HC Deb 05 March 1885 vol 295 cc110-2

who had given Notice of a Question relating to the Aston riots, said, he thought he might save some time and anxiety to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade if he were to state that he put the Question with no animus whatever. ["Oh, oh!"] He had not been instigated by, nor been in communication with, any members of the Conservative Party at Birmingham, and he unearthed the hatchet, if it could be so called, entirely on his own responsibility.


interposing, said, the hon. Member must confine himself to putting the Question.


then asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to the trial and conviction of Peter Joyce, alias Larry Mack, at Birmingham, on March 2nd, for uttering a false, scandalous, and malicious libel against Mr. R. C. Jarvis, a gentleman of Birmingham; whether his attention has further been called to the summing up of the learned Judge, who stated that— They had heard Mr. Jarvis was a very respectable gentleman in Birmingham, and he had no doubt that he was; hut, if he had been guilty of the conduct charged upon him, all his respectability of character would not avail against truth; and, again— He also thought they would have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the libel was as false as it was wicked, scandalous, and malicious; and, whether he is now prepared to retract and apologise for an allegation put forward by him concerning the character of an honourable gentleman, which has been proved before Judge and Jury to have been a scandalous and malicious libel? He also wished to ask a Question of which he had given the right hon. Gentleman private Notice—namely, Whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention had been further called to the expression of opinion on the part of the learned Judge that the affidavits of these roughs had been taken by the solicitors to the Liberal Association without due caution such as should have been shown by Officers of this High Court, and persons in whom the country reposed great confidence; and, further— that unless there was some responsible person, who had not been produced at the trial, who vouched for all these people who had made affidavits, then Messrs. Norton and Redfern's conduct was deserving of great blame?


I can well believe the statement of the hon. Baronet, that he has not put the Question at the request of the Conservative Party at Birmingham; for I believe the local leaders of that Party much regret that this matter should have been again raised. The addition which the hon. Baronet has made to it was only communicated to me after I came to the House. It consists, as far as I can gather, of an additional extract from the summing up of the learned Judge. I have had no opportunity of comparing it with the reports in the newspapers, and I cannot say whether it is correct or not. In any case, however, I should not think it my duty to make any comment on the remarks of the learned Judge in his summing up. The hon. Baronet appears to be incompletely informed as to the circumstances referred to in his Question. It appears that the defence in the case of Peter Joyce was that he was not the person who made the declaration which was the subject of the prosecution; and, under these circumstances, no evidence whatever was tendered on his behalf as to the truth or otherwise of the alleged libel. I do not know how the learned Judge arrived at his conclusion; but I assume that, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, he accepted the denial of Mr. Jarvis, the person referred to in the declaration. As the hon. Baronet has thought fit to revive this matter, I have to point out that the truth of the declaration was made the subject of another inquiry held before the stipendiary magistrate, when a man named Reed was prosecuted by Mr. Jarvis for libel. On that occasion, Mr. Jarvis denied the truth of the statements contained in the statutory declaration, but he admitted, in cross-examination, that he had given tickets to roughs to go to Aston, and that numbers of these roughs had come to his shop the day after the demonstration, declaring that he had engaged them, and claiming payment for their services to the Conservative Party. He also admitted that in the case of one man ho had sent him to Mr. Barton, the secretary of the Conservative Association, with his private card. After hearing that and other evidence for the prosecution, the stipendiary dismissed the charge without calling for evidence for the defence. Under these circumstances, I have nothing to add to an answer which I gave to a similar Question by the hon. Baronet on 23rd of February last.