§ 2.52 p.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they intend taking in connection with the calls for the killing of British troops in Northern Ireland, which according to several press reports were made at the Young Socialist's conference at Bridlington on Easter Monday.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, we are, of course, aware of reports that these disgraceful statements were made on that occasion. It is, however, for the police and not the Government to consider whether any criminal offence may have been committed, and, if so, what action to take.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply and for the robust sentiments he expressed. While one appreciates that there is little the Government can do directly, can the noble Lord say whether the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been drawn to the rallying cry made by one delegate, which according to at least nine national newspapers contained the phrase, "Forward to the death of British troops"? Surely the right of free speech, which we all value so highly, cannot extend to blatant incitement to murder.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, while I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, I should say, first of all, that the question of a reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions would be for the police, who would have to be aware of the circumstances to a greater degree than I am. Secondly, as the noble Lord rightly says, the right of free speech is very precious. I understand that this utterance was made on an occasion in a debate on something that was called, "Capitalist Imperialism and Terrorist Violence", and the remarks, I gather, received little support, if any, on that occasion. That perhaps suggests that we should not dignify this event with a great deal of opprobrium when it was in fact an extraordinarily foolish, unpleasant, distasteful and disloyal thing to do, but no more than that.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, would the noble Lord the Minister not agree that it is highly desirable that it be stressed that these particular observations are abhorred and repudiated as much by supporters and members of the Labour Party as by any other section of the community? May I say how much I appreciate the remarks of the Minister that the pro-IRA resolution was overwhelmingly rejected in a democratic way by the hundreds of delegates present, with only a handful supporting it? Is the noble Lord aware that a subsequent resolution was carried deploring and repudiating the actions of the IRA and other terrorist organisations as being of little use to the people of Northern Ireland?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I think terrorist methods are abhorred inside and outside this House by all right thinking people.