§ 16. Mr. Freeson
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to institute legal proceedings against members of the British Nazi Party, the British National Party, the Greater Britain Movement and the Nazi International who have participated in the daubing of synagogues, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and the fly-posting of Fascist and racialist leaflets on property in parts of London and other cities, the names and description of which have been passed to the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police by the hon. Member for Willesden, East and copies of which have been submitted to the Minister.
§ Mr. George Thomas
The police institute proceedings in suitable cases where adequate evidence is available in time to enable action to be taken. But in this case the documents were supplied by my hon. Friend after the expiration of the statutory time limit for the institution of proceedings.
§ Mr. Freeson
That may be so, but may I ask my hon. Friend to bear closely in mind that not only is this situation persisting in London and in other cities, but that it is getting worse? Will he bear in mind that synagogues are being burnt out, shop windows are being smashed and people are being attacked and beaten up by the thugs belonging to these kinds of organisations and that there is growing concern in certain localities in London and elsewhere that the situation is out of control by the local authorities?
§ Mr. Thomas
I know that the whole House views with contempt the activities of people who desecrate religious places. The evidence available to me from the 1653 Metropolitan Police is that there is not a greater number of offences committed against synagogues than against other places of divine worship. There is no evidence of a marked intensification of Fascist and Nazi activity in our land at the present time. That is the information which is at my disposal. Last year, the police proceeded against 18 Fascists and in the first quarter this year, it is true, they have proceded against 12.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
Does the list of detestable activities given in the Question include any which will become offences under the Race Relations Bill but which are not offences at the present time?
§ Mr. Thomas
The Question deals with offences at the present time—in the main, the daubing of walls and billposting. These are summary offences that can be proceeded with only if the evidence is presented within six months.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Has my hon. Friend seen leaflets which have been sent to every hon. Member which are calculated to cause a breach of the peace? Are we to understand that we have to wait for a breach of the peace before action is taken? For example, if I am attacked by one of these persons and punch him on the jaw, as I am likely to do, despite my venerable age, am I to understand that only on such an occasion will action be taken against some Nazi—or will it be taken against me?
§ Mr. Thomas
My right hon. Friend has drawn attention to a most offensive leaflet which right hon. and hon. Members have received. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not all of them."] Perhaps there has been selective posting. This is a serious matter. I want my right hon. Friend and the House to know that my right hon. and learned Friend and all of us in the Home Office take this matter seriously, and I believe that the Metropolitan Police take it seriously also. We will keep a very close watch. I assure my right hon. Friend that I will look further into the matter of the leaflet to which he has drawn attention.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
On a point of order. I do not want to delay Question Time, Mr. Speaker, but as these letters 1654 which hon. Members have received threaten them with violence if they support the Race Relations Bill and state that they will be brought to trial by these people, and so on, for this crime, does not this constitute some kind of offence against this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member likes to make a complaint of breach of Privilege, I will consider it in due course, but not now.