§ 21. Mr. Brockway
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reply he has given to the letter sent to him by the chairman of the London Anti-Apartheid Committee on the subject of action by the Metropolitan Police in relation to peaceful protests outside South Africa House.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The writer has been informed that, as the responsibility for the preservation of public order and the prevention of obstruction rests, subject to the courts, with the police, a copy of his letter has been sent to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and that I cannot undertake to advise on questions of law, which can be determined authoritatively only by the courts.
§ Mr. Brockway
But is not the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the conduct of the Metropolitan Police, and is it not his duty, as Secretary of State for the Home Department, to protect public rights and liberties? Is he aware that fifteen persons were threatened with arrest when they were standing without posters on the steps of St. Martin's Church, which is private property, after obtaining permission from the Rector of St. Martin's? Is he aware that other persons who were on picket duty and obeying the regulation distance were similarly threatened with arrest? Will he look into the conduct of the Superintendent of E Division in this matter?
§ Mr. Butler
I have already called for a report and I am satisfied that the police have not exceeded their powers. If the hon. Gentleman has any further information, I will look into it again.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us have 1585 received complaints about incidents in which the police appear to have exceeded their authority, and will he please undertake to give this matter his personal attention?