HC Deb 09 August 1875 vol 226 cc777-8

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the report, in the "Newcastle Chronicle" of the 5th instant, of the case of Annie Divine, who was tried before the petty sessions at Morpeth on the previous day for "unlawfully leaving the service of her master, James Patterson, without cause or lawful excuse," on the 19th of July. She had, it is stated, agreed to serve James Patterson from the 12th May to the 12th November. In reply to the clerk the defendant admitted having left before the expiration of her term of service, but she alleged that her bed had been removed from a loft in which she had previously slept, and put into her master's room at the foot of his bed, and she felt shame to undress herself before him. The bench decided that the contract should be set aside, and that the girl should forfeit her wages, amounting to three pounds ten shillings; and if the magistrates "had not thought that Mr. Patterson had not given decent and proper accommodation they would have made him pay more than that, but they thought the accommodation was neither decent nor correct;" and, whether he will direct that inquiries shall be made into this case, and if the statements made are correct, he will deem it his duty to express his disapproval of such a decision?


, in reply, said, that his attention had only been drawn to the case by the Question of the hon. Member; but he had no hesitation in saying that, supposing the facts to be as stated, he should entirely disapprove of the judgment of the magistrates, because it would seem that such a total failure on the part of the master to carry out the contract ought not to be visited in any way upon the servant. At the same time, he had no power in the matter, and did not, therefore, propose to interfere. He should always be ready to institute an inquiry when it was necessary to do so; but he would suggest that hon. Members would do well to make some private inquiries as to the truth of statements in newspaper paragraphs before bringing Questions of this kind before the House.