§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, after "equipped," to insert "on a quasi-military basis." I am doubtful about the scope of Subsection (1, b). The words may go much farther than some hon. Members imagine. I remember, in the history of this country, that demonstrations have come to London, composed of peaceful people wishing to present their petitions, but that they were held to have attempted a display of physical force in order to influence the Government. I remember 1926, when there was a general stoppage in support of the miners. On that occasion, the present Home Secretary and most hon. Members on the other side of the House took the view that an attempt was being made by the organised working-class movement to bring to bear upon the Government of the day a threat of physical force, in order that the demands of the miners might be granted. On looking at the words of the paragraph, I think of what happened a few days ago, when the hunger marchers came to London, and I would ask the Minister whether the people taking part in that hunger march would be considered as engaged in a movement which could be dealt with under paragraph (b). They were organised, they were equipped for the march, and they marched to London. The question is whether, being organised and equipped, and having marched to London, they mightarouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised…trained or equipped.For the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force,in promoting the political object of the withdrawal of the means test. People 100 marching in that way cannot come within a certain distance of the House of Commons. They would be prevented from marching beyond point within a certain distance of this House, because, if they passed that point, they might be creating a reasonable apprehension that they were coming to overawe the Commons. I have reasonable apprehensions that such a demonstration as that of the hunger marchers may be prevented in the future, and my Amendment seeks to make it impossible that that prevention should take place. If the words of the Amendment were inserted, no one could say that hunger march was on a quasi-military basis, and they would give a certain amount of protection.
I find it difficult to select words to satisfy me, with regard to this matter. There is all the difference in the world between a march organised for a specific purpose upon a particular occasion and arising out of special circumstances, and the creation of what is practically a private army at the disposal of one section or one party in the community. The coming to London of the hunger marchers created no necessity among those who did not agree with them to organise a similar kind of march, but the uniformed bodies being organised by the Fascists place upon other parties the necessity of creating similar organisations. I do not believe it is the purpose of the Home Secretary to prevent such demonstrations as the hunger march, and I hope that the Government will so frame the words of the paragraph that people will be as free as they have been in the past to march to London to put their demands to the Government.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
The Amendment is very similar in phraseology, and to some extent in purpose, to one which has already been considered by the Committee this afternoon under Clause 1, where it was sought to insert the qualifying words "military or quasi-military" in respect of political uniforms. In this case, as in the last, I suggest that the Amendment should not be accepted. I understand that the object of the hon. Member is to ensure that paragraph (b) is not too wide, and, in particular, is not so wide as to prevent such demonstrations as those which took place last week and to which he 101 made some reference. I do not like to commit myself in regard to specific cases, whether it is in answer to a question, "What is a uniform?" or "What is an organisation which falls within paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of this Clause 4" but I would point out that no organisation could possibly fall within the paragraph unless it were not only organised but also trained and equippedfor the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension.No information in my possession or which came under my observation with regard to such a demonstration as took place the other week would bring it in any reasonable sense within paragraph (b). I suggest to the hon. Member that even if I am wrong he would not be improving the position by the insertion of his Amendment, because the words organised, trained or equipped "on a quasi-military basis" would be perfectly apt to cover the comparatively elementary but recognisably military evolutions which might be included in a march of that kind.
But the real answer to this Amendment is a different one. Members of the House in all parts have again and again, both on Second Reading and to-night, expressed the view, with which I venture to concur, that it would be a profound mistake in legislating for this purpose to insert qualifications of a type which would or might have the effect of increasing materially the difficulties of enforcing the Act and making it more easy for contravention to take place. This seems to be exactly a case in point, because if you qualify the description of the illegal organisation by limiting it to that type of organisation where the training and equipment are on a quasi-military basis, you are simply opening a wide door to a defence in every case to say: "Yes, we are organised, trained and equipped, but our training and equipment are not on a, quasi-military basis." The addition of these words, the purpose of which I quite appreciate from what the hon. Member said, would not achieve the purpose which he desires, but, on the contrary, would be well calculated to increase the difficulties of enforcing the Act, and would render it more easy for those who 102 ought to be caught to escape. I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment, or if the hon. Member is satisfied with the explanation I have given, he might withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, at the end, to insert:Provided that in any proceedings against a person charged with the offence of taking part in the control or management of such an association as aforesaid it shall be a defence to that charge to prove that he neither consented to nor connived at the organisation, training, or equipment of members or adherents of the association in contravention of the provisions of this section.I have put down this Amendment because I think that a criticism which was made on the Second Reading is justified, and we want to be sure that the Clause is not drawn in wider terms than we intended. The reason I think that this is desirable will be plain to the Committee. Persons who take part in the control or management of a large or widespread association may be ignorant of the manner in which some of the members or adherents may be organised, trained or equipped. The manager of an association may have gone on holiday, be ill or be completely unaware that members or adherents are contravening the law, and it would be quite wrong to punish a person for taking part in the control or management of an association if what was done was illegally committed by adherents of whose proceedings he knew nothing. It is true that in law we sometimes make those who control an association responsible for the misdeeds of those who act under its authority. It is so with certain cases in the Companies Act. Here, since the misdeeds may be committed by adherents over whom the management of the association had no control, it seems just that if a person who is charged with taking part in the management of an association can show that he did not consent to or connive at these misdeeds it should be a defence. To make sure that only the guilty are punished this Amendment provides a defence, the effect of which is that a person is not punished if he can show that he did not consent to or connive at contravention of the law. I hope that the Committee will agree that it is a provision which we ought to make, because we must be sure that we do what is fair 103 and right, and the view which the Government take is that a proviso of this sort would be justified.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I want to say a word with regard to this because members of the Committee will notice that there are on the Order Paper two Amendments standing in the names of myself and my hon. Friends that have the same objective as is contained in this provision. While there is a certain amount of protection in the words of this provision with regard to this very dangerous paragraph (b), I do not think the protection is adequate. Where agents provocateur may have got into an organisation I can see how difficult such a defence as that suggested may be. But I welcome the proviso; it is better than nothing.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
All of us agree with the Secretary of State in that we are anxious that no injustice should be done to anybody under this Bill, and I gather that my hon. Friends will be disposed to agree to the Amendment. But I should like some assurance from him as to its operation. I want to put this point. Suppose the principal person in a position of leadership in the organisation, or one of his deputies or principal departmental officers, could produce in court a letter of instruction which he had issued to the members of the organisation that he could not give his consent to or connive at the organisation, training or equipment of members. It is possible that one of the principal officers of an association might issue such a letter without in any way intending that that letter should be observed, but, on the contrary, seeing to it that the organisation was run on those lines which the Clause aims to stop. If that were done would it be a good defence in court, because it appears it might be documentary evidence, that this thing could not have been done with his consent or connivance? While all of us are anxious that nothing should happen under this Bill which would do injustice to anybody, one does not want to amend it in ways that will make it farcical if unscrupulous people care to evade it. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary on that point.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If I may express a view for what it is worth—I have spoken to the Attorney-General—certainly the production of a document will not settle the matter in the accused's favour. The burden is on him to prove that. I think we must assume that the tribunal, whatever its form, will judge at the end whether he has discharged that burden or not. If there be any pretence or humbug about it, we may rely on all light being thrown on it which will go to show that it was a piece of humbug. There have been many cases in our courts where people have put up an excuse supported by writing, and when the matter has been investigated they have not been believed. The production of the document would not in itself prove the matter at all.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, after the words last inserted, to insert:Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the promoters of any public meeting from organising a body of stewards for the preservation of order at that meeting.Many hon. Members will remember that the Home Secretary on the occasion of the Second Reading said that the Government did not desire to interfere with the very old custom whereby people promoting a political meeting, if they thought there were likely to be disturbances, provided from among their own supporters a body of stewards to keep order, and, if necessary, eject persons who endeavoured to interrupt the meeting. On reading the Clause it appears that there is some risk that that right is not sufficiently protected, because hon. Members will observe that in paragraph (a) one of the things which is forbidden is to usurp the functions of the police. It will be made clear to us that there is no reason why a police officer in uniform should not if he wishes to do so walk in to any public meeting. It seems to me that if one or more police officers in uniform were at a public meeting it might be their duty in the case of violent disorder to suppress it, and that, if another body of persons had been organised for that purpose, they would in fact be usurping the functions of the police. Our object in putting 105 down the Amendment is to obtain from the Home Secretary, either an assurance that there is nothing in the wording of the Clause that will interfere with the custom of providing stewards at political meetings, or some undertaking that he will consider the matter further with a view to inserting any words which may be necessary to achieve this purpose.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. J. GRIFFITHS
While generally we have no objection to this Amendment, in view of the fact that almost every political party makes arrangements for the presence of stewards at its meetings, we doubt very much the wisdom of inserting such a proviso as this in the Bill. One of the minor troubles that has led to the introduction of this Bill is the fact that, when certain organisations have arranged for stewards at their meetings, those stewards have been clad in uniforms, and we have considerable doubt whether a proviso such as this would not take that kind of thing outside the provisions of the Bill, and enable organisations to have stewards wearing some kind of distinctive uniform. There does not appear to be anything in the Bill which prevents any political party from arranging for stewards at its meetings, and I think that to insert this proviso would be very dangerous. It is accepted that the right of an organisation to have its own stewards at its own meetings should be fully preserved. There is nothing in the Bill which takes it away, and I think that, if the assurance asked for is given, we ought to leave the matter where it is.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I do not want to interrupt anyone who desires to speak, but, as I have been asked by two speakers whether I could give an assurance, I thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I made some remarks at this stage, and I hope that those who rose at the same time will not take any offence at my intervening now. I can give the assurance asked for. It is well known, and is, of course, a matter of common sense as well as of routine legal principle, that those who organise a meeting are entitled to have stewards there, who, if persons create excessive interruption, can exercise the right which the promoters have, first of all to ask them to keep quiet, and, if 106 they will not keep quiet, to remove them if necessary by reasonable force.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Perhaps I had better deal with one thing at a time. That such a right exists no one can doubt or ever has doubted. My hon. Friend who moved the, Amendment asked whether such stewards would be usurping the functions of the police. There can, I suggest, be no such danger at any time. It is true that a policeman may go into a meeting, and it is true that, if breaches of the peace occur, he may deal with them, and, indeed, it may be his duty to deal with them; but the stewards are in no sense usurping the functions of the police by being there and exercising their duties if a policeman is not there, or exercising their duties if a policeman is there. The right to have stewards, and the right of stewards to take such action as they may be called upon to take, being undoubted, no one can suggest that in carrying out those duties and exercising that right they are in any way usurping the functions of the police. Certainly, there is no intention in the Bill to interfere in any way with the proper organisation of stewards, and I hope my hon. Friend will find himself able to accept the assurance I have given.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Will the Attorney-General, say whether stewards would be permitted to wear rosettes?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That I think has nothing to do with this Amendment. We had a considerable discussion on the Amendments to Clause 1, and it would be quite out of order for me now to repeat what was then said. Whether a steward would or would not be permitted to wear a rosette, he would not be usurping the functions of the police.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
There is obviously no difference of opinion between the two sides of the Committee on the principle of this matter. Neither side wishes to see stewards done away with, but I must say I am not quite satisfied by the answer which the Attorney-General has given, and I would like to ask him one or two further questions. My hon. Friend referred to paragraph (a), but I would like to quote to the Committee 107 the words of paragraph (b), which would seem to me on a possible legal interpretation to preclude the use of force. The words are:Organised and trained or organised and equipped either for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and either trained or equipped for that purpose.Let me give a specific case. It is the custom of many political parties at by-elections and general elections to have bodies of stewards. Frequently the same stewards appear at more than one meeting; they appear at open-air meetings and at indoor meetings. Their duties are assigned to them in advance; they are told what they have to do. If the agent is tactful, they are told not to exercise undue physical force or unduly to exert their authority, but in the event of trouble to act as a body and remove offending persons from the room. Are they notorganised and trained or organised and equippedfor the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object? My hon. Friend shakes his head, but we have to be very careful, especially in a Committee including a number of eminent lawyers, that the judge does not take a different view from the lawyers. That happens very frequently. Again and again we have been assured that such-and-such words are quite incapable of the: meaning that is attached to them; lawyer after lawyer has got up and said so; but the judge has taken a different view. It is not necessary to remind the Committee that the judge is not in the least concerned with the intentions of Parliament, or with what the Minister said in putting forward the Bill, but is purely concerned with the effect of the actual words. I would ask the Attorney-General whether it might not be the case that a body of 15 or 20 stewards organised for a by-election, and sent round to meeting after meeting wearing rosettes and badges, might not be committing an offence under this Clause? I am sure he would agree that if that were so no one in any part of the Committee would wish to see the Bill left as it is, because it is inherent in the Bill that stewards should exercise the same functions which they have exercised hitherto. 108 That, in fact, is the intention of the Government; they have made it plain that generally speaking they do not want the police to act as stewards. I shall be very grateful if at some later stage an answer can be given to the points I have put.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. MORRISON
May I give another specific case on the same lines as that given by the Noble Lord, but of an entirely different character? A political meeting was held in my constituency some months ago, and the stewards were brought from Bethnal Green. They came in a coach, and got out outside the town hall, where they were formed up, numbered off, and marched into the hall. Previously two barrels of beer had been ordered, and, having partaken of the beer, they proceeded under the public baths and armed themselves with iron bars. As the hour for admitting the public approached, they were again numbered off and posted to their particular places. When the chairman, a local alderman, took the chair, the audience got up in scores and protested against the presence of these people, who were posted all along the hall, each holding a bar of iron. The audience appealed to the chairman, whom many of them knew well, to ask these people to go away, or they could not let the meeting go on. Finally the men had to withdraw. They left the ante-room in confusion, left the iron bars lying about, drank all the beer, smashed most of the glasses, and then returned to their headquarters at Green Street, Bethnal Green. And the Corporation of the Borough of Tottenham, where this happened—
§ Earl WINTERTON
Is the hon. Member arguing that, because of that most calamitous happening, which incidentally would be prohibited under the Bill, all stewards should be prohibited?
§ Mr. MORRISON
What I intended to indicate to the Noble Lord was that there are stewards and stewards. The baths committee of the corporation, of which I happen to be an alderman, held a special meeting afterwards, and decided that the hall should never be let again to the same people. I am sure that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment had no intention of allowing that sort 109 of thing to be permitted, and, therefore, personally I do not think the Amendment is necessary, and hope it may be withdrawn.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I support the Amendment because I agree entirely with what the Noble Lord has just said, namely, that the courts would have no regard to the intentions of Parliament. I have had cases myself in which the Judge has said that if such-and-such a thing were the intention, the House of Commons would surely have said so. Looking at paragraph (b), I have no doubt at all that any judge would disagree entirely with what the Attorney-General has just told the Committee, because he would instantly look, not at paragraph (a), but at the whole of Clause 2, and paragraph (b) would, I should think, distinctly prohibit anything like an organised band of stewards such as some of us have had at our own meetings, not for the purpose of attacking our opponents, but for the purpose of defending ourselves against possible attacks from them. I have had experience of one of the roughest Divisions in Lancashire, where in some places it would have been utterly impossible to get inside the hall, not to mention addressing the public, if I had not had an organised body of stewards. Therefore, I consider this Amendment to be one of the best on the Paper if. it is desired to safeguard the system that has been in operation ever since at any rate, have been in politics. I agree with the Noble Lord that, no matter what the intention of the House may be, if it is not properly expressed in the Bill when it becomes a statute the court, when it comes to consider Clause 2, will ignore the assurance given by the Attorney-General. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General himself would carry it out if he were a judge, as he may be in time, but it is necessary, in order to safeguard the system of stewards, that this Amendment should be put into the Bill.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
When I spoke previously, I dealt with paragraph (a), because my hon. Friend put that forward as the point that was exercising those who moved the Amendment, but we had considered the whole Clause from the point of view of doing our best to make sure that in preventing the activities that 110 we desired to prevent we did not use words which could be construed as applying to stewards. May I tell the Committee why in our view paragraph (b) could not be construed as applying to stewards? Restoring and maintaining order is not a political object. No one could say for a moment that a policeman coming into a meeting to restore order was promoting a political object. When stewards are organised at meetings in order to see that, should there be interruptions, reasonable steps are taken to deal with the interrupters, it could no more be suggested that they were promoting a political object than would a policeman who was present at a public meeting to see that people did not commit breaches of the peace.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
How can you conceivably be promoting a political object if you wear a uniform and do nothing else? What does a steward do? He stands there in the hope that, as the result of his presence, people will not make a noise at the meeting. It is not promoting a political object if you dress yourself up in a uniform without doing anything else.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), I think, was dealing with the first part of Clause 1. That surely is quite different. That is a case where the wearing of a uniform, a black, brown or green shirt, signifies association with any political organisation or the promotion of any political object. I was referring to Clause 2 (b), which deals with the use or display of physical force in promoting a political object, and suggesting that those whose duty as stewards is that of seeing that order is kept cannot be said to be using or displaying physical force in promoting any political object. I did not think it necessary to refer to the safeguard with regard to the consent of the Attorney-General, because the words are plain. As was stated on the Second Reading, they are put in as a safeguard to prevent frivolous prosecutions, or prosecutions which are clearly not within the Act, being undertaken.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
What the Attorney-General has said does not seem quite to meet the 111 point of those who have put down the Amendment. He took the analogy of a policeman who enters a disorderly public meeting in order to restore order. Is that quite on a par with the example given by the Noble Lord? In the first place, the policeman only enters upon a single occasion. He enters for the one purpose of restoring order, and he has no sort of connection with the people who have organised the meeting. In the example that the Noble Lord gave us there was an entirely different state of affairs. He mentioned the case of a body of stewards not entering the meeting simply for the purpose of restoring order, but going round following the candidate or the party leader for the purpose, among others, of keeping order. After all, stewards are not there only to act as chuckers-out. They are there to facilitate the arrangements of the meeting. If it is a crowded meeting, they are there to marshal the people and direct them to their seats, and probably to perform any other minor services of that kind that may be required of them by the organisers of the meeting, and in the last resort they are there to restore order. If you have a body of stewards brought together for all those purposes, are they not in a rather different position from a policeman who is simply called in in the last resort?
It may be true that on a strict reading of the paragraph a steward might not be said to be trained or equipped, and it is a considerable safeguard that the Attorney-General's consent is necessary. But, after all, it is provided in Clause 7 that offences under Clause 2 are not only to be open to conviction and indictment, but they are also to come before courts of summary jurisdiction, and it seems to me that there is still room for misconception. The very fact that so many hon. Members see some ambiguity in the words shows that a similar mistake might easily be made by a bench of lay magistrates who had to consider a case of the kind. I cannot see that it would weaken the Bill or destroy its purpose in any way if an Amendment of this kind were inserted. I hope the Government will reconsider their decision and will accept this Amendment, or some similar saving clause.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I am a little surprised at the reluctance of the Front Bench to accept this or some other Amendment to the same purpose. It is no good telling us that legal opinion says it is all right. Every Bill that passes through Parliament has its actual terms settled not by one barrister, but by lots. It is never the case that an Amendment drafted by a private Member is incorporated in a Bill unless the legal experts are satisfied that it is well drafted and, if it is not, they ask him to alter it. It is, therefore, never Parliament that drafts an Act of Parliament but expert barristers, with the advice very often of the Law Officers of the Crown and other distinguished members of the profession who happen to be associated with the Government. But the judges are always accusing Parliament of being clumsy in the way it drafts legislation. That clumsiness is never committed by Parliament, but by learned members of the profession. Therefore, I never take the slightest notice when they say it will be all right on the night. They have been caught out too often. That is what troubles us. I can see barristers earning colossal fees. arguing what is meant by "promoting any political object." Is the ordinary body of stewards organised and trained? They are collected together by someone who acts as a leader and instructs them in their duties, which is training and organising. What are they there for among other things For the use or display of physical force. That is clear. Conservatives know all about rough meetings, because our opponents attempt to break up ours, and we very rarely interfere with theirs. There are many parts of the county where, for years, it has been impossible for Conservatives to say what they have to say without yelling and screaming crowds of hooligans supporting the Socialist party, doing all they can to prevent them.
Some of us are quite sick and tired of what happens, and we want to be sure that we can go on protecting ourselves as we do now. [An HON. MEMBER: "Try talking sense ! "] The least intelligent interrupter generally interrupts on those lines, as a, rule before he has heard a word that has been said. After all, we have only to take what happens in this House to discover whether what I say is true or not. I think the Attorney- 113 General will not deny that stewards are organised and trained, or that they are employed for the use or display of physical force. He bases himself on the words "in promoting any political object." What are they there for To amuse themselves? They are there to enable their man to get a fair hearing in the cause that he is pleading. It is mere legal quibbling to say they are not promoting a political object. They would not be there unless they thought they were promoting a political object. They are there because they believe in their cause. Why should the Front Bench hesitate What does it matter if you say it twice? It is better to say it twice than not at all. I am quite unimpressed by the Attorney-General's arguments. Let us make the Bill so clear that there can be no misunderstanding of any kind. Some of us want to be sure that we are to have some measure of protection of the kind that we have been able to get for ourselves in the past. One thing we do not like about the Bill is that it is intended to please Socialists and Communists.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
I do not want to say very much in answer to the amusing provocation of the hon. Member who has just spoken, but I should like to say on behalf of Socialists that this country really presents to us a long history of, first, Radicals and then Socialists being prevented by Conservatives from expressing any opinions at all. The Home Secretary was a member of a Liberal Government which had to pass a Public Meetings Act to prevent Tories smashing up their meetings. They had to form a Gladstone League to prevent Conservatives blackmailing their people not to vote Liberal. However, we shall have to take some more suitable occasion on which to go into the matter and ascertain how much of the interruption of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) is due to political intolerance and how much to the provocation of the hon. Member for South Croydon.
I want to support the Government in resisting this Amendment, for a reason which I am afraid involves looking at the language like a lawyer, which incidentally the hon. Member was doing very well. I will not say that there is no danger of a bench of magistrates misinterpreting the Clause, because, of course, lay magistrates are always a 114 danger. We have to compare two dangers, the Clause as it stands and the Clause with the words added. I think that every hon. Member in the Committee wants to be assured that the Clause works properly and reasonably in regard to organised stewards, and I suggest that, as the Clause stands, there is no danger of thinking you cannot organise your stewards. What makes me anxious to support the Government is that, if you put in the proviso, when magistrates, with the assistance of their learned clerks, come to consider the matter, they will not look at it as it stands in the words before the Committee, and say a proviso has been added, and you need not pay any attention to it. They will look at the whole thing—they will not then know the history of the discussion before the Committee—and the clerk will say "Gentlemen, if the proviso were not there, I should say that this particular case was not covered by the proper construction of the Sub-section at all, but as Parliament, in passing this legislation, thought it necessary to put in a proviso, it means that Parliament regarded the words without the proviso as having a construction so wide that it would even prevent you from organising stewards. Therefore, in this particular case, I must advise you that this Clause has a very wide meaning indeed, and would hit almost anything."
Some of us have particular predilections for or objections to one party or another. We all want liberty of the subject, but we are not quite sure how much we want other people to have it. Therefore, some of us want the Clause wide and some of us want it narrow. If I am right in thinking that the bulk of the Members of this Committee want the Clause in such a shape that it can be construed in a reasonable and businesslike fashion without having these words so drawn as to be almost vexatiously wide, they would do better to support the Government in moving these words out unless their reflex action be a greater disaster than their omission.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) explained the position, I was disposed to believe that there was a considerable fog in the mind of everybody as to what the Clause means. When he had finished I became quite certain of it, and for that 115 reason I wish to urge upon the Government the force of the argument put forward by my hon. Friend who supported the Amendment. I do not think that is matters whether these particular words are put in, whether it is in the nature of a proviso or whether at a later stage of the Bill the ingenuity of the draftsmen is exercised to find words which would not be open to the objection of which I see the force. There is something provocative, perhaps, in a proviso. It seems to draw a lot of attention to itself. There may be other ways of doing this thing, but, with or without a proviso, nothing has been said so far which has really convinced any section of the Committee that this Clause is not as wide as the Bill itself.
The case was admirably put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). I do not often agree with him, but he put the whole thing conclusively. Stewards are organised and trained, and whatever the Attorney-General may say, they are in the mind of any reasonable man, organised for a political object. They work to promote the interests of their candidate, and to get him a fair hearing and facilitate his return to Parliament. Hon. and learned Members who are familiar with electioneering law will know how many things in the past have been done during elections in order to facilitate the election of a special candidate for Parliament. I cannot for the life of me imagine how anybody can say that it cannot be construed that stewards who are organised at election time go round to assist in every possible way among other things, to keep order and to use physical force, are not organised for a political purpose. If the doubt remains—and there is no question whatever in the minds of a, large number of hon. Members that a doubt does exist—this important liberty should be safeguarded. It is no use the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) saying, as he said the other day, that if you believe the Bill to be necessary you must give the widest powers, and not allow anything to slip up. I am interested in seeing that the Bill does not do any harm, and that it safeguards all parties and assures their getting a fair hearing. I am not convinced by the Attorney-General, and I do not think for a moment 116 that many hon. Members are. I beg of the Government, if they cannot accept the Amendment in its present form, to consider if they cannot put in something at a later stage of the Bill to render the right to organise stewards to safeguard order at public meetings beyond any possible dispute by stipendiary magistrates, lay magistrates or anybody else.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
What my hon. Friend has said in his concluding words probably represents the feeling of a good many Members of the Committee. The question of whether Clause 2 could possibly touch the proper stewarding of public meetings has not escaped our attention. We have looked at it from many points of view as carefully as we can. Though I suffer from the great incapacity pointed out so vigorously by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), I think that the argument advanced by the Attorney-General was right. That is to say, it would not have occurred to me, if the Sergeant-at-Arms were called upon to remove any hon. Member of this House who was protesting his particular point of view too vigorously, and he did so, that he would be promoting any political object. [An HON. MEMBER: "Would he not do it on both sides?"] It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman was right, and that what was happening was being done for the purpose of keeping order. That is a matter which, I agree, might be further considered. All that I or any of us is concerned about is that we should not try to add unnecessary words to the Bill and embroider it with provisos which intelligent persons think may be useful and yet really produce not greater clarity, but greater confusion.
What the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite said just now about the effect of adding what appeared to be incongruous words to the Clause is true. It very often happens that, when judges have to construe Acts of Parliament, which are not construed in the way that some people think they should be, they bring down upon themselves and upon lawyers in this House the unmeasured contempt of persons who have not that qualification, but it by no means follows that people in this House have not understood their business. It is sometimes because Members of this House, most anxious to. 117 get the language clear, have gone on adding provisos in Clauses until the total result is rather difficult to construe. Every experienced Member of the Committee knows that there is no difference between lawyers and laymen on that matter. But it is difficult to understand which is right. The argument of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) is one which must be considered. I do not think that it is right to say that, because the stewards do a great many things in addition possibly to preparing to throw people out should confusion arise, the whole thing is organised for a display of force in promoting any political object. If they simply show people to their seats in the halls and all the rest of it, it has absolutely nothing to do with the point.
We will look at it, and we will do so with all the greater advantage because we have the speeches that have been made. I have never taken the view, and the Attorney-General will agree, that we ought to be obstinate, but we think that it is better not to insert the Amendment for the reasons put forward by some hon. Members. Will the Committee give us an opportunity of looking at it again? I shall be available to any hon. Member who thinks that he would like to make comment or suggestion about it. We will see if it seems right to suggest a form of words on the Report stage, and will consult hon. Members specially interested as much as we can. Our object is the same. We all agree that stewarding has to be preserved. I mean normal and proper stewarding by a reasonable number of people who know that they must not use more than a reasonable amount of force. It is not stewarding if you put bullying people into the hall; that is not stewarding at all. If we can get a proper form of words to protect what hon. Members in all parts of the Committee want, it will be the better thing to do, and perhaps on that understanding we may now pass on to the next Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.118
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, after "make," to insert "for a period not exceeding thirty days."
I and my hon. Friends behind me have looked upon this Clause with a little anxiety, and I wish to say a word or two upon our attitude towards it. It is not really a hostile attitude. We are somewhat in sympathy with it. This is a severe Clause, and severe clauses are sometimes necessary. Ordinarily speaking, the Committee would agree that we do not do anything to anybody without letting him be heard. There are moments when it must be so. The suggestion that you should put a stop order on the movement of somebody's property without giving previous notice before any summons can be heard, is one with which we respectfully agree. Therefore we want to see the first number of lines standing:the court may make such order as appears necessary to prevent any disposition without the leave of the court of property held by or for the association.We are anxious that that sort of thing should be limited, and we feel that litigation of this character, like litigation of a great many characters, is often apt to drag on. It would be a very good thing that even that power of putting a stop order on before doing anything else should have a definite limit for the period suggested—not exceeding 30 days. The Attorney-General and I have both had about the same amount of proceedings not dissimilar before judges in chambers, where, I suppose, this would probably come, and I think he would probably agree that 30 days would give one ample time in which to operate the stop order and let the matter come before the court. In these circumstances, I hope the Government will see their way to accept the Amendment or something of the same nature.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member has appreciated that property can be disposed of with the leave of the court. I think my hon. and learned Friend will agree that the courts are very alert to see that there are no improper impediments to the disposition of property in cases of this kind. If there was a proper case where during the inquiry the association should be able to deal with its 119 property, the court could tie trusted to give them leave. We take objection to the suggested period of 30 days. There might be cases where the inquiry would take longer than 30 days. If those words were inserted the order would cease to have any effect, and I am not sure that there would not have to be another application. If the hon. and learned Member's idea was simply to see that the inquiry was carried out with due expedition, then there is full power to the court to secure that, and the court could no doubt direct the matter to be mentioned again if further time were required.
§ Mr. PRITT
I was stating the view that there is given to the court two separate powers (1) that of making an order to prevent disposition of property, and (2) that of directing an inquiry. The intention was that the period extended to 30 days was to apply to the order preventing disposition, and not to the order directing inquiry.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out from "court," to "and," in page 3, line 1.
The Clause as it stands provides that the moneys in the possession of an association which has come within the operation of this Act shall be applied first to necessary expenses, secondly, towards repaying money to persons who have subscribed in good faith, and thirdly to the Crown. The purpose of my Amendment is to strike out the provision that there shall be repayment in certain cases. The words prescribing the repayment are as follows:the repayment of moneys to persons who became subscribers or contributors to the association in good faith and without knowledge of any such contravention as aforesaid.I have moved my Amendment with the idea of drawing the attention of the Government to what seems to me to be the great difficulty in which they may 120 involve some future Executive. It is an extraordinarily difficult matter in the case of a political association to say whether any particular individual or individuals who have joined it were fully aware of the true purpose of the association when they paid their subscription. That task might almost be reasonably described as impossible. There is the further consideration that if people subscribe to a political organisation they have the duty of informing themselves what are the purposes of the association before they join it and subscribe money to it. If they are so unwise as to make a subscription to an association with the purpose of which they are ill-acquainted, I do not think they can complain if they lose their money, should that association prove to be illegal. There is no hardship in leaving out the words which I propose to delete, but if they are left in it seems to me that the Executive will be involved in a task of extreme difficulty and complication.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
It has been the custom, when the court comes to wind up the affairs of what would be an illegal association and to discharge liabilities, to repay to persons who have innocently subscribed to it before knowing that it had illegal objects, the amount of their subscriptions, leaving the balance forfeit to the Crown. That principle has been recognised in all cases of illegal banking corporations where for years banking has been carried on illegally and finally some one has found out that the association was carrying on an illegal business. The general principle which has always been applied by the courts has been to discharge liabilities, to repay to innocent contributors their subscriptions and then to forfeit the balance. It is true that it is a difficult executive task for the Winding-up-Division to ascertain whether people were or were not innocent contributors, but the machinery—I am speaking from recollection—which is adopted is that of making each individual person swear a claim that they did in fact subscribe in all innocence. The liquidator has to go through these claims, and if he has any reason to suspect and he succeeds in proving that a guilty subscriber has made a claim for repayment as an innocent person, that person will suffer the consequences of having committed perjury to get his money repaid. 121 It is impossible to say, when you have to deal with many hundreds of claims, that some do not get away with a false claim, but a good deal of care is taken to investigate claims, and there is a certain amount of hesitation on the part of most people to run the risk of severe punishment for wrongful claims. I suggest, therefore, that, on the whole, this having been accepted as the general principle of distribution in the case of the winding up of illegal associations in the past, there is no very good reason why we should depart from it in this case.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I agree, for the reason put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), that the Committee would be well advised to leave these words in the Clause. They are in consonance with general practice of the past, and if we do not put in such words we might be indulging in retrospective confiscation. There may be a completely innocent subscriber who subscribes to an association and thereafter the association may change its character and contravene the provisions of this Act. In that case the subscriber should be entitled to the repayment of his subscription, in accordance with the principle which has been adopted by the courts in the past. It would be very undesirable if in these circumstances through the illegal action of persons over whom he has no control, he should lose his rights. For these reasons I suggest that the words should remain in the Bill. It may not be very likely that they will be much used, but they enshrine the principle that we should not retrospectively deprive people of their rights.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, to leave out Sub-section (4).
I want to make a few comments on this Sub-section without, I hope, marring the harmony which has so far marked our proceedings. As the Clause stands and as it was presumably originally intended to stand in the Act, it seemed to me one of the strangest Clauses that I had ever read in any Bill. It would have been possible, according to the words printed here, for evidence to be given against a defendant in any criminal or civil proceedings on the utterances of some 122 entirely irresponsible person who was unconnected with him and whose very name he might not know. That was as the Clause originally stood. Since then two Amendments have been put down by the Secretary of State, which go a considerable way towards meeting the objections which some of us feel, and which some hon. Members expressed on Second Reading. It is now necessary for the prosecution to prove affirmatively that the person whose words are being used as evidence was either a member or an adherent of the association concerned. We are grateful to the Government for these changes, but even admitting these Amendments the Clause is still rather wider than it need be. Hon. Members, learned and lay, are aware of the fact that the general rule of evidence, at any rate in the criminal law, is, that no words are evidence against a man unless they are spoken in his presence. There are certain well defined exceptions to that rule, but that is the general rule, the good sense of which is obvious and always has been obvious. When we are dealing with an association of persons it is necessary, and we all realise it, to make some further exceptions to the general rule of evidence, but I think the Sub-section goes rather further than is necessary.
There are certain obvious cases where we all admit that evidence of this kind may be necessary. If you are proceeding against the leader of a certain organisation it is obviously desirable and necessary you should be able to give evidence of a speech made not in his presence but under his inspiration by one of the principal lieutenants of the movement. If you have a procession which has all the marks of a military march, then again it is perfectly reasonable you should be able to give evidence of that, although the person in the dock or the defendant in civil proceedings was not actually taking part in the procession. You want to be able to give evidence not only of what is done by the organiser or leader of the movement, but also of what is done on his behalf by other members of the organisation. Powers like that are necessary and reasonable when you are giving evidence of something which is done as part of the proceedings of the organisation concerned; you are making the leader or organiser responsible for something that is done in the way of the ordinary propaganda of the organisation. 123 The Sub-section, when it has been amended in the way suggested, will go a great deal further than that. Suppose you put Mr. X in the dock charged with committing an offence under this Subsection, you will be able to give evidence of words that are used not only by members of his organisation but by adherents at any time in any place and in any circumstances. We have all at one time or another had the experience of fighting an election, and in that case we have all been the leaders of a particular movement or organisation in our constituency. I wonder how many hon. Members would like to undertake responsibility for every single remark casually made by any one of our supporters. I do not think any hon. Member in any party would undertake such a burden. Every movement contains certain irresponsible members. It is the common experience that there are certain followers, firebrands, who are prepared to go much farther than the leader of the movement, and who, in fact, express views of which the leaders or organisers would probably strongly disapprove.
The danger would not be so great if the Clause did not include the word "adherents." I agree that it is necessary to have that word. You cannot limit this Sub-section simply to the paid-up membership of any organisation, because people can always get round such a provision by saying that he was not a fully constituted member. But, nevertheless, the term "adherents" is very wide, and there is no definition in the Bill as to what it means. Therefore any hanger-on, any sympathiser, would probably be taken to be an adherent, and what any such sympathiser might choose to say in any circumstances might be used under this Sub-section as evidence against the person against whom proceedings were being taken. I bring this up for consideration only because the Sub-section is still wider than is necessary, and I hope that the Government are prepared to reconsider the wording, and are prepared to put in some further safeguards in order to provide that the utterances for which the organisers or leaders are to be made responsible are utterances for which they can fairly be held to be liable, and not some chance remark of someone who 124 happens to be casually associated with the movement.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
The difficulty which hon. Members feel about this Sub-section is the word "adherents." It is the same difficulty as occurred in the use of the word "adjacent" in the De-rating Act. Shortly after that Act was on the Statute Book a case cropped up in Manchester in which I was interested, and the result turned on the meaning of the word "adjacent." To my surprise it was decided that one hereditament on one side of the street could be adjacent to another hereditament in the same ownership on the other side of the street. Most laymen would take the word "adjacent" to mean adjoining, and when you have a street separating two hereditaments which are said to be "adjacent" I am beginning to wonder what interpretation the courts will put on the word "adherents." I am afraid that the Subsection is so loosely drawn that the word will include anybody who in the slightest way has said anything in appreciation of the objects of any political association.
I, myself, in this House have probably used a phrase which might imply that I am an adherent of some Fascist organisation. I am afraid that no Fascist organisation would claim me as an adherent, because I have roundly denounced their objects. In my division the Fascists are stronger than in any other constituency. The word "adherents" might be construed as widely as the word "adjacent" was, and might bring me in as an adherent of the Fascist organisation, a thing which I should deeply regret. I have been called all sorts of things in my time, but I do not wish to be called a Fascist. I could not be called a Fascist considering the way I have denounced the anti-Semitic movement. I would like to see Sub-section (4) work properly, but in considering it I cannot help thinking of what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said about it last Monday. He was discussing this Sub-section, and I was present. He said it was a case of the rules of evidence in construing this Subsection, and he used the following words:If a man is accused in this country of receiving stolen goods, and if it can be shown that the goods are stolen, as soon as you have shown that he has got them, instantly, notwithstanding that principle of the law, it lies upon him, though he is an 125 accused person in the dock, to show what is his explanation of what would otherwise be an inference of guilt against him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1936; col. 1358, Vol. 317.]The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in that statement. I am sure he will agree with me when I point out that the very statement he made has been discussed by the Court of Appeal in the case of Rex v. Abramovitch. The right hon. Gentleman left out one most important word—"recently." The words "recently stolen" make all the difference in the world.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's memory does not serve him correctly. As a matter of fact, I inserted the word "recently," I think in consequence of an observation made at the time by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton).
§ Mr. FLEMING
It is not a question of the right hon. Gentleman suffering any correction from me; it is the OFFICIAL REPORT that needs correcting.
§ Mr. FLEMING
That is why I said I was present listening to the right hon. Gentleman, but 'as I was sitting behind him and did not hear very well what he said, I read the OFFICIAL REPORT, which is as I have quoted. It is because of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on the possible interpretation of this Subsection in the courts that I am supporting the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), so that it should be made clear what the word "adherent" means. Otherwise there will be once again the possibility that the magistrates—not the High Courts, for I have great reliance on High Court judgments; it is with the magistrates that the trouble begins—will have difficulty with such words as "adherent." The meaning of the word ought to be more clearly defined.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. and learned Gentleman who supported the Amendment, and who is adjacent to but, I think, not an adherent of the hon. Member who moved it, laid particular stress on the question as to whether it might be possible to define more precisely the word "adherent." My right hon. Friend has been considering that point 126 in connection with an Amendment which is on the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I do not say that I am authorised to give any undertaking on his behalf concerning those words, but we appreciate the point that there are grounds for, at any rate, seriously considering them. Let me tell the Committee at once that the trouble is that if one starts to define one may produce a state of affairs which somebody can get round, although it may be found possible to produce a form of words which might not be open to this objection. We realise the considerable force of the arguments of those who wish us to be as precise as possible.
I would like to say a few words about this Sub-section. Some objections will be removed by the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has on the Paper. I will not go into the question as to what would have been or might have been the effect of the Clause without that Amendment. but let the Committee remember that by the Sub-sections of the Clause which have already been passed it has decided that it shall be an offence to control or manage an association organised in a certain way. That places upon the prosecution the duty of satisfying the court on two different grounds. First of all the prosecution has to show—assuming, of course, that the Act is contravened—that the defendant is in control or management of an association. Secondly, the prosecution has to show, that the association is organised and controlled in a certain way. It seems to me quite fair to say that the normal evidence of training or equipping would be not evidence of things done or of words written, spoken or published in the presence of the controlling man who sits in an office while the people are being organised up and down the country, but the evidence normally would be of things done or of words written, spoken or published otherwise than in his presence.
I am not quite certain that, without this Sub-section, having regard to the nature of the offence created, one could not have put forward a very strong argument for a submission that this evidence ought to be admitted and that the strict rule ought not to be applied. If the strict rule is to be applied—and I think the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) more or 127 less agreed with this—it would make the task of the prosecution impossible. In general, I think it is agreed that some such Sub-section as this is necessary. The hon. Gentleman went on to suggest that it might be limited in some way so as to exclude the chance word and admit statements for which the defendant could properly be held liable. This Subsection merely deals with admissibility, but naturally in any proceedings the prosecution has to put forward evidence of weight and value, and show that it is evidence which can be so related to the defendant as to convince the jury that it was entitled to rely on it. The Committee must surely proceed on the basis that the evidence will not be acted on by any court unless the evidence had relevance to the issue before the court. If the hon. Member would like to try his hand at a wording, I would certainly consider it; but I find it difficult to imagine any form of words which would cover the suggestion he put forward, that is to say, which would include as admissible utterances for which the party in question might fairly be held liable, but exclude the chance word. That is exactly the type of matter which must be dealt with, when the evidence has been given, by the court, whose duty it is to assign proper value to it. For those reasons I suggest to the Committee that the Amendment should be rejected.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
There is a big question of principle behind this Amendment. At present a large number of hindrances stand in the way of proving a criminal offence against any person, and when the Attorney-General says that it would be almost impossible to get a conviction without this Sub-section, the answer is that nearly all such proceedings in England are carried out now in circumstances in which any foreign jurist would say that it was impossible to get a conviction. Yet we do get convictions and it is important that we should not slip as we seem to be slipping, more and more easily and more and more deeply, into the view that anything which helps the police to get a conviction or helps the Government to get what they want is necessarily what is called "a good thing." We want to be careful about that. In this case I suggest that there is 128 more in the point which has been raised than the. Attorney-General thinks, because the words of the Sub-section would cover the idle boastings of partially intoxicated young men in a cafe of what they had done or proposed to do to somebody in the name of some particular "ism" which they were supporting. I would rather see the Sub-section go altogether, but if I am not out of order I would suggest to the Attorney-General an alternative wording. I have not, I say frankly, given it much consideration, but some such words as these might be a solution:In any criminal or civil proceedings under this section proof of things done or of words written, spoken or published by the members or adherents of an association when acting in pursuance of the purposes of the said organisation,etc., or something of that sort. I always mistrust my own draftsmanship and generally everybody else's, but I think something of that sort might meet the case. Even as the Sub-section would then stand it would leave one open to the difficulty—and it is not imaginary—of some police spy or agent provocateur being professedly a member or adherent of an organisation and saying or doing something in order to procure the conviction of certain persons for offences of which those inventing the evidence believed them to be guilty. There are people who would think it quite proper to employ such means to convict people who, in their opinion, ought to be convicted. As to the word "adherent" I hope the Government will be able to find a better one. It is necessary to have some word as the Attorney-General said to avoid the word "member" being evaded. I have sought in my own limited mental range for a better word and I have not yet found any, but I gather that the Attorney-General, without giving any undertaking on the matter, thinks that he may be able later on to find another word.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The suggestion which my right hon. Friend is considering is 'that something might be put in to make the word clearer, on the lines of the Amendment which appears later on the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—in page 3, line 14, at end, insert:For the purposes of this section the expression 'adherent of an association' 129 shall mean any person who acts in cooperation with an association or with its members as such, or whose support is accepted by it.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
I hope that this Subsection will go out. One feels concerned not so much on account of the association which appears to be in everybody's mind in this connection, but on account of wider considerations. I notice that throughout these discussions one organisation, whose members wear a particular costume, seems always to be before us but there are other organisations whose work is partly political and partly industrial and those organisations might be made responsible under this Sub-section for things done by an individual or a few individuals. We know the kind of thing which has happened in the past. People have attached themselves to trade unions and have done things and have written, spoken and published things, during times of trouble and because they happened to be associated for a short period with an organisation, the whole of that organisation has been held to blame. Whatever may be thought at this moment the Bill is going to have a wider application than the Fascist organisation and I can realise from the speeches of some hon. Members that they have a great many other organisations in their minds. I also object to the Sub-section on account of the difficulties to which it will give rise. I cannot understand how this word "adherent" is to be defined. I have heard hon. Members who belong to the legal fraternity discussing it and I can imagine that persons who had been associated with an organisation, perhaps for a period of days or weeks, and who were determined to injure that organisation would find little difficulty under this Sub-section in proving in the courts that they were adherents of that organisation. The organisation would then be made responsible for what those people had done, written, spoken or published even 130 if it was unknown to the majority of the members. I hope the Amendment will be carried.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I am very much surprised that the doughty fighter who is at the moment the leader of the Socialist party in the House, the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) should have surrendered so completely and so suddenly the views which are represented by the Amendment on the Paper. He is one of the vice-presidents of the National Council for Civil Liberties which has said, regarding this Sub-section, that they are amazed at its inclusion in the Bill.
§ Mr. TURTON
I feel sure that the hon. Member is correct, but if he will bear with me while I make my argument, I was about to say—
§ Mr. PRITT
I may have been very obscure in what I said, but I certainly did not intend to inform the Committee that I supported this Sub-section. I supported the Amendment for its removal and I do not see why the hon. Member should seek to bring up in evidence against me words written, spoken or published by members and adherents of the National Council for Civil Liberties.
§ Mr. TURTON
To interpose the defence before the case for the prosecution has been completed is not the practice in our courts, although the hon. Members opposite are now indulging in it, but I hasten to say that I would be quite willing to be in the dock with them on this charge, because I do not like this Sub-section at all. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith made it appear, to those who were not attending too closely to his remarks at any rate, that he would be quite agreeable if the Government just altered the words to suit a little bit of drafting of his own, which would make very little difference.
I ask the Attorney-General to go into this Sub-section much more closely. I think he has made the case for its retention in some form and that if he wants 131 to prove that persons are so "organised, or trained, or equipped," he may give evidence of things done, even although the leaders, managers, or controllers of that organisation were not present, but I cannot see any justification for "words…spoken," where they are spoken by chance or in pursuance of the objects of the organisation. That is a doctrine quite hostile to our principles of criminal law, and I do not think it is necessary, in order to get a conviction, to use that very great power of using the words spoken by any speaker at any meeting to prove that the leader was organising and training his followers in a certain way.
I hope this Sub-section will be used, when it is used, only when the offence is being most flagrantly committed, and the evidence that will be given will be evidence of drilling and training at the headquarters of the organisation, and there will be no need to go into Hyde Park and listen to what a speaker at a meeting of Communists or Fascists is saying to bring evidence against the leader of either of those organisations. I ask the Attorney-General not to keep this Sub-section in its full force, but to retain the words that he wants of proof of things done and to leave out the words "written, spoken, or published." If then he finds that he has not enough power, he can in a later Bill come here and ask for this great breach of the principles of the criminal law, of which we are very proud and which we do not want to have taken away.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I would like the Attorney-General to withdraw this Subsection, and I think he should understand, from what has already been said, that it is a very dangerous Sub-section indeed to introduce into the law of this country. I would like to direct attention to a speech that was made earlier in the evening, when an hon. Member opposite quoted someone who alleged in Hyde Park that he was a Communist, and who said that he had the intention at some future period of cutting the throats of a variety of Members of the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. TURTON
He included the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—one of your leaders.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I want to ask the Lord Advocate whether he can conceive of such an appalling situation as that I could be brought into the dock and charged with the intention, on some particular occasion, of cutting the throat of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) or of any other Member of this House. I might put them in the dock if I had the opportunity, but I would not cut their throats, and I want to say that this man, whoever he was, could not possibly have been a member of the Communist party, because he would have been excluded immediately for using such language. But he does not have to be a member. He can say he is an adherent, whatever that may mean. He can claim that he is a general of the Communist army, which does not exist, and under this Sub-section it is possible for the leader of the Communist party to be taken up as a result. It is quite easy, in certain circumstances at any rate, to get a jury to find a verdict of guilty against him, no matter what the evidence is worth. I have had some experience of that.
But there is another thing. In the general discussion on this Bill, I drew attention to this Clause and mentioned particular cases. Take the man Johnson, who was in the working-class movement and was being paid by representatives of Scotland Yard. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the working-class movement"] Trade unions, unemployed workers' organisations, the Labour party, the Co-operatives, the Communist party—a whole variety of organisations. He was in a number of different organisations, and he was supplying information at so much per week, but he was not getting satisfactory information, so he wrote up what were alleged to be speeches made at particular meetings. Here was a man who was prepared to use his imagination to write up reports of meetings that never took place and reports of things that were never said. It may be that I or someone else would be addressing a meeting somewhere, and he would write up what I or that someone else said, although he was not present.
Because of the fact that the authorities were continually driving at him to get more and better, greater, or more lurid information, that man Johnson was driven to commit suicide. He went down 133 to Brighton, and he left a note explaining that he was committing suicide, and then finished himself. His wife went to the "Yard" and tried to get compensation from them, but they knew nothing about it. Here is an actual case of a man being forced to fabricate evidence, and if they can force a man to do that, and make him liable to suicide in the process, is it not possible that they can force a man in the working-class movement to go on the platform and make all kinds of wild statements? How can we be held responsible for anyone who does that?
It may be that on an ordinary Labour party, or trade union, or Co-operative, or Communist platform someone may get up and make some wild utterance, and you hold the leaders of the Co-operative movement, or the Labour party, or the trade union, or the Communist party responsible. On Tory party platforms they can make some of the fiercest utterances, but it is always against unfortunate people in the Colonies, and no action can be taken against them. They can use the most bloodthirsty and violent language against Colonial people, and it is not sedition, but under this Sub-section I tell the Lord Advocate that the most vicious and pernicious developments could be encouraged in this country, developments that I am certain even those hon. Members opposite who still have any regard for the governing principles of democracy—which are so often talked about but, by many of those Members, so often spat upon—would never tolerate.
The retention of this Sub-section could never be justified from my point of view, but from the point of view of the Lord Advocate it could only be justified if it referred to words written, spoken or published in official statements or publications. Even that would be bad, but it would be better than the words of the existing Sub-section. Another way would be to confine it to proof of things done and leave out reference to words written, spoken or published. It would, however, be much better for the Bill and for the legal position in this country if the Subsection were left out altogether. If it is passed in anything like its present form there will develop in this country something which has not been very evident before, namely, continual corruption in all matters affecting the courts.
§ 8.57 p.m.
Mr. DAVID ADAMS
I am glad to support the deletion of this Sub-section. I am satisfied that it does not affect a trade union as such, because Clause 1 makes it clear that the organisation must be of a military or semi-military character organised for specific purposes. The Subsection, however, is a repudiation of the English law. We are to make a person responsible not merely for the acts which he has committed or authorised, but for statements or words written, spoken or published by other people of whom he has no knowledge. That is a change in the law which might, and probably would, be used with great hardship.
The Clause introduces the word "adherents." It is a dangerous word. An adherent may be a person who is merely listening in a meeting, but who went for the purpose of damaging the cause and securing the dissolution of the organisation. He may have subscribed nothing towards it and it may be his first meeting, but he determines that he will use all the methods available to him to secure the dissolution of the organisation. The promoters of the meeting and the leaders of the organisation may know nothing of the individual, and the onus of proof that he is not an adherent remains upon the accused. It is an unjust position, and places the accused in a difficulty from which it would be impossible for him to extricate himself. It places the accused person at a disadvantage contrary to English law. If evidence is to be given against any organisation, the person giving it ought to he an actual subscribing member. Otherwise, any person desiring its dissolution can achieve this in the way suggested in the Clause.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
I realise the Government's difficulty. My attitude towards this Bill is to try to facilitate its progress, because I realise that we are up against a tough proposition. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment attaches great importance to the principle behind the Sub-section. We think that the Government should reconsider the drafting, for there is a real danger that it will go against the whole spirit of civil liberties and create a precedent. It may not do it in this particular Bill, but once it is embodied in our Statute law it will be liable to serious abuse. Therefore, I suggest that the Lord 135 Advocate should give an undertaking to redraft the Sub-section in order to meet the real criticisms that have been made from all sides of the Committee. Perhaps for the first time all four parties are agreed—Conservative, Liberal, Labour and Communist—an almost exceptional phalanx of persuasion. I therefore suggest that the Lord Advocate should give an undertaking that, if we do not press the Amendment to a Division, he will redraft the Sub-section.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The Committee are aware that certain Amendments in the phrasing of this Sub-section were proposed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and during the last half-hour we have had the benefit of a number of suggestions—I do not hesitate to say valuable suggestions—from various quarters, including the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). I readily accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Smith-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that the sole purpose upon which we are all engaged is, by our joint efforts, to secure an effective result. Accordingly, I shall unhesitatingly undertake to confer with my right hon. Friend in the light of the discussion which has taken place to see whether between now and the Report stage effect can be given to one or other of the suggestions that have been put forward, or to some combination of them, with a view to meeting the criticisms which have been made. I hope that that undertaking will satisfy hon. Members and will avoid the necessity for a Division.
At the same time I should like to stress, what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, that some of the fears expressed during the discussion as to the extent of the change in the law effected by this Sub-section are really exaggerated, because the Subsection is concerned neither with the onus of proof nor with the fundamental principles of criminal law, but solely with the admissibility of a certain type of evidence which might otherwise be ruled out altogether. But I do not propose to go further into that, and I shall, if the Committee pleases, leave the matter upon the basis that the useful discussion which has taken place 136 may, between now and the Report stage, enable the object which this Sub-section is designed to achieve to be attained in a more thoroughly satisfactory manner. In the light of that undertaking I would humbly suggest to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that he should not press it.
§ Mr. FOOT
I thank the Lord Advocate for the way in which he has met the views which have been expressed, and on the basis of his undertaking that this matter will be thoroughly reconsidered and an attempt made to redraft the Subsection before the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, to leave out "persons appearing to be."
This Amendment, which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and the consequential Amendment in the next line of the Bill, have already, I think, been adequately discussed in the course of our arguments on this Sub-section, and accordingly with only that reference to it, I formally move the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 9, leave out from "shall" to "be," in line 11.—[The Lord Advocate.]
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. PICKTHORN
I beg to move, in page 3, line 14, at the end, to insert:For the purposes of this Section the expression adherent of an association ' shall mean any person who acts in co-operation with an association or with its members as such, or whose support is accepted by it.I hope I shall not be too far out of order if, as one who tried to draft Amendments to some extent in the same sense as those we have just passed, I express gratitude to the Home Secretary for those Amendments. As regards the Amendment I am now moving, I cannot feel any particular pride of parentage over its particular form of words, but I think it is clear that there are some words which cannot be defined but which express things which must be dealt with. It is equally clear that the smaller the number of such undefined words the more accurate will be the drafting of legislation, and that if we must agree that words 137 like "political," for instance, can hardly be defined, it is all the more necessary that we should make some attempt to define the word "adherent." I do not suggest that it cannot be better defined than it is here defined, but I do venture humbly to hope that some such definition as this might improve the whole of the Clause in which the word occurs.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I quite appreciate the intentions of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and I think they are very reasonable, and, subject to making certain, after careful examination, that his words really have the effect that he wishes, I will agree to accept them.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
I would like to add a word of warning. As I have mentioned before, this word has worried hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House. We have felt that the real difficulty about the word "adherent" is that it implies somebody who attaches himself to an association, whereas what is really aimed at is somebody who is attached to an association in the sense that the association accepts him. We are not very happy about it in any shape or form. Where the expression "adherent" means:Any person who acts in co-operation with an association or with its members as such,we suggest that that really does very little to help us. The words:whose support is accepted by itare rather more welcome to us, and we would feel moderately happy with "adherent" meaning a person whose support is accepted by an association, although that is rather an upside-down way of defining it. Therefore, we are rather unhappy; but if the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) can take any comfort from the fact that he has succeeded in getting a definition that I, with all my efforts, had not succeeded in finding, I am sure he is welcome to it.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
We had a previous assurance from the Lord Advocate with regard to this Sub-section, and I thought 138 it covered the point in connection with this Amendment, which I hope will also be reconsidered by the Government when they are seeking to produce some new form of words to try to satisfy Parliament. I did not take part in the last discussion, because I regarded the assurance of the Lord Advocate as satisfactory. I think the Government are aware of the misgivings in the minds of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee regarding the definition of "adherent," and I hope that they will seek to meet us.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, in page 3, line 15, to leave out Subsection (5).
This question of the extension of the right of search of premises came before the House on the Sedition Bill, and my hon. Friends on that occasion had something to do with the alteration of the words in that Measure. I think the provision that a Judge of the High Court has to be satisfied before the right of search is given was the outcome of an Amendment moved by the members of my own party. But though that Amendment was accepted it did not wholly satisfy us; we would prefer that this extension should not be given. I think the powers to be taken here to go to premises and search any individual on the premises, go too far. As I said on a previous Amendment, the Clause appears to be very much wider in its application than many hon. Members seem to realise. A great deal has been said about the judges having to decide the meaning of the words. It is certainly not what is said in this House or what the Government intend that matters. Very often the court takes a different view from that which was the intention when the law was passing through this House.
This paragraph appears to be so wide in scope that I foresee dangers in the future, in connection with the right of search. An Amendment of ours, which was not called, made reference to picketing during a time of industrial dispute. An industrial dispute may arise out of a desire by trade unionists to strike for, say, the abolition of the means test, and that action might be treated as having a political object, and paragraph (b) might be applied to it. The premises of the trade union would then be searched under 139 the Clause. I am anxious that as much precaution as possible should be taken at this stage and I would like to have an assurance from the Government on the matter. So far as our organisation is concerned, if the proposals of the Government were interpreted by the courts as the Government intend, I would not have any misgivings. I do not think my organisation would take steps to bring us under the operation of Clause 2, but I do not trust the courts. Very often when political passion becomes excited and economic disputes become acute, repercussions such as those which resulted from the stoppage of 1926 take place, and then a Measure such as the one we are now discussing might he brought into operation.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. Member said what he had to say very moderately and briefly, and I share in his desire that we should not pass words unless we are sure that they say what we mean. He was expressing the feeling of many others besides himself. If the Clause could be effectively enforced without the right of search, that would be another matter, but it is no use passing legislation of this sort unless we arm the responsible authorities with every power to put themselves into a position to enforce it, if the facts warrant. If there is any question as to the purposes for which members of an association are organised, that may be generally ascertained by the right, under proper restrictions, to examine what is to be found at their headquarters.
I suggest that we should not regard Sub-section (5) with a prejudiced eye because of the controversies which were raised upon the earlier Measure to which the hon. Gentleman referred; we must look at it in reference to its subject-matter. I cannot see anything in Subsection (5) which is unreasonable. The hon. Gentleman said very fairly that the authorities usually act with proper care and impartiality. I would remind hon. Members that a Judge of the High Court has to be satisfied that the conditions as here laid down are observed. If that is not going to secure impartiality, nothing on earth will, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree, on reflection, that that is the right authority upon which to put this matter. The judge has to be satisfied, after information on oath, that there is present, not one of the elements 140 to build up the offence, but all the elements, and that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that the offence under this Clause has been committed. He has to be satisfied that the evidence of it is likely to be found on the premises specified, or headquarters—[An HON. MEMBER "Or a house"]—or it might conceivably be a house. The warrant has to be applied for not by an ordinary officer of police but by an officer of higher rank, and the search warrant is issued for only a limited period of time.
Hon. Members have to decide whether they mean Clause 2 to be one which can be operated or one that cannot be operated. I have no more liking, in the abstract, for any authority, even judicial authority, to enter other people's premises, than has any other hon. Member, and I agree that we should watch the exercise of this power very narrowly; but it is no use making provisions of this sort unless we at the same time provide the machinery which is necessary to carry them into effect. Without the least desire to use that power as a pretext for quite different kinds of legislation in the future, and looking at the object of this Clause, this seems, in the circumstances, to be a necessary provision to make. We must look at it very narrowly, but we must see that authority is not given to those outside this House in a way which might possibly interfere with the exercise of individual liberty. Hon. Members will appreciate that these words have been put in the improved form which, the hon. Member rightly said, was secured as a result of action by critics upon a previous occasion, and I hope that they will feel that this is a satisfactory form of words.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
It is true that the form of words here included is strangely familiar to some of us who spent a considerable time upon a former occasion, to which reference has been made, in securing the safeguards of the Judge of the High Court, the Inspector of Police, and the rest of it. There is still one feature of the Clause to which some of us take exception, and that is the inclusion of the right of personal search. I have upon the paper two Amendments, which I understand are not being called, and which were designed to delete the right to search people who have not been 141 arrested and whose only offence is that they have been found on the premises to which the search warrant applies. I think I am right in saying that in the great majority of cases where provision is made for a search warrant in our Statute law there is no such right of personal search. In the ordinary way a police officer can search anybody after he has arrested him, but not before, and one of the objections which we took to a similar Clause to this in the Incitement to Disaffection Act was the provision put in which gave the right to a police officer to search anyone he might find on premises whether or not he had any connection with the possible offenders or whatever he might be doing on the premises.
Take an extreme case. If the headquarters of some political organisation were entered and searched under this provision and there were some workmen inside, brought in to repair or paper the rooms and who had no sort of connection with the organisation, even they would be liable to personal search under the terms of this Sub-section. It would be unfortunate if we were to follow in this respect the precedent set by the Incitement to Disaffection Act and were to make it almost a habit in this House that whenever we put a. search warrant Clause into a Statute this right to personal search without arrest should be included. If a constable wishes to search a man he should be prepared to arrest him, because he cannot arrest him without reason. This Clause enables him to search people without having any proper grounds for suspicion. He can conduct, as it were, a rolling search in the hope that he may find something to justify the action taken. Even if the search warrant Clause goes through—and I agree that there are good reasons for putting in such a Clause in this Bill —I hope that this Clause giving the right of persona/ search will be dropped.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
I listened very carefully to the hon. Member who moved this Amendment and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), but I am bound to say that I find myself in substantial sympathy with the view expressed by the Home Secretary. We must face what we are dealing with in this matter. We are not dealing with an ordinary political party, but an 142 organisation, whatever it is—we do not want to give it a name—of exceptional character. It is not a political party in the sense that we understand it in this House. I do not take the view that this section is applicable to a trade union. In my judgment the wording of the Sub-section covers activity in which no trade union would be likely to engage, and if it did—I want to be frank —it would be wrong. The kind of organisation visualised here is one which, as far as its internal, domestic affairs are concerned, is secret. Its finances are secret, both in their origin and disbursement. It is not controlled by its members, but by a dictatorial oligarchy. Therefore, it is capable of doing things which are conspiracies against the State and our democratic liberties without anyone outside the organisation, or even the larger body of members inside the organisation, being aware of it. It may be the policy or decision of one man or of a. limited number of men. In these circumstances if evidence is believed to exist in the offices of the organisation or the private house of the dictatorial chief of that organisation, if we want the menace dealt with we must not boggle at the authorities having the power of search.
If we make serious Amendments in this Sub-section, we shall make the section as a whole inoperative. We shall make it impossible for the authorities to enforce it, and I would beg of hon. Members who agree with us in wanting this menace dealt with, not to weaken the Sub-section so that it is impossible for the police and other authorities to enforce it. The hon. Member for Dundee raised the right of search of individuals, on the face of it not too happy a thing, but if the vital documents in the matter are transferred from a safe or filing cabinet to their own pockets, when the persons concerned are apprehensive that the police are coming, it is going to be a farce if the police cannot get those documents and that information. The whole purpose of the search has gone. This Sub-section goes to the root of the matter. Do we want this Bill to be effective or not? Do we want it to be framed in such a way as to deal with Fascists or anybody else who want to upset the constitutional liberties of this State by force or conspiracy, with the aid of money got from abroad?
§ Mr. FOOT
The right hon. Gentleman has been raising the question of personal search. He is in favour of that provision remaining in. As I endeavoured to point out to the Committee, we tried to strike out those words from the Incitement to Disaffection Bill. On that occasion the whole of his party supported us. Why was it right to strike out those words in the Incitement to Disaffection Bill, and not to strike them out here?
§ Mr. MORRISON
It may well be right. I was not in the House at the time, but I think my hon. Friends were generally opposed to the Sedition Act. They would like to have defeated the whole Bill, and probably with very good reason. It may well be that we do not like the right of personal search in one Bill, but when you are dealing with an organisation which is something in the nature of a secret conspiracy against the constitutional liberties of the State, you may take another view. The hon. Member smiles, but if hon. Members are to be governed in what they do on this Bill according to what they did on another Bill, that is not proper examination of legislation. This legislation has been introduced in the face of certain circumstances, and I am bound to tell the Committee that I will be no party to making it ineffective. I say with all earnestness and sincerity that if you leave out this Sub-section, and even the right to personal search you will make this section ineffective. The purpose of the Bill is to prevent the existence of political organisations organised in a military fashion on the lines of certain organisations abroad which have by their continued existence destroyed the liberties of whole nations.
Either we mean business about this Bill or we do not. I recall the words uttered by an hon. and learned Member opposite on the Second Reading. He said that if we are going to have this Bill, it must be effective for its purpose. Those who are conspiring against the constitutional liberties of the people will inevitably be looking out for every avenue to evade the provisions of the Bill. If we provide means by which they can evade the provisions of the Bill, the Act of Parliament will become a farce, and there will thereby have been inflicted, not a grave humiliation upon His Majesty's Government in introducing the Bill, but a 144 humiliation upon the House of Commons for having tried to deal with a menace, which is a very real menace, to the liberties of the British people. If that happens, and Parliamentary proceedings and Parliamentary enactments are made a farce, I warn hon. Members that it may be a long time before we shall get this problem properly dealt with. Therefore, although naturally this is a provision which we should not run after, it is a provision which no one would run after if they could help it, the issue before the Committee is whether this Section is going to be effective for its purpose or not. For my part, and I hope it is the view of my hon. Friends, I want it to be effective for its purpose of dealing with the situation with which we are faced, and in these circumstances I must definitely advise my hon. Friends not to support the Amendment which has been moved.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I have listened to the discussion with great interest, but I am not at all convinced. The point was made by the right hon. Gentleman that this Bill was introduced for a specific purpose; he said he would not mention the particular organisation that he had in mind. That makes us realise that we have to ask ourselves whether it is only going to deal with a particular organisation. It has been said again and again, it has been said by Members of the Government, that they are not dealing with a particular organisation, but with the general position, and I feel that in dealing with the general position we have to see that the ordinary working-class movement is not afterwards to be made the victim of legislation which, in the minds of so many Members, was aimed at a particular political organisation in this country. The whole question hinges upon whether there is one particular organisation which is being dealt with in the Bill or not. I submit that that is not the case—that the Government have been quite straight and honest in stating that they are dealing with the general situation, that they are not striking at one particular organisation but seeking to secure the general position; and I can see the present Government's attempt to secure the general position having very harmful consequences to the working-class movement. It has happened with so much of past legislation, and that is 145 what I had in view in moving this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. FOOT
I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, at the end, to add:
Provided that no woman shall, in pursuance of a warrant issued under this Subsection, he searched except by a woman.This is a proviso which was inserted in the Incitement to Disaffection Bill, and it was inserted with the agreement, I think, of all the Members of the Committee upstairs who considered that Bill. There was some dispute as to whether it was necessary, but I think it was thought better on that occasion to be on the cautious side and put in this safeguard. As it was inserted there, I respectfully suggest that it might be put in here.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
We accept this Amendment, but I think I ought to say that it represents what is already the police practice in this country, and it would be a pity if it were thought that it had to be inserted specially. Indeed, I think it is rather a, pity that it was inserted in the earlier Act, but it is a perfectly reasonable proposition in itself, and it is interesting to me to find the hon. Member getting up to vindicate as far as may be the scheme of the Incitement to Disaffection Act.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Sir I. ALBERY
Before parting with Clause 2, I want to ask the Home Secretary if he will give us some explanation of the difference in wording between paragraphs (a) and (b) of Subsection (1). Paragraph (a) reads:organised or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police….Paragraph (b) says:organised and trained or organised and equipped.It occurs to me that it would be perfectly competent for a body of persons to be organised for the particular purposes which the Sub-section is designed 146 to prevent, without being either trained or equipped. If anyone organises a body of roughs to go and do the particular thing which this Sub-section would prevent, they have not necessarily to train or equip them beforehand. I was hoping that, before we pass from the Clause, we might have some explanation of the difference in wording between the two paragraphs.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
My hon. Friend will perhaps recall, or perhaps he will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT if he was not here, that on the Second Reading I did explain this difference. Let me just state it in a couple of sentences, in answer to his inquiry. I agree that the distinction to which he calls attention is important, and should be understood. The Committee, of course, will see, and my hon. Friend will see, that what paragraph (a) strikes at is not limited to organisations which have a political object; it is a broad provision. In paragraph (b), however, a special case is dealt with, the case of organisation for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object. We have to be careful that we do not open our net so wide under paragraph (b) as to catch cases that we do not really intend to penalise. For instance, in paragraph (b) the Committee has already passed the words of lines 14 to 17, under which an offence may be committed if it is shown that the manner is such as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and either trained or equipped for that purpose. I think that that provision was generally approved on the Second Reading by the House, and the Committee has now passed the words. It seemed to us that, if you were going to catch people in certain events by proving reasonable apprehension, that was a condition which could not fairly be applied unless there was not only organisation, but also training or equipment, and it was, therefore, quite deliberately that we put in the word "and" in paragraph (b), and the word "or" in paragraph (a). If my hon. Friend will look at the report of our proceedings on the Second Reading, he will find that I explained the matter then, and I think the Committee will generally appreciate why the distinction was drawn.