HC Deb 12 March 1818 vol 37 cc1058-60
The Attorney-General

having moved the order of the day for going into a committee on this bill,

Sir W. Burroughs

gave notice, that he should move an amendment on bringing up the report, for the purpose of preventing Indemnity being extended to magistrates or others who may have seized the papers of persons whose only offence was being present at tumultuous assemblies.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that it might be proper to intimate to the hon. and learned gentleman, that if he declined moving his amendments in the committee, they could not be received on the bringing up the report.

Sir W. Burroughs

said, he was not aware of that, but he should hope that, as the night was so far advanced, the noble lord would not press going into a committee, particularly as he had communicated with several gentlemen who had now left the House, and had told them that an amendment would be moved on bringing up the report.

The Speaker

said, that the proceeding which the hon. and learned baronet mentioned would be very inconsistent with the uniform practice of the House. If the House went into a committee on a bill, and no amendment was made, the chairman communicated that fact to the Speaker, when he resumed the chair, and it was then moved that the bill should be read a third time, and the time for the third reading was named. It was obvious, then, that if no amendment should be made in the bill now before them, there could be no report.

Sir W. Burroughs

said, he was given to understand that the law-officers of the Crown were willing to accede to the amendments he had in view. His principal object was, to provide, that no indemnity should be given by the present bill, in the case of a person who had seized on papers belonging to an individual found in a tumultuous assembly. If so, and he understood the solicitor-general, a mere verbal amendment would be all that was necessary.

The Solicitor General

said, if he understood the argument of an hon. and learned gentleman last night, it went to establish the fact, that an act of parliament was already in existence, which authorized the seizure of papers by the magistrates in cases similar to the present. Now on the contrary, he himself then contended, and was still prepared to contend, that the act referred to covered no such case.

Sir W. Burroughs

felt much obliged for the explanation just afforded by the hon. and learned gentleman, since he at last understood more distinctly the objects of the present bill. Indemnity was to be extended, for the first time, to such magistrates as had thought proper most illegally to seize upon the papers of individuals who happened to have assembled in a manner which was deemed to be unauthorized. If such were the purview of the bill, then certainly his motion was more necessary than ever.

Lord Castlereagh

still hoped that the House would not be induced to depart from its course, but appoint the third reading for to-morrow. The hon. and learned gentleman would then have full opportunity of moving his amendments.

The House then went into a committee, when

Sir J. Newport

thought it proper to apprise the committee of two amendments which he intended to move on the third reading. The first went to exclude from indemnity any person who, under the Suspension act, or during the time to which the indemnity extended, had committed any act of undue rigour, or malignant harshness. It was said that the bill did not contemplate the protection of persons who exercised their powers with excessive cruelty, but it was worded so as to cover them. The amendment which he proposed, therefore, went to correct its language, to render its provisions more definite, and to prevent it from being held up as a shield to individuals who, from their conduct, were not entitled to its protection. He had given notice of his intended amendment, that no gentleman might be taken by surprise. The other amendment which he meant to propose would consist in a clause to be added to the preamble. After the following part of the preamble, "And whereas, to ensure the internal peace and tranquillity of the country, it has been deemed necessary, from the 26th of January, 1817, to apprehend, commit, imprison, and detain in custody, divers persons suspected of high treason, or treasonable practices, and to seize the papers of such persons, &c.; and whereas, some of the said acts done, may not have been strictly conformable to law, but being done for the preservation of the state, and constitution and law, ought to be indemnified, "he proposed to add," by having the damages awarded against them paid out of the public purse. "He made this proposition on the ground that the public should pay for the benefit they had enjoyed by the preservation of the peace, and that the persons who had suffered by unjust suspicions should not be prevented from obtaining that redress to which they were entitled.

The House then resumed; the bill was reported without amendments, and ordered to be read a third time to-morrow.