Trafalgar Square

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Building and Works – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1967.

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Photo of Mr Eric Moonman Mr Eric Moonman , Billericay 12:00 am, 23rd January 1967

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if he will take steps to exercise stricter control over the use of Trafalgar Square for causes either directly or indirectly racialist in character.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

I consider that the existing controls are adequate.

Photo of Mr Eric Moonman Mr Eric Moonman , Billericay

While I recognise the importance of freedom of speech, may I ask my right hon. Friend what inquiries or investigations he makes in the organisation of rallies similar to that which took place in Trafalgar Square on 15th January?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

It was not necessary to make any special and detailed inquiries for the rally in question. The purposes were well known and had been publicised. I share the views of all hon. Members on this side that this was a nasty and squalid affair—[Interruption.]—but I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned the right of free speech. In matters of this sort, clearly one has to allow such a rally to take place.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Is the Minister aware that this Question is ill-founded, particularly as his hon. Friend said that he believes in free speech, since there is nothing either directly or indirectly racialist about the cause of renewed talks with Rhodesia, which is the cause of the whole of Her Majesty's Opposition?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

It is relevant to ask these questions in view of my responsibilities for racially-inspired meetings. It was the Conservative Government which made the decision to ban Fascist organisations following the grave disorders in Trafalgar Square in the summer of 1962. Since then, Fascist organisations have from time to time been banned from holding meetings. This is a relevant question.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that what happened on 15th January, with the permission of his Ministry, was not simply a racialist rally but one which was wholly illegal in that it was designed to aid and comfort a treasonable régime?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

The meeting was not illegal in terms of British law. It was a meeting for a deplorable purpose. [HON MEMBERS: "Why?"] It was encouraging an illegal régime abroad. For that reason, I deplore the decision to hold the rally. However, I think that it was right for the Government to permit it to take place.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

Will the Minister consider confining his comments to his own responsibilities, especially in view of the enormous rise in unemployment in the building industry?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

That supplementary question has nothing to do with the Question.