§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a Second time. The object of the Bill is to prevent the teaching of sedition and blasphemy to children under sixteen years of age. May I make two points quite clear? The first is that this Bill in no way interferes with the teaching of Socialist or any other political propaganda that is conducted on constitutional lines. It aims only at stopping the teaching of sedition and blasphemy, which are illegal by the Common Law. The second point is that the Bill does not in any way touch propaganda amongst adults. Its sole and entire object is to protect children.
The teaching at which this Bill is aimed is of the regular type of Communist propaganda, common to all Communists in all countries, teaching which was described by Mr. Winston Churchill as the vile garbage of atheism and revolution. The reason for coupling atheistic and revolutionary teaching was explained not very long ago in a speech delivered by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, in the course of which he used these words:—The Communists realise that in the destruction of the Christian faith they break down one of the greatest barriers which stand for law and order.The outward object of this movement is to destroy the existing constitution and order of things, by force if necessary, and to establish a revolution on the Russian 159 model. For this purpose all religion, especially the Christian religion, is held up to contempt in language of revolting scurrility, and class hatred, the rebel spirit and the subversion of the constitution are preached. Private property is anathematised as robbery; owners of property are execrated as robbers and Judas Iscariots. The Russian Revolution is glorified; in their own words "Russia is the one bright spot." In one of the papers which are specially prepared and published for children, these words will be found:—Capitalism must be destroyed at all costs, even if it means the use of force. Force means hatred. We preach the gospel of hatred.May I say a very few words to your Lordships upon the origin of this movement? I need hardly say that it was not indigenous in this country. It is part and parcel of what was recently described by the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, in this House, as the active and pestilent propaganda against British institutions, British influence and the British Empire which has been going on unremittingly for years. The propaganda amongst children arose in this way and the facts that I am going to put forward are quoted, in substance, from the Communists' own publications. What happened was this. Soon after the establishment of the Communist International in March, 1918, it was recognised by the promoters of that movement that the conversion of youth to their tenets was useful and, indeed, necessary, as an accompaniment of the general Communist movement. Accordingly, a Young Communist International was established, and it declared itself to be a militant union of all revolutionary young organisations. That body held its first congress in Berlin in November, 1919. It issued a manifesto addressed to the proletariat youth of all nations.
That manifesto was published in Great Britain in English, and was published also in many other countries. It advocated the complete subversal of the existing order of things and for that purpose—I now quote the words they used—the use of every instrument of revolutionary class warfare, including armed resistance.That first congress was followed by a second congress of the Young Communist 160 International which was held in Germany in April, 1921, at which the members were urged (and again I quote their own words)—to prepare for the civil war, and not only to disorganise the armed forces of the capitalist States but to organise the proletariat forces for military purposes.The founders of that movement did not content themselves with mere resolutions; they took action. Young Communist Leagues were established in Great Britain and in about a hundred other countries. Communist Sunday schools were set up in this country, a very large and extensive literature was published and distributed amongst the children in the schools, and oral teaching on similar lines was given in these schools.
The literature, as I say, is a very extensive one. It consists mainly of publications in a cheap form, weekly or monthly papers, song books and pamphlets of many sorts. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with a list of these publications, which is a long one, but if any of your Lordships would care to see it I need hardly say that I should be most delighted to show you. Perhaps your Lordships would pardon me giving you some samples of the character of the literature which has been published. The difficulty I have had is to make a selection. The number of what appeared to me to be most pernicious and atrocious utterances in these pamphlets is enormous, and I have made a selection—as short a one as I can—in order to show your Lordships the kind of thing which it is sought to instil into the minds of these young children.
The general scheme was laid down in a pamphlet published in Glasgow in 1918, entitled, "How to conduct a Proletarian School," and these are three extracts from that pamphlet:—To teach the children the ideal of the revolution should be the primary object of a Socialist Sunday-school. All other teaching is of no avail.A boy and girl should be learned a real live, red-hot revolutionary speech to take about ten minutes.Our work is to train the children of the working class to accomplish the revolution.Let me also give your Lordships two short extracts from a pamphlet called "Ten Proletarian Maxims," published in 161 Glasgow in 1921. Here are two of them:—Thou shall not be a patriot, for a patriot is an international blackleg.Thou shalt teach revolution, for revolution means the abolition of the present political state and the end of capitalism and raising in their place an industrial republic.I might usefully here supplement their written explanation of a patriot by an earlier explanation which was given in a Communist school in London in April, 1922, when the teacher said this:—What is a patriot? A soldier, a sailor, a policeman, a boy scout, a girl guide. Never you become any of them. They dress you in fine uniform, and stuff you with tales of patriotism, and of soldiers—soldiers are trained to murder men of their own class. We were made to murder poor, peaceful Germans we had no grudge against.That is rather an indication of the source from which the teaching comes. They go on:—Comrades! prepare for the day of revolution, when the working classes will rise up and take by force what is theirs by right.And here is a quotation from a magazine called the Proletcult, "a magazine for boys and girls," published in May of last year. They give it in the form of a dialogue. The girl is generally the questioner—she is made a somewhat simple and innocent questioner—and the boy gives the Communist answer. The girls asks:—Would not the Government suppress your effort to establish Communism?Boy: Yes, I have no doubt they would, but we are preparing to meet force by force.Then, in a Communist school in London, in July, 1022, the teacher gave reasons for the murder of Sir Henry Wilson, that crime which shocked the world. A questioner asked the teacher:—Do I understand that you justify the killing of Sir Henry Wilson?Teacher: Yes, and there will be many more like him.I hesitate to bring before your Lord-ships a sample of what I will call the atrocious blasphemy which degrades these pages, but, perhaps, I might give your Lordships one or two, at most two, samples. These are taken from the pamphlet to which I referred just now, 162How to conduct a Proletarian School." These are the words used:—Christ on the Cross dying for sinners is so ridiculous that one despairs at the hold this superstition has on the minds of the working-class.Another article for children, in the Proletcult of October, 1923, contains this:—Did Jesus come from Heaven?—No.Was his Mother a Virgin?—No.Is the story about him true?—No.Who was his father?—Joseph, just in the ordinary way.Thus the story is a legend?—Of that there is no doubt.One, and only one, more sample of this type of thing, from another children's magazine, published in January of this year. The words are these:—'A little child shall lead them.' Lead whom? Why, lead the capitalist to slaughter.What child? Why, the child of the workers, who belongs to the children's section of the Young Communists' League.I have a mass of extracts from the so-called poems. I think they sometimes go the length of calling them Socialist hymns or proletarian hymns, which they publish. Many of them are contemptible to the last degree. Some of them, I think, are skilfully calculated to make an impression upon young children. I will read only one to your Lordships, but there are numbers of a similar character. This is taken from proletarian poems published in Glasgow in 1922. It is headed "A Child's Reading" and runs thus:—This yelling and shoutingAbout God and KingIs only thimble rigging,Like singing of a hymn;We want not their gloryNor their fiery hell;All we want we mean to takeAnd that's why 'Fat's' unwell.I should explain that "Fat" is the recognised description of the employer of labour in this literature. I do not think I ought to take up your Lordships' time by giving any more extracts of that character.
I have a somewhat remarkable document which, perhaps, your Lordships would excuse me producing. It is a poster of which some three samples were posted up in a Communist school at Southwark in London on April 2, 1922. T do not say there is anything directly 163 illegal about it, but it is interesting as showing the type of teaching which it is sought to impress upon young children. Here is the poster. It is headed Communist. The Communist is a paper published every week-end. At that time it was being sold at twopence per copy, but I think it has now been reduced to a penny. The poster reads thus—
§ "Fight, damn it, fight ! "
§ That is the sort of spirit which pervades these schools, and your Lordships can imagine, when that spirit is existing, that the kind of literature which I have indicated may have a very serious effect, and must have such an effect, upon children.
§ As to the number of these Communist schools in the country, it is a little difficult to give figures. I have been furnished with the names by a careful enquirer of something like fifteen of these schools in London, which are attended by anything from thirty to fifty children, and sometimes by one hundred children. I believe there are something like twenty-five similar schools in Glasgow and other parts of the country. These are avowed Communist schools, but, as your Lordships are aware, there are also many schools which describe themselves as Socialist schools. In some of these Socialist schools Communistic extremists arc, from time to time, invited to enter, and do enter, for the purpose of giving instruction on their own lines. There are some Socialist schools which have been brought to my notice that have recently been converted into Communist schools.
§ It would be a mistake for me to say, and I do not for a moment suggest that every Socialist school is a Communist school. As a matter of fact, at a very large number, it may be most, of the Socialist schools in this country nothing whatever illegal is taught, and, as I know that, certain praiseworthy persons are much alarmed lest my Bill should interfere with legitimate Socialist schools, let me assure such persons that there is not the remotest ground for that alarm. If anything illegal is taught, the teacher and the distributor of the literature will be prosecuted, whatever he calls himself, but if nothing illegal is taught in these Socialist or other schools then they do not come under the purview of this Bill.164
I have shown the nature of this propaganda, something of its extent, and the necessity for checking it. Let me now refer shortly to the terms of the Bill. It is a Bill to prevent the teaching of seditious and blasphemous matter. The Memorandum says this:—
The definition of 'seditious matter' embodied in the Bill expresses the Common Law of England as laid down in numerous decided cases and summarised in Lord Halsbury's Law of England, vol. 9, page 463, and in Stephen's Digest of the Criminal Law, 6th edition; pp. 70, 71.
The definition of ' blasphemous matter ' embodied in the Bill is in accordance with the law as laid down by the House of Lords in the case of Bowman v. Secular Society, Limited, 1917, A.C. 406.
§ It was clearly laid down in that case by every one of the Law Lords, that blasphemy did not consist in the mere denial of the Christian religion but in the denial of the Christian religion in scurrilous or offensive terms; and that is what is dealt with by this Bill.
§ No new offence is created by the Bill. The change is one of procedure only. The meaning of that is this. I have no doubt that, according to the existing law, action of the sort I have described could be dealt with by the very cumbrous, costly, and tedious method of indictment and a trial at the Criminal Court. But that is a costly and troublesome process, and very few people care to go to the trouble and expense involved. The Bill provides that these offences shall be tried before a magistrate, with an appeal to Quarter Sessions, so that Quarter Sessions can set magistrates right when they go wrong on any question of law. I am not saying for a moment that questions may not arise where it will be improper for magistrates to deal with the cases. They may be of too difficult a character, but in most of the cases I should have thought the question was almost too clear for argument, and that any competent magistrate could decide whether or not an offence had been committed under the Bill. Therefore, I am not afraid of the suggestion which may be made by some legal purists, that this is a matter which ought to be dealt with on indictment.
The first clause makes it an offence to teach seditious or blasphemous matter to children under the age of sixteen, and Clause 2 gives a definition of seditious matter which is taken verbatim from
Lord Halsbury's "Law of England.' Clause 2 reads as follows:—
For the purposes of this Act 'seditious matter' means words spoken, written, or printed with an intention—
Then there is an important proviso which is taken from Lord Halsbury's "Law of England." It reads as follows:—
Provided that nothing in this Act contained shall make it an offence to speak, write, or print words with the object of pointing out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution with a view to their reformation, or pointing out, to order their removal, matters which are producing or have a tendency to produce feelings of hatred and ill-will between different classes of His Majesty's subjects.
The definition of "blasphemous matter" is given in Clause 3, which says:—
For the purposes of this Act ' blasphemous matter ' means words spoken, written, or printed whereby it is sought to bring the Christian religion into contempt by means of ribald, contumelious, or scurrilous language.
§ That definition is taken from the judgment in the House of Lords. The penalty proposed by Clause 4 is that any person guilty of an offence under this Bill shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months and to a fine not exceeding £50.
§ Last year, and also the year before, I introduced a similar Bill in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, that Bill never obtained a Second Reading, through lack of time, but it received a large amount of support from Members generally. It was not welcomed by the Communist Party. They did not seem to like it, and, in truth, I never expected that they would. But they showed their disapproval in a somewhat remarkable manner last year. On May 1, at the May Day Demonstration in Hyde Park, they showed their disapproval of my Bill by sending into the Park large numbers of vehicles full of children waving the Red 166 Flag, the vehicles being plastered with legends of which these struck me as being the most remarkable. One legend was: "Damn the Seditious Teaching Bill"; another legend was; "To Hell with Sir John Butcher," and a third legend was: "Long Live Soviet Russia." These remarkable sentiments throw some light upon their methods of action. Let me say at once that I did not take it in the least as a personal matter. I was rather proud of it. It does not really matter in the least to me, personally, what destination they suggest for me; I am not likely to take their advice. But what I think significant are the words used and the character of the demonstration following, as it did, upon the teaching in the schools with which your Lordships are now familiar.
§ I apologise for taking up so much time, but this is a subject which I think deserves ventilation. Let me anticipate a possible objection to the Bill. There are some who urge against this Bill that its effect will be to advertise the Young Communist movement, and they allege that if this movement is left alone it will die out. It is a very curious and remarkable fact that this is precisely the argument that was used only last Thursday in the House of Commons by Mr. Shaw, the Minister of Labour, in resisting the demands made upon him for an inquiry into Communist activities in connection with the recent tube strike. An argument of that sort appears to me to he the excuse of a timid mind in order to justify culpable inaction. It is the policy of the ostrich, the policy of pretence—of pretending that you have averted a danger when you have only ignored it. In truth and in fact, this Young Communist movement has not died out, and, if you speak of advertisement, do let us remember that this movement has become known all over this country. It has been condemned by innumerable resolutions of large organisations, political, social and religious, representing millions of men and women, who call loudly for action to repress what they regard as a public peril, and I am glad to note that a similar call for action has recently been made by distinguished ecclesiastics, by the Dean of St. Pauls, by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and, I think I am right in adding, by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London.167
Just one point more. I said that this is a Bill for the protection of children. The founders of this Young Communist movement have themselves provided one of the strongest arguments for their own suppression. Realising, as they do, the helplessness of children to resist evil teaching, they urge that very helplessness as a reason for perverting them. Let me quote their words. They say:—
Boys and girls are not so afraid of anything of a revolutionary nature as grown-up people. It is ten times as easy to make a convert of fifteen as a convert of fifty.
§ In other words, these men openly and avowedly prey upon the helplessness and impressionable character of children as the most effective way of poisoning their minds. In my view, that is an act of unutterable baseness, and I ask myself: Can we refuse to protect children from this attack? The State already spends vast sums of money for the purpose of educating children to grow up into useful and wise citizens. Are we to allow the education of the week to be nullified, neutralised and perverted by the teaching of Sunday? But there is more than that. The State has already recognised by numerous Acts of Parliament its obligation to protect the bodies of children from physical contamination and injury. Surely the State is under a no less sacred duty to protect the souls and the minds of children from moral and spiritual ruin. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Danesfort.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, no one who listened to the speech of the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill can doubt the sincerity of his convictions. He has spoken as a great many people have spoken before. This is not the first time that a proposition of this kind has been made to the Legislature. The teaching of history is very clear about the results of these efforts. They have always failed, and they have failed for a definite reason. There is nothing about which people are more sensitive in this country than new restrictions upon liberty. In saying that I am not suggesting to your Lordships that there are not cases—indeed, many cases—in which liberty has to be restrained in the interests of the community. There should be no liberty to do what is wrong, and the law has provided for these cases.
168 The Bill which comes before your Lordships to-day professes to make no change in the law, but only to alter procedure. Procedure has been proved by experience to mean nearly everything in these cases. By the Common Law of England, and, indeed, by Statute Law also, sedition and blasphemy are offences which can be prosecuted, and have frequently been prosecuted, but the safeguard has been that the cases have been tried before a Judge and jury, securing thereby a tribunal which can be affected by public opinion. Public opinion is very important in this connection. You may make as many laws as you like, but unless public opinion backs you up you will not succeed—nay, more, you will make things worse, because you convert what was possibly a very flagitious act into something of quite a different character, because of the restriction on liberty which you seek to impose.
Take what has happened here. The noble Lord began his speech by a reference to Communism, and he then passed from Communism to sedition. He referred to Russia and to the Third International and its operations in Germany as well as in Russia. I do not doubt that the doctrines of the Third International are very objectionable doctrines, but so long as they are not advocated, in the words which the Bill uses in defining seditious matters, in such a way as—to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection against the Crown or the Constitution of the United Kingdom,or in the form of blasphemous matter which reflects in contumelious terms on religion—so long as they are not advocated in such a manner, it must be remembered that it is not the law of this country that everything that you say against Christianity is unlawful. That was laid down by your Lordships in the case of Bowman, and so long as you advocate your opinion in decent terms, nobody is likely to interfere with you. It is not easy to decide what is objection-able, in the legal sense, and what is not, and that point goes before the jury under the direction, of the Judge.
The noble Lord himself appears to have been greeted with placards of a very severe character in a demonstration in Hyde Park, but we do not interfere even with placards like that. The noble Lord, 169 who is better acquainted with an adjacent island than I am, knows that such language is a commonplace in the streets; that it is not restricted to my noble friend but is applied also to the Pope of Rome. But it is bettor to leave these things alone. These words break no bones, and to restrain people in their use is to make for the increase of trouble. Of course, when language is used which is really seditious or blasphemous in the sense which the law gives to "seditious" or "blasphemous," or which is intended to stir up revolution, it is on another footing, but we have to be very cautious in interfering with people's liberties in the promulgation of political opinions, even when those opinions go further than we like. We have taken that course in the case of Horne Tooke and others, not because people in this country do not use language which is very objectionable and probably illegal, but because we have found that the moment you try to interfere by exceptional laws the offenders Ere converted into martyrs, and the evil is greatly increased.
The noble Lord proposes to refer these things not to a jury but to a court of summary jurisdiction. I, as head of the Judiciary, always do my best to get as high a type as is possible when selecting people to sit upon the benches of magistrates. With a man's opinions we do not interfere, if he is prepared, in spite of those opinions, to administer the law, but if he says that he does not agree with the law, and will not obey it, and will do everything he can to defeat the law, then I hold that he is not a suitable person to administer the law. I mention that to show only how very careful you have to be in selecting those whom you put upon the bench. We are trying to get the highest standard of magistrates, and I am glad to say that I find among working men and women that judicial spirit which says: "All we want to know is what the law is, and we pledge ourselves to administer it." If you have that class of people on the bench they might be as good as juries. When, however, somebody is brought before a court of summary jurisdiction, this Bill lays it down that it is a seditious and punishable offence to use, in the language of paragraph (c) of Clause 2, language calculated "to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of 170 His Majesty's subjects," I do not know, and I do not think the magistrates will know, what that means, because these are very wide words indeed.
What is the law as it at present stands? if anybody repeats blasphemous or seditious things in a Sunday school he is punishable by the law as it now stands, and he is punishable under a procedure which is much safer than sending him before a bench of magistrates, which may be constituted you do not know how. In these conditions the Bill of the noble Lord seems to me to be not only objectionable, but retrograde. We have, in the past, been most careful not to introduce exceptional procedure for well-defined offences against a special class of people. I do not think that there are many people such as the noble Lord speaks of, but the real remedy against them is public opinion. The noble Lord spoke somewhat slightingly of an observation by the Minister of Labour in another place, but I am sure that the Minister of Labour will admit that if you try to coerce public opinion by your laws you will find public opinion turning against you, and more and more refusing to put the spirit of your laws into practice. I think it is a very dangerous thing to pass legislation of the kind now proposed. There are, no doubt, all sorts of special schools where doctrine is taught which is not the doctrine of Christianity, but it does not follow either that it is illegal or that it is objectionable.
I have here a list of precepts taught in Socialist Sunday schools. They are as follow:—
- "1. Love your schoolfellows, who will be your fellow workmen in life.
- "2. Love learning, it is the food of the mind; be as grateful to your teacher as to your parents.
- "3. Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.
- "4. Honour good men, be courteous to all men, bow down to none.
- "5. Do not hate or speak evil of any one. Do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights and resist oppression.
- "6. Do not be cowardly. Be a friend to the weak and love justice.
- "7. Remember that all the good things of the earth are produced by labour. Whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.
- "8. Observe and think in order to discover the truth. Do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourself or others.
- "9. Do not think that those who lore their own country must hate and despise other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.
- "10. Look forward to the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one fatherland and live together as brothers and sisters in peace and righteousness."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Quite recent. It is used in some of the Socialist Sunday schools. I am not talking about Communist Sunday-schools, and I believe it will be difficult to find many of them, but they are apt to be confused with other Sunday schools where doctrines of this kind are taught. As to this Bill, of the noble Lord, I do not envy the task of those who will have to enforce it should it become an Act. There are benches of magistrates who would take very considerable exception to some of the things I have read, but in the main the doctrines advocated, even if calculated to stir up strife, are not doctrines with which we ought to interfere. I can understand that some very severe things may be said about your Lordships' House, coming within the language of Clause (2) (c). That ought not to be a reason for these being dealt with by an exceptional procedure against the teachers in these schools. No doubt there are Communist schools where a very much stronger and more objectionable doctrine is taught, but I believe these schools to be comparatively few, and I am certain that if you try to put them down by legislation you will furnish the most powerful motive in existence for their numbers to increase. People will rally to them who have no sympathy with them, because they think that liberty is in danger. Therefore, to sum up, in the view of the Government this is a Bill that Parliament would be unwise to proceed with, and I ask your Lordships to hesitate before accepting it
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
My Lords, I do not propose for a moment to traverse the whole of the speech which the noble and learned Viscount has just delivered, not to refer to the very able speech of my noble friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. But I do think that my noble friend on the Woolsack has introduced in his speech some considerations which are wholly irrelevant to 172 the decision which we have to come to upon this measure. There is no intention, as I understand the matter, to alter the law of the land by this Bill, and in the speech of the Lord Chancellor there was no suggestion that my noble friend who moved the Second Reading was in error when he said that no change was either made or contemplated by its authors. I understand that the Government are agreed that, if this Bill were passed, it would leave the law of England exactly where the law of England stands at present. The question before us, therefore, and the only question so far as I can see, is whether the existing procedure is a satisfactory procedure or not, and whether, if it be not a satisfactory procedure, the alternative, procedure suggested by my noble friend in his Bill is one which your Lordships would be well advised to accept.
On that point, which, I take it, is the fundamental point before us, I do not feel qualified to offer an opinion. I know little about the practice of the law, and I am not qualified to say whether the existing machinery is adequate for its purpose, or whether any dangers lurk in the procedure which it is proposed to substitute for it. A few sentences which fell from the Lord Chancellor almost suggested that he valued the existing state of things, that he was prepared to support the law as it actually stands, because, in his view, the machinery is so heavy and so expensive that it is never likely to be put in force. I confess that that does not appear to me to be a very valid argument. T am not sure that it is one of which your Lordships ought to take serious account. But, as I said before, this is not a point on which I feel that I have any qualifications to address your Lordships.
What I wanted to say was something rather different, provoked by the earlier sentences in the Lord Chancellor's speech. He almost appeared to indicate that if your Lordships passed this Bill you would be aiming a blow at liberty of discussion, that you would be threatening freedom of speech, and that the right of which we boast, and rightly boast, in this country, the right of minorities holding opinions, however offensive they may be, to put them in proper language before their equals, is assailed. If men enter into public discussion let them be weighed at the bar of public opinion, and let the community decide, after hearing both 173 sides, which side it ought to support. That is the doctrine of liberty. That has nothing whatever to do with the teaching of children. The doctrine of liberty deals with discussion between equals, between adults, people who have had experience of life, people who have had different training no doubt, who enjoy a different degree of learning or of ignorance, but who, nevertheless, are capable, in our view, of having opinions, and, holding those opinions, have a right, in proper circumstances, to express them in public. That is the liberty we have had, that is the liberty of speech which is the proud boast of Englishmen.
But when you come to teaching children of tender years, what is the use of my noble and learned friend bringing forward the case of Horne Tooke. Horne Tooke was not speaking to children. He was speaking to men of his own age, equal citizens of the State, and he, rightly or wrongly, advocated opinions which may have been illegal, but which, at all events, it was perfectly proper should be treated from the point of view of the right of free discussion. This Bill has nothing to do with free discussion. It has simply to do with the question whether you are going to allow the existence of teaching in schools supported I know not by whom—it is suggested, not always from English sources—teaching admittedly illegal, admittedly corrupting, and given to those who have no power to protect themselves. I only rose to give this caution to your Lordships. In the future discussion of this Bill let us, at all events, put entirely on one side this notion that liberty is threatened. With that great cause it has nothing to do, that great cause it does not threaten, and I am sure your Lordships would only be diverted from the true path of wise discussion this afternoon if you were to allow that part of the Lord Chancellor's speech to weigh with your minds even for a moment.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I have three or four times tried to draw the attention of this House to the teaching which is going on in these Socialist and Communist schools, and I have given striking instances of the kind of teaching which is there given, which I must not repeat to-day. These schools began about thirty-five years ago on a very small scale, but they received an enormous impulse 174 from what has been miscalled the Russian Revolution. It has been the special and avowed aim of the Bolsheviks to corrupt young children, and in the teaching which has been going on in these schools their influence is perfectly plain to see. That influence also is spread over a very large number of papers, which, in many instances, the unfortunate children in these schools are being made to distribute. There are now over seventy publications in this country, all directed towards revolutionary purposes. Of course, they vary very much in colour, from pink to the darkest blood-red that tan be found in Russia, and I am not certain that the pink quality is not sometimes the more dangerous, because the more insidious. About twenty-six of these papers are purely Communist, and some of them are printed in Germany. How the money is found for these publications, which cannot possibly pay their way, is one of the baffling problems which I cannot undertake to solve.
I have in my hand a paper called the Young Worker, which calls itself the organ of the Young Communist League. That is an international body with branches in many countries, and it draws its inspiration from, and has its centre at, Moscow. This paper is especially addressed to boys and girls. The object of its efforts, and the objects of the literature to which I have alluded, are mainly two—(1) to inculcate the crudest and most repulsive ideas of atheism, which is done sometimes by insidious suggestion and at other times, as my noble friend has said, by rank blasphemy; and (2) to implant in young minds the deadly idea of the class war and hatred of all the employing classes in this and other countries. My noble friend's Bill, was described in the Worker's Dreadnought, a violent paper which is engaged just now in attacking His Majesty's Government, as an effort to check the spread of enlightenment in matters of religion and economics. As regards the spreading of religious enlightenment, that invariably means, as I have said, the negation of Christianity and the teaching of atheism. The economic enlightenment is merely the propagation of the monstrous theories borrowed or invented by Karl Marx, with the assistance of the German capitalist Engels, and invented by him not for economic purposes but solely for the purposes of revolution. Class hatred 175 cannot possibly be considered or made into a principle of economics.
I wish that it was possible for all your Lordships to see specimens of the publications to which my noble friend has referred. I believe that they are working incalculable harm amongst us, and I believe that we can see already signs of the dangerous fruit which they are bearing. Sedition is, I suppose, a very difficult subject to define, but my noble friend, in his Bill, relies in his definition solely upon the Common Law of the land. All he asks, as the noble Earl has said, is that the law of the land shall be applied, especially in the case of young children of both sexes under sixteen years of age. I do not suppose for a moment that the passing of this Bill will lead to many prosecutions, but I think that it may serve as some deterrent to the flood of subversive propaganda which is sweeping over the country and is telling more upon our young children than upon our adults. As my noble friend said, we have already very much legislation which is intended to protect the bodies of our children from physical poison; but we have no effective legislation at present to protect their souls from moral poison which may, and very often does, wreck their whole lives. The passing of this Bill would at least prove to the country that the Legislature does concern itself with the moral poison, which is, perhaps, the worst poison of all. For these reasons and for some others, with which I must not trouble your Lordships, T strongly support the speech and the Motion of my noble friend. I believe that this Bill will have the acquiescence of every Chistian citizen in this country.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I think I ought to say a few words upon this matter, but they need not be very many. Surely it is a legal rather than an ecclesiastical question in the view of every one who has tried to follow the Bill itself, or the arguments which have been used on either side to-night. I certainly claim no close knowledge of the law or of the powers of exercising it which are possessed by the magistracy, the police and State authorities generally; but there seems to be an indisputable feeling on the part of some of those whose opinion upon this subject is entitled to weight that some powers, which are not apparently possessed by the authorities at present, 176 are required for administering the existing law. I cannot judge of that; but if it be so, it would be a very great mistake for us to remain complacent with limited powers in the matter, when the removal of the shackles which exist would enable us to handle a subject of not only extraordinary difficulty but of very real importance to the State at this moment. I do not follow exactly what powers this Bill would give, or what it would do. There are phrases in it which puzzle me as a layman. For example in regard to inciting His Majesty's subjects to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in the State as by law established, it strikes me as self-evident that if it is otherwise than by lawful means legislation is hardly required to deal with it. But that is a detail, and probably I misunderstand the phraseology.
We of the clergy, the Bishops particularly, are naturally and constantly being asked: "What are you doing in this matter? What attention are you giving to it? Are you apathetic and careless upon something which is obviously affecting, or is capable of affecting, the religious life of the children of the country and, therefore, of the coming generation? What, if anything, are you doing in the matter? What do the clergy know about it and what do they do? I am anxious to "show in a few sentences that we have not been apathetic or careless, and that we have not failed to be alert in this particular matter. About a couple of years ago, I took very great pains to obtain any available evidence upon this subject. It is a subject upon which evidence is extremely difficult to get in a complete and trustworthy form to the extent that one would desire, as I think the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill would admit. But I endeavoured to get it to the best of my ability.
I took care to promote in London, in Bristol, in Birmingham, in Manchester and in other places the names of which I forget, though I think Newcastle was one of them, careful inquiries by those concerned in the Sunday life and the Sunday school life of the children, as to what was the prevalence of such schools as this, what was their character, what induced the children to go to them rather than to other schools, and by whom they were conducted. As I have said, the 177 subject is an exceedingly difficult one—at least, we found it so—about which to obtain accurate and clear information. That was a couple of years ago, and the conclusion that I came to then and later was that, while there was evidence of the existence of a very real evil in this matter, the cases were comparatively rare and the attendance at the schools in question was small. Roughly, I came to the conclusion that we could prove the existence of about thirty-five schools of the extreme type—I will come to the others in a moment; I am speaking now of what I call the vicious type of schools—in England, Scotland and Wales. There were about ten or eleven in London, seven we were able to get at in other towns in England, four in South Wales, and thirteen in Scotland. That was, roughly, the kind of conclusion to which we came, or to which Teameat any rate, but I am anxious not to claim that it is accurate, or that we have got hold of everything, because some of these schools which undoubtedly existed a few years ago, and exist still, are extremely small and somewhat migratory. When your Lordships are told of Sunday schools in which these things are taught, you naturally picture something like our great London schools in which rows and rows of children receive instruction. What we found were schools at which the attendance was something like fifteen, which were held, in houses and which, after inquiry, we found had been moved to other houses. Though I was very far from feeling satisfied that we had got to the bottom of the matter at that time, I at least failed to come to a more complete or satisfactory conclusion as to the extent of the mischief. But in recent years a great deal has happened. There cannot be any question, whatever the reason may be, that propaganda of this kind has increased to a very large extent.
I think I could show, if it were necessary, as has been already hinted to-day, that it is not solely from English sources, or with English money, that the mischief is being promoted. I could give at least one example of a particular teacher holding a considerable audience of children who was undoubtedly not an Englishman, and whose teaching was of a kind which, I think, it would not be easy to find in any large section of the English teaching class. We want to ask how far these schools are now definitely 178 increasing, and next, how far are those who tabulate the results of inquiries and give us helpful information as to what they have ascertained and furnish us with quotations such as those which the noble Lord gave to-night, under any risk of confusing schools which are definitely evil—I will show your Lordships in a moment what I mean by that term—with schools which are undesirable in the minds of many of your Lordships because they are teaching what you think is a mischievous political creed, but which are not evil in the blunt sense.
Socialist schools may be Christian; indeed, many of the Socialist schools are in the highest degree Christian from the point of view of the teacher; and it would be monstrous to say that they were putting forth propaganda which was anti-Christian in its views, whatever we may think of its political consequences. There is a real danger, not a fanciful one, that the two sets of schools which may be called Socialist and proletarian should be confused, and those two terms used as if there was no distinction between them. Socialist and proletarian schools have sometimes been unfairly linked together so as to suggest that quotations which are given of the kind of thing taught in one of these schools may also be accepted as the sort that will be found in the other schools. We must take care that that distinction, so far as we can possibly draw it, is carefully drawn between the two kinds of schools.
With that in mind I tried, a little time ago, to make a closer investigation. The process that I followed, I think your Lord ships will feel, was as good a one as any that is likely to be effective. It was to ask the aid of the editors of the magazines, or journals, or publications which are alarming us upon this subject, calling attention to the "Red peril" and so forth, and to go through the widely scattered quotations which they gave, very often without any reference to the source from which they came. I wished, with their aid, to endeavour to trace the quotations back to the source from which they came, and to find out whether the words which were recorded—I have not the least doubt correctly—were interpreted by their context, and so see, if I could, how far an isolated sentence was being unfairly divorced from its context. I received the greatest help in that matter 179 from those editing some of the magazines with which your Lordships are all familiar, because I think they have been circulated widely. I think we came together to the friendly conclusion that some of them did require re-editing, because of the very evil to which I have referred of confusing two kinds of school as if they belonged to one group when the schools were really entirely different, and also of giving quotations which took a different colour when you looked at their context and found what preceded or followed upon them.
I will give your Lordships an example of what I mean. There was one case in which a Socialist magazine drew a contrast between a Socialist and a proletarian Sunday-school, and, in order to illustrate this contrast, questions were given which are asked by the supposed teacher, and the answers printed were those which would be given in a proletarian School and those which would be given in a Socialist school. They were printed side by side, and you could see the contrast. You could also see how different is the teaching given in some Socialist Sunday-schools from that which is supposed to be given in what you call proletarian schools. But in quoting this, what the magazine did was to quote only the proletarian answers and not the Socialist answers, so that the magazine was not really representing fairly the position. Enough ought to have been given to show that it was the Socialist promoter of a rival scheme through whom the mischief had been brought to light, and that that Socialist promoter had brought it out in order, not to advocate it, but to denounce it. That, I think, was at once admitted to require re-editing, and I am not sure whether it appears in the papers as they are now circulated.
I guard myself from any general statement that these publications which are giving us warning were unfair. I do not think that at all. I do not think they intended to be unfair, although they were a little too ready to print quotations without verifying their sources. We found at least two which we could only trace back to a Chicago newspaper. These were not a really fair argument to be used in relation to the schools here. But, speaking generally, the quotations were most useful, and in 180 the main, I think, fair as showing that these things are widely taught. It would, however, be another thing to say that we are, therefore, to conclude that we ought to be suspicious of every school that calls itself Socialist, and that we would find it teaching those things which were referred to by the noble Lord to-night.
I am afraid I did not hear the opening sentences of the noble Lord's speech, and I may have missed something; but there is a part of this subject to which attention has not been called with any marked emphasis to-night, and which I think is a most important part of it. Some of the teaching given is not only anti-Christian, but is immoral and of the coarsest possible kind, as can be seen from the publications. Some are so vile as to be unquotable. These teachings are undoubtedly being given, though not, I hope, by Englishmen, in some of the schools. Whether the attendance in those schools be large or small, I do not know. This teaching aims at the total breakdown of what they call "man-made sexual laws," and so on, and is accompanied by the advocacy of the most open and unblushing kind of free love. That is the kind of thing which, to my mind, is more perilous to the children than the doctrinal anti-Christian teaching which is given. How far it is prevalent I am not able to say, but that it does go on is beyond question, because printed documents exist in which these vicious things are set forth.
When you try to get those printed documents you will find that you have a task not easy of accomplishment. A publisher's name is upon more than one of them, but when you write to the address you may find there is neither such a place nor such a publisher. I went to work with one inquirer who was looking into this matter with me. He got a boy to write for the document as though he himself were anxious to attend a school. The boy gave his name and address. He was a boy in a humble position in life, and he succeeded in getting these publications sent to him. The publications are intended for the teacher, but apparently they are circulated to some extent among the older children in the schools. I do not know whether the noble Lord has been more successful than I have, but they were not easily obtainable by any of us for the purpose of under 181 standing what is going on. But there is an indisputable peril.
What we want to ask is: Is not the law capable of dealing with that now? I imagine that such a matter as this in the hands of the police is capable of being dealt with by the present law without this measure. I myself want this measure to get a Second Heading and to be considered. It would, however, be alarming to learn that that kind of palpably gross evil is not capable of being dealt with by the present law. I think some of your Lordships know of enquiries now going on in this matter and can tell us whether or not this Bill is technically necessary.
The two points I want to make clear are that undoubtedly, in my judgment, the number of these schools has very considerably increased, and that the danger is now better realised by some of those who are helping us to study the question. The danger of confusing a Socialist Sunday school with a proletarian Sunday school is better understood now. That distinction must be carefully preserved unless we are to do real harm. If we are to rope in as though they belonged to the group which we denounce, people who are teaching a kind of Socialism which is in no sense anti-Christian, we are going to do real harm in more ways than one. The argument that the mischief is real and active is not; incompatible with the fact that in many quarters the numbers attending the schools have been exaggerated. I dread most the danger of vicious teaching—even more than I dread the teaching of false doctrines.
Wherever I have any influence I am trying to get local clergy, and those people who are interested in the education of the young, to look into the matter and ascertain what these schools are and why children go there. Some curious instances in this respect have come to my own personal knowledge. Inquirers who have co-operated with me have followed children to their homes and asked the parents why they are sent to these schools. In one case they were said to be the children of the chairman of some little Conservative Association in the district. He said his children had been sent to Sunday school, but he did not know what Sunday school and presumed it was all right. That is an extreme case, coming, I think, from South Wales. But, undoubtedly, many 182 parents are ignorant of the nature of the school which their children are attending, and it is a lamentable fact, in my opinion, that parents should be so utterly careless. The fact that their children are going to a Sunday school in the afternoon appears to be sufficient for them. We clergy ought now to be taking sedulous care that inquiry is made in the homes of children of Sunday school age in the various parishes as to what Sunday school they are attending, and why—not primarily with the object of getting them into our own Sunday schools but to prevent them being sent to doubtful schools under a complete misapprehension. The clergy can co-operate actively in such a movement as that.
I entirely agree that it is important we should arouse local public opinion. When you speak of arousing public opinion by the medium of newspapers, or in other such ways, you are running a risk of enlisting opposition on the part of people whom you are not really attacking, whereas if you do it locally, find out what is happening in any particular street or village, you are likely to be much more effective. I assure your Lordships that this is not, a matter about which we, who have the religious side of the question primarily at heart, are careless. We are trying to strengthen in every way that wholesome type of Sunday school which is progressing now on more intelligent and thoughtful lines than hitherto; and that is the best mode of counteracting the danger of inadvertent attendance at mischievous schools by the children of parents who do not intend that their children should go there at all.
That is our primary duty, but T am ready to help, directly and indirectly—and I have some indirect power in this matter—the furtherance of any investigation of this subject that is thought to be necessary. And, after what we have heard to-night about the legal aspect of the matter, there should be something of the nature of an inquiry, following upon our giving this Bill a Second Reading, or in some other way, to ascertain whether the law is strong enough at present to counteract the more gross evils of which I have spoken.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I confess to a feeling of great disappointment as I listened to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. 183 We had a right to expect from the Lord Chancellor, a lawyer of great eminence, something with regard to the actual point at issue, something as to the actual merits or demerite of the Bill from the legal point of view, and something with regard to the present machinery. All we heard from the noble and learned Viscount was that the machinery proposed in the Bill was of very little use. Let us accept that. What about the other machinery? The noble and learned Viscount might have told us why it is that the other machinery is not doing its work. I am not blaming the Courts, because these cases do not appear to be brought before them, but I do not think the noble and learned Viscount can deny that this canker has been growing in our midst for some years and that absolutely nothing has been done by the authorities to check it.
What we want to know is, what steps the Government is prepared to take to try to check this evil by means of the existing machinery. Then we can judge whether it is necessary to change it or bring it up-to-date. I had rather hoped that the noble and learned Viscount would say something about seditious and blasphemous teaching. He gave us instead a long, and what I will call a Sunday school quotation from some unnamed, undated, Socialist school, as if that was the type of school to which we objected. The Lord Chancellor knows that there was nothing illegal in what he read; a great deal may be meritorious. This Bill, however, is not intended to deal with things that are legal, but rather with things that are not legal. It is simply side-tracking the issue for him to read from a brief for Sunday schools, probably handed to him just before he spoke, and carefully avoid everything that has to do with Communistic and proletarian schools.
I want to emphasise the fact that there are schools and schools. There is no intention at all of attacking schools, whatever creed or politics they may be, simply because they have certain names. What we want to do is to stop those schools where Communistic teaching is given, and those teachers by whom it is taught. The noble and learned Viscount talks about the liberty of the subject and says that he dare not move in the matter because people are sensitive of new 184 restrictions on their liberty. Whose liberty? Does the Lord Chancellor mean the liberty of the children, or does he mean the liberty of those who teach these perverted doctrines? The children are not in a position to judge for themselves, and they have to be protected. If he means those who are teaching these false doctrines, surely it is his bounden duty, as head of the law in this land, to see that they are laid by the heels and not allowed to teach these pernicious doctrines in a country in which liberty is fast being turned into licence. It is by allowing people of that sort to go on that you are going to stop freedom of speech and liberty for other people who do not want to talk blasphemy or to attack the Constitution.
The Socialist Sunday schools have existed about twenty years. The noble Lord spoke about the Catechism. Before the war they had a thing which they called the Bed Catechism. There Was nothing very bad about it. It was thought very dreadful before the war, but to-day it seems a fairly innocuous document, and I do not think there was very much of which one could complain. More than anything else it expressed political opinion. Possibly the worst part of it—though it is not a thing that one would actually indict people upon—was the following:—Have pool people objections to the present hospitals?—Yes. They are afraid that the students and doctors will make experiments upon them.Why do doctors make experiments upon poor people?—Because it gives them experience, which they can sell to the rich.Are hospitals used as training schools for young doctors?—Yes.And so on. That is about the worst of it. The main thing about the Socialist Sunday schools is that, to a very great extent, they teach class hatred and sneer at the Christian Sunday schools. I could give quotations, but I will not do so, because I am talking less of the Socialist Sunday schools than of the teaching of some others.
These Socialist Sunday schools were originally founded by one Tom Anderson of Glasgow, and they have become a sort of cold frames for the Communist and proletarian schools. I wish to say, if I may, with all respect to the most rev. Primate, that these Socialist Sunday schools want a great deal of watching. I know that they are not frowned upon by 185 many members of the Church and others, because they are supposed to be fairly innocent and to deal only with so-called political and social evils; but, undoubtedly, they have passed on to more extreme doctrines, and that is why I think we ought to be very careful, with regard to these Socialist Sunday schools, to see that they do not turn into something worse. Mr. Anderson, who originally formed them, found that they were not going sufficiently strong for him, and he then founded the proletarian Sunday schools and published the Proletcult, a magazine for boys and girls. I think it is to this that the most rev. Primate has referred. I have knocked about the world, I have served in the Army, and have been all over the place, and I do not profess to be a prude, but for sheer downright filth I do not think I have ever read anything that came anywhere near the publications contained in that paper, which was a magazine for boys and girls. T could show the noble Lord, if he likes to see them, some of these extracts, and I expect he knows well that they were published and circulated throughout Scotland. They are not published so much now, because I believe the editor was given a hint, but I see that they are now going to be reproduced in book form. I will come to that point in a moment.
Here is one announcement which appeared in a pamphlet published by the Proletarian Bookstall:A special class on sex knowledge is held on the last Sunday of each month. … Everyone should purchase the booklet on sex knowledge, and a copy of the Proletcult each month, so as to get the child's lesson and song.It goes on to describe the book as follows:SEX KNOWLEDGE: A 64-page booklet containing 30,000 words. Equal to Dr. Marie Stopes 'Married Love' at 6s. 6d Every one should get a copy, price only 9d. post free.There is, of course, no comparison between the two books, and, even if the galleries were cleared, I think it would be impossible to read out to your Lordships some of the things which appear in those articles. We want to stop that, and we want to know what the Government is doing. It is true that this does not come under this Bill, and I am afraid that I was for a moment rather out of order.
Then we come to the question of blasphemy. I do not; wish to give too 186 many quotations, but here, for instance, is the Proletcult of June, 1924, and I will take the first passage that is marked:Jesus was poor, and for that they crucified him.Then they say, referring to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland:To commemorate the occasion we have written a little song which appears on another page, Please learn it,"—This is written to children—and instead of saying your prayers at night, read this little reading and sing it as a song. You will find if you do so your brain will grow, and you will laugh at all the antics of your father's master to come it on you. It is cue big farce, but they couple it with Jesus, and He was a Jewish workman who they had made a God.Here is the song in question:—The rich, my dear Jimmie,Live by robbing your class;The King and the clergyStride across the same ass.Then of Jesus you speak,It's a fine opium pill—To keep the slaves sleeping,And yon the bill fill.That is the kind of thing that is allowed to be published. I say that if the members of the present Government, who are supposed to be a respectable Labour Government, do not do something to stop this, they will find that they in their turn will be swallowed by the extremists in the same way that they have swallowed other people.
Just to show the kind of thing that is being published in these papers I will give one more example:—Work is the punishment put upon man for sin—.and so on. But I will leave that one, and take another—Question: Did Jesus not live and die to save mankind from sin; Was he not the son of God sent from Heaven for that purpose?Answer: Did the sun stand still?—No. Did Samson kill a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass?—No. Is the world flat?—No. Did Jesus come from Heaven?—No. Was his mother a virgin?—No. Is the story about him true?—No. Was he a Scotsman?—No he was a Jew. Did he ever write anything about himself or his works?—No. Would the world be any better without him?—Yes. How?—You would not be doped with other saviours—yes, hundreds of them. Why did they put him on the Cross?—They did so because he was a proletarian. Who was his father?—Joseph. Just in the ordinary way?—Yes. Can you prove it?—Yes. His mother said 187 to him, 'Your father and I have been looking for you.' Then the story is only a legend?—Of that there is no doubt.May I ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack if that is not blasphemy? Why does he read out things which he knows do not come under the law and to which nobody ever thought of objecting, when he passes by and swallows these things?
Then we come to the Communist Sunday Schools, and it is here that we really come to some of the worst cases. I have in my hand a book called "Manual for Leaders of Children's Groups." It is one of the standard books of the Communist Sunday Schools, edited by Mr. Edwin Hoernle, and published by the Young Communist International, and it is printed by Max Noster in Berlin. Its phraseology is to a very great extent American, and I do not want to make many quotations from it, because I do not wish to detain your Lordships very long. The main thing that I can say about it, without going into quotations, is that it contains a good deal with regard to sex education—how to train children and send them off for long rambles together, so that they may teach each other—and so on. I think almost the worst thing in it is that it is doing every single thing it can to train children, first of all individually and then collectively, to disobey their teachers and their parents, so that they may be ready for the revolution which is coming. If any noble Lord wishes to see the book I can show it to him afterwards, but I do not wish to detain the House by reading quotations, which are always wearisome. It urges children on to rebellion and to immorality, and in almost every other page you find something about the duty of doing something to collect money for Russia. It also urges children to do what they can against the police, and suggests as a good game that they should get together and play a game like Red Indians, but that they should have red and white guards and policemen, and that at the last the reds should capture the white guards and policemen, bring in their trembling prisoners and slaughter them.
Another point with regard to these schools is the extraordinary secrecy with which they are being held, and how they try to cover up their tracks. One would 188 have thought that to be almost impossible in a country like this, but, as the most rev. Primate has said, it is extremely difficult to find out the facts, and when you have them it is very difficult to be certain they are accurate. But we have enough stuff here, I should think, to show that there is really a movement of this sort, that it is a very dangerous one, that it is perverting the minds of the youth of this country, and that something ought, to be done. If the present Bill is not accepted I hope that Lord Parmoor, who I understand is going to speak, will tell us what he proposes to do to combat the evil and to stimulate the police in dealing with what is a danger to the country.
My Lords, the most rev. Primate dealt with the moral aspect of the teaching in these schools. The matter is new to me. I have no information, and therefore I do not propose to follow him or the noble Duke upon that aspect of the matter, which, as the noble Duke admitted, has nothing to do with the Bill under discussion. Moreover, as the most rev. Primate pointed out, these questions can now be dealt with, and in a summary manner, by the police, and are so dealt with every day. If evidence is obtainable the police deal with, them under their present powers. The most rev. Primate, with that good sense and sense of proportion to which we are accustomed from him, in the rest of his speech warned your Lordships not rashly to deal with the matter and not rashly to attempt, when talking about sedition and blasphemy, to include in those things political opinions of which you do not approve, but to limit yourself distinctly to what is against the law.
I would ask your Lordships, before the Division is taken, to exercise some common sense upon this matter and some sense of proportion. I heard Lord Balfour say that the Bill made no change in the law. That seems to me to be singularly remote from the fact. It makes this very remarkable and fundamental change in the law, that whereas blasphemy is now only triable by jury, under the Bill it is to be triable by a magistrate in a summary manner. If I am told that there is an appeal, I must point out that it is not an appeal to a jury but an appeal to another bench of magistrates. Therefore, it is to be put in the power of a single, prejudiced, Tory squire, 189 sitting in the country, to declare something to be blasphemous which is contrary to the opinions in which he has been brought up, but which has already been held not to be blasphemous. I assume that noble Lords are perfectly sincere in their desire to put a stop to what they consider mischievous, but are they sincere in their desire to distinguish between what is really seditious and blasphemous and dangerous and what is merely contrary to their own opinions?
The noble Duke quoted, and flung at the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, some quotations about the origin and character of Jesus, and asked was that blasphemous? The answer to that question was whether the question was being tried by a jury or a magistrate. Taking exactly the words he quoted, I fancy it would be very difficult to get a jury to convict, at all events at the Old Bailey, but what magistrates would do in similar circumstances it is difficult to say. Is it desired to put a stop to the pernicious part of the teaching? If so, I am in sympathy, but I am not in sympathy with this Bill, which I believe would defeat itself. How many and how large are these schools?
Where there are twenty schools now I venture to say that if you have an ill-advised prosecution before magistrates, and a decision condemning something as blasphemous which is at least open to question, you will turn those twenty schools into two hundred. Nothing is better calculated to spread this movement, and to secure for it the sympathy of the people as a whole, than to cause them to regard the law as class oppression and something imposed from above, and, above all, by this House. Such schools will at once become famous and flourishing, as persecuted schools. I can hardly conceive any course which is better calculated to increase the evil which your Lordships deplore, and therefore I hope that you will pause to consider before you pass this Bill.
What does this Bill provide? It does not limit itself to teaching in schools, and define where the teaching is to be, but Clause 1 says "any person who teaches seditious or blasphemous matter 190 to children under the age of sixteen" is guilty of an offence. That would apply to a father bringing up his child in an agnostic way or as an atheist, and telling him things about Christian doctrine which Christians would consider blasphemous. I can only tell your Lord ships that under that Clause my own father would have been liable to prosecution, and I think a good many fathers might be.
Then Clause 2 defines as seditious things which "promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects." I venture to ask you to consider this. Shall we say that speeches made during the Lloyd George E lections on the famous Budget, or during recent Elections by-candidates, and still more by their supporters, were not calculated to stir up feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects? Yet I am not aware that this House was prepared to treat them as offences against the law. I have even heard in this House remarkably strong language used about political disagreement, and language which might be considered, by those who heard it divorced from its context, as likely to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility.
I trust that your Lordships will consider that you are here employing, so far as I can judge, a method of repression for the purpose of curing an evil which is far more likely to have the effect of aggravating it. You are making a perfectly definite change in the liberty of the subject, because you are depriving him of the right to have the opinion of twelve of his fellow-countrymen upon these matters before he is convicted, and you are leaving him to the mercies of summary jurisdiction. That is a very definite deprivation of his liberty. We have always regarded, particularly in penal matters, the interposition of a jury between the prosecution and the prisoner as being the real thing to preserve liberty.
These matters are to be met, as the most rev. Primate truly pointed out, by putting the other side and by assisting all you can the other side. I am disposed to agree with noble Lords opposite that to bring people up to disobey all authority and to take an anarchical view of life—I am not dealing for the moment with 191 questions of religion—is not likely, on the whole, to make good citizens of them afterwards, and that it is very desirable that they should not be so taught. But I think that in that case your cure is simply to make it unlikely that they will receive those doctrines.
It is suggested that those people from outside who support this teaching of children may turn this country into a hot-bed of anarchy and revolution. Anarchy and revolution are the fruit of hardships, of evil conditions, and of oppression, and where you give liberty and have no oppression it is very difficult for anarchy and revolution to flourish. And the reason why they do not flourish in this country is, firstly, because you do not oppress those who differ from you, but allow them to express, in Hyde Park and other public places, quite remarkable sentiments, with which very few of your Lordships would agree. They blow off steam, practically nobody is affected, and the country goes on quite calmly and disregards them. But the moment you begin to sit upon that safety valve, that moment you produce the conditions under which anarchy and revolution become possible. This Bill is comparatively a small affair, but if it is actually put into practice, and if many prosecutions take place under it, I predict that it will have exactly the contrary effect to that which is intended.
Would the noble Lord explain one dictum that I understood him to lay down, rather to my surprise? I understood him to say that an appeal in a case of this kind from a magistrate would lie to a Court of Quarter Sessions without a jury.
It makes a good deal of difference. Perhaps the noble Earl would explain how there can be an appeal to Quarter Sessions without a jury? My experience of Quarter Sessions is that there always is a jury.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, if I might reply—and I am speaking from an experience of nearly twenty-five years as Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and in the preceding twenty-five years my father was Chairman of Quarter Sessions—appeals of this kind would not come 192 before a jury. They come before a Court of Quarter Sessions, which is the common court in which you have criminals who come from a court of summary jurisdiction.
I should like to say one or two words in answer to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. This is, in effect, very largely a matter of legal procedure. The noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, laid it down that in his view no new offence was' created by the Bill, and that the change made is one of procedure only. Personally, I entirely agree with what has just been, said on this side of the House, that a change of procedure does, in truth and in substance, make a change of law in the 'conditions with which you are dealing in this Bill. The noble Earl asked whether it is true that under the law as it exists, the law of indictments, there was some special difficulty of bringing forward these cases of blasphemy or sedition, in order that they might be dealt with in the ordinary way by a Judge and jury. The answer, I think, is quite clear. If the noble Earl is right as regards what he called a difficulty in a case of this kind, this same difficulty applies to every single indictment of every crime and every criminal in this country.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
That really is misrepresenting what I said. I mentioned these legal points merely to say that I was not qualified to deal with them. What I said was taken from the speech of my noble friend who introduced the Bill, and acquiesced in and accepted, as I understood, by the Lord Chancellor. I am the last man in the world to suggest to your Lordships' House any opinion on legal procedure.
§ LORD PARMOOR
So I understood, and from that point of view I was addressing myself to what was said by the noble Earl. He said frankly that what was really involved in this Bill was a question of legal principle and legal procedure, with which the noble Viscount on the Woolsack had already dealt. He said: "As regards these points I know nothing." I know that the noble Earl knows something about all points, but that is the attitude he took. It was on that basis that I was trying to influence his mind. Then he dealt with another point, the difference between teaching children and what he called general liberty of expression in matters of this kind. I 193 want, if I can, to make quite clear the legal point. First of all, the suggestion that there is any difficulty in bringing matters of this kind, under our ordinary criminal jurisdiction, before a Judge and jury, has no foundation whatever. There is no more difficulty in 'bringing a case of this kind before a Judge and jury than there is in any other case which affects crime or criminate in this country. The suggestion that there was something special or exceptional in dealing with indictments in this class of case is really not warranted. It may be said that all our criminal jurisdiction in this country is faulty and clumsy. I do not believe it. But there is nothing faulty or clumsy as regards this kind of crime.
Let me pass from that, which is a denial of the basis on which I understand, from the legal point of view, the Bill is founded, to the other side of it. Can any one who has any knowledge of magistrates' work and magistrates' jurisdiction in this country deny that the magistrates' courts are most unsuitable tribunals for dealing with the questions raised under this Bill? They are not only unsuitable but, as the noble Earl behind me has pointed out, they are not the kind of tribunal which has preserved the liberties of this country in matters of this character. I have had to read through all these old matters affecting blasphemy and sedition, and they are matters of extreme difficulty when you come to actual trial. You want, in its most perfect form, the protection both of a Judge who is cognisant of these difficulties, who knows what they are, and of a jury, properly directed by him as to what the law is.
Let me give an illustration of what I mean. No one in this House, I suppose, is more opposed than I am to any teaching which seeks to bring the Christian religion into contempt by means of ribald, or contumelious, or scurrilous language. I yield to no one in my eon-tempt and horror that children should be taught things of that kind. But what is the fact? Why is it a crime at Common Law that teaching of this kind should be given to children or, in fact, to anybody? It is not because you are attacking the Christian religion. It has been held quite clearly, particularly in the Bowman case, that there is no offence in Common Law in this 194 country in attacking the Christian religion in the ordinary way. In other words, Christianity is no part of the Common Law of this country. It was laid down as long ago as Lord Mansfield's time, and the whole matter was re-discussed in the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, calls attention in his Memorandum, and now, I may take it, it is absolutely settled.
The offence is not in using ribald, contumelious and scurrilous language. The offence is in using language of a kind which is likely to exasperate the feelings of others and to lead to a breach of the peace. I quote that to show how subtle and difficult these matters are. You may abuse the Christian religion as much as you like; but if you abuse it in a fashion that is likely to exasperate the feelings of those who are listening to you and is thereby likely to conduce to a breach of the peace, you come within the Common Law definition of what constitutes a crime in this particular case. I think I have given an illustration of the difficulties which arise in connection with this matter.
The Blasphemy Act, which was passed in 9 & 10 William III, which is long enough ago, contains ample provision for prosecution, but there has never been a single prosecution under it from that day to this. The cases' in which these questions of blasphemy have always arisen have been matters of trusts and charities and the powers of particular bodies. That war the ease in the instance to which the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, referred. That was not a criminal matter at all. That was a case in which a society was entitled to benefit under a particular legacy and these matters, complicated and difficult as they are, have nearly always arisen in forms of that kind. These prosecutions began in the time of Charles II. There were no prosecutions for blasphemy before them. Had there been any they would have been dealt with by the Ecclesiastical Courts of that time. But it is perfectly true and it must be borne in mind that from the very beginning such prosecutions have been extremely scarce and extremely rare, save in Chancery and proceedings of that kind, in which you have to determine whether a particular legacy or trust is good or not. That is exactly what was decided and determined in the Bowman case, in which, I think, the 195 noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, took part.
In circumstances of that kind, and in such difficulties, what reason is there for taking away what I may legitimately call the protection of a Judge dealing with a most complex proposition of law, in order to delegate it to an ordinary magistrate. I do not wish to find fault with the ordinary magistrate. On the contrary, I think the unpaid magistracy in this country is one of the best parts of our local administration. But I say frankly that they are not the class of persons who can deal with such difficult questions, and there is no reason why they should be asked to do so.
Let me go the full length to which the noble Lord himself went in describing as abominations some of the teachings that he mentioned. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, that teaching of that kind is particularly abominable in its influence on the minds of young children. Let me make those two propositions. There is the law, and there is no more difficulty in bringing matters of this kind within it at the present time than there is in the case of a man who has stolen a horse. Nor is the cost any greater. The proceedings are taken by the police and prosecuted in the ordinary courts. Therefore, it is not true to say that you are not changing the law when you take away the protection to which the subject is entitled in such complicated questions—namely, the direction of the legal mind of a Judge explaining what the issue is to the jury who are trying the case. I believe it is "all moonshine," if I may use the expression, to say that there is any difficulty at the present time.
I want to say a word or two presently in reference to what the most rev. Primate has said. He gave, I think, an explanation of the difficulties which I am conscious some of your Lordships feel. But for the moment let me turn to the definition of sedition which appears in the Bill. I rather doubt whether the definition is complete, but I do not want to make any verbal criticism of it because it can, no doubt, be set right. But in considering whether certain teaching promotes feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects, you are dealing with pure matter of opinion. You are really going back to Lord Mansfield's view that a mere statement 196 of opinion has never been a crime under the Common Law of England. You go there to one of the mainstays of what the noble and learned Viscount has rightly described as the liberty of the subject. Imagine a question of that kind being brought before an ordinary magistrate. I wonder what would be the opinion of any noble Lord here if, on a question of this kind, which is undoubtedly a matter of opinion to a very large extent, his case was relegated to some obscure magistrate—I do not use the word in any opprobious sense—in South Wales, or anywhere else, who might hold opinions entirely different from those of any of your Lordships, instead of his having the protection which he ought to have of a trial by a Judge and jury?
It is not the law that is so difficult to lay down in these matters; it is the application of the law. I should like your Lord ships to consider that because it is a real point. It is all very well to say that it is seditious to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects. The difficulty arises at a subsequent stage, as to whether, in the particular instance, the teaching was of a character to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects. I admit without any hesitation that I am subject to bias. We are all subject to bias. However impartial we wish to be, our minds are influenced in maters of this kind by our preceding outlook. In fact, the very attitude which might seem to some of us the best to adopt in promoting good will would seem to those who hold a different opinion the very best, or worst, way of promoting ill-will. You cannot get rid of those difficulties. They are essential to matters of the kind, and every great Judge has realised that fact. Every great Judge has realised the extreme difficulty of separating mere matters of opinion from what I would call matters of sedition or blasphemy. That difficulty is inherent in this subject, and must not be neglected or put lightly to one side when we are seeking to deal with such a Bill as that which the noble Lord has brought forward.
I want to make it clear that I abominate what he has referred to under the head of seditious and blasphemous 197 teaching. I wholly agree with what was said by the most rev. Primate when he drew a distinction between vicious and Socialist schools. One must not be led away by what I might describe as prejudices of that kind into introducing into our legal system something which is wholly reactionary in my view—the substitution of a tribunal which ought never to have power in matters of this kind for the well-recognised tribunal in which we glory when we talk of our liberties and our treatment of criminal questions; that is to say, a competent jury under the direction of a Judge who knows all the difficulties of a law of this character. That is why I am entirely in accord with what was said by the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack.
There is one other matter, and I think it is important I agree fully with what was said by the most rev. Primate in the speech which he made to-night. The way to meet this difficulty is to provide careful teaching of a true religious and a true political character. You want to provide teaching which dissociates itself from blasphemy, and the only way really to influence the minds of these young children in the right way is that we should teach the contrary opinion. In this matter I hold the same opinion as that held by noble Lords opposite. We are ourselves responsible, and it is our duty to see that proper teaching is provided in an adequate way at the Sunday schools throughout the country. It is in that way that we ought to attempt to deal with the question. We must not be led away with the idea that there is any difficulty so far as the existing procedure is concerned. We must not be led away with the idea that the police, who really deal with these matters, are any more, slack over this than they are over any other question. Above all, do not let us institute a form of tribunal which, I am sure, would be wholly unsatisfactory, and which would not have the responsibility, power and knowledge that are needed in difficult questions of this character.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
My Lords, I ask leave to address your Lordships on two points only, and I will do so very briefly. First, I think that, again and again in the speeches against this Bill, there will be found a confusion as to the purpose of the Bill. This is not a Bill for the prosecution of sedition or blasphemy. I am sure that is quite clear. If it were, 198 then everything which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said would be greatly in point, because all of us know the difficulty which exists in the prosecution of opinion, however seditious or blasphemous it is.
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I interrupt the noble and learned Viscount to say one thing? Surely it is the same thing: it is teaching that to young children.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
I was just going to point that out. Secondly, it is not a Bill for the prosecution of Socialist, or even of Communist, schools. There I think the most rev. Primate, if I may say so with respect, did not do full justice to the proposals. No schools could be prosecuted under this Bill. There cannot be a chance of such a confusion as he, with obvious sincerity, conceived. There cannot be a confusion of a school which teaches Socialism with a man. It is the man who teaches blasphemy and sedition to children who is to be prosecuted. This is a Bill, as the noble Lord opposite said, which deals entirely with the teaching of young children, and it proposes to penalise the man who, from whatever motive and by whomsoever paid, takes upon himself to teach to little children vicious opinions in the form of blasphemy or sedition. I cannot conceive any one who does not desire to put down that form of infamous crime, t think we are wholly justified in endeavouring to put that form of crime upon a somewhat different footing from the offence of the man who gets up in Hyde Park and talks sedition to a crowd. That is the main point which has already been fully brought out by the noble Earl beside me, Lord Balfour.
The second point with which I want to deal is that of procedure. It is true that this Bill substitutes for procedure by indictment a different form of procedure as regards this offence, and I think that that is right, subject to what I am going to say in a moment. Everybody who is conversant with the administration of our law knows that it is difficult to launch and carry to an end an indictment for offences of this class. Does anybody remember when a man has been prosecuted for blasphemous teaching to young children? Yet we know that such cases occur day after day and week after week. The most rev. Primate, as a result of his investigations, has been informed of not 199 less than thirty-five schools where this kind of thing is going on, and yet there has not been a single prosecution for this cruel offence. There must be something wrong in the present procedure which prevents those proceedings from being taken, and all of us who know something of the administration of the law will, I think, realise what the difficulty is. The proposal is this. Where there is a clear case of teaching blasphemy or sedition to children, a man shall not be subjected to the long, costly and doubtful procedure of indictment, which a member of the public is very slow to undertake for obvious reasons, but shall be liable to be brought up summarily before a magistrate, and there charged with the offence. I think that tribunal is very fit to deal with this charge.
May I say, in passing, that I heard with interest, and with complete assent, what was said by the Lord Chancellor as to the desirability of keeping our benches free from men who deliberately break the law. I am sure everything which he said on that point met with the general assent of the House. But beyond that, I have great confidence in the common sense and fairness of the benches of this country. I think that they are fit to deal with charges of this kind which, in most cases, will be very simple and very clear, and upon which they are able to judge. But if they should be wrong, there is, as has been pointed out, always the remedy of an appeal to a larger tribunal, also
§ composed of magistrates but in which, I am sure, most members of this House would have complete confidence.
§ I will add this. The noble Lord opposite, and others, have pointed out that the effect of this measure may be to deprive these people of the chance of being tried by a jury of their countrymen. That is a point which deserves consideration. It is one which, I may say, appeals to many people, but which is capable of being very easily met. Your Lordships know well that as regards certain classes of offence the person charged before a bench has a right by law to elect to be tried by a jury, and I do not know whether it will be proposed in Committee that that right should be given to the persons charged under this Bill. If it should be so proposed, I have no doubt my noble friend will deal with the suggestion. All I desire to say upon it to-day is this: that this is a point which may well be dealt with in Committee, and need by no means interfere with the approval of this Bill on Second Reading I doubt whether any one in this House will feel happy in voting against the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind. Certainly, for myself, I support it with all my heart.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill be read a second time
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 20.201
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Malmesbury, E.||Askwith, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Midleton, E.||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]|
|Northumberland, D.||Onslow, E.|
|Portland, D.||Selborne, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Stanhope, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Strange, E. (Atholl, D.)||Brownlow, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Westmeath, E.||Channing of Wellingborough, L.|
|Bath, M.||Charnwood, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Burnham, V.||Colwyn, L.|
|Normanby, M.||Cave, V.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Danesfort, L. [Teller.]|
|Chaplin, V.||Darling, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Balfour, E.||Knutsford, V.||Dynevor, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Long, V.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Peel, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Templetown, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Younger of Leckie, V.||Forbes, L.|
|Grey, E.||Gisborough, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Durham, L. Bp.||Harris, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Hastings, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Ashfield, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jessel, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Southwark, L.|
|Knaresborough, L.||Plumer, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Kylsant, L.||Queenborongh, L.||Sumner, L.|
|MacDonnell, L.||Raglan, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Templemore, L.|
|Mildmay of Flete, L.||Redesdale, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweed dale.)|
|Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Riddell, L.|
|Mowbray, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Russell, E. [Teller.]||Meston, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Chelmsford, V.||Pentland, L.|
|Ullswater, V.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Stanmore, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Arnold, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Denman, L.||Thomson, L.|
On Question, Motion disagreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Bill read 2a accordingly and referred to a Committee of the Whole House.