HC Deb 25 March 1936 vol 310 cc1361-78

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Margesson]

10.35 p.m.


In the time that remains, I want to raise a subject which was referred to at some length at Question Time to-day. A number of questions were on the Order Paper with regard to the action of the Metropolitan Police in dispersing a meeting that was held on Thurloe Square last Sunday evening. The Secretary of State for the Home Department gave a long reply as to the reasons which led to that action. The House knows that on Sunday evening there was a Fascist demonstration in the Albert Hall, and that a number of persons intended to hold counter demonstrations, and we have been informed today by the Home Secretary that the Commissioner of Police had issued a direction that no counter-meeting should be held within a radius of half-a-mile of the Albert Hall. I am not in any way criticising that particular direction, but I would point out that the place where this meeting, with which I am now concerned, was held is about half-a-mile as the crow flies from the Albert Hall, and considerably more, if one had to go the normal way along the street.

I do not suggest in the case of this particular meeting that there was the slightest danger of a clash taking place between those who were demonstrating on behalf of the Fascist cause in the Albert Hall and those who wished to demonstrate against it outside. This meeting began about 8 o'clock and was allowed to continue for about 50 minutes. At 8.50 or thereabouts a number of police arrived on the scene—20 of them, as we were told to-day, mounted, and the others on foot—and proceed forcibly to disperse this meeting, using truncheons and staves for the purpose. I want to make my position clear to the House. I do not dispute for a moment that, if people hold a public meeting on the highway and if they cause an obstruction in so doing, the police are entitled to request them to move on, and, if they fail to comply, the police are then entitled—nobody disputes that, I think—to use such force as may be necessary to compel them to move. My information is—and the Home Secre- tary perhaps will be able to correct me if I am wrong—that no such request was made to those who were in charge of the meeting. I cannot, of course, say what was said to individuals on the outskirts of the crowd, but there were speakers who were addressing the meeting from a lorry, and I am told that no request or message was sent to them that they should disperse their meeting, or that they should move on to a different place.

Surely, it would have been better if, before taking action of this kind, which, I think, everyone will agree, was strong action, the police should at least have made some sort of request of that nature to the people who were responsible for the crowd being there. As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary knows, there have been quoted a large number of statements from persons who were present at the meeting, and who witnessed what occurred, or at any rate some part of what occurred. Last night I handed to the right hon. Gentleman a number of statements which were taken from eyewitnesses. I have since received a number of further statements, which I will hand to him if he wishes to see them after this Debate, and also to-day a number of hon. Members in this House have received letters from persons who were present on the occasion, and who have written to them quite independently in order to protest against the action of the police.

It is correct to say that all the people who have made statements in one form or another are unanimous upon three points. First, they say that the meeting was orderly. I do not deny that at a meeting of that character there must have been a certain amount of noise, but it is clear that the speakers, who were without any mechanical aid, were perfectly audible at a considerable distance from the platform, and the meeting could not have been of a disorderly character. There is also no dispute that the police did charge into this crowd using their staves and batons, and, thirdly, that they used their batons in a manner which was certainly not justified by the circumstances. I do not want to weary the House with long quotations, but in order to show the sort of statement that is being made I will read one or two sentences from some of the statements which have been supplied to the right hon. Gentleman. In his statement Mr. Harding says: I became aware of a great excitement in Albert Place, and at about 8.50 mounted police came along Albert Place, charged the meeting with batons, striking right and left. Another quotation reads: At ten minutes to nine mounted police came in force and charged the meeting with batons injuring several people and scattering everyone. Another: It appeared to me that the manoeuvres were made as provocative as possible and in breaking up the meeting the police, especially the mounted police, used their staves and truncheons indiscriminately. A further quotation reads: A few minutes later, at 8.50 p.m., without any warning that we were able to hear, about 15 or more mounted police charged straight into the crowd striking right and left with their batons. Another one says: Shouts from the outside of the crowd grew in volume and mounted police cut right through the middle of the crowd at considerable pace, hitting people right and left with their batons. Those are specimens from a large number of statements which have been taken from people who were actually present at the meeting. The right hon. Gentleman at Question Time gave an account of what had taken place which is presumably an account supplied him by the police authorities. The answer will be fresh within the recollection of hon. Members, and it is clear that there is here a conflict of evidence. I am not attempting to disparage the information which has been passed on to the right hon. Gentleman, but at any rate here you have a large number of persons, about 30 or 40, who were present and they are making very grave allegations about the conduct of the police. If it were only a matter of two or three disgruntled persons I agree that it might safely be ignored, but here we have a large number of persons who are unanimous upon the essential points. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will suggest that all these people are saying what they know to be untrue. I do not think anybody in this House would suggest that there is no basis of truth in any of these statements that have been made.

Now, if only half of the facts in these statements are true, I submit to the House that there is ample justification for holding an inquiry into what took place last Sunday night. I am trying not to put the case too high and not to pre-judge this issue in any way. I certainly have not attempted to make a general attack upon the police as a force, and I would like to say that we all appreciate the difficulties which they encounter on such occasions as last Sunday night. There may be, and I hope there is, a perfectly good answer to all these charges that have been made, but at any rate they are serious charges and they are supported by a very large number of eyewitnesses. Surely in justice to the public and in justice to the police themselves a full and impartial inquiry ought to he held.

May I say one word about my own position in this matter? I have no particular sympathy with the people who were engaging in this demonstration. As it happens, they invited me some days before to take part in this anti-Fascist demonstration. I refused to do so, because I took the view that it was unnecessary to hold counter-demonstrations on the same evening and because I also took the view that it was not worth while to give the Blackshirt movement an advertisement which it could not obtain in any other way. That is my personal view, and I have not altered it in any way. I am not concerned in the least with the politics or the views of those who organised this demonstration in Thurlowe Square. We are only concerned here with the conduct of the police, and I submit to the House and the Home Secretary that at any rate there is here a matter for inquiry.

10.47 p.m.

Captain HOPE

I hope I may be allowed to intervene for a few moments, not as a member of the Government, but as an eye witness of the scenes on Sunday night and as an unwilling participant in those scenes. On Sunday evening I went in my motor-car to dine with my mother, who lives at the corner of Alfred Place and Thurloe Square. I arrived at ten minutes to eight, and left my car unattended outside the front door. About 20 minutes later, I heard sounds of song and a certain amount of shouting outside. The song, as I afterwards ascertained, was the "Internationale" I went outside, partly out of curiosity and partly to see whether anything was likely to happen to my car. On arriving outside, I found the crowd, which I estimated at betwen 500 and 600, assembling at the corner of Alfred Place and Thurloe Square. Shortly afterwards a motor-car came up, and to my surprise a gentleman got on to the fly-board and proceeded to address the crowd. My surprise was still greater when I saw that the gentleman concerned was Mr. John Strachey, who I last met as a political opponent in the 1931 election. On the last occasion I had actually seen him he was moaning at the loss of his deposit. I listened to him for a certain time and also stood by my car.

At that time the crowd seemed quite peaceful and was listening to the oratory of Mr. Strachey. I heard some of his remarks, which were not particularly important, except that he accused the police of favouring the Fascists rather than his own organisation, and there was a good deal about downtrodden workers and so on, which one rather expected. After a time, when I was standing by my car, several people very kindly said to me, "Don't worry about your car, it will be all right." So I went back inside the house. After five or 10 minutes I saw 20 or 30 members of the crowd come to my car and push it backwards about 25 yards, down Alfred Place, and put it across the road as a barrier, at which I naturally ran out of the house and tried to rescue my car. I reasoned with them, I hope persuasively, and finally was allowed to turn my car round and drive it in the direction of Kensington Station. When I got to my car the people round it were by no means friendly and had unscrewed the cap of the petrol tank. One man I heard say, "Give us a match and I will set the — thing alight." Another man said, "Give us a knife and we will slash the car."

From that moment I did not look upon the meeting as a particularly friendly one, or as one particularly anxious to preserve the peace. Having seen my car put in a place of safety I came back to the house, by which time the crowd had grown very much and was much more aggressive. I was unable to enter my father's house because the crowd were all round the door and I could not get in. Finally, I got in by climbing the area railings and entering by the area door. The crowd were much more impassioned than when I had left. Their numbers had been added to considerably, and they were stirred up either by Mr. Strachey's oratory or the stimulation of the numbers who had joined them, and they were by that time in an ugly mood. Some 50 to 100 people had climbed the railings in Thurloe Square and were in the gardens for safety or for anything else. I watched the proceedings carefully, because I wanted to see what was going on. The yelling and the shouting had become much worse. The crowd were forming a cordon across Alfred Place and were threatening the police to "come on." After about five minutes mounted and foot police came up Alfred Place and dispersed the crowd.

I do not agree with what my hon. Friend said, that the police charged the crowd, hitting people right and left. They did not charge up the street. They came at a slow pace and waved their truncheons in the air. I do not pretend to have seen everything, but personally I saw only two people struck. One was a man who flashed a flashlight directly into a horse's face, and the policeman struck the flashlight out of his hand; and the other was a man who aimed a blow at a foot policeman and the policeman gave him an upper cut. I saw nobody struck to the ground. As far as I could see there were few casualties of any sort.

When I went to rescue my car I said to the people, "Why do you want to put a barrier across the road?" and they said, "Because the police will be after us, and will move us off "They knew then that they should not have met at that place, and they were perfectly prepared to be moved on by the police. They had from 50 minutes to an hour in which to hold their meeting, and the police were justified in moving them on when they did so. The crowd was growing ugly and was growing bigger, and was undoubtedly causing great disturbance in the neighbourhood. When the police did move them on, they scattered down the Brompton Road or down towards the Fulham Road. I gave the police inspector a report of what I had actually seen. I do not consider that the police used undue violence and I do not believe that anyone was seriously hurt. Owing to the great crowd, in a comparatively narrow street, certain people were slightly crushed against the railings, but I never saw anyone being carried away injured, anyone lying on the ground, or any person with a bleeding head. I do not consider that the police in any way exceeded their duty. I only intervene because I am probably the only Member of the House who saw what happened, and I have merely stated the facts as I saw them. I believe the police were justified in moving on the crowd, and that the crowd expected to be moved on, and they moved on quickly and dispersed in a peaceful manner.

10.57 p.m.


I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), and I also am particularly anxious not in any way to prejudge the situation but merely to appeal to the Home Secretary for an inquiry of the widest possible character, an inquiry which, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, the police need not fear if their version is right. The natural observation that one cannot order inquiries here, there and everywhere, even if the police do feel that they have nothing to fear, should, in this case, I think, be met by the volume of evidence already available against the police. I do not say a word about its quality. As I say, I do not want to prejudge anything but I have 28 statements in my hand, I have received eight or ten at my chambers, and I expect when I return there I shall find another dozen or so. Similar statements are being sent to other hon. Members and are pouring into the newspaper offices. They come from people who are my constituents and people who are not. They come from people who are politicians and people who are not. They come from people who write excitedly and people who write soberly; from professional people, middle-class people and working-class people. In essence, they all make the same allegations.

I was interested to hear what was said by the hon. and gallant Member who had the advantage of seeing a great deal of what occurred. I do not for a moment suggest that he told the House anything he did not see, but when half a dozen people at the edge of a crowd say one thing it does not mean that the whole of the crowd think that way. I suggest that the proper course for the police, if they wanted to clear away the crowd, was to see the people on the lorry, in charge of it, and say to them, "Will you please help to disperse this meeting by taking yourself and your lorry away."

Captain HOPE

It would have been quite impossible for the police to get through the crowd to the lorry which was jammed up at Thurloe Place.


My experience of the police leads me to believe that they are sufficiently capable of doing that which is part of their duty, namely, to make their way through a crowd. If 20 mounted police could get through a crowd, one plain clothes policeman could get through more easily. But I do not want to prejudge the case. The hon. Member saw no people with bleeding heads. I have 10 or 15 statements of other people who saw people with bleeding heads. I know the hon. Member is telling the truth, and I assume that 25 per cent. of the others are telling the truth, and, of course, both statements are quite consistent. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman—

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]


I hope I am not saying anything unduly controversial if I make this additional ground of appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I know that from the industrial districts in the North and in the South-West, and from London and many areas, and from many classes of people, there is growing up in this country a growing distrust, a growing fear, and a growing hatred of many police forces—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—I was interested to observe earlier in the afternoon that one thing that seemed to excite hon. Members opposite was the desire of hon. Members on this side to know the name of a police officer against whom many allegations, whether true or false, have been made, as if hon. Members opposite feared that if his name were known, something dreadful would come out. It is a very tragic fact that the hatred of the police in this country is growing in many districts. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if these police are wrong, it is his elementary duty to hold an inquiry. If they are right, it will save many broken heads if the public can be convinced that some of their hatred of the police is wrong. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to prejudge anything, and I hold myself from prejudging anything, but I ask for an inquiry.

11.2 p.m.


I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) for providing me with the material which he had in his hand, I think, last night, and I need hardly say that I have studied it carefully, in order that it might help me to reach the conclusion which I will state to the House. He has made one or two observations about the statements, and I must make one or two more. I quite accept that he puts these statements forward with every belief in their genuineness, and I accept them as genuine in the sense that I have no reason to challenge what may be the view of those who have reported what is here stated. But when I read the statements, I am bound to say that they do not impress me, now that I know what I do know about the facts, as much as they seem to have impressed my hon. Friend; and I will tell him why.

I find, as indeed has just been said by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), that they all make the same allegation, which I think was the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The allegation in substance is this, that this was a completely peaceable meeting, that it was a perfectly orderly crowd, that everything was perfectly quiet and orderly, and so on, again and again. Well, whatever may be the truth—and truth is many-sided—that is manifestly not an accurate account of the facts. We have heard my hon. Friend here explaining that as a matter of fact his own car was appropriated by a portion of this crowd in order to help to make a barrier in Alfred Place. Well, just listen to the way in which that is described by one of the hon. Member's witnesses. This is what he says: The meeting was perfectly orderly and attentive, and a cordon of people formed across Alfred Place to keep order. A number of people who had no right to be there were forming a cordon across Alfred Place to keep order. They were forming it with my hon. Friend's motor car. They were forming it to prevent the police from approaching the meeting. It is obvious to anyone who has studied the reports that to describe this as a quiet Sunday evening crowd is merely to make statements that are contrary to the facts.

I take a second example. I told the House at Question Time of a serious case that has come before the magistrate—


I did not mention that case because I thought it was the subject of appeal. I could have said a good deal about it.


I do not know whether I ought to congratulate myself on my hon. and learned Friend's reticence or not. I thank my stars for my good fortune. I am only going to make this observation, for let us preserve our judicial pose. What I read in the statement of one of these witnesses is this: The second incident was the arrest of this young man"— and my hon. Friend offers this as some testimony of the bad behaviour of the police and the virtue of the crowd— who had attempted to help a friend who was being wrongfully arrested. Now I know how it should be described quite impartially. If the police have got somebody in their custody and they are engaged in taking the person in custody to the station, and if somebody else comes and tries to deliver that person from custody, the right way to describe it is to say, "This young man was attempting to help a friend who was being wrong fully arrested." Subject to what may be ascertained on appeal, that is a case in which a policeman was unfortunately kicked in the most horrible manner.


This passage refers to a much later incident at 10.45.


Then there must have been at least two cases in this crowd in which peaceful and orderly persons were attempting to rescue friends who were being wrongfully arrested. I can only say that, having tested the details with some care, my own view is that it refers to the same case. It is perfectly plain to anybody who studies the material which I have had that there was, in fact, a very dangerous situation and a vast accumulation of people, many of whom were certainly not behaving well. It is quite obvious that there were a very large number of people in this place who were not behaving well and quietly and who were composing part of a dangerous crowd.

My hon. Friends opposite spoke as though they were the only recipients of letters. Do they suppose that nobody has written to Scotland Yard or the Home Office on this subject? I have letters from people who say that the accusations that the police were behaving improperly were, as far as they could see, wholly without foundation, and they give detailed chapter and verse for incident after incident to show what happened.


Why not have an inquiry then?


Let me call a witness whom, I have no doubt, my hon. Friend who interrupted me will accept as one of great accuracy and veracity. I have a copy of the "Daily Worker" published on Monday and containing some stop press information as to what was going on according to the veracious and responsible journalists who work for that newspaper. Let me just read the stop press notes in the "Daily Worker": 8.5 p.m. The temper of the crowd is rising, indicated by the fact that one car believed to contain a blackshirt was nearly turned until it was found that the man was wearing a dark blue shirt. Then it gives an account of the mounted police attempting to drive back a crowd of 300, which I take to be a misprint for 3,000. It says that the police going down Exhibition Road met with much difficulty owing to the fact that the horses had to walk in and out of traffic. Then it goes on: 8.15 Three mounted police made a charge outside South Kensington Station and made an arrest. The crowd went for them. That is my witness—the "Daily Worker." When I recollect that one of the signatories to Mr. John Strachey's circular inviting people to come to this meeting was my hon. Friend opposite, I think he will realise that the account of the "Daily Worker" was pretty accurate.


I would like to put a correct construction on what is meant by the document and by the ac- count in the "Daily Worker." The right hon. Gentleman is putting an entirely false construction upon it.


I shall certainly not speak until 11.30 p.m., and so the hon. Gentleman may have the opportunity he desires.

There is another feature common to the whole of these statements. There is not a single one of them from beginning to end which does not treat this vast meeting in Thurloe Square as though it was a meeting which had been called there and was being held and addressed by those responsible in the ordinary way, without any notice that it was, in fact, quite contrary to the lawful orders given by the police. There is not a witness here who appears even to have appreciated how different the facts were. The true facts were that Mr. Strachey, who seems to have been the principal spokesman, had received in good time a perfectly plain and courteous letter from the police authorities informing him that the Commissioner had given instructions that no meeting should be held that evening within a certain distance of the Albert Hall. [Interruption.] Is there any objection to that?


Only that this meeting was more than half a mile from the Albert Hall.


No, it was not. They knew perfectly well that if they thought the instructions of the Commissioner were unlawful, they had an opportunity of getting the best advice. They would have been entitled to challenge anything which they thought to be unlawful. But they did not communicate with the police or with the Home Office, and then when the time came, they did their utmost to collect this enormous crowd, at 7 p.m. outside the Albert Hall and at 8.30 in Exhibition Road. I wonder whether my hon. Friend who has presented this matter has ascertained from Mr. Strachey why he thought it desirable to assemble in thousands in that manner. I have a theory, which I will advance with all due regard to the necessity of preserving a judicial and impartial attitude. My belief is that the people who did this, did it, not because there are riot many places where they could hold meetings and demonstrate to their heart's content and not because there are not many places where they have held meetings without the slightest attempt at interference, but because they knew there was to be a Fascist demonstration in the Albert Hall. If, in such a case, you collect as many opponents of that creed as you can outside the Albert Hall before the meeting begins and as the people are going in and if, again, you collect them, an hour and a half later, in Exhibition Road when the meeting is beginning to break up, what do you think you are going to produce? Conviction, truth—or riot? No sensible citizen can have any doubt that if, against the lawful orders of the police, you go into a prohibited area and hold this kind of meeting in order that you may demonstrate against opinions which many of us abhor, you are taking a. very dangerous course, and I am not in the least surprised to hear from my hon. Friend that, although he was invited to take part in this meeting, for very good reasons he refused to do so.

So far from agreeing that in this matter the police deserve to be rebuked, so far from sharing the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman that there exists a widespread hatred of the police, I think I am better justified in claiming that, broadly speaking, the people of this country have a very considerable respect for the police and considerable sympathy with their difficulties, and are very slow to believe that men whom they know from their contact with them from time to time suddenly turned into cruel devils—because certain persons say that this was an entirely peaceful gathering, that nobody ever did anything in the least likely to provoke a breach of the peace—and yet suddenly there burst in upon them these minions of the law.

If there was any solid reason for believing anything of the kind it would not be necessary for the hon. and learned Gentleman to ask for an inquiry. I should be the very first to insist upon one. As things are, how does the matter really stand? The Commissioner of Police is always prepared, and it is his duty to do so, to examine any complaint which is made and supported by evidence against any policeman. Also, the law courts are open. This is not a country where, as in sonic countries, you cannot challenge what a policeman does. Any member of the public may take proceedings in either the civil or criminal courts against a policeman if he is prepared to prove by evidence that the policeman has committed an assault or exceeded his duty, but there is not a person in the whole of this array, so far as I know, who is prepared to do it. Let them do it if they have a case. If, on the other hand, they are doubtful, let them communicate with the Commissioner, and they may be sure that investigation will be made. For my part, having investigated this matter, without the slightest desire to be other than impartial, I can see no justification at all for saying that in these circumstances there should be what is called an inquiry of the widest possible character. I think the conclusion which will be drawn by most hon. Members present is that this was a perfectly gratuitous difficulty which was presented to the Metropolitan Police, and it was deliberately designed to present this difficulty without rhyme or reason, that the people who did it knew that they were breaking the law in doing it, and that those who are really responsible are those who gathered this crowd together. An hon. Member says that notice should have been given to invite the speakers to desist from the meeting or draw off the crowd. I have already pointed out that the crowd was barricading the entrance to Thurloe Square. It is quite clear that the crowd was attempting to keep the police from getting into the place. I have seen the principal officers concerned since I answered the questions in the House and they tell me that, when the mounted police first approached, a man who appeared to be in authority came forward and saw them. He was asked to give up the meeting and withdraw. They saw this man return, I do not say to the platform; but certainly he returned. They heard the crowd shouting, "No, no." The police then waited 10 minutes before any action was taken.

I hope I have explained to the House how this matter appears to stand. I am sorry I cannot accept this request, but I see no ground for it at all. I will now keep the promise that I made to my hon. Friend, who desires to explain that I have not correctly read what I thought I saw printed in the "Daily Worker."

11.22 p.m.


The first thing to which to draw attention is the statement that I participated in calling and organising a demonstration of about 100,000 strong, and that there was no trouble of any kind. I took part in organising a demonstration on the occasion of the previous meeting held by the Fascists at the Albert Hall. It was timed to meet outside the Albert Hall one hour before the meeting started, and then to proceed to a suitable place and call a demonstration of an anti-Fascist character. We gathered outside the Albert Hall. There were thousands of us. We demonstrated there against the Fascists for reasons which I can give. We marched away, from there. We held a demonstration, and there was no trouble of any kind. The Home Secretary must be aware of that. He has deliberately tried to mislead this House and to play up to their prejudices by saying that the calling of this demonstration was for the purpose of making trouble. None of the demonstrators went there with any weapon of any kind, or with any intention of doing anything other than demonstrating. When the police took a man, a certain individual who tried to help was arrested, but that does not mean that he obstructed the police in the sense that he tried to take the prisoner out of their hands.


What did he do?


One friend of mine, a young man, was arrested. I am not sure whether this is the case referred to by the right hon. Gentleman or not, but that is actually a case which is before the magistrate. When the young man was arrested, he said to the police, "That young man has done nothing, and you have no right to arrest him. He has been along with me all the time." He tried to help him, and he also got arrested. He is a Parliamentary candidate and a very responsible young fellow, and he tells me and tells the House that he never made any attempt of any kind to interfere with the police in the sense of trying to take the prisoner out of their hands. I am certain that there is no charge against him of trying to do so.


Let me say this at once; I do not wish to make, even by accident, a mistaken statement. If the hon. Gentleman tells me that the case to which I have referred, in the statement I have read, is a case of that character, and he knows it, I shall of course accept it as information; but there were cases of attempts to rescue people from the police, without any doubt whatever.


I have said that I am not sure whether the case the right hon. Gentleman has read is the case that has come before my personal notice, but it is the case of a well-known member of the Labour party who tried to help his friend, but not in the sense of interfering with the police. When the "Daily Herald" writes abort the crowd going for the police when the police made an attack, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to suggest that that means that the crowd, with bare hands and no weapons, and unorganised in the sense of not being under any particular command, made a physical attack on the police? No; it means that the crowd were shouting against the action of the police. I have been in thousands of demonstrations, and this argument has been used that the crowd went for the police, but all it meant was that they were shouting.

With regard to the calling of the demonstration, you had last night in this House the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) dealing in the most impassioned manner with the bestial attack on Jews in Germany, but when you have the most vicious and deliberate incitement to the same bestiality in this country, and are making a demonstration to prevent it from growing, all the forces of the police are used to protect that bestial demonstration. People talk about freedom of speech and public meeting. Will the right hon. Gentleman, who has an acute legal mind, take note of this? This organisation against which we are entitled to demonstrate, in its public meeting, so called, dispensed with that usual safeguard of public meetings, a chairman, and put in his place organised gangs specially prepared for violently suppressing any kind of opposition. If the right hon. Gentleman or the Government were to propose that to remove Mr. Speaker and replace him with a gang of hooligans who would suppress every attempt at opposition, would the people of this country have a right to demonstrate against that? If the people have that right, have we. not a right to demonstrate, not to break the law, not to take any violent action, but to demonstrate with all ou[...] organised might against the growth of such a menace to the right of public meeting as that? That is why we called the demonstration. It was not to make a riot. There would have been no trouble if the mounted police had not charged into the crowd. There was no justification for that. The cordon formed in Alfred Place was to protect the rear of the crowd.


From what?


From any attack. We have had much experience and an effort must be made to protect the rear of the crowd. I have been speaking at a meeting when suddenly a terrific attack has been made on the rear of the crowd. I have seen men and women lying around me. I saw a woman lying on the ground with a boot mark on her face on a muddy day. I myself was soaked with blood and was arrested soaked with blood and then got a term of imprisonment for assaulting the police. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make inquiry into the matter. We shall be satisfied if it goes in favour of the police.

It being Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.