HL Deb 06 November 1934 vol 94 cc96-162

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it is my privilege this afternoon, on behalf of the Government, to present to your Lordships for your acceptance the Bill which stands in my name. It is a Bill which has undoubtedly excited a considerable amount of controversy and aroused a good deal of public attention in the Press, during the last few months, and there has been expressed a good deal of apprehension—I think I may add a good deal of misapprehension—as to the nature and effect of the Bill. I should like to say at once that so far as the Government are concerned they are very far from resenting the honest criticism and examination of the language of the Bill. We think that if there is even the suspicion that the liberties of the subject are being attacked, it is right that the proposals should be subjected to the closest scrutiny, and your Lordships who have followed the course of this Bill in another place may have noticed that, in pursuance of that view, the Government have been ready to accept numerous Amendments to meet apprehensions which we believe to be genuine, even though in some cases we doubted if they were really well founded. But apart from that genuine misgiving there has also been, I regret to say, a campaign of misrepresentation with regard to what the Bill does and what the Bill purports to do which I do not recollect having occurred in the case of any Bill which I have had the honour to conduct in this House, or indeed in the other House, with the exception, perhaps, of the Trade Disputes Bill in 1927.

In view of those misrepresentations it may perhaps be convenient, if a little unusual, if I ask your Lordships to permit me to tell you what the Bill does not do before I proceed to explain its much more modest actual provisions. Those who attack it have been pleased to label the Bill the "Sedition Bill." It has been said that it interferes with our existing liberty of speech, and even that it penalises the holding of political opinions. May I reassure those of your Lordships who have perhaps read the criticisms and not had the time and opportunity to study the actual terms of the Bill, by dealing with those suggestions? In the first place, this Bill has nothing whatever to do with the law of sedition. It is not a Sedition Bill in any sense or form. The law of sedition is well established. It has been defined in numerous Statutes and text-books. It is well understood by those accustomed to administer the criminal law. This Bill does not deal with sedition at all. In the second place, this Bill does not affect liberty of speech at all. Any statement or writing which at this moment is legal will remain legal when this Bill is on the Statute Book. Conversely, any statement or writing which at this moment is illegal will remain illegal when this Bill becomes law. Still less, of course, does the Bill purport in any way to interfere with the liberty of political opinion in this country.

The Bill has a much more modest and, I venture to think, a much less objectionable scope. It does three things. In the first place, it deals, and deals exclusively, with the incitement of members of His Majesty's forces to disaffection, to the disobedience of their orders and the breach of their allegiance. Your Lordships know that, I suppose ever since armed forces have existed in this country, it has been a grave offence for any soldier or sailor in the service of the Crown to refuse to obey orders given him by lawful authority. It is an offence punishable in extreme cases even by the penalty of death, and in every case liable to bring a very severe penalty. For more than a century past it has been recognised in this country that it would be not only foolish but also very wrong to say to a soldier or sailor: "If you refuse to obey orders you are liable to a most extreme form of punishment; but at the same time if anybody more ex- perienced than yourself should take upon himself to try to persuade you to disobey your orders or to mutiny against your allegiance, that person shall not be guilty of any crime at all." In other words, it is wrong us well as foolish to say that you will punish the person who is misled into perhaps a temporary lapse of his duty, and that you will allow the person who is responsible for misleading him to go scathless. Accordingly, as long ago as 1797 the Incitement to Mutiny Act rendered that a highly penal offence.

That Act has been followed by others with which I need not trouble your Lordships by reciting at this moment. But your Lordships will recollect that in 1797 views as to punishment of crime were very different from those which obtain to-day, and under the Incitement to Mutiny Act the penalty prescribed for any person who endeavoured to seduce a soldier or sailor from his duty and allegiance was no less than penal servitude for life. It was made a felony by Statute. The result is that to-day the only way of proceeding against any person who is found committing a breach of that law is to proceed by indictment, take him to Assizes, and there to have a trial before a Judge and jury, with the liability of a life sentence for his offence. Now, in fact, that machinery is to-day altogether out of date. There are cases in which it may still be appropriate, cases of deliberately plotting to subvert the armed forces of the Crown, perhaps in time of extreme national peril or emergency, when nothing less than a most severe sentence could properly be inflicted. But the ordinary case with which in modern life we have to deal is the case of sonic misguided or careless person, sometimes a man out of work, who is bribed for a few shillings, sometimes a boy who has been misled by "hot air" oratory in Hyde Park, and who throws a leaflet inciting to mutiny over the barrack wall, or drops it on the parade ground in a military depot. It is taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut to deal with that man under the Incitement to Mutiny Act.

The right plan, I should have thought obviously the right plan, to deal with that type of case, which is the type of case that in practice we have to deal with, is not to indict the person for felony with all these terrible penalties attached, but to take him before a magistrate and probably inflict a small fine or even in some cases bind him over to be a good boy and not be so foolish again. Accordingly the first thing this Bill does is to provide an appropriate summary procedure for dealing with the offence. It is provided that the accused person if he so desires can always insist on being committed for trial by a jury; it is also provided that in cases where the Director of Public Prosecutions is prosecuting he shall also have the right to claim a trial by jury at Assizes if he so desires; but a normal case will under this Bill be dealt with by summary procedure instead of by the elaborate machinery which at present prevails. That, then, is the first object of the Bill.

The second object of the Bill is more important. I have always taken the view, and I think it is one that will probably commend itself to most of your Lordships, that in those cases where some poisonous leaflet is distributed to soldiers or sailors inciting them to mutiny or disobedience, the person who is really to blame is not the foolish or misguided youth who is bribed to scatter the leaflet about and who knows probably very little about what is in it; or even the boy who has been, as I have said, misled by violent and foolish speeches at open-air meetings to do what he had better have left undone. The person really to blame is not the innocent tool who has the documents in his hand, but the person who is behind the whole plan, who has schemed the attempt to subvert the allegiance of the forces of the Crown, who has brought these documents into existence for that purpose, and who does it very often as part of a much more serious and grave conspiracy against the safety of the realm. Persons such as these are the people whom we ought to desire to get at, and these are the people who under the existing law it is extraordinarily difficult to detect or prove guilty. Accordingly the Bill attempts to make it clear that these are the people who deserve punishment and also provides means which will make it, we hope, easier to bring home their guilt if they have committed this offence.

The Bill does that in two ways. In the first place it provides that if any person intending to commit this crime of seducing His Majesty's forces from their duty or allegiance has in his possession pamphlets or documents which are intended to be used for that purpose, then that person is guilty of an offence under this measure. I doubt very much whether there will be found in this House anybody who will get up and say that that person does not deserve to be found guilty and punished. Further, the Bill provides that if any one is suspected of being guilty of this offence of having pamphlets which he designs to have distributed to His Majesty's forces in order to subvert them from their military duty, it shall be lawful to apply to a Judge of the High Court with evidence on oath that there is reasonable cause for that suspicion, and if the Judge is satisfied by that evidence then he may cause a search to be made on the premises of the suspected person in order to see whether these pamphlets are in fact there or not.

May I tell your Lordships a short personal experience which indicates, I think, the value of some such provision? When I was Attorney-General, some eight or ten years ago, a case was brought to my attention by the Director of Public Prosecutions in which leaflets of this character were being widely distributed at a military centre, in which the authorities knew, or thought they knew, who was causing these documents to be produced and where they were kept, but in which it had not been found possible to detect those whom the authorities believed to be guilty in the act of handing over the pamphlets to the people who actually did the distribution. I was bound to hold, on these facts, that there was no power in the Police to take any steps against the person who was suspected to be guilty. There was no power to go to the premises where it was believed these pamphlets were stored in order to prevent their circulation. All we could do was to wait until the pamphlets were actually circulated and then see if we could not catch the person who was actually throwing them about. Not only was there no power in the Police, there was no power in anybody.

At that time I thought that was a very grave defect in the law and nothing which I have read since—and I have carefully studied the discussions on this Bill in another place—has caused me to change that view. The Bill provides that in these cases in which there is evidence which can satisfy the Judge that there is reasonable cause to suspect, the Judge shall have power to order a search warrant to be issued in order that these pamphlets, if they exist, may be found and the guilty party dealt with. People have suggested that this is something new in our law. I do not want to weary the House, but it may interest your Lordships to know that there are something like sixty odd Acts of Parliament in which the power to search is conferred in regard to almost every major form of crime. Sometimes the search warrant issues on the authority of one magistrate, sometimes it issues on the authority of two magistrates, sometimes it issues on information on oath, sometimes it issues at petty sessions; there are a number of different methods by which the search warrant may be obtained. I think I am right in saying—and I shall be glad to receive correction presently if I am wrong—that there is no case in which more careful precautions are laid down for the issue of a search warrant than those contained in the Bill which is being submitted to your Lordships to-day.

That then is the whole of the Bill. If your Lordships have the Bill in your hands you will see that Clause 1 provides: If any person maliciously and advisedly endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. The criticism was made in another place that the words were "duty or allegiance" whereas the 1797 Act spoke of "duty and allegiance," and it was thought to make a distinction between the two. For myself, I share the view which I see my learned friend the Attorney-General expressed in another place, that it makes very little difference in fact which form of language you use.


He expressed two opinions.


I read carefully his speech and I do not think he expressed two opinions. He expressed the opinion, which I share, that it made very little difference which form of words was used. I believe he was right. He went on to point out that in fact the words in the later Statutes were "duty or allegiance" as in this Bill, but he expressed the view, which again I share, that if there was a great difference between the two, that if it was possible under the words "duty and allegiance" for a person to endeavour to seduce a member of His Majesty's forces from his duty, persuade him to disobey his orders and then to escape liability by saying: "Well, I never seduced him from his allegiance," then the sooner that is put right the better, and that this form of words was much the preferable one. I cannot imagine anything more ludicrous or wrong than to allow some lawyer at a criminal trial to say that it was quite true an endeavour was made to persuade the soldier to refuse to take his place in the firing line, but there was no offence committed under the Act because the soldier was quite willing to present arms at the royal review later on. With that exception the words are the same as in the Act of 1797.

Clause 2 begins by making the provision which I have already explained, but it is perhaps useful to see how carefully the words are framed: If any person, with intent to commit or to aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of an offence under Section one of this Act— that is to say, attempt to seduce the soldier or sailor— has in his possesion or under his control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's forces would constitute such an offence he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. It is fair to say that that clause has been substantially altered since the Bill was first introduced in another place. As it stood originally the words "with intent to commit" and so on were "If any person without lawful excuse." Thereupon it was urged, and I am not concerned to dispute the force of the argument, that that put the burden on the accused person of proving that he had a lawful excuse, and that that was contrary to the ordinary rule of our criminal law.

That defect, if it was there, has at any rate been put right now, because your Lordships see that before any person can be convicted under this subsection the prosecution have to prove, first of all, that the person in question was intending to commit, or to procure the commission of, the offence of seducing the soldier or sailor. If he is not proved to have had that intention then he is not guilty of any offence; but if he is intending to cause the members of the forces to be seduced from their duty or allegiance and he has documents in his possession of such a character that it would be an offence under this Bill—that is to say, it would be an endeavour to seduce men from their allegiance to distribute such documents to the forces—he will be guilty of an offence under the Bill. Your Lordships see that the position is doubly safeguarded, because he can, with perfect propriety and safety, have any documents in his possession unless they are documents which from their terms constitute an endeavour to seduce members of His Majesty's forces from their duty or allegiance, and he is safe unless he has those documents in his possession with the intention of trying to get them used for that purpose. If it be proved that he has these seductive and subversive documents in his possession and that he has them for the purpose of trying to seduce a member of His Majesty's forces then he is guilty of an offence under this measure.

Next comes the provision with regard to the search warrant in subsection (2), which is, I think, the only one with which I need trouble your Lordships: If a Judge of the High Court is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this Act has been committed, and that evidence of the commission thereof is to be found at any premises or place specified in the information, he may, on an application made by an officer of Police of a rank not lower than that of inspector, grant a search warrant authorising any such officer as aforesaid named in the warrant together with any other person named in the warrant and any other officers of Police to enter the premises or place at any time within one month from the date of the warrant, if necessary by force, and to search the premises or place and every person found therein, and to seize anything found on the premises or place or on any such person which the officer has reasonable ground for suspecting to be evidence of the commission of such offence as aforesaid. That is to say, in order to put this clause into operation you have to produce evidence on oath which satisfies the Judge that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that some person has got these subversive documents with intent to use them for the purpose of seducing His Majesty's forces, and that they are likely to be found at a named place. In that event the Judge may authorise the place to be searched to see if they are there. Then there are provisions which limit the power given. The search warrant can only be issued for an offence which has been committed within three months. If anything is taken from the premises there is to be a list furnished to the occupier of what has been taken away. There is also a provision which prevents the detention of any documents so seized and which gives the ordinary power under the Police Property Act for the summary recovery of anything which is seized.

Clause 3 is a clause which imposes a penalty. There is to be a penalty on conviction on indictment of two years imprisonment or £200 fine as against penal servitude for life under the older Act, or, on summary conviction, there is a maximum liability of four months imprisonment or £20 fine. The period of four months is instead of three months as originally in the Bill, and is to ensure that any person who objects to being tried summarily shall have the right by virtue of this provision to claim that he shall be tried by a jury at Assizes. There is also a provision that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions must be obtained before any prosecution is initiated, and that the Director of Public Prosecutions on his side, when he is personally prosecuting, may claim that the case be sent for trial before a jury. There is further a provision for the destruction of any objectionable documents which are proved to be so in the course of the trial. Clause 4 provides for a corresponding law in Scotland, and for its application in Northern Island.

That is the whole Bill and your Lordships will see how far it is removed from the representations of some of those who have been attacking it in the past. I hope you will see also how far we have gone in the endeavour to meet any reasonable criticism which was put up in the earlier stages. Two criticisms I desire to meet, and then I have finished. In the first place it is said: "What is the necessity for this Bill? Why not let sleeping dogs lie?" There are three answers to that. I am bound to confess at once that it never occurred, I think, to any member of the Government, it certainly did not occur to me, that the Bill would give rise to any such extravagant expectations with regard to its defects as have been advertised in some opposition quarters. In the second place I dissent altogether from the view that you must not stop a criminal act until you have evidence that the criminal has been successful; that you must not ever attempt to lock the stable door unless you are quite sure that the horse has got out; that you must not, for instance, prevent any one administering poison unless you are quite sure that the person taking the poison is not going to recover. That has never seemed to me to be a logical position. I think it is wholly unreasonable to say to soldiers and sailors that the crime of disobedience to orders and mutiny is one of the gravest military offences they can commit, and yet take no steps to prevent those people who are trying to persuade them to commit it from being deterred from the active prosecution of their desire.

Then, it is not true that there have been no endeavours to seduce the members of His Majesty's forces. My right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General gave some instances as to the extent to which this crime has taken place during the last two years, 1932 and 1933. He said there were some seventeen different pamphlets—I do not mean different issues of different documents or pamphlets containing different language—seventeen different issues, each of a printing probably of several hundreds or thousands, in some twenty different places which were found during the year 1932. Again, in 1933 there were eleven different pamphlets known to have been distributed in fourteen places. During the first ten months of this year there has been some forty-three different distributions of different pamphlets distributed in fifteen different naval and military centres, and it is believed that there were printed something over 30,000 copies of these pamphlets this year for distribution. That is a crime which in our judgment ought not to be allowed to go on unchecked. This Bill, it is hoped and believed, will be effective in checking it.

There is another criticism. I have heard it said that it is idle for us to pretend that this Bill has nothing to do with the law of sedition because everybody who has been discussing it has been bringing in the law of sedition and political opinion as part of the discussion, and because there are some at least of the extreme political organisations which are violently protesting against it. It is asked: "How can that be so if this Bill is as innocent as you pretend?" I think the answer to that is to be found in a study of the character of some of these so-called political organisations. It is perfectly true that in this country everybody is at liberty to hold and to advocate any form of political opinion he pleases. If people are clever enough or lucky enough to persuade the majority of the voters of this country to agree with them, then they can proceed in Parliament to give effect to their wishes however extreme, however foolish and even wicked they may be. But one thing you may not do in this country is to advocate the forcible overthrow of the existing established form of government. You can advocate that Parliament be asked to alter it in any direction. You cannot advocate doing that by the forcible overthrow of the Government.

It so happens that there is in existence in this country a Party which holds the view that it can never hope to persuade people by peaceful means to vote for the particular doctrines and the particular form of government which it advocates, but that the right way to do it is to proceed by violence forcibly to overthrow the existing form of government. The method has been set out in the Party's programme. First, there is to be fostered every sort of ill-feeling between different classes of the State. Every opportunity is to be taken in industrial disputes to fan any spark into a flame and to encourage any flame until it become a conflagration; to stir up every sort of conflict between Capital and Labour; to get the masses of the people discontented and violent; and, ultimately, to produce an armed rebellion against the established government of the country. Those who hold that view have a very clear knowledge of the fact that such a scheme cannot hope to be successful so long as the armed forces of the Crown are loyal to the established government of the country.

Accordingly, part of their programme is subversion of the armed forces of the Crown, and they have advocated and pressed on their disciples and followers as one of the most urgent necessities for the success of their cause the subversion of the armed forces and the seduction of the members of the Army and Navy from their allegiance, so that when at last the time comes the Army and Navy, instead of performing their duty, shall join forces with the rebels and overthrow the Government. That conspiracy is a conspiracy which this Bill will very seriously hamper. The Bill is not directed against one side of politics rather than the other. It is just as effective in dealing with people who say that they would like, for instance, no one to in the Government who has not a black shirt and that they will forcibly overthrow the Government if that political uniform is not made compulsory, as it is in dealing with those who say that they want to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of the existing form of society by force.

What the Bill is directed against is the seduction of the armed forces of the Crown by anybody, to whatever political Party they may belong. It is perfectly true that one particular section of opinion does hold the view that it is necessary to proceed by violence and it is part of its political doctrine that it must precede this violent rebellion by the attempted subversion of the armed forces. Those people are, and are intended to be, hampered by this Bill, not because of the political doctrines which they may hold, but because of the illegal method by which they intend to impose their view upon the majority of the people of this country. I have, I hope, explained to your Lordships what the Bill does as well as what it does not do. I hope your Lordships will take the view that it is a reasonable and sensible Bill, that there is no ground, in its present form at any rate, for the apprehension which has been preferred against it, that it does simplify the procedure, that it does punish a crime which ought to be punished, and that it does provide reasonable means for the detection of that crime and its prevention in the future.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Viscount Hailsham.)


My Lords, I have been asked to express the opposition of my noble friends to this measure and the noble Viscount who leads the House will not be surprised to hear that his speech, so far as I can make out from my noble friends, has in no way lessened their opposition. Indeed, speaking for myself, it has somewhat strengthened it. In his interesting speech the noble Viscount disappointed me in one respect. He is, as well as the very distinguished Leader of your Lordships' House, His Majesty's Secretary of State for War. I should have thought he would have told us of the effect of these 30,000 copies and forty-three distributions of pamphlets which, in the first ten months of this year, are believed to have been made for the purpose of distribution to soldiers, sailors and airmen. What effect did these have? Has there been any trouble in any of His Majesty's regiments? The Secretary of State for Air is also present. I do not know whether he is going to give us any information about attempts to suborn and seduce airmen. That is the missing thing in all these arguments which we have heard in support of this extraordinary measure. There has been no case cited, not one. Cases may exist; do not know whether they do, but not one case has been cited in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, of these nefarious attempts having succeeded in seducing one soldier, one sailor or one airman from his duty or his allegiance, or from his duty and his allegiance.

The noble Viscount said that somebody had said: "Why not let sleeping dogs lie?" I have followed the controversy on this Bill, and I have not recognised that particular argument against it. I wonder whether that argument was used in the Cabinet? I certainly have not noticed that it was used outside. But I would present the noble Viscount with this reflection: the "sleeping dogs" in this case have been the ordinary members of the British public of all classes. The feeling against this Bill has not been artificially created. It is widespread. I myself have heard people of all classes and indeed of all shades of opinion, people who ordinarily are not interested in politics, protesting most violently against the central proposal of this Bill, which is, as I shall hope presently to show to your Lordships, the restoration of the general right of search, and the invasion of the sanctity of the Englishman's home. Once you propose anything of that kind in this country, you immediately get an outcry, and a very good thing, too! I hope this has been a warning to His Majesty's Government of what may happen if they pursue this line of policy.

The noble Viscount would have us believe that this agitation is simply the result of a campaign of misrepresentation. I do not know what line will be taken by the most reverend Primate, who I understand intervening in this debate, but I have here one of the most recent resolutions against the Bill passed by a representative body. This is the protest of the Christian Social Council, who, on November 1 of this year, after all these Amendments had been made in another place and after all these attempts had been made to meet very legitimate criticism, said of the Bill: The restriction of personal liberties proposed in the present incitement to Disaffection Bill is viewed with great anxiety and strong disapproval by large sections of the Christian public which we represent. We earnestly desire the withdrawal of the Bill. The resolution was forwarded to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether that was before or after his intervention in another place, or the remarks which he made at a semi-public luncheon.

The noble Viscount referred, no doubt with sincere pride, to the outcry which was raised by another Bill, the Trade Disputes Bill. I have in my notes a reminder to draw an analogy. That Bill created tremendous indignation, and I was going to say that I myself can remember since the War—the only time during which I have taken an active part in the political life of this country—no Bill which has excited so much resentment and annoyance as this measure with the possible exception of that Bill which the noble Viscount sponsored in another place. But, after all, the Trade Disputes Bill mostly affected one class of the community, the workman, the trade unionist. This Bill affects all classes, and I should think on balance this Bill has annoyed and irritated more people than even that other extraordinary measure.

The first objection which I have to submit to your Lordships is that this Bill creates new crimes, and that in effect it reintroduces the general search warrant. That the noble Viscount denies, but let me read again the words of the Bill, which I think were rather hurriedly skimmed over by the noble Viscount. In the last part of subsection (2) of Clause 2 these words appear, and I would draw the particular attention of your Lordships to these words. The police officer is empowered to seize anything found on the premises or place or on any such person which the officer has reasonable ground for suspecting to be evidence of the commission of such an offence as aforesaid. By the various Acts entitling the Police to obtain search warrants they are permitted to search for a particular kind of document. In the Betting and Lotteries Bill at present before Parliament there is a clause authorising warrants to be issued to search for sweepstake tickets; under the laws against obnoxious drugs, the Police may obtain a warrant to search for cocaine; or they may obtain a warrant to search for pornographic literature. Those are special specific objects of search. They have to search for those things, and those things, if found, are the evidence.

But in this case, having obtained the consent of a Judge of the High Court to a search, under this wording the Police may find any other document or pamphlet or leaflet which may aid their case against the person suspected; and in practice this means, in effect, that the Police, having once obtained that warrant, may go on a general fishing expedition, breaking into anyone's house, into a newspaper office, into a publisher's office, into a club, a restaurant or a hotel, and search every cabinet, every cupboard and every book-case there, by force if necessary, rifling and rummaging. They may search the persons of everyone found thereon, and I think the personal search most objectionable, because no one can hide on his person 30,000 pamphlets. That is obviously seeking for evidence to put away safely in prison somebody whom the Government do not like. If in the course of this search they find other things of which they had no knowledge but which may be used as evidence, then those things can be brought forward in court and used to assist in prosecuting a person of whom the Government of the day are afraid, or whom they do not like. Now that attempt to allow the searching of premises is what I venture to submit to your Lordships has annoyed, angered and alarmed the lieges, the King's subjects. I believe that it is entirely un- necessary, and I shall endeavour to show your Lordships why.

Some defenders of the Bill pretend that it is only a small measure. Apparently the Attorney-General thinks that it is of the greatest importance. I would have thought that His Majesty's Government were sufficiently occupied with attempting to deal with the severe economic problems which face them without asking Parliament to occupy itself with this Bill. Nevertheless, let us take it as it is and the situation as it is. Let me now quote the words of Sir William Holdsworth about this matter; and nothing which has been altered in the Bill really affects this judgment. Sir William is the well-known Professor of English Law at Oxford; I understand that he is a Conservative in politics, and the words which I quote were written in the Conservative journal, the Spectator.


Of what date?


Before the Bill had been altered in Committee. I was careful to say that I believe that this judgment is in no way affected by the alterations which have been made. He described this measure in this way, and no extra safeguards so-called, no substitution of two magistrates for one magistrate, or now a Judge of the High Court for two magistrates, can affect this judgment. Sir William described this as the most daring encroachment upon the liberty of the subject which the executive Government has yet attempted at a time which is not a time of emergency. All your so-called safeguards, my Lords, will not affect that judgment of a very great master of English law.

When this Bill was first introduced I thought it was aimed at a body known as the Blackshirts; I thought that they had been attempting to interfere with the loyalty and the allegiance of the armed forces; and indeed at the end of his speech the noble Viscount did make some remarks about the Blackshirts or Fascists in this country; but the arguments of the learned Attorney-General which we have read, and indeed the speech of the noble Viscount to-day, emphasise the fact that this Bill is apparently aimed at the Communists or a section of the Communist Party. I do not know that the present Government are actually afraid of the Communist Party, but if they are may I ask the noble Viscount to take comfort from the most recent expression of public opinion in this country. I refer to the municipal elections in London and the provinces. I do not refer to the success of my friends of the Labour Party but I will refer to the tremendous defeats, the humiliating defeats, suffered by the handful of Communist candidates who stood. They were made to appear in a perfectly ludicrous position. If Communists have really frightened the Government into introducing this Bill, which is an obnoxious Bill to many perfectly law-abiding subjects, I ask them to think again. The Labour Party will deal with the Communist Party politically, as they do deal with them up and down the country. As to the troops and sailors, as I have said, whenever attempts have been made by Communists or anyone else to seduce them, the troops and sailors themselves have given an appropriate answer.

I, myself, and many other people, have seen a much more sinister motive behind this Bill, and I sincerely believe that there is a sinister motive behind the Bill. I shall deal with the genesis of the Bill later, but I believe that its present intention is to put a weapon in the hands of the Executive in those hectic few days before this country may be muddled or stampeded into another war. I do not want to look ahead into a dark future, or to be too pessimistic, but there are powerful forces working for war in this and every other country. A situation may arise where fateful decisions have to be taken, when men who love their country may desire to prevent her from committing the crime of engaging in another war, and the most powerful and influential of those men will be targets for attack by an unscrupulous Executive of the day. In those circumstances this Bill can be used to harry, annoy, and intimidate perfectly law-abiding people. Indeed I believe it is not really aimed at these few thousand Communists, with their leaflets and pamphlets, who have not affected the loyalty or good behaviour of any of our soldiers or sailors, but is aimed at perfectly decent and patriotic people, who believe that it is in the worst interest of this country to engage in another war.

Now, my Lords, I am going to speak about another objection which we have, and in regard to which I dare say the noble Viscount will attack me for bringing it up. I believe that everywhere there is an increase to be seen of Police powers over the citizens. We have seen States on the Continent of Europe created practically into Police States, where any person who annoys the Police, or annoys those who control the Police, is persecuted by Police action, and, as has been seen in other countries, and it can be done in this country, evidence has been manufactured in Police domiciliary raids on private houses. One of the great objections we have to enlarging in any way the right of search of private houses and persons is the ease with which unscrupulous people—and there are unscrupulous members of the Police in every country—can, to use an Americanism, "plant evidence," and we will endeavour in Committee to induce the Government to accept Amendments which will prevent any such abuse of power. This takes place in other countries, and it can take place here. While we admit that our Police, as a body, are good fellows who are trying to do their duty, often in difficult circumstances, here and there you have unscrupulous blackguards who can be used for such vile action as the concoction and planting of evidence in the way I have tried to describe.

Let us then see what is the genesis of this Bill. I believe its present object is to help the Executive to deal with the pacifist objection to war. I believe that is why this Bill is being persisted in by the present Cabinet, or by those who control the Cabinet. Its genesis, I believe, was in the Admiralty, and the reason was because of the unfortunate events at Invergordon, in the Atlantic Fleet. Apparently the Board of Admiralty suppose, as indeed they always have supposed, that it is impossible for sailors in His Majesty's Navy, seamen, marines and stokers, to forget their duty, unless they are inspired or led away by outside agitators. At the time of the Mutiny at the Nore, and the Mutiny at Spithead, over 100 years ago, although now the opinion is accepted that the real grievance of the sailors was the withholding of their pay and their shocking messing conditions, and so forth, it was believed then that they could not possibly have mutinied unless there had been republican agitators from France who led them away. Even now the Admiralty believe that it is impossible to have signs of unrest on board the Fleet unless Communist or Fascist agitators, or other ill-disposed persons, have stirred up the sailors. I understand that is the reason why this Bill was introduced.

I want to deal very briefly with the actual facts of that case, and it is important because it is the only serious trouble that we have had in the Fleet for very many years indeed. The troubles at Invergordon, it is now generally accepted, were caused simply by the strong sense of indignation of seamen and petty officers at the way they were being treated over the pay cuts. There was no outside agitation whatever in that case. I believe, indeed, that in the case of the Mediterranean Fleet, when the news came that there was this trouble at Inver-gordon, attempts were made by agitators, whether Fascists, Communists or others I do not know, to induce the Mediterranean Fleet at Malta to mutiny, and those attempts were completely unsuccessful. The matter was, of course, discussed in Parliament, and as I suppose some noble Lords may suggest that I support attempts to seduce seamen from their duty, may I be permitted to quote what I said on that occasion. I was speaking, at the request of the Labour Party, and I know that my noble friends support the same position to-day. I would ask your Lordships to remember that the Nationalist Government had just been formed, and I had, no tender feelings for that Government, and was most particularly indignant at the whole trickery of its formation. Referring to this matter, I used these words: I am sure that I am speaking for all on this side of the House when I say that it must not be taken that we are in any way condoning or supporting insubordination or indiscipline among men wearing the King's uniform. And I would say the same to-day. Later on I said: … the men of the Royal Navy have, after all, their remedy through Parliament. They are citizens. To-day, they are voters when they are out of their ships; they are on the register. They can appeal to, and they have the right to look to, Parliament to see that they are safeguarded and do not suffer oppression or injustice. If the seamen and the soldiers have grievances to-day they can use the constitutional machinery to have them put right. Further on, I said: I would once more plead that in all these matters we must hold on to the con- stitutional manner of doing things as to an anchor. There has been a lot of loose talk for some years about a dictatorship, either of the Right or the Left. So long as this Parliament is supreme, so long as its Constitution remains, the men of the Royal Navy and the officers will be able to look here for ultimate justice. I could repeat those words to-day with complete sincerity.

Now, that was a time when matters were serious in the most powerful fleet flying the White Ensign, the Atlantic Fleet. They were in no way due to agitation outside the Fleet. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to what happened when he was Attorney-General some eight years or more ago. Well, this happened only three years ago, and it had nothing whatever to do with these leaflets which apparently annoyed him at that time, and which he had no means of stopping because he had not this general power of search for which he now asks. I speak only with first-hand knowledge of the Royal Navy, but His Majesty's Fleet, with that one brief exception of Invergordon, has been manned by perfectly loyal seamen, marines and stokers throughout the last century. There have been one or two isolated cases of insubordination, but in the last twenty-five years there has been no concerted attempt to mutiny in the Fleet. We had a great test in the Royal Navy during the War, a very great test indeed. There was a period when the nation was suffering from war-weariness, when large sections of the civil population were discontented. They were not disloyal, they were discontented. Attempts were made by agitators, one of them a noble Lord in your Lordships' House, whom I told that I would refer to him to-day, but who has not done me the honour of being here. Attempts were made by agitators to seduce the seamen of the Royal Navy at that time, and without success. It was not in our Fleet that there was any trouble. The trouble came in the German Navy, and there was a very serious outbreak in the Austrian Navy as well. In the British Navy, its members drawn from a nation that is used to liberty, we came through without one concerted case of serious insubordination, much less of mutiny, during the whole of the four years of war. I believe I am right in saying that that was equally true of His Majesty's Army. There was some trouble about demobilisation in the regiments after the Armistice, but there was no mutiny in our Army during the War.

And there were attempts made to cause such mutinies. I have here some pamphlets which were issued during the War, and they found their way into camps and barracks and on board His Majesty's ships. What do they do? They call upon the seamen to help to form workers' and soldiers' and sailors' councils. And with what object? To follow the example of Russia. This was during 1917, a most critical period of the War, and what was the action of Russia at that time and of the Russian sailors and soldiers? In the Russian Navy they cut the throats of some of their officers and mutinied; in the Russian Army they streamed away from the front, and, although they were rallied afterwards, the Russians eventually made a separate peace. This is the sort of thing that was issued at that time: The Russian workers have pointed the way towards the healing of nations and a new internationalism, and it is the manifest duty of the Workers' and Soldiers' Council and all its branches to proclaim the real meaning and purpose of the Russian achievement … We may hold whatever opinions we like about the Russian revolution, its causes and its results, but to suggest to serving soldiers and sailors in the Great War on board our ships and in our regiments that they should follow the Russian example and form Soviets was surely seditious.

And who were these agitators, the terrible people who did these things? Two of the signatories were the present Prime Minister, and the noble Viscount, Lord Snowden. And what was the reply? As regards the Royal Navy there was no reply. The whole thing was treated as a joke. Apparently, His Majesty's Government of the day treated it as a joke too. They took no action against the distributors of these leaflets, and nothing happened. But the seamen of the merchant navy did take action. They were not under the Naval Discipline Act, they were not subject to the articles of war. What did they do? They showed their opinion of these leaflets by refusing to carry the present Prime Minister to Stockholm for an International Peace Conference. He could not get a ship flying the Red Ensign manned by merchant seamen to carry him there. That was the answer at the time, and a similar answer would be made to similar pamphlets to-day. And for that reason, amongst many others, I think your Lordships should give this Bill very short shrift.

However, there is one bright aspect of this matter. I believe that the reception given to this Bill in the country is one of the most hopeful things that has happened in the last ten or fifteen years. It has not been an artificially inspired agitation at all. It has been a spontaneous outburst of indignation against such a measure and the implied insult to the people of this country and, by inference, to those who wear the King's uniform in the armed forces. The reception of this Bill is a lesson to all those who would attempt to strengthen the forces of the Executive against the citizens of this country. It is a lesson to all those who, although they may not wear the blackshirts on their bodies, have the blackshirt mentality. For that reason the Bill will, I believe, have done good. I very much hope that the next Government will be a Labour Government and that they will remove this blot from the Statute Book. In the meantime my noble friends and myself, with our colleagues in another place and with all right thinking people of this country who value liberty and the sanctity of the home, offer to the Bill the greatest resistance.


My Lords, I listened with the greatest interest to the observations that fell from my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House for the purpose of understanding the reason for the introduction of this Bill, both in its original terms as presented to the House of Commons, and now in the amended form in which it comes before your Lordships' House. And I would add that I have approached it, not with a desire to oppose the National Government or to criticise it, but really in order to determine whether it was right that this Bill should be produced, and whether it should be supported in the interests of the public. I am quite certain that that is the view of all those who are associated with me in your Lordships' House.

May I say at once that I do not join issue in the faintest degree with my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House in all that he said about the necessity of protecting the forces of the Crown from attempts to seduce them from their duty or allegiance, and I do not believe that any member of your. Lordships would dissent from that view so expressed. If I thought it was necessary at this time of day to introduce this Bill, and in these terms to create the offence described, and there were proper reasons for it, I say unhesitatingly, speaking for myself, I would give it support; but I utterly fail to understand why the Government have introduced this Bill. When my noble friend spoke at the outset, he talked of the apprehensions or, as he indicated, the misapprehensions that surrounded the articles, paragraphs, and speeches published or made when this Bill was introduced. I may say that it scarcely lies in the mouth of the Government to charge those who did conduct that campaign either with misapprehensions or misrepresentations, because if there is one outstanding feature which must characterise all discussion on this Bill, it is that this Bill, introduced by a National Government composed of representatives of the three Parties in the State, was a Bill which could not stand discussion in the House of Commons but had to be amended in many important particulars. I propose to spare your Lordships a recital of the various Amendments that were made, but if your Lordships would take the trouble to compare the original Bill with the Bill as it now stands I am perfectly certain that you will share my wonder that it could ever have been introduced or sponsored by a National Government or any Government.

Clause after clause, at any rate sentence after sentence, of it has been subjected to criticism and alteration. I agree with what the noble Viscount said that some obscurities, particularly some interpretation of a phrase, may have led to the necessity of making a particular passage more precise. I make no comment on that; it happens in Bill after Bill. But I could go through the Bill and undertake to show that in quite a number of instances alterations have been made. I do not propose to do that, because the Bill as presented to your Lordships is the Bill in amended form as it has come from the other place, and of course it is open to us to say, and certainly the noble and learned Viscount could say if I did not anticipate what he or some other member of the Government will say in reply, that the Bill as presented is a very much better Bill than the Bill as introduced, and has that advantage in being put before your Lordships. To that extent I should agree. He would be right in saying that the Bill is a much better Bill, or a much less objectionable Bill, than the one originally introduced. The only reason I have for making any observation upon the Bill as originally presented is to defend those, many of them learned professors and men of the highest standing in the country, and certainly not always representing either the Liberal or the Labour Party, whose protests have induced or led to the alterations made in the House of Commons. It certainly seems wrong that there should be any criticism of them in that respect.

I propose to address myself briefly to the Bill as it stands and to place before your Lordships for your consideration the views that I and those associated with me desire to present. It cannot be right for any Government to multiply either the number of crimes or the penalties. It must be right for any Government to increase the number of crimes by the introduction of a new offence with the appropriate penalty if there should be a good cause for it. My difficulty throughout is to understand what is the good cause in this case. What is the necessity for this Bill? How came it to be introduced? Who was responsible for it? Who initiated it? Which of the Services asked for it, if any? I do not know whether the reason indicated by the noble Lord who has just spoken is right. I have no means of gauging whether what he suggested is true. It was not contradicted at the time, but of course I attribute no importance to that because the noble Viscount naturally would wait until he came to reply. May I ask him one question, because it affects my argument? Is the statement that the noble Lord made justified—that is, that it was the trouble that arose some few years ago in the Navy that has led to the introduction of this Bill?


The noble and learned Marquess asks me to answer now?


If it is convenient.


Then the answer is, No.


I am glad, at any rate, to have that answer, because I happened to be a member of the Government at the time when those incidents arose. I do not wish to discuss them further; it is old history, and we have finished with all that happened in the Navy at that time. We do know the reasons, and we know the remedies, which were immediately introduced, and we know they produced their effect. There are other members who sat in the Cabinet with me at that time, and I am sure they will agree that what I am stating is quite correct. That does not mean for a moment that I am suggesting there was not some discontent or other causes. I do not pursue the matter further because if I am told by a member of the Cabinet and the Leader of this House, definitely in answer to a question I put to him, that that is not the reason which has brought about the introduction of this Bill, I unhesitatingly accept it and pass from it without any further comment. Then I am brought to this: What is the reason? I have heard it stated that the reason was the one which the noble Lord gave. I have always questioned it myself, because it did happen, as I have stated, that I was a member of that Government and knew what was really taking place, and I am glad that the opportunity has been presented for definite and authoritative statement being made by a member of the Government here present so that that story may be disposed of.

Once having got rid of it, with what are we left? I would remind your Lordships, if you will permit me, that I also, like the noble Viscount who leads the House, was once in the position of Attorney-General, and had occasion to put the law in motion, not exactly under the Incitement to Mutiny Act of 1797 but under the different Statutes that have been passed since that date, all based on the same principle—namely, making it a criminal offence to seduce a member of the armed forces from his duty or allegiance; I care not whether it is "duty and allegiance" for this purpose. There was no difficulty under the law. I remember perfectly well cases which were presented, and certainly cases came before me in which I was responsible for the prosecution, in which attempts had been made to induce part of the forces of the Crown to refrain from their duties—in other words, to seduce them from their duty in certain events. It is all ancient history now. In the main, that discussion and all the distribution of leaflets at that time were based very much on the argument—I do not go into the particulars of it—that soldiers called out in order to intervene in a strike ought to refuse to shoot. That substantially was the effect of what was being circulated amongst them. There was no difficulty in prosecuting the persons and bringing them to book.

So far as I understand from my noble friend, he does not suggest that there would be any difficulty in bringing them to book. No one could suggest that, because it has been done again and again. So far as I followed the argument I think the only point he was making on the procedure part of the Bill was that it would make it simpler—that is to say, it would minimise the effects. It would not be necessary, as I understood him, to proceed by indictment, but you could proceed before the magistrate and the penalty would be less—the limits of the imprisonment or fine that could be imposed by the magistrate would be less than if you proceeded under the Incitement to Mutiny Act and other Statutes. If all that the noble and learned Viscount or the Government had in mind when they introduced this Bill was to alter the law in that respect—a perfectly simple thing—I cannot believe it would have occasioned one minute's discussion; at least, it would not have occasioned objection, because it seems a reasonable thing to do if it is necessary. But I do not enter into a discussion of that. I accept the statement that my noble and learned friend made, that it is thought desirable.

I doubt whether it could be put higher than that it is desirable to introduce this form so that the magistrate can deal with the case instead of its being sent for trial to the Assizes. If that is all it is, it really is such a small matter that it would not be worth discussion. I mean that although it may affect persons in the future it is not a matter on which there could be differences of opinion. But that is not the reason for introducing this Bill, and I would defy any member of the Government to tell me that it is. He could not, for the simple reason that he would know that it is not true. It is something that is introduced into this Bill for another purpose. I do not want to shirk that issue, but I want to make a few observations to your Lordships about it. The whole purpose of this Bill, in my judgment, is to give the right for the search warrant. There may be good grounds for that. I am far from saying there do not arise cases in which there is good ground, but I would point out that in some sixty Statutes there is a right of search given, not certainly in the form in which it is stated here; that could not be expected; but there is a right of search given.

This right of search is sought now, and it is said by my noble and learned friend that it is necessary to have that power nowadays because you get pamphlets and documents distributed. But is that new? Is it for the first time that pamphlets and documents have been distributed and have been spread amongst the forces? I can remember more than twenty years ago exactly the same thing. In common fairness I must say I agree with my noble friend that there is a difficulty very often in these cases in being able to trace the originator of the documents, and that it is an advantage if you can get evidence of that. I remember, again, a case when I was Attorney-General in which it actually happened that when the smaller men were prosecuted, a very prominent leader in Labour came forward and announced that he himself was the originator. He was then prosecuted and convicted. It is not every case in which it is easy for the Police to prosecute without search. Parliament has given the right of search, and it is most undesirable that you should extend the right of search except in such particular eases as it becomes necessary. We have been able to administer our law from 1797 to the present date. Persons like myself can remember the law being administered more than thirty years ago. The noble Viscount who leads the House himself when Attorney-General instituted or ordered prosecutions for the same thing. Why, then, is there this difficulty?

Printing was not introduced yesterday. The distribution of pamphlets and leaflets amongst the forces is not a matter which has only just come to light. It has been going on for many years. It is not as if you could point to some serious mischief which has happened. If that were so then I could follow the reason for what is being done. I say again that if the noble Viscount assured me on behalf of the Government that this emergency had arisen, if he would give information of the circumstances which had actually happened showing that by the distribution of these pamphlets mischief had been created amongst the forces and that there had been attempts to seduce the forces, he would make an entirely different case. The Government have been challenged before to give us an instance of this character and they have never been able to do it. We remain, as I think your Lordships must remain, still puzzled as to why it is that in the year 1934, and by means of a National Government, it has become necessary to introduce this measure giving a right of search which never has been thought necessary since the offence was created in 1797.

I cannot go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who said, if I correctly heard him, that he sincerely believed there was a sinister motive behind it. I cannot say that. I have not such a bad opinion of the Government, but I am prepared to say that it may very well be that if you give an Executive powers such as are given in this way they may be used by a Government in the future and for quite different purposes from the intention of those who framed the Bill and put it before this House. Therefore we have to be careful about giving the Executive this great power. I had not intended to detain your Lordships so long, but I attribute great importance to this measure, and particularly that it should have been introduced, as it has been, by the National Government. I can understand, if an emergency occurred, that the National Government or any other Government might come to Parliament and say: "Give us this right, give us this extra power because we fear, indeed we know, that something else is about to happen." All I can say for myself is that if a responsible member of the Government told me that that was so I should accept it, but of course he would be bound to tell us some of the circumstances and not merely make the statement.

I should be ready to give the Government all the powers they wanted in case of any difficulty, in case of any emergency, in case of there being a real case which they could put before us to prevent the seduction from their duty and allegiance of the armed forces of the Crown. If any such case arose I should give them the fullest powers they desired. But I see a real difficulty in regard to a Bill of this character. It may be that it deals with, I will not say unimportant matters, because it gives this right of search, but it may be that as the noble Viscount said it is limited to what we are doing at this moment. Your Lordships must, however, always remember that we are not anxious—and I do not believe your Lordships are anxious—to increase the power of the Executive over the individual. We desire particularly to preserve the full tolerance of political opinion, the right to express political opinion freely and to say whatever may be in a man's mind so long as it does not induce a breach of the law. I say that because the only possible ground I have been able to find—searching for it with real anxiety to understand why the Government introduced this Bill—is the fear of Communistic literature. If that is right, then I think it would be a real and additional ground for opposing it. However much we may object to Communism, nevertheless it is not an offence to express Communistic opinions in this country. It is not an offence against the law. We allow it, and it is done every day. Pamphlets are produced as well as speeches made, and we do not interfere. It is our pride in this country, and I believe it is one of the reasons why we have a well-ordered country, that we permit this expression of opinion.

However strongly the Government may say, as they have said in the other House and as my noble friend has said in this House, that this Bill does not and is not intended to prevent the expression of political opinion, I venture with all respect to him to challenge the statement. It may be right to say that it is not intended to prevent the expression of opinion, but it cannot be right to say that it never will prevent the expression of opinion. It may be that some literature is prepared which is most strongly in favour of peace and most strongly against war. Some people hold what many of us consider extreme views in this respect. If that literature finds its way to the forces it clearly may be made the ground of prosecution. It would be said: "Although you do not say 'refuse to fight' it is an inducement to members of the forces to refrain from doing their duty." More than that, this Bill gives the right of search of an extended character once a Police officer of the rank of inspector has made his affidavit and presented himself to a Judge and satisfied the Judge that he suspects somebody of having documents in his possession for the purpose of distributing them with a view to inciting to seduction from duty. All these things are involved in this Bill. I do not know what your Lordships may think of it, but I think that we must be very careful to preserve our rights of individual freedom. Ordered liberty is what we enjoy in this country and what we all hope will continue. I very sincerely hope that this Bill may not proceed as a measure which will restrict individual freedom in the expression of opinion.


My Lords, I take part in this discussion with some reluctance, but it affects, or seems to affect, so directly some of the fundamental principles underlying our public life that I feel bound to make a few observations upon it. I can promise your Lordships that they shall not be lengthy. I must confess that when this Bill was first introduced I viewed it instinctively with very great misgivings and disquiet. Apart from my own instincts which make me dislike any Bill of this kind I could not but be impressed by the statement of very eminent jurists, friends of my own at Oxford, and I am bound to say that I was impressed also by the fact that the public generally apparently so largely shared my misgivings and disquiet. That is the one point on which I agree with the noble Lord opposite. It seemed to me very remarkable proof that public opinion in this country jealously guards the freedom of expression of opinion and guards it all the more because of the fact that in other countries at the present time that freedom is so largely and lamentably restricted or denied.

But as the noble and learned Marquess has just admitted, the Bill has been very greatly changed during its progress through another place. We have to deal not with the Bill as it was when it was first introduced, nor with the apprehensions that were then created, but with the Bill as it is now before your Lordships' House with the explanation which the noble Viscount has given this evening. Indeed, it has been so greatly amended that my remaining difficulty is rather that which was expressed by the noble Marquess. The Bill has been so greatly amended that I wonder how far it really strengthens the existing law and whether, if so, it was worth while to rouse these widespread apprehensions or misapprehensions. I could not but feel the force of a good deal that the noble Marquess said as to the absence of any apparent overwhelming reason for the introduction of this measure. But I must dismiss from my mind the thought that His Majesty's Government in doing what they are doing could possibly have been moved by those motives which were attributed to them by the noble Lord opposite, whose suggestions seemed to me to be merely fantastic.

If that be so, there must be some other motive and I ask myself why His Majesty's Government persisted with this Bill, assuming they had not these sinister motives, why they should feel it necessary to run these very obvious risks unless they had some reason to suppose that influences had increased, were increasing and ought to be diminished which might lead to the commission of the offences with which this Bill is intended to deal. I cannot suppose that there is not in the minds of those who are responsible for the Government of the country a real concern lest these influences should increase, and if they be formidable, then it seems to me reasonable to say that it is better to provide against their possible influence before the time is reached when that influence has proved to be successful. But I want to address myself to the Bill itself, and here I am bound to say that I have come to believe that it does not justify the apprehensions which at one time I entertained about it. I think it is possible now, after the Amendments which have been made and after the discussions in another place, to see the Bill in its true proportions. And here I may be permitted to say that I think great assistance in this matter of clearing our minds as to the real meaning of the Bill was given by the admirable speech made in another place by His Majesty's Solicitor-General. I venture to say this because I think that a number of my friends outside with whom I should usually be associated in these matters have really not tried to grasp, or have not done it so successfully as I have tried to do, the real character and purpose of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, quoted the Christian Social Council, and it is just because these opinions were expressed by such men as these that I feel bound to do more than give a silent vote on this occasion. When I look at the Bill as it stands and hear the explanations which have been offered, I am bound to say that I can no longer share the apprehension which the noble Marquess expressed at the end of his speech, that this Bill attacks freedom of expression of opinion. It seems to me quite clear that this Bill leaves every subject of this country as free as he ever was, and as I hope ever will continue to be, to write or state his opinions, however extreme those opinions may seem to be. If I thought there was any curtailment of that liberty I should certainly vote against this measure. But a man only comes within the purview of this Bill if it can be shown to the satisfaction of a Court that he has definitely approached or deliberately intends to approach members of His Majesty's forces so as to induce them to act upon those opinions by disobeying the orders of their lawful superiors.


It is not the decision of a Court.


I said "to the satisfaction of a Court."


Forgive me, it is of a Judge, and that is made of course on an ex parte statement. It must be.


On evidence on oath.


I am not now dealing at all with the question of a search warrant. If I may repeat it, this Bill does not deal with the liberty of the subject in any way, and a man only comes within its purview if it can be shown to the satisfaction of a Court that he has approached or deliberately intends to approach actual members of His Majesty's forces so as to persuade them to act upon these opinions by disobeying the orders of their lawful superiors. Take, for instance, the case of the Society of Friends, a body of whom I shall always speak with the greatest possible respect. They do not hesitate to say that war is so wrong that no Christian man can bear arms, and they express their desire that for this reason men should cease to be members of His Majesty's forces. They will still be at liberty to express that conscientious opinion, and no one will be able, or desire, to restrain them. They would be affected, so far as this Bill is concerned as I understand it, only if it could be proved here again that they had approached or had the deliberate intention of approaching actual members of His Majesty's forces so as to induce them to disobey their orders.

I take the case (because it has attracted a good deal of public attention) of my right reverend brother, the Bishop of Birmingham. He has said many things about war and peace with which I agree. He has expressed a strong objection, which at least I understand, to the use of bombing aeroplanes on the Indian frontier. He has said that he desires that it should cease. He has gone further, and has put a definite challenge to His Majesty's Government to this effect; knowing that if his words were published in the English Press they might reach members of the Air Force; he has said that he cannot think that a Christian man should act under orders in this way. He may continue to say that; he may continue to say it in any form he pleases, and no one will say him nay or attempt to restrain him. It has already been indicated by the noble Lord opposite that the members of His Majesty's forces are not very likely to be greatly impressed. That is not the point. But he would only bring himself under this Bill if it could be proved that he had conveyed or caused to be conveyed or had a deliberate intention to convey his statements to actual members of the Air Force so as to induce them to disobey their orders. Nothing could be clearer than the words used in another place by the Attorney-General on this point: indeed he said that they were expressed in "plain English which every Englishman can understand," and, that no lawyer would be needed to explain them. His words were: But when the Bishop of Birmingham tries to frighten us by supposing that he would be in danger of punishment and imprisonment because he says that he cannot think that a Christian man should act under orders in this way, I say that he will be in no danger unless he goes to the soldier or sailor and tries to persuade him to disobey orders. Therefore, it has seemed to me on trying to think the matter out that the liberty of expressing opinions even of the most extreme character is not affected by this Bill. The offence is created only when it proceeds definitely towards what is universally admitted to be a crime which the State cannot ignore, and which ought to be punished, of seducing members of His Majesty's forces from their allegiance.

Now I come for a moment to this difficult question of documents and the search for documents. I think it makes a very great difference that we are here dealing no longer with the old kind of search warrants which aroused so much resentment. Here the warrant can now only be obtained on application to a Judge of the High Court, and I should have thought that the noble Marquess, who himself has adorned that high office, would admit that a Judge of the High Court was the last person who would be likely to issue such a search warrant on the mere affidavit of the inspector applying, unless he were satisfied that that affidavit disclosed very strong and exceptional reasons. It is plain upon this Bill that the possession of documents, even if they were incriminating documents, would not of itself be an offence against the measure. They would become an offence only if the man possessing them could be proved clearly and fully to have used, or to have the deliberate intention of using, these documents for the purpose of committing the offence specified. Therefore I do not think that the provisions in this Bill, enabling in special circumstances a Judge of the High Court to permit a warrant of search, is in itself an intrusion upon the freedom of the individual. He can have these documents, only he must be wary that he does not furnish evidence to show that he is intending to use them for the purpose of committing an offence.

I have tried to discipline my own original dislike of this Bill by a careful study of its provisions. I repeat that if I thought that my original apprehensions were justified and that the Bill did involve a serious menace to the liberty of any subject of this realm to write or speak whatever things he pleases, I should vote against it, but if I am right in assumptions which I have ventured to put before your Lordships as to the character and purpose of the actual Bill, and it is only the Bill which is before your Lordships' House, I cannot feel justified in voting against the Second Reading.


My Lords, there are a number of reasons which make me anxious to take part in this debate. I think I am probably the only member of this House who has had the experience of being reached by the arm of the law and having his own house visited by means of procedure of the kind which is described in this Bill. I have also had to face the penalties which the noble Viscount mentioned in the opening part of his speech. I therefore hope your Lordships will permit me to submit to you from my own experience how very grave is the procedure of search outlined in this Bill. May I begin by making it clear that I do not share with the noble Lord who led the Opposition the belief that this Bill has been introduced with any sinister design against the liberty of His Majesty's subjects


I did not say introduced with a sinister design. I said the genesis of it was the Admiralty but its purpose in face of opposition gave it a sinister design.


I do not think the noble Lord helps himself in any way by his explanation. There is no doubt whatever that the noble Lord and the Party which he represents have criticised this Bill not merely, as I hope I shall be able to do myself, for a number of precise reasons, but in the general belief that the Government have a sinister design in introducing this Bill. I believe that the Government in introducing this Bill honestly believed that there was a formidable threat to order coming not only from the Left but from the Right, and I could wish that the noble Viscount had given a little more attention to that matter. I would go further. I believe that any person who is desiring the development of democracy at the present moment must be aware of the fact that the introduction of mechanised weapons of warfare has made it almost impossible for a revolutionary movement to obtain its object unless first the loyalty of the armed forces of the Crown is tampered with. I do believe that the Government seriously thought that, having regard to these facts, it might be necessary to strengthen the law in order to deal with revolutionary movements. There has been, in fact, an absolute tornado sweeping over all the countries of the world in recent times taking the whole structure of democracy and orderly government with it, and it is of the utmost importance that that new influence should not affect the life and liberty of this country. Therefore we ought to say from all sides that we condemn the crime envisaged in this Bill.

I was a little surprised to hear the speech of the most reverend Primate and particularly his reference to the Bishop of Birmingham. If I understand the discussion in another place, the Attorney-General made it perfectly clear that if the speech of the Bishop of Birmingham was distributed the act of distribution would come within the four corners of this Bill.


The Attorney-General said explicitly that it would only come within the Bill if the person went to the soldier or sailor.


The most reverend Primate seemed to think it was all right because you could make a speech like the Bishop of Birmingham's although the Attorney-General made it quite clear that if you took the speech and delivered it to His Majesty's forces it would be a crime within the Bill. I believe it is a very grave thing that the Bishop of Birmingham should have made that speech. I will go further and refer noble Lords opposite to the Amendment moved in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Buchanan who sought to exempt speeches directed to the troops suggesting that they should not be used for the preservation of order in industrial disputes. It seems to me that orderly government in this country will become impossible if those of us who wish to change the social system or work for peace are going to extend the area of propaganda to include a direct appeal for disorderly acts whether regarding peace or industrial disputes.

I think if Socialists, for instance, and I claim to be as much a Socialist now as I have been all my life, while in opposition contemplated a practice whereby members of the armed forces of the Crown might be called upon by us or by peace lovers to dispute the lawful orders of their superiors, they would set an example of the gravest possible kind which might be used against a Socialist Government by minorities on the Right, and which might destroy law and order when we are seeking to change the social order in this country. Therefore before I criticise the Bill on administrative details, I say that I believe the Government are perfectly honest in introducing the Bill, and I believe that the crime is one which we ought to condemn and which, if countenanced in any form, becomes a menace to all of us. I also congratulate the Government on the way in which they have amended this Bill. I believe the Government have tried to prove the reality of the word "National" and in the House of Commons have attempted to meet the general criticisms made against the Bill. They have thereby shown themselves to mean what they have said when they speak of Parliament or the House of Commons as the Council of the Nation.

I am afraid I have now finished with kindly words and must ask to be allowed to offer certain criticisms. The Amendments which the Government have accepted in another place lay the Government open to a charge of exceedingly bad judgment. I have been at a loss to understand how the Prime Minister, who must know how this kind of measure operates, could have blessed this Bill in the early stages and before the Amendments were accepted. To me it is a matter of personal regret that he should have added his voice to praising this Bill. The Bill is now twice the length it was at the time it was introduced, and has been re-written beyond recognition. Therefore when the noble Viscount in his opening speech tried to assure us that all would be well if this Bill was placed upon the Statute Book, and we neednotbe soapprehensive,I was a little suspicious of his judgment since he, or rather his colleagues in another place, had tried to assuage our troubles by making similar remarks about the Bill in its original form. They had to change their opinion, and therefore I rather distrust the judgment of the noble Viscount, even with regard to the Bill in its present form.

May I be allowed to pass three precise and definite criticisms upon the clauses of this Bill so that the noble Viscount may consider them before the Committee stage? The first one refers to Clause 2 (1). In that clause you find an exceedingly vague phrase, namely this: any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof among members of His Majesty's forces would constitute such an offence … The possession of any document of that kind may lay the owner of that document open to a charge under this Bill. Now there have been in the last few days several cases in which printers of books and newspapers have felt themselves under very great difficulty as to what they may legitimately print, and what they ought not to print, and it seems to me that the noble Viscount would meet one serious criticism if in the Committee stage he could make that phrase "any document of such a nature" more precise. I shall venture myself to submit an Amendment in the Committee stage to make it clear that the document is not "any document of such a nature", but a document which is deliberately designed for the purpose of committing the offence which is envisaged in Clause 1 of this Bill, and I do most earnestly hope that the noble Viscount will give sympathetic consideration to that before the Committee stage of the Bill is reached.


I am not sure whether the noble Lord has considered the first three lines of Clause 2 (1). There is no offence unless someone has possession of a document intended to procure the effect described in Clause 1. That seems to me to limit the operation of the subsection as the noble Lord desires it to be limited.


It definitely limits the operation of the subsection so far as the person is concerned, but not so far as the document is concerned. I quite accept the suggestion that when the person's intention is in question it is defined in the early part of the subsection, but the document is left in a much more evasive and vague condition. If it is possible to refer to the intent of the person, it should be equally possible to refer to the intent of the document, and I therefore earnestly hope that we shall be as precise about the document as we have been about the person.

I now pass to the search warrant, because of this I can speak from some personal experience, if your Lordships will permit me to say so. Why is it that so much criticism has been centred on this question of search warrants? It is not, as the noble and learned Viscount would have us believe, because we think that some new method is being introduced into British law. We are perfectly well aware that there are other forms of search warrant already on the Statute Book, but this particular search warrant is going to deal with a most intangible question; that is to say, it is going to deal with political opinion and when you issue a search warrant in order to find something of a, political character you have to take into account the varying opinions and outlooks of those who are going to grant that search warrant. In the original draft of the Bill there was the monstrous proposal to permit thousands and thousands of magistrates of different political schools of thought and different temperaments to sit in private in order to determine whether a particular search warrant should be issued.

I know the variety of view that may prevail in matters of political opinion when such an application is made. The noble and learned Viscount will reply: "You can put your troubles to rest. It is no longer to be a matter for the migistrates, but for a Judge of the High Court in Chambers." I am going to draw the noble and learned Viscount's attention to a speech of his own which he has recently delivered, and I am going to suggest how very dangerous it is to imagine that even eminent lawyers are entirely safe when it comes to the question of a dispassionate judgment on matters of political opinion. The noble Viscount is a legal luminary. He might have been a Judge. For all we know,, he may one day take a very important part in our judicial system. He is therefore the kind of person to whom an inspector may go in order to secure a search warrant to enquire into this very difficult question.

A little while ago the Labour Party at their Southport Conference passed a series of resolutions on disarmament and foreign affairs. So far as I am able to read them, that series of resolutions, constituting the foreign policy of the Labour Party, was one of the finest attempts I have ever seen to clothe with realistic form the Covenant of the League of Nations, to which this country is already committed. I know of no Party which now possesses a foreign policy more realistic and more effective, and more in accordance with the League, than the Labour Party. There was not a single resolution which the Labour Party passed at the Southport Conference which was not a logical and direct fulfilment of the Covenant of the League, to which this country is by contract committed. I would draw the noble and learned Viscount's attention to what he himself said about those resolutions. He said: What they have done, if it be accurately reported, is so incredibly dangerous and foolish that I should be failing in my duty if I did not expose what it means. What is said to have been decided first is that patriotism shall no longer be regarded as a virtue, that loyalty to King or country shall no longer be part of the duty of a British subject, that it shall be altered by Act of Parliament. That is the noble Viscount's interpretation of a well considered series of resolutions carrying into practical effect the Covenant of the League of Nations. I have searched with great care in all the newspapers to see whether he was correctly reported.


Yes, it is quite accurate.


The noble Viscount admits that it is accurate. If the noble Viscount can pass a judgment of that description referring to the danger of what the Labour Party has done, referring to the fact that it involves the whole question of loyalty to King and country, and had been a Judge to whom an application was being made for a right to search, you can see at once what happens when you bring the search warrant idea into the area of political opinion. Why is it that our Judges at present command such universal respect in this country? For many reasons, but one especially. Because when they hear a case they not only bring to bear upon it their own mental equipment, but they have the advantage of hearing arguments, both for and against the proposition. When this search war rant is applied for, the Judge is in Chambers, he is in private. He hears an ex parte statement, and no other statement. He hears the question from one side only, and he has no opportunity of checking it by hearing the case from the other side. And thus it is that the temperament and the disposition and political outlook of the Judge will be very difficult to keep in control, when he is dealing with a document so "dangerous," so contrary to the interests of the country, so "unpatriotic" as the noble Viscount described the legitimate policy of the Labour Party to be.

I will go one step further. I pass from the Judge to the actual persons concerned in the search, and there you call upon Police inspectors to go into private houses in order that they may try to find documents which will be evidence for the purposes of this Bill. I have had in my house inspectors of the law who have come to enquire into my literature and into my opinions. I cannot describe to you how incompetent those men are for the purposes for which they are sent. If they are going to deal with the search for political pamphlets they will have to read a very great deal more than Police inspectors have so far read, and I hope they will not become disaffected in the process. The first question ever put to me by a Police inspector who came to my house was: "Are you carrying on an anti-recruiting campaign in the country?" I turned to him and said: "Well, what on earth am I to say to a question of that kind? Suppose I was carrying on an anti-recruiting campaign, do you suppose I should say 'Yes'?" The whole series of questions put to me revealed that these men are utterly unfitted for the difficult and delicate work of looking at many pamphlets and books and differentiating one from the other.

I put it to your Lordships first of all that you have the vagueness of Clause 1, where no specified document is referred to, and that you are introducing the search warrant into the arena of political opinion where the temperament of the Judge may easily go astray, and that when that warrant has been granted by the Judge the act of search then takes place. The man whose house is searched may subsequently be proved innocent, but he has to pass through that grave experience with all the disapprobation that may come upon him in the neighbourhood because of the search warrant being applied so far as the differentiation of political opinion is concerned. I earnestly beg that the noble Viscount may listen to what Lord Reading has said in the course of this debate. The noble Marquess pointed out with great authority that, quite apart from any of these administrative difficulties which I have mentioned, there is no substantial evidence before us which justifies so dangerous an intrusion into the privacy of our homes and into the whole chance of our remaining free to hold and spread political opinions.

When the Government introduced the Tithe Bill they did not hesitate, after criticisms had been made upon that Bill, to suspend the measure for further consideration. I earnestly beg the noble Viscount, even after the Second Reading is passed, to suspend this Bill for the present in order that further consideration may be given by all Parties to this dangerous idea so that we may not put this particular scheme into operation until far more substantial evidence has been adduced. All Parties, have been brought into counsel with regard to the dangerous experiments of political uniforms and private armies. A consultation is being conducted already through the action of another place. You can also bring all the Parties into play with regard to this question of freedom of political opinion. You ought not to pass a measure of this kind into law unless you feel you have the considered support of all responsible schools of political thought in making so dangerous an experiment. Liberty is far too rare in the world at the present moment. It is being attacked in many countries; it is even in danger to some extent in oar own country. I would beg the noble Viscount to bear in mind that Governments which proceed to attack liberty may in the end destroy democracy itself. We have an unwritten Constitution. Because it is unwritten it is of such great value to ourselves and so much envied by other nations. Do not let us try to write down with too great precision what we mean by liberty and what we mean by civic freedom. The Government which attempts to place too rigid an interpretation upon such questions as liberty and civic freedom may end by persecuting the one and perhaps destroying the other.


My Lords, I have listened with great care and interest to the speech made by the noble Viscount who introduced the Bill. I have also studied carefully the reports of the debates in another place, but I am in the same position as most of the other speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon, for I am still completely at a loss to know why the Bill was introduced at this time. The noble Viscount has given us some reasons why it was introduced. He has mentioned the activities of the Communists, he has mentioned the desire to nip crime ill the bud, if I may paraphrase him in that way, and he has mentioned the inadequacy of the present law. I shall deal with these points a little later on. I was rather surprised that he did not give as a reason for the introduction of the Bill the reason given by the leader of the Government of which the noble Viscount is so distinguished a member. The Prime Minister said that the Bill was drafted to protect our present liberty. I said I was surprised that the noble Viscount did not give that reason, but I withdraw that phrase, because I think the noble Viscount is much too wise a man to put such a preposterous reason for the Bill before your Lordships' House, and I am sure he has too high an opinion of the intelligence of his fellow-countrymen to suggest it.

For the protection of our present liberty—what does that mean? What liberty? Whose liberty? The liberty of the soldiers and sailors? The liberty of the civilians? What does it mean? Under the Bill I understand that on mere suspicion any householder may have his house broken open by the Police and searched. His wife and family and all the inmates may be searched on suspicion that he may have documents in the house which he may use for the purpose of seducing His Majesty's forces. Is that a way of protecting our present liberty? I feel very much strengthened in my view that it is not—that the Bill is a serious encroachment on the liberty of the people—by the fact that it is not regarded as a protection of liberty, but quite the reverse, by so many distinguished men and women in such a great variety of walks of life—distinguished jurists like Sir William Holdsworth and Professor Brierly, Bishops and other clergy—who have spoken and written against the Bill, and many distinguished men of letters and other people. All these people are not Communists. They are not people who want to seduce His Majesty's forces. They are, most of them, Conservatives and Liberals, or not politicians at all, and very few, if any, of them are Socialists. These people think the Bill is not designed to protect our liberty, but that it represents a very serious encroachment on the liberty of the people. To suggest that the Bill is designed to protect our liberty is really an insult to the intelligence of our people.

I do not know why the Bill has been introduced, but I think it more probable that it has been introduced to check the activities of the Communists. The noble Viscount told us a good deal about the Communist Party and what he thought of their activities. No evidence whatever has been brought forward to show that the Communist Party have been more active than they generally are. Why is the Bill aimed at the Communist Party? It is said that some thousands of pamphlets and leaflets have been distributed amongst the troops and the Navy through Communist agents, and that has been going on apparently for the last three years. I think cases were quoted by the Attorney-General in another place as occurring in 1931, which is earlier than the date mentioned by the noble Viscount. Nearly three years ago, the Attorney-General told us, these leaflets were attempted to be distributed. How many of the attempts succeeded? How many of the leaflets got into the hands of the soldiers and sailors? We do not know. There is no evidence at all on that. If they did get into the hands of the soldiers and sailors, what evidence is there as to the harm which the leaflets have done?

My noble friend Lord Strabolgi asked whether there are any signs of disaffection amongst the soldiers and sailors. Are they on the verge of mutiny? Have they any grievances which would make them particularly susceptible to attempts at seduction? There is no evidence at all as to that. Again, as my noble friend said, is it likely that the Communist leaflets, distributed even in thousands, would have any real effect on His Majesty's forces? The men in His Majesty's forces are for the most part, I suppose, quite as intelligent as civilians. They are, many of them, very intelligent men. They know what these arguments are worth. Those who take the trouble to read them are the sort of men who would know how to weigh the arguments and would know what they are worth. They also know the very severe penalties to which they are liable if they do attempt any disaffection or mutiny. I do not think there is really any ground for fear in that direction, but I do think that the fact that this Bill has been brought in and the discussions which have gone on about it have probably done harm in the direction least desired by the Government. I think it has probably drawn the attention of members of His Majesty's forces to this sort of propaganda, if there is any going on. Certainly, if I were a soldier or sailor and read the papers, I should say: "I must try and get hold of a copy of the 'Soldier's Friend' or the 'Blue Signal' and see what it is all about." I have no doubt many of them are thinking that way, and I am sure the Bill has been a most excellent advertisement for the Communist Party.

In regard to the noble Viscount's argument that it is important to nip crime in the bud, so to speak, to detect and stop crime or catch the would-he criminal before he has done his mischief, theoretically, of course, there is a great deal to be said for that, but it is a rather dangerous doctrine, and one that can easily be pushed too far. I think it might easily be pushed too far in this Bill. The Bill does involve an extension of the law of the country in a dangerous direction, an extension of the law in the direction of arresting people on suspicion, arresting people because it is thought that they may be going to commit a crime in the near future. That, I think, is a dangerous doctrine. I know that there are cases where you can be arrested on suspicion now. You can be arrested, I believe, for what is called "loitering with intent," but I do not think you want to extend the law in that direction because a point might come where none of us might be safe. You never know what might happen. We do not all want to be in the position of being arrested as people who are loitering with intent. Some of us have in our minds—my noble friends behind me and I certainly have in our minds and we shall not forget it very soon—the case of Mr. Tom Mann.

I cannot see, in spite of what the noble Viscount has said, why the present law is not adequate to meet the cases which arise. It has served us very well for over one hundred years. There have been very few cases of disaffection and hardly a case of mutiny. What is the need to abrogate this law now? Why, suddenly, has it become inadequate? We have been going on for three years, according to the Attorney-General, with this terrible spread of pamphlets and these attempts of Communists to seduce the soldiers and sailors. For three years our liberty has been unprotected in that way. Why have we waited three years? If all these attempts at disaffection are so serious as the Government would have us believe why have we waited all this time? Why now, suddenly, is it discovered that the present law is inadequate to deal with the cases which arise? Why must we have this new law which involves, as I think, a great departure from the traditions of English law, and may be attended with very serious results to the whole of the civilian population?

As to the uses to which the new law may be put, I feel very strongly on that question. The noble Marquess, Lord Beading, said one can understand an emergency measure to meet a special case, but to have permanent legislation of this kind is really quite another thing. There is no knowing to what uses it might be put. I am sorry that I am not nearly as sanguine on that point as the most reverend Primate. At times of crisis, at times of strikes, or perhaps before a General Election, or at a period before a war, the Bill might become very useful to the Government in power. It would be quite easy to show in a time of crisis that ordinary Socialist propaganda was going to have a dangerous effect on the soldiers and sailors. It might be easy at times to show that Conservative propaganda might have a bad effect on the forces. One only has to remember the War and the spy-hunting that went on, the attacks on pacifists and the preposterous things that people who were friends before the War would say about each other and do against each other during the War. All that sort of thing, which is very dreadful, would be made easier if this Bill were passed.

I think there is no doubt that pacifists would be placed in a much more difficult position than they are now if the Bill were passed. At a time when the possibility of war was being talked about, I think that with this Bill in force pacifists would have a very poor time indeed before many of our benches of magistrates. And the question of the Press is not unimportant in connection with this Bill. Every publisher and printer will have to watch carefully what he is printing and will be in constant fear lest he should print something which would bring him under the Bill, bring policemen around to his office, or to his works, or his private house, and get him into very serious trouble. That is not at all a desirable thing, because it means that printers and publishers will be very nervous and will probably abstain from printing perfectly harmless propaganda from all Parties at times. That we do not want.

Soldiers and sailors have votes, they are just as much citizens as any one else in the country, and they ought to have the views of all Parties put before them. They ought to have as good an opportunity as any one in the country of hearing the views of Conservatives, Liberals, Socialists, Communists and Fascists. With this Bill in operation I think that a great many views, especially Socialist views, will not be printed and published because of fear on the part of the Press. Already there are signs that publishers are getting nervous of their position. I need only remind your Lordships of the letter which appeared in The Times this morning, signed by a body of distinguished publishers, dealing with that point. They certainly do not regard the Bill as a protection of their liberty. I think the Bill can be used, as I say, to prevent the expression of opinions which ought to be expressed and to interfere with and prevent the political education of soldiers.

With regard to what the most reverend Primate said about the Bishop of Birmingham's speech, I suppose it may be true that it would only get him into trouble if he went down to Aldershot and put it over the wall of the barracks, or did something of that kind. But I would like to know what would be his position if, after the Bill had been passed, a report of his speech was published in the Daily Herald and sent out to India. Numbers of soldiers, in India, of course, would read it and he definitely suggests that it is wrong to bomb native people from the air. I cannot help thinking that if the Bishop of Birmingham made that speech after the passing of the Bill he would come under its provisions. I cannot see any reason why he should not come under the Bill as well as the Communist who sends to a soldier some pamphlet provoking sedition. I cannot understand the distinction made by the most reverend Primate.

Then again there is the question of the possession of documents likely to be used to seduce soldiers. It is said that possession alone will not be regarded as a criminal act, that what will be taken into account is possession and use of things in a criminal way. But how is that going to be ascertained? If I have a hundred copies of a Communist leaflet suggesting that soldiers should not fire in a strike, or something like that, I am sure it would be no good my saying that I had not distributed them and that I was not going to distribute them. The mere fact that they were in my possession would mean that I should pretty soon come up before the magistrates. Mere possession will be treated as intention to use in a wrongful way, quite regardless of the protests of the person who possesses the leaflets. He may possess a few leaflets with no intention of doing harm to the soldiers at all, but, if this Bill passes, I believe he would be certainly treated as intending to use them in that way. I think the Bill is a harmful Bill, I think it is absolutely unnecessary and I think it is a dangerous Bill. Of course, I realise that every Government has got to strike a balance between liberty on the one side and order on the other, but every Government must also secure that the people have the utmost liberty possible having regard to the maintenance of proper order. This Bill makes a serious encroachment on liberty, it curtails liberty quite unnecessarily, and it is not in the least necessary for the maintenance of order.


My Lords, you have been treated, and I understand have yet to be treated, to so much eloquence and indignation by noble Lords who are critics of this measure that at this late hour I shall not venture to add to your burdens by more than at the very most ten minutes. Although there is a good deal I should like to say about the Bill I shall entirely confine my remarks to the character of the opposition to it, and particularly to the character of the opposition in the country—that spontaneous outburst of indignation with which the noble Lord who led the opposition made such play. But first of all, as I am one of those who before 1931 had a long experience within the Labour Party, I should not like to let this occasion pass without extending a hearty welcome to the measure in its present form. To make it possible to apprehend not merely the poor dupes who for a few shillings fling their incitements to mutiny over the barrack pallisade, but also the dumps of treasonable literature and their seditious authors themselves, this is the simple and chief purpose of this Bill, and it is a purpose of which, as a lover of liberty, I entirely approve. It is a purpose which, with all due deference to the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party, does not need a state of emergency to justify it.

No noble Lord opposite and very few of the critics of the Bill in the country have as yet had the temerity to denounce that purpose as one which is unworthy of a free people, although I have myself no doubt that some of the most energetic critics of this measure, under a cloud of eloquence about liberty, are in fact resisting it precisely because they are very well aware that one of its first results will be to curtail their own seditious activities. The bulk of the opposition to this measure, however—I mean the respectable opposition if I may so call it, the opposition which we are hearing from noble Lords opposite—comes of course from those who are genuinely anxious about civil liberty. That is an element in our public opinion which has played a great and a noble part in our history. While, however, it is altogether right that there should be men and women so quick to respond to the cry of "Liberty in danger" that it has hardly reached their ears before they are on a platform speaking to some resolution or other, I cannot help feeling that it has perhaps to be regretted that many of them have not been more ready to examine the credentials of those who raise that cry, and perhaps to read for themselves the measure which a combination of practised politicians and vaguely enthusiastic intellectuals have sometimes invited them to denounce.

What in fact, my Lords—and this is really all with which I am going to detain you at this hour—has the country been told about this measure? The noble Viscount who introduced it has dealt far more adequately than I could with the misuse which has been made of that common misrepresentation of the Bill as a Sedition Bill aimed at all free opinion and all unorthodox opinion in general, but may I just quote to your Lordships one or two specimens of the sort of information upon which this spontaneous outburst—I do not wish to exaggerate and I will say a good deal of this spontaneous outburst—of indignation has been based. One gentleman, speaking in Manchester in denunciation of the Bill, said: If the Bill becomes law it may be used for all kinds of purposes against all sorts of people who are inconvenient to the Government and even to prevent the expression of any opinions contrary to the Government— whatever that may mean. Another enthusiastic speaker at the same meeting said that if the Bill became law it "would be perilous to have even a copy of the Bible," and teat "the Sermon on the Mount would be banned." Some while ago I myself had the honour of being invited by a youth section of the Labour Party which supports noble Lords opposite to address them, and I found that those young people were under the almost unanimous illusion that this was likely to be one of the penultimate meetings of their society for the simple reason that when this Bill became law it would be impossible to hold a Labour meeting in public. I asked them from what source they derived this extraordinary impression, and they replied that they had heard it so often reiterated by their local labour leaders that, as they ingenuously put it, they "supposed it must he true."

I do not for a moment suggest that those are opinions to which noble Lords opposite would ever lend, or have ever lent, any countenance, but it is very largely upon that sort of misrepresentation that, for example, so many signatures have been obtained to the petitions and postcards with which I understand many members in another place have been bombarded—a form of postal correspondence which, although it ostensibly comes from very various sources, betrays, I understand, a very curious similarity in phraseology. Even such responsible bodies as Labour town councils commit themselves to such statements as that the Bill, in their own curious phraseology, will facilitate attacks on offences with which the Government of the day disagree. It is to be hoped that the debate in another place, and this debate in your Lordships' House, will serve to disabuse the mind of the public of some of the grosser of these misconceptions. I confess, however, that I do not feel very optimistic. It is to be remembered that the Press which supports the critics of this Bill is in the habit of printing only very judiciously selected extracts from debates in Parliament. It is also to be remembered that if any attempt is made to explain by word of mouth the real character of this Bill, the speaker is apt, like the Attorney-General within a mile of this Chamber a week or two ago, to be shouted down by organised Labour interruption.

It almost looks as if we should have to leave the education of public opinion on this matter very largely to the healing touch of time. And there are precedents for that, and here I come to that precedent which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, introduced, the Trade Disputes Act, 1927. There you had a measure which was denounced by Labour lawyers and by trade union leaders, not as an unwise, untimely, ungenerous measure, as I confess I thought it myself, but in terms which would be extravagant if applied to the worst excesses of Continental dictatorships to-day. For example, the President of the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers said of that measure—and the point which I am trying to make is that here is an analogy for the value of some of these prophecies to which we are being treated now—that "If this Bill"—that is the Trade Disputes Act, 1927is passed … we must all be prepared to take the penalty of imprisonment which this Government are putting upon us, and let them imprison the whole four million of us. Mr. Ernest Bevin, in the Kingsway Hall, said: So far as I can see my executive will be in gaol all the time. And Mr. George Hicks, now, I believe, A Labour member of Parliament, said: This measure puts the trade union leaders and officials and all active trade unionists in the same category as the most vicious, reckless, and abandoned criminals. I do not suppose that any of those distinguished gentlemen would claim to-day that they had proved very accurate prophets as to the results of the Trade Disputes Act, 1927. But my point is that two of these gentlemen—I do not know the name of the President of the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers, but at any rate two of those gentlemen—are making the same sort of prophecies about this Bill to-day, and I put it to your Lordships that, although they may be in some degree authoritative prophets on this point, they are in an even greater degree politicians doing their best for their Party.

This is the last matter with which I wish to trouble your Lordships, and I hope it will not be thought irrelevant. It is an appeal to noble Lords opposite. Many of those noble Lords, and in particular, if I may venture to say so, the noble Lord who leads the Labour Party opposite in the course of his distinguished career, have given undoubted proofs of their genuine attachment to civil liberty, and I do not suppose that there is one of your Lordships who doubts that their present opposition is inspired by genuine anxiety for civil liberty. Now, however much they may regret the numerical weakness—and I am sure we shall all agree that it is not a debating weakness—which prevents them from destroying this measure this evening, may I suggest to them that there is one civil liberty which they can themselves play a leading part in defending?

At this moment in the great majority of urban and industrial constituencies, owing to the hooliganism of over-enthusiastic supporters of the Labour Party, no non-Labour speaker can rely upon being allowed to put his case to the people of this country. At the last General Election there were many constituencies in which, owing to the hooliganism of over-enthusiastic Labour supporters, candidates of all three Parties had to abandon long before polling day any attempt to address an audible word to the electorate. There are at this moment some constituencies in which it has not been possible to hold a previously-advertised meeting indoors or out of doors for two or three years past. Here is a formidable and growing inva- sion of an elementary right, one of the most elementary rights in a democracy, the right of free speech. Is it too much to hope that at no distant date some Labour leader will for the first time, in public, warn his over-enthusiastic supporters—and it is no good saying, as it might have been said five years ago, that "this is all the Communist Party," because in instance after instance we have seen local supporters of local members and candidates taking part in these performances—is it too much to hope that we shall hear a Labour leader, for the first time, warning his supporters that they are playing directly into the hands of the bitterest foes of democracy? And, after hearing the very ardent and able way in which noble Lords opposite have defended civil liberty this evening, is it too much to hope that Lids warning may come from one of them?


My Lords, as I listened to the honeyed tongue of the noble Viscount and to the speech of Lord Elton I was reminded of how an astute solicitor might put a document to his unwilling client, whereby he signed away his life interest. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, would have one believe that this Bill is a tiny little Bill, only intended to co-ordinate the Acts of Parliament which are in force with regard to disaffection. That is borne out by Mr. Kenneth Lindsay, a supporter of the Government in another place, who said: This is not a big Bill, it is a tiny Bill, almost unimportant. It is the kind of measure which was described by the right honourable Member for Oxford University as a foot note … and all these great and elaborate stories which have been put about by honourable Members opposite have given a false impression throughout the country as to what the Bill really does. The Attorney-General, in another place, took quite a different view of it. Of course one is accustomed to seeing members of the Cabinet not united and going into different Lobbies, as happened not long ago in this House. The Attorney-General said: I do not present the Bill to the House as a trifling measure. It deals with matters of real importance. I do not pretend to know what happened in the Cabinet. According to the noble Viscount the Cabinet had no idea whatever that this Bill was going to cause strife in the country, and he himself was surprised at the agitation there had been about the Bill. I always thought myself that this National Government, as it has been called, was brought into being to save the country. I did not know it was part of its established and considered policy to bring in a Bill of this description. I suggest that this Bill is not actuated by the Government at all but by some of the permanent officials at Whitehall—at the Admiralty and the War Office. I think this is borne out by the fact that the Attorney-General clearly is not enamoured of the Bill at all. Otherwise he would not have accepted so many Amendments.

The Bill has roused an enormous amount of non-political opposition, and what is the reason for that? Have the Government got the breeze up? Is it a fact that this Government are frightened of Herr Hitler, or of the doctrines of Signor Mussolini? It would appear to me as if that were the case. I heard the Leader of the House say that in ten months of this year forty-three distributions of pamphlets have taken place amongst the armed forces, and 30,000 copies had been distributed. I would like to ask the Government where is the real proof that there is any further disaffection to-day? Is there any disaffection rampant in the Army or the Navy? If so, why have there been no notices of it in the newspapers? I do not personally mind whether there were 43 pamphlets or 4,043. It comes to exactly the same thing, if the armed forces of the Crown are not being disaffected. Why then have the Government got the breeze up?

I believe, myself, that there are occasions when a soldier or a sailor is entitled to refuse to fire upon anybody. For instance, I believe that if there is industrial strife, and troops are called out, individual members of the troops would be entitled to refuse to fire on their own brothers. Would any noble Lord opposite in similar circumstances fire against his own brother who happened to be on the opposite side? Of course he would not. In fact, during the troubles in Ulster similar troubles arose. I was a young person in those days, and I do not remember a lot about it, but I have looked up some of the speeches then made by members of this House. For instance, Lord Carson said at Chester, on January 23, 1914: I believe these men (the Ulster Volunteers) are justified to the very last extremity in using force or any other means in their power. I know that that is a serious statement to make. I know what it involves. I have the honour to be a Privy Councillor of His Majesty in Ireland and in England. I have the honour to be a K.C., and I believe we are morally justified in every step we take to protect our interests. When the time comes I think the Government will have to fight not only the community of Ulster, but the whole of the Unionist and Conservative Party in Great Britain. If we are to be rebels you will also be rebels, and I venture to think that the label of 'rebel' will be a far higher distinction than even the label of Prime Minister of this country. Then I would like to refer for a moment to a speech made by the late Lord Londonderry at Craigavon, Belfast, on July 12, 1913: We resolve that it is our bounden duty, and that of every loyalist, to make and complete all preparations necessary for resisting by force and every method the decrees and other executive acts of or on behalf of any Nationalist Parliament that may be established. I would also quote a passage from the Belfast Pews Letter of July 27, 1914: To-day's events may be briefly summed up by saying that the Nationalist Volunteers in attempting to land a cargo of arms came into conflict wish the forces of the Crown … The volunteers were called upon to give up their rifles, but refused. The police made a baton charge, and in the mêlée some twenty rifles were wrested from the volunteers. The police seemed to be repulsed, and it was stated that a number of them when ordered to charge refused to do so. The soldiers were then called upon. Is it, or is it not, a fact that the late Lord Londonderry and Lord Carson deliberately incited to revolt those police who refused to charge? In my submission it is a deliberate fact, and yet they were not charged with the offence.

In the Manchester Guardian to-day, we have a letter written by a gentleman, Mr. J. L. Hammond, who says: Mr. Lansbury would have strengthened his argument that the history of the Ulster rebellion shows that Bills like the Sedition Bill are apt to be used against some people and not against others if he had remembered that under the Government which left Lord Carson alone an engine-driver was sent to prison for distributing a leaflet asking soldiers not to fire on strikers. There seems to me to be very little difference between an engine-driver who distributes a pamphlet to strikers and a noble Lord who makes inflammatory speeches inciting members of the police and soldiers at the Curragh not to fire on their own brothers. Does this Government visualise in the near future another situation such as we had at that time? Is that the real reason for this Bill? Or does the Government visualise in the near future an insurrection on the part of Sir Oswald Mosley? That may be the case. Otherwise I do riot know what is the purpose of this Bill.

Under the Bill there are powers given to the Police that I do not like at all. Reference has already been made, I think, to police-run States. We know well that in the past States have been run by Police. In America it is well known that the Police have caused what are called "frame-ups." Only last Sunday I went to a film where I saw portrayed such a "frame-up." It is well known that in Germany the political Police are always on the qui vive for anything. An Italian friend of mine who has lived in this country a long time visited his home town the other day—I think it was Turin or Milan—and he told me when he came back: "It is perfectly awful over there. If you go into an Underground train you never know that your neighbour is not a member of the political police. You cannot draw a caricature of Mussolini's nose without risking being put into prison." Do we want England to be in the same condition? That is what this Bill means.

I do not want to say a word about the Police; I think ours are the finest Police in the world. But it is a fact that policemen have in the past taken a half-crown bribe from a street trader, that they have taken bribes from night clubs and restaurants. And what is to prevent them in the future doing the same thing if this Bill passes? Are we going to have a political racket in this country, such as they have in America already? That is what this Bill means. I do not suppose that any noble Lord likes an agent-provocateur, but it is very easy to create a system under which the agent-provocateur flourishes. Even the Attorney-General in another place said he had employed a plain clothes agent in order to get copies of some book as the basis for a prosecution. If the Attorney-General can do that, surely an ordinary police officer can. I do not know why the Bill should refer to policemen "of a rank not lower than that of inspector." Why should an inspector be regarded as more respectable than a constable? Under this Bill apparently he is. We have always been proud of our freedom in this country, and the saying that "an Englishman's home is his castle" contains great truth. This Bill, however, is trying to turn the country into another police State.

But I know it is useless to criticise the Bill in this House. It will become an Act of Parliament, we all know. All I hope for personally is that it will not pass in its present form. It is all very fine to say that the Bill creates no new crime, as I think was stated by the noble Viscount to-night. I submit that it does create a new crime: it creates the crime of the suspicion of intent. Why should people be regarded as criminals merely on the suspicion of intent? We have been told that the Bill will not be used for persecution, and we have been asked to trust the Government. People were asked, I believe, at the last Election to give the Government a blank cheque. Well, they gave it to them, and I think the answer to the demand that we should trust the Government has been supplied by the recent local elections. I have no trust in the Government. I do not trust them one inch, and I certainly would not trust them with the powers in this Bill. I hope, however, that your Lordships will give real consideration to this measure, and that you will amend it in Committee so that at least it may not become law in the obnoxious form in which it is today.


My Lords, it is with great hesitation that I venture to say a few words, and I will be brief. I do not think that any of us is very happy about the decision of the Government to proceed with this Bill. There is no doubt that in this tiny but nevertheless important matter our leaders—by which I mean in all humility the noble Viscount who leads the House and the most reverend Primate who supported the Bill—have shown that they are altogether out of touch with the state of popular feeling in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, dealt with some effect with the exaggerated statements which have been made by those who are opposed to the Bill. I will only ask him two questions: Who was it that caused these statements to be made? And, is it not true that the Government have themselves made statements which they have later been forced to withdraw?

The fight for free speech has had its ups and downs, but to-day more than for many years past our liberty, our freedom of opinion, is in danger. It has been pointed out that some of the great countries of Europe are to-day engaged in political persecution, and I have read that no less than three-quarters of the population of Europe is reading officially censored newspapers. In these circumstances, even if our liberty is only infringed in the smallest degree, one is surely justified in demanding the fullest proof of necessity and the most ample safeguards. Reference has been made to the effect of this Bill on printers, and I hope that an Amendment will be introduced which will safeguard their position. But even after every safeguard has been introduced—and I make this statement with some hesitation and I do not wish it to be taken as a personal view—this Bill, rightly or wrongly, has raised doubts as to the future intentions of the Government, as to the direction in which the Government are moving, and I submit that it is not by any safeguards but only by the negativing of each and every clause of the Bill that popular feeling will he satisfied.

I tried as far as I was able to follow the noble Viscount in his explanation of the Bill, not as a hair-splitting lawyer, because I am not competent to do so; and it seemed to me that the case of the Government was that this is a desirable amendment in the law. I should have thought that in a matter of this sort and at a time when urgent problems are pressing upon the attention of the Government it was not only necessary that this should be a desirable amendment in the law but that it should be urgently necessary and promise to be effective. Particularly is this the case after the popular agitation which has followed the introduction of the Bill. I do not wish to repeat what has been said many times, but the question which we address to the noble Viscount is: What is the emergency which this Bill is designed to prevent? That is a question to which no answer has been given. On the contrary, on Second Reading in another place, the Solicitor-General specifically stated that there is no sedition in the Army and Navy and no apprehension of edition in the Army and Navy. Secondly, as to seditious literature and seditious persons, reference has been made to pamphlets which have been distributed in various places and also to resolutions, passed in one case by the Anti-War Committee and in another case by the Young Communist International from two to four years ago. Perhaps I may be permitted to hope that the Government do not pay the same attention to the resolutions of their own Party Conferences as they pay to those of foreign Party Conferences.

Finally, after all the discussions which have been raised by this Bill, after the publicity which it has received, I am convinced that it is not likely to be effective. It may indeed have some effect. It is possible it may have some effect on the number of candidates presenting themselves for recruiting. Perhaps the noble Viscount can inform us whether this Bill is likely to be popular in the ranks of the Army and whether its effect on recruiting is likely to be considerable or not. I have not seen the pamphlets, but from the description given by the noble Viscount in his speech, I should have thought it was almost an insult to suggest that any member of His Majesty's forces was likely to be seriously influenced by this literature even if he troubled to read it. Nevertheless, this Bill will not prevent the discussion among our soldiers and sailors and airmen of the questions of peace and war, nor will it prevent the discussion of the capacity of our generals and Ministers to conduct a war. It will not make them less sympathetic with the conditions under which their countrymen outside the ranks are living, nor indeed will it give Ministers the security which they desire. I submit that that security is only to be won by a free and fearless policy, a policy which is not hedged about with safeguards, but which is even prepared to take risks for the sake of democracy—such a policy, indeed, as the Government was elected to pursue.


My Lords, before addressing myself to the Bill I should like to say with what pleasure I have listened to the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. I seemed to hear in his sentiments an echo of the opinions of his late father, who was a friend of mine, and also of the opinions of his father's chief and my chief, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. It has been interesting to note that there has been no Conservative support of this Bill. The support has come from the National Labour members. We had a very interesting and effective lecture from one of them telling us on this side of the House how we ought to behave, what we ought to do, how we ought to conduct our propaganda, what our policy ought to be. I think that when the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has been a little longer in politics he will find that that sort of speech is too often made really to have very much effect. He complains that he cannot be heard at meetings. Well, if his sentiments are those he expressed to-day, I am not very much surprised.


I did not complain that I could not be heard. What I said was that none of the Parties supporting the Government could rely on being heard at any meeting.


I did not know that the noble Lord was such an exception as all that, that he is the only person who can be heard! We have cleared the air to a certain extent in the debate in this House. This Bill, we now know, is the result of two things: partial hysteria on the part of the Government as to the danger of Communism, and partial mistrust and want of confidence in the forces of the Crown. That the National Government, with their enormous majority, after three years should settle down to push through a measure of this sort is really a surprise even to those of us who criticise the Government habitually. Enough has been said about the objections to this Bill. It leaves loopholes. It allows things to be done which may prove to be very objectionable. It encourages, as my noble friend behind me who spoke recently said, the agent-provocateur, and we shall regard with a good deal of apprehension how it will work in the future. It does seem rather topsy-turvy that you should mete out severe punishment to men who circulate leaflets telling the troops not to shoot and not to fight, and mete out no punishment whatsoever to the people who are making money out of manufacturing guns and armaments which will be used by our enemies one day against these troops. It seems to me a curiously upside-down form of justice.

I am specially interested in this Bill because I shall inevitably be caught under it. It is going to pass next week, and as I may not be here when the new Session commences I had better say what I have got to say now. You are trying to get at a man who is not dangerous in the least, the misguided man who goes to the barrack gate and tries to get the soldier off parade, or goes to the battleship and tells a sailor to do something insubordinate. What danger is there in that? Not the least danger. My propaganda is perhaps dangerous, and if they come to search my room there will be no difficulty at all, because my bookcase and cupboards are bulging with pamphlets and leaflets, and I intend to draft a. great many ready for the time when a war cloud appears on the horizon and to send them broadcast. One of my leaflets was stopped because it got amongst the soldiers. When the war cloud comes on the horizon, make no mistake about it, I am not going to come into the Prince's Chamber and sit and warm myself at the fire and then come in here and face noble Lords opposite for two or three hours. I am going out to the street corners, and as near the barrack gates as I can get. I am going to tell men not to join up, as I am telling them now. I think I have had a good deal of effect, and if it was not for the enormous increase in unemployment I do not think you would get so many for recruiting purposes as you are getting.

I am going to say to these people that no man should participate in the massacre of tens of thousands of his fellow men whom he has never seen, and with whom he has no quarrel, at anybody's dictation, knowing that the result is only harmful to himself, to his country, and to humanity. I am going to say that continuously to prevent people from joining up, to prevent people from using their arms, and, to the best of my ability, do what this Bill objects to. I have always called my movement anti-war, anti-militarist, peace propaganda, and all that sort of thing, but now I have been given the right words by the Government. My movement is really incitement to disaffection. The question is, what you are going to do with me? You probably will not imprison me. If you did you would help my cause to an extent which you would not like to do, because if you are going to make a martyr of anybody that inevitably helps his cause. But you will not touch me for the same reason as was given by my noble friend behind me, Lord Kinnoull, that in these matters and in other matters there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. You will get hold of some wretched person who has got one of the leaflets I have composed and in an unguarded moment has thrown it over a, barrack wall. You will get hold of him and make some excuse for not touching me.

There must be even-handed justice in this. If the Government are really going for the dangerous propaganda, not these silly leaflets that everybody laughs at, but the carefully prepared leaflets and speeches that are persuading people by the hundred throughout the country now—if you are going for that which you cal I dangerous propaganda then you must take your aim at the right person. This Bill does not do anything of the kind. This Bill is not only dangerous because it curtails liberty but because it aims at the wrong person, and this great National Government have taken hold of this sledge hammer, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House called the original Bill, in order to crack this nut which they now find is rotten. No, my Lords, this Bill is not wanted. The only advantage in it from our point of view is that its passage through Parliament will increase the growing unpopularity of His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, at this late hour of the evening I do not propose to occupy very much of your Lordships' time. The noble Lord who has just sat down began by jeering at the Government supporters on the ground that there have been no speeches from Conservative members of the House. It is a little ungenerous of him to do that, because I was able to persuade some of my noble friends not to speak on the Second Reading in order to give complete liberty of speech to the smaller number of members of the Opposition, of which they have taken ample opportunity to avail themselves this evening

I am not going to follow the noble Lord in his impassioned declaration of martyrdom, because in fact, like so many people who attack the Bill, he does not seem to have taken the trouble to find out what is in it. If, in truth, he has been making speeches which amount to incite- ment to mutiny, and if he is going to make speeches which amount to an incitement to mutiny, which I should be very sorry to hear him do, we do not need this Bill to deal with him. He is liable to-day under the Incitement to Mutiny Act, and the only effect of this Bill, if we prosecuted him under it, is that he could only get two years hard labour, whereas, if we prosecuted him under the old Act, he could be sent to penal servitude for life. Whether it is going to be a grievance that he is not sufficiently to he made a martyr, I do not know. He seemed to imagine that with this Bill we could prosecute the foolish misguided person who distributed the pamphlets which he had composed, but that we could not prosecute him, and would not prosecute him because we were afraid of the consequences. That is a complete misunderstanding. We can prosecute him if he distributes mutinous pamphlets. We can prosecute anyone who distributes his mutinous pamphlets. The trouble that we are in to-day is that we do not often get the composer of criminal documents of that kind to avow their authorship, and this Bill will make it easier for us, in the case of people who are less anxious to achieve martyrdom than the noble Lord to bring them within the scope of the criminal law.

So far as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is concerned, he told us that this Bill was a restoration of the general search warrant. I can only suppose that the noble Lord does not know what the general search warrant was. The general search warrant was something under which executive officers of the Crown, executives of State, claimed the right to issue a warrant, not naming any particular individual, but authorising the holder of the warrant to arrest anyone he liked on suspicion, and to break into and search premises. That, very properly, was held by the Courts to be illegal and unconstitutional, and to-day, before you can get a search warrant for any purpose, you have to show that there is an Act of Parliament which gives you the right to get such a warrant, and you have to comply with the conditions laid down in that Act of Parliament. As the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, pointed out, there are about sixty of those Acts already, and if and when this Bill becomes law, the sixty will become sixty-one. To talk of it as being the restora- tion of the general search warrant is, of course, a mere misuse of language which is either malicious or very ignorant. I am not going to discuss with the noble Lord what he believes with regard to the Bill. His creed I do not think interests me very much, and his suspicions as to the motives and intentions of the Government I can only say are quite unfounded. I do not suppose he will accept that, or believe that, though he seems to believe much more ridiculous things about this Bill.

I can come to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who gave us quite a different criticism of the Bill, which, of course, requires to be dealt with, and I will try to give what I conceive to be an answer to his objections. My noble friend said he agreed with regard to the necessity of the protection of the armed forces of the Crown against attempts to seduce them from their allegiance, and he said he would support this Bill if we could show that it was necessary at this moment to arm ourselves with these powers. He was followed a little later by the noble Lord, Lord Pentland, whom I was very glad to hear make his maiden speech, and I would like to express the hope that next time he makes a speech he will make it when the House is a little fuller so that more of us may have the advantage and pleasure of listening to what he says. The noble Lord asked what was the emergency which the Bill was designed to prevent. The answer is—and this is the difference between myself and noble Lords on the Liberal Benches—that we do not accept the view that we have to prove the existence of an emergency before we ask for these powers. If we had to do that, then I think it would be very difficult to come to your Lordships' House and ask for these powers to be given.

As the noble Marquess quite truly pointed out, we should not have troubled to bring in this Bill merely for the purpose of Clause 1—that is, merely in order to get a more convenient and summary method of procedure. We brought it in because we attach importance to Clause 2, which gives power to arrest and punish people who are shown to be organising these attacks upon the loyalty of the armed forces and to be preparing to assist in attacks upon their loyalty. I have told your Lordships that within the last three or four years there has been a number—nor one or two, but a number—of attempts which have gone on year in and year out in a great number of different places in which a very large number of mutinous pamphlets have been distributed which were designed and intended to undermine the loyalty of the forces. We do not accept the view that we are not entitled to try to get at the people who organise those attacks upon the loyalty of His Majesty's forces unless we can first show that they have been successful in their efforts and that His Majesty's forces have in fact been seduced from their allegiance.

The noble Marquess said that when he held the distinguished post of Attorney-General some twenty odd years ago there was no difficulty in finding out who was advocating and attempting to make such attack on the loyalty of the forces. He instanced one case in which a leader of the Labour Party avowed his responsibility for such an attack. He spoke also of an instance some twenty years ago when he said there was no doubt at all who it was who was responsible for suggesting that the armed forces should not perform their duties. I realise that what the noble and learned Marquess says is entirely accurate. That was the position in 1912 and 1914. But it is not the position to-day. To-day the people who are trying to achieve a successful attack on the loyalty of the forces of the Crown—with the exception, of course, of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition—are most careful to preserve their anonymity. Their attacks are part of a deliberate, persistent and consistent campaign in which it is essential for those who are carrying on this conspiracy that they shall not be discovered. It is very difficult to break down that cloak of anonymity. Of course, an offence is committed every time these pamphlets are published because they do not contain the names and addresses of the printers and publishers. They do not put their names and addresses on the pamphlets because they know that they are breaking the law, and they are anxious not to glory in their shame, but to be protected from the consequences of their crime. We want, if we can, to prevent that.

I am not sure whether I fully understood the noble Marquess, but I under- stood him to suggest that pacifist literature might be said to be an offence against this Bill. He must have been referring, I suppose, to Clause 1, because it is only Clause 1 which deals with the sort of literature that constitutes an offence. He must realise that if that is time then that literature is an offence against the existing law, because there is no suggestion that the words in Clause 1 are not exactly the same in the Act of 1797, the existing law, and in the Bill of 1934 which is now before your Lordships' House. It is a mistake to say that we make any different kind of literature an offence which is not an offence to-day. We are only providing, so far as that part of the Bill is concerned, for a different method and a more convenient method of dealing with what is already an offence. The only case in which we create a new offence is in Clause 2, where we say that the people who are responsible, for the literature can be punished—not only the man who actually takes part in its distribution, but also those who are guilty of organising and arranging for it to be distributed.

The noble Lord, Lord Pentland, took comfort in the thought that soldiers and sailors would still go on discussing peace and war, discussing the capacity of generals and discussing the position in which their brothers outside the Army lived. He is quite right. He can take comfort to himself in that belief. This Bill has nothing whatever to do with any of these topics. I am as glad as he is to be quite sure that these things will go on in the future as in the past, but the reason that I am surd is not the same as his reason. It is because the Bill does not attempt in any way to deal with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Hurt-wood, who is obviously sincerely disturbed about the Bill, put some specific points. He said first of all that he was anxious about the wording of subsection (1) of Clause 2. I do not want to take up time now in discussing that. I shall, of course, consider any Amendment he puts down, but the answer given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, seemed to me at the moment to deal with the point satisfactorily. He went on to deal with the question of search warrants and he said that the Bill dealt with political opinions. He will forgive my saying that it does nothing of the kind. It deals only with documents which amount to and are intended to be an endeavour to seduce the armed forces of the Crown from their allegiance—that, and nothing else. It is just as easy to see whether a document bears that character as it is, for example, to see whether it is an obscene publication under another Act. The noble Lord wound up an impassioned address by an appeal for liberty. I agree with him. Liberty is too rare a subject for us to allow it to be tampered with. I agree that it must be protected. It is because we realised that protection is needed that we introduced this Bill. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister quite truly said, it is in defence of our liberties that this Bill has been introduced. The only real difference between myself and some, at any rate, of those who sit on the Liberal Benches is that they say we should not attempt protection until we have proved that liberty has been already damaged, whereas we say it is sufficient to prove that already there are attempts made to damage it. I venture to think that the case for this Bill is made out, and I ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Back to