HC Deb 15 March 1880 vol 251 cc1015-6

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether there is any Statute which renders the holding of the Volunteer Review at Brighton on Easter Monday illegal; and, having regard to paragraph 419 of the Volunteer Regulations, if the review and march-past could take place without infringing or straining the Constitution, provided that no Brighton Volunteers took part in it or were in uniform on that occasion; or would Her Majesty's Government facilitate a short Bill to be passed whereby Volunteers could assemble at any time, except on polling days?


Sir, by a Statute passed in 1847 it is provided that soldiers quartered within two miles of any place where an election is going on shall not leave barracks, except for the purpose of mounting guard or giving their votes. This Statute, does not, in my opinion, apply to Volunteers, although, no doubt, the assembling of armed Volunteers in place were elections are being held, would come within the mischief the Statute was intended to prevent. I may, however, remark that the Act in question does not provide that soldiers should remain in barracks after the issuing of the Writ for the election, but "on every day appointed for the nomination, or for the election, or for taking the poll." This being so, there seems to me nothing in the Statute which should prevent even troops of the Line attending the Review on Easter Monday if the Writs are not proclaimed before the Thursday; for, as Friday and Sunday are dies non, the nomination could not take place till the Tuesday, by which day the Review will be over. I must add that under the Order for regulating Volunteers, issued in April, 1878, which, I presume, can be modified, no Volunteers can be assembled in the neighbourhood of their headquarters between the issue of the Writs and the termination of the elections. As to the latter portion of the Question of my hon. Friend, it seems to me that a Bill is unnecessary.


asked whether, in all the exceptional circumstances of the case, Her Majesty's Government would arrange for the Volunteer Review to take place on Easter Monday at Brighton?


Sir, since my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War answered a Question on this subject on Friday, he has been compelled to go on pressing business into the country. He has, however, been communicated with, and it has been decided, subject to the legal opinion of my hon. and learned Friends the Law Officers of the Crown, and to the nomination day not being earlier than Tuesday, that the Volunteer Regulations should be suspended, and that the Review shall take place. I may add that there is reason to believe that many of the Volunteer regiments may suffer loss if the Review does not take place, as they may be unable to extricate themselves from the contracts into which they have entered.


asked, with reference to the reply of the Attorney General, whether the holding of the Review depended on the nomination day for the particular borough of Brighton being not upon the Tuesday in Easter week?


asked the Attorney General, if he would be good enough to inform the House whether Good Friday would count as a good day in Scotland, where it was not recognized?


in reply, said, in his opinion, Good Friday would not count in Scotland; but the whole question was dealt with in the Ballot Act, 1872, and he would refer the hon. Gentleman to that Act. With regard, however, to the Question of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), he believed that the Volunteer Review depended on the nomination day at Brighton being not prior to the Tuesday. The Writ would probably not be proclaimed in that borough till the previous Thursday; and therefore, as Good Friday and Sunday would not be counted, the two clear days between the proclamation of the Writ and the nomination would not expire till the following Tuesday.