§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, that this Bill did not substantially differ from the Bill they had already disposed of. It was said that its provisions were already applied to civil proceedings; but the cases were different. The person for whom this relief was proposed was to be called on to affirm that according to his religious belief it was unlawful to take an oath. How could it be unlawful? The only law this Bill was concerned with was the law of England, and a man was to be called on to say that his religious belief was that the law of England forbade the taking of an oath. This alone showed how little consideration had been given to the Bill. Criminal cases were different from civil cases; for witnesses were drawn indiscriminately from all classes of society, and every sanction ought to be taken that they should speak the truth. He moved that the House go into Committee that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LOCKE
said, that the Bill proposed to enact in this country what was already the law in Ireland. There was this difference between the present Bill and the 978 Affirmations Bill, that the present measure required that the person making a declaration in lieu of an oath should have a religious belief; while the Affirmations Bill required no religious belief in the person making the declaration.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that his objection to the Bill was not one of principle, but rather of degree. Those who had had experience in our criminal courts must be convinced that there were thousands who were prepared to tell a lie who yet shrank from committing the offence of perjury. He believed that the Bill was uncalled for, and would be dangerous in its operation.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
held it to be a mistake and a fallacy to contend that rules in regard to oaths that might be adopted in civil suits were equally suitable for criminal proceedings. In civil cases the defendant might be examined on oath. Was the hon. and learned Member for Southwark prepared to examine the prisoner in criminal cases on oath likewise?
§ MR. CRAUFURD
must remind the Solicitor General that this was, and had been for some time, the law in Ireland. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had such strong objections to the Bill, why did he not bring in a measure to repeal the Irish Act?
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.