§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I desire to present. a Petition from Mr. George Lansbury, who says he has been bound to the Peace; that for particular reasons affecting his personal honour he did not feel at liberty to enter into recognisances; that his liberty is now in the power of the police, who can rearrest him when they like without his having committed any offence. The prayer of the Petition is:—He is suffering from an urgent and continuing grievance for which he knows no 2225 remedy unless it be in your wisdom and authority, and humbly prays your honourable House to secure for him, irrespective of wider considerations of public policy, that immediate relief of which he is personally in need, either by interceding with the Crown or such other means as seems good to your honourable House. I would further urge that this Petition should be immediately discussed. If you turn to Erskine May (page 532) you will see the following passage:—In the case of a Petition complaining of pressing personal grievances, calling, as an urgent necessity, for an immediate remedy, the matter contained in such Petition may be brought into discussion on the presentation thereof.I submit to you, Sir, that this prayer of Mr. George Lansbury is of the nature of a pressing, personal grievance and that it does call as an urgent necessity for an immediate remedy, and I submit that this Petition is one which does come entirely within the purview of those Petitions indicated by Sir Erskine May, and therefore the question whether this Petition shall be granted or not may come before the House and may be debated, so that we may afford to this former Member of the House a remedy for which he so urgently and so humbly prays. I submit to you. Sir, that the position is peculiar; he is bound to the peace; he was not re-arrested as he had reason to expect yesterday, but any moment his liberty is at the disposal of the police, and in this case the position of urgent necessity is such that it does warrant immediate discussion.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member calls my attention to a passage in May, which seems to indicate that there is power of immediate discussion of Petitions in certain circumstances. There is also Standing Order 78. I will not pronounce any definite judgment, because I think the hon. Member will have an opportunity, in the course of an hour or so, of raising the points he wishes to raise, on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill. But I would like to point out that I doubt very much whether that old system of discussion on Petition can still be said to obtain. We passed, at a very early period of the Session, a Resolution ordering that all Petitions should be referred to the Select Committee upon Petitions, and, under that order I think that the Petition to which the hon. Member refers ought to go to that Committee, and there he considered by that Committee, and not considered by 2226 the House. Therefore, I think it is probable the House in passing that Resolution intended to override any right given by Standing Order 78 and mentioned in Erskine May that there might be of immediately discussing Petitions. It does not seem necessary to-day to give any such ruling. The hon. Member will get an early opportunity of discussing the matter, and, therefore, at present I only ask the hon. Member to bring the Petition to the Table-in the usual way.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I point out that this is not merely a dictum of Sir Erskine May. Perhaps I may be allowed to emphasise the quotation from Sir Erskine May's "Parliamentary Practice":In the case of a petition complaining of a present personal grievance, calling, as an urgent necessity for an immediate remedy, the matter contained in such petition may be brought into discussion on the presentation thereof.I do not wish to discuss your ruling, Mr. Speaker. All I wish to do is to call attention to the fact that it does not depend upon the common law, but it is a matter of express enactment by the Standing Orders.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would be extremely inconvenient that the opportunities afforded for hon. Members asking questions and for Ministers replying to those questions should be taken advantage of in this way. We have a Standing Order which sets up a time table dealing with private business and questions, and I think it can hardly be contemplated that all that has to go by the board for a discussion to take place of such a character as that referred to in Standing Order 78. I will not give a definite pronouncement upon this point to-day, because it so fortunately happens that the hon. Member will get an opportunity in an hour or two of raising the point to which he desires to call attention. Perhaps the hon. Member will now bring his Petition to the Table.
§ Petition handed in at the Table, and read by the CLERIC (Sir COURTENAT P. ILBERT), as followeth:—
§ "To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament Assembled.
§ The humble Petition of George Lansbury, of 103. St. Stephen's Road, Bow, Middlesex, Timber Merchant, Dated 7th day of August, 1913.
- 1. That in respect of certain speeches made by your Petitioner in support of Women's Suffrage, your Petitioner was on the 3rd May, 1913, by the magistrate at
2227 Bow Street, ordered to enter into his own recognisances in the sum of £1,000, and further to find two sureties for his good behaviour each to be bound in the sum of £500, or in default of his finding such sureties, and being himself so hound, it was ordered that he should be imprisoned for a period of three months.
- 2. Your Petitioner appealed against the said Order as being erroneous in point of law on the ground that under the circumstances of the case your Petitioner not having committed any offence or being proved to be likely to commit any offence it wad not competent for The learned magistrate to make the said Order against him.
- 3. The said Appeal to the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice was dismissed, the judges being of the opinion that although no actual authority to bind your Petitioner over could be found by Statute, that magistrates had assumed the power for so long that the Court was not disposed to deprive the magistrates of such power.
- 4. Your Petitioner for particular reasons affecting his own personal honour did not feel at liberty to enter into recognisances or to find sureties, and in consequence was arrested and committed to prison. Having adopted the hunger strike he has been released, but is in peril at any moment of rearrest, although not guilty of any crime or offence, or likely to commit any crime or offence.
- 5. Your Petitioner respectfully submits his rearrest is wholly in the power of the police who can abstain or not from such rearrest entirely as they may think fit, and that your Petitioner may thus be again committed to prison without having committed any offence.
§ Your Petitioner therefore humbly submits to your honourable House that lie is suffering from an urgent and continuing grievance for which he knows of no remedy unless it be in your wisdom and authority, and humbly prays your honourable House to secure for him irrespective of wider questions of public policy that immediate relief of which he is personally in need by interceding with the Crown or by such other means as may seem good to your honourable House.
§ And your Petitioner will ever pray, etc.
§ GEORGE LANSBURY."