§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South-Eastern)
On a point of Order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that it is your intention to call an Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) and others, and I wish to ask your guidance as to whether this Amendment is technically in Order. In so far as it refers to the release of Sir Oswald Mosley, I wish to ask whether he has been released, in view of the fact that "release" means setting free, and that Sir Oswald Mosley will be subject to certain definite restrictions, will be obliged to reside in a certain place, will be compelled to remain within a radius of seven miles of that place, and will also be compelled to report to the police on specified occasions? In view of these Home Office restrictions, can it be said that Sir Oswald Mosley has been released?
§ Mr. Speaker
The point raised seems to me to be rather splitting hairs on the word "release." As to whether it is a sound point of Order or not, I think it was generally agreed that we could discuss the question of Sir Oswald Mosley and that if it was in Order to discuss it, it is in Order to have an Amendment which can be divided upon.
§ Mr. Woods (Finsbury)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But humbly regret the decision of Your Majesty's advisers to release Sir Oswald Mosley, which is calculated to retard the war effort and lead to misunderstanding at home and abroad.396 I would like to make it as clear as possible at the beginning of my speech that this Amendment, or perhaps I should call it this addendum, to the humble Address does not raise the question of Regulation 18B and all the legal intricacies involved in that Regulation. I think the House accepts that Regulation as a war-time expedient and sympathises with the Home Secretary in the responsibilities placed upon him in its administration. The Amendment deals exclusively with the act of releasing, or removing from Holloway gaol, where he was detained, of Sir Oswald Mosley. That is the initial point, but the bulk of the Amendment deals with something which is far more important than the incidental release of one person. It deals with the repercussions of this act, not only in this country but throughout the world. The Amendment is factual and does not raise controversial issues. It is quite obvious that the release of Sir Oswald Mosley has had these repercussions, particularly in our factories and mines. I also want to make it clear that this Amendment is in no sense a Vote of Censure, and I hope that a great deal will not be made of that point. It does not imply any lack of confidence either in the Government or in the Home Secretary. [Laughter.] I do not see any reason for merriment. The only person who made no mistake made nothing at all. He probably made the greatest mistake of all in being born. I repeat that the spirit and intention behind this Amendment involve no censure of either the Home Secretary or the Government.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
On a point of Order. On the statement which the hon. Member has just made, I desire to ask, Mr. Speaker, whether, if you had been aware that this Amendment was not intended in any way to be a Vote or Censure either on the Home Secretary of the Government, you would have selected it?
§ Mr. Speaker
What hon. Members' intentions are have nothing to do with me I do not think beforehand of what they intend to say or what their intentions may be. The Amendment was in Order and the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) is entitled to put his own case.
§ Mr. Woods
I think one is also entitled to say in this House the spirit which is actuating one in making a speech. I can 397 honestly say that, so far as I am concerned—and, I think, most of my hon. Friends who have placed their names to this Amendment—this Amendment is not intended to imply any attack on the Government.
§ Mr. Woods
Even the best Government in the world can make mistakes, but I believe that a profound pyschological mistake was made in connection with the release of Sir Oswald Moseley. I think that the Home Secretary, in his profound anxiety to act in a perfectly judicial spirit, has been particularly concerned to do what he thought was justice to one individual and that in his anxiety to do that justice generously it is quite possible—and I think there is sufficient evidence—for millions of men and women to feel that in that act of justice he had done, at the same time, injustice to many others. The Home Secretary has made it clear already to the House that in the exercise of his profound responsibilities under Regulation 18B, he was not influenced by his personal likes or dislikes. I think the House agrees and commends him for it. He has made it clear that he was not influenced by political bias or prejudice. I think the House agrees and commends the Home Secretary for not being influenced by such considerations in his administration of Regulation 18B. My right hon. Friend has further made it clear that he has not been influenced in his decision by pressure of party machines or weight of organisations. I think again, there is no question about that, but I would remind the House that this judicial poise, this degree of impartiality, is not something which the country requires exclusively of the Home Secretary. It is a poise, an attitude, which I think commends itself to all of us as something on which we should act at all times. Particularly as responsible Members, representing our constituencies, in our relationship with this Amendment, we are influenced by the same considerations, namely, that we should act impartially and without prejudice and—I say so with some personal feeling—without being unduly influenced in our decision to-day, even by the weight of the party machine.
In the constituencies which we represent I think it is beyond all doubt that the overwhelming majority of our constituents are 398 satisfied that an error of judgment has been made. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe that to be the case, and I believe that that reaction has been spontaneous. I have gone about the country since this decision was taken: I have met many people who were indignant, I have met many people who were bewildered, and I have met one or two who were entirely cynical about it and said, "This confirms our view—"[Interruption.] I repeat that that is my experience, and I think what I say is confirmed by the experience of almost everybody in this House who works among the working-class people, the people on whom, I would remind hon. Members, this country has to rely for the prosecution of the war, and I say that you find those who say that this is confirmation of the old adage that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
The hon. Member ought to be ashamed of saying that. He knows better than that.
§ Mr. Woods
The House may be interested to learn that I have heard of one individual who was ecstatically happy about the decision to release Sir Oswald Mosley, and I will say that that one individual is well known as an A1 Jew-hater and Jew-baiter. Incidentally, he agrees with Sir Oswald Mosley and also with Hitler that the cause of all the trouble in the world is, a certain group of people of one origin. He is wildly happy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] Perhaps hon. Members opposite may know of another such case, but I do not. I have only heard of the one, and incidentally it may interest the Home Secretary to know that that person says that this is the first time the Home Secretary has done a decent thing. That one individual who is so pleased with the decision of the Home Secretary, is, I would put it to my right hon. Friend, the exception that proves the rule and in that way is illustrative of the reaction which has taken place throughout the country.
A great deal has been made of the argument that this agitation has been the result of the activities of the Communist Party. I am not surprised that the Communist Party have cottoned on to this and made the most of it. It was what anybody might have expected. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members seem to regard this as a joke, but I have a political memory which goes back to 399 occasions when the Conservative Party and other parties have cottoned on to things and made the most of them. They would not be here if they had not done so. They have had to depend very largely on working up the prejudices of the people to obtain their ends. It has also been said that it is a case of hysteria. But I would remind my right hon. Friend and the House of the decisions taken by the National Council of Labour, by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, by the National Executive Committee of the Co-operative Party, and by trade union leaders who have responsibilities, as executive members of their respective unions. Those men and women are not subject to hysteria. They are certainly not nearly so subject to it as certain Members of this House. There have been hysterical outbursts, even in this House, about Munich and other issues. I would remind the House, and particularly my right hon. Friend, that trade union leaders in this country have a very heavy responsibility and have just as difficult and onerous a job as any member of the Cabinet, and that is to maintain the output and the discipline of the workers in all circumstances, and they are practically unanimous in saying that this action has made their job harder and their burden heavier. I think that is a subject which ought not to be treated as a matter for merriment. The point made in the Amendment is that this decision has not facilitated the prosecution of the war.
I would like next to consider the international repercussions. If we are to pull through, and if the United Nations are to pull together when this war is over, in the task of rebuilding the world on a democratic basis, it is vitally necessary that there should be no misunderstandings and an absolute minimum of suspicions. Sir Oswald Mosley is not just one individual. He was and, so far as I know, is the leader, the Fuehrer, of the Fascist Party. So far as I know, there has been no public recantation, and so far as I know he is still anxious to perpetuate racial prejudice and persecution. Already we have had demonstrations in this country that this spirit is not dead, nor are its agents. Though proscribed, they are still active. In my constituency we have the one monument of that greatest of Russian leaders, Lenin. Not 400 so long ago this monument was desecrated. That was not done by an individual; we have reason to believe that it was done by an organisation. This desecration had repercussions in Moscow. On that monument were printed the initials "P. J."
There are already indications that in the Dominions the decision to release Sir Oswald Mosley has caused reactions. In the Labour movement and among responsible administrators in Australia and elsewhere there is dissatisfaction. Let us try, if we can, to put ourselves in the position of those men and women in the occupied countries who are carrying on and who hailed with delight the pronouncement from Moscow that we were united in our determination to destroy Fascism. To many of these people Mosley is the arch Quisling in this country. He was the Fascist agent using the whole of his wealth, apparently, and the influence that that wealth gave him to spread hatred of the Jews and to weaken the organisation of this country to defend itself against the infiltration of Fascist ideas. He was looked upon as Hitler's agent in this country. When they read that this man had been released they were dissatisfied, and if this Debate does no other good, it may, perhaps, make it clear to these people that the people in this country are not indifferent to his release. At any rate his release does not weaken the general feeling that we are not really determined to destroy Fascism.
Most of the people in this country whom we represent are worthy of our consideration, and their spontaneous reactions to any action that is taken should, I think, demand the serious consideration of this House. I think it is one of the most reliable guides of what is right and what is wrong. They know quite well that actions speak louder than words. They have been fed with a surfeit of words from Hitler, and they have seen action, and they know the difference. There is a suspicion of all politicians that we just talk and do not act, and when we do act it rather confirms the suspicion that there is no desire to rid this country and the world of Fascism. There is the long story of our relationship with and our kindly treatment of that Christian gentleman, General Franco, in Spain; there is the treatment of Admiral Darlan in North Africa; there is the present experience of 401 our relationship with the collaborators of Mussolini, including the Italian King, and now, on top of all that, comes the kindly, generous treatment of one Sir Oswald Mosley.
What does the average working-class mother think? Is her son being treated like this? Throughout the country at the present time there are thousands upon thousands of working-class people who have gone to work as ill as they could possibly be and not stayed at home, and even if they had wanted a doctor, none was available, because the medical profession was so overworked. This man, to whom the country owes nothing, had five doctors. I suggest that we should not condemn the mass of the people in this country for their reaction in this matter. I think their judgment is perfectly sound, and I believe that had the Government realised what would have been the repercussions to their action they would have hesitated, and, without any desire whatever to embarrass the Government, I suggest that this House should face up honestly to this Amendment and be free from all outside influence and prejudice, as the Home Secretary quite rightly has been in making his decision.
§ Mr. Parker (Romford)
I beg to second the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods), I have admiration for the Home Secretary, but, despite the remarks made just now by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), I sincerely combine that respect for the Home Secretary with disagreement with his action on this particular matter, and I think many other hon. Members in this House also combine those two views. I disagree very strongly with the line that has been taken by the Home Secretary in this matter. He has argued that throughout his administration of Regulation 18B, he has tried to carry out all his actions in a judical manner." I do not see how one can get away from that fact that 18B, from the very beginning, was a political instrument. 18B was passed by this House; authority was given to the Home Secretary for political reasons because this House felt that the ordinary legal machinery was not sufficient in war-time. In war-time it was thought desirable, for the safety of the country, that special powers should be given to the Home Secretary to deal with possible political 402 offenders. The only offence of Sir Oswald Mosley and other detainees is that their political activities were likely to endanger the safety of the country. That was why these special powers were given to the Home Secretary, and I do not see how it is possible for him to say that he is going to leave politics out of the subject. It seems to me that the whole matter is fundamentally political right from the beginning.
However fairly one deals with such matters—and I think the Home Secretary has tried to act fairly in this case—that does not alter the fact that his decision is bound to be political and to have political consequences, and so I say that I cannot accept his idea that you can leave politics out. I have looked up the meaning of the word "politics" in the dictionary and find that it is described as "the art of government." I believe that in making this decision the Home Secretary, rightly or wrongly, was trying to practise the art of government, and I do not see that he has any basis for his argument that he can leave politics out of his decision.
I think it is the view of the substantial majority of the people in this country that Fascists and other people who do not accept our democratic Constitution have not got the ordinary rights of democratic citizens, and should not have these rights. People and parties who accept our Constitution right through are entitled to have their views respected and to have granted to them all ordinary democratic rights—freedom of assembly, freedom of meeting, freedom of the Press and so on—but I do not see that Fascists and other people who do not accept our Constitution, Communists or whoever they may be, have any right to claim the full grant to them of ordinary democratic liberties under the Constitution. I should like to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to what has happened in Germany itself. I have heard him in the past attack the Weimar Republic for its weakness, and attack the leaders of democratic Germany for their feebleness in granting full democratic rights to Hitler and people who wish to overturn the democratic Constitution. When Hitler carried out his Putsch he was defeated and put in gaol; he was then released, but certain restrictions were imposed upon him. He was not allowed to address public meetings throughout the 403 length and breadth of Prussia. A big agitation arose, and it was said that this was an interference with democratic liberties and, as the result of the pressure of different groups, Dr. Braun, the President of the Prussian State, actually repealed the ban on Hitler and allowed him to address public meetings and gave him full rights of democratic agitation.
I believe that that decision of Dr. Braun was a wrong one. Experience has shown that full democratic rights should not be given to Fascists and other groups which attempt to overthrow the Constitution. I believe that in peace-time one can allow greater freedom than in war-time, but I believe that if it is found that any group is becoming a danger to a democratic Constitution, restrictions must be imposed on it to defend that democratic Constitution. The experience of Germany has proved that fully. I believe that in this country Mosley has been a danger in the past. Any of us who represent East London constituencies know the danger that he was just before the war, and they know the dangerous agitation that he carried on. Many of us supported the Government when they imposed restrictions on the right of people to wear black shirts and private uniforms of that kind. There is a danger that Mosley may become active again, not merely during the war but after the war. If he becomes a danger in future, I should not like to be in the Home Secretary's shoes, because I should feel that part of the responsibility for allowing him to become a danger was due to the action that he has taken.
Now I should like to say something about the present political results of Mosley's release. I agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the scepticism and cynicism created among vast sections of people by this action. A great waste of time in the war factories has followed from the indignation of the people there, encouraged certainly by the Communists, but these agitations would not have existed without the spontaneous reaction of the people in the factories. Much time has been wasted in collecting signatures for petitions, to the prejudice of the war effort. That is due to this action and to the fact that the Home Secretary did not realise fully how the people would respond to it. But there is another serious consequence. We have undermining many of 404 our political ideals the canker of anti-Semitism. It is much stronger than many people believe. It is a grave danger, and this action has definitely encouraged that feeling in large parts of the country. Many people who kept their anti-Semetic views underground have come out into the open as the result of the Home Secretary's action. This is a very grave misfortune. May I refer to another point of a political character which has followed from his decision? The great majority of people regard this as a war not against Germany but against Fascism, as an ideological war, a war for the conquest of the world by our ideas in opposition to those of Nazi Germany. Many people look upon Mosley as being as much an enemy of this country as is Hitler or Hess. That is the feeling of the great majority of people. They look upon him as public enemy No. 1 and as a traitor to his country, and they think he should be treated as a war criminal, and they cannot understand the Home Secretary's action. They ask whether a similar line is going to be taken with regard to Hess and Hitler when the war is over. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
I would ask hon. Members to remember that the Home Secretary has to reply, and it is to be hoped that he will have a courteous hearing. If it is not given to speakers now, it may not be given to the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Parker
The feeling that this is a war against Fascism has been definitely flouted by this decision of the Government, and you have the feeling among vast numbers of people that this is not the first instance of the same kind. Opinion has come to a head and been crystallised on this issue. Distrust has been growing out of many recent actions of the Government. My hon. Friend mentioned the support given by the Government to Darlan and Giraud in the attempt to force semi-Fascist elements on the French. There is the same distrust of the attempt to foist Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio on the Italian people and the phoney King George on Greece.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
Is it not contrary to Order to make a reference of that kind to a friendly Monarch?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have been asked a question with regard to the Italian Monarch and also in regard to the King 405 of Greece. I have no particular Ruling to give about the Italian Monarch, but I think it is wrong to say anything derogatory about the King of Greece.
§ Mr. Parker
On that matter I was surprised recently to hear an hon. Member opposite deprecate an attack on King George because he was a "constitutional" Monarch. Many people think his only connection with the Constitution has been to break the Constitution.
§ Commander Agnew (Camborne)
As the hon. Member is perpetuating a reflection on the head of an Allied State with which this country is in military alliance, should he not be bound to withdraw it?
§ Mr. Speaker
We do not want to lose time. The hon. Member is not bound to withdraw it. I have made the position clear.
§ Mr. Parker
If I may, I will now turn from the feeling that people in this country have that in our foreign policy we are encouraging the very elements in the Allied countries which we are fighting in Germany, and deal with the home position. I have been a strong supporter of the Home Secretary in the attack he has made upon the big monopolists and the attempts of "over mighty subjects" to dictate to us what we should do in our country. I feel that in taking this action in regard to Mosley the Home Secretary has undone a lot of the good he has done in pointing out the dangers of Fascism here at home. German propaganda has made the best possible use of the release of Oswald Mosley. It is trying to exaggerate the strength of Fascism in this country, and, as an argument to show how strong Fascism is here it is stated that as a result the Government have had to give way to pressure and release him. German propaganda has used this incident to confuse our friends throughout the Continent by pointing out that Britain does not mean all it says when it says that it is opposed to Fascism. As a result there is strong feeding at home and abroad that the Home Secretary's action is a very wrongful action and one that is much to be regretted. Much as I respect the Home Secretary, I feel that I must support the Amendment.
§ Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward (Kingston-upon-Hull, North-West)
I trust that you, Sir, will not consider that 406 I am in any way criticising your decision to call this Amendment when I say that in my opinion this discussion is not serving any national purpose. I am one of those who still believe that Fascism in this country was to all intents and purposes a dead letter and that the activity of the British Union of Fascists was a thing of the past. I still think that if Sir Oswald Mosley on his release had been allowed to sink into oblivion he would have dropped out of public memory. As a result of this agitation we have placed him on an absolute pinnacle of notoriety. I very much doubt whether £100,000 spent on propaganda could have secured him such an advertisement as this agitation has done. I do not know what the medical report was which induced the Home Secretary to order his release. I have no idea what the five eminent specialists said about him, but I know that had he died in prison he would have been made a martyr. As a result Fascism would have become a permanent factor in the political issues of this country.
§ Sir A. Lambert Ward
There is another reason why, in my opinion, all the people who have been detained under Regulation 18B should be released at the earliest possible moment. During the last 18 months we have heard a great deal of talk about the various freedoms—freedom from want, freedom from ignorance and freedom from fear. There is another freedom which is important and fundamental to them all. That is the freedom to express and hold opinions, provided no steps are taken to put those opinions into practical force. It may be said that in those circumstances we had no right originally to incarcerate Mosley because he had taken no steps to implement his opinions. The times were, however, totally different. Two and a half years ago we were on the verge of an invasion. We do not know how near we were to it, and we shall not know until the secret history of the war from the German side is published. We do know, however, that the danger was a genuine and serious one. What information the Home Secretary had when he ordered the internment of Mosley is not in my possession, but I maintain that the Home Secretary of that time was right in ordering the internment on account of the dangerous 407 policy which had been advocated by Mosley. Anybody who could read the writing on the wall saw what his policy was. His views were written on every blank wall in the East End of London. Things have changed since then. There was at that time a great danger that Mosley might play a part in this country similar to the part played by Quisling in Norway and Pétain and Laval in France. I do not think anybody can say to-day that there is serious danger of invasion. There may be raids, but I do not think they could assume anything like a serious aspect. We can safely say that great danger exists no longer. Only yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production said that already cracks were becoming visible in the Nazi structure. A structure which is cracking is not one which will mount a successful invasion.
§ Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South) rose—
§ Sir A. Lambert Ward
I have a precedent in the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) for not giving way.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I suggest that there is a difference between a very senior and respected Member of the House according the courtesy of giving way and a comparatively junior Member above the Gangway.
§ Sir A. Lambert Ward
I gave way to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), because I do not recognise him as a member of the party above the Gangway.
§ Sir A. Lambert Ward
What I have said applies at least as much to all those who have been detained under 18B. I have never been very fond of that Regulation, because I felt that it impaired the elementary rights of people to hold their own opinions. I admit, however, that war is different from peace and that it is probably for the welfare of the country as a whole that these people were deprived of their liberty and of the opportunity of doing the country a bad turn. When the danger of their doing serious harm to the country has passed no time should be lost in restoring their freedom and allowing everybody to hold exactly what opinions they feel it dined to hold.
§ Mr. Chater (Bethnal Green, North-East)
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment tried to make it clear that we did not put it down in the spirit of a Vote of Censure on the Government. It is clear, however, that the Government have taken advantage of the technical position which operates in regard to the King's Speech to interpret it as such. So far as my friends and I who put our names down to the Amendment are concerned, we accept that position and will cheerfully go into the Lobby in defence of our opinions. I want to make some reference to the claim that the disagreement with the action of the Home Secretary has, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, been due to whipped-up mass hysteria. There has been an endeavour to put the whipping-up on to the shoulders of the Communist party. When you talk of mass hysteria, I would ask whether it is possible to pass a verdict of that character on the deliberations of men in responsible positions discussing this matter round a table in an atmosphere as calm and judicial as any which the Home Secretary could produce. I am not a member of the Communist party, and I have had many occasions to oppose them, but it happens that in this matter the leadership which to some extent was given to members of that party is in agreement with the feelings among the masses of the workers.
I want to put a few questions as to the grounds on which this release was made. The Home Secretary first takes the ground of danger to the health of Sir Oswald Mosley. He says that from time to time representations were made to him as to the possibility of a grave deterioration in his health as a result of his detention. I feel that in some respects there is not sufficient information before the House on the question of health to enable us to come to a just decision. If these representations were made, whence came they? Did they come from the ordinary medical men who are responsible in the prison, or did they come from the family of Sir Oswald Mosley, or did they come from the medical experts who were probably employed by them? There were five doctors concerned, and their verdict was stated to be unanimous. Under what conditions was that unanimous verdict obtained? Two of the doctors were Lord Dawson of Penn and Dr. Geoffrey Evans, two very eminent medical experts, who 409 I take it, were employed and paid by Sir Oswald Mosley. The. Home Secretary can correct that if I am wrong. On the other hand, there were three ordinary medical practitioners. When these medical practitioners, who are in the service of the prison authorities, had put against their knowledge the verdict of two such men as Lord Dawson and Dr. Evans, I suggest that it was very unlikely they would oppose such men. I do not want to go into what is the accepted method of treating the complaint from which Mosley suffers, but the statement of the Home Secretary that violent exercise is part of the treatment seems contrary to the experience of the majority of medical men. It was emphasised that there might be danger to life. There are some of us in this House—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but will the Home Secretary be good enough to listen to what is being said?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Certainly, but I have also got to listen to my friends. I have as much right to confer with my friends on this bench as the hon. Member has to confer with his friends.
§ Mr. Chater
If the right hon. Gentleman does not listen to what I say, I am not concerned. Some other people will. It has been said that Oswald Mosley was in danger of his life. Some of us know that he has had this complaint for a long number of years. It would be interesting to know whether the medical authorities of the prison considered that the deterioration in his health had reached the point when there was a danger to his life. There is another aspect of this health question one must mention. I do not think it is within the realms of possibility that any other person detained under 18B would have had the opportunity to call in two such medical men as Mosley called in, and from the point of view of equality and democratic principles alone it was a very grave distinction to make. I hope the Home Secretary will answer those particular points.
Let me pass to the second ground on which the release was made. It seems that it now takes a judicial aspect. There 410 was no question of judicial aspect when Oswald Mosley was interned. Regulation 18B is not based upon any judicial consideration. How did it come into being? It was passed among the emergency powers. Why? Because at that moment this country was in grave danger. A war situation existed. The right hon. Gentleman says the reason for his action is that the danger which then existed has been removed. He bases that upon the alteration in our fortunes in the war. We can all agree that there has been, fortunately, a big alteration for the better in our fortunes, but will any hon. Member tell me the danger is entirely past? Have we won the war? Is it beyond any possibility yet that we could lose it? It is not. If I want confirmation of that, I have only to recall the speeches of the Prime Minister himself. He has warned us against easy optimism. There was no question at all of a judicial decision so far as Regulation 18B was concerned, and that is the Regulation which has governed the detention of Sir Oswald Mosley.
There is another big consideration to be taken into account. We can leave on one side the judicial aspect; another aspect supersedes that. I venture to say that the national interest supersedes it altogether. Has it no effect on the country's war effort, this release of Oswald Mosley? Is it not a fact that throughout the country an atmosphere of suspicion has been engendered? There is no question of mass hysteria. Those who, go among the people find there is a dull resentment deep down in the hearts of men and women who have sons, husbands, sweethearts and other relatives serving at the front. They are called upon to make the supreme sacrifice of life itself. For what? Because on the other side of the House the Government, at any rate, have time and time again alleged that we are fighting this war in order to root out the cancer of Fascism. If that be true, I submit that the Home Secretary should have had before him a consideration which outweighs both the judicial and health aspects, and that is the effect of his decision upon our own war effort, its effect upon the psychology of the workers who are responsible for producing the very things that make it possible for us to win the war. And a very serious effect indeed it has had upon those workers. It is no use talking about mass hysteria in this connection. These men and women are 411 not indulging in any mass hysteria. On the contrary, some of them are trying to conquer their feelings of resentment. I think that anybody who studies psychology of the position would acknowledge that when people have a dull feeling of resentment that must have the repercussion of slowing down their energies in the war effort and damping down their enthusiasm.
I want to turn to another aspect. Who is the man that has been released? It is not sufficient just to mention his name. This man stood for something which is diametrically opposed to every objective which we are supposed to have in trying to win this war. I represent a constituency which from 1923 up to the outbreak of the war bore the brunt of Fascist activities in this country. Let me recall to the House that those activities of Mosley at one time reached such a stage that the Home Secretary was compelled to introduce and pass through this House a Public Order Act. Why? Because right through the East End of London this man who has now been released was in the forefront of activities which were precisely identical with those adopted by Mussolini and Hitler in the early days of their attempts to rise to power in their respective countries. Every activity of Mosley and his Fascists was modelled upon the system which had been employed by both those men whom we are now fighting to dethrone. I have seen Oswald Mosley in his armoured car come through Bethnal Green with a chauffeur sitting with a steel bar ready to punch out at anybody. I have seen Jewish maidens walking peacefully along the street insulted with the most filthy sexual language by his fascists. I have been in meetings of my own where Oswald Mosley's Fascists marched up in military formation and endeavoured, in military formation, to take possession of our meetings.
Only on Monday night I had the testimony of several of my constituents that Fascism is already raising its head again in Bethnal Green. Only this last week the doors of Jews have had chalked upon them during the night "P. J.," which means "Pig Jew." [Interruption.] "Perish Judea" or "Pig Jew." The blackshirts when they go around see the "P. J." on the door, and that is the dwelling which gets the punching blow, as it were of the Fascists—a door broken, 412 a window smashed. Does anybody imagine that the restriction imposed on Sir Oswald Mosley will be sufficient to prevent him from communicating with Fascist organisations throughout London? I do not think so. He has the right to make communications through his family and through his wife's family, and unless their correspondence is to be subjected to a censorship like that employed in the case of those who correspond with their relatives in the Armed Forces, I do not see that the Home Secretary can guarantee that Sir Oswald Mosley will not be able to take some kind of action which will bring about the resuscitation of the Fascist forces in the East End of London.
In conclusion, the Home Secretary may have considered this—and I do not challenge his honesty in doing so—as a judicial decision, but I think we are entitled to form our own judgment on whether he has not committed a colossal blunder, whether he has not, by mischance perhaps, failed to take into account those superior considerations of the interest of the nation and the prosecution of the war effort which rise above those even of the health of a Mosley or a judicial decision.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
I do not think the Home Secretary, after what he has heard to-day, can possibly doubt that this decision and the actual release from prison detention of Sir Oswald Mosley have aroused considerable feeling in this country. One hon. Gentleman described that feeling as "spontaneous". I think our own experience in and around this House a week ago will lead us to discount a little of the alleged spontaneity of this agitation. We found outside the House a long spontaneous queue. Having waited there for some time, it almost showed sign of spontaneous combustion, and the police had a little difficulty, but a few spontaneous words from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the whole crowd quietened down, became calm, and departed to Caxton Hall, which had been miraculously but spontaneously provided for them to listen to a platform which spontaneously appeared to address them. Even allowing for the stoking-up of this feeling, there still remains a considerable amount of heat and a feeling of real resentment—that is the word—based upon the fact that the people regard this conditional release as symbolic. This Deviate will have served a 413 very useful purpose indeed if it brings home to the Government the realisation that there is in this country a considerable amount of feeling which doubts the bona fides of the Government as a whole in their onslaught upon Fascism. I do not believe that this is hysteria. It is political manifestation, but, on the other hand, it is not the exercise of judgment upon the matters with which the Home Secretary is concerned. The real feeling is not only of the doubt which I have expressed but is based also upon the recollection of all that Mosley means. This feeling can be expressed in the one phrase "We want Mosley in"—but how does that tally with the resolutions that have been passed in the calm spirit of which we are told? It fits in well enough, because we know that those resolutions also came from the feeling that this release was symbolic.
In no case of any resolution that I have seen has there been any suggestion that the Home Secretary has improperly exercised his powers as laid down by 18B or within the limitations of the practice which he has from time to time brought to the attention of the House and which the House has approved. [Interruption.] I venture to repeat that statement, and I challenge those who interrupted me to point to any one of those resolutions which suggests that the Home Secretary has improperly exercised the powers that this House has given him under 18B or shows that 18B was ever considered at any of the meetings, councils or executives that passed the resolutions. They are under a complete misapprehension as to the terms of 18B. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) clearly implied in his speech that 18B gave the Home Secretary power to put into custody everybody who had been a member of the Fascist Party. It does no such thing. 18B (1a) gives the Home Secretary no such power. It puts them in a category within which he has to exercise his discretion whether they are such persons as ought to be in. I invite the hon. Members who are shaking their heads doubtfully now to read 18B (1a). In fact, not all Fascists or people who have been Fascists were interned, and many of the Fascists who were put in have since been released, and up to this moment there has been no outcry. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says that their case was not symbolic. He will not find anything in 414 18B giving power to the Home Secretary to indulge in symbolic detentions.
§ Mr. Hughes
The basis of 18B, accepted again and again in this House, is the public safety and the defence of the Realm or, in one word which is often used, security. Nobody will argue but that Sir Oswald Mosley was quite properly put into custody within the terms of 18B. What we are considering to-day is whether it was proper that he should be conditionally released. I have read all the Debates that have taken place upon this Regulation, and I find curiously little guidance from them as to the way in which the Home Secretary should exercise the discretion which the Regulation has given him for release in appropriate circumstances. The guidance given by the Regulation itself in 18B (2) is clear, because it says that when the Home Secretary has released, that release may be determined whenever public safety and the defence of the Realm require. It seems to follow from that, that continuance in detention must depend upon the factors of public safety and the defence of the Realm.
There are four factors which I have found in statements made in this House from time to time governing release. The first is what the Home Secretary himself once said in answer to a Question and in response to pressure from more than one quarter of this House, and it was that the cases under 18B were reviewed from time to time to consider whether to authorise release. That has been accepted by the House, and implicitly accepted by every Member here who has ever approached the Home Secretary on any case of a person interned. In other words, it is right and proper, indeed it is the Home Secretary's duty as laid down by this House, that he should consider these cases from time to time, and it was therefore right that he should consider this particular case.
Secondly, in the course of a Debate two years ago upon an Amendment to the Address moved by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), asking for a judicial tribunal to review the Home Secretary's judgment in these matters, the Home Secretary said that the cases would be reviewed in the light of a changing 415 military and international situation. That was clearly the basis upon which he intended to work 18B. If the situation should worsen, the net would be extended, and if the situation improved, as it has done, the net would be made Smaller. Indeed, his policy has been continuously to release internees from Custody as the position of the public safety and the defence of the Realm made it more and more possible for him to do so, with that consideration in mind. The safer we are, quite patently, the more can be released. 18B gives the Home Secretary power to impose conditions, and nobody would deny that the conditions which he has imposed in this case ate stringent enough, if they are complied with, to guarantee the peace and security of this country. Conditions have been imposed in other cases. Indeed, hon. Members have urged upon the Home Secretary release of particular persons, suggesting at the same time the restrictions they were prepared to accept after release from detention, and the Home Secretary has acceded to the request in more than one case.
The fourth factor—and it follows a statement by the Under-Secretary of State in answer to a Question some two years ago—that releases would be granted when circumstances altered, that is, the circumstances of the individuals concerned. I can imagine no circumstance more material to be considered when the question of the release of a particular individual comes under review man the state of his health. What can be more related to safety? What we are concerned with is safety, and if a man is so seriously ill that he cannot indulge in his usual activities as in this case, and where it is feared that there may be danger to life, obviously that is a factor that the Home Secretary must take into account. The Home Secretary has acted in this case upon the certificate or report of five doctors, three of then public officials and two of them among the most eminent physicians in this country. I want to tell the Home Secretary that outside this House—indeed, we have heard it inside this House to day—doubts have been cast upon the bona fides of that certificate and that report. When the Home Secretary tells the House, as he did a week ago, that the report was such as to indicate that continued detention would be detrimental to the health 416 of Mosley and might indeed imperil his life, I accept what he said.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Would not the hon. and learned Member like to correct that statement? Perhaps he would not like it to go on the record. I do not know that any hon. Member has cast doubts upon the bona fides of the certificate. We have not had the certificate. What speakers have cast doubt upon is the Home Secretary's interpretation of it. Would not the hon. and learned Member like to correct the statement he has made, and not offend doctors outside the House?
§ Mr. Hughes
He gave us the content of the report, and for my part I accepted it, but I tell the Home Secretary that doubts have been cast upon it. I have heard it said in more than one quarter that the reports given by these medical men did not in fact justify the interpretation put upon them. I am prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions, but I tell him there are others who do not, and I think it would clarify the position considerably if the right hon. Gentleman could expand a little upon the statement which he made with regard to the actual reports of those doctors. There is another aspect of this which I am not prepared to enter into on the medical side, and that is it is doubted in many quarters—indeed the doubt is expressed by doctors themselves—whether the disease from which Sir Oswald Mosley suffers is such as could in any event deteriorate because of his incarceration, and still less whether it could possibly get to such a stage as to endanger his life. If the report, as I believe it does, bears out what the Home Secretary has said, I do not think that the Home Secretary would need to go behind that report at all. If those five medical men are prepared to express themselves in those terms, the Home Secretary is perfectly entitled to act upon them. We know very well that if you get a thing from any five doctors you can if you go chasing around find a different opinion from other doctors.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, I accept that. Legal opinions differ almost as widely as medical opinions, but that is not the issue before us. The issue before us on this matter is whether with that report in front of him, signed by three of his own medical officers and two physicians of such skill and eminence, the Home Secretary was entitled to accept that, or must he, like a county court judge hearing one or two doctors on one side and one or two on the other, sit down as a pure layman and decide which doctors are right. I think that the Home Secretary has, undoubtedly, quite properly acted upon the report of these medical men. I confess that I cannot understand the criticism directed against the fact that there were five of them. I should have thought that this was eminently a type of case where there was safety in numbers. What would the hon. Members who now criticise the Home Secretary on this ground have said if instead of having had his own officers and eminent physicians he had relied upon the certificate of one general practitioner? The criticism would have been at once that he should have sought wider and more experienced advice.
In these four matters which I have mentioned the Home Secretary has acted strictly within the terms of 18B, within the practice of release which under pressure from many sides of the House he has carried out in the two years since this was debated before. He has, in other words, discharged properly the function placed upon him by this House. And in answer to the cynics who suggested at the outset that because I agree with the doubts in this country as to the Government's political intentions I could not also agree that the action of the Home Secretary is based upon the proper exercise of the Home Secretary's functions within the strict rules of 18B and the practice laid down by this House, I say that what we are considering to-day, as the Amendment has been framed, is whether the Home Secretary has properly discharged the duty laid upon him by this House, not whether he has interned enough Fascists, not whether Sir Oswald Mosley has a dirty history in politics, and not whether we like him or not—I hate him more than anyone who has spoken to-day. But when we stand here exercising these restrictive powers, limitations upon the liberty of 418 men and women, we must do it within the terms which Parliament has laid down, and within those terms I am satisfied that the people of this country, if they knew them, would think the same as I do, that the Home Secretary has acted rightly and properly.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)
I do not suppose that any subject for many months has raised more agitation than this release of Sir Oswald Mosley. I have known the Home Secretary for many years, longer than most Members, in his early days on the London County Council. He is a very astute politician, as astute a politician as exists in the country, but I cannot help thinking that he has handled this situation clumsily and that if a storm has been raised he is himself to blame. My hon. Friend, my colleague who jointly represents Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater), gave a very vivid picture of the activities of Sir Oswald Mosley in the two or three years before the war. It is quite true—as no one knows that better than my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison), because he is not only Home Secretary, but he is the Member for that constituency—how the whole of the social and political life of the East End was brought to a standstill by the activities of Sir Oswald Mosley and his friends. No public meeting could be held, even the lives of peaceful people were in danger when they were walking about the streets if they held other political opinions, religious views or belonged to the Jewish people.
To announce in the middle of a war, at a critical time like this, baldly and calmly to the public that Sir Oswald Mosley was to be released was bound to create bitterness and bad feeling, and I would have reminded my right hon. Friend if he had been here that Sir Oswald Mosley's activities were by no means confined to post-war conditions, even after the outbreak of war. He and his friends were actively opposing the war, stating repeatedly that it was merely a war organised by Jewish capitalists and that it was all to be deprecated. [An HON. MEMBER: "So did the Communists."] I am merely dealing with the effect on the public mind. The Home Secretary himself, this astute politician, this experienced man, with a knowledge of the East End of London and of the bad blood that had 419 been created by the activities of the Fascists and their leader Sir Oswald Mosley, must have realised when he sent to the Press the statement—and whatever faults my right hon. Friend has he has always been a good propagandist—the bald statement, Sir Oswald Mosley is to be released"—it was bound to create suspicion and deep resentment. That is my feeling, and I think that every Member connected with the East End can confirm what I say. On the other hand—and here I have no doubt I am going to be told by people on both sides that I am sitting on the fence as a Liberal [Interruption]—I have always disliked 18B. The Liberal Party when 18B was introduced, were very critical and were opposed to the conferring of these powers on the Home Office. As a result of representations made by my colleagues Kingsley Griffiths and Ernie Evans, no longer in this House, and my hon. Friend who now represents the Ministry of Economic Warfare, we got certain safeguards and also got an assurance from the Government when the Government were formed that as soon as these Regulations were no longer required they would be done away with.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
The right hon. Gentleman said that we got certain safeguards. Surely he will realise that that is just the trouble about 18B. We thought we had got safeguards and never did in fact get them. Since he has talked about the Liberal Party objecting to the conferring of these powers, may I ask whether, when an opportunity arose to register a vote when we last debated this matter in this House, did he vote?
§ Sir P. Harris
The fact remains that I am still opposed to all this kind of powers being put on a Government Department to suspend the operation of the machinery of the law. I see the Attorney-General here. He will be the last person to defend machinery of this kind except in an emergency. The justification of these powers being put in the hands of the Home Secretary was the exceptional conditions following the Dunkirk evacuation and the serious danger of invasion that this country was in. If the Government had come down a few weeks ago and stated to the House of Commons that this machinery was no longer required and they were prepared to waive these powers or suspend them in 420 the light of the improved conditions of this country, I believe they would have had universal approval. Equally if the Government had come down and said it was proposed to let out all persons detained under 18B on political grounds I, for one, and I believe the majority of the House, would have approved. But that is not what has happened. What has happened is that one particular victim of these Regulations, a particular person who is most abhorrent and has done most danger to the country, is singled out.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Is the right hon. Gentleman really representing the case fairly to the House? I have been interested in this 18B business, and something over 1,000 people have been let out.
§ Sir A. Southby
The right hon. Gentleman said that these powers were introduced at a time of national emergency, but surely he must know that the Debate in which he has told us the Liberal Party expressed their opposition was on 31st October, 1939.
§ Sir P. Harris
I think my hon. and gallant Friend is right there. The actual powers were given in the days when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Home Secretary. That is quite correct. Discussions took place, as a result of which there was an attempt to impose safeguards. The actual date is immaterial; but it was always understood that when these powers were no longer required they would no longer be used. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), quite rightly, reminded me that a great number of persons have already been released. If it had been made clear that this was not the singling out of one privileged person, the one person most abhorrent to the nation, all this trouble and commotion could have been avoided. The point about health is immaterial. I do not think any case has been made out for special treatment for Sir Oswald Mosley because of his ill-health. This illness is very common among people detained in prison, and it is common knowledge that Sir Oswald Mosley was suffering from this trouble for many years past. To announce to the public that he is not to be sent to a special home or hospital, but is to be allowed to go to a country house and to have exercise up to a distance of seven miles from his home suggests that, owing to social influence or his 421 privileged position, he is allowed advantages which have been denied to prisoners for a very long time. The Home Secretary has not handled this matter well. He is personally responsible for the storm which has been created.
§ Mr. Stokes
Having said all that about the seven-miles limit, my right hon. Friend will surely admit that the 1,000 people who have been let out have been let out with no restriction at all?
§ Sir P. Harris
Would it not be better, if the Home Secretary is satisfied that all people detained on political grounds should be set free, for him to say so, and to let out the whole lot? Those whose cases are so serious that they are a danger to the country should be brought before the courts and tried.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
Is there any law in this country that a man must not be a danger? Can we have a man tried on a charge of being a danger?
§ Sir P. Harris
If it is the case that the danger has passed—and that is the argument the right hon. Gentleman put up in defence of his action—I say that it would be better to let out everybody who is detained But he has singled out one particular man for great publicity. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] A statement was sent to the Press, through the Press Association, before the release, that, owing to ill-health, Sir Oswald Mosley was to be released. That got great publicity. The House was not sitting. It might have been better to wait until the House was sitting before publicising this matter. The excitement which was caused was given a week or ten days' start before the Home Secretary even gave an explanation to the House. I think that, whatever point of view Members take, the House is justified in asking for some explanation of this premature announcement. We know that Sir Oswald Mosley and his friends stand for all the things we most dislike, that they are the symbols of the kind of things we are fighting against in Germany, Italy and elsewhere. If the tragedy of a successful invasion had occurred at the time of Dunkirk and the Germans had landed on these shores, Sir Oswald Mosley and 422 his friends would have been the quislings, getting the support of the German Army.
§ Sir P. Harris
That is the general impression. All through the East End Sir Oswald Mosley and his friends were saying that they approved of the kind of system which existed in Italy and Germany, and that they would like to see something of that kind here. That being so, it was unfortunate that this man should have been singled out for release on such special conditions. It is up to the Government to make it clear that this release is not only for this man, but that it applies equally to all the political prisoners who are detained under 18B. If the Government can make it clear that they no longer want to use this machinery, except, of course, for prisoners of foreign association or foreign origin, but are prepared now to release all persons detained on political grounds, their case is unanswerable, and the House, I think, will give them its support.
§ Major Stourton (Salford, South)
I cannot help regretting that it has been found necessary to hold this Debate at all, when there are so many other important questions which might have been put before the House. I think that the subject of the Amendment is symptomatic of a mild form of war hysteria, of which the Hereford birching case was another unfortunate example. I could not disagree more with any Amendment than with this one. I do not believe that anyone outside Bedlam could really believe that the release of Sir Oswald Mosley iscalculated to retard the war effortor that it is likely, further to quote the Amendment, tolead to misunderstanding at home and abroad"—that is, among people in responsible circles. I would like to bring the House back to a sense of reality. I am not in the least concerned as to whether it is Sir Oswald Mosley—with whom I have no acquaintance—or a Tory, or a Communist or the Archbishop of Canterbury himself whose release is involved, but I maintain that the Minister of Home Security was perfectly justified in releasing Sir Oswald Mosley on the principles of equity and humanitarianism, which I am glad to say have been invoked to demonstrate once more to the whole world that we believe 423 in fair play and justice to all. Sir Oswald Mosley has been held for more than three years, with no charge against him. He has been detained under Regulation 18B, which is at best a most repugnant Regulation to every man who bears the name of Englishman. Moreover, it has been stated by no fewer than five eminent doctors that his life would be in jeopardy were he to be further detained. In view of what has been said by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, it is significant that I have not received a single letter from my own constituency protesting against the release. And there is no more democratic constituency in the country, and no constituency where the people exhibit more political wisdom.
The Minister of Home Security had certain other alternatives. These were not alternatives which would be acceptable to people in this country. They were alternatives which would be favoured by the Nazis and Fascists whom hon. Gentlemen opposite profess so much to dislike. The first was that he be shot out of hand. Does that appeal to any hon. Gentleman opposite? I hope not. The second alternative was that he should remain in detention and be allowed to rot and perish in his cell. These are not British methods. I feel some slight alarm at the thought that, by implication at any rate, the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment have some sympathy with those principles, which I should have thought would be most objectionable to any Member of this House. I close with this warning: if ever the day comes when the Government of this country is influenced by and truckles to the clamour of any noisy and insignificant section of the community, such as has worked up the agitation which has caused this Debate, on that very day the death knell of democracy will have been sounded in this country. My last sentence is a word of advice, if I may offer it with all humility and respect, to all the Members who have put their names down to the Amendment before the House to-day, to clear their minds of cant and let us get on with winning the war.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I hope I may convince the hon. and gallant Member for South Salford (Major Stourton) that long before this Debate I had cleared my mind of cant. I shall endeavour to put a case before the House which is as completely objective as it is 424 possible for a case to be. I am one of those who signed this Amendment because this is the proper and constitutional way of expressing disagreement with the action taken by the Government. The Motions and Amendments on the Paper are the language in which Parliament speaks, and if Parliament forgets this language it will cease to be the forum of the nation, in which men and women may speak their minds freely, without fear and without favour. I say this because the Home Secretary complained, in the preface to a reply which he gave to a Question that I put down last week, of controversy and abuse. He seemed to be astonished and amazed at the storm of protest which has swept over the nation following the release of Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley. It has come from all classes. I was talking only the other day to a Conservative woman Member of this House—I do no know whether she is present here or not at the moment—who told me she had been on a railway journey recently in a train filled with Service men and women and that practically the only subject of conversation was the incident of the release of Sir Oswald Mosley and that the feeling was one of protest against his release. That was certainly not organised by the Communists. This comes from all classes—from the Services, the factory workers and from the offices; it comes, in fact, from the nation.
The right hon. Gentleman really has no right to complain of this controversy, because he has brought this on himself by his way of performing his function in disregard of Parliament and of public opinion. I do not question, and I do not think that any Member of this House questions, the right of the Home Secretary to make decisions on these and other very serious matters. That is part of his function, but what we do complain of is the way in which he has discharged this function. The Home Secretary, in answer to a Supplementary Question I put to him last week, asking him why he had not made a preliminary statement to Parliament before announcing that he was going to release and indeed before releasing Sir Oswald Mosley, said:The responsibility is placed upon me, and just as I would not transfer my responsibility to Parliament for my action if I keep people in, so I cannot do so if I let people out."—(Official Report, 23rd November, 1943; col. 1434. Vol. 393.)425 To consult Parliament, to inform Parliament in advance, is not to transfer responsibility of a function which must be exercised judicially. The right hon. Gentleman did consult the Cabinet. Why should he not consult the House of Commons? The right hon. Gentleman said in answer to another Supplementary Question also last week:If ever there was a power exercised by a Minister which is both exceptional and on which Parliament has the primary responsibility for seeing that the Minister does his job well, this is that power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1943; col. 1433, Vol. 393.]
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Gentleman says that the Home Secretary consulted the Cabinet. I listened very attentively to the Home Secretary's statement, and it seemed to me that he said that he took his decision and informed the Cabinet of the decision he had taken.
The hon. Member may take it from me—he will find them in the Supplementary Question and answer—that the words actually used by the Home Secretary were that he did "consult the Cabinet." I think I am right, but if I am wrong the right hon. Gentleman opposite or the Home Secretary himself will correct me. If he did consult the Cabinet, why did he not give Parliament the opportunity of expressing its views, and why—and this is really a vital point, because so many things in our Parliamentary usage and institutions are determined by procedure—did the Home Secretary make it so difficult to express any view and for the country to be without the guide of Parliamentary discussion by making the statement about the release of Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley during a week's Recess before the Prorogation of Parliament, which he, as a master of political strategy and knowledge of political procedure, knew was the most difficult time for anyone to express any views or have any influence on the course of Parliamentary proceedings with regard to this release?
Has it been noticed that, although the whole country has been aroused by the release of Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley, only one Question was put down on the Order Paper for the last day of the last Session? Why? Not because Members were not interested, but because it was extremely difficult to get a Question put down owing to the fact, as the Home 426 Secretary perfectly well knows, that Members were dispersed over the country in their constituencies attending to their other duties outside Parliament, and it was only because I—certainly not knowing that I was going to be the only person who had put a Question down—came down to the House and personally handed my Question to the Clerk at the Table when there was no Question on the Order Paper at all. I suggest that that rather indicates that the Home Secretary took advantage of this time and that he not only did not wish to transfer his responsibility to Parliament but that he was not anxious to consult Parliament in this matter. I am hoping that the Home Secretary will be able to explain that away, but I am afraid it is going to be very difficult for him to do so.
The reason given for Sir Oswald Mosley's release is the state of his health, but it was clearly shown in the reply he gave to my Question that there was no immediate urgency for that, and therefore there was no reason why he should not have waited a few days until Parliament had reassembled. Why did he choose this time? The House may accept—and I accept—the right hon. Gentleman's definition of his function as one to be carried out in a judicial frame of mind. An hon. Friend who preceded me objected to the use of the word "judicial." What the Home Secretary meant was that his function must be carried out in a judicial frame of mind and as impartially as possible. That I accept, but I do not accept his method of its discharge. The right hon. Gentleman has not only these duties with regard to 18B and other police duties, he has also duties as a member of the War Cabinet. He has duties as one of those who sit on the small inner Cabinet which directs the war, and his duty is to help to fight Fascism to the death and to increase the nation's will for victory by keeping the home front stable and secure. I believe that by the ill-considered action of the Home Secretary he has struck a powerful blow at the morale of the nation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like it. Hon. Members on that side or on this side may say that they do not think that factory workers should have stopped their work and have signed petitions or have come up to the House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Are hon. Members really saying that when the 427 British democracy is deeply moved they shall not have the right of free expression, free public opinion, free association? These are some of the elementary rights that a democracy claims and will certainly continue to claim, whatever hon. Members opposite may say.
Did the right hon. Gentleman think that there was going to be no reaction to his act of apparently arbitrary bureaucracy? Did he think that the only people who would react to this were the Communists? If so, it was a very tragic mistake.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen, East)
The hon. Gentleman has just now referred to an act of arbitrary bureaucracy of the Home Secretary. A little time ago he said he thoroughly approved of the Home Secretary being armed with his powers. Some of us have never approved of the Home Secretary being armed with these powers.
I do not want it both ways. The hon. Member misunderstood me. I said that I agreed that he discharged his duties impartially and in a judicial frame of mind. I do not want it both ways, and I do think that "arbitrary bureaucracy" is a very reasonable description of one aspect of the Home Secretary's action. When the Home Secretary says that he objects to this action and when people think this reaction has been entirely due to the Communists, do they think that the National Council of Labour or the Trades Union Congress—to which this country owes a great deal more than some hon. Members know in the conduct of the war—do they think the expression of these bodies is irresponsible or that it is only Communist-sponsored agitation? The thing is just incredible nonsense. These people are protesting in this way, and they have every right to do so, because they take the same stand upon it as I take, that the Home Secretary has dealt a terrible blow to the morale of the nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It will be open to hon. Members opposite to offer some alternative reason. Every constituent body of the Labour movement, including London Labour mayors, who particularly concern the right hon. Gentle- 428 man, has passed resolutions about his action.
§ Commander Agnew
Does the hon. Gentleman say that it applies to the Parliamentary Labour Party? Surely they are just as important as the National Council of Labour.
They have not yet finished. What the decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party is will be shown on the Floor of the House of Commons when this House goes to a Division.
If the Parliamentary Labour Party does not support this Amendment—and I am told there is some suggestion of their not doing so—
§ Mr. G. Griffiths (Hemsworth)
The hon. Member was not in the meeting this morning and has no right to say anything about it.
I still adhere to my point that the view of the Parliamentary Labour Party will be expressed in action by the direction which they take when the Division Lobbies are opened and they register their vote "Aye" or "No."
I admit that I am one of those who have been very deeply stirred by the Home Secretary's action and by his decision. Does not the Home Secretary realise—I wonder if he does—what this war means?
The war in Europe, the war in the East, that we are literally and very definitely fighting for our lives and for our survival and that the false Optimism which is spread nowadays, is not countenanced by the Prime Minister or by the 429 Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister has told us that we are facing the most bloody battles and most terrible sacrifices. Does the Home Secretary realise that in those conditions, when we are fighting the foul evil of Fascism, of which this man Mosley had made himself the devil priest and prophet, it is not the time to release the man whose release can only encourage the forces fighting against us? Did the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration, or did he not, the effect his decision would have on the men and women in the battle line, in the factories, on our Allies and especially on the Communists in Russia, that great nation whose whole policy is conducted according to the tenets of Communism—
§ Captain Thorneycroft (Stafford)
Do I understand that the hon. Member is suggesting that the Home Secretary should take into consideration other factors than those which were set out by Parliament in Regulation 18B?
I certainly suggest that the Home Secretary should take into consideration all the relevant factors—
—which concern the question of the release of Sir Oswald Mosley and might at least have taken these matters into consideration before issuing a statement to the Press and allowing it to be broadcast before Parliament had met. He should have made this statement to Parliament after very careful drafting. That is a very important point indeed.
Does the hon. and gallant Member consider that the Home Secretary should have put forward this proposal to release Mosley on what appeared to many medical men as trivial medical grounds at a time when millions of Jews are being tortured to death?
Can the hon. and gallant Member dissociate the fact that this man was the leader of Fascism in this country, 430 that he inspired the Fascism here and that others may perhaps be inspired to worse atrocities abroad because he has been released—can he dissociate that from the question of Mosley's release? I suggest that he cannot.
I have given way a number of things, and although I have found it interesting and amusing—I get a kick out of it—I think it would be better if I went on with my remarks. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will then be able all the more ferociously to pounce on what he regards as my errors. This matter I have been bringing forward on behalf of myself and millions of our fellow citizens is one on which we feel very deeply.
From the general grounds to which we object to the release of Mosley let me turn to the medical grounds. He has been released on the ground that he is suffering from thrombo-phlebitis. That means inflamed varicose veins and means also that there is a danger of a clot detaching itself from the circulation at some important point and causing serious injury or even death. The disease of varicose veins is one of the commonest which every general practitioner is asked to meet. Inflammation is very common and leads to swelling, ulceration and to the danger of the detachment of a clot. Many poor people find it incidental to daily life. A large proportion of the elderly office cleaners in London Nave varicose veins, ulcers and attacks of phlebitis, and no doubt many went to work in the Battle of Britain in this state. No doubt many fire watchers, members of the National Fire Service, Civil Defence and Home Guard suffer from it as well, of course, as many men in the lower categories in the Services. The Home Secretary stated that Sir Oswald Mosley's complaint was of long standing. I think that means something like 20 years. But that did not prevent Mosley from marching to the East End, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater), at the head of his thugs. It did not prevent him from visiting Germany and Italy and following a very active political life, and I should be very surprised if it prevented him from following an active political life in the future.
431 Is this disease really so deadly? For my own information I thought I would look up the statistics of the death-rate connected with varicose veins. As hon. Members may know, death-rates are calculated, in statistics published by the Registrar-General, as so many per million living. Just to give you an idea of comparison and what that means, the death-rate from tuberculosis is 636 per 1000,000; diseases of the circulatory system cause 4,152 deaths per 1,000,000; the death-rate from accidental drowning is 20 per 1,000,000, and the death-rate from phlebitis, inflammation through varicose veins and from piles and haemorrhoids is 10 per 1,000,000—an absolutely and completely insignificant figure. No doubt many Members of this House suffer from varicose veins. The treatment for phlebitis is simple and easy. It depends on complete rest, and if that can be obtained, then there is no reason for thinking that very serious results will follow and certainly extremely little reason for fearing that death may ensue. The Home Secretary, in answer to a Supplementary Question the other day, said he understood that it was necessary with this complaint that there should be a combination of rest and vigorous exercise. Well, I will not comment on that except to say that it would seem that the right hon. Gentleman has not familiarised himself with the meaning of this disease, that he has not had a brief on the subject. It also suggests that when he said it was essential to release Sir Oswald Mosley he forgot the fact that the chief necessity in such a case is complete rest.
In Holloway Prison there exist all the facilities for the treatment of Sir Oswald Mosley's complaint. It happens that in another connection altogether I paid some two months or six weeks ago a visit to this prison, following a complaint I had had regarding the treatment of someone in the jail. I obtained permission from the Home Secretary and was shown around by the Assistant Governor, who is an able woman and who appeared to have a complete understanding of her duties. She accompanied me on a rather protracted visit with the prison matron, who, previous to holding this office, had been employed as an infant welfare nurse by the Borough of Islington. Holloway is in Islington, in my constituency. I can 432 assure the House that the conditions at Holloway Prison leave nothing to be desired from the standpoint of the treatment of Sir Oswald Mosley's disease. He could be perfectly well treated inside the precincts of the prison. Mosley was not confined in an ordinary cell. He was, I understand, in a four-roomed flat, had service provided, had his own food and had a very comfortable time. He also had his own furniture, and his residence was shared by Major de Laessoe. These two people had, I am told, an allotment there which they cultivated and which I should have thought would have given Mosley the necessary non-violent exercise which he might require—
There were in the prison itself all the necessary medical facilities for the treatment of the complaint from which Mosley is suffering.
I think it is better if my hon. Friend, whose opinions I much respect, put his point in the course of Debate. If the medical arrangements at Holloway are not felt to be adequate, then the prison has an arrangement with the Royal Northern Hospital—which is admirable, as most things are in my constituency, except the housing of the people. Patients can be treated there. I would also like to direct the attention of the House to the report of the Prison Commissioners for 1938 where, in general observations, they talk about the health of the prisoners and give a long list of the operations carried out in prisons and state that no death from any operation took place. They report on fractures, genito-urinary conditions, joint conditions, ruptures, abdominal and gland operations. There were 24 varicose vein operations, and the Prison Commissioners speak in the highest terms of the prison services. I put it to the Home Secretary that he will have to make out a very strong case indeed for showing that he must release Mosley on medical grounds in view of the fact that actual medical facilities were available and which, I think, a large proportion, if not 100 per cent., of all the doctors in this country would say were exactly right for the treatment of thrombo-phlebitis.
433 There is really little if any medical justification at all for releasing Sir Oswald Mosley. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman put it on the grounds which he used with regard to other prisoners and say that our national fortunes had been so much improved that Mosley could be released? Is not the reason that that would have caused even a greater howl of indignation than his action at the present time? Let me turn to the conditions of Oswald Mosley's release from another point of view. Did the right hon. Gentleman release Lady Mosley because he said that her only danger had been that she might act as an agent for her husband outside? Cannot members of his wife's family act as agents? There is a further matter. Two or three days after his release Major de Laessoe and his wife were also released. Perhaps the Home Secretary will tell me and the House whether Major de Laessoe and his wife were living in the same house—in the prison—with Sir Oswald Mosley and were able to communicate freely with Sir Oswald Mosley. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House whether he has placed any special restrictions on Major de Laessoe or whether Major de Laessoe is free to go round the country to take what action he thinks fit in the furtherance of his Fascist ideology. That seems to me to be a rather grave and serious matter. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to deal with these matters and explain them personally, The Home Secretary has emphasised again and again that it is his personal responsibility, only modified, of course, by his informing and consulting the Cabinet. It is the view of the nation, I believe, that the right hon. Gentleman has interpreted his duties wrongly and that in liberating the leader of British Fascism in this way he has shown that he does not appreciate the responsibility of his position and does not understand the spirit of the nation in its determination to destroy the evil of Fascism.
The Home Secretary has not given us a clear and definite picture of what he has done. Nor do we know what his intentions are for the future, or how many more will be released, and I do beg the Home Secretary not to treat this matter as though it were only an agitation by a comparatively small group of people in this country, the Communists, against whom he has an extraordinary antipathy, 434 and that he will believe me when I say, as I do from my heart, that I believe that this agitation has swept the country-from end to end. I believe that this Amendment which some of us have put on the Paper to-day expresses the view of the country, and I hope the Home Secretary will endeavour to give us satisfaction by showing that there are other factors, not yet revealed, which will explain what is otherwise his incomprehensible mistake.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I will endeavour not to detain the House for any undue length of time, but there are matters to which I feel we all ought, as it were, to get back in considering the subject raised by this Amendment. It was noticeable but not surprising when one looks at the terms of the Amendment that neither the Mover nor the Seconder referred in any part of their speeches to the Act of Parliament or the Regulations under which Sir Oswald Mosley was detained. The overriding power is to be found in the Act itself, and it is in these words:That Regulation may make provision for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Realm.That is the power, and that is the limit. I again disagree with the Mover and the Seconder when they suggest—or as the Mover suggested—that this Motion on the Paper does not raise, as it were, the general background, scope and purpose of 18B. I think it does. The fall of the Bastille on 14th July, 1789, is remembered as a great symbolic event. In itself it was not much—only a handful of people were inside—but it was a great and symbolic event because it stood for the overthrow of the arbitrary and indefinite incarceration by the Government of persons whom they disliked. It would be futile to try and arrange our liberties in order of precedence—the normal liberties we enjoy in peace-time, the liberties of this House, the liberty of freedom of the Press—but undoubtedly the liberty encroached upon by 18B is one of the most fundamental and the most precious of all our liberties. Parliament, therefore, when it passed the Emergency Defence Act and when it approved in a modified form the originally submitted Regulation 18B, restricted the use of the power to the one purpose of public safety. I include, of 435 course, Defence of the Realm under the general heading public safety. The men, therefore, who have been detained are not convicted prisoners; they are not undergoing punishment as such; it is unpleasant but they are not there because we want them punished. I think it is a fact that for practical reasons it was necessary, in the first instance, to send all these men to one or other of our prisons, and this fact may have given rise to some misunderstanding. As is known, later camps were provided, and some went to the Isle of Man, and so on, but they are not prisoners convicted of any crime.
As the House knows, I have appeared not infrequently in the courts on behalf of my right hon. Friend and his predecessor when their action has been challenged. The courts have been very quick, considering the general background of this matter, to emphasise that these men are not convicted prisoners. Both their detention and the rigours and the circumstances of it can be justified only on the ground of public safety. One cannot, for example, take into consideration the question of repercussions. Let me turn to some of the speeches and the Amendment itself in which reference was made to repercussions throughout the world. Once the Home Secretary has satisfied himself that it is no longer necessary to detain a man for the public safety, he has no right to detain him just because his release will cause repercussions throughout the world. Supposing I got up and told the court that the Home Secretary had come to the conclusion that it was no longer necessary in the interests of public safety to detain a man, but that he was afraid of the comments that might be made and of repercussions in other countries, and that there would be misunderstanding in this country, and therefore wanted to keep him in detention, the answer would be that that detention had become unlawful. From the moment the Home Secretary decides that it is no longer necessary in the public interest to detain a man, then his detention is unlawful if it is continued.
§ Mr. Silverman
Are we to understand from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that the grounds for this release are that the Home Secretary is satisfied that Regulation 18B is no longer applicable to Sir Oswald Mosley?
§ The Attorney-General
The main thing is detention. Of course we have got to 436 deal with things by stages. Anybody who has read this Regulation realises that there is not only the actual power of detention, which is the primary power, but there are powers of controlling and supervising out of detention. The argument applies exactly as much to that as to detention. Supposing the Home Secretary has let a man out of detention but has placed him under supervision, including reporting periodically to the police and so on, and, later on, he comes to the conclusion that these restrictions are no longer necessary for the purpose of the public safety, then he has no right to keep those restrictions in operation a day longer once he has come to the conclusion that the public safety will not justify them. That, I think, is the position. I have tried to be uncontroversial, but I do not think that anybody who has studied the Act can dispute a single word I have so far spoken, and the hon. Members, the Mover and Seconder, paid tribute to the Home Secretary. They said that he had proceeded in this matter according to the principles of justice. They paid tribute to his political impartiality, but they went on to suggest that he should have taken into account these wider considerations. The hon. Members said he should have hesitated because of the repercussions and that he did not realise how people would react. I would respectfully submit to them that they should reconsider their attitude to this matter because, I believe, that on consideration they will be able to convince themselves that these are matters on which this House has precluded the Home Secretary from considering in the administration of his duties. I want to say a word or two about the position of the Home Secretary and I would like to read to the House, because I do not think it could be put better or more concisely, what Lord Wright said in one of these cases that went to the House of Lords:The Regulation places on the Home Secretary a public duty and trust of the gravest national importance. As I understand the Regulation it is a duty which he must discharge on his own responsibility to the utmost of his ability, weighing on the one hand the suspect's right to personal liberty and, on the other hand, the safety of the State in the dire national peril in which during this war it has stood and stands.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman forgive me for interrupting him a 437 moment on that point? Is it not quite plain that the Noble Lord was speaking entirely out of the context? The question was whether it was to be the responsibility of the Home Secretary or whether the courts had any right to interfere, and has, therefore, nothing to do with this matter.
§ The Attorney-General
I am quoting, as I think, a short, concise and admirable statement of the duty which this House has placed on the Home Secretary. After all, in the House of Lords they were dealing with that power under the Regulation. Having laid that general background, the point that arises in the present case, as I understand it, is that my right hon. Friend has given some weight to the possible permanent ill-effects on the health of the person detained if detention continued. It is not the first case in which that question has arisen. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) spoke of very special treatment. It is not true. Others persons, when it was reported that detention was likely to cause permanent injury to health, have been released on the same lines and on exactly the same principles. In fact something like 600 of those originally detained in the dire and dark days of May, 1940, have been released. [And HON. MEMBER: "Why not release them all?"] We have come down from 600 in this particular category of people to about 30.
§ The Attorney-General
My right hon. Friend was satisfied on the medical reports, applying the same principle to the medical facts in this case that he had applied in others, that Sir Oswald Mosley might be let out subject to restrictions consistently with the public safety. [Interruption.] Because their health is not being impaired. Anyone who is let out makes, of course, a certain demand on the time of the police and other authorities. Say you have 50 people. It may be that, if you supervised them all and by using the necessary amount of man-power of the police or the security services, 49 of them are not suffering the slightest ill-effect in health from their detention, and there is no reason why the time of the police should be taken up with the necessary supervision, but the 50th may be susceptible to injury to health or life if left in detention. What are you to do? Let him out under super- 438 vision or leave him in, with the possible danger to his health or life? The policy that has been adopted by my right hon. Friend with persons detained under 18B and enemy aliens is to take this account of health reasons such as those that exist in this case. I do not believe that anyone in the House regards that as wrong.
§ The Attorney-General
Well, one. I profoundly disagree with those who take the opposite view. These men are not convicted prisoners. They are detained for purposes of national safety under a power which for any other purpose is odious to us all. The most detested feature of our enemies is the concentration camp. This is, if you like, an administration of this Regulation which is humane. It takes account of possible permanent danger to health in cases where that can be avoided, subject to the national safety. I suggest that the Amendment is misconceived and is based on the view that the Home Secretary can take into account things which by the law, and I believe by the overwhelming wish of the House, he is precluded from and should not have regard to.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
One would wish that it had been possible to avoid having this Debate, but the occasion for discussing the relations between the Government and any of its suspected political opponents outside has been presented to us by the Government themselves. They have decided that there should be a Debate and that the opportunity should be given for any who wish to vote to register their views in the Lobby. I should prefer myself that there had not been this atmosphere and the occasional outbursts of impatience which we have, witnessed. We have maintained in the most amazing way for more than four years a national unanimity which none of us would have conceived to be possible. We have given an exhibition to the whole world of loyalty and a common determination which we did not suspect ourselves capable of. I do not, however, think that that loyalty to the nation's general purpose has been reduced by anything that has been said in some of the less responsible speeches that we have heard to-day. I do not take them too seriously. I have known the House for 21 years, and, while we have moments of 439 frivolity and unwillingness to apply ourselves to serious problems, I do not admit that the House cannot be trusted to give a proper judgment. That is not to say that I anticipate that the majority will vote on my side to-day. But the House has heard the case that we are anxious to make. We not only claim for ourselves but we concede freely to each other that the great majority want the best thing done in the national interest.
It has been said that we have not referred to technical details in our Amendment, but I do not think those technical details matter so much. What we have done is to put down an Amendment asking the House to consider whether it is in the national interest, whether at home or abroad, our prestige, our power, our purpose has been strengthened by what has taken place. I believe that our purpose has been in jeopardy. I think we shall get over it, but it would have been a tragic mistake if to-day, or some other day, or in the weeks that are to come, the House did not take upon itself the responsibility of determining its relation to this problem which has been raised. I am not very concerned about the legal interpretation. The Home Secretary believes he has done the right thing. I think we ought to concede that, and between man and man, and between Member and Member in the House, that ought to be enough. But that does not mean that we must all agree with him. When one Member, whether a member of the Government or a private Member, thinks he has done the right thing, he must do it always on the assumption that another Member may disagree, and I disagree profoundly with the Home Secretary's interpretation in regard to his responsibilities. I believe he is stout enough at heart and has courage enough to take his stand for what he believes right, but I think other Members have a similar responsibility, and we should be disloyal to ourselves, to the House, and to the country if we did not express our doubts in the matter. The point is, Have we strengthened the nation's common purpose for the prosecution of the war by what has been done? I believe we have not. Further, we regret the impatience that has been displayed. I hope it will not happen while I am speaking. I ask for a little consideration because I may inflict as much discomfort on the House as I feel, speaking with a relaxed throat.
440 But let us try to be patient and examine the problem. This nation has risen to great heights in the last four years. It stands at a higher level of prestige than ever before. Do not let us disparage our achievements, and do not let us show pettiness and fear and impatience when we discuss a problem of this kind. It is the business of the House to speak the truth with moderation and dignity in all these matters. There may be division on this issue on many grounds. It would be a miracle if there were no division. It has been explained by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and the Home Secretary himself will probably impress this on the House, that it is not any ordinary circumstances which have placed him in this position. He is not administering the ordinary, normal law of the land. This is no part of our Statute law. No one knows the exact significance of the resolutions that we have adopted for special emergency purposes during the war. There may be a good many legitimate divisions. There may be those who would not welcome any weakening of these Regulations 18A and 18B. There may be a good many people who believe that, once you have swallowed this obnoxious legal practice and adopted it for safety purposes during the war, you run a great risk by abandoning it until the war is over and normal conditions have been restored. There are people who would say that it is not a perfect system, and it is not the best expression of democratic principles, but we have done it for our safety. There may be people who say, "Do not let us upset this now while there is still danger or while there is the possibility of a recurrence of national danger." There are people who believe that we are now through the worst of the war. We have gained military victories. We have established our power abroad. We are really in control of circumstances, whereas a year or two ago circumstances controlled us.
I do not share that view, but I feel sure that it is necessary that the House should be free to express its views on these matters. Suppose the Government decided—I think it is a Government responsibility—that there was no longer any occasion for detaining people at all under Wiese Regulations, should not the House consider that? Should not the House consider that, and if the circumstances 441 are changed should not the House be fully informed in order that it may approve or disapprove? There are those who would say that they would only use these Regulations for the detention of people they dislike. I agree that that is a bad principle, but it is perfectly sound and safe that if there are people who are trying to organise actions detrimental to the nation's interest and safety, it is the duty of the nation to provide, outside the legal code, some means of detention as a deterrent to the possibility of the evil which such an organisation may display.
I am satisfied that we need these Regulations and the detention of these people, but the detention should be made in a way that will give satisfaction. I am not so much impressed with the sanctity of the responsibility of the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General. The responsibility is our general responsibility. We are just as much responsible as they are. They may come and go and others may take their places, and this is the responsibility of the House. I am willing to take a share in our responsibility and to say that until the suspicion of danger has been dispelled, the people whose aims, purposes and commitments have proved them to be unsafe and unfit for the free exercise of citizenship, should be detained during the war. I am surprised to hear that 600 people have been released and I do not know why this figure should not have been made more public. Why should not it have been made known? If we are in process of releasing all these people why was it a matter of so much hurry and precipitation to release Sir Oswald Mosley in the circumstances which have been described?
As the object of these Regulations is to preserve national security and the safety of the Realm, we are all interested and we should not complain against the prosecution of their original purpose, but we are doing no such thing. What we find is that the Home Secretary has deemed it to be unnecessary in the public interest to keep any longer in detention a person who was, I assume, properly detained over three years ago. The Home Secretary said, "I do not think it is necessary to detain him any longer," or "I wish to extend his freedom and will alter the conditions of his incarceration and give him far more liberty than I have given ordinary people detained 442 under the same Regulation." He also says, "I am proposing to give those liberties because of certain reports which have reached my ears regarding the state of his health." I do not know how those reports came to the Home Secretary. We should know whether Oswald Mosley himself made application for release on medical grounds. When was that application made and what are the exact grounds put forward? I do not think there is any breach of secrecy in this and the country is as entitled to know as anybody else. When did the question of Oswald Mosley's health become a matter of consideration by the Home Secretary? What was the evidence of his ill-health? The names of doctors have been given and we have been told that this man was known to be suffering from phlebitis and thrombosis. These are terrible names, but there are many hundreds of thousands of people in this country suffering from disabilities similar to phlebitis. There are hundreds of charwomen who char every day in Whitehall who have varicose veins and whose troubles are as difficult as phlebitis.
We know that Mosley has suffered for 20 years from leg trouble. I remember him in this House walking with a stick on occasions, and he gave an explanation to his friends and to the public. I remember him in a by-election taking credit for it and saying that it was due to a wound on active service in the last war. This man has survived 20 years of walking with the aid of a stick. He has been active in parades of his party, marching his body of hooligans in military formation and generally making a display of physical fitness that I could not attempt to emulate at any time in my life. Mosley's trouble has been an up and down condition, and I do not regard it as his worse trouble. If his head or his heart were as good as his legs I would give him a sound certificate for his return to this House or anywhere else. This man has been proved, despite his lameness, to be capable of much mischief. There would be no meetings of this House to-day if he had his way. There would be no public meetings in any part of the country. With rubber truncheons, knuckle dusters and the various instruments of brutality which he employed he would have destroyed democracy. He established a high position in the political life of this country by brute force despite 443 the medical condition to which he was subject. I do not believe that this man's medical condition to-day requires special concessions on the part of the Government. He has been given a concession presumably on medical grounds. He is not free to go where he likes, he cannot become a candidate for Parliament or for a borough council. He is not deemed to be a safe person to be given full freedom, but a concession has been given to him which is very difficult to explain to the people.
Do not let us forget the views of the man in the street and the woman in the factory. They are working very hard and long hours, often with varicose veins. They have to stand about waiting for buses and working at their machines. Many of them are in a worse condition than Oswald Mosley, but they get scant consideration in these strenuous times even from the Government. Directions are given to them. They must hurry, they must come, they must go, they must make shift and they must endure. Penalties are imposed on them. There are men of my own age who work hard underground. We hear of a good many cases that reach courts and tribunals. These men, who are in a much worse medical condition than Oswald Mosley, are told that in addition to travelling long distances to their work, to performing heavy and arduous duties for long hours in the mine and to a long journey back, they must turn out for Home Guard parade and go on a march of 10 or 12 miles. They are sent to prison because they cannot stand the strain and they say so.
§ Mr. Grenfell
Yes, indeed, after a trial and after medical reports in their favour which are disbelieved and ignored, Then they hear of this man. A number of highly placed medical gentlemen sign reports that mean nothing at all. They could be given to almost anybody. On the presumption that he must have a chance of recovery this man has been withdrawn from the rather commodious premises at his disposal in Holloway and given far greater freedom than many a Member of this House possesses, Which of us has the freedom which Oswald Mosley will enjoy? Have not we to report to our place of work and to follow our 444 duties? Are we not beset with responsibilities? Have we not to travel long journeys by train? No, Sir Oswald Mosley is to be given conditions of existence which are the acme of luxury and comfort and that despite the fact that he was a proved enemy of this State.
§ Mr. Grenfell
He was seen in the act. He was seen organising his bullies, seen leading them against defenceless people—so much so that this country had to provide special protection for the residents in certain areas. This man has been given a concession and not only is it a concession to Mosley. What does he think of what has happened? If psychiatry or psychology is allowed in this House try to imagine whether Mosley is pleased with himself? He has secured this concession. Does he not assume that he has defeated the Government? He certainly does. He has come out by a manipulation of medical evidence and special pleading on his behalf. I do not say there is anything dishonest about it but those will be the reactions of a man who has pulled it off, who has done the trick.
I am concerned about the effect upon his sympathisers. Does anyone believe that we are wholly immune from the presence of the evil spirits such as defeated France and Norway and Belgium and Holland? Have we no disloyalty in this country? Are all the followers of Oswald Mosley who wished to organise a very rapid revolution some years ago all dead now. Of if they are not dead or in a comatose condition will they rise again? I am convinced that they are looking to the future with Oswald Mosley. I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether Oswald Mosley has had any limitations placed upon him. There are restrictions and inhibitions but has Oswald Mosley been asked to make any promise? Has he made any promise to abandon his previous methods, the methods by which he is still judged and the methods which are responsible for his being held where he is? Has he made any promise to be a good boy, to behave himself as a proper citizen for the future?
§ Mr. H. Morrison
If the hon. Member wants an answer now, the answer is "No." I have not entered into a bargain with him. I have not asked him for undertakings, and I do not know that I should be greatly impressed if I got them. If my hon. Friend W11 be good enough to leave Sir Oswald Mosley to me I will look after him.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I do not wish to be unfair. I have said all along that the Home Secretary has a very difficult job and I cannot help him to do it. He will do it himself far better than I should but I have a small part to play in this House, with the same authority as everybody else here, and I say that Sir Oswald Mosley must be glorying in a triumph. He is free from Holloway. He is allowed a country house to live in, allowed the attendance of servants and we have had the most frivolous explanation of his medical treatment that I have heard for some time. We have been told that he is suffering from phlebitis with a kind of superimposed or incipient thrombosis and must be given a chance to take vigorous exercise. I would give him some. Let him work in a coal mine. Other men equally good are required to work there every day and do their job for the benefit of this country. I am concerned far more with the reactions of this individual prison and concerned also with the reactions of the people in this country, a large number of whom may be sympathetic with Oswald Mosley and awaiting the day—they may not call it "Der Tag"—and this is an indication to them that the promised day will come soon.
Then there is the question of people abroad who are passing judgment upon us. We have been held to be the stanward bearers of liberty and I am glad it is so. We have given leadership to the world. Let us be careful that we do not lead the world back again. Let us be careful that we shall not fall from grace in the judgment of other people. When we hear of Oswald Mosley's condition being examined almost through a microscope in this House we think of the possibility of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of men being locked in a death struggle within a few days or a few weeks. Why was it necessary to bring this bad man into the picture? He is a bad man; he is a worthless man. Why was it necessary to convey to the world outside an 446 impression that we cannot avoid conveying that we are becoming tender to the Fascists, that while men are sent abroad to fight and die against Fascism the prophets of Fascism at home are being pampered?
§ Sir Austin Hudson (Hackney, North)
I am glad to have the opportunity for a few minutes to say a word on this matter, because I think the view I hold is rather different from that of most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I say quite frankly that I resent being put in the position in which I am by the action of the Home Secretary. I say frankly that he has acted very foolishly in this matter. He sits, and I sit, for an East End constituency, and we know what people there think of Mosley and his gang. I hope to show that it is the remembrance of what he, did in the past and what he might do in the future—it is fear—which has to a great extent caused the present outcry. What was the first thing we heard? We heard, first, that Mosley was to be released, and, secondly, that he was to be released on grounds of ill-health. Let me take the point about ill-health. I have spoken to a large number of people and there is not one soul who cares one jot about Mosley's ill-health. I am sorry to say that when I say to them "The Home Secretary says he might die," they have all replied, "And a very good thing too."
§ Sir A. Hudson
They said so because it is war time, and many people are suffering death at the present time. On the question of release, I want to put this point to the Home Secretary. I believe that we shall find that Sir Oswald Mosley has not been released but has merely changed from one form of detention to another. The first thing that occurs to one is that it he must be removed for exercise, why could he not have been moved to Parkhurst or Dartmoor, or perhaps to the Isle of Man? Or again, if necessary, he could have been removed, as apparently has been done, to a country house, but kept under duress.
The point is that people are afraid that all the Jewabaiters—they are still about—and people of that kind will be able to get at Sir Oswald and that all this business will start again. In my five minutes, what I want to ask the Home Secretary is 447 whether he will give us an assurance that in the present position there will be no opportunity whatever for Sir Oswald to get into touch with his former colleagues or to do any harm to the country in the way that he was doing before. If the right hon. Gentleman can give us an assurance that Sir Oswald has merely been moved from one form of detention to another, I believe the whole of this outcry is a storm in a teacup and that the right hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame for what has occurred because of the way he put out the news of the release, as it was called, of Sir Oswald Mosley.
One word as to the Amendment. I came here feeling that I might have to vote for the Amendment. When I had heard the way in which it was moved and the speeches that have been made for it, I was perfectly certain I could do nothing of the kind. If I voted, it would be knowing that I was voting to turn out the present Home Secretary and, if the Amendment were carried, to turn out the Government. I do not necessarily want to do either of those things but I do want the Home Secretary to give an assurance to a lot of people who are genuinely alarmed that from now on Sir Oswald Mosley will have no chance to do harm to this country.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
After listening to the Debate, I am wondering whether Parliament is using its time very well in discussing this matter, but I suppose the excitement that has been caused means that we have to talk about the matter whether we want to do so or not. Personally, I do not think Sir Oswald Mosley is worth it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] One of my hon. Friends opened his impassioned speech by saying Mosley was a worthless fellow. If he is a worthless fellow, what is the use of talking about him? The sinister figure and name of Mosley have been before the House quite a number of times. I was here in his early days when he made his first speech from these benches denouncing the Baldwin Government. Then he came to our ranks, and I was one of the silly persons who listened to him, thinking that he was some great figure. Then he sold us and started up on his own. I remember an hon. Member describing the scene at a meeting in the Albert Hall and of Mosley's thug methods trying to intimidate everybody. The public went against him, and 448 for what he did since that time Mosley has only got his deserts. He has got what everybody wanted him to get.
But after all, we have to consider the matter with an unprejudiced mind. When the case of this man comes before us we do not like to say, "Never mind whether he is right or wrong; look at what he has done. Keep him in." When I heard the genuine speeches of the hon. Members for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) and Romford (Mr. Parker) and particularly of the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater), I could quite understand their views on the matter, after having gone through what Mosley had done for them. I want to ask them whether the Home Secretary did not have to go through the same thing. Did anybody in this House or anywhere else fight Fascism as the Home Secretary fought it? When this House puts anybody in a judicial position, he has to try to forget those things and treat a man honestly and fairly, and I believe that the Home Secretary has done so. I admit that on many occasions I have tried to get people out because I have been sympathetic towards them, and perhaps not wise. The Home Secretary has told me that he is in a position to judge all the evidence, and I believe I have never got anybody out.
Anybody who knows the Home Secretary knows also that he is not swayed by sentiment. He tries to do his job properly. In view of that fact, I have asked myself this question: I do not like Mosley. I am against his policy and I think he is wrong altogether, but the Home Secretary has to weigh everything up fairly. Here is a Home Secretary who has fought against all the things for which Mosley stands and his background is good. I try to judge a man by his record. If there had been some other Home Secretary I might have said something different. Can anybody say that the present Home Secretary has been swayed by wealth or influence? He is the wrong man for that. I am speaking now, I believe, for the official Labour Party, independent of the Home Secretary. There have been a lot of speeches from these benches against him. I am in the happy position to say what the party stands for, and it is my own judgment too. I have confidence in the Home Secretary because of his past and what he has done against Mosley. I believe 449 that for the future he will watch Oswald Mosley, and if there is any attempt to break the bond, we may depend upon the Home Secretary coming down and putting him where he ought to be. I approve of the Home Secretary and I hope he gets an overwhelming vote in his favour.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
When, about three and a half years ago, the British Union of Fascists came under the ban of 18AA and Sir Oswald Mosley was interned under 18B I think that action on the part of the then Home Secretary had the approval of every Member of this House I think we all agreed that there has been a prima facie case that Oswald Mosley is a guilty man who should have been tried. Whether or not he can be tried and whether in that case a conviction can be secured I am not in a position to say. I am a little bit inclined to doubt it. If it did come to that and if I were a lawyer, I should infinitely prefer the job of counsel for the defence to that of the learned Attorney-General.
However that may be, I have always been an opponent on principle of Regulation 18B, and on principle I have never raised any particular application of it. I would remind the movers of the Amendment that 18 months ago I put down a Motion for reduction of the Home Office Vote in order to give hon. Members an opportunity of expressing their views whether these powers should be in the hands of any one man. Many suggestions were made on that occasion, but I only got 25 Members into the Lobby with me. On that occasion no single mention was made of Section 2 of Regulation 18B, and I believe that no mention was made of it to-day either. I presume that Sir Oswald Mosley has been released under Regulation 18B (2). Is that so? That Section at any rate propounds that at any time after an Order has been made against any person under the Regulation:the Secretary of State may direct that the operation of the Order be suspended, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State thinks fit.And then it gives five different headings which embody the very conditions which the Home Secretary has imposed on Sir Oswald Mosley in this case. Therefore the Home Secretary—and as I repeat I do not agree that any one man should have 450 these powers—has nevertheless merely used powers which have not been challenged to-day and were not challenged when I gave an opportunity 18 months ago. It is under these powers that the detention of Sir Oswald Mosley at the present time has been suspended. It has undoubtedly in some parts of the country, notably in those parts of the country where Communist influence, curiously enough, is strongest, aroused a good deal of attention. The hon. and gallant Member for South Salford (Major Stourton) said he had had little or no representations from his consitituents on the subject. The same has been my experience. My constituency is on the North East coast. People there, I am glad to say, are very busy working. I have had one communication from them, and that came from the Middlesbrough Co-operative Society. But there has undoubtedly been feeling aroused elsewhere, and as one Member has said, among all classes of the community.
I want to put this consideration briefly to the House. We are after all representatives of the people, and this is the High Court of Parliament. We have a double informing function, that of informing His Majesty's Government what people are thinking and also the function of informing our constituents when they are going off the rails, as they have done in this case. After all, there is behind this the old fundamental British justice which has been fought for so often in the last 600 or 700 years. One of the cardinal principles of that justice is that no man is guilty until he has been tried and found guilty. Almost every speech in support of the Amendment has made the entirely unwarrantable assumption that Sir Oswald Mosley has been found guilty. As I have said, it would appear that there is a strong prima facie case that he is guilty, but he has not yet been brought to trial, and I cannot see that in the old traditions of British justice any of the considerations which have been put forward about the effect on the Allies and so forth should have the slightest effect in determining this matter. The other day, in common with many other Members, I had the opportunity of interviewing a large number of the delegates who came and infested the Lobbies. Curiously enough, I do not quite know why, I seemed to be lucky or unlucky, whichever way you look at it, and they all happened to be Communists. 451 I do not know quite how that happened. We had an interesting talk, lasting about 40 minutes, so interesting that they failed to be in time for the meeting which, as the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) said, so spontaneously happened at Caxton Hall, attended by the hon. Members for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) and, I believe, others. I found among those young Communists the worst advertisement for our educational system that could possibly be imagined. Every single one I talked to was under the impression that Sir Oswald Mosley was interned as a criminal because he was a Fascist and that he was being let out, and nothing would persuade them that that was not so. Unfortunately, I had not my copy of the Defence Regulations by me, but even if they had read it, they would not have believed it. That is the habit of Communists.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member knows I have associated with him in my time in criticism of 18B. Surely he was misleading the people he spoke to. Is it not perfectly clear that the Home Secretary decided—and none of us I think would dissent from it—that Sir Oswald Mosley was a man to whom 18B applied? He was a man who by reason of his associations and of his activities was a danger to the public safety, and the Home Secretary interned him because he was a danger to the public safety. The Home Secretary has not yet decided he is not a danger, but he is released.
§ Commander Bower
Certainly, but I am afraid my hon. Friend has forgotten that, as I pointed out at the beginning of my speech, there are two sections of 18B. The Home Secretary put him under control under Section 1 and has suspended the order under Section 2. [Interruption.] If I may say so with respect, Members on the other side have not been so good in giving way. I am very sorry, as I am always on friendly terms with my hon. Friend. We as Members of Parliament have a very great responsibility. These people who are upset are acting under stress of emotion, and why blame them? They have been working hard all these years. We have seen this wave of unofficial strikes. The nerves of the people are getting ragged. I firmly believe that 452 if they were properly instructed about what has really happened in this case and the steps the Home Secretary has taken—and this House has three times fortified him in possession of these powers, and the Court of Appeal in the Liversedge judgment and other cases has fortified him—I believe that if they knew that they would agree that this is a storm in a teacup. Whether it is a storm in a teacup or not, there is no doubt that in a very few days time all this agitation will die down. I think this Debate has done a great deal of good. It has shown us what one or two Members—I would refer particularly to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker)—really think. It will be an illumination in that way, and it may also instruct the people a little in the elementary basis of our British justice. I say with all respect to Members who intend to support this Amendment to-day that the dust of this storm will very soon subside. One thing will remain. If there is a Division, the Division list will be a clear indication for future reference of those hon. Members who wish to use extra-constitutional powers for the purpose of imprisoning without trial their political opponents.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield) rose—
§ Mr. A. Bevan
On a point of Order. Before my right hon. Friend starts, may I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, respectfully, that although the calling of speakers in this Debate is entirely a matter for Mr. Speaker, as the Debate now proceeds the last five speakers will have been for the Government?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is not entitled to make that comment. I would also point out that it so happens that the last speakers who have been called from one side or the other were not all entirely in favour of the Government. Those on the other side have been rather long, and the length of speeches is a factor too.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Further to that point of Order. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not possible, even at this late hour, to get an extension of the time. You will be aware, as all Members have been aware, that there has scarcely been a speech made but that reference has been made by critics of those who support the Amendment to 453 Communists or personal references to myself, and the whole argument has been mixed up as between Fascism and Communism. I consider that in a situation such as this, particularly when the Home Secretary at the Labour Party meeting was blaming the Communists, and will no doubt be trying a diversion of that kind to-day, I ought to have an opportunity at any rate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I consider that in such a situation, when even the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) made personal references to the Member for West Fife, and other Members over here have made personal references to the Member for West Fife and his responsibility for demonstrations and so forth, I ought to be given a few minutes to reply.
§ Mr. Speaker
The question of an extension of time is nothing to do with me, nor are personal references. If they are insulting, the hon. Member can ask for a withdrawal. In this case I know I have disappointed a very great number of Members who wanted to talk and whom it has been quite impossible to allow to do so.
§ Mr. Maxton
Since you have been unable, Sir, to call more than a fraction of those who wished to take part, is it possible for me to make representations to the Government that this Debate should be extended, either to-day or on same other day?
§ Sir William Davison (Kensington, South)
Has not every point of view been expressed? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
A great number of us would have liked to speak on this Amendment, and I have learned from conversation that the Home Secretary himself desires an hour. In view of what you have said, Sir, about long speeches—and I agree that some have been long—I do not think it is unreasonable that the Home Secretary should take an hour.
§ Mr. Gallacher
You said, Sir, that if insulting references were made I could ask for a withdrawal. But insulting references have been made indirectly. I do not know whether you were listening when the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland made insulting references to 454 the illiteracy and ignorance of Communists. I did not raise any objection or ask him to withdraw, because, even at that time, I thought I should have a chance to say a word in my own defence and on behalf of my party. I suggest that if the Home Secretary and the Government have any sense of decency they will extend the time, to give me five or ten minutes.
§ Sir W. Davison
The hon. Member cannot address the House every time the Communist party is mentioned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I am not sure whether I shall be as much in Order as those who have spoken before me, but I would suggest that it is ridiculous to waste all this time on a man who the Home Secretary himself has said is unworthy of martyrdom.
§ Mr. Frankel (Mile End)
In view of the fact that I and many others were concerned before the war with the activities of the gentleman concerned—[Interruption]—"and many others," I said; the Home Secretary was concerned, I know—ought we not to have a chance to speak?
§ Mr. Silverman
If the Government find themselves unable to extend the time, either to-day or on another day, would it not be possible for the Government speaker who is going to wind up to content himself with rather less than an hour?
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand now that the Home Secretary does not require quite so long; and the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) can have a short time after him.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), at long last, is prepared to give way to me. I will not abuse the privileges of the House by making a long speech. [Interruption.] I hope that I shall be allowed to continue. I feel certain that by the time I have finished I shall have pleased very few people in the House. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) drew the picture he did at the end of his speech, because I think that on this occasion deep political differences have been disclosed, and if hon. Members on that side think that they have learned something about my hon. Friends, I imagine that many of 455 my hon. Friends feel that they have learned something about hon. Members opposite. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary permits the detainee to have copies of Hansard or the Press—
§ Mr. Greenwood
—but I suggest that should he see Hansard to-morrow it will be his most joyful day for a long time. That this man should have provoked such strength of feeling that a whole day is being devoted to him in this House, constitutes the one moral victory that he has ever won. I am one of those, and I am bound to say it, who think that my right hon. Friend's decision was a wrong decision. I think that, having taken the decision, his handling of it was most unfortunate. That I must say in all honesty. My right hon. Friend has a right to disagree, of course. I do not take the view that this agitation originated from any kind of Communist ramp or propaganda. The very morning on which the announcement was made, there was a deep revulsion of feeling on the part of people of all kinds, of all classes, and of all political parties. I admit that my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife and his comrades have done their best to stoke it up since, but it is undoubtedly true that its origin was spontaneous, and for this reason—that is why I do not object to it. It has proved the strength of feeling of the people of this country against the horrors which we are fighting to-day. I had a fear earlier on that war weariness and sloppy sentiment might at the end of the war lead to the liberation of the great war criminals. If there is one thing proved now beyond all doubt, it is that the people of this country hate the very expression of the word "Fascism." To them Mosley is its one symbol over here. Therefore, I think that such feelings are to be understood. Indeed, I share them. I suppose all Members in this House remember Mosley before this war, when he was building up his black-shirts and gangsters, adopting methods which destroyed in Italy and Germany every kind of democratic institution. We know he was doing it. If in the dark days of May-June, 1940, Hitler had followed up his advantage by an invasion, Sir Oswald Mosley would have been 456 Hitler's Gauleiter—Britain's Quisling No. 1. Of course he would, and many of us in this House to-day would either have had to face the firing squad or the terrors of the concentration camp. That man's mind is a bad mind. I have known no public statement made in which he has in any way renounced his views. This is not a question of "political differences" which, I think, is the phrase used by my right hon. Friend. I have political differences with people opposite and some with people behind me, but this is a different situation. This man, by the use of force, if he could have done, would have destroyed the very foundations of the democratic State. He is therefore the public enemy. I do not put him into the same category as other weak-minded Fascists who supported him. He is the head and front of this movement. He is a potential danger if he is let out. I believe myself that questions of public safety are involved.
It is unfortunate that my right hon. Friend used the word "release." I personally would not like to live under the conditions which have been imposed on Sir Oswald Mosley; I would like to read to-morrow's Hansard and to enjoy greater freedom than Sir Oswald Mosley is obviously enjoying to-day. But if one looks at this from the broad point of view—and I am not arguing at the moment the purely legal side of it—this man, as my right hon. Friend implied in the statement he made on Tuesday of last week, is a potential enemy to the public safety of this country. The decision to release him, said my right hon. Friend, does not imply that the Government take a different view of the potentialities for mischief of any revival of this organisation. He has not been set free. He has been edged round with restrictions which are perhaps unparalleled. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman believes that he is a potential danger to the public safety of this country. But he says, "I let him out on grounds of health." This is not a legal point at all. He is perfectly entitled so to do, but—I have had it put to me by many people—if his name, instead of being Sir Oswald Mosley, Baronet, Leader of the British Union, had been John Jones, I do not believe he would be living in a house somewhere on the outskirts of Oxford to-day. I do not believe he would have been let out for medical treatment on quite the same conditions as my right 457 hon. Friend has let out, for the time being, Sir Oswald Mosley.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is my right hon. Friend seriously suggesting that I, whom my right hon. Friend knows very well, have let out this man on these conditions because I am impressed by his social position? Does he seriously suggest that?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I was not making any charge. I was explaining what has been put to me and what has been put to many people, that there is this feeling abroad, all over the country—it is not confined to Members of my own party—that, whether or not it is traditional for baronets to get better treatment than others, the fact is that that view is being taken by a large number of people, and I regard it as a very disturbing state of affairs. It is most unusual, for he is not a political criminal, but a political detainee under the gravest suspicion, that such exceptional facilities should be given to Sir Oswald Mosley.
On the legal position of my right hon. Friend I should think myself, without experience of it, that the most thankless job in any Government is that of Home Secretary, more particularly when there is an epidemic of murders. Then his life must be hell for the time being with the responsibilities that are cast upon him. I take the view that Parliament, having conferred on my right hon. Friend very heavy responsibilities in the interests of the safety of the State, it is impossible for him to ignore them or to sidetrack them. I am not going to argue whether 18B is right or wrong, but it may be that the whole business of 18B should be looked at again. I am not concerned about that. I am concerned about the point that, with the law and the Regulations being what they are to-day, my right hon. Friend had to come to a decision. He came to a decision with which, personally, I do not agree, a decision which a good many people regard as unfortunate, but that is not the point. The point is that that decision, having been made, the matter really ought to rest there. If this House or the Executive is going to try to override judicial decisions, that will be the beginning of totalitarianism in this country. In the Fascist countries the essence of Fascism and Nazism is that independence of the judiciary ceases to exist. Bless my soul, you can only have one political party, and that is even as bad, I think. We must—and there is 458 something to be said for British justice—let the responsibility lie where it should lie. I should hope—and I do not want to deprive my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend of their opportunity—that now this thing has been ventilated we might pass along our way in the discussions on the next Sitting Day and afterwards of matters of far greater importance. This Debate had to take place to-day. It had to take place in fairness to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and to people who feel very strongly on the situation in the country, but I hope that now we have let off steam—not without a certain amount of heat, I admit—we can, on the next Sitting Day and subsequently, turn our minds to the infinitely greater questions that await us.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The Attorney-General, when speaking just now, made reference to certain historical events. I would make reference to another. At the time of the American Civil War the Government of this country had the country almost lined up with the slave States. But the people arose in mass protest and mass demonstration, and Karl Marx, writing from London to the Vienna Press, said that the most outstanding and brilliant picture of English political life is the rapidity with which the masses of the English people are prepared to take action when they think the Government are going wrong, or when they consider that the Government needs to be directed towards a particular goal. It has been shown over and over again that had it not been for political demonstrations and deputations the Government would have gone wrong, and it may be said the Labour benches would not have been filled here to-day. Last week I asked the Home Secretary why such medical attention and such care had been bestowed on Sir Oswald Mosley. The right hon. Gentleman avoided that by saying that prisoners had been released on grounds of ill-health, and then he made his usual nasty "crack" about the Communists. We have heard many "cracks" about Communists again to-day.
Let us talk about Communists and Fascists and get this matter straight, because from the other side of the House there has been a lot of cant on this question. The Communists are accused of many things, of mistakes, of being against the war, of changing their policy and of this, 459 that and the other. The Prime Minister says that this war is a continuation of the-last war—and the Home Secretary was against the last war—but here is something I will put before the Home Secretary and the House. The Communist Party has never been associated, directly or indirectly, with the enemies of this country. That is something to remember when we are discussing this question. In 1940 Members had reconciled themselves to my going to gaol. As a matter of fact I never knew whenever I left this House at that time whether I should ever appear here again. I ask the Home Secretary or any Members on the other side, including the peculiar democrat the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower), who was so much identified with Franco's democracy in Spain, or any of the apologists on this side of the House, whether it is not a fact that if the Government at that time had succeeded in its potentially disastrous policy of war against Russia I and every other leader of the Communist Party would have been thrown into gaol with such a bang that the noise would have been heard in every part of Europe? I ask the Home Secretary: If this country had been at war with the Soviet Union, would he or any other of the gang on the other side have proposed to liberate me, Harry Pollitt, Palme Dutt or any other leader of the Communist Party? [Interruption.] I may mention the fact that during that time the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) was nearly brokenhearted because I was not in gaol and was even more affected in the hope maybe of getting rid of competition that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) was not in gaol.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The gravamen of this question, which has not been faced up to, is the fact that this man Mosley is a personal and close associate of the enemies of this country and of the men who are killing our lads on the Sangro and other fronts to-day. Can anybody deny that? The mothers of this country are sending their boys to bloody battlefields to fight against the Fascists, and Mosley's associates 460 areslaughtering them. Does that mean anything? The Home Secretary's decision was not a judicial decision; it was a political decision. It cannot be anything else. The decision in regard to Darlan was not a military decision; it was political, as was the decision with regard to Badoglio. This man, who is a trusted associate of the enemies of this country, is a menace not only to Jews but to Gentiles. The Home Secretary generalises by saying that he is not a danger to the State, in view of the better fortune we now enjoy. Why have we better fortune? Because of the victories of the Red Army. Was there ever such an attitude as that of the Home Secretary? Because of the victories of the Red Army against the Fascist in Europe he says we can afford to let this Fascist go. Let the Home Secretary not be fooled by all the talk on the other side about the masses of the people in this country. It is all right to sit here as gentlemen and talk about love of democracy. But when Demos comes from the factories, from the slums and from the crowded streets, do they like to see him? No, they do not like his rude, rough appearance. They tell us that he has no education, that he is illiterate, and that he does not understand. But he has shown that he does understand, Demos has saved this country time and again when the Government would have led us on the wrong path. Mosley is not just a symbol; he is an actual enemy in our midst, and at any critical moment—there may be a critical moment next week or next month in the situation of the war—this man becomes a danger and might take action which would destroy the country. Here is what the Home Secretary said about such an individual on an earlier occasion:I come back to the history of Germany, and I beg the House not to forget it. If I had been running the German Government at that time, that man would never have got out. He would never have survived.He was referring to Hitler. Now our men are being slaughtered by the thousand by Mosley's friends, and we have to care for Mosley's health.He was an enemy of the State,"—continued the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison)—and he ought to have been shot. If he had been shot it would have been a very fine thing for Germany and for the world."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1940; col. 86, Vol. 367.]
§ Mr. Gallacher
I insist upon the Secretary of State facing up to this, that the Communists have never been associates of the enemies of this country, directly or indirectly. Mosley is the direct associate of the enemies of this country. If this country had gone to war with the Soviet Union, every Communist, great or small, would have been put in gaol and kept there, and I say that this man, who represents all the shocking, obscene brutalities that have disturbed the whole of Europe, ought on no grounds whatever to have been liberated but ought to have been kept confined in prison.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I think the House will agree and the hon. Member will agree that I have endeavoured to be courteous to him in making way for him to deliver his speech. I thought he had some right to be heard because, inevitably, his party has been referred to and I am afraid it may conceivably be referred to again. He has made his speech. I think his speech is an admirable illustration of how 18B should not be administered. But he has put himself very gravely wrong about the party line. He condemned the recognition of the Badoglio Government. I do not want to cause any trouble at King Street but, in fact, the recognition of the Badoglio Government was a joint recognition by the British, American and Soviet Governments. I thought I had better remind him so that he could prepare his defence before the political bureau.
I have sat here all day except for lunch and listened to the Debate and the tiling that disappoints me about it is the thing that disappointed my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. My right hon. and learned Friend has had to do this job in the courts, he has had to defend me and to defend the present Chancellor who was formerly Home Secretary. I am not going to say who was the most troublesome to defend but he has had the job. There have been keen fights about this in the courts. I think my right hon. and learned Friend will agree with me that the biggest issue that he has had to deal with was whether the Secretary of State had or had not reasonable cause to believe the things that are 462 set out in the Defence Regulation. I wish that hon. Members, in arguing this case would put themselves in the chair of the Home Secretary in the Home Office and face themselves with the file on his table and with the actual terms of the Regulation and then say in the words of the salvage gentleman on the wireless, "What would you have done about it, chum?"—because that is the issue. That is the fact that would have to be faced.
I feel a bit unhappy about the time I have been having for the last fortnight. If I had to choose between being attacked and even abused by hon. Members on this side and hon. Members opposite, I would choose Members on this side before hon. Members on the other side. [Interruption.] So would you, the other way round. I had rather be attacked by the Federation of British Industries than by the Trades Union Congress. I would rather be attacked by the National Chamber of Trade than by the Co-operative movement. I do not like being attacked by my own people. I am very fond of my own people; I have grown up in the Labour movement, I love it, I have worked for it, I have made my contribution to it and, as long as I am in politics, I propose to continue to do so, if I am permitted. I have had a very rough time and if I hit out a bit in the course of my speech forgive me, because I am entitled to do so.
I ask myself "When these various bodies passed their resolutions did they have before them the actual terms of the Regulation"? In short, did they know what they were talking about? Because if they confess that they never had the Regulation in front of them, they had no right to express any opinion on the subject at all. I venture to suggest that it is highly probable that precious few of them did have the Defence Regulation before them. [Interruption.] I am perfectly sure that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) knows every word of it by heart, and he is right, because he says himself that he might have been in trouble. I would have been awfully sorry because we are good friends. They ought to have had the terms of the Regulation before them before they judged. I do not complain that ordinary people, working-class people, middle-class people, and some upper-class people were fed to the 463 teeth when they heard this decision. If anybody thinks I enjoyed signing the Order he makes a mistake. I did not celebrate it; I did not enjoy putting my name to that order of suspension. The sole reason why I put my name to that order was that, after applying my mind to the circumstances and studying the facts, I came to the honest conclusion that it was my duty to do so. That is the only reason why I did it. Having come to that honest conclusion, if I had done anything else but sign the order, as I thought it was right to do, then not only should I have been unfit to hold this tricky office of Home Secretary—which any of you are welcome to have as far as I am concerned—but believe me, although this is Mosley—and plenty of passion could be worked up about it—I should not only have failed to do my duty, but I should have struck a blow at civil liberty, Habeas Corpus, Magna Charta and what not. I understand the feelings of the people—and there are a lot of people who agree with me—
§ Mr. Morrison
Not only Tories. I have had plenty of letters from very good Labour people, people with as good a tradition of loyalty in the Labour party as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan). I understand people being fed up, being cross, being indignant. I understand people being unhappy. I can understand some of them, the least responsible, dashing in and passing resolutions. I find it a little difficult to understand why some very great organisations were passing resolutions within a few hours of the announcement. However, I can understand even that. Therefore, I beg the House not to think that I have feelings of bitterness because there has been criticism. I understand the criticism and I expected it. I knew that I should be denounced and criticised. I certainly knew that the Communist Party would be after me and I assumed that a lot of other people would be after me as well. Therefore, believe me, I do not feel intolerant about it. Indeed, in a measure I have it in my heart to sympathise with it.
It is not a bad thing that the feeling of our people against Fascism and the evil traditions of this former Black Shirt organisation should be deep, bitter and 464 strong. I make no complaint about that except this, that when people make speeches, especially responsible people, or pass resolutions on the basis that it was the duty of the Secretary of State to decide whether on not a man should continue to be detained solely on the grounds of his opinions, then I say they are endangering civil liberty. If you say that I am to administer this Regulation as a politician, that I am to keep this man in because I hate him or disagree with him, and that I am to let the other man out because I have sympathy with him—and that is, you know, the argument behind this—Sir, if the House of Commons wants that done it will kindly proceed to frame the Regulation under which it can be done, and I wish it luck in framing it, and if it is to be a principle of our administration that the Home Secretary has to release or detain according to opinion and according to likes and dislikes, or according to mobs, then I say that even though the House of Commons gives me that power it can find another Home Secretary. I will not do the job in such a way. There is too much of a party political element in the desires about the administration of this Regulation, too much of the unjudicial, and a bit of mob hysteria. [Interruption.] Well, you saw it outside. But I give credit to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) far this. The Communist daily paper had its instrumentality, and the Communist machine. I know it very well, I am an expert about it, the agitation propaganda department—the "agit prop" as it is called. The Communist daily paper and the machine got all these deputations up here. Oh yes they did—in the main.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am surprised at my hon. Friend, because he is an old hand too. We are good friends. They marched them up here. They were then on the verge of trouble and disorder. My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife said "Let there be peace, let there be no conflict with the police. Follow me to Caxton Hall." It was very good of him, quite in the style of a Weimar Republic social democrat. On behalf of Scotland Yard and the mounted police I thank him for his help. So what happened? It was like the good old Duke of York. The "Daily Worker" marched them up the hill 465 and the hon. Member marched them down again. They marched them to the House of Commons and he marched them to Caxton Hall. I promise my hon. Friend that if ever he is in danger under 18B that shall be taken into account. Of course a man cannot be in politics and take a big part in them without incidents—there are at times rivalries and episodes of one sort and another—and for that I am sorry, but the general anxiety of the people I understand. I sympathise with it and in a certain sense I am glad of it, because it means that public opinion is healthy about Fascism.
The criticism is made that assuming the decision was right I made a mess of the handling of it, that I ought to have done this, that or the other, that the semi-official statement to the Press was badly worded. I confess that that may be right. I confess that possibly I could have handled it better from what one might call the public relations angle. There is point in that. I do not know if I was right or wrong, because I do not pretend to be such an expert as necessarily to be conclusive on the point. I frankly confess that I never once thought of my modest Public Relations Department when this decision was made. I may have been naughty, wrong, but I just did not think of it. Somehow or another I had got my mind on the judicial and constitutional aspect, and I suppose at the back of my mind I thought that the last people to drag into a highly judicial and constitutional matter would be the Public Relations Department of the Home Office. Now, looking back, I am not too sure, and. I admit there may be criticism on that point. That point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) and he may be right. Could we have found another word? I used the word "release" and even now I cannot think of another single word. It is not quite right, because Mosley has been in fact transferred from the detention of a prison to house arrest in a house. That is what has happened, but it is technical release under Defence Regulation 18B. Anyway, if there were mistakes in my public relations activities, it is who, in the main, have suffered. I promise that I will go on learning from experience.
Now I will tell the House what were the facts in the consideration of the 466 matter, on the medical point. Hon. Members will forgive me, I hope, if I do not remember all of them or pick out every point made in the Debate in sequence. I have to make a general case. I think it was the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), or the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) perhaps, who wanted to know when the complaints about health arose. I will give the House the background rather more than I was able to do in the already long statement which I made earlier. It is the case that Mosley has suffered from recurrent attacks of phlebitis for quite a time. Of course, we Members of the Labour Party knew it when he was one of us. [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up."] I mention that point quietly because none of us wants to remember it. Certainly I do not. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was also one of the Conservatives."] Yes, and he was once in the I.L.P. The only people who come clean out of it are the Liberals.
§ Mr. Morrison
Well then, the hon. Member for West Fife has got it. Mosley was not a Communist, but I have a horrible feeling that he would have been, in due time. The broad medical history of the case is that Mosley has suffered from recurrent attacks of phlebitis throughout his detention at Brixton and Holloway. At first, his condition proved fairly amenable to treatment and it gave no serious cause for anxiety, until June, 1943, that is to say, June of this year. The prison medical authorities then felt concern not only about the phlebitis but also about his general condition. His weight had fallen continuously and substantially and his phlebitis was extending.
In July and August of this year, at the request of his solicitors, he was seen on three occasions by Dr. Geoffrey Evans and on two occasions by Lord Dawson of Penn. Both these physicians expressed anxiety about his condition. The Medical Commissioner of Prisons examined him in September. The prison medical authorities came to the conclusion that a final decision on the question whether they ought to recommend considerations of release on medical grounds would not be possible until further watch had been kept on his progress. Lord Dawson saw Mosley again in October and, in forwarding the 467 report of his examination, he suggested consultation between himself and the prison doctors, or that two outside doctors of equal standing should be called in. As Lord Dawson and Dr. Evans were already well acquainted with the case it was felt that consultation with them would be the most advantageous course. The consultation was accordingly held and Lord Dawson and Dr. Evans submitted a report which I will now read and in which Dr. Methven, the Medical Commissioner of Prisons, Dr. Matheson and Dr. Fenton, two of the prison medical officers who had followed the case, concurred. This is what they said—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is the date?"]—It is 9th November, 1943. It is a note from Dr. Geoffrey Evans and Lord Dawson of Penn, and I have an independent minute from the prison people concurring. They said:We are of the opinion that if Sir Oswald Mosley remains under conditions of prison life there will be substantial risk of the thrombophlebitis extending and thus producing permanent damage to health and even danger to life.That is what I was faced with. That was the document that came to me.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am sorry, but if I am faced with a choice between that and the interruption in this House of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) I am going to accept that. I was faced with it—from these two eminent doctors and three prison doctors. Does anybody think that prison doctors are soft? I have always understood the contrary was the suspicion about them. But at any rate they are very good doctors, these three, and I am sure very honest men and I have no reason to think the others are not honest men. I am not an expert, I do not pretend to be an expert. Either I had to accept that medical opinion, or I had to think that they were untruthful or incompetent, and to say so.
§ Mr. Silverman
Would my right hon. Friend allow me? I only venture to interrupt because I have had the opportunity of seeing what I believe to be copies of the earlier medical reports made between the end of July and early in October. None of them is anything like so serious as the one of 9th November. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend—I know he cannot 468 do it now, he has not the time—whether he would publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the whole of the reports, including the first letter of the solicitors to Lord Dawson of Penn in which they told him what they wanted him to say?
§ Mr. Morrison
No, Sir, I am really not going to publish the files of the Home Office. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman knows or how he got to know it. I do not know whether what he knows is true or not. I am not going to comply with that request.
§ Sir A. Southby
On a point of Order. Is the House not entitled to know how it was the hon. Member who interrupted just now had access to those files?
§ Mr. Silverman
It is not my fault. On that point of Order, I have never said that I had access to Home Office files. What I say is that copies of those reports which are not Home Office files exist and I say that we—
§ Mr. Silverman
—the House of Commons—who are invited to judge these facts, are entitled to see these reports.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not want to settle that. I think the hon. Member had better get it referred to the Law Society. That was the conclusion to which the doctors came. What am I faced with? I am faced with two or three considerations. The first is the security of the State. I have said, right from the beginning, said it to hon. Members until they must have been bored with it, that the security of the State, so long as I am Home Secretary, is going to come first; that if there is a balance of considerations, even an exact fifty-fifty consideration, the security of the State will come first. Even if I have to run the risk of an injustice to an individual, if I am clear that the security of the State requires the balance the other way, the security of the State shall come first, and I put it first this time. I was faced, secondly, with the point that these 469 people said that if he were left in the condition of detention which was causing a steady deterioration in his energy and stamina and health and which would aggravate the trouble, there would be a substantial risk of permanent injury, or even death. It is perfectly true that 18B does not say anything specific about letting a man die, but I feel sure the whole House would take the view that if I could satisfy myself on security grounds it would be wrong on my part, deliberately and of malice aforethought, to let any man die as a consequence, not of conviction in a court, but of detention under Regulation 18B. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] That seems to have gone very well, and I think it is right.
The next question I had to consider was: Can I, if I release this man, attach such conditions to the suspension of the Order that I can be reasonably sure that the security of the State will be protected, recognising as I do that the safest place for a man from the point of view of security is prison, and that he is not so safe elsewhere? Could I devise conditions, and could I take certain steps, whereby he could not become, in my conscientious judgment, a danger to the security of the State? If I was satisfied that I could, by conditions and other means which are within the power of the Home Office, protect the security of the State, then, if I kept him in detention, with this substantial and important medical opinion that it meant progressive deterioration, possibly permanent injury to health, possibly death, I should in those circumstances have been guilty of an abuse of the powers of 18B.
If you want 18B administered in such a way that the person must stay under detention—without trial remember, for Habeas Corpus, Magna Charta and all that have gone to some extent—if the House of Commons wants it so administered that I must be indifferent to the health, or even the death, of a detainee, I say to my critics—and this is a fair challenge—let them draft, with such legal advice as they can get, either an amendment to the Defence Regulation or an amendment to the law that will give me the necessary directions as Home Secretary. Is that fair, or is it unfair? I suggest that it is a fair proposition. The onus on hon. Members is not to take the cheap and easy course of putting this Motion on the Paper and saying, 470 "We do not like the release of this man, and we regret that the Home Secretary has done it." That is easy—easy for mass meetings, easy for resolutions. I say: The test is to sit down, draft your new Defence Regulation, draft your law, and then think of it in terms of civil liberty and in terms of its being applied to members of my own party or members of the party of the hon. Member for West Fife, and so on. Unless hon. Members make that test, they are playing the fool with this issue.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater) made a very emotional speech. I understand it. Bethnal Green had a devil of a time from these scoundrels. I know all about it.
§ Mr. Morrison
And from this scoundrel. Walthamstow did not have such a bad time. I had a bad time from these people one Sunday night when speaking for the hon. Member at Walthamstow Baths. My hon. Friend will remember it.
§ Mr. McEntee indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Morrison
Then he could not have been there. I was there. I understand the feeling of the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater) but a Member of Parliament, if I may say with respect to the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green, has to have something as well as feeling. He has a right to have feelings but he really has the right and the duty to exercise his thought, his judgment and his consideration. With great respect, my hon. Friend did not do so. I know all about Bethnal Green and about Stepney and the agitation there. I know all about my own borough of Hackney where we have had trouble from these people, and where also there is a big Jewish population. I understand it. It was all beastly; I had to handle it. As Secretary to the London Labour Party I had to get my people together and we had to take counsel as to how to deal with it, and I will tell the House this, that of all the people who, here and in every other country of the world, have made a mess of anti-Fascist activity, it is the Communist Party. That is true. In Germany they built up their own private army, and there were two or more private armies in Germany.
§ Mr. Morrison
It must be faced. This is historical fact, and the failing of the Weimar Republic was that it did not prohibit all these private armies. We were on the verge of having two private armies. The Mosley Fascist army existed here. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about John Beckett."] Yes, I know about John Beckett. The Fascists were organising their private army. The Communists were then proceeding to organise a private army against Fascists. My Labour people were asked to come in jointly with the Communist private army. I said, "Keep out of it. This is a job for the State, for the Home Office." At one Labour Party Conference I attacked with great vehemence the present Lord Chancellor, and later—I do not say it was my doing—there came into operation the Public Order Act which prohibited political uniforms and political [...]arches. And who fought for that Act on this House?
§ Mr. Morrison
It is interesting to recall that from the Front Bench opposite on behalf of the Labour Party I fought for that Bill. The hon. Member for West Fife said it was a bad Bill. What was he afraid of? He was afraid that a Bill which was designed to smash the Fascists might be used against the Communist Party. It was criticised by Labour Members. I had to fight a tussle with them just as my right hon. Friend opposite sometimes has to do. But the Bill did the trick. It smashed that private army, and I believe commenced the undermining of Fascism in this country. But the Communist Party was wrong. The Labour Left Wing was wrong, as it so often it. The right course was to break this private army and to finish it off. Directly I had some to the decision to suspend the Order subject to conditions it was right to implement it. I thought that directly I was clear in my mind what my duty was I had better do it. Some people say that I ought to have waited until the House met. Perhaps they are right, but there was nothing the House could do about it and there is nothing it can do about it now. It can fire me, but I cannot do anything about this case. If I, in pursuance of the will of the House, were to re-detain Sir Oswald Mosley he could go 472 to the High Court and get an order quashing the re-detention because it would be clear that the Home Secretary was doing not what he thought he had reasonable cause to believe right but what the House of Commons had unreasonable cause to believe right. I am sorry. I do not want to insult the House. That is the last thing I want to do. But there is nothing the House can do about it. The Regulation conferred the power upon me, and all the House can do is to fire me or change the Regulation. Therefore, there was no point in waiting.
It is asked whether there have been any other cases. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) spoke I interrupted because I felt a bit hurt. We have known each other for a long time, we have not always agreed and sometimes we have been in conflict on certain things. But I felt it a bit, because I thought he was suggesting that I had been influenced by social influences. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends opposite know that I do not give twopence for the influences of the upper classes. I am not likely to be influenced by anybody on a matter of this kind. I have been in public life for a long time and I believe I am still uncorrupted. At any rate, I hope so. I would be very miserable if anybody in the House thought that I was susceptible to the upper classes and an aristocratic régime.I am the captain of my soul.I will go on being that and when I am not, I hope I will be thrown out of public life. It is not true that this was the only case. There was the case of John Beckett in connection with which a number of people approached me, not only on this side but in other parts of the House as well, to let him out. His was a health case. John Beckett is a man I have known since 1920. He was a troublesome Left Wing member of the Hackney Borough Council when I was its leader. He is not a wealthy person: he is a proletarian gone wrong. He is what I would call a political organiser and lives as best he can. But he is not rich. Another case concerned a sheet metal worker. I forget what they are being paid now—I expect they are doing pretty well at the moment—but certainly this man was not in the millionaire class. Another fellow was, at one time, in the silk trade and 473 appears to have been a stoker before detention. Therefore, there have been other cases, some of them concerning poor people.
As to enemy aliens, I hesitate to say how many have been liberated on health grounds but I hope they have all been properly liberated on those grounds. There was the case of John Syme, well known to hon. Members and certainly well known to my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). The case will be well known to him, as a former Home Secretary, not necessarily on this point, as it will be to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer as there has been plenty of trouble about him. In this case permission was sought by his friends to bring in high, independent, medical men. This was permitted. I assure the House that there was nothing exceptional about the case we are discussing except that it is perfectly true that Mosley may have been able to spend more money than others. Well, I cannot alter the social system by Defence Regulation, tempting as it may be. I can assure the House that I have given no exceptional facilities to this man and there is no reason why I should have done so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did they all have four roomed flats?"] Really, my hon. Friend is not doing justice to himself. Mosley was in a prison establishment and the rooms were prison cells. It is true that they brought in some furniture. Am I to say under 18B that you must not have furniture? Really I cannot do that. This talk about flats is a bit beside the point. I dare say they were comfortable, even as comfortable as some of us, but it had nothing to do with the prison authorities affording them luxurious conditions.
The responsibility for the decision in the individual case is firmly placed upon the Home Secretary and not on Parliament. It is not placed on the newspaper Press. The great bulk of the provincial Press, as far as I can see, has been very level-headed and sensible and so has a high proportion of the London Press. But there are certain newspapers which have rather lost their heads. There is a Sunday paper called "Reynolds" which mystifies me. It seems to take its policy from the Communist party and to get its money from the Co-ops., of which I am a humble member. "Reynolds" news- 474 paper does not like the Labour party and does not like me, and it is entitled to its view, but it has been rather hysterical. The "Spectator," which is, I understand, a Conservative weekly review—[HON. MEMBERS: "Liberal."]—attacked me about the brutality of 18B, and the "News Chronicle" is amazing. It pursued me about 18B and was in alliance with the hon. Members for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and Cleveland (Commander Bower) and supported them. It almost accused me of having abandoned every Liberal principle, and now it switches right round and joins the mob, and even the "Star," which used to be called "the naughty little beting sister of the 'Daily News,'" has done the same thing. It may be the case that Liberalism is dead in Bouverie Street. By Liberalism I mean Liberalism in its highest sense. It appears to be dead in Bouverie Street but I am proud to say it still survives in the British Home Office.
It could not be settled by the Press, it could not be settled by card votes, it could not be settled by mass meetings or deputations, it could not be settled by public opinion or by foreign opinion. It had to be settled by the Secretary of State in accordance with decisions of this House and in accordance with the spirit in which the House wanted the Regulation administered and in accordance with the terms of the Order itself. A lot of people have walked round the clock on this. This Regulation was denounced by the Communist party earlier on.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes. I wish I had time to go into it. It was denounced by the National Council of Civil Liberties. That is an amazing organisation. They switched right round, and so did a lot of other people. I had to make this decision, and I have made it, right or wrong—I believe rightly. I made it conscientiously, knowing that it would be unpopular. A man cannot be more conscientious than when he knows that the decision that he is going to make is going to cause him a lot of unpopularity. I gave it sincerely, and I say that if I went back to that time a fortnight ago when I sat in my chair at the Home Office, and in the light of all the abuse I have had, the efforts against me in my constituency, the efforts against me within the Labour movement and outside, 475 and had to make that decision again, I would say that I would sooner go through that, sooner go through the misery I have gone through than make a decision that was dishonest, which would leave me in-
|Division No. 1.||AYES.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Gallacher, W.||Parker, J.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Gluckstein, Lieut.-Col. L. H.||Poole, Captain C. C.|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbe Vale)||Grenfell, D. R.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Guy, W. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hayday, A.||Silkin, L.|
|Cape, T.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Chater, D.||Kendall, W. D.||Sloan, A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Colindridge, F.||Lipson, D. L.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Loverseed, J. E.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. la. T.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||McGhee, H. G.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Davies, S. D. (Merthyr)||McGovern, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mack, J. D.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||McKinlay, A. S.||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Dunn, E.||Maxton, J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwelty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Mr. Woods and Mr. Frankel.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Caine, G. R. Hall||Fermoy, Lord|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Foot, D. M.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cary, R. A.||Fox, Flight-Lieut. Sir G. W. G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Furness, Major S. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Charleton, H. C.||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.|
|Apsley, Lady||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Gammans, Capt. L. D.|
|Assheton, R.||Cluse, W. S.||Garro Jones, G. M.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Gates, Major E. E.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cobb, Captain E. C.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Colegate, W. A.||Gibbins, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T. R. A. M. (N'flk, N.)||Gibson, Sir C. G.|
|Barr, J.||Cooks, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gledhill, G.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cooper, Rt. Hon. A. Duff||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Graham, Capt. A. C.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.|
|Beech, F. W.||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Culverwell, C. T.||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Gretton, J. F.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Davison, Sir W. H.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Benson, G.||De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Grigg, Rt. Hon. Sir P. J. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Denville, Alfred||Groves, T. E.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Drews, C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Hannah, I. C.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Eccles, D. M.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.|
|Bread, F. A.||Ede, J. C.||Harvey, T. E.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Heilgers, Major F. F. A.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Ellis, Sir G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Elliston, Captain G. S.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Emery, J. F.||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Bull, B. B.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Higgs, W. F.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Burden, T. W.||Etherton, Ralph||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Holdsworth, H.|
§ more unhappy than I have ever been since this decision was made.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 62; Noes, 327.
|Holmes, J. S.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Howitt, Dr. A. S.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Hughes, H. Meclwyn||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Commander N. J.||Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Hunter, T.||Mort, D. L.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Muff, G.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Murray, Sir D. K. (Midlothian, N.)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Stokes, R. R.|
|James, Win.-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|James, Admiral Sir W. (Porls'th, N.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.||Nield, Major B. E.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray & Nairn)|
|Jewson, P. W.||Nunn, W.||Srudholme, Captain H. G.|
|John, W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hn. T. (St'l'g & C'km'n)||Owen, Major G.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Johnstone, Rt. Hon. H. (Mid'sbro W.)||Paling, W.||Summers, G. S.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Peat, C. U.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Keir, Mrs. Cazalet||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Peto, Major B. A. J.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thorneycroft, Maj. G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Key, C. W.||Pilkington, Captain R. A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Kimball, Major L.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Tinker, J. J.|
|King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Touche, G. C.|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Turton, R. H.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Price, M. P.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Lancastor, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Procter, Major H. A.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Purbrick, R.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Leach, W.||Pym, L. R.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lewis, O.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Rankin, Sir R.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Ladywood)||Roberts, W.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (Mitcham)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Mabane, W.||Ross Taylor, W.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|McAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rowlands, G.||Wilmot, John|
|McCallum, Major D.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Windsor, W.|
|McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Salt, E. W.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|MacLaren, A.||Sandys, E. D.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C. (York)|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Savory, Professor D. L.||Woodburn, A.|
|Manningham-Buller, Major R. E.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Woolley, Major W. E.|
|Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Wragg, H.|
|Marsden, Captain A.||Selley, H. R.||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodwin)|
|Martin, J. H.||Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Wright, Group Capt, J. (Erdington)|
|Mathers, G.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||York, Major C.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Shephard, S.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Mitchell, Colonel H. P.||Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Simmonds, O. E.||Mr. Boutton and Capt. McEwen.|
|Montague, F.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.