§ 47. Lieut.-Colonel Sir GODFREY DALRYMPLE-WHITE
asked the Home Secretary if his attention has been drawn to the increasing denial of the right of free speech at election meetings in many areas, and notably at the present by-election at Preston; whether he will consider if the existing law is inadequate to prevent such disturbances; and, if not, whether he will consider the introduction 1470 of further legislation to secure a fan-hearing at such meetings?
§ Mr. CLYNES
As was stated in reply to a similar question by the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey) on the 23rd instant, I am not aware of any need for strengthening the law in this particular respect.
§ Sir G. DALRYMPLE-WHITE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reply referred to was a direct negative and entirely ignored the fact that this practice at the recent General Election reached an unprecedented scale; further, with regard to the fact that one of the candidates at the Preston by-election is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, will the right hon. Gentleman consult him after the election, as he has now had an opportunity of seeing this rowdyism in practice?
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
Has my right hon. Friend been advised that punishment for these deplorable incidents is already fully provided for by the Public Meetings Act, 1908; and are Ministers, in face of similar difficulties, receiving any advice from the Law Officers?
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
How is it possible to deal with cases of this kind when you get 600 or 700 people in a packed schoolroom, where injury must come to innocent people if there is any interference by the police?
§ Mr. CLYNES
That is precisely why I hold the view that we must look to other means for securing the peaceful conduct of our meetings than merely to a strengthening of the law.