HC Deb 13 December 1937 vol 330 cc814-5
59. Mr. Benjamin Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether it is proposed to continue the existing prohibition on the holding of political processions in the East End of London?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

The existing Order prohibiting the holding of public processions of a political character in certain areas of the East End of London will expire at midnight to-night. I have carefully considered, in consultation with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, whether it is necessary to continue for a further period the prohibition of political processions in those areas. The Commissioner advises me that the situation in the East End is still such as to make it necessary to have recourse to the powers conferred on him by Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Public Order Act, 1936, and he has asked my consent to his making an Order under that Sub-section renewing the prohibition for a further period of three months. I regret the necessity of such a restriction on the freedom of political procession, but, in view of the risk of serious public disorder as the result of clashes between the two rival factions—clashes which neither party has hitherto shown any disposition to avoid—I am convinced that the time has not yet come when, in the public interest, it would be safe to discontinue the prohibition. I have accordingly conveyed to the Commissioner my consent to his making a fresh Order renewing the prohibition for a further period of three months.

Mr. Smith

Would the right hon. Gentleman not limit the prohibition to the parties that he assumes are responsible for the difficulties in the East End of London, and not deny to all political parties the right of procession?

Mr. Gallacher

Would he not agree to apply the ban to the processions of those whom the people in the East End of London believe to be responsible for the trouble?

Sir S. Hoare

It would be impossible to give an answer to the second supplementary question, because it is difficult to ascertain the views of the inhabitants of East London. They are extremely divided on the subject. In answer to the first supplementary question, I very much regret the necessity of this restriction. It is, however, necessary to apply it to all political processions. It is not applied to meetings, or to such processions as Labour and trade union demonstrations if they are of a non-political character.

Mr. G. Strauss

Has not the Commissioner ample power to stop any procession likely to lead to a breach of the peace, without this wholesale banning of every kind of procession?

Sir S. Hoare

No, Sir. I am advised by the police that in particular districts of London these additional powers are required.