§ MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the whole of the workmen belonging to Thornley Colliery, in the County of Dnrham, were tried at Castle Eden Court for an alleged breach of contract on the 23rd and 24th of February, and were fined 14s. 6d.; that they refused to pay the fine; and that for such a refusal they are being summoned in. batches, and are sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment; and whether, if it be legal to try men in sections for an offence committed at one time, he will by legis- 358 lation provide for the whole of the people in similar cases to be tried together?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am informed by the Justices that proceedings were taken under the Employers and Workmen Act against 70 defendants. They were not fined; but judgment for 10s. damages in some cases, and for 5s. in others with costs, was given for breach of contract. Default having been made in payment, the plaintiffs have since exercised their lawful discretion as to the number of summonses to be applied for, and the time of applying for them, and the Justices have dealt with these cases as they have come before them, in all cases where the money had not been paid, and there were sufficient means to do so, committing the defendants to a term of imprisonment under the Debtors Act. I cannot discover in these facts any hardship which calls for redress by legislation. On the contrary, it seems to me to be for the benefit of both parties that full discretion should be allowed as to the time and manner of enforcing legal rights in such a case.