HC Deb 11 August 1904 vol 140 cc319-29

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]


MR. DELANY (Queen's County, Ossory)

said he wished to move to omit lines 16 and 17, which referred to the Peace Preservation Act in Ireland. That was an Act carrying pains and penalties to the people of Ireland; and it was also an indignity and an insult. They were told that the same laws existed in the three Kingdoms; but here was an exceptional law of the gravest character which denied to Irishmen constitutional rights. Under it, the Executive in Ireland had very excessive powers. A man could be arrested for bearing arms, and could be subjected to imprisonment. It was an Act against which the Irish Members were called upon to make a very strong and earnest protest. Its provisions were penal and pernicious in their character. He was acquainted with the administration of the Act in Ireland, and he knew that its administration was characterised by partisan and sectarian methods. It extended to every county in Ireland except eight counties in Ulster, where Orangemen were allowed to have plenty of arms. The Nationalist population was, however, disarmed, which was a great grievance, especially to farmers, whose crops suffered from the ravages of wild animals. In many cases farmers were absolutely denied the use of a gun for the protection of their crops even within the limits of their own farms. Farmers had frequently asked him for a recommendation to a removable magistrate; but he had to tell them chat any recommendation from a Nationalist Member of Parliament would have no weight with the removable magistrate, although if the recommendation were obtained from an Orange Lodge it would be effective. When the Act came into operation, arms had to be given up and, in many instances, they were retained, and no compensation was given to their owners. The Act was an indignity and a wrong to the people of Ireland. Why should they not be allowed to use arms for the protection of their property? Ireland, at the present moment, was the most peaceful part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, he doubted if it was not the most peaceful country in the world. At present the ordinary Irishman had to ask the local police sergeant for a character if he wanted a gun licence; and very often the local sergeant refused to give it; but more often men of independent spirit declined to ask the sergeant for a character. He would ask the Chief Secretary what was the justification for the re-enactment of this Act? It was an indignity to every county, town, and parish in Ireland. He was talking to a North of Ireland Protestant the other day who told him that he was asked to join the Orange Society but that he declined, because part of the oath to be taken pledged the member to wade knee-deep in Papist blood. These were the men who were allowed to carry arms; and he would, therefore, ask an assurance from the Chief Secretary that this Act should not be re-enacted. He begged to move.

Amendment proposed— In page 4, to leave out the words of 'lines 16 and 17.'"—(Mr. Delany)

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


said he desired to support the Amendment of his hon. friend. By the very name of it the Act was rendered as insulting as possible. Under existing circumstances he thought it would be admitted that the Act was not required. It was an Act to preserve the peace in Ireland; but he would ask who was breaking the peace? If the records of crime in various countries of Europe were examined, it would be found that no country was more peaceful than Ireland. They were often told that Irishmen were treated just as Englishmen and Scotsmen. Was there any corresponding Act in this country? If there were crime in Ireland he could understand it; but everyone knew there was no crime. He protested against the passing of the Act because it was unfair and insulting to Ireland, and because it occasioned great ill-feeling. The circumstances under which a gun licence had to be obtained in Ireland were very humiliating. No such conditions were in force in England. Before the Act was re-enacted it should be proved that crime existed in Ireland. They knew that there was no crime in the country, and therefore he strongly protested against the Act being included in the Bill.


said he should like to remind the Committee and the Chief Secretary that this Act, when it was first passed, was not intended to be of a permanent character. It was first passed for a period of five years, and had since been renewed from year to year. The Irish Members protested against the perpetuation of the Act, and would continue to protest. Ireland, at the present moment, was the least criminal country on the face of the earth. There was more crime committed in London in one week than in all Ireland in the course of a year; yet there was no similar Act passed for London. Even if the Act were administered impartially, their complaint would not be so great. In the North of Ireland one section of the population was allowed to carry arms, and no effort was made to check it. After a recent Orange mob had been dispersed by the police, a sackful of revolvers was collected. Nobody had ever heard of police raids in search of arms in Orange districts, although it was well known that arms were concealed. Orangemen were allowed to maintain a reign of terror on every Twelfth of July and other occasions. Applications for licences by Nationalists, even when endorsed by a justice of the peace and the leading clergymen of the neighbourhood, were refused. Much had been heard about the new era that was being established in Ireland. The Irish people would be glad to see a new era for the benefit not of the landlords only, but of the community generally, and they would be more convinced of its introduction if the Chief Secretary would frankly accept the fact that there was no crime in Ireland, and acknowledge that there was no possible excuse for the continuance of this Act.


said that for the Peace Preservation Act the Party to which he belonged was not responsible; it had been brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmonthshire in the year 1881. Exception had been taken to its inclusion in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but that, again, could riot be laid to the charge of the Unionist Party, it having been first so included by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose.


asked why, if he was following the example of those right hon. Gentlemen in this matter, the Chief Secretary did not also adopt their Home Rule policy.


, continuing, said that no exception was taken either to the Act or to its inclusion in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill in the years 1893 or 1894. In subsequent years exception was taken, but no exception was taken last year.


I myself moved its omission last year.


said he always looked back at speeches which he had delivered on similar occasions, and he thought the hon. Member must be mistaken.


said he was not a Member of the House two years ago, and both on the Second Reading and in Committee last year he opposed the inclusion of this Act.


said he had looked up previous discussions, and for last year he drew a blank. He agreed with the justification advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs, viz., that it was not a measure of coercion, that it drew no invidious distinction between Ireland and England, and that it was simply a measure for peace preservation, and it was from that point of view he desired to see the Act continued. In fact, if it were not all but impossible to enact legislation of a novel character, he would say that this Act would be a very good one to extend to England. The indiscriminate sale of arms to people of all ages and pursuits was not one of the greatest blessings of civilisation. If hon. Members were able to show that the provisions of the Act were harshly enforced, that a number of people in Ireland were imprisoned for long periods for possessing arms, they might have a case for its repeal.

MR. MACVEAGH (interrupting)

said that he had now looked up Hansard for last year, and if the right hon. Gentleman would refer to the debates on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill he would find that he was mistaken in saying that no objection was taken to this Act on that occasion.


The right hon. Member will not find a speech of mine.


The right hon. Gentleman said that I did not move.


Did I make a speech last year on this Amendment?


The right hon. Gentleman said we did not bring the matter forward.


I said that I did not make a speech of any length on this Amendment. If it could be shown that the Act was harshly administered if, for instance, everybody who applied for a licence was refused, a case might be made out against the Government. But what were the facts? Last year licences were given to 5,863 persons, only 7 per cent. of the applications being refused. It did not appear from that that the Act was administered in an unduly drastic manner. The tribunal of two resident magistrates was put in at the instance of two Members for Ireland—the hon. Member for Louth and the hon. Member for East Mayo—who suggested that it would be a more proper tribunal than one composed of local justices, who might be influenced by local feeling. Whether as regarded the provisions of the Act, the tribunal, or the administration, he did not think anything could be alleged to justify the suggestion that the Act was an invidious one, or in any way insulting to Ireland. Last year only four persons were prosecuted under the Act; all four were convicted, but none were im prisoned, a fine being imposed in each case.

MR. LEAMY (Kildare, N.)

referred to Hansard to show that the Chief Secretary took part in the debate of last year on the question of the omission of the Peace Preservation Act from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The contention of Nationalists was that if they were free men they were entitled to carry arms, and they denied the right of an English Parliament to prevent them. It was a humiliation to have to go through all this procedure to obtain a licence, especially as the right to carry arms was indiscriminately granted in certain Ulster counties, but denied to Nationalists. Fair play all round should be given, and every respectable decent farmer who required a gun for the protection of his fields ought to be able to have it without undergoing any humiliation whatever. If difficulty was to be placed in the way of obtaining arms, let a beginning be made in England. One good thing about this kind of legislation was that it kept up the Irish national spirit. Ireland was not subdued yet; over and over again she had been beaten down, but the people loved their country as much as ever they did, and would continue to do so. They were not prepared to rise in arms, but they had in their hearts a sentiment which British rule could never kill.

MR. DOOGAN (Tyrone, E.)

as an Ulster Member protested against the continuance of this Act, which from his own bitter experience he knew to be very harshly administered. The Chief Secretary had based his remarks upon a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, but at any rate that right hon. Gentleman did keep the police under proper control, insist upon impartiality being shown, and so administer the Government of Ireland that there was no encouragement to violence or crime. If the Act were administered impartially there would not be so much objection, but it was not. In his own constituency there was practically no police protection for Nationalists or Roman Catholics. Twice recently had priests been insulted and stoned. The police would neither protect the people, nor allow them to carry arms to protect themselves. It was time the Chief Secretary saw that he was being misled by local bigots furnishing him with inaccurate information. Every free citizen had a right to carry arms, and this Act was retained simply out of love of ascendancy, in order to keep one portion of the kingdom under the heel of another. There was no other country in the world where they had any such law as this. There was very little in all this talk about the necessity of this law in order to

preserve peace in Ireland. Respectable people did not break the law, and those who desired to shoot anybody, or break the law, or commit any crime, could easily find an opportunity of doing so even under this law. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to leave this Bill out of the schedule.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 141; Noes, 48. (Division List No. 341.)

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Flannery, Sir Fortescue Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Arkwright, John Stanhope Forster, Henry William Newdegate, Francis A. N.
Arnold-Forster,Rt.Hn.Hugh0. Gardner, Ernest Nicholson, William Graham
Arrol, Sir Wiliam Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H. Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) Percy, Earl
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby- Pierpoint, Robert
Bain, Colonel James Robert Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pilkington, Colonel Richard
Balcarres, Lord Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury) Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs. Plummer, Sir Walter R.
Balfour, RtHnGerald W. (Leeds Gretton, John Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry Pretyman, Ernest George
Bigwood, James Haslett, Sir James Horner Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Bill, Charles Hay, Hon. Claude George Randles, John S.
Bingham, Lord Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley Ratcliff, R. F.
Blundell, Colonel Henry Heath, James (Staffords. N.W. Reid, James (Greenock)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Helder, Augustus. Remnant, James Farquharson
Bousfield, William Robert Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W Ridley,Hon.M.W.(Stalybridge
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bull, William James Hope, J. F.(Sheffield, Brightside Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Butcher, John George Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hudson, George Bickersteth Round, Rt. Hon. James
Cavendish, V.G.W. (Derbyshire Hunt, Rowland Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.A.(Worc Kennaway, Rt.Hon.Sir John H. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Chapman, Edward Keswick, William Sharpe, William Edward T.
Charrington, Spencer Knowles, Sir Lees Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lawrence, Sir Joseph(Monm'th Spear, John Ward
Colomb, Rt. Hn. Sir John G. R. Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lanes.)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Talbot Rt.Hn.J.G.(Oxf'dUniv.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S. Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Dalkeith, Earl of Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Thornton, Percy M.
Davenport, William Bromley- Long, Col Charles W.(Evesham Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Davies, Sir Horatio D.(Chatham Lonsdale, John Brownlee Tuff, Charles
Dickson, Charles Scott Lowe, Francis William Walker, Col. William Hall
Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph C. Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Warde, Colonel C. E.
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Lucas Reginald J.(Portsmouth Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Doughty, Sir George Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Wodehouse, Rt.Hn.E.R.(Bath)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Macdona, John Cumming Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Duke, Henry Edward Maconochie, A. W. Wylie, Alexander
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Majendie, James A. H. Wyndham, Rt. Hn. George
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart Malcolm, Ian Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J.(Manc'r Moon. Edward Robert Pacy
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Morgan, David J.(Walthamstow TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes and Viscount Valentia.
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Morpeth, Viscount
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer
Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas Mount, William Arthur
Fisher, William Hayes Murray, Rt Hn. A. Graham (Bute
Abraham William (Cork, N.E. Blake, Edward Broadhurst, Henry
Benn, John Williams Bright, Allan Heywood Caldwell, James
Causton, Richard Knight Kilbride, Denis Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
Cremer, William Randal Layland-Barratt, Francis Sullivan, Donal
Delany, William Leamy, Edmund Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr
Devlin, Charles Ramsay(Galway Leigh, Sir Joseph Tomkinson, James
Doogan, P. C. Lough, Thomas Toulmin, George
Elibank, Master of M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Tully, Jasper
Ffrench, Peter M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) White, George (Norfolk)
Gladstone Rt. Hn. Herbert John Murphy, John Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Grant, Corrie Norman, Henry Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Griffith, Ellis J. O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.
Higham, John Sharpe Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. MacVeagh and Mr. Vincent Kennedy.
Horniman, Frederick John Rickett, J. Compton
Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Shackleton, David James
Kennedy, P. J. (Westmeath, N Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R.(Northants

Bill read the third time, and passed.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

drew attention to the constant insults to which persons were subjected by the magistrates in petty sessions and Police Courts when they went up to claim exemption under the Vaccination Acts. He wished something could be done, in regard to those magistrates who were so ignorant of the law and disobeyed it, to stop those insults and protect poor people from being treated to this insolent treatment. These poor people when they appeared in Court were so much frightened by lawyers and the police that trey could hardly pronounce their words and then they were spoken to sharply and insolently by the magistrates. He wished to know if the Home Secretary would draw the attention of the magistrates of the country to the speech delivered upon this question by the Lord Chief Justice at Binning-ham. He thought if it were done it would have a tendency to mitigate the harsh-ness of the treatment meted out to the people who applied for protection under these Acts. He suggested that the Home Secretary next year should bring in an Act enabling applicants for certificates of exemption under the Vaccination Acts to go before a commissioner of oaths and make a statutory declaration, and this would not only save these poor people the loss of wages which they now incurred through having to attend the Court but it would also protect them from the gross ill-treatment and insolence which they were subject to at present. There was no reason why something of this kind could not be done. It would relieve the work of the Police Courts and it would be just as effective as going to the Courts. Not only this, but it would be a great blessing to the poor people of this country. If the Home Secretary would go into this question he thought he would see at once that the appeal he had made to him was based both upon reason and upon justice. He did not propose to move any Amendment upon this point.

MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)

supported the appeal which had been made by his hon. friend the Member for Leicester. In his constituency he knew of cases where poor agricultural labourers had had to travel two or three miles and in some cases lose one, two, or three days work in order to make these applications, only to have them refused in the end. When a man stated that he had a conscientious objection to vaccination, and showed it by being willing to lose wages and travel long distances and give evidence in regard to what he believed had been injurious to members of his family he thought that ought to be sufficient, and the magistrates ought not to put themselves in the position of consulting their own consciences instead of the consciences of the applicants. If the Home Secretary would do what had been suggested he would remove what was a crying disgrace in regard to the present administration of the law. It was a great hardship upon the agricultural labourers who very often met with these rebuffs.


reminded the House that this matter had recently been dealt with by the Lord Chief Justice in some remarks addressed by him to the Grand Jury at Birmingham. The observations made by the Lord Chief Justice were well worth careful study by magistrates, and he had already given instructions that they should be circulated among magistrates' clerks all over the country.

Schedule agreed to.

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