HC Deb 15 February 1917 vol 90 cc795-7
62. Mr. JOWETT

asked the Home Secretary under what powers two conscientious objectors, named Clay and Leathley, who have been found genuine by the Central Tribunal and have been engaged on work of alleged national importance at the Warwick Settlement, were arrested at Warwick on Friday, 9th February: whether the only offence alleged against these men is that of travelling on a railway; whether, on 10th February, these two men were taken before a number of magistrates sitting in camera in the Chief Constable's office at Warwick, though the military and police authorities had been fully informed of the intention of the friends of these men to retain counsel and solicitors to defend them; and whether he will state the names of the magistrates who acted in this manner, and the statute, Order in Council, or Regulation under which a conscientious objector of civilian status may become liable to arrest for travelling on the railway, and the date when such statute, Order in Council, or Regulation, if in existence, was first promulgated?


One of the conditions on which men who have been sentenced by court-martial to imprisonment, and who subsequently satisfy the Central Tribunal that they are conscientious objectors are released from prison, is that they shall conform to such regulations with regard to conduct as may be made by the Committee on Employment of Conscientious Objectors, and on the copy of these conditions which is given to each man on release from prison it is expressely stated that if he fails to carry out any of them he will be liable to be recalled to military service. On 5th December, in view of the railway situation and the restrictions on railway travelling imposed on soldiers, the Committee issued a rule prohibiting any of the conscientious objectors employed by them from travelling by rail without the special permission of the Committee. Both these men applied to the Committee's agent at Warwick for four days' leave at Christmas. The attention of both of them was called to the rule, and both voluntarily signed an undertaking not to travel by rail if they were given leave. Leave was accordingly given to them, and both of them, in breach of their undertaking, travelled home by rail and returned to Warwick by rail. In these circumstances the Committee requested the Army Council to recall both men to military service. I have no information as to what happened to them after they thus passed out of the control of the Committee.

63. Mr. JOWETT

asked the Home Secretary whether lie can inform the House of the state of health of G. C. Williams, a conscientious objector, whoso last known whereabouts was Wormwood Scrubbs Prison; whether this man has been forcibly fed; whether he has been fed on bread and water for 25 days between the 25th November and the 23rd December; and, if so, whether he will undertake that this sort of treatment of conscientious objectors in the secrecy of civil prisons will be put an end to?


The prisoner referred to has refused to undertake under civil control work which is unconnected with the War and is accordingly serving his sentence of imprisonment. He does not suffer from any illness, but at one time he refused all food and had to be forcibly fed four times, after which he consented to take his food in the natural way. He has refused to work in prison and has been punished by the Visiting Committee in the same way as other prisoners who refuse to work. There is no more secrecy in his case than in the case of any other prisoner.


Why should not this man be allowed to starve?