HC Deb 20 September 1893 vol 17 cc1715-32
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

said, he would take this opportunity of drawing the attention of the House to matters connected with the recent disturbances which had occurred in various parts of the country, arising out of the labour troubles which were prevailing at the present time. At the outset he desired to say that he did not in any way desire to convert this into a Party question, or to make any attack whatever upon the Home Secretary, or upon any Member of the Government. It would be his duty, in the few remarks he had to offer, to deal with matters for which the right hon. Gentleman was responsible, and duties for which provision was made by the Votes contained in the Bill; but he was happy to think that matters as grave as those to which he now desired to call attention could be approached without being in any way associated with Party controversy. He was bound to say that if it was his desire, which certainly it was not, to introduce any Party element, he did not think, from the recollection he had of successive Administrations, extending over a period of 30 years, that it would be in the archives of the Home Office he would seek to furbish up weapons for attack. However any other hon. Members might consider themselves justified in making a special attack upon a public servant on account of his discharge of a bounden duty, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he should approach the matter in no Party sense. When this subject engaged the attention of the House for a few brief moments the other day, the hon. Member for Haggerston expressed an opinion that in the information he (Mr. Lowther) had put before the House he had been misled, and that the circumstances to which he had referred had been greatly exaggerated in the public prints. If that had been the case, or if he felt that the dangers of the situation had passed away, he would be far from any desire to recur to these evils, and gladly would he have allowed this humiliating chapter of contemporary history to remain untouched, and he would not again have obtruded these matters on the attention of the House. But he was sorry to say, as the result of inquiry and local information vouchsafed to him, not only was the original information published in the newspapers not exaggerated, but, unfortunately, it largely understated the gravity of the situation; and in his remarks he had erred in largely understating, rather than overstating, what had been actually proved to have occurred. The condition of affairs which prevailed in different parts of the country during the last month had been most discreditable—a. condition of affairs that he thought deserved the most anxious attention of Parliament. The condition of many districts was that of absolute anarchy. Mobs, numbering in many instances thousands of men, had paraded large areas of the mining districts of the country, committing in some cases minor outrages, and in other cases, unfortunately, proceeding to the commission of offences of a graver character—brutal assaults on honest labouring men discharging their inalienable right to earn their daily bread; and also these mobs had been guilty of outrages on other inoffensive persons, had destroyed a vast amount of property, had committed arson, and other crimes. He was glad to say that, so far as the greater part of the country was concerned, where these disturbances had occurred the Local Authorities appeared to have been equal to the situation. Additional police had in many instances been drawn into the disturbed neighbourhood, and troops had been summoned to be in readiness if required in case the emergency should become more acute. In the mining districts of South Wales special precautions taken in advance had the desired effect, and rioting which began to display itself was suppressed, and further extension of the evil avoided. Happily, in Wales, the working men who were prepared to stand by their liberties were sufficiently numerous to render a very good account of themselves, and every lover of liberty must have rejoiced to hear that in Ebbw Vale the lawless scoundrels who contemplated attack received a well-merited thrashing. Unfortunately, other districts were not able to supply a sufficient number of independent men to vindicate their personal liberties; and that task devolved, as in all civilised communities it should, on those charged with the duty on the part of the Crown of preserving the public peace. In one district especially he regretted to say there was a backwardness in taking active precautions, and that was in the West Riding of Yorkshire. There a state of affairs prevailed which he should have thought would have aroused the authorities to bestir themselves to the discharge of their duty for the prevention of the extension of disturbances. He found that on Monday, 4th September—he would not weary the House with details—the practice was adopted which had frequently been followed in other districts similarly affected, of a large mass of men being gathered together from different colliery villages, and these marched, gathering in numbers on their way, to some appointed centre, and in the case he was about to refer to the march was directed to Garforth, in the heart of the colliery district. Arrived there the mob proceeded to the pit's mouth, and demanded to know whether any men were at work—in other words, whether any free-born subject of the British Crown was exercising his inalienable right to earn his daily bread in a legal manner he thought fit. Unfortunately, the men at Garforth were not so situated as the men at Ebbw Vale. They were not in sufficient strength to administer a well-deserved thrashing to those who interfered with them, and he regretted to have to say that, owing to intimidation, the persons in charge of the mine had to give assurance that employment should be suspended. As a matter of fact, he believed that the only men in the pit were those engaged in the necessary work in connection with keeping down the water in the pit. But the leaders of this lawless mob were not satisfied, and insisted upon going down the pit, where they had no business. They intimidated those in charge to let them down to satisfy themselves that their lawless behest was obeyed. Such a matter deserved, he thought, the anxious consideration of the House of Commons. This was not all. After this proceeding, a meeting was held close by. A person was called to the chair, and, not to weary the House with details, the usual resolutions were passed, and the usual talk was indulged in. The men then proceeded to find out whether there were any so-called "black sheep" in the neighbourhood of the colliery—"black sheep" being a word locally used, as in other places "blacklegs," to describe those honest working men who exercised their personal liberty and declined to be dictated to as to when they should work. Men found to be working in the pits were roughly handled, in many instances were brought out into the crowd, and, under threat of personal violence, compelled to sign undertakings not to work again. Now, as to the popular feeling in the neighbourhoods concerned, which the House had been told by some who professed to speak for the miners was opposed to violent tactics, he regretted to say that such a notion must be dismissed as an idle tale, as evidence of which he might mention that amongst the most violent were women with babies in their arms, denouncing the so-called "black sheep." On Monday, the 4th September, a dangerous condition of affairs evidently prevailed in the West Hiding. What were the authorities doing to prevent a. recurrence of evils which occurred at the outset of the disturbances, between the Monday at midday and subsequent days, when affairs assumed greater gravity? As far as he could make out, the Chief Constable of the West Riding or those responsible took one step, and one step only—namely, to withdraw 25 per cent. of the police force of the West Riding and lend them to the police authorities at Doncaster to preserve order in connection with Doncaster races. But the Chief Constable of the West Riding was primarily responsible for order in his own district; and if, according to custom, he had to furnish assistance to the Don-caster police, it was his duty to obtain, in like manner, assistance from other police forces to enable him to do his duty in preserving order. The only step, however, that the Chief Constable of the West Riding took was, not merely not to strengthen his force, but to send away to Doncaster 269 members of his force of 1,080. It was only fair to mention that the Chief Constable was away upon holiday at the time. Everybody, unless he be a Member of Parliament or an officer of the House of Commons, was fairly entitled to an annual holiday; and, therefore, the Chief Constable had a perfect right to a holiday, but his place, in his absence, should have been filled by an efficient deputy. But, so far from having one, affairs seemed to have been allowed to drift into a condition of hopeless chaos. Nothing was done until matters assumed an exceedingly grave aspect, and then additional police and troops were summoned. He deplored the necessity for the use of troops in conflict with civilians. When it was necessary, however, to employ troops, they should be protected from taunts, insults, and actual assaults from disorderly crowds, which tended to a breach of the peace, and not only rendered them useless to preserve the peace, but even placed them in danger of their own lives. The greatest moderation was observed by the Civil and Military Authorities. A small force of some 25 or 26 men was dispatched from Bradford to Featherstone, where a serious riot was going on. No Magistrate was to be found to read the Riot Act, and the officer in command placed his men in a building where they were subjected to jeers and insults, and actual assaults, from the mob, while being powerless to act. His own opinion was that the reading of the Riot Act was altogether unnecessary, and that every subject of the Queen, whether military or civil, was bound to assist in preserving the peace, and in preventing the commission of a felony, when called upon even by a common constable. However, the Queen's Regulations tied the hands of officers, and he was not prepared to say that—with an eye to Coroners' juries, with their erratic and chaotic and frequently ridiculous verdicts—the Military Authorities were to be blamed for observing caution in these matters. And, as to the delay in procuring a Magistrate, it was only fair to remember that it was holiday time; and while, no doubt, the best plan when feasible was for a Magistrate always to be sent along with troops, it must be likewise remembered that a Borough Justice could not act outside his municipal area, so that if a Bradford Magistrate had accompanied the soldiers he would have been useless in the West Riding area. At the same time, what occurred at Featherstone was most humiliating, as, owing to being unable to act, the soldiers were withdrawn under a kind of improvised treaty entered into between the officer in command, the manager of the colliery, and the ostensible leaders of the mob, amidst the jeers and the insults of the crowd. They subsequently returned, accompanied by a Magistrate, after which every effort was made to persuade the mob to disperse, and it was not until it became absolutely necessary that the officer in command gave the order to fire. He had seen it stated that the persons injured were mere spectators, and were not engaged in the riot; but, in his opinion, the Riot Act having been duly read, these unfortunate men, by not at once dispersing, were in their own persons guilty of aiding and abetting, if not of taking actual part in, the disturbance. Moreover, what business had men from a distant village to be at such an hour so far from their homes in the midst of riotous scenes. It should also be borne in mind that it was not the inhabitants of a village who had the disadvantage of being personally known to the local police and colliery officials who headed these disturbances, but persons from another neighbouring village, like the deceased. The Civil and Military Authorities responsible for the maintenance of order had been denounced by those who might have been expected to support them. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could take very good care of himself, and he (Mr. Lowther) was not going to interfere between him and other Members of the House, but he desired that the House should make it clearly understood that no Party capital would ever be attempted to be made out of any unpopularity any public servant might incur, or run the risk of incurring, while honestly in the discharge of his duty. If the bonâ fide leaders of the men could be relied upon on such occasions as he had been speaking of to assist the authorities in the maintenance of order, the provision made in the Appropriation Bill for the services of extra military and police would be unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman was about to cite instances of inflammatory language which, he contended, had been used by certain Members of the House against the authorities, when—

*SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean) rose to a point of Order. He did not intend any discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman, but he wished to ask whether a Debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill must not be confined to objects that came within the scope of the Bill? He understood the right hon. Gentleman was about to quote the utterances of certain Members of the House, which was travelling beyond the Bill.


said, the right hon. Gentleman could not speak of Members of the House, unless he could show that they were connected with the disturbances and the action taken by the Home Secretary.


said, then he would eliminate from his argument the quotations he intended to have made. His contention, however, was that the burden imposed on the taxpayers would be greatly diminished if the Home Secretary and those responsible for the preservation of order could rely upon the assistance of the bonâ fide leaders of the men. Attacks had been made on the constituted authorities of the realm by many persons, who not merely shared the responsibility common to all Her Majesty's subjects to assist in the preservation of the peace, but some of whom were actually Members of that House. In his judgment, so far from assisting the authorities, and diminishing the charge on the taxpayer to which he had alluded, these gentlemen had delivered speeches which, in one particular instance, he did not hesitate to say, could not be characterised properly by any language which the Forms of the House sanctioned, and no language that any recognised lexicographer could furnish would adequately convey his opinion of such a speech. He trusted that before sanctioning any contribution from the Imperial Exchequer towards local police funds the Home Secretary would satisfy himself that Local Authorities had not neglected to furnish additional police to other districts when such could be spared without detriment to the districts themselves, as was provided for by various Statutes. He mentioned that as he had seen it stated that the Nottingham Borough Authorities had raised difficulties of the kind in connection with the Hull Dock strike, and similar reports prevailed regarding the present crisis in regard to other Local Authorities. He hoped the Government would take care that it should be made clear who were the Local Authorities who were responsible in cases of this kind—whether the local Justices or the Watch Committee, as confusion seemed to prevail in some quarters in those respects. It should be clearly laid down who were responsible, and in what manner they were to be brought to book if they neglected to discharge their duties. The present condition of affairs was of sufficient gravity that he felt bound to bring the question prominently before the House, and he thought it would be generally agreed that the matter demanded the earnest consideration of the Government.


The right hon. Gentleman has not made any attack upon the Government, and I do not propose to follow him in the criticisms he has thought it right to make on the action or inaction of the Local Authorities in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the early stages of these deplorable disturbances. At the present time I do not think that there is sufficient information in the possession of the Government, or the House, to justify us in expressing approval or disapproval of what was done, or left undone, by the Local Authorities. Therefore, I think any further dispute on that line of argument may be fairly deprecated. I will avail myself, however, of this opportunity to tell the House at once what has been and what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in relation to this matter. It would seem difficult, and almost impossible, to get the people of this country to understand what are the functions and responsibilities of the Executive Government in reference to local disturbances. It cannot be too clearly laid down that the responsibility for the prevention and suppression of local disorder lies, whore it has always lain from the earliest period of our history, with the Local Authority. So deeply is that principle ingrained in our law that when, from a failure on the part of the Local Authority to do its duty in that respect, damage is done to anyone, not the Public Exchequer, but formerly the inhabitants of the hundred, and now the ratepayers of the particular police district, are the body that has to make good the injury. In the same way, when the County and Borough Police were established nearly 60 years ago, their administration was entrusted to the Local Authorities in the districts in which they were raised. That being so, what is the position of the Secretary of State? According to the ideas that seem to prevail in many quarters, it might be supposed that the Home Secretary in this country is in the position of the Minister of the Interior in France, or in the position of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. His position is nothing of the kind. I entirely disclaim on behalf of myself, and of those who may succeed me in this Office, any responsibility of any sort for the way in which the local police force in this country is governed. No doubt, by a practice which has gradually grown up, it has become the duty of the Secretary of State in the case of emergency to give advice to the Local Authority, but the Local Authority is perfectly at liberty to accept or reject that advice as it thinks fit. Further, the Secretary of State is the channel through which the demands of a Local Authority for assistance, when their own police resources are insufficient to cope with an emergency, may be made; and, further than that, if the Local Authority are found to be guilty of excess or remissness, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to conduct such inquiries and to institute such proceedings as the nature of the case may require. I believe I have summarised in this statement the whole of the duties which the law imposes upon the Home Secretary.


The contribution from the Imperial Exchequer?


It is true that the Secretary of State has the power to withhold the certificate which the Act of Parliament empowers him to give at the end of the financial year, and so deprive a Local Body of its share of the Imperial contribution towards its police; but he can only do that if he is able to certify that the police force concerned has not been kept in a state of efficiency during the year. He would be travelling beyond his powers and his duties if he were to inquire, in addition, how it had been managed in the course of the year. I am not going to say anything in the way of criticism of the existing system. It has its drawbacks, no doubt, when the area of disturbance extends over several counties, and when it is impossible to expect uniform and concerted action on the part of the various authorities concerned. On the other hand, in my opinion, the advantages of the arrangement infinitely outweigh the disadvantages. I think it would be an evil day for the administration of justice if we were to centralise that which is at present local. In my opinion, the privilege of local self-government ought to carry with it the responsibility for the maintenance of local order. I have thought it right to state these few general principles, because the case now immediately under consideration is, after all, only a typical case. This is, I think, the fourth or fifth case of great gravity in which I have had to consider what the powers and duties and responsibilities of Ministers are, and I do trust that what I have said may help to get rid of misconceptions in the public mind, and enable the country clearly to realise what are the limits of our functions and responsibilities. And now, Sir, a very few words on the immediate case before us. A very grave state of things existed in the West Riding of Yorkshire three weeks ago. I am not prepared, from the information I have received, to assent to the proposition that the riotous and marauding proceedings that went on, the wrecking of collieries, the burning down of buildings, the levying of toll on innocent passers by—that these actions met with any sympathy whatever from the general body of miners on strike. I believe these outrages were the work of a comparatively small number of rowdies and normally unoccupied men, and that, so far as the general opinion of the mining population was concerned, they would discountenance any such proceedings. But, whatever might have been the state of feeling among the miners themselves, it is undoubtedly the melancholy fact that these things did go on, and that there was for some time no attempt on the part of the law-abiding population to stop them. The local resources in police in a county like the West Riding are, of course, calculated with reference to a normal and not an abnormal state of things; and, whatever may be the justice of the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman as to the withdrawal of police for Doncaster races, they would have been in any case insufficient to cope with this suddenly-arising emergency. I am sorry not to see in their places to-day some hon. Members who have been going about and denouncing me, and circulating what I can only characterise as a pitiful and ridiculous fiction—namely, that Her Majesty's Government deliberately sent, without warrant or cause, the armed forces of the Crown into districts where industrial disputes were going on, in order that they might take the side of the coalowners and crush the miners. Where are the men who made these statements? It was well known that this matter would form the subject of discussion this afternoon. Why are they not in their places? It is a very easy thing to go about the country speaking to excited audiences where you are safe from refutation and reply; but it is a very different thing, and the only proper thing, to come here, to the House of Commons, and on the floor of this House, face to face with the Minister you condemn, to fight the matter out. I regret that this has to be said of men, personal friends of my own and generally supporters of Her Majesty's Government, but I do think that conduct such as that of the hon. Members to whom I am referring ought not to be allowed to pass unnoticed, and that the least a Minister of the Crown whose action is challenged by Members of this House has a right to expect—especially as we are at the close of our present Sittings, for the opportunity may not occur again—he has a right, I say, to expect that he should be given the opportunity of answering the statements made with respect to his conduct in the presence of the hon. Members who make them. These hon. Members are away. If they were present I should ask them what they would have done in my position? Supposing that they had held the Office which I hold, and that the state of things which I have described had been brought to their knowledge; supposing that the Local Authorities, alarmed for the preservation of the public peace and for the safety of property, had sent them telegram after telegram saying that the local police forces were insufficient, that they had tried to borrow additional police elsewhere, but unavailingly, and that unless special protection were given to them they would no longer be responsible for the public peace, what course would any responsible Minister adopt in the circumstances? These gentlemen know as well as I do, and would admit it if they cleared their minds and tongues of cant, that there is no man in this country who would not have acted as I have done, and who would not have felt it his bounden duty to supply the Local Authorities with such a force as, in their judgment, was necessary to supplement the local resources at their disposal. I do not believe that the House will disapprove the course which I took. No one can deprecate more strongly than I do the employment of soldiers unnecessarily. I know that their employment in the performance of police duty is distasteful to the soldiers themselves, and for many obvious reasons it is, undoubtedly, irritating to the people. I have, therefore, impressed upon Local Authorities over and over again that, whenever it is possible, they should obtain in emergencies additional police from other localities, and on the occasion under consideration that direction was followed. But it must be borne in mind that the total police force of the country is very limited in number, each borough and county being bound not to retain a larger number of police than is necessary for its ordinary requirements. From Wiltshire, however, from Dorset, and from other parts of the country police were supplied to render assistance in the West Riding and Nottinghamshire. I, therefore, do not think that it is fair to say that there was any indisposition on the part of Local Police Authorities in other parts of England to render such aid as they reasonably could. I myself sanctioned the despatch of about 400 men of the Metropolitan Police, and I find that I am denounced with exactly the same energy of vituperation for having sent these policemen down to Yorkshire as I am for having sent the soldiers. It is very difficult to understand the position of those who think that in such circumstances as I have described a Minister would not have failed in his most elementary duty if he had not supplied all the resources at his disposal which appeared to be reasonably demanded. What was the result of the action that I took? Within 48 hours, almost within 24 hours, from the time when the local forces were thus supplemented the whole disturbance ceased, and for nearly a fortnight we have not had in the whole of the three counties which constituted the area of disturbance a single case of collision, either with the police or the military. I find it difficult to believe that that striking and rapid change from what had become a most serious situation is not to be attributed to the prompt measures that were taken. In many parts I gladly admit that the leaders of the miners have helped loyally and well to bring about the improved state of things. I think it is a most creditable circumstance that in the whole of Lancashire, where there are a very large number of miners on strike, from the beginning of the disturbance up to the present moment there has not been any serious trouble whatever. I attribute this very largely to the efforts of the miners' leaders to exercise a restraining influence upon their followers, and to keep them within the bounds of moderation. I have no doubt, also, that their example has had a tranquillising effect elsewhere. I am as anxious as any man in this House can be for the removal of the additional forces from the localities to which they have been sent. At the earliest moment when it shall be possible to remove them without jeopardising the preservation of public order the House may be sure that then they will be withdrawn; but until that moment arrives it would not only be wrong, but almost criminal, to take any steps to weaken the powers which the Local Authorities have demanded and obtained. Before I sit down I will say a few words respecting the most deplorable incident in these disturbances. I refer to the riot and the intervention of the military at Featherstone, near Pontefract, which resulted, as we all know, in the loss of two lives. As the House is aware, inquests have been held upon the bodies of the men who were, unfortunately, killed. In the first inquest the coroner's jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide, but in the second inquest the jury refused to return that verdict, and apparently shrank from the only other logical conclusion open to them—namely, that of returning a verdict of wilful murder against the Magistrates and troops. They preferred—and I am not quarrelling with them for doing so in the painful position in which they found themselves—they preferred to return an open verdict, to which they appended a rider to the effect that the authorities had not taken proper steps in the earlier stages of the affair to prevent the disturbance from reaching a climax, and they also intimated plainly that, in their opinion, the order given to the soldiers to fire was not justified by the circumstances prevailing at the time when that order was given. When those two verdicts were brought to my notice, I saw that we were face to face with a very serious state of things. But before taking any action I thought it right to call for the evidence which had been taken at the two inquests, and to give it my most careful consideration. I have now completed my study of that evidence, and I have come to the conclusion that the matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. We are face to face with two verdicts upon the same state of facts, which are absolutely irreconcilable one with the other. A careful investigation of the evidence has convinced me that there are a number of facts materially bearing upon the point at issue which were not investigated at all, in consequence, no doubt, of the hurry of the proceedings. I have to consider both the position of the authorities and the feeling of the public, and I do not think that I should be able to satisfy the legitimate demand of public feeling, or that I should be acting fairly to the authorities themselves, whose conduct is distinctly impugned by one of these verdicts, if I did not take the best means in my power to provide for a thorough and adequate investigation of the facts, so that we may have materials on which to pronounce an authoritative and final judgment. As I pointed out yesterday, in answer to a question, there are some difficulties in the way of constituting a proper tribunal for the purpose. Without a special Act of Parliament, giving powers to take evidence upon oath and to compel the attendance of witnesses, a Public Department is, in a matter of this kind, largely dependent upon the spontaneous cooperation of those concerned. But I feel confident that we shall have that co-operation, for the public interest demands that the whole truth shall be disclosed. If I succeed in providing a tribunal which shall command general confidence, I am sure I may rely upon everyone concerned to do all in his power to insure that all the facts connected with this deplorable occurrence shall be known. I must now utter one final word of appeal to those who have far more power than even the Local Authorities or myself to put an end to the existing state of things. This deplorable dispute has now been going on for the greater part of two months; it has involved the districts affected in widespread misery; it has engendered feelings of animosity easy to arouse, but difficult to allay; and it has been productive of most disastrous results to the general industries of the country. I trust, then, that it is not too much to express the hope that neither on the one side nor the other will there be a continuance of that unreasoning obstinacy which, I cannot but think, is the main obstacle to the settlement of this great quarrel. Serious, indeed, will be the responsibility of those who persist in such an attitude. I believe I am expressing the unanimous opinion of all Parties in this House, and of every reasonable man outside, when I say that we look with confidence to the moderation and good sense of both sides in this dispute to put an end to it without delay.

MR. NUSSEY (Pontefract)

said, he did not propose to enter into the facts of the case; indeed, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the facts immediately surrounding it were shrouded in some obscurity, nor did he intend, on the one hand, to criticise the action taken by the Local Authorities for the preservation of the peace, nor, on the other, the action taken by the miners of the district. He rose merely to say that great anxiety had been expressed that there should be further inquiry, and he was very glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman had consented to hold such an inquiry. An inquiry into the whole proceedings was due, in common fairness, to all the persons concerned, and he hoped the investigation would be full and complete.

MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)

said, he did not wish to detain the House after the promise of inquiry that had been given by the Home Secretary, but he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would include in the inquiry the question whether it was necessary for the Local Authorities to seek the aid of the military—a point upon which there was difference of opinion. There were great differences of opinion on that point. There were many people in the district, as he knew, who thought that the whole matter would have been better managed by bringing in additional police, and for that reason he asked the Home Secretary to inform the House whether the inquiry would include an investigation as to whether it was right to bring in soldiers? There was reason to believe that the unfortunate men who were killed were innocent of any complicity in the rioting, and if this was proved by the inquiry to be the fact he hoped the Home Secretary would devise some means by which compensation should be awarded to the relatives of the deceased men.

MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)

said, as the Home Secretary had pointedly alluded to the Labour Members of Parliament, who he regretted were not present to criticise, in the light of fuller information than he possessed, the conduct of the Local Authorities and the Home Secretary, he (Mr. Burns) ventured, not as one in full possession of the facts, to briefly address the House. As the Home Secretary had granted an inquiry, which he trusted would be full, clear, impartial, and comprehensive, this was not the time nor the occasion for discussing matters which could only be adequately discussed when the Report of the inquiry was laid upon the Table of the House. He most sincerely agreed with the Home Secretary in his hesitation to assume towards the Local Authorities who were responsible for law and order in this country, that position and that power of controlling and supervising the local forces in a manner that could only be properly undertaken by a Minister of the Interior such as existed in France. He gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet that he was inclined to impose upon the Local Authorities a central control. He (Mr. Burns) was certain that if such a system was applied to the large industrial communities in England, not only would riots ensue, but it would produce civil war, if not actual revolution. The Home Secretary, with that respect for local governing institutions which characterised all conditions of Englishmen, preferred to throw upon the Local Authorities through their Watch Committees—and he (Mr. Burns) hoped very soon through their elected Magistrates—the responsibility which no centralised State power could control. If one of the results of the inquiry was still further to decentralise political power and establish the right of every district to have its own elected Magistrates, then they would see the workmen's leaders jointly charged, with Magistrates from other sections of the community, with the preservation of order. Under the present Magisterial system, the administration of the law was practically in the hands of a body of men who, when a dispute took place and riot was threatened, thought less of the interests of the community, and the maintenance of law and order, than of using the soldiers and the police for morally intimidating men whom they, as masters, were fighting. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He believed that the military had been imported into this district without sufficient justification. There was no doubt that in the case where the military were called in near Pontefract, the thing was done to intimidate the men through their wives and families. [Cries of "No!"] He felt confident that such was the fact, and if the local police had been kept at homo instead of being kept on duty at Don-caster Races the military would not have been required. ["Oh!"] Yes, it was quite true, and he regretted that police should be drafted off to racecourses to keep in control the acts of blackguardism which were associated with racecourses everywhere. He could cite one instance of the advantage of elected Magistrates. He referred to the City of London, which had the only Corporation with elected Magistrates. A short time ago he conducted a trade dispute right in the centre of London, the richest city in the world, and in that case the Aldermen were strictly and regularly at their duties, were brought face to face with the circumstances of the dispute, and were, to a very great extent, in touch with the leaders of the men.


said, the hon. Member was scarcely entitled to raise the whole question of elected Magistrates on the Appropriation Bill.


said, he deferred to the Speaker. He only wished to say that when the whole facts were brought before the House it would be seen that in order to deal satisfactorily with these labour disputes, and to prevent men on the outskirts, as it were, of a dispute from discrediting those who were engaged in the struggle, it would be necessary to have elected Magistrates. They succeeded, and what was possible in their case could be achieved in other towns if Magistrates were appointed on the elective system. If the Home Secretary, who was a strong man—perhaps on some matters too strong, and lacking a little in discretion—would bring in a Bill to provide for the appointment of Magistrates by election, he would do a great deal to assist in the preservation of law and order everywhere, especially on occasions of public excitement and trade disputes.