§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (3.5.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I have to ask the House to read this Bill a second time. It is exceedingly brief, in character, and proposes simply to repeal one clause in the Act passed in 1885 for the improvement of the town of Eastbourne. It is necessary that I should give the House in some detail—and nobody deplores the necessity more than I—the history of the transactions, or, rather, I may say, Of the legislation, which led up to the legislation of which we now complain and which we ask the House to repeal. The House is aware that the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, subsequently consolidated with all amending Acts by the Act of 1882, and the "Public Health Act of 1875," are the two Charters by which the action of alb our Local Authorities, whether Municipal or Urban and Sanitary, is regulated, and for many years—I may say, for a long period of years—there was no fault found or complaint made of the use of the powers given to Municipalities and Local Bodies by those two great Acts of Parliament. But as the work of Committees increased and sanitary science developed itself, Local Authorities asked Parliament to give them greater powers than were contained under those two Acts, and financial difficulties also, arose, Bills being brought into the House asking for very great financial powers, and Committees—perhaps too easily— 460 gave those powers. The period for the re-payment of debt was extended, and extended, and extended, until at last, it reached, I believe, in one case, a period of 100 years. Parliament, felt that the time Lad arrived for dealing with this state of things, fraught with the utmost danger, and in 1882 the attention of the House was called to it in a very long and able speech on the then state of affairs by a gentleman who is not now a Member of this House, but who is very much respected by all who know him; I mean the Recorder of Liverpool (Mr. Hopwood), and I may Say in passing, and I am sure there are many hon Members who will endorse; the remark, Mr. Hopwood in this House showed himself a sincere friend to Local Government, and he was the last man to advocate centralisation in any shape or form. In the speech, in, which he drew the attention of the House to the extraordinary powers which were being asked for by Local Authorities, he almost, I might say, prophetically marked out what has happened, and especially in reference to the case which is the cause of this Bill before us. Having shown that the powers sought in the Bill he referred to had not been fully discussed, Mr. Hop-wood went on to say—The House would see that, in the form in which legislation of this kind noted—namely, in the shape of a Private Bill, it acquired the status of a Statute, and the matters prescribed in it went down from the Legislature, not to be debated in the Town Council, and ordered as it thought fit, but to become at once the future rule of right in the locality. If anyone said—'Why is this the law? Is the law so severe as this? I certainly was not aware of it.' He was answered at once by the assertion—It is the law, and, therefore, you must obey it.He pointed out to the House—I am not going to trouble the House with a large number of details—various matters in relation to police and sanitary administration, for which extensive powers had been asked by Corporations. He contended that no power in excess or, variation of the general law of the land should be introduced without the application of a uniform guiding rule by Parliament; and he proceeded to raise his point by a Motion for the rejection of the Private Bill then before the House. He was immediately followed in that Debate by Sir Richard Cross, and I think no one sitting on 461 either side of the House will dispute the statement that Sir Richard Gross was one of the ablest and fairest Ministers who ever held the office of Home Secretary. Sir Richard Cross expressed his concurrence in Mr. Hopwood's view, and said the House was indebted to that Gentleman for having brought the matter forward; then, after dealing with the facts generally, Sir Richard Cross suggested:—That all those Bills might go to a Committee upstairs, whose duty it would be to deal with those portions which belong to the Private Business of this House. But I think that there ought to be a special Instruction from this House to the Committee, to report to this House on all the particular Clauses to which objection is taken on general grounds. Further, there ought to be a distinct understanding that the Third Reading of these Hills should not be taken until the House has had an opportunity of discussing the Report of the Committee, so that the House itself may be able to pass an opinion upon the general principles involved in these different measures.I will show the House how this suggestion was dealt with and how it has been totally departed from. There was, in relation to the Eastbourne Act, no such Special Report before the Third Reading. Sir Richard Cross was followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), then Home Secretary, who concurred entirely in what Sir Richard Cross had said, and he proposed a Select Committee with an Instruction that when a Bill contained exceptional powers, the Committee should make a Special Report to the House. Sir Richard Cross proposed further—for this my right hon. Friend had omitted—that these Bills should not be read a third time until the House had had the opportunity of considering the Report of the Committee, and my hon. Friend said "certainly." It was under these circumstances that in 1882 a Committee was appointed to deal with all these Bills. Now, that Committee was, I think I may say, a fairly representative one. I was going to say a strong Committee, but perhaps that would be impertinent, as I happened to be on that Committee myself. At all events it had a strong Chairman in Mr. Sclater-Booth (now Lord Basing) who for many years, was President of the Local Government Board, 462 and intimately acquainted with matters of local administration. The Committee included Members from England, Scotland, and Ireland, and was fairly ^representative; it sat several months and considered all the Bills brought before it. At the close of its proceedings it presented a Special Report to the House, and I must ask the attention of the House to two or three paragraphs of that Report. The Report says—It must be admitted that Parliament has given encouragement to the practice of seeking this House for variations from or amendment of the general law for the convenience of particular localities.The Report further recommended—That where such a proposal is made, some step should be taken, by the House to secure more uniform and stringent supervision of the unopposed clauses in Private Bills.I omitted to state that the Reference to the Committee was in the following terms:—That the Committee of Selection do appoint a Committee, not exceeding seven in number, to consider and report on any provisions in Private Bills promoted by Municipal and other Local Authorities by which it is proposed to create powers relating to Police and Sanitary Regulations which deviate from, or are an extension of, or repugnant to, the general law; and that it be an Instruction to such Committee to make a Special Report to this House in respect of any such provisions as aforesaid as the Committee may sanction, together with the reasons on which the grant of such powers are recommended, and the recent precedents applicable to the case.Well, the Committee went on to say in their Report—The Special Report which the Committee are instructed to make divides itself into two branches—namely, I. Sanitary and II. Police Regulations.I have not to trouble the House with the Sanitary branch of the inquiry. The Committee, under the able guidance of Lord Basing, drew up a large number of model clauses in relation to sanitary matters, wisely extending the existing law, and these were subsequently enacted in general legislation by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. Now before this Committee arose the question of these street processions accompanied by music, and this question was very fully considered by the Committee, and the 463 Committee reported to the House that they had drawn a clause which, in their opinion, was a proper extension of the general law, and which they advised the House to adopt. This was the clause the Committee drew, and I think the House will see it is a clause which may fairly be said to meet the exigencies of the case. The Committee reported—Many applications in excess of the general law for police powers were made, which the Committee felt themselves unable to sanction, except where such powers were already in force Within the borough, and as to which their re-enactment was only in the way of a consolidation of previous Acts.Clauses, however, dealing with (1) street music, (2) street belling, and (3) the sale of coal in small quantities, (4) obstruction of footway," &c.—A variety of other things with which I need not trouble the House, but which were proved to be much needed to be dealt with. The Street Music Clause was as follows:—Any householder, personally, or by his servant, or by any constable, may require any street musician or singer to depart from the neighbourhood of the house of such householder, and any person who shall sound or play upon any musical instrument, or sing in any street near or within hearing of such house after being so required to depart, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.According to Parliamentary practice, this was submitted to and approved by the House, and that was the new legislation inserted in a variety of Bills. Nothing further was done in this matter of street music until 1884, two years later, when the town of Brighton came to Parliament and asked for the necessary clause to give the Mayor power to interfere with street processions of all sorts and kinds. That clause was discussed before the Committee, and the House will see that the question we are called upon to settle was raised eight years ago. A representative from the Corporation said—There is another matter that we very much wish to regulate, large meetings such as the 'Salvation Army' processions going through the town.The Chairman—who I think was my hon. Friend the junior Member for Oxford—said—It is very desirable you should be able to control them, but it is a question whether you 464 should not be able to do so under the ordinary law. I should have thought that ordinary police powers would have been sufficient.Then another Member of the Committee asked—You actually propose that the Mayor with the Watch Committee, should have the power to forbid any kind of popular-procession they think likely to create a disturbance. Of course you mean to use it for the Salvation Army, and could against a political procession. We have refused this to a Local Authority in a case we had before us." The Chairman: "If there was no breach of the peace intended of course the police would not prevent the procession.Then another Member of the Committee asked—Why do you want an alteration in the general law for Brighton? Can you give us an illustration of any breach of the peace more likely to arise in Brighton than in any other town? Can you give us an illustration of any difficulty you have had?" Witness: "We have had great complaints of processions on Sunday mornings, disturbing the quieter parts of the town. A large number of people are constantly coming to Brighton. This is a thing that is growing, and we desire to take the opportunity to get the power of regulating these proceedings. In fact the objection to the Salvation Army is their going among other classes of people where they are not wanted." The Chairman: "I do not think you were in the room when the other Bill was discussed. I do not carry in my memory the conclusions we arrived at, though I know the question, came before us.Well, in the result the Committee unanimously struck out this section in the Brighton Bill, although they gave Brighton what is called the "Bury Model Clause," and this clause has remained in the code of Brighton administration since, and under it Brighton is governed at the present time. When the Session terminated, this Committee, presided over by my hon. Friend opposite, reported to the House, and I must call the attention of the House to a paragraph in that Report, because upon this the House of Commons and a Department of State acted. Alluding to various matters that came before them, the Committee went on to say it was obvious that to many matters upon which the Committee were pressed for a decision. Parliament must give due consideration on general grounds,and the Committee were strongly advised that pending the enactment of a general measure care should be taken in succeeding Sessions to control the attempts which local bodies not unnaturally made to arm themselves with 465 powers which the General Law does not sanction, and for this purpose they suggest that the Local Government Board should continue their valuable representations upon those Bills, and further that the Home Office should report upon matters coming within their province.I need hardly say that the Home Secretary adopted the recommendation of the Committee, and in the next stage I shall have to bring before the House the Home Office intervenes for the first time; hitherto it has been the Local Government Board only. In 1885 the two towns of Eastbourne and Hastings came before Parliament with Bills in which this clause now in dispute relating to street processions with music was proposed. So far as Hastings is concerned, I only mention it because it was the Hastings case that came before the Committee first and settled the decision in the Eastbourne case. I cannot put my finger on the evidence at the moment, so I am not in a position to say how the case was presented; but it came before the Committee in the month of May, and on Clause 104 (Processions on Sundays) the room was cleared, the Committee deliberated, and the question was put, "That this Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill." The Committee divided, and for the Ayes there voted Mr. Hastings, Mr. Charles Parker, and Mr. West, and for the Noes Mr. Arthur Arnold. Therefore the House will see the clause now under discussion was inserted in the Bill by a majority of two in a Committee of four, and the three Members whose names I have mentioned were responsible for the insertion of the clause. Well, I am happy to say, so far as Hastings is concerned, no difficulty whatever has arisen. Common sense and common justice have prevailed in the town of Hastings, and no difficulty has arisen there. It is in regard to Eastbourne I ask the House to repeal the clause. Upon this clause the Home Office reported for the first time, and this is what the Home Secretary said:—Clause 271 (Processions on Sundays). It is suggested that this is a question for general legislation, and that the clause should be struck out.That was the opinion of the responsible Department of the day. This Committee, as we have seen, was 466 to report specially upon clauses they might sanction which deviated from the general law. They were now dealing with a perfectly new clause, against which the Home Office protested. Let us see how they reported upon it. The! Report from the Home Office was—This Bill, in some respect, gives power relating to the police in excess of the provisions of the ordinary law.This Report and the representations of the Local Government Board were referred to the Committee, and the manner in which these recommendations were dealt with is set forth in an appendix to this Report. Of this Clause 271 the Report states—The Committee have amended these clauses and, as amended, consider them expedient.Now the case I am going to submit to-the House, or, at all events, a prime part of my case, is that this legislation was enacted behind the back of the House of Commons, that the House knew nothing of what was going on, the Committee did not say a word about the deviation from the law in the clause they inserted, and the clause which the Home Office refused to sanction the Committee did not report as Sir Richard Cross said they should report, specially. I say the House had no opportunity of discussing the clause, and I venture to say that outside the four Members of the Committee nobody in the House, Liberal or Conservative, Government or Opposition, knew anything about what was going on in this matter. But the Committee had to make a general Report to the House, telling the general result of what they had done. They called the attention of the House again—and I hope that again and again the attention of the House will be called to it—to the necessity of a general measure extending and consolidating the laws relating, to police and sanitary matters. Then they say—In the meantime, continuing the practice of the Committees of 1882 and 1884"—remember what they did in 1882—"the Committee have to the best of their ability enforced two leading principles which they believe to be accepted by the House, viz.: (1.) That no local powers should be given in excess of the general law unless there can be shown either (a) strong local reasons for such powers, or (b) general reasons so strong as to render desir- 467 able the preparation of clauses which (pending public legislation) may be granted to every community that shall think fit to apply for them and (2) that as a rule on statutory enactments should be permitted for purposes which can be effected under bye laws. The local reason which have moved the Committee to sanction special legislation have been of two kinds: (1.) In a few cases where exceptional powers already existed under old local Acts, the Committee have consented, while repealing the greater part of these, to keep alive (sometimes in more modern from) such portions of them as were in use and working well. This, however, they have done with much reserve, lest such clauses should be quoted as precedents for similar legislation, elsewhere. (2.) In other cases regard has been had to special wants of the community concerned. At watering places, for example, where there is a great influx of summer visitors, larger powers have been granted for regulation of pleasure traffic, boating, and bathing.Well, is this clause concerned with pleasure traffic, boating or bathing? Is it pleasure, traffic? Here is not a word of the very serious alteration in the general law the Committee had sanctioned:—On general grounds the Committee have sanctioned the insertion, in most of the Bills submitted to them, of the 'model clauses' referred to in the Report of last year, for the preparation of which they are indebted to the Committee of 1882.I may say, in reference to this Eastbourne Clause, which was passed in this perfunctory manner and referred to in a general paragraph about clauses dealing with pleasure traffic boating, and bathing, that the only mention I can find of it is in the speech of the counsel, Mr. Littler, who brought the Bill before the Committee. He said:—I should like to call your attention to Clause 271. You have passed something similar to that, though not in the same words. I am told that in the exact form you have passed it, therefore we may go on.That is all, and I do not think that anything further passed. Then—and I am sorry to trouble the House with so many details, but they are necessary to show how these matters were dealt with—Torquay followed in the footsteps of Hastings and Eastbourne, and, of course, the same Committee granted to Torquay the same powers. The result was that great disturbance arose in the town of Torquay. I believe upwards of 100 people were sent to prison. The Torquay case was brought 468 before this House in July, 1888, when I had the honour of moving the repeal of this clause. I see in the statement circulated among Members the extraordinary allegation is made that the Torquay clause was repealed "under pressure." Well, the pressure of an adverse majority is certainly very powerful pressure, but I am aware of no other pressure. The Torquay people came to the House asking for further powers for the Local Authorities, and I took the opportunity to ask the House to restrict some of the power already granted in ignorance. I asked the House to refer the Bill to a Committee of nine Members—five chosen; by the Committee of Selection and four by the House. That Motion was unanimously accepted by the House, it, was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—it had, in fact, the support of the Government. It went to the Select Committee, and that Committee, without a dissentient voice, repealed that clause. It was repealed, and I am happy to tell the House, on good authority, that peace was restored in Torquay, and, no, difficulty has arisen since, or any conflict between the authorities or the people and the Salvation Army. There, I think, is a justification for the "pressure" which this extraordinary statement says was put upon the Torquay people. Well, we have had the subsequent proceedings at Eastbourne, but for the purposes of my argument I need not detain the House with an account of these proceedings. I believe that many Members, notably the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis), have been on the scene and can tell the House, if necessary, what they have seen with their own eyes. It will be admitted that the state of things is disastrous at Eastbourne. This legislation has not worked well. It has embittered local feeling, it has engendered the bitterest phases of religious bigotry, and has stirred up in a peaceful town, every Sunday, a scene of disorder every right-thinking man must deplore, Whether the character of this legislation be good or bad, it will be accepted on both sides that the legislation has worked—is working—most unsatisfactorily. There are statements in the Paper circulated 469 among Members showing what attempts were made to meet the special difficulties of the case; how terms were proposed by which the Salvation Army should confine their operations to one part of the town, and how every one of these proposals were rejected; that a large number of constables were sent into the town; how litigation ensued—and, I think, the effect of the litigation in the judgments of Mr. Justice Hawkins were not very commendatory of the proceedings of the Local Authorities. But I want to argue the case rather on general principles that such legislation should not be passed behind the back of the House of Commons. But I have been told, and sometimes in language most offensive and disgusting, what an inconsistent politician I must be to advocate devolution to Local Authorities of certain matters of administration and yet to object to devolution in the case of this town. But, Sir, this is not a case of devolution. This is the case of an Act of the Imperial Parliament; there is nothing said in the clause about Local Authorities at all. It is an enactment, the law of the land, and the Local Authorities are bound, I think, to enforce the law so long as it stands. I find no fault with them for the performance of their duty. Let me proceed a step further. Local Administration, Local Government, Local Option, means a delegation from the supreme authority—you do not mean that the Local Authority may say "We will not have this or that." Let me put the case, by way of illustration, of the Episcopalian community in Scotland. In many towns, in many counties of Scotland, Episcopalian opinions are in a very small—I may say an insignificant minority. Would Parliament sanction for a moment, that the Local Authority should have power to interfere with the religious liberty of this body, because it is in a minority? ("Oh, oh!") Hon. Members opposite seem amused. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Johnston), who is a representative of Protestants in Ireland, would strongly object, as I would object, to putting the Protestants of Ireland under the heel of any other denomination, to interfere with, to prejudice, to embarrass, one jot or tittle of their religious rights. But the 470 Imperial Authority has already delegated to Local Authorities, by the Municipal Corporations Act, powers on this very question. Parliament has said what Local Authorities may do By Section 23 of the Municipal Corporations Act it is declared that—The Council may from time to time make such bye-laws as to them may seem meet for the goodwill and government of the borough, and for the prevention and suppression of nuisances.That is a delegation to the Local Authority of an exercise of power no man in his senses will object to. But if they go beyond, and for other purposes attempt to make that a nuisance which is not a nuisance, then they are subject, not to the control of this House but to Her Majesty's Courts of Law, and when one impulsive Town Council did prohibit these Sunday processions by a bye-law, what said the Court of Queen's Bench? Mr. Justice Hawkins said—I am of opinion that this bye-law is bad, as being unreasonable and not warranted by the statute under which it is made; the conviction, therefore, must be quashed. It does not seem to me unreasonable to suppose that there might be a case in which the inhabitants of a street might desire to have music of a certain kind played, and which would cause no annoyance. This bye-law would include any sort of music played under any circumstances, however harmonious and free from offence. If the Town Council desire to put a stop to music of such a character as is offensive and likely to cause annoyance, I think, probably, there might be a means of amending the bye-laws to effect that object. It is not for us to suggest how such a bye-law should be limited as to become reasonable.I need not read the rest of the judgment. There are limits, not only to bye-laws, but to the powers of all delegated bodies, in matters of this description, with reference to powers, which Imperial legislation alone can deal with; but Mr. Justice Hawkins was dealing simply with the case of a bye-law made under the 23rd section of the Municipal Corporations Act-Lord Basing's Committee recommend Parliament to enact that when a householder objects to music before his house, that music shall cease. I say at once that if this Bill is read a second time, and referred to a Committee, I have no objection to the insertion of a clause similar to the model clause which governs this matter at Brighton, 471 and in all other boroughs but Hastings and Eastbourne. Let me say, in passing, for I forgot to say it before, that in no other town in Great Britain or Ireland does such a law exist as exists in Hastings and Eastbourne; there is no precedent for it; no example for it; no parallel to it. Under these circumstances I submit to the House that the clause ought never to have been inserted in the Eastbourne Act. It was a miscarriage of legislation. This is no interference with local control. If Parliament by a Bill, openly discussed in the face of the country, chooses to delegate to a local authority the widest and amplest powers, then I say, if Parliament does that, it is the duty of those who become subject to those powers to obey the law of Parliament. But there is no parallel in this case; this was not open legislation, it was not legislation by Parliament, it was private legislation, and it assumed the form of a statute never having been properly reported to Parliament as Parliament directed. ("Oh, Oh!") "When and where was it reported to this House? Let the hon. Member who interrupts me point to one jot or tittle, line or syllable, where this was reported to the House of Commons. This legislation ought never to have been passed. It is legislation which has been most unhappy in its consequences, and it is to some extent, I do not shrink from saying, an infringement of the religious liberties of the people. Whether this be so or not hon. Gentlemen may differ, but evidence brought before a Committee upstairs may modify the judgment of the House, and the Committee may offer suggestions it may be wise for the House to consider. But wise or not my point is this. I impute nothing of deceit to Members of the Committee. These three Members of the Committee are as much entitled to consideration and respect as any other three Members sitting in the House, but legislation such as this should not be passed by any three Members. Before I sit down let me make an appeal to the House on behalf of a religious community against whom avowedly this legislation is directed, and against whom it has been ruthlessly enforced. I know they are a poor despised sect. 472 ("No, no!") I rejoice to hear that "No." I know they have no representative in this House belonging to their body, but I know also there are Members on both sides of the House who strongly appreciate their work and sympathise with them in it. I imply no imputation on any Member of the House of a different character; but because they have no representative in this House to speak on their behalf they are entitled to some consideration at our hands in dealing with grievances of this description. Disagree as we may with their methods and their machinery, and perhaps with some of their tenets, the Salvation Army have achieved a great and noble work in reforming and reclaiming among the population. They have in London and in our large towns confronted vice and intemperance and misery in the most odious slums, and in the most loathsome shapes. They are fanatics. Yes; and so were the early Puritans fanatics, so were the Quakers, so were the Methodists fanatics. But let me ask any man—I do not care what his opinions are—is there a man who desires to blot out from the pages of our religious history the magnificent results achieved by the fanaticism of Puritans, Quakers, or Methodists? When the records of the Salvation Army are made up, though they may have made mistakes—and what religious movement, ancient or modern, has been without mistakes?—I say they will have a bright record to present to the people of Great Britain. They are endeavouring to grapple with problems of the greatest gravity affecting the social life of our people, and they are doing this by means of an organisation no other Church possesses or has used. I say, on behalf of these poor Salvation Army people, persecuted as they have been, harried as they have been, sent to prison as they have been, that I ask the House of Commons to wipe from the Statute Book a section which has enabled religious persecution to be carried on to the disgrace and shame of the last decade of the Nineteenth Century.
§ (3.50.) SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
I second the Motion for the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman in his able speech has 473 clearly shown that the granting of these powers in excess of the ordinary law to Local Authorities, is contrary to the spirit and intention of Parliament; and that the power so granted in the Eastbourne Act is contrary to general law has been clearly laid down by the Lord Chief Justice in reference to Salvation Army bands, who said that every Englishman had a perfect right to go about his business and perform a legal act under the protection of the law, and that walking through the streets in procession even accompanied by music was perfectly lawful, and in doing that a man was entitled to protection. Parliament was not asked by special Report from the Committee to sanction a clause outside the provisions of the general law, for reasons shown. This clause was passed against the recommendation of the Home Office, and, therefore, I think it is fair to say the clause was passed behind the back of the House of Commons. Now, the question arises: The Local Authority, having been given that power, is it reasonable to take it away? I say it is, because the use of that power by the Local Authority has, unfortunately, resulted in making Eastbourne a bye-word for lawless disturbance, and brought the town into unenviable notoriety. It certainly seems to me the town cannot be worse off without the clause than with it. We must look also at the way the clause was passed, and the animus with which it has been used against the Salvation Army. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that the gentleman who fills the position of Mayor of Eastbourne, and on whom rests the responsibility of executing the law, should have committed himself to the statement some time back that he thought the Town Council should do all in their power to put down the proceedings of the Salvation Army, which were opposed altogether to the spirit of true religion. It was very unfortunate that he should have expressed such an opinion. I know it was said the remark was made in a jocular vein, but the result has been anything but jocular. When we look at the way the clause has been put in force, we find that the utmost penalties have been enforced against members of the Salva- 474 tion Army. Seventeen of them have been fined £5, with the option of a month's imprisonment, and seventeen, of them have been sent to gaol. On the other hand, when others were brought before the Magistrates charged with assaulting the police, they were only bound over to keep the peace, or light fines were inflicted, except in the case of the man Mason in August last, when the Magistrate put his foot down, and sent the man to prison for seven days. What was the result? The Magistrate's windows were broken that night, and the consequence has been that no more of the assailants have been sent to prison. If the evidence before me is to be relied on, the Magistrates have proved themselves to be helpless in the face of the mob, and the mob since then has had its own way. And what about the conduct of the Salvationists themselves? There is a strong feeling against them I know, and the feeling has been expressed in letters from all classes. So strong is the feeling that some courage is required to get up and deny that these people should be placed outside the protection of the law because they have contravened the law. No doubt they are not a popular body. Their commander is not very modest, and in the instructions he issues to his lieutenants he rules with an almost papal authority. Nevertheless, we must bear testimony to the honesty of their intentions, and the courage with which they carry them out. We must realise that these Salvationists have set themselves to reach a social stratum which churchmen avowedly have proved themselves unable to reach. ("No.") I am glad to think there has been a great deal of success, but, at the same time, I must adhere to my statement that we deplore our inability to raise the masses to the extent we wish. The Salvation Army claim that they have a special mission to that end, and under the law of the land they claim to do that in their own way. When they find themselves confronted by a legal enactment they feel it their duty to go forward, facing abuse, outrage, and even imprisonment, in carrying out what they believe to be their sacred mission. When men and women showed themselves ready to face punishment, there was some 475 time ago a great deal of sympathy for them throughout the country, and I remember strong representations were made to the Home Office not to carry out a sentence which seemed to be contrary to the spirit of the law. But now the question is, Are we prepared to let the present state of things continue? The enforcement of the law has resulted in all these disturbances. Let us be guided by what happened at Torquay. There were disturbances there, but when the law was repealed there were no further disturbances. Why should Eastbourne continue to possess a power which was refused to Brighton and other towns? The Salvation Army is working in harmony with Local Authorities in hundreds of towns; take away the cause of offence, and we may expect harmony at Eastbourne. Eastbourne is not strongly sabbatical—there is no objection to Sunday music. The inhabitants and visitors enjoy the band at the pier head on Sunday, but the people in other parts of the town enjoy their music too. The remedy is to let these people alone, not to interfere with them by special legislation, and if their work has reality in it it will prosper, if not it will fail.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)
§ (4.0.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I rise very reluctantly and with very much diffidence to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who is a very old Member of the House and much respected for his ability and eloquence. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I must say that nearly the whole of his speech was quite irrelevant to the issue before the House. He talked a great deal about the ancient history of this clause. Whether it is ancient or not, so long as it is part of the law of the land, it ought to be observed. Who is to blame for the present state of things in Eastbourne? My hon. Friend who seconded this Motion thinks that if the clause is repealed there would be peace and quietness in Eastbourne. If I shared that view, I would hold up both hands for the repeal of the clause, but I believe nothing of the kind would happen. If the clause were repealed, 476 it would be doing violence to the principles held by hon. Members opposite—that the inhabitants of the locality should be the first consideration; in other words, that local option should prevail. I am surprised to find that a champion like the right hon. Gentleman should be found to champion this attempt on the part of Mr. Booth and his party to trample down this particular law. I should have thought that a lawyer of his eminence, and other lawyers associated with him, would rather have addressed this observation to Mr. Booth:—There is the law; as long as it is the law, it is your duty to obey it, and resort to constitutional methods to get the law repealed.(Opposition laughter.) Hon. Members laugh at that sentiment. I will give them a quotation which, perhaps, they will respect. There is a great European orator on the Continent of Europe—Signor Castellar. Many years ago, during the time of the Spanish Revolution, Signor Castellar said, in the Cortes at Madrid:—If the laws are bad, obey them; if they are good obey them; if they are bad, obey them that you may expose their badness, and that, you may hasten their reform.I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have given that same advice to. Mr. Booth. It is an amazing thing to me that the lawyers should be found on the side of the law breakers, and that we laymen are to be found on the side of the law. I can only account for that extraordinary circumstance by this idea, that the great lawyers of the country are so constantly occupied one day in prosecuting the law breakers, and the next day in defending the law breakers, that their minds get a little mixed, and they scarcely understand what side they ought to go for, whether for the law or against it. I had hoped—but it is a vain hope now—that I should have had the benefit of the burning eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General on my platform at the next election. But I will say "Good-bye" to the Solicitor General. It appears that Mr. Booth wrote to him for his views, and the following extract from the reply of the Solicitor General was published in the Press:— 477I fully admit the force of what you say, as to the necessity of maintaining an active protest against the Eastbourne Act in order to have any chance of getting it repealed.(Irish Nationalist cheers.) I quite understand those cheers from the Irish benches. I think hon. Members have a perfect right to cheer such a sentiment as that from their point of view. Then the Solicitor General goes on to say—I personally should be glad to help in securing the repeal, on the grounds I have before stated.I do not know what the grounds are. What does my hon. and learned Friend mean by "maintaining an active protest?" Anything from arguments to blackthorns? Some hon. Members below the Gangway opposite may have been shut up inside Tullamore for inciting persons to break the law, and not using stronger language than that used by the Solicitor General. If my hon. and learned Friend, in some other capacity, had been found in Ireland making such an observation, do you think he would not have got into difficulty with the late Chief Secretary for Ireland? But that is not all. We have an interesting correspondence between another hon. and learned Queen's Counsel, my hon. Friend the Member for Asbton (Mr. Addison), who writes to the Solicitor General for advice, and the Solicitor General writes him a long letter of advice, in which he says—I hope you will help to repeal this exceptional law. The right of public meeting and the right of public procession are so important that I view with jealousy any attempt to limit these rights.Then this other learned Q.C. writes to the editor of his paper, the Manchester Courier, to this effect—I will not add more because I enclose a letter from the Solicitor General which puts the matter powerfully and concisely, and serves to show what is being done.I have always had great respect for learned Q.C.'s, and I have still respect for them, but after this my respect will not be of the same kind as it was; and I rather think the naval view of the Q.C. is a very sound one. Though we admire them in the abstract we rather think Q.C. stands for "Queer Customer." The right hon. Gentleman opposite made a statement that Justice 478 Hawkins had condemned the action of the Local Authority of Eastbourne. Judge Hawkins did nothing of the kind. I have his Judgment here, and it goes entirely against the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman, for it strongly supports the Mayor of Eastbourne, the Local Authority, and the police. What does he say in summing up?—The facts in this case lie in a very narrow compass. It is only fair to say that, as regarded the police, nothing has been brought forward to justify me in saying that they had not to the best of their ability properly discharged the duties imposed upon them. The Mayor also appeared to have done all he could. It was he doubt to be regretted that the police had not at their disposal a sufficient force to put down and disperse a meeting of irresponsible men gathered together to make an attack on others who were doing no harm. He gave the Salvation Army credit for honesty and sincerity in the discharge of their duty; but the Salvation Army, like all other people, must be bound by the existing law.If they had been bound by the existing law not one of these troubles would have risen, not a single scene of violence would have occurred. How can the right hon. Gentleman stand by the Salvation Army and Mr. Booth when they deliberately break the law? Persons in various positions in life subscribed liberally to Mr. Booth in Eastbourne. One gentleman, I am told, actually gave £200 on the condition that the Salvation Army were to observe the law. They built their citadel; they never brought out their bands on Sunday for a long time; and the loeal leaders never would have brought out their band if they had been left alone by the leaders in London. Is there any other religious Nonconformist Body under the dominion of one man? Is the right hon. Gentleman a believer in one man rule in religious life? If he believes in one man rule in political life it is more than I do. Mr. Booth sends down his order, and the band is brought out at Eastbourne, and then the row commences. Let Mr. Booth obey the law and there will be no disturbance. Mr. Justice Hawkins says—Whatever might be the verdict of the jury, whether it was for or against the defendants, no one would understand by it that it could or would sanction disobedience to the law existing. It could not be too often proclaimed that while the law was known and was in existence, however much it might be disliked, it must be obeyed; and if there was 479 a grievance, or a supposed grievance, legitimate Steps must be taken to obtain a repeal of the Act.What becomes, then, of the accusation that the Mayor and the Corporation were condemned by the Judge? They were praised by the Judge, and it is not fair of the hon. Gentleman to make such an accusation unless he is sure of his facts. I am much obliged to Mr. Justice Hawkins for vindicating the Mayor and the Local Authority, and he did it much more admirably than a humble sailor like myself. I think it rather hard that I should have to stand up and be wounded in the house of my friends. Now a word to those who are friends of the Unionist cause. The Unionist cause rests upon law. That is what we have been fighting for all along. No wonder right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are against this law. I have noticed that hon. Gentlemen opposite are often on the side of the law breakers and lawlessness, notably in the discussion on Mitchelstown and the riots in Trafalgar Square. All the rioters were defended by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was us, the Unionists, who were on the side of law, but now some of my friends are in favour of lawlessness and the law breakers. I also appeal to gentlemen identified with Local Option. Is Local Option to apply only to liquor? Here is Local Option in its best sense. If logic is to have any influence upon the minds of men, I appeal to their understanding. Can they vote against Local Option in its best form? I notice, on this very question of local control, that the Prime Minister, in a memorable speech in 1888 at Carnarvon—the words of which I may paraphrase—the Prime Minister said: "I have thought for many years that the soundest method of dealing with this controversy is to allow each locality to decide for itself whether it will close public-houses or whether it will not. This is agreeable to an obvious principle of liberty, and it has also this advantage over closing them by Act of Parliament, if you do not like what you have done you can go back."
§ An hon. MEMBER: Home Rule.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
Yes, I have no objection to Home Rule in that form. I am anxious that the right hon. Gen- 480 tleman, who is a Local Optionist and a Home Ruler, should be consistent. I am sorry to trouble the House at such length, but we are in for a big fight on this question. Everything has been done by the Local Authority which possibly could be done to bring about peace, and to induce Mr. Booth to conform to the law. Mr. Justice Hawkins suggested a compromise at the first trial and Mr. Booth's counsel accepted the proposal. The Mayor said he would do his best to see whether it could be carried out. Very properly the Mayor took the people into his confidence. And the Watch Committee of the Town Council decided that it would not be fair to give the Salvation Army leave to use certain streets in the east end of the town without consulting the ratepayers in the locality. A requisition had also been presented to Mr. Booth signed by clergymen of all denominations asking him to suspend the procession with bands, if only for two Sundays, in the hope that peace might be restored. But this Dictator—and religious Dictators were the worst of all—would have none of it. The Corporation, as I have said, refused to give the Salvation Army permission to break the law without consulting the ratepayers. Therefore they sent out voting papers—"Are you in favour of any compromise as to the Sunday processions?" The answers from the district marked out as that which would, be used by the Salvationists showed that only 47 out of the 298 were in favour of a compromise. The number of votes1 against was 224. If after that the Corporation had allowed the processions: in the east end of the town they would only have brought about worse riots and disturbances. Now we come to another test of public opinion. The Mayor and Corporation summoned a public meeting to consider whether the town should spend money in opposing this Bill. By an enormous majority the Town Council were instructed to oppose the Bill. The minority demanded a poll, and the result is very remarkable: 4,692 voting papers were issued and 4,284 were collected by the police. The result of the poll showed 5,331 votes in favour of the resolution to oppose the Bill and 738 against. 481 The number of persons in favour of the resolution was 3,257 and the number against 470. Another objection which very clever men have addressed to me when I asked their support on this matter was, why should Eastbourne have an exceptional law? Eastbourne has no exceptional law. The Local Authority have endeavoured by means of the Municipal Corporations' assistance to find out how many towns and Local Authorities have a similar or identical law; and there are no less than 36 large towns and Local Authorities which have a similar or the same law. In order to mark their sympathy with Eastbourne it has also been ascertained that 187 other Local Authorities in England are in favour of such a law if they can obtain it. The whole of Scotland has a more severe law. Why does not Mr. Booth go to Glasgow and play his bands on Sunday? Let him try this action in Scotland; let him act in an equal way in all towns; but I suppose he is too wise a man to do that. He does not want to outrage Scotch feeling and Scotch opinion. The whole of Scotland has got a more severe law than the present law; and I have a decision here of a Scotch Judge on this very point where a conviction was obtained, but I need not read it. The number of towns that have got this law is a large one. I will mention a few:—Liverpool, Reading, St. Albans, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Huntingdon, Cambridge, Leicester, Shrewsbury, Chatham, Portsmouth, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Hereford, Sheffield, Chester, Ramsgate, and many more, and 187 Local Authorities, as I have said, are in full sympathy with Eastbourne in this matter. I have here the reply of the Town Clerk of Birmingham—I was very anxious to get the support of the Members for Birmingham. (Laughter.) You would like to get it too, if you could. But to refer to the opinion of the Local Authorities for a moment, this was the question put to them—Do you approve of the principle contained in the section of the Local Act as a provision for the good government of the town? Would you be prepared to support a Bill making the provision applicable where the Town Council adopted the Act?482 The answer in reply to that question was in the affirmative from all those towns quoted, thirty-six in number. From Birmingham the answer is somewhat different. It says:—We inserted a clause, above quoted, in our Local Act because we thought it a necessary provision for the good government of the town.Will the right ton. Gentleman bring in a Bill to repeal this clause which they enjoy in Birmingham?
§ An hon. MEMBER: It is not the same clause.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
It says:—"We inserted the clause"—I am quoting the Town Clerk's answer. I cannot guarantee whether it is correct or not; but I believe him to be an honourable man—We inserted the clause above quoted in our Local Act because we thought it a necessary provision for the good government of the town. I think every town considers it is a serious matter for itself, and a good deal depends on the discretion with which such a provision is enforced.If you grant every town a special power you must accept the manner in which they use that power. ("No!") Then you would be passing Acts and repealing them next day. But I was speaking of Scotland. In Scotland all the burghs have got the same law or a more severe law; and of the burghs in Scotland 29 in number are in favour of the provision in the Local Act, and not one against it, and only four remain neutral. Will the Scotch Members give me their support or vote with the right hon. Gentleman for the repeal of the clause? I know I have a wall of prejudice to beat down. I cannot hope to beat that wall in every case, but as I said to a number of hon. Members, if they retain an open mind on this question, I hope to convince some that it would be unfair and unjust to repeal this clause simply at the bidding of a Dictator at the head of an organisation in London. Some hon. Members have already prejudged the case. Now, I do not like hon. Members to prejudge a case; but if they are all so clever as to prejudge a case, I cannot possibly hope to convince them. But it is a remarkable thing that most of the hon. Members who prejudge a case are lawyers, not laymen. One of them is the son of 483 the Chief Justice of England. I should state that the Mayor of Eastbourne addressed a circular letter to every Member of Parliament, asking them if 'they professed an open mind to suspend their judgment. A copy of this letter was addressed to the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield, who, I believe, is a son of the Chief Justice of England, and this was his reply, which was published in the papers:—The letter of the Mayor of Eastbourne, asking Members of Parliament to suspend their judgment on the proposal to repeal the now notorious Section until," quoting the circular, "the authorities have had an Opportunity of placing before you their views on the question.The hon. Member goes on to say—You ask me to suspend my judgment with regard to the conduct of Eastbourne towards the Salvation Army. I shall do nothing of the kind.The hon. Member, I presume, has the very reasonable ambition that he should some day sit as a Judge on the seat of justice. If he has not an open mind on this matter, how can he be expected to adorn the Bench later on, in company with the hon. Member for Ashton and others? No doubt the Solicitor General for England hopes to be Lord Chancellor some day, and if he prejudges such a small matter as this, how can he be expected to have an open mind as regards larger questions? As I have said, I have been wounded in the house of my friends. This letter has caused much mischief in Eastbourne. I did my best to minimise it. I told my good people in Eastbourne it was only his private opinion, worth no more than mine. Of course, I admit it would be worth a great deal more on a matter of law. When Mr. Booth returned from Australia, why there were special steamers sent to meet him, and special trains. Nelson, returning from Trafalgar, could not have had a better reception. And he made a speech in Southampton afterwards, in reference to which the Times said:—The General is reported to have indulged in something like a threat, in his speech at Southampton, that if the law at Eastbourne was not altered to suit him, he would defy it. He is stated to have said that if the Local Act to which he objects were not repealed, it would not be for the peace and quiet of Eastbourne.484 Is this the map you are going to support? He defies, all law, and wants the law repealed for his own sake. Some day, perhaps he wall come down to the House and ask Parliament to pass a law in his favour.Possibly," it continues, "he might meet any attempts to restrain his operations elsewhere in a similar spirit, but he is too shrewd a man not to know in his heart that bluster of that kind docs not pay. The people of England are pre-eminently law abiding, and they will be slow to believe in the worth of a creed which, under any pretext, bids them assume an attitude of disobedience and defiance to the powers that be.The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler) says Eastbourne is a pleasure town, and left us to infer that the people there occupied their time with pleasure. Well, I admit it is a pleasure town, and a residential town, and I venture to think that many hon. Members who work hard would improve their health by going there. I think the right hon. Gentleman was not very wise if he meant to impute the slightest—
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I read the order made by the Select Committee on the Bill, and said they inserted a clause dealing with pleasure traffic, and I asked the House whether a procession of the Salvation Army was pleasure traffic.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
Eastbourne is a residential town, and it dislikes these Sunday bands, and by its present, law desires to put a stop to them. It wishes to have no controversy, no trouble of this kind with the Salvation Army. And I desire to recognise all the good that it is doing and endeavouring to do, although I do not like the methods adopted in carrying out that work. But it is a lamentable thing that Mr. Booth should insist upon defying the law and upon acting, as I venture to say, contrary to the faith which he is supposed to teach. I ask, would any other religious body in England defy the local law anywhere? Would Mr. Spurgeon, that distinguished Nonconformist who has gone to his account, do as Mr. Booth is doing in Eastbourne? The right hon. Gentleman knows he would not. Would the ministers of the great Wesley an body do it? He knows they would not. All the religious bodies 485 are watching the action of this House to-day; and I ask it to be just and fair in this matter. The Roman Catholics, of whom we ought to speak with respect—they live amongst us, and a great body of them live in Ireland—their bands are suppressed. The Roman Catholics in this country rest under a very severe law. We prohibit their processions through the streets; we prohibit the clergy of that persuasion from even wearing canonicals, except in places of worship and private houses. We know very well that if we permitted them to go in procession through the streets the things which they hold sacred would call forth the worst passions of the mob. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 these prohibitions were carefully retained by Parliament. This is a serious matter. We cannot legislate in favour of one religious body, and leave others outside the pale. As to what has been said about the Mayor and the Local Authority, the right hon. Gentleman cannot have been to Eastbourne of late, or he would have known that there is no more popular matt in Eastbourne than the Mayor. He is so popular that the people of Eastbourne have decided to present him with a testimonial on account of his services. Over 2,000 persons have subscribed towards the fund, which at present amounts to over £600. Mr. Booth is a very powerful man, and I am not sure that he will not be a danger to some of us later on. But I wonder he does not take example from the Highest Authority, and follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, who were bidden by the Great Master, if a town did not receive them, to shake the dust off their feet and depart out of that city. As I have said, we have all denominations represented in Eastbourne. Even the National Church of Scotland is represented by a very efficient member.—(No!)—All denominations have free scope with us in Eastbourne. Scotland is represented. ("No!") Well, I do not know what you mean then. I recollect that, not many years ago, I have seen some of the clergy of the Church of England shut up in prison, because they did not obey the law as laid down by 486 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They did not come whining to this House, asking to have the law repealed, but cheerfully accepted their imprisonment. I was sorry to see them going to prison, but every person felt that they brought their fate upon themselves. Are the clergy of the Church of England to be imprisoned because they break the law, and Mr. Booth allowed to come to the House and agitate to get the law repealed, because, he does not like the law? I wish to read one extract from an authority that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will appreciate, Sir Henry Maine, on Popular Government. In the second essay, on the Nature of Democracies, Sir Henry Maine says—If any Government should be tempted to neglect even for a moment its function of compelling obedience to law—if a Democracy, for example, were to allow a portion of the multitudes of which it consists to set some law at defiance which it happens to dislike—it would be guilty of a crime which hardly any other virtue could redeem, and which century upon century might fail to repair.I venture to make an appeal to the House to put aside prejudice. We all deplore the riots. Who was responsible for them? Not the inhabitants, but the men who disobeyed the law—the men who deride the law and execrate the law. This is the best form of Local Option; and I challenge any man, who puts aside prejudice and personal feeling, he cannot fail to vote against this Bill and support those who are endeavouring to do their duty. I beg to move that this Bill be read this day six months.
§ (4.50.) MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I rise to second the Resolution. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that in the case of Hastings, when the Hastings Bill came before the Committee, of which I had the honour to be Chairman, in 1885, the Committee divided upon the question; three gentlemen voted on one side, and one on the other. All the Members that voted for that clause were Members of the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs. This is simply a historical point. I believe the right hon. Gentleman imputes to us—
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
I know he did not. I think it right to point out that the Local Authority of Hastings represented to us that they were in favour of this special provision. I have a very distinct recollection that this matter on that occasion was put before us with very considerable minuteness of particularity, and we took care to ascertain the feeling of the locality and not to act unless we were acting in accordance with the expressed opinions of the Local Authority. Then Eastbourne came before us in the same Session, and here again we took particular pains to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants and to act accordingly. As I understand it, the Salvation Army processions are not prohibited unless they are accompanied by bands of music. In that small compass lies the whole of this vexed question. The majority of the inhabitants of Eastbourne are as much opposed to bands of music accompanying processions now as they were in the year we passed the clause. Although I do not wish to go so far as to say that the Committee reported with all the particularity with which we reported in the case of Hastings, I cannot admit, and it is not right to say that this Clause in the case of Eastbourne was smuggled through Parliament. The only remaining argument is as to the present condition of things, and on that point I should like to read to the House a letter which I have received from a member of the University of Oxford. He says—I see that the subject of Eastbourne and the Salvation Army riots will come before the House in a few days, and I hope you will not think me very officious if I (as one who has spent three or four months every year for the last nine years in Eastbourne) put before you some points that ought to be presented to the House. The element of religious principle has long disappeared from this painful controversy. On one side are the Army, who persistently attempt every Sunday to break what they know to be the existing law by marching with music through the (once so peaceful) streets of Eastbourne. Their plea is that the law they try to break was passed in some unfair way, that is, they assert the principle that if you disapprove of a law you are justified in breaking it—a principle that, 488 of accepted, would simply do away with all our laws. And they advance the monstrous plea that all this noise is necessary to Christianity. On the other side are also lawbreakers (for their main object is to smash these illegal drums and trumpets), the roughs of the place, who enjoy the whole thing as much as undergraduates enjoy a 'town and gown' row. For a wonder they are on the side of law, and cheer the police, but the blasphemous parodies of sacred words which they yell about the place tends to destroy all feeling of reverence in the youth of the place. The gross absurdity is committed every Sunday of the Army openly going forth to break the law, claiming the protection of the police, and actually getting it. It is as if a burglar, in the act of robbing a house, should call on the police to protect him against the assaults of the owner of the house. The main point I wish to urge is that whether it is or is not desirable that the local Act empowering the Eastbourne Town Council to forbid Sunday bands should be repealed, to do it just now could not, certainly, be interpreted otherwise than as an encouragement to lawbreakers. The householders of Eastbourne are, I believe, almost unanimous in their wish that the existing law shall be maintained.Now, Sir, it is in the name of religion that all this has occurred. If these people were truly religious would not they have refrained from having those demonstrations with musical accompaniment so long as the law was against them? They could preach what they liked, have as many processions as they liked, so long as they did not have bands of music, and I should like to ask whether it is contended that music is necessary to make their views effectual. Sir, whatever may be the merits of this case, I trust the House, as a whole, will not now pass this Bill, because it will be a direct encouragement to persons, when their convenience is interfered with by any law, to break that law, and then to come to Parliament and ask that it should be repealed. I beg to second the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Admiral Field.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (5.5.) THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE,) Plymouth
Mr. Speaker, after the references that have been made to me and to the letters that I have written upon this 489 subject, the House will think it only fair that I should, with a brevity appropriate to the occasion, say something on the controversy that has been brought before the House. The speech that has just been delivered by my hon. Friend has afforded two contributions to the discussion. The hon. Gentleman objects to a phrase which I was not aware had been used in those terms by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—the phrase that this clause had been smuggled through the House. I do not think it is quite fair to the Committee that they should be charged with smuggling the clause through the House, but the unfortunate thing is that when that Committee came to make a Report, having altered the decision arrived at in previous cases, they did not call the specific attention of the House to that alteration; and those who knew that in the earlier case of Brighton the Committee had acted upon a principle which they had definitely and clearly expressed might reasonably hope that they would not cover a departure from that principle by such a casual reference as was made in their Report on this Bill. I think it is fair to say that, without at the same time passing any censure on the Committee. Now, Sir, there is another observation I should like to make; it always seems to me that the argument of inconsistency is the weakest argument in the world. It has been said that if you are in favour of Local Option, you ought not to be in favour of this Bill. If my hon. Friend behind me were in favour of Local Option, and having that principle in his mind were urging its acceptance, I could understand the weight of the argument; but that those against Local Option should refuse to vote for this Bill because their opponents will be inconsistent if they support it is not to my mind a very rational mode of proceeding. Now, Sir, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne has made a good-humoured attack upon me, and I will only say of his speech that he has done his duty like a man. I am sorry to have been warned off the platform of Eastbourne, and I think it is unfair and inconsistent on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend. He objected 490 to my assisting a friend of mine by expressing an opinion for publication, whilst he says he would gladly have had my assistance to commend him to the people of his borough. He said he intended—the right hon. Gentleman opposite having introduced an utterly irrelevant matter—to say nothing that was not absolutely relevant. I do not think he kept his word. There were matters in his speech not so relevant as the manner in which this clause was put upon the Statute Book. It got there without any discussion, and without the knowledge of the House, and that alone, entitles the House to deal with it as if it were a fresh subject altogether. Now, Sir, I have not taken part in this controversy because of any special sympathy with the work or methods of the Salvation Army, but I do not disavow sympathy with that great organisation in the work it has been doing in this country, and I desire to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said in that matter. Anyone who knows anything of the work of the Salvation Army knows this cardinal fact, that every one of the hundreds of thousands of persons who join it becomes an abstainer from all intoxicants, and also, which often involves a greater self-denial, an abstainer from the use of tobacco in any form; and anyone knowing that, can realise the extraordinary importance and value of this religious organisation. It is the only organisation, so far as I know, which the world has ever seen which makes the only test of membership personal purity and holiness of life, and not a religious creed. But the merits or demerits of the Salvation Army are not the most material questions in this case. I look at the matter on another ground. I do not think we should give to each locality power to do just as it pleases with the lives and the conduct of the minority in that locality. Parliament should insist upon definite limits being assigned to the powers of local authorities, and in the Municipal Corporations Act Parliament did impose definite and limited powers on Municipal Corporations. If it could be shown that the Salvation Army processions constituted an interference with the convenience 491 and comfort of the lives of the people of Eastbourne, then the Corporation of Eastbourne could make a bye-law and put it into force to control their processions. Every Municipal Corporation in the country has that right, and it has probably been, the exercise of that right by many Corporations which misled my hon. and gallant Friend when he said that there were 36 towns in this country which have a law similar to that obtaining in Eastbourne. My hon. and gallant Friend is entirely mistaken. There are two towns, Carlisle and Reading, which have such a law in a qualified form, one being the form that the Mayor has a right to prohibit any procession from passing. With regard to other towns, if they have made any bye-law in the terms of the clause which it is now proposed to repeal, it is a bad one and would be set aside by any Court of Law. But I am quite sure there has been some misunderstanding, though the bye-law, which was not read, would have cleared up a difficulty. I look at this matter very much from the point of view of the right of public meeting and public processions. I have always held and I hold strongly now the belief that the right of public meeting and the right of public procession, which is another form of the exercise of that right, are two cardinal and invaluable rights, rights so invaluable that Parliament should not allow them to be tampered with at all by any local regulation, but should insist on dealing with them here openly and in the face of the country. It is for that reason mainly that I have interested myself in this question. Now, Sir, an attack has been made upon me, good humouredly I admit, for the letter which was written by me to, one of the officers of the Salvation Army; and with my full consent printed in the newspapers. Now, what did I Say—I feel the force of what you say as to the necessity of maintaining an active protest against the Eastbourne Act, in order to have any chance of getting it repealed.In previous communications, with my correspondent I had expressed my views, and he pointed out to me that if the Salvation Army were to stop within its 492 barracks, or discontinue its processions with music, no notice would be taken of it at all, and it would be perfectly hopeless for them to come to Parliament and endeavour to get the law repealed. But, Sir, the Salvation Army has never resisted the enforcement of the law; it has done something which is entirely different. Believing that there existed in Eastbourne an exceptional rule of limited application, which had been brought into force, without the knowledge and sanction of Parliament, the controllers of the Salvation Army determined that on each Sunday there should be a violation of that rule by some of its members. Having violated the rules, they at once yielded to the authorities and were prepared to suffer any punishment that might be inflicted. It was represented to me that they felt it an absolute duty to maintain their protest in the only way they could, by committing a breach of the law and suffering, without remonstrance or complaint, the penalty that was imposed. I could not say in answer that I thought there was no force in their contention. If they had given that up there would have been no hope of getting this clause repealed. The hon. and gallant Member drew a contrast at the end of his speech between the conduct he imputed to the Salvation Army and the action he described as having been followed by the clergymen of the Church of England who were sent to prison for violating the law. But, Sir, those clergymen did precisely the same thing as the Salvation Army; absolutely the same thing. The object of their knowingly breaking what had been declared to be the law was that their sufferings and the punishment following the infringement might attract the attention of the country and obtain the intervention of Parliament. It was not necessary for me to discuss that question with my correspondent, but I did, and do, admit the necessity of maintaining an active protest. Now, Sir, I only rose to say a few words, my desire being to have an opportunity from my place in this House of maintaining the opinions that I have expressed elsewhere, but I should like, before sitting down, to refer to some instances in 493 point which the House ought to consider. It is said that there are local circumstances at Easthourne which make it important to maintain this Clause. We have two examples: one is the case of Torquay. In Torquay, unhappily, the same rule was set up, and immediately there began scenes of confusion and disorder of the most painful kind. Fortunately Parliament repealed the clause, and since then there has not been the smallest difficulty in Torquay between the Local Authorities and the Salvation Army. There has not been the slightest nuisance, and it is by a Member representing a Division near Torquay that the Bill now before the House has been seconded. There is another instance. I was in the habit some years ago of spending some time every Autumn at Folkestone. At Folkestone there was no law such as that we are now discussing. There was set up at Folkestone an organisation which, I am sorry to say, has received some sanction from the gentleman who is now Mayor of Eastbourne, and which called itself the Skeleton Army, which met every Sunday evening and harassed the processions of the Salvation Army, and most serious riots took place. The Magistrates did their duty. The offenders, some of them young lads, were sent to gaol for from four to six months, arising from committing assaults upon the Salvation Army. Their only desire was to get into a row. But what was the result of these convictions? Why, that the annoyance absolutely stopped. If anyone goes to Folkestone he will find the Salvation Army processions passing along the Lees, and along the road running parallel at the back, in the afternoon, and through the main streets in the evening. Nobody hears their music for more than two or three minutes, and most of those who do hear it like it. ("Oh!") Yes, they do. Hon. Members must not judge everybody's taste by their own refined and delicate taste. No one hears it for more than two or three minutes. There is no nuisance to anybody. The Salvation Army is doing its work in its own way, and there is no interference with the comfort of the inhabitants of Folkestone. I support as strenuously as I 494 can this Bill for the repeal of this clause, and what I am hoping for is not only the assertion of a definite principle in regard to Parliamentary action in this matter, but I also hope the repeal of this clause will bring the speedy restoration of that quiet for which Eastbourne is longing.
§ (5.22.) SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
Sir, I fully admit that we are dealing with a very grave subject, which ought to be treated with consideration, and as a matter of principle. The question has been raised as to the extent to which a locality should have the right to deal with local subjects. I fully recognise that localities should have absolute power to determine purely local matters. In respect, however, to the Bill now before the House, I would ask the House to consider whether the question is now a local one. We unfortunately every Monday morning during the past year have had to read in the newspapers of a renewal of disturbances at Eastbourne on Sundays. We have had to read that assaults have been committed by one body of the community upon another, and we have had to recognise that, while in this country the law is definite, there is no power in the Local Authority properly to assert that law; therefore, Sir, it is not Eastbourne alone, but it is the country generally, which is standing upon its trial. After a trial of twelve months the Local Authority has proved itself unable to maintain the peace, and it is impossible that the state of things existing at Eastbourne can be allowed to continue. What should be done? At any rate, Parliament has a right to proclaim that the time has come for its judgment to be taken. There is one principle upon which the hon. and gallant Gentleman relied in his able speech. He appealed to many of us when he said it is a dangerous precedent to allow a law to be repealed by the action of those who have been breaking that law. That argument received the approval of those who think it contains the expression of a great principle; but let the House consider the circumstances of the case at Eastbourne, and see how far that principle can be maintained. When there is a conflict between men who 495 are breaking the law, and those who are maintaining the law, it is generally found that law and authority are ranged against the evil-doers who are breaking the law. But what is the condition of things now existing at Eastbourne? You have a law which it is now sought to repeal, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, "I will maintain that law, because those who seek to repeal it have been engaged in contesting and violating it. But, Sir, I am told that for twelve months there has been no attempt to enforce that law. In July proceedings were taken, not under this statute, but at Common Law, for the Law of Conspiracy. The conflict, therefore, is not between the law-breakers and those who have a law which they do not enforce, but between the law-breakers—if you call them so—and the men who, having power to enforce the law, yet do not do so. What is Parliament to do? Parliament has to recognise that there are law-breakers besides those who constituted the Salvation Army. For twelve months there have assembled every Sunday a great number of men acting in absolute defiance of the law, and yet, unfortunately, within the shadow of it. That mob received some moral shadow of justification for its conduct, because it is said there is the section of the Local Act which is broken by the Salvationists. But has the hon. and gallant Gentleman nothing to say to the maintenance of the law against those law-breakers who use violence, and almost place life in danger—
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
Be it so, but notwithstanding those prosecutions this state of things continued. In these circumstances let moderate men who sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Friend) ask themselves this question—What must be done? Does my hon. and gallant Friend wish things to remain as they are?
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for his remark. 496 Does he wish the bands to cease by virtue of maintaining that local Act? You have had that Act during the last twelve months and have not been able to cause the bands to cease. You have such a zealous Local Authority, supported by public opinion, and backed up as they are, and during the last twelve months they have failed to suppress these disturbances. This disorder is now increasing instead of diminishing, and it seems to me that some active steps must be taken by the Legislature if we are to stop the bands. You have no power to stop the bands unless you take some step. What is the best course to take? I think it is one of conciliation, and so long as this Statute remains in force, unrepealed and unaffected, I do not think this feeling of conciliation is likely to arise. If the Statute should be repealed in accordance with the Bill, the Municipal Authority of Eastbourne will be in a different position from the present. It will have the power of regulating everything short of prohibiting the music; it will have power to regulate the extent to which the music may be played on Sunday. I ask every one who desires to see peace whether they are not in favour of conciliation? There are two distinguished persons—one of them the Duke of Devonshire and the other my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampten (Mr. H. H. Fowler)—in regard to whom I may say that if they would endeavour to deal with this matter in a spirit of conciliation there would be no difficulty in arriving at a decision. I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend if he would not agree to the music of the Salvation Army being played under regulations, so that they might have the right at some time, in some part of Eastbourne, to play their music? By passing this Bill you will be enabled to tell the Local Authority of Eastbourne that there are conditions under which their power can be exercised, and by which they can regulate the extent to which this playing should take place. Refuse to repeal this present Act, leave it as it is, and the conditions of the past twelve months must continue, we shall witness again the scenes which have been referred to in an intensified degree. And in regard to the observa- 497 tion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "Stop the bands!" you cannot stop them except by force, and, if you do that, scenes of violence will occur. Unless, therefore, this Bill comes into force, and the Municipal Authority of Eastbourne regulates the extent to which this music should be allowed, they will not be able to remove that which we all wish to see removed—a state of things which is a disgrace not only to Eastbourne, but to the whole country.
§ (5.40.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
I rise only for the purpose of saying that the Government see no reason, in regard to this Bill, to depart from what has been the almost invariable practice of Government in regard to Private Bills—namely, to remain absolutely neutral. I myself shall offer only my own personal opinion just as the Solicitor General has expressed his. I would rather say nothing about the work of the Salvation Army, its merits or demerits. I would still more wish to avoid that very critical and burning question of "active protest" about which there might be a great deal to be said. I must express my strong disapproval of protests which take the shape of disobedience to the law. I cannot help feeling that that is a most disturbing topic to have introduced into this Bill. That disturbing topic I will endeavour to shut out of my mind, and not allow it to influence my judgment on the Bill. The reason why I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Bill is that I have uniformly protested before the Committee on Police and Sanitary Regulations against any enactment which alters for a particular locality what I may call the general Criminal Law of the country. That seems to me a principle of very great importance. I was not in office when the Eastbourne Act was passed, but in all the other cases I know of the same course was pursued. The only other precedents are Torquay, Carlisle, Hastings, Reading, Darwen, and Lancaster. In all these cases my action was uniform; I urged the Committee not to introduce into a Private Bill anything that would alter the Criminal 498 Law of the country and so make acts unlawful in one place which would be lawful in another. Any change of that kind ought only to be made after full consideration by Parliament itself, and not by a Committee. That contention was successful in all cases but four—namely, Hastings, Eastbourne, Carlisle, and Reading. And in the last two cases the clauses adopted were somewhat different. They enabled the Mayor of the city to prohibit processions on Sunday if he thought fit. The Committee departed from ordinary precedents in introducing those exceptional clauses. I wish to add that I can conceive possible cases in which a special law ought to be made; but for these special cases, certainly, overwhelming evidence of exceptional circumstances in the particular locality ought to be given before exceptional legislation of any sort is adopted. I am bound to say, examining the proceedings of the Committee, it does not seem to me that the evidence before them did warrant exceptional legislation in Eastbourne, and I therefore thought it was an unfortunate and ill-advised step to insert this clause. I believe my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) and the inhabitants of Eastbourne can get all they can legitimately desire under the powers of the Municipal Corporation Act by bye-laws: they can prevent processions by Salvationists or any other persons that are a nuisance to the inhabitants, and they ought not to desire more. I therefore endeavour to shut out of my mind all prejudice against one side or another, and I give my vote for this Bill on the simple grounds I have stated, and which seem to me sufficient grounds for taking that course. There are, of course, many considerations which arise connected with the circumstances of Eastbourne, but I think these considerations ought not to weigh with the House.
§ (5.45.) MR. NORRIS (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
I will not make any apology for detaining the House even at this late period of the Debate, as, having been intimately associated with Eastbourne for many years, I think it necessary to say a few words on the subject, and I can assure the House I will be brief. There was a tendency 499 in the speech of the right hon. Gentle-man the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) to call in question a decision of a Committee of this House. I was under the impression that whatever had been passed by a Committee in a previous Session had been submitted to, and authorised by, this House, and whatever departure from the usual course had been made by the Committee was duly sanctioned by the House, and I regret the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman as a bad and unfortunate precedent. With regard to the reference to Hastings. I know Hastings well, after a residence of 25 years, and I say it was never tried as Eastbourne has been in the matter of these unlawful processions with bands of music on Sundays. The Solicitor General argued that the Salvation Army was justified in the course they had taken, and that they never resisted the enforcement of the law, but everyone knows that it was owing to the enforcement of the law that these disturbances occurred. My own view is that the Municipal Authorities deserve every credit for their endeavours to maintain peace and order by and with the authority of the law, and for their efforts to suppress disorder with a firm hand. Everyone is aware that Eastbourne is a health resort, and that invalids require quietude. I entirely endorse what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton with regard to the Salvation Army. I am a believer in the Salvation Army, and my only reason for speaking and voting against the Bill is the opposition of General Booth to the authorities at Eastbourne, and his open defiance of the law. The Bill of 1885 was framed, owing to disturbances caused by the Salvation Army at Worthing, and other towns in the county, and the same clause is in the Bill of the Hastings Corporation. Surely Eastbourne must be the best judge of its own affairs. On a poll of owners and ratepayers in the town, 3,257 voted in favour of opposition to the Bill before us, and only 470 against. This is purely a question of Local Self-Government, and I cannot understand any plea for outside interference. There was great sympathy with the Army when they first went to 500 Eastbourne, and many of the inhabitants gave liberally towards its support. The processions are objected to by the poor, in the East of the town, as well as, by the more wealthy classes—in fact, by the tradespeople and all alike. The opposition to this Bill comes from ministers of every denomination and religion, school superintendents and teachers of every grade, and all who are interested in the well-being of the place. The opposition is founded on legality and justice, and I earnestly beg hon. Members not to be led away by sentiment or feeling, but to support the law, and neither to surrender to "General" Booth, or the mob, under any pressure whatever in the circumstances.
§ (5.50.) THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY,) Cornwall, Bodmin
I would not have risen but for the speech of the Home Secretary, and I simply wish to express a little dissent from the view he has taken. He has recommended, as no doubt his predecessors have recommended, the Police and Sanitary Committee not to embody in the Bills submitted to their notice provisions in excess of the ordinary law. And he has expressed considerable jealousy of an increase of the Criminal Law. I think these words are not accurately adapted to describe perfectly such provisions as are now under discussion. Police regulations, in order to be effectual, must be connected with a penalty; but a police regulation connected with a penalty does not extend the Criminal Law even in a locality where that police regulation is brought into force. Now, the Police and Sanitary Committee exercised great caution in considering additions to the police regulations, which may be required in one district and not in another. I will explain why I am going to vote for this Bili. The particular regulation now under discussion does not appear to me one improper to be adopted on due cause shown. The due cause shown must be considered with reference to particular cases. The Police and Sanitary Committee paid great attention to this; they divided upon it, not in respect to the clauses in the Eastbourne Bill, but in respect to the clauses in the Hastings Bill, which was also considered. The 501 clause was introduced after all due notice, was voted upon, was considered by the Committee, and was adopted. It may be that the Committee did not call attention to it in their Report; but I must not be understood to admit that that is really a matter of substance rather than of form. No doubt they ought to have called attention to it. But how many hon. Members are there in this House who read the Reports of the Police and Sanitary Committee and are cognisant of what they do? I conceive the clause, in point of form, rightly adopted, and that it cannot be impugned as having been smuggled through Parliament. Now, I must admit that no clause could well be presented to the House with a greater command of local feeling. Why, then, send this to a Committee upstairs? A great deal depends upon the discretion with which the law is administered. It appears to me, from the evidence which one reads in the newspapers, and which comes before us in many ways—I recently spent a Sunday in Eastbourne and saw what was going on—that the ground for the disturbances is not the lawlessness of the Salvationists, but the lawlessness of the 'upholders of the law—lawlessness with which the Eastbourne Magistrates have shown themselves incapable of dealing. That is a grave statement to make, but it may be substantiated by a sufficient amount of trustworthy evidence. If it be true that the lawlessness of those who presume to uphold the law and take the work out of the hands of the Magistrates is of such a character that it cannot be endured, and if the Magistrates cannot keep that lawlessness under; then I confess there is a strong case for sending the Bill upstairs to see whether the clause of the Bill would work, or whether the Committee could adopt a reasonable working clause. The position is intolerable. The Eastbourne Magistrates are the law makers, and if they cannot be the law keepers, where are you to go?
§ MR. COURTNEY
The law breakers might not have prevailed if certain persons had not presumed to take the law into their hands and presented spectacles which it is impossible to endure.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 269; Noes 122.—(Div. List, No. 25.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.