HC Deb 07 August 1947 vol 441 cc1611-2
2. Mr. Piratin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the estimate of the size of the crowd at the meeting of the British League of Ex-Service men at Ridley Road, Hackney, on 13th July; and why was it necessary to maintain on duty 35 police officers for this meeting.

Mr. Ede

The police estimate that about 400 people were present at the meeting. The number of police engaged throughout the meeting was 25 and not 35: 10 additional police were needed after some disturbance had occurred. I do not regard the number as excessive.

Mr. Piratin

Will the Home Secretary answer the second part of the Question, and say what was the necessity for maintaining this number of police? Is he further aware that within a few days of this meeting being held there was another meeting, convened by the Association of Jewish Ex-Service men, held on about the same spot, which was stopped by the police, who said that they feared a breach of privilege would take place? [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but as we have had three reports in one week from the Committee of Privileges, one's head is full of them. May I come back to my question? The police claimed on that occasion that they feared a breach of the peace, and, therefore, they closed down the meet- ing. How is it they can take one action in one case and another action in another case?

Mr. Ede

I do not regard the number of police engaged at the meeting mentioned in the original Question as being out of proportion to the risks that were being run by the police. It is the duty of the police to prevent, if possible, a breach of the peace and not to act only after it has occurred. With regard to the other meeting, I had no notice from the hon. Gentleman that he was going to raise it, and therefore, I cannot answer the question which he has put to me. The police have to deal with each situation that arises in the light of the circumstances that exist at the particular moment.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Was not the second meeting a Communist meeting, and therefore very likely to create a disturbance of the peace?

Mr. Ede

In moments of public excitement meetings of any political party may lead to a breach of the peace, and it is the duty of the police to see that breaches of the peace are prevented.

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