HC Deb 10 June 1880 vol 252 cc1615-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the following observations made by Mr. Justice Lush at Harwich on the 8th instant, with reference to a circular issued from an office at 41 and 42, Parliament Street, called "The Liberal Central Office," which his Lordship stated to be "mischievous," and inferred to have been extensively circulated probably throughout the kingdom:— He," the learned Judge, "was surprised at the evidence, as he could not have supposed that a representative body to whom the adherents of one of the great political parties naturally looked for counsel and guidance, should suggest to their partisans throughout the Country how they might violate the Law with comparative impunity, and yet secure a safe majority. It was true they did not in terms counsel the agent thus to act, but if those who authorized or issued that circular were on their trial for the misdemeanor, a jury would probably not hesitate to find that the circular was calculated and was intended to incite to a breach of the Law; and, what steps he intends to take in order to discover and bring to justice the persons who were guilty of a misdemeanor in authorizing or issuing a circular, circulated throughout the kingdom, which, in the opinion of Mr. Justice Lush, was calculated and was intended to incite to a breach of the Law?


In answer to the Question of the hon. and learned Member, I have to say I observe that this statement of the learned Judge is asserted to have been made on the 8th instant; and, therefore, I have to answer, in the first place, that my attention has not been called to this matter, except by the question of the hon. and learned Member. That, I suppose, was put down last night, as it appeared for the first time on the Paper this morning. Therefore, I could only see it for the first time at breakfast this morning, and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I have been serving on a Committee with him from 12 o'clock till this moment. Although he knows I have been so occupied, the hon. and learned Member thinks that is a proper notice to ask me what steps I am going to take in a criminal proceeding. All I can say is that has not hitherto been the practice of this House. I have not considered this matter; and I do not consider I have received such a notice as would justify me in giving any answer whatever to the Question. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman is dissatisfied with the tardiness of the Home Office in not having already made up its mind to institute a prosecution in these circumstances, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as anybody, the law is open to him, and he can institute a prosecution himself.


I beg to give Notice that I shall repeat this Question on Monday next, and that at the earliest possible opportunity I shall move that a copy of the Shorthand Writers' Notes of the judgment and proceedings in the Harwich Election Petition be laid upon the Table.