§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Last Monday I addressed two questions to the Secre- 2512 tary of State for Home Affairs which, I think, are of vital importance, indeed, almost of equal importance to the problems we have been discussing this evening. The Home Secretary, unfortunately, was prevented from being present on that occasion. The two questions were somewhat different in character. One dealt with the sentences which had been impose I on certain of my constituents at a recent Assize trial at Cardiff. After some supplementary questions had been addressed to the Under-Secretary of State, he was good enough, at my invitation, to express on behalf of the Home Secretary his willingness to receive a deputation of hon. Members in regard to those sentences. That being so I do not propose to-night to make any reference whatever to the justice or injustice of those sentences. The problem I desire to raise now is of more general application, and in a sense strikes at the very roots of the liberties of the citizens of this country.
It is one of fundamental importance. In order to bring the circumstances properly before the House let me briefly outline the way in which this matter arises. A certain number of my constituents were prosecuted recently for rioting. They were tried at the Assize Court, and in due time, after prolonged inquiry, the jury brought in their verdict. In this point lies the interest of the discussion which I propose to raise now. In these trials, when the jury has introduced its verdict, it is usual, as the Home Secretary knows far better than I do, for the judge to invite the representative of the police present to indicate whether he knows anything of the record of the prisoner before the court. That course was followed on this occasion. Last week I put to the Home Secretary a question, which was answered by the Under-Secretary, and which I will quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT:42. Mr. MORGAN JONES asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the growing tendency, when evidence as to a prisoner's previous record is being given by the police in cases of riot or industrial disturbance, to make reference to a prisoner's political opinions; and whether he will take steps to secure that no allegations as to a prisoner's activities shall be made where no previous conviction for such activities has been recorded?Mr. LLOYD: It is a well-established practice for the courts to call for information from the police as to the antecedents of a convicted prisoner before deciding what sen- 2513 tence, if any, should be imposed, and this practice has been specifically approved by the Court of Criminal Appeal. It is for the court to decide whether such information is relevant and what weight is to be attached to it, and my right hon. Friend does not propose to take any action in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1936; col. 1625, Vol. 310.]To summarise fairly and not inaccurately the subsequent proceedings in the House on that occasion, I think I can say that Supplementary Questions were addressed to the Under-Secretary in regard to that particular matter and he cited to me what was, in his opinion, the guiding principle in these matters when they come before the courts. He cited the guidance laid down by Lord Alverstone when he was Lord Chief Justice.
Now, the judgment to which the Under-Secretary referred was given in a case known as the Douglas Campbell case, recorded in the reports of the Court of Criminal Appeal for 1911, Volume 6, page 131. I have that volume before me and, if necessary, could read the whole judgment, but it is apposite to recall to the House that the particular prisoner, Douglas Campbell, had in fact been prosecuted at a lower court, and at the point at which the verdict had been introduced by the jury, evidence such as that to which I am referring to-night had been adduced concerning his character. In that case the police witness stated that the prisoner had been previously convicted, but he also added other observations concerning the prisoner in relation to which there was no previous conviction, and that became the subject of an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. It was on that occasion that Lord Alverstone gave his judgment.
It is very important that we should be clear as to what precisely happened on that occasion. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will deny that Lord Alverstone was laying down the rules of the court in respect of evidence such as that to which I am referring, but in the judgment of Lord Alverstone there is a reference to the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, Section 10, Sub-section 5, upon which I understand the Under-Secretary based his position in replying to me last week. I must, however, point out that Sub-section 5 states in the most explicit terms that it refers simply to the rights of habitual criminals. In the case which I am dis- 2514 cussing, I am raising the issue of the rights of courts, as a general rule, to allow evidence to be adduced at that stage of the proceedings dealing not with a person's past criminal record, but having clear and explicit reference to the prisoner's political opinions. I venture to say that no question can be raised in this House of more fundamental importance to people who have the misfortune to be haled before the courts than the fundamental right which they enjoy that no reference shall be made to their political opinions when they are before the court.
I do not wish to base my remarks simply upon these individual instances. I am dealing with the matter as a general principle, for it is that with which I am concerned. I will not, therefore, refer to these individuals as persons, but merely indicate them by numbers. Here is a summary of what happened. A prisoner is before the court; a police witness is called upon to give evidence concerning him, and this is what is said:No. 1 was a recognised leader of the disruptive elements in -the district; was an active militant agitator of the worst type.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
Is this evidence given on oath by a witness in the court?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Is a witness giving evidence on oath at the invitation of the judge not in the same position as any other witness?
§ Mr. JONES
Qua witness yes; but my submission is that this is a fundamental matter affecting the rights of prisoners generally, because the case has been decided and the verdict given. Therefore, I raise the question of the fundamental rights of prisoners in courts generally to be free from having evidence given at that stage as to their political convictions.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would like to know to what extent responsibility rests upon the Home Secretary in an affair of this kind. I cannot see that he has any responsibility or any control over the evidence given by a witness on oath at the direction of the judge. It is true, I understand, that this evidence is given 2515 after conviction and before the criminal is sentenced.
§ Mr. JONES
May I read a passage from the observations of the Lord Chief Justice in the case I have cited? It reads:We have been asked to say something about the practice of police officers giving the judge the result of their inquiries about prisoners. In ordinary circumstances we should not accede to such a request, but as the matter has recently been under the consideration of the judges and the Home Office, we think it right to do so.It is clear, therefore, that the Home Office have something to do with this question of the quality of the evidence given in courts at that stage. If I have established that point, let me continue to read some of the allegations made, for it is vital that the Home Office should take steps at once to bring this practice to an end.
§ Mr. JONES
Other people who are much more learned in the law than I am can answer that question. My submission still is that the Home Office ought to have consultations with the judges with a view to seeing that this practice ceases at the earliest possible moment. I think I am well-founded in saying that the Home Office have a responsibility in the matter.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member unnecessarily, and I am entirely at the service of the House in any observations I make; nor am I seeking to stop any discussion. I would like to point out that the very passage which the hon. Member has quoted goes on to give an answer to the question which you put, Sir. It states:If the prisoner wishes to deny anything he can, especially if he is represented by counsel, do so at the time. … If the prisoner challenges any statement, it is the duty of the judge to inquire into it; if necessary he should adjourn the matter, and if it is of sufficient importance he may require legal proof of it. Or he may ignore it, and if he does so be should state that he is not taking it into consideration.That is an answer to your question, Sir.
§ Mr. JONES
The passage then goes on to say:If the prisoner does not challenge the statements, the Court may take them into consideration, and no injustice is likely to be done. Very often it is in the prisoner's 2516 interest that his antecedents should be stated; if it is not so, than is not the fault of the police, but of tie antecedents.Therefore, I submit that in the case which I am citing, the mind of the court was actually influenced. I wish, however, to maintain my position simply on the general proposition as to whether it is right that the Home Office should ignore this growing practice. I say that the Home Office have a responsibility in the matter and that they must not attempt to shuffle off that responsibility. It is or the purpose of building up a case to prove the existence of that tendency that I am now giving instances to the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will realise that my only concern in this matter is the responsibility of the Home Office. I do not at present know whether the Home Office has any responsibility or whether it has not.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that this "evidence," as it is called, that is tendered after verdict is not in fact evidence at all? It is hearsay by the police which could not be proved by that type of evidence in court. In the case referred to the Lord Chief Justice was speaking of the convenience of allowing the police to make statements, sometimes on oath and sometimes not on oath, because otherwise great difficulty and expense would be involved in proving the facts by legal evidence. It is because the Home Office permit their police officers to collect the material and repeat in court hearsay which is not evidence, that the practice has grown up of accepting that hearsay in lieu of evidence. I understand it is that practice which my hon. Friend desires to challenge.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I shall be very glad to deal with the particular case which has been raised, but I hope I shall be allowed to say at this stage to my hon. and learned Friend first, that the police are not the Home Office police at all, and, secondly, that there is no ground whatever for saying that the Home Office encourages any such practice as has been suggested.
§ Mr. HOPKIN
In these cases the police sometimes say a prisoner has been suspected for a long time of a certain offence. In that case it is difficult, indeed almost impossible, for defending counsel to follow up each and every one of the statements which are made, and in my submission the Home Office could easily issue regulations as to the nature, purport and purpose of the statements which the police are to give in evidence at that juncture in a case.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It seems to me that the question is whether a police witness or any other witness called at that stage of the case gives evidence on oath or not. There may be cases in which such a witness does not give evidence on oath but if he does then it appears to me that he is in the same position as any other witness examined in the case, and I cannot see how the Home Office or anybody else has any responsibility for what a witness says in court.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
That is my point, and I was about to cite cases bearing on that simple issue of whether it is permissible or not to cite evidence concerning a man's political opinions.
§ Mr. FYFE
In furtherance of what you, Mr. Speaker, have just said, may I point out that when a police officer goes into the witness box and is sworn the oath which he takes follows a certain form? He is to answer truthfully such questions as the judge may address to him. How would it be possible for him, if he is to comply with his oath, to give an account of a man's antecedents and to blot out certain matters. If I may say so, with respect, the point which you, Mr. Speaker, raised a moment ago, seems to touch the matter very closely. Is it not a question of the oath which the witness takes when he goes into the box?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
What the police constable is prepared to tell the judge depends entirely on the inquiries which he has been instructed by his direct 2518 superior to make. If he goes into the box, not having made any inquiries then, whatever his oath may be, he cannot give the information to the court. As far as the London police are concerned, the Home Secretary, of course, has absolute power to arrange what inquiries shall or shall not be made. As far as the police in other districts are concerned he has the power which is often exercised of circularising chief constables, advising them how they should carry out their duties in this matter. In both these ways, he is able to influence this matter of the collection of information in one direction or the other.
As one who has had experience of the sort of evidence which is submitted, in many cases, by the police after conviction may I say that in my own case all they have done has been to repeat my previous convictions. Will the Home Secretary say that it is permissible for a police officer to come in after conviction and say to the judge, "This man is a good Conservative," or "This man is a wicked Communist"?
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
May I continue to develop my point. In support of my case I must show that this practice exists and in order to do so I propose to cite certain cases. In a recent case a man whom I shall describe as prisoner No. 1 was declared to bea recognised leader of the disruptive elements in the district and an active militant agitator of the worst type.That referred solely to his political opinion and everyone understood it to be so. It was also said that he hadtaken a leading part in the industrial trouble in the area since October, 1934; that he had spread pernicious views; that he had created trouble where peace and harmony prevailed for over eight years; that the police looked upon him as a menace to the youth of the neighbourhood and that there was no doubt that a number of men and youths now accused with him, had been led astray by his teachings.I submit that it is time the Home Secretary took steps to establish the fact that references of that sort to views which a prisoner may or may not have held, or to teachings for which he may or may not have been responsible are not proper in a court of law. In the next case the prisoner whom I propose to describe as No. 2 was said to be 2519a militant agitator of the worst type, spreading pernicious views.It is no business of the police to determine whether people's views are pernicious or not and it is not necessarily illegal to spread what may be regarded as "pernicious" views. It may be foolish to do so but, again, it depends on what constitutes "pernicious views." In my judgment the views which the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary entertain are very pernicious but I should not like to hale them before a court and have them sent to gaol on that account.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am not arguing with the hon. Member as to whether certain views are pernicious or not, but, surely, counsel for the defence in these cases could challenge those statements. I do not know, but I imagine that it would be open to counsel to do so.
§ Mr. JONES
I am afraid I am in the same position as yourself, Mr. Speaker, in that respect. I cannot argue as to what counsel for the defence could or could not do at that stage of the proceedings. I submit, however, that whether counsel for the defence could have challenged the statement or not is not the point. My point is that it is wrong, as a general principle, in the courts to introduce reflections by witnesses on people's political opinions.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
But the question which I am raising is whether counsel for the defence could not have stopped that being done.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that counsel for the defence could not have known until the very moment it was made that any such accusation was going to be made against his client. Therefore, he could not get any instructions as to the views of his client or any information as a basis for cross-examination. The judge asked what were the antecedents of the prisoner and the statement was made. That statement might influence the mind of the judge, as such statements might influence the minds of magistrates or anyone else to whom they were made.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Does it not then seem to come to this, according to the hon. and learned Member, that it is the duty of the Home Secretary to give instructions to the judge?
Sir S. CHIPPS
No, it is the duty of the Home Secretary to tell the police not to collect such information and not to make such statements. If they were told that these matters were immaterial and that they were not to spend time in making inquiries as to whether people held pernicious views or not they would not be able to furnish such information to the judge.
§ Mr. HOPKIN
Is it not possible for the Home Secretary to give information to the police that in these cases they should limit themselves first of all to matters which could be brought forward in favour of the prisoner, and secondly simply to the previous convictions, and stop at that?
§ Mr. FYFE
With regard to the point of Order put by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), if there is any doubt about the practice at all, I submit that there should not be. It is done invariably from day to day in courts of law, and when these circumstances arise counsel for the defence, if he is not instructed upon them, immediately takes instruction, and if he is not then able to deal with them, he applies, as is suggested by Lord Alverstone, for an adjournment till the matter can be dealt with. My hon. and learned Friend knows as well as anyone that these matters arise daily in the courts and are dealt with, and it would indeed be a reflection on counsel for the defence if it were suggested that they were unable to deal with them.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
There was not any charge as to political opinions. It was something entirely irrelevant which was brought up, and it is this practice which I am challenging here to-night.
§ Sir JOHN WITHERS
On a point of Order. Surely this question is not a question of evidence at all, but of unsworn information given to the court after sentence?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Before magistrates the evidence is not always on oath. No doubt in an assize court it is, but exactly 2521 the same practice is carried on before magistrates, where the police are constantly making statements not on oath.
§ Mr. JONES
Yes, at Cardiff Assizes. I was trying to give a series of allegations that were made by a police witness at, I suggest, an inappropriate stage dealing with the political convictions or actions of prisoners. The third case is referred to in this way—"continually in the company of known agitators." With great respect, Mr. Speaker, so are you, and a good number of them, either agitators for our political faith or for the opposite faith, and I do not see at all how a statement of that sort can be made except with the intention of influencing the mind of the Judge concerning the opinions of the prisoner before the court. Here is No. 4—"a known agitator. "No. 5—"an active part in the dispute." No. 6—"a leader of the unemployed workers and had extreme views." No. 7—and this is an extraordinary statement—"inclined to violence." How he is able to say that, I do not know. If he was violent I could understand, but how does a man know whether a person is inclined to violence or not? It is beyond my imagining. So with the next prisoner—"inclined to violence." No conviction was stated, because there was none. There was no conviction recorded against any of these people, and yet in order to produce some sort of evidence, information is given concerning their political affinities. I submit that that really is most improper. No. 9—"violent and undisciplined." No. 10—"a chapel deacon with supposed religious views, but his behaviour on the day was anything but religious."
It really is monstrous for people to be haled before the court and treated in this way. If they are deemed to have done wrong, to have broken the law, by all means prosecute them, and let your jury produce their verdict—I do not complain—but I do complain, and complain very strongly, of any attempt, at the stage when the evidence has been completed and the verdict produced, to weight the scales against the prisoner on the basis of his political convictions. I think there is not a single person in 2522 this House, either Conservative, or Liberal, or Labour, or Communist, who will challenge the proposition that it is vital, especially in areas like mine, when people are haled before the courts on charges like these that they shall think they are having a square deal on the merits of the case against them and nothing else. I submit that this kind of tendency seems to grow, and I submit that it is not permissible to pursue all kinds of ramifications into people's past political activities and to produce them in court so as to weight the case against them more heavily. There was not a single citation in any of the cases of a previous conviction.
I am in the strongest disagreement politically with one of these men. I rarely have a meeting in that area but he and I have a set to about political matters, but he has his rights, his elementary rights, and it is those elementary rights that I am contending for here to-night, The Home Secretary is a distinguished lawyer, and I ask him, Is it illegal to be an agitator in this country, is it illegal to be a militant agitator, and is it illegal to be a militant agitator of the worst type, whatever that may be? Apparently there are types of militant agitators; there are bad, and worse, and worst. I do not know where the Home Secretary stands in that category, but presumably the police witness would say he is bad only. Is it illegal to be constantly in the company of agitators? I have never heard that it is. If so, I repeat we are all breaking the law in this House, for there are agitators galore in this place on both sides. I submit, therefore, that it is a monstrous thing if a practice of giving evidence of this sort grows up. I admit that no particular brand of politics was actually cited. No one was denominated as a Socialist, or a Communist, or a Liberal, or a Labour man, but they were "militant agitators of the worst type," and a wink is as good as a nod in many of these cases.
Moreover, I ask this: Who is a police officer anyway to determine whether agitation is of the worst type or not? Suppose we had a jury made up for the most part of people not of Conservative opinions, and say, the Under-Secretary of State was haled before them on some count on which I am sure he would never get there, and let us suppose that 2523 someone brought against him the allegation that he was a militant agitator in the Conservative cause. It might be for the setting up of communities of "Imps" all over the place. Would that be illegal? It is almost comic in a way, but it is frightfully tragic, and we must see to it, especially in areas like mine where industrial feelings are apt to grow bitter at times, that these people shall feel that their political opinions are not known when sentence is passed upon them. The whole purpose of this evidence was to weight the sentences against them. I think I shall carry everyone with me when I say that in a time like this we must do what we can to secure the purity of the administration of our law. We are all proud of it. It has many shortcomings at times no doubt, but, on the whole, it is something of which Britishers might well be proud. People of my neighbourhood, however, are, with these facts before them, in serious danger, to put it mildly, of losing all confidence in the fairness of the courts.
It is not-illegal to be a Communist, or to propagate Communist opinions, and it is not illegal to agitate. Every reform worth while that this country has seen has come from someone's agitation. Agitation is vital to progress. If men are to be indicted in courts, let them be indicted on the ground that they have broken the law, and, when the verdict has been given, let that be sufficient and do not let there he irrelevant information given by people who desire to weight the case more heavily against those who happen to be under suspicion. I am sorry to have to speak with such vigour upon this point, but I know these people so well, I have lived with them so long. While I deplore everything that seems to smack of rioting or irregularity against the law, I say it is a distressing thing when those whose business is to administer the law seem to give ground for the belief that certain political opinions are unwelcome when the cases of those who hold them come before the courts.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I am still not very clear whether there is any responsibility of the Home Office in this matter. I 2524 should like to ask that question directly of the Home Secretary.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not dispute that it is possible to imagine a circular from the Home Office, certainly within the area of the Metropolitan Police, possibly as a matter of suggestion to the police elsewhere, in order to point out the limits which ought to be observed in preparing the material which may be called for by the court. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite about that and to that extent it is a matter which would naturally be raised in Debate. Of course, I do not quite accept the version of the facts that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has detailed. Perhaps I have not as full information as he has, I but I wish to submit, as a, matter that must be plain throughout, that the Home Secretary has no sort of responsibility for the testimony which is given in any court of law by any witness. A policeman, so far as I know, in a case like that at Cardiff, is like any other witness. He is sworn to tell the truth, and to answer such questions as are put to him, and I should be very much concerned if we were to turn our whole constitutional system upside down and suggest that a member of the Executive has a right to say what evidence a police witness should give. I must answer your question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by saying that within the limits of a suggestion of a circular it is a matter for the Home Office.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the statement he has made, because it has clarified the position considerably. It is obvious that, in so far as the Home Office can give instructions or recommendations by circular as to the type of evidence a policeman may give, the Debate is in order. Anything further than that comes outside the scope of the Home Office as far as this particular case is concerned, and any reflection on the judges is also out of order without a substantive Motion.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
I will endeavour to keep, as strictly as possible within your Ruling. While doing so it is still possible, I think, to reflect upon the case as outlined by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) who as 2525 advocatus diaboli put up an extremely good case. The question really before us is whether the Home Office ought to issue certain instructions to police officers throughout the country, and whether it is public policy that they should do so. On this case, which has been chosen as an example, I would submit it is definitely not public policy. The evidence which was given was not, as the hon. Member properly and fairly said, evidence of political leanings.
§ Mr. WISE
The definition of "agitator" usually implies belonging to one of the parties of the Left, and in this particular case obviously that word did imply that, but it was not in fact specified. Let us take the definition as it stands. These people were described as violent agitators, as addicted to subversive views, as holding extreme views and disruptive views. In one case, that of the deacon of a chapel, rather more details were given, but not so many as the judge gave afterwards when he referred to the deacon's evidence as the worst bit of perjury he had ever heard in his life.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
As a matter of fact, that old man is a Welshman who cannot speak English. He complained during the case that he could not understand the proceedings. He was asked by counsel what the word "picketing" was in Welsh, but I would defy anyone to say what it is in Welsh.
§ Mr. WISE
I accept that explanation, but there is also this witness's behaviour in the witness box, and I think that from the judge's description it must have gone further than a question of language. Those men were charged with rioting in an area where, unfortunately, such conduct has been all too prevalent. If they are to be given a free run for their subversive opinions they must give some undertaking or show in some way that they are ready to give other people a free run for their non-subversive opinions, and I submit that there is no evidence of such toleration in those Welsh valleys. We have had case after case—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who is we?"]—the country, for which, I believe, we sometimes endeavour to speak in this 2526 House—in those Welsh valleys of men who, because they do or do not belong to some particular trade union suffer very great pressure, not only moral but physical.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Does the hon. Member suggest that that is a responsibility of the Home Secretary?
§ Mr. WISE
With due submission, yes, because it would be quite possible to say that some of the victimisation was due to the imperfect enforcement of the Trade Disputes Act, which is the business of the Home Office.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The hon. Member is now discussing the rightness or the wrongness of the verdicts, though I was particularly careful to avoid making any reference to the verdicts.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I did not gather that the hon. Member was discussing verdicts. It appeared to me that he was raising a completely different point, for which I am doubtful whether any Government Department is responsible.
§ Mr. WISE
I am trying to justify the fact that these people were described, as they were rightly described, and ought to continue to be described if ever they are tried again, as violent agitators holding subversive opinions. I submit that that evidence was properly put forward, and should not in any way be discouraged by any Home Office Circular. I wanted to show to what an extent the black blot of agitation had made these valleys an almost intolerable place for many people to live in, and that, therefore, as a matter of public policy, it is perfectly right that anybody addicted to that form of agitation should be dealt with, and that when they are tried for actual riot their previous incitements to riot and their encouragement of violence throughout the valleys should be taken into consideration as a relevant fact.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
On a point of Order. These men were not charged with inciting to riot and I contend that the hon. Member has no right to bring in the question of incitement to riot, which is a very serious charge.
§ Mr. WISE
There have been cases throughout the whole of these valleys of men who have wanted to work during the course of an industrial dispute—that was the occasion on which these men were charged with riot—and in the exercise of that right to work, which is a fundamental right of every citizen and not to be denied him by any organisation, these men have been subjected as a result of agitation to extreme hardships and, in many cases, physical assault. Their wives, too, have been subjected to assault, and have been unable to leave their houses without insult; and their children have been chased home because their fathers were trying to work. With those conditions existing in those valleys I submit that there is no excuse whatever for not bringing up against these men evidence of their having previously created that trouble and that distress. On this one occasion they were tried and convicted, and I sincerely trust that if any instructions are issued by the Home Office in the form of a circular, they will only be to encourage the police to arrest more and get more convicted for doing the same thing. Those men are denying to their fellows the rights which they claim for themselves. They are claiming the right to propagate political opinions—the hon. Member opposite claimed it. What sort of right would an official of the Miners Industrial Union have to propagate his opinions in one of those valleys?
§ Mr. WISE
I accept your ruling, and would only conclude by saying that I hope that no instructions will be issued by the Home Office to deter the production of this sort of evidence. Agitation is a crime if it is directed to wrong ends, and I do not think the hon. Member for Caerphilly would deny that the agitation referred to—
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
The hon. Member has just described agitation as a crime. I wonder whether he would like to inform the House where that crime is defined by statute, or where in the Common Law any definition of that crime may be found.
§ Mr. WISE
I do not want to enter into a long legal dispute with an hon. Member 2528 who knows as little of the law as myself, but I suggest that there are such things as sedition, treason, high treason and—I really cannot give way any more, I have been interrupted several times already. As the hon. Member for Caerphilly says, agitation in this case meant Communist agitation, definitely subversive of the existing order in this country, and in this specific case it was agitation directed to encouraging physical violence against their fellows. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was not the charge."] The charge was using physical violence. They had no right to indulge in that sort of agitation in the past, and I submit that it was only right and proper that testimony about it should have been given at their trial, and that it was a perfectly fair conviction. It is impossible, of course to say what effect that evidence had, and it would be improper to do so on their sentences, but even if it had had the effect of trebling the sentences they world otherwise have been given—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member now appears to be perilously near criticising the action of one of His Majesty's judges, which cannot be done except upon a substantive Motion.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. EDE
The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) has encountered rather heavy weather in trying to keep within the bounds set for the Debate, but I think it is as well that his speech should have been delivered in the particular circumstances of to-day, because, after all, we are here to-day vindicating the constitutional liberties and position of this House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has seen fit to raise a matter of the very greatest importance, namely, the impartiality of the courts and the way in which evidence presented on behalf of the Crown is collected and delivered. Strictly it all relates to that one point, the way in which, on occasions, police present this evidence. Sitting on the bench myself I have more than once had grave misgivings. The Under-Secretary 2529 of State was asked to-day by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) a supplementary question about aged magistrates who abstained from their duties. My principal fear as a magistrate is of my aged colleagues who insist upon sitting on the bench beside me.
§ Mr. EDE
I apologise if I have transgressed your Ruling. One notices on occasion that a policeman is speaking in a very loud voice for reasons which, after the recent Ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I must not even hint at. The policeman has attempted to convey to them that the person in front of them is, in the words of the hon. Member, an agitator. Might I ask the hon. Gentleman to try to realise what might happen to himself if a Socialist State were established in this country and the benches were appropriately filled?—
§ Mr. EDE
The hon. Member wants to shoot men intellectually now. As far as this House is concerned, to shoot a man intellectually is a crime not far short of shooting him physically. If the police are at liberty to give that sort of evidence on behalf of the Crown, the days of liberty in this country are very likely to be circumscribed.
I wish to deal with the circumstances in which this Debate has arisen. All too easily we have passed from the circumstances that brought us to to-day's discussion, but I want to go back for a moment to the point at which we started -this afternoon, and particularly to remarks which were made on Thursday last in this connection, by the Prime Minister He said that the vote last Wednesday, the first vote, could be ignored, because it was taken in a small House. I hope that the hon. Member for Smethwick will not leave the Chamber, because I want 2530 to allude to the distinguished part that he played in last Wednesday's proceedings. In 1923 occurred the precedent which we have been examining more than once in the last few days, when the Government were beaten in a House of 287 Members. On that occasion the present Prime Minister, after some preliminary hesitation, was emphatic in the view that he adopted about the position of the House. On the day after the House had to be adjourned owing to the state of disorder which the preliminary refusal to take any notice of the House had created, he said:I have studied very carefully the Debate on Tuesday, I have listened to what the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, I have listened to two speeches this afternoon, and of course, I have taken note of the vote which occurred on Tuesday, and it is quite clear that the general desire of the House, as expressed in that vote, is to have an inquiry.He proceeded to give effect to it, and he said:I think those words"—which he read out, of his terms of re-ference—give effect to everything that the House desires, as expressed in the speeches delivered and in the vote given on Tuesday."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1923; cols. 1344–5; Vol. 162.]That was in response to a vote of only 287, whereas last Wednesday's vote was a, vote of 308 Members. If a vote of 287 compelled the attention of the Government in 1923, it is strange that it should be urged in 1936, when the normal majority of the Government is a great deal higher than it was, that a vote of 308 could be ignored. That number is more than half the House. If one deducts the Speaker and the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, there are only 612 Members. As there is one vacant seat, the number left is 611. More than half the House were therefore in the Division Lobbies. May I draw attention to the composition of the Lobbies on that occasion? In the first Division there were, on the Government side, 140 Conservatives, eight National Liberals, one National Labour and one Independent Nationalist. In the Opposition Lobby there were 22 Conservatives, four National Liberals, three National Labour as against one in the Government Lobby, one Independent National, one Independent Liberal, 12 2531 Opposition Liberals, one Communist, four Members of the Independent Labour party and 110 Members of the Labour party. A more complete exposition of a united front has never been shown anywhere in the world. There were 158 Members, including tellers, in the Opposition Lobby, and the Government were beaten by eight votes. There could be no doubt that that represented the opinion of the House that the Motion which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) was entitled to the very serious consideration of the Government and that some effort should be made to implement her suggestion.
Every Member who went into the Opposition Lobby knew what he was doing. I spoke to several Members who normally vote with the Government and they all knew what they were doing. They hoped that 31 Members were supporting the Government, and that there would be sufficient Government Members in the Government Lobby not to produce the result that was actually produced. They hoped that there would be a sufficient number of Members obeying the Government Whip to destroy the effect of what they were doing. I saw the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) who voted against the Government in the first Division, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member hoped he would be able to go down to his constituency and say, "In spite of what they say about Members on the Government side being bound to vote with the Whips, I defied them. I went into the Opposition Lobby. I support your case, and I have given you evidence of it."
The moment the Government realised they were in danger the most extraordinary thing happened. The Government Whip seems to have departed from what one understands is the usual practice on these occasions. No Whip was left at the door at the top of the stairs. The Government Whips appeared to have been formed into a sort of battle police, to scour the rear of the fighting front and whip up the laggards, and particularly to deal with those who were firing on their own side, with the result that we had an extraordinary spectacle. I see the Minister of Pensions on the Front Bench. He voted in the first Division, 2532 but he was absent when the second Division was called, and he was not the only deserter. All the military seem to have gone wrong. The Secretary of State for War voted in the first Division, but not in the second; and his Financial Secretary did the same thing. The Under-Secretary of State for India vanished, and, although it is true that some other Ministers were found to take their places, we have the extraordinary state of affairs that, in the first Division, eight Cabinet Ministers who sit in this House voted with the Government and eight were absent. The hon. Member for Smethwick voted in the first Division, but disappeared from the Division Lobby when the Tellers counted—
§ Mr. EDE
Yes, I am sorry; I have the correct note here. I accept the correction the hon. Member has given me. I think it is necessary to draw attention to the way in which these Lobbies were constituted. In the first Division, six Conservative Ministers were present, one National Liberal, and one National Labour. Three Conservatives were absent, and three National Liberal and two National Labour. In the second Division, owing to the way in which Conservative Ministers appeared and disappeared during the proceedings, there were still six Conservative Ministers, but they were different ones from those who took part in the first Division. The Home Secretary remained the only representative of the National Liberal party in the Cabinet who took part in the Division; his two colleagues, the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade, did not find it convenient to take part in either Division. But in the second Division there were two National Labour Ministers, and those who were in the House will recollect that, when we reached the stage of the second Division being taken, there was some ironical cheering from the Opposition Lobby. That was caused by the fact that we saw the Lord President of the Council, who had not voted in the first Division, being escorted into the Government Lobby between a corporal's guard of a couple of Government Whips—the manly shoulders that looked so fine and erect in the 2533 salons of Londonderry House bowed when he was marched in as a deserter, and the face that duchesses love to kiss suffused with the shame of having once again to vote against his principles in order to retain office.
I venture to say that there is something more in this Division than has been admitted yet by the Government. The figures of the Ministers, apart from the Cabinet Ministers, who voted, show that this was left to the Conservative party to carry, and, with the exception of the Home Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, the National Liberals were absent. In the first Division the only National Labour Minister or Member who voted with the Government was the Secretary of State for the Dominions—like Casabianca, the boy upon the Treasury Bench without even the support of his father. But he was more lucky that Casabianca, because daddy was found, and brought to give some consolation and advice before the ship blew up. There are, I understand, 10 National Labour Members in this House. Only one of them voted with the Government in the first Division, but, when the Whips cracked and the second Division was called, seven of them were in the Government Lobby. The hon. Member for Lichfield, the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham), and the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson), voted with the Opposition in the first Division; in the second Division they voted with the Government. In the first Division the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who sits for Central Leeds, was absent, but the ferrets found the little rabbit bolting for his hole, and in the second Division he was here. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies eluded them both times. I have no doubt that he knows a "better 'ole" than either the hon. Member for Central Leeds or the Lord President of the Council when it pays him to be out of the way. It is clear that the National Labour party, whatever else it may stand for, can no longer claim that it stands to make any effective contribution towards the affairs of this country. Its members stand up to the Government when they think the Government will not be beaten, but, when the Whips call on them to do their part, they do it, and they do it better in supporting Tory Members than 2534 either of the other wings of the National party that sit on the benches opposite.
There was a good lady in the Gallery on Wednesday night who heard my hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) read out the figures, and, when she heard them, she clapped—she thought she had won. An. attendant, quite rightly, turned her out. That incident reminds me of the first time my father took me to Epsom races. He was a sound Nonconformist, but, being a native of Epsom, he always went to see the Derby and backed his fancy. It was the great year in which Ladas won, and my father put a modest half-crown on Lord Rosebery's horse. Being only a boy at the time, and it being my first time there, as the horses went round and I saw the jockeys' beautiful jackets I drew his attention to them, but he refused to look, and when the race was over he said to me, "My boy, when you have been to Epsom races as often as I have, you will know that the proper persons to watch are not the jockeys, but the book-makers. I have seen them run a great deal faster than any horse that was ever foaled." That lady, if she believes in the British Constitution, has been welshed. The numbers went up all right and her horse's number was in the top place. She has been told, I have no doubt, possibly by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if you can convince the House of Commons you can get what you want. That lady had a majority in the House of Commons on Wednesday night. It was no snap Division. The Minister of Labour was not there. He is too artful to be caught giving a reactionary vote if he can avoid it. But he is in bad company. The last time I was in my constituency he was in Jarrow preaching. I suggest that the next time he goes he should give out the hymn the first line of the second verse of which is:There is a land of everlasting spring,It is a long way from Jarrow.There everlasting spring abides,And never withering flowers.But let him remember the next two lines; they are very true of his Government:Death, like a narrow sea, divides,That heavenly land from ours.There is no doubt that the Government was defeated on Wednesday night. I do not know why hon. Members defeated it, but they went into the Opposition Lobby, 2535 and put more votes there than in the Government Lobby, to take out certain words. What did they propose to insert if not my hon. Friend's Amendment? Did they propose to ask His Majesty to give everyone an additional ticket in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot? Did they think they would ask the chief groom of the National stud to tell us the best tip for the Derby? That vote, as Erskine May says, is bound to be interpreted as a vote for the Amendment.
As the result of what happened the House has refused to give the Government the necessary money to carry on the business of the country, and to-night they are asking that we will agree to go into Committee of Supply. Only in this country and in France, among the great nations of Europe, could such a condition of affairs exist. The two National Liberal Cabinet Ministers now sitting on the Front Bench are committing a betrayal of all that Liberalism has stood for during the past 300 years by deciding absolutely to ignore the vote of last Wednesday. The Treasurer of the Household knows that that was no snap vote. It was agreed between the two sides that the Division should take place at or about 7.30. It actually took place at 7.45. There had been 116 minutes of speeches from Members who normally vote in the Opposition Lobby and 111 minutes from Members who normally support the Government. No truer division of time could have been made by the Chair between the two sides of the House. All the evening Members on this side were being implored by hon. Members opposite to give them pairs and, quite wisely, we were declining to do it. The Government must have known of the plight into which they were getting, and to suggest that this was some vote of irresponsible people who did not know what they were doing is to trifle with the facts of the case.
Let me give the names of the 12 Members who twice voted against the Government. There was the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen). He has been here since 1922. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has been here since 1911. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has been here since 1919. [Interruption.] That was a mistake in the record which 2536 she has taken the necessary steps to correct. The hon. Member for Bristol, North (Mr. Bernays) has been here since 1931. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown) has been here off and on—more on than off—since 1918. There were the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) who, it is true, only came in in 1935, and the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) who came in 1931, but she has means of obtaining advice within the circle of her family which goes back a great deal earlier than 1931, and she has spoken this afternoon.A man convinced against his willIs of the same opinion still.Apparently it is the same with women. The hon. Lady will be inconsistent enough to-day to vote against the opinion that she still holds. The hon. Member for Edinburgh Central (Mr. Guy) came in 1931, but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has been here since 1906 with one short break, and he has been Financial Secretary to the Treasury. There were the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. Leckie) who has been here since 1931, the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) who has been here since 1924, and the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor). Can it be alleged that, after those 12 Members voted twice against the Government, the Government can claim still to retain the confidence of their own side of the House? They are not mere beardless boys. It is true that most of them are clean shaven, but the lack of hair on their chins is varied in a good many cases by a good deal of lack of hair on top of their heads. They are experienced Members of the House who well knew what they were doing. The suggestion that the Government can calmly ignore this vote, as if it did not matter, is a travesty of any reading of the British Constitution.
There is only one other Member to whose action I wish to allude, and that is the junior burgess for the Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). On the night before the Division he was at a private meeting called in the House encouraging the ladies to go on. He spoke in the Debate. He supported them then. He voted for them on the first occasion, but he changed into the Government Lobby on the second. After all, his is a most important vote, 2537 because the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs said on 26th February that the junior Burgess for Cambridge University is,as not every one in the House will know, a very distinguished constitutional historian."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1936; col. 517, Vol. 309.]That is his reading of the British Constitution. Did not he know what he was doing when he was giving the historic vote against Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair? Is he one of those people who were seduced from their duty to the Government by the blandishments of the Noble Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)? It was a square and fair defeat on an issue on which Members felt deeply, and I hope that even now the Government will say that they will show more respect for the House than they have shown any indication of doing up to the moment. If not, let them not blame South Wales miners and other people who say that all talk of constitutional right and liberty is hot air and that the only way to get things in this country, as elsewhere, is to riot, and to take them by force. Despotism and dictatorship will have won a great victory if this House, one of the last refuges of constitutional government, allows the Government to get away with the proposals they have made.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I will gladly wait for the contributions which other Members of the House may wish to make on the subject raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I had thought that we were going to devote a section of the time to this subject; but the lively and amusing speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down dealt almost exclusively with different matters, and for fear that other subjects are going to be raised I am going to say now what I have to say, especially as there is going to be another speech from this Box on the general subject of the Debate. The hon. Member for Caerphilly claimed that he was raising a serious matter, and I agree with him. Any question that is seriously raised about the administration of justice is always serious, and I do not complain that he has dealt with it as a serious question. At the same time it is important for the House to realise how extremely limited is the field which the 2538 Government, the Home Secretary, or the Home Office occupies in this connection. Nothing could possibly be worse than that the executive should seek improperly to interfere in the course of judicial proceedings. There are countries where that does happen, but Heaven send it does not happen here.
This was a. trial before a High Court Judge at Assizes, and I certainly should be not only out of order but should be acting quite contrary to my impression and natural conviction if I were to suppose that something seriously and violently wrong had occurred. The hon. Member asked the question more generally. It is understood on all hands that there can be no question of any evidence being offered in a criminal trial about the record or the character of the person accused unless and until that person is convicted by the jury of a crime. There are many countries in Europe which adopt quite a different system, but let us preserve the system in which not a word can be said, although the police may know that a man has been. convicted 12 times or more, until a jury has heard evidence and decided whether or not he is guilty. I remember a story some years ago of a learned judge—I think a Lord Chief Justice—who was said to have been a little slow in making his own notes. He was listening to evidence given by the accused in the witness box in his own defence and he turned to him and said: "What was your last sentence?" The man said, "Five years' penal servitude, my Lord." The immediate result was that the trial had to be adjourned, the case put off and the whole thing tried again later after everybody had forgotten that unfortunate misunderstanding.
Now comes the question, how is the judge who has got to decide what the sentence is to be in a particular case to get the necessary information? In nearly every criminal charge the discretion of a. judge in awarding sentence is considerable. In this very case he bound some of the prisoners over and he sentenced others to months of imprisonment. If a judge is going to decide when the jury has convicted what the sentence ought to be in the individual case, he must do it on information. There is no other way. If the accused is a person who wishes to call evidence of good character he is entirely in his right in doing so, and 2539 accused persons very often do. It is obvious to everybody that you could not have a man who is convicted getting the advantage of the rule that he may prove that his previous record is good if nobody is to be allowed to testify as to his previous record if it is not good.
My hon. Friend thinks—I do not agree—that the only statement to be made by a police witness is as to previous convictions. I do not take the view that that is the only thing the police can say. In this case 55 persons were convicted of what was beyond all question, if you accept the conclusions of the jury, a very serious riot in which people were marching in assemblies together, armed with sticks and stones and branches of trees, in which people's heads were cut open and people tried to get coping-stones from a bridge to put them in front of a train which was carrying miners to a pit. In a case of that sort obviously it is best for the judge to find out who are the ringleaders. Nobody can dispute that the ringleaders ought to be punished more severely than the followers. It will not be objected that if it is evidence to be directed to a matter of that sort it is evidence which ought not to be given. From the record I have it appears that was done. It is not the least the case that the police simply weighted the scales to get heavier punishment.
In the case of one of the people the police referred to one conviction which was a small matter and said, "But he bears a good character. He comes of respectable parents and his associates are respectable." In another case they went out of their way to say that the prisoner was a man who had not been observed by anybody other than as a good citizen. Obviously that is with the purpose of seeing that men are not unduly punished. In these circumstances it must be right for evidence to be given on matters of fact, subject to cross-examination, which may have the result of making the sentence not lighter but more heavy. I do not see how justice is to be administered unless the Court is given that information.
The evidence has got to be given in public. In my experience such evidence is always given on oath. I have heard it done many times. I can only say that I should be immensely surprised if it was 2540 not. A policeman is like any other witness and has to answer the questions put to him. He has to tell the truth and be prepared to stand challenge in cross-examination. I am very glad to be able to clear away a misunderstanding, and to have the opportunity of stating it publicly. There can be no doubt whatever that, if a policeman, upon conviction and before sentence, is called upon to go into the witness-box and take the oath to tell the truth, and is asked questions about what the police have to say about the person convicted, if he makes a statement which is objected to or is contrary to fact in the view of the accused, there is not the slightest doubt that the accused has every right to challenge him.
In this particular case, which the hon. Gentleman, naturally, has taken up on behalf of his constituents with a desire to ventilate the matter and to get that which is fair laid down, I am informed that, after the evidence had been given, the Judge asked Mr. Trevor Hunter, K.C., who represented all the accused, if he had any questions to put to the inspector or whether he wished to address him. In two cases Mr. Hunter, I am informed, had something to say and he asked a question about one defendant—I will not give his name, but one of those to whom the hon. Member referred just now—and also about another one. In the case of one of them Mr. Hunter asked His Lordship to take into consideration the case of a man who was in no way connected with the dispute. He was not a colliery worker, but a baker employed at Trelewis, or somewhere. On a cursory study of the newspaper report, which gave me no right at all to pronounce an opinion, I did not get the impression that the police in this matter were acting other than I should judge perfectly fairly, and they really did their best to inform the judge, who had to determine the differential sentences of 55 people, which, to their knowledge, had been ringleaders leading others, and who were the people, on the other hand, who may be described as the sheep who merely follow the lead.
Now comes what is perhaps the real point of the observations of the hon. Gentleman. He raises the question as to evidence given of what are called political opinions. I wish to express my own view for what it is worth very 2541 shortly. It is not an opinion which in any way claims to be authoritative. It is not the business of the Home Secretary or a Member of Parliament to lay down the limits within which evidence is to be given. But I express my ordinary commonsense point of view that political opinions in the ordinary sense have nothing to do with it. I do not believe that there is a judge on the bench, or responsible administrator of the law, who would ever permit unchallenged statements made by either a policeman or anybody else simply to give a man a black mark by saying that he belonged to a particular political party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I would suggest that hon. Members should have rather a better opinion than some of them seem to have of those who are trying honestly to administer justice. Policemen are entitled to a little sympathy, too, as well as those who are administering justice. I must in candour add that, if there be persons who take the view that the right way to secure what they want is to promote violent agitation—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Fascists"] I am going to give an instance in a moment. If there is a person who really thnks that, and if he says "You must not refer to that because that is my political opinion," I do not agree. As long as the police are only giving testimony of that which they know and are prepared to be cross-examined about, it seems to me to be perfectly proper for a policeman to say—to give a hypothetical case—"That man, my Lord, to my knowledge, has for years been advocating in my hearing, to a crowd of people he has gathered together who are disposed to follow him, violent conduct in complete disregard of the law." When I say that political opinions have nothing to do with it, it must be understood that that is the sense in which I mean it.
I heard somebody on the other side just now say something about Fascism. Let us see exactly how these things strike people when they look at them from the opposite angle. There was a Debate in the House the other day in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) took part. It was a Debate about Jew-baiting. I was a little struck by a sentence which is in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Referring to a man who was a Fascist, he said: 2542This man, who appears to be a leader of the local British Union of Fascists, seems to be … typical of certain prominent Fascist leaders…The superintendent stated that on two occasions he had spoken to a prisoner warning him about the manner in which he had delivered speeches … about Jews.… Although the court knew he was that type of man, and although he has been in trouble more than once, all that the Police Court Magistrate did was to bind him oven"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1936,; 1604, Vol. 309.]Observe how very differently these things strike you from the other angle, when the right hon. Gentleman was cheered by other hon. Members behind him. Do they take the view that it was improper to tell the magistrate after the man was convicted that he was a prominent Fascist leader or that the prisoner was a man who had been warned by the police about the manner in which he delivered speeches about the Jews? That was a perfectly relevant piece of evidence, and I should not think you ought to object to it if it happens to be from an angle to which hon. Gentlemen opposite take objection. They should listen to it all the way round.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Surely, that is an entirely different thing from the police coming forward and saying, "This man holds pernicious views."
§ Sir J. SIMON
I admit that, and I have not the slightest desire to defend anybody in any circumstances who merely testifies to political opinion. When I look at the record of this case as a whole, I am hound to say that the effect upon my mind is not that the police in this matter have acted other than perfectly fairly under the direction of a very distinguished judge who was most careful to suggest that counsel defending these men should have the opportunity if he wished to put any questions or make any challenge. The hon. Gentleman was not right when he said that none had previous convictions against them. They have; I will not say who they are.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am afraid they are, but I will not pursue the matter now. I have shown—and I think it will be entirely in accordance with the general feeling of the House—that a policeman in this matter is not an executive officer. 2543 The Home Office does not direct the course of justice. I will examine any details hon. Gentlemen wish to put before me. I only want to do in this matter what is right and what everybody in this House feels is right, but I really cannot accept on the record of this very serious case, involving the most shocking conduct which cannot possibly be approved by any hon. Gentleman in any part of the House, that the police acted otherwise than was right.