§ Mr. Driberg
I beg to ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely,the action of the Chief Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis in taking extraordinary measures to prevent all demonstrations, however peaceful, during the State visit of the King and Queen of the Hellenes and the refusal of the Government to intervene in order to safeguard the ordinary rights of peaceful demonstration.I should like to make three brief points in support of this submission.
First, the matter is definite. It is not concerned with general policy such as might be covered by the Public Order Bill. It is a specific example of the exercise of powers under the existing law contrary to an assurance given by the Prime Minister to this House.
Secondly, the matter is urgent. The visit referred to is now taking place, but this matter could not have been raised before since the full extent of the police restrictions was announced only last evening.
Thirdly, it is clearly of public importance, except to those who do not think that the right of peaceful demonstration is an important part of our civil liberties; and it is a matter which the Prime Minister himself thought of sufficient importance for him to send a special reminder about it to the Greek Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) asks leave to move the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public important, namely,the action of the Chief Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis in taking extraordinary measures to prevent all demonstrations, however peaceful, during the State visit of the King and Queen of the Hellenes and the refusal of the Government to intervene in order to safeguard the ordinary rights of peaceful demonstration.It is not within my power to leave that to the House. It is not within the Standing Order, in my view.
§ Mr. Driberg
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you be good enough, 1049 for the guidance of the House and for future reference, to indicate the reasons why this falls without the Standing Order? I have already submitted to you that this is definite, that it is urgent and that it is of public importance. I cannot see that it is not all three.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman cannot see it, there is an issue between us. One does not by calling these measures extraordinary make them for the purpose of the Standing Order anything but an instance of the ordinary administration of the law. If the hon. Gentleman refers to Erskine May he will find a case where the police stopped a demonstration going over one of the bridges, and my predecessor dealt with it—I will not bother to give the hon. Gentleman the reference at the moment because he will not want it—exactly on this principle. I do not feel in any doubt about it.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. When it is said that this is the ordinary administration of the law, is there any distinction to be drawn between the ordinary administration of the law in which the courts may play a part and a purely administrative act of this kind for which the Police Commissioner is directly responsible to the Home Secretary? This surely, with respect, does not come within the definition of the ordinary course of the law so as not to be an administrative act for which this House must take responsibility and in which the rights of this House ought not to be preserved.
§ Mr. Speaker
Apart from precedent, it might be possible to argue that view, but if the hon. Gentleman looks at page 372 of the current edition of Erskine May he will find a note in these terms:The 'ordinary administration of the law' meant in the earliest cases was rather the administration of justice; i.e. trial and punishment.That is the note contrasting it with the current position, on which I have to stand.