§ Order for Consideration read.
§ WRIT AND OTHER DOCUMENTS considered.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that in consequence of the communication which had been made to the House yesterday by the Serjeant-at-Arms, he had now to move—That leave be given to Ralph Allen Gosset, esquire, Serjeant-at-Arms, to appear and plead in the Action brought against him by Charles Bradlaugh, esquire.He believed that it would be only necessary very briefly to state that the Motion was made not only on account 50 of its necessity and prudence, which he thought would cause it to be accepted by the House, but also because this course was entirely governed by precedent. He was sure that the House would desire to maintain, to the fullest extent, its right to control its own action within its walls, and that no interference would be willingly allowed with such action by any Court, under any circumstances whatever. But he was sure the House would see that, on the other hand, there was a primâ facie right in any and every subject of this Realm to institute proceedings in any Court of Justice. Therefore it was necessary, if such action was instituted, that the Court should be informed, in some way or other, that the suit which was brought was an interference with the rights and Privileges of this House; and, until that was done, the Court would be uninformed as to the fact that any question as to the Privileges of that House was involved. In former times, he believed that the attempt was made to communicate that fact—namely, that the Privileges of that House were involved in the question in dispute—by means of a certificate from the Speaker in the Chair; but such a method of communication had been found to be very inconvenient and very insufficient, and, therefore, many years ago, as early as 1810 at least, when an action was brought against one of the Predecessors of' the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair (Mr. Speaker Abbot), and also against the then Serjeant-at-Arms, by Sir Francis Burdett, the House resolved in terms very similar to those which he (the Attorney General) was now submitting to the House. Since that time some six or seven occasions had occurred of actions having been brought, when the like course had been pursued, and that House had always directed that a plea should be entered, on behalf of the officer of the House, to ensure that the Court might be informed that the officer was acting in accordance with the Orders of the House, and that, therefore, the Court could not interfere to stop the operation of or question those Orders. He would not dwell upon these precedents, neither did he enter very much into the question at large, whether it was, as he said it was, a prudent course to pursue, because the House would recollect that, as late as May of last year, an action was brought, in 51 many respects similar to the present one—although this one seemed to be an action in anticipation of events that might occur, whereas the action of 1882 had reference to events that had occurred—but the same principle was involved, and he had then, when the question came before the House, stated the reasons why he thought a Motion similar in its terms to the present should be submitted to the House, and the House resolved unanimously that that was a proper and fit course to pursue. The result was, that in accordance with the Orders of the House, the defence of the Deputy-Serjeant-at-Arms was brought to the notice of the Court. That defence was held by the Court to be sufficient, inasmuch as the Courts had no power to interfere with the action of the House, and that the House, forming as it did a part of Parliament, constituted ono of the highest Courts in the Realm, and, therefore, had a right to determine its own action within its own walls. That being the course then taken, he could perceive no reason why a similar course should not be pursued now. He must point out that, if this course were not taken, and the House refused to interfere, great inconvenience or something worse might arise, and the result would be that they would leave the officer of the House unprotected. Either that officer would have to appear personally—and he presumed that that was not a course which the House would desire that should be taken, when an officer was acting in obedience to an Order of the House—or he would not appear, and then the action which had been commenced would be entirely unanswered. The result would be, that the Court would not be informed of the fact that the officer of the House had acted in obedience to the Orders of the House, and the plaintiff would be able to state any circumstances he thought proper, entirely uncontradicted, and the judgment would go by default, in consequence of the Court not being informed of the real state of the facts, and then, when the process of the Court was attempted to be executed, they would have to take action to prevent a grave inconvenience and confusion from arising. He might point out that in the case of "Stockdale v. Hansard" that course was practically followed. The officer was, in the first instance, allowed to plead in person; but the matter was 52 not followed up in the way he had indicated, and the consequence was that, afterwards, the House came into collision with the Courts of the country, a circumstance which gave rise to many debates, and involved a difficulty from which the House had much trouble in escaping. Under those circumstances, he could not anticipate that any objection would be raised to the adoption of the course which he now proposed should be taken. If they did not adopt that course, he feared that consequences might arise of grave inconvenience, which they could not at that moment foresee, but which could not possibly occur if they followed the course which was taken last year. The House would, he trusted, excuse him for being so brief in this matter. He begged to move the Resolution which he had already submitted to the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to Ralph Allen Gosset, esquire, Serjeant-at-Arms, to appear and plead in the Action brought against him by Charles Bradlaugh, esquire."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
said, that a great deal had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General in which he concurred; but he thought that before the House agreed to what seemed to him the very grave precedent which it was now invited to adopt, it should have distinctly before it a statement by which it could understand what was really the question at issue. Doubtless the course suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman had been adopted in a great many cases, and for this obvious reason—that, judicially, it could not be known what was the subject matter of complaint; for, although, in the first instance, authority might have been given by the House, it might well have been, as in one or two instances it was decided to have been, that the authority so given to the officer had been exceeded; and therefore, in so far as what he had done in excess of that authority, he was liable to be dealt with by an action in the Courts of Law. But that was not the case now. The case now was one in which, from the correspondence which had been read, and from the form of writ which had been read also, it appeared that, for the first time, it was sought to bring into a Court of Law the question whether the House of Com- 53 mons had authority—conclusive and exclusive authority deal with matters arising within its own walls. That was not a complaint of anything which had been done, and therefore was not a complaint that could possibly have reference to any excess of authority by any of the officers of the House. That which was sought to be obtained was an injunction, and it was sought to bring the matter into the Courts of Law for the purpose of an inquiry whether the House of Commons had power to make an Order upon its own officers with reference to proceedings occurring within its own walls. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman might be right or he might be wrong as to the convenience of the course which he suggested; but what occurred to him (Sir Hardinge Giffard) was, that it was far too grave a matter to be decided at such a short Notice, and he would be disposed to move either the adjournment of the Debate, or the appointment of a Committee to inquire and determine what should be done in the matter. He must say, at the present moment, he regarded with very considerable apprehension that what the House would do by this course of proceeding would be tantamount to a surrender of the Privilege which the House of Commons had certainly, for the last 200 years, claimed—to treat an action brought against an officer of the House, for anything done or to be done in obedience to its Orders, as an absolute breach of Privilege. He did not want to go back into any precedents, but there was one in which the House sent two Judges to the Tower for having tried a case affecting the Privileges of the House; and, even if he did, he need not go further back than 1844, in which year, if his recollection was correct, Mr. Howard, a solicitor, for having brought an action against Mr. Gosset, the then Serjeant-at-Arms, was himself brought to the Bar on the charge of having been guilty of committing a breach of Privilege. Now, it might be right or it might be wrong that the House should surrender their Privilege in such matters; but he could not help thinking that when a question now, for the first time, arose, in a definite and clear form, that the plaintiff had complained, not of something that had been done, but statedly as to something the Serjeant-at-Arms 54 had said he would do in obedience to the Orders of the House of Commons, whether the House ought to permit such an action to go on. The claim was that an injunction should be issued, and that it should be argued in a Court of Law as to whether the House of Commons had the right to give such a direction to its officers. That writ claimed an injunction, and, nothing else, and, coupled with the letters which had been read to the House, it came to this, that the Speaker having, by the authority of the House, directed the Serjeant-at-Arms to exclude Mr. Bradlaugh from the House, an injunction should be issued by the Courts of Law to restrain the Serjeant-at-Arms from obeying the Orders of the House. It seemed to him that was far too serious and important a question to be decided in this very light and cavalier manner, and for that reason he now moved the adjournment of the Debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." (Sir Hardinge Giffard.)
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, he could not help thinking that his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hardinge Giffard) must be under some misapprehension when he said the question was whether they would allow the action to go on. That was not the question. The House could not help the action going on. What his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General proposed was, that the action should not go on on the ex parte statement of the person who had brought it, without any security that the facts should be brought to the attention of the Court. Of course, the action would go on, whether the House wished it or not, and he did not understand what the hon. and learned Member for Launceston meant. He supposed the hon. and learned Gentleman meant that if, upon the statement of the case which the plaintiff made, the learned Judge should decide in the plaintiff's favour, that then the House might send the Judge to prison, and any of the officials who carried out his judgment. [Mr. HEALY: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member assented to that, and cheered it; but was that really the course upon which the House of Commons at the present time, in its 55 cool senses, was going to embark? He should have thought that the experience of the past would have shown that such a course would be a foolish one in the extreme. There was no need to bring the House into a needless conflict with the Courts of Law, which would not conduce to the dignity of the House or to the benefit or advantage of anybody. The only question was whether they should now take such a course; or whether the House should take the precaution, as on the previous occasion, of seeing that the facts were brought before the Courts of Law, in order that they might not be ignorant of the circumstances of the ease, and so come into conflict with the rights of that House? No inconvenience or difficulty resulted from a defence being made to the previous action, and there was no abandonment of the rights of the House. The House was now asked by the Government Motion really to enforce its rights. The Serjeant-at-Arms could not appear to the action without their leave. Was it not a sensible thing to give him leave to appear, so as to lot the facts be brought before the Court? Surely that was likely to lead to a better result than if they did not give him leave, and if, on an erroneous representation of the facts, the Courts decided the case against their own jurisdiction, it would be then that the conflict would arise; and it was to avoid that inconvenience that the present course, recommended by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, was proposed to the House. He submitted that, by adopting such a course, they would abandon no right, but only be exercising the same discretion as when they determined, a year ago, that the Serjeant-at-Arms should have leave to appear, and when the matter at issue was decided in full knowledge of all the circumstances.
said, he did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) was dealing with the matter on a proper footing. He said that the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) wished the case to go on without the Court being properly informed; but it was the business of the Court to inform itself whether it had jurisdiction. Supposing that the Serjeant-at-Arms did not appear, on the ground that the writ 56 showed that the plaintiff was seeking to invoke the action of the Courts in a matter in which the Courts had no jurisdiction, the course that would be taken by the learned Judge would be this—that when the plaintiff appeared before him, and asked for an injunction to forbid the Serjeant-at-Arms obeying the Orders of the Speaker, the Judge would at once say—"I have no jurisdiction to issue an injunction in this matter," and would at once dismiss the the case. He thought there was no doubt that would be the course that would be taken by the learned Judge. The question for the House was, whether they should give their sanction to one of their officers condescending to appear to take any part in a proceeding, the nature of which he knew to be an injunction craved from the Courts of Law, directing him to disobey the Orders of that House? He thought there was so much doubt on the question as to justify the House in accepting the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston, and adjourning the debate, in order to give the House a little more time to consider the question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Before this matter goes any further, it is right that I should remind the House that the immediate Question before it is the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate. If the House desires to debate the Main Question, then the Motion for Adjournment must first be disposed of by being withdrawn.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked the Speaker whether, on a Question of Privilege, the debate could be adjourned? He was under the impression that it must be carried on until the Question was decided.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is quite open to the House to adjourn the debate on this matter, if it thinks proper; but, as I have already pointed out, the debate on the Main Question cannot proceed before the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate has been disposed of.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that Mr. Bradlaugh, by this action, had—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newde- 57 gate) does not appear to have taken note of my observation that the debate on the Main Question cannot proceed until the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate has been disposed of.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then, may I ask the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), who moved the adjournment, to tell us to what day he proposes to adjourn the debate?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Speaking strictly on the question of Adjournment, to which I will confine myself, I imagine that the matter stands thus. A certain course has been taken which has been brought under the notice of the House. The hon. and learned Gentlemen the Attorney General has moved that, in this case, we should proceed in the same manner as that in which we proceeded in another case last year. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) considers that there is a distinction between that case and the present. He also considers that the question which is raised is one which touches so nearly the question of the rights and Privileges of this House, that it ought not to be decided, at all events, without some discussion, in order to show how far we have raised and clearly considered questions which may affect the Privileges of this House for all time. My hon. and learned Friend thought that it would be better that the discussion should take place after an interval for consideration; but it seems to me that the House is in a position in which it might be very fairly, if it so pleased, discuss the question, and so settle it at once; and, in order that this decision should not be hampered by a Motion for Adjournment, upon which the merits of the case cannot be entered upon, I would suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that he should withdraw the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate, and let us continue the discussion on the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
said, he was willing, with the leave of the House, to withdraw his Motion; but wished to point out, by way of explanation, that he had suggested two alternative courses—either to refer the matter to a Committee, or to move the Adjournment. 58 He understood, from a gesture that he made, that his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General objected to a Committee, and therefore he moved the adjournment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to call attention to the course Mr. Brad-laugh was pursuing in the country. He had been proceeding from place to place accusing that House of being the source of illegality. Last year be issued an address, in which he impugned the right of that House to exercise any jurisdiction over the admission of those elected to be its Members; while, by law, it was the duty of that House to witness the swearing in of all Members, and to see that they took the Oath or Affimation of Allegiance, according to the spirit and intent of the Statutes imposing these obligations. Mr. Bradlaugh seemed to imagine that that House had ceased to be a portion of the High Court of Parliament, and appealed to "our masters," the constituencies of the country. Mr. Bradlaugh was doing everything he could to derogate from the position of the House of Commons, and was doing that during the Session of Parliament. Surely, the first duty of the Members of that House was to preserve the rights and efficiency of the Assembly to which they were returned by the constituencies; and, if the House was worthy of the confidence reposed in it by the constituents, it would deal with Mr. Brad-laugh's conduct as a matter of violated discipline, and of insult, directed against one branch of the highest Court existing in this country. In that view he was supported by a leading Member of the Liberal Party and ex-Cabinet Minister. In speaking on the Parliamentary Oaths Act Amendment Bill in 1882, the Duke of Argyll said—On the 10th of March Mr. Bradlaugh circulated by post—it came to me by post, and I suppose it came to other noble Lords—a most violent and scurrilous attack upon the House of Commons in consequence of the vote of the 6th of March. I will not take up the time of the House by reading any part of that address. It was called An Address to the Majority of the House of Commons,' and, as far as I can judge, it is full of matter insulting to the House of Commons and if the House should be of that opinion, there is nothing whatever in this Bill, or in any Bill which we should pass, which would prevent the House of Commons from 59 continuing the exclusion of this particular Member on the ground of discipline."—(3 Hansard,  1369.)That was spoken by the noble Duke, while he was proposing a Bill to admit Atheists to this House. No one, therefore, could doubt that the noble Duke spoke with perfect impartiality.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had not risen for the purpose of opposing the Motion of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, for it was very evident that if Mr. Bradlaugh brought an action against one of the officers of the House they were bound to cover that officer with the protection of the Law Officers of the Crown, and to see to their appearing in answer to the suit. But he took exception to the mode in which the hon. and learned Attorney General asked the House to instruct him to plead that the Orders of the House to its officers were over and above the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not propose to allow the Court to inquire whether those Orders were legal or illegal, but simply asked the House to pledge itself to a prejudice, and to assert that no Court of Law in this country had any right to interfere with the disciplinary power of the House of Commons within its walls. It appeared to him (Mr. Labouchere), however, that if such a docrine were allowed it would be open to the House to pass a Resolution directing the Serjeant-at Arms to kill him (Mr. Labouchere) within its precincts. That being done, the Attorney General for the time being—perhaps it might be the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard)—might appear and say that he had been justly and properly killed, and that the Sergeant-at-Arms was covered by the Order of the House. It seemed to him (Mr. Labouchere) that it would be only reasonable that the hon. and learned Attorney General should allow the question to be raised that was at the bottom of the whole of this dispute—namely, whether the Order of the House was legal or illegal? That had been the desire of Mr. Bradlaugh from the commencement of his dispute with the House. He had all along wished to carry the matter before a Court of Law, and in every way in his power he had sought to attain this object. The case really was not one of "The Serjeant-at-Arms v. Mr. 60 Bradlaugh," but "The People of England?. the House of Commons." ["No, no!" and laughter.] Well, such was the view unquestionably taken by a very large number of persons out of the House, who could not understand why it was that the House should claim—just as Sovereigns used to claim in days of old—to be superior to the law, and should decline to allow the question of whether the Order of the House was legal or not to be submitted to the tribunals of the country. This was the contention of Mr. Brad-laugh. He held that the disciplinary power of the House over a Member commenced as soon as he was a complete Member, and that he derived his right to go up to the Table, and to do what the House had declared was requisite to qualify him to sit and vote in the House, from the fact of his being elected; and that the House possessed no right to interfere with him, or in any way to interfere with his going up to the Table and performing those acts which were necessary to enable him to take his seat. Having performed those acts, Mr. Bradlaugh did not deny for a moment that he came entirely under the disciplinary power of the House, or that the House would have a perfect right the next day to order him to be excluded from the House. He (Mr. Labouchere) would place before the House a hypothetical case to show the absurdity of the denial that a Member derived his right to sit and vote from the fact of his election. Let the House suppose that this Parliament were dissolved, and that another House of Commons came into existence. Then, as soon as there were 40 Members sworn, and a quorum was constituted, they might, without giving any reason for so doing, pass a Resolution directing the Sorjeant-at-Arms to exclude every other Member. This quorum of 40 might then proceed to legislate as the House of Commons of this country. ["No, no!"] He asserted, and defied anyone to deny, that if the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General was correct, the House of Commons had an inherent right to prevent any duly elected Member who was not disqualified by law—[Mr. NEWDEGATE: That is the point.]—from coming up to the Table of the House, from taking the Oath, and then taking his seat. Then, 61 no one could deny the fact that 40 Members of the House, being a quorum, might exclude every other Member who was elected. He thought it was right, in stating that proposition, to make clear to the country the utter absurdity, injustice, and illegality of the course of action that had been pursued, and was still being pursued, by the House towards Mr. Bradlaugh.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he thought the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) clearly showed how very injudicious and impolitic was the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, for it appeared, from what the hon. Member had just said, that it was the wish of Mr. Bradlaugh to bring this question before a Court of Law, in order to test the legality of the proceedings of that House, and he wished to obtain the decision of a Court of Justice on the rights of that House, which was a higher Court than any other Court in this country. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) did not think much of the arguments used by the hon. and learned Attorney General, nor did he think he was ever more astounded than when he heard the comparisons drawn by the hon. and learned Gentleman between the proceedings this year and those of last year. It was impossible to have two cases standing upon more widely different footings. Last year the Serjeant-at-Arms had acted, and, consequently, it might have been right for a Court of Law to inquire whether that officer had, or had not, exceeded the instructions received by him from the House of Commons. But here Mr. Bradlaugh endeavoured to anticipate the action of the Serjeant-at-Arms, and to stand between the House of Commons and the Orders it had given to one of its servants. If the servant exceeded his duty, then it was perfectly legal for the Judges to inquire into it; but until some act had been performed by the Serjeant-at-Arms, in obedince to the Orders of the House, it seemed utterly irrational, as well as illegal, for a Court of Law to step in to say that the House had no right to give those Orders, and that they should not be executed for fear of committing some illegality of which Mr. Bradlaugh might afterwards take advantage. He trusted 62 that the Government, notwithstanding their eternal desire to force Mr. Brad-laugh into the House, would not carry their proposal.
§ MR. HORACE DAVEY
said, that he did not understand what was the alternative course recommended by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), or by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), to that which was proposed by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. The hon. Member for Portsmouth said it would be irrational and illegal to allow a Court of Law to stand between this House and the Orders which it had thought fit to give to one of its officers. There might be a great deal of truth in that; but he (Mr. Horace Davey) contended that the alternative course which was proposed was the very course which would enable that to be done, and that the course proposed by the hon. and learned Attorney General was exactly that which was best calculated to put the Courts of Law in possession of all the circumstances and the proper aspect of the case. The hon. and learned Attorney General proposed that the House should instruct its Law Officers to put in a plea, that the act which it was said Mr. Bradlaugh desired to restrain the Serjeant-at-Arms from committing was an act which he had been ordered by the House to do, and that the Serjeant-at-Arms should plead the Orders of the House as a complete justification. He did not understand his hon. and learned Friend to propose, or suggest, that any pleading should be put in on behalf of the Serjeant-at-Arms, or that any issue should be taken or raised, as to the legality of the Order made by the House. All that was to be pleaded was, that the House having given its Order to its own officer, no Court of Law had any jurisdiction or authority to interfere with the execution of that Order. That appeared to him to be a perfectly proper defence. He thought the House was bound to support its own officers in executing its own Orders; and it was simply because he thought the course recommended by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General best fitted to confine the issue before the Court of Law to that question, that he intended to support the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend now before the House. It had been said—"Why should we 63 condescend to appear before a Court of Law at all? We should not sacrifice our dignity by condescending to appear before a Court of Law." Such language might be applicable to other times; but he did not think its weight had continued down to the present time. For his own part, he saw no condescension, but only the manifestation of a proper respect for the Courts of Law, in authorizing, or ordering, if necessary, their officers to appear in proper mode before them. The alternative course for the House to adopt was, that they should not put in any plea at all, and that they should leave Mr. Bradlaugh at liberty to move on the proper Motion day, making such statements as he might think proper to make in any affidavits that he might choose to file. But, in that case, there was no security that the true facts of the case would be brought to the attention of the Court; and it might be asked to adjudicate on a question involving grave Constitutional issues. Such, proceedings might bring the House into collision with the Courts of Law, or rather the Courts of Law into collision with the House, simply because the House of Commons had not taken the trouble, or had not "condescended," to lay before them the proper state of the facts. In his opinion, therefore, it was much more consonant with their own dignity and respect, and much more respectful to the Courts of Law, that they should authorize their officer not to raise any question as to whether the Order of the House was legal or illegal, but that he should merely plead the Order of the House. The course proposed by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General was perfectly consonant with precedent, and was best calculated to maintain the dignity of the House.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he thought it would be very much to be regretted if, upon a question of that kind, there should be anything like a considerable division of opinion, or any apparently sharp antagonism of feeling, as to what was the right course to adopt. He felt sure that every hon. Member of the House only desired to vindicate fairly the position of the House in reference to this transaction. When his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) spoke, he pointed out the truism that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General 64 had not had an opportunity of testing the judgment of the House, and said he thought that he and his Colleague the Solicitor General ought to have every opportunity of conversing over the matter, and of making up their own minds about it. Under those circumstances, he (Mr. Gibson) would have been very glad to have had an opportunity of thinking out the matter more fully; and if time had permitted, and it had arisen at an earlier period of the Session, he should have been very glad to have seen the course taken of referring the subject to the care and calm consideration of a Committee to see exactly how they stood; or, if not that, to defer further proceedings as regarded it to another and a later day. But his right. hon Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) had given good reasons why the matter should now be put into a train of final decision, if possible, and especially after the way in which the matter had been presented to the House, and after the short and temperate discussion that had taken place upon it. Personally, he (Mr. Gibson) was very much disposed to think that, had the matter been left to the Judge alone, as in the case of what he might term a collusive action against Mr. Bradlaugh, by a plaintiff selected by himself, the Court would at once challenge legal evidence from Mr. Bradlaugh. He had very little doubt that, if this case were now brought before the Court, the Judge would very likely take up this point, and put Mr. Bradlaugh to prove that the Order of the House was not a full and complete justification for their officer in what he had to do. But his hon. and learned Friends the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the Law Officers, whose duty it was to look into this matter, advised the House that they, themselves, would be the masters of the pleadings put in in the action; and they had arrived at the conclusion that the best advice they could give to the House was that they should allow their officer to appear and to plead like an ordinary suitor, subject only to this difference—that the hon. and learned Attorney General had given the House a clear and distinct understanding that the question of the legality of the Orders and proceedings of the House were not to be submitted to the judgment or arbitration of the Courts. Under those 65 circumstances, he apprehended that the best and wisest course for the House to adopt was not unduly to prolong the discussion, and to avoid anything in the shape of difference of opinion, and much less any chance of collision or disagreement, by assenting to the Motion.
§ Original Question put.
§ Ordered, That leave be given to Ralph Allen Gosset, esquire, Serjeant-at-Arms, to appear and plead in the Action brought against him by Charles Bradlaugh, esquire.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Attorney General be directed to defend the Serjeant-at-Arms against the said Action."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. ALBERT GREY
moved to amend the Motion by leaving out "the Attorney General," and inserting instead "Sir Hardinge Giffard." In doing so, the hon. Member said, the position in which they were placed was the direct result of the unconstitutional action of the majority. The reason why he made this proposal was that, while there was no stouter opponent of the action of the House that had been taken on this question from the first than the former hon. and learned Gentleman, it had no more enthusiastic supporter than the latter; and because it would not tend to raise the present high standard of morality at the Bar, that the House should instruct one of its most eminent Members to plead in a manner known to be in direct opposition to his own feelings and opinions.
§ [There being no Seconder, the Amendment was not put.]
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he wished to move an addition to the Motion, as an Instruction to the Attorney General—but that the ordinary fulfilment of his statutory obligation by a duly elected Member of this House is not to be held as disturbing the proceedings of the House.All this discussion, and all those proceedings arose, in the first place, from the Motion which the right hon. Baronet opposite the Leader of the Opposition persuaded the House to accept. ["No, no!"] It appeared to him the Motion went directly in the teeth of the law. ["No, no!"] When this matter was previously before the House, and the Previous Question was proposed, the Speaker, replying to a question as to what would be the effect of carrying 66 "the Previous Question" against the Resolution of the Leader of the Opposition to exclude Mr. Bradlaugh, said, that—In the event of the Resolution being set aside by the Previous Question, there would be no Resolution before the House adverse to the operation of the law by which the hon. Member for Northampton would undoubtedly be entitled to take his seat." — (3 Hansard,  1856.)Therefore, upon the authority of the Speaker, the Resolution was adverse to the operation of the law. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) most strongly objected to Resolutions overriding the law of the land; and, therefore, he proposed the Amendment. What, he would ask, was the meaning of the words "not further to disturb the proceedings of the House" in the Resolution which the House had passed?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Baronet that the Question before the House is, that the Attorney General be directed to defend the Serjeant-at-Arms against the said Action, and that he is going beyond the Question before the House.
To add at the end of the Question the words "but that the Attorney General be instructed that the orderly fulfilment of his statutory obligation by a duly elected Member of this House is not to be held as disturbing the proceedings of the House."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has felt himself called upon, by political consistency, to make this Motion. There are very few hon. Members whose convictions carry them further than myself in their opposition to the original proceedings of the House. I do not know that I ever used the expression that the action of the House had, in my view, been illegal; but certainly I have said, and I have not the slightest hesitation in repeating it, that I am unable to reconcile the action of the majority with my conception of the law. But in all Parliamentary proceedings there is a point at which it becomes necessary to recognize 67 the decisions of the House as regards their consequences, and as regards matters which are subsidiary to them. It is upon that principle that we, I think, on this side of the House have very generally, even where we disapproved of the Motion on which the proceedings were founded, recognised the highest Executive authority of the House, and that the officers of the House must be sustained in their obedience to the Orders of the House. This is a question of proceeding altogether consequential and auxiliary. There is no principle going to be laid down anew as against the view of my hon. Friend; and I would, therefore, submit to him that nothing is gained in point of principle, and much is lost in point of practice, to the general convenience and the general conditions under which alone the Business of a great Assembly like this can be carried on, if a Motion of this kind is pressed for the purpose of introducing a novel principle with regard to a question which really raises no principle, but simply expresses the intention of the House to act upon its own deliberative Resolutions. If that question is to be re-tried, it ought to be re-tried, not by a collateral proposition of this kind, but by an attempt made to overset the original decision which lies at the root of all these proceedings. I think my hon. Friend will feel that there is an objection, from his own point of view, to the form of his proceeding, and that I am right in saying that, if we are to question what is now proposed, we ought to question it by going to the root of the matter, and getting rid, if we can, of the original proposition, to which this is merely secondary and consequential. I hope, under these circumstances, my hon. Friend will not press his Motion. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he was anxious to take a vote, because he wished to show who was the revolutionary Party in that House. However, he would, at the request of the Prime Minister, yield to what appeared to be the general feeling, and not press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ Ordered, That the Attorney General be directed to defend the Serjeant-at-Arms against the said Action.