§ MR. NEWDEGATE
There appeared to be some misunderstanding yesterday when I gave Notice of the Question I am about to put to the First Lord of the Treasury; and inasmuch, Mr. Speaker, as I founded the Question I am about to put upon certain dicta which you uttered from the Chair in maintenance of the Order of the House, and upon the Records of the proceedings of the House itself, I trust that I shall be pardoned if, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I read in explanation your dicta, as given in Hansard and in the Journals of the House. I find in Hansard's Debates that on the 22nd of February, 1882, you said, in allusion to Mr. Bradlaugh's conduct—I have again to call the attention of the House to the repeated acts of disobedience of the hon. Member for Northampton. He has disobeyed the Orders of the House and the directions of the Chair in coming within the Bar. By the Order of the 7th of February last, the hon. Member was ordered to take his seat below the Bar; and on every occasion since, when the hon. Member has passed within the Bar, I consider he has been guilty of disobedience to the Order of this House; and I have now again to call the attention of the House to that circumstance."— (3 Hansard,  1341.)I find attached to the division of that day—the 22nd of February, 1882—a 429 shorter version of your dictum in that respect. It is as follows:—Whereupon Mr. Speaker reminded the House of the repeated acts of disobedience committed by Mr. Bradlaugh by coming within the Bar, in contempt of the Orders of the House, and of the directions of the Chair, and called the attention of the House to his having again on this occasion come within the Bar, and Mr. Speaker thereupon desired Mr. Brad-laugh to withdraw.Then, with reference to the last part of my Question, as to Mr. Bradlaugh having voted, I find this in the same note to the division—And the numbers having been reported by the Tellers, Ayes 291, Noes 83, it was stated by Mr. Wynn, one of the Tellers for the Noes, that Mr. Bradlaugh had voted in the Division Lobby of the 'Noes.' Mr. Speaker thereupon stated that the Tellers having reported that Mr. Bradlaugh had voted in the Division, it was for the House to consider what should be done with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh's Vote. But no Motion with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh's Vote having been made, Mr. Speaker declared the numbers, Ayes 291, Noes 83.With this explanation, I conclude by asking the Prime Minister, Whether he was rightly understood, on Thursday last, to declare that it was not his intention to direct the Attorney General to institute proceedings against Mr. Bradlaugh for having sat and voted in the House on the 22nd February 1882, or on any other occasion?
Sir, nothing could be more clear, I think, than the Question of the hon. Member, now that I have seen it printed, and had the opportunity of considering it, though I was not able to follow it when he delivered it orally yesterday. It is not a fact that I declared on Thursday last that it was not our intention to direct the Attorney General to institute proceedings with reference to the 22nd of February, 1882, because down to this time I have not answered any Question in relation to the circumstances of that day. The branches of the Question are two, and apart, and are perfectly distinct one from the other. The 22nd of February, 1882, I find, was the day on which Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table, uttered the words of the Oath, performed the ceremony of kissing the Book, and thereupon took his seat and voted. The hon. Gentleman, in one branch of his Question, I presume, intends to ask whether we have directed, or intended to direct, the Attorney General to pro- 430 secute Mr. Bradlaugh for having so done. My answer is—No, we do not; and for this reason, that the House took the matter into its own hands. As was truly said by the hon. Gentleman, the whole matter was brought to the full attention of the House, and the House proceeded, on a Motion made for that purpose, to the expulsion of Mr. Bradlaugh. It did not appear to us then, and it does not appear to us now, that it was our duty to take any proceedings at law in regard to the matter when the House had dealt with it by the adoption of the extreme remedy in its hands, which it was thought was called for by the circumstances of the case. The mere disobedience of Mr. Bradlaugh to the Order of the House could not, I believe, have necessarily led to such a result. Unless I am misinformed, Mr. Alderman Salomons disobeyed the Order of the House in taking his seat—I am not sure whether he voted—but certainly in taking his seat after he had been prevented taking the Oath at the Table in the manner in which he desired to take it in consonance with the principles of his religious profession. That does not appear to have been considered a case of contumacy, and, accordingly, no penal measure was adopted by the House. But the case of Mr. Bradlaugh was thought to be of a different order, and, therefore, a penal measure was adopted by the House; and the Government did not deem it their duty to take any other steps in reference to that proceeding. Then the closing words of the Question of the hon. Member are, whether we do not intend to prosecute Mr. Bradlaugh for having sat and voted on any other occasion? With regard to that subject, I have answered Questions already, and this is of a totally different character. These are occasions on which Mr. Bradlaugh sat and voted after he had, in due and regular form, so far as this House was concerned, made a declaration at the Table. The law with respect to his right to make that declaration was, at that time, I believe, entirely unsettled by the Courts—the question had not been before them; and the Resolution which had been passed by the House in 1880 declared that a Member returned to Parliament, on coming to the Table to declare, should be permitted to do so at his own risk, in respect to the conse- 431 quences, in the event of the law being declared against him. In that case, as I think has been stated already, we instituted no preliminary consideration of the steps it might be our duty or not our duty to take in a contingency which did not arise. We were not aware in what way the law would be declared, nor had we any means of knowing what the decision of the Courts would be. After the law had been declared, the case was entirely different; but the action brought against Mr. Bradlaugh was brought, as I think I stated yesterday, instantly after his having sat and voted in the House, so that, in point of fact, even if it had been the intention of the Attorney General to prosecute, he was prevented from doing so by the action of the hon. Member.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I wish to ask the Prime Minister, with reference to the division of the House, which I quoted, whether the decision of the Court as to the law affecting those who may sit and vote in this House without any right to do so, has devolved upon Her Majesty's Government, that right being taken away from the public; and, whether he intends to establish a precedent, and to exercise a discretion—in fact, whether he will suspend the operation of the law?
The Question, if I understand it rightly, has been answered by me already in replying to a Question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), in which answer I stated that in the case of a gentleman coming to the Table and being permitted to declare against the law, which has now been settled, it would be, in our view, the duty of the Attorney General to institute proceedings against him.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is to be understood that, when Her Majesty's Government pressed upon the House of Commons the Resolution under which Mr. Bradlaugh was permitted and invited to affirm, Her Majesty's Government had not considered, either by seeking the advice of the Lord Chancellor or the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, whether Mr. Bradlaugh will not be liable to an action at the suit of the Attorney General, or whether they had arrived at the decision that, under no circum- 432 stances, should the Attorney General be instructed to institute proceedings in accordance with the Law?
I believe I have answered all the matters that can be answered in this Question. I have already given more than one answer stating that, before proposing the Resolution of July, 1880, we had not entered upon the consideration of what might or might not be our duty in a contingency which had not arrived, and which we had not any means of foreseeing. Therefore, no opinion was given on the subject, either by the Lord Chancellor or by the Law Officers of the Crown; and certainly we had not arrived at the decision that under no circumstances should the Attorney General be instructed to institute proceedings. I believe I have stated the whole of that on former occasions.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, before proposing the Resolution of the 1st July 1880, the Cabinet had considered the liabilities to which any elected Member was exposed who should avail himself of its provisions in contravention of the Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866; and, if not, what was the meaning the Government then attached to the words "subject to any liability by statute," contained in the Resolution; and, whether the Government, including the Lord Chancellor, had not considered how far it was their duty to vindicate the Law, by proceeding, through the Attorney General, before the decision pronounced by the House of Lords, presided over by the Lord Chancellor, in the case of Clark versus Bradlaugh, or whether, adopting the plea on which the Resolution was recommended to the House by the Solicitor General, they determined to leave the action to be commenced by a private individual? The hon. Gentleman said that the Question really was, whether it would not have been possible for the Attorney General to have instituted proceedings against Mr. Bradlaugh at the same time as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire; and, whether, if he had done so, the case would not have been tried under the two alternatives, because by not instructing the Attorney General to commence proceedings, the Government—including the Lord Chancellor, who had taken upon himself to decide the 433 question—practically adopted the plea put forward by the Solicitor General, and which had induced the House to consent to the Resolution allowing Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm at his peril?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
I do -not accept the con-elusions arrived at by the hon. Member. As to the legal question, whether two actions could be sustained and maintained at one time, for the same penalty, I say of course they could not. When the action was commenced by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, it was then generally supposed he had the right to commence it. In those circumstances no action ought to have been, or could have been, brought by Her Majesty's Government.
SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLEF
I beg to give Notice that I shall call attention to the conduct of the Lord Chancellor in this matter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I would ask the Attorney General, whether the vote given by Mr. Bradlaugh in the question before the Court and before the House of Lords was the vote given on the 22nd of February, 1882? I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that it was not.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
In these circumstances I need not inform the hon. Gentleman it certainly was not.