Member of Parliament for Rochester and Chatham
The files generated by Anne Kerr during her term as MP are made up of two main series, namely constituency correspondence and subject files. A complete series of the correspondence has survived, from the date of her election in 1964 to her defeat in 1970, with accompanying indexes [U DMK/1/1-57]. The subject files cover broadly the same period, although in some instances, where her political interests and activities predate her entry into Parliament, material of a much earlier date can be found. Her involvement in the campaign to abolish the death penalty is one such case, documented by files on Derek Bentley and capital punishment beginning in the early 1950s [U DMK/1/70 & 89]. Of particular interest is her correspondence with the parents of Derek Bentley in 1965 regarding their son's burial, as well as letters from the Home Office and the Royal Courts of Justice to the Bentleys dating from 1953-54, in response firstly to the appeals for clemency and secondly to their requests to visit their son's grave at Wandsworth Prison [U DMK/1/70].
A relatively even balance between foreign affairs and local issues is evident, although by far the greatest proportion of material on a single subject relates to Kerr's involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement. There are some 12 files of correspondence with constituents, members of the public and numerous protest groups in Britain and abroad, as well as documentation of two major peace conferences [U DMK/1/213-224, 225 & 228]. The origins and development of the peace movement are evident from minutes and newsletters produced by the British Council for Peace in Vietnam and Vietnam Medical Aid in particular [U DMK/1/213-221 & 223-224].
The perspective of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) is reflected by a series of eight reports issued by the government, documenting alleged war crimes by the US against medical establishments, religions and the education system, as well as a four-point plan for a settlement dating from April 1965 [U DMK/1/225]. In addition there are typescripts of the speeches made to the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam in 1967 by representatives of the DRV and the Peace Committee of South Vietnam [U DMK/1/228].
Kerr's files on Vietnam end in 1973, following the signing of a peace agreement on 27 January, and include typescript copies of the 'Text of the Vietnam agreement on ending the war, January 23' and of 'Dr Henry Kissinger's Press Conference, January 24', issued by the United Nations Information Service [U DMK/1/214].
Her interest in foreign affairs was not however confined to Vietnam and she focussed on several areas of the world in which conflict had erupted and basic human rights were under threat, such as Biafra, Greece, the Middle East, Rhodesia and South Africa [U DMK/1/71, 118-119, 158, 184 & 67]. These subject files comprise mainly correspondence, including letters received from the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, addressing her concerns, and press cuttings.
In addition her role in the wider peace movement is documented by various files devoted to individual campaign groups, international conferences on issues of peace and disarmament and the development of new methods of warfare, such as chemical and biological weapons [U DMK/1/87, 144 & 232; 88, 131, 133-4 & 209; 72 & 87]. The file on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament includes a number of letters between Kerr and individuals in the USA discussing the adoption of the now familiar peace symbol by CND [U DMK/1/87]. In addition there is information on the case of 'The Presidio 27', a group of US servicemen imprisoned as conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War and an appeal by Amnesty International (AI) on behalf of Pat Arrowsmith, an opponent of the Vietnam War imprisoned in Holloway gaol for refusing to 'keep the peace', AI's first British prisoner of conscience.
As a delegate to the Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, which marked the 21st anniversary of the attack on Hiroshima in August 1966, Kerr acquired two Japanese posters publicising the event, as well as a copy of the Congress report [U DMK/1/134]. Later that same year, she attended the International Conference Against War Danger in New Delhi and received copies of numerous resolutions, papers and speeches, amongst the most notable being a statement on the role of non-alignment and a statement by the delegate of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Dr Khairi Hammad [U DMK/1/131]. The file labelled 'Peace' also contains a series of documents produced by the World Assembly for Peace which met in Berlin in June 1969 covering such issues as Vietnam, European security, fascism, the Middle East, colonialism and disarmament [U DMK/1/172].
The national debates and Parliamentary bills of the period involved a number of issues, such as abortion, the reform of divorce law and regulations on Sunday entertainments, about which Kerr felt particularly strongly on moral grounds [U DMK/1/62, 107, 202]. She consequently gathered information on these subjects and corresponded with interested parties, in the process of influencing the progress of discussion. Of the other ethical questions covered by her files, that of animal rights (and specific campaigns against vivisection and cruel sports) is a particular concern [U DMK/1/65-66, 102, 74 & 145].
At the local level, Kerr's activities were influenced by the needs and problems of her constituents, the most basic issues with which she had to deal being health services in the Medway towns and local transport facilities [U DMK/1/150-155; 75-77 & 80-85]. There are two files relating to the possible impact of local government re-organisation, set in train by the appointment of a Royal Commission in May 1966 and an important file relating to the future of Chatham dockyard in the light of the Dockyard Review and consequent Defence White Paper issued in early 1969 [U DMK/1/149 & 156; 91]. She received some 14 detailed letters from Dr David Owen, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, between July 1968 and April 1970, addressing the implications for the size and productivity of the labour force at Chatham [U DMK/1/91].
She campaigned for much-needed improvements to the leisure facilities in her constituency, as is clear from the file on Rochester swimming baths which includes 27 black and white photographs of the state of delapidation at the baths in the late 1960s [U DMK/1/185]. Her longstanding interest in housing matters (she had served on the housing committee of the LCC) is reflected in her involvement with the campaign to improve conditions at King Hill Hostel in West Malling, which served as temporary accommodation for homeless families, and her opposition to proposed rent increases for council tenants in Rochester, as expressed by the notes of a speech on housing policy given in October 1967 [U DMK/1/137; 194-195].
Another extensive series of files relates to her activities within the Labour Party, both at national and constituency level. Agenda, resolutions and reports are available for Party conferences between 1966 and 1971, as well as for the 47th National Conference of Labour Women held in May 1970 [U DMK/1/138-142; 143]. There is a mass of correspondence with the Secretary and Agent of Rochester and Chatham Labour Party, Len Burch, during her term as MP, as well as a file of Executive Committee minutes for 1968-1970 [U DMK/186-187; 188]. Of particular note is the file labelled 'Plot' dating from 1968, which reveals Kerr's suspicions that individuals within the constituency party were attempting to undermine her position as MP [U DMK/1/189]. As a member of the Tribune Group of Labour MPs, she was involved in the launch of the Socialist Charter in 1968 and the drafts prepared by a group in Sheffield and by Michael Foot MP are included amongst her papers [U DMK/1/208].
Accompanying her constituency correspondence and subject files are a number of scrapbooks containing press cuttings, relating mainly to the election campaigns which she fought in 1959, 1964, 1966 and 1970 and therefore complimenting the four files of correspondence, speech notes and publicity material available for the campaigns mounted in Rochester and Chatham [U DMK/1/236-249; 114-117].
Chair of Women Against the Common Market
Kerr's work for this pressure group is clearly documented by a series of minutes dating from WACM's foundation until June 1972 and correspondence with members of the committee until her death in 1973 [U DMK/2/2, 3]. There is also a series of correspondence with members of the public and WACM supporters over the same period, accompanied by an index [U DMK/2/4-8].
The main series of files is subject-based, relating to the co-ordination of the anti-Common Market campaign with other organisations and covering such events as the rally held in Trafalgar Square on 14 March 1971, lobbying of Parliament in May and October 1971 and 'Stay out Sunday' on 16 April 1972, which involved a trip to Calais to coincide with the French referendum on expansion of the European Community to include Britain [U DMK/2/41, 22, 27, 12]. The majority of material is in the form of correspondence and press cuttings, with several examples of leaflets and posters issued by anti-Common Market organisations. An incomplete series of minutes is also available for the Executive Committee of the Common Market Safeguards Campaign during 1970-72 [U DMK/2/11-12]. A list of the trade unions approached for support in 1971 is accompanied by the letters received from the union secretaries in response, whilst typescript summaries of the meetings held with various MPs, including Harold Wilson and Michael Foot, have also survived [U DMK/2/40, 29]. Two black and white photographs show Kerr participating in WACM demonstrations [U DMK/2/31].
The most noteworthy file within the miscellaneous section is that covering her relations with the Labour Party after her election defeat in 1970 [U DMK/3/3]. A letter from October 1970 expresses her desire to be included on the list of available parliamentary candidates, although this is then accompanied by correspondence with constituency parties all over the country rejecting their proposals to nominate her. Agenda, newsletters and correspondence issued by Twickenham Constituency Labour Party are also included.