HC Deb 07 December 1936 vol 318 cc1693-746

The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Sir W. Davison: In page 4, line 13, at the end, to insert: and conditions forbidding or restricting the display of banners, flags, or emblems.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

It was not proposed to select the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison). I understand, however, that the hon. Member is desirous of explaining his proposal with a view to showing that it is necessary in relation to the Amendment which stands next on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—in page 4, line 13, at the end, to insert: Provided that no conditions restricting the display of flags, banners, or emblems shall be imposed under this Sub-section except such as are reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. Before deciding finally not to accept the hon. Member's Amendment I am prepared to hear his explanation.

6.1 p.m.


My submission is that a proviso such as that to be proposed by the Home Secretary would not be appropriate to the words of the Sub-section authorising the police in certain circumstances to give directions imposing conditions, including tertian specified conditions. In Committee I moved an Amendment in terms similar to that which is now on the Paper, and the Home Secretary then said he was prepared to accept an Amendment of that kind, but that my wording was rather too strong as it referred to conditions "prohibiting" the display of banners and emblems likely to cause a risk of a breach of the peace. The Home Secretary said he would prefer to introduce the word "restriction" and also the addition of the word "flags" and I was prepared to accept such an Amendment. The Home Secretary's suggested words were: the conditions for prohibiting or restricting the display of flags, banners and emblems."—[OrnetAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1936; col. 153, Vol. 318.] I think the words of the Amendment which I have on the Paper are perfectly consonant with the words which the Home Secretary proposed to insert, and that among the conditions referred to in the Clause should be included conditions restricting the display of banners, flags or emblems.


The hon. Member has not satisfied me that his Amendment ought to be selected. He has just used the words "included in the conditions" which show that his Amendment is not of such a nature that the decision already come to not to select it ought to be changed. The matter can be dealt with on the Home Secretary's Amendment and the hon. Member will realise that there is power in this Subsection to impose such conditions, without limitation, as appear necessary for the preservation of order.


May I remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of the point which was made at an earlier stage by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Midlothian (Captain Ramsay) that this Bill seemed directed entirely to the question of uniforms, and that some words ought to be introduced drawing attention to the question of banners and emblems.


The hon. Member will find that that is included in and can be dealt with on the next Amendment.

6.4 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 13, at the end, to insert: Provided that no conditions restricting the display of flags, banners or emblems shall be imposed under this sub-section except such as are reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. I think my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington will see that, although I am not following the method which he considers to be the right method, there are very good reasons for dealing with this matter in the manner which we suggest. I ask hon. Members first to look at the words in Sub-section (1). It provides that the chief officer of police may in certain circumstances give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in a procession such conditions as appear to him necessary for the preservation of public order. If those words are left as they stand there is no doubt that they would include, in a proper case, the imposing of conditions as regards the display of flags, because it is possible to conceive a case in which such a condition would be necessary for the preservation of public order. But the main purpose of the Sub-section is to define the power and the method by which the police authorities may deal with the route to be taken by a procession, and by which they may provide what streets or public places are to be kept free. That is the main object, and it would he wrong to regard the main object of the provision as though it stood on the same level as conditions which are essentially of a subordinate kind.


Do these powers not exist now?


That point was fully dealt with in Committee. The powers differ in London and in the Provinces and in Scotland and we are trying here to bring them together as has already been explained. While it is plain that this condition as to flags, banners and emblems is one of the conditions which might, in a proper case, be imposed, nobody proposes that it should be done as a matter of course and in all cases. A procession must go down a road some- where, and it must, in case of need, be directed or shepherded, but the other thing is incidental. Therefore it seems right not to deal with it in the manner proposed by my hon. Friend but to provide that no conditions restricting the display of flags, banners or emblems shall be imposed except such as are found to be reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. We must recognise that we cannot permit the use of these things in a manner which is going to cause a, risk of a breach of the peace, and this proviso is a recognition of the fact that it is within the power of the police, in a proper case, to impose such conditions. At the same time it is made clear that it is only to be done where it is necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace.

I am satisfied that the police authorities, with this indication, will carry out what I believe to be the desire of hon. Members in all quarters of the House. My hon. friend the Member for South Kensington has usefully drawn attention to this matter by asking that it should be made plain on the face of the Bill. I submit that it is made plain on the face of the Bill, and that nobody can say that this is not one of the things about which conditions can be imposed. I am sure my hon. Friend does not want the condition imposed unless it is reasonably necessary to prevent a breach of the peace, and if it is reasonably necessary, then the proper 'condition should be imposed. I hope the House will feel that we are dealing with this matter fairly and that there will be general agreement on this Amendment.

Captain RAMSAY

I wish to thank my right hon. Friend for this Amendment, which is in pursuance of a promise given to some of my hon. Friends and myself on 23rd November. I should also like to explain that we put down the further Amendment to which reference has already been made, in order to get from my right hon. Friend a statement such as he has made and an assurance on a matter which we regard as of considerable importance, although I agree that it is not the major part of the problem with which we have to deal.

6.10 p.m.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

Under the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, will the police, of necessity, take action to prevent banners with objectionable mottoes and slogans on them being carried, or will the police have to consider, as regards particular emblems or mottoes whether or not in the particular circumstances of the case these ought to be carried? Will the police be able to say in a particular case, "It does not matter whether these eople carry objectionable mottoes or not," or does this mean that of necessity the police in every case will prevent any objectionable motto being carried? Are the police only to exercise their powers where they think that the display of an objectionable motto is likely to cause a breach of the peace? That is very important from my point of view.


My hon. and gallant Friend will remember that we are coming, shortly I hope, to Clause 5, which lays down positively that any person who in any public place uses insulting behaviour whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned shall he guilty of an offence. Could anything be more offensive than the flaunting of an emblem, whatever it might be, in a manner which would fall within terms of that Clause? The only point on which I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend is that for the moment he seems to assume that things which are objectionable to one person are necessarily objectionable to all the world. It is not so. It is astonishing how many people find things soothing and comfortable which others regard as highly objectionable. I think that the provision which we are making in regard to the police in Clause 3, combined with the positive provision in Clause 5, will meet the case.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR



I must remind the House that we are not now in Committee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked a question and although the Home Secretary had already spoken, I permitted him to reply, but I cannot allow the matter to be discussed as if the House were in Committee.

6.13 p.m.


I, of course, accept what the Home Secretary says and with his explanation, given in the hearing of the hon. Members who are present, I think the proviso is satisfactory. I am bound to point out however that the main criticism of this Bill among the public is that it deals with one class of persons only, that is to say, the Fascist organisation.


The hon. Member must not deal with the Bill as a whole.


I was about to point out the desirability that this criticism against the Bill ought to be met more definitely than it appears to be met by this proviso. It seems to me unfortunate that there should merely be a proviso in the Bill to the effect that no conditions restricting flags, banners or emblems are to be imposed except such as are reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. I entirely agree with that, but I think it would have been much more effective and would have met objections to the Bill better, had words been inserted laying this down as one of the conditions and indicating that this was one of the things aimed at in the Bill. However, in view of the words which the Home Secretary has addressed to the House and which I hope will be fully reported, we may take it that anything which leads to a breach of the peace, whether in the nature of uniforms, banners or emblems, is what is aimed at by this Bill and that it is not confined to one organisation, Fascist or any other but extends to all organisations whose banners, uniforms or emblems are likely to lead to a breach of the peace.

6.15 p.m.


I think this is a very dangerous Sub-section. It is all very well for our friends in Kensington, Paddington, and such places to look upon this proviso with suspicion from one side, but I look at it with suspicion from the other side. I look at it from the Doncaster side. What would prevent risk of a breach of the peace in Paddington would not prevent such risk in Doncaster or Hemsworth. It is quite possible that a certain banner in Yorkshire, with the photograph of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in the centre, being in a procession up to Doncaster racecourse, where a lot of farmers live just around. They would say, "There is going to be a breach of the peace," and they might go for the banner and pull it down, because they feel that the hon. Member for Don Valley stands for the agricultural workers against the farmers. My own miners' branch might possibly be in a political procession and carry a banner with the words, "Six hours' work, six hours' sleep, six hours' leisure, and 16 bob a day." The coalowners might see it and say, "We cannot stand for that," and the police might say, "Your branch is not taking that banner in the procession." I hope the Home Secretary can see my point of view as well as that of Paddington and Kensington. I feel that this Amendment is going too far and that what the police might do in one district they might do the direct opposite of in another. If this proviso is inserted in the Bill, I shudder to think what the ultimate result in the country may be.

6.18 p.m.


I hope I shall not use provocative language to the very distinguished lawyers opposite, but really this, while a highly meritorious proviso, is extremely bad drafting, because the conditions that may be imposed are mostly the conditions that appear necessary to the police for the preservation of public order, though certain of the conditions are not to be imposed unless they are reasonably necessary to prevent a breach of the peace. There are two very considerable distinctions. You divide up your conditions into two classes, in one of which the police alone are the judge of whether or not they are necessary and in the other of which the court may in certain events become the judge of whether or not they are necessary. That may be right and proper, but then you get the curious reflex action that you often get in construing a Statute, that if you put that proviso in, it will amount to an express indication that the court are entitled to impose conditions about anything else in the world although they know they are not reasonably necessary to prevent a breach of the peace.

6.20 p.m.


It occurs to me that perhaps the proviso is so worded as to be wider than is really intended. I refer to the words "risk of." If the proviso were to the effect that no conditions restricting the display of flags and so on should be imposed except such as were reasonably necessary to prevent a breach of the peace, it would perhaps meet the case, but if the powers of the police are to go so far as to give them the right to interfere with anything which does not necessarily or which may not reasonably lead to a breach of the peace, but which may involve any risk of a breach of the peace, then it is very difficult to see any kind of banner or emblem or demonstration at all in regard to which the police might not reasonably say, "Well, we do not think there will be any breach of the peace or that it is even probable, but there is a risk of it, one chance in a thousand, and, therefore, we are entitled to prevent it." It seems to me that if the proviso remains drafted in that way, it might just as well never have been moved at all, because the whole purpose, as I understand it, of adding it is to prevent the police from interfering where it, is not reasonably necessary. If you leave the proviso as it is now worded, you take away with one hand what you have previously given with the other. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the proviso would meet every purpose which he had in mind if the words "risk of" were deleted.

6.23 p.m.


I hope that some Member of the Government will meet the point which has just been made. I think the alteration suggested is very reasonable, because the proviso goes much too far in every way. if the alteration were made by taking out the words "risk of," it would prevent a lot of trouble in the future, and it would be only fair to the courts which might have to deal with this matter that those words should be omitted. After all, there is the word "reasonably" and what is conveyed by that word earlier in this Sub-section, and I think that is all that is necessary.

6.24 p.m.


May I add a word in support of the suggestion made by the two previous speakers? If these words are left in, it looks as if one would be putting in every word that could possibly entitle and encourage the police to act, whereas that is not really the intention of the Clause at all. It looks as if you were allowing the police to make what is a very flimsy excuse a good one, and I do not think we should desire to encourage that. I respectfully agree with the two previous speakers that if you took these two words out, the proviso would have all that anybody would think necessary.

6.25 p.m.


The observations of the last speaker suggest that the language employed in this proviso may encourage or at least authorise the police to make an unnecessarily wide use of this power, and the suggestion, I understand, is to delete the words "risk of." Quite frankly, I am a little reluctant, without the opportunity for consideration, to say anything very definite as regards a matter of drafting, particularly in relation to a topic which has given rise to such a large number of varying views. I should like to point out, however, to hon. Members that what we are talking about in the last line of this proviso is a condition. The proviso reads: …no conditions … shall be imposed … except such as are reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. It occurs to me that it is a little difficult to talk about conditions preventing a breach of the peace and that all that a condition can do is to prevent risk of a breach of the peace. But I do not wish to be held to be accepting that view finally, and my right' hon. Friend and I will look further into this matter, in the light of the observations that have been made, in order to see whether we can devise a better formula to meet the views that have been expressed.

Amendment agreed to.

6.27 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 14, to leave out "is of opinion," and to insert "has reasonable ground for apprehending."

The matter can best be explained by reminding the House of how the Bill originally stood and now stands in Subsection (1) and comparing it with Subsection (2). In the former Sub-section the Bill, as originally drafted, gave the chief officer of police the right to control, restrict, and what is called route a procession if he were of the opinion that the procession might cause disorder, and at a request made from this side and from below the Gangway the small but important alteration of putting "reasonable ground for apprehending," instead of "is of opinion," was adopted by the Government, professedly to meet the point of hon. Members who said that it ought to be theoretically possible, and in certain cases practically possible, to challenge the exercise of this power in the courts, which are the places, for better or for worse, in which Englishmen do challenge the exercise of such powers of restricting political liberty. I do not want the Government to think that when we seek to do the same thing in Subsection (2) we are only doing it at this stage of the Bill because they have made a concession in Committee, because in fact it was only through the accidental loss of a piece of paper that we did not bring the same matter forward in Committee with regard to Sub-section (2).

There is, of course, a very real distinction between the two Sub-sections. In Sub-section (1), as drafted, there was nothing between the police and the restriction of your liberty, and what has been done has been to put in the safeguard of a possible appeal to the courts between the police desiring to restrict your procession and the police actually restricting your procession. Under Subsection (2) there is, of course, intervening between the desire of the police and the banning of processions the restriction that he must get the council of the borough or district to agree with him and to get also the Secretary of State to agree with him, but there remains the absence of any right to appeal to a court. If the powers under Sub-section (2) are exercised and we get a Tory chief constable acting with a Tory council, or, on the other hand, a sympathetic chief constable acting with a Labour council—there is no impossibility in that—they may ban processions and the Secretary of State, of course, has to consent, but there are large periods of the year when the Secretary of State cannot be challenged in Parliament because it is not sitting. In any case, some Home Secretaries—I do not suggest it of this one—are capable of answering a question in a way that is no answer at all, having had a great deal of training in that respect by long office. I submit, therefore, that it is desirable that the appeal to the court should be retained in this instance as well as in the other.

It is not very often that such a right of carrying the matter to the court will be exercised, but it is a commonplace among lawyers that there are innumerable powers that are never exercised and yet their existence makes the people against whom they might be exercised a great deal more careful in their activities. We might get a state of society—there certainly are some districts—in which there are no burglaries, but that is no reason for not having a law against burglaries. In the same way if the chief officer of police in a difficult district—and sometimes they are made difficult by chief officers of police—has in front of him all the time the fact that he has not only to satisfy a borough council that may be prone to take anything he says as gospel and that he has to satisfy the Home Secretary whom he has discovered by previous experience hates processions; and if he remembers all the time that he may have to justify himself in a court in a civil action against him for trespass or assault it may lead to a more reasonable administration of this Clause.

6.34 p.m.


The hon. and learned Member has urged this Amendment on the ground that it is necessary in Sub-section (2) of this Clause, as in Sub-section (1), to impose upon the chief officer of police the duty not merely of being of opinion that certain steps should be taken, but also of having reasonable ground for apprehending that certain risks may be encountered. A wide distinction falls to be drawn in this respect between the two Sub-sections. Under Sub-section (1) the chief officer of police, having arrived at a certain conclusion, and having had reasonable ground for doing so, takes immediate action, which has an instant effect upon other parties. It was for that reason, after discussion in the Committee, that the requirement was inserted that the chief officer of police should not be able, as it were, to issue a fiat on the matter, and should be under the requirement of acting judicially and having evidence for the conclusion at which he arrives. In Sub-section (2), as I pointed out on the Committee stage, the only duty upon the chief officer of police is to set the ball rolling, to set in operation a chain of machinery under which there will be ample checks and balances to see that right action is taken. He has to ask the borough or the urban district council to take action, and even if the council think that there is any good ground for taking action nothing happens unless the action receives the imprimatur of the approval of the Secretary of State.

The hon. and learned Member suggested that one cannot trust some boroughs and urban district councils, or even some Secretaries of State, but, while appreciating the tone in which that criticism was made, I would suggest seriously to the House that the mechanism which is afforded in this Subsection must be regarded as a mechanism to be put into operation in a judicial spirit by the local authorities who are answerable to their constituents, subject to the confirmation in the last resort by the Secretary of State, who is answerable to this House. It is really beside the point to attempt to add to all that the additional precaution of an appeal to the court. I would like to press upon the House this further consideration. I am not sure at precisely what stage or how the hon. and learned Gentleman would propose an appeal to the court, but it would have the effect of producing one of those consequences which at all stages in the consideration of this Bill hon. Members have been anxious to avoid, namely, the introduction of conditions and safeguards which would merely result in paralysing the responsible authorities and preventing effective and immediate action being taken in the type of emergency with which this Subsection is intended to deal. Hon. Members will know from a recollection of the events during October the situation with which this Sub-section is intended to deal, and I feel that the adoption of the Amendment in this instance would have the very deplorable and undesirable effect of paralysing the responsible authorities at a time when prompt and effective action was desirable. There is a vital distinction between the two Sub-sections, and I suggest that all the legitimate interests which require protection are adequately protected by Sub-section (2) as it stands.

6.40 p.m.


I am surprised at the refusal of the Lord Advocate to accept the Amendment and I do not think that his reasons are satisfactory. He pointed out that the council would have to be consulted and the imprimatur of the 'Secretary of State obtained, and that they would have to apply judicial minds to the application by the chief constable. He evidently felt, however, that if the chief constable also exercised a judicial mind it would play "the dickens" with the whole Sub-section. In his attitude the Lord Advocate is exercising far too much Scottish caution; he is being thriftier than he has any reason to be. Surely the chief constable will not act unless he has reasonable apprehension. What will make him "of opinion" except reasonable apprehension? I do not see a great difference between the chief constable forming an opinion and being reasonably apprehensive. The words of the Amendment would have the effect, which the present words will not have, of making the chief constable realise that he has only to take action after giving proper consideration and after exercising deliberate judgment, rather than to take action impulsively.

I was sorry that the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment made the suggestion of an appeal to the court, for he seems to have terrified the Lord Advocate that there is some machinery that will be produced afterwards and will make this Sub-section almost inoperative. He did not know at what stage it would be necessary to go to court, but the fact that it was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member evidently produced an extreme -terror in the simple Scottish mind of the Lord Advocate. Some of us do not like the Clause at all and would feel more comfortable if the Amendment were made, as it was in the previous Sub-section. I suggest that the Lord Advocate should take more time to think about it and that, if he is a little afraid of forming an opinion now and is reasonably apprehensive that there is more in the Amendment than appears to be the case, he will promise to give further consideration to it.

6.44 p.m.


I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment or something like it, for it is a necessary safeguard. The Lord Advocate said that there were ample checks in the Subsection. Having studied it with care on this stage and on the Committee stage, I have failed to discover them. Let us remember that by this Sub-section (2) we are conferring very wide powers to control processions, far wider than any which have been given before. The Lord Advocate spoke of these powers being used in a state of emergency, but they are not just emergency powers; they are powers to impose what may be, in effect, a permanent ban on this particular form of demonstration in the district concerned.


I would ask the hon. Member to keep in view that these powers can be used only if the powers given in Sub-section (1) are not sufficient to prevent the public disorder. It was in that sense only that, I was using the word "emergency."


Surely that begs the whole question. The question is who is to decide whether the powers in Subsection (1) are sufficient, and as the Clause now stands the chief officer of the police is made the sole judge. There may be, in fact, no substantial grounds whatever for his view, but if he can get the assent of his council, and afterwards the assent of the Secretary of State, it is impossible to challenge his action in any way. We are told that we have the one safeguard of being able to challenge the Secretary of State in this House. I cannot see why we should not have two. safeguards, and I respectfully submit that the safeguard of an appeal to the courts is in a large number of cases a very much more effective one than the safeguard of being able to ask questions of a Minister in this House. The people directly concerned with organising the procession cannot possibly be heard in this House, and it is often very difficult, certainly in a Debate on the Adjournment, for all the relevant considerations to be brought before the Home Secretary; and one thing which is certain is that when matters which raise considerable political heat are brought forward the Home Secretary does not consider them in a judicial manner on the Floor of this House.

I have put down an Amendment designed to strengthen the Parliamentary safeguard by making it possible for this House, by a vote within 21 days, to overturn a ban imposed under this Sub-section, but even if that Amendment were accepted by the Government it would not be a complete safeguard, because in this House votes very often go on party lines, and we might have the Home Secretary of the day adopting the maxim of Lord Balfour and saying that he had a thoroughly bad case and therefore must apply his majority to it.

It does not alarm me at all that the court might be called in after the Home Secretary had given his decision. I should not have thought there was anything unusual about that, because I think it happens in various ways on a large number of occasions. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1933, he will see that an Order may be made by the Minister of Agriculture and confirmed by a vote of this House, and that even after that it is possible to go to the courts and test its validity. If it is right and proper for the courts to overturn an Order after it has been made by this House, surely there is nothing wrong in saying that they can set aside an Order when it has simply been approved by a Secretary of State.

6.50 p.m.


I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate will again consider this matter. He has himself given the reason why it should be considered with the greatest care, because he has pointed out that Sub-section (2) is intended to operate only in circumstances of great gravity. That makes it all the more important that its operation should be completely correct. It is, indeed, a question of the protection of minorities, because this Clause will undoubtedly be operated by the majority against the minority in times of great political excitement. In those circumstances it shows a complete lack of realism to suggest that either local authorities or Secretaries of State are going to look at these matters with what Lord Halsbury once called "The icy impartiality of a Rhadamanthus." They are going to look at them through the coloured spectacles of their political beliefs, and it is quite clear that where there is great excitement, say, between Socialists and Conservatives, and either of them desire to use the method of demonstration in order to bring their desires before the mass of the people, and there is a local council which is of one colour or the other, that we shall not get an unbiassed judgment on the problem. And if the Secretary of State, who must be of one colour or the other, is challenged in this House, on the Adjournment or at some other time, he will necessarily argue the matter in the way in which it is always argued, and that is upon party lines; and if no recourse can be had to the impartial tribunal of the courts there is a grave danger that the originating motive of this machinery may be misused.

It will be noticed that the question on which the opinion of the chief officer of the police is to be taken is whether the powers conferred upon him by the last foregoing Sub-section will or will not be sufficient to enable him to prevent serious public disorder being occasioned by the holding of processions in the borough. Supposing a chief of the police, who is trusted by the borough, presumably, or he would not be there, comes forward and says, "I am of opinion that I cannot deal with the present circumstances under Section 3 (1) of the Public Order Act and therefore I must ask you to operate Section 3 (2).'' Assume, too, that he does that on an insufficient reason or for a partisan reason; because it is only in such circumstances that protection is required. In that event it is almost certain that the local council, he being a trusted servant and adviser, will have to accept his expert advice as to whether or not they operate under Section 3 (1) or 3 (2). The matter will then go forward to the Secretary of State, and what Secretary of State will risk having riots in the district because he has turned down the advice of the local council and of the chief constable? Anybody who has an atom of humanity and care for his position would naturally adopt the motto "Safety first." He cannot get into trouble if he imposes the Order, because that is going to stop any rioting, and he will say that it is much safer to impose the order than risk what the chief constable and the borough council tell him may happen if he does not, and that is rioting or breaches of the peace.

The whole tendency in the operation of all these Sub-sections—and I, personally, have a great objection to Sub-section (3) —will be to operate them from the point of view of making certain of the "safety first" point of view. The difficulty. will not be to get the authorities to put these Sub-sections into operation, but to prevent them from operating them unnecessarily. Therefore, I suggest that this is a case where, as we are dealing with the protection of minorities in times of grave political feeling, it is not sufficient to give merely political protection, because that is all that is being given under this Clause. Something more is required, and the only way by which that something more can satisfactorily be given is to give the right of challenge in the courts after the event. Such right of challenge exists now in respect of Housing Orders, made on the recommendation of a medical officer of health, and matters of that kind. The right is hardly ever exercised; I think there has been one case in which a recommendation was challenged as not having been made on a proper basis. All the Amendment would give would be the right to challenge the operation of these Orders subsequently on the ground that they had not been originated on a proper basis, that the chief constable had riot acted within his jurisdiction in operating this machinery. The likelihood of that being successful in any case may be said to be extremely remote, and I agree that it is very remote, and nobody would want action under this Sub-section to be constantly challenged; but the fact that the right to challenge existed would, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) said, be a continual warning to the authorities. Such a warning would be of the greatest value in cases of this kind, and the over-riding right to go to the courts in a case where there has been an abuse of power by the chief constable, or an abuse of the exercise of his opinion, is something which I believe is essentially a right, if we are to impose such wide powers of stopping essential rights of minorities. I, therefore, ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to reconsider his decision.

6.57 p.m.


I venture with some trepidation upon this battle-ground of lawyers, and I do not pretend for a moment to be able to deal with this matter with "the icy impartiality of a Rhadamanthus." [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] I will refer hon. Menibers to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). What I do say is that I hope the House will deal with this matter on the basis of common sense. We have heard a number of ingenious legal arguments, to which, no doubt, hon. Members will pay due attention, but I ask the House to remember what is the purpose of this Sub-section. Its purpose is that in certain exceptional circumstances where there is grave danger of serious breaches of the peace in particular districts the authorities shall be able to take steps to prevent that danger occurring, and the provisions are designed to allow that action to be taken with reasonable promptness while at the same time giving as many safeguards as can be reasonably provided against the unreasonable use of that power. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that the effect of this Amendment would be to make it easier to challenge such action in the courts. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Possible to do so ! "] Well, I think there is a difference of opinion among lawyers on that point. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No !"] I understand that there is.


Will the hon. Gentleman explain to us how, as the Clause stands, it would be possible to challenge it in the courts?


I will not press this point any further. I understand that there is some doubt. I would put it to the House that we do not want to place the authorities in the position that when a danger is threatened their action may be held up by an organisation, which may be itself desirous of taking part in the disorder, briefing ingenious counsel in order to hold up the action of the authorities.


Will the hon. Gentleman explain how it can be held up? There is nothing in this Amendment which would make it possible for it to be held up. It could be delayed. Will the hon. Gentleman explain how it could possibly be held up?


By, I am advised, an injunction. [HON. MEMBERS: "No ! "] I am informed by high legal authority that that is the case. This is the point I wish to make. I do not think that the House would wish to cripple the effective use of this power on the occasion when it is needed. This has to go before the local authority and then the Secretary of State, who is responsible to this House, and I venture to submit, as a layman, that the safeguards, on a commonsense basis, are adequate.

7.2 p.m.


With all respect, I hardly think that the hon. Member has met the case which has been put forward on behalf of this Amendment. I suggest to him that his first instincts were right when he suggested that the purpose of the Amendment was to make challenge easier, because obviously that phrase when he used it meant that there was in his mind the feeling that there ought to be some right of challenge even if the right of challenge ought not to be too easy. It has been suggested and I have not heard it contradicted, that in the Clause as it stands there is no right of challenge, and all that is pleaded for in this Amendment is not that there shall be a right to challenge before the fact so as to paralyse the executive in putting the law into operation; what is suggested by the Amendment—and if the form of words goes beyond this, I am sure that my hon. Friend would say that he is not tied to any form of words—is merely that in case at some time, somewhere, by someone the power under the Clause is wrongly used there shall afterwards be the power to go to the court to have it determined whether the officer, the council and the Minister had used powers arbitrarily which were really intended by Parliament to be used reasonably. I suggest that if this matter be reconsidered from that point of view it will be seen that the addition of some words making it clear that the chief constable shall not, in setting the machinery in motion which results in a complete ban, act without reasonable apprehension. The effect of the Clause is to take away from a minority in a particular district the power to employ at all one of the most effective means of political propaganda, and it is not unreasonable to say that he ought not to be the sole judge whether the powers in the previous Sub-section are insufficient, or, if he is indeed the sole judge, that, acting as the sole judge, he shall act reasonably.

7.5 p.m.


I seriously suggest to the Lord Advocate that he has not met the case that has been made on this side of the House. I have a lively recollection of what happened in the Committee stage, and we were hoping that on the Report stage our objections would be met. I have a lively recollection of the speech made in this regard by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton), who pointed out that one of the difficulties of applying this Clause was that if you ban any political procession you would have to ban all, or yon would be exposed to a charge of discrimination in respect of one party as against another. I think the House has to admit that that is so. Under the Clause it would be impossible to get a borough or the Home Secretary to ban a Fascist or a Communist demonstration and permit a Conservative or a Socialist demonstration to take place. We are putting into the hands of the police power to ban all demonstrations, and that power is to be used because some people have been behaving unreasonably, so that lawless and subversive elements could behave in such a way as to deprive people of demonstrating in a lawful way. If this Clause merely had the effect of banning demonstrations of unlawful and subversive people then it might perhaps not be so dangerous, although there might be some discussion about whether these people were acting undesirably. But, unfortunately, this extends it to all political demonstrations in that borough, and we have to watch the powers conferred on the police very carefully.

It is one of the weaknesses as well as the strength of our Constitution, as distinct from the United States, for example, where the courts act as guardians of the liberties of the people as against the legislature, that, here the Legislature is supreme. Nevertheless, although that condition exists here, we know very well that in times of excited political feeling elected persons are not the proper custodians of the liberties of minorities, and therefore it is desirable that as far as the courts can be strengthened under our Constitution as guardians of the rights of minorities they should be strengthened, whereas this Clause puts a novel power in the hands of the pclice with, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) pointed out, the only safeguard of the elected persons against whom the demonstrations are going to take place. In circumstances of that kind the House ought to accept the Amendment moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt).

There is one further consideration which I wish to advance. In Committee the words that are now suggested for Sub-section (2) were included in Subsection (1). Sub-section (1) read in the same way regarding the powers of the police as Sub-section (2) reads now. But the Committee were so seized with the importance of limiting the powers of the police in this matter that they imported the words of this Amendment into Subsection (1). What, therefore, is the result 2 I have had some experience of discussing the conditions of demonstrations with the officials of Scotland Yard, and I am bound to say that the powers conferred on the police under Subsection (1) if exercised with any imagination, are quite sufficient to frustrate any demonstration we might have in London. If the original route laid down by Scotland Yard for our last demonstration to Hyde Park had been followed, our East End contingent would have reached the Park at half-past eight at night. They would have led us all round the most tortuous by-ways of the City in order, they said, that we should not enter on the main roads because of the traffic. I suspect that there was little involved in respect of traffic on a Sunday afternoon, but unless we had resisted them most robustly they would have been able, under existing powers, by raising the question of traffic, to have frustrated the demonstration.

Under Sub-section (1) they can be challenged in the courts. It is possible if they exercise their powers unreasonably for them to be challenged. If, therefore, they can be challenged under Sub-section (1), where the powers are moderate and are deliberately made moderate in the hope that the exercise of these powers alone will obviate the dangers which the Bill apprehends, and there is no challenge under Sub-section (2), there is a temptation for the police to skip Subsection (1), where they can be challenged, and exercise the powers of Sub-section (2). The importing of the words into Sub-section (1) has increased the danger of Sub-section (2), because if that Amendment had not been accepted the police could not be challenged, and they would try to meet difficulties by exercising their powers under Sub-section (1). But as Sub-section (1) can be challenged in the courts, a chief constable need not try it and can go at once to Sub-section (2).

Members on the other side of the House as well as Members on this side are custodians of the liberties of the subject, and we ought not to give to the police powers which are novel and which put the liberty of the subject completely at their mercy. If it had been said that the powers under Sub-section (2) could only be exercised after the powers under Subsection (1) had demonstrably failed, then, perhaps, these powers could be given to the police, but there is nothing in the language of the Bill which insists that the police shall first try Sub-section (1) and then go to Sub-section (2). The Bill makes it clear that the police can act under either one or the other. If the police are up against unknown legal difficulties under Sub-section (1) they may proceed to Sub-section (2). There is nothing in the language of the Amendment which obstructs unreasonably the activities of the police. The Lord Advocate and the Under-Secretary misunderstood. It is not possible for the Amendment to thwart the police. They could act quite quickly in an emergency, but they would act knowing all the while that the grounds of their action would be open to challenge in the courts. Therefore—and this is my main point—in view of the fact that they might be challenged, they would tend to see what the powers under Sub-section (1) would do first of all in achieving their object before rushing to the exercise of the powers under Subsection (2). My hon. Friends on this side of the House are grievously disappointed. We are disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to meet us on the Report stage, in his regard. I want to learn whether the effect has been considered of -the exercise of Sub-section (1) of the Bill, after the acceptance of the Amendment in Committee. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman may find it possible to accept the Amendment which I have moved.

7.16 p.m.


I have listened with great interest and respect to what the hon. Gentleman has said. Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view put from the benches opposite, I find myself in this difficulty: I agree it is highly undesirable in ordinary circumstances to prohibit the holding of political processions, but I think there are circumstances of great tension in which the police must have the most effective vehicle they can command to make use of the powers given to them. I fear that the effect of the Amendment may be to enable a person to proceed against the police and, by asking for a mandate, to hold up those powers. I know upon unimpeachable authority that at this present moment of tension certain processions have been taking place in the West End and have been instigated by the Fascist party. The members of them were wholly composed of Fascists. If we got a similar period of tension, every hon. Member who believes in law and order would agree that it is undesirable that processions of irresponsible people should be allowed to parade about chanting slogans.




Most reasonable people would think so.




I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would be described as a reasonable person and that all people, except those of extremist views, would think it highly undesirable.


On a point of Order. The Noble Lord has raised this point, and I want to know whether it will be in order for us to reply to it. I hold a totally different view.


It was the hon. Gentleman himself who raised the point by his question to the Noble Lord.


I raised nothing about these demonstrations. I asked only why they were dangerous, and I was told that there were certain reasons. I want to know, seeing that the point has been raised, whether we may discuss it further.


I have not the slightest intention of discussing it, and that was why I did not answer the question of the hon. Gentleman, except to tell him that it was for reasons which were obvious. I do not propose to discuss it, and I gave it only as an example.


The Noble Lord raised the point.


We all know the great importance which the hon. Gentleman and his friends attach to their views in this House, but they are not the only people here. I hope that we may put our views without these four scintillating geniuses always endeavouring to intervene—although we pay great tribute to their Parliamentary integrity and intelligence. Let me return to the point of view put by the hon. Gentleman opposite. If, on this side of the House, we do not feel inclined to support him in the Lobby, it is because we feel that, on the whole, the point of view taken by the Government is correct. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must not think that we do not sympathise with the view as to the possible dangers of the situation, but this is one of the matters in which the House should be very careful to see that the rights of the ordinary, orderly public are not interfered with.

7.21 p.m.


One aspect of the question has not yet been dealt with, but it ought to be mentioned. I drew attention to it on the Committee stage. I view with some apprehension the way in which this matter will be administered in the counties. This is generally discussed from the point of view of the chief constable advising the council whose watch committee he serves. The number of police boroughs in the country is small; it was, in fact, reduced in number by the action of the last Parliament, which settled that no borough under 30,000 in population in England and Wales was to remain a police borough. No urban district council is a police authority and the non-police boroughs and urban districts will be administered, for the purpose of this Bill—outside the Metropolitan Police District—by the police authority, which is the standing joint committee of the county.

I envisage something like this happening: The sergeant of police in an urban district or small borough hears that a procession is to take place and, for traffic purposes while the procession is on, if it is of any size, he will require to have his very limited police force reinforced by police from some other part of the county. He will telephone to the chief constable and say so. The chief constable might not want to draft police into that part of the district, and his powers under Sub-section (1) of this Clause may not be sufficient to enable him so to route the procession as to be able to avoid that. What is to prevent him from saying: "Such traffic disorder will be created that I cannot contemplate allowing this procession to take place"? He goes to the meeting of some quite small borough or urban district council. The visit of the chief constable of the county is not to be lightly treated, when he officially attends such a gathering, and he is not likely to treat the members with any very great respect for their individual opinions. He says: "I cannot guarantee you a sufficient number of police to keep order in the town on the day of the procession." It would be a very bold borough or urban district council which, in face of such a warning, said: "Very well, whatever you say, we will not endorse your desire to prohibit the procession, and we will allow it to take place."

If any borough or urban district council were wavering as to whether to say "Yes" or "No," the knowledge that the chief constable would not reinforce the local police force would be sufficient to turn their minds upon such an issue. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this situation should be considered. Curiously enough, I notice that if a procession is to take place in a rural district the problem does not arise at all. There are a great many areas in the country which are more difficult to control for this purpose, although technically they are rural rather than urban districts. I can give an example quite near to London. The only place in Surrey where I recollect serious disorder is Horley, when Mr. Ure, who was a very distinguished member of the Liberal party, had his meetings broken up by Conservatives. I am sure that the Home Secretary will recollect the disfavour with which Mr. Ure was regarded at that time in London, and the difficulty he had in obtaining a hearing.


Is Horley either a borough or an urban district?


No, and that is precisely my point.


I submit that, as the Sub-section deals only with circumstances in a borough or urban district, the illustration used by the hon. Gentleman, although very interesting, seems to be irrelevant.


Up to the moment the right hon. Gentleman has not quite seized my point. That is a rural district, and therefore a chief constable can take no action with regard to it. The district runs up to the borough of Reigate, which is a police borough. Let us suppose that somebody wants to hold a demonstration which, in the mind of the chief constable of Reigate, is liable to cause great public disorder. In order that there may be no trouble, let me say that the present chief constable of Reigate is a most reasonable person who would exercise his powers reasonably. But let us suppose that, in the course of nature, he departs, and is succeeded by someone not so reasonable who prohibits a demonstration in Reigate borough. The demonstration has only to be held just over the boundary, and the chief constable has no power to interfere with it. Under this Sub-section, neither has the chief constable of Surrey.

I suggest that there is an easy way out of the difficulty in certain circumstances. The words which were amended in Sub-section (1) ought to be imported into this Sub-section. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has now seized the point which was not clear to him before. I am sorry that I had not made clear what I was leading up to. I should be concerned only with demonstrations in which Conservatives were likely to be the unruly people. As at present worded, the Measure will cause great apprehension in the counties that it may lead to the prohibition of demonstrations not because of great public disorder but for quite other reasons. A police force has sometimes to be brought considerable distances at great inconvenience, to carry out ordinary traffic duty which, if not properly performed, is likely to create disorder.

7.29 p.m.


I apologise to hon. Members for not being here at the beginning of the discussion. I claim to be familiar with this point. It is not the case that, owing to oversight or inattention, a change was made in Sub-section (1) but no similar words were inserted in Sub-section (2). The change in Subsection (1), which was made in Committee, the Government very gladly accept, and I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who, I think, sug- gested it. But, having made that change in Sub-section (1), it did not seem to me then, and it does not seem to me now, that it is in the least right, because that change has been made in Sub-section (1), to make it in Sub-section (2). The two things look the same, and it sounds logical and sensible to ask why, if it is done in the one case, it is not done in the other; but, if anyone is still doubtful on the point, I think I can show that there really is a. difference.

Sub-section (2) is a very special, and I hope will turn out in practice to be a very rarely used, provision. It is one to be used in an emergency, because the case is a wholly exceptional case that cannot be dealt with under Sub-section (1). If you have such a case—the Noble Lord gave an illustration just now —I think it will be at least agreed that as a practical matter it is desirable that it should be dealt with pretty quickly one way or the other. What is suggested in favour of inserting, in line 14, in place of the words "the chief officer of police is of opinion," the words "the chief officer of police has reasonable grounds for apprehending"? It is said, "May we not otherwise be giving the opportunity for this exceptional Sub-section to be put into play when it really ought not to be put into play, because it is not really the case that there is reasonable ground for putting it into play?"

If this matter were simply left to the chief officer of police to decide, I think there would be great force in that view, even though admittedly this Sub-section is very exceptional, because we must provide for speed. If we are to assume that at some future day the chief constable of, say, Reigate, will not only be very unreasonable, but that, he being very unreasonable, his word will be law and no one will be able to challenge it, there would be a great deal to be said for protecting future residents of the borough against so unreasonable an exercise of his powers. But that is not so. Let the House observe what is going to happen before Sub-section (1) can ever operate at all. There is to be in the first place the application of the chief officer of police alleging that he is of opinion, by reason of very special circumstances, that a more drastic order is needed. The fact that he says so does not produce any result at all. He then has to go before the council of the borough or district, and it is they, and not the chief officer of police, who have to decide whether they are going to make the order. I cannot but think that, if a highly unreasonable chief officer of police for Reigate were really to go and put his views before his council, he would have great difficulty in getting over that.

But that is not all. Let us suppose that the unreasonable, it may be iniquitous, conduct of the chief constable is countenanced by the elected council of the district. Still nothing happens. Nothing can happen without the consent of the Secretary of State. Far be it from me to say that the Secretary of State also may not suffer every now and then from unreasonable aberrations, but, all the same, I should like to know what would happen to a Secretary of State who perpetrated the sort of absurdity that is suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite, when he has not only got to give his consent, but knows that he would have to meet the challenge of the whole House of Commons? Is it really sensible to say, in these circumstances, that we are running some risk which calls for those Members who have appointed themselves the guardians of public liberties in this country saying that these words must be inserted?

That is the first consideration. The second is that as a matter of fact to put in these words would create what in effect would be a gap in the machinery which we are devising. The words "if the chief officer of the police is of opinion," and so on, simply start the application on its way, like, as it were, the making of a claim which has to be considered by various authorities. If it is said that he can only start this procedure if he has reasonable ground for apprehending, either that makes no difference or, if it does make a difference, it is because hon. Gentlemen who wish to make this change conceive at that point some legal proceedings—


Not at that point.


Let me first assume that it is at that point. I gather from the hon. and learned Gentleman's gesture that he regards that as almost too ridiculous to mention, and I register the fact that he agrees that, if it were conceived that by this change of words any- one was going to have any possible opportunity of intervening through a legal process at that point, it would be truly ridiculous.


Let me say that the fact that that would happen has been the only argument put forward from the Front Government Bench up to now.


I am trying to give another reason, on which the House, of course, will judge. It would have appeared to me that, if one were to put in these words "has reasonable grounds," the police might be expected to suppose that that was in order to provide for an application to the court. I should have thought there might be people who would think that someone might apply to the Divisional Court for a writ of certiorari to quash an order made with the consent of the Secretary of State on the ground that that order was ultra vices inasmuch as the chief officer of police never had reasonable ground for apprehension, and that consequently the basis of the order was missing. I should have thought that that was a possible view for a learned Gentleman to take. But now the hon. and learned Gentleman says that that point had never entered his head. Is it suggested that there is to be an ex post facto investigation? What would be the good of that? We are dealing with this Sub-section in an emergency, in which in, the nature of things, a decision has to be reached fairly quickly. Let us suppose that we did get a series of converging processions of the most formidable kind coming down, let us say, to East London, which could not be routed and controlled but must be prohibited over an area. How much time are you going to spend in talking about this? It has got to be done, and done quickly, and I should have thought that it might well be done with the consent of the Secretary of State under conditions which would secure that the liberties of the people are properly regarded. The hon. and learned Gentleman, who is so very anxious about protecting liberties, must always remember that we are all equally concerned about that, and that we are only trying to find the best machinery. I do not think that any hon. Member represening a constituency in East London, who might visualise a series of converging processions on a particular area which were likely beyond question to produce the greatest possible racial antagonism, would attack those in this House who are trying to make the operation of the Bill more effective. I think that, if such exceptional circumstances arose, he would say that the chief officer of police should apply to the proper authority, should explain why he applies, and should answer the proper authority if he is asked, "What reasonable ground have you for thinking this?"; and that, if they think it ought to be done, they should pass on the order for the approval of the Secretary of State, and ultimately the control of the House of Commons. I hope I have shown the House that this is not a question of obstinacy or blind officialdom, but merely that, having looked at this matter as well as I can with the skilled assistance that I have, I believe we shall make a better measure of this Clause if we keep Sub-section (2) as it is.


The right hon. Gentleman has put to us the case of a Divisional Court quashing an order made under this Section by a writ of certiorari. If these words are included, the normal way in which the matter would arise would be that someone would be prosecuted under Sub-section (4) of the Clause, and he would then be able to plead as a defence that the order under which the procession was banned was not a valid order.


Is that really a very reasonable course? Once the proper steps had been taken to bring in the judgment of the chief officer of police, the judgment of the local authority, the judgment of the Home Secretary, and, if necessary, the judgment of the House of Commons, and if a man, then, in the face of all these orders, said, "I do not care; I am going on my own way; they are all wrong, and I am the only reasonable person in the neighbourhood," I should have thought it was a little far-fetched to say that, when he was prosecuted, he could plead that the chief of police had no reasonable ground. I would remind the hon. Member that sometimes such persons happen to sit on a jury, when they consider that all the other members of the jury are wrong and are most unreasonable people. That one person, of course, is always right in his own view, but he is Athanasius contra mundum. For protection against such persons we must have a machine which will work with reasonable certainty, under which the police will know where they are, and which will give, as the Bill as it stands will give, adequate protection for all public liberties.

7.43 p.m.


Unfortunately I was not able to be present to hear the whole of the Home Secretary's remarks, but I think that the Home Secretary himself was not present at the beginning of this Debate, and I do not think he has really met the points put forward and answered the argument. The argument is that the remote possibility that such a case could come before the court at some stage will influence the council in its original decision, and that is the object of moving the Amendment. We do not suggest that it would be possible effectively, or would be desirable, to stop the order by court proceedings before the procession took place. It is very unlikely that it will ever be challenged afterwards, but the insertion of the proposed words in the Bill would provide just that feeling in the constable's mind that he must do it on reasonable grounds.


Of course, it is the chief officer of police, and not the constable. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here when I said that I had contemplated—and I think that possibly the House will agree with me in this—drawing up and sending round to the police forces of the country a very careful statement on this Bill when it is passed. If it would help, I should be very glad to give an assurance now that I will make sure that that circular draws very emphatic attention to the wholly exceptional character of this procedure, and the absolute necessity of only adopting it when it is really right to do so. I am not going to give way on the Amendment, but I should not like the hon. Gentleman to think that I did not understand the point.

7.46 p.m.


It seems to me that we are talking quite away from reality when you get the right hon. Gentleman saying that, if the chief constable goes to the local authority and makes a demand for the prohibition of a demonstration under what he calls exceptional circumstances, there will be some difficulty experienced with the local authority. The chief constable in Glasgow has already gone to the local authority and has barred off a considerable portion, and an important portion, of Glasgow from any demonstrations of any kind. I am certain that if those who are concerned with demonstrations wrote to the Home Secretary, he would support the town council and the chief constable but, if we were able to take the matter into court, there could be no legal decision that the whole of Glasgow is barred so far as any demonstration of ours is concerned. I do not know if a Fascist demonstration would be barred in the same way. Other organisations can march through areas which are prohibited to us.

I was in a demonstration in Edinburgh on a Sunday evening shortly before I came to this House. A gentleman called at the district police station and asked the officer in charge if it could not be stopped. The officer said he would stop it. He came with a policeman and met us and told us to stop the demonstration. We said no. He went and gathered many more policemen and came and broke up the demonstration. I and another were taken to gaol about nine o'clock in the evening and let out about half-past one on bail. In the court the police brought witnesses. One was an old lady who was shocked at a Communist demonstration on a Sunday night. Another said she heard me saying things that she thought very disloyal. The magistrate had to dismiss the case. Nevertheless, there you have the police acting without the Bill in a manner which you would believe impossible from the language used by the Home Secretary.

The noble Lord referred to a demonstration in Whitehall as an example. I will give an example. They were shouting for our King. If they had been shouting for bread, they would have been smashed to pieces. I am at the receiving end. I have often been at the receiving end in matters of this kind. I shall be at the receiving end under this Bill. I know what is going to happen. I am talking of experience that I have had in present circumstances and I know the power that there is at present. It is not very much to ask for power to apply to the courts and try to show that there is no reasonable ground for stopping a demonstration. It is a small concession for which we ask one little possible safeguard against the most extraordinary action that is taken against us. The chief constable can impose his will in these matters on the local autliority and the local authority can impose their will upon the Home Secretary. Will you not

give us this one little chance of having a demonstration?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 135.

Division No. 36.] AYES. [7.53 p.m.
Acland Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Perkins, W. R. D.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Goodman, Col. A. W. Petherick, M.
Albery, Sir Irving Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Gridley, Sir A. B. Pilkington, R.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Grimston, R. V. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Gritten, W. G. Howard Radford, E. A.
Aske. Sir R. W Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Balniel, Lord Guy, J. C. M. Ramsbotham, H.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Harbord, A. Ramsden, Sir E.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Rawson, Sir Cooper
Belt, Sir A. L. Hepworth, J. Rayner, Major R. H.
Bernays, R. H. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Blair, Sir R. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Blindell, Sir J. Holdsworth, H. Remer, J. R.
Bossom, A. C. Holmes, J. S. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Hopkinson, A. Ropner, Colonel L.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Brecklebank, C. E. R. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Rowlands, G.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hulbert, N. J. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hunter, T. Salt, E. W.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) James, Wing-Commander A. W. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Butler, R. A. Jones, L. (Swansea, W.) Sandys, E. D.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Scott, Lord William
Cartland, J. R. H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Shaw. Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cary, R. A. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Channon, H. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Leckie, J. A. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Christie, J. A. Leech, Dr. J. W. Smithers, Sir W.
Clark, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Somervell, Sir D B. (Crewe)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Levy, T. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Colfox, Major W. P. Lewis, O. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Lloyd, G. W. Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Loftus, P. C. Spens, W. P.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Craddock, Sir R. H. Lyons, A. M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Craven Ellis, W. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Critchley, A. McCorquodale, M. S. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Crooke, J. S. MacDonald, Rt. Hn.J. R. (Scot. U.) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Crossley, A. C. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton. (N'thw'h)
Crowder, J. F. E. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Cruddas, Col. B. McKie, J. H. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Davison, Sir W. H. Macmillan, H. (Stoekton.on Tees) Sutcliffe, H.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Denville, Alfred Magnay, T. Tate, Mavis C.
Dodd, J. S. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Train, Sir J.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Dugdale, Major T. L. Markham, S. F. Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Duggan, H. J. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Turton, R. H.
Duncan, J. A. L. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wakefield, W. W.
Ellis, Sir G. Moreing, A. C. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Elmiey, Viscount Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.) Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Emery, J. F. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. Wardlaw-Mline, Sir J. S.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'st'r) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Entwistle, C. F. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Wells, S. R.
Erskine Hill, A. G. Munro, P. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Nall, Sir J. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Flides, Sir H. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Fleming, E. L. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. O'Connor, Sir Terrence J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. Wragg, H.
Furness, S. N. Orr-Ewing, I. L Wright, Squadron Leader J. A. C.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Owen, Major G. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Ganzoni, Sir J. Palmer, G. E. H.
Gledhill, G. Peat, C. U. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gluckstein, L. H. Penny, Sir G. Captain Hope and Mr. Cross.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Pethick Lawrence, F. W.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Potts, J.
Adamson, W. M. Groves, T. E. Pritt, D. N.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Quibell, D. J. K.
Banfield, J. W. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Barnes, A. J. Hardie, G. D. Ridley, G.
Barr, J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Riley, B.
Batey, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Ritson, J.
Bellenger, F. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Bevan, A. Hollins, A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Broad, F. A. Hopkin, D Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Bromfield, W. Jagger, J. Rowson, G.
Brooke, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Salter, Dr. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) John, W. Sanders, W. S.
Buchanan, G. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Burke, W. A. Jones. Morgan (Caerphilly) Shinwell, E.
Cape, T. Kelly, W. T. Short, A.
Charleton, H. C. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Silkin, L.
Chater, D. Kirby, B. V. Silverman, S. S.
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood, D. Simpson, F. B.
Clynes, Rt. Hon, J. R. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cocks, F. S. Lathan, G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cove, W. G. Lawson, J. J. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lee, F. Stephen, C.
Daggar, G. Leonard, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lunn, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Thorne, W.
Ede, J. C. McEntee, V. La T. Tinker, J. J.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGhee, H. G. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Walkden, A. G.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maclean, N. Walker, J.
Foot, D. M. MacNeill, Weir, L. Watkins, F. C.
Frankel, D. Mainwaring, W. H. Watson, W. McL.
Gallacher, W. Marshall, F. Welsh, J. C.
Gardner, B. W. Maxton, J. Westwood, J.
Garro Jones, G. M. Messer, F. White, H. Graham
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Montague, F. Wilkinson, Ellen
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.) Williams. T. (Don Valley)
Gibbins, J. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Muff, G. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Naylor, T. E. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Oliver, G. H.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Paling, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Grenfell, D. R. Parker, J. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

8.0 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 20, to leave out from "shall," to the end of line 30, and to insert: report such circumstances to the council of the borough or district and the council may recommend to a Secretary of State that an Order ought to be made prohibiting for such period as may be specified in the recommendation the holding of all processions or of any class of procession so specified, either in the borough or the urban district or in any part thereof, as the case may be, and the Secretary of State may make an Order, either in the terms of the recommendation or with such modifications as he may think fit; Provided that every Order so made shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and, if an Address is presented by either House within twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after any such Order is laid before it praying that the Order may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done there-under. I think that Sub-section (2) is practically the only important Sub-section in respect of which no Amendment has as yet been accepted by the Government. I am one of those who think that the powers which are contemplated here are still very much too wide. As regards Sub-section (1), we have admitted that our objections have been very largely met and that as the Sub-section is now drawn it is possible to take the view that it does not do very much more than put into statutory form the powers which the police already possess under their general duty of keeping the peace, and which, in fact, they already exercise in many parts of the country. But one cannot possibly take that attitude towards Sub-section (2) because—and I have no doubt that the learned Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong—the powers contained in Sub-section (2) are entirely novel. There are a great many objections which have been stated before, and I do not propose to go through them all now, but the House must remember that in this Sub-section there is no time limit whatever. The ban that is to be placed upon processions by a council, with the approval of the Secretary of State, may be a permanent ban. I do not say that it will be expressed in those terms, but it may be for 100 years, 500 years, or 1,000 years, 'and there is nothing in the Sub-section to prevent it. I ask the House to note that the ban that may be passed applies to all kinds of processions, whether political or not. If, in fact, a local authority, with the approval of the Secretary of State, decides that processions are to be prohibited for a certain period of time, it means that nobody, no matter how peaceful or law-abiding he may be, can hold a procession in the area.

It is not perhaps the point of major importance, but only this morning I received representations from certain friendly societies in one part of the country who said that at certain times of the year they were in the habit of holding processions. It may be that most of them are situated in some peaceful parts of the country, but if any of them Were situated or had headquarters or held conferences in some town or urban district where a ban of this sort was imposed, it must be impossible for them to have a procession of any kind. I give that as an example to show how very wide are the powers proposed in this Sub-section. This particular form of demonstration is rarely used by certain political parties and is rather disregarded by others. The party to which I belong and, I think, the Conservative party, do not very often indulge in processions. I agree that they occasionally do, but processions are not one of their usual methods of demonstration. The Communists and the Fascists, and to rather a lesser extent the party above the Gangway, still indulge in processions from time to time. It is from the very fact that you have a form of demonstration not much used by some parties but a good deal used by others that some danger arises. You may easily have local authorities, as you have now in many parts of the country, with what some of us consider rather old-fashioned political opinions, who may very well take the view that they see no use in processions and are in favour of prohibiting all processions.

On the Committee stage of the Bill an Amendment was put down—I do not think that it was called by the Chairman of Committees—by some hon. Members opposite which would have had the effect of prohibiting practically all processions in every part of the country. If we find that mentality represented in this House, how much more may we expect to find it represented on local authorities in many parts of the country? If you have local authorities with these views and at the same time a complacent Home Secretary, a phenomenon which is not unknown, in these circumstances there is very little safeguard against the misuse of these powers. I hope we shall not be told that while there is not much check in this Clause in fact these powers will not be unconscionably used. We advanced very much on those lines in the last Amendment. It seems to be a singularly poor argument to bring forward in this House when we give powers in a Measure which is intended to be a kind of permanent code on this branch of the law, and we are doing something which will last for many years to come. We cannot tell how these powers will be used, and the only safeguard we have is not to rely upon the word of the Home Secretary, however well intentioned he is, that he will not use these powers; the only safeguard is not to give these powers.

There are two ways in this country by which we control the actions of those set in authority over us. One is by appealing to the courts or by going to the courts to get decisions or orders quashed, and the other is by the control exercised by this House or in local government by other elected authorities. In the last Amendment it was suggested that the control of the courts should be inserted, and because the last Amendment was turned down I suggest that there is all the stronger reason for inserting this Amendment. The last Amendment was resisted by the Home Secretary on the ground that we should, under this Subsection, have the right of challenge in the House of Commons. We all know how much that challenge is worth. I propose in the Amendment which I am asking the House to accept to make the Parliamentary control upon which the Home Secretary has laid so much stress both on the Committee stage and on the last Amendment, not a shadow but a reality. I do not want to repeat the arguments I used on the Committee stage, but to what would the control we should have under this Sub-section amount? You could put a question to the Home Secretary, and if you received an unfavourable answer all that you could do in the ordinary way would be to speak on the Adjournment at 11 o'clock at night, when the whole Debate, however complicated the matter might be, would have to be limited to half an hour. The only other opportunity you would be likely to have would be on something like a Supply Day, when in the ordinary way you could raise a certain matter, but it might be raised as one among 15 or 20 other matters, and the Minister would not be to blame if he could only answer you in two or three perfunctory sentences. There is no other way in which you could compel the House to come to a decision. Even on a Supply Day there would be no way in which you could isolate that particular issue and get a vote upon it.

I do not say that this form of Parliamentary control which arises from being able to ask questions and use the Adjournment is without value, but we all know quite well that it is a very limited form of control and one which is not very easy to exercise. I am proposing that, instead of the local council making an order, the Secretary of State should make an order on the recommendation of the council. An order would, in fact, under the scheme I am asking the House to accept, become operative from the moment it was approved by the Secretary of State. The Amendment would not mean any form of delay over and above what would necessarily be involved in the machinery already contained in the Subsection. But it would mean that we should be able to discuss it in this House and, if necessary, turn it down. I speak subject to correction, but I think that I am right in saying that, when you have a provision of the sort set down saying that an order may be annulled within 21 days if either House presents a Prayer praying that it should be annulled, that is exempted business, so that it is something we should be able to take after 11 o'clock at night, and we should be able to have a very much fuller debate on it than on anything raised on the Adjournment.

The Home Secretary resisted the last Amendment and rather a similar Amendment which I moved on the Committee stage simply on the ground that he preferred Parliamentary control. He said that we should make that Parliamentary control effective, and that is what I am asking the House to do by this Amendment. There is one possible objection which I should like to anticipate. It may be said that an order may be made in an emergency and made only for a short time, and that, in fact, it may have expired before it can be considered by this House or before the 21 days have elapsed. I agree that it is possible for that to happen, and I should be prepared, if the Government will consider this Amendment, to insert some further form of words in the Amendment saying that this should apply only where an order was to last for more than two or three months. But I ask the Government, and the House, if necessary, to accept the principle of the Amendment which is, that we should not only be able to criticise the action of the Home Secretary, but, if necessary, to put it to the test of a division.

8.12 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and I in putting forward this Amendment have some claim upon the indulgence of the House because we have really learned from what was said in the Debate on the Committee stage in this matter. We put down an Amendment, which, it may be remembered, we did not actually move, but which was discussed by anticipation in dealing with another matter—an Amendment which would have allowed an appeal to quarter sessions as the authority instead of to the Secretary of State. I am bound to say that Members in all parts of the House said that that would not do; that Parliamentary control was a great thing, and that here we were taking it away. My hon. Friend and I appreciated that point. Parliamentary control was indeed to be recognised as a matter of enormous importance, and what we are doing now is to take the Committee and the Government at their word and say that we should make this Parliamentary control not merely a name but a reality.

My hon. Friend has exposed the rather artificial nature of Parliamentary control as it would be left in the Bill as drafted. Even with the form which we suggest I do not say that Parliamentary control would be complete. It would still be possible for the Secretary of State to apply his majority, bringing up his big battalions, if he was in danger of defeat. That is something that we have always to face, in that a majority may vote mechanically. All the amendments suggested on this Clause are essential for the protection of minorities, but I am not going to pretend that even this Amendment would give complete protection to minorities. We should, however, give them such protection as might be obtained in this case. Surely that is something worth doing. That is what we were asked to do by the Government supporters in the Committee stage, and in spirit we are following what they said by putting forward this Amendment.

8.16 p.m.


We advise the House not to accept this Amendment. I agree that this Clause confers wide powers and requires careful scrutiny. We think that the scrutiny is all right as it stands. It provides three formidable safeguards, under which three individuals have to agree. First, the chief officer of police has to be of opinion that by reason of particular circumstances the powers conferred upon him in the previous Sub-section are insufficient. Then he has to make application to a popularly elected local authority. But it does not stop there. My right hon. Friend appreciated that the powers under the Sub-section were drastic and exceptional, and therefore he put in a further safeguard, that the consent of the Secretary of State is required in order to enable any hon. Member in this House, if necessary, to challenge at once the action taken, by Question, by Supplementary Question, by discussion on the Adjournment, and also on the occasion when the salary of the Secretary of State comes up. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) put rather lightly the control of this House over the executive. He may say that there would be only question and answer, but everybody knows that if the Minister gives an unsatisfactory answer or an evasive answer and in the opinion of the House he has not a good case, he becomes the subject of public criticism.

We say that the safeguards now provided are right and proper safeguards and that the procedure of an Order lying on the Table, while it may be the appropriate procedure when you are dealing with some semi-legislative regulation, is not the right procedure in regard to a series of executive and admininstrative acts. The safeguards in the Clause as it stands are, in our opinion, complete, but the laying of an Order, on the Table for 21 days is really not the right form of safeguard for an administrative act of this kind.


How would that procedure hinder the Minister in any way from applying the Act?


It is not the appropriate procedure.


What is?


The procedure in the Clause.


There is safe-guard there.


The safe-guards provided are the appropriate safe-guards, and I would ask the House to accept them. Even of the safeguards had stopped at the local authority, there would have to be the chief officer of police and the popularly-elected local authority in agreement. There is nothing in the nature of dictatorship there. But we have further arranged that the Secretary of State must also assent. Surely, therefore, nobody can say that there are not adequate safeguards to prevent these powers from being abused. The question that we have to decide is whether the laying of an Order on the Table is the appropriate procedure or whether the procedure provided for in the Clause, which brings in the Secretary of State, subject to Parliamentary control, is the appropriate course to adopt. I ask the House to consider fairly the Clause as it stands, and I think they will be satisfied that it already contains adequate safeguards and that to apply what is suggested in the Amendment is not the appropriate procedure.

8.22 p.m.


We have had a valuable admission from the Attorney-General. I am glad to know that there is not much between us in regard to high principle, but there is a lot of importance to be attached to this procedure. I am an older Parliamentarian than the Attorney-General. He is a capable Attorney-General, but he has not had many years' experience of this House. I submit that if these provisions are to be adopted we ought to take the form of our Amendment. I know how extraordinarily difficult it is for a private Member to challenge the decision of a Secretary of State. These matters largely affect private Members. People would not go to the unpleasant procedure of organising a procession unless they had some serious grievance which they thought the House of Commons would not remedy. If the grievance is of a character that is likely to appeal to the Government or the majority of the House they approach their Member of Parliament with a view to getting their grievance put right.

As a rule processions are organised by minorities who feel that they have grievances which they want to advertise. Naturally the Government of the day are impatient and rather unwilling to have the fact that a procession has been prohibited ventilated in the House of Commons. The only opportunity a minority has of challenging the decision of a

constable and a local authority, confirmed by the Secretary of State, will be that it has to lie on the Table of this House when there is a chance of challenging the decision directly by requiring that time should be allocated for the discussion. I frankly admit that this is not very much control. We have had some experience of Import Duty Orders, which are usually taken at 11 o'clock at night when hon. Members are anxious to go home, but we should have this security that people with a grievance would have an opportunity of discussing it in the House. I beg the Attorney-General to realise that he is denying the rights of the House of Commons and really defying Parliament. He is saying "Trust the Executive; do not let us have this cumbersome, slow delay of criticism by the House of Commons." This proposal will not weaken the law; it will operate effectively, but it will give minorities in this country the important right of having their grievances ventilated in the House of Commons.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'as', in line 22, stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 186: Noes, 142.

Division No. 37.] AYES. 8.29 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Critchley, A. Hepworth. J.
Albery, Sir Irving Crooke, J. S. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Hills. Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Cross, R. H. Holmes. J. S.
Asks, Sir R. W. Crossley, A. C. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Crowder, J. F. E. Hopkinson. A.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Cruddas, Col. B. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Davies, C. (Montgomery) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Davison, Sir W. H. Hudson, R. S. (Southport)
Belt, Sir A. L. Denman, Hon. R. L. Hulbert, N. J.
Bernays, R. H. Dodd, J. S. Hunter, T.
Blair, Sir R. Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. James, Wing-Commander A. W.
Blindell, Sir J. Dower, Capt. A. V. G. Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)
Bossom, A. C. Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Boulton, W. W. Duggan, H. J. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Eastwood, J. F. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)
Bracken, B. Eckersley, P. T. Kimball, L.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Ellis, Sir G. Latham, Sir P.
Brown. Col. D. C. (Hexham) Elmley, Viscount Leckie, J. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Emery, J. F. Leech, Dr. J. W.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Emmett, C. E. G. C. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Erskine Hill, A. G. Levy, T.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Lewis, O.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Fildes, Sir H. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.
Cartland, J. R. H. Fleming, E. L. Lloyd, G. W.
Cary, R. A. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Loftus, P. C.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Furness, S. N. Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Fyfe, D. P. M. Lyons. A. M.
Christie, J. A. Ganzoni, Sir J. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Clark, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Gledhill, G. MacDonald Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Gluckstein, L. H. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Clydesdale. Marquess of Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Goodman, Col. A. W. Magnay, T.
Colfox, Major W. P. Gridley, Sir A. B. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake) Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.) Guy, J. C. M. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Harbord, A. Markham, S. F.
Craddock, Sir R. H. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Craven-Ellis, W. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Moreing, A. C. Remer, J. R. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Ropner, Colonel L. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'st'r) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Sueter, Rear Admiral Sir M. F.
Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Rowlands, G. Sutcliffe, H.
Nall, Sir J. Russell, A. West (Tynemouth) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Tate, Mavis C.
O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Salt, E. W. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham) Turton, R. H.
Palmer, G. E. H. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney) Wakefield, W. W.
Peat, C. U. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Penny, Sir G. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Perkins, W. R. D. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Petherick, M. Simmonds, O. E. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wells, S. R.
Pilkington, R. Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Radford, E. A. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Ramsbotham, H. Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L. Wragg, H.
Ramsden, Sir E. Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Rayner, Major R. H. Spens, W. P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) Mr. James Stuart and Captain Waterhouse.
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Groves, T. E. Owen, Major G.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W.
Adams, D. (Consett) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Parker, J.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Hardie, G. D. Parkinson, J A.
Adamson, W. M. Harris, Sir P. A. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Potts, J.
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Pritt, D. N.
Barnes, A. J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Quibell, D. J. K.
Barr, J. Holdsworth, H. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Batey, J. Hollins, A. Ridley, G.
Bellenger, F. Hopkin, D. Riley, B.
Bevan, A. Jagger, J. Ritson, J.
Broad, F. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Roberts, Rt. Hon, F. O (W. Brom.)
Bromfield, W. John, W. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Buchanan, G. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Rowson, G.
Burke, W. A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. A.
Cape, T. Kelly, W. T. Sexton, T. M.
Charleton, H. C Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Shinwell, E.
Chater, D. Kirby, B. V. Short, A.
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood, D. Silkin, L.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G Simpson, F. B.
Cocks, F. S. Lathan, G. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cove, W. G. Lawson, J. J. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lee, F. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Daggar, G. Leonard, W. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B Lees- (K'ly)
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Stephen, C.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Logan, D. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Ede, J. C. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McEntee, V. La T. Thorne, W.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McGhee, H. G. Tinker, J. J.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) MacLaren, A. Viant, S. P.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maclean, N. Walkden, A. G.
Frankel, D. MacNeill, Weir, L. Walker, J.
Gallacher, W. Mainwaring, W. H. Watkins, F. C.
Gardner, B. W. Marshall, F. Watson, W. McL.
Garro Jones, G. M. Mathers, G. Welsh, J. C.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Maxton, J. Westwood, J.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Messer, F. White, H. Graham
Gibbins, J. Milner, Major J. Whiteley, W.
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Montague, F. Wilkinson, Ellen
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.) Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A Muff, G. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Grenfell, D. R. Naylor, T. E. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Noel-Baker, P. J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Oliver, G. H. Mr. Foot and Mr. Kingsley Griffith.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

8.38 p.m


I beg to move, in page 4, line 22, after "period," to insert "not exceeding three months."

The object of this Amendment is to limit the time for which the order pro- hibiting processions can be made. As the Bill stands, the chief constable may have an order made prohibiting processions, for such period as may be specified in the application, and no limit of any kind is put upon that period. The hon. Gentleman who moved the last Amendment suggested that it might be a period of 500 or 1,000 years. I do not take that somewhat exaggerated view of the time, but I feel there ought to be a very much shorter limit imposed. If the circumstances continued at the end of that time, it would, of course, be possible for the chief constable to make an application for a further period, but I think three months would be adequate. The proposal that there should be a ban on processions is a very severe and an entirely novel one.

I hope very much that the Government will accept the Amendment. When this Clause was under discussion in Committee, I pointed out that many hon. Members on these benches were in some difficulty about the whole Clause, and particularly about this Sub-section. I had hoped that the Home Secretary would find some Amendment which would relieve their anxiety in regard to it, but the right hon. Gentleman has not put, down any Amendment which affects the situation. All the Amendments which we have put down so far have been rejected by the Government. This Amendment seems to me to be one to which they could not take exception, and I hope that at last they will make a concession which will at any rate be some safeguard against serious abuses under this Sub-section.

8.40 p.m.


I am one of those who are not very fond of processions at any time, particularly political processions, but I have been struck by the weight of evidence in the House that a great number of hon. Members believe that those processions serve a very useful purpose and in certain circumstances are a very useful safety valve. If that view is held—and unless it is held I do not think Clause 3 can be justified at all—it is not reasonable to say that, because of what the Home Secretary himself described as an emergency, there should be given to anybody the right to forbid for an absolutely indefinite period of time processions in a certain area. I do not think that follows logically on what has gone before. Being naturally perhaps a little more temperate than the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr Pethick-Lawrence), I would have preferred a rather longer period than three months, which is perhaps a little short as a limit; but on the principle that there should be a time-limit I entirely agree, and I hope the Government will see their way to make some concession, so that it cannot be said that any person or body of persons has the right to forbid for an unlimited period of time any processions in some particular area merely because on some given day an emergency arises.

8.42 p.m.


I do not think there is any material difference of principle between those who might support and those who might oppose this Amendment, and I shall be brief in stating the difficulty I see in the way of its acceptance. It is not the fear that if this Clause passes as it stands it will be in the power of any body of persons to impose, for an unlimited period, a ban upon processions, for that power will not exist. That power will at once be subjected to the very strong control which would be applied by pressure in this House upon the Secretary of State and pressure in the local area upon the urban district council or the borough council, as the case might be. Anything in the nature of an excessive duration of the ban is under control by such a method of check.

The difficulty I see is that the moment one inserts a maximum period, be it 12 months, or three months, as suggested in. the Amendment, that maximum will become the normal, or perhaps the minimum. Experience has shown again and again that when one imposes by Statute a minimum, it tends to become the minimum or the normal. I should have thought that the necessities of the emergency which Sub-section (2) is intended to meet could frequently be met by an Order of less duration than three months. If we inserted in this Clause a maximum period of three months, or any other period, I think it would he found in practice that it would at once become the normal. Accordingly, while frankly I do not regard this as a vital point, my suggestion to the House would be not to insert any period, on the simple ground that if there is any tendency on the part of anyone to make the ban last too long, there exist means for preventing such a result. If any period were inserted beyond which the ban must not extend, there would at once be the risk of the undesirable results to which I have referred. For that reason, I suggest that it is not desirable to press this Amendment.

8.45 p.m.


I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has rather contradieted his own argument. He has pointed out that in this case the Secretary of State will be the final authority as regards the period and other matters connected with the Order. If the Secretary of State is to be the final authority to determine, among other things, the period of the Order it is not likely that he will consider the words "not exceeding three months" as imposing a minimum as well as a maximum. The argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman is a common argument, and is of some avail in eases where you have no such authority as the Secretary of State. Where a number of small authorities have power to make orders for periods not exceeding three months, there is the ha, bility that they may put in three months almost automatically in every case. Here you will have the control of the Secretary of State in every case and we can, I think, give sufficient credit to the Secretary of State, of whatever party he may be, to assume that he will not treat the insertion of these words as prescribing an automatic minimum as well as an automatic maximum. He will exercise his discretion but he will not be able to exercise that discretion to exceed the three months period.

If an order is to be continued it will be necessary for the chief officer of police to make a fresh recommendation to the local authority. It will then be for the local authority to reconsider the circumstances in the light of their three months experience and finally for the Secretary of State to reconsider the matter in the light of the fact that he has to make a fresh order for a further period. It will at least give a greater measure of control if the matter is to come up automatically for reconsideration at definite periods. I am sure we can trust the Secretary of State not to put in three months automatically, but to realise that this period is a maximum and so to deal with all cases on their merits, giving shorter periods where he thinks it necessary even though the local authority may not think it necessary. This Amendment is a substantial safeguard against an order being imposed and then almost forgotten and allowed to continue indefinitely in some area where there has at seine time been trouble. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate the reasonableness of this request and will accept the insertion of these words with the very small risk which is attached to that course, of the Home Secretary not being intelligent enough to appreciate the meaning of "not exceeding three months."

8.50 p.m.


I support the insertion of these words though in any event I shall not be at all happy as regards Sub-section (2) of this Clause. In my judgment the position as far as processions are concerned is amply safeguarded by Sub-section (1) dealing with the diversion of processions from customary routes—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

We cannot go into that matter now. We must keep to the terms of the Amendment.


I was merely pointing out that we are already safeguarded in that respect. I am satisfied that this Amendment is imperatively necessary. We are informed that the House will have control in regard to these orders but to what does the control of the House amount, if you have not a majority in the House? As an illustration, suppose in the city of Durham there was a Conservative council and there was unrest in the mining industry and the miners wished to demonstrate in the customary way with bands and banners to indicate to the public generally, through the Press, what their grievances were. An order might be made in such a case for an indefinite period. We are told that we can come to the House of Commons for relief in a case of that kind. One would imagine that it was only necessary to state the case here and that the majority of the House would assent to it. But in the House of Commons unless you are in the majority there is no such protection. I myself have raised on the Adjournment Motion real grievances which ought to have been rectified but no rectification has taken place, nor do we expect it unless we can secure a majority of the House. For that reason. I feel it necessary to have this specific limit placed on the period during which processions can be excluded from certain areas.


With the permission of the House, may I say that I endeavoured to indicate in my reply that this point did not impress me as a very important one, but as it is evident that hon. Members attach importance to it, I am prepared to take the responsibility of accepting the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

8.54 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 30, at the end, to insert: This Sub-section shall not apply within the City of London as defined for the purposes of the Acts relating to the City police or within the Metropolitan police district. There is no principle involved in this Amendment, which is little more than a drafting one. In Committee I pointed out the undesirability of legislation by reference in a matter affecting the liberties of the subject, and the necessity that powers for the preservation of public order on the occasion of processions in an area of the size of the City of London and the Metropolitan Police District should be clearly set out in one Clause, instead of being indicated by a complicated system of references to previous enactments. Sub-section (3) is most complicated and difficult to understand and the object of this Amendment is that the law dealing with this matter as regards the City of London and the Metropolitan Police area shall be set out in one Clause.


I beg to second the Amendment.

8.55 p.m.


I am anxious to know why it is that the hon. Member wishes to place London in a position different from that of other parts of the country, and I am anxious to be assured that there is nothing in it. There is an effort in this country, and particularly in London, to make the Metropolitan Police appear to be a Government Department, and not merely a body of police, and I am not quite sure that the hon. Member, in moving this Amendment is not again engaged in that endeavour. I think the Metropolitan Police are just as much a local police force as any other force in the country and that they have no right to any privileged position, and it seems to me that this Amendment has the intention of placing them in a privileged position.

8.56 p.m.


I am obliged to the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) for drawing attention to what must be obvious to every Member of the House, namely, that the original Sub-section (3) does offer a pretty wide target to the type of criticism which is sometimes directed against legislation by reference. The Amendment, as I under stand it, makes no difference in the substance of the original Sub-section (3), but simply translates into a straightforward and intelligible statement what had to be gathered from a pretty close examination of the original Sub-section in the light of other statutory provisions. Viewing the matter accordingly as substantially a drafting Amendment, I have much pleasure in accepting it. In answer to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), I may say that the Amendment makes no change in what is proposed by the Bill, and, of course, the wider issues which he raised, or rather hinted at, are not, therefore, quite in point; and I humbly doubt whether you, Sir, would regard them in order on this Amendment. I propose to accept the Amendment.

8.57 p.m.


I am not quite sure that the Lord Advocate, in accepting this Amendment, has appreciated that the same point as that raised in the last Amendment arises again here. It would not arise if we left Sub-section (3) in its original form, because originally the wording of Sub-section (2) applied mutatis mutandis to Sub-section (3), but in the amended words which are now proposed the substantive powers are recapitulated seriatim. I have no doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be willing to accept the same Amendment in this case as in the other and to insert the words "not exceeding three months" in the appropriate place.


At the moment we are dealing with the Amendment to insert certain words at the end of line 30. If that is accepted by the House, the next Amendment, to leave out Sub-section (3) and to insert a new Subsection (3), will follow as a consequential Amendment, and it is when I put the question, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill," that the hon. Member will perhaps move his proposed Amendment to it.

Amendment agreed to.

8.59 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 31, to leave out Sub-section (3), and to insert: (3) If at any time the Commissioner of the City of London Police or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is of opinion that, by reason of particular circumstances existing in his police area or in any part thereof, the powers conferred on him by Sub-section (1) of this section will not be sufficient to enable him to prevent serious public disorder being occasioned by the holding of processions in that area or part, he may, with the consent of the Secretary of State, make an Order prohibiting for such period as may be specified in the Order the holding of all processions or of any class of procession so specified either in the police area or in that part thereof, as the case may be.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted in the Bill."

Amendment made to proposed Amendment: In line 6, after "period," insert "not exceeding three months."—[Mr. Pethick-Lawrence.]

Question proposed, "That the proposed words, as amended, be there inserted in the Bill."


I have no objection to the acceptance of the consequential Amendment.

9.1 p.m.


The Metropolitan Police area is an extended one and stretches beyond the borders of what we know as London proper, either the London County Council area or that wider area of Greater London, and there are Many borough councils and, urban councils in that area. By this Amendment and by the Bill throughout they were going to be left out of account, but while urban and borough councils and other councils throughout the country were to be consulted, so far as London is concerned, you are making the police the body which shall decide, subject to the permission of the Secretary of State, as to the prohibition of processions for a period of three months or less. That seems to be very unfair. If there is any fairness in what is being done in other parts of the country, there is certainly unfairness with regard to those who are living within the Metropolitan Police area.