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Disturbances (London)

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the fact that a ticket meeting under the auspices of the British Empire Union, held at the Central Hall, Westminster, on the 28th October, was broken up by a Communist and Sinn Fein mob who gained admission by forged tickets, the principal speaker, the Earl of Derby, being howled down and prevented from speaking, while German stink-bombs were thrown among the audience, the platform being ultimately stormed and the Union Jack torn down and trampled on to the accompaniment of the singing of rebel songs; whether any of those who broke up the meeting have been apprehended by the police; whether he is taking any action to prevent law-abiding citizens from being attacked by seditious mobs; and whether it is with his approval that the Sinn Fein flag receives police protection in London but not the Union Jack?

It was understood that admission to this meeting was to be by ticket only, but a party of police patrolled outside and was augmented at 8 p.m. At 8.50 p.m. the officer in charge was informed by the Secretary to the Central Hall authorities that men inside the building were attempting to storm the platform and damage the flags, and he feared that some persons would be assaulted. The officer in charge immediately entered the building with his force of police, ejected the ringleaders, and the others left. No persons were arrested. The duties of the police are confined to entering a building when called upon to prevent breaches of the peace, or to arrest persons charged with offences for which there is power to arrest. The police take action in the streets to prevent law-abiding citizens being attacked, whether by seditious mobs or any other person. The suggestion at the end of the question is unfounded.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain then, why a man was recently arrested in Whitehall for seizing a Sinn Fein flag and no one was arrested when the police were called into this hall where a mob was engaged in tearing down and trampling underfoot the Union Jack?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact, that the followers of the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) a short time ago, entered a public hall where a labour meeting was being held and mobbed the meeting and assaulted the speakers with the approval of the hon. Member and his friends?


asked the Home Secretary whether the police have carried out any investigation to ascertain who was responsible for the recent encounter between the police and the unemployed in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus, and as to who was responsible for breaking up the recent meeting of the British Empire Union at the Central Hall; if so, with what result; do their investigations disclose the payment to certain individuals of sums of money to produce these results; and, if so, from what sources, both in these and other cases?

The Commissioner of Police is of opinion that the disturbance in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus was a spontaneous outbreak on the part of the procession when they learned they would not he allowed to proceed to Trafalgar Square to hold a meeting. I have dealt in reply to a previous question with the disturbance in the Central Hall. The police believe that that disturbance was engineered by Communists, but they have no evidence of what particular person or persons were responsible, or of the payment of money to any persons.

What is the use of keeping up this expensive Department?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was publicly stated in the Press that aliens were responsible for the encounters in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus, and also for what took place in the Central Hall, and has he any evidence to substantiate that?

What is the use of this expensive Department if it cannot prevent occurrences of this sort?