HC Deb 02 August 1899 vol 75 cc1199-205

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.


MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I rise for the purpose of moving as an Amendment the omission of the lines which re-enact the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act. Year after year we have protested against this Act, which, be it observed, has practically been in force in Ireland throughout the whole of the century. I could quite understand the Government passing such an Act when the country was supposed to be on the verge of an insurrection, or immediately after an insurrection had taken place. But nothing of the sort has occurred in Ireland for a period of twenty years. Therefore, on that ground, there is no shadow of excuse for keeping this disgraceful Act on the Statute-book. But it was argued by the Government when the Act was last passed that it was neces- sary in order to remove outrages and disturbances in the country. What are the real facts of the case? This Act has been enforced with the greatest possible strictness, and with the greatest inconvenience to farmers throughout the country, who are not allowed to have guns or firearms on their premises for the ordinary work for which farmers require such weapons. What has been the effect of the Act? When secret societies were active in Ireland the moonlighters always had these weapons, but the unfortunate farmers whose houses were attacked were disarmed by this law and left in a defenceless position. The Act is, therefore, simply an insult and outrage to peaceably-disposed people. I have never had a licence to carry arms myself because I could never bring myself to ask the Chief Secretary for a licence, and if I had ever asked for one I do not know whether the Chief Secretary would have given it. Accordingly, when I cross the Channel to Ireland, I have no right to carry arms, and I am subject to six months' imprisonment as a common criminal if arms are discovered in my house. I have recently had some means myself of testing the reality of this grievance. A farmer, who was extremely anxious to keep a gun for the purpose of shooting birds, made several applications to get a licence. He finally succeeded in getting a licence, and then, on the information of some loafer about the neighbourhood, his licence was taken from him. He applied to me to get it for him some time ago, and that was the only occasion on which I have ever written to the Castle for a licence. The application, however, was refused. I say it is an outrage to keep this Act on the Statute-book, when we remember that to-day there is not in the world a more peaceable country than Ireland or one more free from crime. The present occasion is peculiarly favourable for protesting against this law. We have heard a good deal lately about oppressed "helots" in Johannesburg. One of their great grievances, as dwelt upon by the Colonial Secretary the other day, is that they are an unarmed people with an armed police. That is exactly our position in Ireland. We are unarmed, while the police are armed, not only with revolvers, but with rifles and bayonets, which they do not hesitate to use. Now, what moral right has this country to go to President Kruger and make a grievance of the fact that British-born subjects in the Transvaal are denied the light to carry arms, when at the same time in Ireland—a perfectly peaceable country—any man who carries a gun is subject to six months' imprisonment? It is a mockery to adopt such an attitude as that, and if you desire with any show of consistency to catalogue this as one of the grievances of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal, you are bound to accept my Amendment, and remove this scandalous enactment from the Statute-book. President Kruger and the Transvaal Government have an infinitely stronger ground to disarm the Uitlanders than you have to disarm the Irish, because the Uitlanders have, within the last three years, made an armed effort to overthrow the Government. If we had had an armed insurrection in Ireland within the last three years I should not have been surprised at the House of Commons being asked to continue this enactment. But that has not been the case. Ireland has been in a condition of profound peace, but instead of availing yourselves of the opportunity of withdrawing from that country the coercive laws which have so long prevailed, you persist in keeping on the Statute-book an abominable law like the Peace Preservation Act. It is monstrous that this most insulting and coercive measure should be placed in an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill with a number of ordinary non-contentious measures.

Amendment proposed— In page 4, to leave out lines 29 and 30."—(Mr. Dillon.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."


The hon. Member for East Mayo described this Act as an Act that forbids the carrying of arms. It is, however, only an Act to forbid the carrying of arms without a licence in such parts of Ireland as maybe proclaimed. It is not in the least necessary to apply to the Chief Secretary in order to obtain a licence. If the hon. Member wrote an application to a resident magistrate it would probably be granted. The hon. Member said that year after year he and his friends have protested against the continuance of this Act on the Statute book. I think he must have forgotten that for the three years during which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose held the office I now hold no protest whatever was heard from the hon. Member. When the hon. Member says that nothing could be more insulting than to put this Act into an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the hon. Member forgets that it was the right hon. Member for Montrose who first introduced the practice.


Yes, but then we had the possibility of a Home Rule Parliament.


That might have been the case in 1893, but in the two subsequent years after the Home Rule Bill had been rejected by the House of Lords, and when it was perfectly obvious that there was no prospect of another Home Rule Bill being introduced, the hon. Member still made no protest against the inclusion of the Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The fact of the matter is that although the hon. Member uses strong language about the Act, he knows well enough that it causes no practical inconvenience whatever. The Act was introduced by a Liberal Ministry, and was put into the Expiring Laws Continuance Act for the first time by a Liberal Ministry. The hon. Member has given two grounds which he thought might possibly be urged in justification of the maintenance of this measure—the danger of an armed insurrection, which now is at an end, and the prevalence of moonlighting. With regard to the latter he added that this measure would never check moonlighting, and that moonlighters never had the slightest difficulty in getting arms. That is an incorrect statement, as a certain number of moonlighting outrages have been carried out for the express purpose of getting arms, so that the Act must have done something to make it more difficult. We

Aird, john Balfour Rt. Hon. J. B. (Clackm. Brookfield, A. Montagu
Allsopp, Hon. George Banbury, Frederic George Butcher, John Ceorge
Arnold, Alfred Barnes, Frederick Gorell Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)
Arrol, Sir William Barton, Dunbar Plunket Carlile, William Walter
Asher, Alexander Bathurst, Hon Allen B. Cayzer, Sir Charles William
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Bigwood, James Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Bir.
Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Blundell, Colonel Henry Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Boulnois, Edmund Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds) Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.

have also to consider that in Ireland at certain times of the year there is serious danger of disturbance and conflict between crowds and rival processions. That is one of the most important considerations, and I do not think any Irish Government would willingly deprive itself of the power of keeping some check over the possession of arms in that part of Ireland where conflicts between large crowds occur year after year. This question has been discussed every session since the present Government came into office, and I do not think any additional arguments have been urged in favour of omitting this Act from the Bill. I therefore propose to follow the example of my predecessor, and insist upon maintaining the Act on the Statute Book.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)

It is no answer to say that the thing was done by your predecessor; if it is wrong, it ought not to be persisted in. As to the Act being necessary to make party processions—I suppose in the north of Ireland—less dangerous than they otherwise would be, it is a very curious thing that that is just the part of the country where arms are not kept out of the hands of the people. There are more arms in. the hands of the people of Belfast than in all the rest of Ireland. The Chief Secretary says it is no indignity or insult to. keep this Act on the Statute Book, because all you have to do is to apply to a resident magistrate for a licence to have a gun. But what would an Englishman think if he had to apply to a stipendiary magistrate to get leave to carry arms It would be considered a condition of slavery, and it is the duty of all Irish Members to protest against this measure upon every occasion.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 118; Noes, 42.—(Division List No. 336).

Coghill, Douglas Harry Hazell, Walter Pryce Jones, Lt.-Col. Edwd.
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Heaton, John Henniker Purvis, Robert
Cook, Fred Lucas (Lambeth) Hill, Arthur (Down, West) Rentoul, James Alexander
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Hoare, Edward B. (Hampstead) Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Curzon, Viscount Houlds worth, Sir Wm. Henry Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Dalkeith, Earl of Howard, Joseph Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chath'm Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Johnston, William (Belfast) Seely, Charles Hilton
Doxford, William Theodore Knowles, Lees Sidebottom, William (Derbys.
Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swan.) Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)
Finch, George H. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Fisher, William Hayes Long, Rt Hn. Walter (Liverpool Strauss, Arthur
Fison, Frederick William Macartney, W. G. Ellison Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Macdona, John Cumming Thornton, Percy M.
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry MacIver, David (Liverpool) Tomlinson, W. E. Murray
Fry, Lewis Maclure, Sir John William Valentia, Viscount
Gedge, Sydney M' Ewan, William Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.
Gibbons, J. Lloyd Manners, Lord Edw. Wm. J. Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Giles, Charles Tyrrell Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire) Williams, Colonel, R. (Dorset)
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. H. John Monk, Charles James Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)
Goldsworthy, Major-General Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Gordon, Hon. John Edward More, Robert J. (Shropshire) Wylie, Alexander
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Morrell, George Herbert Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (S. G'rge's Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'd.) Young, Commander (Berks, E.
Goulding, Edward Alfred Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury Newdigate, Francis Alex. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Halsey, Thomas Frederick Nicol, Donald Ninian
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. Wm. Parkes, Ebenezer
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Pierpoint, Robert
Atherley-Jones, L. Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley Molloy, Bernard Charles
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Griffith, Ellis J. O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Harwood, George Oldroyd, Mark
Billson, Alfred Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth) Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)
Birrell, Augustine Joicey, Sir James Perks, Robert William
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Pirie, Duncan V.
Broadhurst, Henry Labouchere, Henry Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)
Caldwell, James Lewis, John Herbert Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Carew, James Laurence Macaleese, Daniel Steadman, William Charles
Channing, Francis Allston M' Arthur, William (Cornwall Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) M' Leod, John Yoxall, James Henry
Dalziel, James Henry Maddison, Fred. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Dillon and Mr. Clancy.
Donelan, Captain A. Maden, John Henry
Fenwick, Charles Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.