HC Deb 23 January 1941 vol 368 cc309-11W
Commander Bower

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a four-page leaflet published and widely circulated in the North by the Lancashire and Cheshire People's Convention Committee advertising a meeting at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, on 12th January, and containing a "Call to the People of Lancashire and Cheshire," and whether any action under the Defence Regulations has been taken, or is contemplated, against the signatories?

Squadron-Leader Errington

asked the Home Secretary whether he has made further inquiries as to "The People's Convention" and those who are supporting it, and the pamphlets distributed broadcast in Lancashire announcing a meeting in Manchester; can he inform the House as to the political complexion of those organising it; and whether, in the national interest at this time, he proposes to allow this convention to be held?

Mr. H. Morrison

This is the meeting about which Questions were put to me on 19th December by my hon. Friends the Members for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) and for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) and I would refer my hon. Friends to my answer to those Questions. I decided not to prohibit this meeting under Defence Regulation 39E and, as my hon. Friends are probably aware, it was held in London on 12th January. I have received a report of the proceedings from which it would appear that the constitution of the conference was of a somewhat ramshackle and unrepresentative character.

According to an announcement made at the meeting the composition of the Convention was as follows:— Number of delegates and Organisations delegating them:— Factories and jobs, 433 (from 220 factories). Trade Unions, 531 (3 executive committees, 14 district councils, 368 branches). Trade Councils, 26 (from 20 Councils). Co-operatives, 81 (from 73 branches, including management committees, education committees, Co-op Parties and guilds). Political Parties and Associations, 230 (figure not ready). Youth bodies, I08 (from 57 organisations). Convention meetings and Committees, 213 (from 100 bodies). Colonial organisations, 14. Cultural Societies, 26. Discussion Groups, 63. Peace organisations, 6. Miscellaneous, 106. Members of Convention National Committee and individuals, 54.

It is known that many persons claiming to represent factories were not present in any representative capacity. In any case 220 is a very small proportion of our factories. The three executive committees of trade unions compare with a total of 1,007 distinct trade union organisations, and the 14 district councils are a small proportion of the 2,000 trade union bodies of this character known to exist. Of the persons claiming to be delegates from 368 trade union branches, it is doubtful how many were in fact present in a representative capacity; in any case, they were a very small proportion of the 25,000 branches of trade unions in Great Britain. The 20 trades councils compare with a total for Great Britain of about 460. As for the remaining organisations a considerable number would be communist or communist controlled; the proportion representative of any substantial body of thought would be negligible.