HC Deb 10 October 1946 vol 427 cc330-2
5. Mr. Quintin Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on whose instructions the police failed to resist forcible entry at Fountain Court, of which they had been given prior warning, and what is the reason for the change of policy now shown.

Mr. Ede

There was no evidence that the original party of squatters at Fountain Court, of whose arrival the police had not been warned, entered by force, and the police on the spot acted on the view that the arrival of others to join the party already in possession did not constitute forcible entry. Later the Commissioner of Police issued an instruction to his officers to prevent any future misapprehension.

Mr. Hogg

Is it not a fact that much of the inconvenience and distress which this episode caused was originally occasioned by the impression that the authorities were favourable to this movement, and that the change only took place after a crisis had arisen? Will the right hon. Gentleman be sure in future that the attitude of the Government is made plain before an anticipated breach of the law?

Mr. Ede

It is well known that the policy of His Majesty's Government is against all breaches of the law, whether anticipated or otherwise. In this case, no notice was given by the persons intending to commit a breach of the law that they meant to do it.

Mr. Keeling

Do I understand the Home Secretary to deny the statement which was made several weeks ago by the chairman of the housing committee of the Westminster City Council that the police were informed in advance of the intention to squat?

Mr. Ede

I am informed, with regard to the particular case brought to my notice in this Question by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), that the police had no prior notice.

Mr. S. Silverman

If the Government get into any further difficulty about these illegal immigrants looking for a home, might they not consult General Barker in Palestine?

7. Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what instructions were given to the police after the initial occupation of Army hutted camps in respect of possible attempts to occupy requisitioned or private properties temporarily standing empty.

Mr. Ede

I have no authority to issue instructions to the police as to the measures they should take for the prevention of unlawful acts, and I am not normally informed of the instructions issued by chief constables to their forces. In the Metropolitan Police district the police were instructed by the Commissioner of Police on 10th September to do everything possible to prevent further forcible entry by squatters, and in view of the possibility that the tactics used in London might be copied by squatters in the provinces I drew the attention of chief constables to the action taken in London and to the importance of preventing forcible entry.

Mr. Walker-Smith

While appreciating the Home Secretary's point as to instruc- tions, may I ask if he does not consider that it would have been helpful on his part to have given advice to chief constables and police authorities after the initial occupation of Army huts, in order to forestall the difficulty which in fact arose by the occupation of requisitioned and private properties?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir There was no reason at that time to anticipate that the second and organised effort on these lines would take place. When it appeared likely that there might be a spread of this, I did issue a circular giving advice. Beyond that, I am not entitled to go.

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