HC Deb 01 March 1926 vol 192 cc1026-7
72. Mr. DIXEY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received a Report from His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome with respect to the case of the man named Ellison, from Cockermouth, who was sentenced to seven months' solitary confinement at Florence?

73. Mr. CAPE

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now received from His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome a Report on the case of William Ellison, a British subject, sentenced to prison for eight months under Italian law


His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome reports that Mr. William Ellison, together with another British subject named Joseph Finegan, who was also employed at Messrs. Roberts' pharmacy at Florence, was arrested by the civil police on 16th February. Both men were brought before the magistrate on 22nd February. Finegan was charged with drunkenness and assault, fined 150 lire, and liberated. Ellison was charged with drunkenness, omitting to register himself as a foreigner, and uttering offensive language against the Prime Minister. He was sentenced to eight months and five days' imprisonment and fined 1,400 lire. His Majesty's Consul at Florence arranged with Messrs. Roberts' for the defence of both men. Ellison has lodged an appeal against the sentence. His Majesty's Consul will watch the case.


Which Prime Minister?


In view of the fact that this penalty is a very severe one, does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Foreign Office might make representations to Rome to see if something can be done to reduce the amount of the penalty?


It is an obligation upon every foreigner within a country to obey the laws of the country of which he is a guest, and the whole ease must be regarded from that point of view. The time for intervention by His Majesty's Government has not yet arrived, if it ever does arrive. The case is subject to appeal and it would be very improper for me to instruct His Majesty's Ambassador to make any representations, pending the appeal.


Are we to understand that a British subject did break the law by criticising the Prime Minister?


He was charged with being drunk, with having failed to register and with using offensive language to the Prime Minister of the country in which he was staying. I do not want to comment on the character of the offence alleged, while the case is subject to appeal. Those were the charges which were made against him.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Ellison's penalty would have been a deal greater had it happened in Russia?


It would have been very much less if it had happened in England.