HC Deb 20 October 1949 vol 468 cc742-3
30. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why an estimated crowd of 4,000 men was permitted to block Throgmorton Street on Monday, 19th September; what prosecutions are pending for obstruction; and why the police failed to take effective steps to deal with the situation.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I have no direct responsibility for police arrangements in the City of London, but, in reply to inquiries made of him the Commissioner of Police for the City informs me that the crowd at its peak did not exceed 1,500 persons including sightseers and caused no serious inconvenience to the general public. The Commissioner informs me that the situation did not call for any drastic action by the police who, in his view, carried out their duties adequately, and that no prosecutions are pending for obstruction.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his reply will cause great disappointment to millions of workers who will naturally feel that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor? Will he consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to endeavouring to collect, in additional taxation on the ill-gotten gains they made that day, what we think ought to have been collected in the police court?

Mr. Ede

I cannot help thinking that it is impossible for me to do other than get the information from the Commissioner of Police. I have no power to instruct him, and I have given the House faithfully the reply he gave to me.

Major Guy Lloyd

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many representatives of the Bank of England were in this crowd?

Mr. C. Poole

Would not the Home Secretary have been rather amazed if the Commissioner of Police had made any other statement than that? Does not he consider the diversion of traffic something in the nature of an inconvenience to people who desired to use this street?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I have every confidence in the Commissioner of Police for the City of London to give me truthful replies to the questions put to him.

Brigadier Medlicott

As the effect of the law on that day is understood to be that the Stock Exchange should be closed, would not it have been a good thing in the administration of the law that it should in fact have remained closed?

Mr. Ede

As I understand it the Stock Exchange was closed, but certain people, some of whom I understand normally do business inside the Stock Exchange, met outside. If there was any infraction of the law it was not an infraction of the law which I am called upon to deal with.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would my right hon. Friend ask the Commissioner of Police, if in his opinion 1,500 people collected on the corner of the street caused no obstruction or inconvenience to anybody, what is the limit to the number of people on the corner of the street which, in his opinion, would cause some inconvenience?

Mr. Ede

I am quite sure my hon. Friend is aware that the question of fact whether there is an obstruction or not is a matter for the court and not for an officer of police.

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