Dispute – May 22nd f – House of Commons question

May 1885

The House Of Commons and The Denaby Main Dispute

In the House of Commons on Tuesday evening the following discussion took place respecting the Denaby Main dispute :-

Mr. Burt ( L. Morpeth ) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention had been called to a case which appeared in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent of the 19 th inst. to the following effect :-

” Priscilla Smith was brought before Mr. G.W. Chambers ( chairman ) and other magistrates at Rotherham charged with assaulting Richard Oakley, a deputy in the employ of the Denaby Main Colliery company. In the course of the trial the chairman called for Michael Smith, husband of the defendant and ordered him to stand beside his wife. After lecturing the husband the chairman bound him and his wife over to keep the peace.”

If he will inquire whether the report is substantially correct, and whether, if Michael Smith had not been summoned before the magistrates, had not broken the peace, nor shown any intention of doing so, the magistrates did not exceed their legal powers ?

Sir William Harcourt said the facts in this case were rather curious. The woman was brought up, charged certainly with a good deal of violence. She was asked if her husband was in court, and upon her replying in the affirmative the husband was called forward and the magistrates bound both husband and wife over to keep the peace. The magistrates admit that this was irregular, but as the parties were only bound over to keep the peace, no great harm was done.

Mr. Burt asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention had been called to letters from gentlemen unconnected with the miners of Denaby Main, who testify to the fact that pressure has been put upon the workmen of that place to compel them to occupy the company┬┤s houses, and whether he now sees any reason to modify the answer he gave to a question on this subject a few days ago ?

Sir William Harcourt replied that he found it to be a fact that in some cases some time ago the company had supplied coal to the occupiers of their houses, but, of course that did not come within the Truck Act.

There was another statement, that they made advances to persons occupying houses not their own, but this practice has been discontinued.