HC Deb 25 February 1958 vol 583 cc177-8
7 and 9. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Works ([...]) why he has banned a meeting under the auspices of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday which is to start a four-day march to Aldermaston led by clergymen and Members of Parliament;

(2) if he will make public the regulations issued by his Department governing the use of Trafalgar Square for meetings.

Mr. Molson

The reason why permission for holding this meeting was not given was that for the past 65 years it has been the policy of my Department generally to limit the holding of meetings in Trafalgar Square to Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. I have now reconsidered the matter and have come to the conclusion that, since the meeting would have been permitted had it been proposed to hold it on a Sunday, it would be illogical to continue to withhold consent for it on Good Friday. If the organisers care to get in touch with my Department, arrangements will be made accordingly. No detailed regulations have been issued covering assemblies in the Square, but under the Trafalgar Square Regulations, 1952, my permission is required for an assembly to take place.

Mr. Allaun

I am sure that that decision will be generally welcomed, and I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for it.

Sir P. Agnew

Is.the Minister aware that this change of a long-established practice on his part, involving as it does a change applicable to a particular day in the year, will cause consternation among many people?

Mr. Molson

My hon. Friend must realise that in the past there has been a ban upon all meetings, including religious meetings. My Department has refused permission to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a religious demonstration on Good Friday, 1915, and to the Rural Dean of Westminster on Good Friday, 1942. I cannot feel that there is any justification for allowing meetings which obtain my consent to be held on other Holy Days in the year and to draw this distinction on Easter Sunday and Good Friday.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Is the Minister aware that the character of this demonstration will be very different from that of the ordinary political demonstration and will be most consistent with the nature of Good Friday?

Mr. Molson

It has never been the intention that my powers to allow or disallow a meeting in Trafalgar Square should be used as some kind of censorship upon the kind of meeting held. Because this meeting would have been permitted on a Sunday, or even Easter Sunday, I did not feel that the fact that Good Friday is technically not a Bank Holiday was a sufficient reason for continuing the ban.

Mr. Fell

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.