§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to a letter in The Times of June 27, signed by a member of the Anti-Tithe Committee of Cardiganshire, in which it is stated that the Cardiganshire County Council object to authorise police to be sent to the support of the County Court bailiff when executing certain orders of the Court, and that the Chief Constable, in refusing the support of an adequate force of police, is acting under the instructions of the Cardiganshire County Council; whether he is aware that an Association, called the Anti-Tithe and Farmers' Defence Committee, exists in Cardiganshire, for the purpose of resisting the execution of the orders of the County Court in respect to the recovery of tithe rent-charge, and that members of the County Council and of the Standing Joint Committee of the county are also members of the Association; whether resistance has been offered to 663 the execution of the orders of the County Court, and if he can inform the House how many orders remain at present unenforced; whether the County Court bailiff has been assaulted in the performance of his duty; whether he has received any communication from Mr. J. H. Evans, Registrar of the Newcastle-Emlyn County Court, and if he will inform the House of the nature of that communication; and whether he intends to take any steps to maintain the authority of the law in the disturbed districts?
§ MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
In regard to Paragraph 4 of the hon. Member's question, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is consistent with fairness and the practice of this House where a case is sub judice to put a question calculated to prejudice the case of men who are on their trial for a serious criminal offence?
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
And is it in Order to ascribe to this Farmers' Defence Committee illegal objects, seeing that the purpose of the Organisation is to afford the farmers legal assistance?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
I have seen the letter in The Times of June 27, signed by a member of the Anti-Tithe Committee of Cardiganshire, to which the hon. Member refers; but no such statement as that the Chief Constable, in refusing adequate police force, is acting under the instructions of the Cardiganshire County Council appears to be contained therein, and I do not consider that I am called upon to express an opinion on the views held by the Anti-Tithe Committee. I am aware of the existence in Cardiganshire of the Anti-Tithe and Farmers' Defence Committee, and that County Councillors are included among its members; but I should doubt whether the Association would agree with the hon. Member in his statement that it exists for the purpose of resisting the execution of the orders of the County Court in respect to the recovery of tithe rent-charge. It is the fact that resistance has been offered to the execution of distress warrants for tithe rent-charge issued by the Newcastle-Emlyn County Court in respect of lands occupied by the owners, and I believe that at this moment a considerable number of such warrants remain 664 unenforced. It is alleged by the bailiff, and also by the Registrar of the County Court, that upon several occasions the bailiff has been assaulted in the execution of distress warrants. Various persons have been made amenable, and in some cases convicted and bound over or fined, and in others acquitted. In the most serious case the accused persons wore discharged by the Magistrates on what appeared to me a somewhat technical ground, and, while I pronounce no opinion on the merits of the case, I have directed the Public Prosecutor to prefer bills of indictment at the Assizes. There is not, so far as I am aware, the least ground for the description of this part of the country as a "disturbed district." I consulted the Law Officers of the Crown upon the whole subject last Autumn, and found that in their opinion the bailiff has no power under Section 2, Sub-section 2, of the Tithe Act, 1891, to make a forcible entry upon premises, nor are the police bound or entitled to give him active assistance in executing the orders of the Court made under that sub-section. He has no other rights than those of a bailiff levying a distress for rent, and the duty of the police is simply to prevent breaches of the peace and to protect the bailiff from violence. I have repeatedly impressed upon the Chief Constable the necessity of performing this duty, and I have every reason to believe that he is fully alive to it, and will do his best to give the bailiff the protection to which the law entitles him.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
Has the right hon. Gentleman received any communication from Mr. Evans, the Registrar of the Newcastle-Emlyn County Court; and, if so, what was the nature of it?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not think it necessary I should do anything of the kind. I have had a number of communications from Mr. Evans, and also from the Chief Constable, and if I entered on one I should have to describe the lot.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
Is it not a fact 665 that, although the district is not what may be called a disturbed district, yet over 100 orders are unexecuted in consequence of the intimidation which prevails? What steps does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take to see that the orders are executed?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not intend to do anything more than I have done, and shall continue to do—namely, impressing upon the Chief Constable the importance of performing the duty which the law casts upon him.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it a satisfactory state of affairs that over 100 of these orders should remain unexecuted?
§ [The question was not answered.]