HC Deb 01 July 1974 vol 876 cc25-6
57. Mr. Sedgemore

asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions for sedition have been brought during the past 12 months.

The Attorney-General

The Director of Public Prosecutions has brought none, nor, so far as I am aware, has anybody else.

Mr. Sedgemore

Has my right hon. and learned Friend read the speech that was made about two weeks ago by a leading Conservative politician, in which he likened miners and engineers to knifemen, garotters, blackmailers and thugs? Do not such statements, which are designed to stir up emnity and hatred between citizens, constitute sedition? In making those statements does not Lord Hailsham bring dishonour to the office which he once held?

The Attorney-General

I understand that the noble Lord was referring to the offence of treason in certain remarks he made a little while ago. He is entitled to his view, whether the matters to which he referred were or were not concerned with treason. I am not sure that I agree that they went so far.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not sedition or treason for members and supporters of terrorist movements and armies against us to parade and provoke in the streets of our cities?

Mr. Silkin

I do not think that I am qualified to give an answer to that question at short notice, particularly as it touches an area of extraordinary difficulty. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will get an answer if he consults his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers), who is now seated on the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Lawrence

Will the Attorney-General say why offences which in the ordinary way would fall to be dealt with under the Treason Act are not so indicted? Who takes the decision not to indict them, and what criteria are involved in taking that decision?

Mr. Silkin

That is a general question, which depends on an assumption the accuracy of which I am not aware. If the hon. Gentleman cares to send me details of any case that he has in mind I shall look into it.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is the Attorney-General aware that the speech by Lord Hailsham to which reference is made was an extensive survey of the problems facing the country today and, taken in its proper context and as a whole, was a reasoned defence of the importance of the rule of law and the sanctity of contract as a way of life in this country?

Mr. Silkin

I am sure that the House will be reassured by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. For my part, unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity of reading the speech as a whole, and these days I get very little time to read the newspapers at all.