HC Deb 25 April 1940 vol 360 cc353-6
34. Sir George Broadbridge

asked the Home Secretary whether it is his intention, under the Emergency Powers Act, to suppress all subversive literature by the British Communists, and similar extreme parties; and whether it is proposed to prosecute, intern, or otherwise deal with persons suspected of, or found to be, engaged in seditious propaganda?

37. Mr. R. C. Morrison

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Fascist open-air meetings are being held in many parts of London at which speeches are made approving the policy of Germany and deriding the actions of the Allies; whether he is aware of the growing public indignation on this matter; and when he proposes to stop this abuse of the rights of free speech which is likely to lead to breaches of the peace?

40. Sir Reginald Clarry

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the public indignation at the abuse of free speech by the habitual public utterances of certain individuals, openly advocating an immediate cessation of hostilities with the country's enemies; and whether he will take all necessary measures promptly to intern them for the period of the war?

60. Mr. Levy

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that regular, wide-spread street-corner meetings by Fascists, Communists, and peace-by-compromise pacifists are being held, and other less obvious propaganda devices are going on designed to weaken the national war effort; and, as this is against the national interest, what steps he proposes to take to stop this agitation?

Sir J. Anderson

I have for some time been carefully watching the activities of certain small groups of people, of whom some appear to be deliberately anxious to hinder the war effort. The national resolution that the war must be waged with all our strength is such that these activities have so far had little practical effect. Nevertheless, the possible consequences of continuous attempts to impede the war effort cannot be ignored. The question what steps can properly be taken to check propaganda of a harmful kind was discussed when the Defence Regulations were debated on 31st October, and there was general agreement that every effort should be made, even in time of war, to avoid interference with the propagation of opinions held by small minorities. There is, however, a risk that the liberty allowed by our traditional principles may be abused by extremists of whom some are anxious to destroy that liberty, and I am at present considering whether some strengthening of the regulations is desirable for the purpose of checking activities specifically directed towards impeding the national war effort.

Mr. Watkins

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Fascists have advertised a mass demonstration on May Day at Victoria Park in the East End of London, to the great annoyance of the vast majority of local people? Will he consider whether a permit should be given for this demonstration?

Sir J. Anderson

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Dingle Foot

In view of the fact that the Home Secretary was good enough to consult representatives of the various political parties when drawing up the second version of the Defence Regulations, will he be ready to enter into such consultations again before making any drastic alterations in the regulations?

Sir J. Anderson

I think it is only right that before anything is done which may be held to involve a departure from any understanding or arrangement arrived at, there should be further consultations. I will not commit myself beyond that.

Mr. Levy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the sole object of these street-corner agitations is to create dissatisfaction among the working men and women of this country; that they should be stopped and that every honest working man would agree with it?

Mr. Thorne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the pamphlets and leaflets which have been issued by the National Labour party have killed all the propaganda of the Communists?

Sir J. Anderson

That obviously is a factor which must be taken into account.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the Home Secretary define what "extreme parties" means? I take it it does not refer to the Labour party?

Mr. R. C. Morrison


Mr. Speaker

We have a large number of Questions on the Order Paper.

41. Sir R. Clarry

asked the Home Secretary whether the total number of regular publications, including Communist, Fascist and so-called Peace and Youth Movement periodicals which habitually publish either open sedition or anti-British propaganda and any other matter intended to weaken the supreme war effort now being made by the Allies, together with the approximate aggregate circulation of such periodicals; and whether he is considering adequate measures to intern the responsible individuals and suppress such publications?

Sir J. Anderson

There are about 20 publications, including some monthly periodicals, which fall within the category which my hon. Friend has in mind. Many of them circulate among the same limited groups of people, and to add together the estimated circulation of each of these publications would give a wholly misleading result. The point raised in the last part of the Question is dealt with in my reply to other Questions asked to-day.

Sir R. Clarry

Can my right hon. Friend give any idea of the circulation of these periodicals? Can he give some number? Does it run to 5,000,000, or 2,000,000?

Sir J. Anderson

I will see if I can do that.

Mr. McGovern

Is the Minister aware that there is a desire on the part of certain forces in this country to use the national emergency, under the guise of patriotism, to stop democratic activities?

Sir J. Anderson

I have already made a balanced statement on this matter in reply to an earlier Question.

42. Mr. Mander

asked the Home Secretary whether careful consideration is being given under existing circumstances to the activities of those British subjects who were formerly associated with the Link and other former agencies of Nazi propaganda in this country?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir. The need for vigilance in the case of persons known to have been active members of any such organisation is fully recognised, and I can assure the hon. Member that such vigilance on the part of the responsible authorities will not be relaxed.

Mr. Mander

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that where it is considered desirable such persons are interned?

Sir J. Anderson

Certainly, where it is considered desirable.

Mr. Poole

Does that also apply to Members of this House who are associated with this organisation?

Sir J. Anderson

I think we must have the same rules for all.