HC Deb 01 November 1956 vol 558 cc1744-52

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. R. Thompson.]

10.34 p.m.

Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)

I wish to raise a matter on the Adjournment. I am interested to know whether the Commissioner of Police has had any special instructions this evening.

I understand that quite a few people have been in the vicinity of the House. I have here a card which is punctured "10 p.m.", and I have seen the two people named on it. A girl was nearly crushed by a police horse on the pavement. A young man who went to her rescue, to pull her away from the horse, has been thrown over the wall and beaten up by the police.

Having regard to the seriousness of today's debate and also to the fact that it may have attracted a large number of people to this House—and I understand that a large number have also been kept out of the House—it appears to me to be a most serious position when constituents are treated in this manner. I am therefore asking that something be done immediately in order to correct the position, which I understand has become so bad that people have been driven off the pavements and other public places.

It is not in the interests of this House for the people of this country, who are here on an occasion when we have vital national interests at stake, to be treated in this fashion. I should like to know what we are prepared to do about it.

10.36 p.m.

Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Speaker

It is not a point of order. The hon. Member was speaking on the Motion for the adjournment. Mr. Leather.

Mr. Leather

I have just been outside and have seen the incident to which the hon. Member has referred. I was there, until the Divisions began, for nearly half an hour, paying some attention to what went on. I did not see a group of anxious and earnest constituents desperately trying to get into this House to present their views to their Members; I saw a large number of young people out to demonstrate and make as much noise and trouble as they could. In every incident I saw the police were exercising the most extraordinary restraint in view of the very great provocation of a large number of people, who were nearly all very youthful and who were clearly, both by the banners they carried and the things they said, organised Communist groups who were there to make trouble.

10.37 p.m.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

I heard of this incident, and I want to say that at a time when people on the other side of the House are voting away the lives of the ordinary working-class people, every one of them here can be branded as a murderer of every working-class boy who dies. When that sort of thing is happening here—[Interruption]. I say that they are murderers, every one of them.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter seems to have extended itself somewhat from the matter raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. (George Craddock), on the Motion for the Adjournment. I would remind the hon. Lady that the word "murderer" is forbidden in this House.

Hon. Members


Mrs. Braddock

I will withdraw the word "murderers" and say "slayers." That is not out of order.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

Is the hon. Lady entitled to call me a slayer? She has already called me a murderer.

Mr. Speaker

I do not know quite what it means. It may run from anything as harmless as an insecticide to anything else. Has the hon. Lady finished what she has to say?

Mrs. Braddock

Will you tell hon. Members opposite to be quiet. Mr. Speaker? I cannot hear what you are saying.

Mr. Speaker

Has the hon. Lady finished?

Mrs. Braddock

No, I have not. I was saying that the younger people in this country who will have to bear the burden of what has been decided tonight by old people who will not be asked to go to Egypt—[Interruption]. Hon. Members opposite should be ashamed of themselves. They are a lot of slayers and murderers.

Mr. Speaker

It is out of order to continue the main business of the day on the Motion for the Adjournment. The hon. Member for Bradford, South raised a matter about police action, and that is what we have before us at the moment.

Mrs. Braddock

That is what I was referring to.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

On a point of order. You have just ruled. Mr. Speaker, that the word "murderer" shall not be used in this House by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). The hon. Lady has again repeated the same expression about hon. Members on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I heard the hon. Lady withdraw it.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I should like to say a few words in comment on the remarks made by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). He told us that he had been out of the House for some half-hour before the Division. He had evidently decided not to listen to the Lord Privy Seal, though none of us who did listen to the right hon. Gentleman would blame him for that decision.

I particularly wish to comment on the hon. Gentleman's reference to the fact—I do not know whether it was correct; I was not there myself—that most of the people outside were youthful. I have no wish to transgress the Ruling you have just given. Mr. Speaker, but, since the hon. Gentleman has referred to that fact, I think we ought to consider that this House, from time to time, has to take decisions which affect very seriously the lives of young people who are not yet qualified to vote. Whatever the facts of the matter may be, I think it is unfortunate that there should have been the suggestion in the hon. Gentleman's speech that because these people were youthful it did not matter how they were treated. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] If that was not the implication, then there was no point in the hon. Gentleman referring to their age at all.

Most of us who were not there do not know what the actual facts are, but I would draw the attention of the House and that of the Home Secretary to the fact that my hon. Friend who raised this matter had interviewed two of the people Who had suffered in these disturbances, and that they were respectable, decent people. It is not a sufficient answer for the hon. Member for Somerset, North to say first that they were young and then to make an assumption about their political opinions for which he has no evidence at all.

Mr. Leather

The hon. Gentleman has made two points, the first regarding youth. There was certainly no question—

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

Is it in order. Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) to make a second speech?

Mr. Speaker

I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has finished his speech. If he has given way, the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) is in order.

Mr. Leather

I was certainly under the impression that the hon. Gentleman, having attacked me, had given way to allow me to make an explanation, which is a matter of common courtesy in this House.

As far as the political views of these people are concerned, the posters and the slogans being shouted, and the fact that there were people selling the Daily Worker, certainly left one in no doubt as to what their political views were. So far as the question of their youth is concerned, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that there are many of us on this side of the House who are still young enough to be on the Reserve.

Mrs. Braddock

The sooner such hon. Members opposite are called up the better.

Mr. Stewart

If the hon. Gentleman imagines that membership of the Reserve is confined to people on his side of the House, it is time he thought again.

The hon. Gentleman is apparently making the assumption that because some of the people he saw outside the House may have been Communists, therefore all of them were. One might as well assume that because he was there all were Conservatives. The fact is that by a stupid and tendentious speech the hon. Gentleman has tried to obscure a specific matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) of the maltreatment of two people who appeared to him to be decent and respectable citizens. We trust that the Home Secretary will have something to say about it.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Surely this is more than an ordinary Adjournment debate, because the situation which has been reported by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock)—I have no knowledge at all of the facts—raises two quite separate issues. One is a matter about which we should expect the Home Secretary to make some remarks. The other is a matter which surely concerns you. Mr. Speaker, because it is governed by the Sessional Order of the House, in which the House orders the Commismissioner of Police to keep open the streets of the Metropolis leading to Westminster for the purpose of maintaining the privileges of Parliament.

As I understand, the reason the roads to the Palace of Westminster are to be kept open is not only so that hon. Members may come to the House, but also that their constituents may come to the House. I do not make any distinction in this matter between Communists and non-Communists. The only point which has not been raised is that Communists have as much right to come to the House to see their Members of Parliament as non-Communists. Moreover, one of the best ways to convert Communists and persuade them to give up Communism is to show that the machinery of Parliamentary democracy provides a privilege which they cannot have under their own system.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will not be content simply to let the Home Secretary reply, but that you will lay down a ruling stating what must be done by the Commissioner of Police in carrying out the Sessional Order.

Mr. Speaker

I would point out to the hon. Member that I did not lay down the Sessional Order. The House does that and not I.

10.47 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

In 1931, I raised a matter in this House similar to that which has now been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock). On that occasion there were crowds outside this House attempting to create political agitation, and on that occasion undue force was used to suppress those crowds. It is rather a commentary on the present political situation that history appears to be repeating itself, and that the people are so enraged at the actions of the Government that they have to demonstrate.

The point I wish to raise with the Home Secretary is whether the free British people have the right to demonstrate, whether they have the right to congregate in order to express their dissatisfaction with the Government's policy so far as Egypt is concerned. Are we to take it from the remarks of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) that they could not have been allowed to come to the House because they were shouting slogans, that because they were shouting slogans they must be Communists and that because they were Communists it was right and proper for them to be ill-treated by the police?

Whatever their political convictions, they are citizens of this country, and, as such, have a right of access to this House. We should have a reassurance from the Home Secretary. This situation is likely to continue so long as this Government are in power. People are likely to be agitating as long as British boys and men are to be sacrificed for the interests of British capitalism. We should have an assurance from the Home Secretary that he will not use unduly the force of the police to prevent young people, who are likely to be killed in Egypt in a few weeks, from coming to see their Member of Parliament before they die.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Perhaps we might now, as a matter of courtesy to the House, hear from the Home Secretary whether he will make inquiries into the statements that have been made.

10.51 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

As a matter of fact, I saw this demonstration myself. I watched it for 20 minutes. There were, I should say, about 200 people. If they were constituents they must have been extraordinarily well-rehearsed, because they had two slogans the whole time, "We want peace", which is quite unexceptionable, and "Eden must go" to which I object very strongly.

Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield. Brightside)

That is only a sign of intelligence.

Major Lloyd-George

Perhaps I should have disclosed my interest before I said that I had watched the thing.

Of course, as I always do, I will look into these complaints. No traffic was stopped during the whole of these proceedings. If the constituents had wanted to come to the House by bus they could have dropped off as near to the House as they wanted, because no bus or cab was stopped. These people were moved very quietly away, as it is the duty of the police to do. I watched the mounted police. If something happened which I did not see I shall be only too glad, as I always am, to look into it. The last time I heard this kind of complaint I found that the only two casualties were two police officers.

Mr. Griffiths

We thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his answer. I am sure that my hon. Friend can follow the matter up by Question in the House, when the Home Secretary has had time to make inquiries. We are much obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Adjourned accordingly at eight minutes to Eleven o'clock.