§ LORD HOTHAM
said, that the great unwillingness which he, at all times, felt to do anything having the appearance of a desire on his part, to put himself unnecessarily, or ostentatiously forward, could only, in this instance, have been overcome by a permanent sense of duty, from the pressure of which he had found it impossible to escape. He was well aware that the task he had undertaken was anything rather than an agreeable one, but the circumstance of its being so made him feel that it would be the less justifiable to shrink from it. He had, at least, the consolation of knowing that he came to the consideration of this question in a state of the most complete and entire freedom from personal feeling or prejudice of any kind. He had no private wrong to complain of—no private injury to avenge—no private object to effect—no private ambition to gratify. It was on public grounds, and on public grounds alone, that he was induced to call the attention of the House to a subject deeply affecting its reputation. He was warranted by precedents in submitting to the House the Resolution which he intended to move. The House of Commons had from the earliest period shown a determination to maintain its purity, and had at different times passed Resolutions restraining its Members from the commission of acts tending to undermine its independence and lower its character in the eyes of the country. The House might recollect that in April last the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir John Trelawny) submitted a Motion arising out of the inquiries of a Committee not long before appointed in consequence of a peti- 177 tion presented by a person named Coffey. He (Lord Hotham) took part in the debate upon that Motion, and it was supposed by some hon. and learned Members that he intended to reflect, injuriously, upon their profession. But that impression he had hoped was speedily removed. It was not then, nor was it now, his intention to do anything of the kind. He was one of those who desired to see the Members of the learned profession stand high in the public estimation, inasmuch as he considered that in the integrity and independence of the Bar was to be found one of the best safeguards of the liberty of the subject. He had alarge acquaintance with lawyers, and be was proud to number many, standing in the front rank of their profession, among his personal friends. Neither could he forget that he was himself directly descended from one who for more than thirty years occupied a seat on the judicial bench in Westminster Hall, and who, however much he might have been excelled in learning by his contemporaries, was surpassed by none in a feeling of high honour which characterized every act of his public and private life. His (Lord Hotham's) feelings, therefore, for the legal profession could be none other than that of respect. But passing to a matter of a less personal character he found that the First Resolution on this subject on the Journals of the House directly interfered with the free action of hon. Members of the legal profession. It provided that Members of the House who were lawyers should not take part as counsel on Bills before the House of Lords prior to their coming before the House of Commons. He also found that various Members had been expelled from the House for the acceptance of bribes in consideration of the performance of their duty. Mr. Ashburnham was expelled in 1667 for receiving a fee of £500 from a merchant, and a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair was expelled, in 1694, for receiving l,000 guineas from the City of London for passing the Orphans Bill. Subsequently Mr. Hungerford was expelled for receiving what would now be considered a moderate sum—namely, twenty guineas, for having, in his capacity of Chairman of Committees, helped to pass that Bill. In 1695 the House, feeling that if there were no offerers there would be no receivers of money, passed a resolution making it a high clinic and misdemeanour, for any one to presume to offer money to any Mem- 178 ber of the House to stimulate him in the discharge of his duties. Things went on without any interruption for a very great length of time. The next occasion which Parliament interfered to protect its own character and independence was in the year 1830, when in consequence of an hon. Member having entered into partnership with another gentleman to carry on the business of a Parliamentary agent, a Resolution was passed, without a dissentient voice, by the House, condemnatory of that practice, and on the following day that partnership was dissolved. Since the commencement of the present Session, circumstances had occurred which called for further interference on the part of the House-Hon. Gentlemen were aware that of late years the sending of appeals from India to this country had become a matter of more and more frequent occurrence; and in consequence of that system a practice had sprung up, against which he thought it behoved the House carefully to guard, and upon which it was time that they should pronounce some definite decision. They had been informed by no less an authority than the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), who had lately filled the office of Chairman of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, that it was publicly stated and believed in India that the services of Members of that House could be purchased with money. That was the general impression which prevailed among the Natives of India. In discussing that subject he would not go into the evidence adduced before the Committee which had inquired into the allegations contained in the petition of Coffey against a Member of that House. That Committee had acquitted the hon. and learned Member in question of the charges set forth in the petition, and he had no doubt but that in doing so they had been influenced solely by their sense of duty. But no one, he thought, would be prepared to deny that a belief very extensively prevailed in India that the services of legal gentlemen occupying seats in that House might be secured by an offer of fees or pecuniary rewards, and he would refer to the Report of that Committee to confirm the statement which he had made. This matter had largely attracted the attention of the public. The public narrowly watched their proceedings, and naturally inquired whether they were as careful with regard to what took place in the House as they professed to be with regard to what took place 179 out of it. What were the terms employed by a public journal of large circulation? Alluding to the system with regard to Indian appeals that journal said:—What can be worse than such a proceeding as this? A barrister in Parliament is retained by a fee of most exaggerated magnitude (colourably a fee, but really a bribe) to advise upon business professedly intended to be brought before the ordinary court of law. Consultations are gravely held, and suggestions gravely made to the effect that the matter is one in which resort to a legal tribunal is hopeless; the only remedy is by an appeal to Parliament. The legal member to whom the retaining fee has been paid is requested to undertake the case. He does so, ostensibly as a legislator, really as a lawyer; ostensibly as a representative of the people giving his unbiassed opinion on a matter of national concern, really as a hired advocate uttering purchased sentences at so much a period on behalf of a cause in which his interest is only of the pounds, shillings, and pence kind. Such is the imputation. Everybody who has mixed at all in life must have heard of it over and over again in private. Corruption is the rule in India—bribery, the recognized procedure of all its courts. How are these people to draw the distinction (sufficiently subtle at the best) between the fee to the barrister and the bribe to the Member, in those cases where one and the same person advocates in the House, as Member, the very same cause that he was retained to advise on as a barrister? A fee of 500 guineas is left with papers in a dingy set of chambers in the Temple; that is the first act; a consultation is the second; a speech in the House the third. Can you hope to make the Indian Prince believe that the speech of the Member has not really been bought by the fee to the barrister? Nay, can you make any one else believe it? Do you, reader, believe it? Does Mr. Bull believe it, or Mrs. Bull, or any of the family who have come to years of discretion? Can we wonder that our wealthy subjects in Asia are filled with a profound conviction that our boasted purity of Parliament is but a farce? Can we wonder that it should be publicly stated in India, as Mr. Mangles assured us it is, 'That the services of Members of Parliament are obtainable for money? Can the House tolerate such imputations as these? Ought it to hesitate a moment in stringently enforcing the plain rule, that no legal Member shall advocate or promote in Parliament any cause or matter in respect of which he has been professionally consulted as a fee'd advocate.Well, then, the next question which arose was whether the Resolutions to which he had referred were sufficient to meet the case where there was no direct offer or acceptance of money in consideration of Parliamentary services? For his own part he thought that they were not, and the question with which he wished to deal was that of legal Members of that House being retained in a regular manner for the discharge of duties in a court of law, and then, instead of taking the cases in which 180 they have been thus retained into court, bringing them forward in the House of Commons. Such conduct was quite possible without any infringement of the Resolutions to which the House had already agreed; but at the same time it was calculated grievously to impair the purity of that House. He was not going to embarrass the discussion with the question as to a Member's voting or not voting on a question in which he was personally interested; every vote given under such circumstances was liable to be struck off on appeal to the House, and further Mr. Speaker Abbott had ruled, that the interest which would preclude a Member from advocating a measure in that House must be a personal pecuniary interest. It should be remembered, that the legal profession was the only one in which its Members received their remuneration before their work was done, and that the first step in the engagement of a barrister was to tender him his honorary fee. The transaction in the case of a legal Member was therefore complete as soon as he had received his fee; and, therefore, to meet the case under consideration he had no alternative but that of proposing the Resolution which he had placed on the paper. Let him glance for a moment at the objections which might be urged against the Resolution. In the first place, it might be said that what he proposed involved an undue interference with the free action of members of the legal profession in the House of Commons. Now, to that he would reply, that the first duty of every Member of that House was to the House itself, and that he was bound to comply with the rules laid down by the House for the guidance of its Members. The effect of one of the Resolutions to which he had referred was to prevent legal Members of that House, who had been concerned on measures before Committees of the House of Lords, from advocating them in that House; and surely it was not very unreasonable to prevent hon. Gentlemen stepping at once from the position of advocates before Committees of the other House to that of judges in the House of Commons. It appeared to him that the same principle which made it improper for those who had been engaged before a Committee of the House of Lords to advocate the same case in the House of Commons. made it equally improper for those who had advised upon a case or advocated it in court to again act as advocates in the House of Commons. It might be said that constituencies would complain 181 of the free action of their representatives being fettered, but that was not a question for the House, it was one to be settled between the Member and his con-constituents, to whom he ought to state fairly all the disabilities to which the House might subject its Members. He could not help remarking that that House was accustomed to extend great advantages to members of the legal profession. Such Members performed but a very small portion of the duties of Committees, and when the circuits came they were always allowed leave of absence. It was said that the best security against improper proceedings was publicity; but in the case of transactions such as his Resolutions contemplated, the safeguard of publicity was wholly wanting. The apprehension entertained by some that the adoption of his Motion would deprive the House of the services of many honest, able, and learned men was, he thought, chimerical. It was well known that it had been the practice of the present Lord Chancellor while at the bar never to take part in any proceedings in that House in which he was professionally concerned out of it, and on the other hand, never to act as an advocate out of the House in any case in which he had been previously concerned within its walls. The noble and learned Lord would be regarded as a high authority on any question of professional honour or propriety; and it could not be supposed that the adoption of a rule which had been followed by such a distinguished ornament of the legal profession would prevent able and learned men from sitting in that House. Fears had been expressed by hon. and learned men who were sensible of the necessity of some step being taken on this subject, lest his Resolution were not too stringent; and they had suggested whether it might not be possible to provide that the action of the advocate should cease from the moment that the matter in which he was engaged was introduced into that House. That, however, would, he thought, entirely fail to reach the evil against which they ought to guard. He was happy to say that since his notice was put on the paper he had received from a large number of Members of the legal profession—persons of the highest as well as persons of comparatively low station—expressions of entire approbation of the course which he was pursuing. Among those gentlemen were members of the Irish as well as of the English bar, and the late Attorney Ge- 182 neral for Ireland, whose unavoidable absence he regretted, had told him, and had authorized him, if he desired it, to say that he entirely concurred in his object. Some hon. Members, though admitting that the practice to which he had alluded was scandalous, and ought to be put an end to, might be of opinion that the existing law was sufficient, and that a Resolution like this would rather weaken than strengthen that law. He could not think that this was a valid objection to the Resolution. The Committee over which the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) presided, in dealing with the case lately submitted to it, contented itself with giving a verdict that was tantamount to an acquittal of the hon. and learned Gentleman concerned, without saying a word about the practice of the existence of which there was no doubt. In 1830, when the question of Parliamentary agency was raised, the House did not refrain from expressing its opinion on the subject on account of the supposed sufficiency of the existing law. Sir J. Scarlett, Sir E. Sugden, Sir C. Wetherell, Mr. Brougham, and Mr. W. Wynn, all high authorities on such a question, did not then object to the adoption of a Resolution on any such ground. Another eminent individual, a great stickler for the privileges of that House, Mr. Secretary Peel, stated on the same occasion that he would vote for the Resolution because it was consistent with the uniform practice of the House that lawyers should not take part as Members of Parliament in any proceeding in which they were professionally engaged, and because any Member taking a pecuniary reward for his services did that which was incompatible with the discharge of any Parliamentary duty, and because the introduction of such a practice would necessarily tend to give members of the bar who were fortunate enough to have seats in Parliament an undue advantage over the rest of the profession. Unless hon. Gentlemen were ingenious enough to believe that a legal Member who received a fee of great magnitude in consideration of a duty which he was afterwards told it was not necessary for him to do, and who subsequently brought the matter before that House, would not be biassed by the fee which he had received, they could not do otherwise than give effect to his Resolution. He had already quoted from one public journal, he begged now to quote the following from another:— 183Is the House prepared for such an incorporation of professional and legislative duty on the part of its legal members as that gentleman who have been retained by private individuals in the one capacity should take advantage of the other to further their client's claims. …. It remains for Parliament and the country to say whether this confusion of their two capacities shall be permitted to professional Members of the House. If such proceedings are permitted, there is an end to all confidence in the disinterestedness of Members. At this time especially our relations with India should be above suspicion. The country cannot tolerate any pretended Burke or Wilberforce, with one hand raised in philanthropic declamation and the other thrust behind him to take the rupees. A stringent resolution will be expected from the House if it desires to maintain its fame and dignity."—The Times, March 8.It was on these grounds that he ventured to propose a Resolution which, whatever its other demerits might be, was without ambiguity, and could not be charged with saying one thing and meaning another. In considering this Resolution he asked hon. Members in the words they heard read to them every day, to lay aside all "private interests, prejudices, and partial affections." In dealing with it he called upon them, not as men of politics, and still less as men of party, but as men of honour and integrity, as men of conscience, of common honesty, and of common sense, and asked them what would the country think if, after professing so much virtuous indignation at corrupt practices out of doors, the House became so squeamish when the question was the removal of a blot from its own escutcheon. If after disfranchising St. Albans and Sudbury, and holding in suspended animation the freemen of Galway,—it was to be struck dumb when there arose a question of its own purity. He hoped that the House would rise above all minor considerations, and would proclaim to England, to India, and to the world, that while it would punish to the utmost every species of corruption without its walls, it would not tolerate even the suspicion of corruption within them. With these feelings, and having no personal interest in the matter, except a regard for the credit of an assembly in which he had had the honour of sitting for thirty-eight years, he hoped that the House would agree to his Resolution.
§ MR. DIVETT
seconded the Motion. Although he did not anticipate much practical good from such a Resolution as this so far as it would affect Members of the House, yet he thought the effect of the discussion would be to enlighten the constituencies as to their duties, and thus pro- 184 duce the good effect of restraining them from sending to Parliament men who would be likely to abuse their position. He would not refer to what had taken place during the present Session, more than to state that he agreed in the decision at which the Committee had arrived in the case of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal; but during his Parliamentary experience he had known many cases of the grossest corruption; and if he were asked why he did not bring them forward, his reply would be that if he had the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and but a small portion of his pugnacity, he should probably have done so. He, however, had no hesitation in saying that such practices as those complained of deserved all possible censure. They frequently saw brief-less barristers go down to constituencies, sometimes amusing them with ultra-radical notions, and sometimes with antediluvian conservatism, for no other purpose than to promote their own private interests by obtaining a seat in the House of Commons; for when elected they received briefs, which they were unable otherwise to do, for the sake of their votes in Parliament. He had often mentioned these cases in private, and had been told that the practice was strictly professional. He had been unable to define the term "professional," unless it meant getting the greatest amount of money for the least possible amount of work. It was "professional" in a mining agent or captain to send up glaring reports of the state of their mines, in order to deceive the public; it was "professional" for architects to receive their commission and a per centage from the tradesmen to pass their accounts. There were a great number of these professional practices which it would be as well if the House could put down. From the conviction, then, that such a Resolution would have a good effect upon constituents he gladly seconded the Motion.
Motion made and Question proposed,—
That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House, that any of its Members should bring forward, promote, or advocate, in this House, any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned, for or i in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.
§ MR. BOWYER
said, he could not admit that there was no ambiguity in the Resolution; but his chief objection to it was that it was a vague censure upon all the Members of the legal profession in that House. [Cries of "No!"] He maintained that that 185 was the case, and that the speeches of the mover and seconder also implied that there was impropriety of conduct in reference to this subject in Members of that House belonging to the legal profession. He hoped that before the debate terminated the noble Lord would state who were the persons to whom he alluded, and what causes of complaint he had against them. If he did not do that, his Resolution would remain as a mere abstract proposition, throwing a stigma on a very important portion of that assembly. Though not himself engaged in practice, he felt it his duty, as a member of that profession, to repel the insinuation that the legal Members took fees ostensibly for professional purposes, but in reality for services rendered in that House. If the Resolution were passed, and a barrister had been concerned in a case many years before, and that case came before the House, he would not be able to speak upon it without incurring the imputation of corrupt motives. If the noble Lord wished to carry out his principle, he must go a great deal further than he proposed. Some Members of the House were railway directors, and in that capacity received salaries and emoluments from their respective companies; yet when measures affecting the interests of their companies were introduced into Parliament, they were allowed to take part in the discussions upon them. So with respect to the Chairman of the East India Company. He was deeply interested in maintaining the power and authority of the great corporation of which he was the head, and he was in the habit of advising the House for that purpose; but if the principle of the noble Lord were carried out, he would be precluded from joining in the debates on the India Bill. The same observation applied to the Governor of the Bank, and to other gentlemen concerned in different commercial undertakings. They ought, according to the principle of the noble Lord, to be prevented from supporting any measure which related to matters for which they received emoluments. Nay, even the law officers of the Crown would have their mouths closed when questions were discussed in which they might be officially engaged, and yet they were the persons to whom the House looked for information in such cases. It was only the other day that the Attorney General for Ireland was allowed to defend his own conduct and that of the Crown with regard to a prosecution in Ireland; but, according to the principle of the noble Lord, the hon. and learned 186 Gentleman had no right to speak on the subject. It was obvious that the proposition of the noble Lord, if followed out to its legitimate conclusion, would deprive the House of much valuable information. On the other hand, if it were to be applied to the legal profession alone, its effect would be, in his opinion, to affix a most unjust stigma on its members, and therefore he should record his vote against the Resolution. In conclusion, he would repeat that the noble Lord ought to name the persons against whom he had brought charges.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) were highly creditable to him, but the hon. and learned Gentleman had not done justice to the Resolution, which might well be affirmed by the House without in the slightest degree trenching on the honour of the legal profession. The arguments of the hon. and learned Member might be easily answered. When the Chairman of the Court of Directors spoke on behalf of the Company the House understood exactly the position in which he stood, and gave to his statements and arguments all the weight they deserved, and no more. There was no analogy between such a case and that put by the noble Lord. What the noble Lord justly complained of was, that any man should attempt to advocate a particular measure in that House from a professed belief in its truth and justice, and nothing else, when, at the same time, his services had been purchased by a fee. The two things were quite distinct. So with respect to the Law Officers of the Crown. They had sat in the House of Commons for centuries, during which time they had been excluded from only one Parliament, and the hon. and learned Gentleman knew by what name that Parliament was known—the "Lack-learning Parliament." Assuredly a person holding an efficient situation under the Crown, and discharging the duty so imposed upon him, stood in a very different position from a private barrister acting on behalf of an Indian Prince, and, while professing to advocate measures in the interests of truth and justice alone, allowing himself to be influenced by pecuniary considerations. Moreover, nothing should be done indirectly that ought not to be done directly. Not much weight would be attached to the statements of a man who frankly told the House that the particular measure he was advocating had been brought forward in consequence of a 187 professional opinion he had given to an Indian Rajah; and what the noble Lord proposed was than an hon. Member so circumstanced should not be allowed to interfere directly or indirectly in Parliament, whatever he might do in courts of law, in matters in which he had received fees as a barrister. Hon. Members were prohibited from practising before Parliamentary Committees for the reasons set forth in the Resolution of the noble Lord, and they ought not to be permitted to do in another way the same business which they were interdicted from doing "upstairs." The resolution appeared to him to be just and reasonable, and, so far from casting any reflection upon the profession to which he had the honour to belong, it deserved, and he hoped would receive, the support of every hon. and learned Member of that House.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, that the Resolution did not apply to the particular grievance which the noble Lord had brought before the House. The case submitted by the noble Lord was that of certain gentlemen of the long robe who had taken fees, ostensibly for business out of the House, but really for business in the House. As a remedy for that simple case the noble Lord proposed a Resolution which did not refer particularly to Members of the legal profession, but declared in general terms that corrupt practices had crept in among Members against which it was necessary for the House to protest. Now, the fact was, there was nothing of the kind to be alleged against the conduct of business in the House. The noble Lord did not recite that it had been proved that certain particular gentlemen had been guilty of malpractices. His proof had been of the vaguest description, merely quoting from newspapers. Was it true, or not, that the great bulk of the Members of the legal profession were guilty of practices of this kind? He (Mr. Bouverie) believed nothing of the kind. He had, indeed, heard of two or three cases of the kind talked of, but they were alluded to in the strongest terms, as being contrary to proper practice. But even supposing the charge was true as regarded the Members of the legal profession—which, however, he denied—why were Members generally to be exposed to a grave censure such as that contained in the Resolution of the noble Lord? Again, how would the Resolution meet the cases aimed at which from being dishonourable were necessarily secret. In short, what the House really 188 wanted was, not an abstract Resolution against corrupt practices, but the means of detection. He questioned the legality of that House laying down any new rule upon this subject, though they might properly expound the old practice. But apart from that he thought the proposition of the noble Lord was both too wide and too narrow, and therefore he should vote against it. It was too wide, for it would include the law officers of the Crown and the Ministers of State—who brought forward measures, in respect of which they might be said to have received fee and reward. He also said that the Resolution was too narrow, for it did not meet the case it was wished to meet. A man astute and crafty enough to evade the rules of the House would laugh at the Resolution, and say that he did not bring forward a Motion for which he had received a pecuniary fee or reward, but a totally distinct Motion. Therefore he maintained that the Resolution was both too wide and too narrow. There was nobody more fitting than the noble Lord, from his position and character, to vindicate the honour of the House of Commons; but the noble Lord's feeling was a sort of vague and indiscriminate suspicion that there was something wrong in the House of Commons. The simple and real truth, however, was, with respect to the Members of the House of Commons generally, that there had been an extraordinary improvement within the last two or three generations. Anybody acquainted with the history of Parliament was aware that about 200 years ago the grossest personal corruption prevailed among the Members. What was the state of things in the reign of Charles II.? It was stated in the Parliamentary History that—Then was the time when we beheld a band of abject pensioners in Parliament, a list whereof is still extant. Then was the time we saw our senators wearing the badge of slavery and doing a tyrant's drudgery for clothes and sustenance. Then was the time when no less a sum than £252,467 was squandered among those mercenary wretches in less than three years. Then was the time when a hungry Member was sure of a dinner at one or other of the public tables kept about Westminster. The practice was that besides a dinner, when they had done any eminent piece of service every one found under his plate such a parcel of guineas as it was thought his day's work had merited.That was a grievous state of things, and corruption showed itself afterwards even in the Chair of the House, and the Speaker was turned out of that assembly for taking bribes; and it was commonly understood 189 that in 1763 the Peace of Paris was agreed to by the House of Commons in consequence of the personal corruption of the Members, a large sum of money being expended for that purpose. Another authority—Hallam—stated—But while this acknowledged influence of lucrative office might be presumed to operate on many staunch adherents of the actual Administration, there was always a strong suspicion, or rather a general certainty of absolute corruption. The proofs in single instances could never, perhaps, be established—which, of course, is not surprising; but no one seriously called in question the reality of a systematic distribution of money by the Crown to the representatives of the people; nor did the corrupters themselves, in whom the crime seems always to be deemed less heinous, disguise it in private. This practice of direct bribery continued, beyond doubt, long afterwards, and is generally supposed to have ceased about the termination of the American war.Well, he said that since then a great change had taken place, and they were generally better than their ancestors in those respects; and this was attributable not only to the general improvement of public morality, but also to the great security afforded by the press, which was ever vigilant and ready to lay its hands on any person guilty of dishonourable practices. That was the real security, and not a vague Resolution such as had been proposed. He was satisfied that, laudable as the noble Lord's object was, the remedy proposed would go wide of the mark, and the plaster would not fit the sore. The real remedy was one of a totally different kind, and he deprecated placing on the Journals of the House, as a record for all time, that in 1858 the House of Commons thought it necessary to pass a Resolution against corruption on the part of its Members. On these grounds he objected most strongly to the Resolution, and should move "the Previous Question."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I am induced to offer a very few words upon the proposition of my noble Friend; because, not having the honour to be a member of the legal profession, I may, perhaps, be considered free from the suspicion of bias in any suggestion I may venture to submit to the House. It appears to me that the first and most important question to be considered before we decide upon either the Motion or the Amendment is this—whether there is such a state of public feeling in regard to the existence, or the probable existence, of any corruption, or tendency to corruption, amongst the Members of this House as to make it desirable 190 to pass such a Resolution as that now submitted to us by the noble Lord? If it be the pleasure of the House to agree with my noble Friend in this Resolution, I cannot help suggesting that the words of it should be more general. They should be such as to Cover every person in this House, and not be made to apply to a particular section of the House only. Nor should the Resolution contain expressions which, whatever difference of opinion may exist in this House as to their application to the legal profession, will be construed by the public at large as applying to that profession. I certainly deprecate the idea of the learned profession of the law being open to any accusation of this kind. I would therefore suggest to my noble Friend whether or not the adoption of such words as these, condemnatory of the conduct of any Member advocating or promoting in this House any measure "in which he may have acted or been concerned," will not, in fact, be adopting a Resolution pointing to the members of the legal profession—whether these words will not establish a kind of trap for the consciences of members of the Bar; and whether in some possible cases they will not operate as a serious difficulty in the discharge of their ordinary business? I allude particularly to Crown prosecutions. There are cases in which law officers of the Crown are engaged professionally in the discharge of their duties, in which they receive the proper professional remuneration, and in relation to which they may feel themselves bound to come down to the House and take a part in the discussions arising out of such cases. Now, I think that the probability of such cases occurring must prove fatal to the adoption of those particular words in the proposed Resolution. I would suggest, if the Resolution is to pass, that these words to which I have referred should be altogether omitted, and that the Resolution should be passed in this form:—That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House that any of its Members should bring forward, promote, or advocate in this House any proceeding or measure for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.I think it would not only be unadvisable, but it would be unfair, to introduce those which I think refer to the learned profession only. I would further suggest to my noble Friend that, if these words are retained, that the real scope and object of 191 his Resolution will be materially affected, and that the worst class of cases will be left wholly untouched. The worst class of corruption is not, in my opinion, that in which professional men advocate in this House those views for which they have been previously engaged outside the House; but the worst class is that in which a Member, from a desire of pecuniary or other reward, undertakes to originate a certain proceeding in this House. Now this latter class would be wholly untouched by the Resolution. If, then, we are to proceed with the proposition, I think we ought to proceed in the manner I suggest. I think I am right in saying that the Standing Orders are silent on the crime of corruption in Members of that House, though there is a distinct Standing Order against offering a bribe or reward to Members. There is no Standing Order, however, against Members receiving bribes or rewards, and I believe the feeling has been not to conceive the possibility of any such offence on the part of Members. Consequently I own I am rather disposed to avoid, if possible, any proceeding on our part which would imply that there is a tendency to corruption in this House. Sir, I believe that the House was never more free from the imputation of such a charge than it is at the present time. On the other hand, if the House should think it necessary to adopt some measure of the kind, I trust that it will not refuse to frame their Resolution in the manner I have suggested.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he hoped the House would not follow the advice of the right hon. Baronet, for to do so would be to affirm a kind of truism. He should, therefore, deprecate any such proposition as the right hon. Baronet had suggested as vague and unmeaning. He quite agreed that personal corruption was not a charge that could be made against the Members of that House, and he was firmly of opinion that never had any popular assembly, dealing with such large interests, in which pecuniary considerations were greatly involved, given its votes more free from personal bias or corruption. Comparing the House with other great popular bodies, he believed that its Members were distinguished most honourably and most creditably for their purity of conduct; and contrasting the present moment with past times, he believed that they had grown better instead of worse, and that they had purged themselves from the stains which in former days might have attached to them. 192 He thought, however, that the House and the public were greatly indebted to the noble Lord for having brought forward this subject, for it was impossible to listen to what had been said out of doors without feeling that they would have shown themselves insensible to their own honour and to the honour of the legal profession—whose character was no small part of the public possessions of the country—if they had not endeavoured to guard more effectually than they had hitherto done against such cases as the noble Lord had alluded to. It was no use disguising the fact. It was notorious that the reference of pecuniary claims from India to this country was becoming more and more frequent, and that they were promoted by great Indian rajahs and wealthy zemindars who were accustomed in their own country to apply their immense resources in the most unscrupulous way to the perversion of justice. There was no doubt but that there was a growing belief that legal Members of the House might with propriety, after having been more or less concerned professionally in cases, bring them forward in that House. He thought that that ought to be put a complete stop to. Even if there were mere suspicions, it was worth their while to put a stop to them. He had heard with great pleasure the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who represented the Bar of Ireland, and he should have been much better pleased if the matter had been taken up by the Bar themselves, for he thought it due to that noble profession that there should be no ground of suspicion against its members. He hoped they would have a declaration from the law officers of the Crown for England similar to that of the Attorney General for Ireland. If that were so, he thought that there would be security against the course which had been deprecated being followed in future—a better security than they could obtain by any Resolution. These things must have a serious effect in India, where no doubt they were much exaggerated; and he thought the circumstances so grave, that it became them to show that they were in earnest on this occasion. Therefore, although he thought that reasonable objection might be made to the terms of the Motion, he felt that the country was indebted to the noble Lord for the course which he had pursued.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he was reluctant to allow the discussion to 193 terminate without saying a word on behalf of the profession to which he had the honour to belong. With a great deal that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) he cordially concurred. He had, however, no difficulty in saying, on behalf of the Bar, that if any member of that profession had come down to the House and advocated a question with which he had been previously professionally concerned, and had received his usual fee, such a person would be held by the Bar itself as deserving of the reprobation of the House, as well as the reprobation of the public. He (the Solicitor General) would go further, and say, that any member of the profession who entertained that feeling of honour which he believed was common to the whole body, would at once declare that he could not advocate, or even vote for any question in that House, in which he had been professionally engaged, lest he might, unconsciously, perhaps, be biassed by the opinion which he had, as an advocate, expressed outside of the House. But having said that much, he must express his regret, not at his noble Friend bringing forward the proposition before the House, because he was sure that the noble Lord was actuated by nothing but the purest sense of honour—but he regretted that both the noble Lord who proposed the Motion, and the hon. Gentleman who seconded it, in their several addresses seemed to insinuate that some cases had taken place, and could be named, which rendered a proposal of the kind absolutely necessary. Now, the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) was somewhat different. That right hon. Gentleman, while stating his belief that these rumours were quite unfounded, said, that inasmuch as such suspicions were entertained, it was due to the House to adopt a Resolution on the subject. If they had only suspicions to go upon, he should certainly be disposed to offer objections to entertaining the proposition at all. But as the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Resolution appeared to give their countenance to these suspicions, and by the tone of their speeches led the House to believe that there were grounds for those suspicions, he (the Solicitor General) must, on behalf of the Bar, ask his noble Friend and the hon. Gentleman, in Scotch phrase, to "condescend to particulars," and tell the House who were those members of the legal profession that were charged with having so misconducted themselves. He believed 194 that a more honourable body of men than the Bar of England never existed. And he further believed that the Members of that House, who were also members of the Bar, were not the least honourable section of the Bar. When a Member of the House, addressing himself to a section of Members, gave currency to suspicions which were said to exist out of doors, it was due to that section to enter upon some particularization. If there were such cases as had been referred to they should be specifically mentioned to the House, in order that there might be a foundation for a Resolution of this description. Speaking for the members of the Bar who had seats in that House, he must say that he could not give credence to the charge. On the contrary, he could name instances of members of his profession, also Members of that House, who had been placed in positions in which they could have come down to the House and given the most valuable assistance in support of certain questions; but, to their honour, they unequivocally declined to take any part in relation to those questions in the House, because they had previously been professionally engaged upon them outside. Those facts he knew to his own personal knowledge. He agreed with the right bon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) that the Resolution was at once both too wide and too narrow in its scope. Taken in its wide sense there could be no doubt that it included the Ministers of the Crown, the law officers and gentlemen holding such public positions as the Chairman of the East India Company, the Governor of the Bank, and others; and he asked whether it was advisable gravely to affirm a Resolution which might produce out of doors a worse doubt and a worse suspicion than it was intended to provide against? If it was to affirm that a course of conduct should be pursued which he declared was inherent to the honour of the Bar, then the wording of the Resolution should be somewhat different. It would ill become him, having spoken of the wording of the Resolution, to say more upon the part of the Bar, except to claim for them that if there was any charge imputed to any member of that body in that House, there should be a distinct statement, and some proof of it given. He disowned all alleged charges against the members of the Bar in that House. He did not believe in them. He was sure there was no foundation for them. Having said so much, he would leave the Resolution in the hands of the House to 195 adopt any wording it might think fit to convey the meaning it intended; but at present he believed the resolution either conveyed much more than those who proposed it, or those who supported it intended it to convey, or it failed to express the charges which were meant to be expressed, and which had been insinuated in some of the speeches delivered that evening.
MR. SERJEANT DEASY
said, he fully concurred with the hon. and learned Solicitor General in thinking that conduct such as had been imputed to the Bar in the course of this debate would be a violation of their duty, both as Members of Parliament and members of the legal profession. As a member of the Irish Bar, he would say that the whole of that profession would unanimously condemn any Member who could allow himself to be influenced by the motives imputed, and that, on the contrary, members of the Bar often refused fees in cases, lest at some future day they might have to decide on the same cases as Members of Parliament. He repudiated the vague imputations which had been cast on the Bar, and firmly believed that its members were incapable of the conduct which had been insinuated rather than charged in the course of the debate.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that holding the office which he did, he felt bound not to allow the debate to terminate without saying a few words upon the subject of the Resolution before the House. If the noble Lord who moved the Resolution, or any one who supported it, believed that there had been on the part of any member of the Bar of England, Scotland, or Ireland, any such conduct as afforded the slightest ground for the Resolution, the charge, as a matter of justice to the whole profession, ought at once to be plainly and openly made. He had listened with astonishment and regret to the observations of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), for it was impossible to avoid perceiving that that right hon. Gentleman had in his mind some impression that there had been conduct on the part of members of the Bar in that House which called for the Resolution. Mention had been made of rumours out of doors, but he (the Attorney General) had never heard of them. He believed that the Bar of England merited the encomiums that had been pronounced upon it by his hon. and learned Friend, and that it enjoyed and deserved the confidence of the public. Now, as far as the Resolution 196 went, except as to the words pointed out by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, it was entirely unobjectionable, though at the same time he considered it quite unnecessary and uncalled for. The Resolution was an abstract Resolution, expressing what was now the law of Parliament. There was an Order of the House, passed as long ago as 1695, in which it was laid down that—That the offer of any money or other advantage to any Member of Parliament for promoting any matter whatsoever impending or to be transacted in Parliament is a high crime and misdemeanour and subversive of the English constitution.That order was directed against offers, but of course it implied that the acceptance of such offers by a Member of Parliament would be equally reprehensible. But then there were the words which had been proposed to be omitted from the Resolution, "in which he may have acted or been concerned," and upon these he would ask the House to consider what was the natural, the necessary meaning of those words—that members of the Bar having seats in that House should not be permitted to interfere in matters upon which they had been consulted as barristers. He, as one of the law officers of the Crown, was consulted upon a matter in which the House and the country felt a deep interest—the affair of the Cagliari. He gave an opinion, and within three days after giving it the matter was brought under discussion in that House. In what position would the law officers of the Crown have been placed if the proposed Resolution had then been in force? They would have been forbidden to take any part in that discussion. If it were intended that the Resolution should not apply to cases where opinions only had been given, then that should be expressed in the Resolution, otherwise every member of the Bar having a seat in that House would be placed in a very difficult position. He would refer to class of cases with which he had been associated more frequently perhaps than any other hon. and learned Member in the House—he alluded to the cases of Indian Princes having grievances, real or supposed, to urge against the British Government, who came over to this country and consulted some member of the Bar who might happen also to be a Member of the House. The case was read by that Gentleman, and he wrote his opinion upon it, and there his connection with it ceased. If the 197 counsel, upon reading the case and hearing the facts, should come to the conclusion that the Indian Prince had no remedy at law, but had a wrong which Parliament could and ought to redress, he would give that opinion to his client. He conceived that it was the duty of members of the Bar in that House—and that duty he had always endeavoured scrupulously to perform—when a case was laid before them which there was the least ground for supposing might come before Parliament to state that they could not be consulted upon it. If it were a case for a court of law, of course they might deliver their opinion upon it, and advocate it in a court of law; but his objection to the Resolution was, that it would restrain a Member of Parliament from giving an opinion in that House upon any question on which he might have been consulted, not as an advocate, but for the purpose of obtaining his unbiassed opinion upon the law and the justice of the matter. He wanted to know what wrong there could be in such advocacy. If there were wrong, as a member of the Bar he wished it to be pointed out to him by the House. It might be that the only redress which could be obtained by the party who had consulted a learned Member of that House on a case was by bringing it before Parliament, and he wished to know upon what conceivable principle that Member's independence in that House was to be assailed, and his mouth to be closed on such a case. If the Resolution bore only on the many Indian cases that came before the House, there would be little difficulty in tracing out a line of conduct that he doubted not every Member of the House would be ready to adopt. But when they considered it as applicable to the many cases for which Members of the House might be consulted, and which might afterwards come before Parliament, he must say that he could conceive nothing more likely than such a Resolution to drive from the House the most eminent and high-minded members of the Bar. With regard to the question of Indian Princes, he would say that it was impossible not to agree with an hon. Member who had observed that every Member of that House ought to be above even the shadow of a suspicion of advocating in his place in Parliament the cause of any of those Indian Princes, except from his inherent love of justice, and looking for no reward beyond the approbation of his own conscience. But when the words of the Resolution came to be applied 198 to the case not of private Members, but that of the law officers of the Crown, he thought it would well become those who supported it in its present form to ascertain what was the mode in which the duties of members of the Bar were performed, and what was the mode in which they were consulted on the part of the Crown in regard to questions which might, and in some cases inevitably must, come before Parliament. Every member of the Bar of England, and more especially his learned Friends who had succeeded for the good of the country in obtaining seats in the House, would scorn to be influenced by any hope of reward for the performance of their duties in the House.
§ Mr. MALINS
said, that as a member of the Bar, and naturally anxious for the honour of his profession, he must protest against the motives which had been attributed to the members of his profession. He knew not what was the origin of the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) had gone somewhat beyond the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Divett) in stating, that there was a growing opinion in the legal profession that those engaged in it might receive large fees as an inducement to come down to that House and advocate particular measures. He (Mr. Malins) should like to know from what quarter the right hon. Gentleman had obtained that information, because nothing could be more diametrically opposed than that opinion to the opinion entertained among those members of the Bar with whom he associated, and who would repudiate with as much indignation as the right hon. Gentleman in the chair any dishonourable proposition that might be made to them. He had a profound respect for the noble Lord, but he regretted that he had not more specifically mentioned what it was that had induced him to submit this Resolution. It had been said that some briefless barristers came into that House with the view of thereby procuring business, which they could not otherwise obtain. Now, the members of the Bar in that House were rather a numerous body, and yet he had looked in vain for cases of the kind alluded to, and he could further say that if any barrister were so foolish as to entertain such a notion, he would meet with bitter disappointment. There was no evidence whatsoever to show that those malpractices against which the Resolution appeared to be directed had any 199 existence; and nothing, he should contend, could be more embarrassing than that the Resolution should be passed in its present shape, because, taken in connection with the debate to which it had given rise, it would be regarded in no other light than as an expression upon the part of that House of an imputation upon the conduct of those among its Members who belonged to the legal profession.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he wished to express his cordial approval of the wording of the Resolution, as well as of the sentiments to which his noble Friend, by whom it had been submitted to the notice of the House, had given utterance. After what he had heard from so many distinguished members of the legal profession, it must be quite clear that the sentiments of the profession were completely in accordance with what they ought to be, and what every one hoped and believed that they were. The Resolution, indeed, was one the justice of which it was, in his opinion, impossible to deny; nor could he concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, in thinking that the House could not assent to it without thereby casting an imputation upon the members of the legal profession. His belief, on the contrary, was, that in not assenting to it hon. Members would be casting an imputation on themselves. His chief object, however, in rising to address the House was to express his regret that his noble Friend had not gone a step further. It appeared to him, indeed, that the words of the Resolution would, in fact, bear the more extensive construction which he wished them to bear; but, on the other hand, it seemed to be the opinion of the House that the Resolution was intended to reflect solely upon Members of the legal profession. Now there were two other cases which reflected equally on the character of the House and of its Members to which this Resolution ought to be made unequivocally applicable. One class of cases was that embraced under the head of testimonials. They frequently heard of Members of that House receiving large sums in hard cash for services or reputed services performed, in their capacity of legislators, and still continuing Members of that House. Now, with respect to the propriety of accepting such rewards, he, for one, had no hesitation in expressing a decided opinion. Such practices were more derogatory to the character of the House and of its Members than anything which had been alleged against 200 members of the legal profession. When a Member received money on account of the performance of his duty that was neither more nor less than a bribe, influencing him in the discharge of such duty in that House, and he thought that the House should express its marked disapproval of practices of this kind. Then there was another class of cases to which the same remarks might be very fairly applied. Members had in times past—happily not recently—been the hired and paid agents of colonies, paid and hired to do their duty in that House as Members of Parliament on behalf of certain colonial possessions. Was not that a greater violation of the character of the House and of its Members than anything that could be done by a member of the legal profession in his joint capacity of barrister and Member of Parliament? And unless they expressed clearly by this Resolution their disapproval of such practices, they would bear hardly upon the legal profession; they would be straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. He should abstain at that time from any condemnation of that which had always been held contrary to the laws of honour in this case; but he thought they were bound to have it understood that they did not confine themselves to criticisms of the conduct of the legal profession, but that they considered it disgraceful to the Members of that House, at any time and under any circumstances, to receive money, bribe, or testimonial for the performance of duties which they ought to perform as free, independent, and unbiassed Members. Of course he did not mean to include in these remarks such testimonials as were often given by constituents to Members who had long and faithfully served them. Such testimonials as these he conceived to be honourable to those who gave and those who received them.
said, that he did not see a word about the legal profession in the Resolution, and as a Member not connected with that profession he was prepared to maintain that the proposition either meant a great deal less than it said, or a great deal more than could be gathered from the speeches of the mover and seconder to be their intention. He thought that whether a testimonial was given by the Crown or the people, the recipient of it was not disqualified for worthily performing his part in that House. He did not dispute the purity of the legal profession. He believed that the legal Members of the House stood 201 on a par, in point of honour and integrity, with other hon. Members, and he did not think that they themselves professed to do anything more. If he believed that the Motion was intended as a slur upon the legal profession, he would be amongst the first to oppose it as being unjust and undeserved; but he did not think that that was the bearing of the Resolution, and he did not, therefore, oppose it on that ground. In his opinion, the Resolution was unnecessary. He believed that there was proof in the Orders of the House, or, at all events, in Hansard, that the House disapproved the conduct alluded to in the Resolution, and that being so, to pass another Resolution in addition to those already sanctioned by the House, would appear to imply a consciousness that there was something wrong, which he did not believe. He had already said that the Resolution might be interpreted as extending much further than was generally understood. It might be read as precluding a railway director from addressing the House in regard to a scheme in which he was interested, although he did not think that any Member had hitherto laid down such a rule of conduct. He (Mr. Gilpin) was a director of a large railway. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Divett) was also a director of a large railway. He (Mr. Gilpin) was not aware if that hon. Member had laid down a rule to himself, that if his line came under the notice of Parliament he would not speak or vote in reference to it; but certainly he (Mr. Gilpin) had laid down no such rule for himself. He had spoken and voted on such questions more than once, but had taken care that it was known by the House that he was a director of the company. He also thought that it would be an outrageous thing to say, that because the Attorney General had been consulted by the Oude family he should be for ever after disqualified from giving an opinion on their case. He believed that the opinion of the House on this subject was well understood; that its power was sufficient, and its will indisputable, to deal in the most stringent manner with any case of the kind referred to, should it arise; and thinking this Motion, therefore, unnecessary, he should vote in favour of the Previous Question.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he believed that the members of the law were actuated, in the discharge of their Parliamentary duties, by the most honourable and disinterested motives. He had been a short time ago 202 offered a brief for an Indian firm, but he had refused it, believing that its acceptance might interfere with the discharge of his Parliamentary duties. He believed that that was the principle which actuated the Members of the Bar both in England and Ireland; and he thought, therefore, that a Resolution which bore the aspect of casting a slur upon that profession was unjust to them, while it was unnecessary, as expressing disapprobation of pratices which the House had already sufficiently condemned.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I believe that the noble Lord who introduced this Resolution has done good service to the character of this House. That noble Lord has introduced the measure in a direct and manly manner, and whatever may be the conclusion of this debate, he has done good service to the character of the House. I confess, however, that I feel very great difficulty in voting for this or any other Resolution that may be drawn up on the subject, because it seems to me that the House, by a general Resolution, said many years ago that no Member should vote on any matter in which lie had a direct pecuniary interest. That Resolution so come to affords, at least, a plain and intelligible—I think when you attempt to go further and define what shall be the conduct of Members of the House in regard to transactions in which they have been concerned, that you then run great danger of framing a Resolution so wide that persons not intended to be included in it will think themselves precluded by its language from voting according to their consciences, lest they may be violating the rule you have laid down. I cannot quite admit the distinction which was drawn by the Attorney General for Ireland as to the conduct of the law officers of the Crown. For instance, some years ago the question was raised in this House whether the law officers of the Crown, in prosecuting a certain company in the City for fraud on the revenue, had not exercised their functions in a most oppressive manner. If such a case as that were brought forward in the House—and I believe that that very case was so mentioned—it would be the right, as it was the duty, of the law officers of the Crown to defend their conduct and promote any measure which would put an end to the practices complained of. No one could blame them for taking such a course, but the right hon. Gentleman said that that would be so because their 203 conduct was open and it would not therefore be condemned by this Resolution. That, however, was just the distinction which the Resolution did not make, and I doubt whether it is possible to frame a Resolution that would adequately convey the meaning of the noble Lord and the House if it were desirable to do so. Then there is the case which was mentioned by the Attorney General for England—a case on which, speaking for myself, I think it very desirable to know what is the opinion of gentlemen of high standing at the Bar. The case supposed by him is one, in which the hon. and learned Member, who is consulted, is of opinion that it will be necessary to seek pecuniary redress from this House, as often happens, the case of some one like a Prince from India or ether person with large claims. Now, the learned Attorney General has told us exactly what the conduct of a member of the Bar ought in that case to be. He supposed that the case came to him through the usual channel; his clerk receives a retainer; and he finds, on coming to the papers, that there is no redress to be got in a court of law, although a wrong has been suffered; he has a right to give his opinion, and he is not afterwards precluded as a Member of Parliament from taking up that case. If I understand the learned Gentleman, his proposition is a right one, and it is this—that a barrister who is a Member of this House, having given his opinion—whether he take a fee or not, for that is of little consequence—should from that time forward take no fee or reward—that if he gave his advice to that person afterwards be should give it gratuitously, and that he may take it up as a public case. I think, Sir, that no blame attaches to him for doing so; nay, I think he would be highly to blame if, having given his opinion as a lawyer, and being afterwards consulted as a Member of Parliament, he should decline to advocate and support the opinion he had given as a barrister. If I understand the learned Gentleman as speaking the sentiments of time Bar—and so I understood him—then I think the rule which he laid down is perfectly satisfactory. Of course every barrister must consider for himself how far he may go in the particular case before him; and then arises the large, though not difficult question, whether the members of the Bar are of such a character that they can be trusted to make a proper distinction between their duties as lawyers and as Members of Parliament. 204 I am glad, Sir, that this discussion has taken place. But still I would rather trust to the honour of members of the Bar of England who are Members of this House than trust to the words of any Resolution. It has already been pointed out by some one that even this Resolution, if it were passed, would be open to evasion; and indeed you can hardly frame words which may not be evaded by those who wish to do so. I, therefore, think that the aim of the House will be better gained by trusting, upon a question of honour and feeling, to the conscience and high character of the members of the Bar than by the words of any Resolution. I shall, therefore, rather vote for the Previous Question, but in so doing I render my tribute to the noble Lord who has brought forward this question, as having done good service on a question upon which much difficulty has been felt.
§ MR. BOVILL
said, he thought that, of all persons, Members of the Bar in this House ought to be most indebted to the noble Lord for bringing on this discussion. He, however, dissented entirely from the grounds on which the noble Lord had based his Resolution. Probably nothing could be further from his mind than a wish to cast imputations on the members of the Bar; but the vague charges he had made, and certain expressions in his speech wounding to the feelings of many hon. and learned Members of the House, certainly had that effect. Now, if any impression prevailed in the public mind that barristers were bribed for their services in Parliament, it was quite time to dissipate such an impression, for it was neither the principle nor the practice of the English Bar to act in any such corrupt and dishonest manner; and it was impossible, indeed, to suppose that any man of honourable feeling would barter his independence for the miserable fee he might receive in such a case. Should the Resolution be adopted, its language would be such as to render it almost impossible properly to discuss this House legal questions which required the assistance of the Bar. For example, in the recent discussion on the subject of church rates, the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Mellor) must have had some hesitation in taking part, as he had been professionally concerned in the question. Another instance of this might be found in the Bill with respect to crossed cheques. Both himself and the Attorney General had happened to be engaged in 205 the very case which elicited a discussion upon a recent Act of Parliament, and for that reason the two persons, perhaps, who know most of the subject would be precluded by this Resolution from taking any part in the discussion. Then again, if the object was to prevent members of the legal profession taking part in any question upon which they had in their capacity of barristers pronounced an opinion or taken any part, the Resolution did not go far enough, for while it declared that they should be incapable of promoting such measures, it did not say they should not be allowed to oppose them. In truth, all these questions might be safely left to the honour and discretion of members of the legal profession; and on this ground, as well as because the Resolution was in itself imperfect for the objects it sought to attain, he should vote for the Previous Question.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that when they were about to pass a Bill in order really to bring under the dominion of this House the whole of India, it was of some importance to determine the circumstances under which hon. Members ought to undertake the advocacy in Parliament of questions of a particular nature. He had had some experience in this matter, and the statement of the Attorney General, he thought, exactly met the case. He would mention a circumstance which had occurred to him. It so happened that he was the governor of a bank, the manager of which came to him one day and said, "One of our customers is below; he wishes to see you; will you go down and speak to him?" Thinking the applicant had come upon matters connected with the business of the Bank, he (Mr. Roebuck) replied, "Certainly," and down he went. He found a gentleman, who said he came on the part of the Queen of Oude. Well, he (Mr. Roebuck) was not quite sure that Her Majesty was not going to open an account with the Bank, and he replied, "Very well, Sir, what have you to say?" The gentleman said, "The Queen certainly has not spoken to me; lam obliged to speak to her through women; but she has conveyed to me her desire that you would see the Prince of Oude." He (Mr. Roebuck) replied, "Certainly, I will see the Prince of Oude, though I am not aware I can do any good by it; but if Her Majesty desires that I should see him, I shall only be too happy to obey her wishes." The gentleman then observed, "Sir, Her Majesty bade me say she was very sorry she only approached you in this manner." 206 He (Mr. Roebuck) said, "Sir, what the Devil do you mean?" The gentleman replied, "Sir, she is very poor." He (Mr. Roebuck) replied, "Oh, Sir, now I know what you mean; but you come to me as a Member of Parliament, and I am ashamed that any Englishman should dare to approach me in such a manner." "Oh, Sir," replied the gentleman, "you are very much more particular than a certain gentleman," whom he named, "who, being a Member of Parliament, has received £500." That brought him to the second part of the case. Now, he took the statement of the hon. and learned Attorney General of the rule which ought to guide Members of that House who were also members of the Bar, in such cases to be, that if it should happen that any such Member had given advice before he knew all the circumstances, and afterwards he found that there was nothing for it but going to Parliament—he, being a Member of Parliament, should withdraw from the case, and not permit his name to appear on the books of the House, or in any way in connection with it in the House, while he was receiving a fee from the client. If that were the effect of the hon. and learned Attorney General's statement, then the rule was clear and definite, and could not be mistaken—namely, that when they came to Parliament, all fees as to the barrister were to cease at once. There could be no doubt or hesitation in the matter henceforward, and he thought the learned profession, of which he was a very humble member, were deeply indebted to the noble Lord (Lord Hotham) for bringing forward his Motion. He wondered that the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) should have said that he had never heard of imputations of this kind. Never heard of such imputations! Had the hon. and learned Gentleman walked through Westminster Hall without hearing Members of that House charged, by name too, with having accepted fees for the advocacy in Parliament of a particular line of conduct? [Mr. MALINS: Yes.] He (Mr. Roebuck) could only envy the ignorance of his hon. and learned Friend who had passed through life without hearing what was within everybody's knowledge, but there were none so deaf as those who wouldn't hear. The case was plain; but, although he was prepared to vote with the noble Lord, he did not think he would gain much by pressing his Motion to a division, He was quite 207 prepared, with the noble Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell), to leave it to the honour of the noble profession, of which he was a member, to pursue a cautious line of conduct; and, as the opinion of the House had been distinctly declared that no man ought, as a lawyer, to advocate any case in that House for fee or reward, he thought there was no danger of an infringement of the rule. In his opinion, the House had done all it need do, and he believed that hereafter no lawyer would dare to infringe the rule they had laid down.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, it might happen that in particular cases of hardship the law of the country afforded no redress. Members of the legal profession who were also Members of that House might say to their clients under such circumstances, "The law affords you no redress; you must appeal to the Legislature;" and because they had given that advice were their lips to be sealed in the House of Commons, although they might be the most competent persons to render assistance to the House in dealing with such questions? He thought that could not be the intention of the House, and the etiquette of the legal profession would prevent any barrister whose character was worth anything from taking fee or reward under the circumstances contemplated by the Resolution. On the other hand, if the Resolution were adopted with the exception of the words which the First Lord of the Admiralty proposed to omit, it would amount to nothing more than the declaration of a truism. He felt great difficulty in voting with the noble Lord, but still greater in voting against him, and therefore he trusted that the noble Lord would consider that he had gained all he could expect to obtain from the discussion which had taken place, and would not press his Motion to a division.
§ LORD HOTHAM
, in reply said, that it was not a bad test of the value of a Motion when hon. Gentlemen found fault with it, by saying that it did at once too much and too little. He must in the first place express his extreme regret that anything he had said should have wounded the feelings of any Member of the legal profession. He had started by saying that there were rumours of such practices as he had alluded to, and a belief in the public mind that the services of hon. and learned Members could be procured by retaining them first professionally, and then inducing them to 208 go on with cases in that House. He had said that this ought not to be permitted, and that the House ought to lay down a rule that such proceedings should terminate. It was impossible not to allude to some person or other, but when he was asked by the hon. Members for Dundalk and Wallingford to name those persons, even if he knew he would not mention their names, and the more, because the offence in question was prohibited by no law, however immoral it might be. It was a fact, in the case of the Queen of Oude, that an hon. and learned Gentleman, a Member of that House, was retained professionally and received a large fee with a view to legal proceedings, and a consultation took place, at which it was stated that the case could not be worked in the courts of law, and the learned Gentleman was appealed to, as he knew the case best, to bring it before the House of Commons. That appeared to him (Lord Hotham) an improper practice, and he thought that the House ought to declare it to be so. The noble Lord the Member for London had spoken in very handsome terms of the motives by which he was actuated, but the noble Lord added that the case was already provided for by the Resolution of the House levelled against hon. Members acting in cases in which they had a direct pecuniary interest.
§ LORD HOTHAM
In such cases as he had alluded to, how could direct pecuniary interest be proved? The money was given beforehand as a fee, and then the individual was asked to undertake the conduct of the case in that House. Whatever might be the motives of a person so situated, he could never be free from suspicion. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield said that the matter was now thoroughly understood, and that a professional Member of that House must cease to act in a case the moment it came before the House of Commons. But that left things as they were. No fee was given for acting in the House of Commons, but it was given in the first instance, and covered all subsequent proceedings. The hon. and learned Attorney General had stated very fairly his opinion as to the mode of dealing with these cases. He said that Members of the legal profession were at liberty to act in Indian cases out of the House, in the first instance, and then come and act 209 on them in the House. From that opinion he (Lord Hotham) entirely dissented, and he felt it his duty to ask the House to pronounce an opinion, on a division, whether such a doctrine was correct.
§ Whereupon Previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 80: Majority 71.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 210; Noes 27: Majority 183
That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignitary of this House, that any of its Members should bring forward, promote, or advocate, in this House, any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned, for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.