HC Deb 14 March 1940 vol 358 cc1365-7
69. Mr. Salt

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that there is much indignation in the Midlands at the activities of the Peace Pledge Union in its efforts to encourage and tutor men in their applications for exemption from military service on the grounds of conscientious objection; and at the distribution of handbills and literature likely to be detrimental to the Defence of the Realm; and what steps he proposes to take to end this subversive action?

70. Sir P. Hannon

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that certain persons in Birmingham and the Midlands have organised a system of picketing at recruiting offices and Employment Exchanges offering to provide advice for recruits who desire to evade military service and to assist them in presenting their appeals to War Office tribunals in order to secure their release from service; and what action he contemplates to prevent the continuance of this effort against the organisation of national defence?

72. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the Home Secretary whether he has further considered the subversive activities of the Peace Pledge Union who, besides distributing literature detrimental to the country's interest, are picketing recruiting offices; and whether he will take steps to stop this interference with the liberties of patriotic Britishers?

Sir J. Anderson

There is, I think, no reason for apprehension that these activities have any appreciable effect on the organisation of national defence or on the determination of the British people to devote themselves to the efficient prosecution of the war. As previously stated, however, I am having a close watch kept, and am keeping in view the question whether special measures may be called for.

Sir P. Hannon

Does my right hon. Friend not realise that these busybodies who are trying to encourage men to evade military service are a positive danger to the country?

Sir J. Anderson

Reports reaching me from every quarter go to show that the activities referred to are, in fact, having no serious effect, beyond making a certain number of people very angry.

Mr. McGovern

Is not any individual belonging to an anti-war organisation entitled to give out leaflets at Employment Exchanges, showing individuals the rights they have under the Act? Is it not the case that we have had to raise a number of C.O. claims by men who did not know their rights? Is there anything criminal or wrong in doing that?

Sir J. Anderson

A great deal depends on how it is done.