I can find out, the chief ones are "The Worker's Child" and two papers issued specially for the use of children, called "The Young Comrade," which appears to be a monthly paper, and "The Young Worker," a weekly paper, both published by the Young Communist League, 38, Great Ormond Street. These are distributed amongst the children, and actually sold by the children to their fellows and others at Communist demonstrations and elsewhere. The contents of these papers are very largely the same as those which we find in Communist publications for the use of adults. They are very cleverly adapted for impressing and convincing the child's mind. 1531 They have the usual propaganda. The employing class are held up to hatred and contempt, and the working class, of course, are labelled as wage slaves. That is a term which is very popular with hon. Members opposite, but which, I.find, is not so popular with the British working man. Lenin and Soviet Russia are glorified as examples to be followed. I am sorry that does not draw cheers from hon. Members. The necessity of destroying the existing system by revolutionary methods is preached. This may be all very harmful when it is put about among adults. I am of the opinion that, while the Communist policy is doing a great deal of harm to the country, the British wage slave has enough sense not to be taken in on a large scale by this. I am now speaking of the effect this propaganda must have on the minds of very young children. I do not fear foreign propaganda so much upon the adults, but undoubtedly, owing to the very clever methods in which, to give one example, children are urged to revolt against their schoolmasters, I am sure this propaganda is a danger to the minds of the youth of the country. At the time of the General Strike children were induced to take an active part in this Illegal movement. In "The Worker's Child" for September, 1926, under the heading of, "The General Strike," I find the following:May Day, 1926, the most historic in British history, witnessed the opening of the great general strike. The work carried on by the League (The Young Communists' League) prior to the struggle had prepared all sections and groups of children for the part they had to play, and wherever possible, special leaflets and special strike issues of the school papers calling on the workers' children to line up alongside the workers in the great struggle were distributed. All sections, acting under instructions from the Central Bureau, offered their services to the Councils of Action and Strike Committees and fulfilled useful work in distributing illegal bulletins.In this same issue it goes on to mention a method by which those whom hon. Members opposite would call blacklegs were intimidated when they came home from their work. If any hon. Member would like to see this I shall be delighted to show him the quotations or the Magazine itself. I desire only to mention one further manifestation of this very well-conducted and insidious propaganda 1532 amongst children. I refer to an organisation that is called the Teachers' Labour League. This is a body that is affiliated to the Teachers' International and, according to my information, is a Communist body—
§ Captain HOLT
— and therefore, if my information be correct, is under the orders of Moscow. If I may quote from a speech made by the President of the Board of Education at Liverpool on 6th January, he said:There is no doubt that a good many ordinary people, at least in some parts of the country, are getting uncomfortable about the whole business and I must frankly say I cannot wholly reassure them.That is a very significant statement coming from the Noble Lord. The entire education of the country is under his control and he draws attention to the dangers which must' come from these Communist children's schools where members of the Teachers' Labour League are employed. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) interrupted me, and said the League was not a Communist organisation. At the Fifth Annual Conference, held in December, 1926, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education in the late Labour Government withdrew on the ground that it was not loyal to the Labour party. I think he would have earned the approbation of the House if he had left in on the ground that it was not loyal to the country. There can be no doubt whatever that the Teachers' Labour League has distinct Communist bearings. Communists all over the world realise the importance of perverting and capturing the children. As the well-known Socialist, Carl Liebknecht, has said:Who has youth has the future.The Russian Communist party have acted on this motto. The result is the perversion and debasement of children in Russia, where Atheism is entirely taught. I do not thin]; we can look on and see our future generation corrupted in the same way. The future of the Empire depends entirely on whether our children grow up into useful and loyal citizens. There is very great public feeling in this matter. Members of the 1533 House have received letters and injunctions on the subject of this Bill. I have found in my own constituency and other constituencies which I have visited that this is a matter of the very greatest interest to all electors. The State spends very large sums of money in educating the children and parents are compelled to send their children to State schools. Therefore, it is the duty of Parliament to see that they are not exposed to doctrines which are repugnant and hateful to their parents.
§ Sir PHILIP RICHARDSON
I beg to second the Motion.
I was a sponsor for this Bill in 1925 and 1929 and I gather from my hon. and gallant Friend that it is a matter of the greatest possible interest to the community as a whole. During those two years, I was in receipt of communications from all parts of the country. In the South-Eastern area of England the women unanimously passed a resolution last year, urging that the Government should give time for this Measure because there is a growing feeling that this propaganda has become dangerous and should be suppressed. Members for Surrey with whom I have conferred are unanimously in favour of the Bill. My hon. Friend has referred to a speech of the President of the Board of Education. I should like to quote one other sentence from his remarks on that date:There is a constant and a conscious effort among a large section of our fellow countrymen to conduct political propaganda directly and indirectly among children.He said again on 27th January that that propaganda was quite alien to this country and invariably copied the Russian model. [Interruption.] I am not surprised that my lion and gallant Friend was interrupted and told that he was wrong. On former occasions, I have noticed that whenever one mentions anything in connection with Communist propaganda one is always wrong, because when you drive it down one hole it simply puts its head up from another. I do not propose to go into the details of the movement, because it would always be asserted from the opposite side of the House that one is wrong, but I will make a few quotations from reliable sources which may fit the propaganda in 1534 whatever guise it may arise. In the first place, there is no question that this propaganda is of Russian origin and of German origin. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Yes, of German origin. Edwin Hoernle, who was responsible for the "Manual for Leaders of children's groups," says:The struggle for the soul of the proletarian child is quite as important as the struggle for his physical wellbeing.As far as we are concerned in this country we do not fear this subversive teaching when applied to adults, but when applied to young children we know that they will readily receive such teaching as may be submitted to them by their teachers. This movement has been carefully investigated by a great number of persons, both private individuals and bodies. It was the subject of a debate in the other place on 3rd July, 1924, and on that occasion we had the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the statement that he had made very careful inquiries, that there was a real evil existing, that there were schools of extreme type, that they gave vicious teaching, that they were preaching the total breakdown of man-made sexual laws, and that they taught anti-Christian and immoral doctrine: immorality of the grossest kind, which was too foul to be quoted.
We all agree that teaching of this kind is such that no father would like his children to receive it. No parent would like such teaching to be instilled into the mind of his son or daughter. Liberty becomes a licence when such teaching is allowed. As soon as one puts one's finger upon a particular sore spot, at once the venue is changed, and if we try to fix upon that particular avenue of teaching we find that they have swept off in another direction. It is for us to see that the lives of our children are not poisoned by this kind of teaching. We have all sorts of laws for the protection of the bodies of our children, and the law ought to he quite sufficient to protect their minds. There was a paper called the "Proletariat," which was suppressed because of its immoral nature.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am accepting the bon. Member's word that it was suppressed. He is perfectly correct. It was suppressed during the period of office of the Labour Government.
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
I am very glad to hear that the Labour party are in favour of suppressing that which is immoral. Therefore, this can be no party question. The issues raised in the Bill should not be a question between hon. Members on this side and hon. Members on the other side. I am glad to know that the Labour Government had the decency to suppress that which is immoral and seditious.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Will the hon. Member grant me the same courtesy and allow me to intervene again? I want to point out that it was on the ground of immorality and not on the ground of sedition that it was suppressed.
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
I am not here to deal with immorality and sedition as necessarily connected; but I would point out that the Title of the Bill isSeditious and Blasphemous Teaching to Children Bill.There are 70 publications in this country devoted to revolutionary purposes, and they publish all sorts of doctrines.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
Will the hon. Member tell me whether those 70 publications include the Fascisti publications, or only the Communist publications?
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
I said there were 26 purely Communist. [Interruption.] I recommend hon. Members opposite to remember that those who interrupt the most have generally the weakest case. Amongst the teachings of the Communist International from which most of these publications are derived, we find this:The Communist Party must avoid fighting in the open. It must attack weak spots.1536 Therefore it must attack children, and attack religious education. It further says:We emphasise the necessity for the anti-religious education of the working class youth.The official programme for primary education, issued by the Soviet Government in 1924 says:It is important to acquaint the children with the comic nature of the religious ceremonies of their country; to lay the first mine in our struggle with these vicious, degrading and enfeebling superstitions.We in this country stand for religion. Although we may not agree in our religious views, we have religious feelings and we inculcate them in our children. I am certain that every father would strongly object to young children being approached at a tender age, secretly and by underhand means, and being told things which are subversive of decency, subversive of patriotism, and subversive of the British Empire. I have a number of publications which support the views I am expressing. They include copies of the "Young Comrade" and the "Young Worker." I will quote one or two examples to show the nature of their teaching. In the "Young Comrade" for January, 1925, I find the following:I would like to sec a Communist children section formed in every town in Britain to follow the example of the Russian workers and make it possible to he really happy and prosperous.The copy of the paper shows a picture of a procession of children in Russia, with banners. I notice that in that very happy and prosperous country the children are shown as bare-footed and bare-headed. I will let hon. Members see it if they wish to do so. There is the following statement in the "Young Worker" in December, 1926:We have not only got to support the national revolutionary struggles and fight for the break-up of the British Empire.The "Young Worker" of December, 1926, says:A revolutionary political organisation of young workers is an absolute necessity.The "Young Comrade" of August, 1926, contains the following:We regret to announce the death of Comrade Djerzhinsky, one of the great fighters in workers' history. Comrade Djerzhinsky was President of the Cheka. It was given the -name of the 'Red 1537 Terror,' at one period because when these spies were caught they were mercilessly dealt with, even sometimes sentenced to death. Comrade Djerzhinsky was not yet 50, and his death was due to overwork. Young comrades, join us in sending our sympathy to the Russian workers in this great loss.Again in August last year the "Young Comrade" said:The next war must be the last war, the battle between the bosses and the workers so as to set up the British Workers' Government and to win the land for the people. That is why the Communist Party organised Anti-war week.I am giving examples of the teaching that is being instilled into the children of this country by these methods.
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
The Communist party may be very small but they are not the less dangerous, and it is because of the danger that I am giving these quotations in order to show the kind of teaching which is being promoted by these people. In the "Young Worker" of March, 1925, there is a reference toBritish Imperialisms Bloody Role in the Colonies and to the Y.C.L. of Great Britain going along the path of Lenin.That is what these young children are taught to think and say of our Empire. On 4th March, the "Young Worker" said:The conditions are favourable for the building up of a mass children's movement and the activities of the Young Comrades League in the general strike show that an excellent start has been made.These activities are not confined to England because we find statements in some of these papers to the effect that 20,000 school children in America supported a great strike in the textile industry there, and that:The children had great fun making the banners for their big parade. The first one said. 'You bosses, you murderers,' 50 per cent. more children die in Passiac than in any other part of New Jersey. Why? Night work of the mothers kills them. Lack of food kills them. Low wages kills them. You kill them.We in England still have recollections of the late war and all that it meant to us. We celebrate Empire Day. These young children are taught this:Refuse to wear the Empire Day medals which will be given away from the British 1538 Empire Union—a vile bosses' organisation. Refuse also to sing the National Anthem or to salute the Union Jack, the emblem of suffering, low wages and slavery.People who do not like the British Empire should clear out of it. The great mass of public opinion in this country supports the Union Jack and all that the National Anthem means, and it is in favour of celebrating Empire Day. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend, who moved the Second Reading did not refer to a great many publications which it is possible to quote. I could refer to the Proletarian Book and the International. One Communist journal announces itself asthe enemy of every God and the foe of every King.There are a great number of letters in these papers. I intended to quote some of them but time is too short. These letters are supposed to be written by quite young children of 10 and 11 years of age, glorifying the revolution and everything that happens in Russia, holding up to young children what a wonderful place it is and what we should gain by a revolution in this country. It is perfectly obvious that they are not written by young children. I do not think any hon. Member could imagine that one of his children of the age of 11 or 12 would be able to discourse learnedly about the promoters of the revolution in Russia. Yet they are printed in a paper published at the price of a halfpenny and circulated widely amongst young children. The "Young Worker" says:To the Young Communist League falls the task not only of organising and leading the young workers in the struggle against the ruling class but also the task, truly a great and vitally important one, of organising the children of the working class with the avowed object of counteracting the pernicious pro-capitalist ideas that are so assiduously spread in the schools.To put that into the mouths of young children is asking too much of the credibility of hon. Members and the British public. These letters are obviously written by persons of a more mature age. The "Educational Worker" tells us in December, 1926:Those branches which took a militant stand during the general strike show a most satisfactory growth in their membership.
§ Sir P. RICHARDSON
I have given way once or twice already, and I think it would be much better if the hon. Member would Gay what he wants to say when he makes his speech. I only speak about once in three months. I find this in the Proletarian school teaching:We make our god to suit our Epoch.The Christian religion is part of the class state.The Bible is the most diabolical book ever written. It is filled with stories of outrage and horrible cruelty.Here is a hymn far little children:We the rebel children sing,Perish every court and king,We've a world to save and win,In the revolution.Then there is a "Little Comrades" prayer, which is as follows:Down with the Kings,To Hell with the capitalists,This is the kind of teaching which is being presented surreptitiously to the children of this country, and that is what we think ought to be stopped. These children will be the next generation and we do not want to breed a lot of atheists—[Interruption]. We know exactly what has happened in Russia and we know the state to which children have been reduced there. I am quite certain that I have behind me the great mass of public opinion in England when I say that every step should be taken to prevent the children of this country being exposed to teaching of such an undesirable character. In the "Young Comrade" of 1923 I find this:If we believe what they tell us in day,school about Russia, we would think that the Russians are very wicked, but we comrades know that Russia is now the finest country in the world, having overthrown the capitalist system and put in its place a Workers' Soviet Republic.The person who is responsible for this statement, I do not know whether it is a girl or a boy, professes to be 11 years of age. This is the sort of stuff that is being put before these children, and it is high time it was suppressed and made an offence for anybody to circulate such doctrines, which must have a very disastrous effect on the minds of the children. They are young, and they are told that these statements have been written by their own comrades when it is nothing of the sort. There are many hon. Members who I know desire to speak and I 1540 do not wish to carry the matter any further. I have here enough material for a very long speech. In my opinion the parents of this country have a right to expect that our schools shoud be neutral—[Interruption]—and that the teachers should give the teaching which they are paid to give. I have no quarrel with a man for holding opinions, and the opinion of hon. Members opposite of me may coincide with my ofenion of them, but that is quite a different thing to allowing in a State such as ours teaching which we know has resulted in debasing the children in Russia and which will create a class of hooligans as the citizens of this country in the years to come. We know how that state of affairs has been produced in Russia. I am certain that I have behind me the great mass of public opinion in England in demanding that measures should be taken to prevent that teaching being made in any way possible in this country.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this clay six months."
I imagine that after the diverting account of the excursions that the last speaker has made into the realms of Communist theories and other issues not concerning this Bill, we had better return to the Bill and consider what it proposes to effect. This Bill, as the Mover of the Second Reading stated, was read a Second time in 1924 in another place. The memorandum which was then issued with the Bill and which is issued with this Bill, suggests that the Bill creates no new offence, that it takes the law as it is and as it has been defined by distinguished legal authorities, and as it has been decided in various decisions by the Court. The offence of blasphemy and sedition is fully provided for already, some of us think over-provided for, by the law of the land. Whether the offence relates to children under 16, which is the point raised in this Bill, or to adults, it is possible to hale the offender before the Court, and, if his offence is proved, suitable punishments are already provided for him. The procedure now existing is well understood. It is laid down that in matters of this sort a man may have the privilege of trial by Judge and jury. It is sometimes suggested that 1541 it is difficult to institute proceedings before such Courts, but in another place Lord Parmoor suggested, in the presence of Lord Cave, who followed him and was unable to controvert him on the point, that:There is no more difficulty in bringing a case of this kind before a Judge and jury than there is in any other case which affects crime or criminals in this country.The law and the procedure as they exist fully provide for all cases of this kind. Why, then, do we need this Bill? I suggest that in the speeches to which we have listened the reason has been fully disclosed. It was well and most succinctly stated by the Duke of Atholl in the debates in another place, when he said:What we want to do is to stop those schools where Communist teaching is given and those teachers to whom it is taught.12 n.
[HON. MEMBERS "Why not?"] There is evidently agreement with that view, judging by the interjection of hon. Members opposite. But Communism as such—the Home Secretary may possibly enforce this point—is not a crime in this country. Neither is it illegal to be a Communist. It may be possible for some persons to advocate certain theories, in connection with Communism, that become criminal, and it is possible for Communists advocating certain things to he convicted as criminals, but to be a Communist and to accept Communism is not, by the present law of the land, a crime in this country. The Duke of Atholl made it perfectly plain that what he wanted is a provision which will stop processes and restrict persons who by the present law should have full freedom within the law to develop their theories and express themselves upon those theories. In order to secure this end, it is apparently felt by hon. Members opposite that the present procedure in the Courts is a hindrance, and they therefore set up what they frankly state in the memorandum to this Bill is a new procedure; indeed they say that the only change that the Bill proposes is the new procedure. The new procedure is one which will give them the opportunity to have cases of this sort tried by a bench of magistrates.
I observed that the Mover of the Second Reading suggested that it would be possible to have cases of this sort 1542 tried by a jury. I can only say that when the matter was being discussed—I am no legal expert, and I must leave this question to be decided by those who are experts—Lord Cave said in another place that the question of submission to a jury would be dealt with in the Committee stages of the Bill.
§ Captain HOLT
As a matter of fact I am given to understand by a legal authority that the end of Clause 4 was introduced in Committee in order to meet that objection.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Although there may have been an alteration in the Committee stage, I would remind hon. Members that it is usually agreed, in such difficult issues as blasphemy and sedition, where there may be so many varying opinions, that it is necessary to have the trained direction of a legal mind before any final decision in the Courts may be made. For that reason it has been held up to the present, in law and in procedure, to be best that a judge and a jury should be entrusted with the trial of cases of this sort. I admit that if questions of blasphemy arise, all citizens in the community should realise that the discussion of good and sacred things should be carried on without the use of ribald, contumelious and scurrilous language. But it is the use of such language in discussing what others feel to be good and sacred things which provides the bulwark against those people who use such language, and is most likely to defeat the acceptance of the views so badly expressed.
When I come to the question of sedition, I fully admit that there is need to go carefully in any change in law or procedure regarding that issue as long as We have such right hon. Gentlemen as the Home Secretary. We know what his attitude has been in periods of great emotion, when confronted by the possibility of a change in the law, which he found obnoxious. As long as we have such right hon. Gentlemen stating that the way to deal with such a change is to "shoot and be damned," there may be a necessity for keeping some law of sedition upon the Statute Book. Was there ever crowded into so short a phrase so much sedition and so much blasphemy If the Communists were as skilful in phraseology as the right hon. Gentle- 1543 man, and could express themselves without all that verbiage and all those cataracts of adjectives with which they terrify the children, they would be more in need of the guardianship of the law of sedition than at present. I am not saying, and I do not think anybody here would say, that we should so weaken the law of sedition, or the procedure with regard to that law, that it might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have similar outbursts in the future—in the not far distant future, when a Labour Ministry might impose legislation which to the rght hon. Gentleman would seem obnoxious.
But to pass from this general question of sedition to the particular application of it discussed in this Bill, namely, the question of teaching sedition in the schools, let us remind ourselves that the Bill aims at placing penalties upon those who promote feelings of illwill and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects. That may mean many different things, according to the many different minds brought to bear upon it. I have been a teacher in the schools, and I have taught, for example, such subjects as history, and I have tried to give to the children for whom I was responsible in a North of England school an account of Peterloo and of what Peterloo meant to their fathers and to them; and I have enabled them to get an understanding of what Peterloo meant by taking them over into English literature and teaching them the poetry of Shelley when he broke forth into that immortal verse:Rise like lions after slumber,In unvanquishable number,Ye are many—they are few.I can well imagine that certain hon. Gentlemen opposite who might feel themselves to be among "the few," could quite readily believe that my teaching in connection with that matter was seditious. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear.hear!"] I observe that hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to admit that that is so.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I would prefer to be judged upon that matter, if I am to be judged at all, by a Judge and jury. Or, 1544 in the discharge of my functions as a teacher, I might direct the minds of the children to a consideration of the law of Jubilee given in the Old Testament, whereby the land at periods of 50 years was to go back to the people as a whole. I can well understand that the owners of land in this country might regard that also as a highly seditious process [Interruption.] I see I still have the assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Or, suppose that in the most sacred moments of my relations with the children in the schools, I recited to them, and gave my meaning of that wonderful phrase—He hath put clown the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree.It could well be believed by some who might classify themselves among the "mighty" that I was making out too good a case for those "of low degree," and, as the Bill suggests, setting class against class and committing the offence with which the Bill pretends it is trying to deal. No, it is not a question of Communist Sunday schools or Socialist Sunday schools. It is the whole question of education, and the work that goes on in our ordinary schools. They can come within the aims of this Bill if it be passed. Indeed, hon. Gentlemen, by their reference to the President of the Board of Education and his speeches, have shown quite clearly that they have in mind far more the general schools of the country than these almost undiscovered Communist schools. [Interruption.] Again, I call attention to the fact that I have the assent of hon. Members opposite.
Let us face things honestly. I suppose all of us want to get into all, types of schools the teaching of what we call the truth. But truth, unfortunately for us, is nothing absolute. The best we can get is a synthesis of many varying opinions, some of which will be obnoxious to the majority, and if we are to get truth in education it is only possible if we allow a great deal of tolerance in regard to the teaching and the teacher. I see in this Bill such an attack upon the true spirit of education that, for that reason more than any other, I ask the House to reconsider the proposals that have been submitted before rushing into support of this Bill. Unfortunately it has been only too patent by the course of history since the matter was last discussed in 1545 another place, what is the real difficulty in the way of hon. Members opposite. There was a case tried in the Courts in which my hon. Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Gardner) was involved, and in which, indeed, this very charge was made, namely, that my hon. Friend had been supporting the instruction of children in blasphemous and seditious doctrines. That charge was brought against him by a friend of the hon. Gentleman opposite. [Interruption.] Yes, it was brought by one who was himself a Conservative Member of Parliament for that same Division, before my hon. Friend the present Member unseated him, and' a decision was given upon that case. The decision was come to by agreement between the parties. It was a settlement between the parties, and it was on this basis. The charges were admitted to be wholly untrue and the defendant had to apologise for having made the charges and, moreover, Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett apologised for having persisted in making them.
§ Captain HOLT
I think that referred to Socialist Sunday schools. I said nothing about Socialist Sunday schools at all.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's recollection will be put right when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT, for he referred to the foundation of these Socialist Sunday schools when he laid his case before us, and in another part of his speech said that "in passing" 40 would like to mention Communist schools. So, it was Socialist Sunday schools that he had in his mind according to the very expressions of which he made use. What happened in this case to which I am referring was really this: that the Conservative who had made the charges realised that when the case came before a judge and jury, that the sort of loose statement that had been made here this morning in the House of Commons would have no effect. He was right in withdrawing and, indeed, the judge complimented the defendant on that occasion on agreeing to a settlement without having to wait for any further decision.
The further reason I advance, besides those statements we have already heard in the House, for considering this as an 1546 attack on Socialist Sunday schools is found in the actual number of these other schools. I take the Archbishop's evidence upon this point, and he seems to have taken the greatest trouble to find how far these so-called proletarian schools exist. There are no more than 35. That was the Archbishop's evidence, and, I believe that at the present moment you would find that these schools existed only in the memory of the Communists who formerly had to with them.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. lady does not realise that children are wiser than she thinks, and that a child going once to a Communist Sunday school, listening to the adjectives and unmeaning phrases which hon. Members have been reading over to us, might go twice, but would not go more than twice. Indeed, the best safeguard against Communist teaching and the nostrums and dogmas which they desire to impart to the children, is the very nature of those nostrums and dogmas. I submit that without troubling your heads about special legislation upon this issue, the children can look after and have looked after themselves very well. I will at once admit that the Communists make the mistake that many other propagandists make of forgetting the child on account of their preoccupation with their theories. Indeed, I have evidence of it here in a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a conference of headmasters this year, in which he said it was not unusual to find that the clergy had conveyed somehow the impression that they were less interested in making the children docile members than in ensuring that they were well educated children. The mistake which the clergy have made is, I admit a mistake which others who are interested in certain theories often make with regard to children.
What we require with the children of to-day is a greater respect for the child and a greater willingness to leave to the child opportunities of judging upon the things that confront us. As I see the aim of education, it is to secure not only that synthesis of truth which I referred to just now, but a synthesis of the individual and of the social, a synthesis which enables the child to lose his life 1547 in order to find it in the life of the wider community. If you are to enable the child to accomplish such a great aim, you have to give to that child the hope of a better community, and the belief that such a community shall be. You will be driven stage by stage, in the realm of education, more and more to getting into the child's mind an understanding of its duty, not to this community alone, but to the better community that yet shall be—and that shall come about as a result of the child's activities. It is for these reasons that Socialists have founded their Socialist Sunday schools. They are faced with the same sort of difficulties that those working in the field of public education are faced with. The children in some cases are the children of Rationalists; in other cases of people who hold all sorts of religious beliefs. So the Socialist does not try to teach religious dogma, but he tries to get into the child mind an understanding of the great duty that the child owes to the community, and a belief that the community is going to be a vastly better place than it is to-day.
The Socialist commandments which were read in another place, were all designed for that purpose. I shall be present in a Socialist Sunday school in my constituency in the coming week-end, in which little children will recite those Socialist commandments, or precepts as they are called, with the hope that they in their day may take part in moulding this better community which we want to see. If Bills of this sort are to be introduced, with all the suspicion that engender and all the misunderstanding which they create, you will cripple the work in those schools. Indeed, as I have already suggested, hon. Members opposite intend to cripple the work of these schools, and I submit they will go further as a result of this Bill, and they will cripple the work of thousands of teachers in the day-schools who may not be professed Socialists but whose ideals are as great as ours, whose desires for the greater community are as good as ours, and who expect that in their literature and history lessons they may have that freedom given to them which will enable them to make of the youth of to-day the citizens of the great State 1548 yet to be. I appeal, for these reasons, to hon. Member to reconsider this Bill carefully.
§ Mr. BARR
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not need to assure the House that all my life I have been seeking to promote reverence for the highest things and Christian devotion, and that I am seeking in my humble way to see set up in this country a better social order in which there will be such universal content that there shall no longer be any breathings of sedition anywhere. If I might put it in the words of the greatest of my countrymen, my attitude to this whole subject of reverence, sedition and blasphemy is expressed in the beautiful words of "An Epistle to a Young Friend—"The great Creator to revere,Must sure become the creature;But still the preaching cant forbear,And ev'n the rigid feature:Yet ne'er with wits profane to range,Be complaisance extended;An Atheist-laughs's a poor exchangeFor Deity offendedAnd so with my colleagues on this side of the House. We are as much repulsed by certain of the statements that were read as anyone on the other side of The House could possibly be, and so keenly do we feel on it that, for my part, if I thought that you could suppress it, by violent means, by fins and imprisonment, and if I thought it was legitimate so to interfere, I might reconsider my position; but I have the strongest conviction that by measures of that kind, you only advertise the blasphemy. You only give a sense of Martyrdom. You draw sympathisers to the side of the man who is brought into Court. We have had a wide range of selections from many documents, but some of these proletarian and other books from which quotations have been made have never been used in this country at all. I hold in my hand here "The Unionist Workers' Hand-Book, No. 21. Socialist and other Sunday-schools." it refers in particular to the "Red Catechism." That Catechism was much spoken of in Glasgow. Extracts were given from it from many pulpits, and it was used in many pulpits against the return of Labour members to the municipal council of Glasgow in the year 1920. But, as is brought out by the 1549 admission of the Unionist party itself, when the matter was investigated, the nearest place they could find where that book was used was in the city of Chicago. The Handbook itself makes this candid admission:There is no evidence that it is in use at the present time.We now come to what are called the proletariat Sunday-schools. A good deal of reference has been made to the name of Tom Anderson. I wish to say to begin with that Tom Anderson has no connection whatsoever with the Labour party, and, if hon. Gentlemen will read their own pamphlet, on page 24, they will find there that Tom Anderson says that he would be ashamed to be labelled a Socialist. I should just like to say that when the Mover spoke of blasphemy and how it was resented, he spoke with a certain unctuous rectitude as if we did not share that objection. But the "Daily Mail" appointed an investigator to go down to Glasgow, the metropolis of all this sedition and this blasphemy, and you get the report of their commissioner in the "Daily Mail" of 20th October, 1924. He had an interview with the famous Tom Anderson, who professed that, in this big city of Glasgow with 1,250,000 inhabitants, he had 200 children in his three schools and 50 adults. The "Daily Mail" commissioner wished to give something more spectacular, and so he visited the principal school of Tom Anderson. What did he find? In the principal school of Tom Anderson in the City of Glasgow, according to the "Daily Mail" and the Unionist Handbook, he found 20 teacherless children sitting there waiting for a teacher. If anything further is needed, I can give the summary from the Unionist Handbook itself:There is no evidence at present that the movement possesses much inherent strength, or that it has spread very far.The Mover, or perhaps the Seconder, gave a quotation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. I should imagine that the Archbishop of York would give a very fair answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and at the Annual Conference of the Sunday School Council at York, on 1st May, 1923, the Archbishop of York said this:All the evidence that was to be procured showed that at present schools of a 1550 character Which were really subversive of religion and of society were of a negligible quantity.He goes on to say:The hymns and literature came entirely from the City of Glasgow, and the effective influence of these schools was practically limited to that city.Evidently, the Archbishop of York does not read the "Daily Mail," and he did not know anything about the 20 teacher-less children in the largest proletariat school in the great metropolis of sedition and infidelity. I would ask hon. Members opposite and those in charge of the Bill kindly to allow me to read the words of the Archbishop of York, which are exactly apposite to the Bill. He summed up by saying:Any public campaign against such schools would be a mistake, since it would advertise them and give them an importance Which they do not possess.It is admitted that there are no figures to be had with regard to the Communist schools, but anything that I have said as to the numbers and influence of the proletariat schools may be quite rightly applied to the Communist schools. That brings me to the Socialist Sunday-schools. So far as I know, there are 110 of these schools, with 6,000 children, 1,000 senior scholars, and 1,500 adults. I think it is imperative that we should call attention to the teaching in these schools, because hon. Gentlemen have by suggestion and insinuation in a way mixed the two up, just as the Unionist Handbook does when it speaks of "Socialist and other Sunday-schools." I would crave leave to read what is repeated by the children every day as the leading principle in these schools:We desire to be just and loving to all our fellow men and women, to work together as brothers and sisters, to be kind to every living creature, and so to help to form a new society founded on righteousness, with love as its law.Reference was made to the ten precepts. I would challenge any subsequent speaker to indicate any single one of these ten precepts that is unworthy or obnoxious in any degree. Is it the third of them?Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.Is it the seventh of them?
§ Mr. BARR
I have them all, and will read them. I meant to repeat them from memory, but to be strictly accurate I will read them, and only make one or two comments. I hope that this will not be deducted from my time:
- "1. Love your schoolfellows, who will be your fellow-workmen in life.
- 2. Love learning, which is the food of the mind; be as grateful to your teacher as to your parents.
- 3. Make every day holy by good and Useful deeds and kindly actions.
- 4. Honour the good; be courteous to all; bow down to none.
- 5. Do not hate or speak evil of anyone. Do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights and resist oppression.
- 6. Do not be cowardly. Be a friend to the weak, and love justice." I know the seventh is not quite so acceptable:
- "7. Remember that all the good things of the earth are produced by labour. Whoever enjoys them without working for them, is stealing the bread of the workers," I grant it is double-edged, hut the sharper edge is towards that side of the House.
- "8. Observe and think in order to discover the truth. Do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourself or others.
- 9. Do not think that those who love their own country must bate and despise other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism." On that I only comment that if that is sedition and blasphemy, I have been preaching sedition and blasphemy all my life.
- "10. Look forward to the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one fatherland, and live together as brothers and sisters in peace and righteousness."I should refer not only to these precepts but to the general atmosphere and tone of these schools. In Glasgow we have a distinguished clergyman, Dr. Maokintosh McKay, who has taken great interest in the training of young people, and is naturally very sensitive lest the religious element should not get prominence in all schools dealing with young people. He is very critical, I say frankly, of Socialist Sunday Schools, but this is what he says:From an ethical point of view the teaching of the Socialist Sunday School is unexceptionable. The spirit of love to all 1552 mankind is set in the forefront of the creed, and the hymns, which are set to music, are often of high poetic value.Barnet Church Parochial Council made a visit to certain of these schools, and, this is what they report:The lessons given are of a high moral character.My hon. Friend referred to a case concerning these schools which came into Court. I crave the indulgence of the House to read what was said on that case by the "Christian World" of 29th October, 1925; the "Christian World' being a paper that stands as guardian of the Nonconformist conscience and is keenly eager to discover traces of anything unworthy in those schools:Anti-Socialist propaganda is very awkward when it leads to members of the 'gentlemanly party' having to apologise to Socialists in open Court.They add:This 'Socialist Sunday Schools' outcry has proved altogether a very unsatisfactory line of attack. Blood-curdling stories were accepted without any real attempt at their verification, and the result is that anti-Socialist propaganda has received a very nasty jar.The hon. Gentleman who seconded referred to certain cases in which non-compliance with the observance of Empire Day was counselled. I am as keen a patriot as anybody, and as proud of our great institutions as anyone in this House, but I say frankly that as a member of the School Board of Glasgow for 11 years I resisted every year our taking part in the flamboyant excesses of Empire Day as practised in the schools. Reference was made by my hon. Friend to these words with which Shelley closes one of his great poems:Rise like lions after slumberIn unvanquisnable number,Shake your chains to earth like dewWhich in sleep had fallen on you.Ye are many, they are few.The hon. Member for the Penrith Division of Cumberland (Mr. Dixey) added his tribute that that poem was high sedition. I thought his knowledge of literature was greater than that, because anyone who has read the poem knows it is the greatest pacifist manifesto that was ever issued.
§ Mr. BARR
I do not think a full knowledge of the poem would have led one to say it was "highly probable." I come now to what I call the central part of the question. There is no doubt that an attempt was made in this book issued by the Unionist Offices to identify the Socialist schools with, to mix them up in some way with, the Proletarian schools. They say they may owe their origin to the same founder. They say that Tom Anderson has written both on Socialist Sunday schools and Proletarian schools, and therefore the two are likely to be identical. They say the same hymns appear in the Communist hymnbooks and in the Socialist Sunday school hymnbooks, but the same hymns appear in the Church hymnals, and surely you are not going to bring in the Church as if that were guilty of sedition and blasphemy? I wish to repudiate the effort that was made here, by insinuation and by statement, by the Seconder, if not by the Mover, somehow to work in these schools together. I want to show from the Communist side what is their attitude to the Socialist Sunday schools. The "Young Worker," to which frequent reference was made, said in August, 1922:The Communist rejects the Socialist Sunday School method as totally inadequate. By accepting the authoritarian basis, they merely reinforce the slave mentality of their pupils.The "Young Communist" of July, 1923, said:The proletarian child has had a rough time in the past. Imperialism has been caned into him by the State schools, superstition preached at him by the parson and sunday school teacher, and milk and water loving kindness by the sentimental old ladies of the Socialist Sunday School.The "Workers' Weekly" of the 7th March, 1924, reporting the First National Conference of leaders of the Communist Children's Sections, and defining their attitude, says:The nature of the Socialist Sunday School movement was generally recognised to be something apart from and outside the class struggle. Having regard to the reactionary nature of this movement, it was considered a waste of time to attempt to get our members inside to any considerable extent.I think that is a justification of the real constitutional nature of the Socialist Sunday schools.
Behind all this there is an attempt to label this party as in some remote way or another connected with sedition and 1554 blasphemy. That attempt is distinctly made in this book issued by the Unionists. They speak of poisoning the minds of youths with Socialist and anti-religious doctrine. [interruption.] As the hon. Lady for Berwick-on-Tweed (Mrs. Philipson) approves of that conjunction, I want to say that the effort made by hon. Members opposite to mix up this party in this, as if it has a nonreligious or anti-religious bias, must fail. It will fail this afternoon, and the failure will echo throughout the land. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown) goes down every weekend to his home to take a Sunday school and to work among the young people in his own church. There are more lay preachers of the Gospel on this side Of the House than in all the other parties in the House put together, and many of us sit on this side of the House because we see in our association with this party a way of exemplifying and applying the great truths of the Christian religion. As John Bright declared, it isPutting Holy Writ into an Act of Parliament.But why should I go back to John Bright I Our great leader James Keir Hardie said that it was Christianity that had brought him into the Labour movement, and Christianity that kept him in it. He said that what was to be seen around to-day was a caricature of Christianity, and a blasphemous outrage on Christianity. He said:With Christianity as a ruling force, there would be neither armies nor navies, there would be neither poverty nor riches, there would be neither slums nor palaces, there would be no competitive system of production for profit whereby the rich are able to grind the poor; there should be Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, with Love for the binding law.I think the real solution of this question is in the hands of the churches themselves. Surely this is a call to them to reorganise their Sunday schools. In the Church of Scotland itself there are 195,000 children under instruction in Sunday schools, and in my own Church, the United Free Church, there are 198,000 under instruction, while in England itself there are 4,492,000 children under instruction in Sunday schools. Surely that is a gigantic disproportion contrasted with these 20 teacherless children sitting in Glasgow. Let them reorganise their schools and apply their principles to 1555 public as well as private life, and then they will have a great future before them. The Society of Friends, itself a small but a most potent body, has 15,000 children under its instruction; therefore there is the gigantic disproportion which we have heard of this afternoon? In Clause 2 of the Bill in paragraph (c) the following words appear:to promote feelings of and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects.I refer to that only to say that at the close of my election campaign in Motherwell two questions were put to me which I think are vital to the subject under discussion, and to its larger bearings. I gave my answer on the spur of the moment. The first question was, "Can you serve God and Mammon?" My answer was that in the previous year I found that 17 persons in this country had left wealth amounting to £41,696,000, and I said that that seemed to be serving Mammon, and I thought I could serve God by seeking to bring such a system to an end. The next question was, "Do you really believe in God and immortality?" My answer was, "I believe in God, and I want to make our social relationships such that they shall no longer be a stumbling block to faith in an all-bountiful, all-just, all-loving Heavenly Father." As for immortality, I said, "I believe in the Heaven yonder, and that is why I want to make this earth more of an avenue leading up to it;" and, I added, "the best way to strengthen faith in the Heaven yonder is to bring a little more of Heaven into the life of the people here."
§ Mr. FERGUS GRAHAM
There has come into my hands a letter from the National Council of British Socialist Sunday Schools which, with the indulgence of the House, I would like to read. Its headlines show how very widely these schools are spread all over the country, and there are secretaries whose names are mentioned in Lancashire, Bradford, Leicester, Lanark, London, Halifax, Ayrshire and Gateshead-on-Tyne. The letter deals with this particular Bill and it is headed "Seditious Teaching Bill," and it is dated 5th March, 1927. The letter is as follows:DEAR COMRADE,As you will be aware the above Bill is to be introduced on 11th March. Know- 1556 ing your interest in our movement I am taking the liberty of asking you to make a special endeavour to be in the House on that occasion and, if necessary, stating our position. I recognise that the Bill, as drafted, would not make our schools illegal, but, as we are the only organisation of any considerable size dealing with the Socialist education of children, we feel that it is our organisation that is aimed at eventually.It is probable that some wild statements will be made by the supporters of the Bill and quotations given from all kinds of curious sources. I have never been able to trace some of them. Our Constitution lays it down quite clearly that only literature published by our National Council can be accepted as an expression of the National Movement. A challenge as to the source from which the quotations are made is generally sufficient to discomfort the opposition.The only charge, among those generally aimed at us, that has any foundation is one to the effect that Councillor Chandler, speaking at a meeting of our London Council, said, Our Socialist movement is not opposed to religion, neither are we supporting it; we are merely cutting it out. Our Socialist movement is greater than any religion; its ideals are greater than Christ, or greater even than God, and we want to bring about a universal brotherhood.'This was a distinct breach of our Constitution; and was only an expression of personal opinion. The Capitalist Press naturally, made the most of it and refused later to print a statement made by our National President (Mrs. McNab Shaw) at our National Conference in which she outlined our attitude to Theology. Our Constitution and general literature distinctly points out that our teaching is non-theological, paying exclusive attention to the present life and its duties. That is we are neither anti nor pro so far as Theology is concerned.I enclose a copy of a Speaker's Note issued by the I.L.P. Information Committee and several leaflets. If there is any point you would like to have further information upon, or if you can suggest anything that might be done to strengthen the opposition to the Bill, I should be glad to hear from you.Best Wishes,Yours in Comradeship.I have read that letter in full in order that I shall not in any way be accused of having twisted its contents, but I do contend that Councillor Chandler has only dotted the "I' s" and crossed the "t' s" of the teaching he had received from early childhood. Why are Socialists in such a hurry and why are they so anxious to push their doctrines into babies with their first bottle? Surely he who is not with us is against us. It seems only natural that Councillor Chandler's views being based on this 1557 education, should be non-theological and neither anti nor pro so far as theology is concerned. Councillor Chandler states merely what it means. Yet there are very many hon. Members on the other side of the House who do agree that the Christian faith must be the first answer of all others to a child's question of why and how, and that politics deal only with the greatest good for the greatest number in controversial matters and that politics therefore must be a subject for elder years.
The first and simplest answer surely must be Christianity plain and simple. It is rather carrying it beyond the pale to suggest, what appears to be a Socialist belief, that unanimity must carry security, that if the whole of a ship's crew voted the course to take, then unanimity would guarantee the safety of the ship. If religion and the unbiased teaching of Christianity be done away with, what is to take the place of discipline? Discipline, unless it is enforced by tyranny, is surely enforced by the knowledge of right and wrong. The only alternative that Socialism would appear to offer is tyranny. There is a little book published by a young man called "Poverty Lane" in which he has shown that a young man who in very early years embraced the Communist doctrine found, as time went on, that he had extreme difficulty in restraining in any way the mob whose passions he had roused. He decided he would embrace any form of politics rather than the one fie had taken because he could not overcome mob law. Surely, in answer to the last speaker, the spirit that we want to inculcate and must have among the children of this country is the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. It is essential to our ountry that the teaching of political creeds in childhood should be avoided and that we should hand down to future generations, untarnished by political views, an unbiased Christian foundation on which we may surely rebuild our national character.
§ Sir SLESSER
I am sure the whole House will wish me to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, I understand, for the first time, not only on the manner in which he presented his case, but also for the conspicuous fairness with which he quoted a letter that seemed to me to prove our 1558 case entirely. I have risen chiefly to try to elucidate what this Bill is really intended to do. I do not expect hon. Members opposite below the Gangway who—if I might say so without offence—have rigid minds quite uncharacteristic of the normal English view, who, are dogmatic, narrow, and suspicious—I do not hope that just that small number of Members are likely to be able to look at this Bill as a Measure and examine quite calmly what it intends to do. Accordingly, my remarks will be largely addressed to the Home Secretary. Over and over again it has been his faithful duty to curb and correct the absurdities of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. He is not concerned, as they are, merely to make political points or hang political speeches on dummy Bills. We know that the real object of all this Debate, and of the Bill, is to suggest to the public outside that hon. Members opposite are loyal and religious, and that we on this side of the House are disloyal and blasphemous. This is being carried on by a certain section of the Conservative party, represented peculiarly by hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, who try to prejudice all questions by dragging in the question of religion and loyalty in order that they may escape from the criticism they would otherwise have to meet for their incompetent administration. Confusion has been deliberately made between Communists, Socialists and Labour, and the whole atmosphere has, been directed to that end. This very Bill itself, in dealing with two entirely different questions, is itself calculated to confuse the public mind and make the public believe that people who have unpopular opinions are necessarily seditious and blasphemous, and that sedition and blasphemy must be one and the same things. Can the Home Secretary really find it in his mind, as a responsible Minister, to encourage a Bill of this sort? If such a Bill were needed, it ought to be brought in by the Government. This is not a Bill that should be brought in by the sort of speeches about Communism and Sunday schools and all the loose talk we have heard from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to-day. If there is any such menace as they have described it is really the duty of the 1559 Government to bring forward a Measure, and the right hon. Gentleman would give us reasons very different from those we have had to listen to from the Mover and Seconder, The whole thing is a piece of political propaganda. This sort of Bill has been put before us before.
Let us look at the actual law. This Bill proposes to alter the law relating to sedition and blasphemy. The Memorandum says that the Bill creates no new offence and that the change made is one of procedure only. That is intelligent, but the change of procedure was the introduction of summary jurisdiction in the place of trial by jury. It was put to the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Second Reading that the right to a jury was not allowed under the Bill, but he said, and I think he said correctly, that by applying the Act of 1879 the defendant was enabled to apply for a jury. If that be so, what comes of the statement that this Bill is a change of procedure? There is not only no change of substance but there is no change of procedure. The alteration of the procedure is that you do away with the right to a jury. Therefore, on the hon. and gallant Member's own confession, the Bill is a complete nullity. But I do not agree that this Bill is a nullity. I think it makes very considerable alterations in the law and certainly in the practice of the law.
Take blasphemy. The present law of blasphemy has developed into this, that the Courts have really come to look upon blasphemy in terms of possible breaches of the peace. In the case decided in the House of Lords, we were told that the Christian religion was no longer the law of the land, and that a man might, without contravening the law, leave his whole estate for the purpose of it being used to promote Secularism, and, I suppose, injure the foundations and creed of the Christian religion. I do not approve of that, and I am merely stating the law. Therefore, the promotion of the Christian religion is no longer the law of the land, and for years no convictions have been made for blasphemy on the ground that it led to agnosticism or atheism, and convictions have only been made on the ground that blasphemy tended to provoke a breach of the peace. This Bill reintroduces blasphemy quite irrespective of breaches of the peace, and 1560 the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Second Reading must be held responsible for the Memorandum which says that this Bill only applies to the teaching of children. This, of course, is not the case, because Clause 1, paragraph (b), says:Any person who prints, publishes, sells, distributes, or has in his possession for sale or distribution, any document containing seditious or blasphemous matter for the purpose or with the intention of its being used for teaching such children.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I am glad that the hon. Lady agrees with me. Perhaps she will agree with me when I say that if any such document as is here mentioned gets into the possession of any child, that constitutes an offence under this Bill.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
Therefore, it is not correct to state, as does the Memorandum attached to this Bill, that this Bill is limited to the prevention of "the perversion of the minds of children under 16 years of age." Since no-one can tell the destination of such literature, any person having in his possession such literature will be guilty of an offence, and all blasphemous writing would therefore be illegal. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Bill says that any person whoprints, publishes, sells, distributes or has in his possession any document containing seditious or blasphemous matter for the purpose or with the intention of its being used for teaching such children.Can any person having in his possession such a document show that it was not intended to be used for teaching children? Anyone who has blasphemous matter in his possession, or seeks to publish it, may be considered to have that intention if it is anything a child can understand. The effect; therefore is to restore the old law regarding blasphemy, apart altogether from breaches of the peace, and the mere possession of literature disagreeing with certain religious views would again become a criminal offence. That being so, it is utterly incorrect to say that this Measure does not alter the law.
Again, with regard to sedition, this Bill alters the law. The definition given in Clause 2 as constituting seditious matter is not now advanced at all. A good many years ago, in the case of King v. Sutherland, I think, a judge laid down the type of things which might be seditious, and 1561 stated that whether there is a seditious intention or not varies according to the circumstances. The law has always abstained from any definition of sedition, and from putting it in a Statute, because immediately you did that, whenever a situation arose which caused feelings between one class and another—for instance, Lord Hunsdon in the recent mining dispute said the miners ought to be treated like the Germans—you would get cases of sedition up and down the country. Therefore, this Bill is calculated to promote the very thing it is intended to avoid, by encouraging trials for sedition and by encouraging a general feeling of suspicion. You will be doing everything you can to create ill-will, hostility and danger in the State. Do not imagine that this Bill will only be used against the Communists, or even against the Labour men. We have not forgotten, and do not intend to forget, although Members opposite take the matter very lightly, that there is only one party in this House in the last century which has openly practised and talked sedition, and that is the Conservative party. Over and over again, we shall not fail to point out that the whole attitude of some of the most prominent leaders of the present Conservative party during the Ulster Rebellion was steeped in sedition of every kind. I do not say it was wise or unwise to prosecute them, but do not let the pot call the kettle black in this particular matter. As a right hon. Member opposite said in another case:Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes.Let us consider what is the value of Bills such as this one, the unctuousness of them, as an hon. Member has suggested —this righteousness on the other side, and unrighteousness here. If there are atheists and agnostics in the Labour party, there are plenty in the Conservative party. If there are people on this side who are seditious, there are plenty of Conservatives who practised sedition just before the War. Whereas most Communists have only talked it, hon. Members opposite have actually practised it, and trained irregular armies in Ulster to fight the Crown. So let us call a truce in this matter, and let us not make false points against each other.
I would, in conclusion, ask the House to bear in Mind that the present law can deal with seditious libel, seditious conspiracy, and, in proper cases, 1562 blasphemy, and that this Measure which is described as not altering the law, would alter the law in a way that would in no tense mitigate either blasphemy or sedition. This Bill is ill-advised, and the sort of Measure we are used to getting on a Friday. I have no doubt the Home Secretary will tell his friends, as he does so often, that though their intentions are admirable, their methods are very imperfect.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
No doubt the legal points raised by the lion, and learned Gentleman will be dealt with by speakers more qualified than I am, but I should like to join issue with him on two points he has raised. One is, that the object of this Bill is political propaganda. The origin of this Bill is in public opinion in this country, especially amongst the mothers of the country, who desire to preserve their children from contamination by Communist teaching. The second point on which I want to join issue with the hon. and learned Member is that the action of Conservative leaders in the matter of Ulster was seditious. It is not common sense. The object of the Conservative leaders who supported the action of Ulster was the preservation of the State. It was the maintenance of that principle which caused the Civil War in America, and that principle won in that great contest.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, did not some leaders at that time urge certain troops not to obey the orders of the Crown?
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
And I am glad they did. [Interruption.] The result was that, as I believe, Ulster saved the Empire at that time. To pass from that subject, the object of this Bill is not, political propaganda; it is to deal with a menace which is not of very large dimensions at the present moment, but which may grow. There is a great deal in common between hon. Members opposite and ourselves in this matter. Do hon. Members opposite approve of Communism? There is no answer.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I am glad to hear that answer. A large number of hon. Members opposite are trade union leaders, and trade unions have been obliged to acknowledge the danger of 1563 Communism. By passing sentences of excommunication on Communists within their ranks, they have acknowledged the dangers of Communism. We in this Bill seek a remedy against the efforts of Communists to corrupt our young people. It is the avowed object of Communism throughout the world to get hold of the young people, and I need not add further evidence to that which has already been given of the foulness of Communistic literature. A very clever attempt has been made on the part of speakers opposite, especially the Mover of the Amendment, to twist this Measure into an attack upon the freedom of teaching in our schools. It is nothing of the kind. We regret that there should be Socialist schools, but as long as private individuals—and I lay stress on the words "private individuals"—teach doctrines in a constitutional manner, they are perfectly free to do so under our present Constitution. We regret that there should be Socialist schools in the country, because we believe that Socialism would eventually lead to chaos; but what we aim at in this Bill is to prevent Communist miscreants from corrupting our young people. Let us be quite clear about this. We do not attack freedom of teaching; we do not attack schools kept by private individuals who teach in a constitutional way.
I regret the necessity for this Bill. I hope the Government will take it up and put it through, because it is an effectual, as I think, and summary method of dealing with a small band of miscreants. The line taken by speakers opposite, and approved by the applause we have heard is that the evil—they acknowledge the evil—is so small that it can be neglected. But by their previous action in dealing with Communism they have recognised that the evil is very great. They might as well say that only a small number of people deal in cocaine, and, therefore, we need not take any measures to prevent the sale of cocaine. I believe this Measure will do some good, but the real antidote to such corruption as is going on to a small extent amongst our children is to be found in the great system of elementary schools in the country. I believe that the great body of elementary teachers are true to their trust, that they do not take advantage of the position in 1564 which thy are placed to spread their own political beliefs. I appeal to any teacher who really cares for his calling to support the view that it is a crime against the child for him, or any teacher, to take advantage of his position as a teacher to try to force the young mind into his own particular groove.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
That is exactly what I say is not happening at present. The great body of teachers are true to their trust and are not taking advantage of their position, and I object strongly to the effort that was made by the Mover of the rejection of the Bill to represent that we are accusing some of the teachers of this.
§ Mr. HUDSON
It was the Seconder of the Bill who raised the issue of many quotations regarding popular education, and I replied to the Seconder, who brought in this question of untrustworthiness of teachers in the public schools.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Would the hon. Member be surprised to know that when I was a boy in a Church school I used to receive dictation from a Conservative schoolmaster who used to give us the speeches of Lord Disraeli. I was taught Conservatism by a Church schoolmaster, and you see the result.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
No doubt the teacher dictated passages from Disraeli as specimens of very excellent literature and I regret that the hon. Member did not take advantage of the teaching he received. But whether he is Conservative or Socialist, I deprecate any attempt on the part of any teacher to take advantage of his position. I repeat my firm belief that the great body of teachers do not take such advantage and that the chief antidote to the evil we are considering is the Bible teaching that is so well carried out in the elementary schools. That first half hour in the morning is employed to the best advantage by a body of keen, eager, teachers, and I take this opportunity of paying my tribute to them. Another antidote is the encouragement of such organisations as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. [An HON. MEMBER: 'And the Imps!"] That is a totally different organisation. The code 1565 of the Boy Scouts is one that every right-minded person must agree with. They are taught discipline which is so necessary nowadays. They are taught loyalty and reverence and patriotism. We believe in patriotism and not in a half-baked internationalism. We must be good nationalists before we are internationalists. They are taught to do good to their fellow creatures, they and the sister organisation. I believe the name of Baden-Powell will pass into history side by side with the names of Shaftesbury and Wilberforce and other benefactors of humanity. We need to encourage such agencies as these. We need the provision of playing fields for the children generally. That I look upon as essential. These are the best antidotes against this poison which a small number of people are trying to instill into the minds of our young people. The attempt will fail. I do not believe the common sense and right feeling of this country will ever allow it to succeed. The attempt has already failed in Russia. The Soviet Government endeavoured to banish the ikons from the homes of the peasants, but the ikons have come back. Here in this country, in spite of a great deal of loose talk, national common sense and reverence for what ought to be reverenced—religion—will never permit the principles, the theories, the corrupting ideas of Bolshevism to take root amongst us.
I was very sorry to hear the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) speak of the flamboyant celebration of Empire Day. What is the Empire? The greatest organisation for good that has ever been seen in this world, with possibilities for the good of the workers which are unlimited. People talk about the flag. Why do we reverence and love the flag? because it is the symbol of a struggle of a thousand years for freedom and justice and progress. The children of the American schools are taught every day to salute the flag. Do hon. Members opposite object to that? We do not do that. The reverence for the flag is instinctive. But we resent and resist with all the power we have any attempt to belittle or to despise that flag. There is no attack in this Bill on freedom of teaching. We believe teaching should be free. I remember during the War being present at an interview with a secondary 1566 school teacher who was instilling into the children the principles of pacifism, that it was the duty of the country to submit when we were engaged in a desperate struggle for the freedom of humanity. In the course of the interview one of the Governors asked him, "If you saw your wife being ill-treated by a German, what would you do?" He said, "In that case I am afraid my impulses would get the better of my principles," and we thought the better of him for it. There the impulses were good and the principles were bad. Here we want to encourage the good principles and to suppress the bad influences. I regret the necessity of this Bill, but I think it will meet a growing evil, and I hope the Government will look upon it favourably and help it to become law.
§ Mr. SNELL
It appears to me that hon. Members opposite are not en rapport with the arguments which have been advanced against their Bill. The careful listener will note that in the later speeches the argument has shifted away from these dreadful Communist Sunday schools and refuge has been taken in the general schools of the community. Now the idea is to save the whole of the children of the community from something that may happen to them at the hands of injudicious teachers in the public educational service. The only thing that we on this side need to urge in answer to that criticism is that the teachers, whatever class or political party they belong to, are the trusted servants of the country, and the one thing the House of Commons can do to be useful in such a matter, as well as the country as a whole, is to trust the teacher, and if the teacher is trusted he will not betray his trust. He will not use his opportunity as a teacher to thrust views upon the children which the nation does not expect him to teach, except, of course, in so far as it is always immensely difficult to teach a historical point or a point of literature without almost unconsciously giving a certain bias. Having said that I would desire a personal word on the contribution I desire to make to the Debate. I have never in my life approved of Communism for a moment, or of any other organisation which has force as its basis. I have never in my life said a word in favour of the use of force, and so long 1567 as I keep my sanity I hope I never shall. If it happened that anyone were punished and imprisoned for attacking any doctrine of mine, I think I would myself be unlawful enough to try to pull down the prison with my own hands. It would be a dreadful thing to feel that one's own inner convictions were being defended by the arm of the law against criticism which could be made against them. I believe the right way to treat things of this kind is to give them full play and let truth and error grapple, and then in the end truth will be the victor.
This Bill, in my judgment, is almost entirely provocative. It is meant not a useful contribution to the solution of a very small problem, but as a political manifesto, an attempt to goad us on this side into angry recrimination, an attempt to make out that there is a vast danger with which we on these benches are associated. The other night a charge was made against hon. Members opposite by one of their own number that they had no industrial psychology. I am not competent to judge of that, but I am sure they have no political psychology, for they are engaged in doing something which will not in the least give them what they desire. The Bill is not only unjust in itself, but is futile, because it does not suppress, it does not give them what they want. Let me give a little illustration as to our own experience. I have been a member of the Socialist party ever since it more or less started, at any rate ever since I became capable of judging between right and wrong. At the beginning of our campaign we were a few people. We struggled to get a hearing. We were almost like voices crying in the wilderness. Then we began to be stopped by the police and the laws. Detectives visited our meetings, felt that we were mighty people, and that stimulated us in an extraordinary degree. What hon. Members opposite are doing is founding Communist Sunday schools, and not destroying them. Leave them alone and they will die, but persecute them, give them attention, give them a sense of importance, and they will multiply. This Debate will be read by those who are concerned with Communist Sunday schools, and it will give to them a new 1568 lease of life and give us on this side further embarrassment, which is the main desire of the party opposite. Why do not hon. Members opposite leave the thing alone? Let it take its chance, and if it takes its chance it will pass away without very much notice being taken of it.
On the general question, I maintain that the Bill is a piece of futility. It is futile because you cannot suppress an opinion. You can, as the hon. Member who seconded the Bill declare, drive it down one hole, but it will come up through another hole. That is the whole trouble. If you could suppress it, it might be wrong to do it, but since you cannot suppress it, to attempt to do so is futile and merely provocative. Many men are not able to control their own opinions. We have daily witness of that in this House. How, then, shall we control other people's opinions? How can we say what is right for another person to say or to teach? This Bill, in Clause 1, would make it an offence to teach sedition or blasphemy. Who is to judge as to what is blasphemy? We are not able in this country to define exactly what religion is. How, then, shall we define what irreligion is?
§ Mr. SNELL
One hon. Member says he knows what religion is. The authorities in this country connected with religious organisations would be very glad to hear from him, because they cannot find out for themselves. We are now entering upon a first-class struggle as to the meaning of the Prayer Book. There is going to be a long series of ecclesiastical disputes as to the meaning of the Prayer Book. Once we enter into a field of that kind, there will be no end of the difficulties that we shall have to encounter. So far as I have read history, it appears that disbelief of any creedal chestnut is a blasphemous thing to those who hold the old point of view. To hold a pointed objection to Capitalism is, in the mind of the capitalist a blasphemous thing. All the advances in religion and moral progress have been secured first of all because some pioneer has doubted the preceding religion or creed and sought to substitute some higher conception in its place, and that 1569 pioneer in his own age and generation has always been thought a blasphemer. It was some such blasphemer who ended His days on a criminal's cross outside Jerusalem many years ago. Let us be careful then what we attempt to do in this matter. We cannot judge what is blasphemy. We cannot decide what religion is in a sufficiently definite way to make it an offence to criticise it or to leave it in the hands of a Judge or any other person to decide whether this or that phrase is a blasphemous statement or not.
I do not want to traverse beyond the legitimate scope of this discussion, but I have noticed from what has taken place this morning that blasphemy against the child has received but very limited consideration. There are other blasphemies against children than teaching them seditious language or teaching them what is called blasphemy, but that side has received no attention from the promoters of this Bill. There are children living in slums under conditions which allow them no chance to develop to the full stature of a perfect manhood and womanhood, who are condemned and damned from their birth upwards, who are poisoned with had air and bad food, and yet this blasphemy against children receives very little attention from hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. SNELL
I have no desire to wound the feelings of hon. Members opposite. I merely say that there are other blasphemies against child life than the teaching of some of the things that have been mentioned this morning. If as much attention were given to that side of the blasphemy against children as is given to this futile little matter which we are discussing to-day, child life in this country might have reason to bless the attention which this House gave to their needs. Take the question of alcohol. Is not the immoderate use of alcohol a blasphemy against child life? How many children 1570 are brutalised and ruined and wronged by the drink interests in this country, and yet we may rely absolutely upon hon. Members opposite being on the side of the brewer every time whenever that question comes up in this House. Talk about blasphemy, it is about time we began to talk about hypocrisy! [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear!"] I am glad to have aroused the interest of hon. Members opposite, but I would warn them that there are methods of defence against attacks such as they are making on our attitude this morning.
One hon. Member said that a struggle was going on for the soul of the child. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear that that statement finds approval. That struggle is not taking place on behalf of one party only. Are not your elementary schools to-day organised in their religious teaching in the interests of a few dominant sects in this Country? [HON. MEMBERS: "No.] Yes. At least, those people who run Socialist Sunday schools pay for their teaching out of their own pockets, but the religious teaching in your elementary schools is run out of the money paid by the State, towards which those who do not believe in the religion taught may be compelled to contribute. Surely, there is no harm in a man if he thinks that he has the right view of life desiring that that view should be taught to the children, but let him pay for it, and let him teach it because he believes in it, but do not let it be organised into a State or political system.
It is to be made an offence, according to the statement of one hon. Member, that an anti-Christian attitude should be adopted in regard to teaching. Does that mean that the Jew may not teach what he thinks is right in regard to religion? There are older religions than Christianity. There are some religions that are bigger than Christianity and there are some that have very dignified ethical codes. Is it to be an offence to do honour and homage to the great teachers of religion other than those associated with the Christian religion? I think that is not what hon. Members opposite mean, but that shows the danger of beginning to play with such matters as this, involving the liberty of human conscience.
§ Captain HOLT
In the judgment upon which the Bill has been founded, it is clearly laid down by the law that blasphemy does not consist in the mere denial of the Christian religion but in the denial of the Christian religion in scurrilous and offensive terms. That is the object of the Bill. Obviously, the arguments of the hon. Member have no relevance.
§ Mr. SNELL
I will accept the correction of the hon. Member and take it as my last point. If denial is to be condemned because it is in scurrilous terms that makes it a matter of taste. Who is to be the judge of what constitutes scurrility? A man may in a momentary feeling of passion, or lack of complete education and control, utter words which do not exactly express his opinion, but which other persons may think are intended to be scurrilous, and he is to he punished for his ignorance and for a wilful offence against good taste. The right solution of this matter is to inculcate in every citizen of this country the doctrine that whilst his own opinions are sacred to himself the opinions of others also deserve to be honoured and revered, and that to commit any wilful offence against another person's sacred convictions is a wrong and unmanly thing. There is no other way of arriving at a proper solution of this problem. Milton, many years ago in his "Aeropagitica' laid it down that it was dangerous to begin to interfere with the liberty of the people in a matter of doctrine or teaching. That view holds good to-day, and this House will be doing a very serious thing if it passes legislation which may begin a new era of prosecutions for the expression of opinion.
§ Mr. LUMLEY
I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and I do so for the simplest and what seems to ire the best reason, because I think it is utterly wrong that anyone should be allowed to poison and warp the mind of a single child by teaching what may be described as sedition or blasphemy. These two things, sedition and blasphemy, undermine two characteristics—a sense of citizenship and a standard of moral conduct—which for generations past have been the foundation of our national character. They are found not in one class but in all classes, and most of all amongst the working class. It is only too true, as we have been reminded this 1572 morning by hon. Members opposite, that in the post-War years the country has been through very difficult times and it has been the hardest for the working classes to bear up cheerfully and keep their faith in their country and their religion. I believe that thousands of working men and working-class families, who have been through the hardships of unemployment, have found their greatest standby in those foundations which were implanted in their minds either by religious teaching or the tradition of treating with respect the institutions of the country. These are the supports which have been found to be the greatest standbys of the working people in times of distress, and these are the supports which some people wish to take away.
I am surprised that anyone should be found in this House opposing this Bill. It is not an attack on Socialism. It is not an attack upon sedition and blasphemy, it is rather in the nature of a restraint. The hon. Member who seconded the rejection gave us some illustrations of what is taught in Socialist schools. The instances he gave have nothing to fear from this Bill. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) who has just spoken used the argument that this was an interference with freedom. I put this to him: what sort of freedom is it that he is asking for? It is a freedom to allow children to be taught that the institutions of their country are contemptible and that religion should be mocked at. It is exactly the same kind of freedom which is demanded by those who want complete freedom to do anything they like whether it is right or wrong, to rob or kill their neighbour, it is, in fact, a freedom which anarchists desire. I know the hon. Member is not an anarchist in any way, but I nut it to him that to give full play for every kind of opinion is to allow freedom from any restraint whatever, and in dealing with children under 16 I believe that some restraint should be exercised upon what is taught to them.
He rather confused the issue. He dealt largely with the general question; as to whether people should be free to express their own opinions. This Bill does not deal with the general question, it deals with the particular question as to whether certain opinions should be taught to children under 16 years of age. The argu- 1573 ment used against the Bill is that it is not worth bothering about, that there are too few of these schools to make it worth while introducing this legislation. In my view it is not the harm which is done to the country, it is not the extent of the impression made by these doctrines. The important thing is the effect upon the individual child. It is wrong that any single child should be taught these things, and at a time when the child is quite incapable of forming a judgment on certain doctrines, which we all believe, even hon. Members opposite, are entirely wrong. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) who moved the rejection of the Measure gave us some instances of what he himself taught in the schools. He raised the question whether it is wise—this is surely a matter for high education authorities—to introduce into schools questions of social or political importance. He evidently holds one view. But I put to him the view of a very eminent authority on education, one who is very well known and respected amongst all classes in Yorkshire. As this is a Debate made up largely of quotations, I will give this quotation. This eminent educationist wrote:It, is certainly true that a child's inexperience of like makes him an unfit student of some social and political questions, not so much because he is unacquainted with the terms in which they are expressed, as because his judgments are all in black and white with no gradations of tone between them. He is like Zimri—'So over-violent or over-civilThat every man with him is Cod or Devil'.2.0 p.m.
I ask hon. Members opposite whether they think it is really wise to found great movements, which they hope will survive the experience of later life, upon the teaching of dogmas of social and political importance to young children who, to use the words of this high educational authority, are through inexperience unable to judge rightly? We hear a great deal of the struggle that is supposed to be going on between the extremists and the moderates in the Labour movement. For my part I certainly hope that the moderates will win. But I see the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) on the Front Bench opposite. There is a highly coloured periodical associated with his name. After reading that periodical it is hardly surprising that some of us are 1574 apt to mix up Socialists and Communists. When we read of the hon. Member calling upon everybody to unite, and when he says that he wants in the Socialist fold the Communists as well as bona fide Socialists, is it surprising that some of us are a little confused as to who really are the extremists and who are the moderates. This Bill is one which ought to help the moderates to stop some of the propaganda of the extremists, and I certainly hope that the moderates will support the Bill.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Before I speak on the proposals of this Bill I would like to explain where I stand on the question of blasphemy and sedition. I have no sympathy with either. Whether blasphemy or sedition is taught by Communists or Soviets or other persons, I shall take every opportunity of denouncing it and exposing it. Although I say that, I shall perhaps be prejudiced in the minds of some people by the fact that I, like others, belong to the Labour party. My personal views about blasphemy are no doubt due to the fact that I was brought up in a particularly religious atmosphere in my young days. I recognise that the youthful mind is not only receptive, but very impressionable, and likely to be influenced by doctrines which are put before it. What has surprised me to-day is the weak case that the supporters of the Bill have put up. I expected some horrible revelations. I expected that we were to be shrivelled up by a recital of facts. I could supply the Proposer of this Bill with a better case than that which he presented. I have seen some most grotesque and almost indecent publications representing what is taught to children in some parts of the country. So far as irreligion, blasphemy and sedition are concerned, if the proposal of the Bill has been to strengthen the existing law, I should very probably have been found going into the same Lobby as the Mover of the Second Reading. I have taken the trouble to read the Bill, and from one end to the other I see nothing that would make any difference to the conditions existing to-day.
The hon. Member who seconded the Motion for Second Reading made a speech that was vigorous and eloquent. He read a letter from a Socialist secre- 1575 tary to a Councillor Chandler, explaining that Socialism was neither pro nor anti religious. Is there anything wrong in that? Does the Conservatve party lay down the condition that its members must be either religious or irreligious? The hon. Member who used that argument seems to ignore or forget, or perhaps he is not aware of the fact, that one of the most intellectual and brilliant members of his own party, Lord Balfour, was the author of "Philosophic Doubt."
§ Mr. SEXTON
Then we find one of the most brilliant intellects of the Liberal party, Lord Morley, who guided that party's destinies for years, an avowed agnostic. The Socialist party is neither anti nor pro religion. There are atheists and unbelievers in the Labour party. But surely it cannot be said this is singular to the Labour party. I would remind hon. Members who are so interested in this question that I have known atheists and unbelievers who are better fathers and husbands than some of the vaunted Christians of to-day. As an individual I wish to dissociate myself from any such practice and I strongly resent the suggestion that the Socialism to which I contribute has any tendency or leaning in that direction. I was going to say, if it is not unparliamentary, that the colossal ignorance of some hon. Gentlemen opposite on this question is alarming. Socialism is a science or a suggested science of Government, just as Conservatism or Liberalism is. As a member of the Socialist party my native modesty prevents me saying which is best. I leave that to posterity, but to suggest, as this Bill is intended to suggest, that the Socialist and Labour party are blasphemers, that they are seditious, is a most monstrous statement.
§ Mr. SEXTON
The intention is there. Let me put it this way. This Bill is introduced with the object of making it appear to the electorate that it is the earnest wish of the Conservative party in this country to defend us against sedition and to denounce blasphemy. If I vote against the principle of denouncing blasphemy 1576 and sedition, as I will be said to have done if I vote against the Bill, my opponent in my constituency can go down there and say, "Ha, see what this fellow has done. We were defending you from sedition and denouncing blasphemy and he voted against us." That is the game, there is no doubt about it.
One hon. Member in a very eloquent outburst said that he and his friends were anxious to hand down the Christian faith untarnished to posterity. There is no necessity for that statement at all. The Christian faith is untarnished in principle. Christianity is all right. It is some of the professed Christians who are wrong. An hon. Member spoke about the Sermon on the Mount. One of the passages in that historic document is, I believe,Suffer little children to come unto me.Do your professing Christians fulfil that injunction I am not going to repeat all that has been said about our slums and poverty and their effect on child life. They stand out as a horrible satire upon present-day professions of Christianity. If this bill conveyed to me any intention of prohibiting blasphemy or sedition, whether from Communists or anybody else, I should be found in the same Lobby with hon. Members who support it. As it is, I look upon this as part of a deliberate and long drawn-out conspiracy and propaganda which has been going on in this House for the last live years to throw mud at the party to which I belong, and in that respect it will not only fail but is not justified.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
It was sheer nonsense for the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) to say that this Bill was brought forward by Members on this side as political propaganda against the Labour party, and I was sorry to hear the hon. Member who spoke last repeating that statement. Just as we know with what success the small minority of Communists permeated the Labour movement, so we realise the danger in our midst in this respect, and I hope that the Division List will be published with the names of all the Members throughout the country, representing not only industrial, but rural constituencies, who vote against this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "So that is the reason?"] As the only woman Member who has been present during this Debate, 1577 may I say that I am voicing the opinions of hundreds of mothers and fathers throughout the country in speaking as I do on this Bill. The suggestion has been made from the Opposition side that the Bill aims at including all teachers. I agree that there are many splendid teachers throughout the country, but I wonder what those teachers have to say in regard to the Teachers' Labour League. The Teachers' Labour League declares that no religious instruction ought to be given in the schools. It condemns Imperialistic teaching, Empire Day celebrations and schools and the use of history and other text books with an anti-working class bias. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, the objects of the League are to teach class consciousness and oppose religious teaching, and no hon. Gentleman opposite can deny that that means religious teaching of any kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "In the schools."] Other objects of the League are to eliminate patriotic ideas from school-books and teaching, to abolish Imperialistic teaching, to make all teachers Socialists and to make the schools centres of the spread of Socialism. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken about our slums and our housing conditions, and there are Members on this side who are working just as hard as any of the Members opposite, to abolish slums and give our people a decent life. I should like to quote from a paper called "The Workers' Dreadnought."In the family, perhaps the unhappy workers' family, the child will discover how to turn the minds of the parents to revolutionary Socialism and Communism. The fighting child is in the very first rank of the class struggle. Everywhere where children are, we must teach them the class struggle and prepare them for the revolution.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
From the "Workers' Dreadnought" of 4th December, 1921. It is a tragedy that many of our poor working women do not realise the teaching which their children are receiving because they are ignorant of these places to which their children go and often these schools are in private houses. No hon. Gentleman opposite can deny that. I know an instance, and I have proof of it, where 1578 children were made to walk round in a circle and sing "There is no God" after which they were each given a piece of chocolate. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh but it is no laughing matter. These are very small children—these people believe in catching them young—and as a mother I realise the psychology of children of that age and the impression that will be made upon them. Tom Anderson the founder of the Socialist Sunday Schools said that to teach the children the ideal of revolution should be the primary end of the Socialist Sunday School and that all other teaching was of no avail. He also said that the children should be taught a real, live, red-hot revolution, and that the children of the working classes should be trained to accomplish revolution.
I say that this teaching is deliberately intended to destroy our Christian faith and religion in this country, and it is upon the helplessness of these children and the ignorance of poor mothers in the country that the revolutionaries are avowedly preying. Not only is it against religion that they are teaching in these schools, but they are also teaching sex immorality amongst the children. I have had pamphlets sent to me by mothers and fathers who have asked me to take them to the proper quarters, and I have had to do my duty. I am ashamed to tell the men in this House, and I would be ashamed to tell fathers in the country, what was in them, but I have felt it my duty and have had the courage to put these pamphlets in an envelope and take them to the Home Secretary. I say that that is one reason for supporting this Bill, and I do not think, after reading those pamphlets, that I can do anything but appeal to the members of the Government to go into the lobby in support of this Bill.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
I shall be very interested, as a woman and as a mother, to see whether the Home Secretary will go into the Lobby with the promoters of this Bill. I do not care by what name these teachings are called. Call them Socialist Sunday schools, call them proletariat meetings, or private-house meet- 1579 ings for social welfare—I say they are merely potting sheds for those sensitive and delicate plants, our children. I say that this danger in our midst is against civilisation, and I shall do all in my power to defend the sanctity of the home and of family life, and I hope that all those men who feel the same will go into the Lobby and support this Bill, no matter to which party they may belong.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), in the course of his speech, said that those with whom he was associated regretted the teaching in Socialist Sunday schools, and I want to call attention to what some of that teaching is. The hon. Member had a distinguished career in connection with one of the large public schools of this country, and this is the kind of thing to which he objects, when he says he objects to teaching in Socialist Sunday schools:Love your school fellows; help your fellow-workmen in life; love learning, which is the food of the mind; be as grateful to your teachers as to your parents; make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.[An HON. MEMBER: "It has all been read!"] You have had it once, and you will have it a good many more times if that is the kind of thing—
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I never objected to what has been read out by the hon. Member. I did object to the fact that there were schools where young children were taught political theories.
§ Mr. WILSON
I think the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow will show that I have not mis-interpreted the general charge which is made in regard to the Socialist Sunday schools. It is a great pity that this House should devote so much of its time to trying to deal with the results instead of trying to get down to the causes of our difficulties. Bad ideas are never going to be removed simply by punishing them; they can only be removed by the creation of good ideas, and I think that it is a very great misfortune that religious questions such as this is should be discussed in this House in the way that they are. I am reminded of the words which were uttered by the late Mr. Gladstone when he was speaking on the Bill for the removal of religious disabilities in 1891, just after the death of the late 1580 Charles Bradlaugh. What Mr. Gladstone said was this. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the hon. Member to laugh, but let me read what Mr. Gladstone said.
§ Mr. WILSON
This is what Mr. Gladstone said on the occasion to which I have referred:A distinguished man and admirable Member of this house was laid yesterday in his mother earth. He was the subject of a long controversy in this House, a controversy the beginning of which we recollect and the ending of which we recollect. We remember with what zeal it was prosecuted; we remember lion summarily it was dropped; we remember also what reparation has been done within the last few days to the distinguished man who was the immediate object of that controversy. But does anybody who hears me believe that that controversy, so prosecuted and so abandoned, was beneficial to the Christian religion?One question that we have to ask ourselves, in dealing with a matter of tins kind, is whether we are in any sense at all promoting the Christian religion, whether it does not really depend very much more on the that we live and on our whole attitude, in our social life and every other feature of our life, to the people to whom we are responsible, rather than on some of these very narrow religious questions. I do not for a moment question the good faith of the promoters of this Bill, but I do not for one moment believe that it is beneficial either to Christianity or to the real dignity of this House.
I want to go rather further back historically than we have gone to-day, to the origin of the Act of 1698, which was an Act "for the more a effectual suppressing of atheism, blasphemy, and profaneness." That Act was the result of an Address which the House in those days sent to the King, and in which they pleaded with himthat you would effectually discourage profaneness and immorality, winch chiefly by the neglect and ill-example of too many Magistrates, are, like a general contagion, diffused and spread throughout the Kingdom to the great scandal of our religion and to the dishonour and prejudice of Your Majesty's Government.1581 There was an appeal based upon the belief that profaneness and immorality were being encouraged chiefly by magistrates in those days. Those, if I may say so, were days before those in which golf is so largely played, but it is frequently said that, so far as golf is concerned, there, is nowhere where there is so much profanity in consequence of the accidents which happen on the course. That Address goes on to suggest a good many other things that might be done, which I will not trouble to read just now because of lack of time, but it puts forward a very strong plea, to which His Majesty responded,that all vice, profaneness, and irreligion may in a particular manner be discouraged, in those who have the honour to be employed near Your Royal person, and is all others who are in Your Majesty's service, by sea and land; appointing strict orders to he given to your commanders that they do not only show a good example themselves, but also inspect the manners of those under them; and that Your Majesty would upon all occasions "—I lay special emphasis on this—distinguish men of piety and virtue by marks of Your Royal favour.I suggest that the Royal favour which, on the recommendation of Governments, has been bestowed during the last 20 years has not been all on "men of piety and virtue." When we come to consider the objects of this Bill, it is to deal with teaching those under the age of 16. I cannot for the life of me understand why it should be wrong, as the Bill suggests, to teach those who are 15 years and 11 months and not to teach those who are 16 years and 1 month. It seems to me that it is just as dangerous to teach the one is it is to teach the other. In the objects as set out in the Memorandum, there is a reference to Lord Halsbury, and he gives an interpretation of seditious intention. What we have to do is to ask ourselves what is the cause of the seditious intention which comes to us and against which the promoters of this Bill want to guard. It may be that that seditious intention is the result of some unreasonable ill-will on the part of the individual. It may be that it is due to mental disturbance. It may be that it is due to some feeling that a very great injustice has been done to the individual. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say, as has been said again and again 1582 this morning, that they are just as much concerned as we are in regard to poverty, housing conditions and a good many other things, but it cannot be denied that there is nothing which contributes so much to sedition, ill-will and bad feeling as the way in which the people are housed, and the way in which they have to live at the present time, it may be that some people feel that the Government do not like to make alterations and that the Constitution prevents that action which should be taken. Frequently people look upon the Houses of Parliament as being impotent, and there are certainly very many people who feel that justice has been unfairly administered. There is a great deal, which in the words of Lord Halsbury, has created and hostility between different classes. Their patience is exhausted. There are thousands of them—we cannot deny it—who are starving in the midst of plenty, and it is that more than anything else which creates this feeling of hostility. There is also in the Memorandum reference to this case of Bowman, but perhaps that has been sufficiently dealt with this morning. There is, however, one phase of it on which I want to say something. Lord Halsbury says:Blasphemy consists in scoffingly or irreverently ridiculing or impugning the doctrines of the Christian faith, or in uttering or publishing contumelious reproaches of Jesus Christ, or in profane scoffing at the Holy Scriptures, or exposing any part thereof to contempt or ridicule.I do not at all understand why the Bill before us this morning is so limited in its extent that it stops at language and does not deal at all with these other matters:Scoffingly or irreverently, ridiculing or impugning the doctrines of the Christian faith or in scoffing at the Holy Scriptures or exposing any part thereof to contempt or ridicule.I have been in this House only a comparatively short time, but I am only too conscious of this—and I burned with shame on the first occasion when it occurred—that when my hon. Friend the late Member for the Welsh Universities, speaking from these benches, dealt with the Sermon on the Mount and other religious questions and when my hon. Friend below me has again and again referred to the New Testament teaching, there have over and over again come 1583 from the benches opposite what I should certainly call contumelious and ribald expressions. If we have to deal with these matters, we should deal with them by setting a better example and not by preaching so much about them. Even this morning there have been some facial expressions of the mind, and I think we have to be very careful when we are dealing with some of these things. I will give two quotations in regard to one of the Kings of this country. One, I think we shall be able to say, was blasphemous, and the other, possibly, was seditious. Here are two descriptions of the Monarch:Great and manifold were the blessings "—This is with regard to James I—most dread Sovereign, which Almightly God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty's royal person to rule and reign over us.The appearance of Your Majesty as the Sun in his strength. That which has so bound and knit the hearts of all Your Majesty's loyal and religious people unto you, that your very name is precious among them; their eye doth behold you with comfort, and they bless you in their hearts as that sanctified person who under God, is the immediate author of their true happiness.That is king James I, and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) applauds the Dedication of the Bible.
§ Mr. WILSON
Now let me read another description of James I from J. R. Green's "Short History of England."
§ Mr. WILSON
I do not think James I comes into that. This is another description of James I:His big head, his slobbering tongue, his quilted clothes, his rickety legs, stood out in as grotesque a contrast with all that men recalled of Henry or Elizabeth as his gabble and rodomontade, his want of personal dignity, his buffoonery, his coarseness of speech, his contemptible cowardice He had the temper of a pedant, a pedant's conceit, a pedant's love of theories, and a pedant's inability to bring 1584 his theories into any relation with actual facts. He clung passionately to theories of government which contained within them the seeds of a death struggle between his people and the Crown.If you are going to say that this is sedition, you would have to say that those who spoke of kings in that way were engaging in sedition. It will be at all times a very difficult matter to draw the line between searching criticism and expression of doubt and anything in the way of ridicule and contempt of sacred things. When we are speaking of sedition, we may just as well remember that in the Bible itself there are teachings, in the "Prophets" and elsewhere, which, when they are related to present-day happenings and present-day conditions, would unquestionably be regarded as seditious. What about this?Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place that they may be placed alone on the earth Woe unto them that covet fields and take them by violence, and houses and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.Let hon. Members apply those words in connection with the record of what has happened in regard to houses and land in this country. Take Charles Kingsley. Probably Charles Kingsley's teaching would be regarded as seditious:We have never told you that the true Reformers' Guide, the true poor man's book, the true God's voice against tyrants, idlers and humbugs was the Bible We have told you that the Bible preached to you patience, while we have not told you that it promised you freedom. We have told you that the Bible preached the rights of property and the duties of labour, when (God knows) for once that it does that, it preaches ten times over the duties of property and the rights of labour. Instead of being a book to keep the poor in order, it is a book, from beginning to end, to keep the rich in order. It is the true Radical Reformers' Guide, God's everlasting witness against oppression and cruelty and idleness.If a Bill of this kind be passed, nobody will know what he is entitled to read or to say. But, as I said earlier, it is a question of the causes which have produced these conditions. Doctor Saleeby, speaking a few years ago, said:Twelve babies under one year die every hour in the British Isles, and the deaths could largely he prevented. In London are over 150,000 one-room dwellings, over 200,000 two-room dwellings, and altogether there are more than a million people in them.1585 Those conditions are promoting sedition in this country. Here is another case. At the inquest on a baby not long ago it was said that the mother had been unable to give it sufficient nourishment, and could not afford more than a farthing's worth of milk at a time. The jury passed a verdict of death from natural causes. Death from natural causes, indeed, when every child born into the world ought to have, if we had done our duty, an equal chance.
Let me deal with another ease from the City of Hereford. Here is the testimony of a doctor. He visits a home in Hereford of which he speaks in this way:The family, consisting of father, mother and four children, aged 9, 4½, 3, and 1½ years, carry on (I cannot use the word 'live') in a bedroom in a condemned house in Hereford. The room is 12 feet by 9 feet, in which there are two beds, two small tables, and a few other odd things. For this room they pay 5s. per week, and are not behind with the rent. The two elder children were asleep in a single bed and a sheet was put up to prevent them seeing their mother if they should wake up. The two younger children were asleep on their mother's bed; the one aged three soon woke up and watched me (there was nowhere else to put the child) deliver the baby in a very difficult case. This child never teak its eyes off the mother, and now the look of that child haunts me.As that child grows up and asks what life really means, there will be sedition in the very blood of that child. Only the other day a man was prosecuted in consequence of having obtained benefit to which he was not entitled, although I do not believe he knew it.
§ Mr. WILSON
I was dealing with sedition, and what it is that causes sedition, and saying that the conditions under which people are living cause sedition far more than does any teaching with which his Bill is intended to deal.
§ Mr. WILSON
Then I must leave the case of the Mons hero who was awarded the Military Medal and whose difficulty was that he was living with his wife and 1586 six children in one room. There are other causes of sedition. I think there is a cause of sedition in the attitude of this House towards India. Indians come into the Gallery and listen to the Debates whenever the subject of India comes up, though there are very few occasions when India does come up, and what do they see They see the House almost deserted of Members when considering questions affecting three-fourths of the population of the British Empire. If that does not create sedition in their minds, I very much fail to understand what does tend to create sedition.
Seventy-five years ago this House was considering a Bill dealing with what might be done on Sundays, and "Punch," which was in different hands from what it is to-day, wrote certain lines which seem to me very largely to express what one has in mind on this question of blasphemy and sedition, or whatever you may like to call it. Towards the end of the lines it uses these words:Is this God's world or the Devil's? Six days to Mammon given,And one to make your souls in and square accounts with Heaven.In street and mart and senate is the Devil free to perch,And Gold Almightly shut within the four walls of your church.You talk of Sabbath breaking—for Sunday Bills you seek,Is not God's Sabbath broken every day of all the week?Live lives that prove you Christian, and I warrant you will prove,There is a power in Godliness, words of truth and works of love.Do your best to make this world what God meant this world should be,Look abroad and read what that is in blossom, flower and tree,In the love as in the loveliness sown broadcast over earth,And for both within the heart of man a yearning and a dearth.Fine food for these: Lift piggish lives out of the filthy sty,Where your vested rights have plunged it to struggle, curse and due,Find a light for these dark places, your light can never reach.Go to the book, whose lesson men must live or need not preach.Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, teach the outcast, free the slave,This is my Sabbath,' saith the Lord, the offering I crave'.While that relates particularly to the question of the Sabbath, it also deals with all those problems which are the basis of the difficulties of the people, 1587 which cause so much distress and anxiety, and create in their minds a feeling of towards other sections of the community, and it is our business not so much to deal with the result of those conditions in which the people are placed, as to endeavour to find remedies and remove the causes of that which causes distress.
§ Mr. DIXEY
I have every confidence that hon. Members in all parts of this House, when it actually comes to voting, will support this Bill in the Division Lobby. I cannot understand the position of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because some of their speeches seem to me to be more or less supporting Communist principles. I can understand the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) doing this, because the distinction between his belief and the Communist belief is very narrow indeed. A large number of us failed to distinguish the difference between the point of view of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley on this question and many trade union leaders in the country. As for the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I suppose they believe in sane and sound constitutional government, and if they honestly believe that Communism aims at bringing about a state of affairs with which they do not 'agree, then surely they ought to join with us in endeavouring to put an end to the teaching of these pernicious doctrines in this country. If hon. Members opposite will read this Bill, they will find that every Clause in it is good and sound, and contains provisions which they all might very well support. Surely we are all opposed to seditious teaching. The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) has delivered an interesting speech this afternoon, and I am ready to admit his eloquence. He is not only an asset to his Church, but also to his party, but, in my opinion, I think fie ought to be one of the first to desire to stamp out these schools in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which schools?"] Hon. Members know that there are any amount of these Communist schools in this country, and I have no patience with hon. Members opposite who pretend one moment that Communism only exists in the minds of the supporters of the Government on this side of the House, 1588 and then ask us to be moderate because we are only encouraging something which they really fear, and that is Communism amongst the trade unions of the country. You gentlemen opposite—
§ Mr. DIXEY
I apologise. Hon. Members opposite must realise at the bottom of their hearts, they are candid, that Communism in this country is growing in eorsequence of its teachings being inculcated into the minds of the young people of this country. I congratulate the hon. and gallant. Member for Upton (Captain Holt) upon bringing this question forward, and I give him every credit because he has had the pluck to place this subject before the country. The hon. Member for Motherwell made quotations from a pamphlet and referred to Mr. Anderson, and he read a certain paragraph in which he stated that at Mr. Anderson's school in Glasgow only 20 children attended. With regard to this point I should like to read to the House what the "Daily Mail" said on this question on 20th October, 1920:I have been to see Mr. Anderson at the comfortably furnished flat that is his home in Glasgow. He is a well-preserved man of 60, with high forehead of intellectual shape and a dour, uncompromising expression.He told me that 200 children and 50 adults attend his schools. He claims to have educated in a Socialist sense many prominent men in the Labour party, such as Messrs. Kirkwood and Maxton.
§ Mr. DIXEY
The "Daily Mail" goes on to say:He regards them with regret, however, as having to some extent fallen away from the highest standard. They have gone, he said, where the loaves and fishes are.'If I may say so wits respect I do not attach any importance to anything this gentleman says, but I do say that undoubtedly there does exist in the country to-day the germs of this Communist teaching. I know that a large number of hon. Members opposite, highly spiritual-minded Members like the hon. Member for Motherwell whose only idea is to protect young life, are opposed to Communism, but I think the hon. Mem- 1589 ber for Motherwell ought to lie one of the very first people to come forward as a leader of religion and declare that he is going to support this Bill in the Lobby. I accuse some hon. Members opposite of being prepared to use the schools of this country When they have got a chance for their own particular faith. On a subject like this I think it is the duty of the teacher to teach the actual facts of history. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am glad to hear hon. Members cheer that statement, because that is the reason why my hon. Friends and myself are bringing forward this Bill. I hope the Government are going to support this Measure. The present Government came into office with a strong mandate to deal with this question, and there is no doubt about it that a large number of hon. Members on this side of the House, including myself, owe our seats in this House to the common sense and strong opinion on questions like this. That is why the electors returned the present Government with such a large majority. I am glad to see the Home Secretary in his place. I know that in his case in regard to this question the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Nevertheless I hope the Government after hearing the case which has been so ably presented by the Mover of this Bill will take up a definite line, and not merely give the hon. Member their blessing but do their best to encourage hon. Members on this side of the House at any rate to support this Bill.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I feel sure the House has listened with considerable interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I am not surprised to hear that Communist propaganda is making headway in some quarters after what we have heard from the benches opposite this afternoon. I do not think anyone who happens to read the speeches which have been made in support of the Bill can see any connection between those speeches and the proposals of the Bill we are now considering. If I might say so at the outset, I feel sure that I will carry all hon. Members behind me with me in declaring, that we regard this Bill merely as a piece of Tory propaganda. It is probably the first shot in the next General Election. I would not be astonished if the speeches we have heard to-day are not rehearsals for future 1590 occasions. They will be met, however, adequately when we come to the real issue. I think one thing ought to be cleared up to begin with. The hon. and gallant Member who introduced the Bill, and his friends, fail to understand the difference between Socialism and Communism. I will ask them to be good enough to listen for a moment if I might presume to tell them what I think the difference really is. The difference between Socialists and Communists, as far as I understand, is this, that there is little difference in their ultimate objective.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Is the hon. Member aware that the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) wrote exactly the opposite and said that the aims and methods of the Socialists and Communists—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. DAVIES
The difference between the Socialist and Communist is mainly one of method and that is fundamental. The Socialist wants a transition, without bloodshed or force at all, from Capitalism to Socialism. The Communist believes nothing of the kind, and that is why I oppose the Communist party. Communism and Socialism have much in common but methods of achievement differ profoundly. There is no doubt about that. I oppose the methods of the Communist party without any hesitation whatever because I want to see a gradual transition from Capitalism to Socialism by constitutional and not by violent means.
With regard to the Bill itself, I am of opinion that blasphemy is a matter of geography, and sedition a question of period. For illustration, if any hon. Member will walk through that little park on the Embankment he will find a monument standing there to William Tyndal, the translator of the Bible into English. He was regarded as a, blasphemer because he offered up this prayer:O Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.For that he was burned at the stake. Hon. Members opposite would probably be delighted to pass a Measure to-day to 1591 prevent some of us praying: "0 Lord, open the eyes of the present Tory Government." I am not so sure that any force in the universe could open their eyes.
§ Major PRICE
Will the hon. Member read the definition of blasphemy in the Bill and say whether he agrees with it or not?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I will read him something else. I have been in this House too long to be caught, and especially by a Welshman. The difference between those who sit on this side of the House and those who advocate this Measure is really fundamental. They say that you can kill an idea by passing an Act of Parliament. We say that truth will live though you burn its bearer at the stake. I have here a document relating to the new Prayer Book. It will indicate how difficult it would be for the Home Office to deal with any case of blasphemy under this Bill if it became law. The document refers to the new Prayer Book, and I will read one or two paragraphs. It says:From your obedient Servants, active voices in Lincolnshire: This Prayer Book has a unique place in the hearts of the people of this country. To-morrow it will be the derision of all people because it permits blasphemy and idolatry etc.That is the new Prayer Book. If this Bill becomes law, those who carry the new Prayer Book of the Church of England in their pocket, will obviously be committing a blasphemy.
§ Major PRICE
Why does not the hon. Member read Clause 3 of the Bill and he will see the definition of blasphemy?
§ Mr. DAVIES
There is a point in connection with this Bill that really ought to receive the serious attention of hon. Members of this House. I think it quite right to lay down the principle that where rates and taxes are spent on education that it is the undoubted duty of the State to determine the curriculum. But when money is raised by voluntary contributions, it is questionable whether the State is 1592 entitled to intervene. If I might quote once again from this anonymous document, and I tale it that the signatories are members of the Church of England—[An HON. MEMBER,: Why?"] Because they are criticising the Prayer Book. I cannot conceive a member of another denomination troubling his head about the subject. They say about sedition and treason:To-day there are 16 out of 21 theological colleges teaching treason.That is obviously a task for the Home Secretary. I think really he ought at once, whether this Bill becomes law or not, to pay attention to this document; and Scotland Yard ought to be on the scene at once. Hon. Members on the other side of the House have told us a great deal about the proletarian Sunday schools, one of them called the Proto Cult. There is another document here; and if there be anything blasphemous, it is this document. It is issued by a clergyman of the Church of England. It has on it, "The Road to ruin," and there is a picture there of Labour children going from the East End of London to a May Day demonstration. Let that be noted —a May Day demonstration! This is what the reverend gentleman prints underneath the picture:East End children being conveyed to a Proletarian Sunday school whose motto is: 'Neither God nor Master!That is issued by a reverend gentleman, a priest of the Church of England and it is a lie.
That sort of thing is as blasphemous as anything can be, and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House know too well that most of the propaganda against education of the kind they condemn to-day is based on falsehood. I want to make my position clear. I have never sent any of my children to a Sunday school teaching politics or economics. I do not believe in sending them to Sunday schools of that sort. I am a product of a Sunday school myself, and I gladly pay tribute to the work of the Christian Sunday school movement. I have no hesitation is doing that. But there is a great difference between saying that, and the proposals of this Bill. When I disagree with an idea, I am quite prepared to argue against the point of view put forward, but hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side, presumably, 1593 are not satisfied with arguing a case. They want the law to defend their case. That is why they are asking for this Bill to-day. If Christianity requires the defence of this House to maintain it, then Christianity will not live; but Christianity will live in spite of the feeble defence of Eon. Gentlemen on the other side The spirit of the Christian religion is good, and, because it is good, it will prevail in spite of Parliament; it does not require the defence of hon. Gentlemen opposite to support it.
With regard to sedition, I should imagine the Home Secretary will be able, from his knowledge, to tell us today how much fear there is behind it. I think it only fair to this House if he told us definitely whether there is any ground for the fear of hon. Members opposite. As I said, there are several definitions, not only of blasphemy, but of sedition. What was seditious a century ago, is accepted to-day. Less than a century ago a few operatives were sentenced to imprisonment in Manchester for starting a brand of a trade union. Trade unionism is now accepted on all hands. Less than a century, ago a few weavers in Rochdale commenced a co-operative society, and it was very doubtful then as to whether the establishment even of a co-operative society was not seditious. In fact, Nonconformists in this country many years ago were regarded as being in the category of both blasphemers and people who propagated sedition. The history of the human race shows that where Protestants have predominated, they have regarded Catholics both as blasphemous and seditious. On the other hand, where Catholics have predominated, they have taken a similar attitude towards their opponents.
The stand which the Labour party takes is, that so long as an argument, an idea, or a thought is propounded and uttered, the State has no title whatever to intervene. The State is only entitled to intervene when action by way of actual force is taken up by any section of the community. I believe that if an idea, whether it relate to Liberalism, to Socialism, to Christianity or any other ism, is a good idea, it will live in spite of Parliaments and of Acts of Parliament. If the idea, however, is a bad one, it will perish of its own 1594 accord. With regard to Communistic methods I think they are bad, and would die of inanition if they were left alone by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They live because they are persecuted; for an idea that is persecuted has a better chance of living than when it is left alone.
No case has been made out in favour of this Bill. It is merely propaganda on behalf of the Tory party. The speeches delivered here to-day in its favour are speeches that we shall hear later on; and, as I said at the commencement, I regard this as the first shot in the next General Election.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has made one or two admissions which I think may be useful to us, and for which I thank him. They were not made by the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), with whom I generally have to cross swords, I hope in an amicable manner, on Friday afternoons, but by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. He said that the difference between Socialism and Communism is one of method. I am not going to dispute that, though I can see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) looks as though he did not quite agree with it. I think, however, that I could refute the statement, if I were so inclined, out of the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman himself, but I accept the statement as one made from the Front Opposition Bench, and also the statement that Communism and Socialism are akin. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton went so far as to say that it was only a question of pace —[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] One was a very gradual method—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman did not hear the first sentence, which came spontaneously from the hon. Member. It will be quite clear in the OFFICIAL REPORT, however, that he said that the difference between Socialism and Communism is one of method. It is a difference in regard to method between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), whose method is one of gradualness, and the methods of a gentleman named Lenin in Russia. The 1595 one would mean Socialism as conducted by the Labour party, I agree perfectly legally, in this country. It is a method which proposes to change by legal methods the constitution and relationship between capital and labour in this country. That is the gradual proposal, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham has put before us several times. The Communistic method is entirely different. It aims at arriving at the same end, not by the gradual method of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham, but by the short cut of Lenin, by way of a complete revolution in as few months as possible. I think, if I may say so, that there is some slight misunderstanding as to the aim and object of this Bill. Of course, it is open to the hon. Member for Westhoughton or the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds to say that it is purely propaganda, but I do not think that that is quite fair. This is a Bill and this is a matter which has been considered by active and perfectly sincere minds in the Conservative party for many years past. The Bill was brought forward in the House of Lords in 1924, and one hon. Member referred to the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the Debate on that Bill in the House of Lords. The Archbishop of Canterbury, if I may say so with respect, was very fair indeed in dealing with this matter, and he dealt with it on the lines on which I rather want to deal with it this afternoon. There are three questions which are under consideration. There is the question of the Socialist Sunday school, which was very much more to the fore some few years ago than it is now; there is the question of the proletarian Sunday school, and there is what is a more active question to-day, namely, the question of propaganda of Communism to children not in any Sunday school at all.
The Socialist Sunday school, I have no hesitation in saying, is a perfectly legal method of Socialist propaganda. I have never said a word to say that Socialist Sunday schools are illegal. A great deal of what they think is perfectly good. As to the "Ten Commandments," which have been mentioned to-day by one hon. Member, the bulk of that is perfectly sound teaching, consistent either with 1596 Socialism or with Christianity. The Archbishop of Canterbury dealt on these lines with the question of Socialist Sunday schools, telling the House that he had made very careful inquiries into the whole matter, and that he would not say a word against Socialist Sunday schools. It is only right to tell hon. Gentlemen opposite who quoted and relied upon the Archbishop that he voted for this Bill, but not because he wanted to deal with Socialist Sunday schools. I am sure that my hon. Friends who have brought in this Bill are not desirous of dealing with the ordinary decent, honest, Socialist Sunday schools, which desire to propagate, as they are entitled to propagate, without sedition, without blasphemy, the tenets of Socialism. If hon Members opposite have the idea that the Conservative party, or any Members of the Conservative party, or the Government, are going to be led into a scheme for the persecution of Socialism by law, I can assure them that we are not going to be led into anything of that kind, and have not the slightest intention of doing it.
This Debate has turned very largely on the question of the prosecution of ideas, and hon. Members opposite have dealt very largely with the absurdity of attempting to defeat thought by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member for Westhoughton told us that you cannot kill an idea by Act of Parliament, and the same thing, I think, was said by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. He seemed to think we were attempting to kill thought. Hon. Members who say that, however, cannot I have read the terms of the Bill. There is no attempt in this Bill to kill thought of any kind. There has been no prosecution, since I have been Home Secretary, against thought. It is perfectly true that people may hold what views they like, either as to the desirability of changing the Constitution of the country, or as to the rights or wrongs, the truth or otherwise, of the Christian religion. That is not sedition, and that is not blasphemy.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I will. Communism is not illegal. I have said so in this House in reply to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) at Question Time, and I also told him what 1597 would have been the effect on himself personally if it had been illegal. It is not illegal for the hon. Member to hold any extreme or advanced views that he likes. On the other hand, sedition is illegal, and blasphemy to-day is illegal; and we have to find out where the dividing line comes between the holding of an idea, it may be in regard to Communism or in regard to Christianity, which is perfectly legal, and the propagation of those ideas in a certain particular manner which is illegal at the present time or may become illegal. Before finally dealing with that, may I refer for a moment to the next question, that of the proletarian Sunday School? The Proletarian Sunday Schools are at the present time, I am glad to say, very few. [HON. MEMBERS: "Are there any?"] According to the latest returns that I have there are some few. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] I think I can give hon. Members the figures. No, the figures I have are for the Young Comrades League. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah"] The Socialist Sunday Schools—and this is the reason why I divided my speech so as to deal with these three questions—the Socialist Sunday Schools are not touched by this Bill. The Proletarian Sunday Schools, however, did undoubtedly, three years ago, when the matter was before the House of Lords, teach, in certain cases, blasphemous matter. I do not think the Labour party, or a single Member of the Labour party, would stand up in this House and defend that sort of thing. There is, of course, difference of view. The hon. Member who has just sat down says that it is undesirable to proceed with this Bill and that the best thing is to allow a bad thing to die of itself, and that if an idea is bad it is bound to die. There can be no doubt, however, that the teaching in these Proletarian Sunday Schools—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] I cannot remember. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us of one."] The teaching is of a character—[HON. MEMBERHS: "Where is it taught?"] Perhaps the best thing I can do, if hon. Members want to see the nature of the teaching, is to refer them to the Debates of the House of Lords on the 3rd July, 1924, when some of the teachings relating to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ 1598 were quoted. I think it would answer best the dignity of this House were I to refrain from quoting those teachings now.
I will simply say to hon. Members opposite that it is perfectly well known that up to three years ago there were very grossly blasphemous teachings taught to young people in the proletarian Sunday schools. Those have very largely passed away, or the Communist party has taken in its efforts a different way. They are now trying, instead of having Communist Sunday schools, to form sections or little tiny branches composed of children who are formed, wherever they can be got together, into groups. If they can get together half-a-dozen children, they start a group, and that group will be imbued by their teachers—I do not mean public teachers, but teachers of Communism—with the methods and ideas of revolutionary Communism. In March, 1926, there were 17 of these sections, with 300 members, and 23 school groups. I am glad to say for the credit of this country that they are not increasing very much. At the beginning of this year there were 26 sections consisting of 716 members, 39 school groups and seven school papers. These school papers are generally rags of a very poor type It has been my duty to read through a great many of these publications and to note what is being taught to the children.
Let hon. Members remember that this Bill deals solely with children. It does not deal with the attempt to put down Communism or the whole teaching of Communism by Act of Parliament; it deals only with the teaching of seditious Communism, the teaching of class hatred in every possible form, the teaching of the young idea to grow up not with faith in the Labour party, not with faith in the ballot box, but with faille in Lenin and his revolutionary doctrines The whole House knows that this kind of teaching, if I may respectfully say so, is not likely to be taught to my children. It is much more likely to be taught to the children of the working classes throughout the country. I do not believe that the working classes want it. I believe they are opposed to the mental corruption of their young children by this extreme teaching, which 1599 is, as hon. Members opposite will say, against the views of the Labour party. There is not one single member of the Labour party to-day who is opposing this Bill, who has said that he wants Communist teaching, seditious teaching or blasphemous teaching given to his own children. If we go through the whole of the working classes of this country I do not think we should find one out of 10.000 of parents who would desire their children to be exposed to this kind of thing. I am quite sure they would welcome any means of putting a stop to it.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is a very dangerous remark indeed. Would you say that because a father or mother of every girl in this country objects to that girl being outraged by a villain, that there should be no law to stop it? That is the logical conclusion.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I do not know whose voice it was that made the interjection, but I think it is fair to say, wherever the voice came from, that the argument that you cannot deal by Act of Parliament with a crime, to which all people object, will lead you very far indeed. You are dealing in this Bill with young children. Its object is to protect young people and children not merely from physical violence, but from mental violence.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? Is he aware that my boy, who is only 12 years of age, was very shocked indeed to hear that the Home Secretary had once said "Fire, and be damned."
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sure in telling that story to his son that the right hon. Gentleman said "Fire, and be dashed." Let me come to the more serious argument put forward this afternoon by the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds, who went very carefully into the legal question on a Friday afternoon. With his dialectic skill he tried to convince me by refer- 1600 ences to various legal tomes that blasphemy was a dead or dying crime, and that there was not such a thing as blasphemy to-day except in so far as it led to a breach of the peace. He referred to the Debate in the House of Lords, and quoted a decision of the House of Lords in the case of Bowman v. the Secular Society in 1917:Assuming the object of the society in question involved a denial of Christianity, then it was not criminalI admit that.denial of Christianity, in so far as it is, the propagation of anti-Christian doctrines, apart from scurrility or profanity does not constitute the offence blasphemy.I think it is well that we should clear up this question. It is not illegal to-day to deny Christianity; it is not illegal to be an athiest. Here is the work of Russell on "Crime" published only in 1923. The whole question is considered. Lord Phillimore in directing a jury laid down this:A man is free to speak and teach what he pleases as to religious matters, though not as to morals. He is free to teach what he likes as to religious matters, even if it is unbelief. But when we come to consider whether ho has exceeded the limits, we must not neglect to consider the place where he speaks and the persons to whom he speaks. A man is not tree in a public place where passers-by who might not willingly go to listen to him, knowing what he was going to say, might accidentally hear his words, or where young people' might be present. A man is not free in such places to use coarse ridicule on subjects which are sacred to most people in the country.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Young people are covered. Again, it was laid down by Chief Justice Abbott that a work, speaking of Jesus Christ as an imposter, a murderer in principle, and a fanatic, was blasphemers. In other words, the whole question whether it is blasphemous or not is whether it is ribald or contumelious, whether it is the intention to bring the Christian religion into contumely. Otherwise, as hon. Members have said, they are perfectly open under the law of the land to teach what is contrary to the Christian religion and they may teach it to children. The same thing applies in regard to sedition. The teaching of Communism is not illegal, but the teaching of a form of Communism 1601 which is directed to the destruction of the State by violent means, may quite well be illegal. What is it that this Bill seeks to do? I have taken legal advice, and I can say that this Bill does not alter the law of the land so far as what is blasphemy or what is sedition is concerned. Sedition is defined asWords written or printed with the intention to bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the Crown or the Constitution of the United Kingdom, or to incite His Majesty's subjects to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in the State as by law established, or to promote feelings of and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects.That is the law of the land to-day. Similarly with regard to blasphemy. Blasphemous matter means words spoken, written or printed, whereby it is sought, to bring the Christian religion into contempt by means of ribald contumelious or scurrilous language. That, as I have shown, is the law to-day. The Bill does not alter the law. What the Bill does is to say that there is the law in regard to sedition and blasphemy. The method of enforcing the law in regard to sedition and blasphemy is a very cumbrous one. Those of us who have been in public life for long know that prosecutions for blasphemy are very troublesome and not of an edifying character. Speaking as Home Secretary I know that the prosecution in an ordinary case of sedition is exceedingly difficult and cumbersome. The object of this Bill is a strictly limited one. It is taking the law as it now stands, first in regard to sedition, and secondly in regard to blasphemy. It is not proposed to make any alteration in the law or procedure in reference to the general offence of either sedition or blasphemy. But what the promoters of the Bill do say is this: "We believe that there is an evil in our midst connected with the strictly limited questions of blasphemy and sedition as applied to the teaching of young children, and in regard to that offence we desire that there shall be a process, by way of summary jurisdiction, that a man who teaches either sedition or blasphemy to young children—not to grown up persons—shall be the subject of a prosecution under the ordinary Summary Jurisdiction Act." But hon. Members opposite say that this is a very cruel provision, because it de- 1602 prives a defendant of the right to go before a jury of his countrymen to decide what is or is not blasphemy or sedition. I am inclined to agree that the offences of blasphemy and sedition are, as I have said, difficult ones to define. I have endeavoured to explain, in a more or less untutored way, of what those offences consist, and I think that even the hon. and learned Member opposite will agree that the efforts made in the Bill to define the offences are not unfair efforts, and if I see him gloating over the idea of getting this Bill into Committee upstairs, when he will move Amendments possibly—I am only trying to look into his brain at the moment—I think I may say, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, that I am sure they will be willing, when this Bill gets upstairs, to be advised by the Law Officers of the Crown or myself in the event of any Amendment which might be proposed to make more clear, even than it is in the Bill, the offences of blasphemy and sedition. But if I may go back to what I was saying, when the House of Lords dealt with this matter in 1924 the question was raised as to the right to trial by jury. I am inclined to agree with that contention.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
That is to go back to where you started. The right hon. Gentleman said that the only distinction between this Bill and the present law is that it gives a summary remedy, but then the prisoner has the right to claim to be tried by jury. Then you go back to the cumbrous method of an indictment, and therefore, as I say, this Bill in fact brings you back to exactly where you started.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is always difficult, not being a learned member of the law myself, to deal with the hon and learned Member's interruptions, but really I think the position is this. Under the old law yen are hound to proceed by indictment, and I do not understand the hon. and learned Member to object to that. Under the proposals of this Bill, you may proceed by summary jurisdiction, and in a case where one of these wretched Communists has been teaching either sedition or blasphemy to a small number of children, I think he would not desire that the whole machinery of indictment and trial by jury should be utilised in his case. I think that in all probability, when 1603 the case got before the magistrates the offender would probably say: "I desire to be dealt with here," and he would probably get off with a fine of 40s. or 14 days' imprisonment.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The right hon. Gentleman says that if you teach a child under 16 you ought to have the leniency of summary conviction, whereas if you teach anybody over 16 you have to go to the Court on indictment.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is quite a different argument. The whole argument of the promoters of the Bill is in regard to the teaching of defenceless persons. I could not attempt to teach sedition, for instance, to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have heard the hon. and learned Member quote a Latin tag every Friday afternoon. I have been pleased to hear him, and I hope to hear him many more times, but it will not do really for the hon. and learned Gentleman to talk like that. Teaching sedition to grown-up people, who have been educated, and who may be assumed to have minds formed and political views and opinions of their own, and to be able to resist the teachings, is a very different thing from attempting to teach young children of from 10 to 16 years of age.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
We are giving a more certain punishment, anti it is not by any means certain that we should give a lighter punishment. We propose under this Bill to give them a punishment of four months' imprisonment or a fine not exceeding £50, with the right of appeal to a jury, and the right of appeal to A jury was put in in this form in order that no man might say that he had been convicted of sedition or blasphemy, when he had a real defence which he wanted to put before the jury, without having had the right to go before a Judge and jury of his own countrymen. In all probability, if this Bill is passed and amended in such a way as may be desirable in Com- 1604 mittee, it may have the effect of dealing with what is, I admit quite frankly, not a very great evil, but, after all, the law has to take note of small evils. The law has to take note of the beginnings of evil amongst the children of our land, and if we, as a House of Commons, believe that sedition and blasphemy are wrong—and they are still on the Statute Book of England as crimes—if we believe it is undesirable to teach crimes to young children, I think we are perfectly justified in making the method of dealing with those crimes easier, as is proposed in this Bill.
What then is the course which the Government propose to adopt to-day? I have given very great thought to the Bill itself. I have always felt, and the Government think, that Friday afternoons afford a very great opportunity for private Members to bring in Bills which excite a great deal of interest throughout the country, and which provide really very excellent Debates. I am not one of those who sneer at Friday Debates. I believe they are very excellent methods very often of getting the non-party play of political opinion throughout the country and focussing it where it, ought to be focussed, in the British House of Commons. We have had this Debate this afternoon, and we have had some rather strong speeches from both sides of the House. We have had speeches informed by learning, by reading, and by inquiry, and we have had speeches touched with real force of opinion on both sides of the question. I am not going to say for a moment that hon. Members opposite are not sincere in their objection to the Bill, and I do not accuse them in any way, and have not throughout my speech, of sympathy with either sedition or blasphemy. Their only real argument is that we should let the tares and the wheat grow together. That is one course which you may adopt, but, after all, that is the negation of modern Parliamentary government. We have no right to let the tares which are interfering with the lives of young children grow together with the good wheat which is being taught to them in the elementary schools of this country. We live in a highly civilised community, and we are fettered in vastly more different and effective ways than were our forefathers of 100 or 200 years ago. We have every kind of law to guide and guard against every kind of contingency. Hon. 1605 Members opposite are Tories of the Georgian Period. They are too high and dry for me to understand. They say, "We admit they are wrong, but let these things go on, and they will kill themselves." In my political life, I have known a good many bad ideas spring up, and they seem to be going, so far as I can see from the rise of the Labour party. I can remember when the late Mr. Ken Hardie was, I think, the only Labour Member in this House. He used to sit there, and I sat opposite him, and I can remember that hon. Members used to say sometimes—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
At all events there was nothing like the number then that there is now. I can well remember some of my hon. Friends used to say: "Do not take any notice of that kind of thing. There will always be a few men who will preach that kind of thing." It is a safety valve.
§ Mr. HARDIE
May I ask whether it is in order in this House to refer to a previous Member, now deceased, as being the inception of an evil?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It would be out of order. I well remember the same old Tory argument being addressed when new ideas came along: "Let them alone, they will perish of their own accord." We now get this Tory argument from the Labour Benches. "Let these ideas alone, and they will perish." But they have been going on now for some years, and they have not perished, and I think the Government have come to a right decision, not to make any new crime, not to make any new laws, but to assent to the proposal of my hon. Friend with regard to this Bill, that the House should have an opportunity, without any pressure of any kind from the Government Whips, of giving a perfectly free vote, and, 1606 speaking for myself, as one who entirely objects to this kind of teaching and is strongly opposed to the corruption of the minds of the young people of this country; I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Bill.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the skill with which he has handled a difficult situation. I have listened to most of the speeches made from the other side of the House, and I have been unable to understand why, instead of bringing forward this Bill, which does not create any new crime or offence, hon. Members did not bring forward a Vote of Censure on the Home Secretary for not operating the law which already exists in an efficient manner during the years which he has held office, because that is the charge that has been brought by those who have introduced the Bill. If there have been wrong things done during the last two years, and if the. Home Secretary believes these things to be genuine evils, as he has said this afternoon, it was his duty to proceed with the prosecutions, however clumsy the machinery might be. That was not his end of the problem. The Law Officers of the Crown had to handle the judicial end. If there were people going about the country blaspheming and creating sedition, as he says they were, in the minds of the, children, it was his duty to put the law into operation against them, whether it was clumsy or clever; and his hon. Friends below the Gangway and behind him have proved quite satisfactory this afternoon, and he himself has admitted, that during the years he has been in office as Home Secretary he has failed to do his duty in suppressing these things which he regards as evil. [Interruption.] Is that a wrong statement of the position? I am going to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having been wise enough not to start running round the schools of the country or sending out his criminal investigation men to create criminals where no criminals exist. I congratulate him on not acting as an agent-provocateur in order to put men who hold extreme political views into the dock and brand them as criminals, and I hope he dissociates himself from the restatement of the law with respect to sedition and blasphemy as laid down 1607 here; because it seems to me that there is not one amongst us who is in a position to cast a stone in the matter. At one time or the other, hon. and right hon. Members on the other side of the House and hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House have said things which, quite definitely, could have been brought under the definition of sedition as laid down in this Bill. It says:For the purposes of this Act 'seditious matter' means words spoken, written, or printed with an intention—(a) to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection against the Crown or the Constitution of the United Kingdom.Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that he has done that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"]
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am dealing just now not with the question of children, but with the definition of sedition. You cannot shut children up in a hot-house. If the right hon. Gentleman makes a speech which is broadcast by every paper in the country, dues the hon. Member mean to say that that will not come to the notice of children between the ages of nine and 16? It cannot be done. It is silly to attempt to do it. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that there are many right hon. and hon. Members of his party who have committed sedition under (b)?(b) to incite His Majesty's subjects to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in the State as by law established.I have got quotations in my pocket from his Noble Friend the Secretary of State for India. We all know about it. Of course, that was in the past. That was when a Liberal Government was in office. That makes all the difference! Sedition is what the other people who are not in office say. Sedition is defined here as—(c) to promote feelings of and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects.Everybody in this House is guilty and hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite have always done it, and will continue to pass on to their youngsters what they believe to be the best part of the politics of the time. I have been a teacher, a Socialist agitator and a 1608 sedition-monger and I speak as an expert. Unlike the Home Secretary I am an avowed sedition-monger. Up to now the right hon. Gentleman has not had the broad arrow placed upon him, but he is young yet, and the whole history of this country has not yet been written. Nobody knows what, changes are in store in our political life.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That is an optimistic view. I believe that even in the right hon. Gentleman's lifetime unless he is much more fragile than he appears to be, that he will have an opportunity of sitting in a very small minority in this House and he will see things being done by proper legal constitutional methods that he will protest against, and incite the minority to resist by every means in his power. I think he will have a right under those circumstances to try by every means in his power to upset the Government in power if he thinks that Government is wrong, in fact he will have a perfect right to upset the whole economic structure of society if he thinks that structure is wrong. I am in that position myself. I believe the present system is bad and wrong and I am willing to go out and create ill-will and hostility amongst His Majesty's subjects for that very reason. [HON, MEMBERS "Shame!"] No one need say that I am a Russian importation. I was educated in a Scottish Presbyterian home by a father who was a Tory. The Ten Commandments were taught to me and they were the Ten Commandments of the Shorter Catechism. I read the writings of Benjamin Disraeli and the first book that showed me the horror of the life of the working classes was the book called "Sybil" and that was written by the man from whom hon. Gentlemen opposite get their inspiration. Mr. Disraeli appealed to the aristocracy of this country to rise to a sense of their responsibility and to endeavour to relieve the mass of poverty that was there. I put it to this House that the aristocrats of this country—
§ Captain HOLT rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."1609
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1610
§ The House divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 85.1611
|Division No. 41.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Moles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Albery, Irving James||Gates, Percy||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Goff, Sir Park||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Atkinson, C.||Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.]|
|Balniel, Lord||Grant, Sir J A.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Penny, Frederick George|
|Berry, Sir George||Greenwood, Rt.Hn.SirH.(W'th's'w, E)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Bethel, A.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Perring, Sir William George|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hall,Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hammersley, S. S.||Radford, E. A.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hanbury, C.||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Remer, J. R.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brown, Brig.Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hawke, John Anthony||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rye, F. G.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hills, Major John Walter||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Holland, Sir Arthur||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R.(Prtsmth.S.)||Holt, Captain H. P.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sandon, Lord|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Ladywood)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Savery, S. S.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Shaw, R. G (Yorks. W.R., Sowtrby)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D.Mcl.(Renfrew, W.)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Colfox, Major Win, Phillips||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Cope, Major William||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Joynson-Hlcks. Rt. Hon. Sir William||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L,||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H,||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Galnsbro)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thomson, F. C. [Aberdeen, South)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Looker, Herbert William||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vera||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lumley, L. R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Macdonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Wells, S. R.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Maclntyre, Ian||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||McLean, Major A.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macmillan, Captain K,||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Fermoy, Lord||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Malone, Major P. B.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Forestier-Walkar, Sir L.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Forrest, W.||Meller, R. J.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Mrs. Philipson and Captain Holt.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Beckett, John (Gateshead)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Barnes, A.||Bondfield, Margaret|
|Baker, Walter||Batey, Joseph||Broad, F. A.|
|Bromley, J.||Kennedy, T.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Smith, Rennie (Penlstone)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lawson, John James||Snell, Harry|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Phillp|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Dennison, B.||Mackinder, W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Duncan, C.||MacNeill-Weir, L||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dunnico, H.||March, S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maxton, James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Montague, Frederick||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold||Viant, S. P.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Paling, W.||Webb, Rt Hon. Sidney|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigen)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Jesiah|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wellock, Wllfred|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||Westwood, J.|
|Hardle, George D.||Robinson,W. C (Yorks,W. R., Elland)||Williams, Dr. J. H, (Llantlly)|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scrymgeour, E.||Windsor, Walter|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Scurr, John||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sexton, James|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Mr. James Hudson and Mr. Barr.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Sitch, Charles H.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1612
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned ill Nine Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next (14th March).