HC Deb 15 February 1934 vol 285 cc2069-71
16. Lieut.-Colonel MacANDREW

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received any information as to the allocation of any sums being collected on behalf of the marchers now on their way to London?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)

The only information which my right hon. Friend has on this subject is that which has appeared in various circulars issued by the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (a Communist-controlled organisation) and by the National Congress and March Council which is a body consisting of representatives of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement, the Independent Labour Party, and the Communist Party of Great Britain. I think it would be best in order to save any misunderstanding, to quote the relevant passages from certain of these circulars.

(1) Circular issued by the National Unemployed Workers' Movement to all Branches and District Councils on the 13th December, 1933: All money raised on these collecting cards will be allocated on the basis of 50 per cent. locally and 50 per cent. to be forwarded to headquarters. This means that as the cards are filled up the total collected on the card should be marked at the bottom and 50 per cent. of it along with the card forwarded into Headquarters. (2) Circular issued by the National Unemployed Workers' Movement to all Branches and District Councils on the 15th January, 1934: After the Marchers have passed through a locality the surplus monies left after the Marchers have been fed and accommodated should be handed to the leaders of the contingents, who will forward it on to Headquarters … We therefore urge every branch and District Council to immediately return the 50 per cent. of the collecting cards, and in addition we have taken a decision that from all other monies collected in the localities, apart from the National Cards, 25 per cent. should be sent to Headquarters. I think it only right to add that in a circular dated the 25th January, 1934, issued by the National Unemployed Workers' Movement, there occurs the following passage: The 50 per cent. raised on the collecting cards and other money raised for the National March Fund will be strictly utilised for meeting the expenditure for printing, etc. in connection with the organising of the March and Congress, and by far the bulk of the money in the National Fund will be used for feeding the Marchers in London, and for meeting the expenses for return conveyances to their homes.

Lieut.-Colonel MacANDREW

In view of the fact that the march is apparently organised by the Communist party, would it not be advisable to take steps to prevent the marchers coming to the Metropolis? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]


The Government have no powers to prevent the march, so long as it is orderly.


Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to assume that these sums are being used for any other purpose than that for which they were collected, namely, the care of the hunger marchers?


I have been very careful not to express any opinion of my own. I have quoted from certain documents, and I think the House can draw its own conclusions.


Would the right hon. Member mind adding this bit of information to that contained in the documents, that I am one of the persons responsible for the control of the fund?


I thought that it was well known that the hon. Member took an interest in this march.


Is it not a great pity that these poor people are being exploited in this way by the National Unemployed Workers' Movement?

39. Mr. MAXTON

asked the Minister of Health why he caused an official of his Department to proceed to Northwich, Cheshire, within the last fortnight to countermand the decision of the local public assistance committee to provide the ordinary rations for casuals to the Scottish hunger marchers?

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)

The hon. Member appears to have been misinformed. No instruction such as he suggests has been issued. The question whether these persons, who had recently collected money and who were in possesion of a certain amount of food, were in fact destitute was discussed with the local officials in the presence of my inspector, and on finding that sufficient food was not available it was decided to issue the ordinary rations.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that processions coming through Cheshire have given great offence to the county?


I am not misinformed. May I ask if the local authorities did not decide to give these men the ordinary assistance that is available for casuals, but, on the arrival of the Ministry official, were told to rescind their decision? The official was present when the marchers were arriving and compelled the authorities to rescind the decision that they had recently taken.


It is not the case that the officials over-rode the decision of the local authority. The local authority had the duty of inquiring what the means of these persons were. If they had failed to make that inquiry and had not taken means into consideration, they would have been breaking the law.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that, the investigations having been made, the Northwich local authority decided that they would supply the men with the minimum rations available for casuals, that the official of his Ministry arrived subsequently, and issued instructions to the local authority and told them to rescind their decision?


No, that is not the case.


It is the case.