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Unemployed Processions, Birmingham

Volume 155: debated on Thursday 15 June 1922

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asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the action of the Birmingham police officers who recently visited a number of well-known Smethwick trade unionists and informed them that in future no processions would he permitted to enter Birmingham from Smethwick; whether he is aware that Smethwick is not a separate Poor Law authority, but is within the Birmingham Union, and that the processions of unemployed to this union have hitherto been of an orderly character; and whether he will have inquiries made into this action of the police?

I am informed that on several occasions during the last few weeks there have been demonstrations of unemployed from Birmingham and Smethwick, with a view to obtaining an increased scale of relief from the guardians, and that on several occasions attempts have been made to march to the workhouse. I understand that on hearing that a procession was to be organised for this purpose on the 30th May, the police notified three of the leaders of the Smethwick unemployed that it could not be permitted to proceed to the workhouse as proposed. Any complaint as to the action of the police is a matter for the local police authority to deal with and I see no occasion to intervene.

Are we to understand that the State exercises no jurisdiction whatever over local authorities who take this arbitrary, and, in my judgment, provocative action, as far as the police are concerned?

My hon. Friend is not quite accurate. We can, of course, ask for explanation, and can intervene. I have done so in this case, and, upon my information, I have drawn a conclusion very different from that of my hon. Friend.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman recognises that these men committed no offence, and no charge has been preferred against them.

It is true that no charge has been preferred against them, but their conduct was very far from orderly.

Is the primacy duty of the police of Birmingham to look after the peace of the district?