§ Mr. Hume
, in moving for the number of prosecutions for cheap publications which had taken place since August last, expressed his regret that these prosecutions had been more numerous under a Whig Administration than under a Tory Government. When he last brought 1113 this subject under the notice of the House, he stated that Mr. Hetherington, who was confined in Coldbath-fields Prison, and treated worse than a felon, had been convicted under the 60th of George 3rd, one of the Six Acts. This statement which he had since ascertained to be correct, was denied at the time by the Attorney General, who said that Hetherington had been convicted for an offence against the Stamp Acts. He wished the Attorney General would give the House some explanation on this head; and he also desired to know from the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) whether he intended to move for the repeal of this Act in the course of the present Session.
The Attorney General
said, in stating what he did on the occasion alluded to by his hon. friend he had led the House into no mistake. It was true, that one part of the 60th George 3rd related to political offences: but there was another part which steered clear of all political matters, and was merely fiscal. It was under this latter part that Hetherington was convicted, his offence being his having published a newspaper without paying the stamp-duties required by law.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, he was the innocent cause of the passing of the Act referred to; and he would ask the Ministers whether, as it had been found to fail, it would not be well to repeal it? So long as that Act remained on the Statute-book, so long there would exist a proof of their political tergiversation; and the sooner they got rid of it, the sooner they were likely to recover some part of their almost totally lost popularity.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the Act 60 Geo. 3rd referred to many matters, and he thought it would be impossible to repeal it entirely. Part might be retained, and part ought to be repealed, but at the present moment he could not say, that he would make any proposition on the subject during the present Session. With respect to the prosecutions of which the hon. member for Middlesex had complained, he begged to state, that Government was not responsible for them. They were instituted by common informers.
§ Mr. Charles Butler
must hold the Government responsible for the prosecutions which were carried on under laws, that they might, if they would, repeal.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that it was a mistake to suppose, that all those prosecutions 1114 had been instituted under the 60th Geo. 3rd.
Mr. Alderman Wood
observed, that the Government could not prevent those prosecutions, and he believed, that it gave no encouragement to them.
§ Motion agreed to.