HL Deb 10 December 1969 vol 306 cc553-75

2.44 p.m.

LORD WADE rose to call attention to the significance and implications of demonstrations in present-day society; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am well aware that I have set myself a somewhat formidable task in attempting to discuss the significance and implications of demonstrations in present-day society. Moreover, if, contrary to the conventions of a Wednesday debate in your Lordships' House, the Motion calling for Papers were pressed to a vote, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, might have some difficulty in deciding how many Papers to provide.

Demonstrations appear to have become a regular feature of our daily news. There have been many in recent years and therefore I think there is no simple ex- planation. They are world-wide. In Czechoslovakia, we had demonstrations against the Russian invasion, and I have a great deal of admiration for the courage and restraint shown by the Czechs. In Japan, there have been demonstrations against America; in Poland, against censorship; and in France and West Germany, against the Establishment. In Britain, we have had various demonstrations: on the subject of the Vietnam war, against the supply of arms to Nigeria to be used against Biafra and recently about the Springboks' tour. There have been other types of demonstration. Not so long ago, we had a demonstration by the dockers against what they thought was this country's immigration policy. I well remember watching that demonstration outside St. Stephen's Entrance, and there were counter-demonstrations expressing the opposite view. Again, I understand that a number of nurses spent last night on Ilkley Moor to protest about the inadequate remuneration of nurses. As Ilkley is my birthplace, I know how cold it can be on Ilkley Moor at this time of year.

It is clear from these few examples that it is not practicable to provide any neat and tidy analysis, but I will try to offer a few comments. I am encouraged by the list of noble Lords who have indicated their intention to take part in this debate, and in particular I shall look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, and shall certainly listen with great interest to what he has to say. Your Lordships will recollect that some weeks ago the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, introduced a debate on a specific point relating to the Springboks' tour. He, very fairly, kept his speech to that specific tour, but the debate ranged rather widely. So far as possible I shall avoid covering the same ground, but I think that some overlapping is inevitable.

Turning to to-day's Motion, several theories have been put forward for the popularity of demonstrations. First, I have often heard it contended that the main reason why young people take part in this kind of activity is that they have not enough to do. It is said that if there were compulsory military service, or some other kind of national service, the problem would largely disappear. I am all for encouraging voluntary service; in fact, some splendid work is being done now. But I have no hard evidence to support the view that if we had compulsory military service there would be a decline in the number of demonstrations. Incidentally, a number of those who are most keen on voluntary service are to be found taking part in demonstrations. If we look at countries where they have compulsory military service—countries such as France, Italy and Western Germany—there seem to be no fewer demonstrations and they are of a similiar pattern to those in this country, except that on the whole they are more violent than they are here. So I think that this particular theory must be discarded as not true.

Another theory, which I think must be taken rather more seriously, is that the popularity of demonstrations (if "popularity" is the right word) comes in phases and that there are curves which can be clearly defined. Where all the political Parties appear to be in broad agreement, where there is a consensus of political opinion, and the normal political conflict is felt to be inadequate, then demonstrations tend to increase. This is given as the explanation for the support over a period of years for the C.N.D. movement. I think there is some truth in this, although I regard it as an oversimplification. To get the subject into perspective, I think we must recognise that demonstrating is not a new phenomenon. It is almost a tradition of political life, alongside and not in contradistinction to respect for reasoned argument. It is only when it completely replaces reasoned argument that it becomes a serious matter.

There are always those who are alarmed at the sight of demonstrations, as well as perhaps sceptical of the causes for which they stand. This has always been so. In the period immediately prior to the passing of the Reform Bill 1932, with the proposed extension of the franchise and the abolition of the Rotten Boroughs, there were a great many riots and demonstrations. There were some who were alarmed at this, and were also disturbed at the reforms which that Bill was intending to bring about. These feelings were forcefully expressed by the Earl of Winchilsea in the final debate on the Bill—and I quote from the Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 13 of the Third Series. Speaking on the Third Reading of the Bill he said that he had suffered pain of mind greater than he could express in thinking that he had lived to that hour to witness the downfall of his country. And he added that that night would close the first act in a fatal and bloody tragedy. Well, my Lords, the Bill was passed, and was followed by one of the great periods in our Parliamentary history.

Coming much nearer to the present time—and in between there were many demonstrations on behalf of one reform or another—there were the militant suffragettes. They believed that it was necessary to take action which might involve the discomfort of imprisonment in order to draw attention to their point of view. Some of these who disapproved of votes for women said that if women behaved like that they did not deserve to have the vote. But eventually the vote was granted to women, and I think few would now contend that we should go back to male suffrage. There are many other examples. There are always some who consider that it is necessary in the last resort to risk incurring a breach of the law, and to take the consequences. I am not advocating that particular course, but I recognise that it sometimes happens. I think particularly of the conscientious objectors at the time of the 1914–18 War.

But if demonstration is part of a long-term tradition in this country, I think there is a question that should be posed to-day, and which must be answered. What is the effect of having achieved universal franchise?—and for a moment I am really being the devil's advocate against demonstrating. After all, it could not very well be said to those who were defending reform at the time of the reforms in 1832: "You can achieve this by the use of the vote", because they had not got the vote. You could not very well say to the women who had not the vote: "Why do you not choose the method of the vote?", because they had not got the vote. But to-day most people have the vote. There is that difference. Of course, in countries where they do not enjoy that privilege, where the vote is meaningless, demonstration, if permitted, may be the only outlet, and in the last resort force may be the only way open. I admit that circumstances are different here, and yet I believe the freedom to demonstrate is important. One of the answers to this question of demonstrating at all is, I think, the feeling that the electoral processes are inadequate, and electoral bodies are too remote. This is certainly one of the factors in the present situation. Coupled with it is the increasing concern over moral issues. Democracy may seem to some to be irrational, and yet I believe it is one of the consequences of educational advance, especially where these moral issues arise. Through the media of Press, radio and television, people hear more about these issues than at any time in the past. The effect is to create the impression that the ordinary person is a mere onlooker, unable to take any effective part in decisions of great importance. With the development of mass media, people may be superficially better informed, but they feel more frustrated. Educational advance—and there has undoubtedly been advance—with all its imperfections, is producing a generation of better, or at least more widely informed people, able to voice their views and preferences. But this has brought no comparable increase in the role and status of the individual citizen. This, I feel, creates a sense of exasperation, especially marked among the young, and in particular the students. I must emphasise that in my view this does not justify the resort to violence.

Perhaps at this point, it would be appropriate to say a word or two about the Springbok tour, and I shall do so as calmly and dispassionately as possible. I think the country is very much divided on this question. Strong views are held on both sides, as we saw in the debate a fortnight ago. As I see it, the political issues are already involved, whether we like it or not. I think we have to accept the fact that politics has entered into sport, much though we may regret it. I believe that the position was put fairly by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester in the debate on November 26 (col. 1353) when he said: It is not we who arc bringing politics into sport: it is the South African authorities who have done so. Later he said: … the only way we can uphold the principle that politics have no place in sport is by refusing to participate with those who openly apply racial standards in the selection of their teams. Personally, I take the view that the attitude of the South African authorities to the possible inclusion of d'Oliveira in the M.C.C. team did more than anything else to bring politics into sport in recent times; that is as between this country and South Africa. Having regard to the d'Oliveira incident and the whole background, it seems to me that once the decision was made to invite the South African team here demonstration was inevitable. I am often asked whether I think that these demonstrations are justified. I am inclined to the view that the question is wrongly framed, because if, the team having coming here, there had been no protest and no demonstration, I think that would have given an entirely false impression of the opinion of a considerable number of people in this country. In view of all that has been said about apartheid, I think if there had been no murmur of protest we should have looked rather spineless and hypocritical.

The crux of the problem is not whether to protest, but the form that the protest should take. I welcome the resolution of the National Union of Students, who came down on the side of non-violent protest; and I welcome the clear position taken up by the anti-apartheid movement on this subject. I think there is an additional reason why the resort to violence, whether by vigilantes or demonstrators, is regrettable. After all, one of the objections that is made to the South African régime is the ruthlessness and violence that is used from time to time in enforcing apartheid against those who openly disapprove of it. Therefore it is surely all the more important not to give the impression that violence is common practice in this country. Again —and perhaps this is the most important reason—it is to be regretted because it diverts attention from the real issue. Fortunately, it is only a minority who wish to create a violent confrontation with the police. I am quite sure that their numbers are small.

I have endeavoured to obtain as accurate figures as I can (but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has other figures) of what occurred at Manchester. According to the figures supplied to me, approximately 7,000 people took part in the demonstration. Of those, about 1,000 were members of trade unions and members of various churches. About 100 to 150 could be put into the bracket of those who would be prepared and actually sought to create a violent confrontation. I have no brief for that minority at all. As I say, they divert attention from the main purpose of the demonstrations. I agree entirely with those who regard resort to violence as morally wrong and tactically unwise. I believe this to be the view of most of those taking part in the objections to the Springbok tour. That is all I want to say at the moment about the Springbok tour, except for one or two questions which I have to put to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in a few moments. I shall listen with careful attention to anything that is said during this debate.

The Motion refers to present-day society, and one of the characteristics of present-day society is that we live in an age in which information, especially pictorial information, reaches a very large number of people through the Press and television. The Press and television, therefore, have a very responsible position. We live in an age of the placard and the slogan, and a procession with a few large placards will be seen in millions of homes. I am not attacking the Press or television —it would be foolish and unjustified to do so—but sometimes the wrong impression can be created; and we have to remember that, generally speaking, violence is news and peaceful demonstration is not.

Occasionally there are cases of deliberate misreporting. I should like to give just one example. I think there have been a number of them, but I will take one example from a report made by the National Council of Civil Liberties and sent to the Home Secretary on November 27, 1968. I have the dossier here. It was a report prepared on the demonstration in London on October 27—that was some time after the very unruly one at Grosvenor Square. From the point of view of peacefulness it was more successful. In order not to take the passage out of context, I should mention that in the summary of this report from the National Council of Civil Liberties they said:

  1. "1. The change of police tactics was wholly successful as far as the main march was concerned.
  2. 2. The behaviour of individual police officers was with very few exceptions exemplary.
  3. 3. The good humour of the demonstrators and the determination of their organisers to 560 prevent disorder made the occasion a responsible and peaceful protest.
  4. 4. The marchers remained largely unprovoked by counter demonstrations."

Having said that, in order to get the matter into perspective I will come to this one paragraph which relates to what I would call camera misreporting. I have not had the opportunity of interviewing the observer appointed by the National Council of Civil Liberties who made this report, but I have seen someone who was present and who confirms what was said. It is not a very long paragraph, and I will read it: At about 4.45 a cameraman was observed in a first-floor window overlooking the top end of South Audley Street. The crowd were throwing sticks at these windows, and a number of them were broken. The cameraman, who had a hand-held camera, was encouraging them by throwing missiles back—I saw him throw a stick down, and my wife saw him throw a fire-cracker. He then raised the camera to signal that he wanted to photograph them, and the crowd played up for him, waving fists and throwing a barrage of missiles. At this point he had attracted the attention of at least a hundred demonstrators. After a few moments of filming, he waved a salute to his actors and withdrew. The crowd then returned to face the police. I mention that simply to indicate that there is a possibility of wrong impressions sometimes being created.

I want to ask one or two questions of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, of which I have given him prior notice. First, does the Home Office recognise the useful role of observers such as those appointed by the National Council for Civil Liberties? I understand that the Home Secretary paid a tribute to these observers following the report on the demonstration in London to which I have just referred, and it would be helpful to know whether this observance is appreciated. Secondly, does the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, see the possibility of some co-operation between the police and stewards appointed by the organisers of demonstrations where the intention of the demonstration is peaceful? My third question is perhaps a more tricky one. Where a demonstrator, who may or may not have committed some offence, is arrested, is he permitted to telephone his solicitor? If not, why not? I mention that because I have received some complaints on that point.

Fourthly, what facilities, if any, have been granted to the South African Special Branch men to photograph anti-Spring-bok demonstrators, and if so, why are these facilities given? Fifthly, has any inquiry been instituted into the complaints published in the Guardian on Monday, December 8, following the match at Murrayfield? My general impression of the match and demonstration at Murrayfield was that the demonstration went off peaceably. My last question is: do Her Majesty's Government consider any changes in the law to be necessary in the light of recent events? I am inclined to the view that the answer is that no changes are needed, but as this point has been raised it would be helpful to have the views of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick.

My Lords, it would be inappropriate to attempt to sum up at the beginning of this debate, but may I conclude with a few words on this distinction between peaceful and violent protest? Violence is a threat to democracy and must be deplored. I think it would be a great mistake to bunch all the demonstrators together as irresponsible trouble-makers. It just is not true. Of course, there are a few people who believe that the only way to solve the country's evils is to have a violent revolution. I believe that those who hold that view are a tiny minority, and from the impression I have gained from visiting various universities, that view is on the decline. On the other hand, I think it clear that demonstrations and protests are a part of our political life, and in the foreseeable future I think it will continue, especially so long as the electoral processes, rightly or wrongly, are considered to be inadequate. But, my Lords, I am not a pessimist. Britain undoubtedly has many problems, but I do not believe that the demonstrations of to-day, any more than the riots of 140 years ago, will, to use the words of the Earl of Winchilsea: lead to the downfall of my country". My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, I certainly agree most warmly with this Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and I hope he gets all the Papers he has asked for. He certainly deserves them, for over many years he has given us the opportunity from time to time of discussing Motions in his name raising questions of topical interest and high social importance, such as that to-day. He has done a certain amount of historical research into the past history of demonstrations. He went back 140 years to the time of the Reform Bill. My investigations went further back, and I considered that the first demonstration (I speak subject to correction from right reverend Prelates) was at Jericho, where the demonstrators walked round and round the walls, blowing trumpets instead of making speeches, until they fell down—until the walls fell down. I fear that this was far from a peaceful demonstration, and indeed I think had something to do with racial prejudice.

Another demonstration that came to mind was that of Wat Tyler in 1381— a demonstration which I think should be of considerable interest to the present Government, as it was largely directed against the Statute of Labourers, an early precursor of the Prices and Incomes Act. That demonstration started in an orderly fashion, restricted to burning a few houses, but unfortunately later deteriorated into violence and bloodshed. But probably we would consider Wat Tyler's demonstration to be rather more of a rebellion.

In more recent times the classic form of demonstration has been a peaceful affair, at least in intent. I think most of us associate demonstrations of the recent past with a procession from one point to another, ending in speeches in Trafalgar Square, or in a petition to No. 10 Downing Street. But more recently they have taken a new turn, and they seem to have adopted something of the technique of the strike. The object has become to disrupt, to cause maximum inconvenience—and, indeed, to attempt to prevent the event, whatever it may be, from taking place at all. Just as the strikers' object is to hurt the employer by the withdrawal of their labour, so the modern "demo. pro." seeks to make things as difficult as possible for those against whom he is protesting, whether by "sit-in", "lie-down" or spoil-sport methods.

The subject was touched upon in the recent debate initiated on an Unstarred Question by my noble friend Lord Ferrier, who I am glad to see will be taking part in this debate to-day. As the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has agreed in his introduction, there seems to be very little disagreement—I should say none—with the general proposition that we would not wish to interfere in any way with the right of any group of people to get together and hold a peaceful demonstration in order to direct attention to their views. The unfortunate factor is that recently violence has come to be associated with these demonstrations.

I believe this to be for two reasons. The first is that those who take part are a very mixed bunch, united only in opposition to the object of their protest and utterly different in most other ways. They will include "egg-heads" and "skinheads", "Hell's angels" and "hippies", "junkies" and "gaol-birds"; but most of them may well be genuine idealists, and often the organisers themselves. Also there, for the fun, are others who look upon it as a form of undergraduate rag; and among them some of your Lordships may find even your own offspring. But there will certainly be among them a violent fringe of anarchists and thugs, the sort who carry razor blades and bicycle chains; those to whom the Home Secretary referred recently as the usual job lot of anarchists tagging along, creating trouble and fomenting violence. It is this violent fringe who cause most of the trouble, and it is against them that the law must surely be strictly enforced, if not strengthened.

The second reason why I believe that violence occurs is that a demonstration succeeds or fails by the amount of attention it arouses, and that means publicity in the Press or in broadcasting. In the same debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Ferrier, the noble Lord, Lord Strange, made an interesting suggestion: that a special arena should be set aside for demonstrators, where they could walk round and round to their hearts' content, causing no inconvenience to the public—and no doubt in that case it would be they who fell down and not the walls. But, unfortunately, such a demonstration would fail to receive any publicity. It would not attain the sacred criterion of the Press: news value. It is axiomatic that in order to make the maximum impact a particular demonstration must have news value—nothing better than a good scuffle with the police, and pictures of "young innocents" being dragged away by "the brutal policeman". All too rarely, alas!, do we see pictures of the same young innocents assaulting our patient police. The attack is quick and unlikely to catch the cameraman's eye. If it does, he may well not get a picture of it, while the process of carrying off a screaming protester takes time, is newsworthy and photogenic.

Mr. Milton Shulman has written several most pungent articles in the Evening Standard on television's responsibility for the spread of violence by the constant showing of violent action in its programmes. And a recent Presidential Commission in the United States has concluded: That violence on television encourages violent forms of behaviour and fosters moral and social values about violence in daily life which are unacceptable in a civilised society. Yet when one taxes members of the Press or television with this, they tend to use such phrases (I am only paraphrasing them) as: "Our job is to represent the world as it is, warts and all." Of course, there is no quarrelling with that statement. But the fact is that in life the warts probably make up some 5 per cent. of the whole, while in the Press and television they are apt to make up some 50 per cent. It is the balance that is wrong, although what one can do to put it right while maintaining a free Press is not easy to see. I know, however, that there are many responsible people in the Press and in the television services who are equally worried and equally disturbed at the dangers.

We say, with conviction, that peaceful demonstrations are unobjectionable in a democratic society, but we are forced to think again when they result in violence and at some point when the actions of a minority interfere with the rights of a majority. I do not believe we have yet reached this stage, but if in the future we are to be subjected to a continual succession of scenes such as that which recently prevented Sir William Armstrong making his speech at the London School of Economics then surely society as a whole will react in defence of its own democratic rights. Perhaps one may remind those who demonstrate of some words of Mr. Gladstone: To be engaged in opposing wrong affords but a slender guarantee for being right". It is my impression, my Lords, that from these demonstrations it is the police who emerge with the greatest credit. I do not believe any police force in the world is better at coping with this type of situation. They take the most immense trouble beforehand to consult with the organisers, so that it is quite clear on all sides what are the limits within which the demonstration can be held without police interference. During the demonstration they show admirable firmness in dealing with those who exceed those limits, and in particular with those who use violent methods. But in their dealings with the rest, which is the vast majority of demonstrators, they show the greatest good sense and, above all, the best of good humour.

But it is not easy for them, and there are many problems. We tend so often to think of the police as a force, in a rather impersonal way, and to forget that each policeman is an individual, with his own feelings, and often a wife and family at home. Often these demonstrations, particularly in the London area, have taken place at weekends and there are many policemen who have been on frequent weekend duty, to the great distress of their families.

My Lords, a typical day in the life of "P.C. 49" at one of these demonstrations against the Springboks is a hard one. He probably has to be on parade at ten o'clock in the morning, he is on his feet all morning, doing little but waiting until the demonstrators assemble, shepherding a procession, maybe, quelling a disorder, but always in close physical contact with the crowd. If he is lucky he gets a stale sausage roll for his lunch, and then he finds himself inside the "rugger" ground, called upon to stop any invasion of the pitch. Here he is often in danger of physical assault, and certainly the butt of verbal abuse, while he may well end up by having to protect those who have insulted him and assaulted him from the fury of the vast majority of the crowd who paid to watch the match. If he is lucky he gets home by six o'clock in the evening. But the next day he may well be open to criticism or to official inquiry into his behaviour, or he may be expected to appear in a magistrates' court to give a clear and lucid account of exactly what occurred. I believe these are marvellous men; but there is no doubt that these demonstrations impose a great strain upon them. We must admire their patience and their skill, but we must also watch the situation carefully to ensure that they are not tried beyond human capacity.

I will just mention two more significant facts—or which seem to me to be signicant facts—about recent demonstrations. The first is that they are mostly carried out by young people; the second, that they often concern world affairs quite beyond the capability of this country to alter. No amount of demonstrations against the British Government will stop the war in Vietnam or ban the bomb. No amount of demonstrations against the Springboks will alter the South African Government's policy of apartheid. I believe these facts may give some clue when we try to look a little beneath the surface to find the underlying causes of these demonstrations.

I believe there always has been, and always will be, a generation gap. From time to time in this House we have heard quotations from the past, showing how the older generation has so often despaired of the behaviour of the younger, and how the young themselves have always been critical of their elders. The difference to-day is that the young are better organised and more articulate. Partly, this may be due to the spread of education, partly to their greater economic independence, partly to the speed of modern communications. In schools they are imbued with high ideals which they tend to find absent when they emerge into the working world. Newspapers, radio and television bring to their notice some of the appalling cruelties of the world, and they feel impelled to do something about it. The fact that they are financially independent at an early age gives them the means to do so.

They disapprove of the world as they see it and they want to change it. Being young, they are impatient. Disregarding the more essential stories that attract the interest of newspaper editors, I should be willing to bet that the great majority of your Lordships find the young men and women that you know to be of top quality and to be imbued with high ideals. Some of that frustrated idealism finds its outlet in demonstrations. This seems to me to be an anti-outlet—a negative outlet. Some of it—all too little as yet— is positively active, in such ways as Voluntary Service Overseas and Communty Service at home. Society as a whole must find a place for the energy and positive desire to participate of its younger members. I believe in the kind of student participation which is at present being implemented in our universities. The same trend should be encouraged wherever possible, and certainly your Lordships have never been slow to encourage our younger Members to take part in our debates.

I believe that the recent report of the Youth Services Development Council is right in laying emphasis on the contribution of young people to the community and the need to involve them in community action. There was recently upstairs here an exhibition by the Young Volunteer Force Foundation. I am sure it was an experience which those of your Lordships who saw it will have enjoyed, and particularly the opportunity of talking to the young volunteers themselves and hearing of the kind of community work that they are doing.

My Lords, I am afraid I have strayed from demonstrations to community service and have perhaps somewhat anticipated a Motion that I have myself put on the Order Paper on the recent Report of the Youth Services Development Council. But if I have, it is because I believe that demonstrations and community service are two sides of the same coin, the one negative, the other positive. We should, I suggest, do all we can to encourage the positive and creative activity of young people in community affairs.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wade, said he had set himself a formidable task when he undertook to move this Motion, and I, for a start, should like to congratulate him on the interesting and constructive way in which he has fulfilled that task. I would also add a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for the most constructive and thoughtful way in which he has spoken to this Motion.

My Lords, we have been discussing an area of human affairs which covers a very wide range of human behaviour and emotions. But certain propositions, I believe, can be laid down with firmness and with clarity. First, in this free and democratic society it is the right of every man and woman to demonstrate his or her opinions and beliefs. But, equally, in this same society it is the right of every man and woman to expect to go about their lawful business without fear of public disorder. So far, one might say, so good. But, of course, problems arise when these two rights collide and one man's freedom becomes another man's frustration.

"Freedom not servitude", said Edmund Burke, "is the cure of anarchy", but a policeman reader of Burke might well be forgiven if he allowed himself to doubt this proposition as he watched recent human behaviour outside and inside certain Rugby football grounds. The value of this debate will be increased if we are able to identify the point at which the freedom of one member of society begins to obstruct the freedom of another, and to identify that point sufficiently clearly and in sufficient time to forestall potential trouble.

The task of identifying this point, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said, has fallen largely upon the police authorities. Frankly, they do not like this job. Of course they accept the duty, but to preserve the peace for us all, without inconveniencing some, is not easy. I was glad that both the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, paid tribute to the police in this regard. We should recognise both the difficulty and unpleasantness of the task with which they are too often landed and the increasing skill with which they avert trouble or prevent it from spreading. I say that not because of any departmental prompting, but simply because I believe it to be true. We have heard so much in recent weeks of alleged police brutality that one must in ordinary fairness call attention to the success they have had in controlling potential disorder.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, referred to the remarkable gathering in Grosvenor Square on Sunday, October 27, 1968. If we go back to that gathering and remember what we saw, either at first hand or on the television screen, the way in which tension built up, and realise the enormous incipient power that there was in that huge crowd, we must surely give unqualified praise, both to the courage of the Home Secretary in agreeing the policy which was adopted and to the way the Metropolitan Police Force carried it out. The extraordinarily restrained strength which they showed on that occasion undoubtedly saved damage to both persons and property far greater than any injury actually sustained at recent events.

Moreover, getting this problem into its wider perspective gives us, I think, a better opportunity of judging it fairly. It is only a small proportion of the demonstrations that give rise to newspaper headlines. I asked for figures about the number of demonstrations that have taken place in the Metropolitan area over the last year. The noble Lord, Lord Wade, went back rather further. On going back to November 1, 1968, a little more than twelve months, I am told that there have been 500 demonstrations in the Metropolitan Police District. Most of these gave rise to no serious disturbance at all.

I asked about the causes for which these people demonstrated or processed. Taking at random the month of March as an example, there was a meeting at Speakers' Corner, followed by a march to Downing Street, organised by the Universal Coloured Peoples Association and the Black Panther Movement, apparently to protest about what they called "the imposition of British rule in Anguilla." The Pakistani Students' Federation demonstrated in that month at the offices of the Sunday Times about an article in which that newspaper had allegedly disparaged a Pakistani politician. Later in the month, there were three smaller protests at the Pakistani High Commission. Other demonstrations included five on trade union affairs or industrial matters; four about various student affairs; two about NATO; two about motorway policy; and four about the Vietnam war. Altogether in those demonstrations nine arrests were made. This seems to me a fairly civilised picture. Judging by this we have achieved a reasonable balance. The police are fulfilling their duties in preventing a breach of the peace, and by and large the majority of demonstrators are behaving with good sense.

I know that some people seem to think that demonstrators, by definition, are a little queer; and I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield, came a little near to this when he seemed to be saying in our discussion the other day that most of the trouble at the anti-Springbok demonstrations was the work of Communists. Some commentators appear to have gone a little further. According to a report in the Yorkshire Post on Tuesday, December 9, a gallant Brigadier, a member of the Conservative Party National Executive, speaking at a Conservative association supper club, went so far as to make some comments on some remarks made by the right reverend prelate, the Bishop of Durham.

The Brigadier accused the right reverend Prelate of encouraging demonstrators, and went on to say: Is he not calling to the long-haired anarchists, the fanatics, the imported rabble-rousers, the drug-takers and the permissive society, to foist their views on our country? The newspaper reports him as going on to say: I tell the present bland Home Secretary and Durham's Bishop that we Britons still have the fundamental common law right to defend our families and our property … against the unlawful intrusion of that soulless, cowardly and despicable gathering known as a mob. I am glad to feel that that spirit is not shared in your Lordships' House. Nor, indeed, has it always been the case in your Lordships' House that Peers have spoken in the same reactionary way as the noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea, quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wade. It was indeed Lord Byron who, in his maiden speech on February 27, 1812, said: You may call the people a mob, but do not forget that a mob too often speaks the sentiments of the people. He had earlier observed to noble Lords present that it was these same people called a mob that labour in your fields, serve in your houses, that man your Navy and recruit your Army and that have enabled you to defy all the world. My Lords, I hope we shall all agree that against the majority of the demonstrators we have no complaint, either as to motives or, in the main, as to behaviour.

The demonstrating majority, or their representatives, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare said, have increasingly co-operated with the police. There is no obligation on the organisers to seek permission from the police, but they do normally nowadays, in their own interest, get in touch with the police. In the great majority of cases—and this refers to recent cases connected with the Springbok tour—the demonstrations have taken place largely as mutually agreed between the organisers and the police. To the extent that routes and procedures have followed an agreed pattern there has been no trouble. The evidence suggests that disturbances have arisen when individuals, or groups of individuals, have departed from procedures agreed by the organisers with the police.

Two questions have been put to me in relation to this point. First, I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, whether the police cannot co-operate more fully with the marshals responsible for the conduct of a demonstration. The answer to that question is that the police authorities are only too willing to give all possible assistance to those marshals who wish to safeguard themselves against mischievous or malicious elements who try to exploit a potentially dangerous situation created by the assembly of large crowds of people. If any specific requests are made by responsible marshals for police co-operation, then I can say quite definitely that the police authorities will be willing to co-operate if at all possible. At the same time, my information is that recent experience shows that to get co-operation as between the police, responsible for law and order, and demonstrators anxious, naturally, to make the maximum public impact, a rather more positive and constructive approach is needed from the marshals. Many of us, especially on this side of the House, will know that it is not always easy for the responsible organisers of a march to keep out a less responsible element, but the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, is that the police are ready to give all possible advice and co-operation.

The noble Lord asked whether more changes in the law are necessary, in the light of recent events, which would give the police more power to restrain the minority who bring discredit upon the majority. The answer to that is the present powers appear to be adequate. I have said that the police have no power to forbid the holding of a demonstration, but of course a procession may be banned in extreme circumstances. The relevant provisions are in Section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936. A ban may be effected by an order made by the local authority, on the recommendation of the chief officer of police, and subject to confirmation by the Home Secretary. In the Metropolitan Police district this order is made by the Commissioner of Police with the consent of the Home Secretary. The Act provides for such an order to be made where the chief officer is of the opinion that his powers under Section 3, subsection (1) of the Act will not be sufficient to prevent serious public disorder.

Under the Police Act of 1964, a chief officer of police of any police force may, on the application of the chief officer of another police force, provide constables or other assistance for the purpose of enabling the other force to meet any special demand on its resources. It was under Section 14 of this Act that the Chief Constable of the Leicester and Rutland Constabulary asked for assistance from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in connection with the match at Leicester on November 8. As for the police protection inside a football ground, for example, the decision is made by the chief officer of police. The general working rule is to provide one officer per thousand spectators, but other factors are taken into consideration; and of course recent Rugby matches have given rise to special considerations. Chief officers are taking as a guide that about 100 policemen are needed to protect the pitch. There is a very detailed scale of charges made for the services of police officers specially employed in this way.

I was asked by the noble Lord whether the Home Office recognise the useful role of observers appointed by the N.C.C.L. Of course their interest is recognised, and the various complaints which they have sent in about alleged police behaviour are always carefully considered and, where necessary, action is taken. I specifically asked whether any person taken into custody from one of these disturbances had access to a solicitor. It is an accepted principle that they do have such access. It is stated in the Judges' Rules as follows: That every person at any stage of an investigation should be able to communicate and to consult privately with a solicitor. This is so even if he is in custody provided that in such a case no unreasonable delay or hindrance is caused to the processes of investigation or the administration of justice by his doing so. I am informed that notices to this effect are on display in all police stations.

There have been complaints that there have been individual cases where there has been delay but, of course, where there are a lot of people brought into a police station access to telephones is sometimes limited. Complaints of this kind by persons arrested at the Swansea match on November 15 are included in the complaints being investigated under Section 49 of the Police Act 1969.

I was also asked by the noble Lord on one occasion—I think not in his speech—whether the South African Special Branch photographers have any rights or any special privileges for photographing the recent disturbances. If this is a suggestion that the police have somehow been concerned in affording special facilities to the South African Special Branch men, the answer is that the charge is a false one. Facilities are normally allowed, of course, to T.V. and the Press at demonstrations. There is advantage in prior discussion with those concerned as to what facilities can be made available, and it is known, not unnaturally, that representatives of South African newspapers have been among those present at demonstrations.

I have also been asked about the position following the disturbances at Murrayfield. Any specific complaints about the police there will be fully investigated. Of course, in Scotland it will be the Procurator-Fiscal, and not the police, who makes the investigation. However, information so far is that there has been only general criticism, and no specific complaints. If there are such specific complaints, then they will be investigated.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, made some reference to the C.N.D. marchers. As one who had some knowledge of those marches, I would say that they were probably the most remarkable demonstrations since the war, and probably the most successful. They were non-violent, which is possibly one reason why they were successful. They caused people to think. I believe they helped to create quite a profound shift of public opinion about the possibilities of nuclear warfare. The kind of demonstration that was made by those earlier marchers meets both the purposes that I set out at the beginning of my speech: it satisfied both the rights that have to be safeguarded.

I have said that there are more demonstrations than, maybe, most of us realised. I have said that most of them have served their purpose and passed off without public disturbance. It is unfortunate, as the noble Lord said, but it is true that the T.V. news and the Press tend to concentrate upon those cases where violence occurs. I am not sure that this publicity encourages restraint and good social behaviour—I think the chances are the other way round. But I am fairly certain that these scenes of violence do not further the cause for which these demonstrators give their time and energy.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wade, that it ought not to be an issue at these Springbok matches as to whether or not there is a demonstration. The real issue is what kind of demonstration. The advice I would offer to the organisers of the present series of anti-apartheid demonstrations is, in the modern jargon; "Consider the cost effectiveness of what you are doing. How many converts to the anti-apartheid cause are you making? Are you sure that the net result of legitimate demonstration, plus the consequential violence, is bringing public opinion on your side?"

It will be interesting to hear what opinions are stated in the course of this debate on that point. For my part, I wish well those who campaign against evils like apartheid, but I am more than ever convinced that campaigners should positively rule out actions which lead to violence.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question before he sits down? In the course of his speech the noble Lord said, quite rightly, that the present law has adequate safeguards—


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Viscount to say that I shall be ready to answer any questions at the end of the debate, and the noble Viscount has his name down on the list of speakers.


As a matter of fact, my Lords, I shall not be speaking later. I did not realise that I should be coming on so late, so I shall not now be speaking. I was also unable to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wade, open.