HC Deb 27 February 1879 vol 243 cc1939-40

Order for Second Heading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)


said, that he felt some regret to see a Motion on the Paper by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to refer this Bill to a Select Committee. He was so confident that this matter had been thoroughly ventilated during the time that it had been before the House—namely, the last two years—that he regretted to see even the slightest obstruction opposed to it. He should have thought that the time which would be spent in sending this Bill to a Select Committee might have been spared, for he did not see what fresh information could be required.


said, that he was quite as anxious as the hon. and learned Member that this Bill should pass speedily. For a long time he had expressed his opinion that a great number of persons were sent to prison who never ought to go there. He thought no person ought to go to gaol unless he had been tried. The experience he had gained in the Office which he had at present the honour to hold had impressed him strongly in favour of the Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) as to imprisonment for debt, and he should be glad to see it pass in some form or other. His feeling was that if a man went to prison he ought to be punished; and if a man did not deserve punishment he ought not to go to prison. He had viewed the inside of gaols, and it was anything but a pleasant sight to see the number of persons idling away their time there—absolutely useless members of society. He hoped the time would come, and during the period that he held his present position, when a salutary change would be made in this respect. The hon. and learned Member had asked him why he had sent this Bill to a Select Committee? He had done so for three reasons. In the first place, he could not foretell whether a great number of Amendments would be set down to the Bill or not. There were certain other matters which prevented his seeing his way clearly to carry the Bill through if a considerable number of Amendments were set down; but, having discussed those Amendments upstairs, they would be more readily disposed of in the House. In the next place, there were technical matters relating to warrants, and things of that kind, which wanted to be scrutinized by learned gentlemen accustomed to the administration of justice. Lastly, this Bill only applied to England; for with regard to Ireland, he was happy to say that the law there was in a much more advanced state than in this country. The English law was a step or two behind the Irish law; and, therefore, it would be impossible to make this Bill, in its present form, applicable to Ireland as well as England, because it would not fit into the Irish Summary Jurisdiction Acts. Therefore, he thought that if the Irish Members who took -an interest in the question were enabled to discuss the question in Committee, they would be enabled to appreciate more fully a Bill which the Attorney General for Ireland would introduce dealing with the Irish law. That, he thought, would be the best course and most acceptable to the Irish Members and the people of Ireland. For the reasons he had stated, he wished to send the Bill before a Select Committee; and he hoped that the House would allow him to take the Chair on that Committee, and that no time would be lost in bringing the matter forward.


said, that considerable anxiety had been expressed by some magistrates in Yorkshire as to the scope of the Bill. A largely increased power was given by it to Petty Sessions, and a Committee of Quarter Sessions had been appointed to consider those provisions. He was glad to hear that the Bill would be referred to a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

And, on March 18, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. Secretary Cross, Mr. DODSON, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, Mr. WATKIN WILLIAMS, Mr. HOPWOOD, Mr. WOODD, Mr. PAGET, Mr. COURTAOLD, Mr. SPENCER STANHOPE, Colonel COLTHURST, Mr. FLOYER, Mr. WALTER, Mr. RODWELL, and Sir COLMAN RASHLEIGH:—Five to be the quorum.