§ (Mr. Attorney General, Sir William Harcourt, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr. Solicitor General.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 14th June.]
§ [FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Corrupt Practices.
§ Clause 2 (What is corrupt practice).
In page 1, line 26, to leave out the words "and bribery, undue influence," in order to insert the words "using any violence, or threatening any damage, or resorting to any fraudulent contrivance to restrain the liberty of a voter so as to compel him or frighten him into voting or abstaining from voting otherwise than as he freely wills, and also bribery,"—(Mr. Parnell,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'and bribery, undue influence,' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to explain to the Committee the course he should ask their permission to take with regard to the Amendment which was under discussion yesterday evening when Progress was reported, and also his reasons for wishing to take that course. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, during the course of the discussion last night, pointed out that a definition that they had adopted was so much less extended than the definition contained in the Act of 1854; that several species of undue influence, which he desired to check, would escape; and that it might be possible, under certain circumstances, to exercise undue influence under the Amendment which he (Mr. Parnell) last night asked the Committee to accept. After consultation with several of his hon. and learned Friends, he (Mr. Parnell) had come to the conclusion that it would be proper for him to request that the Amendment should be withdrawn, and that he should draft a fresh Amendment, including all the definitions of undue influence which, in the course of the debate last night, 697 the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General desired to include, and excluding that portion of the definition of undue influence which he (Mr. Parnell) had adverted to more particularly yesterday as being most obscure. Therefore, during the interval between the termination of the deliberations of the Committee last night and now, he had drafted a fresh Amendment, which now appeared on the Paper. The Amendment was to leave out, in page 1, line 26, "and bribery, undue influence," and insert—And the making use of, or threatening to make use of any force, violence, or restraint, or the inflicting, or threatening to inflict any injury, damage, harm, or loss upon or against any person, in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting at any election, or the impeding or preventing by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance the free exercise of the franchise of any voter, so as thereby to compel or prevail upon any voter either to give or refrain from giving his votes at any election, and also bribery.He proposed to ask the permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment which was under discussion in favour of the one he had just read, and upon that new Amendment he intended to take the opinion of the Committee. The new Amendment followed verbatim the definitions contained in the Act of 1854, with the exception of one paragraph, which paragraph was the most objectionable to him and his hon. Friends. The words left out were as follows:—"or in any other manner practice intimidation." He had held all along, during the discussion upon this question, that the paragraph to which he had just alluded left it open to Judges to put a very wide and strange interpretation on the law. It was unnecessary for him to go into the arguments which wore used to the Committee last night; but he felt that a very large amount of his objection to the retention of the words "undue influence" as a corrupt practice would be removed if the Government would agree to this small alteration in the definition of undue influence contained in the Act of 1854. He left the argument of the definition untouched. He left the Common Law, and the law of Parliament regarding undue influence, untouched; and it must be borne in mind that under the Common Law spiritual undue influence and intimida- 698 tion could be reached, and had been reached. He (Mr. Parnell) hoped the Committee would be kind enough to allow him to withdraw his Amendment, and to take their opinion upon the Amendment which he had just read.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought that the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Amendment he proposed last night was a very reasonable one. That Amendment was evidently not drawn up with the same amount of care with which the present Amendment had been drawn. The present Amendment too, he (the Attorney General) thought, stated the hon. Gentleman's case very much better than the former Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In page 1, line 26, to leave out the words "and bribery, undue influence," and insert "and the making use of, or threatening to make use of any force, violence, or restraint, or the inflicting, or threatening to inflict any injury, damage, harm, or loss upon or against any person, in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting at any election, or the impeding or preventing by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance the free exercise of the franchise of any voter, so as thereby to compel or prevail upon any voter either to give or refrain from giving his votes at any election, and also bribery."—(Mr. Parnell.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he had just stated that the Amendment now proposed, in his opinion, more carefully set forth the intentions of the hon. Member than the Amendment which had just been withdrawn. Though this was the fact with regard to the drafting of the Amendment, still objection to the subject remained, and he (the Attorney General) was sorry he could not accept it. Ho would be very glad to accept the Amendment if it were not one which involved principle, and which ought not to be accepted. He would explain, as well as he could, the views he entertained in respect to the Amendment. The hon. Member stated that his Amendment contained verbatim the definition in the Act of 1851, with the exception of the 699 words "or in any other manner practices intimidation." The hon. Member, however, further down struck out the words "or otherwise interfering," and also proposed to omit the words "so as thereby." The effect of the Amendment would be to leave the difficulty as to spiritual influence untouched. He (the Attorney General) had referred to some of the cases mentioned, and he had consulted his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Porter), and it seemed to both of them that such would be the result of striking out the words "or in any other manner practices intimidation." They would, in fact, by striking out these words give legislative sanction to spiritual influence either in favour of or against any particular candidate. Could they wish to take such a course? Were they to say it should not disqualify a Member if spiritual influence wore used in order to coerce votes? He (the Attorney General) could not be a party to such an arrangement. It would be a most dangerous thing for Parliament to do, and therefore he could not accept the Amendment. Then, again, the words "or otherwise interfering with" came in the same category, and the effect, too, of omitting the words "so as thereby" would be that before they complained of undue influence they would have to show that the undue influence had actually interfered with voters, and unless they could prove that voters had been thereby influenced the persons who had used the influence would go scot-free. That, unquestionably, would give a great licence to persons to exercise undue influence. On that ground, also, he could not assent to any alteration of the law. He listened very carefully to the statement of the hon. Member; but he really at that moment could not understand for what purpose the hon. Gentleman desired the alteration. The hon. Member pointed out that the word "intimidation" occurred in the Prevention of Crime Act of 1882, and he feared that the definition given of this word might be applied to the electoral law. That could not be the case, because in this Act it was distinctly set forth that undue influence should be undue influence as defined in the Act of Parliament of 1854. He (the Attorney General) wished, however, the Bill to be perfectly clear on 700 this subject, and he saw there was an Amendment lower down in the name of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Marum), to the effect that the expression "intimidation" in the Corrupt Practices Act of 1854 should not, in Ireland, mean intimidation within the meaning of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882, or otherwise than intimidation within the meaning of this Act as affected England and Scotland. If hon. Members had any doubt as to the interpretation that would be put upon the word, he would have no objection to accepting the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny with a slight alteration, which would make it run in this way—That for the purposes of this Act the expression 'intimidation' in the Corrupt Practices Act, 1854, shall not be otherwise than intimidation within the meaning of the same in the Acts affecting England and Scotland.Now that would relieve every doubt as to the definition of intimidation; and, having made that concession, he hoped the hon. Member (Mr. Parnell) would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, the statement made by the Attorney General showed the advantage gained by the discussion of last evening. It had been stated that, if the clause passed as inserted in the Bill, it would have left the law the same in England and in Ireland. Now, he was glad to perceive, on consideration of the effect of the passing of the Act for the Prevention of Crime in Ireland, the hon. and learned Attorney General admitted the mistake made in thus leading the Committee to believe such would have been the legal effect of the words used in the clause. But though the insertion of the words proposed in the Amendment on the Paper would, it was true, remove to a great extent that ground of objection, yet on higher and more serious grounds did he feel bound to oppose this clause. Was it right to leave in an Act of Parliament words capable of so many varying meanings as these—" or in any other manner practise intimidation?" The wise and just rule to be adopted in all legislation was that new offences should only be created in clear and distinct terms. Penalties should be imposed only where there had been a willful violation of the law. It was no answer to say these words were permitted to remain in the 701 Act of 1854. Parliament was now framing a new Code. The question really was, ought the Committee to now again sanction the use of vague words? He could not help thinking that this question had been somewhat prejudiced by the observations made respecting Irish Judges. It was not the first time he had said in the House that the decisions of Irish Judges had, as a general rule, been quite as good as those given by their English brethren on the Bench. But Judges, of all men, were, as a general rule, the very worst at coming to conclusions on matters of fact and common sense. They had been trained to view matters on certain fixed lines and principles, and they had not been accustomed to deal with matters as men of common sense and men of the world. That was the effect of their training. Public opinion in England as well as in Ireland had been ill-satisfied with the decisions of its judicial tribunals in election matters. The decisions in the Launceston case, as those in the Galway case, shook public confidence in the estimate which had been placed on the sense and discretion of Judges. Therefore, he asked the Committee to be slow in permitting the introduction of such general and vague words. The hon. and learned Attorney General made another unintentional error in his statement of the law in respect to persons who might be held to be agents for candidates. He (Mr. Martin) submitted it had been held by Election Judges that if a candidate convened a meeting, those who spoke at that meeting on behalf of the candidate were the candidate's agents for the purposes of his election; and for every act done and word spoken by those agents the candidate was responsible. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Porter) dissented.] He noticed that his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Porter) appeared to doubt that this proposition was correct. Let him refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to what was laid down in express words in the Galway County Election case by Mr. Justice Keogh. Mr. Justice Keogh held that—Every bishop and every priest, from the highest to the lowest, who acted at those meetings as called into existence by Major Nolan's own acts, became his agents for the purposes of his election, and by their acts, words, and writings he must be bound.702 And, in point of fact, as they all knew, Major Nolan was held bound by every word spoken, and by every act done by each and every one of those gentlemen, many of whom, it was clearly shown in the evidence given at the trial, had never conversed or written to Major Nolan; and some of them, he (Mr. Martin) believed, had not even seen him during his hurried canvass. Having regard to the clearness and preciseness of the words thus used in that Judgment, he asked the Committee not to hastily accept the exposition of the law, which, for the purposes of this Bill, were laid down by the Attorney Generals for England and for Ireland. Of course, in discussing matters of this kind, it was difficult, in hurriedly addressing the Committee, for either of the learned Attorney Generals to state quite accurately and explicitly the extent and meaning of those legal propositions they laid down for the guidance of the Committee. But it was right for him to remind them that a decision given by one Judge was to a great extent binding on other Judges when deciding future election cases, and that the opinion on statements even of an Attorney General in the House was a matter of no moment, and could not be accepted as a guide in their constructions upon Statutes. But it was not alone in the Galway case that judicial dicta was to be found of this character. As Mr. Justice Keogh mentioned, when giving judgment, he only followed the decisions previously given by several English Judges. Under these circumstances, let the Committee consider the position and liabilities of a candidate, especially in Ireland. He was responsible for every act done, and for every word spoken, by any Bishop, priest, layman, or indeed by anyone at all, who attended any of his meetings, and who spoke on his behalf. A candidate who did not take measures to check the utterances of those speeches, inevitable during the excitement of an election contest, might be hold, on very insufficient grounds, to have been guilty of intimidation. Each Judge would, he feared, unconsciously frame a different rule for the decision of what constituted the class of speech and language used which would amount to an offence within the meaning of this clause. Judges, though he did not question their desire to do justice, had widely divergent views 703 as to the right claimed by public men to denounce what they considered abuses in strong and emphatic language. What one considered permissible and fair, another held as an abuse and violation of the right of free speech. Let the Committee separate this case as much from Ireland as possible. Let him instance a case in England. Only yesterday he was reading a report of the speeches delivered in Birmingham, and he was confident that a great number of Judges would say that speeches such as those of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Birmingham (Mr. Bright and Mr. Chamberlain) were amongst the strongest specimens of intimidation that could be exercised on voters. From the manner in which, as a general rule, judicial appointments were made in Ireland, the evil tendency of the clause would be even greater than in England. True, it was said by the hon. and learned Attorney General for England that "no penal consequences" wore inflicted. He (Mr. Martin) challenged the accuracy of that statement. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would only look at the 3rd section of the Bill, he would there find penal consequences were provided. For what did the section say? Why, that if a Judge—Reports that any corrupt practice has been proved to have been committed in reference to such election, by or with the knowledge and consent of any candidate at such election, that candidate shall not be capable of ever being elected to or sitting in the House of Commons for the said county or borough.If a candidate was present at, or even sanctioned the convening of, a meeting, was not a Judge bound to hold that the words spoken and acts done were, if they constituted any corrupt practice, committed with the knowledge and consent of the candidate, unless an active dissent therefrom on his part was shown? It was perfectly well known that the words "and in other manner practise intimidation," had been inserted in the Act of 1854 as mere general words to cover offences of the same character and description as those previously specified. But, in Ireland, as had been shown by the cases mentioned, the loose verbiage of the draftsman had, by judicial interpretation, been extended to create offences and impose disabilities for acts which Parliament did not show they intended to prohibit. Judges, under the 704 powers of the measure, would, if the words objected to were permitted to remain, be coerced to act in accordance with the interpretation given to them by previous Judges. It would be no answer to say that had not been the intention of the Legislature, or that the Attorney General had stated in the House he did not approve of the principles laid down in those cases. In accordance with custom, a judicial tribunal in their construction would be governed by previous precedents. Why then, he asked, should they be called on to make acts and speeches now a criminal offence, which Parliament in 1854 did not contemplate or intend to come within the meaning of the clause inserted in the Act of 1854? Under the circumstances, he did ask the Committee to be clear, precise, and definite. It was of the greatest importance that when intrusting a task of this character to the discretion of the Judges, they should be guided, in pronouncing judgment, by clear, precise, and definite words. The vagueness in the words would lead to unpleasant and injurious comments as to the motives which influenced those election tribunals in their decisions. If the hon. and learned Attorney General was so anxious for the reputation of Irish Judges, about whom so much had been said, he would take care to show to the public that the Judges were bound to come to their conclusions by the precise words used by the Legislature, and that their decisions were not arrived at by straining vague and general words. He hoped the Attorney General would not ask them to assent to loose, vague, and indefinite words of that character remaining in this clause. He (Mr. Martin) trusted the Attorney General, if he refused to accept the words of the Amendment as a correct definition of undue influence, would favour them by showing in what respect they failed. It was unreasonable to ask the Committee to re-enact a clause which had caused decisions, now admitted to have been ill-founded, on the simple ground that it had, on a previous occasion, passed through the House without discussion or comment.
§ MR. MARUM
endorsed all that had been said by his hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. P. Martin). He (Mr. Marum) contended that too much latitude ought not to be allowed to the 705 Judges, who were subjected to prejudices, like the rest of mankind. As to spiritual intimidation, he heartily adopted the definition given by Mr. Justice Keogh in the celebrated Galway case, for he said that a priest—May not appeal to the fears, or terrors, or superstitions of those whom he is addressing. He must not hold out hopes of reward here or hereafter, or use threats of temporal injury or disadvantage or of punishment hereafter. He must not, for instance, threaten to excommunicate or to withhold the Sacrament, nor should he denounce voting for a particular candidate as a sin.He (Mr. Marum) thoroughly coincided in those words, and he would be quite willing to accept any definition of spiritual influence which would be in accordance with those words. He and his hon. Friends objected to let the matter go blindly to a Judge, especially when there was no jury to assist him. They objected to a Judge being a Judge of matter of fact as well as of law; but if the hon. and learned Attorney General pointed out any particular disadvantage in the definition, they would be very satisfied to meet him. When his (Mr. Marum's) Amendment—namely,That for the purposes of this Act the expression 'intimidation' in the Corrupt Practices Act, 1854, shall not in Ireland mean intimidation within the meaning of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882, or otherwise than intimidation within the meaning of this Act as affecting England and Scotland,came on for discussion he should have something to say about it; and he believed he should be then able to show distinctly that it would be a most grievous matter, indeed, if intimidation under this Act were to be considered like the intimidation under the Prevention of Crime Act. If the hon. and learned Attorney General objected to the definition of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would frame a definition of his own. The present Amendment was only put forward tentatively. They wished, as they said last night, the hon. and learned Attorney General would formulate a definition himself; and they were quite prepared to accept anything he (the Attorney General) would bring forward in reason—they would be prepared to accept anything that would put an end to real spiritual undue influence.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
congratulated the Committee that they had to-day 706 arrived at the definition they had not arrived at last night. They were then discussing only half a definition, and if they had come to a division upon it, they would only have made a complete mess of the matter. The issue which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had raised to-day was this. Ho was quite willing to accept and incorporate in this Bill every species of undue influence which was mentioned specifically in the Act of 1854; but he proposed to omit the words "or in any other manner practises intimidation." Now, the question the Committee had to decide was, whether they were prepared to insist upon the retention in the clause of the words "or in any other manner practises intimidation." There were two singular facts connected with this sweeping clause. The first was that he could find no reported case in England or Scotland on these words. The only cases that had been raised had been in Ireland. And the second fact was that the hon. and learned Attorney General, in defending the retention of these words, defended them exclusively and solely on the ground of maintaining some check on what he called spiritual interference in elections. Therefore, that brought them face to face with this. Wore they to prevent—for it came to that—were they to prevent the clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church exercising in Ireland that influence which the constituency, from religious motives, yielded to them, and which they could not possess without the consent of the constituency? They must go a step farther, and ask themselves, were they prepared to put a Bishop or a clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church, who spoke at an election meeting on behalf of an election candidate, in the position of running the risk of being committed to prison, with or without hard labour, for 12 calendar mouths? He asked the Liberal Party in the House of Commons whether they were prepared, in the present condition of Ireland, in the present state of public affairs, to endorse that proposition? Just let them see what this spiritual interference was. The hon. Member who preceded him read an extract from the Judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh in the Galway case. That Judgment was law in Ireland. It was a Judgment which every Judge in Ireland respected—" He 707 must not hold out hopes of reward hero or hereafter." A clergyman must not say to his congregation—"If you vote for a particular man you will commit a sin, the punishment of which hereafter will be of a certain character." That was held to be intimidation. Let them apply this to their own politics. There was a measure which he hoped would come down to that House very shortly—he must not allude to what had passed in "another place;" but there was a measure which was on its way to this House—which was exciting the fears and indignation of a large number of the clergymen of this country. In a borough, about which ho knew something—but the name of which he would not mention, for fear of wounding the feelings of the Representatives of that borough—he noticed that the rector of the town had lately delivered a sermon upon the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, in which he told his congregation that a man who married his deceased wife's sister would commit an act of adultery, and that a clergyman would be bound to refuse him the Sacraments of the Church. And the rev. gentleman hinted, in language which he (Mr. Fowler) would not quote, the dreadful consequences that would follow such a marriage. The rev. gentleman gave his opinions conscientiously; and it would be his duty, if he believed the Legislature was going to legalize incest, so to tell his congregation, who, of course, might take his opinion for what it was worth. That, however, was not undue influence. It was one of the results of their ordinary public life. It was not one bit worse than what the Nonconformists had done. In 1874 they put the then Liberal Government out of Office, and it could not be denied that in 1880 they re-instated them in Office; and they used in 1880 their religious influence. They then thought, and he still thought, they were discharging a religious duty in doing so. Men held religious opinions much more strongly than political opinions; and he held that if they allowed the right to use religious influence in England they ought to do so in Ireland. By this Bill they were making it a corrupt practice, which involved the loss of his seat to a candidate, involved his disfranchisement for a period of 10 years, and involved actual punishment, with or without hard labour, 708 to a man who made a speech at a public meeting. If the Attorney General could point out any possible act of undue influence, which the other words of the clause did not include, well and good. He (Mr. Fowler) contended that the words "infliction of any injury, damage, harm, or loss" covered any mortal thing that could be conceived. The words "in any other manner practices intimidation" put it in the sole and uncontrolled power of a Judge to maintain that a certain act, or a certain speech, was intimidation. And it must be recollected that, under this Bill, there was no appeal. A Judge's decision was final; it was irrevocable; it was stated the other day it might be possible to put the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) out of Parliament for 10 years, on account of a speech made on his behalf by a priest in Ireland. He (Mr. Fowler) was not prepared to observe a pedantic adherence to the words of the Act of 1854. To repeat those words would, he contended, be a palpable injustice to the Irish constituencies, and it would raise a strong feeling in Ireland against that measure. Unless they were intending to cripple the legitimate influence of the pastors and priests over their flocks, unless they were intending to cripple political agitation, which was as justifiable in Ireland as in Mid Lothian, ho asserted that they ought, in honesty, to be consistent to their Liberal principles, and strike out the words "or in any other manner practises intimidation." He (Mr. Fowler) hoped the hon. Member for the City of Cork would press this matter to a division; he trusted to find that the Liberal Party would go with the hon. Gentleman into the Lobby.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that reference had been made during the debate to the Judgment of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald. In that Judgment the learned Judge laid down most clearly the distinction between the religious influence, of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had spoken, and clerical intimidation. In the Longford case a meeting was held which the Judge spoke of in terms of censure, but which he held to be a perfectly legal proceeding. It was a meeting of the clergy of the county, in which they selected a candidate, and in which they resolved to pro- 709 mote his interest with all their power. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald decided that this was a perfectly legitimate use of their power; arid he maintained the election could not be declared void on account of such a meeting. The learned Judge, however, laid down the general principle, which ought to guide them in the consideration of what was the law. He said—In considering what I there call undue clerical influence, it is not my intention in any way to deprecate the proper influence which the clergy have, or by one single word to lessen its legitimate exercise. We cannot forget its wholesome operation, and how often even recently it has been the great bulwark of the community against insurrection and attempts to rebellion. A Catholic priest has, and ought to have, great influence—his position, his sacred character, his superior education, and the identity of his interest with his flock, insure it to him; and that interest insures tenfold force in the conviction of the people that it is exercised for their benefit. A priest may counsel, advise, recommend, entreat, and explain why one candidate should be preferred. to another, and may, if he think fit, throw the whole weight of his character into the scale; but he may not appeal to the fears, or terrors, or superstition of those whom he is addressing. He must not hold out hopes of reward here or hereafter, or use threats of temporal injury or disadvantage, or of punishment hereafter. Ho must not, for instance, threaten to excommunicate, or to withhold the Sacrament, nor should he denounce voting for a particular candidate as a sin.He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought it was impossible in clearer, more dignified, or statesmanlike language to lay down what should be the law on this point.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that it was a mistake to suppose that this clause would be confined to spiritual intimidation. They all recollected the well-known rabbit case. The proprietor of a largo estate had been in the habit of allowing persons connected with the town which he represented to shoot rabbits without paying anything for the privilege. He attended a public meeting during his canvas, and he intimated very strongly that that was an advantage he had been in the habit of conferring on the town; and he made a kind of promise that, if elected, the advantage would be continued. The Judge decided he should lose his seat. He (Mr. Lewis) would put the converse to that case. Suppose, instead of saying what he did, the proprietor of the estate had said —" Well, I wish it to be understood that if my interest in the town is dis- 710 turbed by my not being returned, I shall withdraw that permission from the persons who have hitherto enjoyed it." That, instead of being bribery, would have been the exercise of undue influence; a far better case of undue influence than any spiritual influence they could imagine. Was the Committee prepared to give that general jurisdiction and power to Judges? Why was it they were discussing, day after day, and week after week, those questions of interpretation? Why was it that, on the one hand, they were continually asking the Government to explain different words which appeared in the Bill? It was that, instead of having small or moderate penalties attaching to the commission of these minor election offences, they had all sorts of heavy penalties, and therefore they were obliged to be more careful. Take the question of undue influence, and look at the state of the law as it now was. A person other than the candidate who committed the offence of undue influence was liable to a fine of £50. The penalty under this Bill was increased greatly, for a man who committed a like offence could be sent to prison with or without hard labour. Was not that a reason why the Legislature should be careful before it sanctioned these heavy punishments? The Attorney General had said there was no interpretation of the present Act of Parliament—the matter was left to the Judges. But that was a greater reason why they should be careful, when the penalties were so heavy, and when not only the liberties, but the lives, of people were at stake. As to spiritual intimidation, everybody who knew the place from which he (Mr. Lewis) sprang, and who know his relations in the House, would not for a moment suppose that he would be inclined to take a tender view of the subject. But he had never been satisfied—in point of fact he had been shocked—with the decision of Mr. Justice Lawson in the second Galway ease, in which the present hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) was un-seated. He (Mr. Lewis) ventured to say, that anyone looking at that case would like to draw a veil over his mind politically, when ho considered the extraordinary terms of that Judgment. As a Protestant, he (Mr. Lewis) had never been satisfied with the result of the second Galway trial, and he regarded 711 the law as one which ought to be most carefully looked into. He was delighted to hear the noble burst of liberty which had just come from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) for the first time from the Liberal Benches. He did not think it would be the last. If the Attorney General put on his coat of mail and buckram, if he insisted upon the stringency of this Bill, he would find many bursts of liberty, even from his own side of the House, before that Bill was passed. They heard many grandiloquent expressions from the Treasury Bench, as to the impossibility of putting down bribery and treating without a stringent measure. If they wanted to have their law respected, it must be moderato and sensible in its terms as well as provisions. He (Mr. Lewis) intended to support the Amendment, not in respect of spiritual intimidation, but in connection with the general law; because, as the penalties wore increased, it was necessary to have clear and definite law laid down. With all respect to the Judges, he was not disposed to place this matter unreservedly in their hands.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had informed the Committee that one of the reasons why he supported the Amendment was wholly unconnected with spiritual influence; and because at present the offence was finable to the extent of £50 only. If the hon. Gentleman had read the section carefully, he would have seen that the offence was punishable with two years' imprisonment in addition to the fine.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, they had added hard labour, it was true; but they had reduced the term of imprisonment from two years to one year, and the question of hard labour was left to the Court to decide. With regard to the fine, the law would remain unchanged. The case the hon. Gentleman put was that of a person who was canvassing a constituency, and said to them—" I have been in the habit of allowing you. to shoot rabbits on my estate. If you don't vote for me and elect me, you shall shoot my rabbits no longer." He 712 (the Solicitor General) thought that that was a most unhappy illustration, for a more gross, improper, and unjustifiable act of intimidation could not be imagined. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think there was nothing wrong in threatening to withdraw a privilege, if the man who had been in the enjoyment of the privilege did not vote for a particular candidate. Such case he (the Solicitor General) believed would be met by the existing provision. On the strength of such a case as the hon. Member had put, he (Mr. Lewis) intended to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The hon. Gentleman might find, however, that his illustration would be met by other provisions of the Act, and that his voting for the Amendment would not affect the matter at all. Certainly, the argument used by the hon. Gentleman ought not to induce the Committee to support the Amendment.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he thought the word "otherwise" would come back to "undue influence;" and as for the quotation read from Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, the Committee would rightly understand that the use of the word "superstition," spoken ill regard to the Catholic clergy by a Catholic Judge, would be of no value. It was a most infelicitous quotation on the part of the President of the Local Government Board to the Committee. The word "superstition" was far more insulting coming from a Catholic Judge and applied to Catholic clergyman than it would have been coming from anybody else. He considered it a most unfortunate moment, when the Government were really seeking to renew their relations with Rome, to talk so much about ecclesiastical influence in Ireland. If they were anxious to get rid of ecclesiastical influence, one would have thought that they would not have entered into the negotiations about which hon. Members had heard so much of late. But it seemed, as a matter of fact, that when it was to their interest to use priestly influence, they were only too glad to avail themselves of it; and when it was not to their interest to do so, they would use every endeavour to put a stop to it. He sincerely hoped that Catholics would take note of this. The Irish Members were not afraid of priestly influence—they were not afraid of Catholic influence; and it was most incon- 713 sistent to appear afraid of it after what had taken place recently in Rome.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, his hon. Friend did not stand upon the mere words of his Amendment, but more upon the sense of it. The main point under discussion was this—the Bill, if it became law as it now stood, would practically have the effect of unseating every Member in the House, from the Prime Minister to the humblest Member; but it would especially apply to hon. Members from Ireland. These hon. Gentlemen held a very anomalous position in the House of Commons; they were not identified with either Party. They had an assurance from a right hon. Gentleman, who was recently a Member of the Government (Mr. John Bright), that they were rebels. Both the Constitutional Parties in that House were against them; and the action of these Irish Gentlemen then was, to a very large extent, opposed to the two Constitutional Parties. Well, if this Bill became law, and the two Constitutional Parties applied it to the Gentlemen from Ireland, it would practically bring about their political annihilation. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] The hon. Gentleman says why? The law, as it now stood, applied with greater severity than it used formerly to Irish Representatives. The Irish Members belonged to one or other of the Parties in the House, but now they were independent; and with the powerful machinery that the Executive possessed for manufacturing evidence, now that the Irish Members were separated from the Executive, from whatever Party that Executive might be taken, it would be the easiest thing in the world to find opportunities for removing the Irish Members from the House. Hon. Members might say that was a strong interpretation of the clause; that was true, but it was clear to his mind that the provision could be so applied; and he would urge upon the Committee that that was a sufficient reason why they should refuse to accept the proposal. The Judges who had to decide Election Petitions had attained to their present position owing to the political services they had rendered to the Party in power. These Gentlemen were, more or less, connected with the Administration in Ireland; and they were called upon under this clause to deal with purely political offences. Surely it was a great stretch 714 of the imagination to suppose that the class of Gentlemen who had obtained their position through their political services and their political views would deal impartially when called upon to decide political cases. He could easily account for the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who strongly insisted upon this Amendment. From the English point of view, he thought it would be quite possible, even in this country, for this clerical and religious influence to be exercised. In the future it was very likely that they would see a much greater use of political power through sectarian agencies than they had seen in the past. Unquestionably, power of this kind could be exercised in England, although, perhaps, not to the same extent that it could be in Ireland; and he would be very glad if the Attorney General could accept either the words proposed or some modification of them.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had put this case so plainly that there was little else to be said on the subject. The hon. Member had referred to the natural and proper influence that a Catholic priest would exercise on an election question in Ireland; and the best way to illustrate the view of the hon. Member was to take an individual case. Suppose that in connection with the next General Election a Catholic priest, being a friend of one of the candidates, should go upon the platform at one of the candidate's meetings, and say that it would be fatal to the spiritual well-being of the voter if he were to vote for any other candidate. He (Mr. Macfarlane) could conceive a case in which that might be said by a priest with great propriety, and with great truth. Well, to say that which might be fatal to the interests of the other candidate would really be intimidation. The priest would be prophesying evil consequences to the electors, and would in that way be influencing them from voting, or to refrain from taking that course which they might otherwise be inclined to adopt—and surely that would be intimidation—and if the Bill passed in its present form, it would be perfectly possible for an Election Judge to construe an action of this kind into undue influence, and to unseat the Member in consequence of it. It was of no use comparing the case of England with that 715 of Ireland—it was no use to say peace, peace, whore there was no peace. If the English people chose to accept the law as laid down in the Bill, well and good; but the Irish people, through their Representatives, very strongly objected to the law as it stood. He (Mr. Macfarlane) had sat in that House many a day during the last three years, and many a night, to listen to long arguments from the Front Ministerial Bench, to show why the law in Ireland should be different to what it was in England; but that was only when it suited hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen to show that the laws of the two countries should be dissimilar. Now, the Irish Members were urging what had often been urged by Members of the Government—that the law in this case should be different to what it was in England; that was to say, that while the English people insisted upon the Bill standing as it was for themselves they should have their way; but that as the Irish constituencies were of another opinion the Bill should be altered to suit them. The Government, however, with remarkable inconsistency, objected to the two countries having different laws in this respect; and numberless cases had been produced to show the need for having a uniform law. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had referred to a statement made by Mr. Justice Fitzgerald in the Longford case, which really had no bearing on this matter whatever. The learned Judge's remarks had reference to a private meeting of priests, at which the candidate was not present; and on that occasion no statement whatever was made that it was in the presence of the candidate. Then, with regard to the opinion of the Judge, everybody knew that the candidates who professed strong political feelings, though perfectly honest in all their actions, were greatly prejudiced by their political views; still, would not this be the case with the Judges also? Would not they be honest in the same way? As human beings, and as men who had probably taken a deep interest in political questions, they would not be able to get rid of their political prejudices, even if they wanted to. What affected every voter and every candidate who held strong views upon political questions must also necessarily affect Judges similarly situated. Every 716 candidate, particularly if he were unsuccessful, was apt to think every influence used against him was an undue influence. Every Member of the Committee must be aware of this—that after every election there wore misgivings and complaints, either on this side or that, of undue influence having been used, and rumours were always set on foot to the effect that there was going to be a Petition. It was always an undue influence, even when the influence exerted on behalf of the successful candidate was as right as right could be. In fact, one was reminded of the lines—All is right as right can be,That turns a vote from you to me;The power is wrong, and most undue,That turns a vote from me to you.There was one undue influence which was not noticed in the Bill, to which the attention of the Committee might very properly be drawn; and that was the promises given by right hon. Gentlemen as to what they would do when they got into Parliament. Could anyone deny that the statements of Cabinet Ministers during their struggle for power at the General Election was a very powerful influence in the country? No doubt it was a powerful influence, and an undue one; and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General knew it perfectly well. He would not refer to the undue influence exercised by the Prime Minister on the historic constituency of Mid Lothian; but the difficulty in dealing with undue influence of this kind was that it could not be tested until after the person guilty of it had attained to Office. The promises of "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform "that were made by the Prime Minister on the platform before the General Election could not be shown to be unfulfilled until years after the Election—it could not be shown within any reasonable time after the Election. If the Attorney General would introduce a clause into the Bill disqualifying all Cabinet Ministers who had made use of this undue influence at as election from ever sitting for the same constituency again, and from sitting for any constituency for 10 years, he would be glad to give it his support.
§ MR. STEWART MACLIVER
said, the Nonconformists of this country had always declared that the same freedom which they claimed for themselves should 717 be conceded to Ireland and to all religious communions. To debar the Irish priests from a moderate and duo exercise of their religious influence during election times would be altogether opposed to the feelings of the English Nonconformists. They had always recognized the religious influence exercised by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, equally with that exercised by Nonconformist ministers. He would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain), whom he saw in his place, whether any sufficient reason could be urged why a very eminent Nonconformist minister in Birmingham should not exercise the political influence he did exercise at the present moment? He would go further, and ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not a fact that no candidate could go into the borough of Birmingham without the approval of this Nonconformist minister? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there was any reason to debar the Roman Catholic priests from using the same influence at election times on behalf of those candidates whom they considered best fitted to advance the interests of their parishioners?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
My hon. Friend having made a direct appeal to me, I rise to answer, in a very few words, the question he has put. He asks me whether it is not the fact that in my borough, as probably in many other boroughs, great influence is not exercised by a distinguished minister belonging to the Nonconformists? No doubt he referred to Dr. Dale, who is a minister whose high character, whose eloquence, and whose learning have undoubtedly obtained for him very great influence—social, political, and religious—in the borough of Birmingham — an influence which no man is better entitled to. I would answer him at once, and say frankly that there can be no doubt in any election in Birmingham the opinion of Mr. Dale would have a great and deserved weight in every portion of the constituency. I have been sometimes taunted with being the Representative of Dr. Dale, and I have answered that by saying that I am very proud of my constituency. I cannot see the slightest parallel, however, between the influence exercised by Dr. Dale and the kind of 718 clerical influence from which we are trying to protect the electors. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), when he first proposed his Amendment, very candidly stated that there were, no doubt, cases of undue clerical influence.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
They may have disappeared; but the hon. Member will admit that what has been may be again. Surely we shall not be told that Ireland has become so virtuous that this kind of thing will never be practised there again, although it may occur in England. I would ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to bear in mind that there is no comparison between the kind of influence to which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and the bon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Stewart Macliver) referred and the undue influence exercised by a priest at the altar, when he tells his flock that their future state altogether depends upon their following his instructions; and it is against that that we wish to protect the voter.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he thought the Committee was under some obligation to the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Macliver) for giving them the opportunity of hearing the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on the subject of his relations with the very eminent clergyman who had been referred to. He must say that from the experience ho had had of the right hon. Gentleman's performances in that House, and of his mode of speaking of men and things, he had come to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman stood very much in awe of this distinguished divine; and that if the right hon. Gentleman was attracted to the minister by love, that love was tempered somewhat by terror. The Amendment which was now introduced to the notice of the Committee by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was one which, no doubt, he had never expected the Government to accept. It would be almost impossible for the Government, having regard to the Resolution appearing after this Motion, and to the reasonableness of retaining some such words as those which they were asked to eliminate, to assent to the Amendment. It could not, therefore, 719 be wondered at that the Attorney General, and his distinguished Colleagues who had taken part in this discussion, had argued with considerable force and power against the desirability of their acceding to the Amendment presented to their notice. What was the Amendment? It was all very well to make general statements, and to point to what had happened in particular cases, and what might happen in other eases; but it seemed to him in the highest degree desirable that they should deal with the question in the light of common sense, and consider what were the words that were sought to be excluded from the law, and recognize the description of things which, it was boldly asserted, it was desired to recognize in the future as being no longer illegitimate. That was the real way to look at the question. The Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork practically asked the Committee to affirm that spiritual intimidation should be excluded from all classes of undue influence. [Mr. PARNELL: No, no !] If he was wrong in that statement, he would like to ask, if these words referred to were excluded, what words that remained could be pointed to as being those which could be relied on to exclude illegitimate spiritual influence? [Mr. PARNELL: The Common Law.] He would come to the Common Law in a moment; it seemed to him to be the favourite plank for drowning men. It included all cases which wore not grasped within the wide category of temporal violence or temporal loss. He (Ur. Gibson) did not go in for minute refinements of spiritual intimidation; he took up two descriptions of it that appeared in the great Judgments that were so well known to many who were not lawyers. One of these was the Judgment of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald in the Longford case; and he would ask—Did anyone think it would be reasonable to exclude from the category of undue influence the intimidation and action of anyone who denied—it might be to the sick or moribund member of the family of a voter—the consolation of the Sacraments of his Church, or threatened him with excommunication if that voter did not give his vote? Speaking broadly, anyone with the sentiment of religion within his breast would not be so devoid of common sense as to say that such action as that was not action 720 that should be legitimately taken into account. [Mr. PARNELL: It is within the Amendment.] He had read the Amendment with care, and he had devoted considerable attention to the words sought to be excluded from the existing law; and he should like to know what were the words in the Amendment which would cover the particular points to which he had referred. It came to this —that the Committee was asked to exclude from the law words which had held good in the past to prevent persons being threatened with spiritual consequences if they did not vote in a particular way. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had said that he (Mr. Parnell) had left the Common Law definition of intimidation untouched. What was the meaning of intimidation under the Common Law? Surely the hon. Member's argument was one that was destructive of his main contention, because he sought, practically, to get rid of particular consequences that were sought to be attached or expressed in the Electoral Law to spiritual intimidation; while he hesitated to say that it was not right distinctly to retain in the general Common Law of the land such definition. Why did it stop short of that? If it was right to retain in the general Common Law of the land some of the consequences that must attach to undue influence of a spiritual character and undue spiritual intimidation, was it not reasonable that the remaining part of the Common Law of the land should be put in black and white in a Statute which indicated what were to be the classes of undue influence that were to govern in the future, as in the past, the Election Law? For himself, looking at it as reasonably as he could —he was aware that the hon. Member for the City of Cork considered that was an argument for him; and, therefore, he (Mr. Gibson) considered it as much as he could from the hon. Member's point of view—if the argument of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was carried to its logical extent, he ought to propose that spiritual intimidation should be excluded from the Bill in express terms. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), to whom he always listened with great attention when he rose to address the House, had asked whether it was desirable or proper to exclude the influence of the clergy and religious influence from the conduct of electoral 721 affairs; but that was not the question at all; they were on the word "intimidation," or undue influence. He accepted —as everyone must accept—what had been called by right hon. Gentlemen op-opposite the statesmanlike Judgment of Lord Fitzgerald in the Longford case. No doubt, the influence of a clergyman might be used legitimately, as everyone had a right to use a certain amount of influence at an election; but there was a point beyond which they must not go, which would bring them within the Common Law to which the hon. Member for the City of Cork alluded, which could be put in an Act of Parliament, and which everyone who ran could understand. He did not wish to say anything at all disrespectful to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler); but it seemed to him, he must say, as if in some of his sentences ho desired to convey that everyone, no matter what his religion might be, or what his religious character, might use all the religious influence at his disposal, in any manner his intelligence might suggest, on the right side. As the Conservative Members knew the views of the hon. Gentleman, they must be excused for just suspecting that there might be a wrong side also to that question. Ho could understand the argument of hon. Gentlemen who said that Ireland should have been excluded from the Bill on the ground that the nation was pure. That was a perfectly intelligible position to take up; but it could not be urged that it was desirable to exclude Ireland from the definition of undue influence and intimidation, in consequence of special innocence with reference to those offences. He would not go fully into that question; but he desired to point out that it was possible there might be in Ireland undue influence of the character that had been mentioned in the course of the discussion, and that there was nothing which rendered it absolutely impossible that such undue influence might be found to exist in future. Moreover, without going into any matter of special controversy, he was of opinion that the last few years had shown that the ingenuity and inventive power of the distinguished race that dwelt in Ireland had been able to produce forms of influence which were hardly to be distinguished from terrorism; and, therefore, he was disposed 722 to think that the reasons advanced in favour of the Amendment were not such that Parliament should put into the Bill any definition which did not recognize the coincidence of law and common sense in this matter. Surely, it would be wise and expedient, in face of recent history in Ireland, that they should recognize the possibility of undue influence and intimidation eluding very nearly any definition which might be put in, if they confined themselves to special classes of intimidation. For his own part, he would think very little of the ingenuity and unrivalled intelligence of the Irish nation, which he was bound to hold in high regard, if they could not, with very little difficulty, create a state of facts which would exercise the skill of a future Administration in providing a new definition to cover it.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he had never listened to a more inconsequent speech than that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The contention of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was that they should not give up a definition of these offences. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, following generally the view of the Government, had alluded to the case of the Judgment of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald; but he would point out to the Committee that if that case had any connection with the matter at all, it was a strong argument in favour of a definition of undue influence. Why was a definition of spiritual undue influence not proposed? Because it was absurd to estimate damage in the world to come; they might estimate the damage which a man received hero; and it was the very essence and substance of the legislation they were now engaged upon to consider whether a man was damaged or injured by being prevented from recording his vote or otherwise? But it was complained that those words were too vague. Now, last night both the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the same Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) said—" When we come to the subject of agency we must take great pains to have a very clear definition." It appeared that there were many Members in all parts of the Rouse who were extremely anxious about clearness in the matter of agency, but who cared no- 723 thing at all about the same distinctness in the matter of undue influence. Reference had been made to the interference of the clergy with electoral affairs in this country. It was well known that they were in the habit of addressing themselves in their sermons to the relative merits of Parliamentary candidates; and he had himself, on one occasion, drawn the attention of the Bishop of the diocese to the conduct of the London clergy in this respect; and the reply of the Bishop was—I am not aware of any law which restricts the clergy of the Church of England in the selection of their hortatory topics.Although he regarded this as a clear impropriety on the part of a Church which enjoyed Establishment in connection with the State, he was not prepared to say that the clergy of a Church otherwise placed should be prevented from using their legitimate influence in matters in which they had such great concern. With regard to the case put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), who asked whether any man in that House would stand up and say that so gross, wicked, and abominable an interference as that cited on the part of a Roman Catholic clergyman should be protected by the law, his answer to that was, no; but there should be no liability unless the man influenced could prove temporal damage. It was sad that such things should exist; but, undoubtedly, less of Church membership, for instance, or some other form of temporal damage, would have to be suffered in order to bring it within the law.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he rejoiced that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had stated his objection to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork in such precise terms. He had not been quite able to understand the meaning of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), whom he had always supposed to have an inclination to the study of history, because the hon. Member seemed to have accepted the dictum which the President of the Board of Trade laid down the other day at Birmingham—namely, that the study of history was a vain pursuit beyond 100 years anterior to the present age. Tho hon. Member, also, 724 did not seem quite to understand that there was any difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome in regard to the exercise of spiritual influence in temporal matters. He (Mr. Newdegate) had been a very anxious supporter of the Public Worship Bill, introduced in order to restrain the tendency, on the part of some of the clergy, to imitate the licence which recognized spiritual interference in temporal matters, and he continued to congratulate himself on the fact that that Act became law. He would not detain the Committee further than to say that he regretted the hon. Member for the City of Cork had not been more happy in the selection of the terms of his Amendment, which made it so open to the fatal objection urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) that he should heartily support Her Majesty's Government in their objection to it.
said, it appeared to him that a great deal of time had been expended unnecessarily in considering the Amendment before the Committee; because the question they had to determine was, whether they were satisfied with the definition of undue influence under the present law, and whether they wished to have it altered? The offence of undue influence was very seldom committed in England under the Ballot Act; because any attempt at it would be almost certain to drive a man to vote, out of spite, in the opposite way to what was wanted. He believed, also, that with regard to Ireland undue influence at elections had almost ceased to operate for the same reason. They were, therefore, dealing with a matter of no great practical importance. Well, then, what fault was there found with the definition in the Act of 1854? He confessed that, having listened to the discussion with great attention, he had been unable to find out what fault was found with it. An hon. Member said it applied to spiritual undue influence; but he would point out that it did nothing of the kind. The law at present applied to spiritual undue influence only when that influence resulted in some temporal consequence. The refusing to a dying person of the Sacrament would be undue spiritual influence, because it would not only be a spiritual terror, but it might be fraught with temporal conse- 725 quences. Therefore, he again asked why any hon. Member objected to the present definition of undue influence —what the objection was? because at present he did not understand it. Then, in the next place, words ought to be proposed to the Committee which would state that objection clearly. It was confessed that the words proposed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork would not do, because they did not meet the case of undue spiritual influence. On the other hand, there was the definition which had lasted for 30 years without any fault being found with it. Under these circumstances, unless any specific form of definition were forthcoming, he thought the Committee would do well to pass on to the other clauses of the Bill, without attempting to amend the present portion of it.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to two aspects of the clause. He wished the Committee to observe that the English Judges, when they unseated any Member of Parliament, did so generally on one of the baser forms of corruption —namely, bribery or treating. These were the offences which nearly always formed the subject of Election Petitions in this country; they were unmistakable in their character, and could be easily defined; and, that being so, the Judge was left to the exercise of his judgment with regard to them without any complaint, because he had no greater freedom of interpretation than belonged to him justly as the interpreter of the law. But in the case of Ireland the offence on account of which elections were generally voided was undue influence; it was not alleged that bribery had been, to any large extent, resorted to in that country. Therefore, while the Englishman was protected, owing to the definable character of the offence most frequently committed in England, the Irishman was left at the mercy of the Irish Judge, by the Legislature refusing to define the offence on account of which Members for Ireland were most generally unseated. He could not agree with the views of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Marum) upon this point, and he had frequently found himself at variance with him in that House with reference to it. He would only say that the Irish Judges were a body of poli- 726 ticians; and, whatever might be their views with regard to each other as Whigs or Tories, they all hated and detested the ideas of those who composed the Irish National Party, and in the case of an Election Petition coming before them they would, no doubt, be irresistibly biassed by their political views. He asked whether they were tamely to submit to the imposition of a law which placed their political existence at the mercy of a set of partizans as thorough and extreme as were to be found in Ireland? It was not at all certain that the effects of this system in Ireland would be such as would meet with the approval of the Government. If the Members of the Irish National Party were excluded from political life by the operation of the present clause in its unamended form, he had no doubt whatever that the Government would regret that no concession had been made to the reasonable demand of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). What was the punishment inflicted on a person guilty of the offence? He was liable, if an elected Member, to be displaced from his seat during his life, so far as the representation of his constituency was concerned, and he was disabled from entering that House as a Representative of any constituency for 10 years. With regard to agency, they had from the Attorney General a statement that a person who happened to speak on behalf of a candidate was not necessarily an agent. But, on the other hand, they had the statement of one of the Irish Judges that any speaker who concerned himself at an election on behalf of a candidate made that candidate practically responsible for the language he used, and took upon himself the capacity and responsibility of an agent. Would anyone say that a candidate for a Parliamentary seat, in England or Ireland, was able to govern the personnel of these speakers, or that he was able to control their sentiments, or the language in which they expressed them? Such a thing was impossible. And yet this undefined offence of undue influence committed by an agent was sufficient to deprive an elected candidate of the right of presenting himself as a candidate for a county or borough for a period of seven years. Now, if the person guilty of this offence wore not a Member of Parliament or a candidate, but only an 727 elector, in that case he lost his right of voting at any election, Parliamentary or otherwise, for seven years; and if he held any office ho lost that office, and was deprived of the right of holding any other for a period of seven years. In addition to this, two classes of penalties, which referred specially to candidates and electors, ally person whatever, whether a candidate, a Member of that House, an elector, or any ordinary citizen, by falling within any of these categories of the Bill, rendered himself liable to be sent to gaol for 12 months, with or without hard labour, and also to be fined a sum of money not exceeding £200. Now, the sole claim which his hon. Friend and his supporters made on the Committee was that, in regard to the offence upon which Election Petitions in Ireland were chiefly founded, some definition should be included in the clause, in order to protect candidates of the Irish National Party from the straining of the law on the part of Judges who detested their political views —who were willing to force the provisions of the law to the utmost extent against them. All they asked for was that this undefined provision should receive some definition in the Act, so that candidates and others interested in Parliamentary elections should understand what they were entitled to say, and what the law permitted them to do. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork had last night submitted to the Committee a definition framed in the language of the eminent Judge—Justice Willes—who tried the Lichfield case. He (Mr. Sexton) had listened to the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland, and he was unable to discover that he found any fault with the definition of his hon. Friend, except that it did not include corrupt promises or inducements; but these, he believed, could be fairly dealt with under the head of bribery. However, his hon. Friend, conscious of the importance of satisfying the Committee, and anxious to meet any objection, even though it might seem to be irrational to the minds of everyone except the occupants of the Treasury Bench, presented a new definition; and, instead of using the language of the learned Judge, he used the language of the Act itself, to which the learned Judge had referred. His hon. Friend proposed to leave out from line 728 26 of the Bill the words "and bribery, undue influence," in order to insert—And the making use of, or threatening to make use of, any force, violence, or restraint, or the inflicting, or threatening to inflict any injury, damage, harm, or loss upon or against any person, in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting at any election, or the impeding or preventing by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance the free exercise of the franchise of any voter, so as thereby to compel or prevail upon any voter either to give or refrain from giving his votes at any election, and also bribery.He conceived that any form of spiritual intimidation against which it was necessary to provide was included in the terms injury, damage, harm, or loss. What was the meaning of those words? They meant what was conceived to be injury, damage, harm, or loss in the mind of the person who experienced it; because if a man did not consider in his own mind that he had suffered injury he was not injured. Ho thought that such intimidation as related to the fear of hell, or the loss of salvation, which might result from threats held out by clergymen, would be included in that definition; if not, they should be dealt with in a separate Act. The Attorney General had made three minor objections to the Amendment of his hon. Friend; and he was bound to express his astonishment at the language which the hon. and learned Gentleman had employed. He thought it wrong for the Attorney General, on the part of the Government, to take up the position of irreconcilable critic, and confine himself to cold criticism as to the incompleteness of the definition of his hon. Friend. He had listened attentively to the powerful speeches of the hon. Members for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), Salford (Mr. Arnold), and Plymouth (Mr. Macliver), all of whom seemed to think that the duty of the Attorney General lay in applying a definition, rather than picking holes in that which had been submitted to the Government. If anyone in that House would find him a fifth noun, other than the four he had cited, which would offer any new idea, he, on the part of his hon. Friend, would be happy to introduce it into the Amendment. The four nouns, which to his mind included every conceivable form of injury which could 729 be sustained by any man, had been inserted in the Amendment of his hon. Friend by lawyers as able as the Attorney General himself; and he invited the hon. and learned Gentleman to furnish another description of intimidation which those words left uncovered. If the intention was to send to prison with hard labour priests who used the influence which legitimately belonged to them, and which differed essentially from the influence which belonged to an ordinary layman, he could tell Her Majesty's Government that they would find the game not worth the candle. And he said, further, that if the priests of Ireland chose to exercise what the Government considered to be undue influence—if they chose to go beyond a fair appeal to the conscience of the voter, and apply themselves to the limitation of his free will, they would be punished; but, in restricting the use of this legitimate influence, the Government would find that they wore legislating to deal with the impossible—that was to say, they were endeavouring to deal with a state of things which could not be dealt with by any secular law. They would find that the tie between the influence of the priest and the conscience of the lay Catholic was such that if the priest chose to exercise what was called undue influence he could exercise it in spite of the law. Would it be denied that the influence of a priest was different and superior to the influence of a layman? The Government must satisfy the people that the law was opposed in no respect to their spiritual advisers. He repeated, that the offences on which Election Petitions in England were principally founded were strictly defined; that the Judges wore left in strict discharge of their duty; while in Ireland any violent partizan now on the Bench, or who should be appointed hereafter by an unscrupulous Ministry, could, by a dishonest use of the law, dispose of political opponents whom the Government themselves might not be able to get rid of. He considered that the Government resembled the famous race of the Bourbons, in that they learnt nothing. But they differed from them in respect of forgetting everything. He should have thought that the lessons recently learnt in Ireland would have taught them the deplorable effects which followed upon any attempt to take away the thoughts of the peo- 730 ple from Constitutional and peaceable action.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, ho hoped every Member of the Committee had heard the very remarkable speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down. He had given up the whole case, and had abandoned every argument that had been used in favour of the Amendment. What did the hon. Gentleman say? He had taken up the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and expressed the opinion that under the words as they stood—"injury, damage, harm, or loss "—every case of undue spiritual influence could be ranged. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton said that undue spiritual influence ought not to be dealt with by legislation.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that, according to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, spiritual influence ought to be left out of the definition. But what were they discussing, if the statement of the hon. Member for Sligo were correct, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork dealt with the case of undue spiritual influence; why had they been discussing at such length whether or not there ought to be words to deal with it? The whole thing had now become a question of words. The hon. Members for Plymouth (Mr. Macliver), Salford (Mr. Arnold), and Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), had been saying that they ought to leave such cases undealt with by legislation. Ho himself thought that the words "injury, damage, harm, or loss," meant temporal injury, damage, harm, or loss; but that they did not mean what a man would suffer hereafter; and, inasmuch as the hon. Member for Sligo said that undue spiritual influence ought to be deal with, if the Committee left in the words as they existed in the Act of 1854 it would he dealt with. He could not consent, on the part of the Government, to say that they should declare by express legislation that undue spiritual influence should remain unchecked. Just one word as to what the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had said. Let the Committee recollect that it was the present law—the Act of 1854, in fact—that was being 731 attacked, and which would still remain the law even if this Bill did not pass, and not the law that was proposed by the present Bill. When this law was last discussed not ono word fell from any Irish Member by way of objection to this part of the Act. What had occurred since then to give rise to the present opposition to the words of the Act? The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) interrupted by saying that at the time time Leaders of the Irish Party were in prison. But that, he thought, was a mistake. They discussed this Bill on the 15th of May last year; and he was not aware that any Member of the House was at that time absent from any such cause as the hon. Member stated. No objection was raised to this provision notwithstanding; and yet, for some reason, now, for the first time, objection was made to it.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had asked what it was they objected to in the old definition? He thought they had already explained more than once what their objection was to the definiton in the Act of 1854. They objected to the old definition, inasmuch as they considered it wider and more vague than the necessities of the case required; and because it would enable the Irish Judges, as it had enabled them in the past, to interfere with the Constitutional and legitimate rights both of candidates and electors. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked thorn whether they would not desire that the refusal to administer the Sacrament should constitute undue influence? He was perfectly willing to say that it should, although ho did not think it was a kind of undue influence that had ever been used in Ireland, or would ever be used in Ireland. Irish Members, as they had always a right to do, said to the Government—" Insert in your clause that the refusal to administer the Sacrament, or any threat of spiritual terror or spiritual intimidation, shall be undue influence in this Act, and then we shall know where we stand." They asked for a definition in this matter of spiritual intimidation. The Act 17 & 18 Vict. was full of definitions, until it came to the point of restricting the rights and privileges of Irish electors and Members. There it was studiously vague; and their objection was to retain such vague expressions as had enabled Judge Keogh. 732 in the case of Major Nolan, and Judge Lawson, in the case of Mr. O'Donnell, to strain the law to an extent that would be impossible in England; Mr. O'Donnell having been debarred from sitting for his constituency for three years, because some young priest took a banner and waved it over his head in the public street. When the hon. and learned Gentleman found fault with his first Amendment he withdrew it, and substituted another. The only forms of spiritual intimidation that could occur wore threats of excommunication and threats of spiritual terror; and these were matters which they were willing should be inserted in this Amendment.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, the hon. Member for the City of Cork had no other object in view than to make this matter quite clear. In his opinion, it would be the duty of the Attorney General to place a clear definition in the clause; it was not his business to make the matter ambiguous and unintelligible, and to leave Irish Members entirely in the hands of the Irish Executive. This was a matter of life and death to the popular Representatives of Ireland. They did not stand there for the purpose of defending anything like influence, whether it wore undue, temporal, or spiritual influence. But what use had been made of the ambiguous wording of the Act of Parliament, "or in any other manner practice intimidation? "Why, no man who had read the Galway case in England knew more about that matter than the hon. and learned Gentleman, for it was he who defended Judge Keogh in that House about 10 years ago. They wanted to prevent the recurrence of what happened in the case of the Galway County Election, which, unless they introduced a clear definition into the Bill, was, perhaps, more likely to occur now than it was at the time referred to. The same use was made of the words in question in the case of the Galway Borough Election; and because they asked for a definition of the words the hon. and learned Gentleman threw upon them the whole responsibility in the matter, instead of undertaking it himself. He was not there for the purpose of casting any imputation upon the Irish Bench. It was unnecessary for him to do so; but he must say that the Irish Bench was not under the influence of public opinion so much as the English 733 Bench. An English Judge would no more violate the public opinion of the country by giving such a Judgment as that of Judge Keogh than he would by vacating his seat altogether. It was because the English Judges considered themselves amenable to public opinion that their Judgments were respected. On the other hand, in Ireland, political opinions ran high; the Judges belonged to a small minority, and they thought that the popular Party were injurious to the Party interests of that minority. He and his hon. Friends were willing to accept a definition of the words from the Attorney General or anybody else; and ho thought the best course would be to make the words ejusdem generis with those which preceded them. When intimidation in any form was dealt with they desired to know what constituted that offence, so that everyone who ran might read, and be alive to the consequences of their acts; and so that if a popular candidate in Ireland received priestly support, the priest might know the length to which he might go, without injuring the popular cause, or the candidate in whose favour he came forward. He did not see what difficulty there could be in the way of this. Where there was a will there was a way; and he did not think that the Attorney General would have to spend much time in shaping these general words so as to control and limit them in a manner which would render the recurrence of what took place in the Galway cases impossible in future. Ho would leave the Government to solve the matter in their own way but they were resolved that these words should not stand undefined, as they were at present, for the purpose of placing in the hands of the minority in Ireland an engine to crush the rights of the Irish popular Representatives.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he thought that the aspect of the whole question had changed since hon. Members opposite had expressed approval of the introduction into the clause of a definition of spiritual influence. As he understood the matter, hon. Members opposite only wished the clause to be definite. Their contention was that, although the words had done no harm in England, they had done great harm in Ireland; and that, he thought, was evidence that there was inconvenience in the words, and that the 734 priesthood had not had that amount of freedom in regard to political influence which it was considered they ought to have. It seemed to him that there was not so very much difference between hon. Members on this point; and he hoped the Attorney General would bring forward something to get them out of the difficulty.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, the Attorney General seemed to remain obstinate because, as he had said, he thought there was something behind this proposal. That was exactly the opinion he had formed of the Attorney General's attitude; that there was something behind all this which he could not see; and the long consultations that had taken place between the Members of the Treasury Bench to-day confirmed that opinion. Ono peculiar characteristic of this debate was this—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) made a speech which received great attention from the whole Committee. Three right hon. and learned Gentlemen got up to answer that speech—the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), who, as usual, resorted to his old tactics, which meant nothing. He merely described a gross case, and called upon the Committee to assume that everything else was equally gross. Those were the old tactics, which had been seen so well during the discussions on the Coercion Bill. Then the President of the Local Government Board got up with an air of settling the whole question, and argued against the lion. Member for Wolverhampton, saying it was impossible to give a better definition of these words than the definition of Lord Justice Fitzgerald. Then the Solicitor General rose to explain the matter; and certainly his speech was one of the most extraordinary speeches, perhaps, made in that House for a very long time. There was only point in that speech, and he must again call attention to it—namely, that, ill his opinion, if some Gentleman being a candidate, having allowed an elector to shoot rabbits on his estate, withdrew that permission in consequence of the election, that would be intimidation within the meaning of the Act. If the Attorney General would just state his view, that would shorten this debate very much. If he had done that last night the Committee would probably 735 have come to a conclusion; but during the whole discussion he had fenced with the subject, and had declined, for an instant, to face the only difficulty which was involved. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr.W. Fowler), and another hon. Member sitting behind the Government, rose and told the Attorney General, in distinct language, what was the point at issue; but the Attorney General declined to take any notice, and, like the Solicitor General, treated the Committee to a disquisition upon something else, in order to avoid—and they had avoided with considerable success — the sole point in dispute. Would the Attorney General now state what he meant by the clause ho proposed, or not? Until he did so this debate would be continued. He meant that he and his hon. Friends must continue to call upon the Attorney General to give the explanation ho had promised on the previous day. For the sake of peace, and in order that they might arrive at some conclusion and make progress, he again invited the Attorney General to explain, in simple language, what, in his mind, was the definition of this clause.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he was sure he should he supported by the Committee when he expressed his regret that so much time had been occupied by this matter; and he would venture to submit to the Government, in order that this Bill might be passed and no more time be wasted, that they should show a disposition to meet, as far as possible, reasonable objections. If this Bill was to make progress, there must not be this evident disposition to occupy an unyielding position. He believed there was a general feeling in favour of some modification of the Bill; and it would be a great misfortune if the Government refused to come to some arrangement. Ho had considered this matter in a perfectly impartial manner and he could not help feeling that while this clause, as it stood, was entirely unobjectionable, so far as England was concerned, yet experience had shown that latitude of interpretation allowed to the Judges in Ireland only excited alarm among Irishmen. He appealed to the Attorney General to meet the point raised by the Irish Members, if possible, by using words which would satisfy them without destroying the value of the clause, which 736 would not strike at what was fair and legitimate action on the part of the electors, and yet would not enable a Judge, who might be actuated by strong Party feeling, as in the case of Mr. Justice Keogh, to misuse the clause. They must ho careful not to allow the clause to enable a future Judge to act in that way.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, he thought it well that the Committee should see exactly how they stood. There wore, at the outset, an imposing series of penalties which were not imposed when the present Act was passed. When this definition of undue influence was given in the Act of 1854 the Ballot Act did not exist, and there was a great variety of undue influence and intimidation; but, as everybody knew, the Ballot Act had, completely freed the electors from all chance of intimidation. Under the Ballot Act, no matter what influence might be exercised beforehand, the voter went to the ballot box perfectly free from any kind of intimidation. There was no kind of intimidation which he could not set at naught, and vote as his conscience or his conviction dictated. Practically, therefore, the only species of intimidation now in existence was physical force — making a voter drunk, or by some other physical means preventing his exercising his free vote. That being so, this provision was a great deal wider than was required; and it was, therefore, proposed to adopt a definition of undue influence. The definition in the Act of 1854 was really no definition. It included all the instances which were enumerated in the 5th section of that Act, and was framed by probably the greatest lawyer who had sat on the English Bench in modern times—Mr. Justice Willes; and he gave that not merely as part of a definition, as the Attorney General seemed to think, but as the true definition of the offences created under the Act. What the Irish Members wanted was not only to prevent undue influence by those who wished to influence votes, but undue influence by the Irish Judges. It had been quite conceded that there had been undue influence in the Galway decision; that the Judgment could not be sustained in coalmon sense or in law, and that it was revolting to the whole moral sense of the people. It was easy to understand how Judges might abuse their power; and 737 the Irish Members wished to take away from them not only the temptation, but the facilities to use that power. The Attorney General said he wanted to provide not against spiritual influence as it was known, but against some unknown terror which he was not able to describe, and know nothing of. That was the strangest principle of legislation ever laid down—that they were to make provision by Act of Parliament, not against known dangers which could be described, and of which instances could be cited, but against some unknown and mysterious danger which was incapable of definition, and which it puzzled even the acute mind of the Attorney General to imagine. They must not legislate against imaginary dangers, but against actual dangers which might occur; and if this definition was not sufficient to cover spiritual influence, they should have words which would, at least, enable them to understand what spiritual influence was. Would the Attorney General accept the Judgment of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald? Ho thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was too wise to do that; but that showed the danger of having general words that rounded off the middle of a period, or filled up a blank in the drafting, when they could be turned to such use as they had been by Mr. Justice Fitzgerald. In the Longford case, that Judge laid it down that it was undue influence to hold out hopes of reward hereafter to an elector, as a consequence of the way in which he might exercise his vote. Would any hon. Member, or man of common sense outside the House, say that that was a thing which could be prohibited under penal consequences in an Act of Parliament—that a priest, whose duty it was to direct the morals of his flock, should not say what was the action which would entail consequences hereafter? Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, however, went further, and said it could not be allowed to direct anyone that voting for a particular candidate was a sin which would bring down punishment hereafter. It was such a definition as this—which had been so often spoken of, and with approval—that would render it impossible to give advice to any man as to his duty. That Judgment showed clearly enough the difficulty of adopting the words which were in the Act of 1854 without augmenting the powers of the Judges to 738 an undue extent; but the words now proposed were, he thought, enough to cover every act of spiritual intimidation that might occur. What was an act of spiritual intimidation? It not only did harm and damage, but harm of a most serious kind; and it was recognized that mental torture and pain came within the cognizance of the Courts quite as clearly as physical and bodily pain. Any act which inflicted mental pain, such as excommunication, or any act which exposed a man to the contempt of his fellow-subjects or co-religionists, clearly came under the words of the Act of 1854, and under the definition now offered. They inflicted injury, harm, and damage; they inflicted mental torture, and exposed the man to odium and contempt; and any act which did that must come within the definition. But to make advice and instruction acts of spiritual intimidation was nothing more than the re-introduction of religious disabilities of a most offensive kind—and in a covert way. He hoped the Committee would accept the definition of undue influence offered by the hon. Member for the City of Cork; but if the Attorney General was able to produce any better words, which would include undue spiritual influence, and would, at the same time, say what that influence was, he would give him his vote, for he was as desirous of seeing undue spiritual influence put down quite as much as any other sort of undue influence.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought that, up to the present time, the Government could not be reproached with having wasted any time at their disposal. To the view that undue spiritual influence should remain unchecked they entirely dissented, and to that they would remain consistently opposed. He understood the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) to say that he was desirous that such spiritual influence should be checked by legislation, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork to say very distinctly that he would be willing to insert words, saying that not only temporal but spiritual intimidation should be repressed by legislation. But those were not the views presented up to the time when the Government spoke upon the point; but if hon. Members meant what they seemed to mean the Government were at one with them. What, then, were they now dis- 739 cussing, except a mere form of words? The hon. Member for the City of Cork sought to strike out general words. He had thought this matter out; and, under the general words, it did not seem to him that there was any intimidation other than spiritual intimidation, while every other kind of intimidation was left to the express words of the Act of 1854. If they were of one mind, ho could not possibly accept the proposed words. It required most careful consideration to say how the intention to meet every kind of intimidation was to be carried out; but until he heard something to the contrary it seemed to him that they were discussing nothing but mere words.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had stated distinctly that, whatever was undue influence, an attempt to intimidate a voter, no matter from what source it proceeded, should bo checked.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, of course they were dealing with what was undue — what was not undue would be no offence. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had admitted that he was willing to check undue spiritual influence; and if he and the Government were now in agreement, ought they not to demonstrate that agreement and make it clear and decided? If there was anything in the general words besides spiritual influence some hon. Member would, perhaps, suggest it; but, at the present moment, he and his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland could only see that those words covered spiritual intimidation, and that the two hon. Members opposite were willing to check.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he did not know what that meant. The Judge had to determine all through these clauses what was undue. They had now had a great deal of discussion upon this matter, and he hoped they might agree. The only course which occurred to him was this—he would ask the hon. Member for the City of Cork to withdraw his Amendment for the present; he would ask the Committee, on the other hand, to insert the words "undue influence," striking out the first words "treating and," so that the clause would read. "undue in- 740 fluence as defined by this Act." A clause could then be brought up defining "undue influence;" and if the hon. Member was sincere in allowing all undue spiritual influence to be dealt with, a new clause should be brought up in which undue spiritual influence as well as undue temporal influence could be dealt with. If hon. Members were sincere that arrangement could be carried out; and he hoped the Committee would make an attempt to come to an agreement.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, although he was glad to take any course which would expedite the passing of the Bill, the Government could not expect him to give an undertaking to pursue any particular course until he saw the words of the Amendment, which they now understood would be put on the Paper by the Government themselves. He and his hon. Friends must reserve their judgment upon the Government's proposed Amendment until they saw it in black and white.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he must also reserve to himself the same right that the right hon. Gentleman had just reserved to himself—namely, to see what the words were which the Government brought up before expressing any judgment. He accepted the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General; but he would make one suggestion for his consideration, and that was that, instead of introducing the definition as a new clause, he (the Attorney General) should insert it as a sub-section to that clause. That would enable the Committee to take the matter up while the debate was fresh in their recollection; whereas, if it were postponed until the time for new clauses, some time would necessarily elapse before they were ready to deal with the matter. Of course, in the proposed new clause, they would expect the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General to define undue influence, both spiritual and temporal.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he thought it desirable it should now be definitely stated whether the Government Amendment would be brought up as a subsection or as a new clause? If the proposed Amendment was presented as a new clause, he feared the benefit of the recent discussion would be in great part lost. There had been a good deal 741 of misunderstanding during the course of the debate. At last, however, a proposition had been made that, by plain and definite words, the wide discretion of the Judges should be restrained, and that they should be prevented in the future from holding that the exercise of legitimate spiritual influence amounted to undue influence. The statements made were now fresh in their recollection. It was right that there should be as short an interval as possible in proceeding to consider the words which it was suggested would give effect to the understanding in accordance with which the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was to be withdrawn.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he thought it was reasonable that they should have an understanding, before parting with the subject, as to whether the Amendment would be brought up as a sub-section or as a new clause? They certainly ought to decide on what the actual crime was before they dealt with the penalties. It was quite clear they could not deal with the penalties until they knew to what crimes they were attached.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that, so far as he could judge, this was a mere dispute about words. They were laying down what should be an offence and what should not; and, therefore, words were a very great element in the case. What was objected to was that the words should be left so loose that any Court or Tribunal might interpret them as it liked. They wanted such a description of the offence which would vitiate au election, or subject a man to the severe pains and penalties under the Bill, as would commend itself to the common sense of the House. If this Amendment were withdrawn, on the understanding that something that was not yet before them—and which might not have the character they hoped it would have—was brought in, he should like to know what position they would be placed in? Undue spiritual influence was a very vague expression; and it certainly ought to be understood that the Attorney General would, in his new clause, provide a proper definition of the term.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he quite saw the 742 force of what had just been said. They had had a very long discussion, and it would be a pity that its effect should be lost. He would, therefore, accede to the wishes of hon. Members, and would prepare a clause for insertion as a subsection. The time was short before Monday morning; but he would do his best to draft a clause and put it upon the Paper by that time.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he thought it was well that they should know exactly where they were. The Amendment was practically to leave out "or in any other manner practises intimidation." He considered that the words" in any manner practises intimidation" allowed the Judge to interpret legitimate spiritual influence and legitimate political agitation as undue influence. The President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in his very fair and temperate speech, in answer to his (Mr. H. H. Fowler's) remarks, quoted the words of Lord Justice Fitzgerald. Lord Justice Fitzgerald said it was undue influence for a clergyman to say to a man, if he voted for a particular candidate, it would be a sin. Now, upon that point, he (Mr. II. H. Fowler) could have no common ground with the Attorney General, if that was what the Attorney General meant; because ho (Mr. H. H. Fowler) considered that a clergyman of the Church of England, or a clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church, or of any other Church, was perfectly right in saying to a man that, in his opinion, it was a sin to vote for any particular candidate. It was one of the conditions of English public life, both religious and political; and to attempt to prohibit it, and make a clergyman liable for 12 months' imprisonment if ho said such a thing, was what he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was not prepared to assent to. He hoped that the Attorney General, in preparing the new clause, would take care to see that a clergyman should not be liable to punishment for the inevitable influence which religious teachers would exercise upon elections.
§ MR. BIGGAR
submitted it would be a legitimate thing for any clergyman to say to a man that if he supported the Affirmation Bill, for instance, he would be liable to certain penalties, not only in this world, but certainly in the next. It was perfectly plain that, under the 743 Bill as it now stood, a clergyman would be precluded from offering any opinion at the time of an election.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
then moved, in order to carry out the views he had expressed, to insert, after the word "treating," in line 25, "and undue influence as defined by this Act."
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 25, after the word "treating," to insert the words "and undue influence as defined by this Act."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
Amendment agreed to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
then moved to omit the words in line 26, "undue influence, and."
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 26, to leave out the words "undue influence, and."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
Question, "'That the words undue influence, and,' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, the Amendment which he had to propose was one of some importance. It was very inconvenient that the offences which were made serious and grave under this Act should be brought to the mind of people by reference to other Statutes. All he (Mr. Gibson) asked to do by this Amendment was, that the offences of bribery, personation, aiding and abetting, counselling, and procuring the commission of such offences, which were offences within the meaning of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854, as amended by this Act, should be set out in the Schedule of the Act. In that case, anyone turning to the Schedule could find out what were the offences referred to.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 1, after the word "Act," to insert the words "and as set out in the Schedule hereto."—(Mr. Gibson.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought the suggestion of the right hon. and learned 744 Gentleman was a very valuable one. He, however, was not disposed to accept it in its entirety; but, to meet the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he would propose to leave out the words "by the Corrupt Practices Prevention Acts," and say "in the sections of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act set forth in the third Schedule of this Act." He thought that would be a more useful way of referring to the Schedule.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 28, to leave out the words "by the Corrupt Practices Prevention Acts."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
Question, "That the words by the Corrupt Practices Prevention Acts,' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 1, after the word "Act," to insert the words "in the sections of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act set forth in the third Schedule of this Act." — (Mr. Attorney General.)
Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. LEWIS
proposed to move the omission of the words, in page 2, lines 1 and 2, "or are recognized by the Common Law or the law of Parliament." It seemed to him that it was necessary to omit those words, in order to fit in with the words the Attorney General had just now moved. At all events, he should like to hear from the Government what offences there were, plus those stated in the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, which would come in the definition which had already been passed by the Committee.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he had no objection to strike out the words "or the law."
§ MR. LEWIS
said, it was a very common practice for lawyers, when they could not find any particular Act under which an offence came, to say—" Oh, it is against the Common Law." What the Committee was anxious to know was, what the offences were with which they could possibly be charged under this beneficent and magnificent Bill, as the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) described it the other day at Shepherd's Bush. He (Mr. 745 Lewis), however, considered this a Bill of which every Member of the House of Commons ought to be ashamed. [Cries of "Question!"] Was there any credit in passing such an Act of Parliament? The introduction of the Bill was, practically, an admission by 658 English Gentlemen that they could not conduct their elections properly; that it was necessary to tie their hands, in order to keep them out of their own pockets. As a matter of fact, that was a degrading operation they were going through. The Commons House of Parliament had relegated the trial of Election Petitions to the Courts of the country; and, therefore, they ought to be particularly careful about what they were doing. With all these pains and penalties hanging round their necks they ought to avoid all vagueness under which punishment and evil consequences might ensue. He considered there was every reason why his Amendment should be adopted.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, lines 1 and 2, to leave out the words "or are recognized by the Common Law or the law of Parliament."—(Mr. Lewis.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. PARNELL
doubted whether it was worth the while of the Attorney General to keep to these words, or attach very much importance to them; and observed that, as the clause had been constructed by the Amendments made to it, the question of the offences which were to be recognized by the Common Law of England or the law of Parliament would be narrowed to the three offences of bribery, personation, and aiding, abetting, and counselling personation.
§ MR. MARUM
said, there were two distinct and separate questions involved in this Amendment. One was as to the question of offences as recognized by the Common Law, and that was the one now in dispute. That was very vague; but, on the other hand, it would include possible corruption, and that might be desired by some who wished to extend the scope of the Bill. The second point was with regard to the law of Parliament. Minors, according to the Common Law of Parliament, could and did 746 sit in that House by virtue of statute Law, and it was by Statute Law that they were excluded. He had an Amendment down defining the law of Parliament, because he took it that a Resolution of the House was not the law of Parliament, and certainly not the law of the three Estates of the Realm. A Resolution had not the force of an Act, and could not be relied upon as Statute Law. He would request the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) to bring his Amendment to bear on the words "as are recognized by the Common Law," and allow the words after" law of Parliament" to be retained, because, otherwise, his Amendment would be cut away.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he thought the Attorney General would run some little risk by retaining these words of injury to what he wished to preserve. He was quite aware of the Judgment of Baron Bramwell, and of the fact that that House had chosen to delegate to the Judges a certain amount of jurisdiction, although it still retained jurisdiction over elections. But he was prepared to hold that there was some kind of Common Law of Parliament still existing; but the way in which the section had been drawn would inflict some harm on the Common Law of Parliament which still existed. They had now got two groups of offences. The first consisted of treating and undue influence, as defined by this Act; and the second consisted of bribery, personation, and aiding and abetting personation, as defined in the Act of 1854. As the section now read, it seemed to him that it was only this last group that could be considered in any way to have checked Parliament; and he was afraid the anxiety of the Attorney General to keep in "Common Law of Parliament" would have the effect of showing that there was no Common Law.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought there was some justice in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member, and he would agree to strike out the words in question, and, if necessary, put in other words.
Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. MARUM
moved, in page 2, line 2, after the word "Parliament," to insert the words— 747And for the purposes of this Act it shall be deemed to be undue influence ' within its meaning for any Lord of Parliament, or Peer or Prelate, not being a Peer of Ireland at the time elected, and not having declined to serve for any county, city, or borough in Great Britain to concern himself in the election of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament, except only any Peer of Ireland at such election in Great Britain respectively where such Peer shall appear as a candidate, or by himself or any others be proposed to be elected, or for any Lord Lieutenant or Governor of any county to avail himself of any authority derived from his commission to influence the election of any Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament.The hon. and learned Gentleman said, his main object was to make the action indicated in the latter clause of this Amendment a statutable offence. At present the matter was only dealt with by Sessional Order; and the Sessional Order having declared that any such action would be an infringement of the Privileges of that House, he was not driven to the necessity of making out a case, though, if necessary, he could make out a very distinct case. A Lord Lieutenant was the political nomination of the existing Government, and it was not unnatural that he should dispense in the same way any political patronage he could exercise. The very fact of the Sessional Order established the necessity for this provision. What was the present law? That it would be a breach of the Privileges of this House for a Lord Lieutenant to interpose in an election; but the question was, whether this section brought that in under the title of the "law of Parliament?" He hoped the Attorney General would take the proposal upon its merits, and not allow it to be thrown out upon a mere technicality.
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, this was not a matter of technicality, but of substance. As far as he knew, there was no law on the subject. The House of Commons asserted its rights and privileges by Sessional Order; but it had never received any assent from the other House to assert those rights. He thought it would be better to be content with the Sessional Order, and so avoid any collision with the House of Lords. To treat Peers who might concern themselves in 748 elections as they proposed to treat persons guilty of corrupt practices would be a serious innovation.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, the Sessional Order was inoperative and useless, and ought to be removed from the Orders of the House. The Order had never been put in force, although there had been notorious breaches of it. Last Session he attempted to bring forward the case of a Lord Lieutenant of a county, and a distinguished Indian official, who telegraphed home an order for a subscription to an election; but the House refused to concern itself with the matter.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he did not think that now the Ballot Act was in operation it was not justifiable to object to Peers taking part in elections; but the case was very different with regard to the Lord Lieutenant of a county. A Lord Lieutenant held an essentially official position, and through that had very great power, especially in regard to appointing magistrates; and if he influenced an election ho acted in a very corrupt manner. He suggested that the hon. and learned Member should confine his Amendment to Lord Lieutenants of counties.
§ MR. MARUM
said, he had thought it his duty to bring this matter forward; but, looking at the feeling of the Committee, he did not wish to press the matter any further. Ho hoped, however, that the Attorney General would take into consideration that portion of the Amendment relating to Lord Lieutenants of counties.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had an Amendment to propose; but as it would be impossible to explain its object in the few minutes now remaining he would move that Progress be reported. When he did move the Amendment he should show that circumstances had arisen in this country which were, in a certain degree, analogous to circumstances which had long prevailed in the United States, and which had led to great confusion in the American electoral system.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Hewdegate.)
Motion agreed to. 749 Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday next, again resolve itself into the said Committee."
§ MR. CHAPLIN
rose to protest against the precedence given to this Bill over the Agricultural Holdings Bill. Unusual as it was for private Members to force the hand of the Government, the course pursued by the Government had been so unusual that they had strong grounds for protesting. There was a very long delay, in the first instance, in the introduction of the Agricultural Tenants' Compensation Bill; but it was introduced before the Whitsuntide Holidays, and read a second time on the 29th of May. The Committee was then fixed for the 11th of June. In consequence of the fixed intention to take the Committee with as little delay as possible, many Members declined to express their views upon the second reading. When his right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) proposed that the Bill should be committed pro formâ, for the purpose of incorporating several clauses of the old Agricultural Holdings Act, the Chanceller of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson) replied that so anxious was he to proceed with the Bill without any delay that he objected to the proposal on account of the loss of time that would be involved.
It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this day.