HC Deb 30 July 1883 vol 282 cc954-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, in view of the abandonment of the Detention in Hospitals Bill by the Government, and of the great increase of contagious disease, recently stated to be over fifty per cent. by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War, he can now state what steps the Government propose to take in order to protect the health of our soldiers and sailors, gravely menaced by his refusal to allow the Metropolitan Police to assist in carrying out the provisions of the Law in those seaport towns where the Contagious Diseases Acts are in force? He would add the further Question, whether the right hon. Gentleman had addressed any official communication to the local authorities of the town in which the Acts had been enforced, calling attention to the withdrawal of the Metropolitan Police Force, and insisting that they should carry out the law; and, if so, what reply he had received?


said, he desired to ask, whether it did not occur to the Government that the State had a right to require our soldiers and sailors to take the same means to protect their health as were demanded of all other members of the community—namely, temperance and self-restraint?


I hardly think my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) will expect me to give an answer to that Question. With reference to the more definite Question of the noble Lord, the connection of the Home Office with this question is of a very indirect character. It is not called upon to administer these Acts, nor to address the local authorities regarding them; they are administered by the Admiralty and the War Office. The only connection of the Home Office with the Act is that the Metropolitan Police are recommended as an alternative agency in the working of the Act; but they are not essential to it. Generally speaking, of course, the Metropolitan Police should be employed in preserving law and order in the Metropolis; it is only in exceptional circumstances that they are to be employed elsewhere; and, in my opinion, they are already employed too much elsewhere. It is no part of the duty of the Home Office to instruct the local authorities as to what they should do in the matter.


said, that, in consequence of the very unsatisfactory answers given that evening, he would ask the Prime Minister whether they were to understand that, whilst the Government was contemplating a change in the law, our soldiers and sailors were to be allowed to perish by disease?


requested that Notice might be given of the Question.


wished to know whether it was permissible for the local authorities to employ the local police to carry out the Acts, and whether the Home Office would not lend the local authorities a sufficient number of Metropolitan Police to augment their force if they required them?


said, he could give no opinion on the first part of the Question. He had stated over and over again—though he had never succeeded in conveying that impression to the minds of hon. Members— that the Home Office had no control over the local police; still less had the President of the Local Government Board.


Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman right in saying that the Acts can be carried out by the local police? The local authorities at Portsmouth have doubts whether they can employ the local police in the matter.


I have offered no opinion at all on the subject, and must refer the hon. Gentleman and the local authorities of Portsmouth to the Statute.


That says the Metropolitan Police are to be employed.