HC Deb 17 June 1873 vol 216 cc1064-5

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is with the sanction of the Government that the Attorney General prosecutes Members of this House and others at the instance of the Lord Chief Justice, for expressing their views on the proceedings in the Tichborne case; whether they so act by the advice of the Attorney General, or by what other legal advice they are guided in respect of these prosecutions; and, if he would state to the House the grounds on which the Government proceed in this case?


in reply, said, he thought the Question of his hon. Friend, as it had been printed, had been put under a misapprehension. The Government had nothing whatever to do with the matters to which the Question referred, and this applied to the whole of the three branches of the Question. With respect to the action of the Attorney General, as he (Mr. Gladstone) understood the office of the Attorney General, it was entirely distinct from the action of the Government, and was by no means confined to his intercourse with the Executive Government. There were many duties which the Attorney General had to perform on his own motion, and there were likewise other duties which he had to undertake in a case like this on the motion of the presiding Judge. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had been kind enough to inform him that the course he had taken in this case was entirely owing to communications from the Judge who had presided at the trial of the suit; and therefore that was a matter of a judicial character appertaining to the conduct of a trial which was now going on. But he likewise learned from the Attorney General that it was quite a mistake to suppose that he had prosecuted or was proceeding against any Member of that House. As to anything said in the House which the presiding Judge might think improper, that was entirely outside the cognizance of the Attorney General. With regard to the more general Question—namely, whether it was desirable or not that public discussions should be held on this matter—he must say that was a matter entirely beyond his (Mr. Glad-stone's) cognizance. It must depend entirely upon the rules of procedure in the Court of Justice and the rules of procedure of that House.