HC Deb 16 June 1882 vol 270 cc1413-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, having regard to his letter of last year, addressed to magistrates, directing them to restrain the processions of the "Salvation Army," and having regard to the recent decision of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, in the case of Beatty v. Gillbauks, declaring the processions of the "Salvation Army" to be "perfectly legal," what steps he proposes to take towards undoing the effect of that letter?


This Question is put under some misapprehension. I have frequently explained that the Home Office does not issue directions to the magistrates. I often hear of Circulars from the Home Office. The Home Office never issues Circulars, except when it is asked for information. What it does when magistrates consult it is to give them the best advice in its power in the particular cases with regard to which it is consulted. Papers on the subject are already on the Table of the House; and the 1 on. Member will see from them that for the last 20 years the Home Office has given the same advice to magistrates who have consulted it, that advice being founded on the opinion of successive Law Officers of the Crown. I have not, as my hon. Friend knows, in consequence of the pressure of Business, had an opportunity of particularly examining the legal decision to which he refers, as to whether it does or does not conflict in any way with the opinion which has been given by the Law Officers to which I have referred. From a cursory view, I should say no; but I have directed the matter to be referred to the Law Officers for their opinion. All I can say is, that I should extremely regret if it should turn out to be the law that magistrates have not the power to prevent by anticipation collision between party processions; because, although in some places there might be an overwhelming force of police to prevent disorder, in places where the police force was weak that state of things would inevitably lead to confusion and disorder. When I have had the advantage of the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on the subject, I shall be able to give some information with regard to it.


asked whether the Statute of Edward III., which was now being applied in Ireland for the maintenance of the peace, would apply to England also?


said, he had not had an opportunity of considering the Question.


said, that next week he should put another Question on this subject.


asked whether the Home Secretary would communicate the opinion of the Law Officers to the House.

[No reply was given.]