Clause 1. — (Prohibition of uniforms in connection with political objects.)

Orders of the Day — Public Order Bill – in the House of Commons on 7th December 1936.

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4.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gordon Hall Caine Mr Gordon Hall Caine , Dorset Eastern

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, after "signifying," to insert "his."

This is a very short Amendment and I shall deal with it very shortly, though it covers a very important point. The Clause as it stands might do a considerable amount of injustice to an honourable profession. The position is that if an actor who follows his ordinary calling were called upon to play a part in a stage play, or even in a cinema, portraying the character of a Fascist or Communist, a Redshirt or Brownshirt, he would, I understand, by appearing on the stage be appearing in a public place and, therefore, would be subject to the penalties under this Bill and be guilty of an offence. If we realise that the actor in playing his part is only portraying the character written for him, we realise that he is not in himself "signifying association with any political organisation" by wearing a uniform. If we inserted the word "his" it would clearly have to be shown that the actor himself was showing his personal association with that political organisation or creed before he could be penalised under the Bill for committing an offence. I hope the House will see that this very important section of the public who entertain us are relieved of the stigma of having committed a political offence by a mere technical breach of this provision.

4.11 p.m.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

I beg to second the Amendment.

It raises a small, but quite an important point, particularly as the Sub-section goes on to say, "or with the promotion of any political object." For example, if a play is performed dealing with the struggle between Communism and Fascism, it becomes a public meeting. It might be a play arranged in order to raise funds for a political party, and it signifies association with a political organisation in an indirect sense. It would be a little awkward if the ardent comrades of my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), dressed up in Nazi uniforms for the purpose of demonstrating the horrors of Fascism at a Communist meeting, found themselves all marched to the police court and charged with wearing Fascist uniforms. That would lead to all sorts of domestic and political troubles.

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

I am going to suggest that we accept this Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for East Dorset (Mr. Hall-Caine) wrote to me and pointed out that unless some such change as this was made in the Clause theatrical performances or the like might unintentionally come within the ban of the Clause; and the hon. Lady who has Seconded the Amendment has drawn a picture so faithfully as to convince the whole House, I feel sure. If there were to be, in the interests of a particular political organisation, some representation on the stage and she on that occasion was not entirely in red but entirely in black, I should be the first to say of her that she was only playing a part. On behalf of the Government I accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to

4.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert: so, however, that if that person is re-manded in custody he shall, after the expiration of a period of eight days from the date on which he was so remanded, be entitled to be discharged from custody on entering into a recognisance without sureties unless within that period the Attorney-General has consented to such further proceedings as aforesaid. This Amendment has been moved to meet a. point that was raised during the Committee stage. It was then pointed out that if a person was remanded in custody by the magistrates, and if the consent of the Attorney-General to proceedings was not forthcoming within seven days, he might be kept in custody for a longer period. We thought that was a reasonable point, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has put this Amendment on the Paper in order to meet it.

Amendment agreed to.