§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Prohibition of uniforms in connection with political objects.
§ 1.—(1) Subject as hereinafter provided, any person who in any public place or at 838 any public meeting wears uniform signifying his association with any political organisation or with the promotion of any political object shall be guilty of an offence:
§ Provided that if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the wearing of any such uniform as aforesaid on any ceremonial, anniversary, or other special occasion will not be likely to involve risk of public disorder, he may, with the consent of a Secretary of State, by order permit the wearing of such uniform on that occasion either absolutely or subject to such conditions as may be specified in the order.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "meeting "and insert "visibly wears any distinctive dress or insignia signifying his membership of or adherence to any association prohibited under Section two of this Act shall be guilty of an offence. "The noble Lord said: I think it was very generally agreed in the Second Reading debate that whilst the intentions of this Bill were quite clear the definitions contained in it were very far from clear. In particular I do not think the Government themselves dispute that no definition of what is a political uniform is possible. At any rate, if it is possible it is probably not advisable. That is, of course, an understandable position, but it is surely very hard on the subject if he has no means of knowing whether or not he is about to commit an offence or whether or not he has committed an offence. There seems no particular reason why he should be placed in such jeopardy without at least the question having been given the fullest possible consideration.
§ The suggestion which I venture to put before your Lordships assumes that the person whom Clause 1 intends to hit is the person who belongs to a prohibited or illegal association. The mere wearing of a black shirt or a green boot is not in itself offensive. It is only when the wearing of the black shirt or the green boot signifies that you are a member of an association which is out to usurp the functions of the police or the military that you become an offender. In fact, being deprived of the possibility of defining what is a political uniform, my Amendment attempts to meet that difficulty by suggesting that evidence that you are a member of an illegal association is shown by your wearing the insignia of that association, and therefore you can be prosecuted. I regret that I 839 am no lawyer, and I had hoped that some of the legal members of your Lordships' House might have grappled with this difficulty in a better way, but I submit that my Amendment means all that the Government want and deals more fairly with the citizen. I have yet to learn what objections, if any, there may be to the course which I humbly suggest your Lordships should follow. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 7, leave out from ("meeting ") to end of line 18 and insert ("visibly wears any distinctive dress or insignia signifying his membership of or adherence to any association prohibited under Section two of this Act shall be guilty of an offence ").—(Lord Phillintore.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
Your Lordships will see that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has on the Paper an Amendment to leave out lines 11 to 18—the proviso in subsection (1). In order to save the noble Lord's Amendment I will put the question in this way: that the words from "meeting "to the end of line 10 stand part of the clause.
My noble friends rather like the look of this Amendment, and we are not shaken in that by the explanation given by the noble Lord who introduced it. There is, however, some little doubt in my mind. Let me say at once that I would like to bring in the matter of insignia as well as uniform. I remember that at the beginning of the Great War some very pungent articles were written by Mr. H. G. Wells in which he suggested a levy en masse of citizens to act in case of emergency, and he suggested that they should wear brassards so that they might not be treated as regulars and shot accordingly. It is quite conceivable that people with ingenuity might get round the words in the Bill and I hope that the Government can do something to meet the cogent arguments put forward. I should have thought that some words dealing with insignia might come at the end of Clause 2. Otherwise, unless I am mistaken, this Amendment somewhat narrows the Bill. We want to get rid of the parading of political uniforms; we are all agreed there. If I understand the Amendment it would narrow the Bill to this extent, and that in addition you would have to put in something dealing with provocation by the wearing of uniform obnoxious in certain places—red 840 shirts in Park Lane or black shirts in the Mile End Road, and so on. I hope the Government will do something to bring in insignia in such a way as not to narrow the Bill.
§ LORD WRIGHT
The noble Lord who roved this Amendment rather appealed to any lawyers who might be present in the House to-day. May I therefore say s. few words particularly on one point to which he has drawn attention—namely, I is view that there should be a definition of the word "uniform. "With the greatest respect to those who have suggested that there should be a definition, I venture to express the view that it would be most unwise and indeed disastrous to attempt any definition of that word. The word "uniform "is a perf.3ctly simple word in the English language, a word in common use and a word to be construed according to the understanding of ordinary people. When you see a man in Italy in a complete black c3stume you know that he is wearing a uniform. I have not seen them, but I believe there are to be found in this country, in not inconsiderable numbers, individuals who wear a somewhat similar uniform. Nobody doubts that that is a uniform, and it is that evil which this cause is intended, primarily, to meet and dispose of.
There are two difficulties which may hive to be considered. One is that if the word is not defined it may be possible for people to sail very near the wind and to produce something which they think will not be considered a uniform. That danger would be much accentuated if you had a detailed definition, because that would give so much more warning to the it -disposed individual as to what he should avoid. I do not feel impressed by that difficulty. After a somewhat long and tedious experience of construing Acts of Parliament, I have come to the conclusion that one of the greatest difficulties in draftsmanship is too much elaborati3n, too much definition. Take the case of a stipendiary magistrate, who, so far as my knowledge goes, may be assumed to be a person of judgment and knowledge of the world, and suppose he has brought before him a case in which a man is wearing something which he says is not a uniform but which is very like a uniform: 14 will decide on the facts of that particular case whether or not it is a uniform. If he is wrong in that decision, or 841 if it is questioned, the matter can be taken to the Crown Court and adjudicated on by a Court consisting of the Lord Chief Justice and two Puisnes, or a Court sincerly constituted.
I do not myself believe that when it comes to a practical question there will be any real difficulty about the meaning of the application of this word "uniform. "I am speaking simply from such experience as I have had, and with the greatest respect to any others who have taken a different view, but I am bound to say that this is my settled conclusion on this question of whether any objection can properly be taken to the word "uniform "simpliciter. I do not think that the culprit, if he wears a uniform, or something so like a uniform that a Court holds that it is a uniform, has any ground of complaint. I think it is quite clear enough for the ordinary purposes of criminal law.
The proposed Amendment which the noble Lord has moved would be very inadvisable for two reasons. One is that it would take out of the Bill something which is generally regarded by the country at large, and was so regarded by the House of Commons, as of vital importance. It would narrow the Bill, in the words of the noble Lord who has just spoken, in a most vital sense. The other reason is—and this is more a matter of law--that it would have the effect of throwing a very great burden upon the prosecution. The prosecution could not move a step in their proceedings until they had established. the existence and character of the organisation referred to in. Clause 2; whereas, of course, the whole purpose of Clause 1 is simply to prevent the wearing of political uniforms—a comparatively simple matter. The word "insignia, "it seems to me with submission, would be a very obscure word, infinitely more obscure than "uniform, "and would not, so far as I can follow from the Bill itself, in any way fulfil the purposes of, or add to the advantages provided or sought to be provided by Clause 1.
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
After the observations which have fallen from various noble Lords, I think the Committee will excuse me if I do not say what I had originally intended to say but direct such remarks as I can towards clearing up some difficulties which have 842 been raised. I think that my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, and indeed my noble and learned friend the Master of the Rolls, thought that this Amendment, by referring the question of uniforms to Clause 2, narrowed the Bill very considerably. What I should like to point out is that in the case of the uniform you already have to establish the existence of the organisation, because you have to prove the association of the accused with a political organisation. That requires "organisation. "Now all you have to establish under the second alternative, under paragraph (h) of subsection (1) in Clause 2, is that it should be organised and equipped. If you equip a person with uniform, you have both the conditions. You are possibly in some ways even widening the clause. You have only to have a political uniform and the fact that it is equipped.
You have further, of course, the intention to display physical force, and I was very forcibly reminded, when the suggestion was made just now, of the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin. He said, when he referred to political uniforms:
Political uniforms ' may not sound, in words, of a very great importance, but in practice we all know that once you take politics into the realm of uniform you are making politics something more than a matter for civilians.
§ That, of course, is the intention. You are taking politics into the realm of physical force in promoting any political object. If my noble and learned friend the Master of the Rolls objects to the word "insignia," that is a reason, perhaps, why it had better be replaced by some such word as "badge." I do not know whether he would agree to the Amendment with that alteration.
My noble friend the Marquess of Zetland gave us a definition when he said:
The definition given in standard dictionaries is that the expression uniform ' connotes sonic dress, or at any rate the substantial part of some dress, and that the wearing of a mere emblem such as an ordinary rosette would not be regarded as uniform, and that the dress or part of the dress must be distinctive and peculiar to the persons wearing it.
§ We should remember that people dressed in ordinary double-breasted grey flannel suits are not distinctively dressed. You could not call that a uniform. But suppose that fifty or a hundred people turn 843 up at a meeting all dressed in similar grey flannels with the addition of a. rosette or any emblem; I think you would there have at once the very mischief that this Bill was intended to avert, and have it in a very aggravated manner. My noble and learned friend who has just sat down has assured us that "uniform" is a common word in the English language. I quite agree, but would he say that it has a common significance in the English language? 1 have looked for the definition given by my noble friend the Marquess of Zetland, and I have been unable to find the dictionary in which his definition occurs. I have been through ten dictionaries and have found nothing in any way resembling it. I found the word "uniform" as an adjective defined as "something similar to itself," and I can only say that there is nothing uniform in the definition of "uniform" given by various lexicographers. There is, of course, one other expression to which I ought to refer: "visibly" wearing. Supposing somebody likes to wear this uniform in circumstances in which it is not a crime; he wears it and then goes off hurriedly to a meeting. If he puts on a greatcoat I venture to submit there is no mischief occurring, and that makes it a little less offensive.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
May I ask the noble Marquess a question? What will be the position if the members of an organisation invariably wear a helmet, which is the most visible of all things, and the most conspicuous? If you get people walking on parade and if they do so with a tin helmet, will it be regarded as equivalent to the wearing of a uniform?
I suppose the uniform depends upon the reason for which it is worn. Surely a uniform is anything by which any group of men distinguish themselves from the rest of mankind for any purpose whatever. That I imagine to be what the Government wish to suppress when it is used for the purpose of introducing physical force in politics. That, I think, is the real point of the Amendment, because if that is really the meaning of uniform, then anybody who wears a party badge of any kind is guilty of wearing a uniform. That I believe is the case. I believe that the cropped heads of the Roundheads who 844 fought against Charles I were uniforms. The object of the Amendment, so far as I can make out, is to confine the attack upon political uniforms to those which the Government really wish to attack and which the Government believe to be a danger to the reign of law, which I believe to be the greatest political principle which can be supported at any time.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND)
The Amendment would give effect, if carried, to a suggestion which was made in the course of the Second Reading debate, I think, by Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, a and naturally the Government have given their most careful consideration to it with a view of seeing whether it would or would not interfere with the carrying out of the objects which they have in view in introducing this Bill. They have come to the conclusion that it would seriously interfere with the carrying out of the objects which we have in view. It was quite clear from the speech made by Lord Phillimore, who moved this Amendment, that the view of the Government on this question differs substantially from his view. The noble Lord said that the mere wearing of a uniform, or rather a political uniform, was not offensive. In tie view of the Government the mere wearing of a uniform for political purposes is most undesirable, and it is the unanimous view of the police authorities, who are responsible for maintaining law and order, that the mere wearing of a uniform is in itself provocative, and that once you get one organisation wearing a uniform you very soon get other organisations copying that example and wearing uniforms also.
Why does the noble Lord want to wear a uniform in his politics? Surely politics is this country are purely a civilian matter. We do not want to militarise our politics in this country, as has been done in certain other countries. Surely the example of those countries who have militarised their politics is one which we in this country do not want to follow, and I am beginning to wonder whether Lord Phillimore, under the impeccably respectable outer garments which he wears, may not be found to be we acing a shirt of green, brown or even black. It is very undesirable in our view that uniforms should be worn at all 845 for political purposes. A great deal has been said about the difficulty of deciding what constitutes a uniform; and the noble Marquess asked me whether a large number of people wearing tin helmets would be regarded as wearing a uniform. Under the provisions of the Bill that would be a matter for the Courts themselves to decide. The noble Marquess no doubt has his own view as to what the answer to his own question would be, but since this is a matter to be left to the decision of the Courts I do not myself venture to give a definite answer to his question.
Then, I am not at all sure that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment will realise quite what the effect of it might be. In practice, if the Amendment was carried, it would be almost impossible to proceed against any one wearing a political uniform until a case had been brought against someone for organising a body for the purposes which are prohibited in Clause 2 of the Bill, and it would therefore enormously handicap the authorities in bringing to an end the undesirable practice of wearing political uniforms even when they were used for the purposes prohibited in Clause 2 of the Bill. It will probably be within the knowledge of many of your Lordships that this is a question which has had to be seriously considered in recent times not only in this country but in many other countries, and in such countries as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, countries governed more or less on the same sort of constitutional lines as we are in this country, have all found it essential to prohibit absolutely the wearing of political uniforms.
Now may I say one word with regard to the phrasing which the noble Lord proposes to introduce in place of the word "uniform"? He would prefer to use the words "distinctive dress or insignia." In the view of the Government those words are by no means an improvement on the word "uniform." They would make it an offence for any one to wear a badge or an emblem of any kind, and we think that it would be too drastic an action to make the wearing of badges an offence. I hope, therefore, that in view of what I have said the noble Lord will be willing to accept the view of the Government on this matter, and will agree with us that it really is the wearing 846 of a political uniform that we wish to prohibit.
I am rather horrified to find that I have been poaching on what were really the preserves of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. The truth of the matter is that some of us thought over this subject for several hours after the debate, and I think it was lost sight of that the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, had made very much the same suggestion that I have made. I regret that I did not leave it to him, because he would undoubtedly have made a much deeper impression on the Front Bench than I am able to make. On the other hand, I do not feel that it is a weakness that I have his support. I would like to get clearly from the Government what is their attitude in this matter. I appealed to the law and I got from the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls the judgment, if I may put it that way, that a magistrate would be able easily enough to say what uniform was. That is not my point. My point is, can the ordinary citizen tell what uniform. is? When he gets to the magistrate he has already suffered the indignity of arrest, and possibly, to my mind, unjustifiable arrest.
I think that the noble Marquess who replied for the Government did not throw much light on this. At one moment he said that I should agree with him—as I do—that we do not want to introduce military dress or military anything else into politics. He made a rather sweeping statement that any sort of dress which distinguished a political organisation was to be deplored. Does he mean in so many words that the Conservative Party voter or the Liberal Party voter or the Socialist Party voter is not to wear his Party dress? I dare say that is not a great loss, but does he mean it? I believe that in some constituencies a Conservative Party voter wears no less than three different badges or articles of dress. Is that uniform or is it not uniform I Can anybody say? On the other hand, when discussing the words suggested by me (to which I do not cling), the words "distinctive dress or insignia," the noble Marquess said that was going too far. Altogether I do not understand whether the person aimed at by Clause 1 is the same person who is included in the association aimed at in Clause 2. If he 847 is—and I have thought up till now that he was that person—it seems to me that his real offensiveness entirely depends on whether he is a member of an organisation which attempts to usurp the functions of the police. Therefore it is from that quarter that you should strike it.
I cordially agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wright, that it is not advisable to define what is uniform. What I am attempting to define is the offence, and the offence is being a member of an organisation which is illegal or which has been stopped or restricted. Being a member of that organisation you wear a dress showing that you are a member of it, and therefore you strike fear into the hearts of peaceful citizens. Surely that is the Government's policy. If it is not, I submit that it is not clear from the Bill what that object is. I think in the circumstances I ought to go to a Division.
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
May I ask the noble Marquess this: Where is there any prohibition in the Bill, as it would be amended, requiring that the main bodies should be prosecuted before the wearer of the uniform can be convicted?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I do not quite follow the noble Lord's question. What I said was that if this Amendment were carried it would be practically impossible to proceed against the person wearing a political uniform unless you
|Halifax, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Dunedin, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Ridley, V.||Hutchison of Montrose, L.|
|Swinton, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Manners, L.|
|Bath, M.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Milne, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Reading, M.||Aberdare, L.||Portal, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Addington, L.||Portsea, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)||Amulree, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Arnold, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Basing, L.||Rhayader, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Cautley, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan william.)|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Sherborne, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Davies, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Elton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Munster, E.||Faringdon, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Wigan. L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Plymouth, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]||Wright, L.|
§ had proceedings against someone under Clause 2.
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
Perhaps I did not make myself clear, but I thought the noble Marquess had the Bill before him, and I wondered where that impossibility occurred and, if it does occur, would he explain where it is?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Under the noble Lord's Amendment it would not be an offence to wear a political uniform unless the person who wore it was a member or an adherent of an organisation prohibited under Clause 2. It is really at that point that what I described as the substantial difference between the noble Lord and the Government exists. The noble Lord asked me again what is the policy of the Government. The policy of the Government is to prohibit the wearing of political uniforms at all. That is the policy of the Government—not only in the case of persons who are banded together with a view to usurping the functions of the police or under paragraph (b) of Clause 2 (1), but to make it an offence to wear a political uniform at all. I quite agree that there is a difference of view between the noble Lord and the Government and that difference, I am afraid, will continue to exist.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 6.849
|Mansfield, E.||Darcy (de Knayth), L.[Teller.]||Phillimore, L. [Teller.]|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Lawrence, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD STRABOLGI moved to leave out the proviso in subsection (1). The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to leave out words permitting the chief officer of police in certain circumstances to grant the right to wear uniforms. I was very surprised indeed to hear the reiterated and forceful explanations of the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for India, on the Amendment of Lord Phillimore. He said that it was undesirable that uniforms should be worn at all for political purposes. I was so struck by his words that I wrote them down. In the same forceful and clear phraseology he said that the policy of the Government—I listened with the greatest attention to this statement of the policy of the Government—was to prohibit the wearing of uniforms at all. This new definiteness is most refreshing. I go on to read the rest of the subsection and it says that, provided the chief officer of police is satisfied, he can give permission on any ceremonial, anniversary, or other special occasion.
I should have thought that if there was something provocative and irritating to the ordinary lieges in the wearing of these foreign, alien uniforms, to allow them on certain special and formal occasions would be even more annoying to the general public. What really have the Government in view? Funerals of political adherents in certain countries where there are disorders frequently give rise to the fiercest of street fighting. In France even, and certainly, I believe, in the North of Ireland, such funerals have led to many broken heads. I grant the Government weddings. If people wish to get married in black shirts or red shirts, these are happy occasions, so let them have them so long as they do not drink too much. But imagine on Armistice Day the feelings of ex-Service men and others on seeing parades of these provocative uniforms. After all, what is a ceremonial occasion? Any parade, any procession of men, is ceremonial. The daily parade of a regiment is ceremonial. The mustering of men on the quarter deck of a man-of-war for prayers is ceremonial.850
"Ceremonial" can be in connection with anything. And then apparently permission can be given for these uniforms to be worn subject to the Secretary of State, who may be sympathetic and give a very wide interpretation of the measure. My noble friends are very disturbed about these words which make a very large hole in the Bill and, if I may be allowed to say so, nullify the firm words used by the Secretary of State for India. I beg to move.
Page 1, leave out lines 11 to 13.—(Lord Stralolgi.)
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I am afraid we cannot accept this Amendment, and for a very good reason. It has been made abundantly clear that this clause has not been an easy one to draft. It has been very difficult to define the word "uniform," and it has been extremely difficult—in fact impracticable—to give a set list of organisations which should be exempt from its provisions. In view of these facts it has been necessary, as is again abundantly clear, to legislate in the very widest and most general terms. When you legislate in very wide general terms it is highly desirable to have some elasticity in your Bill because otherwise, of course, you have to have an amending Act should it subsequently appear that you have legislated too drastically against, in this ease, organisations which perhaps should not be included under the working of this measure. The noble Lord opposite made great play with the speech of my noble friend behind me about the undesirability of political uniforms, and indeed I fully agree with every word my noble friend said, but the point that we are really aiming at, when we are trying to crush political uniforms, is the disorder they create. It is not so much the uniform we are trying to kill: it is the disorder consequent upon that uniform that we are determined to eradicate from the State.
851 I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that this exemption is only to be granted by the chief officer of police in consultation with the Secretary of State when he is convinced, knowing his own district, that it will not involve any risk of public disorder, and I suggest to the noble Lord that if he had read those few words which occur in line 14 of page 1 of the Bill he would not have produced those particular arguments in favour of leaving out this proviso. We do not want to deal harshly with an organisation which is not going to provoke public disorder, if any such exist, or may exist in the future, and we think that it is right that we should give this permission through the chief officer of police, should he be convinced in his own mind that no public mischief will result from a procession upon an anniversary or whatever the occasion may be, and after consultation with the Secretary of State, who, after all, remains to be shot at in Parliament should a mistake be made by him in accepting the advice of the chief officer of police. Under those conditions and with those safeguards we think it is right that we should have this elasticity in the clause.
I do not want to press this Amendment, but I am still very dissatisfied even after the explanation of the noble Marquess. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, to take note of what the noble Marquess said. He said that the object of the Bill is to prevent disorder. I thought one of the objects was to prevent this example of wearing uniforms from spreading, and thus to prevent any disorder that might be likely to arise if it became the fashion to wear political uniforms. When every political Party begins dressing itself up you are asking for trouble, and I thought the object of the Bill was to prevent that, but now it appears that that is not so and that its object is to put down disorders. I think the words are open to abuse and are dangerous, but I do not propose to press the matter.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2
§ Prohibition of quasi-military organisations.
- (a) organised or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces of the Crown; or
- (b) organised and trained or organised and equipped either for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and either trained or equipped for that purpose; then any person who takes part in the control or management of the association, or in so organising or training as aforesaid any members or adherents thereof, shall be guilty of an offence under this section:
§ Provided that…
§ (3) If upon application being made by the Attorney-General it appears to the High Court that any association is an association of which members or adherents are organised, trained, or equipped in contravention of the provisions of this section, the Court may make such order as appears necessary to prevent any disposition without the leave of the Court of property held by or for the association and in accordance with rules of court may direct an inquiry and report to be made as to the affairs of the association and make such further orders as appear to the Court to be just and equitable for the application of such property in or towards the discharge of the liabilities of the association lawfully incurred before the date of the application or since that date with the approval of the Court, in or towards the repayment of moneys to persons who became subscribers or contributors to the association in good faith and without knowledge of any such contravention as aforesaid, and in or towards any costs incurred in connection with any such inquiry and report as aforesaid or in winding-up or dissolving the association, and may order that any property which is not directed by the Court to be so applied as aforesaid shall be forfeited to the Crown.
§ (4) In any criminal or civil proceedings under this section proof of things done or of words written, spoken or published (whether or not in the presence of any party to the proceedings) by any person taking part in the control or management of an association or in organising, training or equipping members or adherents of an association shall be admissible as evidence of the purposes for which, or the manner in which, members or adherents of the association (whether those persons or others) were organised, or trained, or equipped.
§ (6) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the organisation of a reasonable number of persons to be employed as stewards to assist in the preservation of order at any public meeting held upon private premises, or the instruction of those persons in their lawful duties as such stewards, or their equipment with badges or other distinguishing signs.853
§ LORD SALTOUN moved, in paragraph (a) in subsection (1), to leave out "enabling them to be employed" and insert "employment." The noble Lord said: I think I had better anticipate any suggestion that I hanker after a tie of any particular colour in order to show my political principles. My chief political principle is a belief in the rule of the law, and I am in no way, nor wish to be, a supporter of any organisation that wants an authoritarian State. The noble Marquess in charge of the Bill pointed out a moment ago that the Government had been unable to make a list of the societies that they wished to include under a. Uniforms Bill, and those which they wished to exclude, and if the Government are unable to do that I do not see how the ordinary citizen can do it. My principal criticism of both Clause 1 and Clause 2 is this, that Clause 1 states that anybody who does a certain thing is guilty of an offence, and the next clause states that no prosecution shall take place except by the Attorney-General. I venture to think that it is a menace to the rule of law that people should go about careless whether they commit an offence under the Statute knowing that, although they may be committing an offence, they will never be prosecuted. That is the form of the Bill, and the object of my Amendment is to make it possible for people who read this Bill when it is passed into law to know whether they are committing an offence under Clause 2 or not.
§ It appears to me that the word "enabling" in paragraph (a) either has a meaning or has no meaning. If it has no meaning it is better out of the clause. Under the Bill as it stands it is an offence to manage an association which trains members for the purpose of enabling them—that is, of giving them the capacity—to usurp the function of the police or military. If the Amendment on the Paper be adopted it will only be an offence to train members for the purpose of usurping these functions. We all know what our purposes are, and if we are engaged on perfectly innocent purposes we can go ahead knowing we are not offending. If on the other hand we are not engaged on perfectly innocent purposes the Attorney-General no doubt will quite rightly attack us. At every agricultural show in the country you see Boy Scouts used for the purpose of traffic 854 control or other similar duties. They are chosen because they have learned to obey and to use their wits. By reason of that they are better than other boys and are very useful in discharging the functions of the police. That is an instance at the bottom of the scale. It will be quite as easy to point out that Automobile Association scouts, whom nobody wishes to attack, are definitely trained to perform the functions of the police.
§ The noble Marquess who replied for the Government on the Second Reading said he did not think that anybody could say that men co-operating with the police were usurping their functions. If the Amendment be adopted that is a perfectly good answer, but as the Bill stands that is not a good answer because there can be no doubt at all that persons capable of discharging the functions of the police or military are ipso facto in changed circumstances capable of usurping those functions. The purpose referred to in the Bill is "enabling," it is not the purpose of "employment." That is why I have substituted the word "employment." If this is not done then Boy Scouts in a low degree and the Automobile Association scouts in a very high degree, and a host of other useful organisations in between, will all be in doubt as to whether or not they are covered by the Bill. Of course they know perfectly well they will never be prosecuted, but that to my mind makes the position worse, because it allows men to think that it does not matter what is in an Act of Parliament provided they know they are safe.
§ It is possible that I may be given the answer that these words "enabling them to be employed" are necessary to enable the Government to prove purpose. I do not think that really can be the case, because if your Lordships will consider the wording of subsection (4) of this clause, you will see that the powers of proof introduced there are so great that I do not think that if there is legitimate cause for prosecution there can be any difficulty in proving purpose. There is one other small point that has reference to the consequential Amendment to paragraph (b) which I have on the Paper, in which I propose for the words "enabling them to be employed" that there should be substituted the word "employment". The change from "employing 855 them" is intended to deal with a case, which occurred to me as possible, of a society training its members and then handing them over to another society for the purpose of employing them to usurp the functions of the police. I think the word "employment" will avoid that difficulty, and is therefore the proper word to be used.
Page 2, line 15, leave out ("enabling them to be employed") and insert ("employment").—(Lord Saltoun).
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I can sympathise very warmly with the object which the noble Lord has in view in moving this Amendment. If I understood him rightly his fear is that under the clause as at present drafted such organisations as the Boy Scouts and the Automobile Association scouts, and any number of others—I think he said a whole host of other societies—might come within the mischief of this clause. I think the noble Lord must have overlooked exactly what is said in this clause. If the noble Lord will look at subsection (1) (b) he will see that it refers to bodies of personsorganised and trained or organised and equipped either for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object…Surely the noble Lord does not suggest that Automobile Association scouts are employed for promoting a political object, and I should have thought it would be equally true to say that Boy Scouts are not organised for promoting a political object.
I think I must have expressed myself badly, because the noble Marquess does not seem to have appreciated my point. The point is that when you have trained people with certain qualities those qualities can be used either for a legitimate object or for an object that is not legitimate. In the case of the Boys' Brigade, if they are not able when we have done with them to undertake and usurp within the limits of their strength the powers of the military, we should have failed in our task and we should not have given them the training we desire. It is not that I think that they will be used in that way, but our purpose is to give them the capacity although we do not direct their minds and wish them to be used in that particular way.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
What I have said I think still holds good. The important words are "promoting any political object." If the noble Lord will read subsection (1) (a) he will see that it refers to a body of personsorganised or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police…Surely it cannot be maintained that the Automobile Association scouts are being organised or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police. That is really the whole point. I want to make it quite clear to the noble Lord that really the fears he entertains are groundless. He may ask: "Well, but in those circumstances what objection have you to accepting my Amendment?" The objection which the Government have is the objection which the noble Lord himself mentions. If this Amendment were carried it would be perfectly possible for the manager of a political organisation of this kind to lend the people he had organised to somebody else and escape scot free himself. It was really for the purpose of preventing him being able to do that that the clause was drafted in the particular words to which the noble Lord objects. I hope I have succeeded in satisfying the noble Lord that really the risks he fears do not exist, and that it is very desirable that these words should remain in the clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING moved in subsection (3), after "made" ["inquiry and report to be made"] to insert "as to any such property as aforesaid and." The noble Marquess said: I move this Amendment because in the text of the Bill as it stands there seems to me, by an unintentional oversight, to be a gap in the machinery. The scheme of subsection (3) is apparently this: if the Court is satisfied that an association has committed an offence or appears to have committed an offence under Clause 2 (1) the Court then has power to grant an injunction restraining that association from parting with any property held by or for it, and it then has power to order an inquiry and report into the affairs of 857 that association. The gap appears to be that, whereas the injunction covers property held by or for the association, the inquiry and report are restricted to the affairs of the association itself only. Therefore if an association had a trust company which held all its funds, and that trust company used its funds for the purpose of equipping members of an association for an illegal purpose, that company should be the subject of inquiry too.
§ I think the noble Marquess in charge of the Bill agrees that the Amendment is necessary. It is merely to extend the inquiry and report over as wide a field as is given by the injunction. It is to allow the inquiry and report to be made not only into the affairs of the actual association, but also into the affairs of any company formed ad hoc for the purpose of holding its funds which otherwise, under the words of the Bill as they now stand, would altogether escape the inquiry and report. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 4, after ("made") insert ("as to any such property as aforesaid and").—(The Marquess of Reading.)
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
All I can say is that we are very grateful to the noble Marquess for his Amendment which we are very glad to accept. He has pointed out an obvious deficiency in the machinery of the Bill, and, if I may say so without impertinence, being a younger man, it shows what a very valuable acquisition this House has lately received.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "any person taking part in the control or management of an association or in organising, training or equipping." The noble Earl said: I have not put down this Amendment because I am satisfied with it or because I hope it will be carried by your Lordships. I must confess at the outset that I have not been able to draft an Amendment which actually meets the objection which I have to this subsection of Clause 2. At the same time I sincerely hope that we may have the assistance on this point of the noble and learned Lords whom we have the good fortune to have with us this afternoon. I should like to point out that we have no lawyer either on the Opposition or 858 on the Government side this afternoon, and that this is particularly unfortunate when we are dealing with a measure which, if passed through Parliament, would modify very considerably our code of criminal law. I therefore feel that the appeal which I should like to address to those noble and learned Lords who are with us is one with which all members of your Lordships' House would wish to associate themselves, and I am making it on this Amendment because I feel even more strongly here than I shall feel later on the need for the advice of an eminent member of the legal profession.
§ The object of this subsection is to lay down what evidence, when adduced in a Court of Law by the prosecution, will be regarded as valid if used against a political Party or organisation that is accused of being run on military lines. It is perfectly clear that a political party or organisation, not being a corporate body, can only be convicted or acquitted on the basis of the behaviour, the publications, the actions or the written words of its supporters brought in evidence against it. What are the supporters of such a body? We may divide them into three categories: there are the officers, there are the members, and there are the adherents or the hangers-on. When this subsection was first introduced into another place it was so drafted that the supporters whose actions could incriminate a political party included its members and its adherents, without even a definition of the term "adherent." That, clearly, was far too wide and gave an opportunity for the enemies of such a party to make use of the agent-pro-vocateur or, indeed, of casual spectators at a political meeting. On the Report stage in another place the subsection was considerably narrowed and its present form was adopted.
§ If I am not mistaken, the subsection as drafted at present would make an organisation of this kind only responsible for the actions of its officers; not even for the actions of its members, far less for the actions of its adherents. That seems to us to be far too narrow. What we desire is that the happy mean of a reasonable responsibility of a political association for the actions of those with whom it is directly associated and for whom it is directly responsible should be 859 accepted. We feel that the object of the Government might be defeated if this clause were left in its present very narrow form. What I want to ask for, therefore, is that between now and the Report stage of the Bill the Government should give the subsection further consideration in order to find a form of words which would really meet the object which I think both we and the Government have in view. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 22, leave out from ("by") to ("members") in line 24.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I have naturally given very careful consideration to the point which the noble Earl has just raised, but I am afraid I cannot really offer him very much hope that anything will be done between now and Report. I speak with all due deference to noble and learned Lords, but as a layman I see the point in this way. It has been necessary to a small extent to alter the Common Law of evidence in order that a Court may have the opportunity of obtaining evidence of the nature of the organisation the leader of which is being prosecuted. It would be quite impossible under the normal law of evidence—I speak with all due respect—or almost impossible in most cases, to obtain sufficient evidence of the character of an organisation unless some subsection such as this were put into the clause. On the other hand it was thought in another place, and we feel very strongly now, that it would not be right that evidence should be admissible—and I would remind your Lordships that the evidence is only admissible; it is not conclusive, it is weighed on its merits—unless it came from the speeches, the actions or the pamphlets of responsible members of the organisation in question. We cannot possibly—as I think the noble Lord said, and I think he agrees with me—open the door to agents-provocateurs, or to the low-class hangers-on of an organisation who might give evidence for their own purposes against the leader. Therefore these words are inserted into the Bill, and I suggest to your Lordships that they accord with all our common notions of justice: that no evidence should be admissible in such a case unless it came from a man who had occupied an accredited and responsible 860 position in the organisation. I think, therefore, that the noble Earl and I are at one, and I cannot see why he wants to leave out words which fulfil our purpose admirably.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Our objects are exactly the same, precisely identical; but the noble Marquess is surely excluding the evidence of members of an association. If I read this clause rightly in its present form, it is taking into account the evidence of officers:any person taking part in the control or management of an association or in organising, training or equipping members or adherents"—but not necessarily members themselves. That surely defeats his object. I am not going to press this point—naturally, because, as I said, I do not like my own Amendment. I feel, however, a great deal of uncertainty, and I hope that the Government will give further consideration to this subsection. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA moved, in subsection (6), to leave out "organisation" and insert "employment." The noble Marquess said: If I may, with your Lordships' permission, I will take the whole of my "organisation" Amendments together. If they are so taken, subsection (6) of Clause 2 would read as follows:
Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the employment of a reasonable number of persons as stewards to assist in the preservation of order at any public meeting held upon private premises, or the making of arrangements for that purpose, or the instruction of the persons to be so employed in their lawful duties as such stewards, or their being furnished with badges or other distinguishing signs.
The object, of course, of subsection (6) is to remove any doubt as to the practice of promoters of meetings on private premises of arranging for stewards to assist in the preservation of order, but it was suggested to us, and some people were afraid, that as at present drafted subsection (6) might allow political organisations to maintain large standing armies of people under the pretext, of course, that that army was only intended for use as stewards at various meetings. In our opinion the subsection as amended would be an improvement on the words as at present drafted, and I think it would prevent any such possibility arising.
Page 4, line 7, leave out ("organisation") and insert ("employment").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
The Amendments suggested by the noble Marquess are undoubtedly an improvement on the subsection as it stands in the Bill. In fact I will go further and say that his Amendments are a great improvement, but I am sorry that I cannot give him top marks for them, because I am not satisfied—and this is a very serious subsection—that the words do in fact sufficiently protect the position. I have two or three Amendments down to this clause, but I may not have to move them all. That will depend upon what emerges from the discussion. As the Bill was originally introduced, this subsection was not in it at all. It was inserted in another place because it had been suggested that the legitimate employment of stewards might conceivably be held to be contrary to the Bill, and the subsection, as unamended, was put in. A very long discussion took place in another place upon the subsection, and as a result the Government undertook to consider what had been said, and we now have their Amendments.
The main point is this. Does the subsection, as now read out by the noble Marquess, sufficiently definitely prohibit the taking round from one town to another of an army of stewards for the purpose of assisting in keeping order at public meetings upon private premises? It has been alleged. that that is what has been going on—in fact an army of trained stewards, who have used unnecessary violence at meetings not only in one town but in more than one town, and I think we should all agree that that ought not to happen and ought not to be possible. It is going beyond the ordinary functions of stewards. Incidentally, may I say that the ordinary purpose of stewards is not for keeping order but seeing people to their seats. It is mainly the duty of the chairman to keep order at a meeting if he can do it. Apparently there has been what can be called an army of stewards, trained and organised, who have been going round from town to town, and disgraceful and violent scenes have occurred at meetings. It is desired to stop that.
It is with a view of stopping that, in addition to other precautions, that I 862 have put down an Amendment to the effect that these stewards shall only be employed "locally"; that is to say, you cannot take them from London to Edinburgh, as was in fact done. About 150 stewards were taken from London to Edinburgh, and disgraceful scenes occurred at Edinburgh. It is true that they led to prosecutions, but that is a very cumbrous procedure, and may not cover everything. If possible, there should be better machinery for dealing with the matter than that. The Government, by changing the word "organisation" to "employment," and putting in the other Amendments which the noble Marquess has read out, claim that they have sufficiently protected the position and that under the subsection as it now stands, combined with other clauses in the Bill, it will not be legal to do what we all want to prevent being done—namely, the taking from town to town of an army of trained stewards. I join in the appeal of my noble friend Lord Listowel. We have two very eminent Law Lords here. I am not at all complaining that on the Government Bench there is no lawyer. We are accustomed to that here, but these are very difficult matters, and our chance is now. It does not matter twopence what is said about the meaning of the clause, but what does matter is how it will be construed by the Courts, and it is our duty to see, here and now, that the words are sufficient and unambiguous.
Again and again Amendments have been inserted in Bills which have led to great litigation, and there has been great doubt about what they meant. I remember reading a biographical notice of the late Lord Sumner, in which it was said that "sometimes he appeared almost to take delight in construing Acts of Parliament differently from what the Legislature intended." If that was so, then there is all the more reason why we should take every precaution to see that we get the words right. I cannot see that the substitution of "employment" for "organisation" has the conclusive virtue which the Government appear to think. In my view you want something more, and for that reason I have put down an Amendment to insert the word "locally." That would mean that the stewards can be employed from the neighbourhood or district in which the meeting is held. I do not say that I am 863 Entirely satisfied with the word "locally"—I am not—but at the present moment it is the best I have been able to do. It is a very difficult matter, but I should have thought that the united intellects of the Government, the Home Office and the Government draftsmen could have evolved something which would make the clause more watertight than it is at the moment.
That is the main submission I want to put to the Government. If they can convince your Lordships that the subsection, as amended by the noble Marquess, is sufficient, beyond any peradventure, to stop what it is desired to stop, well and good, but for my part, and I have looked at it very carefully and with every good will, I cannot see that the position is sufficiently protected. I know that you can go back to Clause 2, and say that with Clause 2 there what I fear under Clause 3, subsection (6), cannot happen. I should like to hear arguments about that, because subsection (6) modifies Clause 2, and was put in for that purpose. The Home Secretary said in another place that, whilst he was not convinced it was necessary to put in the subsection, on reflection he thought perhaps that it might be safer to put something like this in, as there might conceivably arise the difficulty which had been suggested. That shows how very complex these matters are. I should like to have a further statement from the Government. What would give me the greatest relief would be that one of the noble and learned Lords who are here would say that they are satisfied that the words mean what the Government say they mean and that the position is sufficiently protected. I think if that could be done your Lordships would feel assured. The point is a very serious one, because if this loophole is in the Bill it will go a good way to undo the usefulness of the Bill.
§ LORD WRIGHT
I would begin by protesting in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Roche and myself against being placed in the invidious position of being treated as the only lawyers present in the House. I see my noble and learned friend Lord Dunedin, I see my noble and learned friend Lord Amulree, and I see my noble and learned friend Lord Alness, so that 864 an invidious responsibility, I think, is being placed upon us. May I say a very few words about the question which has been raised, simply as a question of construction, in so far as it occurs to me? No one, of course, can be other than sympathetic to the proper employment of stewards, and no one desires that that excellent function should be abused. The difficulty, as I read subsection (6) as originally drawn, was the word "organisation," which seemed to suggest—I think did suggest—preparations made beforehand which might be on a very elaborate scale and might be such as to be capable of application in different parts of the country. Therefore, as I understand it, the new proposed subsection avoided that word "organisation"—a word which also rather throws one back to the offence dealt with in Clause 2 (1). That word was avoided, and the word "employment" was substituted.
Now the employment which is permitted must be, according to the language of the clause, an employment of a reasonable number of persons as stewards, and it seems to me that the word "reasonable" there ought to afford all the protection which the noble Lord who has just spoken desiderates. No Court would for a moment hold, as I see it, that the use of 150 stewards, brought from London to Edinburgh, at a public meeting was an employment of a reasonable number of stewards. The number would be quite unreasonable, and the mere fact of their being trained and organised, as I understand, might bring them within the offence set out in Clause 2 (1). With great respect to what the noble Lord has said—and I quite sympathise with the difficulties which he feels—I should not myself like to see the word "locally" added. It would, I think, unduly restrict the operations of people who want to employ stewards. I think the clause itself is only dealing with the employment of stewards for some particular public meeting. It deals with the employment of a reasonable number of persons as stewards to assist in the preservation of order at any public meeting—it is an employment, I think, for the purpose of that meeting. I do not know what word could be inserted, but I think the word "locally" would not quite give effect to what the noble Lord desires, and I should myself think 865 that the language as it stands would meet all that he requires. I can only say how it strikes me at the moment, but I should, as at present advised, prefer to see it stand as it is now suggested with the noble Marquess's Amendments.
§ LORD JESSEL
We have had a most interesting speech from the noble Lord opposite, but I should like to know what this meeting was at Edinburgh at which there were employed 150 stewards sent from London. Was it the Labour Party Conference? Perhaps the noble Lord will reply. But it seems to me it all depends on the size of the meeting. If there were 3,000 or 4,000 people at the meeting surely 150 stewards would not be excessive. I remember one meeting at Premierland, at which Mr. Walter Long made a distinguished speech, attended by at least 3,000 people and a great many stewards were employed. I may say that most of them were given double pay if there was no row, which is a good way, I think, to get stewards to look after a meeting. I should like to know a little more about this meeting at Edinburgh. At the same time, as the Master of the Rolls has said, it all turns on the word "reasonable." What may be an excessive number for a small meeting would not be at all too many for a very large meeting.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
In this very interesting discussion I am inclined to think that the Government proposal is certainly the wiser, for it seems to me that to attempt to define the word "locally" would make confusion worse confounded. What does the word "locally" mean? Would it mean, within the same constituency? It might well be that the meeting would be of a kind which was not affected by constituencies. If it is to be within the same town, it might mean that you could not bring people in from just across a river, as in the case of Manchester and Salford. If it were to mean the next ward the results, I suggest, would be even more ridiculous. While it is perfectly true that a certain organisation in this country, which is directly the cause of this measure being introduced, does go round with a vast number of stewards to protect its leader from attack, not merely in towns of the size of Edinburgh but small places like Dumfries, that is no reason for assuming that it would not be legitimate to have a peripatetic body of stewards.
866 I have no doubt that members of your Lordships' House who have been candidates for another place have suffered from the attentions of peripatetic bands of hooligans who have followed you from meeting to meeting. Sometimes they have come from the constituency one is contesting, sometimes from outside, but there are many areas in this country where it would scarcely be advisable to speak unless one had a considerable number of stewards in reserve, and it might be, and even is, essential to bring them in from outside. In these circumstances, although the position is an exceedingly involved one, I think it would be wise on the whole to leave it to the good sense of the law to decide how far the presence of the stewards is necessary, whether their numbers are excessive or not, and whether the whole attitude of those controlling the meeting was really what it ought to have been or was intentionally of a provocative character.
§ LORD ROCHE
I intend to offer only a few observations in the same sense as the observations of my noble friend Lord Wright, the Master of the Rolls. I take it that the object of this clause is, in the first place, to hamper the activities of quasi-military organisations, bodies who would operate by force, whether those bodies pretend to belong to the Right or to the Left in politics, while at the same time subsection (6) is intended not to hamper the employment of a reasonable number of stewards as we have long known them in this country, in order to preserve liberty by allowing the people who hold a meeting to express their opinions. I suggest that my noble friend was perfectly right when he said that the use of the word "employment" was better than that of the word "organisation," which originally stood part of the Bill, in effecting the first object—namely, in hampering the activities of the quasi-military organisations. For that reason I suggest that the adoption of the Amendment would be proper.
At the same time it is perfectly true—and I only say this as the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, asked for our opinion—that the Amendments which stand in his name would in my view unduly operate to diminish the employment of stewards as was understood in old time and before we were troubled at all by quasi-military organisations. I join in the protest 867 of my noble and learned friend with regard to our being over-much appealed to. There are lawyers who are more experienced than ourselves in the House, and it was only out of courtesy to the noble Lord and to your Lordships that we responded. But we must not be asked authoritatively to lay down what magistrates in the country will decide. We can only give the Committee our own opinion.
§ LORD ARNOLD
As in the circumstances I will not move my Amendment to insert the word "locally," perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words before this Amendment is disposed of. First of all, I would like to express profound apologies to the distinguished legal Lords who are present apart from the two noble and learned Lords on the Cross Benches. It so happened that I had not seen them, that is all. I am a crushed heap of apologetic misery in having overlooked their presence, because there are some very eminent legal Lords present. I thank the noble and learned Lords very much for responding to the request that they should give their views on this matter. I have listened to what they have said with the greatest interest. I entirely agree—in fact I said so—that better words could be devised than the word "locally" to protect the situation. It was with a view to getting something done which would make the subsection more watertight that I put this Amendment down and that I have spoken as I have done to-day.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wright, raised the question about a reasonable number of stewards. I can connect that up with the question which the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, asked. There was this meeting. I am simply taking account of what was said in another place. It was a Fascist meeting in Edinburgh, and the statement made was that 150 stewards or thereabouts were taken from London to Edinburgh. The Usher Hall in Edinburgh, where the meeting was held, will hold 2,500 to 3,000 people. It might be held that 150 stewards for such a meeting was unreasonable—that is one to twenty. But I do not think it would be unreasonable to have one steward for every thirty or forty people. That would mean you would have from seventy-five to a hundred stewards, and you might have as much mischief done by them as 868 by 150. As the noble and learned Lord said, we are all agreed that the word "employment" is a great improvement on the word "organisation," but you are laying it down in an Act of Parliament that it is permissible to employ stewards in this way without any restriction as to where they come from or as to the other points which I have mentioned. Therefore, I am not entirely satisfied, but I will not move my Amendment to-day. I will confer with my noble and honourable friends here and elsewhere as to whether we shall take any further steps on the Report stage.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
The next Amendment in subsection (6), to leave out "to be employed," is a drafting Amendment.
Page 4, line 8, leave out ("to be employed").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
Page 4, line 10, leave out ("instruction of those persons ") and insert ("making of arrangements for that purpose or the instruction of the persons to be so employed").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
Page 4, line 11, leave out ("equipment") and insert ("being furnished").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (6), after "equipment," to insert "on such premises." The noble Lord said: This Amendment I can deal with very briefly. It is put forward with the same object as the previous one in order to make the position doubly sure. There may be no need for this Amendment. Is it possible, if these words are not put in, that these badges and so forth which the stewards can have are not confined to be worn upon the premises where the meeting is held? They may be worn in 869 the streets. It is true that in certain circumstances, if that were done, it would come under the previous clause of the Bill, but are there any objections to making it clear that these badges for stewards must not be worn outside, but only worn at the place where the meeting is held?
Page 4, line 11, after ("equipment") insert ("on such premises").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I really do not think this Amendment is necessary at this place. After all, we know political uniforms are not affected by this clause. They are prohibited in any case, and I do not think it is necessary to say, supposing a steward is going along in the Tube to a meeting, that necessarily he must be prohibited from wearing his badge if he so desires. That would be an unnecessary prohibition, and I think the point in any case is not of great importance.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I did riot suggest it was of great importance, but I thought it was worth raising. If that is the Government's view, I will leave it at that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved in subsection (6), before "badges," to insert "suitable." The noble Lord said: Is there any objection to putting in the word "suitable" before "badges"? Do you not otherwise run the danger of stewards being dressed in a way that may approximate to uniform? If you put in the word "suitable," I think it would be an additional precaution, and I beg to move.
Page 4, line 12, after ("with") insert ("suitable").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I am sorry I have to be so stubborn. I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. It is impossible to imagine what is a suitable badge. What is the definition of the word "suitable"? It would be a danger to put a word of that kind into a Bill of this character.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If that is the view of the Government, I am sorry, because would point out that the word "suitable" would not only apply to badges but to other distinguishing signs. I cannot see that there is any objection to 870 the word being inserted, and I think it would be a very real safeguard.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Powers for the preservation of public order on the occasion of processions.
§ 3.—(1) If the chief officer of police, having regard to the time or place at which and the circumstances in which any procession is taking place or is intended to take place and to the route taken or proposed to be taken by the procession, has reasonable ground for apprehending that the procession may occasion serious public disorder, he may give directions imposing upon the persons organising or taking part in the procession such conditions as appear to him necessary for the preservation of public order, including conditions prescribing the route to be taken by the procession and conditions prohibiting the procession from entering any street or public place specified in the directions:
§ Provided that no conditions restricting the display of flags, banners, or emblems shall be imposed under this subsection except such as are reasonably necessary to prevent risk of a breach of the peace.
§ (2) If at any time the chief officer of police is of opinion that by reason of particular circumstances existing in any borough or urban district or in any part thereof the powers conferred on him by the last foregoing subsection will not be sufficient to enable him to prevent serious public disorder being occasioned by the holding of processions in that borough, district or part, he shall apply to the council of the borough or district for an order prohibiting for such period not exceeding three months as may be specified in the application the holding of all processions or of any class of procession so specified either in the borough or urban district or in that part thereof, as the case may be, and upon receipt of the application the council may, with the consent of a Secretary of State, make an order either in terms of the application or with such modifications as may be approved by the Secretary of State.
§ This subsection shall not apply within the City of London as defined for the purposes of the Acts relating to the City police or within the Metropolitan police district.
§ (3) If at any time the Commissioner of the City of London police or the Comrnissioner of police of the Metropolis is of opinion that, by reason of particular circumstances existing in his police area or in any part thereof, the powers conferred on him by subsection (1) of this section will not be sufficient to enable him to prevent serious public disorder being occasioned by the holding of processions in that area or part, lie may, with the consent of the Secretary of State, make an order prohibiting for such period not exceeding three months as may be specified in the order the holding 871 of all processions or of any class of procession so specified either in the police area or in that part thereof, as the case may be.
§ (4) Any person who knowingly fails to comply with any directions given or conditions imposed under this section, or organises or assists in organising any procession held or intended to be held in contravention of an order made under this section or incites any person to take part in such a procession, shall be guilty of an offence.
§ THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA moved, in subsection (1), before "procession," where that word first occurs, to insert "public." The noble Marquess said: This Amendment is really inspired by some of my noble friends behind me who have shown by their own Amendment, which I hope they will subsequently withdraw, that the purpose of the Government is not altogether clear. The purpose of the Government is, quite obviously, that all the processions which are dealt with by this clause should be public processions, and therefore we propose wherever the word "procession" occurs in the clause to preface it by the word "public." Later I propose to move an Amendment in Clause 9, the Definition Clause, to define a "public procession" as "a procession in a public place." With that explanation I hope that some of my noble friends behind me who have suggested many Amendments to the same effect will be satisfied.
Page 4, line 15, after ("any") insert ("public").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
On this question I will ask the noble Marquess whether he can give the Committee a definition of a "public place," and whether that definition will be inserted in the Interpretation Clause. I would particularly ask the noble Marquess whether a church which is open for public worship is a public place or not.
May I say before the noble Marquess replies that I should be very much obliged if he would define what is a procession in a public place or a private one.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I am very grateful to my noble friend who has just spoken for reducing the first question that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, addressed to me to a 872 reductio ad absurdum. It is quite impossible to define every single word in a Bill. Noble Lords really must take a little on trust. I cannot possibly promise that at any stage or however long I thought about it I could give a definition of a "public place"; therefore it follows that, as I have not a definition, a definition will not be inserted in the Bill. As to the question whether "public place" includes a church I can give the noble Earl the definite assurance that a church will not be a public place.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
I cannot help thinking that I have read in some Act before now a definition of a "public peace. "It may have been only for the particular purpose of that Act, but I should have thought that a definition might be found in previous Acts of Parliament, and perhaps the matter will be looked into before the next stage of the Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I will look into it again. I think in fact it will be found impossible to define "public place," but it will be looked into.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
Would it be possible for the Government to consider—I know there is little time, but it is the Government who are rushing this Bill through—before the Report stage excluding certain places from the expression "public place." There is the question of a churchyard, and the question of the grounds of an ecclesiastical establishment. All these may be used for processions. I think the point is genuinely one of some importance, and I would be grateful if the noble Marquess would consider the possibility of defining that certain particular places are not public places.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
In reply to the appeals which have been made we should be only too pleased to look into the point. I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be familiar with the actual phraseology of large numbers of Acts of Parliament, but I think myself that the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, is correct in saying that in certain Acts "public place" has been defined. I think it has been defined in certain of the Police Acts. I am certain the definition "public place" includes a street, but whether it is desirable or not to insert in this particular Bill a definition of a "public place" 873 either as it has been defined before or as modified to suit the particular provisions of this Bill I do not know, but I am prepared to look into it before the Report stage.
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
I am much obliged to the noble Marquess for the assurance he has given us and for having met us in that way. There is one thing I should like to mention—I mentioned it privately but it might be well to remind the noble Marquess—and it is whether, if "public place" includes a street, it might not be complicated by the Fact that the phraseology in line 25 is "any street or public place."
§ LORD PHILLIMORE moved to leave out subsections (2) and (3). The noble Lord said: This is not a legal question so far as I know. It is a perfectly plain issue of policy—or shall I say of nerves? Surely we are getting rather unduly nervous of each other and of our fellow subjects when we say that at the instigation of a chief officer of police, who perhaps has had a bad night or two, backed up by a possibly frightened local authority, the Home Secretary may prohibit any procession whatever for as long as three months in any given area. I do not suppose that the Committee will agree with me in this, and if they do not I do not propose to go to a Division, but the Bill does seem to me to ignore the value of these processions as a safety valve. After all, I am retaining under my Amendment subsection (1) of this clause, which enables the police to divert any procession in any particular direction, or prohibit it from going in any particular direction. But to say that a body of people who wish to go for a walk shouting, for instance, "Down with Lord Dufferin," should not be allowed that salutary exercise seems to me, if I may say so, foolish. What harm does it do Lord Dufferin? None whatever.
§ Is it not an established process in our history? How much more troublesome the Chartists Would have been, if they had not walked about the country and occasionally stopped at a good country house about supper time and had a good meal from the squire and then gone on somewhere else! How much more 874 troublesome the Suffragettes would have been! And is there the slightest reason to suppose the Duke of Wellington's Government, with the Home Secretary included, would not have jumped on those processions in favour of the Reform Bill which took place before 1832? It seems to me that really we are treating ourselves as if we were the last suburb of Cawnpore or Lahore. There is no necessity for this drastic measure. On the contrary, it is most advisable that this safety valve should be allowed.
Page 4, line 30, leave out subsections (2) and (3).—(Lord Phillimore.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
In order to save the next Amendment, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, I will put the Amendment in the form: that line 30 as far as the word "police" stand part of the clause.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
I have put my name down in support of my noble friend Lord Phillimore on this Amendment, and I should like to say immediately that I am very much impressed by the arguments he has brought forward on the general question. I hope that the Committee is as much impressed as I am. But I am going to deal with a particular issue and that is the religious issue. The subsections in question give power to the police to prohibit all processions of all classes and characters, and that includes undoubtedly religious processions. I want to ask a question on that. I am afraid the noble Marquess will think that my interrogations are rather persistent, but they arise from a genuine desire for information. Is this power really a new power or not? The point was raised by noble Lords opposite in the Second Reading debate, but I do not believe they got an answer. So far as religious processions are concerned, is this a new power which is being granted to the police? It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that a very important religious procession was prohibited in 1912. That was a Roman Catholic procession. I am wondering how far this power is in fact new.
If it is new, I would venture to make three comments. In the first place, it is a question on which there might easily be very keen feeling. In the second place, if this power is to be taken there 875 really should have been some opportunity for consultation and consideration on the part of a large number of persons. There has not been that opportunity, owing to the fact that this Bill is being treated as an emergency measure. In the third place, I would point out that there was no mention of this question in the very able speech which the noble Marquess made in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He then described processions as "a traditional and hallowed way of expressing disagreement, or even agreement, with the policy of the Government." I am now referring to processions with a very different object. I would venture to ask whether if this Amendment is not accepted the Government will consider excluding the religious issue altogether from this Bill, which is drafted to deal with a totally different range of questions, and leave this matter open for later and fuller consideration.
Perhaps although, as the noble Lord who moved this Amendment said, this is not a legal question, and although I am a lawyer, I may be permitted as a Scotsman to deal with it. The noble Earl who has just sat down asked the question whether or not this is a new power. Speaking for myself I am amazed at the moderation of the two subsections which it is now proposed to delete, because they are fenced with safeguards to which I shall allude in a moment. I would say in reply to the noble Earl that, so far from this power being a new one, it has been in existence in Scotland for many years and has worked extremely well. The power was conferred by the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, more than forty years ago, upon the magistrates of burghs to regulate or prohibit processions. The word "procession", being used in its most general form, would cover of course religious processions. That power has been moderately used. In addition to that there are certain City Acts in Scotland which confer a similar power. For example, the Edinburgh Corporation Act gives the Edinburgh Corporation power to prohibit processions. That, I hope, answers my noble friend's question about novelty.
I am informed that in England—I will not make any comment—no such general power exists at the moment, but it is now 876 proposed to follow what I may perhaps without offence term the good example of Scotland in this instance. If noble Lords will be so good as to look at the subsections they will see how restricted is the power which it is proposed to confer upon the chief officer of police. The intendment of the section, as I understand it, is that the power should exist in urban districts, where exceptional circumstances make it desirable, but it does not extend to rural districts. Moreover, the power cannot be exercised even in the modified and limited form in which it is given without the consent and cooperation not only of the chief officer of police, but also of the local authority and of the Secretary of State, who, of course, as noble Lords know, is responsible in his place in Parliament to answer for the use or, if it is conceivable, the abuse of the power. I have informed your Lordships that this power has been tried out safely for many years on the other side of the border, and, in its limited character in these subsections, I venture to suggest that it would be a great mistake to delete them.
THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
Is there not something to be said for the retention of these subsections in the interests of the people arranging the processions themselves? Is it not possible that some day the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, might be leading a procession himself and might find himself wishing that the subsections he now seeks to strike out had remained in the Bill?
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
The noble Earl, Lord Iddlesleigh, has taken exception to the possibility of religious processions being banned. Unfortunately, as far as Scotland is concerned, and I believe to a lesser extent in Liverpool and other places in England, various religious processions have led to disorder and sometimes even to bloodshed. In these circumstances I think it would be advisable that religious processions, although they could not well be banned on political grounds when they had started, but which often degenerate into religious-political brawls, might well be kept within the scope of the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
After the admirable speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Alness, there is really very little left for me to say. I agree 877 with every word he uttered, and I am happy to think that not for the first time the people of this country are going to follow the example of the people whose usual domicile is further north. No one will suggest, I think, for a moment that the people of Scotland are not as tenacious of their liberties as any other people in the world, but they have realised long since how desirable it is that this power of prohibiting processions in very exceptional circumstances—it is only in very exceptional circumstances that it would be used—should exist.
It is quite true, of course, that the police under the Common Law, in pursuance of their duty of maintaining order, can stop a procession when it has actually assembled, but in the circumstances which we contemplate to wait until a procession had actually assembled would be to wait until it was too late. It is very possible that, if the police waited until the procession was about to start, their action in prohibiting it would be more than likely to cause immediate disorder. It is in order to place the police in the position in special circumstances of being able for a limited period to prohibit processions in advance that these subsections are included. I need not say more about the safeguards included, because they have already been stated—the safeguards of the agreement of the local authority, the publicly elected body, and of the Secretary of State, who of course is answerable to Parliament. All these safeguards surely make it quite certain that the powers given in these subsections will not be abused. In these circumstances I regret that I cannot oblige my noble friend by accepting the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, near the beginning of subsection (2), to leave out "is of opinion" and insert "has reasonable ground for apprehending." The noble Earl said: I think your Lordships must agree that the exceptional powers that the Government propose under these subsections are in themselves desirable, and that occasion may arise when it becomes necessary to prevent processions from being held in certain areas in order to save the inhabitants of those areas from the effects of riots and public disorder. At the same time the noble and learned Lord, Lord Alness, and 878 I think most of the other noble Lords who have spoken, have laid great stress on the desirability of safeguards against abuse of this very important power. The object of my Amendment is to provide an additional safeguard beside those which are already included in Clause 3 (2).
§ I envisage the possibility of the abuse of this power unless the Bill is amended. Let us take a concrete example. A chief of police in a certain town decides that a procession which a certain political Party is to hold ought to be banned, in order to prevent serious breaches of the peace, for a period of two months. He then applies to the local authorities for their consent to his decision. The local authorities, if they have given their consent, appeal to the Home Secretary in order to have their decision confirmed. In the first place, the chief of police, the local authority and the Home Secretary are people with definite political sympathies and antipathies. They will be biased to some extent, if they are human, by their political feelings. If there were a Conservative chief of police, backed up by a Conservative local authority, backed up by a Conservative Home Secretary, a Labour or Socialist procession might well be banned. In the opposite case, with a Socialist chief of police, a Socialist local authority and a Socialist Home Secretary, noble Lords opposite might well have misgivings about processions organised by responsible elements in their own political Party. The object of this Amendment is to take the whole matter out of the sphere of politics.
§ We should like to see a right of appeal to the Courts against a decision of this gravity taken in these circumstances. It is perfectly clear that if the chief of police has in public and, if necessary, in the Courts to give his considered reasons for acting in this way, he will be less likely to act hastily or with bias, and the public will have a more certain guarantee that such action will only be taken in the exceptional circumstances that warrant it. They will have some assurance that a perfectly unbiased and unprejudiced mind will be able to express itself on the circumstances of the case. That is the sort of thing that we want to do by getting this Amendment put into the Bill. A very similar Amendment was moved to subsection (1), in which these 879 words have actually been included. The two subsections are not, of course, identical. The noble Marquess will notice that subsection (1) says "has reasonable ground for apprehending," and that those words have taken the place of the words "is of opinion." I am not saying that the two subsections are the same; they are not. I am saying that if a guarantee of that kind is given in order to prevent the abuse of the power to alter the route or alter the place of a procession, it ought also to be given to prevent abuse of the farther-reaching power to cancel processions altogether. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 30, leave out ("is of opinion") and insert ("has reasonable ground for apprehending").—(The Earl of Listowel).
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I think that the noble Earl who moved this Amendment is under some misapprehension when he tries to argue that, because these words are put into subsection (1), therefore they should be put into subsection (2). I would remind him, if I may, that there is a very great difference between the two subsections. In subsection (1) the Chief Constable forms his opinion and, having formed it, he acts upon it immediately and there is no one to say him nay. He routes the procession or does whatever the powers conferred upon him allow him to do. Therefore we thought that in that case it was right that there should be some possible form of appeal against his decision. But it is a very different position in subsection (2), because, as the noble Earl who moved this Amendment points out, this subsection so bristles with safeguards that the chief of police who tries to do wrong will, in fact, find it. impossible.
After all, his opinion merely sets a train of events in motion. He thinks that the procession ought to be banned for such and such a period; he then has to go to his properly-elected council and persuade them that his opinion is right; then, if they agree with him, the Secretary of State has to affirm again that his opinion was right. Even supposing that all those three people are animated by these low political motives which the noble Earl suggested might influence them, nevertheless the Secretary of State stands to be criticised before 880 Parliament for any decision he makes in the matter which was obviously animated by political bias. On those grounds alone, therefore, the safeguards are quite adequate as the Bill stands.
There is, however, another very great reason—and I will urge it upon your Lordships, because it is important—why these words should not be here inserted. As the noble Earl said, the purpose of their insertion is that at some time there should be an appeal to the Courts against the decision of the chief officer of police. This subsection is a very peculiar subsection, and one which we hope will apply very seldom in the future. It is an emergency subsection, upon which the chief officer of police will act when he feels that there is a really grave and immediate danger. In that sort of case I suggest to you that it is highly important that action should be taken swiftly and at once, as swiftly, that is to say, as the conditions of obtaining the consent of the council and of the Home Secretary allow. If this appeal to the Court which is in the noble Lord's mind is put into this subsection, one of two things will happen: either the noble Earl means that he thinks there will be a possibility of appeal against the chief officer's decision before the procession is made—
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
The noble Earl thinks not, and so he will agree with me that that would be fatal to the whole purpose of the clause, because that would cause delay. We do not want the organisers of processions to be able to get an injunction of some kind preventing action. The only way in which legal effect could be given to the noble Earl's Amendment would be that after the procession had been banned the person who organised it would continue to hold it and, when charged under subsection (4), plead in his defence that as the chief officer of police had not acted on reasonable grounds in the first place, therefore the whole conviction must necessarily fall to the ground. Those, as far as I am advised, are the only two possibilities that might follow upon the insertion of these words. As far as the second of those possibilities is concerned, do your Lordships really consider that this is a 881 valid defence? A man holds his procession in defiance of the Home Secretary, in defiance of his local council, and in defiance of the chief officer of police. The local council has endorsed the opinion of the chief officer of police, the Home Secretary has endorsed it, and Parliament may have endorsed it either by its silence or its votes. Do you really think that in any court of law it would be a valid defence to say that, after all those people had endorsed the Chief Constable's decision, he had no reasonable ground for making it? He may be wrong, but right or wrong he must have had reasonable ground for all those people to agree with him.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I think, if I may say so, that the noble Marquess has given an extremely good and well reasoned answer to the observations that I have just put forward. At the same time, I should like to point out to him that the gravest objection that might be raised was that an appeal might be made at the earliest possible moment, that is to say, before the procession was held, in which case the whole object of the clause would be defeated, because the Executive could not act in an emergency. There is considerable difference of opinion between lawyers on that point, which again is one on which we should like the most learned legal authority. So far as the second occasion on which the charge might be brought against the chief of police is concerned, I think that although, as the noble Marquess said, it is not one likely to be borne out in the Courts, it would act as a further safeguard, not so much in the use of it as in the possible use of it, and make the chief of police more careful not to do anything in haste or in a, state of bias. Although I am not going to press my Amendment, as it has not been supported, I feel that the greatest number of safeguards are required, and that further safeguards, if not of the kind I have suggested at least of some other kind, should be inserted before this Bill becomes law. I am not, frankly, satisfied that the public has every possible guarantee that its present right of self-expression by organising processions will not be curtailed more than is required for the preservation of public order, but I will simply register my dissatisfaction and ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.882
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 4, line 35, at end, insert ("public").
§ Page 4,line 40, after ("all") insert ("public").
§ Page 4,line 40, after the third ("of") insert ("public").
§ Page 5, line 15, after ("of") insert ("public").
§ Page 5,line 18, after ("all") insert ("public").
§ Page 5,line 19, after the second ("of") insert ("public").
§ Page 5,line 23, after ("any") insert ("public").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava).
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Prohibition of offensive weapons at public meetings and processions.
§ 4.—(l) Any person who, while present at any public meeting or on the occasion of any public procession, has with him any offensive weapon, otherwise than in pursuance of lawful authority, shall be guilty of an offence.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE moved, in subsection (1), after "him," to insert "with intent to cause a breach of the peace." The noble Lord said: This is the question of the offensive weapon if brought to a meeting or public procession, and the words which I have put forward for insertion are "with intent to cause a breach of the peace." In other words, I am seeking to make it impossible, or improbable, that a purely innocent person shall be proceeded against for bringing some weapon, which can be described as an offensive weapon, to a public procession or public meeting. For instance, we know that Long John Silver had a wooden leg, that he did a great deal of execution with it, and that he was not a very reputable person. Still, a one-legged man cannot do much in a procession without his wooden leg, and if subsequently he takes a swing with it, and that is to be treated as an offensive weapon, where are we? In fact, it is in all these cases a question of definition, and I submit that the only way to define what is an offensive weapon is to define it by its purpose. If you bring an offensive weapon with intent to commit a breach of the peace, well and good, you can be 883 prosecuted, but if not, you will go free. I hope that the Government will in this case accept this Amendment, or that at any rate, if they will not accept it, they will explain what is an offensive weapon in their view.
Page 5, line 29, after ("him") insert ("with intent to cause a breach of the peace.")—(Lord Phillimore.)
May I in a few words support the Amendment? I think, if I may be allowed to say so, that it is very necessary. Take the case of a bottle. I am told that damage is sometimes done in night clubs by people who lose their tempers and who use bottles as weapons. A man may be assisting in a public meeting or procession as a spectator with a bottle in his pocket, and if a riot breaks out and he happens to be apprehended—innocent people are sometimes apprehended—he may be held to have been attending a public meeting or procession with an offensive weapon, because other people, with intent to commit a breach of the peace, have armed themselves with bottles. There was the case mentioned by Lord Saltoun, on the Second Reading, of a man with a walking stick. There was a time when it was the fashion of the jeunesse dorée of the period to carry a big cane, and I can imagine that being held to be an offensive weapon, especially if the person carrying it bore the badge of some political party. Yet he might be perfectly innocent.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
The two noble Lords have made a persuasive appeal to the Government to accept this Amendment, but in spite of that persuasion I am afraid I am not in a position to do so. If I followed Lord Strabolgi aright, he spoke about hitting people over the head with bottles at night clubs coming under the mischief of this clause, but surely he will not argue that a mêlée at a night club would come under the wording of public meeting or public procession. I should hardly have thought so.
I said I had heard of bottles being used at night clubs, but not at processions, although I imagine they could be with very serious effect.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
They might be, and in that case it would be a question for the Courts. If a person at a public procession walked about with a bottle in his pocket and happened to be charged with an offence under the particular section, the Court would have to decide whether the bottle, in the circumstances of the case, should be described as an offensive weapon. But really the object of this clause is to prevent people who take part in public meetings and in public processions from carrying with them offensive weapons. There is no object in carrying with you an offensive weapon at a public meeting or in a public procession unless you have some intention of using it; and if the Amendment were accepted it would be quite possible for a man taking part in a public meeting or in a public procession, with a large number of stones in his pocket, to say that he had not committed an offence because he was a collector of fossils. There appears to me to be another objection to the noble Lord's proposal because it would give rise to this really almost absurd situation that, provided a person had lawful authority, it would be no offence for him to possess an offensive weapon with intent to cause a breach of the peace. I do not know whether the noble Lord has realised that that is what would be the effect of his Amendment. For these reasons I regret that I cannot accept it.
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
The Secretary of State has just defined, in replying to the last question, an offensive weapon by the motive of the person using it, which is exactly what my noble friend Lord Phillimore said was so excellent and I understood the Secretary of State to say was entirely wrong.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.885
§ Clause 5:
§ Prohibition of offensive conduct conducive to breaches of the peace.
§ 5. Any person who in any public place or at any public meeting uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, shall be guilty of an offence.
§ LORD STRABOLGI moved to leave out "to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, shall be guilty of an offence" and insert "to incite racial or religious prejudice whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, shall be guilty of an offence." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is moved on behalf of my noble friends. The present state of the law, I understand, is that if a man behaves badly at a public meeting, uses abusive language and so on, as is frequently done when political feeling runs high, and there is no great harm done in the long run—there is a great deal of exaggeration about this question—then in the ordinary way, I believe, he is fined 40s., or in default, a week's imprisonment. But now the Government come along with this Bill and propose that this man shall be liable to a maximum penalty of £50—I admit it is a maximum—or three months' imprisonment, or both. I think that can be used oppressively against the subject at times of political excitement, I want to narrow the new offence, for so it might be construed, to those who incite racial or religious prejudice, which I imagine the Government want to put down, and there they have our support.
§ This incitement to racial or religious prejudice was dealt with, if I may say so, with great force and ability by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in his admirable maiden speech on the Second Reading, and I am sure he carried the whole House with him. Indeed the whole of Parliament is, I believe, determined to put down this cowardly and anti-British outburst of anti-Semitism which has caused such suffering, fear, and disgraceful disorder in the East End of London and one or two other centres of population. There we are with the Government, and we want to punish these people, some of whom have plenty of money behind them, some of it from foreign sources, as the Home Secretary said in another place. But this same 886 power may be used against the poor collier, perhaps in the North of England, who goes to a political meeting, gets excited, calls the speaker a liar—which he probably is—and then becomes liable to a fine of £50 or three months' imprisonment, and it is ruin for him.
§ I want to say something about so-called disorders at ordinary political meetings, of which I have had some experience, with other noble Lords. I have been shouted down on political platforms, I have been threatened with murder. I remember going into a remote town in Wales on a winter's evening to oppose Mr. Lloyd George at the height of Mr. Lloyd George's power. As I came into this darkened town a bell was ringing like a tocsin, and I was met by two or three alarmed political supporters of mine who said: "We are so glad you have come, Commander Kenworthy, they are going to murder you to-night." I went into a hall packed to suffocation. It was a hall full of people really seething for trouble, where, the previous night, a most accomplished orator of my Party—I was in the Liberal Party in those days, I was supporting the anti-Lloyd-George Liberal—Captain Wedgwood Benn, a predecessor of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, had not got a word in. Fortunately I saw a very large coastguard sitting in there. I had a private word before the row started, and he promised to stand by me. The candidate began. They would listen to him neither in Welsh nor in English. I tried in English for a long time, and eventually I began to talk about Ireland, struck a responsive note, and got in a five-minute speech. But during the whole of that campaign in Mr. Lloyd George's stronghold that was the only five minutes of free speech allowed. No one was any the worse for it. It was wrong, against all our principles of democracy, but our candidate got a very big poll. He did not win then, but he carried that seat at the next Election.
§ In the constituency I had the honour to represent in the North of England, in Hull, my opponents in certain wards, I am sorry to say, used to get shouted down at every Election. That embarrassed me because it lost me votes, and I knew it. I used every endeavour to prevent my excited supporters from doing it. I said: "Go out canvassing. Don't go to your opponents' meetings, then you 887 can behave yourselves," and this had some effect. But my opponents, supporters of noble Lords opposite, used deliberately to provoke the people. They used to send people down from London—it was admitted afterwards. I was always on very good terms with the opposing candidate, and afterwards we used to talk about the events of the campaign, and he used to admit it. He said: "Oh, yes, it did me good." And some of these professional speakers from the Central Office were very adept at provoking people; they went down to the Division and insulted the electors. No heads were broken. I suppose there were a couple of black eyes on polling night, but most of it was comparatively good humoured. Well, under this Bill, all these people—including the speakers from the Central Office, of whichever Party it was—would be liable to these very heavy penalties.
§ I really think that we need a sense of proportion in this case. The calling out of interjections at public meetings may be bad manners, but it adds to the liveliness of the occasion, and in those days when I used to have a lot of public speaking—indeed I do to-day—I welcomed the heckler. If you know how to deal with him, and especially if you deal with him courteously and wittily, you can very often bring him over to your side. Some people, if they are met with a few boos and interruptions at a meeting, spread exaggerated reports in the Press that their meetings are being broken up, that the violent Reds have been smashing up the Conservative meetings, and things of that sort. No, there is a good deal of exaggeration in it, and if the spirit behind this clause is carried too far it is going to reduce the politics in this country to a farce. No one is more intent than my noble friends to preserve the rights of free speech and no Party, in its early days especially, has suffered more from organised hooliganism than ours. But I think this particular clause goes too far in preventing ordinary manifestations of public indignation which sometimes are very good and useful. In fact, my complaint in this country is that people do not protest enough. They put up with far too much. I do not advocate violence, but the public are becoming too mealy-mouthed and allow abuses to continue without sufficiently denouncing them. But when it comes to provoking 888 religious or racial feeling against what must always be a, minority, that is cowardly, and in that regard I would support the Government in the strongest possible penalties. For these reasons I beg to move.
Page 5, line 39, leave out from ("intent") to the end of the clause and insert ("to incite racial or religious prejudice whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, shall be guilty of an offence ").—(Lord Strabolgi.)
§ LORD JESSEL
I should like to say a word upon this Amendment before the Committee part with it. The noble Lord has given a very interesting description of his electioneering experiences. I can sympathise with him, because I know that any one who speaks, as I used to do in London, has to go through the same experience as the noble Lord has done. He talks about the public being mealymouthed and all the rest of it, but your Lordships must recollect that the noble Lord is well able to take care of himself, having been champion boxer of the Navy, and so he does not mind a row. To a less strong individual, however, it can be a very painful experience. What is the good of a meeting if nobody can speak? I have been at meetings where not a single word has been heard from anybody. There has been a continual howl and noise all over the place. What is the good of that kind of thing? I quite agree with him that to have a dull meeting is not at all amusing. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition made a very interesting speech last night at a public banquet in responding to the toast of "The Houses of Parliament," and I heard him complain that this House was a dull place, that you never get a cheer, never get a "Hear, hear," or an interruption. Perhaps that would make our proceedings more lively. I agree that heckling done in a decent way certainly elicits answers from the candidate and makes the meeting go, but the organised opposition which goes on, especially in certain parts of London, on the part of the noble Lord's Party especially—
§ LORD JESSEL
—does no good at all. Surely we can leave it to the discretion of the chairman. To say that you should have a general row at a meeting—I cannot see the good of that to anybody. As 889 regards this particular Amendment, it seems to me a pity to single out one or other kind of incitement. It would be difficult to put such a clause into practice, and I think it better to leave it in general terms, as the Government have put it down, rather than pass a discriminatory Amendment of this kind. Only the other day there appeared a letter in The Times from a man who knows the East End better than anyone else, strongly complaining of the rowdyism that goes on now at public meetings in the East End. If this Bill does anything to prevent that rowdyism and allows free speech and the free expression of thought in a quiet manner, it will have done a very great service to the community.
I was very interested in Lord Strabolgi's experiences, and I also paid great attention to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Snell, on the Second Reading when he detailed to us the difficulties of his political career. In both of them I noted a non-recognition of what very often does occur in the case of speakers on our side. That is that organised bands of men come together and follow a candidate round, especially in a place where he has a lot of opposition, intent on starting and keeping up turmoil at meetings and ending very often, as it all tends towards, actual physical violence. That is a thing that candidates on our side have frequently to face. I have been very fortunate myself in political speaking. I have never had any trouble, but that does not make any difference, because I know of many cases to the contrary. I think the difficulty of this clause is rather the other way, because I do not think any candidate will really invoke this clause. It would not be to his interest to do so, and my fear is that the clause will remain a dead letter.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the argument of the noble Lord who moved this Amendment, as to the value or otherwise of persistent interruptions. I would like, if I may, to bring the Committee back to the specific Amendment which is before us, and which is to limit this clause to the incitement of racial or religious prejudice. I agree with Lord Jessel when he says it would be very unwise to single out that particular offence, however large it 890 may bulk in our political life at the present moment. This Bill is not going to be a. Bill that will pass away in three or four years. It is going to stay on the Statute Book for a long time, and it would be unwise at this moment to be carried away by our immediate concerns and not go for the more fundamental concern, which is the preservation of free speech.
I do not want to press this, but in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, who complained of speakers being followed about by organised gangs, may I point out that that is dealt with in Clause 6, the one that follows? I am not resisting Clause 6. I think there is something very valuable in Clause 6, but Clause 5 does not deal with people who go round in gangs breaking up meetings. This clause would apply to a fellow who gets up and asks "What about the means test?"
That might be held to be provocative if it prevented the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, from finishing his speech. I am not in favour of breaking up meetings at all, but I do want to resist anything which in my opinion will limit the rights of the subject to protest. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clauses 6, 7 and 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Interpretation, etc.
9.—(1) In this Act the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them, that is to say:
Chief officer of police" has the same meaning as in the Police Pensions Act, 1921;
§ (4) The powers conferred by this Act on any chief officer of police may, in the event of a vacancy in the office or in the event of the chief officer of police being unable to act owing to illness or absence, be exercised by the person duly appointed to act as deputy for the chief officer of police.
§ LORD GATNFORD moved in the definition. of "Chief officer of police," to insert "Third Schedule of the" before "Police Pensions Act, 1921." The noble Lord said: I am not going to press this Amendment if it cannot be accepted. I bring it forward because I know that 891 the public as well as many of your Lordships dislike very much legislation by reference. In the earlier clauses of this Bill the words "chief officer of police" occur frequently, and great responsibility is placed upon him. I am sure the ordinary member of the public would like to know who the chief officer of police is. The reference in Clause 9 is to the Police Pensions Act, 1921, but that Act is a little bit complicated. You have to refer to Section 30 of that Act, and there you find that the expression "police area" means "one of the areas set forth in the first column of the Third Schedule to this Act," and this Schedule speaks of "police authority," "chief officer of police," and so on. Then you have to find out what the Third Schedule refers to in order to discover what really is the definition of the "chief officer of police."
§ I should like it to have been set out in this Bill who the chief officer of police is. That is rather complicated, because there may be five different chief officers of police. One is the Commissioner of the City of London Police, another the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police District; then there is the Chief Constable in a county, and the Chief Constable in a borough, and the Superintendent or other officer having chief command of the police in connection with the River Tyne within the limits of the Acts relating to the Tyne Improvement Commissioners. It is too much to insert all that, but I suggest to the Government that if it could be referred to as in the Third Schedule any person who wants to know would be able to ascertain by reference who the chief officer of police might be. If this Amendment cannot be accepted at the present time, I suggest that it might be considered before the Report stage.
Page 7, line 33, after ("the") insert ("Third Schedule of the").—(Lord Gainford.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
The noble Lord will realise that I have had no notice of this Amendment. I would not like to accept it forthwith because there might be technical objection to its acceptance. At the same time I am bound to say that, listening to the noble Lord, I thought that what he said in support of the Amendment was entirely 892 reasonable, and, subject to there being no technical reason why the Amendment should not be accepted, I shall be glad to bring it forward on the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA moved to insert at the end of subsection (1) "'Public procession' means a procession in a public place." The noble Marquess said: This is the definition of "public procession" which I promised to embody in the Bill.
Page 8, line 4, at end insert ("Public procession' means a procession in a public place").—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "appointed to act as deputy for" and insert "authorised in accordance with directions given by a Secretary of state to exercise those powers on behalf of." The noble Marquess said: This is a technical Amendment, but I shall be very short. It is in order to provide a deputy to fulfil the functions of the chief of police, who may be ill or absent or may have died, and whose office has not been filled. The question does not really arise as far as the county police are concerned, because a deputy always is appointed, but, in the case of a borough police force, very often a deputy is not appointed, or if one is appointed his functions are limited to internal discipline of the police force and matters of that kind. It is in order to make it perfectly plain that a deputy should be appointed to discharge the duties laid upon the chief police officer by this Bill that this Amendment is inserted.
Page 8, line 22, leave out ("appointed to act as deputy for") and insert ("authorised in accordance with directions given by a Secretary of State to exercise those powers on behalf of").—(The Marquess of Dufferin, and Ava.)
§ On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD JESSEL
May I ask what is meant by "recognised corps"? Certain religious bodies, like the Church Lads Brigade, have corps which are run by 893 religious institutions. Are they recognised corps, and would they come under this Bill
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
It is rather a difficult question, and I have had very short notice. I understand that a recognised corps is a corps that is recognised by the Secretary of State. I cannot go any further than that.
§ LORD JESSEL
I would be very much obliged if, on the Report stage, an. answer could be given, because considerable alarm has been expressed by some of these bodies.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.