HC Deb 26 May 1881 vol 261 cc1315-6

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether he will take steps to inquire if any of the Government officials of the Arsenal at Woolwich have been using their influence with the employés in the Arsenal to induce them to sign a Petition against one of the duly elected Members for the borough of Northampton taking his seat in this House; whether, in violation of regulations, a labourer was sent round amongst these employés during working hours by certain of the officials to obtain signatures for such a Petition; and, whether, if he finds that this was the case, he will take measures to punish the officials guilty of this conduct?


said, before the right hon. Gentleman answered the Question he should like to ask another, although he had not given Notice. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman considered that workmen employed in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich were, in consequence of such employment, precluded from expressing any opinion on the ad- vance of atheistic, obscene, and disloyal opinion in the country?


As to the last Question, I should have Notice of it, because it requires a very careful answer. It involves a distinction between what the workmen may do on duty and off duty. If he excuses me for saying it, my hon. Friend had time to give me Notice of this Question. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, I have to state that I have ascertained that an officer of the Store Department in Woolwich Arsenal obtained signatures there to a Petition against the alteration of the law on the subject of Parliamentary Oaths, and employed an office messenger for the purpose. I also find that a labourer in the Royal Laboratory brought a Petition to the same effect into the Department, but not at the request of any officer. I have taken care that the persons who have committed these irregularities are made aware of my disapproval of their conduct.