§ Sir E. Sugden
thought it would facilitate the passing of the bill through a Committee if he stated at the outset, as briefly as he could, the object of the bill, and the nature of the amendment he meant to propose. After the preamble, section one provided, without asserting the right of the House to interfere against a court of law, that persons civilly or criminally proceeded against for any publication by the authority of that House, were to obtain a certificate from the Speaker of either House, and thereupon, the action was to be put an end to. The second section applied to a totally different matter—namely, the action brought by Mr. Howard against the messengers of that House for an alleged trespass in the execution of the Speaker's warrant. The two sections stood upon totally distinct grounds, and then there was a concluding proviso that nothing contained in the Act should affect the privileges of that House. It had been erroneously supposed out of the House that he (Sir E. Sugden) had objected to the post facto nature of the bill, but he had done no such thing. What he proposed to do was, in Committee to introduce certain words into the 1169 first clause, giving to persons, not the original publishers of the publications of the House the same remedy with respect to what had already been published as the bill proposed to give to what might be published in future. He should propose, also, to extend that provision to Members, because, as the right of action was not taken away, he did not see what protection Members would have, who might afterwards publish the printed papers of the House, by handing them over to third parties. He should also propose to introduce the word "papers," as there were documents published by order of the House that would not come under the denomination either of Reports, Votes, or Proceedings. By this bill they could stop an action at law, while their privileges remained untouched and entire; and they would have the power of committing for a contempt of the House, parties bringing such an action, and of sending them to Newgate if they should think proper. They had the power which was now given to them for the first time of stopping an action while the party was still in custody. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be advisable to make some provisions for the liberties of the subject, while they were obtaining a greater power than had ever been possessed by a House of Commons. He proposed to meet this case by introducing a proviso, enacting, that when proceedings should be finally put an end to by the authority of the provisions of the proposed act, that then any persons who had been committed by either House of Parliament, in consequence of having been concerned, either in the institution or the carrying on of such proceedings, should be forthwith discharged from custody by the House which had committed him; and he proposed this, in accordance with the last section of the Bill now before the House; for whereas by that section, it was enacted, that nothing in that bill should be construed to affect the privileges of that House, so he introduced this clause, to provide that nothing in the bill should be construed to extend the privileges of the House. His intentions in these propositions was, to further the object they all had in view, by asserting the great authority of the House, without at the same time infringing on the liberties of the people. He also proposed to omit the second clause, although he proposed to retain the first, but be drew this distinc- 1170 tion between the first clause and the second. He did not object to the first clause, which was introduced for the purpose of staying vexatious actions; but he did object to the second clause, because they could not know what actions were really vexatious, and what were not so. The law, as it at present stood, was, that if the officers of the House, in the execution of the Speaker's warrant, committed any excess of authority, the person damnified might recover damages for any injury sustained in consequence of the undue exercise of such excess of authority. The House could not take away the right of a subject on any action for an excessive exercise of the warrant of the Speaker, supposing such right to exist, and if none existed, the House should prove it before a jury. The right hon. Gentleman said, he thought it might conduce to the convenience of the House to hear from any Member, a general statement of the views he took upon the bill, previous to going into Committee.
thought there should be some statement made as to the objects intended to be effected by the bill. He did not object to going into Committee; he was willing, indeed, to sacrifice somewhat of his own opinion to the bringing this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. But he thought the House should know distinctly whom, and what, the bill was meant to protect. It had not been stated that the bill was intended to effect more than a protection to actions brought upon alleged libellous publications by the order of the House. But the language of the bill was such as to exclude any action brought to question any act done by authority of the House. And, as the act now stood, it would appear that it might prevent an action for work and labour in printing the proceedings of the House. He wished to know to whom the protection was to be extended. Was it to be confined to the officers of the House, and were the booksellers and others, who would be induced by the liberal discount allowed by the House for the purchase of its papers, to be left subject to actions for all parties? When it was stated who it was intended to protect, then they would know what to do in Committee, but until that was known it seemed to him impossible for them to determine in Committee whether the clauses were well framed or not. He thought every useful purpose would be answered by extending the pro- 1171 tection of the House to its own officers who, in the event of the House cancelling a work, would immediately obey. Worded as the bill now stood, it was impossible for any man to say how far it might go. Under the words used in the bill, even an action for work and labour done upon any publication ordered by the House might be stopped. He hoped, before they went into committee they would hear how far it was intended to go, and what purpose was intended to be effected by the hill. He also objected strongly to the second clause, although he agreed that legislation was necessary.
§ Lord J. Russell
The object of the bill was stated fully when he moved for leave to bring it in. He did not think that that was the proper stage for them to discuss the wording of the bill: it would be more advantageously done in Committee. He admitted that the intention of the framers of the bill was to confine the protection to persons publishing under authority of the House. On going over the bill since, it appeared to him that there was some doubt whether it might be interpreted to extend further, and to include parties who purchased these papers for the purpose of reselling them. He should be satisfied, however, if it carried the protection as far as he intended. At the same time he thought it a very important subject, but it would be for the Committee to decide whether any alteration should be made in it. It was, he feared, extremely difficult in drawing up a bill like, the present, to introduce words which would not be open to great objection. It would, however, be far better to discuss these points in Committee.
§ House in Committee.
§ On the first clause,
§ Sir R. Inglis
admitted the inconvenience of discussing these matters before going into Committee, but he thought his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ripon was perfectly justified in calling the attention of the House to the matter. He did not think they would be justified in adopting the first clause of the bill unaltered. He agreed that it wag desirable to extend the protecting clause much further than his noble Friend seemed willing to do, and not to do so could only arise from a desire of keeping up the copyright. When the second clause should be brought forward, it would be the best time to enter into the discussion but when he was told 1172 that it was essential to the due and effectual exercise and discharge of the functions and duties of Parliament that there should be no obstruction to the publication of such of its votes and proceedings as either House of Parliament should think it fit and essential to publish, he asked how long that had been, and how far it was at that moment the rule, and to what extent it was acted on? The very essence of publication, so far as the world was concerned, was that no person whatever had a right to publish, or even to be present at their proceedings, and unless it could be shown there was some order of the House to enable them to do so, the preamble of the bill was inconsistent with fact. He should suggest the omission of the 20th line of the retrospective words of the first clause.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
proposed to add words before those which his hon. Friend proposed to omit. The object of his amendment was, that any defendant or defendants, whether the original publisher or publishers or not, or whether a Member of the House or not, should be able to make the defence given by the act. The right hon. Gentleman then moved that words to that effect be inserted in the clause.
§ The Solicitor General
begged to observe, although it was not his intention to support any part of the bill—that this amendment appeared to go very much beyond the object which the noble Lord stated when he introduced his bill. The bill, as he understood, was framed only to meet a particular evil. That evil was, that persons acting under the authority of the House might have actions brought against them during the recess, and be put to inconvenience and loss before the House could meet. In order to meet that special case the present bill was brought forward, and the machinery of the bill was calculated only to carry that object into effect. In cases of actions brought against the servant of either House, for any publication made by order of the House, the certificate of the Speaker of either House of Parliament, or of the clerk of the House of Commons, that such publication had been made in obedience to the orders of the House, was sufficient to put a stop to such action. In granting these certificates, the officers of the House were exercising little more than merely ministerial functions; but if they went in any respect beyond that, they would be called upon to 1173 discharge duties which he did not think that House would choose to impose upon them He therefore submitted to his right hon. Friend, that it was not expedient to make such an alteration in this bill.
§ Sir E. Sugden
said, he was aware that if his amendment were agreed to, the bill would require other machinery; but under the circumstances he would not press it; though to assert the principle, he would submit it to the House from the chair, and allow it to pass in the negative.
§ Sir R. Inglis moved his amendment for the omission of the retrospective words in the 1st clause.
§ Mr. Hume
asked, why this bill should be objected to for being; retrospective, when the Horse-racing Bill, which was also retrospective, was allowed to proceed unopposed?
divided on the question that the words to be left out, stand part of the clause:—Ayes 9; Noes 179: Majorty 170.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G. R.||Curry, Sergeant|
|Adam, Admiral||Dalrymple, Sir A.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Denison, W. J.|
|Aglionby, Major||Dennistoun, J.|
|Alston, R.||Divett, E.|
|Ashley, Lord||Duff, J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Dundas, C. W. D.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Dundas, F.|
|Barry, G. S.||Dundas, Sir R.|
|Bellew, R. M.||East, J. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Easthope, J.|
|Bewes, T.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Blair, J.||Evans, W.|
|Bowes, J.||Ewart, W.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Follett, Sir W.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Forester, hon. G.|
|Brodie, W. B.||French, F.|
|Brotherton, J.||Gisborne, T.|
|Brownrigg, S.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Buller, E.||Glynne, Sir S. R.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Gordon, R.|
|Busfeild, W.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H|
|Cantalupe, Viscount||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Chetwynd, Major||Greene, T.|
|Clay, W.||Greg, R. H.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Clive, E. B.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Cochrane, Sir T. J.||Grimston, Visct.|
|Collier, J.||Halford, H.|
|Colquthoun, J. C.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Hastie, A.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Courtenay, P.||Hector, C. J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Heneage, G. W.|
|Craig, W. G.||Henniker, Lord|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Richards, R.|
|Hill, Lord A.M.C.||Rickford, W.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Roche, W.|
|Hodgson, F.||Rundle, J.|
|Holmes, hon. W. A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Rutherfurd, rt. hon. A.|
|Hope, G. W.||Seymour, Lord|
|Howard, hon. E G.G.||Sharp, General|
|Howard, P. H.||Shaw, rt. hon. F|
|Howick, Visct.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L;|
|Hume, J.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Humphery, J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hurt, F.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Hutchins, E. J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Button, R.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Irving, J.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|James, W.||Steuart, R.|
|Lambton, H.||Stewart J.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Stock, Dr.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Lister, E. C.||Style, Sir C.|
|Lushington, rt. hon. S.||Sugden, rt. hon. Sir E.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Sutton, hon. J.H.T.M.|
|M'Taggart, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Martin, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Marton, G.||Townley, R. G.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Tufnell, H.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Turner, E.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Turner, W.|
|Morris, D.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Neeld, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Norreys, Lord||Villiers, Viscount|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Vivian, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|O'Callaghan, hon. C.||Wakley, T.|
|O'Connell, J.||Warburton, H.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||White, A.|
|O'Connell, M.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|O'Conor Don||Wilbraham, G.|
|Packe, C. W.||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Paget, F.||Williams, W.|
|Palmer, R.||Williams, W. A.|
|Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Patten, J. W.||Winnington, H. J.|
|Pattison, J.||Wood, Colonel|
|Pechell, Captain||Worsley, Lord|
|Peel, J.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Pemberton, T.||Wyse, T.|
|Philips, M.||Yates, J. A.|
|Pigot, R.||Young, J.|
|Planta, rt. hon. J.|
|Protheroe, E.||Parker, J.|
|Pusey, P.||Rich, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Attwood, M.||Jones, J.|
|Broadley, H.||Neeld, J.|
|Darby, G.||Williams, R.|
|Fector, J. M.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Law, hon. C. E.|
§ Mr. Gisborne moved, that instead of the words "either House of Parliament," the words "House of Commons" should 1175 be substituted. He quite agreed, on a former evening, with the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, in thinking that it would not have been proper for the House of Lords to originate this bill without communication with the House of Commons, and in the same way it would be better to leave the other House to insert words extending to itself the scope of the bill if it were considered necessary so to extend it. Unless he heard some reason for distinguishing the two cases, he should move an amendment to that effect.
§ Sir R. Peel
could not assent to such an amendment. There could be no reason for depriving the other House of the protection afforded by the bill, since both the Houses stood exactly in the same position. It was true the House of Lords had passed no resolution for the sale of its proceedings, but it had been laid down in the Court of Queen's Bench that the fact of sale was immaterial. The provisions of the bill were even more necessary in the case of the House of Lords than in that of the House of Commons, for the latter had in its favour the argument that communications between its Members and their constituents were privileged.
Mr. V. Harcourt
thought it doubtful whether the bill, as at present framed, would protect the communications of hon. Members with their constituents. He should, therefore, be glad to see words introduced for the purpose of giving efficient protection to such communications.
§ Sir R. Peel
was not so sure that even that privilege had not been questioned. The opinion of Mr. Justice Littledale was, that a Member whose conduct was blamed by his constituents, desiring to vindicate his conduct, might send what Parliamentary papers he pleased, provided only they did not contain matter criminatory of individuals. He could not be justified in publishing any defamatory matter in order to vindicate his own conduct. He was nevertheless clearly of opinion that such a publication was privileged, but still he should be extremely sorry to admit any words to protect Members in individual cases beyond the present necessity, lest they should imply a doubt upon this subject.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Lord John Russell moved the introduction of words requiring a notice in writing to be served on the plaintiff, or at his residence, from and after which the proceedings, civil or criminal, should be stayed.
§ Sir W. Follett
could not approve of the form in which it was proposed to stay these proceedings. There would be considerable difficulty in point of practice in the mode prescribed by the noble Lord. The usual course would be for the defendant to make an affidavit, stating, that the publication had been made by order of the House, and apply to a judge of the court to stay proceedings. On the production of the Speaker's certificate, it should be made imperative on the judge to stay the proceedings. The plaintiff in that case would have a notice to attend before the judge, and on the affidavit of the defendant, and the production of the Speaker's certificate, the proceedings would be stayed. Suppose Mr. Hansard who published the proceedings of Parliament, published also the debates of both Houses. If he published defamatory matter, not only by order of the House, but also in a shape unauthorized by Parliament, who was to inquire, should an action be brought, in respect of which publication proceedings had been commenced? Not the Speaker, surely; for he had no authority to summon witnesses, or take examinations. It would be better to adopt the ordinary course, the defendant applying on affidavit, when, if any judicial inquiry were necessary as to the character of the publication, it might regularly be made, but rendering it imperative on the judge, on the production of the Speaker's certificate, to stay the proceedings.
§ The Solicitor-General
said, that any application to the court had been omitted in this Act upon deliberate consideration. There were numerous Acts of Parliament which required proceedings to be stayed without the intervention of the court; and this, of all others, was a case in which the court should not be called upon to interfere. If they made any application to the court necessary in this particular case, it might give rise to numerous questions leading to a conflict between this House and the Court of Queen's Bench. It was intended that the Speaker's certificate should be conclusive evidence that the publication was authorized by the House. 1177 He considered that great evil would be imported into the bill, if any interference or any action on the part of the court were allowed, and he, therefore, trusted, that the House would entirely rest on its own authority, adopting the principle and practice of bills of indictment.
§ Amendment adopted. Clause passed.
The second clause was then read. It is as follows:—
And, whereas, during the present Session of Parliament certain warrants have been granted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, under the authority of the said House, in relation to the matters aforesaid; and a certain action or actions have been, or may be, brought for certain alleged trespasses in the execution of the said warrants, and it is expedient that such action or actions should be put an end to, and finally determined, discharged, and made void by virtue of this Act; be it enacted, that all and every action or actions hereafter brought or prosecuted by any person or persons for or in respect of any alleged trespass or trespasses under or in execution of any warrant or warrants granted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, by authority of the said House, since the commencement of the present. Session of Parliament, shall be put an end to, and finally determined, discharged, and made void by virtue of this Act.
§ Sir E. Sugden
rose to move the omission of this clause. He had been in hopes that the noble Lord opposite would have been induced to withdraw this part of the measure, which did not form any portion of the original bill. He could not consent to the clause, because neither he nor the House knew anything of the merits of the actions which had been brought. He had agreed to put an end to the actions brought by Stockdale, because he believed them to rest on frivolous and vexatious grounds, but he could not go so far as to assent to the enactment now proposed. There was no quetion that warrants issued by the Speaker were valid warrants, and maintainable in courts of law. Nevertheless, legal warrants might be illegally executed. He repeated, that the House was not cognizant of the merits of the actions; it did not know whether or not its servants had misconducted themselves, and therefore it ought not to determine that those actions should not be prosecuted. In the case of "Jay and Top-ham," the Sergeant-at-arms had improperly exacted 30l. from the party he arrested, and a court of law ruled that the Sergeant, though authorized to arrest, was not authorized to inflict this penalty, and 1178 that he was not on that account protected by the privilege of the House. This decision received the sanction of every lawyer and constitutional writer. If the officers of the House did not misconduct themselves, then the Speaker's warrant would be a perfect defence to them; but if they misconducted themselves, they were bound to pay damages for their misconduct. He believed the clause to be contrary to the law, and to the true principles of the Constitution, and that if it were carried, it would tend to damage the character of the House, and to endanger the success of the bill. For all these reasons he moved that the clause be omitted.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, that if the House did not put a slop to these actions, which were all connected with the case of privilege, they would be perpetually renewing, and involving the House in difficulties by opening each time the whole question of privilege. As a matter of expediency, therefore, they ought to put an end to these actions, or every sort of frivolous action would be raised against their officers. The fact, he believed, was, that with respect to Howard and these persons, no injury whatever had been done—the whole was a scheme to get money and to get notoriety.
§ Sir R. Peel
wished to present to the House the conflicting considerations which arose in his mind, and caused him considerable doubts whether the clause ought to be retained or expunged, and he should be very much guided in his vote by the opinions which should appear to be entertained by the House, on the points which had caused his embarrassment. He thought that it would be a very proper course to put an end to all these actions. He did not think that there was anything unjust as to the particular case of Howard in putting a stop to the action. He did not believe that any real injury had been done. His doubts were not on these points, but he feared lest they should be prejudicing their privileges by this clause. The protection given by it to the Sergeant-at-Arms executing the Speaker's warrant was not general, but special, being limited to extend only to the present Session. If, then, they avowed that they could not trust to their privileges for the protection of their officers during this Session, did they not so far weaken their claim to those privileges in other Sessions? The question might arise in case of a refractory 1179 witness refusing to attend a committee. These were his doubts, which he hoped would awaken the attention of those who were better able to decide the question before the third reading of the bill.
§ The Solicitor-General
said it was competent for Mr. Howard to show if their officers had exceeded their commissions. He argued that the House of Commons were acting in precisely the same manner that the other Courts did. They all insisted on the conduct of their executive officers being (where wrong) complained of only to themselves. The Courts of Chancery, of Common Pleas, all acted in this way, and it was not unusual for the House of Commons to stop actions against their officers, leaving those who claimed the right of action for injury to appeal to itself. He instanced the cases of Hesse and of Hyde (justices of the peace), and would be prepared to quote several others. He knew that Mr. Howard himself did not expect they would plead in this case. He felt that the present action was brought to entrap them by appealing to their feelings. Mr. Howard and his coadjutors virtually said to them, "You shall either submit your privileges to the opinions of the courts of justice, backed by those of the House of Lords, to whom they may be referred by appeal (if yon plead), or you must show a determination to protect yourselves by imprisoning us for such a length of time as will effectually deter us from opposing you." They must put a stop to alt these actions by this clause, otherwise their legislation would be idle.
§ Sir E. Sugden
thought it would be necessary to make every just allowance for any just cause of complaint which Mr. Howard might have, otherwise the House of Lords, to whom the Bill would shortly go might be induced to listen to his complaints.
§ Sir Charles Grey
felt that it was imperative to check completely all the vexatious proceedings connected with this question by a comprehensive clause. He begged to suggest to the Noble Lord whether it would not be better to say at once that, when any of their officers were sued for acting under the warrant of the Speaker, they should be enabled, for their own protection, to file a certificate and an affidavit, if it were thought necessary, that the alleged transgressions had only been committed in execution of that warrant. Then be certainly agreed that any alleged ex- 1180 cess of authority would much more properly be inquired into before that House than before a Court of Law, and that, he thought, would answer the objection' of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth.
§ Sir E. Sugden
wished to remove any impression which the Solicitor-general might have made by the parallel which he had attempted to draw between the proceedings of the Court of Chancery and of that House. It was very true that the Court of Chancery did not permit persons to bring actions against its officers for anything which they might do in executing the orders of the Court, but it was equally true that if the officers misconducted themselves the Court interfered and referred it to the Master to grant compensation for any injury which the party should appear to him to have sustained. This House, however, never had any such jurisdiction, and he hoped he should never live to see the hour when that House would take upon itself to assess damages on claims for compensation of that nature. The House had no money properly applicable to such a purpose. It possessed no officers, no tribunal fit to discharge that duty. Then, again, if the principle upon which they were going was right, they were bound to make it perpetual. These difficulties would not end with the session; but it seemed only to be desired, on the part of the advisers of the Crown, to have some indemnity for the present, in order to avoid the necessity of pleading in a Cowl of Law. In these questions of compensation it was impossible for the House to ascertain whether any and what damages any individual had sustained. What was the use of asking a man whom they had already committed to Newgate to come forward and tell them what his complaint against them was? It was desirable that, as far as was possible, their privileges should be considered as a part of the law of the land, and, without printing those privileges at all, any question as to the excess of authority on the part of their officers might be settled by a Court of Law. He was willing, however, to allow the consideration of this clause to be deferred till a future stage.
§ Lord John Russell
said—I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has consented to postpone the omission of this clause and to reserve its consideration; and it is, therefore, sufficient for me to say that I 1181 am most happy to adopt that course, and I am the more satisfied with it because my learned Friend the Attorney-general is absent from the House, being employed by the Government on the circuit, and he will in all probability be present upon the third reading. The Solicitor-general, it is well known, has a strong opinion that this clause ought to form part of the Bill, and I shall be glad to hear the reasons upon which my learned Friend would contend that it ought to be maintained.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Sir E. Sugden
rose to propose a clause which he hoped would be favourably received by the House. He thought it extremely necessary that the power which they now proposed to take should be accompanied with some guards and limitations; because they must be aware that, by this bill, the House would have a power which no other House of Commons had ever possessed. Whatever might have been the extent of their privileges, this bill conferred upon them one entirely new, when it enabled them by the certificate of the Speaker to stop at once any action brought against the parties concerned in the publication of the papers of that House. That was a very great power, and it rendered it highly necessary to guard against any careless introduction into reports of matters calculated to be injurious to individuals. Now it appeared to him also that they ought to guard that power by the introduction of a clause which should prevent them from having in custody at once the person who brought the action, and at the same time to exercise the power of putting an end to the action, because he apprehended the only use of committing persons was to get rid of the action. If they thought it desirable to keep the prison cells of that House full, that was one thing; but if they thought it desirable not to raise the public mind, as it had been raised by the recent committals, the introduction of this clause was calculated to advance that object. The hon. Gentleman then moved a clause to the effect that when any civil or criminal proceeding against the officers of the House had been finally put an end to, any person committed by either House for having taken part in these proceedings should be forthwith discharged out of custody by the House which committed him; and to that he proposed to add a proviso that nothing contained in the above clause 1182 should be construed to increase the privileges of Parliament.
§ On the question that the clause be brought up,
§ Lord John Russell
said—I object to the bringing up of that clause. I believe when there is any objection to the principle of a clause as being totally irreconcilable with the principle of the bill, the proper course is to object to its being brought up. This clause seems to me to be a direct limitation of the privileges of this House; and, besides that, it is an interference with particular acts of the House upon questions of privilege. I think, therefore, that neither this or the other House of Parliament could properly entertain this clause. The House has already agreed to the proposition that the privileges of this House are not affected by the bill; but the hon. Gentleman now proposes to bring up a clause which directly affects their privileges.
§ Sir E. Sugden
thought it scarcely courteous in the noble Lord to make a formal objection to the clause being brought up. If he would allow it to be brought up, and then put and negatived, he should be satisfied; but if the noble Lord would not consent to that, then he should take another opportunity of moving for leave to bring up the clause and dividing the House upon it.
§ Lord John Russell
I object to the clause being brought up, and I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to pursue what course he may think fit.
§ Motion that the clause be brought up negatived.
§ Mr. J. Jones
had a clause to propose. This House, it was to be remembered, had no power of taking evidence upon oath. It was all mere assertion; and in consequence of that the same person had been known to give very different testimony before that House from what he had given before the House of Lords: and when called upon to explain the variance, had said that it was because he was on his oath in one place, and not in the other. There were cases, too, in which Members of that House were called upon to give evidence at great length. That evidence was not unfrequently given back to them to supervise; and it was always returned in a very different state from that in which it appeared before. The object of his clause was to render false evidence given before that House liable to 1183 the same punishment as if it were given on oath.
thought that that clause did not come within the scope of the title of the bill, which was for the summary protection of persons employed in printing papers authorised by the House.
§ Mr. Bernal
said if that were the general feeling of the Committee he would not oppose it; but it did not concur with his own impression.
§ Mr. Jones
spoke with great diffidence on the subject, because hon. Members might, perhaps, have some other remedy for the evil; but, in his opinion, some provision of the sort ought to be made. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had stated that those who opposed the privileges of the House were either Chartists or Ultra-Tories. Now he was not an Ultra-Tory—neither was he a Chartist, certainly. It would not be difficult to impute motives to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but that course had not been pursued, and the hon. and learned Member ought at least to give those who were opposed to him on this question credit for the honesty of their views. The hon. Member concluded by proposing his clause. "That persons giving false evidence before committees be liable to the penalties of perjury."
Mr. M. Attwood
hoped that this clause would be met upon its merits rather than upon any mere form or technicality. His conviction was, that the whole of these coercive measures which had been adopted by the House were calculated ultimately to restrain and confine the publication of useful information. The libel in this case came out upon an examination before the House of Lords; but he was sure that the House of Lords would not have permitted that examination to have been carried on with that licence and latitude which frequently prevailed if they had intended it to be published. Yet that House was now going to give to any committee of some six Members the power of publishing whatever might seem to them to be necessary and useful. It had been established in debate that in one case three-fourths of the evidence as published by Hansard consisted of matter not one word of which had been uttered before the 1184 committee; and there was another case, in which an hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bridport, having been examined before a committee of that House, and having received from Mr. Gurney a copy of his evidence for the purpose of revision, made additions to that body of evidence which nearly doubled its length, and very considerably altered the original half; and yet the House was now going to throw the protection of an Act of Parliament round that publication, whatever it might contain. He should give his warm support to the clause of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthenshire, as being calculated to do away with that looseness of examination which had been so much practised. The House ought, as soon as the difficulty arose, to have examined into the state in which their privileges actually stood, and to have seen how they could have been properly abandoned or maintained; but the House had lost its course by adopting measures of coercion instead of examination,
§ The Solicitor General
was opposed to the bringing up of the clause—first, because he thought it inadmissible within the terms of the preamble of the bill; and secondly, because it was objectionable in itself. Had the hon. Gentleman fully considered what might be the effect of his own clause? He thought it would have a much more extensive effect than it might at first sight appear. Persons very seldom attended committees to give evidence voluntarily. Their attendance was generally compulsory. And what was the nature of the evidence they were often called upon to give? Not such as was given on a legal trial, before a jury, where the witnesses were only required to speak upon some definite point in issue; but before a committee they were called upon to give information upon subjects very much at large, and were often very little apprised when they came before the committee what were the questions that were about to be put to them. Again, they were examined by Gentlemen who knew nothing of the rules of evidence; nor were the questions confined to the personal and legal knowledge of the parties examined, but were frequently extended to mere matters of hearsay and conjecture. If the witnesses had an option of declining to answer the questions put to them, then some ground might be shown why they should be made responsible for the 1185 evidence given by them; but if they were made to attend upon compulsion, what had they to do with the matter if that evidence were improperly circulated? They had nothing to do with it but to lament it. If the House compelled persons to come from all parts of the world to give them information, to what extent did they expect that information would be given if the parties giving it were to be made liable for its subsequent publication by the House itself. In thus looking at the clause, he thought its adopiton would have the effect of most materially impeding inquiries by the House. This, however, was quite a distinct question from that which the hon. Member for Whitehaven had complained of. It did not follow that every thing which the House thought proper to collect in the way of information upon any subject ought to be published, though he certainly thought the House ought to have the right of publication, if it should choose to publish the testimony they had obtained. Why, the very object of instituting inquiries into abuses was to get at what might be called defamatory matter. They might wish, for instance, to know what had been the misdeeds of persons holding public offices abroad. The interest of the country at large demanded that the House should have the power to institute such inquiries. When the hon. Member for Whitehaven spoke of protecting the rights of the people against the inquisitorial powers of the House of Commons, he (the Solicitor-general) would ask, what part of the people it was whose rights the hon. Gentleman was anxious to protect? Was it the great bulk of the people, who knew what were the rights which Parliament ought to possess, and who had the greatest interest in the maintenance of those rights? No: it was not of them that the hon. Member spoke; it was on behalf of the few that he made his appeal, who might be liable to imputations, and on whom the testimony given before a committee might reflect unfavourably. But had the House of Commons the right to resign its privileges? The people of England knew well what those privileges were, and knew how important to the public interest it was that they should be preserved; and did the Members of that House come there to betray their trust to the public by resigning them? On the contrary, was it not their duty to exercise 1186 those powers for the public benefit? They were the trustees only of every privilege that the House possessed, and they would abandon and betray their trust whenever they consented to resign them. They would be unfaithful stewards if they resigned privileges which no one could foretel the period they might be called upon to exercise in support of the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. Jones
did not think the objection raised by the chairman, on the ground of informality, had been sustained by the hon. and learned Solicitor-general. The objection was, that the clause did not come within the title of the bill. The title of the bill was this:—"A Bill to give summary protection to persons employed in the publication of Parliamentary papers." Now, what was it that the second clause of the bill provided for? It was to stop all actions that might have been brought against the subordinate officers of the House, for carrying the Speaker's warrant into effect. What, he should like to know, had such a clause to do with the publication of papers?
§ Mr. Halford
supported the clause. Was private character to be at the mercy of the House, by publishing the particulars of every investigation? In his opinion they ought to take steps to prevent mischievous statements, given at random, from being published.
§ The House divided on the question of bringing up the clause:—Ayes 20; Noes 120: Majority 100.
|List of the AYES.|
|Broadley, H.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Darby, G.||Polhill, F.|
|Duncombe, hon. W.||Richards, R.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Smith, A.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Tennent, J, E.|
|Halford, H.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Henniker, Lord||Williams, W.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Young, Sir W.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Attwood, M.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Jones, J.|
|Maunsell, T. P.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G.R.||Berkeley, hon. H.|
|Adam, Admiral||Blair, J.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Blake, W. J.|
|Aglionby, Major||Bowes, J.|
|Archbold, R.||Bridgeman, H.|
|Baines, E.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Baring, right hn. F. T.||Brodie, W. B.|
|Barry, G. S.||Brotherton, J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Muskett, G. A.|
|Busfeild, W.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Butler, hon. Colonel||Palmer, R.|
|Callaghan, D.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Chetwynd, Major||Parker, J.|
|Clay, W.||Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Collier, J.||Pechell, Captain|
|Collins, W.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Courtenay, P.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Curry, Serjeant||Price, Sir R.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Protheroe, E.|
|Dalrymple, Sir A.||Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Rickford, W.|
|Dundas, C. W. D.||Roche, W.|
|Du Pre, G.||Round, J.|
|East, J. B.||Rundle, J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Ellis, W.||Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.|
|Evans, G.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Evans, W.||Scarlett, hon. J. Y.|
|Fitzalan, Lord||Seymour, Lord|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Sharpe, General|
|Gisborne, T.||Smith, R. V.|
|Gordon, R.||Stock, Doctor|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Strutt, E.|
|Greene, T.||Style, Sir C.|
|Grey, rt. hn. Sir C.||Sugden, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Hastie, A.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Sutton, hon. J.H.T.M.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hector, C. J.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Herries, rt. hn. J. C.||Thornely, T.|
|Hindley, C.||Turner, E.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon.||Turner W.|
|Sir J. C.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Hodgson, R.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hollond, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Walker, R.|
|Hope, G. W.||Wallace, R.|
|Houston, G.||Warburton, H.|
|Hume, J.||White, A.|
|Humphery, J.||Wilde, Serjeant|
|Hurt, F.||Williams, W. A.|
|Hutt, W.||Wilshere, W.|
|Hutton, R.||Wood, Sir M.|
|James, W.||Wood, Colonel|
|James, Sir W. C.||Wood, Colonel T.|
|Lambton, H.||Wood, B.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Lockhart, A. M.|
|Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.||TELLERS.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Steuart, R.|
§ Remainder of the bill agreed to.