HC Deb 05 July 1906 vol 160 cc330-2

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. Whiteley.)

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

called attention to the prosecution of women advocates of woman's suffrage at Manchester and at the Marylebone Police Court. He asked whether the Home Secretary was aware that among the magistrates who sat on the Bench at Manchester was Mr. James Kendal, who was the chief steward at the Liberal demonstration from which the women were ejected. That was he thought a most improper proceeding. Surely in a case of this kind a person who was largely responsible for the disturbance which led to the trial, should not occupy a position on the bench, when the case came on. He also said, with reference to the women who had been sentenced in the Marylebone Police Court, that they indignantly denied that they had been guilty of a breach of the peace. They were charged with having committed a technical offence which they denied. With regard to the sentence passed on Miss Kenny, he said nothing except it was too heavy; with regard to the sentence passed on the other two women, they were offered the alternative of being bound over to keep the peace for 12 months or of going to prison for six weeks. They did not admit that they had committed any offence, and therefore being bound over to keep the peace would have been an admission on their parts of having been guilty of an offence they did not commit. With regard to one of these women, a woman of 64, all she did was to call out " Featherstone." He thought, under all the circumstances, the Home Secretary ought to reconsider the question, and consider the desirability of releasing these two women. There was a case in that morning's papers, in which a respectable woman had been wrongly arrested on a charge of soliciting, in that case it was made clear that the woman was wrongly treated, and if in a case of that kind an obvious mistake was made it was clear that in a case such as that to which he had alluded there ought to be a full and fair inquiry.

DR. COOPER (Southwark, Bermondsey)

joined in the appeal of the Member for Merthyr to the Home Secretary to reconsider the action taken by the magistrate in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had no right to ask for more protection than any other citizen, and he was glad to know that he protested against these women being prosecuted, and believed that had the right hon. Gentleman had his way there would have been no prosecution. He pointed out that Parliament was to blame; Parliament had never listened to a quiet demand for electoral reform. No great electoral reform had over taken place without violence, and these women were only following the royal road which men had taken before them to secure electoral reforms. Many men who took part in pulling down the railings of Hyde Park in the sixties looked back with great glory to their achievement, and the same thing happened with regard to the claim to speak in public squares, when the President of the Local Government Board suffered imprisonment for endeavouring to secure the right of the people to speak in Trafalgar Square. He then suffered as those women were suffering to-day from a vindictive prosecution. He begged the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the position.

MR. C, DUNCAN (Barrow-in-Furness)

reminded the House that during the Boer war many meetings were held to protest against that war, and men who committed the most brutal assaults on those taking part in those meetings were never prosecuted or imprisoned. This sentence was a brutal one and repugnant to his sense of justice.


said that, having considered this case fully, it appeared to him that the magistrate had acted with great discretion. The magistrate did not sentence these ladies. He bound them over in their own recognisances in £50 to keep the peace for twelve months. They could come out of prison any moment they liked by entering into their own recognisances. That being so, he had nothing to add to what he had said at Question time.

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

said he thought the magistrate had behaved with exceeding kindness to the women, and he had listened with the utmost indignation to the words of the hon. Member for Merthyr about "Feather-stone." They all knew what was meant, and they knew the repeated and dastardly attack that had been made upon the present Chancellor of the Exchequer by the Labour Party and these women. He held that there women wore guilty of an abominable libel in the reference to Featherstone which they hurled at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Under all the circumstances he considered the sentences were very lenient.

And, it being half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Eleven o'clock.