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Independent Labour Party (Banned Poster)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the London Passenger Transport Board has recently refused to display an advertisement for a meeting to be held under the auspices of the Independent Labour Party; and whether he will take steps to see that the advertising facilities of this statutory company are made available to all sections of the community without political prejudice?

I am informed by the Board that they rejected this poster on the ground that, in addition to announcing a meeting, it advocated a definite course of political action, and that it is contrary to their rule to exhibit posters of a political and controversial nature. They assure me that this rule is applied impartially to all political parties and other bodies?

Is the hon. Member aware that this was a meeting to be addressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), and that on the poster there was nothing except the place, time and subject? Surely it is not right that the activities of a political party should be at the mercy of the L.P.T.B.?

In the view of those who made this decision, the poster, in addition to announcing the meeting, contained two political slogans of a definitely controversial character.

In a democracy ought not an advertisement for a meeting to be freely allowed, and ought not the test to be, not one of political controversy, but whether the poster contains any seditious matter against the country? If they are free from that, should not the Passenger Board post bills in the ordinary way?

The Passenger Board have applied this policy ever since they were first established. They affirm with great conviction that they have applied it impartially to all parties, and I believe that in a dozen years this is the first difficulty that has ever arisen.

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister destroyed the electoral truce on Sunday, is there anything wrong in the London Passenger Transport Board being allowed to conform to that situation?

Is the Minister aware that a responsible official of the Board who was interviewed on this subject gave it as the reason that the poster contained a semi-attack on the Government, and are we becoming so totalitarian now that even a semi-attack on the Government is something that cannot be tolerated?

If that was said—and of course I accept my hon. Friend's assertion—I should myself regard it as a very unhappy way of defending the policy which the Board have followed, but I do not as at present advised feel at all disposed, and I do not think it would be right for me, to upset a practice which has been followed with success for so long a period of time.

Is the Minister aware that posters frequently appear in the London tubes bearing contentious matter?

I beg to give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment.