HC Deb 22 March 1889 vol 334 cc528-30
MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he had received any Report of the serious conflicts which took place on Tuesday last between the police and the people at Penybryn, Cardiganshire, in connection with the collection of tithes?


Yes, Sir; I have received a Report from the Chief Constable. He informs me that on the 19th inst., accompanied by 40 constables and two Superintendents of his own and of the Carmarthenshire force, he proceeded to the parish of Penybryn, for the purpose of keeping the peace during a distraint for tithe. I regret to say that the police were, the Chief Constable informs me, pelted with stones, charged with pitchforks, attacked with bludgeons, and had to fight their way all day. Three constables were injured, and there were many other persons wounded. The Chief Constable has accordingly applied for further aid both of police and military.

MR. A. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in several other counties in Wales distraints for tithe have been carried out without any disturbance of any kind, owing to the Chief Constables having come to an understanding with the people that no police should be present during the distraints?


I am aware distraints for tithes have been carried out in Wales without any disturbance happening; but I would be extremely loth to assent to the apparently implied suggestion of the hon. Member that the Chief Constable in question was in any way to blame. I assume that officer obeyed his orders, and he appears to have fulfilled his duties properly.


The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. Is it not a fact that in other Welsh counties distraints have been conducted without disturbance, in consequence of an understanding being arrived at with the people, and no police being present?


I cannot say I am aware of those facts; but I will make inquiry.


Arising out of the former question, may I ask the Home Secretary or Minister of Justice will he see that these proceedings to recover tithe are stayed until some arrangement of the same kind between the police and the leaders of the people can be arrived at?


I am sorry to have to trouble the right hon. Gentleman again, but this is a serious matter. I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any attempt was made by the Chief Constable of Cardiganshire to come to an understanding with the leaders of the people to obviate the necessity of bringing the police to the district during the distraints; whether, on the morning of the distraints being levied, the leaders of the people did not give a guarantee that if the police were withdrawn they would be able to control the people and allow the distraints to be made peaceably; and whether the right hon. Gentleman will ask the Chief Constable of Montgomeryshire what steps he took to come to an understanding with the leaders of the people, and what success attended the arrangement?


I have given all the information in my possession; but I shall be glad to make further inquiry, if hon. Members wish, as to what has happened elsewhere. I am aware, though I am not prepared to state the exact arrangements referred to, that former distraints have been made peaceably, and I should be extremely glad if, by advice or suggestion, I could contribute to a similar result. The hon. Member must be aware that the Chief Constable is not subject to my orders, but is under the direction of the magistrates of Quarter Sessions in the county.