LONDON (Aug. 2)
The British Government today gave the House of Commons assurance that it will give “thorough consideration” to a proposal introduced in Parliament yesterday, amending the Public Order Act in such a way as to forbid incitements against any racial groups in this country.
However, the Government spokesman, Home Secretary Henry Brooke, also warned that careful consideration must be given to the problem of preserving the right of free speech “while effectively discouraging wanton incitement to racial hatred.”
Members of the Labor and Liberal Parties, who have been pressing all week for a statement by the Home Secretary on the recent riotous mass meetings conducted by the British National Socialists and the British Union Movement, the fascist group led by Sir Oswald Mosley, insisted that the Government take some action now.
Sir Barnett Janner, a Laborite, charged that Mr. Brooke’s statement failed to note that the “law as it stands” permits the Home Secretary to stop certain types of meetings, declaring that “the common law gives no right to people continuing to perpetuate these outrages.”
George Brown, deputy leader of the opposition, told the Home Secretary he was anxious to have the next three months, during Parliament’s recess, used for evaluation of the Public Order Act “in relation to the situation that exists today.” The Public Order Act itself had been adopted in 1936.
Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond urged Mr. Brooke to distinguish between genuine meetings and those designed to the spread of race hatred. James Griffiths, a Laborite, pointed out that the recent manifestations constituted “sheerest provocations by the marching of people who support racial doctrines through areas where there are settled Jewish and colored populations.”
A Conservative Party member, Sir Robert Cary, also backed the proposed Public Order Act amendment, which had been introduced by another Conservative. Mr. Brooke insisted, however, that the Government had no power to ban meetings in advance. He did concede that the police authorities can halt meetings, if they “are likely to promote a breach of the peace.”
HOME SECRETARY DEPLORES ATTACKS AGAINST FASCIST MEETINGS
The Home Secretary deplored attacks against fascist meetings. “We find it deeply disturbing,” he said, “however much we abhor and despise views which, fortunately, commend themselves only to a tiny minority in this country, to see in this country the use of physical violence as a means of preventing them from being expressed. This is not a reaction that can be tolerated.” He said the police will continue to take firm action against those using violence.
Thirty-five Conservative members of Parliament, meanwhile, have tabled a motion emphasizing the importance of freedom of speech. The motion states: “This House declares its belief that freedom of speech within law is a foundation of parliamentary democracy and reaffirms the principle that, if danger arises from the exercise of lawful rights resulting in a breach of the peace, the remedy is in the presence of sufficient forces to prevent that result, not the legal condemnation of those who exercise those rights.”
In Manchester, meanwhile, various organizations met tonight to discuss the formation of an anti-fascist committee. Laborite Councillor Grimshaw said that the committee would press the Government to outlaw racial discrimination.