HC Deb 31 October 1906 vol 163 cc1108-10
MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for-the Home Department whether the eleven ladies, who are suffering imprisonment in connection with the movement in favour of women's suffrage, have been obliged to wear prison clothes, and are otherwise being treated as ordinary criminals.

The following Questions also appeared on the Paper.

MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)

To ask the Secretary or State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the case of eleven women committed to prison for two months at the Westminster Police Court on the 24th October; whether he has been informed that one of those prisoners has been released owing to the serious condition of her health, and another is in hospital; and whether he is prepared, as was done in the similar case of Mr. John Kensit, to transfer them to the class of first-class misdemeanants.

MR. KEIR HAKDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, having regard to the fact that the women suffragettes now imprisoned in Holloway Gaol are political rather than criminal offenders, he will consider whether they can be treated as first-class misdemeanants, as was done in the case of the Jameson raiders.

LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take measures to cause the women suffragists recently arrested to be treated as first-class misdemeanants; and whether the treatment ordered in the case of Mr. W. T. Stead some years ago would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of justice in the present cases.

MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that the ten ladies who were sent to prison by the Westminster police magistrate last Wednesday, under circumstances well known to the House, two have already become seriously ill; and, having regard to the absence of moral delinquency in the offence for which these ladies are imprisoned, will he order them to be treated in future as first-class misdemeanants.


I propose to I answer along with the hon. Member's Question those of the hon. Members for West Ham, Merthyr Tydfil, East Marylebone, and North Salford. The ladies, who were committed to prison in default of finding sureties, have been treated in accordance with Section 6 of the Prison Act, 1898, which enacts that, unless the Court has directed them to be placed in the first division, they are to be placed in the second division. They have had to wear prison clothes, but have not associated with the ordinary criminal of the third class. I have carefully considered the question of placing them in the first division. The cases of Mr. Stead and the Jameson raiders afford no parallel, as they were convicted prisoners whose treatment could be altered by a conditional pardon from the Crown. In the case of Mr. Kensit, who was a surety prisoner, the order for inclusion in the first division was made by the stipendiary magistrate. I am advised that I have no power to make such an order, and that it can be made only by the Court. As it appeared that no application was made to the magistrate when he committed the ladies that he should direct them to be placed in the first division, I have brought the matter to his notice; and I am glad to say that he has seen his way to direct that they should be treated as first division offenders, and has this morning sent an order to this effect to the prison authorities.


asked whether this statement applied to Miss Sylvia. Pankhurst?


Yes, it does.