I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the special expense of police protection of a public monument at Battersea that bears a controversial inscription; and whether he will consider the advisableness of introducing legislation with a view to prevent the erection in public places of monuments bearing inscriptions calculated to offend a large section of the people.
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that Question, may I ask whether, before adopting the suggestion of the hon. Member, in view of the increase of crime and disorder in London and with a view to the better protection of His Majesty's subjects in the exercise of their lawful rights, he will consider the advisability of applying the Irish Crimes Act to this part of the country?
I think I will answer the Question on the Paper. Yes, Sir. The total amount of extra police duty which the protection of, this monument has necessitated in the Borough of Battersea alone has been equivalent to the special services for one day of no less than 27 inspectors, 55 sergeants, and 1,083 constables. At present six constables are daily employed in this manner. In addition to this, large numbers of police have on several occasions had to be specially employed in other parts of London to cope with disturbances arising out of the same matter. This involves a considerable charge on the general body of London ratepayers, and the difficulty would grow acute if it were to become the fashion for parties or sections, for example on the tariff question, to put up public statues or memorials with a view to defaming the actions and views of opponents. If this became common, it would be necessary to make those who erect such statues responsible for the cost of their protection, but as things stand I do not think there is ground for introducing legislation.
Could the Home Secretary give any information how it is that, in spite of all this disturbance and expense to the ratepayers, no single offender has been sent to prison?
That, perhaps, is the unfortunate part of the business. As the hon. Member knows, proceedings have been taken in the cases of individuals.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Home Office is unable to take steps to prevent this heavy expenditure falling on the ratepayers, and whether he is aware that a large body of students of the London University is quite prepared to remove the offensive monument, if they are allowed to do so without inter ference by the police, without expense to the ratepayers?
I am afraid I have no suggestion to make, unless the borough of Battersea contributes to the expense of guarding the statue.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the inscription on the statue is neither more nor less than an exact statement of the facts admitted. I understand, by Professor Starling and Mr. Bayliss?
Order, order! The hon. Member is raising a very debatable question.