HC Deb 17 December 1906 vol 167 cc1008-10
MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty a Question of which he had given private notice—whether there was any justification or precedent for the disciplinary order "On the knee" given to Stoker Moody.

*THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. Edmund Robertson, Dundee)

I will read the substance of the Admiralty minute on the subject. To prevent misapprehension I must premise that Stoker Moody was not charged with refusing to obey the "On the knee" order, but with having on two occasions incited others to take part in disturbances.


Did not the disturbances occur after the order "On the knee" was given?


The Minute will show. The minute says:— My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have reviewed the circumstances and considered the evidence adduced by the Courts-martial in connection with the disturbances at the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, on 4th and 5th November, 1906, and have come to the following conclusions and decisions:—I. It is established by the evidence that the first disturbance (on 4th November) partook of the nature of an unpremeditated outbreak, to which the following causes appear to have contributed—(1) a feeling of resentment on the part of the stokers caused by the misuse of the drill order "On the knee"; (2) the retention of the stokers on parade on the Sunday afternoon during rain, and the subsequent want of judgment shown in dealing with them; (3) the want of proper supervision and control in the canteen. II. The second disturbance (on Monday, 5th November) was of a more serious nature, inasmuch as a contemporaneous riot on the part of civilians and other persons took place immediately outside the barracks. This disturbance would not have occurred had those in authority taken precautionary measures to prevent a recurrence of the disorder of the previous day. No such measures were taken. III. Their Lordships are compelled with extreme regret to express their conviction that Commodore the Hon. Walter G. Stopford failed to deal with the disturbances with firmness and resource; they have, therefore, decided to relieve him in his appointment. Commander Sidney R. Drury-Lowe, as second-in-command of the barracks, has failed in the performance of his duties as executive officer, and will be superseded. Commander Francis H. Mitchell (commander for gunnery duties failed) to exercise proper supervision by allowing a drill order to be used for other than drill purposes, and he will be relieved in his appointment. Lieutenant B. St. G. Collard has been tried by Court-martial and convicted of an act to the prejudice of good order and naval discipline, and the sentence of reprimand has been noted. IV. In reviewing the proceedings and sentences of the Courts-martial held on the eleven stokers, their Lordships are legally advised that the charges were in order, and with the one exception of Stoker James Day the proceedings regular, and the sentences within the powers of the Court. In consideration of all the circumstances, and also of the evidence given at the subsequent Courts-martial, they have, however, decided in the case of First-class Stoker Moody to modify the sentence by reducing it from five years to three years' penal servitude. They have also decided, having regard to the fact that one of the three charges against Stoker Day was not clearly proved, to remit six months of the imprisonment awarded. V. Directions have been given for general guidance that the drill order 'On the knee' is not to be used for other than drill purposes.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

subsequently asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the widespread feeling on the subject, steps would be taken to have the undue sentence imposed on Stoker Moody reduced.

THE PRIME MINISTER and FIRST LORD of the TREASURY (Sir H. Campbell Bannerman, Stirling Burghs)

said he understood a sentence of three years imprisonment was regarded as much lighter than one of two years imprisonment with hard labour, or oven than one of simple imprisonment for two years. But at any rate sentences of this kind were subject to revision by the authorities after a certain time, and that opened up the possibility, at any rate, of a more lenient term.