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Anti-Nazi League

Volume 955: debated on Thursday 3 August 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has consulted the police concerning the plans of the Anti-Nazi League to establish vigilante groups in areas with a high proportion of immigrants; and if he will make a statement.

The investigation of crime and the maintenance of public order are the responsibility of the police. It is therefore for the police and not vigilante groups to uphold law and order in this country.

I welcome what the Minister has just said. Does she agree that we would be better off to follow the advice of the electorate and to ridicule or ignore the National Front, instead of doing what Peter Hain suggests and escalating the situation by creating vigilante groups? Will she confirm that the police do not think that they are incapable of dealing with the situation in the East End or elsewhere or that the Anti-Nazi League will in any way help calm down the atmosphere in certain places?

To the knowledge of the police, no such vigilante groups have been formed. The Anti-Nazi League has not directly advocated their formation. The police and the Government believe that the best thing is for people not to take the law into their own hands. When trouble is suspected or when there is evidence of trouble, people should report it to the police.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it was principally because of the Conservative leader's attack on immigrants earlier this year that the Anti-Nazi League had to be formed? Does she agree that it is significant that in elections that have taken place recently the National Front vote has decreased? Does she accept that when the General Election takes place the Anti-Nazi League will perform against the National Front on all possible occasions?

The views held by the National Front and any racist organisation are extremely objectionable. The Anti-Nazi League, provided that it carries out its activities peacefully and without violence, will not fall out of favour with the police. The police are concerned only about maintaining law and order.

The Minister referred to citizens taking the law into their own hands. Is it not the common law duty of every citizen to do the best in his power on the spot to prevent a breach of the peace?

The citizen performs that duty by reporting promptly to the police any crime or suspect activity.

Does my hon. Friend agree that immigrants generally are much too intelligent to want to take the law into their own hands? Does she agree that they fully appreciate that they must be alert in order to present evidence to the police? Does she agree that, as long as they feel that in some respects they cannot trust the police, they are bound to look in other directions?

There is no reason for them to feel that they cannot trust the police. In the East End, where there has been some trouble recently, leaflets and posters in English, Bengali and Urdu have been distributed to the residents advising them how to seek police help and advice.

Is not the advice which the Minister has properly given to the House the same advice as has been given by leading members of the immigrant communities? Is she aware that they agree that the police are to be trusted to keep law and order and to protect all citizens in the realm?

My right hon. Friend has met the High Commissioner of Bangladesh and representatives of the standing conference of Pakistani organisations and conveyed those sentiments to them.