HC Deb 14 June 1844 vol 75 cc892-906
Mr. T. Duncombe

presented a petition complaining of a personal grievance, and proceeded from W. J. Linton, Joseph Mazzini, and two others, residing at No. 47, Devonshire Street, Queen Square, London. The petitioners stated, That during the last month they had sent letters through the Post Office, for no political purpose, and containing no libellous matter or treasonable comments upon the Government of the country; that these letters had been detained by the Government beyond the time of their delivery, that their seals had been broken, and that they had been opened and read by certain of the authorities belonging to Her Majesty's Post Office. That they considered such a practice, introducing as it did the spy system of foreign states, as repugnant to every principle of the British constitution, and subversive of the public confidence, which was so essential to a commercial country. They were prepared to prove the truth of these allegations, and prayed that The House would be pleased to grant, without delay, a Committee to inquire and give immediate redress to the petitioners, and prevent the recurrence of so unconstitutional and infamous a practice. The course which he should pursue would depend on the answer which he received from the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham). He begged to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he was aware that the letters of these men whose petition he had presented, had been opened, read, and examined at the General Post Office, and, if so, was he aware whether that had been done by the authority of any one of the Principal Secretaries of State?

Sir J. Graham

thanked the hon. Gentleman for the course which he had pursued upon the present occasion. To save trouble the hon. Member had notified to him (Sir J. Graham) the question which he intended to put, and he had therefore an opportunity of taking into consideration the answer which he should give. The House must be aware, that from as early a period as the reign of Queen Anne, power existed in the hands of the Principal Secretary of State, to detain and open letters passing through the Post Office; and the House would be also aware that this power had come under the review of Parliament at so late a period as the year 1837, and by the Act of 1 Vict, this power of issuing warrants to open and detain letters, continued still vested in the Secretaries of State. He must, for fear of creating misapprehension by his answer, state that the circumstances mentioned in the Petition were, to a great extent, untrue. As to three of the petitioners, he doubted if their letters had ever been detained, and no warrant as to them had been issued; but as to one of the petitioners he had to state, that, on his responsibility, a warrant had been issued as to the correspondence of that person, which warrant was no longer in force. Having said this much, that as he had the power so he had exercised it, he was bound to add that this authority was vested in the responsible Officers of the Crown and intrusted to them for the public safety, and that while Parliament placed its confidence in the individual exercising this power, it was not for the public good to pry or inquire into the particular causes which called for the exercise thereof. He could not consent to enter into any further explanations, and would only express his hope that the House would confide in the motives which had influenced him, and that they would not call upon him to answer any further inquiries. It was not consistent with his duty to give any more explicit answer. [Mr. Hume: How long has the warrant been in force?] He had given an explanation, and he must respectfully but firmly decline saying anything further on the matter.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, the petitioners sought for justice, and, as far as his efforts could avail, justice they should have. The petitioners—

Mr. T. Egerton

rose to order. The hon. Member for Finsbury could not speak any further on the petition.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that before the hon. Member opposite called him to order he ought to take the trouble to read the Standing Orders of the House. On the very point in question the fourth Standing Order, as to the presentation of petitions, (which did the House great credit in pass- ing it, as it did the hon. Member for Greenock who proposed it), was completely applicable. It provided that "in cases of personal grievances requiring immediate redress" petitions might be discussed upon the presentation thereof.

Sir J. Graham

would remind the hon. Gentleman and the House, that he had just stated that there was now no warrant in force against letters of even the one petitioner, with reference to whom a warrant, the only one, had been issued. He did not understand what grievance there was which came within the Standing Order, as requiring the application of an immediate remedy.

Mr. T. Duncombe

was of opinion, that the grievance complained, of did require immediate redress. He was really astonished, and the House and the public would be astonished at the right hon. Baronet's attempting to blink the question in this way. [Mr. Shaw rose to order.] He was not to be put down in this way.

Mr. Shaw

would repeat that he rose to order. The hon. Gentleman's notion as to the desire of the right hon. Baronet to blink the question had nothing to do with the Standing Order. The Standing Order only sanctioned the discussion of the matter of a personal petition, on presentation thereof, when the grievance complained of required an immediate remedy. It was evident that this was not the case here, for the warrant complained of was no longer in force.

The Speaker

said, that the Order of the House under which the hon. Member for Finsbury asked for permission to speak in the present case was, that if any petition was presented complaining of a present personal grievance for which there was a necessity of providing an immediate remedy, the matter might be brought under discussion upon the presentation thereof. Now, he had some difficulty in deciding the point. The House would bear in mind that on all occasions, when a question of privilege arose, it was discussed immediately, but whenever an adjourned debate took place or a notice had been given upon a question of privilege, Members lost the right to discuss the case in preference to other business. The hon. Member for Finsbury had given notice of his intention with respect to the petition, and, having given that notice, he had shown that this was not such a case of urgent necessity for an immediate remedy as was contemplated by the Standing Order. It was such a case alone which could be entertained to the interruption of the ordinary business of the House.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, he had not an opportunity of bringing forward the discussion yesterday, as he had not then ascertained what the wishes of the petitioners were on the subject. As to the withdrawal of the warrant, the right hon. Baronet might have done that half an hour ago, in consequence of this very notice. What the petitioners complained of was the introduction into this country, in their persons, of the odious spy system of foreign countries. If nothing were done in the matter now, there was no knowing but the warrant might be issued again tomorrow morning.

The Speaker

thought the point to be one upon which the House ought to decide. It was the first instance in which the rule had been applied since these Standing Orders had been framed, and would form a precedent thereafter. The question was whether this was a case of present personal grievance. He conceived that as the warrant was stated to have been withdrawn it was not such a case, but that it ought to be brought forward in the usual way.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that if he had to give regular notice of a discussion on the subject, he might not be able to bring it forward for a month to come. By way of bringing himself in order, he would beg to move that the House do now adjourn; and having done so, he was now in a position to speak to the main question, on the question of adjournment, after the precedent set by the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Treasury, who, some one or two years ago, when he was pressed in somewhat the same way, moved that the House do adjourn, and upon that motion addressed the House on the main question he wished to discuss. It was decided by the Speaker, that the right hon. Baronet (the Member for Tamworth), had a right to speak to the main question on the question of adjournment. He would, therefore, exercise his right of addressing the House on the subject of the petition of those injured individuals, notwithstanding (he opposition of the Recorder of Dublin on the point of order. The right hon. the Recorder of Dublin might not wish to have all his letters opened and read by hostile persons, no matter to what those letters referred—whether they related to the Jury List—to the abstraction of any portion of the list—or to any other subject. He did not know whether the Recorder would like that or not; but he knew that other parties would not like their private letters to be opened, and their family secrets copied, and sent to the Secretary of State. The Repealers of Ireland, for instance, would not like to have their private letters opened, and copies of them sent to the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin. What was it that these petitioners complained of?—that their letters were opened at the Post Office, and that copies were taken in the office, and sent to the office of the Home Secretary, and that after the delay occasioned by this proceeding, the letters were resealed and forwarded to their destination. What was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the charge? It was an admission of the fact that he had given his warrant for opening the letters of one of those parties, but he would not say which, and he justified it by the authority of an Act passed in 1837, which gave power to any of the Secretaries of State to issue his warrant for opening any letter. He had no doubt that the Act of Parliament, the 1st of Victoria, passed in 1837, recognised that power in the Secretary of State. The power had existed previous to that Act, and even from the time of the Commonwealth; but he did not believe that one man in twenty thousand knew of the lines that had been smuggled into this Act, placing their correspondence at the mercy of the Secretary of State. It was a power that ought to be taken away from any Secretary of State, particularly when exercised in such an unscrupulous manner as it had been within the last two years. The right hon. Gentleman had opened the letters of one of these gentlemen. Would the right hon. Baronet state which of them it was whose letters had been thus opened. [Sir J. Graham: "Certainly not."] They had not been told by the right hon. Baronet which of them it was whose letters were ordered to be opened; he had not stated whether it was Mr. Mazzini, or Mr. Lovett, or any other of those four respectable men whose letters contained, he understood, no political, or seditious, or libellous matter. He had heard that Mr. Mazzini was the person who had been particularly the object of these proceedings on the part of the right hon. Gentle- man opposite, and that his letters were accordingly opened and read, and their contents forwarded to the Home Office. The Parliament gave power to open letters in the Post Office; but whenever it was exercised by former Governments, it was not exercised in the way in which it had been exercised by the right hon. Baronet. Let the House look at the proviso to the 25th section of the Act of 1837. It said:— Provided always that nothing herein contained shall extend to the opening or delaying of a post letter, returned for want of a true direction, or of a post letter returned by reason that the person to whom the same shall be directed is dead or cannot be found, or shall have refused the same, or shall have refused or neglected to pay the postage thereof; nor to the opening, or detaining, or delaying of a post letter in obedience to an express warrant in writing, under the hand (in Great Britain) of one of the principal Secretaries of State; and, in Ireland, under the hand and seal of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. There could be no doubt from that proviso, that the principal Secretaries of State, or any one of them, did possess this power; but he did not believe, that when the Parliament gave that power they ever intended it to be used by the Secretary of State without being responsible to Parliament for the manner in which that odious privilege was exercised. He (Mr. Duncombe) maintained that it had been exercised in this case in an odious and unjustifiable manner, and therefore he demanded an inquiry. Let them suppose the Secretary of State for the Home Department to issue his warrant for opening the letters addressed—he would suppose to the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin, and appointing a person in the Post Office for the purpose of doing that—the letter was then opened and inspected, and if there were found nothing in it interesting to the Secretary of State, it was returned, and sent to the individual to whom it was directed, and the seal was closed in such a skilful manner that the person for whom the letter was intended was totally ignorant, when he received it, of what had been done. The family secrets which such a letter might contain would remain safe in the breast of the Secretary of State. When a letter was opened which contained anything of interest Jo that right hon. Gentleman, its contents were copied and kept in the Home Office, and the letter was skilfully resealed as before, and forwarded to the individual to whom it was directed. That was a case calling for explanation to the country. Were the free subjects of a free stale to submit to such a system? When a letter was returned in the Post Office, under the proviso in the Act which allowed a letter to be opened when the person to whom it was directed refused it, or was dead, or when it was not properly directed, the fact was always stated on the back of the letter, so that the individual to whom it was directed was informed that it had been opened, as it was written on the back of the letter, "returned for the reasons herein stated." When the Parliament gave to the Secretary of State a power to order letters to be opened, it ought, therefore, to have directed that whenever a letter was opened by order of the Secretary of State, it ought to have written on the back of it, "opened by authority;" for, in that case, the individual whose family secrets might be exposed by such a proceeding would be made aware of the fact, whilst under the existing system he would be left in ignorance of it. In the time of Mr. Pitt, and in the time of Lord Sidmouth, when letters were opened by the warrant of the Secretary of State, they always were marked with the words "opened by authority." At present, however, the case was different; and whilst the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department retained the same system of espionage, instead of marking the letters as "opened by authority," they were returned so skilfully closed, that the individual to whom they were directed was totally ignorant of the fact of their having been so opened. No good reason had been assigned for such a course: this was a time of perfect domestic tranquillity—our foreign relations were everything which could be desired—there was no necessity for such a course—and he should wish, therefore, to know why the Secretary of State for the Home Department had directed the letters of an individual to be opened in this manner. He believed that for the last two years letters had been opened in the Post Office in the most unscrupulous manner, and it was impossible for any man in the community to say that his letters had not been opened and examined, and their contents placed within the power of the Government. That was a system which the people of this country would not bear, which they ought not to bear, and he hoped, after the exposure which had taken place, that some means would be adopted for counteracting this insidious conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. It was disgraceful to a free country that such a system should be tolerated—it might do in Russia, ay, or even in France, or it might do in the Austrian dominions, it might do in Sardinia; but it did not suit the free air of this free country. It was most important, as the petitioners represented, that in a commercial country like this, all the letters which might affect commercial interests, and contain commercial secrets, should not be opened whenever the Ministers thought proper. But if the Minister, undertook, without rhyme or reason, to open letters, he might at least to be required to state, on the backs of such letters, that he had done so, and he could assure the House that he would do the best he could to interfere with that system of prying into letters by the part of the Secretary of State. He should like to move for a copy of the warrant—["Order, order."] He should like to move for a copy of the warrant of the Secretary of State under which the letters had been opened, and the date of the warrant, which the right hon. Gentleman said was not now in existence. When, he would ask, had that warrant ceased to exist? When did it issue? By seeing it and ascertaining the party against whom it was directed to authorise this prying into letters, the House could form a better opinion on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had issued a warrant to open the letters of only one individual. Now he was ready to prove that letters written by Mr. Lovett and all the others, had been opened and read and examined in the Post Office, and afterwards sealed and forwarded. The House, he repeated, ought to have laid before it a copy of the warrant which the right hon. Gentleman admitted he had issued, and he would, therefore, now move that there be laid before the House a copy of that warrant—[cheers from the Opposition and loud cries of " No, no, and Order."] Well, then, to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this spy system, he would formally move that the House do now adjourn—he did so for the purpose of taking the sense of the House with reference to these proceedings, and in obedience to the most sacred duty.

Mr. Wallace

said, that when the Post Office Act passed, in 1837, the right hon. Member for Taunton had assured the House that the Bill contained nothing but a consolidation of the former Acts. The House believed that it was a consolidation only, and not an alteration; but words had been introduced insidiously, and without the knowledge of Members. The Bill had been passed under the idea that it was only a fair consolidation, whereas it was an unfair and unjust consolidation of the former Acts. With regard to the practice, it was nothing new. He had frequently drawn the attention of the House to it. It was one of the accusations which he had been in the habit of bringing forward year after year, while he was agitating the question of Post Office Reform. No one denied it. The Secretary of State had the power, and he used it; and he believed that at the present moment, there was a regular machinery at the Post Office for the purpose. There was a room set apart for opening letters and examining them, and he believed that persons had been sent abroad to study in the school of Fouché, how to open, fold, and reseal letters in the Post Office in London. He maintained that the same perfect and entire freedom which was extended to a man's person should be extended to his correspondence. He admitted the power to open letters was given in the Act of Parliament; but he denied that it ought to be there. At the time when franking was the privilege of Members, he wrote on the outside of all his franks and letters, " Please to re-seal and forward this letter after you have read, and do not burn it;" and many of those who had written to him super scribed the letters with "Please don't burn the letters of the hon. Member for Greenock." He was sorry to be obliged to say anything against the consolidation of the Post Office Act, but it was without the knowledge of the House that this more extended power was introduced, and the Act was passed without the words being discovered.

Mr. Labouchere

said, as so heavy a charge had been brought against him— for it was when he was in office, and by the department of which he Was at the head, that the consolidation of the Post Office Acts was effected—he was sure the House would indulge him for a few moments whilst he said a few words. His hon. Friend said, he at that time gave a power to the Secretary of State—["No, no"]—so he had understood his hon. Friend. Now, he had a distinct recollection of what the law was before the consolidation, and his belief was, that such power existed at that time, and had existed for years and years before. At that time he did what he professed; he did not alter the law, but he consolidated all the laws having any relation to the Post Office. But he would read the words of the old Act. They were, that no one shall open letters "except by express warrant under the hand of one of the Secretaries of State, for every such opening, detaining, or delaying." In his opinion it was a proper power to be vested in some person whose responsibility would be a guarantee for its proper exercise. He admitted the responsibility was great, but still he could imagine cases where, with a view to the public safety, it would be right to place such a power in the hands of the Executive Government; and he was prepared to defend and maintain such a power. He knew nothing of the particulars of the case before them, and therefore he was not able to say that the power had been abused. With regard to the existence of such a power, he maintained that, with a view to the interests of the public, and to public safety, it was right that a power to open letters, under certain circumstances, should be lodged in the hands of the Executive Government, and he was desirous to maintain it.

Dr. Bowring

said, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Greenock, made an observation with respect to the Act consolidating the laws with respect to the Post Office, which observation the right hon. Member for Taunton appeared to have misunderstood. The hon. Member admitted that the object of the right hon. Member for Taunton was merely to consolidate former laws, and not to add anything to them. With respect to the power itself, he (Dr. Bowring) was of opinion, that its use might be right and proper in certain extreme cases. It might be proper in such extreme cases, and with regard to home affairs, to exercise that power; but then, when he stated that he would remind the House that the case of interference to which their attention was now directed, was not one that had any relation to home affairs—nay, more, it was not slated by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, which of the individuals named was the person against whose letters the warrant was directed—if the right hon. Baronet showed that this very great and irresponsible power had been used with reference to some all-important domestic concerns—then there might be some ground for those proceedings; but in this case nothing of the kind had been shown; and it would be a most improper thing that it should have been done at the instance of any foreign power — a power, perhaps, of a despotic character, and little acquainted with the spirit of the institutions of this free country. If it appeared that there was no home interest involved, but that the Secretary of State for the Home Department, instead of issuing the warrant for any English, any honest purpose, had a foreign purpose to serve, and exercised his power at the instance or request of a foreign or despotic Government, it was a course which he believed the Parliament or the public would not sanction.

Mr. Warburton

said, that the Act of 1837 was passed with a view to consolidate the provisions of the former Act, and therefore it was assumed by the House when it was agreed to, that as regarded the powers which it granted, the new Act was merely a repetition of the old Act. [Mr. Hume: They are different. A separate warrant was required by the old Act for each occasion.] The old Act placed distinctly a more salutary check upon the exercise of the power of the Secretary of State, for it clearly required a separate warrant for each letter which was opened at the Post Office. If the letter were not returned in consequence of the death of the person to whom it was directed, or in consequence of having been refused by the person to whom it was directed, or from want of due direction, the old Act required, in order to empower the opening of each letter, a warrant in the handwriting of any of the Secretaries of State of England, or under the hand and seal of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, if in Ireland, in order to justify the opening of it. That was what he collected from the old Act. So far as regarded the power of opening certain letters under particular purposes, he could not agree with the views of the hon. Member for Finsbury, but he did agree with the right hon. Member for Taunton. He thought that such a power to open certain letters in particular cases ought to be exercised only in cases of great importance, and he thought there ought to be the limit of an express warrant for each letter, and deeming that of great importance, he would ask whether there had been a separate warrant issued for each letter by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department? He trusted the right hon. Baronet would answer that question.

Sir James Graham

said, he had stated already that owing to the courtesy of the hon. Member for Finsbury, he had sufficient time to deliberate on the course which he ought to adopt, and in consequence of that deliberation he had gone the utmost length to which it was his intention to go in explanation, and he did not consider it consistent with his public duty to give any further explanation.

Mr. Warburton

then understood from the right hon. Baronet's statement, that he refused to inform the House whether he issued a warrant for each letter or not.

Mr. Roebuck

said, it had been stated by the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, and repeated by the right hon. Member for Taunton, that such a power was necessary. The question then was, in case such a power was absolutely necessary, what were the limits and responsibilities which they should adopt in order to secure its proper use. Would it not be some guard that a list of the letters, with respect to which such a power was used, should be made out after a certain time; and laid on the Table of the House, say every six months.

Mr. Hume

had never before, in the course of his experience in that House, heard an avowal from a Minister that he had sanctioned the opening of letters. He was of opinion, that in a free country like this, such a power ought not to exist. The moment a slave touched our soil he was free—and were freemen to be made slaves by such a power. It appeared to him to be an outrage upon public liberty. He would ask the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how long the warrant which he had issued had been in existence, in order that the House might be thereby enabled to judge, it had been issued for a particular purpose and a particular period, or whether it had been kept hankering over the individual for a long period. He had been given to understand that it was in operation for a long period; and he must say, that if such a system of espionage were to be maintained, and if right hon. Baronets, Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, were to be police magistrates for the Emperor of Russia or any other Sovereign, such a state of things was not creditable to the right hon. Baronet opposite or to the country that sanctioned it. Admitting that the law was in existence, they ought to be informed whether the discretionary power which was vested in the Secretary of State for the Home Department had been properly exercised. The present was not a time when any necessity existed for the exercise of such a power. We were in a state of perfect tranquility in this country; there was nothing likely to occur which could interfere with the public peace, and were the House of Commons to be told that in such a time of public peace, Her Majesty's subjects or individuals who had taken refuge here, were to have their correspondence opened at the will of the Secretary of State. It appeared to him that it was one of the most disgraceful transactions which was ever avowed in the House of Commons since he came into Parliament. He differed from the Speaker in the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed, that it was a case which did not require immediate redress. What was that owing to? If his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury had not had the courtesy to have given notice of his intention to bring forward the subject to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he could not be met with that objection; and he believed that the warrant had been abrogated that very day in order to afford the right hon. Baronet an opportunity of saying that the evil did not longer exist. If his hon. Friend had brought forward the subject yesterday, instead of having given notice, he could not have been met in this manner. If an officer of as high rank as any public officer in Europe, namely, the Secretary of State of Her Britannic Majesty, were to allow himself to be made a tool of other Sovereigns, it was degrading, and disgraceful, and discreditable to the country. What individual, he would ask, would like to see his correspondence opened and examined. It ought to be recollected that many a statement might be contained in a letter, which, although of no public importance, might be of great importance to the individual to whom it related, and no one would wish to see such letters opened. Nothing could be more easy than for Her Majesty's Government to show that imminent danger, or any public necessity for the interference existed. If it were so; and that it was in order to avoid that danger, and for the public service, he used that foreign trick. The right hon. Baronet, for his own sake, ought to show that there had been such an urgent necessity for this proceeding.

Mr. French

said, that if the letters of more than one were opened, there must have been a misdemeanour committed by those who did so in each case; for the right hon. Baronet had stated that he issued a warrant only for the opening of the letters of one of those individuals. The right hon. Baronet, in speaking of the warrant for opening the letters, said, the warrant had been withdrawn—so that he appeared to have been guilty of a misdemeanor in not having issued a special warrant for each letter, as this appeared to be a general warrant.

Mr. Watson

begged to call the attention of the House to the words of the Act of Parliament. It was certainly an unconstitutional and unpopular power, and, therefore, they should look most strictly to the Act of Parliament. He wished to know what interpretation the Government put upon the Act of Parliament under which this power was derived. There was a great distinction between a warrant for the opening of any particular letter on any particular day, and a general warrant for opening all letters addressed to, or in the handwriting of, any particular individual. The House must recollect that there had been a great constitutional struggle with respect to general warrants. The old Act, the 9th of Anne, c. 10, s. 40, stated that when a letter was opened under this power, it should not be done, " except by an express warrant in writing, under the hand of one of His Majesty's Secretaries of State for every such opening, detention, or delay." Who could say that those words meant that there should be a warrant kept in force, until revoked, or open the letters addressed to any particular individual, or in any particular handwriting. Now, let them look to the statute of the right hon. Member for Taunton, which the House would recollect was introduced merely for the purpose of consolidating the Post Office Acts, and which could not have been intended by the right hon. Member for the extension of the power with respect to opening letters. The words which the statute of 1837 contained, were " nor open, detain, or delay in the Post-office any letter, unless in obedience to an express warrant?" Now what was meant by an express warrant, under the writing of one of the Secretaries of State, or the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the former Act? It could not mean a general warrant, and in looking to the existing Act, it was fair to look to the former Act, with a view to the interpretation of it. There was mentioned in the Act an express warrant for each letter; but the right hon. Baronet had only mentioned one warrant against one individual. That warrant was not now in existence—it could not, in fact, exist in point of time, for by law it could only apply to one letter. If any act of treason were likely to be committed, and that it was necessary to open a letter written by or directed to a particular individual, in order to prevent that, then a warrant would issue from the Secretary of State, directing that a particular letter, which would be in the Post Office on a particular day, should be opened; that a warrant would be issued upon information; but that would be a very different thing from issuing a general warrant. As a lawyer, he was accustomed to look to the words of Acts of Parliament, and he therefore directed the attention of the House to it. He wished to ask the Government if they put the same interpretation upon the Act which he put upon it?

Mr. Christie

remembered, that the Home Secretary (Sir J. Graham) had on a former occasion taken credit to himself, because during the three years he had been in office, he had only expended a trifling amount of secret service money; but what had transpired to-day might perhaps enable the House and the country to ascertain whether he had not been enabled to dispense with secret service money by resorting to the system of espionage. The right hon. Baronet had been very communicative on the occasion to which he alluded, and when it was likely his statement would gain praise for himself or the Government; but now he would disclose nothing at all. The Home Secretary had resorted to the system avowedly in one case; he should like to know in how many other cases, without mentioning names, he had issued similar warrants.

Motion of adjournment negatived.

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