HC Deb 03 March 1938 vol 332 cc1273-4
42. Mr. Groves

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, notwithstanding the protests and petitions from the residents of and around Rosher Road, Stratford, a meeting of Fascists was there held on Sunday morning, 27th February, and that, as a result of the consequent disorder, four onlookers were arrested; whether he is informed through the uniformed policeman, who took shorthand notes of the proceedings, that two Fascist speakers repeatedly used insulting language to the audience; whether he will take the necessary steps to prosecute the speakers for action calculated to cause a breach of the peace; and whether, in view of the fact that the area is a thickly populated industrial area, and many workers engaged on nightly duty need daytime rest, he will ensure that no more such meetings are held there?

Sir S. Hoare

I have made inquiries and am informed that four persons who were hostile to this meeting were arrested and charged with using insulting words and behaviour, but so far as the police were able to hear the speakers amid much interruption they heard nothing to warrant the institution of proceedings against them. As the hon. Member knows, the police have no power to prohibit lawful meetings, and the fact that a meeting in a particular district may be unwelcome to the inhabitants of that district does not make it unlawful.

Mr. Groves

Can the Home Secretary say why the chief inspector of the neighbourhood climbed on to the back of the van from which these speakers were addressing the audience and warned one of them in respect of his conduct? Why did the inspector take such action if he heard nothing to warrant interference? In view of the fact that I was there, may I further ask whether it is not a fact that a policeman took a full shorthand note, and whether, following a warning from the inspector, one of the Fascists referred to the audience as "scum" and another referred to them as "hook-nosed unmentionables"? [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"] It may be a speech, but this is a very serious matter, and I want to know whether the Home Secretary will have the shorthand notes presented to him in longhand and let me, as the Member for the division, peruse them with him, as I was present and know that insulting behaviour took place?

Sir S. Hoare

I have given the House the information at my disposal, and if the hon. Member has any further information I hope he will communicate it to me.