HC Deb 17 June 1898 vol 59 cc577-9
MR. S. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War if he will state the numbers of the military who have been sent down to Glamorganshire, the places to which they have been ordered, and at whose request they were so ordered; who will pay or bear the expenses incurred by the drafting of the military into the county and their maintenance there; whether instructions have been given to the stipendiary magistrate for Pontypridd, or any other person, with reference to the military charging the people with bayonets and shooting with ball cartridge, and what those instructions are; and whether he will lay upon the Table of the House copies of the communications which have passed between those at whose request the military were sent into the county and the War Office or military authorities, and of any instructions which have been given such as those referred to above?


According to a Return dated yesterday the troops sent into South Wales on the requisition of the civil power number 34 officers and 762 men. They were sent at the request of the magistrates and of the chief constable for Monmouthshire. The public bear the charge for travelling and the ordinary cost of maintenance, any additional charge falling on the county; no instructions to the magistrates would in any case be given by the War Office. Rules for the guidance of the military in cases of riot are laid down in section 8 of the Queen's Regulations, which contain clear instructions as to the measures to be taken by the force employed. The Secretary of State sees no reason to lay on the Table of the House the communications containing the requests made to the general officer in command of the district by the local authorities.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

Can the honourable Gentleman say if there is any foundation for the statement in to-day's papers that the military are getting up an exhibition of athletic sports for the benefit of the wives and children of the rioters?


I have not seen the statement, but it is perfectly certain that the military themselves would not be getting it up.

MR. ALFRED THOMAS (Glamorgan, E.)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the late Mr. Mundella, during the coal strike in the Midlands in 1893, succeeded in getting the parties interested in the dispute to agree to the principle of mediation without an application from either side; and whether, with a view of putting an end to the present dispute in the South Wales colliery district, he will in like manner use the powers with which he is vested under the Conciliation Act?


I am informed that in 1893 there was reason to suppose that the action taken by the Government of that day would be favourably regarded by both parties. There is no such presumption at present, but if any application is made to me by either party, I will, as I stated yesterday, most carefully consider it.

MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that Mr. Ignatius Williams, the stipendiary magistrate for the Pontypridd petty sessional division, has received a letter from the justices of the peace for the division or other local authorities commanding him to instruct the military detachments now quartered in Glamorganshire, if necessary, to charge the crowd, use the bayonet, and also to fire with ball cartridges; and whether the officers in command of the troops in question are bound to obey the instructions to the civil authorities?


No, I am not aware that any such letter has been written, or that it would have any legal authority if it has. The law as to the duties of soldiers when called on to assist in quelling disturbance was clearly stated by the Committee of 1894, which pointed out that an officer, if called on by a magistrate to take action for this purpose, has absolute discretion as to the action to be taken, the arms to be used, and the point at which firing becomes necessary. He is responsible that no more is done by the soldiers than the circumstances justify, and any directions of the kind alleged in the Question would neither relieve him of that responsibility nor impose on him any obligation.