§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he has had under consideration the case of a number of members of the Salvation Army, ratepayers and inhabitants of Torquay, at present suffering imprisonment for marching in procession with music on various Sundays to their place of worship; whether the offence of these men is any offence at Common Law, or whether it is an offence created by a clause of "The Torquay Harbour and District Act, 1886;" whether he has 1789 received a Memorial from these men, stating—We have been accustomed to witness and take part in such marches ever since the Salvation Army was established in this town six years ago, and we were never threatened with punishment for so doing till the enactment of the Torquay Harbour and District Act;whether they further stated that—We never heard of any proposal to insert in the said Act a clause prohibiting such marches, and do not believe that any notice of such clause was given to the ratepayers before the passing of the Act;and that—In marching with music to our place of worship we act from a conscientious conviction of our duty to God, and to those who are by such marches only induced to attend our place of worship, and who would, were such marches discontinued, attend no place of worship at all;and, whether he will take steps to mitigate the sentence passed on these men.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
Yes, Sir; this case has been under my consideration. The offence was against the Torquay Harbour Act, 1886, s. 38. I have received a Memorial containing the words quoted. There have been for two years past numerous prosecutions in Torquay under the section referred to. In the earlier cases the summonses were withdrawn, on the understanding that the offence would not be repeated. In later cases fines have been imposed, the magistrates conceiving that they were bound to enforce the law, while the defendants conceived that it is their conscientious duty to disobey it. In the case under consideration the defendants were sentenced to pay fines, and went to prison in default of payment—nine of them for a fortnight, which will end on Thursday next, and six, who had been previously convicted of the same offence, for a month. These sentences were within the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and do not appear to have been excessive. There is, moreover, a right of appeal, which has not been exercised. Much as I regret that the defendants should have placed themselves in collision with the law, I do not feel justified in interfering with the sentences.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
asked whether, when this Act (which was a private Act) was passed, the attention of the House was called by the Committee to which the 1790 Bill was referred specially to this new legislation. He asked this Question, because for some years he had the honour of being a Member of the Committee to which Police and Sanitary Bills were referred, and they declined to insert what were called the Salvation Army Clauses. When the subsequent Committee reversed that judgment, was the attention of the House called to the point?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Of that I am not aware. I looked this morning at the proceedings of the Committee. I think Lord Basing was Chairman on that particular Bill. The clause, as originally proposed, was different in form to that which the Memorialists alluded to. It was a clause giving the Local Board power to prohibit processions on any day, and also power to permit them. The Committee refused to allow the clause in that shape, saying that they had well considered the subject on the Hastings Bill; and they consequently gave the Local Board the clause absolutely prohibiting noisy processions on Sundays. Whether it was brought to the attention of the House specially I do not know.
§ MR. BARRAN (York, W.R., Otley)
inquired, whether the Act of Parliament in question applied to the Sunday parades of Volunteers with their bands?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I think there is a clause which specially exempts bodies of a military character.