HC Deb 04 March 1835 vol 26 cc534-6
Mr. Herbert Curteis

wished to put a question to the Solicitor-General, which was of great importance to some of his (Mr. Curteis's) constituents, and to the public generally. He begged to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether he meant to bring in a Bill to indemnify newspaper proprietors, who were at present liable to heavy penalties for omitting to mention the residences of their printers and publishers, as well as their names, and the places of printing and of publication? He believed several informations had been laid for 100l. penalties, to a great extent, for breaches of the regulation in question. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman bring in a Bill with a retrospective clause to protect the parties from the consequences of such informations? It became a serious matter when it was considered that a proprietor of a newspaper was liable to a penalty of 100l. for each copy of his journal published without the residence of the printer and publisher being duly specified.

The Solicitor-General

stated, that an application had been made to him on the subject, and his answer was, that if the parties committed the offence inadvertently, and there was no wilful violation of the Stamp Act, he would not object to bring in a Bill for their relief, to which he thought Parliament would consent; but, before he could do this, he stated that he must know under what circumstances the act had been violated, and how the informations were laid; in fact, he required information on the subject, but he had not received it. If the hon. Gentleman thought he could substantiate cases of great hardship arising out of the existing state of the law in this respect, he should be happy to aid him, or any other Gentleman, in the preparation of a Bill to remedy the evil; and if they were not prepared with any measure, to suggest one himself.

Mr. Herbert Curteis

said, the subject was one of great importance, and he trusted he should be excused, if he said that he was determined to press it upon the consideration of the Government, the penalties being so enormous. At Brighton there were three or four papers, and the residence of the proprietors was well known, yet under a particular clause of the Stamp Act the parties might be subjected to an immense amount of penalties. The result of enforcing the law as it now stood would be the ruin of many newspaper proprietors.

Sir John Campbell

said, that the penalty was incurred by omitting the residence of the printer and publisher of the newspaper, although their names were inserted. In many instances, the place where the paper was printed had been duly given, but the residence of the printer and publisher had been incautiously omitted. For this the parties were amenable under the statute, and a number of scandalous pettifogging suits had been commenced for the recovery of very heavy penalties. In cases of this sort, it appeared to him that the parties were entitled to some protection.

The Solicitor-General,

speaking for himself, should have no objection to give it in all instances where it could be established that the law had been infringed through inadvertence. What he wanted was, that the parties claiming protection should make out that they deserved it. The penalty was certainly heavy, especially when it was recollected that it was incurred on every publication, perhaps for a year together.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought that Parliament, or those who introduced the Bill, ought to bear a part of the blame, if blame were imputable anywhere, for the scandalous and pettifogging suits of which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had spoken.

The Conversation was dropped.

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