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Union Flag (Abuse)

Volume 13: debated on Thursday 26 November 1981

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13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the abuse of the Union flag by political extremist groups at Remembrance Day services; and whether he proposes to take any action.

My right hon. Friend has received a specific complaint about the use of the Union flag by such a group at the Cenotaph this year and both written and oral representations about its use by such groups on other occasions. My right hon. Friend is considering the suggestion that this should be prohibited by law in the course of his review of the Public Order Act 1936, and related legislation.

Does my hon. Friend agree that for the National Front to use the Union flag in demonstrations at Remembrance Day services is extremely insulting to the memory of the Service men who died for the country in the fight against Fascism? Does he further agree that the use of the flag by the National Front is extremely distressing for the families of the people who died? Has not the time come to legislate to stop the abuse of the Union flag in public marches?

I share my hon. and learned Friend's repugnance. He will appreciate the practical problems involved in working out how to prevent the use of the flag by a particular group. However, we are thinking about that in the context of our review of public order.

Does the Minister accept that, the use of the flag apart, the appearance of Fascist organisations at the Cenotaph at Remembrance Day services causes grave offence to everyone? In the course of his review of the Public Order Act and the Scarman report, will the Minister consider the possibility of selective bans on Fascist marches and on other demonstrations, not least on that occasion?

I share the repugnance for what has happened. The whole question of marches and racial incitement is part of the examination being undertaken by my right hon. Friend of the Public Order Act.