HC Deb 30 November 1908 vol 197 cc1081-3

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can now state the result of his inquiries into the disorderly scenes connected with the bye-election in Chelmsford and the injuries inflicted upon the Liberal agent.


I am informed that on the evening of the 25th inst. the police sergeant stationed at Ingatestone was asked to send some constables to the working men's club the same evening to assist in keeping order. He replied that keeping order at the meeting was a matter for the stewards, and that he could not go into the hall. He was outside the hall with two constables at the time of the assault, and did not witness it, nor was he called on by anyone to assist in preventing violence. The first time Mr. Martin came outside the hall he mentioned the violence to which he had been subjected, but could not give the names of his assailants. Afterwards when Mr. Martin had returned to the the hall and fainted, the police took him to his lodgings on a stretcher. I have no reason to suppose that the police have in any way failed in their duty in respect of the disorderly and reprehensible incidents arising from the Chelmsford election.


Am I to understand from that Answer that Mr. Martin was seriously injured, or were the reports exaggerated?


It appears that Mr. Martin was seriously injured, but the last report I received on Saturday evening gave, I am glad to say, a favourable account of his condition.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is within his knowledge that different police forces in the country take different views of their duties with regard to preserving order within public meetings; and whether he does not think that it might be well to appoint a committee, not necessarily a Parliamentary committee, of some kind to inquire as to the conduct of the police in general, without reflecting on any particular police force, and to lay down what should be the duty of the police with regard to keeping order in public meetings?


The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct. The practice varies in different localities, and I will consider the suggestion he has made that an inquiry should be instituted.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of drafting extra police in order to preserve order in this disturbed district?

MR. WARDLE (Stockport)

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of the powers of watch committees with regard to the police as a whole?


That is a general question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give notice.


Will the right hon. Gentleman circulate with the Votes a copy of the report he has received from the Home Office experts as to the state of Mr. Martin's health; there are so many different reports?


I really do not know to what my hon. friend alludes, unless it is a report in the newspapers. Obviously no Home Office expert has gone down with regard to Mr. Martin's health.

MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in certain public meetings recently held the superintendent of police in districts where disturbances were anticipated has entered the hall and closed the meeting?


Yes, instances of that sort do occur, and I have said that there is a variety of practice.


Why not apply to the Irish Secretary to send some of his police to this disturbed district.