HC Deb 12 April 1937 vol 322 cc631-2W
Mr. Gallacher

asked the Home Secretary by what authority, on 3rd and 4th April, policemen of the S Division prevented the sale of the "Daily Worker" newspaper in High Street, Camden Town, and outside Regent's Park, in both of which places it has been sold regularly for several years, by threatening to arrest the salesmen unless they went away; whether he has any information about the refusal of police of the N Division to allow a Communist party meeting to be held in Queen's Crescent, Kentish Town, on 4th April, on the ground that prior notice of intention to hold a meeting had been given by a Fascist organisation; whether there are any regulations providing for the booking of street-corner meeting pitches in London; and under what authority this police action was taken?

Mr. Lloyd

It is an offence under the Highway Act, 1835, to obstruct the highway or footway. I understand that on two occasions between 7 and 7.30 p.m. on the 3rd instant the police, in pursuance of their duty to prevent obstruction, found it necessary to call the attention of persons selling newspapers in High Street, Camden Town, to the obstruction they were causing, and suggested that they should move to a less crowded part of the High Street, which is very congested at that hour of the evening. Similar action was taken by the police in respect of a person selling literature at Gloucester Bridge, Regent's Park, on the 4th instant, who was causing obstruction of the footway with the result that many pedestrians had to walk in the roadway in order to pass. In all these cases the persons spoken to by the police moved on as requested, and none of them were threatened with arrest.

As regards the second part of the question, I presume that the hon. Member refers to an incident which took place on the 3rd instant. It had been announced that the Fascists intended to hold a meeting at the site in question at 8 p.m. on that date. On the arrival of the police about 7.45 they found that no preparations had been made for a meeting, but subsequently about 8.5 p.m. Fascist speakers arrived and set up their platform. The police observed a man with a red flag who said that he was going to hold a meeting if his speakers arrived, but I am informed that in fact no attempt was made by the Communists to hold a separate meeting and the question of police refusing to allow such a meeting did not arise. There is no right to reserve in advance sites for meetings in the public thoroughfares, and the Commissioner of Police has given instructions that in cases where two or more parties desire to hold meetings on the same site the principle should be followed of "first come, first served." The Commissioner is satisfied that this principle is thoroughly understood by the police and was not departed from on this occasion.