HC Deb 04 May 1966 vol 727 cc1624-7
39. Mr. Hunt

asked the Attorney-General whether he proposes to institute proceedings under Section 6 of the Race Relations Act, 1965, against the Racial Preservation Society as publishers of the periodical, The British Independent.

The Solicitor-General

My right hon. and learned Friend has consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions about the spring edition of this Periodical, and they have come to the conclusion that criminal proceedings under the Race Relations Act would not be justified in respect of this publication.

Mr. Hunt

Is the Solicitor-General aware that that reply will cause great disappointment to Members of the House? Is he aware that this publication is widely distributed to Members of the House and others? Have we not reached an absurd situation when legislation passed by the House to deal with incitement to racial hatred is now found to be inadequate to stop the dissemination of this kind of racialist filth?

The Solicitor-General

What my right hon. and learned Friend and the Director have to consider is not whether a particular publication is open to objection, but whether it comes within the precise terms of the Race Relations Act. My right hon. and learned Friend and the Director were satisfied in respect of this particular number of this publication—that was the document referred to them—that criminal proceedings would not be justified.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Solicitor-General therefore seek to amend the Race Relations Act as a matter of urgency to ensure that publications of this obnoxious nature which have given great offence to many hon. Members are covered?

The Solicitor-General

There will always be obnoxious publications which do not come within the ambit of the criminal law.

41. Mr. Freeson

asked the Attorney-General if he will instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute proceedings against leaders of the British Nazi Party, under the Race Relations Act, as a result of their incitements to violence and racial hatred.

The Solicitor-General

No. In my opinion, there is not at present sufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings under the Race Relations Act against the leaders of the British Nazi Party.

Mr. Freeson

Is not this really nonsense? The police have agreed in court, the defendants agreed in court, and the court accepted—

Hon. Members


Mr. Freeson

Did not the court accept police evidence, the defendants' evidence—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Freeson

Did not the court accept the police evidence and defendants' evidence that there had been incitement to arson against synagogues in this country which resulted in their being burned down? If the court accepted it, why cannot my hon. and learned Friend accept it?

The Solicitor-General

What has to be considered here is whether there was incitement to violence and racial hatred within the meaning of the Race Relations Act. This matter has been very fully considered, and I give it as my opinion, having looked at the matters to which my hon. Friend refers, that there is not sufficient evidence at the present time to justify proceedings.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order. Is another convention of the House being violated, Mr. Speaker, now that we see the second or P.P.S. bench attacking the Front Bench?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that hon. Members will not waste time at Question Time with ridiculous points of order.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my hon. and learned Friend indicate what is the nature of the evidence which would be required before the Attorney-General would take any action? Why are the Government so coy, so timid, so lacking in courage, in this particular matter?

The Solicitor-General

In any case where it is clear that Section 6 of the Race Relations Act has been infringed, there will be no hesitation in instituting criminal proceedings.

Dr. David Kerr

Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that, if the facts outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) do not justify action, there is a clear case for amending the Race Relations Act?

Mr. Braine

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman take note of the very deep feeling on this subject on both sides of the House that British citizens and property should be treated in this way? Would he consult his right hon. Friends to see whether some appropriate action can be taken? The House is very angry about this.

The Solicitor-General

I fully appreciate and sympathise with the feelings on both sides of the House. After all, I was one of those who helped to secure the passage of the Race Relations Bill through the House. Whenever we find a case where we think a prosecution is justified, a prosecution will follow. However, it must inevitably happen that there are expressions from which many of us would dissent, but which do not come within the ambit of this Statute?

Mr. Abse

Is the Solicitor-General aware that, apart from the Race Relations Act, when evidence is put before a court that people are inciting others to burn down synagogues the existing criminal law can deal with it? If the Race Relations Act is so feeble, would not my hon. and learned Friend review the evidence now to see whether, with synagogues and individuals being dealt with in the way which it is abundantly clear is happening, those responsible can be dealt with under the existing criminal law?

The Solicitor-General

I can only say that, where in our view there is evidence to justify a prosecution, a prosecution will certainly follow.

Mr. Freeson

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies which we have had this afternoon, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Forward to