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Lords Chamber

Volume 41: debated on Wednesday 28 July 1920

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 28th July, 1920.

The House met at a quarter before four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Public Libraries (Ireland) Bill

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

My Lords, at the present moment the statutory limit for support of public libraries in Ireland is 1d. in the £,1½d being allowed in certain specified boroughs. This Bill proposes to extend that limit for the purposes of all the Library Acts of Ireland from 1855 to 1911. At present the 1d. limit is quite incommensurate with the needs of the libraries, especially in the great towns. In the City of Dublin, for instance, the library and the art gallery will have to be closed unless further authorisation to raise money is allowed. This Bill proposes to substitute 3d. in the £ as a normal limit for the present figure; and empowers the Local Government Board to authorise the extension of this figure in certain county boroughs where necessary. In this country there is no limitation upon the amount that may be expended. The matter is urgent, because, under the present limitation, some of the libraries and public museums are in immediate danger of being closed for lack of funds.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .— (The Earl of Crawford.)

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Sheriffs (Ireland) Bill

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

My Lords, this Bill looks rather more important than it really is. It merely arranges that the salaries hitherto paid to sheriffs by the county borough councils and county councils, under the Grand July (Ireland) Act of 1836, shall in future be payable to the under-sheriffs, and to increase the amounts so paid. It also allows for an increase in the annual salary of a process-server, if he be also a bailiff, up to the sum of £40. There are a large number of these process-servers—between 700 and 800, all told, in Ireland—but, as it is expected that this number can be largely decreased whilst increasing the salaries of those who remain, the increased burden upon the public funds will be very small. In fact, the net increase in the public charge involved in this Bill is estimated to amount to not more than £400 a year. It will also improve the efficiency of the work, and I think that a fair case has been made out for this expenditure of money.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a ,— (The Earl of Crawford.)

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

The Punjab Disturbances

My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government (1) Whether Dr. Bashir, whose proclamation was immediately effective in bringing a large mob to the Jallianwallah Bagh, was tried before three Judges and sentenced to death for waging war and being concerned in the murder of the bank managers; whether, although the convicted man had appealed to the Privy Council, his sentence was reviewed by two Judges whose opinions differed; whether he was released some time ago; whether any conditions were attached to his release; and whether he is now engaged in the Khalifat agitation at Amritsar. (2) Whether the Report of 25th August, 1919, on which General Dyer's action was condemned, was altered before being presented to Parliament by the omission of passages and phrases emphasising the gravity of the situation, and therefore helping to justify the necessity for stern measures.

My Lords, in answer to the first Question of the noble Lord, Dr. Muhammad Bashir was convicted under Sections 124A and 121 of the Indian Penal Code by a Martial Law Commission, and was sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced by Sir E. Maclagan, Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, to one of six years' imprisonment. Some months later, when certain cases tried by Martial Law Commissions were referred by the Government of India and the Punjab Government to two High Court Judges for review, the two Judges agreed that that part of the case against Muhammad Bashir Din, relating to the events at the National Bank, rested on the uncorroborated testimony of an approver. One Judge was of the opinion that there was sufficient evidence to justify a conviction for waging war only, and the other Judge would not admit the sufficiency of the evidence to justify a conviction at all. The Punjab Government, in the circumstances, recommended the release, under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code, of Muhammad Bashir Din on conditions, and the Government of India accepted this recommendation. The conditions imposed were: (1) that during the remaining term of the sentence he would not commit or abet the commission of any offence against the State or public tranquillity; (2) that during the same period he would not directly or indirectly take part in any movement directed against the State or public tranquillity, or likely to lead to the commission of any offence of the nature described above. If any of these conditions be not, in the opinion of the Local Government, fulfilled, the Local Government may cancel the suspension of the sentence. Muhammad Bashir has an appeal against his conviction pending before the Privy Council and I deprecate any discussion of the case at this stage. I do not know whether he is engaged in agitation at the present moment, but the noble Lord will see that it is open to the Local Government at any moment to direct his arrest, should they consider that he has failed to keep the conditions imposed upon him.

In reply to the second Question I have not seen the original of General Dyer's Report dated August 25, 1919, which has not been presented as a Parliamentary Paper. A copy is, however, included in Vol. III of the published evidence of the Hunter Committee, and, as there reproduced, is identical with the copy printed in October last by Army Headquarters in India, and sent to the India Office in December, except that, in the former, two letters written by missionaries to the Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar, in July, 1919, on the subject of the manner in which Martial Law was administered, which form Appendix 16 of the latter, are omitted. I do not know why Lord Hunter's Committee omitted these enclosures.

In regard to my second Question, the Report to which I referred was edited in the sense I have there indicated; but I understand that the noble Lord has no information to that effect.

Unemployment Insurance Bill

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 16:

Periodical revision of rates of contribution.

Provided that.—

(a) Where a revision of the rates of contribution has been made under this section, no further revision shall be made before the expiration of seven years from the last revision;

moved to insert in proviso (a), after "made," where that word secondly occurs, the words: "under this section."

Amendment moved—

Clause 16, page 14, line 36, after ("made") insert ("under this section").—(Viscount Astor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 18 (Power to provide for insurance against unemployment in any industry by means of special scheme):

moved, in Clause 18, after subsection (7), to insert the following new subsection:—

"(8) A special scheme may be made with respect to two or more industries, and in relation to a scheme so made or proposed to be so made this section shall have effect as if for the references therein to a joint industrial council or an association of employers and employees there were substituted references to joint industrial councils or associations of employers and employees acting in respect of the two or more industries."

The noble Viscount said: Yesterday I accepted in principle an Amendment moved by Lord Askwith. The Amendment which has just been read carries out the under taking.

Amendment moved—

Clause 18, page 19, line 24, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Astor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule: Part II (Excepted Employments):

(d) Employment—
(iv) in the service of any public utility company, that is to say, any company carrying on any undertaking for the supply of gas, water, hydraulic power or electricity, any dock undertaking, or any tramway undertaking, including a light railway constructed wholly or mainly on a public road; or

moved, in paragraph (d) (iv) of Part II of the First Schedule, after "dock," to insert. "or canal." The noble Viscount said: This is inserted at the request of the Ministry of Transport in order to rectify an omission.

Amendment moved—

First Schedule, page 38, line 24, after ("dock"). insert ("or canal").—(Viscount Astor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Representation Of The People (No 3) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read 1a , and to be printed.

House adjourned at ten minutes past four o'clock.