§ No legal proceedings shall be instituted under this Act without the written consent of the Attorney-General.—[Major Milner.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
It will be within the recollection of some hon. Members that promise of consideration of this matter was given in Committee. I gather that that consideration has resulted in the Government deciding to accept not this Clause but the Amendment to Clause 3 standing in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), that: 114No prosecution under this Act shall take place without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.I frankly recognise that Amendment as being progress on the right lines, but I think the House ought to have an opportunity of deciding whether or not the consent of the Attorney-General, as the responsible officer under whom the Director of Public Prosecutions always acts on an important matter of this sort, should be necessary. I am, therefore, moving the new Clause which stands in my name.
I would press upon the House the necessity of having the consent of the Attorney-General because of the obvious importance of the matters included in the Bill and the consequences that prosecution may have upon the accused person. 115 When the Bill becomes an Act it will be used in times of stress and difficulty, possibly in times of war, and it is very desirable that the responsibility should be fixed, and I suggest that it should be fixed upon the Attorney-General. The Director of Public Prosecutions acts upon the instructions of the Attorney-General and is subject to the Attorney-General's authority, and it seems to me much better that the real responsibility should be with the Attorney-General.
There are other reasons why the Attorney-General should be the proper person to give consent. The offence of sedition, as it is commonly called in this Bill, is an offence against the State. When the Bill becomes an Act it will, if taken advantage of, be taken advantage of by this Government or some other Government of the future and the acts complained of will be acts against the Government of the day, that is, the publication of Fascist opinions or opinions which may have the effect of seducing soldiers, sailors or airmen from their loyalty. Therefore, the offence being one against the State it seems to me right that the chief legal officer of the State ought to be the person who authorises proceedings.
During the Committee stage the Attorney-General said that it would create a dilemma and that if the matter were non-political there was no necessity for the Attorney-General's fiat, but if it were a political question it was all the more reason why the Attorney-General should be kept out. I submit that it would create no dilemma at all. To-day, in many non-political matters proceedings are commenced by the Attorney-General, he has to give his sanction before legal proceedings can be instituted. He has to give his sanction to proceedings under the Explosives Act, 1883, the Public Bodies (Corrupt Practices) Act, 1889; the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1906, and none of these are cases of greater importance, in several they are of lesser importance, than the offences contemplated under this Bill. He has to give his sanction to prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act, 1911; under Section 327 of the Lunacy Act, 1890, under Section 103 of the Law of Property Act, to prosecutions in all matters of fraudulent concealment of documents and facts, in cases of fraud by trustees under an express trust, 116 and also in cases of incest where the Director of Public Prosecutions himself does not commence the prosecution. These matters are of no more importance than the matters dealt with under this Bill. Except for cases under the Official Secrets Act they are all non-political, and this House has insisted that in all these cases the sanction of the Attorney-General is necessary. I submit that it is necessary under the. present Bill.
If the offence be definitely a political one, then the public ought to know that it is a political offence, and who is responsible for the prosecution. The Government, through the Attorney-General, ought to take the responsibility. Under the Bill the responsibility seems to be thrust upon the local inspector of police. On the complaint of any person, the common informer, any man or woman, who swears on oath that they have reasonable grounds of suspicion that an offence has been committed, the local police have the responsibility of launching a prosecution. I submit that they should not have this responsibility. In the great majority of cases the offence will be political, and the responsibility should be on the Attorney-General.
There is a further argument in favour of the new Clause. It is curious that throughout the British Empire there seems to be something like a spate of Sedition Bills. Sedition Bills have been brought in in a number of Colonies, and I have had the opportunity of perusing a State Ordinance brought in in the Gold Coast Colony, where there is a Clause in precisely the same terms as the new Clause which I am submitting to the House—namely, that no legal proceedings shall be taken without the consent of the Attorney-General of the Colony. What is sufficient or necessary for the Colony, and considered sufficient by the Colonial Office as approving of the Ordinance, ought to be required by the House of Commons under this Bill.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
; I beg to second the Motion.
I understand that the Government prefer the new Clause in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) to the effect that— 117No prosecution under this Act shall take place without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.I do not think that the Government is giving very much in accepting that proposal, because subsection (2) of Section 3 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.The assumption is that the Director of Public Prosecutions is carrying on the prosecution.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Under the Bill there is nothing to prevent what is called a private prosecution being carried through, but the Section to which the hon. Member refers merely provides that in cases where the Director of Public Prosecutions is in fact carrying on a prosecution he has certain powers. The hon. Member suggests that under the Bill no prosecution could be carried on except by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
§ Mr. LAWSON
No. The point is that the Director of Public Prosecutions is, shall I say, in the saddle under the Bill? Although it is possible to deal with a case in a court of summary jurisdiction it seems to me that the Director of Public Prosecutions is going to be the "big shot" in this matter. I do not think the Government are going very far in accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for the English Universities, and the case for the new Clause is all the stronger that no prosecution should be instituted without the written consent of the Attorney-General. He is the head of the legal department, a man with some public responsibility, whereas the Director of Public Prosecutions—I am glad that I have never met him, and I do not want to meet him—is a vague kind of person of whom I have heard and read, but who is to my mind in these matters on a par with Madame Guillotine, that is, he works automatically, and decides whether a case shall be taken or not that any public influence or any influence so far as Parliament is concerned. He would not take into consideration the kind of factors which the Attorney-General would take into account. It is necessary continually to emphasise the fact that we are dealing 118 with matters affecting opinion. That cannot be too often stated. Sometimes the opinion will be the opinion of those with whom the Attorney-General will disagree. I know that some of the papers that the Attorney-General has handed over here, such as the "Red Signal," may express opinions with which in the main I do not agree, but it is just where you are dealing with matters affecting opinion and such delicate things affected by our Constitution that English history teaches us that we must walk very carefully.
I suppose it would not be in order now to make a long speech showing how time after time individuals and Govern-merits which sought to oppress opinion have been very thankful in course of time that they did not take that course. What to-day appears to be the right method, in a week's or a month's time may appear very stupid. If there is one thing that stands out in our history it is that even in the case of the most advanced and extreme sections of opinion it has been for the good of the public life of the land to let people express themselves and not to tend to much to oppress them. That has been so sometimes when we differed from that opinion so totally that is seemed that the best thing would be to suppress it. In a matter of that kind there is only one person who ought to have the responsibility for authorising proceedings being taken. That person is the Attorney-General, and he ought to put his consent into writing.
I am open to conviction, but I do not think that very much is being given away by the Government's acceptance of the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), who has taken such a very active and creditable part in the discussions on this Bill. I ask the learned Attorney-General to give very serious consideration to the Amendment now under discussion. If this Bill is to become law no one less than the Attorney-General ought to have the authority to carry out legal proceedings against the person concerned, and it ought to be done deliberately and calmly.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I support the new Clause. I think the learned Solicitor-General will agree with me that in the first instance, in order to have a definite 119 opinion as to whether proceedings should be taken in a really important matter, there is no one more responsible and more fitted to give that opinion than the Attorney-General. We on this side of the House regard this Bill as something new which materially affects the liberty of the subject. We can conceive of no proceedings being taken, if a proceeding is to be taken at all, unless the highest precautions are first taken. I do not suppose that even the Solicitor-General or anyone connected with this Bill will deny that the right claimed in the Amendment of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), is a minimum. I do not suppose anyone would hold that a matter of this importance should be left entirely in the hands of magistrates or the local police superintendent. Whether we agree with each other or not, the fact remains that a tremendous consensus of opinion believes that the Bill is neither necessary nor practicable. Even if that opinion is held by a minority, it must be obvious to everyone that precautions must be taken before an individual is charged under this Bill when it is passed. The only question that arises is, who is the correct authority to take the proceedings, to give his fiat for the purpose of proceedings being commenced?
My hon. Friend has stated that there are already Statutes under which the fiat of the Attorney-General has to be obtained. That means that previous Governments have considered it necessary that in some cases precaution should be taken. The Acts to which my hon. Friend has referred are certainly not more important, as far as public interests and the interests of the individual citizen are concerned than this Bill will be when it is passed. The effect of this Bill will be that the private individual will have opened against him the possibility of his home being searched and a charge being made against him, and a prima facie case having to be answered. He will be brought before the court to answer that charge, and whatever the result may be a stigma will remain upon that person once he has appeared in the court. It is no good denying the fact that once a person has been in court charged with an offence of this description the ultimate result of the case may mean a tremendous difference in his personal freedom, and 120 even if he is acquitted there is the stigma remaining, and you will have the general public under the impression that some kind of offence has been committed. It is not a trivial matter like a charge of riding a bicycle without a light or neglecting to observe the rules with regard to street beacons. It is something more serious, and a man is not going to be accepted by his fellow men in ordinary life afterwards as quite the same respectable person once he has had a charge lodged against him for sedition.
§ Mr. JANNER
I think the learned Solicitor-General will agree that every precaution should be taken. Suppose that the Director of Public Prosecutions undertakes these cases. I understand he is an official who decides, according to his own skill and ability, in which he is pretty reliable, as to whether proceedings should be instituted. But he has not the responsibility of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General is responsible to this House and the country and if he prosecutes an ordinary citizen without proper and legitimate grounds and if that citizen is then acquitted, the matter can be raised in the House and the Attorney-General can be asked why he, with his responsibility upon his shoulders, permitted such action to be taken. Much though we dislike this Bill, I hope that if it is to go through it will at least go through with those precautions which are essential to maintain the character of the individual who is charged until he has actually been found guilty. In these circumstances, I cannot conceive why the right of the Attorney-General to examine the prima facie evidence and to satisfy himself in the first instance before a prosecution is undertaken, should be withheld from any citizen who is likely to be charged with these offences. Accordingly, I support the new Clause and I do not see that any reason can be adduced against its inclusion in the Bill.
§ 8.57 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
Although I share with my hon. Friends the Members for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and South-East Leeds (Major Milner), the desire to sweep away what I venture to consider a pettifogging and restrictive piece of Socialistic legislation, I firmly believe that the proposed new Clause 121 would have precisely the opposite effect to that which they imagine. I do not see that the substitution of the Attorney-General for the Director of Public Prosecutions involves any great danger but it certainly cannot be held to contain any safeguard whatever. Unlike the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General is a politician. An hon. Member below me said just now that this Bill dealt with matters of opinion. So indeed it does, and if anybody has firm opinions in politics it is the Attorney-General. He is not only the representative of the House of Commons. He is also the representative of his own political party. May I briefly ask my hon. Friends to consider this hypothesis? Suppose—and more unlikely things have happened in politics—that for one brief moment, for a short interlude, inveterate opponents of the Government's White Paper policy were to snatch a majority in this House. They would then, in theory, be able to constitute a Government and it would be necessary for them, that being so, to appoint to the office of Attorney-General somebody who thought along their own lines. It might be a little difficult to find any such member of the Inns of Court, now that the representation of Swindon has recently been changed. But if someone holding those views and sharing that outlook were to occupy the office of Attorney-General and were to have vested in him this power which deals with matters of opinion, I am certain he would be prone to smell out disaffection under every conceivable stone. The consequence of accepting this new Clause would be that the last state of this extraordinarily unfortunate Bill, which most of us deplore, either privately or publicly, would be infinitely worse than the first.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
I understand from the learned Solicitor-General that he has agreed already to accept an Amendment by virtue of which no prosecution can be undertaken save with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecution. The question, therefore, which the House is now considering is whether the authority on whom responsibility should rest should be the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions of course has a great variety of duties in connection with prosecutions, duties which it 122 is difficult perhaps to define specifically, as they are of a very general nature. But where they are specifically defined they are defined in a very limited number of cases. For instance, prosecutions can only be undertaken by or at the instance of the Director of Public Prosecutions in connection with bankruptcies. It is he who is the final authority as to prosecution or no prosecution in cases of incest and of murder and he also is the person to initiate proceedings in connection with election petitions. But those as far as I can ascertain are the only specific instances in which, under the law of this country, the Director of Public Prosecutions is, in terms, required either to institute porceedings or to give his consent to the institution of proceedings. Apart from those cases, as far as my researches have taken me, his powers are the general powers reposing in him. But those powers are only exercisable by him where the Attorney-General is not the right and indeed the only authority to institute proceedings.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) has already drawn attention to the classes of cases in which the consent or the initiative of the Attorney-General is required and he has pointed out that the Director of Public Prosecutions is specifically mentioned in connection with bankruptcies, election petitions and cases of incest and murder. How very different are the cases in connection with which the Attorney-General, a Member of His Majesty's Government and politically responsible to the House of Commons, is required to give his consent or to take the initiative. I draw attention in particular to the fact that under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920 it is the initiative of the Attorney-General and not of the Director of Public Prosecutions that is required before B. prosecution can be undertaken.
I draw attention to those particular Acts because on reading the record of the debates in Committee—I was not myself a member of the Committee—I find that the learned Attorney-General or the learned Solicitor-General or it may be both, frequently drew a parallel between the Official Secrets Acts and this Bill. It was pointed out with a good deal of force that there was ill certain respects a close parallel between the two, especially where questions arose of the 123 right of search, the grant of search-warrants and the institution of proceedings. I ask the Solicitor-General to carry the parallel still further and as in the case of the Official Secrets Acts, so in the case of this Bill, to make the deciding authority as to prosecution or no prosecution the Attorney-General. He, after all, is answerable to this House and by virtue of the long tradition of his high office must exercise his functions not in a purely administrative capacity but in a judicial or semi-judicial capacity. I think when there is any limitation or infringement of the common law right of the people, any limitation of their long-established liberties, they are entitled to know that no prosecution will be undertaken in relation to these matters save upon the well-considered and judicially considered decision of an official of the Government responsible to this House.
I have drawn attention to the limited class of case in which the Director of Public Prosecutions is specifically mentioned, and the wide classes of case, including the Official Secrets Act, in which the Attorney-General is mentioned. There is one further class of case, the class in which aliens are concerned. There is an Act of Parliament to which reference is not often made—I know not how often or how seldom proceedings have been taken under it—with regard to offences of aliens under the Territorial Waters (Jurisdiction) Act, and there, so careful is the House as to the position of aliens, that not merely is the consent of the Attorney-General necessary, but the consent of a Secretary of State also. I cannot believe that in a grave matter such as this the House of Commons or the Government would wish that those who may become the subject of proceedings under this Bill should he in a less favourable position as regards the institution of a prosecution than the House has already provided for in certain circumstances in the case of aliens suspected to be guilty of offences. I much hope that the Government will accede to a view which is strongly and widely held, the view that no prosecution shall be capable of being instituted save upon the authority and at the instance of the Law Officers of the Crown.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I feel that the discussion of these alternative proposals has 124 strayed into rather legalistic regions, and so I should like to bring the House back to the common-sense considerations which underlie the question. I do not pretend to feel any very strong preference as between the new Clause which the House is now discussing and the Amendment which is down in my own name and which the Attorney-General has been good enough to signify his intention of accepting. When I put down my Amendment, it was rather on the principle that, as one could not read the Attorney-General's mind, it was as well to give as many alternatives as possible, in order that we might be more likely to secure something; and should the Attorney-General, convinced by the arguments that have been used this evening, transfer his preference to the Amendment now before us, I should feel a difficulty to know whether to be glad or sorry. I see some merits in both proposals, but there is one consideration which makes me on the whole inclined still to prefer my own, in spite of the arguments recently used. After all, the great fear that those of us who are fighting this Measure have put before the Committee and the country over and over again is the fear that this Measure, when It is on the Statute Book, shall be used, especially in times of political excitement, for party purposes. From that point of view, I do see merits in assigning the authority as to whether there shall be a prosecution to the Director of Public Prosecutions rather than to the Attorney-General, because the—
§ Major MILNER
The Director of Public Prosecutions has to act under the direction of the Attorney-General, and therefore the virtue that the hon. Lady sees in her own Amendment goes by the board. The Director must act on the instructions of the Attorney-General, and therefore if the Government in power desired the Director to take proceedings, the Attorney-General would instruct him to take them.
§ Miss RATHBONE
In that case I am puzzled as to what difference the Amendment would make. If the Director of Public Prosecutions must act under the direction of the Attorney-General, then surely the Attorney-General is the responsible person, and the argument in favour of the Amendment substituting the name of the Attorney-General, that 125 we should be able to get at him in Parliament, should also prevail if it is the Director of Public Prosecutions. Is it the fact that the Attorney-General is really the responsible person? I bow to the opinion of my hon. Friend who has just spoken, as he is a lawyer and I am not, but I was going to say that I imagined the difference to be that the Director of Public Prosecutions was a permanent official, appointed on nonparty grounds and retaining his office throughout changing Governments, whereas Attorney-Generals change with the balance of power, and if our object is, so far as possible, to safeguard this unfortunate Measure—I do not believe it can be completely safeguarded, but as far as possible to diminish the risks of its being used in a party spirit—it is slightly more possible to do that if the decision is in the hands of a permanent official rather than of a. political officer. I see the advantage that it is a good thing, if there be abuse, to be able to get in Parliament at the person who has caused the abuse. On the other hand, there may be rather less chance of abuse if the matter is in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions, because presumably he will be less tempted to make use of the Act for temporary party purposes. Therefore, I think there are advantages on both sides, but on the whole I see considerable advantages in the proposal which is in my name and which we understand the Government intend to accept. If, however, the Attorney-General changes his mind, I certainly shall make no complaint.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I should not have intervened but for the remarks of the last speaker, because it seems to me that this Amendment is perhaps one of the most important that is being moved to-day. The issue is not us to who the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General is, but whether we are going to rely on the bureaucracy or on somebody who is a Member of this House and directly responsible. If we can get the Attorney-General to be responsible for initiating prosecutions, he may be a good or a bad Attorney-General, but at least he represents this House and the people, and he is responsible to the House of Commons. If you put it in the hands of any permanent official, however excellent he may be—I do not care if he 126 is the highest official in the Home Office—you are putting this power of interfering with the liberty of the subject into the hands of a machine which, in the opinion of many of us, is already far too powerful. Law after law is passed in this House increasing the power of the machine, the bureaucracy. Against that, we have to support the liberties of the people of this country, so that really this Amendment is not whether the Attorney-General or the Public Prosecutor is to authorise a prosecution, but whether we are to look after and protect the interests of the people of this country or whether we are to hand them over, as we have so many other things, to the mercies of a bureaucracy against which there is no appeal.
Whether the Attorney-General in fact or in practice is consulted by the Public Prosecutor or authorises prosecutions or not is not the question. The real thing is that we want someone here who can answer, and as a matter of fact the Attorney-General who now holds office belongs to a thoroughly reactionary party and is perhaps one of the most reactionary members of that reactionary party. If my liberties were in question, I would far rather trust them to him than to any public officer. It is not merely that we can get at him, but that his constituents can get at him too. He is responsible, and to hand over this dangerous power to any official who is permanently in office, who probably despises us in any case, and is not in the least swayed by public opinion in this House or outside, is to surrender a British birthright. I do not like the Bill at all; I think it is all un-English, but we need not make it worse by putting this serious power into the hands of a public official.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
We are grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) and the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) for having put down the new Clause and Amendment which raise this point. The question is whether prosecutions under the Bill should require the consent of the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. The reason behind the new Clause and Amendment, I think, clearly was that in a Bill and in an 127 offence of this character the ordinary right of private prosecutions, the right of private persons to initiate prosecutions which we have in this country, and which I do not think they have in all other countries, should not be left at large and that no prosecutions should be instituted without the consent of one or other of the two gentlemen concerned. I will just deal shortly with the observations made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I think that he a little misconceives the scope of what we are discussing. Neither of these proposals really deals with the question as to who is to initiate the proceedings, but whether proceedings shall or shall not be initiated without the consent of one or other of the parties mentioned.
I do not agree with his description of the function of the Attorney-General in cases where he has to give his consent. He is acting in such a matter in a judicial or a quasi-judicial capacity. He is not representing a particular party, nor is he representing this House in any ordinary sense of the term. He has to judge on such evidence as comes before him whether it is a proper case in which to allow proceedings to continue. That is a quasi-judicial capacity, and the whole object is to keep politics out of the question as to whether a prosecution should or should not be initiated. It has been urged a great deal that this is a semi-political type of offence, and a suggestion has been made that some Governments—not this Government; some hon. Gentlemen have been exceedingly courteous in saying that they have no fears of my right hon. and learned Friend or myself—that some alternative Government might introduce political prejudice into the administration of this question. That political prejudice might be introduced either in sanctioning a prosecution or in refusing to consent to prosecution in the proper way. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Campbell case."] I do not refer to any specific instance, but it is clear that political prejudice might enter into consent being given or to consent being withheld.
Let me with these preliminary remarks come to what is the real issue we are discussing—the issue between South East Leeds and West Leeds—whether the Attorney-General or the Director is the 128 most appropriate officer. The Director under the Statute carries on his duties under the superintendence of the Attorney-General. That is the actual wording in the Statute, and the association between them is very close. The Director is responsible under his superintendence for the main conduct of his office, and, of course, the Director carries out the instructions he receives. There is a difference, however. Hon. Members may regard the two offices as identical, and as identical as one of the heads of the great departments and the Secretary of State. I think, however, that that is putting the identity rather too high. As objection has been made that political prejudice may be introduced into the administration of this Bill, we have chosen between the holders of these two offices, not the one who sits day by day and side by side with the Government of the day, animated by whatever political aspirations inspire the Government of the day, but we have chosen the great officer of State whose sole business is to judge in these cases whether on the evidence he thinks it sufficiently clear that a breach of the law as laid down by this House has been committed, and to make up his mind on that question; and it is his duty to decide whether he shall consent or not. I agree that there are precedents of one kind or another. We felt, and still feel, that, having perhaps particular regard to some of the criticisms which we do not altogether accept or agree with as to what might happen under some alternative Government under this Bill, we made a wise choise in accepting the suggestion of the hon. Member for the English Universities rather than the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds. I hope with that explanation that he may see his way not to press the new Clause.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not think that, when we are discussing a Bill of this sort,. it is any use trying to conceal the fact that the offences under this Bill will be political offences. The whole essence of the offence under the Bill is the person who does it. The question of the person who has a particular document and his intent in having that document will be decided by what the Government of the day considers is a respectable person or a revolutionary person. If there were a raid of the Prime Minister's premises, they would 129 be found full of documents, but now he is Prime Minister nothing is done. If the Bill had been in force in 1917, he would have been "for it." His closest friends were put in gaol, and he wrote letters about them. The whole essence of the Bill is that it is designed to be a weapon against people who are politically undesirable to the dominant classes in the society of ours to-day. It is no use burking the issue. It is no use suggesting that the law as administered is equal as between all persons. It is not. Whenever there is a matter of political prejudice, the bias is always heavy against the parties of the Left.
Questions about juries have been discussed. Juries, especially special juries, are not impartial. There is not a lawyer in this House who would advise a member of the Labour party to bring an action for libel against a Conservative newspaper before a special jury of the City of London. He would not have an earthly chance. Now we come to the similar question whether it should be the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. There will inevitably be a bias against people of the Left, against Socialists, Communists, Fascists and others. I do not suggest they are dishonest. I think the Attorney-General is a perfectly honest person, but that he has an honest bias against people of the Left. It is much better to have the thing stated clearly, for this will be brought up against people with certain political views in respect of alleged offences which would not be offences at all if committed by persons of Conservative views. It is better to let every case be approved by the Attorney-General, who will have to answer in this House to other politicians and from time to time to the electors. It is time that we debunked this idea of the impartiality of the law.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. GARDNER
I ask the House to bear with me for a minute or two. I may take a long way round, but I shall reach the point. During the Recess I have gone into the matter of mutinies in connection with this Bill. I ran across an account of the mutiny at Spithead on 5th April, 1797, that preceded the mutiny (it the Nore. I looked for signs of political disaffection, but I did not find any evidence of a successful mutiny. The only one I could find of that description 130 was where the mutineers were granted everything they asked for on 8th May, 1797. Mr. Pitt, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Committee of Supply, moved a Money Resolution for advance to the Navy of £351,000 and additional provisional allowances of £185,000. This was to implement promises made to the mutineers. He asked for the silent judgment of the Committee and to all intents and purposes the mutineers triumphed. I do not want the Attorney-General's opinion on whether the mutineers failed or not.
I am one of those unfortunate people mentioned by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) just now. I happen to be a justice of the peace. I have considered this Bill from the standpoint of one called upon to administer the law. The facts of the Spit-head mutiny are most striking. The mutineers had a strong case which would have made a most interesting newspaper article. I am wondering what would happen in certain cases. The account of the mutiny is history, but such an article would fall under the ban of the law laid down in this Bill. The "Times" could print such an article with impunity for no one could question the intention of the "Times." It might be different, however, with other newspapers, such as the "Daily Herald" or "Reynolds," for such an article, if specimen copies were distributed, it could be held by some justices of the peace that the writer, editor and publisher was maliciously endeavouring to seduce members of His Majesty's Forces from their allegiance by publishing accounts of a successful mutiny. Let us consider the same case with the "Daily Worker." In this case, if there were a free distribution of copies in a naval port or garrison town, then with the law as proposed I should have to hold, or be false to my oath to administer the law without fear or failure, that the article and tone of the paper, place of distribution, special distribution—all these things brought the publication within the meaning of aiding or abetting as described. My untutored mind would land me in the position of making the atmosphere of the newspaper part of the crime. Therefore, in supporting this new Clause, I am doing so in the hope that, instead of untutored minds like mine having to deal with such things, the Attorney-General will first deal with it.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want to support this new Clause. I do so for several reasons. The Solicitor-General, in his reply, stated that they wanted to keep politics out of this matter altogether. It is for that very reason that we have to put down this new Clause. We want to be able to impeach the Attorney-General on the Floor of the House of Commons for anything that may take place as the result of this Bill, because we believe the Bill is one of the worst that has ever come before this House. The Bill has been introduced because of politics. I am astonished that everybody to-day from every side of the House has been paying tribute to the integrity and sincerity of both the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General. They have gone out of their way to do it. I am not going to do anything of the kind. There is nobody in the House who knows better than those two learned gentlemen the reason for this Bill; it is political. It is because some old women, some people call them duchesses, Snowden called them duchesses, are afraid that there are Communists in this country. That is the reason for the Bill, and it is because of that we have put in this new Clause. It is to ensure that we may have the Attorney-General before us and question him, so that Britain will know what is going on, and so that we shall not be delegating any of our duties as representatives of the people and take away the power of the British House of Commons. They have done it. They have appointed the late Minister of Labour chairman of a committee to which this House has delegated the power it formerly had to impeach the Minister of Labour here on the Floor of the House of Commons.
It is because the Government are removing the power which the House has, that we have put forward this new Clause to try to safeguard British liberty, something of which we have always boasted. This Bill is tearing from us the last vestige of liberty that we have in this country. It would not have been introduced had not the police of Lord Trenchard raided a Communist office in London. What they did was illegal—and all the reactionary elements in Britain stood aghast at the fact that this was the freest country in the world, that there was more liberty here than in any 132 other country. The reactionaries at once set to work to create an atmosphere, and this Bill is the result of that atmosphere. Opposite are the two men who framed this Bill to take away the liberty of which we have always boasted. The Communists are a body of men with whom I do not agree and never did, but they represent a point of view which we can meet in argument, fair and above board. This Bill is designed, however, to do away with argument; it is brute force. The power of this country is being used to crush out a point of view held by certain individuals, who have as good a right to hold a point of view as has the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General, or as you, Mr. Speaker, have a right to a point of view. But this powerful Government, the most powerful Government of all time in Britain, have got to use this great power in order to crush an insignificant organisation in Britain because they fear its point of view.
I contend that what this great, powerful Government and this great rich country ought to do is to remove the causes that breed extreme men, but they have done nothing of the kind. All they have Clone is to devise ways and means and use all their unquestioned ability—I do not question their ability, and never have done—to bring in repressive Measures to crush every point of view which differs from their own. Why I am so anxious that we should not let this Bill go from the flloor of the House of Commons is that I can remember getting the Prime Minister to come down with me to Glasgow in 1918—I still have in my locker the photograph showing him standing on the lorry with us—when our meeting was prohibited. He, the Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister, said that if we could not get what we desired constitutionally, "We will have to get what we want." Where is he to-day? I can remember more on the same lines. When we had a Communist sitting on these benches, Saklatvala, the same Prime Minister used his influence in our party to put up one of his satellites, a member of our party, to move that Saklatvala should not be allowed to sit among us. That is a spirit that carries one nowhere. But we were able to show what had happened in the past, and asked if the Labour party would have felt happier if, when Hardie came into the House, a lone man, the Tories and Liberals had refused to 133 let him sit there. Still, the Prime Minister got a satellite of his in our party to raise the point. He is carrying on the same thing now with the Tory Party. They are welcome to him.
I know what it is to be under the ban. I know what it is to be arrested. In 1926 we had the general strike, or the lockout, when we members of the working class were fighting for the miners, and when the Government of the day were trying to, and did, starve the miners' wives and weans and drive the miners into submission. I stood in this House then and said that if the Government of the day were to do the same thing to me and mine as they were doing to the miners, I would not only advocate the stopping of the pumps but I would blow the mines to Ballarat. The then Secretary of State challenged me to make that speech outside. I went outside and made the speech at Clowne, in Derbyshire, and he had me fined £25. And I have a sadder thing than that to relate in my experience of what can come from delegating, or relegating, the power of this House to individuals.
This Bill is just another form of the Defence of the Realm Act, which was put into operation during the War, and lashed me and my family in no uncertain fashion. Just as decent men as the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General dealt with me in the most cruel and brutal fashion known, simply because a war was on, simply because I held different opinions, simply because I did all one man could
§ do to stop the War. Because of that I was arrested, and while I lay a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle they sent a soldier and two Glasgow detectives to search my home. It was at midnight. They called my wife out of her bed. She was lying in childbed, not able to stand on her feet. They turned my house outside in. My boy, my second son, was wakened by a British soldier, a lieutenant in the British Army, standing over his bed with a flashlight, and it was years before he got over it. That is what you do in searching a man's house.
I am the type of man who will be impeached, and whose home will be searched, under the Bill. It is not the riff-gaff and the ragtag and bobtail of society with whom this Bill will deal, but men who
…dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm
And dare to make it known.
It is because we still have men who cannot be bought, either by position or pelf, and because there still are, in Britain, men and women with outstanding character and belonging to the Socialist Movement—the Prime Minister knows that they are there—against whom this Measure is being brought forward. So far as I am concerned, I will do my best to see that it does not go on to the Statute Book.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 73; Noes, 305.137
|Division No. 368.]||AYES||[9.48 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grundy, Thomas W.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, sir Percy||Paling, Wilfred|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Healy, Cahir||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Buchanan, George||Holdsworth, Herbert||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cape, Thomas||Janner, Barnett||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, Sir William||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||John, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||West, F. R.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Dobbie, William||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Edwards, Charles||Leonard, William||Williams, Thomas (York. Don Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Wilmot, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Logan, David Gilbert||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lunn, William||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||McGovern, John|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McKeag, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut Colonel||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Elmley, Viscount||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Apsley, Lord||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Carul, S.)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Everard, W. Lindsay||Magnay, Thomas|
|Assheton, Ralph||Fox, Sir Gifford||Maitland, Adam|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gibson, Charles Granville||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mason, Col. Glyn K (Croydon, N.)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Gledhill, Gilbert||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Glossop, C. W. H||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Goff, Sir Park||Milne, Charles|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Gower, Sir Robert||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walte.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Bernays, Robert||Greene, William P. C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Blindell, James||Grimston, R. V.||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hacking. Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Munro, Patrick|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hales, Harold K.||Nall, Sir Joseph|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nunn, William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Harbord, Arthur||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ormiston, Thomas|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Buchan, John||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Buchan-Hepbu, n, P. G. T.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hepworth, Joseph||Peake, Osbert|
|Burnett, John George||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Pearson, William G.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Penny, Sir George|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Hopkinson, Austin||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hornby, Frank||Petherick, M.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Horobin, Ian M.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Christle, James Archibald||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Pybus, Sir John|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Radford, E. A.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jamieson, Douglas||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Jensson, Major Thomas E||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Copeland, Ida||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Remer, John R.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Robinson, John Roland|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Cross, R. H.||Leckie, J. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Levy, Thomas||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lewis, Oswald||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Liddell, Walter S.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Denville, Alfred||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunilffe||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Dickie, John P.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Liewellin, Major John J.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Doran, Edward||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Scone, Lord|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney. C.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Loftus, Pierce C.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Mabane, William||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Keneington, N.)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Dunglass, Lord||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Slater, John|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Smith, Sir J. Walker. (Barrow-in-F.)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine,C.)||Templeton, William P.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Smithers, Sir Waldron||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Somervell, Sir Donald||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Thompson, Sir Luke||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Soper, Richard||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Sotneron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Train, John||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Spens, William Patrick||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Stevenson, James||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Ward. Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaka)|
|Stones, James||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Stourton, Hon. John J.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strauss, Edward A.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.||Captain Austin Hudson and Major George Davies.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|