HC Deb 26 June 1947 vol 439 cc657-8
13. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to statements by the North London magistrate on Monday last, regretting that the police had not arrested a number of Fascist speakers as well as those who had disturbed their meeting and emphasising that the principle of free speech should not be used to create disorder or to insult a body of people; and what action is to be taken against persons or organisations indulging in the kind of provocation referred to by the magistrate.

Mr. Ede

It is an offence for a speaker at a public meeting to use threatening, abusive or insulting words whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, and it is one of the duties of the police to take proper action for the enforcement of this provision. I share the magistrate's desire that this duty shall be kept constantly in mind.

Mr. H. Hynd

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Fascists are now holding open-air meetings in Hackney in close proximity to a camp of German prisoners of war, and is that not something which ought to be stopped?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, I do not know that one can limit free speech in that way. It depends upon the words that are used, and if words are used that bring people within the penalties of the law, I trust the police will see that the offenders are brought in front of the appropriate tribunals.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Will the right hon. Gentleman bring the terms of this valuable Statute to the notice of the learned Attorney-General and the Minister of Fuel and Power?

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