HC Deb 05 May 1879 vol 245 cc1721-3

wished to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department with respect to an Order which stood late on the Notice Paper, the Prosecution of Offences Bill; and a clause, which he (Mr. Newdegate) had given Notice that he would move as an addition to that Bill, stood upon the Notice Paper when the Bill stood for Committee on Thursday last. Not expecting that the Bill would come on that night, he was not on Thursday last present to move this clause, the object of which was to assimilate the law of England to that of Scotland, with respect to the Public Prosecutor and his relations to the Courts of Justice. From the best information which he could gather—for there was scarcely any report in the newspapers—it appeared that, in his absence, and without having obtained his consent, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary moved the clause of which he (Mr. Newdegate) had given Notice. According to the practice of the House, if one hon. Member gave Notice of a Bill, or a particular clause, no other hon. Member was entitled, without the consent of the Member who had given Notice, and unless he approved of the principle of the clause, to move the second reading of such clause or Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman had moved the second reading of the clause which stood in his (Mr. Newdegate's) name, although he did not, as it appeared, approve of the principle of the clause; and, having thus stepped into his (Mr. Newdegate's) shoes, the right hon. Gentleman had performed the evolution which an Irish gentleman had ascribed to another, as "having turned his back upon himself." For, after moving that the clause, which asserted the principle of the right of appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Public Prosecutor, should be read a second time, no sooner was it taken in Committee than the right hon. Gentleman proposed the reversal of its principle. This proceeding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman placed him (Mr. Newdegate) in a somewhat extraordinary position. He had no resource but to place on the Notice Paper an Amendment, as he had done, for the purpose of restoring the clause to the form and terms in which it originally stood in his name; but as the operation, which the right hon. Gentleman performed on Thursday, took place late at night, he (Mr. Newdegate) was anxious to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to proceed with the Report of this Bill that evening, and after what hour he would not proceed with it? He asked this Question, because hitherto the Bill had never been considered before between midnight and 1 o'clock in the morning, and it was a measure that contained most important principles. He hoped, then, the House would excuse his having called its attention to this irregularity; and he would observe that if such departures from the regular practice of the House received the sanction of the right hon. Gentleman, who ought to be a high authority in the House, it would become difficult for hon. Members to form any judgment on the mode of conducting the Business of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had on Monday last asked him to postpone his clause until the Report on the Bill; but he (Mr. Newdegate) declined to do so, because other hon. Members wished the Committee to be postponed, and it was postponed accordingly. He was sure the House would feel the wisdom of adhering to the established practice of the House, according to which no hon. Member was entitled to move a Notice, especially a Bill or a clause to be added to a Bill, the principle of which he was not prepared to support. When any hon. Member gave Notice of a Bill or an important clause, he exercised an important privilege in so doing, and this privilege was founded upon the expectation that the Member who moved coincided in the principle of the Bill or clause he proposed. If, then, an hon. Member who might know nothing of the subject-matter, or who desired to reverse the principle contained in a Bill or a clause, was to be held at liberty to move the second reading of any Bill or clause, and then afterwards to reverse the principle of it in Committee, he (Mr. Newdegate) could not imagine how order in the proceedings of that House could be maintained. He thanked the House for allowing him to make these remarks with regard to what had taken place with respect to this clause during his absence and without his consent; and he now begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, Whether he intended to proceed with the Report of the Prosecution of Offences Bill that night, and after what hour he would not proceed with it?


said, that he had often heard that it was not a wise thing to do a kindness, and after what he had just heard nothing would tempt him to do the same thing again. When the clause came on, about a quarter-past 12, he did not like to see it passed over without any notice being taken of it in the absence of his hon. Friend, and what had subsequently occurred had been done by order of the Chairman. He took the course which he did in order to give his hon. Friend an opportunity of raising a discussion of the principle of the clause which he had put on the Paper. He had made certain alterations in the clause, in order to meet the views of the Attorney General; and he believed that, after consultation with the Law Officers of the Crown, he would be able to settle the matter to the satisfaction of his hon. Friend. There would be ample opportunity, he might add, for moving an Amendment on the Report.


expressed a hope that the Public Works Loans Bill Would not be taken that evening. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised that when brought on it should stand as the first Order.


said, he did not recollect having made any such promise—in fact, his impression was that he had distinctly declined to put down the Public Works Loans Bill as the First Order. He now found that his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General was prepared to proceed with the Criminal Code Bill; and, therefore, that would be taken that evening if it could be reached in good time.