HC Deb 20 June 1938 vol 337 cc705-7
71. Sir P. Harris

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the disturbance in Bethnal Green on Wednesday evening, 15th June; and whether he is aware that a procession of 150 persons was permitted to march down the Bethnal Green Road in spite of it being an area in which processions are prohibited; and will he take steps to protect the residents of Bethnal Green from the assembly of large crowds, mostly drawn from districts outside, many of whom were there apparently with the direct object of causing a disturbance?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend has received a full report on this incident from the Commissioner of Police. A Fascist meeting was held in Club Row, which was attended by about 200 people. At the close of this meeting these people would have dispersed in the ordinary way, but an opposition meeting was held about half a mile away which was attended by about 2,000 people, and at the close of the Fascist meeting the Fascists were surrounded by so large and hostile a crowd that there was a risk of serious disorder. In order to get the Fascists away the police arranged to escort them down Bethnal Green Road, and it is no doubt this arrangement which has given rise to the suggestion that a procession was permitted. As regards the last part of the question, while it is impossible to prevent the crowds assembling in the streets when meetings are being held, the police take all possible steps within their existing powers to prevent disturbances arising on such occasions and to deal with persons who behave in such a way as to provoke a breach of the peace.

Sir P. Harris

Will the Under-Secretary consider, in purely residential districts, regulating the use of loud speakers? The public can keep away from ordinary meetings, but the loud speaker penetrates into their homes and causes great nuisance.

Mr. Lloyd

The Commissioner of Police has recommended to the Bethnal Green Council that they should make by-laws dealing with this subject. In the absence of such by-laws the police have no power.

Mr. Sorensen

Is it not a fact that there are powers in existence, quite apart from by-laws, for the suppression of this noise?

Mr. Lloyd

I am advised not.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not a fact that the loud speaker is used for unjustifiable slanders against people on account of their race?