§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill is of more limited scope than, if I may judge from some published comments, some persons think it to be. It is concerned wholly with the prevention and punishment of endeavours to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their duty or allegiance. More than 130 years ago, this House passed an Act of Parliament by which it was made an offence to endeavour to seduce any person serving in His Majesty's Forces from his duty and allegiance to His Majesty. If any hon. Member has a copy of the Bill, he will find that language is substantially reproduced in the first Clause.
The Act of 1797 is not a dead letter. It is the law of to-day. It was made a permanent Act of Parliament by an Act passed a good many years ago, and it has not been allowed to fall into desuetude. Prosecutions have taken place from time to time under that Act, and so recently as within the last three years. Offences under the Act are triable only by indictment, that is to say, they cannot be dealt with summarily nor can they be made the subject of proceedings before a court of quarter session. Not only does the Incitement to Mutiny Act, 1797, make it an offence to endeavour to seduce any person serving in His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty, but a corresponding provision has been enacted for a good many years past by Parliament in the Army Act and in the Naval Discipline Act. Any hon. Member who chooses to turn to Section 13 of the Naval Discipline Act will find that even though he has only been a Member of this House for a very short time, he has been a party to making it an offence for any person, whether subject to naval discipline or not, to endeavour to seduce a member of the Navy from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty.
740 The date of the first Naval Discipline Act was, I think, 1866, but, as hon. Members may know, it is re-enacted in substance and with any necessary Amendments, every year. The date of the original Army Act, which as the House remembers was a comparatively late invention to make it unnecessary to continue the practice of having what were called "Articles of War," was 1881, and Section 7 of that Act makes it an offence to do what is described in the first Clause of this Bill, so far as members of His Majesty's Army are concerned. The same provisions in the Army Act were applied to the newly constituted Air Force by an Order-in-Council under a provision embodied in the Act of Parliament in 1913. I have taken the risk of wearying the House with these references to earlier legislation in order that it might be made perfectly plain that there is nothing novel or startling in Clause 1 of this Bill, which merely sets out that which is already an offence but is an offence punishable only by indictment.
The effect of the two or three prosecutions which have taken place in the last year or so has been to drive the chief offenders underground. A somewhat sly and almost skulking breed of inciter has come into existence. They are too shy or too cowardly to put their names and addresses to the literature which they are in the habit of producing. They do what I can hardly describe better than in terms which they themselves have used in one of the publications from which I am about to quote. They say, in the "Soldiers' Voice," of May, 1932:Leaflets were printed in English, French and Japanese, and careful plans were laid for their distributions. They were strewn on parade grounds, stuck on walls and fences, put in the dance halls and cabarets frequented by men of the Forces, and many soldiers and sailors alike were surprised to find leaflets in their pockets or thrust into their hands.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is a quotation from "The Soldiers' Voice," which is a pamphlet issued by certain persons who do not put their names or addresses to it, and published in May, 1932. The methods of the persons who produce these pamphlets are such as, I am sure, nobody will defend. As I say, they are published anonymously by people who prefer to employ comparatively 741 harmless and ill-paid persons to distribute them. The persons responsible for them have taken very good care to keep well in the background since the prosecutions of two or three years ago, when some of the offenders were properly dealt with under the existing law.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Would the Attorney-General give us a little more of the history of this matter? I understand that it first arose in 1797, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us about "The Soldiers' Voice," but he has told us nothing about what led up to this Bill, and we are rather in the dark.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have been speaking for only about five minutes, and, if he will give me a little more time, he shall have quite as much as he desires about the activities of these people. He really is not entitled to complain if I have not given him more information than I have so far had an opportunity of giving. I have been anxious to explain to the House that this Bill, in Clause 1, merely re-enacts what is the law to-day. I will come to the later Clauses in a moment, but I am anxious that the House shall observe that the existing law is not adequate to deal with the activities of people who take very good steps to keep well in the background, while they push other persons forward who are going to distribute the leaflets and propaganda to which I will call the attention of the House in a moment. I do not believe that anybody can justify such methods. They are in themselves offences, quite apart from the incitement to mutiny or disaffection, because it is the law that everybody who produces a printed page for distribution shall append his name and address to it. These circulars offend against the law in that respect. Let me give to the House a few more illustrations of the propaganda or literature which is being distributed by those agents who, according to the proposal of this Bill, may be prosecuted summarily. I have referred to "The Soldier's Voice." It is a leaflet published from time to time, claiming to be the organ of Communist soldiers. There is a corresponding leaflet with reference to the Navy, entitled "The Red Signal," which claims to be the organ of Communist sailors. I will trouble the House with a few illustrations, in order that 742 hon. Members may have in their minds the sort of incitements which are offered to members of His Majesty's Forces in this secret, underground fashion. "The Soldier's Voice" of October, 1931, invited its readers who were soldiers to understand that:The way to victory lies, not through voting, but through mass struggle. What is needed is a repetition of the united strike.The issue of May, 1932, contained this passage:Let us use the knowledge of arms which they give us, when the opportunity presents itself, to overthrow their rule, and, in unity with our fellow-workers, to establish a free Socialist Britain.In November, 1932, the same production said:We suggest that you, comrade reader, should make a beginning now in your unit. Get in touch with that other fellow in your lot who thinks like you. And then start in to convert the rest of your mates to your ideas. If you don't quite know how to begin, what about writing for advice to that Communist or member of the Unemployed Movement you used to know at home?These are incitements addressed to and intended for members of His Majesty's Forces. "The Red Signal," the organ of Communist Sailors, in October, 1932, said:They will put a gun in your hands. Take it, and study the art of war. This knowledge is essential for workers in order to fight against the capitalists of their own countries, in order to put an end to capitalism.In May, 1933, it said:If war does come, then it must be turned into a civil war against the capitalist warmongers and their bankrupt system. We urge our comrades of the lower deck to get into touch with this great movement wherever possible.I could multiply these quotations indefinitely, but I have given sufficient to show the House that there are persons who think it right to attempt to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance to His Majesty the King, by inviting them to foment and take part in mutiny, rebellion, and, indeed, a number of offences which are abhorrent to anybody, whatever view he may take of war and its necessities.
I venture to think that these pieces of propaganda are an insult to members of His Majesty's Forces. The members of His Majesty's Forces in general are in- 743 spired by a passionate loyalty to their Service, they have a great respect for the traditions of their regiments or units, and they feel that duty is a real influence. They are gifted, as we know, with a great sense of humour; they are neither angels nor prigs; they have a great wealth of the English language with which to express their grievances. I venture to think it is an insult that literature should be produced in large quantities which suggests that these are the authentic organs of opinion in the Army or the Navy, expressing in legitimate language the grievances of those who are bound by a duty or allegiance to the Crown. Someone may ask: How much of it is there? During the year 1932, there were 17 different subversive pamphlets. I do not mean 17 issues, but 17 different pamphlets of different titles—"The Soldier's Voice" is one, and "The Red Signal" another—containing such incitements as I have mentioned; and in that year there were 20 places of distribution. In 1933 there were 11 different subversive pamphlets and 14 places of distribution. The pamphlets are distributed among members of His Majesty's Forces by methods such as I have described. They are thrown over the barrack railings, or pushed into the hands of soldiers or sailors in places of refreshment or in music halls; and it is estimated that in each of the last two years something like 50,000 copies of these subversive pamphlets have been produced and attempted to be distributed for circulation among members of His Majesty's Forces.
What is the remedy? The only offence with which those persons who can be caught can be charged is an offence punishable with penal servitude for life, and requiring all the cumbrous, slow-moving machinery of indictment in a Court of Assize. The House should understand that the Incitement to Mutiny Act is not repealed by this Bill. If ever any persons should emerge who are really the responsible authors of this sort of literature, an appropriate method of dealing with them is provided by the Incitement to Mutiny Act. This Bill, however, will provide for an easier, swifter and more suitable remedy and punishment for the comparatively humble persons who are caught distributing literature in the manner which I have described. The offence under this Bill, if it be passed, will be 744 punishable by three months' imprisonment. If any question should arise as to whether it may be necessary or desirable to provide for enabling anybody charged under the Bill to be tried by indictment, there is no difficulty at all, if the House so desires, in increasing the sentence from three to four months in accordance with the provisions of any other Act of Parliament dealing with criminal offences. I have taken the opportunity of reading such comments as have come under my notice with reference to the Bill—
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Attorney-General says that the sentence provided in the Bill is three months' imprisonment, and there- will be no difficulty in making it four months. Is there any provision in the Bill to allow the Public Prosecutor to make up the matter and deal with it?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am dealing at present with the earlier part of the Bill; I will come later to the position of the Public Prosecutor, and hope I shall be able to explain it to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman. I was explaining, in the first place, that the punishment provided by the Bill is of a much slighter kind than the punishment prescribed by the Incitement to Mutiny Act. The maximum there is penal servitude for life; the maximum under this Bill is three months' imprisonment; and I mentioned in passing that, if anybody should make the criticism that, by reason of the fact that the punishment is not more than three months' imprisonment, it will not be possible for a person charged to exercise the option which he otherwise would have of going before a jury, I shall be quite prepared to consider making the punishment four months, so as to give any accused person that right or option.
A very eminent critic has published some criticisms of the drafting of this Bill. Professor Laski is I understand a well known jurist, and he describes the drafting of the Bill as "astonishing." He asks, what do the words "endeavours to seduce" mean? My answer to the learned professor is that the words "endeavours to seduce" mean exactly what they have meant for 136 years, and exactly what every House of Commons intended that they should mean when it passed the Army Act or the Naval Discipline Act year by year; and I fancy that neither a jury nor a judge nor a magistrate will 745 have any difficulty in identifying the offence should it happen.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides for some particular offences. Clause 1 simply states the offence:If any person endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.Clause 2 provides, in Sub-section (1), that:If any person, without lawful excuse, has in his possession or under his control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's Forces would be an offence under section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.That is to say, it would be an offence under Clause 1 of the Bill if such a document were used for the purposes described in Clause 1. The Clause, of course, is intended to be deterrent. I believe, though only experience can show whether my belief is correct, that, when those persons who distribute this literature for a few shillings a day, at the request of more responsible persons who have managed to keep their identity secret, are prosecuted, and understand that they can be sent to prison for a fortnight, or a month, up to three months, they will be less willing, for a few shillings a day or week, to distribute this sort of literature. Sub-section (2) says that, if anybody is found without lawful excuse to have documents of this character in his possession, he shall be guilty of an offence under the Act. Can anybody complain of that? Can anybody who does not justify the use of such language as I have quoted, inciting persons to mutiny, complain if a person who is found in possession of such documents without lawful excuse is prosecuted for the offence and sentenced to a reasonable period of imprisonment? We shall hear what criticisms there may be on that question.
With regard to the expression "without lawful excuse," it is not a new expression. It appears in a number of Acts of Parliament with which I could trouble the House if the House so desired. It is a phrase which is well understood. Of course, if anybody has a document in his possession as part of his library, or for purposes which are manifestly not connected with seducing members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance, it could not be said that he had the docu- 746 ment without lawful excuse. This expression, "without lawful excuse," is perfectly familiar to the criminal law, it is found in a number of Acts of Parliament, and it merely means that, if any person is to be charged with having one of these documents in his possession, it is open to him to satisfy the court that he has a lawful excuse for its possession.
I pass to Sub-section (2) by whichIf any person does or attempts to do…any act preparatory to the committing of an offence he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.I apprehend that some people will say, as I think Professor Laski has said, that this is very novel. It is not novel. It appears in the Official Secrets Act, 1920. Section 7 of that Act contains precisely the same provision as this and makes it an offence to do something preparatory to the commission of an offence. An attempt might be made, for instance, to engage some of these unhappy distributors or to enter into a contract for the printing. Is it to be said that we are to wait until the literature is ready—until it is printed and distributed? Sub-section (2) makes it an offence to carry out preparatory acts for that purpose.
I was asked to deal with the position of the Director of Public Prosecutions in connection with these offences which are intended to be tried summarily. It is provided in Clause 3 that the consent of the Director shall be required if the matter is to be dealt with summarily. That is a very familiar provision. It is to be found in Section 24 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925. Professor Laski has said it is a complete innovation. The second Schedule of the Act of 1925 contains some pages of offences, some serious and some less serious, which can be prosecuted summarily, subject to this, that if the Director of Public Prosecutions thinks it is not an offence which should be dealt with summarily he has the right to impose his veto. Any unprejudiced person will see how reasonable it is that, if it should transpire that a particular offence is of a more serious character, the Director of Public Prosecutions, acting under the directions of the Attorney-General, should have the right to say, "This is a case for trial by indictment, and it must be so dealt with under the law." Unless anyone is 747 prepared to defend these publications or to say that these tools, as they are, should be dealt with under the cumbrous machinery of the Act of 1797, I think no serious criticism or objection can be taken to the first part of the Bill.
I now come to deal with the search warrant which, quite rightly, has attracted the attention of many Members with a view to seeing that we are doing nothing outrageous. Many Members will probably think at once of general warrants and a number of other irrelevant facts in history. This Clause has nothing to do with general warrants. General warrants were objectionable to the law in those days because the law made no provision for them, and the fact that they were general was an objection. The fact that they were issued by a Secretary of State only and not by a magistrate upon information was another objection. This Clause is not an illustration of the general warrant. It may be found in other Acts of Parliament, of which I have a long list. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Acts of Parliament in which provision is made for search warrants run into scores. One of the most recent is the Official Secrets Act of 1911, at the time of the Liberal supremacy, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was a Member of His Majesty's Government. There is in that Section practically word for word the same provision for a search warrant as in this Bill.
I could give scores of other instances from other Acts of Parliament. There is the Obscene Publications Act. There is a great difference of opinion as to what is obscenity in a piece of literature, but Parliament has provided that the Director of Public Prosecutions, having the necessary powers from a magistrate, shall have the right to search to discover in anyone's premises a piece of writing which contravenes the law. I will not weary the House by mentioning other offences. I challenge anyone to name an offence of a general character—I do not mean going into details or minutiae, but any sort of offence, either against public health or against the person or against property, and I can refer him to an Act of Parliament which empowers a magistrate upon proper information to order a search warrant to be made out.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, under the same terms as in this Clause and in Section 9 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911. Clause 3 says:If a Justice of the Peace is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Act has been committed, he may grant a search warrant.I do not say that in every single case the search warrant is in that precise form, but, to give the nearest illustration that I can, in the Official Secrets Act it is in precisely that form, almost the ipsissima verba. Someone may say this is an invasion of what we call the Englishman's castle. I share to the full the desire to protect the peace and privacy of an Englishman's home, but it becomes a mere question as to whether or not the public right has to take a higher place even than private immunity or private privilege. The many cases in which this House has approved the search warrants Clause shows that in some cases public necessity requires a Clause to be approved by Parliament. In this case let me assume that there is a house in a naval port or in a garrison town where it is well known that there is a quantity of this literature which is going to be used in a few days' time for seducing members of His Majesty's Forces from their duty or allegiance. Is it really to be said that, upon satisfactory information being brought to the attention of the magistrate, there should not be power to seize and destroy that literature instead of waiting until it is broadcast among those for whom it has been prepared? That is the alternative. It is a power which, if abused, would quickly fall into discredit and disuse.
I have no doubt that many existing search warrant Sections in Act of Parliament could be abused, but in fact they have not been. The law and public opinion have been careful to keep the use of this power within proper limits. I hope and believe that this Clause will not be abused either by the powers responsible or by the magistrates. As long as I have the honour to hold my present position these powers will certainly not be abused, and I am certain that, if any Member of the party opposite in the present Parliament should 749 occupy the same position, the powers will not be abused. The question is whether the House intends that masses of this literature which are well known by the authorities to be in a particular place or custody shall be allowed to be distributed to members of His Majesty's Forces or whether we shall, with proper safeguards empower the authorities to seize that literature and prevent it from poisoning and insulting the minds of the people for whom it is prepared.
I do not present the Bill to the House as a trifling Measure. It deals with matters of real importance. It is not a panic Measure. In spite of what has been said in the public Press and on some platforms, it is a method which, but for the exigencies of Parliamentary time, would have been produced many months ago. It deals with activities which have come into existence chiefly during the last two or three years and which it is almost impossible to suppress without doing a certain amount of injustice to these people who are, as I have said, only tools, and it is a Bill which provides a reasonable, up-to-date method for preventing crime rather than punishing persons who may be guilty of crime. The contest in this House on these occasions is always between what some people may regard, quite rightly, as the preservation of liberty and the preservation of public order. I yield to no one in my admiration for the free institutions of this country. We are naturally proud that this country provides, in contrast with other countries, an illustration of a free democracy which has not been supplanted by any dictatorship, and that is surely due to the fact that private opinions may be expressed, within certain limits, freely, even when offensive to the Government of the day. But it is necessary that those limits shall be maintained, and one of the limits which this House has long set to the expression of opinion is that no one shall be allowed by suggestion or by literature of this sort to attempt to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance to the King. When a man leaves His Majesty's Forces he may behave as he likes. When he is in His Majesty's Forces he should, and the vast majority of them do, respect the discipline and the duty which they owe. It is an insult to them that it should be possible for persons to let 750 other people think they can be seduced from that allegiance by such literature as I have cited.
Miss RATH BONE
In regard to the interpretation of Clause 2, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the document found on the premises must be of such a nature that it is addressed especially to members of the Forces, or might it have reference to a document which was of such a nature that, although it did not mention His Majesty's Forces, and perhaps was not directed specially against His Majesty's Forces, yet if circulated among the Forces, it might have the effect of inducing them to neglect their duty? For example, suppose it was a document that taught the doctrine that armed resistance was morally wrong, could that be interpreted as a document of such a nature that its dissemination, or the intention to disseminate it, among His Majesty's Forces would be an offence under Clause 1?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Lady knows as well as I do that it is always very difficult to deal with a hypothetical case of what is or what is not an offence. I must try to answer her question, but it is difficult always to say whether a document is an offence against a particular Section of an Act of Parliament until you have seen the document, but my answer to it in general is, No. Unless the document is one which is intended and brought into existence with a view to seducing a member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty it would not be obnoxious to the Act. The other question which the hon. Gentleman opposite asked was, Why make these persons amenable to courts of summary jurisdiction at all? The reason is that, rightly or wrongly—and I think rightly—the Government have taken the view that where a man in humble circumstances, possibly out of work, receives a few shillings—sometimes unknowingly receives money—for distributing subversive pamphlets, it is not right that he should be indicted and brought before a court of Assize or brought up at the Old Bailey and tried under all the elaborate pomp 751 and circumstance of a court of that sort. It will be open under this Bill for a man of that sort in future to be tried by summary processes, and if the Amendment which I have mentioned just now of increasing three months to four months is made, it will give him an option of electing to be tried by a jury, in which case he can have whichever method of trial he prefers. I think that nothing can be fairer than that, and that in the great majority of cases these small people will be tried summarily. I venture to think that when it is known that they are committing the offence, and can be tried summarily, this Clause will have justified its adoption by this House. This Bill will protect the freedom of the public and the freedom of the sailor and soldier from such offensive attempts to seduce him from his proper allegiance as, unhappily, too often take place at the present time.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
When reference to legislation on matters of this kind appeared in the Press, at first it was assumed in the public mind that at last the Government were to do something about the gentlemen who march about the streets in a sort of military formation and wear uniform and black shirts. Questions were asked of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who said that he considered this matter to be very serious, and that he was giving attention to it. These gentlemen use a kind of armoured car, and they include officers and non-commissioned officers. They have headquarters protected with barbed wire. Although the Home Secretary said that this was a serious matter to which he was giving his attention when the Bill was actually published, we found that no attention whatever was being given to people of this kind who are carrying on a sort of semi-military organisation. But the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, with the heads of the three armed Services—and, let the House note, not the Home Secretary—are deliberately making an attack upon long-established and jealously-guarded principles affecting the liberty of the people of this country. The 752 right hon. and learned Gentleman has introduced a Bill of a most sweeping nature containing, as he hinted, principles which have been repudiated by eminent judges for a century or two. He introduced the Bill in a speech which, I am sorry to say, was trivial, compared with the importance of the proposals to which the Government are asking the House to agree. He told us, for instance, that there had been the dissemination of organs called "The Soldier's Voice" and "The Red Signal." It is the first time the country has heard of the existence of these journals. I venture to say that there are very few Members of this House who have ever heard of them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave no evidence whatever of the effect of those journals. He told us nothing of any serious or grave disturbance which had come to the knowledge of the Army, Navy and Air Force heads. He left all that to the imagination.
It is now nearly 16 years since the War. This country, like other countries, has gone through most difficult times. Organisations such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about have established themselves in this country. I have said on many occasions that if it were not for the mischievous views held by some of these people, the country would have had much more trouble from the working classes than has been the case. These organisations have made no headway. There was a. Coalition Government for four years, there was a Conservative Government for some six years, and the National Government have been in existence for 2½ years, thus accounting for 12½ years out of the 16 years. The National Government, after 2½ years. have asked for powers which no other Government ever asked for, except in one case.
It is true, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, that Clause 1 of the Bill does not alter in substance the position as it was under the Mutiny Act, 1797, perpetuated by an Act of 1817. I do not suppose that there is any section of the House which has any objection—this party has not anyhow—to the operation of Clause 1. I have no kindly feelings, and have always had a contempt, for a person who would try to get a soldier subject to military conditions into trouble, when the person advising him would not be present 753 to shoulder any of the blame. I think that such conduct is contemptible.
The objection, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicated, is to the other Clauses. Under Clause 2 it is a crime to have possession not merely of the kind of leaflet described by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but of any leaflet or any book winch might be thought by a magistrate to have the effect of seducing a soldier from his duty, and to encourage him to disobey orders. Surely, this is a tremendous and dangerous extension. I question whether even Members of the National Government, with its great majority, will be so docile as to agree to give the Government such great powers as that. I know that the Prime Minister will not; he is sure to object. He has always held very strong views about this matter. He may be busy to-day, but if there ever was a discussion upon a Bill during which he ought to have been present, this is the one. I am not one who usually makes a point of dealing personally with the Prime Minister, but in 1916 he was in pretty much the same trouble as some people will be under this Bill. There were then very much the same powers being asked for as the Government now desire. The Prime Minister at that time said he had 500 or 600 volumes that would get him into trouble if the Bill which was then being discussed was allowed to go through. I will mention some of them later on.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It was the Bill introduced in respect of emergency purposes in 1916. The Prime Minister said:Five or six out of the magistrates who condemn these pamphlets are very bitter partisans,"—There will be some bitter partisans among magistrates when this Bill is operated—
§ Mr. LAWSON
yet are asked to give a decision on a political matter.He asked,Why do you send these things to magistrates? Why do you not send them to the High Court, where we can get a real legal opinion and legal decision upon constitutional questions? This is not a Small Debt Court case. This is not a pettifogging piece of civil disturbance to be settled by a person with prejudices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1916; col. 1101, Vol. LXXXIII]754 The Prime Minister at that time went on to make a long statement about the matter in the House. In 1925 he took the same lines when he said, writing in "Forward":This week we have had to fight the most pernicious proposal that has been made in modern times for the undermining of personal liberty. This monstrous proposal was pressed on us by the Government, and the whole opposition fought it tooth and nail. Finally, we beat them, and the Clause has gone.Pretty much the same power was asked for then as the Government are asking for now.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The Prime Minister cannot be here at the moment, and it is only right and fair for me to say that that was a proposal of a radically different character from the one before the House to-day. It was a proposal that a magistrate might grant a search warrant where there was reasonable ground for suspecting that an indictable offence had been or was about to be committed. It is clear that that was not the sort of power that is in the proposal in the present Bill.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am astonished that the Attorney-General, with his great legal experience, should try to cover his tracks by a trick of that kind. He knows as well as I know that the principle of search is involved in this Bill, as it was in the one to which he is referring. I am sorry to use strong language, but I must say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman must know as well as anyone that the question of search is involved, and that was the principle of liberty for which the Prime Minister stood at that time. Sub-section (1) of the Bill is very serious. It says:If any person endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.The Attorney-General tried to explain that the term "without lawful excuse," was understood clearly in legal circles. I was surprised to hear him say that that phrase is a simple matter, and that it works very well within understood limits. Eminent men in the law at the present time are just as much concerned about that phrase as the average citizen. They contend that it is so vague and uncertain as to provide no kind of security. One thing is certain about 755 this Sub-section, and that is that anyone having for any reason in his possession or under his control, even without the slightest intention of distributing them, documents which a magistrate might think would be likely to weaken the troops in their determination to obey any order, could be sent to prison.
The Attorney-General knows that the magistrate will have to judge whether such documents come within Sub-section (1), and he knows that there are magistrates, and magistrates. It would be valuable if we could, for this purpose, have had the experience of the Lord Chancellor in his appointment of magistrates. He has to insist upon certain qualities, but experience shows that he does not always get the right qualities. You may get a good old Conservative, so Conservative that nearly half the Conservatives in this House would repudiate his views. Such a magistrate in a rural area might be told that a certain man had in his possession the Communist manifesto that has been in the possession of thinking people for many years, anl has nothing to do with the present Russian situation, or with Communism as at present understood. A man might have in his possession books explanatory of the doctrine of Marx dealing with class war. I wonder if the Attorney-General knows—if he does not know, students know, students not limited to the Labour party, the Communist party, or the Liberal party, but even in the Tory party—that there are pamphlets interpreting the Marxian philosophy and that any good student will have such documents in his library at the present time. I am sure that the Prime Minister has a valuable set of them.
§ Mr. LAWSON
There are pamphlets on the Five-Year Plan. Any well-informed man to-day must know something about the Five-Year Plan. My experience is that the more I try to get to know about that plan the less I know about it. The League of Nations have issued a lot of peace pamphlets, and no doubt many Members of Parliament have them in their possession. During the War it was an offence to distribute the Sermon on the Mount. One hon. Mem- 756 ber put a question to the Attorney-General and asked what would be the position of a person possessing a pamphlet of that kind, a pacifist pamphlet, and the Attorney-General said that he did not think that kind of thing would be considered; but he must know that when he goes to a court of law it is not what the Attorney-General thinks or says but what the law says, that counts. The possession of any of these pamphlets and books might readily be interpreted by a magistrate as something coming within the compass of Sub-section (1). In a remote rural area where you have the mildest Labour men, you may have a stiff-minded gentleman on the bench, with ancient views of life, and he would not be two minutes in interpreting these documents as likely to be used to incite a soldier to disobey, and he might think this was a great opportunity to get back upon some of the Labour men whom he did not like in his area.
It is not only a question of possessing these documents and books. There is hardly a Member of this House who does not run the risk of breaking the law under this Bill by possessing books and pamphlets which might easily be interpreted by magistrates as incitement to disaffection. In the Library of this House we have Trotsky's "History of the Russian Revolution." Under Subsection (2) a person is guilty of an offence if he.…"does or attempts to do or causes to be done or attempted, any act preparatory to the commission of an offence.The draftsmen have certainly turned a few legal somersaults in order to make sure that they draw within the net those whom it is desired to draw. Possession is a new crime, and doing or attempting to be done or causing to be done or attempted is a new crime. The Bill not only gives effect to the old law but it makes new crimes. It is very difficult to see how any intelligent man will be able to avoid coming within the four corners of the Bill. The Attorney-General made light of Clause 3 (2):Where a prosecution under this Act is being carried on by the Director of Public Prosecutions a court of summary jurisdiction shall not deal with the case summarily without the consent of the Director.It would appear that he recognises the public protest about the attempt to take 757 away the right of trial by jury on this serious matter. Under the Mutiny Act and other Statutes it has always been necessary in any prosecution to proceed by way of indictment. The Attorney-General now recognises the protest in the country on this matter and says that it would be possible so to amend the Bill to give the accused the right to a jury, if he wished to be so tried.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It would be done by the same expedient that has been adopted before, by substituting four months for three months. The position would then be that the accused person would have the right to elect to go for trial before a jury. He would then be subject to more severe penalties, which would not be three months but it might be two years or a similar penalty.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Most people would rather have a jury. I rather think that we are having this Bill because people have been tried by jury and the right hon. Gentleman has been disappointed with some of those cases. Under Subsection (2) a case goes before a magistrate only if the Public Prosecutor desires it to go there. If he wishes, he can keep it in his own hands. Let me read Sub-section (2):Where a prosecution under this Act is being carried on by the Director of Public Prosecutions a court of summary jurisdiction shall not deal with the case summarily without the consent of the Director.The Director of Public Prosecutions can give magistrates the power to deal summarily with the case if he wishes, or he can keep the matter in his own hands.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)
There is possibly a slight misunderstanding as to the question of the Director keeping the case in his own hands, to use the expression of the hon. Member. The question is whether it is desirable to deal with the case summarily or to send it to Assizes. All that this Sub-section says is that where the Director of Public Prosecutions is prosecuting, that is where it is a case taken over by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it shall not be dealt with summarily if he thinks it a sufficiently serious case to be sent to the Assizes.
§ Major MILNER
In fact, the Director of Public Prosecutions now has the right instead of the defendant to choose the court.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It gives him the right to say that he considers it a serious case; not suitable to be dealt with summarily, but should go to the Assizes.
§ Mr. LAWSON
If there is a case in South Wales or in Durham, where you have a bench of Labour magistrates, I suppose that the Public Prosecutor would think that it was a matter which should be dealt with by himself, by indictment. You cannot trust Labour magistrates. You may have Conservative representatives there who may pass the word that the bench is not likely to convict the man because they may think it is a trivial matter. Therefore, the case will remain in the hands of the Public Prosecutor who will decide the court. If you have a Conservative bench of magistrates in a rural area and the case is one which is not likely to be considered by a jury sufficiently serious for condemnation, then the Public Prosecutor will let the ancient relics in the rural area deal summarily with the person. In regard to the question of search, it is quite true, as the Attorney-General says, that there are particular cases where search is now possible. There is a whole list of Acts dealing with larceny and coinage, and the keeping of disorderly houses, where it is possible under special Statute to search for a particular purpose; but in this case:If a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Act has been committed, he may grant a search warrant authorising any constable named therein to enter at any time, if necessary by force, any premises or place named in the warrant.I want hon. Members to pay particular attention to the wording of this Clause. There is no limit to the time or place. It means any premises or any place at any time. It may be a great building, a bank, or the Carlton Club, any person's house; and the constable can proceed:to search the premises or place and every person found therein, and to seize anything found on the premises or place or on any such person which he has reasonable ground for suspecting to be evidence of the commission of such an offence as aforesaid.A magistrate has full power to make the decision. He sends a constable to make a search. The search is not carried out in any kind of kid-glove manner; 759 there is nothing polite about it. The constable has power to take anything that he thinks fit. He has almost judicial powers to choose what he wants. In the famous case, referred to by the Attorney-General, in the latter part of the 18th Century, the King's Messengers who went to make the search at Entick's house were puzzled as to what they should take, and sent word to Lord Halifax asking him what he really wanted and what they should bring. He said "Bring the lot." They broke doors open; that has to be done if the doors are locked, and if there is any possibility of their not being allowed entry. A constable can use force, he can dynamite the doors open if he likes. In this particular case—and all searchers are pretty much the same—they proceeded to pull down books in the library, left them lying on the floor, pulled drawers out, broke locks—the general experience in cases of this kind—there is a most vivid description as to the powers which these constables thought they had. Any hon. Member if he goes into the Library and reads this case in detail will be shocked as to what the constables or King's Messengers thought it was their duty to do. They broke down doors, broke open locks, opened drawers and read any paper they liked. They acted in a manner which is generally considered scandalous but which is apparently quite proper when breaking in on an occasion like this.
The same thing can be done under the Bill merely on the order of a magistrate who thinks it is likely that some wrongful act is being committed. It is a new departure to give men who are untrained in law, who know little about the history of search, who are not meticulous in their judgment upon matters of this kind, or upon any other matter, the power to give a warrant to a constable to enter any person's house. I can imagine the village constable or some person in the village saying that there is a certain pamphlet in the possession of a certain individual; this is told to a certain type of magistrate, and he proceeds to do this kind of thing. Let me read what Lord Camden, the Lord Chief Justice of that day, thought about the case, and, incidentally what he would think about the action of the present Government. It was a case of libelling the Government, but the same point arises, the question of search. I 760 want to draw attention to his words, because it does not matter how trivial the offence may be, the fact remains that the Attorney-General is right up against one of the fundamental principles upon which the liberty of the subject in this country depends. Lord Camden said:If the point should be determined in favour of the validity of search the secret cabinets and bureaux of every subject in this kingdom will be thrown open to search and inspection, whenever the Secretary of State shall think fit.Under the Bill it is to be done when a magistrate thinks fit.His house is rifled; his most valuable secrets are taken out of his possession, before the paper for which he is charged is found to be criminal. If having it (a certain paper) in one's custody was the crime, no power can lawfully break into a man's house and study to search for evidence against him. This would be worse than the Spanish Inquisition, for ransacking a man's secret boxes and drawers to come at evidence against him, is like ransacking his body to come at his secret thoughts. Has a Secretary of State the right to seize a man's private letters or correspondence, family concerns, trade and business? This would be monstrous indeed.The Attorney-General is asking for the right to search, on the warrant of a magistrate, which gives a police constable absolute power to inquire and to search a house and to read any evidence or correspondence, private or otherwise. The Bill does more than that. An order under one of the Sub-sections gives power to destroy such correspondence as the Public Prosecutor may think fit, or for him to retain it in his possession if he thinks fit. That relates to anything that a constable brings to him, private correspondence or business concerns. It does not matter what it is. Once it is seized there is nothing that can get it out of their hands if this Bill is passed.
The House ought to be fully seized of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked for in a mild speech. The right hon. and learned Gentleman boasted about the freedom of this country. The Italians, the Germans and the Russians stand for the principle of dictatorship in varying forms. I think that they are wrong. As far as Italy and Germany are concerned, those who rule seem to have a definite contempt for the mental standard of their people, and unfortunately the people seem to have accepted that kind of thing. I am speaking of the principle of dictatorship 761 generally. We say that we stand for freedom and liberty. Fifteen or 16 years after the War, after two and a half years of security and peace and all the benefits brought about by a National Government, we have a Bill of this kind which goes right to the fundamentals.
The Government say that they have a belief in liberty and that they trust the people, but I believe that the people of this country are still so much alive to the principles of liberty and to the meaning of it, that if the Bill is passed the effect will be such that the sentiments of the people will soon be felt in this House and by this Government. The Government would do well to deal with the real troubles, and there are real troubles. If there is any dissatisfaction in the Army, Navy or Air Force, it is because many have enlisted when unemployed, and because they have fathers and brothers in the country who have been idle for so long that they are almost rotting physically because of that unemployment. The Government would have been rendering a far better service to the country and to the Forces and to itself if it had given attention to matters of that kind instead of wasting the time of the House with Bills of this kind, which assail the old-established and jealously-guarded principle of liberty upon which the whole life of the nation has rested.
It is the truth that soldiers, airmen and naval men are of a different calibre altogether from those who let all the thinking be done for them. There is an educational system in the Army, and I believe in the Navy and Air Force, too. It makes the Service man one of the best educated adults in the country. The Government would do well to trust the intelligence of the average man, and if there is any difficulty or any grievance it would do well to get at that grievance and to dig out the cause of the evil. This Bill automatically made me, as it must have made other people, go to some of the old standard works that deal with questions of liberty. At once there sprang to my mind that wonderful book from a wonderful pen, a book with a weird and terrible name. I refer to Milton's "Areopagitica," in which I found these words:Lords and Commons of England, consider what nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governors. A 762 nation, not slow and dull, but of a quick ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to…We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formal, slavish, but you must first become oppressive, arbitrary and tyrannous.If this Bill passes that is where it will lead.
§ 5.52 p.m.
Mt. ISAAC FOOT
I want to say right away that I am opposed to the Bill. When the learned Attorney-General brought his speech to an end with some reference to liberty, I really thought he was going to talk aboutA land of old and just renown,Where freedom slowly broadens downFrom precedent to precedent,and he might have told us that this is the last precedent for the broadening of freedom. I have no doubt that the learned Attorney-General sincerely thinks that he is safeguarding the freedom of the country, but there are some who regard this Bill as one which is full of danger for freedom. When I read the Bill I wondered what had been happening. I shared the astonishment of many men and asked what was happening to the Army, what was happening to the Navy, what undermining was going on, what fears did the Government apprehend that a Bill of this kind should have been produced I was amazed when I heard the evidence that was submitted to the House.
I do not know if it is all the evidence, but I took it down as it occurred. "In May, 1932"—that can be no justification for this Bill, for we are now in April, 1934. I am quite willing to support an emergency Bill to deal with an emergency, but it is no good telling us about some pamphlets that were circulated in May, 1932, and giving that as the justification for this Bill. We were told that in 1932 there were 17 of these subversive pamphlets found at 20 different places. I waited for evidence of the growth of this propaganda, but the evidence was that there was less of it in the following year, for then, instead of 17 subversive pamphlets, the number had fallen to 11, and instead of their being distributed at 20 places the emporia of sedition had fallen to 14. I do not know what has happened in 1934. I want something that is cogent and pressing for the 763 present time. I remember that last week, when the Prime Minister announced the business for this week, questions were raised as to important matters that were before us at the time. I want to know what claim for priority this Bill has over the other issues now pressing upon the public. I listened further as to the number of such pamphlets that were being distributed, and I understand that in one year there were 50,000. Or was it for one year? I am not sure whether it was not for both.
Let anyone who has ever had 50,000 pamphlets printed realise what happened to them. If you distribute pamphlets at an election, you consider yourself lucky if one in a dozen is read. If they were Liberal pamphlets they would all be read by wise electors. The only reason why we Liberals have not done better is that we have not been able to get all our pamphlets fully read. But if 50,000 pamphlets are printed there is no election agent who would not recognise that there is a percentage of wastage. Pamphlets are trodden underfoot or washed away by the rain or blown away by the wind. I wonder what evidence there is that a single soldier has been influenced in his allegiance or that a single sailor has done more than deride these wonderful papers, "The Soldiers' Voice" and "The Red Signal," which to the astonishment of their authors have been given such publicity in His Majesty's House of Commons. I do not justify, and no one would justify, the attempts that are being made to disturb the allegiance and the loyalty of those who are serving in the Army or the Navy, but if that is all the evidence I say there has never been flimsier ground for any Measure.
The onus is on the Government. All the struggle for freedom is the fight between the individual and the executive. The learned Attorney-General has taken us back to the Wilkes business. All the fight for liberty has been a contest between the executive and the individual. I am always for the individual against the Executive, except when the Executive needs to protect the public interest, and the evidence for the protection of the 764 public interest must be very strong. But really there has been no evidence as yet that the public interest has been affected to the extent of a single bluejacket or a single soldier. When we have that letter written by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs telling us that the country is humming with prosperity and that we are enjoying all the advantages of a National Government, which is embarrassed by the size of its own majority, surely it is a very poor time to advertise to the world that we have to adopt these emergency Measures to deal with disaffection of His Majesty's Forces on land. But suppose that there were the need, is this the way? Here is a Bill that, whatever its merits, is open to such criticism as that which the "Manchester Guardian" of this morning published, and it is valid criticism. The "Manchester Guardian" said:It makes it easier to send people to prison for their opinions. It widens the scope of political offences and greatly increases the power of the police to interfere arbitrarily with the domestic liberties of the individual.That was the indictment of a great newspaper, to my mind the best newspaper in Europe. I invite the right hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench, who comes from that part of the country, to make an answer to that indictment.
I was referring to his colleague next to him, who comes from that neighbourhood, I believe.
I was thinking of the Rusholme Division of Manchester, which was represented by the Solicitor-General's predecessor. But I think the Attorney-General said that he had acquainted himself with what had been said upon this subject, and I have no doubt that he has acquainted himself with the leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" to-day. However, the indictment is there, and I would invite the Solicitor-General to deal with it. Let us consider the offences under the Bill. I do not mind the offence which is referred to in, Clause 1 but I find some difficulty as to the passage about a man attempting or causing to be attempted, 765any act preparatory to the commission of an offence.It may be that these words appear in some earlier Statute. I should like to know where they are to be found and how they have been interpreted. The Solicitor-General will follow me in these words, which, I submit, describe an offence under this Bill. "A man has in his possession without lawful excuse a document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's Forces would cause to be attempted an act preparatory to the commission of an offence." Bills have been introduced in the past for the purpose of clearing up difficulties. This is a Bill for the creation of difficulties. I think I have not strained the wording of the Bill. I have put the effect of two Clauses together and those words are to be taken as describing an offence which is to come under the cognisance of the law.
I was going to say something about the grave offence which has hitherto been dealt with by indictment and trial by jury, but is now under this Bill to be dealt with by the ordinary justices. I am glad that a concession has been made—the first, I think, of many concessions that will have to be made in respect of this Bill—which will enable a man who is charged to claim his right to be tried by a jury. But the very fact that you propose to leave so many of these cases to the ordinary justices presents this difficulty. When a man is charged before the magistrate he has to recognise that if he goes before a jury he will have all the expense, or, if not the expense, the trouble and the waiting involved in that procedure. Often such a man is not fully seized of his rights in this respect. Everyone who has been in a magistrates' court knows how often when a man is asked whether he will have his case tried by a jury or not he has difficulty in replying. In so far as these cases are dealt with by magistrates, then we have here a disease which is beyond their practice. When we consider the issues which are raised by questions of sedition and seduction from loyalty, it must appear to us that to leave these things to magistrates is like calling in plumbers to deal with problems of psychology.
How can magistrates deal with questions such as will be raised in these 766 cases? Very often they will be dealing with the matter upon hearsay and upon an individual's local disrepute. What chance would a man have before some magistrates, if he is known as an awkward fellow, if he has a little disrepute in his own neighbourhood and if he is found in possession of one of these documents? How can magistrates help themselves from feeling their own predilections and the results of their ordinary training and upbringing and giving such an awkward fellow two or three months in which to cool his head? I ask the House to consider the questions that would have to be decided in these cases. The Solicitor-General probably could decide it, but look at the points which must arise before magistrates. Sedition itself is difficult to define, and it is very difficult to draw the line between propaganda and sedition. If it is difficult to define sedition it is very difficult to find a definition of the phrases "incitement to disaffection" and "endeavouring to seduce from duty or allegiance." We can deal with an overt act, but the difficulty is in dealing with the purpose.
I believe that the Bill is imposing an impossible strain on magistrates in asking them to deal with the motive, with the thought behind the act. When an overt act has been done it can be judged, but it is a different matter when we come to measure motive. There is not one of us who has not some uncertainty about his own motives, and magistrates are bound to fumble a great deal when they come to deal with the motives of others. I am against a Bill which is going to put a punishment upon opinion. It puts a punishment upon thought. I have read just now the terms of the offence which must include the thought in the mind of a man. There was a time when Mazzini was disliked by the Austrians because he was a young Italian going about with his thoughts and they wanted to know what he was thinking about. Caesar did not like Cassius because the latter thought too much.Yond" Cassius hath a lean and hungry lookHe thinks too much: Such men are dangerous.This is a Bill, as I say, to deal with motives and thoughts and because of that fact that it raises new and serious issues. In regard to the question of documents I recognise that under the Bill the docu- 767 ments must be in someone's possession without lawful excuse. But those words are not, I think, capable of a very easy definition. The hon. Lady, the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), just now raised the question as to what kind of documents were intended. I could understand this Measure if it applied only to documents prepared for this specific purpose. But will the Solicitor-General answer the question which the Attorney-General seemed to find some difficulty in answering just now: "What about marked copies of the New Testament, that is, copies of the Testament in which what may be termed the pacifist passages are underlined?"
I was once called in to advise a man who was on trial before court-martial. He was a business man of some standing in this country, but he held Tolstoyan views, and he was charged with being a conscientious objector. I asked him: "How do they deal with you in this place"? and he replied: "They deal with me quite kindly." I then asked him: "Have you any books to read?" He replied: "They have taken away all my books like Tolstoy, but they have left me the New Testament, and that is the cause of all the trouble." I should not accept his view upon that, but he was an honest and a conscientious man and he found justification for his action in the New Testament. Take, if you like, the well-known passage from the Bigelow Papers:Ez fer war, I call it murder,—Ther you hey it plain and flat;I don't want to go no furderThat my Testyment fer that.Ef you take a sword and draw itAnd go stick a fellow thru,Government can't answer fer it.God will send the bill to you.Those lines were written a great many years ago, and they represent the pacifist idea. Would the circulation of such a passage come within the terms of this Measure? I imagine that under the terms of the Bill the circulation of that passage by those anxious to spread pacifist views, would become for the first time a criminal act under the operation of our English law. There is one chapter in our history which everyone is anxious to forget. The period at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century is the worst chapter in our history. Then we had all the melancholy 768 story of repression and of sedition trials when, as someone put it:Lord Eldon and the Court of Chancery sat heavy on mankind.Does the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General look forward to being associated with a Measure that would take us back any way towards that time? I am sure both would resent that idea as much as anyone, but the arguments which have been used in favour of their Bill are the same as the arguments which were used at that time. We have the argument that inflammatory and poisonous literature is being circulated and that the only way to deal with the evil is a Measure of this kind. The Attorney-General said we might be sure that he would not abuse the privilege given him in this Measure. I should be satisfied with this Bill if he and the Solicitor-General continued in their present offices. But we are passing a Bill which, for all we know, may be a long time on the Statute Book. It is the Measure not of this Executive but of any Executive. It is a Measure not merely for this time but for any time and it is the reactionary time of which I am afraid. It is in the time of fear that we get the worst of all tyrannies, as a great Frenchman has said—when you have the tyranny of fear and when the country is in a panic and is looking round for means to defend itself. That is when you get fear which the greatest political thinker in English history has spoken of as the most unjust, unwise and cruel of all councillors.
It is when you have a reactionary Government in a time of fear and apprehension that this Measure may be used for the destruction of our liberties. I only suggest that if we have to deal with difficult people we should remember that it is the obnoxious and the unpopular and the suspected who need the protection of the law. That great thinker of whom I have already spoken has also said that tyranny never chastises its own instruments. I think that we are going the wrong way about this business. Even if the case were much stronger than the case which has been put before us, it would not justify this Measure and upon the flimsy grounds submitted to us I say that it is not a Measure with which the Government ought to proceed. When dealing with problem of soldiers and 769 sailors we must accept the fact that soldiers and sailors are not machines. Take the chapter in Carlyle's "French Revolution" which refers the "whiff of grapeshot." What, says Carlyle, if those who were going to fire the grapeshot were those with mothers and sisters and brothers living upon boiled grass? The trouble in France was that there came a time when there was sympathy between the soldiers and the sufferings of the people.
The best way to meet disaffection is to deal with social grievances. If a time comes when the soldiers and sailors feel that the Executive is tyrannical and is behaving wrongly and the people are suffering, they will not wait to look up a section of a Statute as to what action they should take. I suggest that this Bill will not achieve its purpose; that we are on the wrong lines in introducing it; that it is an unnecessary advertisement to the world of any small difficulties that may exist and that we have the highest possible authority for resisting it. The Prime Minister has given us that authority in the past. He has given his authority in the speeches to which reference has been made as to the difficulty of search and the rest. Although the right hon. Gentleman might have been dealing at that time with a Measure which differed from this in some of its proposals, it cannot be refuted that he was dealing with the main contention which has been put before the House to-day, and that upon the question of search his argument of 1916 is applicable to this Bill.
The Prime Minister must take his responsibility for this Bill, and I hope he will take the responsibility for its withdrawal. There is no one who has taken a great part upon the question of liberty and spoken such swelling sentiments upon liberty as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I hope that he will be associated with the withdrawal of this Bill. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has read the Bill. He has been very busy writing a letter of support to a candidate down at Basingstoke, who is opposed to the White Paper and who stands, as he has declared, for isolation in international affairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am able to prove both those statements. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman was so busy upon that 770 matter that perhaps he has not had time to read this Bill. He is a great champion of liberty, and he said the other day, within a few yards of this place, that although he was in the Government, he was there to defend the great principles of liberty. Very well, let him look at this Bill and tell us what he would have said about it under ordinary conditions, if he had not been a Member of the Government. This Bill is one that we are glad to challenge, and one which I am not inclined to say should be read in six months' time. I think we should just forget all about it, and if the two Law Officers of the Crown will consent to the withdrawal of the Bill, we shall not bring it up against them and we shall not dwell upon the fact too much. I think the whole House and the country will be relieved if this Bill, which should never have been introduced and which holds great potentialities of restriction and arbitrary power in days to come, is just taken away from Parliament altogether.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. OSWALD LEWIS
Members of the Socialist party often tell us that they desire to extend the operations and the authority of the Government. They want to see the Government of this country taking over a more varied and extended share of our ordinary life. One would have thought that their spokesman in this House would therefore have been among the very first to support any Measure which was designed to prevent attack upon the loyalty and integrity of public servants, and indeed, from that point of view, it is very hard to understand the opposition to this Measure from the Labour party in this House. The weakness of their case against the Bill appears to be illustrated by the weakness of the arguments that were brought forward in support of that case by the hon. Member who was entrusted to move the Amendment. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) read to the House the offence described under Clause 1:to seduce any member of His Majesty's forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty.He described that offence as being, in his opinion, contemptible, and he thought that any man guilty of such conduct as that described in Clause 1 was a contemptible man, but he proceeded to de- 771 vote the rest of his speech to an opposition to the only reasonable way to prevent the offence being committed. According to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, it is a proper and reasonable thing to punish some poor, needy, out-of-work fellow who, for a few coppers, has thrown pamphlets, which possibly he has never read, over a wall or pushed them under a door, but it is an improper thing to take powers to strike at the man who holds a stock of those pamphlets and arranges for their distribution. It is as though someone were to come down to this House and argue that it is a fair and proper thing to punish a man for theft, but grossly unreasonable to proceed against the receiver of stolen goods.
I cannot help feeling sorry at the attitude of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and, apparently, the attitude of those sitting around him, to judge from their applause, because it seems to me most unfortunate that they should, by that attitude, lend colour to the suggestion that the hot-heads are gaining control and influence in their party and are pushing them on a course which they themselves would otherwise be reluctant to follow. I have recently had my attention called to two pronouncements by prominent Members of the Labour party, which seem to me to have some significance in connection with our Debate this afternoon. The first is contained in a pamphlet called "Can Socialism come by constitutional methods?" It is from the pen of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and the passage is as follows:However carefully laid the plans of the Socialists may be, it will be impossible to guarantee the peacefulness of the change.The other pronouncement was made in a pamphlet called, "The challenge to capitalism" and was from the pen of the right hon. Sir Charles Trevelyan, Baronet, who was, as hon. Members will recollect, President of the Board of Education in the last Labour Government. He said:It will be much better to use the word 'revolutionary' freely and frankly to adopt that adjective for Labour party policies, disregarding any fear that it may create.Obviously, if a certain group of people in a party get it into their minds that 772 the electors in the country are too sensible ever to return that party with a majority in this House, and that their only opportunity of getting power is, in some time of disturbance or trouble, to seize that power by force, one can quite understand that to such people disloyalty in the Forces of the Crown would have its value, and I say again for that reason that I regret that hon. Members opposite should lend colour to the idea that it is such notions as these that are gaining force and authority in their party.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street spoke of the black shirt movement. Fascism in Italy owed its origin to, and could never probably have come about at all had it not been for, the previous excesses of the Labour movement in Italy. Nazi-ism in Germany owed its growth to the awful example of the excesses of Labour in Russia, and nothing is more calculated to bring a flow of recruits to the black shirt movement in this country than passages such as I have read out this afternoon and conduct such as that of hon. Members opposite in opposing this Bill. I dislike advocates of violence equally, whether they wear a black shirt, a brown shirt, or a red shirt, and I am sure that in their secret heart there must be members representing the Labour party in this House who share my view. I only wish they could see that conduct such as root and branch opposition to a Bill of this kind must make ordinary people think that they do not hold those views.
The Bill is a short one, and it is easy to understand. It provides a simple method of procedure and penalties which I think few will regard as excessive for the offences described in the Bill. In conclusion, I would remind the Members of the House that His Majesty's Forces exist for the protection of the liberties of our people and for their protection against enemies from abroad or against violent uprisings from within. I hope very much the House will, by a large majority, carry this Bill.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Major GWILYM LLOYD GEORGE
As one of those for whom the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) is sorry—
§ Major LLOYD GEORGE
I think the hon. Member said, referring to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son), "those around him who apparently support him in his speech," of whom I was one, and my hon. Friend below the Gangway, the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) was another.
§ Major LLOYD GEORGE
I dispute the hon. Member's contention that anybody who is opposed to this Bill ipso facto supports sedition, because I do not suppose there is a Member of this House who has riot a loathing for anybody who, as my hon. Friend here said at the beginning of his speech, attempts to seduce members of His Majesty's forces from their duty, and I certainly yield to no one in my desire to prevent that. My contention is that we have sufficient Acts of Parliament to handle that situation, and that we have handled it very successfully in the past, but this Bill does a good deal more. When I saw it at first I confess to being somewhat surprised, and I asked myself what had happened in the last few weeks, or months or years to make it necessary to produce another Bill, but I was quite content to await the explanation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he came to introduce the Bill. I must confess that, after hearing his explanation, I am still very much in the dark as to the reasons which prompted the Government to produce the Bill. We have heard of 50,000 pamphlets, anonymous pamphlets. It occurred to me to wonder how they would trace the gentleman or gentlemen who produced them, because there is very slight indication from the pamphlet itself as to where he or they could be found, but that is by the way, and I am as much in the dark as ever, after hearing the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
I want to consider for a short while the powers which the Government take unto themselves in this Bill. It is not the duty of the House of Commons to regard this Bill as the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues would administer it. The duty of the House of Commons is to look at a Bill of this 774 character and to see what possibilities lie within its lines for other Governments after the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Government have passed away. On the face of it, the Bill simply seeks to prevent sedition.
§ Major LLOYD GEORGE
I understood that the purpose of the Bill was to prevent sedition:to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of endeavours to seduce members of His Majesty's forces from their duty or allegiance.That is surely the same as preventing sedition, though I am not a lawyer. What is sedition? I am a layman, and, may I point out, so are most magistrates, to whom very extensive powers are being granted in this Bill. Being a layman, I want to look up one or two definitions, and this is one of them. I found it difficult to find the difference between "sedition" and "seducing," and I am sorry for the magistrate who has to interpret Clause 2. The definition I found was:stirring up or fomenting discontent against Government and disturbing of public tranquility as by inflammatory speeches or writings.I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a very wide interpretation. I do not say that it is the only definition, but it is one definition, and it gives very wide powers to any administration that cares to use it. It will boil down in the end to what the Government of the day consider subversion to be. Governments alter from time to time, fortunately, and different Governments have different ideas as to what subversion means. As Governments change, new interpretations will be put upon it, and action is bound to be governed, especially under Clause 2, Sub-section (3), of the Bill, by political considerations. Nothing can prevent it. It is obvious that what some people honestly think to be subversive of the Constitution, other people equally honestly believe to be in the best interests of the State.
We have heard of previous Acts of Parliament dealing with this question. I regard the Act of 1817 as providing a good example of a Measure dealing with offences which some people may claim to be subversive and which others will claim to be in the best interests of the 775 State. That Act was passed at a time of grave discontent in this country which culminated in serious rioting. Secret societies had been formed and committees of both Lords and Commons were instructed to investigate them. It is on record that the Lords Committee decided that some of these societies were definitely subversive of the Constitution. I took the trouble to look up some of the aims of these societies. The aim of one society was that Parliament should meet annually. It then went on to demand universal suffrage and the abolition of the property qualification for Members of Parliament. It also advocated the payment of Members of Parliament and, the worst thing of all, it demanded voting by ballot. Those were aims which some people regarded at that time as subversive of the Constitution and the State. Many people are in this House to-day who would be ashamed of anybody thinking that they regarded any of these aims as not perfectly proper. They are all to-day the law of the land, but when that Act was passed they were definitely decided by a committee of Parliament to be subversive of the Constitution.
The fact of the matter is that you cannot avoid bringing politics into a Bill of this character. Under Clause 2, Subsection (3), any magistrate can issue a warrant. That is open to unlimited abuse politically. In any district where the political opinions of other people were not popular it would not be difficult to get a search warrant. I would like to ask the Government what would have happened if a Conservative Government had been in power when the events in Ulster in 1913 occurred and this Bill had been in operation? Where would they have gone to find a magistrate in Ulster to issue a search warrant for Lord Carson's house? That would be definitely political action. There may be differences of opinion as to whether the attitude of Lord Carson and his followers was right or wrong. There can be no doubt that it was sedition—it was the seducing of members of His Majesty's Forces from their duty. There can be no doubt that it was successful. Lord Carson said:The Army are with us.Then there was a gentleman called Rowland Hunt, a Member of this House, 776 who sent out a notice with the House of Commons stamp on it to a sergeant-major in one of the Guards battalions—not an ordinary line regiment. In this notice he said:It is to be hoped that British officers will find means of letting Mr. Asquith know that they will resign if the Home Rule Bill is sent to the King for signature before it is submitted to the people. Every loyal Territorial officer will have no difficulties about resigning.I like the word "loyal." The present Prime Minister, referring to these events, said:They have got to face the consequences of their own action, and if their action had been successful it would have meant that the Army would have overridden the decisions of this House, and, so far as we are concerned, we shall never submit to such action.The "Morning Post" said:The Army has killed the Home Rule Bill, and the sooner the Government recognise the fact the better for the country.What would have happened under this Bill if it had been in operation and the Attorney-General had been then acting as Law Officer of the Crown? That particular act of sedition had the support of every Conservative Member of Parliament, and yet everybody on the other side regarded it as a definite attempt, and a successful attempt, to seduce His Majesty's Forces from their loyalty. That is a case which is bound to arise, one section of opinion thinking it in the best interests of the country that you should have sedition, and another thinking that sedition ought to be punished.
I will give another illustration from the present Prime Minister. He used long ago to belong to the Independent Labour Party. The premises of that party used to be raided frequently, and the right hon. Gentleman raised the matter in the House after a prosecution which followed one raid. The only thing they took was a speech by Lord Snowden, which I can understand might have been pretty hot, and a sheet of hymns sung at Sunday Socialist meetings mostly taken from "Hymns, Ancient and Modern." I can understand that during a war some of the words of those hymns could be very seditious. The Prime Minister, speaking of this raid in the House, said:If there is a body of people in this country that quite honestly think it their duty to put forward certain views before 777 the people of this country they are not doing so for the purpose of weakening the country; they are not doing so from any motive with which any Member of the Government has a right to quarrel, or from any motive that is not quite as good as any that animates Members of the Cabinet itself. Those views will be put before the country—must be put before the country…. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Herbert Samuel) may put his policeman upon us. He would be wise if he did not. He ought to put us—I talk with the greatest friendliness to the Government—upon our honour. That is far more effective to appeal to us to defend the best interests of the country than any force he can use. He can use his force. His force will fail."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1916; col. 2995, Vol. 82.]That is the view taken at that time by the Prime Minister. I wonder if he takes that view to-day? I looked for his name on this Bill, but I did not see it there, and I shall look with great interest in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow to see whether he votes for it, because we have heard about the seditious books he had in his library. He is not liable to be raided to-day because circumstances are different, but he might have been liable in the past, and, if he is not careful, he may be liable in future. At any rate, his 600 volumes will have increased enormously in size by now. He condemned a similar provision to this in the Act of 1925, I see no difference between the two. I should have liked to ask him what the difference is between the Section in the 1925 Act, which he so roundly condemned, and the provision in this Bill for which presumably he will vote to-night. I repeat that the Bill is open to unlimited abuse. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that if it were abused it would fall into disuse. It seems to be based on the principle that the search will be made first in the hope that there will be found something on which a charge can be based. That is a new idea of justice in this country. A warrant can be granted by any magistrate. No one would be safe in consequence. If somebody had a copy of a speech by Lenin and it was marked as a Bible is marked, it would be a serious matter. With regard to this question of allowing magistrates to issue a warrant, I would like to point out that speaking in the Debate on the Act of 1817, Lord Erskine said:He had a great respect for the magistrates of the country which was under the highest obligation to the gentlemen who took upon them its painful and laborious duties, but it should be remem- 778 bered that the powers he had objected to were not given to the highest of the judges nor to all of them together. His noble and learned Friend could not take upon himself to decide what was or what was not 'a bringing into contempt the constitution of the kingdom'. He could only deliver his opinion to the ordinary classes of our people composing the juries of the country, although the matters to be judged of were the deliberate acts of the mind in written and published compositions: how much less fit then was it in a manner to repeal the Libel Act and to stigmatise its principle by giving a power to the lowest magistrate to judge the quality of the most unpremeditated discoursesI think that the words spoken by that great defender might very well be applied to Sub-section (3) of Clause 2 of this Bill. Another danger in the Bill is its appalling vagueness. I am not comforted by the assurance of the Attorney-General of the trial by jury. After the Act of 1797 and 1817, in very few eases where juries were conducting the trial was it possible to get a conviction against the people accused. Under this Bill the power of trial by jury is taken away to a certain extent. The vagueness of the charges possible under the Bill is perfectly amazing. It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that words mean what they say. That is not my experience of the law. The words of the Bill are:If any person does or attempts to do, or causes to be done or attempted any act preparatory to the commission of an offence.In other words, if any man thinks that he might at some time care to lift a pearl necklace out of the window of a shop in Bond Street then, on the terms of those words, it is the same as committing the offence. Under this Bill the early Christians would have been guilty of very serious sedition in the days of the Romans, because I understand that they did a lot of propaganda among the legionaries, and they certainly would have been searched—I do not know whether they had houses in those days—and they certainly would have been finished altogether. The hon. Lady behind me asked a question with regard to the position of those who preach peace and disarmament, and I do not think the answer was a very satisfactory one. There are people in this country—whether we agree with them or not does not matter—who believe that the best way to bring about disarmament is for this coun- 779 try to give a lead. Are they liable to prosecution under this Bill? The Attorney-General says "No," hut the wording of the Bill does not bear him out, and, as far as I can make out, it is not what the Bill says that we have to consider but what the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks it says.
This Bill will, if passed, probably exist for some time. Of the two earlier Acts which he mentioned one was passed more than 130 years ago and another one in 1817. I do not know what the Attorney-General of those days said, but those Measures are still here. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that what I have just mentioned is not an offence, but how, under this Bill, could it be regarded as other than an offence, because if anyone tells troops not to fight that must be an offence? And what would happen to places like the Oxford Union? There may be differences of opinion as to the benefits that might accrue from the suppression of the Oxford Union, but there is no shadow of doubt that the Oxford Union could be suppressed, or the members of it could be searched and their premises raided, if they supported the Motion which gained so much notoriety some few months back. Now that we are on this question I would point out that magistrates have got to decide a good deal. A good many magistrates thought the Act of 1817 was intended to suppress all debating societies. An alderman of the City of London gave it as his opinion that that was the object of the Bill—to suppress debate, lectures, and that kind of thing.
I must confess that I am absolutely in the dark as to the need for this Bill. Hitherto these Acts have resulted from a grave national situation. The Nore Mutiny, a very serious matter, was responsible for the Act of 1797. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether that Act would have been passed to-day under similar conditions? What would happen to-day would be that a court of inquiry would be held, and some officers pretty high up would have a very severe time, because the cause of the Nore Mutiny was poor food, arrears of pay, flogging for the slightest misdemeanour and the activities of the press gang. The sailors of those days found conditions intolerable and revolted. Every effort was made to connect the 780 mutiny at the Nore with politics. It failed then, but the Bill went through, despite the fact that they could not prove that politics had anything to do with the mutiny. As a result of that Measure appalling punishment was meted out to Cobbett, who wrote a furious pamphlet attacking the authorities. There had been mutiny in a British regiment and German troops had been brought in to flog the mutineers. Cobbett wrote an article protesting against it, and under that Act he was given two years' imprisonment. It is the same with the Act of 1817. The only reason why that was passed was the general alarm among the governing classes at unrest, which had culminated in riots, in various parts of the country.
The reason for the Bills of those days is manifest. What reason has the right hon. and learned Gentleman given to-day for putting forward this Bill? All that he has said has always been the view put forward by the authorities. He said the thing of which he complained has been a growing one, that there were prosecutions before the War. Did ever troops and sailors withstand a test of loyalty comparable to that which they went through during the War? After the War, it is said, we had the same thing. There were constant stories of the country being undermined by Communism and that kind of thing, but the answer to that is that the growth of Communism in this country is not a very good advertisement for the propaganda on its behalf. The fact is that in a healthy State sedition falls on stony ground. It only flourishes where discontent is rife, and discontent comes from a sense of injustice. The best thing the Government can do is to concentrate on removing injustice where they find it. They must remove discontent in the Services, and elsewhere as well, because if discontent leads to trouble it does not matter how many of these Bills we pass, they will not be worth the paper on which they are written. Let the Government concentrate more on removing the causes of discontent. Let them concentrate their efforts on giving employment to our people, on removing the evil of the slums, on building better houses, and on raising the condition of the people. Let them do that—and after all that is what they were returned here to do—let them get on with the job, instead of wasting their 781 time upon Bills of this sort, and let them remember in doing so that no State can survive which substitutes fear for freedom and force for persuasion.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
It was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he unfolded this Bill in the House that this was a matter of very grave importance, and it is only right that the Measure should be discussed from every angle, by those who believe in its principles as well as by those who desire to oppose it. Ever since this Bill was unfolded by my right hon. Friend the learned Attorney-General no real criticism has been directed against the objects of the Bill, and I hope that my hon. Friends who have opposed it will forgive me if I do not enter upon the various matters to which they have referred, because in my humble judgment they are entirely outside the scope of the Bill and of the matters to which the Bill refers. There has been a good deal of discussion about the hardship that may ensue from magistrates having to come to certain conclusions. There may be a good deal to be said against magisterial procedure as we have it in this country to-day, but so long as we have that procedure, and so long as the magistrate's court is the court of preliminary investigation, to that court and to no other should go all complaints relating to anything of a criminal nature. We ought to bear in mind that, daily, benches of magistrates have to form opinions and give certain decisions; they have to interpret certain sections of the law dealing with cases which may mean nothing less than life or death to the people who are charged before the courts over which those magistrates preside. I do not speak only of stipendiary magistrates, but of all those courts where the magistrates are lay magistrates and have to come to conclusions and make decisions as far reaching in their consequences at any conclusion that has to be formed under this Bill.
Whatever has been said about the power which this Bill seeks to give to magistrates to authorise the grant of a search warrant, we must remember that the right of search is not entirely new in this country. One of the companions to equality before the law must be some easy way in which the law can be put into motion, and to my mind there can be no other way of authorising a search than by 782 giving power to a magistrate to issue a warrant upon information laid before him on a complaint which somebody desires to have investigated. It was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) that he did not mind Clause 1, and I have not heard anybody say a single word against that provision for proceeding against anyone endeavouring to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance or duty. I think it is idle to say by way of criticism that any attempt to carry on propaganda in favour of the principle of disarmament would be an offence against Clause 1. I venture to say that no Government have done more for the cause of disarmament than this Government, and it is idle to say that a Government cannot at the same time say, "We shall do all we can to promote disarmament and bring about peace in the world, and yet we shall take criminal proceedings against any person endeavouring to seduce any member of the Forces from doing his duty." The two things are not exclusive, they run hand-in-hand, and I hesitate to think what would be the condition of any State, however keen the head of it might be in supporting the principles of universal peace, if it were to allow the activities made an offence in Clause 1 to predominate as an accepted state of affairs.
It is only right to say that the word "sedition" does not appear in the Bill from start to finish. All the criticism of the horrors that may ensue to millions of people in this country if sedition is made an offence is founded upon a complete misapprehension of the position. What is covered by Clause 1, and rightly covered in the view of many of us, is the attempt to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from the duty which he owes to the Sovereign. I would like to say a word on the next Clause, because I think a good deal of misapprehension exists about it, especially on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, who I am sorry is not in his place. Clause 2 provides that:If any person, without lawful excuse, has in his possession or under his Control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's Forces would be an offence under Section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.783 The second paragraph, which does not quite relate to the first paragraph, says this:If any person does or attempts to do, or causes to be done or attempted, any act preparatory to the commission of an offence under Section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.In other words, the doing of an act preparatory to the commission of an offence is an act only if that act refers to something under Section 1, the very Section which my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin agreed, I think, should be part of the established law of the land. It was suggested by the hon. Gentleman—I am sure quite unintentionally—that that part of Clause 2 applied to every offence under this Bill. As I read it—and I hope one of my right hon. Friends will correct me if I am wrong—that provision which makes it an attempt to do something preparatory to the commission of an act, only refers to the offence in Section 1. I am glad to have that confirmation of that view. It has no reference to the offence that is made by Clause 2 of this Bill, and will therefore be a concrete matter upon which the courts will have to come to a conclusion. By Sub-section (3) power is given to a justice to do what he certainly should be able to do in these cases, just as in so many other cases: to issue a search warrant. Nobody can suggest for a moment, if this matter is seriously considered, that any really effective steps can be taken unless the power is given to search—
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
Does the hon. and learned Member support the power to search without anybody's name being mentioned in the warrant?
§ Mr. LYONS
The point raised by my hon. Friend is quite a small one. There can be no search unless there is an information upon oath brought before a magistrate. He knows perfectly well the particulars that are required before a warrant is given in pursuance of an information on oath. It might be wise to observe here—and I hope that my hon. Friend will agree with me—that the machinery of the criminal law in this country can be set in motion against any person without this information upon oath, for information can be laid without the necessity for an oath, and the whole machinery of the law is set in motion against an individual who may prove to 784 be innocent. Here it is provided that no information, unless it is on oath, can be sufficient to obtain a search warrant for the police to enter on certain premises and search.
Clause 3 provides that a person who is found guilty of an offence may be liable to imprisonment for two years on conviction on indictment, or for three months on summary conviction. This provision will, I gather from the right hon. Gentleman, be altered to a maximum in the police court of four months, and will retain for all purposes the right to a trial by jury. I gather that a provision is to be added to the Bill to the effect that any person charged with any offence under this Act, if he so desires, will be able to be tried by jury at any time if the matter arises, and not be forced to submit to summary jurisdiction.
I only desire to say that we have heard a great deal about liberty, but we have to distinguish between liberty and licence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Must we have it again?"] I am very glad to hear these remarks from hon. Members of the Opposition who spoke to-day against this Bill and who seek to stand for liberty. They themselves were the very hon. Members of this House who, a few years ago, forced old men and girls to walk to work when they called the General Strike. I should like to know by what right those who called and who stand by the General Strike, and who have not yet made up their minds whether a general strike is part of their programme in the future or not, can claim in this House to stand for liberty. This Bill merely stands for the liberty of the State, and puts the rights of the State and the protection of the State first and foremost in the consideration with which it deals. I venture to think that, in the number of criticisms which have been directed against the principles of this Bill, each one of the hon. Gentlemen who has arisen from the benches opposite has gone off at a tangent and spoken of matters which do not arise in the legal consideration of this Measure. I hope that the Government will proceed with the Bill. We on these benches who support it think that it makes no inroad at all on individual freedom, but that it is the Measure best calculated to serve the interests and the safety of the country as a whole.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
: I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he spoke of the criticisms which had been addressed from these benches, to say that there was little or no foundation for them. I noticed that he carefully gave no single reason for the Bill, and indicated no necessity for bringing the Bill before the House. He addressed his remarks solely to a number of petty criticisms of certain paragraphs. I hope he will forgive me, but he seemed to me to be indulging in special pleading throughout his speech, and not to be addressing himself in the least to criticisms from these benches or to the alleged purposes or grounds on which the Government bring the Bill before us.
A curious and somewhat interesting position has been created to-day. This Bill deals with a matter which, I understand, has not been before the House, at any rate in anything like the same form, for 130 odd years. We have the whole paraphernalia of Government behind it. We have the names of the hon. and learned Solicitor-General and Attorney-General, and of the three Ministers of State responsible for the Services, backing the Bill, and the only justification that any right hon. or hon. Member has ever attempted to make from the Government Benches is that certain leaflets, of which we have had some extracts read—and I thought that those extracts were in a very minor key and did not seem to have anything substantial about them—
§ Major MILNER
I do not know what justification the hon. Gentleman has for that statement. I hope he will be good enough to let me have particulars of what he is referring to, because he is quite wrong. Perhaps if the hon. Member finds that he was wrong, he will be good enough to say so on some future occasion. The only justification that has ever been attempted for the Bill has been to put forward these leaflets issued in 1932 and 1933. It is not suggested for one moment that any disaffection has been created or that any single man has been seduced to desert from any unit of His Majesty's Forces of the Crown, or in any way to give up his allegiance to 786 His Majesty. On that ground alone, this Bill is brought before the House creating new offences. The hon. and learned Gentleman, as I understood him, though perhaps he was only referring to the first Clause, said that the Bill was re-enacting previous law. He may have been only referring to Clause 1, but in point of fact this Bill creates new offences. It creates a new procedure; it gives a power of search unheard of in our law of any place, or any person in that place, whether that person has or has not, has had or has not had, documents upon him. Any single person in the place may be searched; the place may be broken into by force, and the steps taken under that paragraph may be of the most drastic character, a character quite unheard of in our law.
Furthermore—I feel sure that the House knows this, but I hope that hon. Members will note it particularly—this Bill gives new power to the Executive. The Executive, through the Attorney-General, directs the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director is under the orders, to all intents and purposes, of the Attorney-General, who is the chief Law Officer of the Government. It will be within the competence of the Attorney-General, representing the Government, to direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to take action in one direction or another under this Bill; to agree to a summary trial or to require that the trial shall take place at Assizes or Quarter Sessions.
§ Major MILNER
My hon. and learned Friend knows quite well that as soon as this Bill becomes law—if the Government do not withdraw it—no action under it will be taken except on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions. He cannot say that the local police would not, as they invariably do, report to the Director of Public Prosecutions; the Director will in turn communicate with the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General, representing the Government, will in effect have the conduct of these proceedings and have, if this Bill is passed, the right to which I have referred. I am taking no notice for the 787 moment of the emendation winch the Attorney-General is, I understand, proposing to have inserted in the Bill upstairs. If it were inserted, as the Attorney-General suggests that it might be, it would alter very considerably certain aspects of the Bill. It seems, however, something quite new in our law that the Executive should have the right to select the court and, by so selecting, to deprive the defendant of the immemorial right, secured by Magna Charta itself, of trial by jury.
That seems to be a most serious state of affairs. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the insult which he thought the dissemination of these leaflets offered to the armed forces of the Crown. I should have thought that the insult lay in the introduction of a Bill of this sort, which indicates quite clearly that the Government have no regard either for the intelligence or for the loyalty of the armed forces of the Crown. One would have thought that, if only a few leaflets had been distributed as, we understand, is the case, there would have been no difficulty or trouble—at any rate, no evidence has been advanced that there would have been any difficulty or trouble—in leaving the matter to the honour of those who serve in the armed force, of the Crown. The Attorney-General says "No, you cannot be trusted; we will see that you do not have the opportunity of judging for yourselves of the contents of the leaflets and other matters which may come before you." In that lies the insult, and not in the distribution or attempted distribution of leaflets of the character indicated by the Attorney-General.
In my submission, no necessity has been proved for the new powers. The curious thing was that the Attorney-General, in opening his speech, gave the House particulars of the powers which exist at present. I should have thought that those powers, which in some respect are almost precisely similar to those in this Bill, would have been amply sufficient to deal even with the difficulties which, presumably, are apprehended by the Attorney-General. I recollect, when I had the honour of serving in the armed forces of the Crown, that my duty on more than one occasion was to read from the King's Regulations a paragraph re- 788 ferring to this very matter, almost quoting word for word the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. I see that the King's Regulations to-day provide that certain Sections of the Army Act are to be read once in every three months at the head of every unit, and also the following notice:Under the existing law, any person who shall maliciously and advisedly endeavour to seduce any person or persons serving in His Majesty's Forces by sea or land from his or their duty and allegiance to His Majesty…may, on being legally convicted of such offence, be sentenced to penal servitude for the term of the natural life of such person.With the exception of the words "maliciously and advisedly," which I do not think alter the matter a very great deal, it is almost in the same terms as Clause 1 of the Bill. There is already power in the Army Act and in King's Regulations whereby any attempt to seduce may be dealt with by a prosecution, and there is a maximum penalty of penal servitude. Presumably in very minor and trivial cases it would be within the power of the court to give a much less penalty than that of two years' hard labour which is provided in the Bill. Where then is the necessity for bringing this Bill forward? I must confess that I am at a loss to discern it.
The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) addressed a question to the Attorney-General, and he gave a rather curious answer. She asked whether it would be possible for people to be prosecuted under this Bill who happened to have documents in their possession, even though the documents had not been obtained and were not brought into existence for the specific purpose of dissemination among the troops. The Attorney-General, if I understood him aright, said that, in order to found a prosecution under Clause 2, it would be necessary for the documents to have been brought into existence or to be intended to be used for dissemination among the troops. Will the Solicitor-General tell us, when he replies, whether that will be made clear? The Bill now says, in Clause 2:If any person, without lawful excuse, has in his possession or under his control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's Forces would be an offence under Section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.789 There is not a word about the document being brought into existence or having been intended for dissemination among the troops. If a person has any document, however obtained, and whether it has been in his possession for one year, 10 years or 50 years, and it is of such a nature that it might be disseminated among the troops without lawful excuse, or if a person has it in his possession without lawful excuse, he may be liable to the penalties provided in this Bill. I hope that we shall hear whether an Amendment will be brought forward, in the event of the Government proceeding with the Bill, in order to make this point perfectly clear. The second Sub-section to Clause 2 states:If any person does or attempts to do, or causes to be done or attempted, any act preparatory to the commission of an offence under section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.I wonder what would be the position if I or some other person boarded a train for Aldershot, and it were contended that that was preparatory to our committing an offence under the Bill. If I am going to Aldershot, whether I have that intention or not, I may be liable to be brought up and to be convicted of committing an offence. Similarly, if every morning I join the Prime Minister and walk round St. James's Park and round the barracks, it might be alleged that I was doing that preparatory to endeavouring to seduce some member of His Majesty's forces in those barracks. Seriously, I submit that there is great possibility of grave abuse under the Bill and of innocent persons being brought up at great expense and with great difficulty and being in peril of imprisonment. Why the National Government of all people should bring this Bill before the House passes my comprehension. After two years of National Government it is either an indication that there is so much discontent and disaffection in the Army and in other forces that the Government anticipate trouble, or that the present powers, which have been sufficient for other Governments for the last 130 years, are considered by the present Government, despite their immense majority, inadequate to enable them to deal with any difficulty that might arise.
The other matter to which I wish to allude is that of the procedure under 790 the Bill. It deprives a defendant of the immemorial and statutory right of trial by jury. The Government have deliberately fixed upon a period of three months so as to prevent an accused person having the right to demand a trial by jury. Then there is the matter of the right of search. A great deal has been said about a magistrate having to be satisfied that there isreasonable ground for suspecting that an offence…has been committed.I am surprised that the Attorney-General has not gone a little farther, as he might well have done, and made the Bill read that a justice of the peace has to be satisfied that an offence has been committed "or is likely to be committed." I am surprised that he did not add those words.
§ Major MILNER
They are just as reasonable as a good many of the other provisions. If a police officer, armed with the full authority and probably with the fiat or instructions of the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions, comes before any magistrate in the land and swears an information, even without detail, that he has reasonable ground to believe that an offence has been committed, there are very few magistrates who would feel strong enough to withstand such an application. I believe that we shall see a tremendous number of prosecutions under this Bill, some well-founded but most ill-founded, because advantage will be taken of the Sub-section with which I am now dealing. For the issue of a search warrant it is not necessary to prove that one is looking for documents or anything of that sort. After the application is granted, a constable will have a general right of search. He may break in by force, search premises and search every person and not merely a suspected person. He can seize anything, because the right of seizure is not limited to incriminatory documents. He can seize all the silver in the place, if there is any, or the war medals or anything else which he suspects to be evidence of the commission of an offence.
No justification has been advanced for a Bill including such an outrageous Clause, providing for a general right of search upon mere suspicion, to become an 791 Act of Parliament. The truth is that the Government are endeavouring to obtain powers so that in place of the removal of grievances they may have repressive weapons to their hand. They desire, without having specific evidence, to be able to search any house. They desire to be in a position, by, in fact, deciding at which court a trial shall take place, to—I was going to use the word "jockey," but perhaps that is rather strong—
§ Major MILNER
Well, I will use it—to jockey the procedure under this Bill in order to obtain a conviction at one court in a case where they might not be able to obtain it at another. They want to be in a position to put people who are or who may be awkward away for a short time. They will have the alternative of proceeding under the Act of 1797, with its maximum penalty of penal servitude, or under this Bill in regard to which there are four or five alternative punishments. They desire to do away with the right of trial by jury in certain cases. The Executive want to have full power. They desire to put the Government of the day above the law.
The Attorney-General uttered some pious expressions about equality before the law; the National Government, according to this Bill, do not believe in equality before the law. They desire to be in a position so to manoeuvre the proceedings under the Bill as to secure convictions. This Bill is indefensible. We have read and heard that this House has been the custodian of the liberties of the people of this Realr for many centuries. I feel confident, if the intention of the Bill were known to the great majority of hon. Members, and not only to those who have taken the trouble to sit upon the benches, that they would vote against it, and would reject it lock, stock and barrel.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
I have carefully listened to every speech delivered in this Debate, and, with the exception of that of the Attorney-General, none has made any reference to that which necessitates the introduction of the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George reminded the House that 792 the Bill should be considered from the point of view of succeeding Governments rather than from that of the present Government. I rather look upon the Measure from the point of view of the definite set purpose for which it has been brought forward. Nobody knows better than hon. Members opposite, who have been so bitter in their criticisms, that the dissemination of documents such as those quoted by the Attorney-General does take place from day to day, and that those responsible for the distribution of such documents are not only the bitterest enemies of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the political sense, but even in the industrial sense; for, while they would deny to the Government the right to introduce a Bill to prevent the dissemination of these documents among the armed Forces of the Crown, they themselves, at their Trades Union Congresses and their party meetings, deny those people the right to take part in the discussions, or even enter their meetings. Hon. Members may laugh, but my mind goes back to the days of the General Strike, when they were fighting their first battle against what their own Leader regarded as the menace of Communism within the ranks of trade unionism, and I am convinced that, of all persons in this House, they are aware of the real cause of the introduction of this Measure.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who moved the rejection of the Bill, said that the heads of the three Services were making an attack upon a long and religiously treasured privilege. He inferred, from the inclusion of the names of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Financial Secretary to the War Office on the back of the Bill, that it was a Measure specifically introduced at their instance; but who could more properly support a Measure of this description introduced by the Attorney-General? If those names had not been included, hon. Members opposite would have accused the Government of not being able to secure the support of the heads of those Departments. They would have said, "The Government come down to the House with a Bill of this character which has not even the backing of the heads of the Departments among whose Forces, they allege, the dissemination of these documents is daily taking place." But, now that the names are there, they refuse to recognise that it is 793 because the heads of those Departments can speak authoritatively on the affects that might ensue in the Services which are under their control.
As to the suggestion that the country at large have never heard of the documents quoted by the Attorney-General, I think that that is all the more reason why the Bill should have a Second Reading, because, if we do not know of them, it is obvious that they are being used exclusively for distribution among members of His Majesty's Forces for the specific purpose which this Bill is introduced to prevent in future, namely, the purpose of creating that disaffection and dis-allegiance to the Crown which is the common object of certain extreme revolutionary centres in this country. Although it has been previously stated, it should be emphasised that the Opposition have no quarrel whatever with Clause 1 of the Bill. It strikes me as peculiar that they should allow that Clause to pass and yet strongly oppose Clauses 2, 3 and 4. Their grievance is that, although great difficulty may be found in defining the right to possession, it will be a crime to possess any document of the kind the circulation of which among His Majesty's Forces the Bill seeks to prevent; but the people responsible for the distribution of such documents will know, before they undertake their distribution, that it will be a crime to have them in their possession, and I believe that the best way to prevent crime of any description is to make known as widely as possible what is crime and what is not. I am perfectly sure that, when the people who actually distribute these documents for a mere handful of coppers, and who are mere pawns in the great political game, recognise that they will be criminals if they accept employment of this kind in the future, they will refrain from so dong, so that many of these documents will not be heard of in the future.
The figure of 50,000 sounds small in a population of 40,000,000, but it is known that in 1931, on 20 different occasions in 17 different districts, 50,000 of these documents were distributed, and that in 1932, in 11 different districts on 14 occasions, another 50,000 were distributed. That proves conclusively that these documents have been distributed in the quarters where they were calculated to do damage, and I compliment the Government on bringing in this Measure, which in my 794 opinion will strictly prevent these occurrences in the future. If there were no need for this Bill, there would be no ground upon which it could have been based, but in my opinion the ground upon which it is based is that of the source from which these documents emanate. As I have said, hon. Members opposite have themselves made public their opposition to the people who are responsible for the printing of these documents and for their distribution at the places in question. Nothing has been said by the Opposition about those sources, or about the large amounts of money which have been poured into this country for the purpose of creating dissatisfaction, not only among the Forces of the Crown but also among the industrial communities of our country, and, so long as the distribution of this so-called enlightened literature is allowed without restriction, so long will the Forces of the Crown be in danger.
I remember being engaged, during the General Strike, in attempting to point out to many misguided miners in the coalfields of this country that they were to a great extent being led, as we say in Yorkshire, "along the garden path." One could pick up on any day in any mining village a hundred different forms of literature emanating from a source quite outside the Miners' Federation, and containing every conceivable form of revolutionary propaganda—not only incitement to mutiny of the worst type, but incitement to the destruction of property, even going so far as inciting to the destruction of the homes of colliery managers and colliery deputies. Hon. Members who are opposing this Measure know as well as I do that the people responsible for the documents to which it refers are the very people who were responsible for the dissemination and distribution of those documents at that great hour of the country's need. Having myself seen, in the course of experience in the service of the Crown, the distribution of this form of literature, I am more determined that ever to support the Government in forwarding this Bill.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot)—I am sorry he is not in his place at the moment—asked why the Government were doing this now, when there was absolutely no evidence that a single soldier or bluejacket had been affected by this propaganda or by these documents? But, supposing that to be 795 true, as long as the Attorney-General has evidence that there is a possibility of that effect being produced in the near future, surely we might expect, from such an esteemed advocate of Liberalism, support for the old adage, "Prevention is better than cure." Even if the Attorney-General were looking at the matter from that angle alone, he would be perfectly justified on the ground of the evidence that he has already submitted to the House. The hon. Member for Bodmin and the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) say that the expression "causes to be done or attempted" will lead to an almost impossible position; but I am sure they will agree that in 99 cases out of 100 the charge which is called in law "loitering with felonious intent" is justly levelled, and is a tribute to the efficiency of the police, because it has resulted in the conviction of individuals who were very dangerous to society. If you have a person with his pockets stuffed full of what this Bill regards as documents likely to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their duty or allegiance, and if you have present every factor that the law regards as necessary for making a charge against a person that he has either caused to be or attempted to have distributed or disseminated certain documents which are against the law, I think you have just as much reason to say that the law should be applied.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke also made a strong case on that point. He said that magistrates were merely laymen and that it was not fair to expect them to give a definition, as this Bill would expect them, in so far as an application for a search warrant was confirmed. I know many magistrates and to a large degree I would support the contention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman if it were true that the magistrate alone, from the comfort of his own armchair, actually issued the search warrant, but the truth of the matter is that the magistrates do not issue search warrants in those conditions. They are advised by the highest possible legal adviser within their specific area—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish!"]—and if we are going to say that we cannot trust our chief constables, that we cannot to an extent even trust our town clerks, who are equipped with legal knowledge equal in 796 value to that of the hon. Member who has just emitted the word "rubbish"—
§ Major MILNER
Quite a number of magistrates' clerks, and some town clerks, are not qualified lawyers in any sense of the term. It is a branch of the profession with no knowledge or qualifications with which to advise magistrates on matters of this sort.
§ Mr. PIKE
Probably that is the greatest justification why the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself should have devoted more time to law than to politics. It was my contention that in the vast majority of cases chief constables are in a position to advise the magistrate correctly. I have sufficient esteem for the police force to believe that they will not in any circumstances either misdirect a magistrate in the matter of applications for search warrants or ask for a search warrant unless the circumstances of the case justify it. Some Members cannot claim to know from practical experience what goes on in the Army or Navy, but because I know from practical experience, and because I realise the danger to the Forces from these pernicious activities, I give my whole-hearted support to the Bill and hope it will be passed by a big majority.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
The hon. Member has accused those of us who oppose the Bill with not having addressed ourselves to its actual purpose. The purpose of the Bill is not to condemn people, or to impose penalties, for seducing troops from their allegiance to the Crown. That is something which already exists in the present law and for which there are ample facilities. The purpose of the Bill is fourfold: first of all, slightly to strengthen the language of the Act of 1797; secondly, to make possession in certain cases an offence; thirdly, to institute a system of general warrants in connection with offences of this kind; and, fourthly, to put these matters for the first time in the hands of lay magistrates. It is unnecessary for anyone to address himself to the question whether seducing troops from their allegiance is something that ought to be encouraged or not. As to that, the whole House is unanimous.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-east Leeds (Major Milner) said that this was the first time in 150 years that we had dis- 797 cussed this matter. I do not think he is quite correct, because an Amendment embodying almost exactly the words that we are considering here was proposed to the Criminal Justice Bill of 1925. It was sponsored by the Home Secretary of that day, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, and there you had almost exactly the same language proposed with regard to search warrants. On 16th November, 1925, the Tory Home Secretary, because of the protest that there was in different parts of the House, withdrew that part of the Clause that referred to search of the person and a few days later he withdrew the Clause altogether. It is rather startling to find this so-called National Government, which is always boasting that it represents the feeling of all three parties in the State, going further even that the avowedly Tory Home Secretary in 1925.
I hope the Attorney-General will not think me unduly presumptuous if I examine some of the reasons that he has brought forward and some of the precedents that he has advanced in support of the Bill. He spoke of Clause 1 as if its effect were merely to renew the language of the Incitement to Mutiny Act, 1797. I do not think the effect was quite the same because that Act contains the words "maliciously and advisedly." Before anyone could be convicted, it had to be proved to the satisfaction of the jury that he had endeavoured to seduce a soldier or sailor from his allegiance to the Crown maliciously and advisedly. Those words were considered by the court in the case of the King against Fuller, which was in the same year that the Statute was passed, and it was held that "advisedly" meant knowingly. The result is that under that Act it is necessary to show that the accused person knew that the person he was charged with endeavouring to seduce was a person serving in His Majesty's Forces. The Bill, therefore, goes further and is more severe than the Act passed in 1797, because even the loophole provided by the words "maliciously and advisedly" is denied to the man against whom the charge is brought.
The same criticism applies to Clause 2. My objection to Clause 2 is that the onus of proof is going to be placed not upon the Crown but upon the accused person. If he is found in possession of the kind of document contemplated by the Bill, it 798 is not for the Crown to prove that he had any criminal intent, but it is for the man himself to prove that he had this document with some lawful excuse. Again, this goes further even than the Act of 1797, under which it was necessary to prove that the man was doing something maliciously. Here there is no need to prove malice. There is no need to prove any criminal intent. All that is necessary is to prove that the man in fact had the document in his possession. The precedents that the Attorney-General advanced do not justify the bringing in of the Bill. He could not rely on the precedent of 1797 for Clauses 1 and 2.
May I say a word about the question of search warrants under Clause 2 (3)? 1 followed with great interest the arguments of the Attorney-General in order to find out what precedents there were. As was made clear by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), this question of general search warrants has played a great part in our legal and constitutional history. The first instance that the hon. and learned Gentleman gave was the right of search under the obscenity laws. I presume that he was referring to the Obscene Publications Act, 1857. There is no exact precedent in that case for the kind of thing that is sought to be done in this Bill, because under that Act, in the first place, although it is only a minor difference, there must be two justices of the peace instead of one in order to get a warrant, and, secondly, it is provided that a warrant can be given if the complainant has reason to believe, and does believe, that anyobscene books, papers, writing, prints, pictures drawings, etc., are kept in any house, shop, room or other place within the limits of jurisdiction of such magistrate or justice for the purpose of sale, distribution, etc., but which complaint shall also state upon oath that one or more articles of the like character have been sold, distributed, exhibited, lent or otherwise published.That is to say, in the instance which the Attorney-General himself gave as a precedent justifying the sort of thing that is being done under this Bill there had to be something already done, some act already committed, before the two magistrates were justified in granting the warrant. The only other example that he could bring with regard to a warrant of this kind was the Official Secrets Act, 1911. I agree that the words in the 799 Official Secrets Act are extremely similar, in fact they are practically the same as the words used in this Statute, but I would ask the House to consider the kind of thing with which the Official Secrets Act was dealing. It was dealing with a very different class of offence. It was dealing, first and foremost, with the offence of espionage. It was not dealing with some minor political offender who endeavoured to shove a pamphlet through the window or door of a barracks but with spies who were found on Government premises and who might be in a position to give valuable information to possible enemy countries. That is a very different and a very much more serious matter than can possibly be contemplated under this Bill. Apart from that, I think that this is an innovation and that it comes under the heading of a general warrant. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street has quoted a passage from the judgment in the Wilkes case. May I quote another passage from that judgment, as I think it has a good deal of relevance to this Bill? In the report of the State trials there is this passage:His Lordship then went upon the warrant, which he declared was a point of the greatest consequence he had ever met with in his whole practice. The defendants claimed a right, under precedent, to force persons' houses, break open escritoires, seize their papers, etc., upon a general warrant, where no inventory is made of the things thus taken away,—that would also be true under this Bill—and where no offenders' names are specified in the warrant,—that also would be true under this Bill—and therefore a discretionary power given to magistrates to search wherever their suspicions may chance to fall.Those words might almost have been delivered in this Debate to-day in order to describe the Bill before the House.If such a power is truly invested in a Secretary of State, and he can delegate this power, it certainly may affect the person and property of every man in this kingdom, and is totally subversive of the liberty of the subject.Those words throw light upon this Bill. You are getting back for the first time, with the single exception of the Official Secrets Act, 1911, to a system of general warrants under which you do not need 800 to specify any one's name, and under which it is possible for a police officer to go and fish around for evidence upon which he can subsequently frame a criminal charge.
Finally, I would say a word or two about the vexed question of the lay magistrate. I cannot claim anything like the experience of these matters of some of my hon. and learned Friends in this House, but one does not need to be very experienced in the law to realise that this class of offence is entirely outside the ordinary range of the lay magistrates' work, and that this class of offence is something very often of very considerable difficulty. Speaking from recollection, I remember, that when some months ago, a private Member's Bill was introduced into this House to deal with the teaching of sedition and blasphemy to children in Sunday schools, a number of speeches rather similar to the speech which was made to-day by the Attorney-General were made by some of the more extreme Members of the Conservative party in this House. That Bill proposed that where anyone had been guilty of teaching sedition or blasphemy to children in schools, they also should be brought before courts of summary jurisdiction, and I remember the reply which was made on behalf of the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary of State for the Home Department. One of the grounds upon which he turned down that Bill and said that the Government could not give it support or facilities, was that the offences should be dealt with rather by the High Court than by courts of summary jurisdiction. I have not his exact words before me, but I remember clearly that that was one of the reasons for refusing to give Government assistance to that Bill. I know that it was not dealing with precisely the same subject.
On that occasion, we were dealing with sedition, and here we are dealing with something which may in some cases be a little different, but I think the House and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General will agree that sedition and the kind of offence contemplated under this Bill fall into very much the same category and are affected very much by the same considerations. But it is proposed that this sort of offence should be placed out of the jurisdiction of the lay magistrate. Again, I would ask the 801 House to pass back its recollection over a few months to another Bill which we considered last year, and which, in this case, has reached the Statute Book. It was the Summary Jurisdiction (Appeals) Bill, the Second Reading of which was considered in this House on the 3rd March last year. It was introduced by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who is not present in the House at this moment, and I would remind the House of one passage which he used. Here was a Member of the Conservative party, who, I imagine, would have very little sympathy with our opposition to this particular Bill. I would like to remind the House of the language he used—which was not challenged in the Debate—about the lay magistrate. He was speaking of appeals from courts of summary Jurisdiction and said:Out of the 442 appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal from the proceedings of quarter sessions and assizes, in only 23 cases was the conviction quashed, in 28 cases the sentence was modified, and in 391 cases the appeal was dismissed. Out of the 314 cases of appeals from courts of summary jurisdiction, in 102 cases the conviction was quashed, in 81 cases the sentence was modified and in only 131 cases was the appeal dismissed.That was the comparison which the hon. Member gave. He continued:I ask the House to weigh well those figures—in the one group only one in every 20 cases a wrong decision; in the other one in every three a wrong conviction. In fact, in appeals from the courts of summary jurisdiction the decision was found to be wrong in more cases than it was right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1933; col. 703, Vol. 275.]I am not suggesting that that applies to all the cases which are considered by courts of summary jurisdiction, but obviously the cases which were dealt with there and which went to appeal were cases of some difficulty. Many of us have had some experience of how benches of lay magistrates, who are quite well able to deal with the very petty matters which come before them in the ordinary way, find themselves in a difficulty when they have to deal with a matter of unusual complexity of a kind with which they are not generally accustomed to deal. I think that there is something in the allegation which has been made that you expect to find among lay magistrates rather more political prejudice than you expect to find either in a court of quarter sessions or in a court of assize. That 802 is not confined, I would remind my hon. Friends above the Gangway, to the country districts. I remember in the last Parliament hearing the notorious case of the Barnsley Magistrates after the 1929 Election. If you get one form of political bias in certain industrial areas, you may also get another form of political bias in certain rural areas. I suggested on another Bill in this House, and I do so again, that offences with any kind of political flavour are not offences which ought to be entrusted to courts of summary jurisdiction.
This Bill has been justified in its introduction by accounts of subversive Communist propaganda. I cannot speak, like the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), from personal knowledge of the Fighting Forces, but I represent a constituency with, I think, a higher proportion of Communists among its electors than any other constituency in Scotland, and where the average Communist vote at General Elections is something over 10,000. I do not believe, although we have that considerable Communist element in my constituency—and it is very seldom that I hold a public meeting without coming up against Communist opposition in a very vocal form—that the Communist menace is in any way serious. I believe that the only way we can make it serious, is to take it seriously. This sort of Bill is one which will add fuel to the flames. We shall not do anything to detach people from the Communist party or to discourage Communism by measures of this kind, and we ought to endeavour rather to meet the blackshirts and the redshirts in this country with the weapon of argument and the still more effective weapon of ridicule. The Attorney-General, in his speech in introducing the Bill, spoke in very high terms of the members of the Fighting Forces and of their passionate loyalty to the Service to which they belong. It rather reminded me of a speech made in Glasgow the other day by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he contrasted the liberty which prevailed in this country with the widely different conditions which prevailed elsewhere, and spoke of the sturdy common sense of our working-men, who would not be deluded into believing that an exchange for the state of affairs prevailing in other countries 803 would be an exchange for the better. If Ministers of the Crown really believe what they say when they make perorations of that kind, why are they not prepared to trust the sturdy common sense of our working people and the passionate loyalty to the Service to which they belong of our soldiers, sailors and airmen? If they were prepared to do that, they would not find it necessary to introduce a Bill of this kind.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I desire to associate myself with the Amendment for the rejection of this Measure, because I believe that the Bill has not one single redeeming feature. I cannot say that I associate myself with any of the Clauses in the Bill. I have heard to-night a number of speeches. From the speech which we heard from the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), the Attorney-General might as well send for him and get from him the information which he seems to possess concerning the forces in this country which are attempting to seduce the loyalty of the troops of His Majesty's Government. He suggests that money is pouring into this country, and practically alleges that he knows the source from which it comes and the source to which it goes in order to carry out propaganda of this nature. On the top of that he alleged that he knew the source from which the anonymous literature which was handed out to the troops came, and the individuals responsible for it. I am sure, therefore, that he would be more helpful to the Government of this country, than would a Measure of this kind, which only aims at attempting to suppress that literature and to get to know the sources from which it emanates. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) stated that there was one Clause—Clause 1—that no Member of this House would be up against, if I heard him aright. I fail to understand what he means by that because the Clause says:If any person endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.Does the hon. Gentleman realise that a Clause of that kind means that if an army is used during the period of a strike in this country by a capitalist Gov- 804 ernment to defend capitalist interests and to suppress the workers fighting for a vital increase in their standard of life or to retain their present standard, and if you circulate in any newspaper, periodical or leaflet a statement to that affect it would logically be an attempt to seduce the loyalty of the Forces of the Crown. I confess that if the Government are to take powers of that description to suppress any document, periodical or newspaper and to imprison any person who may be guilty of an offence of that character, there are in this country a large number of people prepared even to take that risk and to disagree with such a Clause. On the other hand, if this country were thrown into war—every Socialist knows that all modern wars have an economic basis, that wars are started for the purpose of defending the interests of the private money-owning and capitalist sections of the community—and we attempted in any newspaper, or periodical, or leaflet to say that that war was for capitalistic purposes and ought not to be supported by the nation, or by the armed forces, we should be guilty of attempting to seduce the loyalty of the forces of the country. In every case I hope that I should be prepared to take that risk and to appeal to the workers not to defend capitalist interests abroad or private interests at home, or to suppress workers on strike or in revolt.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his agility in keeping as far from this House as possible when these difficult Measures are under discussion. If there is one man to whom this Bill would apply it is the present Prime Minister. I remember that during the period of the War, when the troops in various parts of the world were revolting, and also at the end of the War when there was revolt in this country among the armed forces, the Prime Minister spent his time going round the country attempting to form sailors' and soldiers' councils. He attempted during that period of revolt to take certain action in order that he might become the Kerensky of this country. In doing so he took part in what this Bill would describe as an attempt to seduce the loyalty of the troops, by asking them not to carry out orders or the purpose for which they had been recruited during the War. The Prime Minister always has engagements 805 which take him away from the House when difficult questions of this sort are before it. He does not desire to be heard on such occasions, because no man has written more and condemned more Bills of this kind proposed by the Government of the day.
It was stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) that this Bill would have operated against those who took part in the revolt at the Curragh, and important Members of this House who encouraged revolt in the Army at that time but he must remember that there is a vast difference between urging the troops to revolt on a political question and on an economic one. It is a different thing to ask the troops to revolt against constituted authority in the case of carrying out Home Rule for Ireland, and asking the troops not to shoot down their fellow-workers in this country or on the Continent, in capitalist wars or capitalist aggression. Members of the ruling class will always come down very much heavier on members of the working class who are guilty of sedition rather than upon those in high places who may be guilty of sedition of a very dangerous character.
The Bill gives vast powers. I have no delusions about it. I have no difficulty in getting to know what it aims at. It aims at all militant sections in this country who might make an appeal to the forces of the Crown not to carry out their orders. One can understand that from the Government's point of view. All that stands between capitalism, Communism, or Socialism are the armed forces of the Crown. As a class, the captialists could not prevent the overthrow of their system unless they were able to use the forces of the Crown in an aggressive way against the common people of the country. Whether it is vital for the Government to introduce a Measure of this kind, is a matter for them to consider. Mention has been made of periodicals that have been indiscriminately given to soldiers and sailors. I had never previously heard the names of those periodicals, although I have a fairly good knowledge of a large amount of the militant propaganda that is going on in the country. Is it a fact that the Government have discovered that there is more dissatisfaction in the forces than at any previous period in our 806 history? Is it that in the Army and Navy there is a tremendous amount of discontent and that the Government see a dangerous period coming, when the dissemination of literature of that character would be dangerous to themselves and the interests they represent?
I have grave doubt whether we have been told the whole history of what is taking place, and all about the discontent throughout the forces. A written document may be a dangerous thing from the Government's point of view. Not many months ago I received a document from over 300 men in one of His Majesty's battleships, commending the protest that I made in the other House. That document was signed by over 300 men. In that document they realised the poverty created by the means test and the cuts in the working class homes from which they came. The holding of that document would not be the thing that was causing discontent, but the poverty of their own people was the reason for that discontent in His Majesty's Forces. Therefore, if the Government are looking for disaffection and sedition in the forces of the Crown, let them look into the conditions of the fathers and the brothers in the homes, and they will discover that greater dissatisfaction and greater seduction is contained in the distressing letters that go to the soldiers and sailors regarding the sufferings and hardships under which their people are living.
We are told that the armed Forces of the Crown have had 50,000 leaflets in two years. That is an enormous amount of propaganda. The Government are attempting to suppress every method of getting at the troops. I do not believe in the circulation of leaflets to the troops. The troops and the members of the other armed Forces have the power to analyse, they have the ears to hear and the eyes to see the events that are happening in the world, just as well as any Member of this House or any other person. It is a most stupid method to attempt to cause disaffection to go to the barracks and throw in a lot of leaflets, or to go into a public house and hand leaflets to the troops. I never believe in asking a person to do work of that character. I have always acted on the principle that if there was a risk I would take my share. I have always said: "You come with me and we will do it together." If you want 807 to do a thing in which there is risk, you must take the risk without grumbling. That kind of activity is not the danger which the Government thinks it is.
They are aiming at something greater. They are expecting that before long there will be in this country some of the processes of war, some crisis, and they hope to suppress every kind of militant activity in this country. There are many hon. Members on these benches and on the other side, in whose houses, if these powers of search were given, you would secure documents and pamphlets and periodicals which could be certified as being likely to cause disaffection if circulated amongst the troops. Every man who says that the National Government are defending the capitalist interests, that they are imposing Fascism on the country by legislative machinery, or attempting to enslave the workers, or set up a Parliamentary dictatorship, and that the troops are being used or are likely to be used to suppress the desires of the working classes, could be hauled before a court and sentenced because he held some document in his possession that if circulated would lead to disaffection amongst the troops.
I have never known the Government to be at a disadvantage in a desire to prosecute people who were guilty of illegal offences. The machinery and powers they have are wide. They have the power to get warrants to search, to prosecute and to haul before the court, and I do not see why they need these further powers. Some time ago the police of London entered the offices of the Unemployed Workers' Movement and seized papers. They did so in an illegal fashion, without the necessary warrant or authority. They afterwards had to restore them by order of the court and damages were given against Lord Trenchard. Is this Bill an attempt to give the Government complete power in actions of that kind, to give them complete protection in illegal actions of that kind? I confess that in the Bill I only see a consistent policy on the part of the National Government. They entered office on the passions, fears, and prejudices of the people at a time of emergency, and they intend to use the period to build up and defend the interests of the ruling classes in the most 808 competent manner possible. We have had the Trenchard Bill giving powers to the police, we have the Unemployment Bill now before the House, with its slave camps to rob and drill and imprison the workers; we have local authorities applying for powers, at the instigation of Ministers of the Crown, to prevent demonstrations at public meetings; and now we have this Bill. Mosley and the black shirts fail to see one thing that is taking place. They talk of recruitment for the black shirts, and of going into the Fascist state by revolutionary process. They fail to realise that the National Government are proceeding stage by stage into a Fascist state by using the legislative machinery and their vast majority in this House to accomplish it.
We talk of discussing this Bill. Look at the House and the number of Members who have been present during the Debate. They will roll up at 11 o'clock not having heard a word of the discussion, most of them will never have read the Bill. They are simply hacks, who come here to defend their own interests. We are told that we are not to seduce the loyalty of the Forces of the Crown. The Government, which is composed of shipowners, coalowners, royalty owners, railway directors and bondholders, every single capitalist interest, uses these troops to defend their interests, they use the bodies of the common people to defend their ill-gotten gains, and we are not to be allowed to appeal to these working classes and say, "Do not allow the ruling classes to use your bodies to defend their selfish interests." On every occasion I appeal to the working classes to take no part in your vile wars, but to defend the interests of the working classes against those of the ruling class. I make no apology for it. This is a struggle of the working classes against the ruling classes. Your Army and Navy and your Air Force are not to defend the interests of the common people, but to defend your selfish class interests, your right to exploit, plunder and rob them, to defend bondholders, your armament rings, and the interests of society. And I am told that I must not appeal to the working classes not to be used in that manner.
This is a class Bill. It is an exposure of your feelings that the workers cannot be depended upon. They do not go into the Army out of their great loyalty, to which the Attorney-General referred. 809 The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is all nonsense. A large number are in the Army and the Navy because of their poverty. They would never choose that calling, that life, if they had the opportunity of industrial occupation. Modern youth would never accept work of that character. They are simply the outcasts of your industrial system, with its creeping paralysis and decline. They are a disaffected class because they come from working-class homes and are liable to the same emotions and the same class interests as every other section of the industrial community. They know the sufferings under the means test. Are they likely to be depended on by the Government to defend the means test, the cuts and the slums? No. You have no faith in these people. It is the same when a politician at an election says, "I know that you are too intelligent to be taken in with the claptrap of the Socialists." What he is hoping is that they are too stupid. He fawns upon them and makes them believe they are intelligent, when he knows that it is ignorance which is moving them.
You have brought in your Bill with its power of search. The village constable will be able to go into homes and ransack them in order to get documents. If a leaflet is distributed the same man will be the victim every time. The man who is known to be taking part in militant propaganda will be a marked man. They will be marked men. I remember one man telling me in Glasgow that he could suffer imprisonment for the crimes he had committed—he had been committed a number of times for burglary—but that after every burglary that took place around the area his home was immediately pounced upon, and if he did not happen to be in the whole house was ransacked, the children were turned out of their beds, and the search was so brutal and the attitude of the police constables so domineering, because he had been once a burglar, that he could not stand it. So the powers of search contained in this Bill will be against the same individuals every time, whether they are innocent or guilty.
It is proposed to look for documents. There is something greater than documents for which to look. There are the poverty and suffering and degradation of the people which cause disaffection. In the Army, the Navy and the Air Force the 810 same thing causes it as causes it in industrial life. I say to the Government, when you have power to eliminate poverty and the means test and slums you will have no need for Bills of this kind to bolster up you and your selfish interests. You have secured power and authority by playing on the fears and passions of the people at an election. You have been thrown into office. You are using your power now, but there will be a day of reckoning when the working classes, not only in the Army and Navy and Air Force but outside, will revolt. I can only repeat that I oppose your class Measure and your clsss methods. In spite of your Bill the struggle will go on for power against war and against plunder and robbery of the classes that we represent and belong to, and we will encourage not only the people in the Army and Navy, Hot by methods of leaflet, but by strong, honest appeal on every occasion, not to use their bodies for your interests but allow the ruling classes to defend their own interests, and the working classes to unite against the ruling classes in the real struggle for power in this country.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. GORDON MACDONALD
I, like the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), am rather disturbed by the deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to treat this Bill as if it were a small and unimportant Measure. I felt that, when the Prime Minister announced the business last Thursday. He mentioned enough business for two or three days' work, and he gave me the impression that he treated this as a Bill of no importance, as a little Bill to be carried in a very short time. The whole of the Debate to-day has deepened that impression. The attitude of Conservative Members, the very few short speeches we have had in support of the Bill, the lack of reference to the Bill in the Conservative Press throughout the country, all go to prove that the Government are trying to create the impression that this is not an important Bill at all, that no one need waste much time about it, and that no Member and no newspaper need devote much attention to it.
The same impression was deepened still further by the speech of the learned Attorney-General. It is quite true he said that he hoped no one thought he was taking the Bill as a small and unimportant Measure. But throughout his 811 speech the impression made on all of us was that he was not treating the Measure as a Measure of any importance, that he regarded it as a little Measure which the House ought to consider for a short time and then to pass on. We on this side consider the Bill to be a most important Bill. It is true that it seems to deal with a small point. I noticed that the Attorney-General was very anxious that we should appreciate fully the purpose of the Bill. When one hon. Member suggested that it was designed to put an end to sedition, the Attorney-General called attention to the Title of the Bill, which referred to "incitement to disaffection."
What I expected to-day was some good sound substantial reason for the Bill being introduced. During the week-end I read as much as I could read in the newspapers of the references to the Bill. Every one of them disapproved most heartily of the Bill. But I thought that newspapers, like Members of Parliament, could be prejudiced, and that I had better wait to hear what the Attorney-General said as the reason for the Bill. So I waited. I now ask the learned Solicitor-General to fill up the gap that was left by his colleague the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General did not give the House or the country any substantial reasons for the Bill. To pass the Second Beading of any Bill without substantial reasons is most unreasonable. I hope, therefore, that the Solicitor-General will give us some solid reasons for the Bill, should there be any. The Attorney-General did try to give us two reasons. He said he was introducing the Bill because of the skulking breed of the inciter of to-day. If the authorities of to-day put forward as a reason that their present powers are insufficient to deal effectively with incitement, I could understand that being a reason. But I do not think they can substantiate that reason. It was because they were unable to substantiate any such reason that they brought forward a very weak and unsatisfactory reason.
Then the Attorney-General said that the Bill was introduced because of leaflets disseminated amongst His Majesty's Forces during 1932. I would ask, did those 50,000 leaflets, distributed indiscriminately during 1932, result in any disaffection in the Army, and, if so, to what extent? What evidence have the 812 Government to show that what was done in 1932 resulted in disaffection? Surely any disaffection ought to have been known to the Government before 1934, and they ought not to have waited till now to bring in a Bill to deal with it. If there are reasons for the Bill, those reasons must be either in the Army or Navy or outside those Forces. With all respect to the naval representatives present I have been a little surprised that the only representatives of any of His Majesty's Forces on the Front Bench to-night have been the First Lord and one of his colleagues, which has caused me to wonder whether the trouble is in the Navy and not in the Army or the Air Force. Some of my colleagues think that that is where the trouble lies. I am, however, wondering, is it in the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, or is it outside His Majesty's Forces?
I can imagine the reason in the Army. We have only to remember that the recruit of to-day is driven to the Army mainly by prolonged unemployment. He is a dissatisfied and discontented citizen before he goes into the Army. It is because he cannot provide for himself as he would desire that he joins the Army. I could understand the Government saying that the present type of recruit, being an easy prey to the Communist agitator, must be safeguarded. Many of the young men to-day, I know, have Communist leanings before they join the Army. Many of them lean to the extreme left and I could understand the Government saying that if they did not do something to prevent influence being brought to bear upon these young men there was a danger of mutiny. But if that be the reason, why not be frank with the House and say so? The Attorney-General tried to face both ways. He paid a compliment to the loyalty of the Forces and said that no dissemination of leaflets and pamphlets would undermine that loyalty. But, if the loyalty of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force is beyond reproach, why bring in the Bill?
As I say I could understand it if the Government advanced as a reason for the Bill that they could not trust the present-day recruit and were afraid of his leanings to the left, I could also understand the Government saying that they had to consider the position outside the Forces and the extent of Communist activity in the country. Is not that activity in danger 813 of undermining the loyalty of the Forces? I should say frankly that it is. I believe that Communist activity is directed to undermining the loyalty of the soldier and the sailor. But I put it to the Government, has Communism as an influence in the political and social life of this country weakened or strengthened in recent years? They are bound to agree that it has weakened considerably. Why? Because of the absence of this kind of legislation, because of the freedom and tolerance which exist in this country. That is the influence which will kill any doctrine unacceptable to the majority. This Bill on the other hand is the kind of thing which while driving certain Communist activities underground, will only serve to encourage the Communist and perhaps lead many of his listeners, who have hitherto resisted his arguments, to fall a prey to them.
I am often asked at meetings where Communists happen to be whether I think that Socialism can be established in Great Britain by democratic methods and by securing Socialist majorities in the House of Commons and on public bodies. I am often asked by Communists whether it is not the case that the Army and the Navy are officered by members of the upper class and that when there was any danger to the interest of the upper class, those officers would refuse to carry out the instructions of the War Office under a Socialist Government. That is the case put by the Communists. I refuse to accept it. I say that when the electorate of Great Britain have sufficient intelligence to send Socialist majorities to the House of Commons and the public bodies it will be possible to translate the wishes of the electorate into action by peaceful methods. But I understand that the Conservative party suspect the loyalty of the rank and file while the Communist party suspect the loyalty of the officers.
Our case against the Bill is that it takes a step in the wrong direction. The Bill may meet with a less inglorious fate than a similar attempt in 1925 which was withdrawn. It may be passed, but do not let us make the mistake of saying that when we have passed it we have settled for ever the question of the loyalty of the forces and that there will be no future attempts to undermine that loyalty. The passing of this Bill will not suppress attempts by those who are de- 814 sirous of doing so, to undermine the loyalty of the soldier and the sailor. On the other hand, the passing of the Bill is endangering liberty. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to say that we are making mountains out of molehills. We are far from satisfied with the explanation given in his opening speech and we hope that the Solicitor-General will carry that explanation further. Will he tell us, for instance, what is meant by the words "endeavouring to seduce." I can imagine a Member of Parliament from this side of the House saying during a strike that if the soldiers were called into a certain area they ought not to shoot down the strikers. Will any trade union leader who makes such a suggestion during a stoppage be guilty of endeavouring to seduce? If so, will the Solicitor-General say so.
It is not fair for the Attorney-General to say that these words have been used for years and are well understood. They are to be interpreted by thousands of magistrates. Will all these magistrates give them the same interpretation? Will they receive the same interpretation in an urban area and in a rural area? We do not want to know what some magistrate in some outlandish place may interpret these words to mean. We want the Solicitor-General to tell us how the Government interpret them. Again, will he tell us does he think it right to leave the powers under Clause 2, Sub-section (3) in the hands of magistrates who are mostly untrained, who are oft-times elderly and who, in many cases, do not understand the law as they ought to understand it.
Then, what are the documents the dissemination of which is to be an offence? I have been going through some of my own papers, and I think if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament I had better look carefully to what I have in my own house. If a search takes place there and certain leaflets and pamphlets are found, apparently I am "for it" under this Measure, though I have never been charged up to the present with disloyalty. But I want the Solicitor-General to tell me what documents am I to destroy? [HON. MEMBERS: "The lot!"] If the hon. and learned Gentleman desires a list of the documents which I have I will hand it over to him on condition that he gives me that information. I have a very fine volume of speeches by 815 the Prime Minister. Many of these would come under the ban of this Clause. Must I then burn the speeches of the hon. and learned Gentleman's own Prime Minister? I have also got a copy of John Stuart-Mills' work on "Liberty." I spent half an hour with it yesterday. I am glad to see that the Attorney-General is back in his place. He will know that the Sermon on the Mount is in the Bible. Am I to destroy that? Am I quite safe in keeping it in future? Should some old fogey of a magistrate in my area consider my house a good place for a search in connection with this Bill, and should there be any danger in having the Sermon on the Mount in my house, I am in danger.
This House is entitled to know the type of document that would put me in danger. This Bill does endanger the liberty of the subject as we have known it in the past. The learned Attorney-General may have a keen desire that the homes of the people should continue to be their castles, but this Bill prevents any such home being a castle in future in any shape or form. It gives the right of search of any house which a magistrate may suspect, and we have seen that carried too far and endangering liberty. Liberty may have its risks, but the risks of liberty are nothing to be compared with the risks of tyranny, and it is because this Bill is depriving the people of this country of the freedom which the Attorney-General stated he was desirous of safeguarding that we on this side are unable to support it. We agree that it is most unreasonable for any member of society to try to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces to be disloyal to an oath that he has taken. We think that once a man joins the Army on oath, it is his bounden duty to be loyal to that oath. That does not justify this Bill. The Bill must be justified on other grounds, and because the Attorney-General has failed entirely to give a satisfactory reason for the Bill, we must oppose it when the Division is taken.
§ 8.57 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
I agree with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) that the Bill is a most important Bill, but I think it is remarkable bow few hon. Members have been gallant or astute enough to defend it. The last 816 hon. Member who spoke in favour of it was the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), and if only the Bill were what he seemed to Think it is, how agreeable the Bill would be to every hon. Member of this House. He seemed to be supporting, if I may cull one or two of his own phrases, "a Bill to empower Chief Constables to discourage the distribution of filth"—but unfortunately this Bill is very far from being that. It was from that area in the House where the hon. Member for Attercliffe spoke that two other speeches were delivered by the uneasy champions of this dubious Bill, and I suppose I must moderate, as they are not here, the answers that I might otherwise have given to them. The hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) said on two occasions that no valid criticism had emerged of the objects of the Bill. I have no criticism of the avowed objects of the Bill. My criticism is against the dangers which are manifestly inherent in certain of its Clauses, and I wondered during the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) whether that hon. Member had concentrated any of his attention on Sub-section (1) of Clause 2. He told the House that the Bill was easy to understand. I wish I shared his faith and his understanding.
I have been told that the only safe maxim to follow in politics is to be surprised at nothing, but perhaps a little modified amazement may be allowed to one who normally supports the National Government in the Division Lobby. This Bill has been cast before the House without warning, sandwiched as it were as a slab of legislative relish between the Firearms Bill and the general day of rejoicing which we all anticipate to-morrow. I would venture to remind the House that some months ago the Government did not consider that a very similar Bill—the Blasphemy Bill—was necessary. The Attorney-General to-day advanced a number of pretexts, which I am sorry to say I can only regard as quite inadequate, and we have had no evidence of any marked growth of disaffection or of any attempt to cause disaffection in respect of His Majesty's Forces. The first Clause is not only unexceptionable, it is immaculate. Any Army that we need in this country owes its allegiance solely to the Sovereign, which consists of the Crown and the two Houses of Parliament. That, I believe, 817 is a principle perfectly clearly established, not only by the Statutes quoted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, but also by many years of usage in our common law; it is a principle which might conveniently be set in motion against the private armies now beginning to threaten the most cherished constitutional liberties of the subject, freedom of conscience and liberty of speech.
This first Clause is both virtuous and gratuitous; yet it is followed by a Clause which can be accurately described as both novel and startling. The Bill, if it passes this House, will become the law, and not the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. That is the criterion for those who come after him. At the risk of wearying the House, I will quote Sub-section (1) of Clause 2, which is almost incredible:If any person, without lawful excuse, has in his possession or under his control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's Forces would be an offence under Section one of this Act, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.I will be bound that every hon. Member in this House has in his possession such documents. We could quite easily compile an Index librorum expurgandorum. We might well start with the works of the poet Shelley, and I wonder if the Members of the Government would wish to include in that Index a number of the prefaces to the works of Mr. George Bernard Shaw. Are the Government arming themselves with powers to do to him, our most provocative and pellucid intellect, the same thing that the Germans recently did to Einstein, who was accurately described by the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) as their most glorious citizen? We must add to our Index some isolated quotations from the New Testament, and the wartime speeches of the right hon. Members for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and Seaham Harbour (Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald). Then, of course, we must include the bound volumes of the OFFICIAL REPORT, certain speeches in which will be found to be teeming with sedition and incitement to disaffection. We must include also Sir Norman Angell's "The Great Illusion," and I suppose we must include the propaganda of our political 818 opponents, although it might be held by a magistrate that we were entitled to a "lawful excuse" for retaining those in our possession. Certainly I should feel that my library would be seriously impoverished if I had not in my cherished possession certain obiter dicta of the Labour party. We should also have to include Mr. Beverley Nichols' "Cry Havoc."
I have in my hand a publication which has given me many minutes of quiet, clean fun; it is called "A Strong Hand at the Helm." The author or compiler of this work excels at the propagandist's time-honoured trick of wrenching remarks from their context and so destroying their meaning. There is one remark, for example, attributed to the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), the Lord President of the Council:This is a glorious age in which we live…. The whole world is sick.There is at the beginning of this book a picture of the Prime Minister holding a cricket bat and standing up facing a ball which will never be bowled. There are three pictures of the Secretary of State for War in very unfortunate poses, and I am certain that if this book were distributed broadcast among the troops, it might cause disaffection. Am I to be obliged to part company with this, one of my most cherished literary possessions? I suppose that the answer is to be given by a justice of the peace ably aided by the erudition of a police constable. I am beginning to feel that His Majesty's Government are losing their sense of humour, and I can only reiterate, in view of the words of Clause 2, Subsection (1), that it is useless for the Attorney-General to seek to explain our objections away because the Bill, and not his speech, will be the law when this Measure becomes an Act of Parliament.
He will not indefinitely distinguish the office that he now so adequately and ably adorns, and I would remind my hon. Friends in the Conservative party that the same legislators who passed the Trades Disputes Act were not called upon to deal with the General Strike in 1926. I hope my hon. Friends on the benches below me will not lose their self-control if I describe that industrial and political adventure as a moral offence against the community; but I did not at the time, and I 819 do not now, think that the present Foreign Secretary was correct when he gave his opinion that the General Strike offended against the law as it then existed. If that contention is disputed, I would ask why it was necessary at the time for the Government of the day to introduce amending legislation. The point was, not the intention of the legislators in 1906, but the situation which arose and the manner in which the law could be interpreted 20 years later in 1926. It is the seeds of that kind of caution that I seek respectfully to sow in the minds of hon. Members to-night. We cannot predict what our successors may make of this weird Clause. Indeed, I believe that any citizen of this country who read this Bill carefully and saw its implications would be bound to condemn it, and I should be surprised to find any lawyer who would fail to deride it.
If His Majesty's Government are able to conjure up out of the vasty deeps of legislative turmoil any leisurely intervals for fancy legislation, I suggest they should direct their attention to the activities of the Black Shirt movement—that extraordinary movement begotten by a disappointed careerist out of the Rothermere Press. The mere existence of Black Shirts striding up and down the country is an incitement to the Communists, a body holding opinions we all abominate but for the moment of negligible proportions. I suggest to the House that our British liberty contains the paradox that there must be no licence to attack freedom. Here is an opportunity, I suggest, for any superfluous legislative energy on the part of His Majesty's Government. I approach despair when I see the Government allowing the flood of British freedom, carrying upon its tide humour, ingenuity and opinion free as the air:In bogs and sands to perish, and to evil and to goodBe lost for ever.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
After having sat through this Debate, I think the learned Attorney-General has been most unfortunate in his supporters. We have had no constructive speech from either the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself or his supporters. I was astonished at the weak case which was put up by him. It seemed to me to be a case of 820 language being given us to conceal our thoughts. The Attorney-General seemed to be spinning a few words and saying that perhaps, after all, the Bill was only a very small thing. I am still left wondering what is really at the back of the Measure. If the Attorney-General is correct, the propaganda has amounted to only 50,000 leaflets in two years. That is not anything that matters very much. As an old propagandist I could give that amount out in a week if I set myself to do it. In the same breath the Attorney-General told us that this propaganda has made no difference to the loyalty of the troops. That gave an excellent opportunity for some of my Friends below the Gangway to point out that, after all, there may not be so much loyalty as has been made out.
Seeing that the Government have all the powers they want to deal with this kind of thing, it is most unfortunate that they should bring in a Bill with, apparently, very little or no reason at all, and to set people wondering what is at the back of it all. The Attorney-General said that they wanted to protect the interests of the poor, ignorant men who distributed this literature. I am sure the Attorney-General knows as much, or perhaps more about these matters than I do, and he must know as well as I do—[Laughter.] It is a surprising thing how little lawyers do know. I want to point out to the Attorney-General how very often the man who delivers this kind of literature does it in a holy spirit of zeal and martyrdom. Such men are under no delusion as to what they are doing; they know very well the risks that they are running. Any extreme movement always attracts a certain type of man who is prepared to be martyred, and it is not correct to say that the men who do this kind of thing are necessarily illiterate and do not know what they are doing and that they only do it for a few pence. In the majority of cases they do it in the spirit of sacrifice.
He went on to say that the people really responsible were skulking in the background. I agree with him that if there is a breaking of the law, it is a cowardly thing for some people to stand in the background and let other people run a risk which they are not prepared to run themselves. There is nothing in this Bill which is calculated to bring those people within the scope of the law. I can find 821 nothing that will do that. What I do find, is a real danger that law-abiding citizens stand a tremendous risk of being bandied about from pillar to post by some Government which will use their interpretation of the law as laid down in this Bill for purposes with which the Attorney-General would not agree at all. Let me give an example. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) made a speech in this House. Very likely I may keep a copy of that speech. Suppose some of the hon. Member's friends think the speech is worth distributing and like to keep a copy, perhaps as a "museum piece." If I have a copy in my house, then I may be liable some day under this Measure. A search warrant may be granted by a magistrate who thinks, "Well, I know Banfield and, after all, it serves him right. He has held extreme opinions long enough." Then they will come along to my house and find the copy of the speech which the hon. Member for Shettleston made here to-night, and will say, under this Bill, that I have in my possession or under my control a document of such a nature that, if it were disseminated among the troops, would lead to an offence under this Measure.
Some of us see that danger, and I think the Attorney-General must, on reconsideration, recognise the possibilities for mischief which lie in this Bill. The Attorney-General may not always occupy his present honourable position. We shall get another Government, and it may be a real, true Conservative Government. We have to look at all the possible dangers. There are some of us who are not afraid to preach against war, who believe that some part of our mission in life is to preach the gospel of peace, and a right-wing Conservative Administration might declare that our peace propaganda was hurtful to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Who knows? There are the possibilities under this Measure. This right of search is all wrong. If hon. Members were doing their duty, if they bore in mind the traditions of the House and remembered the men who have struggled and made sacrifices to maintain the liberties of the people, they would not be outside the Chamber during this Debate, but would be here seeking jealously to guard our liberties. Under this Bill our houses may be searched on a very small pretext. It is all very well for the Attorney-General and other 822 lawyers to say that the right of search is embodied in other Acts of Parliament. Political flavour and political bias inevitably enter into the matters with which we are now concerned. We are not dealing here with an ordinary crime against property or the person; something may become a crime simply because one man holds a different opinion from another. We ought to be very careful indeed as to the powers we confer upon the Executive when the fundamental point is only a difference of opinion and, possibly, a difference of method.
A lay magistrate is to be enabled to grant search warrants. I speak with a little knowledge, because I am a magistrate myself, and have met a good many of my fellow magistrates, and while I have a great deal of personal respect and admiration for them, I should be unwilling, in many cases, to give into their hands my personal liberty. I think a good many hon. Members, when they look at this from the point of view of their own personal liberty, or what they would like done in their own particular cases, will agree that the powers under this Bill are far too wide. It may be that many hon. Members when they came here to-day and saw this Bill on the Order Paper thought, "Oh, well, that is all right. We ought to do what we are going to do, to make it a bit hard and difficult for any person to seduce from his allegiance any member of His Majesty's Forces." Like the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) who, to his credit, never followed the example of the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) in speaking against this Government, I want to submit, however, that the Bill goes a lot too far.
I still fail to understand why the Bill was introduced. I do not believe, as some people might, that the reason for this Bill is to be found in the failure of a recent prosecution, but the question is still at the back of my mind as to why there is any necessity for the Bill. The Government have power already, and it has been used over and over again when necessity has arisen. Many a time in this country we have found it better to let sleeping dogs lie. Give people a certain amount of rope and, if they do not hang themselves, at least the public get sick and tired of seeing them playing with the rope, and interest in them dies out. If 823 the Communist movement in this country were tremendously active, growing in strength and likely to be a danger to society, I could understand in some measure the introduction of this Bill, but the Communist movement here gets weaker instead of stronger. Anyone who believes that because the Communists shout a lot they represent any considerable body of opinion has made a tremendous mistake. The Communist movement gets weaker, but this Bill is calculated to give Communists new heart and new hope. They will say, "Even the Attorney-General realises our strength. Even the Attorney-General has to come down to the House in a kind of panic"—they will call it a panic—"and, as a guard against our growing strength, introduces a special Bill to deal with our propaganda."
We should do much better to let this thing be and to rely on what we have always relied upon. Quite seriously, I cannot understand the point of view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he says that he has brought forward this Bill because he wants to get at the people at the back of these poor fellows who distribute bills. I am satisfied whatever is the reason for producing this Bill, that is not the reason, and I hope and trust that better counsels may prevail. We on these benches are just as much concerned for the good government of this nation as any other political party. These powers are open to very grave abuse. No one knows better than the learned Attorney-General the possibilities of abuse of power under this Bill. I appeal to him and to the Government to withdraw the Bill, because I am satisfied that it will be a greater hindrance than a help, and calculated to encourage the Very people whom he declares that he wants to get at. Hon. Members ought to realise that they are the custodians of the liberties of the people of this country.
We heard to-night an old tag from one of the legal Members on the other side, the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons), who said, "There are times when liberty becomes licence." I am not, however, impressed by that. I am impressed, on looking around this House, by its past traditions, its history, by my thoughts of the men who have sat on these benches. I look back over 824 English history and think of the men who in their day and generation have fought, and fought hard, for the liberties of the common people of this nation. At this time of day, when we have our nation contented, with no black clouds on the horizon, we ought to let our oars stay where they are and not pass a Bill of this kind, for which there is no shadow of justification whatever.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
So many of those who have criticised this Bill have been lawyers that I am glad to follow an hon. Member who, like myself, is a mere lay magistrate. The Bill lays such alarming duties upon lay magistrates that we may well want to satisfy ourselves exactly what it does in court. I wish chiefly to ask one clear question of whoever is to reply for the Government. I asked the Attorney-General, and his reply was to some extent reassuring, but I should like to have the matter rather more exclusively answered. My question is, Are we to understand that if I or any other person were to disseminate in the Army or Navy vast quantities of a leaflet which taught the doctrine that war under any circumstances whatever, even to repel an invasion, was a mortal sin, that would not be an offence under this Bill? If the reply is "Yes, it would be an offence," then it is quite plain that the mere possession of literature of that kind, even if there were no intention of disseminating it among members of His Majesty's Forces, would bring the possessor under the Act.
I see nothing to prevent raids on the Friends' House in the Euston Road, the headquarters of the Union of Democratic Control or the Peace Society—or the Oxford Union, which passed not long ago that notorious resolution, since adopted by many other universities, "In no circumstances will we fight for King or country." The possessors of that literature would come within this law. If, on the other hand, the reply is, "No, the dissemination of such literature among His Majesty's Forces would not be an offence against the Act," then I suggest that it proves even more strongly the impossibility of expecting ordinary lay magistrates such as myself to interpret correctly a Measure like this. From the ordinary common-sense point of view, surely you could not go a better 825 way to seduce members of the armed forces from their duties than to convince them that to carry out one of those duties, which in certain circumstances is to fight, is a mortal sin. It seems to me that in this respect we are on the horns of a dilemma. Either Clause 2, which refers to incriminating documents, goes an enormous way, or, if it only applies to literature which is intended for the definite purpose of seducing members of His Majesty's Forces and nobody else, then why in the name of common sense does it not say so? Why is the Clause so worded as to lay itself open to such an extremely wide and dangerous interpretation?
There is another question which I wish to ask. Clause 2 (3) runs:If a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Act has been committed.Does that mean that the information on oath can be supplied, not at the instance of the Public Prosecutor, the Chief Constable, or any responsible body, but by any individual citizen? Then what is to prevent this sort of thing arising, citizens being what they are and lay magistrates being what they are, not trained lawyers. I should like this matter very definitely explained, because to a non-legal mind such as mine these things are better understood in the form of a perfectly simple instance. Let us suppose that a General Election is approaching, that a Labour Government is in power, and that it occurs to some of them that at a particular time it would be a good way to excite prejudice against the Conservative party if large numbers of persons known to belong to that party were caused to have their premises searched for literature to show that they were planning a a Fascist Revolution, or any disturbance you like to mention. What is to prevent lay magistrates who hold strong Socialist views from being approached by individual people who lay information that certain bodies are supposed to be in possession of Fascist literature advocating a forcible overthrow of the Socialist Government? Is there really any certainty that justices of the peace would not take the view that the possession of literature of that kind might indicate that the possessors were going to use it to seduce His Majesty's Forces? Might not large numbers of searches take place? Even if the 826 Director of Public Prosecutions did not think that the results justified prosecution, yet the mere rumour that public searches were taking place at that time would have done the trick of helping to create a general feeling of excitement.
The danger does not arise only from one side or the other. It is quite plain that if these enormous powers of ordering a search on a general search warrant under this Measure are to be entrusted to any one justice of the peace acting on sworn information from anybody, the door is open to enormous violations of privacy, to general searches undertaken ostensibly because there is reason to suppose that treasonable literature of the kind indicated is in the possession of somebody or other, but really for the purpose of creating a general feeling of uneasiness and, incidentally, of getting hold of all sorts of private information that can he used in the courts to bring a case. The whole position would be very much like that which obtains in India under the Ordinances, where you do not have to prove that anybody has committed a crime, but only to prove that the police have reason to suppose that somebody may be about to commit a crime.
The learned Attorney-General's assurances tended to represent this Bill as a very small affair, aiming at the prevention of a particular, specified, clearly indicated type of offence by a clearly indicated type of personage. He represented the Bill even as a kind of measure of defence of these ignorant, misguided people, removing the necessity for dealing with them any longer under an indictment, which empowered the courts to impose a heavy term of imprisonment. They were to be dealt with summarily and lower penalties were to be imposed. If that is all that is involved, why is this Bill not very much more limited in its terms? If it does, as many of us fear, tear a hole in British liberties through which an elephant may get through, it is no defence to say that it is only intended to secure admission for the harmless, necessary watchdog. In these times, when liberties all over the world are being seriously impaired, this is the last kind of thing that the Government should do. They should reassure us that no unnecessary attacks are made on the liberty of the Press and upon liberty of thought and speech, and not bring for- 827 ward a Bill which is so unnecessarily wide in its provisions.
The only other point I wish to make is as to the extraordinarily wide powers given by the Bill to magistrates for the granting of search warrants and to the courts of summary jurisdiction in dealing with cases. An hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches mentioned recent indications in other Bills of the reluctance of the Government to extend the powers of the courts of summary jurisdiction. The Attorney-General will remember that only the other day, during a Debate on a private Member's Bill in Committee upstairs, it was proposed to give the courts of summary jurisdiction power to do a relatively simple thing where a testator had unreasonably disinherited his widow or surviving spouse and children. It was proposed under that Bill to give the courts of summary jurisdiction power to set aside the will, but we were then told that it was a general principle that it was not wise to extend the powers of the courts of summary jurisdiction where there was no general body of case law for guidance. If a court of summary jurisdiction is not fit to deal with a case where a widow and children have been unjustly disinherited, they are not fit to interpret so subtle and difficult a matter, and one which is so liable to be biased by political prejudice, as this vague and generally-worded Bill.
I would entreat the Government, if they cannot withdraw this Measure altogether, at least to clear up the vague wording of several of the Clauses. I fear that when the public awakes to the nature of the provisions of the Bill there will be a very great extension of the fears, already widely entertained, that there is a section in the Government which intends to make preparations for taking extra-constitutional action in order to prevent drastic social reform. No one who is in touch with public opinion can deny that those fears are very widely entertained, and this Bill is well adapted to add to them. The purpose of the Bill is aptly described by its title—Incitement to Disaffection Bill. I can imagine no Bill which is more likely to be an incitement to disaffection than this.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
So many hon. Members have expressed so adequately the 828 views which some of us hold against this Bill, that I need not detain the House for more than a short time to express the views which I have upon it. That was particularly the case with the speeches of the hon. Member for Leeds, West, (Mr. Vyvyan Adams) and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot) who addressed himself to the legal arguments much better than I could and who exposed the fundamental faults of the Bill. After listening to nearly all the speeches in this Debate, I would say that there was only one moment, namely, during the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), when I felt that there might be some case for bringing forward a Bill like this. In another part of his speech, and when my prejudice in regard to the first part had died away, I found myself strikingly in accord with something said by the hon. Member for Shettleston. He referred to other Measures that had been put forward by this Government and pointed out that they were merely part of a long chain of policy which the Government have been bringing forward, in order to turn the Government of this country into Fascist Government without the people knowing about it. That was his suggestion, and, when challenged as to whether I believe that, I say that it struck a remarkably sympathetic chord in my heart.
It is not so very long since the Minister of Agriculture, having been thwarted in the carrying out of one of his little milk schemes by a court of law, at once said that he would bring in amending legislation to circumvent that law. He again it was who came here and asked us to put the Orders made by some of his boards beyond the control of the courts. It is true that in another place he withdrew from that position—I will not say that he was hurried out of it. The point I want to make is, if we, in this House, are to allow the Government to get away with that sort of legislation and leave the other House to protest, what is to become of the respect with which this House is held in the country? After the example of the Minister of Agriculture we have the Attorney-General, in spite of the respectability and the reasonableness with which we all regard him in this House, becoming a sort of cloak for an evil monster 829 that otherwise could not possibly get through the House.
The hon. Member for Shettleston came very near the truth when he said that the Bill was part of a scheme which the Government have to change the whole form of the government without anybody knowing it. We are to have, as one part of the scheme, Orders beyond the control of the courts; we are to have regulations made for millions of people, affecting their intimate relations by a board which is again beyond the control of the courts, to say nothing of the infamous operations of the Tariff Board; and now we have the Attorney-General asking us to accept this Bill as just a small thing, like his late colleague did in the case of the Visiting Forces Bill, the introduction of a vital principle. Nobody can say what cataract of tyranny this Bill will let loose upon us. At any minute, things which we have considered quite unbearable in this free country may become the stock-in-trade of an over-zealous policeman, who may obtain permission from one lay magistrate because of a suspicion, and the whole machinery can be set in motion.
I do not want to say any more than is necessary about lay magistrates. In many respects I have the very greatest admiration for the work that they do. They carry out their multifarious and often onerous duties entirely without pay, and some would say entirely without qualification; but I think that this is putting far too great a strain upon the lay magistrates of this country. After all, "lay" means, I take it, untrained in law, and they are appointed, if not for political reasons, often in order to obey the theories which are held by some that there should be equal representation of parties, or at any rate some representation of all parties, on the magisterial bench. That seems to me to be just the wrong sort of tribunal before which to take offences of a purely political nature. The Attorney-General said that the expressions used in the Bill, about endeavouring to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty to His Majesty, and so forth, were well understood. I do not know myself what is the definition of the duty owed in these circumstances by His Majesty's Forces, and I would ask the Attorney-General 830 whether he thinks that lay magistrates in this country understand these difficult expressions so easily as he does. Indeed, I should be inclined to question whether two trained minds could come to the same decision upon any one of these questions, not to mention the many untrained magistrates who will have to pass judgment upon them in various parts of the country.
So much for Clause 1 of the Bill. Subsection (1) of Clause 2 is just as ridiculous, because of the broadness of the expression "lawful excuse," without which possessors of certain literature are to be subjected to the procedure of this Bill. The offence will vary in different parts of the country. It will be one thing where the magistrates on the bench are Conservative colonels and dames-president, or whatever they are called, of the Primrose League, and quite another when the bench includes men like one whom I know, who, on appointment to his position as magistrate, said he was going there to look after the interests of his own class. That bench will doubtless give a totally different interpretation of these very difficult questions from a bench manned by Tory colonels. As for Sub-sections (2) and (3), one can nearly merely boggle at them. On the mere suspicion of a police officer, suitably presented, as I have said, ex parte, without any hearing of the other side, before a lay magistrate, a British subject's house will in future be rendered liable to things which hitherto we have only regarded as fit for Russians, Italians and Germans. I say, with all respect to this House, that a Government which can propose such a thing as that is by no means a National Government; it is a national danger; and I hope that the House will not support this Bill.
§ 9.50 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR
As a so-called Simonite Liberal colonel, perhaps I might be allowed to say a few words. I have not, unfortunately, been in the House so much as I should have liked during this Debate, but it really seems to me that a mountain is being made out of a molehill. After all, what is the object of the Government in bringing in this Bill? So far as I can see, it is merely to stop a lot of pernicious nonsense going on all over the country, such as would not, I believe, be tolerated in 831 any other country in the world; and I feel that, if the House will pull itself together and take that view of the matter, which I believe to be the right view, it will not go to a Division on the Bill.
My real reason for rising is to refer to a remark which fell from the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), who is always so fair in debate. I have tried to find him, but understand that he has gone to Basingstoke this evening to try to assist his son in the by-election there, and I have, therefore, notified the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) that I was going to refer to his speech. He made the statement, which I think I am quoting accurately, that Mr. Drummond Wolff has declared himself to be anti-Indian White Paper. Being a Simonite colonel, and being a strong supporter of the National Government, I, living in the Basingstoke Division, am whole-heartedly supporting the National Government candidate. I have nothing to regret in doing that, and I am going to do it again to-morrow night. In making the statement to which I refer, the hon. Member for Bodmin, although I do not for one moment suggest that he did not honestly feel that it was justified, did not, in my view, state the case fairly. On two occasions I have heard Mr. Drummond Wolff speak on the White Paper, and he certainly left on my mind the impression that he was, if anything, in favour of the White Paper. I have taken the trouble to ring up and find out what he said in his election address—
§ Mr. LAWSON
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member is not speaking on the subject before the House at all, but is actually turning this Assembly into a party meeting?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understood that the hon. and gallant Member was replying to something which had been said in Debate.
I shall only detain the House for a moment more, just to read the statement in the election address of the National Government candidate at Basingstoke:It remains for the British Parliament to make the final decision on this Report"—832 that is, the Joint Select Committee's Report.It is clear, therefore, that, until this Report is issued, no serious or useful opinion can be expressed.That is all that I have to say on the subject. I hope that the hon. Member for Bodmin, when he looks into this matter a little more carefully than, apparently, he has done, will withdraw what he said this afternoon.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I was brought up in a political school which believed that eternal vigilance was the price of liberty, and this Bill demonstrates beyond the possibility of doubt that there are some people pretending to represent the people, and having been elected to this House on the theory of democracy, who are prepared to shed every principle of democracy that they have ever professed. What is the position under this Bill? I am not a lawyer, but I happen to be a magistrate. Most magistrates are lawyers, though they may not know much about the law, but some of us have got on to these benches because we have rendered some service to the people among whom we live. We have not been put there because we were born to the position. Some of those in authority would like to see us born in a worse position. I should like to know what Member of the House is going to his constituency to justify the position that gives an opportunity to any common informer living in any part of the country to go behind the back of the citizens to a magistrate whom he may know. It is not laid down that he is to go to a particular kind of magistrate. He may go to a personal friend and say, "I know that Tom, Dick or Harry So-and-so is guilty of having in his possession literature which I consider to be seditious and against the interests of the State." The magistrate may be a member of the same lodge, and we know what that means in working-class life.
I want the House to realise the position that arises. There are numbers of men and women of all classes and all parties who have signed manifestos declaring themselves in favour of no more war, that they will take no part in any 833 future wars, and they will advise all they come in contact with not to have anything to do with war in any shape or form. Someone who knows me does not like me. [Interruption.] I am not talking about myself personally. There are other people in the same position that I am in. Suppose someone has some personal spite or private grievance against another citizen. He has only to go to a magistrate and make a declaration, and he obtains the right to go into the other man's home and search it to see if he has any incriminating documents in his possession.
What right has this or any other Government to abrogate the rights of the citizens by a Bill which has never been promulgated, which has been brought in in the dark, which has been born in secrecy and will die in infamy? The people of the country were never told what the intention was. Fascism is not mentioned in the Bill at all. The preliminary part simply deals with the propaganda that these misguided individuals deliver in garrison towns and naval centres. I wish them luck with their work, because they are making more converts the other way than they are in their own direction. The North Portsmouth election proved that. These people were very active delivering their literature. They got a great rebuff, and they had no success with their propaganda. If I were a member of the Communist party, I should thank the Government for this Bill. It is worth thousands of supporters to them, because a lot of people will say the Government are against them and, on the principle that we will stand by those whom the Government are against, they will back them. They do.
I belong to a different kind of school. In Ireland there is plenty of visiting peoples' houses to find out who are for the Government and who are against them. De Valera is playing you at your own game, and he is going to get the support of the majority of the people in the part of the country that he represents, simply because he is using the same methods that you are suggesting in the Bill that you should use. "I must keep my opponents in subjection. I must use all the machinery of the State that I can control in the direction of crushing those who are opposed to me." What is the good of rendering lip service to the principle of democracy if you are follow- 834 ing in the footsteps of all the dictators in Europe? This Bill might well have been introduced by Mussolini or Hitler or Dolfuss, or any other kind of doll.
What are you afraid of? I have heard things mentioned that I have never heard of before. They have dug out of the limbo of forgotten things the names of papers that some of us have never heard of. I have spent my life since I was 17 in the trade union Socialist movement, and I have never heard about the great propaganda that these people are carrying on. If it is punishment that you want, there is plenty of punishment for the ordinary worker in the trade union and Labour movement. If he goes out on strike, he may find, after the strike is over, that he has to face slow starvation. If the strike is not successful, he often finds that he has to tighten his belt before he gets another job. If he takes an active part in any kind of organisation connected with the Labour movement, he discovers that there are plenty of laws to deal with him and plenty of magistrates who will not take too lenient a view of any offence that he may commit. You have all the powers that you want now. What more powers can you expect to get unless you want to cripple those who are opposed to you?
You are making a big mistake. You are making a rod for your own backs. Suppose we come back a majority, as is not impossible. Suppose we say that some hon. Members on the benches opposite and all around us are carrying on propaganda against the State. We are just as much the State when we get the votes of the people on our side as you are now. I hope we shall never get power by the same methods that you have adopted. But when the next election comes and in the whirligig of time we get our revenge and sit on those benches instead of you, what will be the position? We might consider it treasonable for you to deliver the literature that you are now delivering in the constituencies. Whenever there is a by-election you tee the most outrageous lies to get votes. When there is a General Election Ananias is a baby compared with you who are on the side of the so-called National Government. If you pass legislation of this character, you must not be surprised if we say "ditto brother Smut" when our turn comes, and we shall be able to use this machinery. I do not want to 835 use any machinery. I say, "let the Communists propagate their opinions and, if people like to listen to them, let them." If the Tories organise their affairs successfully and win elections, I say "good luck to them." We will accept our defeat and wait for the chance of getting our own back, which we are getting every time we get the opportunity.
The Bill is useless and unnecessary. It is only creating antagonism among people who would otherwise be agreed. No one wants to give anyone the right to suborn the military and naval discipline of the country, but that is not the object of the Bill. The object of the Bill is to give some power to those in authority—not the people at the top but the satellites at the bottom to wreak their vengeance upon those with whom they do not agree. The Bill is opening up the way in every village and town in the country for people suborned by the Government to watch those who are in active opposition to the Government of the day. These magistrates may be very fine gentlemen. I have nothing to say against them, but when it comes to political issues I would not trust them. When ideas of propaganda are raised they have their prejudices—I am not blaming them—but they are not the people who should have the right to issue search warrants. The Bill is wrong in its conception, and I hope that the House will reject it. If we are defeated, I hope we shall take the first opportunity of turning that defeat into victory.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
When the Bill was first introduced into the House of Commons under the Title, Incitement to Disaffection, I think that most Members of the House believed that it was intended to meet what was looked upon as the growing increase of disturbances in the country by the Fascists. Members on every side believed that it had something to do with the disturbances which have arisen and are arising at Fascist meetings and at various functions organised by the Fascists or taken part in by them. When the Bill was printed and handed out to every Member who made application at the Vote Office, we found that there was absolutely nothing within the Bill which dealt with the situation which the Home Secretary had 836 declared to the House, in answer to questions, had become so serious as to compel him to take into very serious consideration the methods adopted by those people and to deal with the matter.
The Bill as presented to the House is merely another attack upon the few liberties which have been left by the National Government to the people of this country—an attack which, in its way, is one of the most dastardly attacks which have been made in this House upon liberty since the War. We are told by the Attorney-General that there are certain people in this country who are causing such amazing disaffection in the Forces of the Crown that it has become necessary to bring in a special Bill to deal with them. The Mutiny Act and all the various Acts against sedition and disturbances have all ceased to be operative, and are unable to deal with the situation. The Attorney-General told us early this afternoon that the Government must deal with the situation, and that in order to deal with it, this Bill had been brought in. He told us of certain papers, and I am prepared to throw out a challenge to Members of this House that there are not 5 per cent. of Members who had heard the names of the papers which the Attorney-General mentioned. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) had, apparently, the evidence.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Because these papers are so obscure, so few are published and so few of the public purchase them, the hon. Member says that the time of the House ought to be wasted on a Bill of this kind. The Attorney-General, I am almost certain, had never before heard of either of the two papers which he brought before the House. What were their names? I have almost forgotten them already. "The Red Signal." That was for the Navy. What was the name of the other one? "The Soldier's Voice." As far as that voice is concerned, the soldiers are dumb. We have never heard of it before, and the Attorney-General did not produce a copy of it in the House. Has he a copy? Has he got the "Red Signal"? Evidently they have been sold out.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am glad that I have been given copies. Here is No. 7. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is evidently not a regular reader, because the next issue is No. 24, and then you go back to No. 10. Really the right hon. and learned Gentleman is most erratic in his reading of the "Red Signal." The production of these copies by him is the strongest argument against this Bill being introduced. Are there more "Red Signals"?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the hon. Member wants them I think that he has a copy of the other. There are specimens of both in the bundle which I now hand to him.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The right hon. and learned Gentleman should be more systematic in his reading. He has the "Soldier's Voice" mixed up with the "Red Signal."
§ Mr. MACLEAN
No, I have the "News Letter" in my pocket. I ask the representatives of the Government what is the intention with regard to this Bill? The Attorney-General, in his speech, made it appear that the Director of Public Prosecutions is to be one of the principal individuals in any prosecution which takes place under this Bill, and yet we find reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions being made only in what seems to be a casual manner in Clause 3, where Sub-section (2) says:Where a prosecution under this Act is being carried on by the Director of Public Prosecutions a court of summary jurisdiction shall not deal with the case summarily without the consent of the Director.That is the only reference, but the damning part of the Bill is in Sub-section (3) of Clause 2, to the effect that any common informer, actuated by spite or by petty malice, may lay an information before a justice of the peace or a local magistrate. Where that information is laid, they could have the house searched, have everything that was locked in the house opened, take possession of any documents, any articles in the house, anything upon the individual or within the pockets of the clothing worn by the individual. That can be done upon the statement of some common informer and upon the authority of a local magistrate. 838 Could hon. Members go to their constituents and say that they were elected for the purpose of enabling the home of any constituent to be entered upon the statement of a common informer? If the documents that have been presented by the Attorney-General were multiplied a thousandfold, they could not justify an action of that kind being legalised by any Government. There have been various matters to which Governments in the past have taken exception, but they have been able to meet the circumstances by the laws of the land already in existence. Neither the Attorney-General in his speech to-day nor any of his supporters in their speeches have justified the introduction of the Bill.
What is sedition? We are told that if we indulge in a strike which is larger than a small local strike, that becomes a political offence and is therefore sedition because it is a blow at the State. Some years ago a Member of this House, who sat in the comer seat below the Gangway opposite, made a statement that if ever a Labour Government came into power and endeavoured to deal with them as he believed they were likely to do he had a son in the Guards and he would use that son to bring the Guards into this House to clear the Labour Government out. I replied that I had relatives in the Black Watch and that they might be an effective battalion against any Guards that came here; but what that hon. Member said, and what I said in reply is not the point. The point is what was in the mind of that hon. Member; the class feeling that was there, that if a Labour Government came into power he and his class would use their relatives in the Army, officers in the Army—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes. Can hon. Members deny it? It is in this Bill. There is no reference in the Bill to any action that would be taken against action on the part of Lord Carson, or the late Lord Brentford, who said in one of his speeches in the country that the Army could shoot, and be damned to them. What did Lord Carson say? He delivered a speech in Glasgow; an amazing speech. The Attorney-General was a colleague of Lord Carson; I mean a colleague in the same party and in the same Government, whether he was on the same platform I do not know. This is what Lord Carson said in Glasgow: 839I warn the Lord Advocate here within his jurisdiction. I advise my fellow countrymen to resist to the end, even if it comes to the necessity of using violence; I advise them, even though it may never be necessary, to arm themselves as well as they can and beat back anybody who dares to filch from them the elementary rights of their citizenship.Do hon. Members opposite support that? Are we agreed that if a Government tries to pass a law which they are powerless to defeat in this House they have a right to go outside and appeal to their supporters to arm themselves and beat back a Government which, according to them, are taking away the rights of their citizenship? Would hon. Members opposite do that? Would the Attorney-General then put this Bill in operation against them? The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Solicitor-General know that they would not. They know that the Bill is directed only against a few individuals in the country who are practically powerless to subborn any of the forces of the Crown. We are suspicious of the Bill, it is a class Bill. The Attorney-General, probably rightly, upheld the Forces of the Crown as being exceedingly loyal and stated that there was practically nothing which caused them to doubt either their loyalty or their intense devotion to the service they have joined. What then is he afraid of? He is afraid of a little tiny four-page weekly or monthly, I do not know which; 50,000 of them are being circulated and the Attorney-General is shivering like a blancmange. It is really farcical the state into which the Government have got over a few individuals. I wonder what their state would be like if they thought there were as many Communists in this country as there were Scotsmen at the International last Saturday. I do not suppose that there are anything like that number; they are very few and represent but a small proportion of the community. As far as their numbers go they are powerless. Evidently the Government believe that the vociferousness indicates wonderful strength and power.
You talk of the search you are going to make. Some hon. Members have already demanded the particular documents which are to be placed on the list of documents to be banned as being documents that are considered to be seditious. I have in 840 my home at Glasgow a very valuable set of historical pamphlets of the Socialist movement, dating back 50 years. Some I gathered, some I obtained after I joined the Socialist movement. Some of them are very rare. They are bound together in different volumes, and I keep them there. One volume that I received, not a Socialist volume, was a volume called "The Grammar of Anarchy." I think the learned Attorney-General will remember that book. It contains the speeches of a large number of Tory and Unionist Members of Parliament, and of members of the Conservative clubs who were not Members of Parliament. It contains their most treasonable utterances during the Home Rule crisis immediately preceding the outbreak of war. It includes speeches by Lord Brentford, Lord Carson, Mr. Bonar Law, Lord Birkenhead, and of a large number of other Members of this House and of the other Chamber, and of members of the Unionist and Tory parties.
If you come with a search warrant issued by a magistrate because of information laid against the possessions that I have, is that particular pamphlet, containing extracts from the speeches of men whom at one time the Attorney-General considered to be the leaders of his party, leaders of the party to which he was elected in this House, and leaders to whom his constituents expect him to give his loyalty—are the speeches of those past leaders of his to be considered so seditious or so capable of seducing military and naval officers and men, if those speeches are circulated, that the volume must be taken from them? Bear in mind that it is not the fact that they are circulated which constitutes he offence. It does not matter if a single copy is never distributed. It does not matter if the things are not even printed. If an individual has in his possession something a copy of which would, if circulated—that is the wording of the Bill—to the Army, the Navy or the Air Force be considered seditious or something seducing men from their loyalty, then action can be taken against that individual.
I submit that neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor the oldest Member in this House, has ever had before him for consideration a Bill that is so pernicious as this Bill. It is a Bill to take away liberties that ought to be preserved by those who are taking 841 them away. We hear a great deal about the wonderful liberties possessed by the British people. Liberty is extolled upon every election platform. There are by-elections going on now in North Hammersmith and in Basingstoke. I am confident that if we were present to-night at Conservative meetings in either of those by-elections we would hear the Conservative candidate extolling the glories of our Empire and the wonderful freedom possessed by every citizen, and the desire on his part to ensure that that liberty should never be taken away but should be maintained in all its glory and grandeur. At the same time the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General are seeking to deprive him of the very liberties for the preservation of which he is inviting the electors to return him.
The Government have tried to make out that these tiny things "The Soldier's Voice" and "The Red Signal" are of such gigantic power in seducing members of the services from their allegiance, that a Bill of this kind is necessary. In doing so, they are treating this House as a body of men and women with little or no intelligence. It is not "The Soldier's Voice" or "The Red Signal" that will be responsible for any disloyalty in the forces. It is, as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has said, the fact that most of these men come from working-class homes and know the conditions under which their relatives are living. They see those conditions for themselves when they go on leave; letters from their relatives tell them of the state of things prevailing in many of those homes.
These men are torn between their oath to the service in which they are engaged and the pull on their heart-strings from the homes in which those wretched conditions prevail. They feel that there must be something radically wrong in the country which they are asked to defend from invasion, the flag of which they are asked to maintain over every ship and every port throughout the Empire when their own relatives are living under such conditions. They feel that the country which they are asked to defend is in a hellish condition when close upon 4,000,000 of the adult population are living on the verge of starvation. That is the greatest source of disloyalty. 842 That is more powerful propaganda and more calculated to seduce these men from their allegiance, than these little documents. Instead of discussing a Bill of this nature the House would occupy its time better in discussing a Measure to bring more hope and happiness into the lives of the relatives of the men on service, and giving a better chance to the children whom they have left behind, their own children and the children of their brothers and sisters.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Plainly, I should be out of order if I did more than refer to the peroration to which we have just listened or attempted to deal with it as it could be dealt with, by referring to the successful attempts of the present Government to increase employment in this country. That peroration was not, if I may say so with all respect, relevant to the question of this Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend and myself are satisfied with the reception which the Bill has received. I do not deny for a moment that a considerable number of speeches have been made by those unfavourable to the Bill, but one must look a great deal deeper than that, and those who have followed this Debate will, I believe, agree with me that no argument of substance has, on examination, been produced against the Bill.
There has been a somewhat curious position. Speakers from every quarter of the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), have vied with each other in the vituperative epithets which they have applied, and as we feel rightly applied, to those who commit the offence set out in Clause 1. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), after expressing his disappointment that the Bill did not deal with the Fascist movement, said he thoroughly agreed with Clause 1, and I think he applied the epithet "contemptible" to anyone who attempts to seduce a member of His Majesty's Forces. Another hon. Member—I am not sure whether it was the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) or some other opponent of the Bill—used the word "loathsome" for those who attempt to seduce a member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty of allegiance to His Majesty.
843 So we start with this common ground between those who support and those who oppose the Bill, that the substantive offence of attempting to seduce a member of His Majesty's Forces is loathsome and contemptible, and I should like to express my whole-hearted agreement with that. It is one thing for a man to go out and commit a crime for which he alone can be punished, but this is an attempt to get someone else to commit a crime for which he may be punished. It is an attempt, as the hon. Member for Shettleston said, to appeal to members of His Majesty's Forces not to carry out their orders, and that is an offence for which they can be very severely punished. Therefore, we are not dealing with a class of offence, for which, if a man be found out, he will take punishment himself, but with the offence of inducing someone else to do an act which may involve him in heavy punishment.
In spite of those epithets and the general consensus of opinion that this is a loathsome and contemptible thing to do, there has been a gallant attempt, if I may say so, to produce indignation against subsequent Clauses of the Bill which provide that it is an offence to have the instrument of this loathsome and contemptible criminal act in your possession; and it is an attack on our ancient liberties if a magistrate has the power, whch he has in many other cases, to search for the instrument of this loathsome and contemptible crime.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
That is how I read the Bill, and I think everyone must be glad that such attempts to work up indignation against the later Clauses of the Bill should be made. It is right that we should be jealous of the liberties which have been built up in this country, and I make no complaint that those Clauses of the Bill have been subjected to the most rigorous examination and that every possible point that might suggest to someone that our ancient liberties are endangered has been put, but in my submission that attempt has failed.
The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) asked me to state what is the object of the Bill. The first object is to stop this loathsome and contemptible crime and to provide certain more modern 844 machinery of the kind approved by the House in other connections for dealing with a form which this loathsome and contemptible crime has recently taken. We really have to consider whether a case has been made out for these further provisions. I do not think it is necessary for me, for example, to follow the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in the difficult question which he raised as to who in a modern democratic State, with universal suffrage, are the ruling class. That is really a matter which I do not think arises on this Bill, nor, indeed, do many other of the major historical incidents of the past which have been referred to. The Bill, though a Measure of importance, is on a very much smaller scale than that. It takes something which is already a crime and which the overwhelming opinion of the House has condemned, with the exception of the hon. Member for Shettleston.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
With the solitary exception of his party, it has been condemned in every part of the House in very strong terms. No one has suggested that this is an old offence of the eighteenth century which ought to be abolished. Every speaker has expressed his abhorrence and detestation of the offence with which this Bill starts—an existing offence under our criminal law. The first thing the Bill does is to provide that this offence can be dealt with summarily. Obviously, in a great many cases that may be a great advantage to the person accused. Take, for example, the case where it is obvious that an offence has been committed and the man desires to plead guilty. It can be dealt with summarily in a very short time. Under the existing law the accused person is subjected to the inevitable delay and possible expense of being indicted for a felony.
Some hon. Members expressed the fear that under the Bill in certain cases a man might not have the right of trial by jury. My right hon. and learned Friend has stated his willingness to make an Amendment to the Bill giving a person accused the right of a trial by jury if he desires. The form that Amendment will take is to increase the possible penalty, which does not in any sense increase the penalty which magistrates are likely to impose. It will increase the possible 845 penalty to four months instead of three, and that will give the accused the right, if he desires, to trial by jury. The general experience is that in many cases where that right exists the man very much prefers to be dealt with summarily, and he certainly does not get any greater punishment by electing so to be tried. It is done at once and quickly, and it is on the whole appreciated by those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to make that election. That is the first thing the Bill does, namely, to enable these offences against this old law to be dealt with summarily.
The second is it makes it an offence to possess what I call the instruments of this offence. The reason for that is surely plain and one which will commend itself to all hon. Members. Prevention of crime is better than having to wait until it is actually committed. Obviously, if you can take away the ammunition before it has been used to murder somebody, for goodness' sake take it. Let us not have laws of such a nature that we have to stand by and say, "I am very sorry, but until there is a dead body we cannot do anything." Therefore, the general principle of this Clause must surely commend itself to everybody. Apprehension has been expressed as to whether the libraries of hon. Members may not bring them within the provisions of this Clause. I can reassure them completely on that point. The words "without lawful excuse," which it is necessary to show for an offence to be committed under Clause 2, are words which occur in existing Acts, are very wide words and quite obviously would prevent all the various cases which have been quoted by hon. Members as to their libraries being in the slightest danger of coming within the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Could the hon. and learned Gentleman give us an instance with reference to those words? He says they are very wide. It is their wideness that is their danger—from the point of view of how they may be interpreted.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The wideness that I referred to was the width of protection they give. Obviously, if a student or an ordinary man with any interest in political science or political matters, is found to have a copy of Tolstoy's Essays advocating the doctrine of non-resistance nobody would suggest 846 that he was in possession of that document without lawful excuse. Further, I would refer hon. Members in a little detail to the language. What we are dealing with here is an endeavour to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces. That is the initial thing on which all the rest hangs. Quite clearly that shows that the general philosophy of non-resistance must be linked up to what is, after all, a perfectly simple and plain issue—an attempt to seduce men from the oath of allegiance which they have taken. Various hon. Members have suggested that this is a complicated matter. Believe me, in practice it is not. A man knows very well whether he is or is not trying to seduce the allegiance of a member of His Majesty's Forces, and, with the facts properly investigated, it is perfectly simple to say whether a man is trying to do that or not. This Bill has nothing to do with sedition. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) fell into the error of confusing sedition with seduction. This Bill deals simply with seducing members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance. It has nothing to do with what is or may not be sedition in the general sense of the word. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke cited certain dictionary definitions of sedition, and I think the hon. Member for Govan also referred to the possible difficulties of saying exactly what sedition might be.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Title of the Bill is, "Incitement to Disaffection," a word which is also synonymous with sedition.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The hon. Member, when I refer to the fact that he alluded to sedition, as an excuse for that refers to another word which occurs in the Title of the Bill—"Disaffection."
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
More than one speaker has said it is not what my right hon. Friend says, but what is in the Bill that matters. For this purpose, therefore what matters is not the short title of the Bill, but the words which occur in Clause 1 (1). I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that the only words which require to be considered areIf any person endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's Forces from his duty or allegiance.847 When we come to consider Clause 2, dealing with the possession of documents, the question will he, first of all: Is this a document which, if disseminated, would he likely to be of such a nature that its dissemination would be an endeavour to seduce a member of His Majesty's Forces under Clause 1? If that question is answered in the affirmative, there is a protection for normal-minded people who do not desire to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance, namely, the question whether they have or have not a lawful excuse for the possession of the documents.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
What is a lawful excuse? Would an ordinary person with a library be regarded as having a lawful excuse? Would not that rest chiefly on the character of the person?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I entirely repudiate that suggestion. The methods of appeal and publicity would make it quite impossible. There has been a great deal of talk of this kind, but no evidence has been adduced in the whole Debate this afternoon which would justify the sort of apprehensions which have been expressed.
I have dealt with the two points of possession and the original object of the Bill. Sub-section 2 has not been very much commented on in the Debate; there is a similar provision in the Official Secrets Act, 1920, and I will therefore pass on to the question of search warrants. This is perhaps the point on which the greatest effort has been made to suggest that our ancient liberties are being endangered. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) voiced a passion for liberty—though I understand that even his passion for liberty halts at the door of the hotel or the public house.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It is obvious that the business of this assembly is, in part, to decide on the proper limits of liberty. This matter of giving a search warrant is a power which this House has given to magistrates or courts in case after case. There are 68 Acts of Parliament dealing with various matters—cruelty to animals, explosive substances, public health, copyright, official secrets, dangerous drugs, obscene 848 publications, and so on—in which the Englishman's castle can be invaded by a search warrant. But how little public inconvenience has resulted! Was a single case produced this afternoon of a private individual suffering oppressively from the use of a search warrant of this kind? It is a power which Parliament has found proper to give, and I suggest to this House that it may properly be given in the particular matter with which we are dealing, the commission of this loathsome and contemptible crime—I use the words of the opponents of the Bill—chiefly by the use of leaflets, pamphlets or literature of some kind. If ever there was a case when it was proper for this power to be conferred upon the magistrates of our country, if satisfied by statement on oath that an offence has been committed, this is the class of case where that power should be conferred.
Looked at broadly, this Bill is, in a sense, a procedure Bill, rather than a Bill in any way altering the substance of our law. It takes an old crime, which we all agree still ought to be a crime, and gives certain further powers required, and necessary, to deal with the form which the crime takes to-day. They are powers which have been found necessary in many other crimes, and the use of which has not given rise to any grievance, as is exemplified by the fact that no specific cases of grievance have been brought forward in the Debate this afternoon in support of the arguments which it was sought to bring against the Bill. This Bill is not, as has been suggested, introduced out of panic or because of any disaffection or apprehension of disaffection in His Majesty's Forces. Some hon. Members suggested that a Bill of this kind could only be wanted if there were serious disaffection. That is a very wrong attitude to take up. We desire to stop these things before they do any damage, and that is the reason we ask the House to read this Bill a Second time. The Bill has not been introduced from panic of one kind, nor will it be withdrawn from panic of another kind. We are satisfied that it will do good, and that it will help to stop something which is detestable. None of the evil results to the ancient liberties of our people of this country will flow from it.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I would like to add one or two words. The Solicitor-General seemed to forget that the Attorney-General cited as his precedent a Bill which was introduced because of the mutiny at the Nore. As a matter of fact, these Bills have been introduced when there has been great occasion for them. The one point which is essentially different in this case is in regard to the right of search for matters that are perfectly innocent and which are only held to be guilty because of the person who has them. This is to be an offence because of a political object. The Attorney-General knows perfectly well, when he says that this is a simple little thing, that it has been the subject of the very gravest constitutional discussion for
§ years, and that it has been opposed by Members of every kind. If the Attorney-General wants to go back for precedents, he will go back to James II. He was the kind of person who does this. If he wants a modern precedent, the kind of excuse offered by the Solicitor-General is that which is put forward by Fascists, Black-shirts, Brown-shirts, and shirts of every kind. People in Berlin who have had Mill on "Liberty" have been arrested because of the danger that the book might overthrow the State. It will very soon come to that, if we have this kind of legislation.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 277; Noes, 63.851
|Division No. 197.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cook, Thomas A.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Copeland, Ida||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Albery, Irving James||Cranborne, Viscount.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Cross, R. H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Apsley, Lord||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hen. Sir S. J. G.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hornby, Frank|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davison, Sir William Henry||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Dickie, John P.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Drewe, Cedric||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Bateman, A. L.||Duggan, Hubert John||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Eastwood, John Francis||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Bossom, A. C.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super Mare)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Fraser, Captain Ian||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Ganzoni, Sir John||Law Sir Alfred|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Buchan, John||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lennox-Boyd. A. T.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lewis, Oswald|
|Burnett, John George||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Goldie, Noel B.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Graves, Marjorie||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Cassels, James Dale||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Grimston, R. V.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hanley, Dennis A.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Harbord, Arthur||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Magnay, Thomas||Remer, John R.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Rickards, George William||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Templeton, William P.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Ropner, Colonel L.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Runge, Norah Cecil||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Munro, Patrick||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Selley, Harry R.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)|
|North, Edward T.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Shuts, Colonel J. J.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Pearson, William G.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Peat, Charles U.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Penny, Sir George||Somerset, Thomas||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Somervell, Sir Donald||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Pike, Cecil F.||Soper, Richard||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Potter, John||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Spens, William Patrick||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Pybus, Sir Percy John||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Radford, E. A.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Stevenson, James||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Stones, James||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Storey, Samuel|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Stourton, Hon. John J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Rankin, Robert||Strauss, Edward A.||Mr. Blindell and Commander Southby.|
|Ray, Sir William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Harris, Sir Percy||Paling, Wilfred|
|Banfield, John William||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Janner, Barnett||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bernays, Robert||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Curry, A. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, William||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Dobbie, William||Logan, David Gilbert||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Thorne, William James|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McGovern, John||White, Henry Graham|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McKeag, William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Wilmot, John|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Mr. John and Mr. C. Macdonald.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to Committee of the whole House."—[Mr. Lawson.]852
§ The House divided: Ayes, 61; Noes, 263.853
|Division No. 198.]||AYES.||[11.10 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Daggar, George||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Banfield, John William||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Dobbie, William||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Bernays, Robert||Edwards, Charles||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Cove, William G.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Curry, A. C.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Janner, Barnett||McKeag, William||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Maxton, James||Thorne, William James|
|Kirkwood, David||Milner, Major James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lawson, John James||Nathan, Major H. L.||White, Henry Graham|
|Leonard, William||Owen, Major Goronwy||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Paling, Wilfred||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Lunn, William||Parkinson, John Allen||Wilmot, John|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Pickering, Ernest H.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|McGovern, John||Rea, Walter Russell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. D. Graham and Mr. John.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Albery, Irving James||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Apsley, Lord||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Mabane, William|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Glossop, C. W. H.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Goldie, Noel B.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Magnay, Thomas|
|Bateman, A. L.||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Graves, Marjorie||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Grimston, R. V.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd, & Chisw'k)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hanley, Dennis A.||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Harbord, Arthur||Munro, Patrick|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Buchan, John||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||North, Edward T.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Burnett, John George||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pearson, William G.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hepworth, Joseph||Peat, Charles U.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hornby, Frank||Penny, Sir George|
|Carver, Major William H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Howard, Tom Forrest||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Radford, E. A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rankin, Robert|
|Copeland, Ida||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ray, Sir William|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Remer, John R.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Law Sir Alfred||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Law, Richard K. (Hull. S.W.)||Rickards, George William|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dickie, John P.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Lewis, Oswald||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Liddall, Walter S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Llewellin, Major John J.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Storey, Samuel||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Selley, Harry R.||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Strauss, Edward A.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Shute, Colonel J. J.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Summersby, Charles H.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Somerset, Thomas||Tate, Mavis Constance||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Somervell, Sir Donald||Templeton, William P.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Soper, Richard||Thompson, Sir Luke||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Spens, William Patrick||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stevenson, James||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Lord Erskine and Mr. Blindell.|
|Stones, James||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
Question put, and agreed to.