HC Deb 31 May 1861 vol 163 cc410-2

said, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will have any objection to lay on the Table of the House Copies of Correspondence with the Authorities of the Isle of Jersey on the subject of the Report of the Royal Commission? When the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Sergeant Pigott) moved for leave to bring in a Bill for the amendment of the constitution of the courts of Jersey, he (Mr. S. Estcourt) offered some observations on the subject, intimating a strong opinion that something was required for the amendment of the constitution of the Jersey courts beyond that which could be afforded by means from within. Inasmuch as the evils connected with the court were fatal to the interests of the islanders for years past, and that no-attempt had been made in the island itself to reform it, it appeared to him that it was necessary something should be done by the British Parliament to improve it. He' understood that the observations he had then made had given offence to some gentlemen in the island. He regretted that his remarks should have had such a result, because he had a high respect for the constitution of the island and the independent spirit of the inhabitants. With the highest respect, however, for the people of Jersey, to maintain their insular independence, and their old constitution and forms of procedure, he still thought that the course taken by the hon. Member for Reading was called for by the circumstances of the case. It was said on the part of the islanders that they were of themselves about to apply a remedy to the evils complained of without any pressure from without, and it was stated that communications to that effect had been sent to the Home Office, before the subject was introduced to the notice of that House. The communica- tions were two in number, and one of them was dated, he was informed, on the 11th of March, and the other some day in the present month. He understood that the right Gentleman was willing to produce the correspondence, and in taking that course the right hon. Gentleman was acting a part worthy of a British Minister. Inasmuch as the question of Imperial authority over these islands was contested, and as it was: known that the inhabitants were peculiarly sensitive on that point, it was desirable that the fullest information should be afforded, both to them as well as to the British public on the matter. It was urged on the part of the islanders that they did not dispute the authority of the Queen, but that they rejected the jurisdiction of the British Parliament. He repeated be did not wish to encroach on their liberties or their independence; but when it was alleged that in that part of Her Majesty's dominions there was a systematic departure from or a great delay of justice; that it was impossible for individuals committed to prison to obtain their discharge by any process of law for a long series of years, or certainly months, it was desirable, for the honour of the British name, and for the sake of justice, that a superior authority should interpose. Even if an Act of Parliament passed in the ordinary form should constitutionally' be determined not to be the proper mode of dealing with the question, he still thought it ought to have been brought before the British Parliament, and that his hon. Friend the Member for Reading rendered good service in bringing it forward.


said, be had no objection to lay before the House the correspondence to which the right hon. Gentleman had called attention, if he would move for it on a future day. When the correspondence was produced, it would appear that the States, upon the Report of the Commissioners being referred to them, had appointed a Committee to consider the Commissioners' recommendations. What had he meant to convey to the House on a former occasion was that the States had not passed any measure in consequence of the reference which had been made to them. He did not mean to convey to the House that the States had not considered the matter by the appointment of a Committee. The Committee, in fact, had held several meetings, and made several reports, in one of which they commented upon the remarks made in the House upon the Mo- tion of the hon. and learned Member for Reading (Mr. Sergeant Pigott). He was not sure whether it was in accordance with the rules of the House to lay on the Table public documents containing remarks upon speeches purporting to have been delivered in the House, but if there was no irregularity in doing so he should be quite ready to produce them. It appeared that the States of Jersey disputed the power of Parliament to legislate on the internal affairs of Jersey; but he entertained no doubt whatever as to the legal power of Parliament to legislate on the internal as-well as the external affairs of the Channel Islands.


said, he considered it extremely desirable that the Report of the Commissioners should be adopted in the island. But he doubted the expediency of that House proceeding to deal authoritatively with the matter at? a time when it appeared that the Stated were not indisposed to take up the subject. It should be remembered that the States, and, he believed, the inhabitants of the island generally, while admitting that they were subject to the British Crown, denied that they were subject to the jurisdiction of Parliament; and it seemed to him that it would have been more expedient, if the islanders did not themselves effect the desired reforms, to accomplish that object by means of an Order in Council rather than an act of the Imperial legislature.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.