§ Order for Committee road.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Power of Lord Lieutenant to arrest and detain).
§ MR. PUGH
said, he had to propose an Amendment in this clause, in page 1 line 5—after the word "who" to insert "upon the evidence by affidavit of not loss than two witnesses." The clause, as it now stood, would enact that—Any person who is declared by warrant of the Lord lieutenant to he reasonably suspected of having "done so and so" may he arrested in any part of Ireland, &c.The alteration which he proposed to make in the clause was to the effect that 524 the Lord Lieutenant should have no power to declare a man to be suspected unless he had the evidence on affidavit of not less than two witnesses. He believed he should be able to satisfy the Committee and Her Majesty's Government that the Amendment was a most reasonable one. In fact, it was the smallest measure of protection which they could give; and unless they were prepared to give it there would be no security whatever against the arrest of the most innocent persons. Before defining further the effect of the words he proposed to insert he wished to point out that they involved two propositions; the first was, that sworn evidence upon affidavit should be required, and the second was that the evidence of two witnesses should be necessary. Although he regarded both of these propositions as of great importance, he confessed that he attached the greatest weight to the first of the two. The first thing he would ask the Committee to consider was this—According to the scope of the Bill as it stood at present, it was not proposed or intended to give the Lord Lieutenant the power of arresting any person whom he might think in his discretion ought to be arrested. It was not proposed to confer upon the Lord Lieutenant so wide a power; but they intended to introduce such principles as were considered proper for the protection of the people, and it was competent for the Committee to insert such limitations as they might deem necessary. One limitation already provided by the Bill was that the person to be arrested should be reasonably suspected; and he would ask if it was not also a proper limitation that there should be some evidence on oath or affirmation that there were reasonable grounds for suspicion? How otherwise was the Lord Lieutenant to arrive at a conclusion that there was a case of reasonable suspicion? It could only be by the sending of a letter or report to Dublin Castle; and if such letter or report were not given on oath, what ground of reasonable suspicion could be deduced from it? He hoped he should be able to satisfy the Committee that the introduction of the words which he proposed would not impair the efficiency of the Bill; but, on the contrary, it would increase its efficiency, and give, as far as possible, some real protection to the persons upon whom the Bill would operate. It was not only within the 525 competency of the House to make an alteration of this sort, and throw protection around the people; but it was absolutely the duty of the House to fence in the powers conferred by the Bill in every way in which it was possible, so long as they did not impair the efficiency of the measure. It was only right that he should say, on his own part, that under no circumstances would he propose any Amendment whatever that would be likely to impair the working of the measure. He had no desire to do so; but in asking the Committee to support the Amendment he did so because he believed that its adoption would improve the Bill. If the evidence which induced the Lord Lieutenant to declare a man to be reasonably suspected was not to be upon oath or affidavit, on what was it to be? He should have preferred to place the Amendment before the Committee, contenting himself with hearing what might be said against it, and the objections which might be raised by those who were of opinion that the Bill was bettor as it was at present framed. But under the new Rules he would have no right of reply; and, therefore, it was necessary that in moving the Amendment he should consider what objections might be urged to it, and reply to them at once. In considering what the possible objections might be, the only one of importance that he could see was that it might be desirable to give the Lord Lieutenant power to arrest persons who were suspected without requiring any sworn or affirmed information to be before him. He ventured to think, on the contrary, that that would be most undesirable. It was only fair and right that where a man was to be arrested under the Act, the person who laid the information against him should do it at the risk of a prosecution for perjury. He failed to see how such a provision would in any way impair the operation of the Act. No delay was involved in the matter, because it would take no further time to send up information sworn or affirmed than it would be to write them and send them up to Dublin without being sworn. No doubt, it might be said that it would be difficult to get persons to swear to such informations. He was quite aware of that, and they could not always expect to have direct evidence in these cases. It would often happen that persons who were willing to make statements to the police would decline to put 526 anything clown in writing. But that would not be the case in regard to the constables; and certainly in their case it was most desirable that, in furnishing information of this kind, they should, at least, be required to swear that they believed the truth of the reports that reached them. He did not see how the satisfactory working of the measure would be imperilled by requiring that every report sent up through the police to Dublin Castle upon which the Lord Lieutenant might act should be sworn to be true to the best of their knowledge, information and belief of the person making it. What would then be the position of affairs? It would be admitted that the Lord Lieutenant could have no personal knowledge of the cases submitted to him. Then how was he to act? The information must be conveyed to him by somebody. He presumed the course adopted would be for the chief police officer of the county to send up a representation to the Lord Lieutenant stating that he had been informed by some members of his force that such and such a person came within the terms of the Act. It might be that the magistrates would send up similar representations. What would the Lord Lieutenant do? Under the Bill, as it stood at present, his course would be either to take the responsibility upon himself of delaying the arrest until he could make inquiries, or to act at once upon the representation made to him. In the case he was putting now, where the constable was the informer, how could it be said that there was any hardship to require him to swear that he verily believed the reports he had heard to be true. With the permission of the Committee, he would put before them one or two cases in which he thought this provision would be most valuable. He was not acquainted with the parts of Ireland which would come under the operation of the Act; but he did not imagine that they would differ materially from parts of England. If his supposition was correct, then there would exist in them a good deal of enmity and ill-feeling between individuals; and neither in Ireland nor in any part of the United Kingdom would any person have a chance if he were to be denounced behind his back upon unsworn information. Whatever the cause of the enmity or ill-feeling might be, this would be done in but too many instances; and if any man 527 was bent upon taking such a step against a neighbour, surely it would not be contended for a moment that he ought not to be held liable to the consequences of perjury, provided the representation he made was proved to be false. As regarded the police, he would not say a word against the Irish police, or against the police of this country. So far as his own observation and judgment went, they gave their evidence, as a rule, in a very excellent manner, and they were perfectly reliable. But there was this qualification—it must never be forgotten that they were men whose business it was to deal with criminals of every kind; and not only to detect crime, but to secure the conviction of the criminal. It was the same not only with regard to a policeman, but in every other trade or profession. The man who followed a particular business had every desire to carry it out to its most complete end, and the business of a policeman was to bring home every crime or charge of a crime to somebody. He was, therefore, only too prone to arrive at the conclusion that when a charge was made against an individual that individual must be guilty. Whenever an outrage happened there were always plenty of people ready to say who had done it; and, so far as the magistrate was concerned, it was only in human nature that he should be anxious to see the criminal detected. He, therefore, sometimes gave too ready credence to the stories which were laid before him. Thus, again, he (Mr. Pugh) asked the Committee to consider what the effect was upon the persons who made the charge. If they were required to put their information into writing and swear to it they would be induced to pause before they wilfully sent up a false representation. Take the case of a man who did not intend to do anything wilfully wrong. He thought the charge he made was probable; he believed that a particular man had been concerned in a certain outrage; and he gave information accordingly representing that the man he specified was the man. But if they told such a man to write down the charge and mention the various facts on which he relied for entertaining his suspicion, what would he do then? He (Mr. Pugh) ventured to say that in many cases a man, under such circumstances, instead of writing down an information, when he came to consider the 528 case and the effect of his words, and what grounds he had for making the accusation, together with all he had seen himself and heard from other people, would come to the conclusion that he had no sufficient grounds for bringing a charge. It therefore amounted to this —that as regarded the magistrate, and as regarded the police constable, they would lend only too willing credence to such things as they wished to believe. Such a belief would accord with the Apostle's description of faith as "the substance of the evidence of things not seen;" but it would not be right or safe to imprison people upon such a belief without trial or appeal. Without desiring to delay the Committee he hoped he might be allowed to quote words of the greatest importance in such a matter as this which proceeded many years ago from the Duke of Wellington. It was the only authority he intended to cite in support of his position. The Duke of Wellington, speaking in reference to a proposal to bring troops into Ireland at a time when it was considered that the committal of certain outrages justified recourse being had to exceptional measures, said—On these occasions letter after letter is written to the Government. The same fact is reported through many different channels. The result of inquiry is that the outrages complained of are found to be by no means of the nature or extent complained of.In order to apply these words to the case the Committee were now dealing with, he would say that the result of inquiry into the complaint made in reference to the conduct of a particular individual was to show that there was no reasonable ground for suspicion. The Duke of Wellington went on to say—The obvious remedy for this evil, and that which is most generally resorted to is to call for information on oath as to the transactions complained of; but this remedy is not certain, be-cause it frequently happens that the information on oath is equally false with the original statement.With regard to the latter part of the quotation, all that he (Mr. Pugh) could say was that the warrant should be on the best evidence they could get; and in reference to the other part of the quotation he wished to press this upon the Committee and upon the Government— that "the obvious remedy for the evil, and that which should be generally resorted to," as he hoped it was now 529 resorted to, and would be generally resorted to, was "to call for information on oath in regard to the complaint." If so, he did not see what reasonable objection there could be to including such a requirement in the Bill. The Duke of Wellington stated that letter after letter was sent, and the facts were represented from different channels. The same might be said in this case—Report after Report was sent, and the facts were represented from different channels. No doubt what was true at the time the Duke of Wellington wrote was true now, and would be true after the present Bill passed. No doubt after the Bill became law letter after letter would be sent, report after Report would be made, and representations would be made through one channel and another for the purpose of inducing the Lord Lieutenant to put the Act in force against individuals; but he appealed to the Committee whether, without sworn evidence, it was either reasonable, or fair, or safe to act upon such representations? He appealed to Her Majesty's Government to meet him on the point, and to make the concession he asked to those who felt that the Bill, as it was now framed, was capable of being unjustly brought into operation against particular individuals. It was only a moderate and very small concession that was asked for; but he was sure that it would give very great satisfaction. It would, to a certain extent, give a sense of security to a large number of people in Ireland; and he was satisfied that it would not, in any way, interfere with the working of the Act. He had based his argument upon the desirability of having sworn information, because he was convinced that when a man was required to put down deliberately in writing the nature of a charge he desired to bring, he would soon give up the task when he found that the facts failed to afford sufficient grounds for so serious an accusation. And it must not be forgotten that what a man put down in writing was liable to be contradicted, and this of itself would operate as a check, for we have it that—When we risk no contradictionIt prompts the tongue to deal in fiction.Again, if it was false, the man who wilfully made a false accusation was liable, on conviction, to the penalty of perjury.
In page 1, line 5, after the word "who," to insert the words "upon the evidence by affidavit of not less than two witnesses."—(Mr. Pugh.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he rose to a point of Order. They were now acting under the new Regulations. The hon. Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh) had called the attention of the Chairman to the fact that he would be unable again to speak to the Motion. That was not the way in which he (Sir John Hay) read the instructions. He took it that any hon. Member who had made a Motion, or moved an Amendment, if he de-sired to offer explanations, could do so. As this was the first occasion upon which they had gone into Committee after the introduction of the new Rules, he thought it would be well if Mr. Play-fair would make the matter perfectly clear so as to prevent any mistake.
said, that, as he understood the new Regulations, the Rule which allowed an explanation to be made only referred to such an explanation as might be necessary in order to prevent any misunderstanding in regard to a Motion or Amendment.
§ MR. WARTON
wished to put one point to the hon. and learned Member who had moved the Amendment (Mr. Pugh). He would suggest that the word "less," in the Amendment should be changed into "fewer." He objected to the word "less," which could only be used as the antithesis of greater. It would be bettor to say "fewer" and "more." It was not necessary, however, that he should explain why the word "fewer" would be more correct in the present instance than the word "less."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Pugh). Although I am in charge of the Bill I believe I shall not be allowed to do more than make an explanation hereafter; and, therefore, although I intend only to say a few words, it is necessary, in rising thus early, that I should say all I have to say. My hon. and learned Friend gave two grounds for the Amendment. One of them was that if an information is necessary in order to enable the Lord Lieutenant to act, it should not be made by individuals in the employment of the 531 police alone, or by the magistrates, but that it should be given on the sworn information of two witnesses. Certainly, the Government would not have brought this Bill before Parliament if they could always rely upon getting two sworn affidavits as to the facts from persons who were really concerned in the matter. Our great reason for introducing the Bill is the impossibility of obtaining such evidence. It is upon that ground that we mainly base the necessity for it; and, therefore, to demand sworn evidence would, it seems to mo, entirely stultify us before the country in regard to the measure. I think it might be fairly stated that if, alter bringing in a Bill to empower the Lord Lieutenant to make arrests on reasonable suspicion of treasonable practices, and basing that Bill upon the ground that it is impossible at present to get evidence on account of intimidation, we were then immediately afterwards to say, "We must have a sworn information," we should be merely wasting our time. I understand my hon. and learned Friend to go on to say that in case the information is given by the magistrates or the police it ought to be upon oath. Now, with regard to that proposition, I must really be allowed to say this— What we now propose is that for a limited time, and under special circumstances, the Irish Executive should be intrusted with exceptional powers. I imagine that we have already convinced the House of the necessity of conceding these powers. We have shown the necessity for the detention of certain prisoners in the position of untried prisoners, instead of being obliged to bring them up for judicial investigation and trial. We are well aware that that will place a serious and a heavy responsibility upon the Executive Government; but it is a responsibility which they will have to undertake, and I do not think that any security would be gained by an attempt to bring in the ordinary forms of trial, when the Executive are merely detaining a man upon reasonable suspicion. The hon. and learned Member says that sworn information should be required. But suppose that, in certain cases, they succeeded in getting two policemen or magistrates to send up a sworn information, I doubt whether much additional advantage would be thereby derived. Every case will have to be specially inquired into, and 532 the responsibility of the decision will be imposed upon the Lord Lieutenant and his advisers; and, as men of honour, they will consider it their duty to ascertain that there are reasonable grounds of suspicion. I do not think that anything will be gained, either in the shape of security or liberty, if, when such powers are obliged to be given, we try to intermingle with it the general forms which are adopted in other instances where a ease is coming on for trial. I have ventured to give my opinion thus early in the discussion, because I think it would be quite contrary to the principle and scope of a Bill of this kind to adopt the Amendment which has been proposed. I need not repeat that every exertion will be made to insure that no injustice is done. If I thought that in endeavouring to prevent injustice being done this sworn information would help us, I should not be disinclined to look with favour upon my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment; but I think, on the contrary, that it would rather tend to release us than otherwise from the trouble which we ought to take. I say, with regard to this Amendment, what I dare say I shall have to say in regard to other Amendments, that it is a most serious matter having to give this power to the Executive Government at all; but it would be of no advantage to give it and then to fetter its use. It would be of no use to give it under conditions which would interfere with its being properly employed. And while I think that this proposal would give no real security, I can well understand that it might lead to the prevention of the arrest of some persons who ought, specially, to be arrested. We might get information, quite independent of the police, from persons who would not swear to it—who were absolutely afraid to swear to it, and yet it might relate to the very persons whom of all others we ought to arrest. The provision of my hon. and learned Friend would, in such cases, prevent the Act from being brought into operation. No doubt, it is a very unpleasant duty for Parliament to place such powers in the hands of any Administrators. It is not necessary to appeal to hon. Members opposite, who have, over and over again, declared their disbelief in the necessity of the Bill, and their opposition to repressive measures under any conditions. But I do appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the 533 House, who consider it necessary that such a Bill as this should be passed, that, having agreed to read it a second time, they should accept the conditions upon which we propose to confer these powers upon the Government. The Executive Government will act with the highest sense of the responsibility which attaches to them; but they feel that it would be of no use giving them the power they ask for if, at the same time, you fetter their discretion in the exercise of it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
wished to call attention to the last observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He hoped the Committee would not misunderstand the position of himself and of the Irish Members generally. While their hostility to the Bill still remained exactly what it was before, that did not prevent them from seeking so to amend the Bill as to decrease what they considered to be its cruelty; and, therefore, he hoped that their general hostility to the measure would not be confounded with their desire to amend its provisions, but that any Amendment they suggested would be considered on its merits. On the particular point now under consideration, he thought that to continue to discuss the clauses of the Bill was nothing loss than a scandal at the present moment, and he would toll the Committee why.
The Question before the Committee is simply the Amendment which has been submitted by the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh), and not the general consideration of the clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was just coming to that point. His ignorance of the new Rules must account for his wandering a little astray; and the fact that the Chairman had been compelled so early to recall him to those Rules was a convincing proof why he should not he required, at the present moment, to discuss the clauses of the Government Bill. He altogether travered the arguments which had been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He had entirely changed the ground of his opposition to the Amendment and his advocacy of the Bill. The grounds of the right hon. Gentleman's opposition to the Amendment, and of his advocacy of the Bill, were entirely antagonistic. The right hon. Gentleman said the reason for introducing the Bill was that it was impossible to get evidence. But the 534 reason formerly assigned was not that he could not get evidence, but that he could not get witnesses to give the evidence in open Court. The right hon. Gentleman know very well that in a large number of cases persons had gone to him and had complained of the pressure put upon them by the Land League or some other organization; but that he could not get those persons to get upon the table in the Court House and repeat in open Court what they had stated privately. Therefore, the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill was altogether different from the basis of his objection to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, which said that it was necessary to have the evidence of two witnesses. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would put it to the Committee whether there was not often a wide difference between the statement which was rashly made by word of mouth and the statement that had legality with it. If they required information from an informer, they should require him to descend to specification and details. There was frequently a very material difference between a statement made by word of mouth and one put in writing. He would put it in this way. Suppose any number of Members of that House came to an understanding which was to form the basis of an agreement. It was often found necessary that hon. Gentlemen should come to some agreement with each other—for instance, in regard to the closing of a debate on a certain day. If any distrust was felt, and the question was one on which there was likely to be any misapprehension, the course always adopted was to put the agreement into writing in place of trusting to the vagueness and uncertainty of a statement made by word of mouth. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said the Bill would only be in force for a limited time; but it was, nevertheless, to give the right of imprisoning men for 18 months, which would amount in many cases, not only to loss of liberty, but to loss of life. Eighteen months of imprisonment under certain conditions, to persons reared under certain circumstances, was as much a sentence of death as if they sentenced a man to the gallows. Therefore, he thought the limitation of time was not a sufficient reason why hon. Members should not scrutinize every line that went into the Bill. The right hon. Gen- 535 tleman said the responsibility of the Government was so serious that they had a right to repose the greatest confidence in them. Now, he confessed that his confidence in the right hon. Gentleman and Her Majesty's Government was not so strong that he was willing to leave to them the power of arranging and settling what the nature of the information should he. For anything they knew, it might he very little different from the lettres de cachet by which at one time a Frenchman could be confined in that Bastile, the destruction of which had been spoken of upon the Liberal Benches as the dawn of a new era of liberty. There was one point upon which he was anxious to make a suggestion to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment—namely, that he should add to his proposal a proviso that the two witnesses should not be landlords. He made this suggestion in order to test whether or not it was intended that the Bill should place the unfortunate Irish tenantry at the mercy of the Irish landlords; and he hoped his hon. and learned Friend would insist upon adding some such proviso.
§ MR. RYLANDS
entirely sympathized with the object his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Pugh) had in view; and if it were possible, by any ingenuity, to put words into the clause which would prevent his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary from committing any grave mistake in the exercise of the difficult duties imposed on him by the Bill, he should be much relieved. But he did not believe there was, in the means they had in their power, any possibility of surrounding the exorcise of the very important official duties which the right hon. Gentleman would have to perform in such a way as to prevent the liability to commit a mistake. Of course, that was one great reason why all of them disliked so much to see a Bill of this kind. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardiganshire proposed that certain words should be put into the clause. He (Mr. Rylands) was not quite sure, however, whether, if those words were inserted in the Bill, they might not have exactly the opposite effect to that which his hon. and learned Friend anticipated. What was the meaning of the words proposed to be inserted? The meaning of those words was that the Lord Lieutenant should only act upon the evi- 536 dence or affidavit of not less than two witnesses, who might be two policemen, or two magistrates. No doubt, affidavits of that kind could be procured plentifully. There would be no difficulty in getting affidavits of the character his hon. and learned Friend seemed to think ought to be required. But what would then happen? Why, Dublin Castle would say—"We have an affidavit from two witnesses, and, therefore, we are satisfied." He, for one, as a Member of that House, would certainly not feel that such an affidavit would absolve the Executive Government at Dublin Castle from the personal responsibility which the Bill would devolve upon them. He knew that it was a serious responsibility which the House was consenting to confer upon them; but the Government had asked for it, and they would have to fulfil that responsibility in the eyes of the House and of the country. He wanted to be able to feel assured that the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary would in every instance, whatever might be the surroundings of the case, have the evidence fully laid before them, and give to it the most minute and careful investigation. [Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: It would be onesided.] Under these circumstances, he was not prepared to support the Amendment, although he entirely sympathized with the object of his hon. and learned Friend who moved it.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
was afraid that the hon. and learned Member who had moved the Amendment, and hon. Gentlemen opposite who supported it, would find they had deluded themselves with a vain hope if they imagined that if they once allowed the Bill to get into Committee they would be able to satisfy their honourable and honest scruples and appease their consciences by any Amendment in the direction of diminishing the harsh and arbitrary powers of the Bill. The Committee would reject the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and it would reject any Amendment which any honest and honourable man in that House might propose with such an object. He confessed that he was unable to understand the pretext upon which the Government declined to accept this most moderate and reasonable Amendment. It would not lighten the responsibility of the Government at Dublin Castle to provide that the information on which they should act should be sworn information in the first in- 537 stance. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary told the House that every man who was arrested under the Bill would be subjected to a most painful, a most painstaking, honest, and conscientious trial by him in Dublin Castle. But it would be a trial of one side of the story. It reminded him of the story of the Kerry magistrate, who once said that he decided all the cases that came before him immediately he heard one side, and it was only when he heard both sides that it bothered him. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was not to have those statements. It would bother him to hear the two sides of the story— nay, it would embarrass him to hear one upon oath. Then, upon what would he act—upon the affidavit of two witnesses, or upon the whispers of an irresponsible creature earning the wages of guilt by perjury or falsehood? Hon. Members might think this had never happened. But it had already happened in Ireland; and Her Majesty's Government knew it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said it was of no use to give the Government this power and to fetter them in their application of it. What was the fetter? That they should not send a man to gaol for 18 months unless upon the affidavit of two witnesses. He could understand the Government saying they knew the village tyrants who committed outrages, but that they could not get evidence. He acknowledged it was upon a story of that kind that the right hon. Gentleman would act, and upon such a story had the Coercion Bill been brought to its present stage, while there was almost an insinuation that the Ministerial eye was upon some hon. Members of the House. Well, if the Government did know these village tyrants alluded to, an English Member asked them that the minimum of legal procedure upon which he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) might say the liberty of a child could not be taken away in England should be the maximum of protection given to an Irishman. The Government were driven by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire to confess that they would be afraid to put the Bill in operation if they were to be called upon to act upon the affidavits of only two witnesses. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken in answer to that Amendment, as if any investigation that he could make in Dublin Castle of one side of the story 538 only could protect the liberty of anyone in Ireland. What did the right hon. Gentleman propose to do? "Do not relieve me," said he, with an air of noble heroism, "of responsibility." What responsibility? To whom was the right hon. Gentleman responsible? He (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) asked the Committee to imagine a magistrate on the bench sentencing a man to even a week's imprisonment, and saying he would hear no witnesses; that he would act on his own responsibility, and not upon evidence, in sending the prisoner to gaol. So said the right hon. Gentleman; but urged the hon. Members opposite that it would be very injurious. He had never known the ingenuousness of the hon. Member's nature until he thought he could put upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland such a terrible responsibility. That was nothing to him. The right hon. Gentleman was going to keep the information locked up in his breast. He might be pressed for explanation; but he would shake his head, and say—"You don't know on what suspicion we have incarcerated this wretch"—the wretched victim who would not be allowed to stand face to face with his accusers. And that, forsooth, would be the responsibility of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The responsibility of Mr. Chichester Fortescue, who was as honourable and conscientious a man as the right hon. Gentleman, failed to shield wretched men from tortures the narrative of which would make Englishmen blush with shame. The Committee should remember the adage—"Over shoes, over boots." They were in for it, so to speak, and must pass the bitter and cruel measure in the shape put forward by the Government. There were in the House liberty-loving men, who, once committed to this fatal error, would find, like the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment before the Committee, that there was no cruelty or tyranny too great for the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member asked them to preserve this miserable remnant, not of liberty, but of the decencies of judicial procedure. It was known that, under the last Coercion Bill, a man's house was broken into in order to search for papers, the warrant of search having been issued by a Liberal Government, and five years hence they would be again looking upon scandals of the same kind as occurred under the last coercive legislation. The hon. Mem- 539 ber was, therefore, vainly appealing to Her Majesty's Government, whose only reply was—"Leave us to our responsibility"—the responsibility not of gentlemen, or statesmen in Dublin Castle, not even of the village policeman; but upon the whisper of the spy and the information or grudge of a despotic landlord, which, under the Bill, would be sufficient, without evidence, to incarcerate Irishmen.
§ MR. A. MOORE
fully approved the objection of his hon. Friends opposite in their advocacy of the Amendment. At the same time, he thought that nothing in the world would be so likely to place men in the power of spies and of the village policeman as the system of affidavits. He had seen many of these documents produced. A man came forward and said certain things were true; the magistrate said—"Then you are prepared to swear that you believe them to be true," and the process was complete. Now, the simple result of the Amendment would be that any two affidavits would relieve Ministers of all responsibility. There had been numerous cases of informers living upon blood-money; for instance, that of Delahunty, who was watched by witnesses and found in the act of selling his tale to the authorities. For these reasons, he thought that the only protection the Irish people could got in this matter was that which resulted from enforcing responsibility on the Minister of the Crown. That responsibility, under the Bill, was secured by the fact that the names of persons arrested should be laid on the Table of the House within the first seven days of every month while Parliament was sitting. Parliament would, therefore, have the opportunity of calling Ministers to account, and give their reasons for making arrests, when he was sure the House would require more substantial evidence than that of two policemen.
§ MR. LEAMY
failed to see what objection there could be to proceeding upon affidavit. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that one of the chief grounds upon which the Bill rested was the difficulty of obtaining evidence. He admitted that there was evidence in existence, but that the injured persons would not come forward owing to fear and intimidation. There must be some grounds upon which suspicion would rest; and, supposing an 540 outrage to be committed, the first thing the policeman did would be to go to the person whose property was injured, and ask whether he suspected anyone of the act. If then any reason existed for suspecting anyone of injuring the property, what harm could there be in asking that the suspicion should be stated on oath? Someone must send up the case to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who would be bound to question somebody as to the reasons for suspecting a man, otherwise how could he know whether there was any truth in the story or not? The right hon. Gentleman would certainly have to take upon himself the responsibility of ascertaining the character of the persons giving evidence. The effect of requiring an affidavit would be to deter men from stating that which was not true, because they would see that their words were written down, and that the penalty of perjury would be sure to follow if they did. For that reason, he should support the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. DALY
pointed out that it was not contended by the hon. Member opposite that the affidavit should be made public. It was only asked that the information should be of that nature which would entail responsibility on the person making the statement. A case bearing upon this had occurred in his own county. A letter had appeared in The Daily Express stating that a valuable hunter, belonging to a gentleman, had been injured; that its off fore leg was bruised so much that the animal had to be destroyed, and that the injury was wilfully done. That letter was signed by the rector, who called for the protection of the police. But he (Mr. Daly), five days later, had seen in the same paper another letter signed by the gentleman who owned the animal in question, which stated that the injury was the result of accident, that as two of his servants were exercising his horses some boys suddenly cried out, and one of the horses becoming restive cannoned against the other and broke its leg. Here was a gentleman making a statement in the columns of a public journal, and who undoubtedly believed every tittle he had subscribed to was true. Now, he urged in support of the Amendment that if this gentleman had been required to make an affidavit he would have inquired into the facts and details, and would not have made the statement 541 which he had irresponsibly published in a newspaper. That was one reason, therefore, why the Amendment should be accepted. Again, he was very much in accord with the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Meath, and thought that the Government had been seized with a desire to reject any Amendment that would give to men in Ireland liberty or fair play. It was an offence against common sense and every doctrine of fair play that they should refuse to act on sworn evidence.
MR. J. COWEN
sympathized with the object of the Amendment, although he believed the Motion would not be of any good effect. Hon. Members who had voted for the second reading of the Bill with some qualms of conscience had, no doubt, hoped they would be able to amend it in Committee. But they had never been under a greater delusion. The Bill would be carried as it stood. The Chief Secretary for Ireland under its operation would be as absolutely despotic in the power which he would possess as was Loris Melikoff at St. Petersburg or Louis Napoleon at Paris. To illustrate the justice of his statement he would mention the case of his hon. Friend the Member for the County of Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan), who, when the Habeas Corpus Act was before suspended, had been most unjustly arrested, put in irons, and carried to Dublin; while on the journey the removal of the handcuffs was refused even for the purposes of nature. His hon. Friend was imprisoned for 15 months, and yet when his case was brought before the House of Commons, Lord Carling ford, at that time Chief Secretary for Ireland, and who was one of the most humane of men, made some excuses, but no redress was obtained. Such would be the appeal hon. Members would have under the present Bill. He should vote for the Amendment, with the confident belief that nothing would result from it.
§ MR. ERRINGTON
thought the Chief Secretary for Ireland had taken an extreme view of the effect of the Amendment. One of the most important preservatives of justice were the forms of law; and he considered it was a great matter that these should be preserved without damaging the Bill. The question was whether the insisting on some sworn evidence would render the measure inoperative. That could not be the 542 case, for the information would not be a sworn statement as to the actual facts, but only as to the bond fide belief of the person making the statement. That certainly would not be drawing the teeth of the measure; and the right hon. Gentleman, by accepting the Amendment, would show his desire to maintain such forms of legality as could be retained without interfering with its efficiency. He thought the affidavit should not be made a public document.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, he should vote for the Amendment with the intention of amending it thereafter if it passed, because he believed that as it now stood it would cause serious harm. If the affidavits were simply filed, handed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and then kept private, it would lead to great additional abuse of the Bill, which in its nature was liable to abuse. He approved of the responsibility thrown upon the right hon. Gentleman of acting on the information of two credible witnesses; although it was to be feared that two untrustworthy individuals might put their heads together, and through spite against a man put this law in motion. The Bill, he felt, was bad and tyrannical; and he wished to place the responsibility of putting it in action upon the right shoulders. For this reason he would rather it should rest on the Chief Secretary for Ireland than upon the Irish magistrates, who were partizans. He should vote for the Amendment only with the intention of afterwards adding a further Amendment, to the effect that the affidavits should be filed and placed within reach of the public, in order to prevent the Bill I being used for the purpose of shutting up persons disagreeable to their neighbours.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
agreed that the proposed Amendment would afford some protection, especially in country places, where it would be much required. In such districts people were already very anxious with regard to the effect of the Bill; and only yesterday he had received an inquiry from a substantial farmer, who had done no more than attend some meetings, as to whether he would be obliged to leave the country when the Bill came into operation. The class in Ireland to which that farmer belonged had been thrown into a state of terror. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had said he intended to strike terror into the minds of men who com- 543 mitted outrages; but he was really striking terror into a class of men who, in his opinion, were as good as many country gentlemen. These persons would feel they were in some degree protected, if they knew that some amount of sworn information was required before they could be imprisoned. A man who, perhaps, had not paid his rent, or who had a dispute about it, although he might be entirely in the wrong, ought not to be at the mercy of a private letter or interview with the magistrates. No doubt, many magistrates in Ireland had suffered from the agitation, and could hardly be expected to act reasonably in this matter. Take the instance to which he had first referred. The magistrate would probably go to the Chief Secretary and declare that this man was agitating the neighbourhood, and that he was suspected of being accessory to the firing of some man's house—with which, probably, he had nothing to do. The right hon. Gentleman would write to the police officer or magistrate in the district, which latter would possibly have been dining with some country gentleman, and they would all arrange to make a Report that this farmer was a dangerous man. At the same time, none of them would like to perjure his conscience by swearing to the truth of his belief. The Bill could only be worked on information supplied by three classes—country gentlemen, resident magistrates, and police officers. The Government, therefore, should seriously consider whether they could accept one of the Amendments on the Paper, obliging them to have the sworn information of two persons that they believed the suspected person had committed a crime under the Bill. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland could possibly judge the truth of every case that could come before him. He would be, after all, obliged to go upon legal evidence; and Her Majesty's Government would be only acting wisely in giving a further amount of comparative security to the classes interested. In the hope of obtaining this he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cardiganshire.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
failed to understand how the Amendment, if adopted, could in any way diminish the responsibility of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Bill would not then say that a man must be arrested, but that he might be arrested. It was 544 as much the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to examine into the truth of statements of fact brought before him on the affidavit of two persons, as it would be to examine into the truth of whispered accusations. If the Government had to act on the evidence of spies and informers they would, at least, afford some protection to the freedom of individuals by exacting a sworn statement, which could be kept and afterwards referred to; but otherwise there would be no record of the information on which a man might be arrested and consigned to prison for 18 months. "Unless that were done, a perfectly innocent man might be thrown into prison, and there would be no way of finding out who laid the information against him, or what was the excuse for his arrest. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was, no doubt, a man of boundless intelligence and humanity, and he had said he would examine every case, and that he would expend all his energies in doing so. But how could he do that? Could he go into every village, and, calling the people around him, question them as to the truth or falsehood of each story? Hon. Members knew he could do nothing of the kind. They know he would have to depend on the evidence of the spy and the informer. Besides, the right hon. Gentleman might not have a perpetuity of Office, and there might come some Chief Secretary for Ireland not so highly endowed and not so highly sympathetic, who would not take the same amount of trouble as the right hon. Gentleman in investigating the cases brought before him. He thought that some check should be imposed upon the overflow of information which would be given by the class of informers who would arise under the operation of the Bill, and should, therefore, vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, that when such largo powers were intrusted to the Government they should be surrounded with such safeguards as would, as far as possible, prevent their abuse. He did not mean abuse on the part of the Executive in Ireland, because he was sure they would exercise their powers as became the eminent men now filling those high and responsible offices. He referred to the abuse of those upon whose information and evidence they would have to act—the information of spies and others, who came forward on all 545 occasions of this kind, not for the good of their country, but, in some cases, perhaps, for the purpose of indulging in personal spite. Those were abuses inherent in measures of this character, and for that reason he gave the Amendment his support. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said if the Amendment were agreed to, and sworn evidence were required, the Lord Lieutenant and he would be left, to a considerable extent, to their own responsibility. How that could be he did not see. So far from their responsibility being lessened by having sworn testimony before them, he thought it would be increased; because when they saw sworn affidavits they would be bound to read them with care, and consider whether the statements they contained were satisfactory and were well founded. He could not see any weight in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chief Secretary said that an Amendment of this hind would defeat the object of the Bill, which was to enable the Executive to get at a guilty person who, at the present moment, they were unable to touch, in consequence of the difficulty of getting people to come forward to give evidence against him. The persons who were afraid to come forward now and give evidence in open Court would not be afraid to come forward and give information secretly on affidavit, any more than they would be afraid to give information not on affidavit. It was not the police who were afraid to give evidence, nor their myrmidons, nor any of the officials, but strangers, who were in fear of bodily injury and for the safety of their property. But why should these people be afraid to come forward and make an affidavit in private, any more than they would fear to come forward and lay the necessary information before the Chief Secretary, or the Lord Lieutenant? He placed the utmost confidence in Her Majesty's Government, especially when he cousidered its constitution and the character of some, especially, of the right hon. Gentlemen who belonged to it, and he took on trust their statements on this subject. He was sure that if they had not a sufficient amount of evidence before them to satisfy their minds that a measure of this kind was necessary they would not press it forward; but he was not at all satisfied with the arguments 546 he had heard in answer to the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh), and he certainly should support that Amendment. The Amendment lower clown requiring—The sworn information of not less than two credible persons, not being in Government pay or employment, and resident in the barony within which the act for which the warrant may be issued is alleged to have taken place,to be given, appeared to him equally acceptable and equally good for the purpose; but, whichever was accepted, it appeared to him that they should not be without some safeguard in a measure of this kind. He did not distrust the detective police in Ireland, or those authorities who would have to exercise the powers contained in the Bill; but he thought Parliament ought to adopt all possible safeguards against abuse, especially by spies, who cropped up whenever measures of this kind were in force. He himself recollected many of those cases referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite —cases of cruel hardship and wrong, inflicted on persons under the last Coercion Bill. He—when sitting on the other side of the House, in Opposition—had heard accounts of suffering endured by men of respectability and character who were put in prison for purely political offences; and, with that experience before him, and with this recollection, he should be bound to do all he could to give security against the improper application of these powers against persons of honour and respectability, whose feelings he respected, however much he might differ from them in the course they were adopting for redressing the grievances of their country.
§ MR. CALLAN
very much regretted that the Attorney General for Ireland had not thought fit to get up in his place and reply to some of the arguments which had been used in support of the Amendment. Possibly he had not yet recovered from his great failure in the matter of the State Trials. He (Mr. Callan) was not in the House when the Chief Secretary spoke; but, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman would correct him if he misstated what he had said. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to have objected to being relieved of responsibility in this matter, and, at the 547 same time, to have contended that the adoption of the Amendment would fetter his discretion. This he would take as the sense of the two arguments in support of the right hon. Gentleman's opposition to the Amendment. The first three Amendments on the Paper substantially amounted to the same thing, and the Committee could come to a decision on all three in the one division. The Chief Secretary objected to the Amendment because it would relieve him of responsibility; but he (Mr. Callan) should prefer to see the right hon. Gentleman relieved of responsibility. It would be a great gratification to him, and to many others who, like him, had hailed the advent of a Liberal Government as a new era in Irish politics, to relieve the Government of the greatest failure which would characterize their Administration. They were told that the Chief Secretary had accepted his post, and had gone to Ireland with the best intentions; but it was said that a certain place was paved with good intentions, and they knew with what result. With reference to the right hon. Gentleman's objection to being relieved of his responsibility, he (Mr. Callan) was anxious that there should be sworn information to justify the Chief Secretary in his action, because he expected when they were relieved of the right hon. Gentleman's presence and he was back again in Dublin Castle, and the House was in a cooler temper—within a year or two years, or, at all events, before the Dissolution of the present Parliament—that they would be reviewing the right hon. Gentleman's acts or the acts of the Executive in regard to this Bill; and when they did review those acts, it was desirable, in order that they might be enabled to do it properly, that they should have some records to refer to. Suppose one of his (Mr. Callan's) hon. Friends were arrested, on inquiry being at once made, it would probably be said that the Chief Secretary—either he or his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant-—had acted on reliable information, or that they had investigated the case, and had satisfied themselves with regard to its justice. It would be desirable in such a case to have some tangible record upon which, hereafter, if new circumstances came to light they might test the right hon. Gentleman's judgment, and, if necessary, impeach 548 him for his conduct as Chief Secretary-The right hon. Gentleman's subordinates would, it was quite certain, in the operation of this Bill throw dust in his eyes, to use a very common phrase. What possible objection could there be to those subordinates from whom came the information upon which arrests were made—were they sub-inspectors, resident magistrates, or policemen—being required to make affidavits, and give the grounds on which they claimed that warrants should issue? Did the Chief Secretary wish to lead the House to believe that no warrant would issue for the arrest of a person under the Act until he had first investigated the circumstances of the case? If that was so the House would be relieved of the presence of the right hon. Gentleman for a considerable time. The right hon. Gentleman objected to have his discretion fettered—he came before them and said—"I wish, under this Act, to arrest anyone I think fit, and my discretion is not to be fettered." He (Mr. Callan) maintained that the right hon. Gentleman's discretion should be fettered, and he would give his reason for maintaining it—he was sorry, by the way, that the Chief Secretary had left his seat, as he should have liked to have had his attention to a case he was about to quote. Under the last Coercion Bill the resident magistrate—Captain Keogh— and the sub-inspector of Dundalk did certain things. He (Mr. Callan) made a complaint to the Chief Secretary, and followed the matter up, as he usually did whatever he took in hand, to the bitter end; and what was the result? The noble Lord the present Secretary of State for India—who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland—compensated the injured person. For the acts of the resident magistrate and the sub-inspector the noble Lord paid as compensation a sum of £15, though whether that sum was paid out of the funds of the Executive or those of the resident magistrate and sub-inspector he did not know. However, this was a case in point—a case in which the Chief Secretary was compelled, by the fairness and reasonableness of the case, to fine the Government or the resident magistrate and the sub-inspector a sum of £15 for their unlawful acts. But this happened because there was a record to appeal to. The magistrate and the sub-inspector denied 549 the facts alleged against them but; there was a record in existence, and he (Mr. Callan) knew where it was. By perseverance he obtained the record, put to shame their denials, and they were fined. Now, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had what no one else amongst them had, the power of making a reply. Would he, when he came to reply, tell the Committee that he would not issue a warrant, or allow one to issue, for the arrest of any person, unless on information—ho would not say sworn, but detailed information—of the grounds on which some splenetic sub-inspector, partizan resident magistrate, or untrustworthy sectarian bench of magistrates had made their representations to the head officials not on oath, not on their honour, but simply, perhaps, in a letter or a whisper, declaring that it was desirable, in their opinion, that a certain person, who was at the bottom of the disturbance going on, should be arrested. If such information was not to be given he was very glad that he lived out of Ireland. He should be very sorry for his liberty to depend upon the "discretion" of either the Chief Secretary for Ireland or the Attorney General. Remembering the antecedents of these two right hon. Gentlemen, he should say that very few persons of any independence of character would be safe in Ireland. He should be sorry to trust his liberty to the right hon. Gentlemen, or to any Member who, ever since he (Mr. Callan) first came into the House 13 years ago, had never lost an opportunity of voting for the most offensive clauses in every Coercion and Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act that had ever passed. He had gone over the Division Lists to see if his memory—which was usually accurate— was correct, and he found that it was. The right hon. Gentleman, ever since he came into Office in 1866, had voted for these offensive clauses; and he was the only Minister whose record was clear as a most determined opponent of the liberties of the Irish people. In late hours, when the Chief Secretary was in bed, or when—
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he only wished to show how necessary it was to fetter the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The personnel 550 of the Chief Secretary ship, and other offices in the Government, with all duo deference, was a material matter for their consideration. In the course of these debates they had been told, over and over again, of the benevolence of the Chief Secretary, and his high character, and they had been assured that they might without fear trust their liberties in his hands. Well, he would show the great difference that existed between the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster— whom he was sorry not to see in his place. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had never voted for a Coercion Bill; but the Chief Secretary had shown and proved his tyrannical and arbitrary disposition towards Ireland by being the only Minister of the Crown who, for a period of 16 years, had never lost an opportunity of voting for the coercion of Ireland. This, he thought, sufficiently exposed the hollowness and falseness of the benevolence of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
thought that the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh) was, perhaps, going a little too far. He could imagine a case where three men were together, one of whom murdered another, leaving only one witness of the crime. This witness should be allowed to give information. Therefore, he would suggest that instead of its being necessary for "two persons" to make affidavit, "one person" should be inserted. This would be a reasonable alteration for the Government to accept. He failed to see the objection to a man who gave information privately making an affidavit. It would not come before the public, as the Chief Secretary would be the tribunal to consider it, not a jury; and, as he understood it, the great difficulty in the way of the carrying out of the present law was not only the difficulty of obtaining evidence, but that of getting juries to convict. For his own part, he would rather that 50 guilty men should be let at large than one innocent man should be imprisoned. No doubt there was a difficulty in this case, and a serious risk that innocent people would be made to suffer; therefore, he should go with the hon. Member for Cardiganshire, trusting that the Chief Secretary would see his way to the acceptance of the Amendment altered as he had proposed. It would 551 be most arbitrary to allow a man to be taken up on suspicion without requiring any formal information at all to be laid against him.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
trusted that the Chief Secretary would listen to the suggestion now made. He could not believe the Government intended that these warrants were, in fact, to be issued, unless they had some positive sworn information to prove the grounds of suspicion. Why, then, ask for such arbitrary powers, which would excite just indignation in Ireland? Under the provisions of the Bill the Chief Secretary was now entitled to act of his own free will—or possibly caprice—to put the monstrous powers conferred by this Bill in motion on a more hint or suggestion, without having anything in the nature of an information, record, or even statement to show the grounds or reasonableness of the suspicions he had formed. As a check and control on the unjust issue of those warrants some official record should be made at the time. To come to a sound opinion upon the Amendment, the Committee must look at the character of the Bill. Since the Habeas Corpus Act was first suspended, in respect to Ireland this was the first Bill which had ever been introduced into the House in which the power of issuing these warrants was proposed to be given to a single man. An inspection of the Acts of Parliament would show this—that up to the introduction by a Liberal Government of the present Bill, in the case of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, power had never been given to one person to issue warrants; but it had been necessary for them to be signed by six Members of Her Majesty's Privy Council in Ireland. For reasons best known to the Government, the power was now solely invested in the will and discretion of the Chief Secretary; therefore, if that right hon. Gentleman was anxious to carry out the measure in a fair and proper and generous spirit he would desire, oven for his own protection, to have this provision made with regard to sworn information. Were they going to permit this to take place—a man to rush into the Castle and say in a hurried manner that someone had written to him declaring that so-and-so was a suspicious character, and on such information the Chief Secretary to issue his 552 warrant? Was there to be no opportunity given to the accused for refutation or explanation; but was a warrant to be hurriedly issued after five minutes' conversation with the Chief Secretary? and was the person who told the hurried tale to the right hon. Gentleman to submit to no verification on oath, and was there to be no regard hereafter as to what had been done? He did not think anyone who understood anything about the principles of evidence, would say that there was any matter on which it was more difficult to arrive at an accurate judgment than a mere ex parte statement. Anyone who had been accustomed to practise as a counsel would know that when he heard the mere ex parte statement of his own client without having been made acquainted with the views and contentions of the other side, it was most difficult to arrive at a just conclusion. Knowing, therefore, how, in working an Act of this description the Chief Secretary would have to rely on information coming through most suspicious channels, for his own protection and for his own sake the right hon. Gentleman ought to be most anxious to obtain the benefit of sworn information. But whether that were so or not, for the sake of the public whom the House represented, he hoped they would not subject a whole people to a cruel and oppressive and tyrannical law without acknowledging their right to have the benefit of a record of the facts and circumstances which came under the Chief Secretary's notice upon the strength of which he issued his warrant.
§ MR. W. CORBET
supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cardiganshire- He was not at all surprised at the support that Amendment was receiving from Members on the Ministerial side of the House for a proposition to take away the liberty of the subject on "reasonable suspicion" must strike the mind of Englishmen in a very remarkable manner. They had not yet hoard what "reasonable suspicion" was defined to be. The Chief Secretary thought of having this "reasonable suspicion" unverified by an affidavit; but the hon. Member for Cardiganshire questioned the kind of information that would be supplied to the right hon. Gentleman even on sworn information. He wished to call attention to a case which had come within his knowledge 553 very shortly before he came over from Ireland—a case in which processes of eviction were about to be served upon a whole family. It unfortunately happened that there was sometimes in such districts a mauvais sujet or dissolute ruffian, to use a favourite phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who was, unfortunately, too often in accord with the police. It was so in this instance, the individual being, as was often the case, the person to whom was confided the serving of processes of ejectment. Well, on a certain evening, the evening before the processes were to be served, this man, as he alleged, was fired at. On his way to his home he passed by the police barracks, but made no report of the circumstance. He passed by the barracks again on the next morning-, coming down to serve the processes of ejectment; but still made no report. He went into the house of a most respectable family—he (Mr. Corbet) knew them all very well —and served his processes of ejectment, and did this without seeking any protection whatever against the man whom he was going to charge with having fired at him. He then went to the police barracks and made an accusation against Patrick Kelly, a young man of high intelligence and good character. Upon the information of this wretched creature the magistrate issued a warrant, and this young man was dragged out of his house and sent to the gaol at Wick-low. Hearing the farts, he (Mr. Corbet) himself, accompanied by the parish priest, went up to the committing magistrate and requested that bail—substantial bail—might be accepted. The magistrate declined. Sometimes, unfortunately, in Ireland, these gentlemen were only imperfectly acquainted with the law they had to administer. It was so in this instance. The magistrate did not seem to understand the application, and he put them off. He (Mr. Corbet) applied, however, to the Bench of Magistrates at Newtown, Mount Kennedy, informing them that he knew the character of the young man, and that he also happened to be acquainted with the character of this wretched creature the process server. The accused, however, who was put in gaol before Christmas, was kept there until the last Quarter Sessions, when he was brought up before the Grand Jury, who threw out the bill against him. If this case had happened under the 554 present Bill, the accused might be kept in custody for 18 months on a false charge, without an opportunity of defending himself. He did trust that the Chief Secretary would accept the proposition which had been made to him—the very reasonable proposition, that in every case where a warrant was granted evidence must have been given on affidavit by not less than two witnesses.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he had very substantial reasons for supporting the Amendment. The Bill, as it at present stood, would put most tremendous power into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary, unless some such safeguard as this were adopted. He could give a very strong case of the abuse of the Coercion Act of 1867. Under that Act he himself was arrested without any cause whatever being assigned. Four officers came out from Limerick, a distance of 20 miles, to arrest him, and the only ground they could allege for it was, that a servant of his had been in conversation with an officer that day, and the fact had become known that he had 70 or 80 sovereigns about him. It was stated that this money was to pay the Fenians in that district; but he had denied the truth of this statement, informing the police that, in accordance with custom, he had sent his servant to the bank with a quantity of notes to get changed for gold. He asked to be informed of any further charge they had to bring against him; but they had nothing else to allege, and he was committed to prison without any warrant from the Lord Lieutenant. The officers did not wait for the warrant, but took him to gaol without making any charge against him beyond what he had mentioned; and it was not until he had been in prison eight days that the Governor came into him and informed him that he was then in possession of the warrant. The Committee were told that under the present Bill no one would be arrested except upon the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant; but he (Mr. O'Sullivan) had been arrested without cause and without warrant, which did not come down until he had been eight days in gaol. This showed the Committee that under a Coercion Act a man could be thrown into prison, and the warrant for his arrest could be afterwards procured at the leisure and pleasure of the police. Although no charge was brought against 555 him, and he was accused of no offence, he was kept for 121 days in prison, the only offence alleged being that his servant had been taken at Limerick with a certain amount of money in his posession. He was arrested in the middle of the night and taken on an outside car to Limerick, and for 121 days he was not allowed to see any of his family, or to give any instructions to his family with regard to the conduct of his business. A burglar, or a robber, or a murderer, would not be treated in that way. Those in prison did not suffer bodily torture like Italian prisoners; but they suffered in mine and were surrounded by demons who continually harassed them. The very day when he went into the prison the Governor and warder went to see him, and asked if he was all right. He stated that he was; but immediately they left, the warder went back and told him he was to take his hat off every day when he was taken down to see the Governor, while he walked round him and examined him. He asked if that was the rule of the prison, and being told that it was, he said he should, of course, obey it; and every day he was made to stand up like a recruit while the Governor was walking round him and calling "attention," or making any other remark to degrade him. With the exception of an hour and a-half, he had to spend 24 hours every day in a miserable cell 15 feet by 7.
I am sure the Committee bear a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman in his explanation of his case; but I think that, by going into all the details, he is going beyond the subject of the Amendment altogether.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, that, with all respect to the Chairman, he thought he had a right to show what the treatment was that they had to expect under that Bill.
MR. J. COWEN
, rising on a question of Order, said, the Government were going to pass a Bill to confiscate the liberties of the Irish people; and he wished to ask whether the hon. Member was not fairly in Order in describing the experience he had himself undergone?
The Committee sympathize with the hon. Member when he explains how he was arrested without proper warrant; but, in entering into all the details, he is going beyond the 556 Question before the Committee, for he has not as yet brought any application of his case to the subject-matter of the Amendment.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
, continuing, said, that he did not state his case in order to obtain the sympathy of the Committee, but simply to show what prisoners under that Bill, if it was brought into operation, had to expect from a Liberal Government as well as from a Tory Government. He had suffered under a Tory Government; but the Liberal Government had the same officials at Dublin Castle, and they must expect the same treatment. He did not wish to go beyond his province; but he had held a licence for an hotel for 21 years in his town, and during that time not a single charge had been made against him; but, notwithstanding that, the officials had deprived him of his licence simply because he was not at homo to mind his business. That reminded him of the story of a farmer who tied up his mare at the door of a public-house while he went in to drink, and when he came out and remounted he beat the animal in order to make it go, but forgot that he had himself tied it up to the door. He had been punished because he was not at home to look after his business, although the very gentlemen who punished him were those who had kept him away from his business. If he had chosen to go under compliment or favour to the Government he need not have been kept in prison a second month; but when he found himself wronged he never would go under compliment to the Government, and would rather remain in prison for a century. He was removed to Dublin. From the moment when he left Limerick he was kept tightly handcuffed, although there was no charge whatever against him; and he did not think such treatment as that would be used towards the commonest robber in Ireland. He hoped that, on re-consideration, the Chairman would find that what he stated as to the treatment prisoners had received in 1868 was not out of Order. The Chief Secretary had promised guarantees that the Bill should not be abused; but the right hon. Gentleman must know that he was not giving this power to himself or to the Lord Lieutenant alone, but he was giving power to every police officer and every policeman in Ireland, and it would often be used for vindictive purposes more 557 than for political or agrarian outrages; and unless some close watch was kept on the working of the Act many men against whom no charge could be brought would be thrown into prison.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, he had listened to the arguments advanced by the two or three speakers who had spoken in support of the Amendment under discussion; and he thought that if it were at all necessary to show the impolicy of the Bill those hon. Members had conclusively proved it, and that the Amendment was much better than the original clause. Even at that hour he hoped that some feeling of veneration for the ancient liberties of his country, and some feeling of respect for the long-tried and proved judicial procedure in this country, might be awakened in the minds of those who had hastily voted for the second reading of the Bill. It was said that this was a Bill for protection, and that it could not he worked except by working it without evidence. The Chief Secretary thought that he must proceed without evidence; and he objected to any evidence, by affidavit or otherwise, any record of the facts upon which he formed his judgment. That was the most monstrous proposal he had ever heard in the course of his life. It was a well-known principle of law that no person should be condemned except on evidence; but the Chief Secretary declared that he must proceed without evidence, and that the very principle of his Bill was that he must discard evidence, He must proceed in the dark, with stealthy paces, concealing his steps, and leaving no trace behind him to show whether he had proceeded justly or with the slightest regard to the recognized principles of law or not. That was what he said was necessary, in order that the Bill might be of any use. He said, further, that to ask him to proceed upon evidence was contrary to the scope of the Bill. The scope of the Bill was not then under discussion; but, no matter what the scope of the Bill was, he objected to the Chief Secretary being allowed to act in that secret and stealthy way, when he owed responsibility only to himself, and where the responsibility was such that it might happen that the Government would discharge him. He said still further that there was no use in fettering him. He (Dr. Commins) was astonished to hear a Minister object to 558 being fettered against arbitrary power. Arbitrary power was foreign to ordinary justice and to the ordinary Government of this country. The law had to be exercised according to prescribed rules, and arbitrary power was contrary to the spirit of all English institutions. Where anything like judicial power had to be exorcised, the principle was that the person who exercised it must exercise it openly, and subject to some safeguard to show that he exercised it rightly. He must exercise it in such a way that his action might be open to question. What safeguard was there that this power would be exercised properly, judicially, or justly? There was nothing, unless this and other Amendments of a similar kind were introduced into the measure. Now, even supposing that it might be necessary to commit a man on suspicion —that was done in England every day —but the judicial experience of centuries had proved it to be necessary to fetter those who commit people to prison. The charge of crime was sufficient to imprison; hut the magistrate must do it on a warrant, and that warrant was subject to revision afterwards; and in every case where it was required that the liberty of the subject should be abridged in the slightest degree, it was required that a sworn information should be taken by the magistrate, and any imprisonment without sworn information was illegal and improper. Why was that necessary? Because long experience had shown that magistrates were liable to be deceived; that people, actuated by private motives or over-zeal, as policemen might, or persons having some sinister end to achieve if they could by a whisper, or, as it was in Venice, drop some secret information, as it were, into the "Lion's mouth," and so cause the arrest of a person—that process would be largely used, and magistrates would be weak-kneed enough, or ignorant enough, to play into the hands of malicious or ignorant or over-zealous people. Wherever there was to be an arrest under a warrant there must be sworn information. What was the objection to having sworn informations in this case? It was said that they were no use; but that argument was more monstrous than the original proposition. Was that the character the Chief Secretary gave to those whom he described as the supporters of law and order? Was that the charac- 559 ter of the supporters that he was to rely upon? Were they all perjurors; were they all men who would take away without ground or reasons the liberty of their fellow-subjects; who would try to deceive him upon sworn information? Was that the character of the men by whom law and order were to be maintained? That was the character given by the Chief Secretary to the sort of evidence he would get upon sworn information. That was not all. It was said that, although the Chief Secretary had not said so on that occasion, he would, no doubt, have an opportunity of speaking again on the question, and then he would undertake to be responsible on the floor of the House. If there was ever anything less than the shadow of the shade of responsibility, it was the responsibility to which the Chief Secretary offered to subject himself. He should like to know how the Chief Secretary could answer for the 500 or 600, or 1,000 or 2,000 arrests he proposed to make in the course of the next month without sworn information to answer from; without a witness to whom he could appeal; without a single person who could come forward and support his suspicions in a particular case? Those things were not likely to be confined to the place where the disease first broke out; and he warned hon. Members that if they introduced this gangrene into Ireland they had better beware that it did not reach the centre and the heart of England. With suspicion upon which nobody appeared to offer himself as a witness; suspicion not guaranteed even by ordinary sanction; suspicion by such people as the Chief Secretary depended upon for the maintenance of law and order, the Chief Secretary would not give even that slight hold upon such people as fear of penalties for perjury might constitute. What was the use of the guarantee of the right hon. Gentleman there upon the commitment about which he had no record, and dared not disclose the person who had given the information upon which it was effected? Sic volo, sic Jules; stet pro rations voluntas. That was not a proposal to which he could give his adhesion, and therefore he should support the Amendment. They had been told of the indignity and the grave in justice to which the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had been subjected; 560 but they need not go into that particular case to know what the exercise of despotic power meant. They need not go into or appeal to the descriptions given by the Prime Minister of the sufferings of people in Naples; they need not refer to the hundreds of cases there were to show that despotic power was unjust, and must be so. The hearts of English people were alive to what arbitrary imprisonment was; thanks to the long battle fought by Englishmen, they knew it well, and could send out their sympathy to the prisoner in his cell; and when they knew not the realities of a dungeon, they could enjoy the imaginative pleasure of contemplating what it had been in these climes. He asked those who felt that sympathy to interfere at the last moment to lessen the dangers threatening their fellow-subjects; to prevent the attempt to weaken all respect for Constitutional authority in Ireland, and all respect for that trust in their governors that they would be just. He admitted that there were hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen in the Government of Ireland to whom he could trust all he had, even his life; but they were not infallible. They were at the mercy of men to whom he would trust nothing—men who had their own objects to effect, who had to defend what they considered their rights and privileges, and who would defend them at any cost. He asked hon. Members not to place the people of Ireland at the mercy of—to use the language of the Treasury Bench—miscreants; he begged the Government not to make themselves the tools of miscreants, without the dread of any moral or legal consequences unpleasant to themselves for taking away the liberties of their fellow-subjects. It might not yet be too late to so amend the Bill as to make it not intolerable; to soften its asperities, so as to make the Irish Members and the Irish people to forget its injustice. He imploded hon. Gentlemen opposite to assist the Irish Members in introducing something into the Bill which would be at least partially successful in preventing such disorder as there might be, and not make themselves responsible for far greater disorder.
§ MR. BYRNE
saw the Amendment did not go as far as he should wish, nor as far as it ought to go, inasmuch as it provided that two witnesses should, on their 561 affidavit, be sufficient to take away the liberty of any individual. The case of the hon. Member for Limerick was, he thought, the strongest case that could be put to show what could he clone, and what had been successfully done upon evidence something like that provided for by the Bill—reasanable suspicion. He did not know what reasonable suspicion was; but he had some idea what proof was. He had heard suspicion discussed in the Courts in England, and had hoard a learned stipendiary magistrate speak upon the subject. Mr. Raffles had stated that a case brought before him was one of very strong suspicion; but such a case must not only be on sworn information of suspicion, but must be proved. He should not be satisfied to commit the man on suspicion only; the case must be proved up to the hilt, and without any possibility of dispute. He would put another case. Suppose any gentleman, or any other person in England, or anywhere where his liberty could be taken away—he would suppose for a moment that some hon. Gentleman in that House had the misfortune to lose his reason and become a lunatic. What was the procedure required by the law? The law was not satisfied with suspicion; it must have proof. The manager of the asylum, whether private or public, must produce written proof of the man's lunacy; he must produce certificates under the hands of two qualified physicians before the man's liberty could be taken from him, although it was admitted that a person in a condition of lunacy was dangerous to himself and to the community. In a case of high treason surely there should be proof at least as strong as in the case of a man out of his mind. He thought the Chief Secretary would see that it would be an advantage to himself to have some evidence, because it could not be assumed that he would go into all the cases himself. He was not in Ireland for some months of the year; but even if he were there for six months he would not always be on the spot, and must dispose of cases by deputy in some way or other. Although they had implicit faith—he would put it to illustrate the case—in the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant—Gentlemen whose character and position he would also admit, for argument's sake, were beyond question— what guarantee was there that they 562 would be in Ireland a week hence? They might be in kingdom-come, or out of Office; and they might be succeeded by Gentlemen in whom he could not have so much confidence. Although the Chief Secretary said he would see that the Act was not abused, there was no evidence that he would be in Office during the 18 months the Act was to run. The least evidence that ought to be acted upon in a case of taking away a man's liberty should be as strong as that upon which a lunatic was committed to an asylum. In regard to asylums, inspectors were provided to see that no one was detained against his will, or otherwise wrongly detained; but there was no evidence that anyone would be appointed to go round the prisons to see that men were imprisoned improperly. He took it that the object of the Government was to have ample power to lock up those persons who were dangerous to what was called law and order. It might be that the Government wanted to get rid of the village tyrant; but there was another person equally dangerous, and that was the village informer; and it was not a reasonable proposition to put to the House that the evidence of such a man was reasonable suspicion. It appeared to him that if he were to go to a bank or any institution in England to borrow money—
There are several Amendments on the words "reasonable suspicion" to be discussed afterwards. At present we can only keep in Order by attending strictly to the Amendment before the Committee, which is that there shall be the sworn information of two persons.
§ MR. BYRNE
, continuing, said, he should support the Amendment, not only because he approved of it, for he thought it was scarcely sufficient, but because he held that no man's liberty should be taken away on suspicion, but only on strong evidence, such as was furnished in the case of a lunatic. As the English stipendiary had said, the case must be proved up to the hilt.
§ MR. GRAY
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would not accept the Amendment, it would be satisfactory to him and to other Members if the right hon. Gentleman would guarantee that he would provide against false evidence causing a man to be committed to prison, and would say what 563 mode of punishment he intended to provide for any perjurer who succeeded in having an innocent man sent to prison for 18 months. The right hon. Gentleman would be in his place in Parliament for a considerable part of the year, and therefore his guarantee of his individual investigation of the cases would not suffice; and he must confess that he would not he in Ireland, even if individual investigation of all the cases wore possible. He presumed the Chief Secretary would scarcely contend that in his absence the Lord Lieutenant would examine into every case. It was only a pretext, and the matter must rest in the hands of subordinates; and the right hon. Gentleman could not deny that it was probable that under this Act innocent men would be arrested on information supplied by malicious persons having private and personal motives. Was it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to provide any machinery for punishing persons who gave false evidence, so as to secure persons from being maliciously imprisoned? If it was the intention of the Government, would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what that machinery was. Or did he intend to secure immunity for any person who made a false accusation, and who ought to be punished for making it? He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to tell them the exact position of the Government in that respect. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) that those who expected the Bill to be permissive counted very much without their host. There would be men who would be ready to give false information, acting upon which innocent men might be deprived of their liberty. Were the Government determined to provide no machinery to punish such individuals? If they were going to make such provision, it was the duty of the Government to state what it was, so that the House might be prepared to accept it if they could. Even if they intended that the innocent only should be punished, the time had now arrived when it was desirable that they should say so.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
supported the Amendment, which simply required that, before any man was committed to prison under the provisions of the Act, there should be an affidavit from two 564 witnesses charging him with some offence. If this were not done, what would happen. They had heard much about the sending of threatening letters in Ireland, and the commission of cowardly and dastardly outrages. The men who sent these threatening letters and committed these mean, dastardly, and cowardly outrages were the very men who would be the informers—the very men who were capable of sending innocent men to prison under the terms of this Coercion Act — the very men capable of going to their "masters," as they called them—the magistrates and the landlords with lying stories concerning other men against whom they had a personal grudge and a personal spite, and, by that means, depriving them of their liberty. He considered that without some protection such as that proposed in the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh) there would be a fearful risk and a fearful peril for the people of Ireland. He asked every hon. Member whoso mind was open to conviction to consider the point which he had placed before them. He alleged with the utmost confidence that the perpetrators of these mean and dastardly outrages—outrages committed against the wish and the express directions of the Land League—these dastards, cowards, and criminals who had been doing these detestable acts—were the very men capable of depriving honest men of their liberty under the provisions of this Act. They would go to the magistrates and make themselves "good men" with them by conveying to their ears stories which they knew these gentlemen wished to hear; stories they knew they were ready to listen to; stories they knew these gentlemen would convey to Dublin Castle. He knew that this would constitute a real peril to honest men in Ireland if no provision were made against it. Was it too much to ask that these informers should, at least, commit their consciences to the truth of their statements by being required to make an affidavit? The point just raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) was whether there was to be any provision inserted in the Bill for the punishment of men who gave false information, so as to deter men of the class he (Mr. Sullivan; had been speaking of from seeking to 565 deprive honest men of their liberties, or swearing them away. There used to he so much, at all events, placed in the way of the informer. It used always to be required of the man seeking to obtain blood-money that he should make an oath as to the truth of his allegations. But now, in the present Bill, it was proposed to dispense with this little difficulty, and make it easy for the informer—for the rogue and the criminal to deprive honest men of their liberties by providing that it should not be necessary for them to make either an affidavit or an oath. If it happened that honest men were deprived of their freedom and liberty by such criminal proceedings on the part of these low creatures, was there to be no remedy for those who were innocent, but were unjustly accused? Would Her Majesty's Government put no barrier in the way of such men? Would they place no deterrent in their way? but would they leave them free to deal as they liked with any of their neighbours against whom they might have reasons—low, perhaps, and mean and spiteful—for desiring to see them placed in a prison in Ireland for 18 months? These points he wished to urge respectfully upon the attention of the House. Hon. Members had voted in an immense majority for the second reading of a measure of coercion of some kind; but it was still open for them to modify any provision that might be exceedingly cruel, impolitic, hurtful, and injurious in the measure. The point towards which the Amendment was directed was one of them; and he asked the House to consider seriously whether some barrier ought not to be placed in the way of these informers, so as to remove them from the temptation of giving false evidence. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland must necessarily act upon information and advice given to him by other people. He was to act on what was called "reasonable suspicion;" but who was to judge of the reasonableness of it? The right hon. Gentleman himself could not judge. He understood that it had been ruled that hon. Members could not at this moment enter into that question at any length; but even at this stage of the Committee the reflections arising out of a fair consideration of the clause and of the Amendment proposed to it were of 566 some importance. The simple proposition was that, in order to prevent an innocent man from becoming the easy victim of a rogue and a criminal, an affidavit should be required from the informer in support of his allegations. He sincerely hoped that the Committee would be prepared to accept the proposal made by the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh).
§ MR. GILL
said, that, in conjunction with all the other Irish Members sitting around him, he felt bound to put in his protest against the extreme unfairness of the proposition before the Committee as contained in the Bill. He thought that the Amendment submitted by the hon. and learned Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Pugh) was one which certainly all reasonable men could without difficulty accept. When the people remembered the way in which this class of common informers had already acted in Ireland, and when they knew that under the Bill they would become the supreme arbiters of the fate of hundreds and thousands of innocent men, the}' would undoubtedly, remembering the past, look with something like terror at the way in which it was probable they would act in the future when the country was under a Coercion Act instead of being under the ordinary laws of the country. He hoped that hon. Members would bear in mind the way in which the magistrates had acted hundreds of times in the North of Ireland when the ordinary law of the country was in operation. In many of the afflicting scenes which had occurred in Ulster, and which were a disgrace to the country, and which some hon. Members on that side of the House who had been subject to terrorism in the past had been sent into Parliament to prevent, if possible, in future, the most terrible forms of terrorism 'were exercised. It must not be forgotten that in the bloody scenes which had been of frequent occurrence in the North of Ireland men had been frequently arrested on both sides—both Orangemen and Roman Catholics—and that, in many cases, while the Orangemen were allowed to go free the Roman Catholics were all sent to prison. Nor must they forget the infamous character of the common informer in Ireland. They must not forget that there existed men who would go to the Roman Catholic Church and receive the sacrament for 567 the sole purpose of being able to come forward afterwards and give evidence against those who administered it and whom they met in the church. He thought the proposition contained in the Amendment was a fair and reasonable one—namely, that if they were to be sent to prison without having the right to be brought before a Judge and jury for many months, they should, at least, be sent to prison only on some kind of sworn evidence that would commend itself to the common sense of the majority of the people. He feared very much, if Her Majesty's Government declined to accept the very fair and reasonable Amendment which was now before the Committee, or, at any rate, to accept something equivalent to it, that they were resolved to carry out the Bill on the same harsh lines that had already been predicted, and that it would be almost useless to make any futher appeal to them to modify the extreme rigour of the measure. He trusted that this would not be so; but that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would see the fairness of the proposal, and that, at least, as hishon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) had pointed out, they would prescribe some kind of deterring punishment for the man who made a false accusation. It was highly necessary that some means should be devised by Her Majesty's Government by which to insure that the autocratic power it was sought to place in the hands of the police officers, magistrates, and others in authority in Ireland would not be abused.
§ MR. BIGGAR
wished to say a few words on the Amendment now before the Committee before a division was taken. ["Divide !"] He would promise that he would only say a very few words. What they were asked by Her Majesty's Government to do, as he understood the matter, was to sanction the imprisonment of certain persons in Ireland without any evidence being forthcoming to prove their guilt. That was what the proposition of the Government amounted to. In Ireland, in the ordinary course of law, a decree for 5s. would not be given even in an undefended case without requiring two affidavits to be sworn in favour of the decree—first, that of the process-server, to prove that he had served the process; and, next, that of the person claiming the debt, who would have to swear that the debt was due. 568 Her Majesty's Government now proposed to consign persons to prison in Ireland without requiring any sworn evidence at all. He did not think that their position was at all tenable. In fact, no punishment should be imposed upon any person, however slight, without requiring some sworn evidence to be given in substantiation of the guilt of the accused. In all of these cases the information must come from somebody, and it would not increase the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to require that the information and evidence should be upon oath. If the evidence were required to be on oath the Executive must use some discretion and judgment in the charge he preferred, and they would see at once whether the information was of such a nature as to justify the issue of the Lord Lieutenant's warrant. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government would feel their responsibility, and would make careful inquiry; but he (Mr. Biggar) really did not see what there would be to prevent them from being imposed upon by false information. Her Majesty's Government could scarcely appreciate the class of persons who would be the witnesses, and the class of persons who would have to hear their statements and report to Dublin Castle. He would read a short note which he had just received from a friend in the county of Derry, in the North of Ireland. It had relation to the conduct of a gentleman who was a magistrate for two counties; and he (Mr. Biggar) thought it showed the desirability of having sworn evidence, or an affidavit, so that every person making a charge would be liable to the penalties which attached to the bringing forward of false accusations. He who simply preferred a false charge on unsworn evidence was not legally liable to any punishment; but if, on the other hand, he swore untruly, and the Government found that the charge he made was false, could afterwards put the law in motion, and bring the informers to trial for perjury. He would road the short note he had received, because he thought it furnished an illustration of the way in which the Bill, when it came into operation, was likely to act. It also showed the desirability of having all the safeguards that could possibly be included in the Bill in order to secure that the 569 measure should not be used for revengeful or tyrannical purposes. The writer of the letter in question said he wished to draw attention to the fact that a gentleman, who was a justice of the peace for two counties, had used threats against an officer of the Irish Land League. His name was Marcus Gage, and he was a tenant of the Hon. Robert O'Neill, who was Member for the County of Antrim in the last Parliament. Mr. O'Neill returned a portion of the rent last year, and offered to make the same remission this year; but the offer was refused, and the tenants went away without paying. The interview took place at Mr. O'Neill's house, and after a considerable number of the tenants had gone away, Mr. Gage was heard making use of the following words, addressed to an officer of the Land League:—There is a conspiracy here; but we shall soon hang a few of the Land Leaguers as an example to the rest, and then we shall be able to have the rents collected.This was a sample of the spirit in which some of the magistrates would be prepared to put the Act into operation. He had given the name of the magistrate, and he was prepared also to give the name of his informant. At any rate, it showed the desirability of the sanction of an oath to evidence of this nature, so that it would be less possible for any imposition to be passed off upon the Government. Personally, he had no bond fide substantial belief in the right hon. Gentleman's capacity or ability in a matter of this kind, or in the honour of any Member of the Government; but, at the same time, he thought it was desirable, if the Executive were to have the powers they asked for under the Act should have something like evidence before them to establish the guilt of the accused. It was such gentlemen as Mr. Marcus Gage into whose hands the Government were now playing, and it was from the tyranny of such men that he was anxious, if possible, to save the people of Ireland. If the Government were really anxious that justice should be done they would agree to the Amendment; but if, on the other hand, they desired to play into the hands of the honest landlords and become their confederates, rendering themselves equally guilty with those they supported they would retain the Bill in its present shape.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 60; Noes 149: Majority 89.—(Div. List, No. 30)
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
rose to move, in page 1, line 6, after "Lord Lieutenant," the insertion of the words—Acting upon the sworn information of not less than two credible persons, not being in Government pay or employment, and resident in the barony within which the act for which the warrant may he issued is alleged to have taken place.
The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member cannot be put, because it really raises the same question as that which has already been decided.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
said, he wished to move an Amendment to provide that the person arrested, instead of being "suspected of having" been guilty of treasonable practices, should be "believed to have" been guilty of them. ["Progress, Progress !"]
thought this was a convenient point for reporting Progress; and he would, therefore, make a Motion to that effect.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. DILLON
wished, before Progress was reported, to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he would give an opportunity, on some early day, for a discussion of the War in the Transvaal?
§ MR. DILLON
said, he had intended to explain the relation. He was going to explain that as he understood the matter—["Order!"]
I have already ruled that the subject upon which the hon. Member desires to put a question is not within the Motion before the Committee.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he should like to ask on the question of reporting Progress whether the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government intended to take the Bill to-morrow. The right hon. Gentleman nodded his head. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to proceed with it until Mon- 571 day, and if he was in Order he would give his reasons for making that appeal. Up to the present moment they had never had any discussion upon the merits of the Bill. '["Order:"]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he had been unable, in consequence of the noise that prevailed, to hear the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman will observe that one of the new Rule3 is, that on the Motion for reporting Progress all hon. Members should address themselves strictly to that point; and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman, in asking for a renewed discussion upon the merits of the Bill, is in Order.
§ MR. CALLAN
hoped the remarks he was about to make would be in Order. Up to the present moment hon. Members had scarcely had time to read, let alone inwardly to digest, these new Rules. ["Order !"] If he was offending against the Rules of Order it was through inadvertence and not intentionally. He believed that hon. Gentlemen had made an arrangement with the Irish Members to take a division early, in order to facilitate the bringing on of a discussion in regard to the proposed abolition of certain judicial offices. He had himself assented to the arrangement, but only on the understanding that no further attempt would be made to proceed with the Bill at present; and any attempt to go on with it would, he thought, be a breach of faith.
The Chair has not been informed of any such arrangement as that referred to by the hon. Member; and even if it were, its discussion does not come within the Motion before the Committee.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said he would again appeal to the Prime Minister not to proceed with the Committee on the Bill to-morrow. Up to the present they had no discussion on the provisions of the Bill. They had a long discussion on the merits of the ease made in support of the Motion to introduce the Bill; but they had no discussion on the general principles which the Bill involved. Several of those principles were of the 572 most important character. Some of the questions raised would refer to the treatment of prisoners, and other matters which were difficult and complex; and upon those questions he and his hon. Friends were now endeavouring to obtain information in order to lay their case before the House. He had a circular in his hand which bore very much on the subject; and he questioned whether that circular should not be sent to the right hon. Gentleman and others in order that the views of the Irish Members might be laid before the House. If they went on at the present rate the principles of the Bill could not be discussed; and he thought in the interests of fair discussion a little more time should he given.
Sir, I cannot think that the appeal of the hon. Gentleman is in earnest. We are now in the 26th night I think of debates connected with this subject, and the hon. Member complains that he has not had an opportunity of discussing the provisions of the Bill. If he means the provisions of the Bill in detail, that is precise by what we are going to discuss. If he means the general aspects of the Bill, these we have discussed, I will venture to say, at greater length than the character of any Bill has been discussed in this House in my recollection. I am very sorry, Sir, that I must ask the House not to accede to the appeal of the hon. Member.