HC Deb 31 July 1923 vol 167 cc1283-4W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he has now completed his inquiries regarding the public disorder and riot caused by officers of the Territorials who, though in plain clothes, led between 200 and 300 soldiers in training at Girvan camp down to an open-air meeting of the Independent Labour party at the harbour; whether he now knows the reason for the platform being rushed, women jostled, and the chairman, Parish-councillor Stoddart, a man lame from boyhood, and between 50 and 60 years of age, struck on the head with a trench-tool; and whether he will have the fullest inquiries made with a view to the guilty persons being prosecuted?

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

Yes, Sir, I have now obtained a report. It appears that some political speakers, who were addressing in the open air a crowd partly composed of Territorials under training, began the trouble by using language of a very provocative and insulting character regarding the troops. A section of the crowd, including some of the Territorials present, naturally resented this language, and the principal speaker, who declined to apologise, was ejected from the barrow on which he was standing. Other speakers, however, persisted, and some noise and disorder followed, but was stopped in a few minutes by the Territorial officers present, who restrained the crowd, got the troops to fall in, and marched them back to camp. The evidence before me does not support the suggestion that the troops were marched down to the meeting by their officers. On the contrary, their presence appears to have been quite accidental, and they were within their rights as individual citizens in being present. For obvious reasons, however, attendance at such meetings was subsequently forbidden during the remainder of the training. I naturally much regret that Mr. Stoddart should have been hurt, but it has not been shown that any Territorial was responsible in the matter. Mr. Stoddart was escorted back to his house by a Territorial officer. It does not seem to be suggested that anybody else was hurt. On the case as a whole I see no reason for taking further action. The speakers at the meeting appear to have been responsible for provoking disorder in the first instance, and I think that the officers and other ranks present deserve commendation for the promptitude with which order was restored.