§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
, in moving that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, said, he proposed briefly to state its objects, he presumed that every one had seen the accounts which had appeared in the public press of the evidence given by the witnesses who had been examined before the Assistant-Commissioners appointed to inquire into the circumstances connected with the trades outrages at Sheffield; and all were, he had no doubt, animated by feelings of indignation and disgust at the state of things thus revealed. Subsequent to the completion of a considerable portion of their labours the Commissioners had informed him that they were in possession of information which led them to the conclusion that it would be desirable to extend to other places—at least to one other place—the same kind of investigation that had been made at Sheffield. Having heard their statement he confessed he had deemed it expedient that some such inquiry should be instituted, to ascertain whether the outrages brought to light at Sheffield were confined to that town, or, whether a similar system prevailed in other parts of England. Under those circumstances he undertook to bring in the Bill now before the House extending the provisions of the Act relating to Sheffield to such places as the Secretary of State, on the application of the Commissioners, might deem it proper to apply it. The Bill, it would be observed, did not confer an absolute power on the Commissioners to institute an inquiry wherever they might think fit. They must, in the first instance, make application to the Secretary of State, before whom such facts must be produced as to satisfy him that such an investigation was necessary, leaving it entirely to his discretion to determine whether it should be instituted or not. That was the simple object of the Bill. No names of places were specified, inasmuch as he deemed it more advisable to give general powers to the Commissioners to call the attention of the Secretary of State to any information which they might receive, without specifying any particular 1399 locality, as in the case of Sheffield, for the mention of which there was, no doubt, ample justification. He had no wish, he might add, to make any statement on the subject which might seem to be too strong; but the Commissioners stated that they had received information which would bring to light matters very discreditable to the districts concerned; and the best means of healing those wounds in our social system which led to the appointment of the Commission originally was, in his opinion, to lay them open, however disgraceful they might be.
§ Moved, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Secretary Gathorne Hardy.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not rise for the purpose of throwing any obstacles in the way of the Bill. In this sad, distressing, and most important matter the responsibility had been assumed by the Government, and it would not become a private Member to interfere. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not propose to give the Commissioners the power in the first instance of extending the inquiry beyond Sheffield, or that inquiries should be instituted in any other places until he—the Secretary of State—was satisfied as to the grounds on which it was proposed that the inquiry should take place. Before, however, the unprecedented powers given in the case of Sheffield were sanctioned in the case of other places, he might be allowed to refer briefly to what had happened in that town. Nobody could allude to the terrible and distressing disclosures there brought to light, without feeling how deep a stigma they were calculated to cast on the honest and manly character of Englishmen. He, as an Englishman and a Yorkshireman, felt deeply the disgrace of having found Yorkshiremen capable of being hired for the purpose of dastardly assassination, and other Yorkshiremen capable of hiring them. He thought, however, that the truth should be arrived at, and that if the disgrace attached to other parts of the country, it should be exposed. If fresh legislation was required it must be to do everything in their power to prevent any oppression by one body of workmen over their fellows, while every facility was given for justifiable and lawful combination. He must, however, ask whether it was necessary to pay the price for the information 1400 which we were paying in the case of Sheffield. The case of Sheffield was unprecedented in the annals of England; but it certainly was as unprecedented that murderers of the worst description, who had been committing crimes for years, should be allowed perfect immunity. He never heard of such a case in the annals of this or any other country. All that was required to enable a murderer to be perfectly free was that he should come forward and confess. These men were relieved from the terrible anxiety which must have been upon them lest justice should overtake them, and were set free by the Legislature. He could not help doubting whether it was necessary to give the immunity to all. He cast no blame upon the Commissioners. Mr. Overend had conducted the inquiry with the greatest possible ability; but the result had been that all who were concerned in these murders had been pardoned. When the Bill was brought before the House at the beginning of the Session, he ventured, as a magistrate of Yorkshire, to express some doubt, not being informed that the police had given up all hope of discovering the murderers, whether Parliament ought to take the matter out of the hands of the police and magistrates, and offer free pardon to the offenders. He was met, however, with the convincing statement that the murders in Sheffield had probably been committed at the instigation of some one behind the scenes; that the actual perpetrator was not so bad as the instigator; and that, if the Government was empowered to tempt the actual perpetrator to confess his crime, they would be able to fasten upon the instigator. It was true that there was no precedent for the actual perpetrator of a crime being admitted as Queen's evidence; but he felt this case was so exceptional that he could make no objection to what was proposed. But what had actually been done? Hallam, who was the actual perpetrator of the murder, came forward and gave evidence with respect to it; and, if the police of Sheffield had been worth anything, it would surely have been possible for them, after having received the evidence of Hallam, to fasten the crime upon Crookes and Broadhead. That, he regretted, had not been done; but, on the contrary, the instigators, Broadhead and Crookes had been pardoned, and the Commissioner, in open court, announced that any one who had committed murder in connection with 1401 trades outrages had only to come forward and tell the Court all about it, in order to procure a free pardon. He hoped the House would understand that he had no feeling of vengeance against any of these men; but it was important that care should be taken lest by their legislation they sapped the principles of justice in the minds of those for whom they legislated, and their idea of the heinousness of the crime of murder. He could not help thinking that the extraordinary course that had been taken would, to some extent, have that effect. It was stated in the former debate that the object of the punishment of crime was the prevention of its recurrence. But prevention was not the sole object. They all felt the necessity, in order that the law should be asserted, of inculcating the notion that justice must be executed throughout the country, and it would be bad policy, even upon the question of expediency and prevention, that they should allow a different notion to enter into the minds of the masses. He might be told that in these cases public opinion did that which the law failed to do. But when they found what had happened at Sheffield, they had reason to doubt whether they had not gone too far in shaking the principle of justice in the minds of these men. The crime was extraordinary; the utter failure of the police was extraordinary and disgraceful; but as extraordinary as either of these was, the simple fact that the man who had been planning murder for years, and setting persons to destroy certain others, quite reckless as to who else might be killed in the attempt, actually asked for money to pay his expenses in going to make his confession. If public opinion had really been at work in Sheffield, it would have been impossible for Broadhead to have made that claim. That which was the only possible excuse for these crimes was the idea that the perpetrators were not murderers, but were carrying on a social war between classes; and the object of Parliament should have been, if possible, to prevent that idea; but he was afraid that they had done something towards encouraging it by showing their great anxiety to obtain information, while they were careless as to what its effect might be upon the principles of justice in the country. Broadhead, it appeared, was driving a good trade as a publican in consequence of his evidence before the Commissioners, his house being filled with 1402 persons who went to hear about the murders, and Crookes being the hero of the bar-room, He believed the working men throughout the country were generally as much shocked at these proceedings as that House was; and in The Beehive, a weekly paper belonging to the trades unionists of London, there was last Saturday a leader describing, in terms of fitting condemnation, a state of things in Sheffield which might well induce Parliament to pause in what they were now doing. The writer stated, upon the information of a person thoroughly acquainted with the leading characters in the abominable outrages which had taken place, and who had come from Sheffield within the last few days, that it was highly probable that, after the inquiry had closed, Broadhead would be re-elected as secretary of the Saw-Grinders' Union. He trusted the statement was not true; but it was evident that the working men of London had reason to suspect that it might happen; and therefore he trusted that the House would consider whether, in their anxiety to get at all the facts with regard to trades unions, they had not gone farther than they ought in making terms with murderers. He had not the slightest idea of taking upon himself the responsibility of interfering with the passing of the Bill; but he hoped the Government would be sensible of the truth of that which he had brought before them.
said, he could not but express a hope that the powers given by the Bill would be used with great reserve. Undoubtedly, it was very shocking to the public mind and conscience that parties so deeply stained in guilt should go forth to the world and become objects of that depraved curiosity which was always the passion of a certain portion of society, and which made murderers invariably objects of interest to many who had not the slightest sympathy with the crime. He, like his hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), who was perfectly right in not questioning the decision of the Government, who were the proper judges in a matter of this kind, trusted that the most severe restraint would be exercised in the employment of the power which the Bill conferred, and that no indemnity would be granted except under the gravest and most peculiar circumstances. He did not hesitate to say that, if they were to see the case of Sheffield repeated in half-a-dozen or a dozen towns—that was to say, 1403 similar outrages brought to light to the same extent, together with the same number of indemnities or pardons, as the price of the information—they would lose, on the whole, a great deal more than they could gain by the powers proposed to be given by this Bill; for what was requisite for legislation they knew already. He would not presume to say that the House should refuse the Government the powers for which they asked; but he hoped they would be exercised with the utmost reservation and caution.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he cordially concurred with the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) with regard to the Sheffield outrages. He would remind the House that the appointment of the Commission was originally sought by the masters, but was subsequently supported by the workmen, who were much struck by the fact that, notwithstanding the £100 offered by the Government and the £1,000 by the inhabitants of Sheffield, no clue to the perpetrators of the outrages could be discovered. For his own part, he begged to express his thanks to the Government for sending that Commission to Sheffield, as it had led to the discovery of the perpetrators of these outrages. A public meeting, attended by 15,000 working men of Sheffield, had unanimously expressed its horror and shame at the facts which had been brought to light by the Commission. He deeply regretted that the perpetrators of these terrible outrages had escaped the punishment due to their crimes.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that while he regretted that punishment had not overtaken the perpetrators of these crimes, he could not agree with the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) in condemning the course that had been taken in reference to this subject. The first step to be taken, when they found that such a hideous disease, as that disclosed by these inquiries, infected any portion of the people, was to endeavour to ascertain its extent and depth, and, so far as he could see, no course could have been adopted for that purpose more efficacious than that which had been followed in the present instance. The hon. Member for Bradford talked about sapping the sense of justice among the population of Sheffield by the course which had been taken by the Commission; but he thought that their sense of justice must have been already sapped before such deeds could have taken place. 1404 The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) had observed that the inhabitants of that town had shown their horror of these outrages by offering £1,000 for the discovery of their perpetrators, and had expressed their indignation and shame that the perpetrators could not be discovered. But it must not be forgotten that the very miscreant himself who had plotted and planned them all—Broadhead—had not only expressed his indignation at these acts of violence, but had actually offered a reward on behalf of the community to which he belonged for the discovery of the perpetrators. When it was proved that a reign of terror of this kind existed, it behoved Parliament to take steps to bring the whole system upon which it was founded to light, and the first step to be taken in the matter was to ascertain, by means of inquiry, the extent and depth of this horrible wound. If it was supposed that practices of a similar kind to those brought to light in Sheffield existed in other parts of the country, and the means hitherto adopted had failed to discover the perpetrators, it was the duty of the House to give the Government its support by passing this Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he admitted the importance of discovering the perpetrators of these crimes, and the system under which they had been committed, and, in the case of Sheffield, he thought there was good reason for the course which had been adopted for that purpose. No doubt in Sheffield outrages of the gravest description had been committed, the perpetrators of which the police had been unable to trace; but when the powers which were granted in that case were proposed to be extended to other places he agreed with the suggestion that great care and reserve should be exercised in the employment of those powers. He thought that the utmost care should be taken to hold out no offers of immunity except where there was no chance of the perpetrators being discovered and brought to justice. He was sure the Home Secretary would feel the importance of the suggestion, and he hoped that before the discussion closed the right hon. Gentleman, would be able to give the House some information as to the principle on which he proposed to proceed. He did not know what cases the Commissioners had in view; but supposing that some gross outrage had been recently committed, and the police were endeavouring to discover the offenders, he hoped that care 1405 would be taken that any prospect of discovering and punishing the perpetrators might not be baffled by persons being invited to come forward and obtain an indemnity for their crimes, instead of being made to answer for them in a Court of Justice. This was a very exceptional case, and nothing but an exceptional case would justify the course they were pursuing. Any person who had read the evidence given before the Commission would recollect that those who had been proved to be guilty of these outrages had added to their other crimes by denying upon oath in the first place any knowledge of the crimes to which they had afterwards confessed. It was in every sense most desirable that these indemnities should be limited as far as possible; for it was most humiliating to the sense of justice in this country that those who had confessed to having perpetrated these outrages should not only escape punishment but should quietly resume their daily avocations without being driven from the town by the indignation of their fellow-citizens. So far from such indignation being expressed, he was sorry to see, from what appeared in the newspapers, that Broadhead was driving a good trade as a publican in consequence of the notoriety he had attained. He trusted that he would not be permitted to continue that business one single hour after the magistrates could legally interfere, by refusing to renew his licence. He was also greatly surprised to find that a clergyman, doubtless actuated by a benevolent motive, had interceded with the employers of Crookes, the actual murderer, in order to induce them to receive him back into their service, from which they had properly dismissed him, on the ground that his wife and children would be reduced to distress, and that he would be thrown into temptation to commit fresh crimes, should they not do so. He was, indeed, surprised that any of his fellow-workmen would consent to associate with him for a single day. He hoped some better feeling would arise in Sheffield, and that it would free itself from the odium which attached to it in consequence of the perpetration of these crimes by showing in a marked manner that it did not sympathize with them. If the Government obtained the power which this Bill was intended to confer, he hoped it would not be exercised in cases where the guilty parties might be made amenable to punishment.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he entirely concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). He thought that the information which had been obtained through the means of this Commission was of the utmost value. When he had brought this question forward last year, the House received his statements, as to the proceedings adopted by the trades unions, almost incredulously. Since that time he had had papers put into his possession which proved that these inquiries ought to be extended a great deal further. They frequently read in the papers accounts of accidents arising from men falling from scaffolds, or of scaffolds falling and injuring workmen. He was informed that in many cases these so-called accidents were really premeditated crimes, the scaffolds having been purposely rendered insecure by the orders of the trades unions. The House would admit that this was a terrible state of things, especially when it was recollected that out of the 800,000 working men in this county 530,000 belonged to these unions. This system of tyranny involved a much wider question than the mere discovery of the perpetrators of the outrages at Sheffield, as by it the means of supporting themselves was taken from the workmen, and their wives and families were forced to starve. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had suggested that these inquiries might be carried too far. Now, he (Mr. Cochrane) wished that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State would carry the inquiry further, and could devise some means for getting at the secret papers and secret rules of these societies, which he was afraid would show a terrible state of moral degradation on the part of those by whom these societies were administered and governed.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, that if the hon. Member (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had been engaged, as he had been during the last few months, in an inquiry into the operation of these unions, he would not have spoken so broadly and sweepingly of them. With regard to the special subject of this Bill, the matter rested entirely with the Government, and if they took the responsibility of extending the inquiry, he should be the last to say one word against it. He quite agreed, however, with his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) that there was no necessity for extending the indemnity clause. He was convinced from the 1407 experience he had had in Sheffield that, without that clause, there would have been very little difficulty in ascertaining the perpetrators of the outrages in that town; and that if three such competent lawyers as those who were sent there had gone down with a Commission, but without any power of indemnity, there were dozens and dozens of men in Sheffield who would have come for ward and given evidence sufficient in skilled hands to enable them to ascertain and pick out the miscreants who had committed these outrages and bring them to justice. ["No, no!"] The outrages, it must be remembered, affected one or two small trades, which could be ear-marked, not only at Sheffield, but at other places. He really thought that it the Government did give these extreme powers they should re-consider the indemnity clause, and take particular care that the perpetrators of these outrages were not indemnified in the wholesale way in which it had been done at Sheffield. This wholesale indemnity must have a very evil effect upon the population generally.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he trusted that the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that dozens and dozens of men at Sheffield could have given evidence, without the indemnity, sufficient to bring the outrages to light and lead to the conviction of the offenders, was not accurate. The Courts of Justice had been open all along, there had been magistrates and police anxious for information, and if there had been numbers of persons in a position to bring this revolting plot to light, and who had yet refrained from doing so till the indemnity was offered, the disgrace resting on Sheffield was deeper even than had been supposed. When the inquiry was first proposed it seemed to him that the outrages were so remarkable as to require exceptional powers of investigation; and the result had justified that opinion, and had revealed a condition of society probably unparalleled in any town in the civilized world. The secrets of this horrible tribunal had been revealed — for trades unions were in fact a tribunal like the Inquisition, conducting their deliberations in secret, and enforcing their edicts by penalties equalling in severity any criminal code. He hoped greater care would be shown by the Commissioners as to the examination of witnesses in future inquiries; for though, when the proceedings of these unions were completely unknown, it might 1408 have been proper to welcome evidence from any quarter, the Commissioners were now better aware of the state of the case, and he thought it might now be sufficient to call a few witnesses, in order to elicit sufficient evidence to lead to the conviction and punishment of those whom they might implicate. As to the perjury committed by witnesses at Sheffield, he believed that this offence was distinctly excepted from the indemnity, and men who had at first denied their complicity in these outrages, and had afterwards admitted it, were therefore amenable to prosecution. He hoped the power to give indemnities would be exorcised with great discretion.
§ MR. NEATE
said, he thought the Home Secretary ought to exercise great discretion in sanctioning inquiries to be held under the powers of this Bill. He (Mr. Neate) did not believe the working classes generally were implicated in these outrages. He was not aware that atrocities like those at Sheffield had been committed elsewhere, though no doubt in different parts of the country there had been many trades' outrages of a lesser kind, and men had been assaulted and beaten for not complying with the rules of the unions. These cases might be ascertained by making inquiries of the police, and he hoped the Home Secretary would show great caution in exercising the powers with which he was invested by this Bill. He observed that Mr. Overend, the Assistant - Commissioner, had said that these outrages showed the necessity of greater legal protection for the unions, and he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman concurred in that inference.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Power to extend Act to other Places).
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he desired to offer a few remarks on what had passed in reference to this Bill. He quite agreed that this legislation was exceptional, and that exceptional legislation of this kind should not be resorted to unless the circumstances were themselves exceptional. He admitted, too, that such inquiries were to be set on foot for the purpose of bringing to light—not crimes which it was within the proper province of the police to ascertain, but crimes which had been concealed by a combination of persons who ought to have revealed them, 1409 but who had not done so. If the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Thomas Hughes) was correct in stating that there were numbers of people in Sheffield who would have given the information without an indemnity, he could not but ask him how it was that these outrages had been so long undetected? He remembered that when he first went to the bar, Sheffield was pointed out by his friends on the Northern Circuit as a place where outrages were going on and where no evidence could be obtained. The fact was that society at Sheffield—speaking not of the towns-people generally, but of these particular combinations—had been rotten at the core. These crimes had been going on for so long a time that there had arisen an utter recklessness as to the acts which were resorted to, and the disclosures at which the public had been so much shocked had only brought to light what had been long going on. He could assure his right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) that he was sensible of the responsibility which the Bill imposed upon him in reference to these inquiries; but he was glad to think that at the head of the Commission was one of the most eminent Judges who had ever sat on the English Bench (Sir William Erle); and he was sure that these exceptional powers would only be applied for in cases where the truth could not be arrived at without them. With regard to the indemnity, it was painful to reflect that the perpetrators of such crimes should go unpunished; but the fact was this—they got a certain amount of evidence from one witness, which perhaps implicated another person; the examination was pressed, and then the witness asked whether, if he stated such and such things of another man, that man would be allowed to come forward and obtain the indemnity; then when these persons were called forward they confessed not only to the crime in which they had been thus implicated, but to other crimes, as to which the Commissioners had no information, and which were thus brought to light. The result was that the inquiry had shown that these were not isolated transactions, but that there existed a system which could be only exposed by promising an indemnity. It appeared that although the police constantly suspected that these outrages sprang from certain members of trades unions, and that they were done by them for offences against their rules, yet so secretly were they carried on that in hardly any 1410 instance had they been able to sift these cases to the bottom or bring the perpetrators to justice. In one of the worst cases many years ago the parties were brought to justice because they threw on the fire a barrel of gunpowder which exploded before they could get away, and they were so injured that they were taken on the spot. But in similar cases it happened over and over again that the police could obtain no information, and the parties were never brought to justice. If it were true, as the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Thomas Hughes) believed, that there were people ready to reveal those transactions fully without these extraordinary powers being granted, he was sure that Sir William Erle would never have called upon the Home Office to assist him with exceptional legislation, because he had the power of calling these witnesses before the Commission without such exceptional legislation and getting these facts proved. It was because the Commissioners stated that it was impossible to do so without exceptional powers that he had brought this Bill before the House, and asked them to agree to it.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
considered it was most desirable that those scandals should be exposed, and no persons were more desirous that they should be exposed than the great majority of the working men and of the members of the trades unions. On looking to the evidence it would be found that the evidence of Hallam was not given on the condition that an indemnity should be given to Crookes and Broadhead. The power should not be so used as to make if impossible to punish any of the criminals. With the knowledge of what had passed he could not help thinking, if they had to do the thing over again, Hallam'a evidence would certainly be made use of as Queen's evidence for the conviction of Crookes and Broadhead. The effect produced would have been far better if there had been a trial before the Judges. The heinousness of the crime of murder might be diminished in the minds not only of the Sheffield people, but of all men in the same condition of life, when they read the account of what was done, owing to the fact that the Legislature had made terms with murderers. He could not help thinking that the law must run the risk of being less powerful from the acknowledgment thus made of its utter uselessness to have justice done.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
begged to observe in reply to a remark of the Home Secretary, that when that right hon. Gentleman went the circuit in Yorkshire the feeling in respect to these matters was very different from what it has become within the last three or four years. When he (Mr. Thomas Hughes) was there three years ago the feeling of the great majority of persons belonging to the trades unions had been softened by remonstrances from London and other parts of the kingdom in respect to those outrages, and there were persons amongst them who would only have been too glad to make a clean breast of it. He (Mr. Thomas Hughes) adhered to what he had said. Public opinion on this subject had undergone an immense alteration, and now the working classes in question were entirely in favour of this inquiry, and were ready to give all the information in their power. Under these circumstances, he could not help thinking that the indemnity was needless, or, if not, that it should be exercised most scrupulously and carefully. The working men at a great public meeting had resolved that, notwithstanding the disgrace that had fallen on the town, they were heartily glad that the Commission had been sent down.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that no place in Yorkshire in proportion to its population sent so few cases of crime to the assizes as Sheffield. He begged to know whether means would be taken to indemnify the persons who had given evidence in a Court of Law, in consequence of the statements made by them? The question was, were the Commissioners themselves free from all responsibility?
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he would not answer the question off-hand. He would, however, ask the Commissioners whether such a clause was necessary for their own security, and for that of the persons who had given evidence before them; and, if so, to send him a clause to that effect? If it were necessary to insert such a clause he would take care that it should be printed before the Report was brought up.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he felt very strongly that there was only one compensation for the extensive disclosure of crimes of this description, accompanied by a promise of impunity, and that was the discovery of the means of prevention for the future. He had acted under this persuasion, when he gave his assent to the 1412 original Bill. It was impossible to shut their eyes to the extreme gravity of a proposal, not only to give, in one particular place, under particular local circumstances, indemnity for crimes of this description, but to extend the indemnity to all the towns of the kingdom. It had never before happened, to his knowledge, that Parliament had been called upon to take such a course, and it should only be taken for reasons of great public advantage. The mere disclosure was not of public advantage if the crimes disclosed were to pass with impunity. The disclosure could not be considered of public advantage unless it was anticipated that means would thus be discovered for the prevention of such crimes in future. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had spoken of something like a promise or undertaking given in the course of the examination that some of the witnesses should not only be indemnified themselves, but that any other person who might be implicated by them should not be proceeded against. He (Sir Roundell Palmer) doubted whether his right hon. Friend could have been correctly informed in this matter. He was aware that some such statements had been made, but he did not see how, under the Act, the Commissioners could give such, an undertaking. The only indemnity they were authorized to give was upon a certificate that the witness had made a full and true disclosure touching all the matters upon which he had been examined. They could not give an undertaking to indemnify directly or indirectly any other person who might not satisfy this condition. If it should turn out that such a thing had been done, he must enter his humble protest against it.
§ MR. AYRTON
asked whether inquiry had been made into the conduct of the magistrates and the police of Sheffield in regard to these outrages. The magistrates all along had the legal power of summoning before them the members of the trades unions, and compelling them to give the information to a large extent which had been given to the Commission—that was to say, to produce all their proceedings, and examine them on oath touching them. No step, however, had been taken to vindicate the law during all that period, although the magistrates must have known pretty well what was going on around them. If the law had been firmly administered by the justices, a good deal of the facts would have come on which 1413 were now disclosed to the Commission; and if the present investigation was carried further, it ought to be part of the duty of the Commissioners to inquire into the conduct of the justices of the pence or the stipendiary magistrates, as the case might be, with reference to the illegal practices of the trades unions. It was clear there had been a dereliction of duty on the part of the magistrates of Sheffield, as well as on the part of the people.
said, he thought the question a very proper one. An hon. Gentleman who was a sort of confessor in ordinary to the trades unions of the country in general, and to those of Sheffield in particular, had told them that there were people who, a long time ago, were ready to give evidence without any indemnity being granted them. He should like to know why on earth the magistrates or the police were not at hand to take the evidence which those people were, ready to give, and why the perpetrators of these crimes were not at once fixed upon and punished as they richly deserved to be?
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he was not aware that any charge of dereliction of duty could be brought against the Sheffield magistrates. One of the chief grounds for appointing that Commission was that all the efforts of the magistrates and the police had been set at naught by these parties, and nothing could be clearer than that all those efforts had been so set at naught. If the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets impugned the conduct of the magistrates, his best course would be to make a Motion in that House for an inquiry into that conduct. But as far as the evidence had gone, the fact appeared to be that the designs of these parties had been so covert, and had been carried out with so much secrecy that the ordinary course of justice was defeated.
§ MR. POWELL
thought another reason for the inaction of the magistrates, and other authorities, might be the reign of terror which had existed in Sheffield with such intensity that even persons who suffered dared to take no action in the way of prosecution, for fear of dangerous results to themselves, from the combinations that existed in the town. Some few years ago, there was a meeting of the Social Science Congress at Sheffield, and it appeared that a murder had been determined upon in that town before that meeting took place. During the presence of the philosophers, in order to throw 1414 dust in their eyes, that murder was postponed till the visit of the philosophers and philanthropists was over. As soon, however, as they were gone, the victim was followed day after day, week after week, and ultimately that fearful crime was committed.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time To-morrow.