HC Deb 27 November 1947 vol 444 cc2115-6
60. Mr. Sydney Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the case of Rex v. Caunt in which an incitement to ostracise all Jews was held by a jury, after a direction by Mr. Justice Birkett, not to amount to seditious libel; and whether he will recommend amending legislation to make such incitements illegal.

66. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether in view of the decision in the case of Rex v. Caunt, he is prepared to consider introducing legislation which will afford communities similar protection to that now given to individuals from libel and slander, which in the case of communities is calculated to create disunity between different sections of the general public and to excite hostility against the community so libelled or slandered.

Mr. Ede

I would refer my hon. Friends to the reply given on 20th November, 1947, to a Question by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin).

Mr. Silverman

Is it not the fact that in this case the defendant admitted in evidence that his purpose was to isolate a whole community from the rest of their fellow citizens; and is it not the case that the decision, having regard to that evidence, was in direct conflict with what everyone had previously supposed to be the law?

Mr. Ede

I am not allowed to criticise the action of the judge. I have asked for a full transcript because I have, so far, only seen newspaper reports of what occurred in the court. When I have seen the full transcript, I shall consult with my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and the Law Officers of the Crown, as to whether it is necessary to take any steps to bring the law into line with what most people thought it was.

Mr. Janner

Will my right hon. Friend expedite the investigation of this matter in consequence of its urgency?

Mr. Ede

I have not yet received the transcript. I have asked for it urgently. As soon as I receive it, no time will be lost.