§ MR. W. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to ask the 1051 Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the conviction by the stipendiary magistrate at Merthyr Tydvil, on the 4th instant, of 21 hauliers, each of whom was fined £2 3s. for an alleged breach of contract, namely, refusing to work; whether he is aware that the evidence disclosed the fact that the alleged offence consisted solely of a refusal to take horses to their work on the ground that the employers had not supplied the hauliers with the necessary and usual corn for the feed of such horses; and that four other hauliers in the same employ, and on the same occasion, who were supplied with corn, took their horses to work as usual; is he aware that very many hauliers in similar employment in the same county have lately been convicted of cruelty to animals, they having driven their horses without having been previously provided with the necessary and usual corn; is he aware that the attention of the stipendiary magistrate was called by counsel for the defendants to the fact that, if the defendants had taken their horses to work without food, they would have been liable to conviction for cruelty to animals; and that the stipendiary magistrate refused to state a case for appeal to the High Court; and whether he will, under the circumstances, remit the fine?
§ MR. ASQUITH
The accuracy, or at least the fullness, of the statements in the question seems to be disputed. I am informed that the food for the horses had been sent, in the first instance, to the wrong stable, and arrived at the moment when the men had ascended the pit. The result of their failure to work was that 250 colliers were left idle for the day. The proceedings were, as I understand, for damages under the Employers and Workmen's Act, 1875, sec. 4 of which gives a court of summary jurisdiction the civil jurisdiction to assess damages for breach of contract. It is not, therefore, a case in which the Secretary of State has any power to interfere.