§ MR. LABOUCHERE
begged to move the following Resolution: —That leave be given to the proper Officer of this House to attend the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice with the paper writing subscribed by Mr. Charles Bradlaugh at the Table of the House on the 21st February last, and the copy of the New Testament named in the Journals of the House of the same date.He said, he had not anticipated that it would have been necessary for him to make any statement in submitting this Resolution, because he took it to be the usual practice in all these cases that the Papers asked for were given as a matter of course, more particularly when the authorities of the House did not interpose any objection; but, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had given Notice of his intention to oppose the Motion, it would be necessary for him (Mr. Labouchere) to explain to the House, in as few words as possible, what was his object in submitting it. It was obvious that Mr. Bradlaugh either did or did not take the Oath at the Table of the House. After either taking the Oath or not taking it, Mr. Bradlaugh sat in that House, and an action was brought against him by Mr. Gurney for penalties. On Friday last he (Mr. Labouchere) presented a Petition on the subject, and on Monday he put on the Paper the Resolution he had now risen to move. On that occasion the Motion was put down for hearing 1112 during the time devoted to Private Business; but the hon. Member for North Warwickshire objected to its being taken, and it was not proceeded with. It was then put down at the end of the Public Business, and again the hon. Member for North Warwickshire objected. He (Mr. Labouchere) had received a letter that day (Tuesday) from the solicitor to Mr. Bradlaugh, in which he was informed that it was absolutely necessary for Mr. Bradlaugh's case that he should obtain the Papers now asked for, and that it was very possible that the case would come on within a fortnight. Therefore, it was desirable that Mr. Bradlaugh's solicitor should obtain the Papers as soon as possible. He (Mr. Labouchere) believed that the objection of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire was based on the idea that the Courts had decided that the present action was a collusive action. With the permission of the House, he would read what Mr. Bradlaugh's solicitor said in reference to the matter, and he thought the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would then perceive that he was entirely under an error. Mr. Bradlaugh's solicitor said—In reply to your note, the action was not dismissed as collusive. The Judges said they believed the pleadings were so drawn as not to raise the real facts, and there and then they declined to try the case on demurrer. They required the pleadings to be amended, so that the whole of the facts might be raised, and the action tried by a jury. The amendments have been made, and the case is down for trial, and it is with a view to that trial that the documents are required.He (Mr. Labouchere) had now explained the object of his Motion, which he now begged leave to submit for the acceptance of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to the proper Officer of this House to attend the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, with the paper writing subscribed by Mr. Charles Bradlaugh at the Table of the House on the 21st February-last, and the copy of the New Testament named in the Journals of the House of the same date."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Mr. Speaker, I cannot concur in the very limited view of the scope of this Motion, which the hon. Member for Northampton has presented to the House. I may at once declare that I deny the assertion that the action promoted in the Court of 1113 Queen'sBench—"Gurney v. Bradlaugh," on the 15th of May—the renewal of which is contemplated by this Motion, is not collusive, and I do so upon the authority of Mr. Justice Manisty; I assert that the action to which the Motion refers is collusive. I will read the last words which were uttered by the learned Judge in dismissing this case. They are taken from the shorthand writer's notes, and I think that they dispose of this part of the subject.Mr. Justice Manisty: There is no controversy between you and the defendant?Mr. Bradlaugh: No, my lord.Mr. Justice Manisty: Then there is an end to the case. Of itself, that would prevent our hearing it.These were the concluding words of Mr. Justice Manisty when he dismissed the case; and he dismissed the case because Mr. Bradlaugh was obliged to acknowledge that there was no controversy between the plaintiff and Gurney, and himself, the defendant. I think, Sir, that no hon. Member will now dispute what was the opinion of Mr. Justice Manisty on the 15th of May, 1882, when he spoke as the mouthpiece of the Court of Queen's Bench. From the first, when this case of "Gurney v. Bradlaugh" was brought before them, both the learned Judges of that Court stated that the pleadings were suspiciously imperfect. It was this that led them—both Mr. Justice Manisty and Mr. Justice Watkin Williams—to the conclusion that the case was collusive; and I have read to the House the concluding words of the senior Judge, expressing their decision that the case was manifestly collusive, that conclusion being founded upon the defective nature of the pleadings, and at last upon the acknowledgment of Mr. Bradlaugh himself that there was no controversy between the plaintiff and the defendant, the Judges in consequence refused to hear the case. The suit rejected on the 15th of May and the suit contemplated by the Motion before the House are identical—the plaintiff and the defendant the same persons. Lot me now call the attention of the House to the avowed purpose of Mr. Bradlaugh in attempting to bring under the cognizance and within the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench the Resolution by which this House condemned his conduct, when, on the 21st of February, uncalled by 1114 you, Sir, he came to that Table, produced a paper and a volume of some kind, I suppose it was a Testament, from his pocket, read the paper, kissed the book, threw the paper and the book on the Table, and then declared that he had duly taken the Oath. After that he was ordered to withdraw from the House; but, notwithstanding that order, he voted, and his vote was reported at the Table by one of the Tellers, the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Rowland Winn). Now, the object of this action is to raise the question whether that vote was valid, and for the further purpose of bringing the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd of February under the cognizance and under the jurisdiction of the Courts of Law, in manifest derogation of the position and rights of this House, which, as part of the High Court of Parliament, is superior to, and exempt from, the jurisdiction of the Courts of Law, especially as to the regulation of its internal proceedings, except so far as the House may think fit voluntarily to submit any part of its proceedings to the Courts. This the House has not done in the case of its Resolution of the 22nd of February last, which stands as follows:—Resolved, that Charles Bradlaugh, Esquire, one of the Members for the Borough of Northampton, having disobeyed the Orders of the House, and having, in contempt of the authority of this House, irregularly and contumaciously pretended to take and subscribe the Oath required by Law, be expelled this House.Immediately after this Resolution was adopted, the House adopted a Resolution ordering a new Writ to be issued for the election of a Member for the borough of Northampton. Mr. Bradlaugh has also avowed that he induced this fictitious complainant, Gurney, who, I believe, is a person resident in or near Northampton, to bring this pretended action, in order to give him the advantage of appearing as defendant. Is it not manifest, Sir, that this is a collusive action—a fictitious action? And, moreover, that it was brought for the purpose of bringing within the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench a Resolution of this House regulating its own internal state and proceedings, with no permission from the House itself. I would recall to the memory of the House that the Resolution of July the 1st, 1115 1880, under which Mr. Bradlaugh sat for some time in this House, concluded with the words "subject to any liability by Statute." The Resolution is to the following effect: —That every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath, shall henceforth (notwithstanding so much of the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd day of June last as relates to Affirmation) be permitted, without question, to make and subscribe a solemn Affirmation in the form prescribed by 'The Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866,' as altered by 'The Promissory Oaths Act, 1868,' subject to any liability by statute.The Courts have fully considered the matter, which was thus virtually referred to them by the House under the words, at the end of this Resolution, which I have quoted, and the Courts have hitherto, up to the Court of Appeal, decided that Mr. Bradlaugh had no right to sit in this House after taking the Affirmation appointed for Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists as the equivalent to the Oath; and it is a very curious fact that the Court of Appeal decided finally —thus far the Courts have decided— that Mr. Bradlaugh has no right to sit and vote in this House This has been the course of the case of "Clarke v. Bradlaugh;" and yet Mr. Bradlaugh has carried that case to the House of Lords. It appears to me, Sir, that the certainty that ho would be defeated in the House of Lords impressed itself on Mr. Bradlaugh's mind, and that he then adopted the violent alternative, which led the House to pass the Resolution of the 22nd of February, to the effect I have quoted, on the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). The House declared, by an enormous majority, that the conduct of Mr. Bradlaugh, in presenting himself at the Table of the House, uncalled by you, Sir, and unattended by the Clerk, when you were not sitting in the Chair, but standing in front of the Chair, and were reproving him for his conduct, was irregular and contumacious on the 22nd of February. Mr. Bradlaugh appears to have changed tactics. The decision of the Court of Appeal in "Clarke v. Bradlaugh" was given on the 23rd. At first Mr. Bradlaugh endeavoured, by this novel proceeding, to procure from you, Sir, some assent to the pleadings which the Court 1116 of Queen's Bench has declared to be defective and of a suspicious character, and I will read the reply to that attempt, which was written by your direction. That reply was addressed to Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, Attorneys, of Ely Place, and is dated the 28th of March, 1882, and in the following terms:—I am directed by the Speaker to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 27th instant, and of the copies inclosed therewith of the pleadings in an action, recently commenced, between Joseph Gurney, Plaintiff, and Charles Bradlaugh, Defendant. In reply, I have to inform you that the Speaker sees no reason for his interfering in any way with the proceedings now pending in connection with the suit in question.I trust that the House will, on the present occasion, follow the example of your caution and of your wisdom, and not involve itself in any way in this suit. The request is, that an Officer of this House shall attend the Court of Queen's Bench with the book and the paper which, on the 22nd of February, Mr. Bradlaugh either threw or left upon the Table of the House. In the case of an individual, Sir, there is no choice but of compliance with a subpoena; but that is a totally different case from that of this House. This House cannot be compelled to send its Officers to any Court. This can only be done by an act of judgment and volition on the part of this House; and if the House were to consent to send any of its Officers to attend this fictitious suit, it would be held that the House had, to a certain extent, sanctioned that suit. I submit, then, that your caution was not at all over-strained in this case, and that by all its precedents in like (if there be any) matters the House is bound to inquire into the circumstances of the case coming on for trial, before it commits itself by an act of judgment to ordering its Officers to attend the Court. I am very reluctant to detain the House further; but I felt bound to have this case watched, as having taken an active part in support of Mr. Clarke in his suit against Mr. Bradlaugh, I wanted to know why Mr. Bradlaugh had shifted his ground. It is obvious enough, in my opinion, that he has little hope of defeating Mr. Clarke's action. He has shifted his ground, and is obliged to set up a fictitious plaintiff in order to get this novel action before the Courts. It is a collusive action, and condemned as such by 1117 the Court of Queen's Bench, which has refused to hear it on that ground. What does Mr. Bradlaugh propose to do now? With the permission of the House, I will read a paragraph from what appears in The National Reformer, which is acknowledged to be Mr. Bradlaugh's own paper. In the number of that paper of June 4 I find this paragraph under the head"Jottings"—Although there is no disputed facts to he ascertained in Gurney v. Bradlaugh, this record has, in consequence of the decision of Justices Manisty and Watkin Williams, now been amended, and the suit will he set down for trial. After the trial it will again be brought before the Divisional Court for decision on the points of law as to the validity of the Oath taken, and of the Resolution of the House forbidding the taking. If the Divisional Court should then again refuse to hear argument, I shall appeal to the Court of Appeal, and if necessary to the House of Lords.I might have read Mr. Bradlaugh's own words before the Court of Queen's Bench in support of the first statement with respect to this case which I made; but I am 1oth to detain the House longer. I have given that which is, in truth, a summary of the facts. It does appear to me, Sir, that if this House intends to maintain its independence and sole authority over its internal proceedings it must not depart from its original Rule, that it will not submit its proceedings, Standing Orders, or Resolutions, especially those referring to its own organization, to any Court whatever, unless it has been proved that there is some justifiable necessity for taking that course. The object of Mr. Bradlaugh is to impugn the authority of this House in regulating its own proceedings, and the means he has adopted of doing this is a collusive action. I trust that the House will have too much regard for its own dignity to take any step until it is fully assured by the hon. and learned Attorney General, or by some competent authority, that he is cognizant of the circumstances of the case, that the case for trial is real, and that there is some necessity, some justifiable necessity, for the appearance of an Officer of this House in the Court of Law. I therefore oppose this Motion.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the subject of the Resolution submitted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton was, as a matter of course, one that was 1118 entirely in the hands of the House, and it was with the House that the decision must rest. He, therefore, assured the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that he was not endeavouring to guide or influence that decision in any way beyond what might be the effect of his own personal opinion on the matter. The statement he had to make on the subject before the House would be brief. It would be sufficient for his purpose to state that there were certain documents in the possession of the Officers of that House, and that those documents were deemed to be material to the hearing of the case to which the Resolution referred. The House would see that the Petition for leave to produce these documents was somewhat in substitution for the ordinary subpoena, which would be served on a subject whose attendance was required at the hearing of a suit; but here it was asked that an Officer of that House should attend with the Papers required. Under ordinary circumstances, the prayer of the Petition would, without doubt, be granted, and the House would permit its Officer to appear; and, without in any way acknowledging the jurisdiction of the Court or sanctioning any of its proceedings, that Officer would produce the documents thought to be necessary. The House had, therefore, to ask itself whether anything had been brought under its notice to induce it to depart from what was the ordinary course? It was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire that this action was a collusive action. These words, in the mind of a lawyer, meant a great deal; but he would ask the House to see whether this was really the case. It was well known that many suits which were brought before the Courts for the purpose of trying certain legal questions were commenced as friendly suits. This was frequently the case in the trial of questions affecting the settlement of wills, or the institution of suits for the purpose of determining matters of right in connection with real property, or the right to a water-course, or any other right on which legal questions such as these were constantly made the subject of friendly suits for the purpose of obtaining the decision of a Court of Law. But a collusive suit was a corrupt suit—a suit whereby the persons interested attempted to obtain some 1119 advantage against third persons. But, as far as he was able to gather from the statements that had been made in reference to the case under consideration, he assumed it to be the fact that the plaintiff in this action, being a friend of the defendant, had instituted a suit for the purpose of determining, as far as it could be determined, a question in which one of the parties had an interest; and this was a perfectly rightful course to take. But that such a proceeding could bind that House in any way was a very different thing. He was not suggesting that this could be the case; but only that the parties, who were friendly to each other, and who had one and the same object in view, had chosen to institute a suit, and so to shape the pleadings that the question at issue might be duly determined. It was an action for penalties—an action which one subject had a right to try, whether it was a hostile or a friendly suit. He would, however, again guard himself by saying that, in what he was saying, he had no wish to bind the House as to the decision to which it might come. If the House agreed to the prayer of the Petition, what was it it would do in allowing its Officer to appear with the Papers asked for when the suit was tried? It would be giving no countenance to the suit by taking such a step. If the suit had been wrongly instituted, and if it were held to be so wrongly instituted that the Judges thought they ought not to try the case, they would say so when the hearing took place. If the hearing were a wrong hearing, the Judges would so determine; if it were right that it should be heard, it would be heard; and the House, in directing its Officer to appear and produce the documents required in Court, would only be doing what it would do in any ordinary case. If the case were, as had been stated, a collusive case, the Judges, who would have the issue before them, would so determine; and it was for them to decide, and not for that House, whether the case was collusive. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire had stated that the Judges had decided that the case was collusive. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would excuse him for saying that ho was afraid he had been mistaken as to a legal technicality, though he (the Attorney General) was not anxious to enter into the matter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had been assured that the Court of Queen's Bench had decided that the action was so collusive that they would not hear the case.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the case had come before the Judges on a demurrer, and the Judges had said that the parties had not raised the proper issue; and they had suggested that the issue should be raised in another way. The Judges having so determined, the matter was now coming on for trial. But that House could have no regard to these matters, and it had no proof of them before it; nor was it within the competence, nor suitable to the dignity of the House, to endeavour to try whether the action was a collusive action or not. He would give the House an instance. In the case of "Miller v. Salomons," the suit was brought as a friendly suit by a friend of Alderman Salomons, for the purpose of trying a somewhat similar question to that raised in the case under consideration. That was a trial to determine the right to sit in that House; but what was done in that case did not in any way control the conduct of the House. Supposing that in that case there had been an application for documents in the possession of the House, what would that House have said? Would it have said—"We decline to afford the person bringing the action the opportunity of having the documents asked for produced in Court?" If the House, in the present instance, refused on the grounds stated to agree to this Motion, it would have, in every other case that might arise, to determine whether, in its opinion, the action had been rightly brought, or was a friendly action. Ho would ask the House what evidence it had before it that this was a collusive action? The House was not the tribunal to determine these matters. If there was to be inquiry as to collusion between the parties, or as to the friendliness of the action, the tribunal to conduct, and the method by which to conduct it, was the Court, else the House ran the risk, which ho was not willing it should run, of bringing itself into conflict with the Court when a subpoena was issued for the production of these documents. It was a conflict into which it was undesirable for the House to enter. He 1121 hoped hon. Members would believe that he was not desirous of entering into controversial topics; but he wished to regard the suit as one brought by A or B, and not against Mr. Bradlaugh, in which it would be no part of the duty of the House to decide how far there was collusion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was unwilling to interrupt the Attorney General; but it happened that he had been personally cognizant of the case of "Miller v. Salomons;" and he begged to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that that case was heard by leave of the Court after Mr. (now Baron) Bramwell and Mr. Channel had corrected the pleadings.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he would take that instance from the hon. Member. It was a friendly suit under similar circumstances, and if the House did not allow these documents to go, would it not be said that because the majority of the House had been in conflict with Mr. Bradlaugh they would not allow that to him which had been done in the case of an ordinary suitor? Was it not more consonant with the feeling of justice? Was it not well to avoid giving the occasion for a further grievance by refusing this to Mr. Bradlaugh because of the decision of a majority of the House, of which he was not now making any complaint? He was sure the House would not allow its feelings to enter into the consideration of the case, and he believed it would be for the dignity of the House to pass this Motion.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
confessed there was a great deal in what had been said by the Attorney General, and he thought what had been said might prevail with the House if he had satisfied the House that this was a real action at all. He (Sir Hardinge Giffard) observed in the letter which had been read by the hon. Member for Northampton at the commencement of these proceedings that it was suggested that the learned Judges dismissed the action because the pleadings were imperfectly framed. It was all very well to say that, and it was a legal technicality which he would not go into; but it raised the whole question whether, on the one hand, this action was a farce—a burlesque that should not be permitted to go on; or whether it was a real substantial action, 1122 in which latter case he would quite agree if that could be established. Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed that which any other suitor would be allowed. He would point out to hon. Members, not of the Legal Profession, that anyone could issue a writ and sue anyone else; but if it afterwards turned out, as here, that Mr. Bradlaugh procured some friend to issue a writ against himself, that was not an action at all. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Henry James) dissented]. He saw that the Attorney General made a gesture of dissent; but he knew a case not very long ago when the Court of Appeal decided this very point, that it was not a real action at all.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he knew the case which his hon. and learned Friend had in his mind; but he was not quite correct. What the Court held was that a friendly action did not prevent a succeeding action.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
said, the Court decided that there was no action at all, and no formal judgment, though the parties called themselves plaintiff and defendant. If there was a bargain between them they were not really plaintiff and defendant, and the Court would not entertain such suits. He would not say that such was the case in the present suit; but he certainly thought that before the House was asked to come to a decision hon. Members should have before them a copy of the shorthand writer's notes of the statements upon which the Court of Queen's Bench determined. What the Court had determined, he understood—for he had not read the document quoted from by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire—was that they declined to hear the case upon the statement of facts the parties had thought proper to put before the Court, for the Court did not believe this was a real action, but a colourable performance in which parties were masking as plaintiff and defendant, whereas there were no real plaintiff and defendant; for this reason, the Court declined to sit in judgment. This was a mere demurrer, the Attorney General said; but if that was the case there was no traverse on the record as there would have been, and judgment would have been given under ordinary circumstances. Mr. Justice Manisty began by saying—"I decline to hear this case; "and Mr. 1123 Watkin Williams said—"I prefer that it should be postponed until I am satisfied there is a real case of action." That was the language of the learned Judges; they considered it a sham action, and now the House was asked to make itself a party to this farce of trying a case in which there was no real plaintiff, and no real defendant. If this was the true condition of things, then the House should refuse to make itself a party to such a farce, and it was not consonant with the dignity of the House to allow its Officer to appear in support of such a collusion. If this was a true complaint the House should refuse the Motion. He did not know whether it had been established to the satisfaction of hon. Members, for probably few of them had seen the shorthand winter's notes; and he would suggest that the debate be adjourned, and that, in the meantime, the notes of the Judges' decisions should be presented to the House, for the House to form its judgment. If, in view of that decision, the House should come to the conclusion that this was no real suit, then he did not think the House would be consulting its own dignity in aiding a suit which, on that hypothesis, would be a solemn farce. He must say a word upon what the Attorney General had said as to the right of a suitor to bring any action. He entirely denied that any suitor had a right to bring a collusive suit, and learned Judges had more than once declined to entertain such actions brought for the purpose of ascertaining the opinion of the Court. As they had said, they appeared to try real actions and real causes of complaint; they did not sit for the purpose of giving an opinion in the form of deciding an action; and he must, therefore, protest against that which the Attorney General put forward as an absolute proposition, that anyone had a right to bring an action for the purpose of getting an opinion on a point of law. That view had been repudiated by Judges, and the House would do well to pause before it came to the conclusion that it should interfere, until it was found that this was a real action by a plaintiff to recover real penalties from a defendant, and that these terms were not masks assumed for another purpose. It would be much against the dignity of the House to aid and assist in any such performance.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he should like to know what the Attorney General meant when ho said so modestly that he did not seek to guide the House? Were hon. Members free to vote as they would, or were hon. Members opposite to be influenced by the Government Whips? When the hon. and learned Gentleman sought to draw a parallel between this sham action and a friendly action, he somewhat misled the House. Friendly suits were well known in the Court of Chancery, when members of a family had conflicting ideas of the right to property; but these rights were real; and the parties might, if they chose, pursue their rights in a hostile manner; but, by arrangement, the suit was arranged— perhaps by the same solicitor—on either side, and the Judges could see at once that it was a real action, although the suit was called a friendly one. But in this case there was no real action, but an impudent defiance of the House on the part of Mr. Bradlaugh, in the same spirit with which he came to the Table and insulted the House. In the same spirit he carried on the insult now, and he would even prostitute the Judges, if he could, to be a party to his attack. As he had attempted to get into the House before, so he would make the attempt again.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, so far as he understood the argument of the Attorney General, it came to this—that the House had not before it any real facts upon which to proceed; and he said, in effect, when certain allegations were made—Why not assent to the motion of the hon. Member for Northampton? But the House had no proof as to the position of the question, and, indeed, was absolutely ignorant on the subject. Most hon. Members, perhaps, had read a report in the daily newspapers; but beyond that the House knew nothing. Lawyers had expressed opinions on both sides, and it seemed to him that the only proper way to arrive at a determination was to have the proper documents before them on which to form a judgment. He referred to the Judgments delivered by the high judicial authorities in the suit of "Gurney v. Bradlaugh." He would, therefore, move the adjournment of the debate, intending, should the House accept that Motion, to follow it up by moving for the production of copies of the Judgments 1125 delivered in the suit of "Gurney v. Bradlaugh."
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. E. Stanhope.)
§ The House divided: —Ayes 65; Noes 85: Majority 20.—(Div. List, No. 137.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, this attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to institute a new treaty with the hon. Member for Northampton was so exceedingly inconvenient that it should not be agreed to by the House, and he therefore begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Lord Claud Hamilton.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought the House would be disposed to take a practical view of the question. The case stood for immediate trial; and if the House proceeded to an adjournment, the effect would be that by the operation of the Half-past 12 o'clock Rule the debate would be prevented from being resumed, and the result would be to precipitate that contest which he was anxious the House should avoid. It was only fair to the House that they should now be allowed to say whether the Motion should be accepted or not.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
observed, that the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was, in his opinion, the very way to produce— an obvious means for producing'—a conflict between the House and the Law Courts. The practice of the House had always hitherto been—especially with respect to causes touching its own proceedings—to refuse to allow an Officer of the House to attend a Court, unless the House was cognizant of the merits of the case; and if the House now consented to the Resolution, that, of itself, would constitute a departure from what had been the invariable rule and practice of the House. He was convinced that the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton tended to embroil the House with the Courts of Law.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, it was plain that the Conservative Party were resolved on a policy of Obstruction. They 1126 had taken the sense of the House, and immediately made another Adjournment Motion. It was on a piece with the proceeding which they had adopted early in the evening, when Notice was given of the unusual course of blocking the first reading of a Bill—the Ejectments Suspension (Ireland) Bill.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he thought it was desirable that the House should not take another division on adjournment. The Motion itself, no doubt, contained a difficult legal and technical point, and, so far as he was concerned, he could not support it; but as the House had agreed to the original Motion it was not wise to again divide on what would not be a fair test as to the real feeling of the House.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Nolan) had stated that in consequence of some individual Member of the Conservative Party blocking some Bill—the Ejectments Suspension Bill for Ireland — that, therefore, he would take every opportunity to oppose anything brought forward by Conservatives.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call on the hon. Member for Louth to confine himself to the Question before the House.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, then, as an Irish Homo Rule Member, he should take every opportunity of voting against any Bill or Motion brought forward by a coercive Liberal Party.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he viewed with suspicion anything that emanated from the hon. Member for Northampton; but, at the same time, after the appeal of the Attorney General, he would not stand in the way of the House, but would withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, it was the opinion of those who voted in the minority on the last division that they were not in a position to say what was the view which would be taken by the Judges as to this action, and that they ought not to support the Motion; but now that they had been beaten it was better for the minority to let the original Motion pass without voting upon it.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That leave he given to the proper Officer of this House to attend the Queen's 1127 Bench Division of the High Court of Justice with the paper writing subscribed by Mr. Charles Bradlaugh at the Table of the House on the 21st February last, and the copy of the New Testament named in the Journals of the House of the same date.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock.