HC Deb 21 June 1906 vol 159 cc460-4

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to authorise the charge on the Consolidated Fund of such sums as may be required to make good any liabilities incurred by the Public Trustee, or his officers, appointed under any Act of the present session to provide for the appointment of a Public Trustee, and to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, of the salaries or remuneration of the Public Trustee and his officers, and of other Expenses incurred by them in pursuance of such Act."—(Mr. Whiteley.)

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House be now adjourned."


said he desired to appeal once more to the Home Secretary in regard to the sentence passed on Miss Billington, so that an inquiry should be made into all the facts of the case with a view to the remission of the sentence. It appeared that that morning a number of women desired to interview the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and for that purpose they approached his residence, as he understood, in a peaceable manner. The police interfered, and in consequence of the persistence of the women in going into the Chancellor of the Exchequer's house, four of them were arrested. Some of these women were sentenced to a fine of £10, or the alternative of two month's imprisonment. He thought it would be admitted that a sentence of that kind was out of all proportion to the offence committed. He invited the right hon. the Home Secretary to make an inquiry into all the facts of the case with a view to the remission of a part of the sentence. Unless something of that kind were done, the object which the magistrate probably had in view in imposing such a heavy sentence, viz., that of deterring others from pursuing a like line of conduct, would defeat itself. The feeling among people of all opinions and in every part of the country was that the sentence was unduly harsh. If the right hon. Gentleman used the power vested in him with a view to the revision and reduction of the sentence he would be doing an act of justice in itself, and one which, would meet with approval from large numbers of people outside the House.


said that at present he was afraid that he could give no other answer than that which he had given at Question time. He had no additional information on the subject. Of course, he would give the qestion all the consideration it deserved. If the hon. Member would follow his suggestion and put down a question for Monday, he would make inquiry into all the circumstances of the case, and endeavour to answer the Question.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give an answer by Monday?


said he would try to give an answer by Monday, but as he was not aware of the circumstances of the case at present, it was possible that he might have to ask the hon. Gentleman to postpone it.

MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)

said he wished to support the appeal of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. He did not approve of the conduct of the women, and he thought they were injuring their cause, but to send anyone, much more a woman, to prison for two months without that person having committed any moral offence was a discredit to English tribunals and English judicial methods. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would see his way to inquire into the matter.

MR. MADDISON (Burnley)

said that while hon. Members held the view that the right hon. Gentleman should inquire into this case, it should be clearly stated that if the ordinary procedure had been carried out in the court for a similar offence there ought to be no difference whatever made. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had spoken of these "female hooligans" as seeking an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he was simply playing with words. These women had declared over and over again that the Chancellor of the Exchequer "has windows," and they had deliberately urged their comrades to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's house. It was a deliberate plan; they had been interviewed in the Press, and again and again they had said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not seen the end of it. Womanhood, indeed, had really been abominably outraged by their conduct. The hon. Member for Merthyr would have served his cause very much better if at an earlier stage he had used his influence to induce these women to act in something like a decent fashion. No real working women would have disgraced themselves in the way these women had done. They were now in their proper place—a police court.

MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)

said he did not associate himself in any way with the action of those women. He thought it was foolish. But all the same he thought the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley was entirely uncalled for. While he agreed that it was not an accurate description of the proceedings to say that the women were merely asking for an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would consider the appeal made by his hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil. Two months imprisonment for such an offence was too heavy a punishment.

MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)

said he sincerely trusted the Home Secretary would not be influenced by the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley. However much they might wish to deprecate—and he did deprecate them most strongly—the tactics of certain of the representatives of the women's enfranchisement movement, he ventured to say that no man would be prepared to justify the excessive punishment that had been inflicted in this particular case.

MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)

said that the magistrate ought not to be attacked for having performed his duty. In his opinion, the fine was not excessive. If the fine was paid, these ladies would be released, and he believed that, if they promised not to repeat the offence, the fine would be paid for them.

MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)

said that the hon. Member for Burnley, in his vicious attack on those women, had been guilty of a misstatement. Two of those women were working women. Miss Kenny was a cotton operative; and the other was a school teacher. He would leave the hon. Member for Burnley to discuss with his constituents whether these women were "female hooligans."


said he wished to join in the appeals for clemency in this case. He did not think that a severe sentence would have the desired effect of deterring these women from their ill-advised action. If the Home Secretary were to try and modify, if not to wipe out altogether, the punishment that had been passed in this case, he believed it would have much better results than the sentence that had been imposed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned at Twenty-two minutes after Eleven o'clock.