HC Deb 05 November 1936 vol 317 cc253-4

(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the Metropolitan Police have issued instructions that the national procession of unemployed and employed workers to Hyde Park on Sunday shall not proceed by way of the Strand, Piccadilly, Oxford Street and Edgware Road, but shall be diverted to minor thoroughfares; can he state the reason for this decision, and whether he will withdraw these instructions and allow the procession to proceed by the customary route?


The Commissioner of Police informs me that he has discussed the arrangements for this procession with the organisers, and has done his best to meet their wishes consistently with his responsibility for regulating the flow of traffic in London. To permit the procession to proceed by the routes mentioned —which, incidentally, it is not correct to describe as the customary route—would, however, cause a most serious disorganisation of Sunday traffic and would result in unjustifiable inconvenience to the general public. After giving full weight to the interests of all concerned, the Commissioner regrets that he has no alternative but to adhere to the directions which he has given.


Does not the hon. Member believe that the action taken is an infringement of the democratic rights of workers in the sense that it has been customary, and a traditional right, for the workers to march through London streets in order to protest against any national injustice? Is it not as advisable or as convenient for the Metropolitan Police to divert traffic for this procession on Sunday next as for the Lord Mayor's Show on an ordinary day?


The Commissioner has acted under Section 52 of the Metropolitan Police Act, which gives him power to prevent the obstruction of streets at all times of public processions. As a result A the experience of processions, the whole question of the routing of processions was reviewed by Scotland Yard some years ago, and it was decided that a certain number of the main arterial thoroughfares of London, among which those mentioned in the question are included, should not be used for the purposes of large processions. Since that time that rule has been strictly and impartially enforced, and as recently as early this year, in March, an application by the British Union of Fascists to have a large procession through Oxford Street was refused.


Does this section of the Police Act enable the Commissioner to use his own discretion and, for example, to make a distinction as between the obstruction of traffic beyond Aldgate Pump by a procession of the British Union of Fascists and a procession organised by the workers?


Does the hon. Member consider that the other side will make a similar plea for processions of Fascists?


Further aspects of this subject can be dealt with in debate.