§ MR. NUSSEY (Pontefract)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that there was at Castleford, on the occasion of the recent regrettable riot, considerable delay in obtaining the presence of a County Magistrate, thus augmenting the disturbance; whether he will communicate with the Lord Chancellor, with a view to the appointment of more Magistrates in that district; and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to hold an inquiry into the recent unfortunate occurrences at Castleford, and as to how far the persons killed and injured were those who took part in the destruction of property?
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
I have just received a telegram from the hon. Member for the Normanton Division desiring me to ask a further question—namely, why the troops were brought from Bradford when there was a force at Pontefract only two miles away; whether the troops were, sent at the request of the local Magistrates; and whether they had any right to interfere with the crowd without the presence of a Magistrate, and before the reading of the Riot Act?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I cannot say why the troops were brought from Bradford rather than from Pontefract. The troops were sent by orders of the local Magistrate. I am aware that there was considerable delay on the occasion in question in obtaining the attendance of a Magistrate, but I cannot say whether the delay augmented the disturbance. The presence of a Magistrate is necessary before the Riot Act can be read, and by the Queen's Regulations an officer in command of troops acting in aid of the civil power is forbidden to order his men to fire unless distinctly required to do so by a Magistrate. But the military are not obliged to wait for the presence of a Magistrate before they take active steps to prevent outrages upon property and person. I have received complaints in the course of the recent disturbances in the West Riding of the difficulty of 953 obtaining the attendance of Magistrates at times and places where their presence would have been useful, and I am in communication with the Lord Chancellor on the subject. It would be premature to answer the last part of the question until the inquests on the men who were killed have been concluded.
§ EARL COMPTON (Barnsley)
May I ask whether the Home Secretary has received any information respecting the action of the Magistrates in Barnsley in preventing a large meeting of miners being held in that town yesterday; whether he is aware that the meeting was convened to express, in the first place, its strong disapprobation of the lawless proceedings which had taken place at Barnsley in the previous week, and to call upon all miners and law-abiding citizens to do their utmost in assisting to prevent a recurrence of the same; and, in the second place, to protest against the action of the authorities in importing military into the town, believing that there is no necessity for their presence, and demanding their withdrawal; and whether the right hon. Gentleman can take any steps to cause the withdrawal of the Magistrate's prohibition?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I have no information on the subject beyond what appears in the newspapers this morning. Of course, not being aware of the local circumstances, it would be very improper in me to pronounce any opinion, at this stage at any rate, upon the action of the Magistrates. I have already taken steps to have this question submitted to them for observation, and I will reply to it when I have got their answer, in the course of a day or two.