HC Deb 20 March 1941 vol 370 cc275-7
32. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the danger to the community from exposed lights during black-out, he will take steps where this occurs, after a first warning, to increase the penalties imposed; and, in the case of aliens, whether claiming diplomatic privilege or any other form of immunity, that they be interned?

Mr. H. Morrison

In assessing the penalties for such offences it is the duty of the court to take account amongst other considerations of a previous warning, and there is no ground for thinking that the maximum penalties authorised by the existing law are insufficient. As regards the second part of the Question, I see no reason to differentiate between aliens and British subjects in this matter, and I should not hesitate to use such powers as I possess in any case where the circumstances and the interests of national security required action to be taken. As regards aliens entitled to diplomatic immunity, appropriate action would of course be taken through diplomatic channels.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Would the right hon. Gentleman in some way inform the police of the necessity of prosecuting not only the person who actually leaves the light on, but also those who permit it, and thus bring those who are really responsible to court?

Mr. Morrison

That would depend on the facts of each case, but I will keep my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Sir W. Smithers

But very often a poor charwoman is charged when it is the employés of a big company who are responsible.

Mr. Morrison

I will certainly go into that point.

Mr. Garro Jones

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the reports in the Press about persons who have claimed diplomatic immunity in the case of a prosecution for showing lights, and where such persons are concerned, is he satisfied that he is already endowed with sufficient powers to prevent such breaches of the Regulations?

Mr. Morrison

In those cases I think my proper course would be to take the matter up through the Foreign Office. I am very anxious that this law should be observed all the way round, but I am not sure that there are people who avoid the obligation and claim diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Garro Jones

But is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that lights have been showing on diplomatic premises and that the persons responsible have declined to obey the requests of the police, and does he think that the somewhat cumbrous procedure of making representations to the Foreign Office is adequate to meet the urgency of the situation?

Mr. Morrison

I will consider that. If diplomatic offices continued to abuse our hospitality, it would be very objectionable, and they would run the risk of an undiplomatic reply.

Mr. Denville

May I suggest that when the hon. Member observes a light of this description, he heaves a brick through the window?