Ex-Inspector Syme.

Oral Answers to Questions — Ireland. – in the House of Commons on 13th July 1922.

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Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary whether ex-inspector John Syme was released from Pentonville Prison yester- day at 11 o'clock, after nine days' hunger and thirst strike; whether he was informed, in a paper issued to him, that he must not leave his house; whether it is the case that, on leaving his house with the object of coming to the House of Commons to lay his case before Members of Parliament, he was stopped by two detectives, who, on being informed where he was going, re-arrested him and conveyed him back to Pentonville; whether the Home Secretary can quote any Clause in the Cat-and-Mouse Act which makes it possible for him to lay down such conditions as were laid on Syme; and whether, in view of the fact that this is the ninth occasion on which Syme has had to be released owing to hunger strike, he will see his way to remit the remainder of any sentence that has been passed upon this man?

Photo of Mr Edward Shortt Mr Edward Shortt , Newcastle upon Tyne West

I only received notice of this question as I came into the House, and, therefore, I am sorry I cannot answer it in detail, but undoubtedly ex-inspector Syme was re-arrested yesterday. With regard to the last part of the question, if the friends of ex-inspector Syme would only persuade him to cease his threats against His Majesty and the Royal Family—threats which, I am sorry to say, there is every reason to suppose he would carry out—it might be easier to consider the suggestion.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

If the Home Office will give their undertaking to do that which Syme has been trying to get done for the last 13 years, and have a public inquiry made into his case, John Syme's friends, both in the House and outside, will get him to give the undertaking desired by the Home Secretary. I would ask the Home Secretary whether he will be willing to grant the public inquiry that Syme has been demanding all these years?

Photo of Mr Charles Stanton Mr Charles Stanton , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

May I ask the Home Secretary how long it is proposed to carry on with this cat-and-mouse business? If people elect to starve and defy the law, why not let them starve?

Photo of Mr Edward Shortt Mr Edward Shortt , Newcastle upon Tyne West

That suggestion is easily made by those who have not the responsibility.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that policy was carried out in the United States in regard to Communists, with immense success—that they let them starve and they gave up the game?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That matter does not really arise out of the question. I could only allow this question because of what was alleged to have happened yesterday. What is now being raised is the general question.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Should I be allowed to move the Adjournment of the House on this matter, involving, as it does, the probable death of this man?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

There is no new matter here, according to the information given to me just now by the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

Is it not a matter of definite public importance that a citizen of this country who, whether rightly or wrongly, is labouring under the belief that he is suffering injustice at the hands of the Home Office should be allowed to suffer in such a way as may bring about his early death? I have been informed that this man was in such a state of health when he was re-arrested yesterday that the probability is that his death may occur during this week-end, and I am asking, just as on a previous occasion, whether such a question as this is not a matter of definite public importance?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The administrative action in this case has been taken under a Statute passed by Parliament, and, therefore, there is no question that can arise to justify a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

On a point of Order. I am sorry to trouble you in this way, but on a previous occasion, where a person was undergoing, or rather chose to undergo, a hunger strike rather than do what was imposed upon him in the prison, you or your predecessor was good enough to accept once or twice a Motion for the Adjournment of the House. I refer to the late Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork. The Adjournment of the House was, as far as my recollection goes, moved at least on one occasion while he was undergoing a hunger strike, because it was claimed on that occasion, and conceded by Mr. Speaker, that it was a matter of definite public importance, involving, as it did, the ultimate death of the man.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

Without notice, I cannot quite recollect that case, but I do not think it was on all fours with this.