§ Considered in Committee [Progress, 23rd November.]
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 3.—(Powers for the preservation of public order on the occasion of processions.)
§ Amendment proposed [23rd November], in page 4, line 35, to leave out Subsection (4).—[Mr. Stephen.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'fails,' in line 35, stand part of the Clause."
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Before we adjourned the discussion on Monday I had only time to move this Amendment without giving reasons for it. I welcome the opportunity now of putting some considerations before the Committee in connection with this Sub-section. Hon. Members will see on the Paper that there are other Amendments to the Sub-section. What I had in mind is what is indicated in my own subsequent Amendments and the Amendments of hon. Members behind me. The whole Clause I regard as a very dangerous Clause. It appears to me that it is going to have very great possibilities in the hands of the police in the case of working-class demonstrations. This Sub-section is so drawn and to my mind is so wide that it should be substantially altered. I ask the Committee to address their minds to what happens in connection with demonstrations. If an order has been made and a demonstration takes place there may be only a certain number of people who are acquainted with all the instructions which have been given or the conditions which have been imposed, but under this Sub-section people taking part in that demonstration may be charged with an offence, although they are quite unaware of the exact terms of the order or the conditions which have been imposed.
In the past there have been many occasions when demonstrations have taken place against the wish of the authorities. Very often such demonstrations have arisen out of the spontaneous dissatisfaction of people, and although 582 the authorities have refused permission for the demonstrations to take place the dissatisfaction was so great that the demonstrations went on. I believe that it has been very often a safety valve, when demonstrations have gone on despite the order of the authorities, and the authorities, seeing how widespread has been the dissatisfaction which has led to the demonstrations, have subsequently taken no steps, even though their order has been disregarded. That has been one of the great safeguards of democracy in this country. It is all going to be changed by this Bill, and this Subsection is to give power to impose very heavy penalties on people who take part in these demonstrations.
There are two specific points with regard to the Sub-section that I would emphasise. There is, first, the point that so many people in demonstrations have no opportunity of knowing what the conditions are under an order, yet they may be charged with an offence of which they are guiltless because they never had the intention of breaking the law in any particular. In the second place the power of imposing heavy penalties will weigh much more harshly on working-class organisations than on the Fascist organisation, which the Home Secretary has told us is receiving money from foreign sources. This legislation, I am told, has been the result very largely of the activity of that very organisation, but the organisations which are going to be penalised by the legislation provoked by the Fascists are the working-class organisations that have carried on these demonstrations. The present law, however, has always been capable of dealing with them, and the provisions with regard to penalties have been sufficient in the past. Now these working-class organisations are to be put into ever so much more difficult circumstances.
I would draw attention also to the way in which the Sub-section will be specially dangerous in the case of industrial disputes. Suppose that a demonstration takes place during an industrial dispute, although it is prohibited. There are many recent occasions when such demonstrations have been prohibited but have been held. Under this Sub-section practically all the leaders in the dispute may be penalised. I believe that to be one of the most dangerous things that have been done in this country for a long 583 time with regard to trade union activity, and I hope that the Committee will insist on the Sub-section being withdrawn or substantially modified.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
The hon. Member has moved the Amendment to leave out Subsection (4), but he explained that he and those associated with him are interested also in a subsequent Amendment which would alter the terms of the Sub-section. I will have a word to say about that later. It may be convenient if in the course of this present discussion I point out first to the Committee that as a matter of arrangement I do not think one could possibly leave out Subsection (4), because of course it would be quite idle for us to enact, whether wisely or unwisely, what we have already passed, namely, Sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of this Clause, and then to make no provision as to what was to be done if those three Sub-sections were disregarded. Obviously, we must have a Sub-section which provides that in proper cases offences against the law shall be punished. The hon. Member is concerned and there are others who are concerned lest the language of Subsection (4) opens a possibility of people being treated as offenders when in fact they have no knowledge of the directions that are laid down. I think that that is a good point. I had intended when we came to the later Amendment which proposes to insert the word "knowingly" after "who" in line 35, to advise the Committee to accept that Amendment. That of course would be a very material change, and I think would be a perfectly fair point to make on the Clause. I understand, Mr. Chairman, that the question as you have put it on this Amendment will enable that to be done.
I fully appreciate the point in the hon. Member's mind, but we must have a Sub-section which will provide that a person cannot offend against the law without being punished. That is all that this Sub-section does. If we omitted the Sub-section we should leave the whole thing in the air. We can imagine a case in which an individual in a procession has no intention of offending at all, and 584 it would certainly not be the general desire of the Committee that people should be exposed to punishment unless they know that what they are doing is failure to comply with directions actually made. If the Committee are prepared to negative this Amendment I shall be prepared to agree to the word "knowingly" being inserted later.
CHAIRMAN: Perhaps the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) would prefer, in the circumstances, to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, in page 4, line 35, after "who," to insert "knowingly."
After what the Home Secretary has said I need not make any remarks in moving the Amendment.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
The Home Secretary suggests that the word "knowingly". ought to satisfy everybody, but it does not quite satisfy me. You may have cases where the direction has been issued only a few minutes before, although generally it will come a few days before, and be publicly announced. In an. Amendment not called, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) it is provided that after the word "who" there should be inserted the words:after being made acquainted with any directions given or conditions imposed under this section.Those words are, I think, taken from the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839. If those in charge of the Bill would consider that point, and, if possible, deal with it on Report, I should be very grateful.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is true that the much more elaborate phrase quoted by the hon. and learned Member appears in the Statute of 1839, but we have learned shorter methods since then. It is taken from a very long Section which, I think, covers three pages. I should have thought that the word "knowingly," which is constantly inserted, and, as far as I know, has been construed fairly, covers the point. I will 585 consider the point which the hon. and learned Member raises, but my present impression is, and my advisers take the view, that the matter is really covered by inserting the simple word "knowingly." I do not think that there would be any advantage in inserting the other words. I suggest that we insert the word "knowingly" now, and between now and the Report stage I will look into the matter.
STEPHEN: I have looked at the other words, and, in my view, "knowingly" makes the defence easier than the other words. I should be sorry if the Home Secretary preferred the other form of words.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I beg to move, in page 4, line 40, at the end, to add:(5) Any person who obstructs or who incites others to obstruct the peaceful passage of any lawful procession shall be guilty of an offence.The Committee have already agreed to the provisions of Clause 3, which lay down that in certain circumstances the police may regulate processions, may regulate the routes and lay down conditions. In some cases they may prohibit a procession altogether. I would invite the attention of the Committee to what might happen. Let us suppose that a demonstration is organised to protest against the employment of aliens. Suppose there is considerable opposition to the demonstration. Let us assume that a number of aliens decide that they will prevent the procession taking place. Suppose a number of them go into one of the streets through which the procession is to pass and by lying clown in the street, in the Indian manner, or by standing together in considerable numbers, with linked arms, they prevent the peaceful passage of the procession. I can imagine that in those circumstances it would not be long before great disorder would arise, and yet those men who were the original cause of the trouble might not have done anything which, within the meaning of the law, would represent an assault or any other offence.
It might be desired to organise another procession for the same object. In that case the chief of police might say: "The last time these people had a procession there was a great deal of disorder. I 586 cannot possibly agree to the same sort of thing that we had last time. Therefore I will apply for permission to prohibit the procession." That would mean that those opponents of the procession had, in effect, by their action made it impossible for a further procession of the same kind to take place, and I submit that they would have done so in what the House might fairly describe as a violent manner. Now that we are providing that in certain circumstances the chief of police may issue an order to regulate or prohibit processions, we have to be careful that the opponents of those processions do not by, in effect, a threat of disorder, prevent such processions from obtaining permission to take place. I think everybody will agree that if an organised procession obtains permission from the police to go by a certain route on a certain day, it is entitled to go along that route in a peaceable manner. I do not think that hon. Members would agree that the persons who did not like the procession would be entitled in some such way as I have described, by physical force, to obstruct that procession. I cannot see any provision in the Bill to guard against such a thing. Now is the time, when we are laying down these conditions as to the circumstances under which a procession may take place, to say clearly that if permission is granted for a procession and the conditions of the Bill are complied with, people are entitled to have a free passage for their procession.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
With much of what my hon. Friend says I am in agreement. In general, I agree that the exercise by our fellow-subjects of the right of procession ought not to be nullified by threats of disorder or by violence which leads to a breach of the peace. Let me consider the question of a threat of disorder. That is precisely provided for in Clause 5, which says:Any person who in any public place or at any public meeting uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occassioned, shall be guilty of an offence.I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that those words are already in the Bill and will, I hope, be approved by the Committee. He spoke of the obstruction of streets by those who did not like a 587 certain procession passing. It is an essential part of the law as it exists that there should not be an obstruction of the highway or of the lawful use of the highway. That is a matter on which from time to time proceedings are taken. Frankly, I think that we should go a little too far if we were to suppose that by enacting a Sub-section of the sort proposed by the hon. Member we could secure the peaceful passage of any and every procession. I do not think that that would be taking a reasonable view of human nature. If people whose feelings are strongly aroused against a particular demonstration organise themselves and express their feelings on the other side, as long as they do it within the law they are only exercising their right.
We might conceive a case of a procession passing along a quarter which had a predominant population of a particular race or religion, going there and known to be going there for the purpose of demonstrating in a most provocative manner against that race or religion. There have been times in the past when processions were held by people who were opposed to the continuance of war or who were determined to hang the Kaiser, or whatever might be the object. In those circumstances you are bound to have a lot of people in the public streets who may be inclined to take a contrary view and to demonstrate it pretty loudly, and I do not think that you can really guarantee that any and every procession should have what is called a peaceful time. What you can do, and that is what the Bill does, is to say that we must have proper power to regulate the procession, to prescribe a route and in some cases even the power to prohibit the procession. You must have power to impose these things, and at the same time public rights must be safeguarded. We have a statute which says that there must be no obstruction of the highway and a clause prohibiting threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour in a public place, with intent to provoke a breach of the peace. That is about as much as we can expect.
If the Act is to be worked in a fair and reasonable way, there is great danger in inserting unnecessary Subsections. Inevitably, a certain amount 588 of discretion must be left in these matters to the police. There are certain people who look upon the police of this country as if they were petty tyrants, trying to damage a particular cause. There is not a word of truth in that. They do their duty to the public fairly. If we were to lay it down that any and every procession should have what is called a peaceful passage, one thing that would happen would be that there would be a very strong inducement to the police to be very much stiffer as to the conditions they impose than they ought to be. Processions have a right of demonstration in this country but they ought to be prepared to meet some controversy. The very reason of a procession is that those who compose it want other people who do not agree with them to know what their opinions are. I think that we have got the Bill, not as the result of Government drafting, but by general co-operation, into a very fair condition. To impose additional restrictions which are unnecessary would seriously interfere with the ordinary freedom and practice of British citizens. I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. I do not think the new Sub-section is necessary in view of the other provisions in the Bill. I hope that what I have said will show that it is not the desire of the Government or of any responsible body to deny processionists their fair rights. There must be a certain amount of give and take in this matter, and it is not wise to lay down what is perhaps rather an abstract principle in dealing with this matter.
§ Mr. LEWIS
The right hon. Gentleman is relying on Clause 5. May I ask him whether in his opinion, if anyone by a letter or advertisement in the newspapers urges others to obstruct the passage of a procession and thus commit an offence, he commits an offence under Clause 5, and, if not, whether he commits any offence under any other law?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I should have thought that such a person would be guilty of inciting to commit an offence, and to incite a person to commit an offence is itself an offence.
Mr. C ROSSLEY
Does that apply to the case of a man going to a number of others at a corner in the street and saying, "Go to a certain point, stand 589 firm there, and do not let the procession pass"? He can say that without using insulting or abusive words.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)
It is already an offence wilfully to obstruct the free passage of any highway, and therefore an incitement to obstruct the free passage will also be an offence.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
Before the Committee parts with the Clause there are a few words which I think should be said upon it. The Home Secretary will agree that there has been no factious or party opposition in any section of the Committee, and he will also agree that the way in which the Bill will actually work when it becomes an Act will depend to a large extent on the spirit in which it is administered. In those circumstances he will realise that there must be in all parts of the Committee a certain amount of anxiety with regard to the framework of the Bill, and that anxiety applies more especially to this particular Clause. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) moved the deletion of Sub-section (2) but the explanation given by the Home Secretary was so far satisfying that the hon. Member did not pursue his proposal to a Division. In regard to Sub-section (2) the Home Secretary said:It provides for perfectly exceptional cases.I was glad to hear that because it is a very important point. When we go from Sub-section (2) to Sub-section (3) we have similar powers for London, but instead of the elaborate apparatus of a triple decision which applies in Sub-section (2) we have the simple decision of the Home Secretary in Sub-section (3). I am sure he will agree that, however satisfactory his explanation may be as to the way in which these Sub-sections will be administered, his interpretation does not in any way bind the action of his successors, and is still less binding on the courts. The courts will be concerned with the words as they appear in the Act.
590 In view of these facts, and in view of the fact that the interpretation of these provisions and the method of their administration are essential factors as to whether the Bill will work smoothly, I think it is important that the text of the Measure should bear out the very careful interpretation which the Home Secretary has given. For my part, I am a little uneasy whether these two Sub-sections do apply only to very exceptional cases, and I would ask the Home Secretary between now and Report stage to consider whether there are any words which can be inserted, not to weaken the effect of these Sub-sections but to safeguard the rights of people who were never intended to be covered by the Bill, and thus to prevent abuses of the Bill for purposes which neither the Home Secretary nor the Committee desire. It may be that the Home Secretary will be unable to find any such words. We on our part will also consider whether we can find words which will meet the purpose. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not reject this proposal, which is not made to weaken the Bill, but to make sure that what is the intention of the Home Secretary and the Committee, certainly the intention of hon. Members on this side, is embodied in the Bill.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I want to reinforce the appeal which has just been made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). I am also a little uneasy about the framework of this Clause. Our objections to Sub-section (1) were largely met by the acceptance by the Home Secretary of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. K. Griffith), which made the action of the chief officers of police open to challenge. But it still seems to me that the words of Sub-sections (2) and (3) are unnecessarily wide. We ought to be quite clear what we are doing here. We are giving power to impose a permanent ban on processions. I do not say that it will be used in exactly that way, but the ban can last for an indefinite time, as there is no time limit in the Clause. I would ask hon. Members to consider the effect which that might have on processions and marches. Take for example the march from Jarrow and the unemployed march. Although there was a 591 difference of view as to the reception which should be accorded them, everybody agreed that they were exercising a lawful and peaceful, and, as the Home Secretary has admitted, a traditional method of demonstrating. What would be the possible effect of this Sub-section on marches of that kind? The marchers from Jarrow proceed on their way to London and arrive at a town where a ban has been imposed under Sub-section (2). It is quite impossible for them to hold a procession through the streets of that town. I do not say that they are prevented from entering the town, as it would be quite possible for them to go through singly or in twos and threes, but it would prevent them passing through in a procession.
But suppose that when they got to the Metropolis an order had been made under Sub-section (3). It would mean that the procession, as a procession or a march, could not enter London at all. It might go to Hyde Park and reassemble there, but they certainly could not demonstrate by way of a procession through the streets, once the order had been made. We are all anxious to make it a satisfactory Measure. The apprehension in my mind is that what is contemplated here is a purely executive act. The actions of the police under Subsection (1) are open to challenge in the courts. I suggested an Amendment making the action of a council challengeable in the courts. It was not such a novel suggestion as some hon. Members seem to think. There are precedents for it, but the Amendment did not commend itself to the Committee, which preferred the safeguard of a right to challenge in Parliament.. I accepted that, but I would like to suggest that if possible we should strengthen that safeguard. After all, the opportunities we have in this House for challenging purely administrative acts by one Minister or another are rather limited. Naturally we can put Questions, but if we do not get what we consider to be a satisfactory answer, there are only certain limited occasions when we can follow up the matter.
Let us suppose that an hon. Member wishes, when this Bill has become an Act, to challenge the action of the Home Secretary in confirming an order made under this Clause. He can get an answer at Question Time, and he can then raise 592 the matter between 11 o'clock and 11.30 on the Adjournment. I do not say that that is not a valuable opportunity of raising grievances, but the time is very limited. It is very difficult to go fully into things in that short space of time, and also there is no Division, so that there is no way in which the House can express a view. It would also be possible to raise these matters on a Home Office day, I suppose on the Supplementary Estimates at the beginning of the year, or later on the Home Office Supply day. However, if an hon. Member wishes to raise a matter in November there is not very much comfort in his knowing that he can bring it up the following March or April. Even when a matter is raised on a Supply day, it has to be raised as one of a great number of matters discussed on that day and the Minister can only devote a few sentences in reply to each particular point.
I think we all appreciate that the opportunities for challenging decisions of this kind are rather limited. Consequently, I would like to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman as to a way in which we might strengthen the Parliamentary control that is here envisaged. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman for an answer now, but I ask him to consider it between now and the Report stage. As the machinery now is, the chief officer would make an application to the council, the council would make an order and the Secretary of State, if he thought fit, would confirm the order. I suggest, instead of that, that the council should make the order in draft and that the Secretary of State himself should make the order or regulation, and that that order or regulation should lie upon the Table of the House. That is a perfectly usual procedure, and if the order were made expressly liable to annulment by the House within a stated period of time, as is done in the case of a great many orders and regulations, it would be possible not only to raise these matters after 11 o'clock, but as exempted business. We would not then be limited as to time in discussing them, and it would be possible, if it were thought fit, to divide the House. I put forward that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think it would weaken the scheme which he has in mind under this Clause, but it would, in my opinion, very greatly strengthen the 593 operation of Parliamentary control, which is the only form of control that we have under Clauses 2 and 3 of this Bill.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I wish to say a few words on the question raised in Clause 3, Sub-section (1), by the words:That there is ground for apprehending that the procession may occasion serious public disorder.I have not moved an Amendment because this is such a wide question that I hope my right hon. Friend will consider the matter further between now and Report stage. These words raise a big principle. The onus here seems not to be placed on the right party. It seems to rue that it is not fair that a procession, whether of a provocative or non-provocative nature, should in one case be banned or diverted by the police because the people who live in the particular district through which it intends to pass are of an easily-provoked nature, and in another case, when a similar type of procession is passing through another district, it should not be banned. I think that the matter that should be decided by the police is whether the procession is of a provocative nature, and that they should impose whatever restrictions may be necessary upon it in order to limit the likely provocation. I think it is there that the emphasis should be laid.
We had an instance recently—I am not taking the side either of the Fascist party or of the Communist party—when the Fascist party planned a procession through the East End and received the permission of the police, but they had not actually carried out their intention to have a procession before the procession was banned. Consequently, it is clear that they had not done anything which they had not already announced to the police and no act of additional provocation had taken place. Yet because of the easily provocable character of the districts through which they were to pass, the police thought it necessary to ban the procession, no doubt in the interests of public order, and quite rightly.
On another occasion, however—I think a fortnight before or after—there was a procession of Communists from Trafalgar Square and through Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. They passed along the streets with shouts of "Down with capitalism" and things of that sort of a 594 highly provocative nature, but because the capitalist jewellers in Regent Street did not put up a barricade against them, naturally the police allowed the procession to continue. Therefore, it seems to me that it is essential, in fairness, that the character of the procession should be examined by the police in the first place, and if they decide that the procession is not of a provocative nature, then I think there should be provided all necessary protection for it to go on its way and that it should not be possible for, a procession of an unprovocative nature to be banned merely because the population of the district through which it is to pass have announced the intention of preventing the procession from passing. To my mind that is an invitation to people to obstruct and to defy the law. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider the question further between now and Report stage.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Surely the answer to the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) is that the capitalist jewellers in Regent Street already have under the present social system very many ways of dealing with people who object to the system which does so well for them, whereas the poor people in the East End have nothing but their bare hands. I think the suggestion that the Fascists are unfortunately without protection shows clearly in this House how strong and how powerful that protection is. I am one of those who thoroughly dislike this Bill, and, with the possible exception of the Clause dealing with uniforms, I think it is entirely unnecessary. Of all the Clauses of the Bill, I think the Clause we are now discussing is the most unnecessary, and I would like to ask the Home Secretary, when he replies, to deal with a point which is in the minds of many hon. Members. Is riot the existing law, as now administered, sufficient to deal with processions?
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) referred to the marchers, and I would like to give one instance to show how the present law, as administered by certain people, deals with the position. The Jarrow marchers had no difficulty, but the hunger marchers, when they got to York, found themselves met on the outskirts of the city by the chief 595 constable, who told them that he did not want the procession to go there and that he would not allow it to go to the particular place that had been made ready for it. The marchers were then conducted very much round the outskirts of the city. Place after place which had been provided for them by their friends in the City of York was rejected by the chief constable, either as being unsuitable, or not being the sort of place he wanted them to go to, or the correct route he wanted them to follow. Finally, although hot food was ready for them, they were pushed into the Poor Law institution where, after a number of miles of marching, they had nothing but bread and margarine. I suggest to the Home Secretary that the chief constable was effectively preventing the procession and doing it without the help of this Clause.
§ Earl WINTERTON
He was probably doing something which was illegal and something which he had no power to do. If anybody had challenged his action it would probably have been found that he would have had to take the case to the House of Lords to be decided.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I think for the first time in the whole of my Parliamentary experience I find myself in complete agreement with the Noble Lord, and with his views on this Bill. I listened to a previous speech he made on it, and he had my full and warmest agreement. He and I, for a strange reason which I cannot fathom, seem to find ourselves in a minority of two in this House.
§ Miss WILKINSON
While it may be clear that if we had taken the matter to the House of Lords we could have challenged the chief constable's action, the difficulty, as I said with reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Norwood, is that here we are dealing with people who are so poor that there is no question of the matter being taken to the House of Lords. These poor people are bullied by chief constables who simply take the power into their hands. If it had happened as the marchers were going through the constituency of 596 Horsham and they had been able to appeal to the Noble Lord, we might have had our case taken to the House of Lords. The only thing this Clause does, therefore, is to legalise the present position of these bullying police constables, and I do not think that it a particularly desirable thing. The second point with which I wish to deal is the suggestion that the chief constable must place his case before the council and get its sanction. While that seems to be so democratic and such a safeguard, I think the difficulty will arise when there is a chief constable and a council of the same political colour, as happens a very great deal in the Northern districts. In such cases there is so safeguard. The reactionary chief constable and the reactionary council—or, on the other hand, if there were such a strange thing, a Socialist or Communist chief constable and Socialist or Communist council—would be in a position to see that the whole thing was carried through.
A long march, such as one from Jarrow or it may be from Dundee, passing through a large number of counties and police districts, would find itself in the most extraordinary position, in that the marchers would have a more or less legal fight at the boundary of each district that did not belong to their political colour. May I give an illustration? When the Jarrow march was about one-third of the way, the Cabinet issued its statement that, first, such marches were highly undesirable, and secondly, that it did not intend to receive it. Under this Clause, what would be the position of a council that supported the present Government or, for that matter, any Government that issued a statement? It would feel almost in duty bound to support, as a matter of political loyalty, the ban issued by the Cabinet. At the present time, when it is not quite sure whether these powers exist or not and when all chief constables are not of the same disposition as the gentleman who is chief constable of York, the marchers have the benefit of the doubt. The danger of this Clause is that it encourages people to ban processions which they do not happen to like. I feel that in this Bill, in an effort to deal with the question of political uniforms, we are introducing provisions which take away many rights that have been fought for in the past, and I am 597 surprised that the Bill should be having such an easy passages through the Committee.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Like the last speaker, I view this Bill and particularly this Clause of it with a great deal of suspicion. As regards the speech of the Home Secretary the other night on the unanimity with which the Bill had been received, may I say that my colleagues and I take a dissenting view on many points in the Bill? But we recognise that it would be only an infliction on other Members if our small group tried to divide the Committee on every occasion, and what we have tried to do, not unfairly I hope, is to express our views and only to exercise the right of dividing rarely and on the most important occasion. I am opposed to this Clause for several reasons. I think that chief constables, as far as possible, should keep clear of political and religious controversy, but this Clause, for good or ill, will put them right into the forefront of the battle.
Let me try to put the position as I see it in relation to this Clause. The chief constable in the first place will have the right if he thinks fit to prohibit a procession or demonstration. Thereafter he can apply to the local council for an order, which has to be confirmed by the Secretary of State. What hapens in fact? I hope I shall not annoy hon. Members above the Gangway by relating what I have seen happening in Glasgow. For years the Independent Labour party there had to apply to the local authority for permission to sell flags on a certain day. The Labour party applied also and for years both parties got permission to sell flags. Then the Labour party got a majority on the town council and the Labour party decided that the previous arrangement was unfair. They said to us in effect, "We want all the flags to be sold for us and you, being a minority, will not get the right to sell flags." The consequence of this provision will be that the chief constable in pursuance of this power will become the agent of a political party. That is what will happen in effect.
In the case of a demonstration, what will happen? Suppose that a town council of any political character decides to reduce the children's allowances to 598 poor people, say, from 3s. to 2s.? Suppose they say, "We are the custodians of Poor Law relief and we propose, as from a certain day, to reduce the scales" The poor people have only one method of redress and that is to try to get as much public opinion behind them as will make that town council alter or modify its views. The town council is the employer of the chief constable and under this Clause it is the employe of the town council—the body which is proposing to reduce the scales—who will have to say whether the people are to be allowed to demonstrate against the reduction or not. The chief constable, being the servant of the council, will be to a large extent influenced by his interpretation of their views and he will probably say, "I am not allowing this procession." He will apply to the town council for support and they will naturally give him that support. In the result the demonstration will not be held.
I do not know what is the experience of other hon. Members, but the majority of the demonstrations which take place in my locality are spontaneous. They are rarely organised. Take the case of a strike by a number of girl workers who are either semi-organised or completely unorganised—because the organised workers generally take another method. But suppose that the girls in a big hosiery factory, for instance, come out on strike against a new system of pay or against some shocking conditions which are being imposed on them, or against a reduction of wages. Incidentally, it is very often, not on a question of wages that they come out but on account of a bullying foreman or on account of a new system of pay. The girls come out on strike in the morning. Probably on the day before they did not know that they would be coming out. They propose to hold a demonstration, first, because they may want public help in the form of subscriptions, and, secondly, because they want to demonstrate to the people in the neighbourhood their grievance against the employer.
The chief constable in that case will say that the demonstration cannot be held and it will not be held. He applies to the local authority, but meantime the local authority has to meet and as I read the Clause the prohibition of the demonstration is already on. [HON. MEMBERS: 599 "No!"] Oh yes, he has the prerogative. I would remind hon. Members who say "No!" that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are still the Government. Hon. Members on this side above the Gangway are not the Government, although to read the speeches of certain right hon. Gentlemen one would have thought that in regard to this Bill the Government was on this side of the Committee and not on the other side. But despite what hon. Members may say, as I read the Clause, the chief constable has the power to prohibit a demonstration if he thinks it will run counter to what is provided for in this Clause, and he does not need in the first instance to get the permission of the local authority. The power is provided here for him if he is satisfied that there may be trouble.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not think that the hon. Member quite correctly construes the provision, but the Lord Advocate will explain it later.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It says:If the chief officer of police is of opinion having regard to the time or place at which and the circumstances in which any procession is taking place or is intended to take place and to the route…that there is grounds for apprehending …public disorder, he may give directions"—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am reading Subsection (1). Under ithe may give directions imposing…such conditions as appear to him necessary for the preservation of public order,which means, in effect, that he can stop the procession or demonstration.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
That is something with which the local authority has nothing to do in any event so that that part of the hon. Member's argument which was directed to the gap between the making of the order by the chief constable and its confirmation by the local authority does not apply. The order by the council only comes under Subsection (2).
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I say, again, that the chief constable, in effect, has power 600 to stop the demonstration entirely. He can impose conditions which would make it stupid and ridiculous. He can order it to take a route which would be impossible and he can impose other conditions which would make the demonstration hopelessly ineffective for its purpose. I take it that even, in the last resort, he can himself prohibit it altogether if he says that there is a, danger to public order. As regards the position in Scotland I will listen with interest to what the Lord Advocate has to say on the matter. Our law is not the same as the law in England, but I take it that the effect of Sub-section (1) is that a chief constable has the power to do all these things in regard to any kind of procession. Under Sub-section (2), I agree, there is a provision as to the consent of the local authority. In the case of Scotland, I take it, that means the magistrates—in a city like Glasgow, for instance. In Scotland we are worse off than you are in England. In Glasgow these magistrates are not subject to the jurisdiction of the town council and their decision is final. The magistrates, who number perhaps only 14 or 15 out of a council of 120, can meet by themselves and their decision is not challengeable by the rest of the council.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
I suggest that in one respect the position in Scotland is better than that in England, because I understand that in Glasgow the magistrates are popularly elected. That is not the case in England.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
They are elected for three years, but the point is that a council in England can deal with this matter, and I take it from my reading of the Clause that a council in Scotland cannot and that the magistrate's decision in Scotland cannot be vetoed or altered by the corporation. The magistrates can come along and say, "We are having no demonstrations here. There is a strike on, and for the period of the strike there will be a ban on demonstrations." The weakness of this proposal is that to-day these demonstrations, in many cases, are directed against the very people who are to have this prerogative and their friends. To put this power into their hands seems a negation of democratic rights. In my neighbourhood, for instance, I would like to see a demonstration against the shocking housing conditions which exist in my 601 city. But the town council is responsible to some extent—not wholly, but partly—in that matter and I would not like to see the town council, against whom I would propose to lead such a demonstration, having the power to say whether I was to demonstrate or not. They naturally do not want annoyance. They do not want public indignation to be aroused in these matters. They can say that it is considered that the demonstration is likely to give rise to some kind of disturbance or annoyance which is not specified, and that therefore it must not take place.
It may be said that there is an appeal to the Secretary of State, but what safeguard is that when for four months of the year Parliament is not sitting? For four months this veto, backed by the local authority, remains unchallengeable. But it is in effect very little challengeable/ As the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) pit it, our opportunities of challenging in this House are comparatively few and far between. What chance is there, for instance, on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State for Scotland He deals with 30 subjects, and what chance have you of raising a question on his Vote in regard to an isolated ease of the banning of a procession? What chance have you on the Home Office Vote, dealing with prisons, aliens, and a host of other administrative details, or on the Motion for the Adjournment, a very rare occurrence and of very litle effect?
I view this whole Clause with every form of apprehension. I do not like the Bill at all. If I have any reason for hating the Fascists more than I already hate them, this Bill gives me more reason than ever for hating them. They are the excuse for the Bill. I agree with the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) about the treatment of religious people in that connection, but I feel about this Clause that although for good and laudable objects there were some grounds for it, you have incorporated in it proposals which are not necessary to deal with the problem before the House. If it was only the problem of the East End of London and its racial riots, that could have been met without a Bill embodying proposals far outwith that need and desire. I will divide against this Clause, along with my hon. Friend beside me. I believe that only two of us will be prepared to do so, but we will 602 welcome support from any quarter of the Committee, because we feel that this Clause is far outwith what was really meant when the Bill was introduced.
The Bill was meant to deal with that problem of the Fascist movement and the shocking ill-treatment of the Jews, but this Bill gives the Home Secretary far wider powers, powers to deal with trade disputes and innocent demonstrations and agitations, and I fear that it will put the population of this country in a worse position than they were in before, so I shall divide against it, because I will not in the future be challenged that I allowed a Bill to go through that may well be used, not against the Fascist movement, but against the legitimate aspirations of very poor people. May I say to my Labour friends that I do not think they need fear very much for the big unions, which have great power and strength, but large masses of the people are outwith any union at all, and even they may be flung up against Labour councils, and I hope that Labour councils will not feel that it is wrong for people to demonstrate against them. For these reasons, because I want to see the right of public demonstration and the right of people, particularly poor people, to show their feelings, I shall divide against Clause 3.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
The speech to which we have just listened shows the desirability of having the Clauses of a Bill such as this crystal clear, so that everyone can apprehend and understand their meaning. This Bill interferes in many ways with the liberty of the subject, and therefore clarity in such a Bill is essential. Sub-section (2) is undoubtedly somewhat complicated, but Sub-section (3), which applies the Bill, so far as processions are concerned, to London, is still more complicated. Members of the House again and again refer to the undesirability of legislation by reference. Well, here is quite unnecessary legislation by reference to a preceding Sub-section. I have some knowledge of Bills, but it took me some little time to understand what was the effect of this Clause relating to London. It says:The Commissioner of the City of London police and the Commissioner of the police of the metropolis shall, within their respective police areas, have the powers conferred on councils by the last foregoing subsection, 603 and accordingly the said subsection shall, in its application to those police areas, have effect subject to the following modifications, that is to say, for references to a borough or urban district there shall be substituted references to those police areas, for the words shall apply to the council of the borough or district for' there shall be substituted the words may with the consent of the Secretary of State make,' for the word application,' where that word occurs for the first time, there shall be substituted the word order,' and the words from and upon receipt ' to the end of the subsection shall be omitted.It is a most complicated Clause. Here is a very important Measure, dealing with the liberties of the subject over a great area such as London, with at least 7,000,000 people in it, and I suggest to the Home Secretary that on the Report stage he should make this matter as clear as possible. I would suggest that, instead of all these cross-references between Sub-section (3) and Sub-section (2), he should insert a new Clause simply saying that, so far as the City of London and the Metropolitan police district are concerned, the following Sub-section shall be substituted for Sub-section (2). It may entail a few additional lines of print, but what people in London, both citizens and police officers, want to know, and very often quickly when it is some question of a procession, is what the effect of the Bill will be as regards London. Let there be one Clause dealing with London, without people having to go backwards and forwards through the Bill to see exactly what the law is. With very great respect, I would ask the Home Secretary to consider whether a new Clause on the lines which I have suggested cannot be put in before the Report stage, so that, as far as processions in London are concerned, people can see exactly where they stand.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I should like to draw attention to the fact that I put down an Amendment asking for the deletion of the whole Clause. I consider that this is one of the most dangerous attacks on democracy that has ever been made in this country. I do not want to go over the ground that I covered on Clause 2, but I would like to call attention to the fact that the party on this side of the House was built up on demonstrations and processions, that the Members on this side occupy their seats 604 in Parliament because there have been free and unrestricted demonstrations and processions. And not only Members on this side, but the Liberal party also, of which the Home Secretary used to be an ornament, gilded or otherwise, was also built up out of demonstrations and processions, and, I would remind the Home Secretary, some very wild and turbulent demonstrations and processions. This Bill has been brought in as a consequence of events in the East End, so we are told, but the Bill should deal with the evil that was responsible for the difficulties in the East End, and should not, on the ground of dealing with Fascism and Communism—as though there was some association between these two bodies—and because certain Members opposite are supported by the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), in dealing with the troubles arising from Fascism, introduce a deliberate attack on the working class.
Nobody can make an attack on the Communists without attacking the working class, because the Communist party never moves apart from the working class. Whenever the Communist party makes a demonstration, it is on a political issue, and I challenge the Home Secretary or the Lord Advocate to give us an instance of any kind where the Communist party makes a demonstration that is not a demonstration of the working class, employed or unemployed, on a particular political issue. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) talked about Communists going down Regent Street and the shopkeepers there not putting up their shutters. What is the matter with hon. Members opposite? Are they incapable of thinking? Of course, they do not put up their shutters, because it is a political demonstration, but if there were some of us in London who were coming out and declaring, "The shopkeepers in Regent Street are a crowd of blackguards, a crowd of robbers and dirty swine; let us go down and attack these shopkeepers in Regent Street," would they put up their shutters? They would have out the military to prevent our going there. Cannot hon. Members opposite understand the simple difference between provocation directed towards a political end and other kinds of provocation, such as that used in the 605 East End against the Jews? One of the most sinister slogans I ever heard was one which I heard 30 or 40 years ago—"Down with the House of Lords," and then—I am certain the Home Secretary has rolled it out many a time—" Mend 'em or end 'em."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have been listening to the hon. Member for something over five minutes, and although his speech is directed apparently, in his own words, to the Bill, I have been unable to find any sentence yet which would apply to this particular Clause. I am certainly of opinion that the whole of his speech is irrelevant to Clause 3, and I must ask him to confine himself strictly to the question before the Committee.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I am sorry, Sir Dennis, if I have gone off the line somewhere, but I have been taking up certain arguments that were presented from the other side, and I am not surprised to realise that hon. Members opposite are capable of leading me in the wrong direction. I am calling attention to the fact that this Clause is directed against working-class demonstrations and gives new power to the police, the local authorities and the Home Secretary to deal with them. There are continually demonstrations in this country and some people seem to think that they are only working-class demonstrations, but in Glasgow—and I suppose it is the same in London and other areas—there are demonstrations of a patriotic character. We do not go out and obstruct them or interfere with them; they pass along the streets without interference, peacefully and well organised. The next day or the next week we may have a demonstration which also passes through the streets in a peaceful manner.
If the Home Secretary would introduce a Bill to give less power to the police there would be a better chance of public order in demonstrations. On one occasion when I was discussing this matter with the Procurator Fiscal in Glasgow, he asked why there should be disorder when there was a demonstration, and I said, "If you would be good enough to confine the police to barracks when we are having a demonstration there would be no disorder. As long as we have control of demonstrations which we organise there will never be disorder, but if there 606 is an attack upon the demonstration and the control is broken, disorder will take place." This Bill was introduced to deal with a particular evil. The evil is not demonstrations of a provocative character, but demonstrations directed towards slanderous provocation—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now in his own words definitely speaking on the Bill as a whole. He must not do so. He must confine his speech entirely to Clause 3.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Again I ask your pardon. I want to emphasise as strongly as possible the fact that this Clause has no relation to the original cause of the introduction of the Bill. It does not deal with anything that gave rise to the discussion out of which the Bill arose. It empowers the police to control, direct or ban working-class demonstrations. I have seen too often the effects of power of this kind being in the hands of officials, especially high officials of the police. They are in constant association with the local administrative officials who do not want demonstrations or processions. When there is an association of that kind and people want to demonstrate against the means test or high rents or something else that affects their lives, it is easy for the administrative officials to get the chief of police to raise the question of banning the demonstration with the magistrates. They can get up some passable reason that will enable the Home Secretary to accept the ban. Once the ban is on, who is going to get it removed Y Too often we have seen that men have had to be bludgeoned and imprisoned before a ban has been removed.
I do not know how Members on the other side can treat such an attack on the democratic rights of the people in such an easy manner. I can appreciate that they have very little regard for democratic rights and the right of the working class to demonstrate in the streets. It is the only real opportunity they have of expressing themselves, and we can understand how this Clause will be used to try and suppress them. I warn the Home Secretary that you do not make for public order by attacking democracy as this Clause does. You cannot under any democratic procedure justify giving more power to the chiefs of police to interfere with or ban working-class activities.
§ Mr. CRAVEN-ELLIS
May I ask the hon. Member where there is any reference in this Clause to the working class or any other class?
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I have never known a patriotic demonstration prohibited, but I have known many working-class demonstrations banned. I have known of a ban on demonstrations in Dundee, but patriotic demonstrations have taken place during the period of the ban. Any ban that is imposed will be on working-class demonstrations. That is why I protest in the strongest manner against such an attack on democracy. It is bound to have evil effects. The Government can pass all the Acts of Parliament they like, but they will never stop the working class from expressing themselves on the questions of wages, the means test—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Then I hope that the hon. Member will very much narrow down what he has to say, because the whole of his speech hitherto, while it has been in support of broad principles, has not had much application to this Clause.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I am about to finish. I want to tell the Home Secretary that he can never make for peaceful development by introducing such a Clause as this, which strikes so hardly at democratic rights. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we have to make sacrifices and concessions in order to reach agreement, but it is never permissible to make concessions that mean the sacrifice of democratic rights.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
In order that there shall be no confusion as to where the Labour party stands on this matter, perhaps I ought to make a statement. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) raised certain points with the Home Secretary which he asked the right hon. Gentleman to look into between now and the Report stage. I join in the request that he has made. Of course, it will be understood that between now and the Report stage it will be competent for us to examine the Clause as amended and to put down Amendments on that stage if we feel so minded. On the 608 general principle of this Clause, subject to any Amendments we have urged and other Amendments that we may urge, we are not opposing it. Indeed, we support the general principle of regulation which is embodied in it. If an hon. Gentleman below the Gangway is trying to make out that there are Conservative tendencies here, I am not doing so.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
We would not dream of saying that there are Conservative tendencies. They are already Conservative.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I have always observed the greatest affection between Members of the Independent Labour party and Conservative Members of this House—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This matter has only arisen as an incident and has nothing to do with the Clause under discussion.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
A charge has been made which I take seriously. I say that the charge is unfounded, and, as it is one to which I take serious exception, I want the right hon. Member not to make vague references, but to state a specific charge and give some support to it. This is not the Trades Union Congress or the Labour Party Conference. It is still the House of Commons.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has put the matter to me quite rightly that a charge, as he described it, has been made. He has stated that it is unfounded and it is for the right hon. Gentleman, if he chooses, to admit that or not, but I cannot allow it to be debated on this Clause.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I am in rather a difficulty because if I go on to argue the point with which I was dealing I shall be debating it. I am sorry that my hon. Friend is so thin-skinned. He makes many attacks on Members on these Benches and he ought to take his medicine. I only said that several of us have seen the very friendly relationships between hon. Members below the Gangway and hon. Members on the other side. I do not say that there is anything wrong about it, but I object to the hon. Member's assumption of 100 per cent. purity on his part.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The right hon. Gentleman has gone on to repeat his statement. He has been challenged to give a single instance, and I submit that unless he can do so he should withdraw his statement, which was meant to be offensive, and has no basis in fact, but is one of the usual kind.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I should be very sorry if accusations of friendship between any hon. Member of this House with another or other hon. Members should be regarded as an insult. I think that at any rate an accusation of friendship between Members of the House, if it be ar insult, can scarcely be a sufficiently serious one to warrant the Debate being taken off the matter under discussion.
§ Mr. MORRISON
On this Bill we are all of us in danger of getting into company which is not customary. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) this afternoon found himself it close agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), and in close agreement with some hon. Members in the House with whom he is not usually associated. On certain matters most of us on these benches have been in agreement with the Home Secretary, but I hope that these temporary lapses from the customary enmities between hon. Members will not necessarily be held against us. We have all got our complications; there are no exceptions.
What is the history of this matter? All of us as Labour Members must take responsibility for what we have demanded and what we have denounced. There was a grave disturbance in the East End of London and another grave disturbance in Leeds, and there has been a. danger of grave disturbances in the city of Manchester and in other places. When the Labour Party's Conference opened at Edinburgh we, recalling the appeal to the Home Secretary by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that he ought to have routed this procession, and other requests that he ought to have prohibited it in advance, instead of waiting until there were the circumstances of a set war between the Fascists and the Communists—
§ Mr. MORRISON
Heaven forbid that there should be 100,000 Communists in London. I will come to the point about the Fascists and the Communists. I do not like to quarrel with my hon. Friend, because I like him too much personally, although I disagree with some of his views. There was the probability of a set battle—this will be safe—between somebody and somebody else, and our criticism of the Home Secretary was that he ought to have intervened days before instead of waiting for the threat of force and for the police, when on the spot, having to give way. We attacked him with very great vigour from the platform at Edinburgh and every delegate to that conference agreed with the resolution we passed, including my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow. The answer was that it was not fair to the Home Secretary, because he had not got adequate powers. If it be the case that he had not adequate powers to route or, in the dangerous areas, to prohibit processions, to that extent the case against the Home Secretary goes. Now, when he comes to the House seeking powers to enable him to deal with a situation such as we have grumbled at him for not dealing with, are we to be cowardly, are we to boggle over things? Now that we see the set terms of a Bill and realise that it is theoretically possible that it may at some time inconvenience us, are we going to be such cowards in politics that we run away from our responsibilities and decline to share responsibility with the right hon. Gentleman in doing something which we insisted he ought to do? That may be some people's view of public life, but it is not mine.
I am going to take my share of responsibility for what is being done, and I want every Member who belongs to the Labour party to do the same. That conference denounced the Home Secretary for not acting, and there is no great harm in giving him under this Statute the powers which he said he had not got and which, under Sub-section (2) are severely limited and checked in their operation by democratic authority. We demanded at our conference that the Government should act, and we have persuaded the Government to act, not as politicians, any more than we have demanded action in the spirit of politicians, but as good citizens concerned with the 611 good name of our country and with the protection of people who had reasonable grounds for apprehension as to the safety of their lives and property. It may be that somebody now wants to make a speech so that afterwards, if anything inconvenient arises, he may be able to say, "Ah, I did not like this and I gave warnings in the House. It was Morrison who let you in for this." That may be clever, but it is not playing the game, after the party conference has spoken, and I am not going to do it, whatever the consequences may be.
Therefore, we think that, broadly speaking, this Clause is right, subject to Amendments which we will consider on the Report stage. What is the alternative? We have prohibited uniforms under Clause 1, we have endeavoured to prevent the militarisation of politics under Clause 2, but it is still possible, without uniform and without quasi-military organisation, for people to go in mob processions into the East End of London or the City of Manchester—in its Jewish quarters—or in Leeds, and to shout, "Down with the Yids" and "Away with the dirty Jews" and to spread terror and fear. And it would still be possible for other people to organise another crowd to have a riot with them. Some people may like that sort of thing. I do not. I prefer peaceful, firm and ordered government to government by mobs, and I am going to stand for that principle—at any rate as long as I can. You do not necessarily solve the problem of racial intimidation in that area by Clauses 1 and 2, you do not necessarily solve the problem of disorder in other directions. We must take our responsibilities.
Our party decided, after full consideration, in which everybody took part, to accept the general principle of this Clause and I am going to vote for it and I advise my hon. Friends definitely to do the same; and in any case it will be inconsistent with the considered decision which this party reached to vote against the Clause. Let me, in conclusion, make my peace, if I can, with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I do not say that Fascism is Communism or Communism is Fascism. Their economic objectives and their social ideals or, as my hon. Friend might say, their social ideology, are very different.
612 The most I have said, and to this I adhere, is that in their theories of government, the doctrine of dictatorship and their belief in the suppression of other political parties when one of them has triumphed, there is a similarity between them. There is another similarity which they share with the Conservative and Liberal party, and that is a very strict secrecy as to the origin and disbursement of their political funds.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I have a right to say that time and again our party have made the offer that we are prepared to have all our books, all our funds, examined at any time by responsible members of the Labour party, and we are prepared to have the leader of the party's finances examined along with the finances of the leaders of the Labour party, and we are confident that we will present a clean bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I hope the right hon. Gentleman who is in possession of the Floor will not think it necessary to reply further on this matter which again has only arisen as an incident in this Debate and is not relevant to the question before the Committee.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I had no intention of pursuing the point. I was merely replying to a very short statement which my hon. Friend made. The last thing I wish to do is to quarrel with him, but I thought it only right, as there might be a danger of confusion and muddle about this Division, to inform the Committee and my hon. Friends of the decision we reached, and why we reached it; and for myself, having taken a line in public with the full support, the unanimous support, of the conference of the political party to which I belong, I am going to face the consequences, accept my responsibilities, and vote for the Clause, and I hope that my hon. Friends will do the same.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
After the speech of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), which I am sure must have won acceptance in all parts of the Committee, I think it, will be appropriate if I now deal as briefly as I can with points which have arisen in the discussion on the Clause, and then invite the Committee to come to a decision on this the third 613 major Clause of the Bill. Quite a number of suggestions have been thrown out by various hon. Members, some of them valuable suggestions, such, for instance, as that put forward by the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) at d the more elaborate suggestions of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), and I need hardly say that my right hon. Friend and I will be only too glad to make the closest examination of those suggestions between now and the Report stage in order to see whether improve)11.nts in the terminology of the Bill can be effected. But, putting that aside, may I deal with one or two of the more substantial criticisms made in the last hour?
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) began with a very apt question, inquiring what was the existing law in relation to the control of processions in this country. I am sorry to say the answer is that the existing law, both in England and in Scotland, is a patch-work. It would hardly be possible, without an expenditure of time which the Committee would not tolerate, to indicate even in outline the wide variety of the powers which exist under private Statutes and general Statutes in different parts of the country, and the object of Clause 3 is to provide for the country as a whale more or less uniform powers under which those authorities which do not at present possess adequate powers may be brought up to the level which already obtains in certain other areas. The powers in some areas in England and Scotland may well be sufficient already to enable the evil to be dealt with, but in many other areas the powers are definitely inadequate for that purpose.
The next point which emerged from the speeches was that in regard to Subsection (2)—the Sub-section which empowers the banning of processions—insufficient attention had been given to the providing of safeguards for the rights of British citizens to engage in processions or demonstrations. In dealing with that point may I preface my observation with this remark, directed to the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that I do not propose to deal at this stage with the wholly separate question, which will probably arise on the Amendments to Clause 8, of the powers of magistrates and the appropriateness of magistrates in Scotland being the authority for exercising 614 the powers under this Sub-section. That is a separate issue, and I shall refer to it at a later stage in our Debate, when I think it will be a more appropriate time to discuss it.
Taking the Clause as it stands, hon. Members in several parts of the Committee have, I think, not done justice to the lavish care with which the draftsman, and the Members of the Committee who have edited the draftsman's work, have hedged around both Sub-sections (1) and (2) with the most elaborate precautions, designed to safeguard what may be accurately described as the liberties of the subject in this matter. More than one hon. Member has spoken in terms which suggested that a chief officer of police might exercise an almost capricious power to prohibit processions. Hon. Members will recall that, as the result of an Amendment which has already been passed, Sub-section (1) now requires that the chief officer of police shall have reasonable ground for his apprehension and, in the second place, that his apprehension must be not that he dislikes Communists or Fascists, or any of the other persons who may be engaged in the demonstrations, or that he disapproves of hunger marchers; he must have a reasonable apprehension that the procession may lead to serious public disorder. When he comes to that decision, hon. Members will observe, he cannot claim to prohibit the procession. The whole purport of the Clause assumes that the procession will take place. All that he can do is to ask for conditions to be observed and for such other assurances as are necessary for the preservation of public order.
On passing from Sub-section (1) to Sub-section (2) hon. Members will observe that the safeguards become all the more apparent. I am not going to take Subsection (2) in detail, but hon. Members will realise that the first condition of it is the inadequacy of Sub-section (1), which must be insufficient to deal with the situation. Then there is the requirement about application to a borough or urban authority—once again the condition of apprehension of serious public disorder comes in—and finally the consent of the Secretary of State.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The whole point of the opening words of Sub-section (2) is, that the chief officer of police sets in operation under that Sub-section a train of machinery to safeguard public order, which works in a way for which Sub-section (1) was not designed. I should not hesitate to say that a borough or urban district council would be well entitled to decline to act under Sub-section (2), and the Home Secretary equally well entitled to refuse to consent to any exercise of their powers by such a council, if it appeared that Sub-section (1) were adequate for the occasion. Be that as it may, we have heaped Pelion on Ossa, and Ossa on Olympus in the safeguards that have been set around these Sub-sections. One hon. Member—I cannot at the moment recall who it was—expressed fears that a procession might arrive in London to find that the whole of the Metropolitan Police Area was completely closed by a ban imposed under Sub-section (3) and that it might have to wait for a very long period for a suitable Parliamentary opportunity of criticising the Home Secretary for that action. I ask the Committee to consider whether it is possible to conceive of a situation of emergency in this country so extreme as to justify the total banning of public processions and demonstrations throughout the City of London, without there being a grave matter of public importance such as to justify the most extreme Parliamentary action. I cannot conceive of a situation in which action so drastic as that would have to be set in operation under Sub-section (2). That Subsection, for the country as a whole, and Sub-section (3) for the London area, are merely to enable the emergency provisions to be applied in, I should anticipate, the most exceptional circumstances, and probably for only a very limited period, because a situation exists of such grave danger to the public peace that nothing but this Sub-section can deal with it.
616 I think I have covered the main points which arose in the discussion.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want to be perfectly fair. We were led to believe that a sort of pledge was given that, so far as Scotland was concerned, the matter would not be left to the chief constable in any of our towns.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The difference is that the magistrates are elected by the community and the chief constable is outwith, and can act the part of a dictator. The community has no recourse to bring him to book, no matter what he does. Nobody knows that better than the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan).
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Time and again we have tried to raise this question regarding the position of the chief constable, and we could not do so.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
There is a specific Amendment to Clause 8 which applies the Measure to Scotland and raises exactly the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I propose to call that Amendment, and I think we had better discuss this subject when we come to it.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
With all due respect to you, Captain Bourne, at the moment I would point out that we may not have the Lord Advocate before us when the Clause to which you have referred comes before the Committee. We have the Lord Advocate here now, and I am not going to lose the opportunity of tying him down to tell him that he has never said anything to the representatives of our party, or that we were misinformed. I would put it to him here, before the Members of the British House of Commons: Is it the case or not that the power under the Bill will be taken out of the hands of the magistrates to say whether a demonstration is to be allowed to take place or not? Is that power to be in the hands of a magistrate, or is the final word to be with the chief constable?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I hope that I am not transgressing your Ruling, 617 Captain Bourne, if I answer the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs by saying that the Bill as drafted will put the power into the hands of the magistrates. When we discuss the Amendment to Clause 8 I shall support that view. I will deal with a few of the other points. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) argued, as I understood, that it was unfair that a procession should be subjected to restrictions merely because of the excitable character of the population through which it was proposed to conduct it. I cannot quite feel the weight of that argument. It is impossible to regard this matter as though, in different parts of the country and in this city, you found populations of average people of an average degree of excitability and an average degree of political intelligence. You do not. You and areas where, for perfectly intelligible reasons, the people are, politically speaking, explosive and ignitable, or, it may be, religiously explosive and ignitable. If the organisers of a procession choose to conduct a march or a demonstration for a particular object through an area in which that object excites strong feelings and leads to serious apprehension of great public disorder, it is fair that those who, by their action, are, as it were, proposing to strike matches in a powder magazine, ought to be told, "You must not do that there."
§ Mr. SANDYS
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman quite sure that, if he accepts that principle, he is not placing a premium upon political excitability, and is not encouraging a peaceful population who would allow processions with which they disagreed to go through their districts, to show that excitability in order to have the processions abandoned?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I do not think so. It takes two to make a quarrel. In the majority of cases where a restriction of this kind will be imposed, it will be because it is obviously unwise to hold a demonstration in the particular locality in which it is proposed to hold it. The central proposition which I would suggest to the Committee is, that no one has an absolute legal right to do anything; one has only a legal right to do that which does not unreasonably interfere with the rights of other people.
Would the Lord Advocate give us any indication, or hint, or any possibility, of a procession exciting such feelings, except in cases of race or religion?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I am not sure that I am the proper person to whom that question ought to be addressed, but I think that political as well as racial and religious topics are calculated to give rise to the serious public disorder to which this Bill applies. I have detained the Committee already too long, and I would now humbly suggest that we should come to a decision.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I desire to say a few words, having listened to the discussion since my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) put our point of view. I think it is a matter to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench did not get into the National Government when the Lord President of the Council refused to take him with him when the National Government was formed—
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
On a point of Order. That statement is quite untrue. Is it in order for the hon. Member to make charges of that kind?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
You did not hear the earlier discussion, when the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to be offensive by innuendo—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not use an epithet like "offensive" about other Members of the House.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am quite willing to alter it in order to observe your Ruling by saying that the right hon. Gentleman by innuendo was seeking to convey to the working-class movement of this country a complete misrepresentation of the position of the party below the Gangway to which I belong. I myself took up the other position, of saying without innuendo, and I am quite sure that the Lord President of the Council will bear out what I said—
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
That is a reaffirmation of the statement which I have specifically denied. It is not true, 619 and I ask the hon. Member to withdraw it or justify it.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Whatever statement the right hon. Gentleman may or may not have made at some part of the Debate, it has nothing to do with this Clause.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I do not think that any real answer has been given, either from the Front Labour Bench or from the Government Bench, to the arguments that were brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals. The Clause as it stands presents the utmost danger to the working-class movement in the future, and, in spite of the fact that the Labour Party Conference at Edinburgh decided that something must be done with regard to the happenings in the East End of London, I do not think that that decision of the Labour Party Conference in Edinburgh should debar Members of the House of Commons who represent the working-class movement in the various constituencies throughout the country from taking the necessary steps, in connection with legislation before the House, to see that that legislation is not going to be used so as to affect adversely the workers in their divisions.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals referred to one position in regard to demonstrations that occur during an industrial dispute. I put it to hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway whether, from their industrial experience in those circumstances, they do not see that this would be one of the most dangerous weapons that was ever put into the hands of the governing class in this country. That is the contention that we have been putting forward in this House. In view of past history, and in view of the likely development of events in the future, we have no right to bargain away the protection of the working class in order to avoid a recurrence of something that has happened in the East End of London. I submit that what happened there is something absolutely distinct from what is being provided for in this Clause, and that in the future, if the circumstances are at all circumstances to create a little apprehension, the instrument that has been used with such great 620 effect by the working-class movement in the past will become utterly useless, or they will be deprived of it by this Clause. The Lord Advocate, when he was replying to the discussion, said that Sub-sections (2) and (3) would only come into operation in a time of emergency, but there is the Emergency Powers Act to deal with a case of emergency. As I see it, I believe that this is one of the most dangerous Clauses, so far as working-class agitation is concerned, that ever came before the House of Commons, and I hope that it will be rejected.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
I intervene because I feel a responsibility as representing a constituency in the East End of London. I do not think we ought to under-rate the problem in the East End of London. It is unfortunate that something that has happened down there should be the occasion for a Bill of this character. Nobody likes this Clause; I certainly do not; but, when the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway made his protest against the alleged slowness of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to take action, I went out of my way to stand up for the right hon. Gentleman, because I thought that not only had he taken the right line within his powers, but that on the whole, in all the circumstances, the Commissioner of Police was wise in not taking any action. I realise, as I think anyone with any knowledge of the East End of London must realise, that the happenings of the last few weeks are a real problem which does require some kind of legislation.
I take the line that the prohibition of the wearing of political uniforms will hardly meet the case. I do not like this Clause; I agree that the right to march in processions is one of the primary instruments of democratic expression, and, therefore, any Clause that attempts to limit that right, or to make it more difficult, should be examined most meticulously word by word, and we should try to make it as watertight as possible. I do not think that the Clause in its present form, and especially Subsection (2), is beyond reproach, but we have had—and this is the important point—the assurance that on Report the Government will try to meet some of the criticisms.
621 I want to utter this warning. I am going to accept that assurance on the understanding that we have a reasonable time for discussion of this Clause, and one or two other Clauses, on the Report stage. In many cases the Report stage is only formal. I think it would be a tragedy if the unfortunate circumstances of the last few weeks should in any way jeopardise political liberties, whatever form they take—whether it be the form of processions, or of carrying banners, or any other particular form. In view of the importance of showing to the world over this situation a united front, if I may use that expression, in opposition to Fascism and everything that that stands for, I suggest that it would be a good thing to allow the Clause to go through now on the understanding that, if it appears on Report that the Government have not been skilful enough to give greater protection to the right of procession, we shall have to divide against it. In the meantime, accepting the assurance of the Government, I am going to support the Clause.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has told the Committee that, owing to the unanimous support given to a certain resolution at the Labour Party Conference, he felt in honour bound to support the Clause as it stands here, subject, of course, to amendment later. That is as it may be, but I am quite clear, speaking for myself, that I must vote against the Clause as it stands, despite the assurance that something will be done later to bring in Amendments. Frankly, I cannot see—
§ Sir J. SIMON
Reference has been made to an assurance. I have given no assurance that amendments will be made. Let me say quite frankly to the Committee, as it is my duty to do, that I have given no assurance that I will introduce Amendments. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to be under a misapprehension.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I thank the Home Secretary for that statement, because it is very necessary to be clear on the point. The impression has been conveyed—I think I am within the recollection of the Committee—that such changes would be made in the construction of this Clause as would make it commendable to 622 those who are critical of it at the moment; I put it no higher than that to the Home Secretary. I assure him that that was the impression conveyed. I think the Lord Advocate went as far.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Really, there is no difficulty in stating the point in plain English, and I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend did so. He said—and he spoke for the whole Government—that on the Report stage and before the Report stage every attention would be given to the criticisms which have been made, in order to see whether the Clause needs improvement in its wording or not. I intervened because of the wholly inaccurate statement that an assurance had been given that Amendments would be made.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I do not wish to give a wrong impression, but I was under that impression, as I think were many Members of the Committee. If the correction to which we have listened is taken to heart, it makes it all the more imperative that something should be said critically at this moment about the Clause. I was going on to say that I cannot see any legal device that is going to make this Clause commendable to the House. Let us take a case in point. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney is one of the most skilful debaters in the House. How did he deal with the point? He said it was necessary to have Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, because, without it, it would be possible for a mob in uniform to go down to the East End and shout, "Down with the Jews." But if they did that they would, under the present law, be apprehended for inciting to violence. The law can act now, without this Sub-section at all.
It is not the case that the Home Secretary was obliged to draw the Clause as it stands because of certain statements that had been made. The right hon. Gentleman was criticised for not acting quickly enough in view of what was expected to happen in the East End, but in the Bill the whole action is placed upon the chief constable. It is not the Home Secretary who is to intervene. It affords us no assurance to be told that the Government have accepted an Amendment in which it is stated that the chief officer has reasonable ground for apprehension. What in law or outside the law is meant by "reasonable 623 apprehension"? Can anyone define it? More than that, the chief constable not only has to have apprehension but he has to keep in mind three points—the time, the place, and the circumstances of a procession. The Lord Advocate assured the House that he could well conceive circumstances in which political opinion could give rise to disturbances in any district. I can remember years ago attempting to have a little procession and an open-air meeting in Wiltshire dealing with the land question, and even in those days the police officer warned us what would happen if we dared to have a meeting. We dared to have a meeting and I know what happened, and it was not a very nice sight.
We are assured now by the Lord Advocate that not merely racial or religious, but political opinion may govern the decision of the chief constable as to whether there shall be processions and, furthermore, whether he shall take the matter further to the council and receive their decision to prohibit the meetings and processions altogether. This is a serious matter. There are ways and means of dealing with this disastrous growth of two extreme sections of the community other than this Bill, namely, to find out from where the money is coming that supports these processions and demonstrations. I want to give a word of warning to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney. He seems to like the Bill as a fulfilment of all that he has asked for.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I should have said the Clause. We are all very delighted with an Act of Parliament which seems to be running up our street, or pleasing us because it is effective in doing something that we want to see done, but the worst of the law is that when it is in operation it has no regard for political parties, and the Bill will cut both ways. It may please many just now because it seems to be hitting at the Blackshirts, but when it is the law of the land, and has no regard to the colour of the shirt or to the opinions that are held, people who are welcoming it now will find that it hits at them, too. The danger, therefore, that I see is that under the pretext of dealing with these crude expressions of violent political opinion we are 624 running a very serious danger of checking the full liberty of the British subject in the State. I cannot for the life of me see how the Home Secretary, with all his ability to embody in a Clause all that he may desire to put into it, can produce a Clause which will safeguard the liberty of the subject, check the encroachment of officialdom and at the same time check the encroachment of illegal political action in the State.
It would be far better to use the powers that we have and, if you like, pass a short Bill dealing with the funds of these bodies. I shall vote against the Clause. I am taking no risks here. I am not saying this so that in the future I can say, "I did this and Morrison did the other." I regard liberty as a thing that must be defended now with greater enthusiasm and a more watchful eye than at any time in the past. Who knows but that this attempt to deal with Fascism and other dictatorial forces in the State, this very action that we are taking in the name of democracy to check them, is forging new chains to keep us from having greater liberty to fight them in the future? For these reasons I shall vote solidly against the Clause.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
Speaking as an old Member, there is nothing that rouses one's suspicions so much as when people get up and proclaim loudly and at length that liberty must be protected. It is very easy in the circumstances to wonder whether the Clause is or is not necessary. We have had other suspicious circumstances to-day. We have had between the two front benches an unusual amount of praise of each other. When the front benches, whether it is a matter of processions or anything else, praise each other, you may be sure 99 times out of 100 that in some way or other they are hitting at the back bencher. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has been having a very rough time with his left wings. Both left wings have set about him more or less, and he did not come out of it with his usual brilliancy. I intend to support the Clause. We have undoubtedly got into a position where there has been a serious danger of breach of the peace in East London because of the abuse of processions. Unless we make it, perfectly clear that processions must not be abused pro- 625 cessions must go and those who want to see them kept realise that something has to be done to prevent their abuse.
I have read the Clause very carefully and listened to a great many of the arguments on the subject. It is generally agreed outside the House; whatever two or three minor sections of the Socialist party may think here, that it is up to the House of Commons to do something to enable the people of the country to enjoy their right of processions freely in the future as they have in the past, and something ought to be done to stop these two wings of the community who are abusing processions at present. No alternative has been put before us except this Clause. There are a good many safeguards under it. If you are going to preserve democracy and its right to have processions and to explain its feelings fully, you must undoubtedly have a Clause of this kind. We will hope that there are not many local authorities such as that described by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), which prohibited a particular procession for a particular purpose. I do not think that is likely to happen often. For these reasons I shall most certainly vote for the Clause.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIS SMITH
I wish to associate myself with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and others who have expressed their anxiety regarding this Clause. A number of us put down an Amendment which has not been called and I should like to make a few observations upon Sub-section (4). The reason why I am concerned about it arises out of my experience in a big industrial centre. The Home Secretary has accepted the word "knowingly." I am concerned about the various interpretations that will be put upon that word by the various people who will administer the Act. I have had the experience of organising perhaps one of the largest demonstrations that have taken place in Lancashire against the means test. The Chief Constable of Manchester sent for us and had us in his office for about two hours. On the day that the demonstration took place the police had been specially selected and given strict orders that in no circumstances should they be parties to or allow any provocation to take place. The Chief Constable showed that he was capable of handling a demonstration of 626 that character. He was tactful, and the constables under his charge also handled the demonstration in as tactful a way as it could possibly have been handled.
At Trafford Park we had a different experience altogether. I remember an apprentices' strike, and the interpretation that the chief officer in charge of the police placed upon the Trade Disputes Act was different altogether from that placed upon it in other areas. The apprentices were on strike because of a legitimate grievance. The police on that occasion deliberately provoked the greatest amount of antagonism possible as the result of their action. A demonstration took place against the means test in Edinburgh during the week that the conference of the Labour party was being held in that city, and it was a model of law and order. When it came to the traffic lights, owing to the untactful way that one of the constables was handling the demonstrators, there was nearly trouble, but, fortunately, a senior member of the police came along and spoke to him, and the result was that there was no incident. I am concerned about this matter because, having had experience of the administration of the Trade Disputes Act and its effect upon industrial disputes, I can see various interpretations being placed upon this Measure when it becomes an Act which will have the same detrimental effect unless our interests are safeguarded. Therefore, no matter what anyone else may do, I have felt bound to make these observations of my experience in order that we can use our influence to ask the Home Secretary to consider the other Amendments that have been put upon the Order Paper so that the legitimate trades union rights in this country can be safeguarded under the Bill.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
I feel that an apology is really due to the Committee for detaining it a minute or two longer when so much time has already been devoted to this subject, but in view of the dangers which have been discussed from these benches, it may be of some value to say that I think that the dangers have been very greatly exaggerated. There is no doubt that there are dangers, and I believe that when they are understood they can be further safeguarded, as I hope they will be at a later stage. I 627 cannot share the anxieties expressed in the Debate to anything like the degree of some of my hon. Friends here. There is no doubt that in some respects the very existence of this Clause is the first substantial success that the Fascists have had in this country, but I am afraid that is something with which we have to put up in order to safeguard greater things. May I point out to some of my hon. Friends here that there is not under this Clause any power given to any chief constable or to any local authority to ban processions? A great deal of discussion has proceeded on the assumption that perhaps a chief constable can ban a procession, and that perhaps the local authority against which some people might desire to demonstrate can prevent a procession. There is nothing in the Clause to justify any such thing. The chief constable has power to impose conditions, but no power to prohibit processions. Even then, now that the Clause has been amended, he must have reasonable grounds for action.
The point about placing a whole park or district or borough out of bounds for processions and demonstrations is quite another question. There the chief constable may request the local authority to make such an order and the local authority may make such order if the Secretary of State consents. I support the proposal made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) that it would be better, and a very useful safeguard, if the order were not made by the local authority at all but by the Minister, so as to give this House a much greater control over it than would otherwise be the case. It is fair to point out to those who see all sorts of grave dangers lurking in the background that a chief constable cannot even make the order unless he has grounds for believing that the powers under Sub-section (1) are insufficient. Even then there is the control of the local authority and beyond that the control of this House. While I entirely agree that further safeguards are necessary—and I hope that when the Report stage is reached some way of meeting some of the dangers may have been found—I think that the dangers which have been expressed during the Debate are exaggerated, and I shall have no difficulty whatever in supporting the Clause at this stage.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I do not want to remain silent because I intend to vote against this Clause. I do not see any need for it. There was no need for it when we were up against it in Glasgow in 1919, when the police smashed me up and down. I was arrested as a result of that demonstration. The Home Secretary had the necessary power at that time. In 1926, when I made a speech in this House and said that if the Government of this country were to treat me and mine in the way that they were treating the miners of this country, I would blow the thing to babarags, the Secretary of State challenged me to make that speech outside. I made the speech outside. What happened? Did I run away like you are running away from Mosley? No fear. They arrested me, and I was fined £25. They had that power then, and they had the power in 1919 to put me into solitary confinement for one month for the part I played in that strike. I have listened to this Debate and to all the Debates we have had and to the different conversations since this Bill came before the country, and I am thoroughly convinced that we are letting go certain liberties and powers that we boast about when we say that we have more freedom in this country than there is anywhere else in the world.
We are the outstanding democratic country, but if we allow the Government to go on much longer in the way that they are doing, we shall not remain so. It is being done in such a scientific fashion that quite a number of Socialists have fallen into the trap. There is no doubt in my mind, after having listened to what has taken place in the Debate to-day that a sprat is being thrown to catch a whale. The Home Secretary is not going to catch me. The Liberal party, the great defenders of liberty, do not see further than that this idea is to affect the supposed extremes. You have to remember that it has been the extremes in this country that have been the safeguards of this country. What is extreme to-day becomes that which is correct to-morrow. That is what we are facing here.
The Government of the day and the Secretary of State has the power, and nobody knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman does, to stop Mosley and 629 company whenever they like. But there is no more astute individual in this House. We trade unionists know very well what he did during the miners' lock-out in 1926. He was behind all the business which led the trade union officials to understand that they were liable to arrest and that their funds could be seized. The subtle mind responsible for that was no less a personage than the Secretary of State. He has allowed all the trouble of Mosley against the Jews to go on, and the idea to spread from one end of the land to the other that the poor old Jews were not getting a fair deal. Our party, defending the weak against the strong, as our party always will, naturally took the part of the Jews, and they will continue to take the part of the downtrodden. We have done that since the institution of our movement, and because of that, with all the pressure that was going on and the Secretary of State pretending that it was being beyond his power and beyond what he could do, it has created such an atmosphere from one end of the land to the other that the Labour party have been won over to the idea. And then, after he has expanded the whole thing, along comes the product of the subtle mind of the Secretary of State—this Bill—which, I believe, will fleece from us that outstanding characteristic of British liberty through which to-day we
§ are able to stand at our street corners. I will do it again. I do not care what law you pass. If I have something to say I shall say it, and will take the consequences. The Bill is going to steal from us this great possession which we should guard with all our power. We ought to guard the jewel of liberty in the framework of freedom.
§ We are discussing a most serious thing, not Spain, Germany or Russia, but something which is at home. We shall not be able to raise and discuss questions in the free and untrammelled manner we have been able to do in the past if we allow a Bill of this description to go through. We are voicing the aspirations of the people outside who have grievances and are inarticulate. They sent us to defend them on the Floor of the House of Commons against the ravages of those who are in control of this country. We are now able to put forward their grievances either here or at the street corners, but by this Bill we are going to hand away that power and liberty, and I certainly shall go into the Lobby, if the House divides, against this Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 13.631
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[7.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Charleton, H. C.||Frankel, D.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Christie, J. A.||Furness, S. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Clarke, F. E.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cluse, W. S.||Ganzoni, Sir J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Gardner, B. W.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cooper, Rt. Hn T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gledhill, G.|
|Balaiel, Lord||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Goldie, N. B.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Crooke, J. S.||Goodman, Col. A. W.|
|Barr, J.||Crookehank, Capt. H. F. C.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Crossley, A. C.||Granville, E. L.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Bellenger, F.||Dalton, H.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Benson, G.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Day, H.||Groves, T. E.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll,N.W.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Denville, Alfred||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Doland, G. F.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Harbord, A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Drewe, C.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hayday, A.|
|Bull, B. B.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Dunne, P. R. R.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Cape, T.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Holmes. J. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Entwistle, C. F.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Chanson, H.||Erskine Hill, A. G.||Hopkin, D.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Findlay, Sir E.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Jagger, J.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|John, W.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Keeling, E. H||Paling, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Parkinson, J. A.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Peat, C. U.||Specs, W. P.|
|Kimball, L.||Penny, Sir G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Latham, Sir P.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Lathan, G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Srauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Petherick, M.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Leach, W.||Potts, J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Procter, Major H. A.||Tacker, Sir R. I.|
|Lee, F.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ramsbotham, H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Thorne, W.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Levy, T.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Touche, G. C.|
|Lewis, O.||Ridley, G.||Train, Sir J.|
|Liddall. W. S.||Riley. B.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Ritson, J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G C.|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Walkden. A. G.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Ward, Lieut,Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lyons, A. M.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Rowlands, G.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Watkins, F. C.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Welsh, J. C.|
|MacDonald Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Salmon, Sir I.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Salt, E. W.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Salter, Dr. A.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Markham, S. F.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Marshall, F.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Wise. A. R.|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Sanders, W. S.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Mathers, G.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Mayhew. Lt.-Col. J.||Sandys, E. D.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Savery, Servington||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Messer, F.||Selley, H. R.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Young. A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Montague, F.||Short, A.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Silkin, L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S)||Silverman, S. S.||Dr. Morris-Jones and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Llewellin.|
|Munro, P.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hardie, G. D.||Maclean, N.|
|Daggar, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Westwood, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Foot, D. M.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Gallacher, W.||MacLaren, A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Stephen and Mr. Buchanan.|
Question put, and agreed to.