§ Clause;(Inquiry by order of Attorney General).
§ MR. MARUM (Kilkenny, N.)
I beg to move, as an Amendment, in the first section, in line 6, to insert after the word "where" the words "grounded upon a sworn information," or the latter word only, in regard to this Amendment. I may say that it formed the subject matter of very considerable discussion in the Grand Committee upon law, which sat some years ago. That was a very strong Committee, and included among its Members the present Lord Chancellors of England and Ireland, the present Solicitor General, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, &c. After considerable discussion, the Committee determined on inserting these words, and it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) who proposed that the initiation of proceedings should be upon a sworn information. There are several precedents for the initiation of such proceedings upon a sworn information. I find that the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 93 requires a sworn information, and I find, also, that in the Peace Preservation Act of 1870 the initiation is required to be upon sworn information. The Crimes Prevention Act of 1882 likewise puts the initiation of proceedings upon a sworn information; and, lastly, in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill of 1885, it was likewise required that the initiation should be by sworn information. These appear to me to be important precedents, and the only precedent I can discover for the omission is in the 46th Vict. c. 3 (Explosive Substances Act), which was passed at a time when it may be said that we were legislating in a panic. That Act authorizes the proceedings to be taken by the Executive without being initiated by sworn information. That Act, however, was not intended to form part of our permanent legislation; and I maintain that, as it is intended to make this Bill a portion of the permanent legislation of the country, we ought not to be guided by a precedent which was set in a time of panic. With reference to the person who is to have the initiation of the proceedings, it is put forward here as being the Attorney General—that is to say, the Executive, and not any judicial authority. 359 That proposal I also consider to be objectionable.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. and learned Member must confine himself to his Amendment, which only provides that the proceedings shall be grounded upon a sworn information.
§ MR. MARUM
The matter before the Committee is, I understand, the initiation of the proceedings. It is at present provided that it should be at the instance of the Attorney General, and my objection is that it should be by the Attorney General instead of some judicial authority—namely, a magistrate. As the section stands, a Member of the Executive may come forward and in that way take action without the interposition of any judicial functionary whatever. In point of fact, the Attorney General may proceed to order the magistrates to take such and such steps. Now, I think it altogether undesirable to mix up the judicial with the Executive functions. I do not propose to enter into the whole scope of the section now; but I consider it necessary to point out that this is the first attempt to connect the Executive with the judicial function, and that the Attorney General is to take the initiatory proceeding.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. and learned Member must confine himself distinctly to the Amendment he is proposing. He is not entitled to enter into a second Amendment, but must confine himself to the one he is moving.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 6, after "where, "insert" grounded upon a sworn information."—(Mr. Marum.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The Government have no objection to the principle of the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Kilkenny (Mr. Marum). The clause, I apprehend, follows closely upon a former precedent. A somewhat similar Amendment has been put down in different forms by several hon. Members, including the 360 right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), and the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson). We do not think that the words proposed by the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny are the best, and we prefer those which are suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I do not see how the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn can be inserted, unless the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny is passed in the first instance.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! It is the second Amendment, which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn, that is in question.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOE IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The Amendment referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) is this, to leave out—The Attorney General for Ireland believes that any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district,with the view of inserting—A sworn information has been made that an offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district, the Attorney General for Ireland, &c.That is the Amendment suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn, and it is similar to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, whose Amendment, however, is of a double character. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to omit the words "where the Attorney General believes that" in order to make the section read—Where a sworn information has been made that any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district, he may direct a Resident Magistrate to hold an inquiry," &c.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Perhaps I may be allowed to make a suggestion. It does appear to me that if we accept these words, they will carry with them a number of other words to which objection is entertained—for in- 361 stance, the word "offence." The clause, as it stands, is somewhat curiously worded. In the first instance, it speaks of "an offence," and then it goes on to speak of such offence as "a crime," which is absurd. If the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) is affirmed as it is proposed, it will carry the words "offence committed in a proclaimed district," and will thereby prevent the discussion from taking place which I desire to raise. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) should bring up a Proviso at the end of the clause to provide that this step shall only be taken on a sworn information. The acceptance of the Amendment now would commit the Committee at once to several debatable points. I strongly object to the insertion in the clause of the word "offence" in one part of it, and of "crime" in another, with no words to provide that the offence shall be an indictable offence.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
This section relates to a preliminary inquiry. The object of it is to enable an inquiry to be held into certain circumstances in order to ascertain whether the offence has been committed or not. A man may say he has been robbed or assaulted, and the question is whether he has been robbed or assaulted at all. This section is only to cover a preliminary investigation in order to ascertain what the facts of the case are.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
If the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) is carried, it will then be open for any hon. Member to deal with the word "offence" by any other word contained in it. The words which the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn proposes to substitute for the words—The Attorney General for Ireland believes that any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district,are these—Where a sworn information has been made that an offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district, the Attorney General for Ireland may direct," &c.If this Amendment is agreed to, the Committee will then have accepted the principle of the Amendment which stands 362 in the name of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). The proceedings are to depend on a sworn information, and the question to which the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has called attention can then be raised.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
It could not be raised after the Amendment is carried. The first proposal will be to leave out certain words, and the next proposal will be to insert certain other words. A Motion might then be made to amend the words proposed to be inserted, and in that way the question desired to be raised by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) could be submitted to the Committee.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I think the difficulty could be met by adopting the words I intend to propose in the first instance as an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny (Mr. Marum)—namely, to add "that an offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district." The Committee could then take up my Amendment which stands No. 2 on the Paper. I propose to move the insertion of these words, if I am in Order in doing so, after the word "where."
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The question be-fore the Committee at this moment is the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny. The hon. and learned Member proposes, as I understand, to move an Amendment to that Amendment. The hon. and learned Member will be perfectly regular in moving his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 6, as an Amendment to Mr. Marum's Amendment, add the words "that an offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district."—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be added to the proposed Amendment," be there inserted.
§ MR. CHANCE
I think a little confusion may arise in regard to this Amendment. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny (Mr. Marum) would make the section read "where grounded upon a sworn in- 363 formation," and the words of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) would not run alter that. I would propose to insert after "where," and before the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Kilkenny, the word "upon." But it would be necessary for the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn to withdraw his Amendment in the first instance.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
My Amendment, I think, would get rid of both of those difficulties. My Amendment is to leave out the words "the Attorney General believes," and to insert the words "a sworn information has been made." The section would then read—Where a sworn information has been made that any offence to which the section applies has been committed," &c.We should then arrive at the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) in the next line.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think that the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman would probably be the best.
§ MR. ANDERSON
Then I beg to withdraw the Amendment I have proposed to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Kilkenny.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
I have now to move, in line 6, after "where," to leave out the words "the Attorney General for Ireland believes," in order to insert the words "a sworn information has been made."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 6, after "where," leave out "the Attorney General for Ireland believes."—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the words 'a sworn information has been made' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move, as an Amendment, in line 7, to omit the word "offence," and insert the word 364 "crime." If hon. Members will look at the 11th line, they will find that the words there are "such crime." I think it is altogether objectionable that it should be called an offence in one portion of the section, and a crime in another. More than that, I think the Government ought to make up their mind at this early stage of the Committee's proceedings what it is exactly that is to be inquired into. In all other cases it has been an indictable offence; and I observe that when the Grand Committee on Law and Procedure dealt with the question, Mr. Cecil Raikes and Sir John Gorst—who I presume are the present Members of Her Majesty's Government—took precisely the stand that I am now taking. In the Standing Committee on Law and Procedure, Mr. Raikes, in the case of the Bill of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), thought it should only apply to treason and murder. I think that it is most desirable to fix what the provisions of the Bill are to be. If the Government will omit the word "offence," they can put in "murder" or "manslaughter," or anything else they like. But it seems to me that in this respect we should follow, to some extent, the Crimes Act of 1882.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the word "offence," in order to insert the word "crime."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'offence' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. HOLMES
I wish to point out that the final paragraph of the clause defines the offences to which the section applies as '' felony, misdemeanour, and any offence punishable under this Act." The discussion on the point raised could more conveniently be taken when we reach that part of the clause. I suggest that the most reasonable plan to adopt would be to alter the word "crime" in another part of the clause, and make it "offence."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I dare say what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has said is true; but the question as to what crimes this clause may be applied to may be raised later. It is true that there are variations in the language employed—there is sometimes one offence, and 365 sometimes several offences. The offences under this Act may be extremely small, and I think it is very important to follow similar proceedings in the past. The examination provided by the clause should be restricted to crimes such as those at the bottom of page 3—murder or manslaughter, attempt to murder, and aggravated crimes of violence against the person. In other cases the preliminary examination has, I believe, been confined to offences where a man might be arrested without a warrant, and that would clearly exclude altogether such phraseology in this clause as the word "offence." The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland proposes to alter "crime" into "offence," so as to make the section apply to the smallest possible contraventions of the Act. Now, I think if we are to have one particular word in the Act, it ought to be one which would only apply to the worst offences, and in that case the word ought to be "crime."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have moved to omit the word "offence;" and as to the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) that is the very thing I object to. It is one of the drafting tricks which we are accustomed to, but which, I think, ought to be put an end to. Words have been put in to hide what the Government are going to do, until we reach the end of the clause. The draftsman in this case has evidently been on the watch to insure the carrying of the provision before the Committee know what they may have committed themselves to. I want the Committee to understand what it is they are committing themselves to. Let me take the case of unlawful seizure. If my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) were to commit that offence after the Act is passed, he could be had up before a magistrate and examined as to the state of his banking account, and asked all sorts of questions in reference to it. What I want to provide is that the clause should only be extended to major offences, such as would be indictable—as crime. If we pass a clause, and allow this principle to be carried, before the Committee have an opportunity of understanding what it is they are doing, having thus agreed to the major part with a light heart, it can be made to apply to the general crimes 366 under Section 2. I want the Committee to understand, before they proceed further with the clause, what it is to which the Government propose to apply Section 2. This is the proper time for making the Committee clearly comprehend that this iniquitous clause is not to apply to any but major crimes in the Crimes Act. In the Crimes Act of 1882 there were distinct exceptions, and when the Criminal Code Bill was before the Grand Committee on Law and Procedure I find that Mr. Cecil Raikes proposed that there should only be a preliminary inquiry under that Bill with regard to indictable offences. Indeed, Mr. Raikes proposed to omit the words "indictable offences" in order to insert "treason—felony and murder." If the clause is carried, as it now stands, a magistrate may be called upon to make a preliminary investigation into charges affecting the Press. For instance, an objectionable article may have been inserted in United Ireland or some other Irish newspaper, and it will be possible to bring every printer's devil before a Resident Magistrate and compel him to give up the entire secrets of the office with the liability of a month's imprisonment if the questions put to him are not answered. The Committee should understand now, before going a step further, what it is that the Government really mean by this clause. Now is the time to decide the question.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The Government have not the smallest objection to the discussion being taken at once. The only question was, whether it would not be better to take it on another clause. For my own part, I think the observations which have been made by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) make it necessary that the discussion should be taken now. If we insert the word "crime" we must adhere to the word "crime" throughout, and I would submit to the Committee that "offence" is the proper word to use. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman has risen to express his regret, and to apologize for the Act of 1882, and I may say that this clause is substantially founded on Sub-section 1 of the 16th clause of the Act of 1882. The words of that subsection are these—For the purposes of this section any felony or misdemeanour, or any offence against the 367 Act, with the exception of offences expressed in Sections 10 and 11, are treated as crimes.Sections 10 and 11 relate to illegal meetings, and to the arrest of persons found out of doors at night in suspicious circumstances. To every person in a proclaimed district who took part in a riot or unlawful assembly, who took or held forcible possession of a house, or committed an aggravated assault upon a constable, bailiff, process-server, or any other officer of the law in the execution of his duty—to every person who took part in the proceedings of an unlawful association, except those offences which were dealt with in Sections 10 and 11 the inquiry clause was applied. It will thus be seen that the Act of 1882 was made to apply, not only to crimes and misdemeanours, but to various other offences under the Act. I submit to the Committee that it is necessary and wise, for the purpose of a preliminary inquiry, to include offences as well as murder, manslaughter, &c. Her Majesty's Government are strongly of opinion that the proper word to insert in this place is "offence," and if a discussion is to take place at all it had better take place now.
§ SIR. WILLIAM HARCOURT
It does not appear to me that the analogy between this Bill and the Act of 1882 is well founded—and for two reasons. We are now, first of all, establishing a permanent law, and, therefore, we must look at the law in a different frame of mind and deal with it altogether in a different manner from that in which we might be disposed to deal with a temporary law. We are wholly departing from the principle laid down in the Criminal Code Bill of 1883—namely, that these preliminary examinations should not be applicable except to the graver offences. That is a distinct and fundamental principle. I say nothing on the subject of the Scotch law, because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) completely smashed up the argument of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) the other night on that subject, and proved that this principle, which some hon. Members had assumed to be the every day usage of the Scotch Courts, was, in point of fact, hardly ever employed. You are now going to establish a permanent law for Ireland, and 368 yet this is the kind of preliminary examination you propose to enact. It was said the other night that the popular impression in this country is that this is a Bill against crime. Now, the people of this country know what crime is; and by crime they do not mean the small offences which may be disposed of by a magistrate—certainly not such small offences as will fall within the scope of this Bill. If we are to have an inquiry into all these offences, I believe it will be possible to bring up every man in Ireland. The whole population is to be subjected at once to the operation of the Bill, not upon the allegation that some murder, or arson, or burglary, or serious crime has been committed, but upon the assumption that a person may be connected with some combination or other. The Bill is also made applicable to the whole of the Whiteboy Acts under Clause 2; and when hon. Members come to the consideration of those Whiteboy Acts, they will see that they apply to all public meetings. Every one of these Whiteboy Acts give to the magistrate the power of dealing with any public meeting which he chooses to regard as being to the terror of the public. Now, it has been laid down by a very high authority, indeed—which authority was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley)—what a meeting is which is to the terror of the public. Lord Eldon has declared that numbers constitute force, that force constitutes terror, and that terror constitutes illegality. Therefore, a numerous meeting will necessarily be an illegal meeting, and will constitute terror to the public. Therefore, the doctrine of the Government amounts to this—that it is to be at the option of any Resident Magistrate in Ireland to consider every man who attends a public meeting, where there may be no force or intimidation used at all, guilty of attending an illegal meeting—such, for instance, as a meeting in favour of Parliamentary reform, which, under this definition, may be declared by the great lights of the law to be an illegal meeting. Anybody who takes part in such a meeting, either before or after the fact, may be subjected to a criminal examination. This is one of the tests by which the intentions of the Government can be judged. They allege that this is a Bill against serious crime and against serious crime 369 alone, and that it is not aimed at combinations or political meetings. Now, I maintain that, within the purview of this Bill, it will touch all of those things. Therefore, let us come to some clear understanding with the Government whether this preliminary inquiry is to be devoted to a majora crimina or not. If the Government say that it is only to be applied to serious crime, then we shall know where we are and what is the value of all the assertions which have been made. That is my first point. But, then, in the Act of 1882, by the 1st sub-section, there was, as the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has mentioned, an exception in Clause 10. That section related to illegal meetings; but the Government make no such exception here. They deal with the whole of the Whiteboy Acts which apply to meetings. Let us know whether or not these examinations are to be applied to what may be alleged to be illegal meetings of every kind all over Ireland. Is every man who may be alleged to have taken part in a public meeting to be liable to be subjected to this preliminary examination, seeing that it will be an offence under this Bill? I maintain that this clause is not in accordance with the Act of 1882, which specially excluded the application of the Act to public meetings. Do the Government accept the proposition that the provisions of the Bill are to be confined to grave crimes?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I accept at once the challenge the right hon. Gentleman has thrown down. He tells us that this Bill to begin with is to be treated in a different fashion from his own Bill, because his Bill was an exceptional and temporary Bill, whereas this Bill is to become part of the permanent law of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman might have remembered that this Bill, so far from applying to all Ireland for all time, is only to be a law for that part of Ireland which, in the opinion of Parliament and of the Government which depends for its existence on Parliament, requires it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the people of this country are under the im- 370 pression that this Bill deals with crime, and that by crime is meant serious crime. But if Her Majesty's Government was in fault, the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member were not loss in fault when he brought in the Bill of 1882. His own Bill dealt with crimes quite as trivial as this Bill deals with. The right hon. Gentleman argues that if the word "offence" is retained the preliminary inquiry might apply not only to the majora crimina, but to the Whiteboy offences. His own Bill applied to the Whiteboy offences. In Subsection I of the 16th Section of the Act of 1882, it was stated that offences for the purposes of this section meant any felony or misdemeanour. As a matter of fact, offences under the Whiteboy Acts are at this moment quite apart from this Bill, both felonies and misdemeanours. The right hon. Gentleman should have got up his Irish law before criticizing the Bill. A preliminary inquiry under the Act of 1882 did apply to Whiteboy offences, in horror of which the right hon. Gentleman now holds up his hands. Let me explain, broadly, to the Committee what the opinion of the Government is. We adhere to the word "offence" and object to the substitution of the word "crime," or any limiting word of that kind, because we are clearly of opinion—and in this, I believe, we are following the precedent set by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member—that if it be proper and worth while to give the magistrate summary jurisdiction for any species of offence, it is also worth while to give him the necessary power for discovering by whom the offence has been committed. I can perfectly understand hon. Gentlemen thinking that we have included in the Bill a great deal too many offences; but there will be an opportunity of discussing that Question in the later stages of the Bill. It will be in the power of any hon. Member to move Amendments as to the Whiteboy Acts. But we cannot withdraw from the broad principle we have laid down, that if it is worth while giving summary jurisdiction to the magistrates for dealing with offences, it is also worth while to give them means for discovering the offenders.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The clause as it stands will apply to illegal meetings. In the Act of 1882 the appli- 371 cation of the power to illegal meetings was excepted, and the question I wish to put to the Chief Secretary is this—Does he mean to apply this preliminary inquiry to illegal meetings which were expressly excepted from the Act of 1882?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman rests his case on a wrong basis. The Act of 1882 did include illegal meetings under the White-boy Acts.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Clause 10 of that Act excluded illegal meetings; but the right hon. Gentleman makes no exception in the present Bill. The Whiteboy Acts are expressly incorporated in this Bill, and I ask him whether he means to do that which the Act of 1882 did not do—that is, to apply this preliminary examination to illegal meetings?
§ MR. HOLMES
By our present Bill the Government propose to do precisely what was done with regard to this point by the Act of 1882. It is quite true that in the Act of 1882 there was an exception, and that there is no such clause in the present Bill; but that is because the section to which such exception applied is not to be found in the Bill. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the only provision in the Act of 1882 with regard to public meetings, was a clause which, for the first time, empowered the Lord Lieutenant, if he believed that any public meeting was calculated to endanger the public peace, to proclaim such meeting, and declared that if, after such Proclamation, persons attended such meeting and did not disperse when ordered to, they would be guilty of an offence. There was nothing in either the White-boy Acts, nor is there anything in this Bill corresponding to that provision.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon; but I think that he misunderstood me. I have here the Whiteboy Acts, and in Clause 7 of the Act, passed in 1775–6, I find these words—If any person …. wearing any particular badge, dress, or uniform not usually worn by him, her, or them, upon his, her, or their lawful occasions, or assuming any particular name or denomination not usually assumed by His Majesty's subjects upon their lawful occasions, shall rise, assemble, or appear by day or by night to the terror of His Majesty's subjects, every person so offending," &c.372 A meeting under such 'circumstances is an illegal meeting, orIf anybody shall incite to any riot, tumultuous meeting, or unlawful combination or confedracy.That also is an offence under this Bill. Then, again, it is an offence—If any person or persons shall knowingly print, write, post, publish, circulate, send or deliver, or cause or procure to be printed, posted, circulated, sent or delivered any notice or message exciting, or tending to incite any riot, tumultuous or unlawful meeting, or assembly, or unlawful combination or confederacy, or threatening any violence, injury, or damage upon any condition, or in any event or otherwise to the person or property real or personal of any person whatever, or demanding any money, arms, weapons or weapon, ammunition, or any other matter or thing whatsoever, or directing or requiring any person to do, or not to do, any act, or to quit the service or employment of any person.Now, here are three separate classes of offences under the Whiteboy Acts which apply to public meetings, and which will become offences under this clause. The preliminary investigation will apply to all of them. Our proposal in the Act of 1882 was not to apply this preliminary investigation to any offence connected with the holding of a public meeting. No doubt the second clause of the Act provided that if such meeting was held after it had been specifically prohibited, the holding of such meeting or assembly, was to be dealt with as a public offence. There is more than one clause in this Bill which is aimed at public meetings, and I want to know, when we come to deal with that question, how far the right of public meeting is struck at by the Bill. In particular, I want to know at the commencement of the consideration of the clauses of the Bill, whether the Government propose to lay down the principle contained in the Act of 1882, that these preliminary investigations are not to apply to offences connected with public meetings.
§ MR. HOLMES
The principle laid down by the Act of 1882 was this—that meetings prohibited by the Lord Lieutenant were unlawful. It was then for the first time declared to be the law that if the Lord Lieutenant believed that any meeting was calculated to interfere with or endanger the public peace, he could proclaim it; and if, after such proclamation any person took part in such meeting, he was guilty of an offence. 373 That was for the first time made law by that Act. There is nothing corresponding to it in any of the Whiteboy Acts, and nothing corresponding to it in the present Bill. It is quite true that the Act of 1882 did not incorporate the Whiteboy Acts. We have no doubt done so, but they were existing at the time the Act of 1882 passed, and there could be a preliminary investigation as to any offence committed against them. Preliminary investigations, as a matter of fact, were held.
§ MR. HOLMES
In 1882, 1885, and 1886 there were several preliminary investigations under the Whiteboy Acts.
§ MR. HOLMES
There is nothing whatever in the Act of 1882 which lays down any principle as to public meetings except that they might be prohibited by proclamation, and that provision is not contained in the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says that it is directed against combinations and associations. I entirely differ from him. I maintain that there were clauses in the Act of 1882 which were directed against associations, and that in this respect the two measures are precisely parallel.
§ MR. CHANCE
I must express the greatest surprise at the way in which this controversy has been carried on by the occupants of the Treasury Bench. I do not propose to characterize it as I feel inclined to do, because I am afraid that the language I might use would not be considered Parliamentary. The Government say that the preliminary investigation is to be applied in order to discover cases of unlawful assembly, and they add that the Act of 1882 was just as bad, because the same powers existed under it. But they entirely overlook the fact that Subsection I. of Clause 16 of the Act of 1882 provides that only felony, murder and misdemeanour shall be inquired into by a preliminary process, and that the holding of public meetings is not made subject to such preliminary investigation. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has been asked if that is true or not, and he says distinctly and emphatically that it is not true, because if hon. Members will read the section, they will find that there are general words which cover 374 public meetings. Section 16 of the Act of 1882 gives this power in all cases of misdemeanor. Unlawful assembly is undoubtfully a misdemeanor under the Whitebay Acts, and if the Section ended there, such power would exist in the case of such of such assemblies; but if hon. Members read to the end of the Section, they will find that the general words are restricted by the exemption contained in Sections 10 and 11 of offences connected with illegal meetings. There may be a distinction between the case of illegal meetings and unlawful assemblies, although what the distinction is I do not know, and I cannot see how any hon. Member on the Treasury Bench can get up and raise any question as to the extent of the powers conferred upon the Executive by the Act of 1882. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) says that this is not to be permanent law, but that it will depend entirely upon the action of the Lord Lieutenant. I congratulate him on his ingenuousness in defending so wide a word as "offence," by telling us that the application of the section is to rest altogether upon the action of the Lord Lieutenant. In point of fact, he asks the House to hand over all its duty in regard to the definition of the law to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and to enable him to say what the cases are in which it shall be applied. I do not understand that this is to be part of the ordinary law of the United Kingdom, or that it is to be applied to England, so that the law in one part of the Kingdom will be altogether different from what it is in another, and the definition of it in Ireland will be left entirely in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant. Now, I hold that it is the duty of Parliament to define the law, and to take care that no judicial weapon shall be used unjustly or unfairly. Nevertheless, we are told in the most common-place language, from the Treasury Bench, that it is almost a virtue on their part to provide that the definition of what the offences are which are to be dealt with by the provisions of this Bill shall altogether depend upon the action of the Lord Lieutenant. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, in the remarks he made, did not go through all the provisions of the Act of 1882. If he had done so, he would have found that there are several 375 provisions in this measure which, are not at all similar to those in the Act of 1882. He says that offences under the White-boy Acts could he made the subject of preliminary investigation. Undoubtedly they could; but what followed? In that case the persons charged with an offence were not sent before two Resident Magistrates, but were to be charged before a jury. There are some other examples. Take the case of conspiracy. One of the sections of this Bill enables a preliminary investigation to take place in a case of constructive criminal conspiracy. Under that Bill it is undoubtedly the fact that what is perfectly lawful for one man to do would become unlawful if two men did it. Under this Bill such an unlawful act is subject to punishment, but before the offence fructifies into a crime, the Lord Lieutenant can put the Act in force in order to discover the secret minds of the two men. Having tortured them, and compelled their wives and children to criminate them, the Government can then proceed against them for criminal conspiracy before two Resident Magistrates. On this point, I have another reason why the word "offence" should not be retained in the clause. The preliminary investigation may be used not only against the prisoner charged with the offence, but also against a witness. If the witness happens to go back on what he may have previously said, it is possible for the prosecuting counsel to produce his depositions, to confront the witness with them, and to make use of them in cross-examination. There was one occasion, in Cork, before Judge O'Brien, when a man was absolutely convicted upon depositions used in that way.
§ MR. HOLMES
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that will not be the fact. This legislation would never be used at any time for such a purpose.
But it can be used for the purpose of cross-examination; and I defy the right hon. and learned Gentleman, to say that under this section, as it is now drawn, a statement made by a witness may not be used against such witness to cross-examine him in order to show that he is going back on his own evidence. I say, most respectfully, that I do not care one straw what the intentions of the Government may be, because I feel that their intentions will be of no account in the 376 case of a man being brought up and treated to six months with hard labour. I could give plenty of reasons to show that the word "offence" is a most improper one to use in the section. Agreement to demand a certain abatement of rent would, under this Bill, be held to be a criminal conspiracy. A landlord could go up to Dublin Castle with certain depositions in his pocket, and he would produce pretty good evidence that there must have been some agreement between his tenants to demand an abatement of rent. Thereupon the Government would send down some gentleman to inquire into the facts of the case, and all these proceedings may be utilized against tenants in bankruptcy. I am told that a great question of principle is to be settled here. I distinctly deny it; and whether the word "offence" is inserted in the clause or not, I am afraid that when we come to the end of the section we may find that the term is used in a still more objectionable manner.
§ MR. R, T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
I do not think the argument, whether a provision of this nature was inserted in the Act of 1882 or not, has really anything to do with the question. If it was an error to insert it in that Act that is certainly a reason why we should not repeat the error now. The point seems to me to be that you are giving this power of inquisition in regard to all offences under the Act. This measure applies to offences on an unprecedented scale. The 1st sub-section of the 2nd clause provides—Any person who shall take part in any criminal conspiracy to compel or induce any person or persons either not to fulfil his or their legal obligations, or not to let, hire, use, or occupy any land, or not to deal with, work for, or hire any person or persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation; or to interfere with the administration of the law,may be precluded in any district which the Lord Lieutenant may have thought proper to proclaim. That is simply a renewal of the inquisition in a most formidable form. I can quite understand putting down crime where something serious has been done, and I can perfectly understand that it may be desirable to get at the root of a criminal conspiracy, but to enact the power of making an inquisition into matters of this kind is to place the most unlimited 377 powers and authority in the hands of the Executive Government.
§ SIR. GEORGE CAMPBELL
It seems to me that this clause 1, if properly used and limited, is a most excellent clause, and I have no desire to see it confined to proclaimed districts. I believe that it is at the present moment the law of Scotland and of India and other countries it ought to be the law of all countries. At the same time, the law in Scotland and India is not applied to minor offences, it is applied to major offences only, and not to minor offences. I therefore hope that the Government will impose some reasonable limitations upon it, and will be prepared to specify what the offences are to which it is to be applied. I certainly hope the principle will be adopted that it is to be applied to major offences only.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
We have now got into Committee upon the Bill, and we have not been allowed to be long left in the dark as to the real object of the measure. The Amendment moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) raises an important and broad principle—one which has been discussed all through the debate—namely, what are the object and purpose of the Bill. We are now led to believe, by the action of the Government, that the putting down of and dealing with crime is not the object of the Bill, but that it is something totally different; and we can now see that the Prime Minister and his view of firm government are to prevail in the policy of the Treasury Bench. Hon. Gentlemen much more learned in the law than I can pretend to be have dealt with the legal aspect of the question; but I wish to draw the attention of the House to a practical view of the matter, and to consider what will probably be the action of the Resident Magistrates in Ireland when they have such powers as this clause proposes to confer on them. It has been stated by a great Statesman that the happiness and contentment of the people will not depend so much on the letter of the law as it does upon the spirit and manner in which the law is enforced. It maybe true, and I believe it is true, that with certain modifications the principle of this clause has long been the law of Scotland; but there cannot be the slightest doubt that if the Scotch Law Officers had chosen to abuse 378 the powers intrusted to them the law would soon have become intolerable, and the people of Scotland would not have submitted to it. The law referred to, in Scotland, however, is not to be compared with the power proposed to be given by this clause. I have said that if such powers were placed in the hands of the Scotch Law Officers for any other purpose than detecting major offences, the Scotch people would not tolerate them for a single hour; and the officer who abused the power would be summarily dismissed, because he is responsible to the people. But you have always to remember that you are dealing with an Irish Bill; that you are placing power in the hands of men who hate the Irish people, over whom the people have no control, and who would abuse the powers intrusted to them with absolute impunity, and in spite of the people. On that ground alone the Irish Members are justified in closely scrutinizing the powers proposed to be placed in the hands of the Executive Government, because—as I have pointed out—we have to deal with a body of men who are hostile to the Irish people. We know, from experience, what has been done in the past, and, therefore, we are entitled to ask what is likely to be done under this Bill. It is perfect moonshine to talk to us about such provisions having been contained in the Act of 1882. I believe this Bill is much worse than the Act of 1882, although, at the same time, I admit that the Act of 1882 was exceedingly bad. Indeed, the very men who passed the Act of 1882 are, I believe, prepared to admit now that it was a most severe and improper Act. In a letter written by Sir George Trevelyan, the other day, he states, on the part of those who were principally intrusted with the carrying out of the provisions of that Act, that it was always the desire of the Government to confine its operations to the detection of crime, and not to apply it to political organizations. Nothing can be more intolerable and degrading than the provisions of the present measure; and yet the full power of the measure may be enforced in very trivial cases if the principle be affirmed by leaving in the word "offence," instead of substituting "crime." There is not a single man in Ireland, if he does not happen to be a Conservative in politics, who may not be brought up 379 under this Bill and examined as to every detail of his private life. Can anybody conceive anything more odious or more repugnant to the spirit of English life and English law? Let me give a case which occurred about three months ago. In the County of Limerick a local bench of magistrates, acting on their own motion, unquestionably broke the law, and going far beyond their powers, sent persons to prison illegally; but they were, unfortunately, too poor to resist the magistrates. The occurrence happened at a place called Drumcolla, and the charge was that a meeting had taken place at a private house which was alleged to be a meeting of the National League, and witnesses were examined as to what took place in that private house. Those who were members of the National League, one and all, refused to give information. I have carefully inquired into the case, and I am perfectly convinced, from the little knowledge of law I possess, that the magistrates had no right to press the matter further. It occurred, however, at the time when the Plan of Campaign had been declared to be illegal. The men who were summoned declined to give evidence on the ground that they might incriminate themselves; but the magistrates committed several of them to gaol, and remanded them time after time because they refused to answer questions, not with standing that their ground of refusal was the fear of incriminating themselves. I maintain that in the course they took the magistrates distinctly broke the law; but the men were too poor to proceed against them. If this Bill becomes law, this power will be exorcised all over Ireland. Any policeman may go and swear his belief that there has been an illegal meeting, and that is exactly what will occur if this section is passed. He will go to the nearest magistrate and swear an information. In regard to a private meeting, at which there are one or two priests present, you may have them summoned before a magistrate, together with all the other people who were present, and everybody knows that, whatever criminal Act you may pass, you will not be able to get an Irishman, in such a case, to give you any information whatever. Therefore, you are placing in the hands of the Government the power of putting in force a law which 380 will practically suspend the Act of Habeas Corpus, because nothing will induce these men to give evidence upon the sworn information of some police constable. You may sweep into prison whole bodies of men whose only crime will be a refusal, as a point of honour, to give evidence. I have not the smallest doubt that will be the operation of the Bill when it becomes an Act, and it is the way in which it will be used if it is not controlled in principle by the insertion of the word "crime." As it stands, it may, for example, be used for imprisoning any number of men for no other reason than refusing to give evidence, or refusing on oath to retail the private conversation which may have taken place around the dinner table. As I have said, you are giving the Government a power tantamount to suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, because this operation can be repeated over and over again, and there is nothing to insure that any man may not be kept in prison for an indefinite time. Under these circumctances, I hope that the Committee will adopt the Amendment.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Unless the Government are very desirous of prolonging the discussion on this Bill, I do not quite understand why they should oppose the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), to leave out the word "offence" and insert "crime." I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General to say that that Amendment will not change the operation of the Bill. If so, why does he exclude it? If it is not clear to his mind, and he does not agree with it, why should he insert the word "crime" in line 11 of the same clause? In line 11 the words are not "such offence," but "such crime." How is it that that which is an offence in line 7 becomes crime in line 11? Unless there is a different meaning, how is it that the word "offence" becomes "crime" in a subsequent part of the clause? Why should it not be described as "such offence," if the Government interpret the word "offence" to have the same meaning as "crime?" If both words mean the game thing, what are we lighting about? Either the contention of the Government is absurd, or they are trying to induce the Committee to vote two different things within the 381 limits of the same clause. I do not presume to have the requisite knowledge to enable me to interpret legal terms in Ireland; but I presume that even in Ireland, language has the same definite meaning as it has in other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions, and if you have in a penal clause an "offence" defined as a "crime" in another part of it, I cannot understand why the Government should object to use the same descriptive words four lines before which they use four lines after. There maybe a subtle and hidden meaning in this definition; and, if so, the Committee ought to know what it is. There is evidently a distinction of meaning in the mind of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and I do not think there is any Member of the House who is more capable of discriminating between different words than the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I doubt, however, whether he quite understands the definition he has drawn. I myself would suggest that the word ought to mean crime, and crime of a felonious character. If it is intended to mean something else, the difference should be made very clear. At present it seems to me that the Government are trying to land the Committee in a maze, and unless there is some subtle meaning which has not yet been brought out, I hope the Government, by accepting the Amendment, will prevent the Committee from being engaged in a long and unsatisfactory discussion upon the clause.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh), who has just sat down, has spoken' under a misapprehension. The Government are quite ready to admit that the Bill would be much better drafted if the word "offence "were used in line 11 instead of "crime." But we do not admit that there is any distinction to be drawn in law between the word "offence "and the word "crime." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) got up very early in the discussion and talked of the vital principle which is hero raised, and said it was the business of the Government to declare whether they meant to limit the operation of the section to what he called "graver crimes," or not, I, in the clearest language I could command, said that it was intended to apply the section to every offence that is punishable under 382 this Bill. Therefore, I deny that there is any obscurity in the policy which the Government have enunciated.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I should like to know how far the statement of the right hon. Gentleman goes. The title of the Bill is, that it is a Bill to—Make better provision for the prevention and punishment of Crime in Ireland, and for other purposes relating thereto.That is the statement of the object of the Bill which has gone forth to the country. the Committee are now to understand, however, that this is not the intention of the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The word crime is to be struck out of the Bill on the ground of better drafting. The country, I think, will understand what is meant by the better drafting of the Bill. The Committee are really now getting to the bottom of the Bill. We have had half-a-dozon statements of the object of the Bill. We see now what the Bill is not. It is not a Bill for the punishment of crime; it is a Bill for applying penalties by Resident Magistrates to new offences created by the Bill. Our first Amendment should be in the Preamble of the Bill, because if the word "crime" is to disappear everywhere in the Bill, it ought to disappear in the Preamble. Now that the Committee have got clearly at the hand of the Government, their first proceeding ought to be to make the title of the Bill correspond with its intentions. They ought to say that it is a Bill for summary proceeding by men who are not lawyers, and for inflicting for ever on the whole of the Irish people penalties for certain offences. [Cries of "No, no!"] But I say Yes; because you may have every man brought up under this clause, whether he is guilty or not. It applies to every man in Ireland. Every landlord who does not get the whole of his rent can have everyone of his tenants brought up before a Resident Magistrate, who may be a half-pay captain, and require the whole of his previous life to be inquired into. We have now got the real meaning of the Bill. Something has been said about the Scotch Law; but I should like to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) how many instances he has known personally in his experience of the Scotch Law, of a power of this kind 383 being used in Scotland. I have not had much experience of the Scotch Law; but I believe that if an inquiry of this kind were necessary in Scotland, it would be conducted by the Procurator Fiscal, who is a lawyer, before the Sheriff, who is a high judicial officer, and who would only allow questions to be put according to law. That is a very different thing from holding an inquiry before a Resident Magistrate. I think the Committee ought clearly to understand the position to which we have now got. We have got rid of crime altogether in the larger parts of the Bill. It is a Bill for summarily proceeding against everybody who is suspected of knowing something about somebody who will not let, hire, use, or occupy any land. Of course the Committee know what that is meant for. That is the real thumbscrew. It used to be employed in Scotland. I do not know whether the Government propose to re-introduce the ancient method here; but it seems to be the "boot" which is to be applied by the landlords to all the tenants of Ireland. It is the method by which the provisions of the Bill are to be applied, and it is to be applied by all the employers of labour in Ireland to persons who do not come strictly within the definition of the Trades Union Act. Everybody who may be suspected of having made an agreement with anybody else, not to work for, or hire, or purchase from another in the ordinary business of trade, may be summoned before a Resident Magistate and examined. Therefore, this Bill touches the whole population of Ireland—not the criminal population at all, but people in their social relations—who may do any thing inconvenient to the landlord class. That is the real meaning of the Bill. And now we come to the fact whether this exceptional preliminary proceeding is to be confined to crime, and we are told. "Oh, dear! not at all." It is to apply to all anti-landlord offences. Those are the things to which it is to be applied. I say that the English people never would have endured such a proposal as that for a single moment. My contention is that this procedure should be strictly limited to offences for which a man could be arrested by warrant, and not to a case where a man is unwilling to continue to farm a particular piece of land at a high rent. The preliminary investigation ought not to affect minor offences, but 384 should apply to crime only. It must be clearly understood that it is to be applied to offences which are not included in the Criminal Code, and that it would not be tolerated for a single moment in England.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I only desire to say a word on the question upon a point which has already been mentioned. The word "crime" certainly appears to me to be a most important one as it appears in this clause. What I wish particularly to mention is that the power which it is proposed to introduce into the section is alleged to exist in the Scotch Law; and some hon. Members have had circulated among them documents which profess to lay down what the Scotch Law is. I have one from the Patriotic Union, which says, among other things, that this particular section, and other parts of the Bill, are taken from the Scotch Law. Now, Sir, the learned Counsel, who appears to have been consulted by the Patriotic Union, appear to be very much in the dark as to what the Scotch Law on the subject really is. I believe that a power of this kind has not been put in force within the memory of any person practicing at the present moment at the Scotch Bar. I would ask the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald), or the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson), whether, in his professional experience, he has ever known this power to be put in force with regard to any offences, serious or otherwise. There is no response. I have taken some trouble to inquire into the subject, both by research and by gathering information as to the experience of Scotch lawyers, and I can find no instance recorded in which a power of this kind has been exercised with regard to any class of offence. One of the great objects of our Criminal Procedure is that everything should be public and open; but here we have something which, to my mind, is worse than what we read of in the dark ages. It is certainly as bad as any inquisition. I have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) that an impression exists in Scotland that there is such a law; but it is only an impression; and lawyers very often get impressions which are very mistaken and erroneous. When you are, in a Committee of the House of 385 Commons, introducing into the Public Law of Ireland a subject of this serious and inquisitorial character, I think you require something more definite than the mere impression of a right hon. Gentleman, even so eminent as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate of the late Liberal Government. There is a sort of idea that the power has been put in force in some cases of grave importance—such as treason, murder, or something of that kind. That seems to be the idea; but the opinion is unanimous that, in regard to minor offences, the exercise of such a power is a thing entirely unheard of. Everybody is agreed that any attempt by the Procurator Fiscal or the Sheriff to put such a power in force, except in the case of a crime of the utmost gravity, would not be permitted. Therefore, I think the Committee ought, in regard to this word "offence," to test the question, and let it be understood in the country what the proposal means. I hope it will be made clear and distinct that it is not the law of Scotland. I am quite sure of this—that if you were now to attempt to introduce this proposal into Scotland, and to give the Sheriff or the Procurator Fiscal the power of inquiry in regard to every political agitation, you would have the same diffculty which I imagine you will have in Ireland. You would not be able to manage the people of Scotland, who could not submit to it for a moment. Therefore, I venture to urge upon the Committee that the proposed attempt of the Government to introduce into the Bill a principle which is not to put down crime, but to place it in the power of every Resident Magistrate, assisted by, I presume, the Attorney General for Ireland, whose name is used in the section to conduct a preliminary investigation into offences of a trivial character, is a power which ought not to be placed in the hands of any Government.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I regard this Amendment as a test Amendment in every sense of the word. It tests the meaning of the Bill, the intentions of the Government, and the sincerity of some hon. Gentlemen who are called Liberal Unionists on this subject. I think the speech we have just heard throws a flood of light on the whole question. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anderson) that there has been no 386 argument which has done so much for the Bill of the Government as the argument that this clause is only a reproduction of a provision which exists in the Scotch law. Let me make this frank confession to my hon. and learned Friend—that until I heard his speech I was under the impression that this is a power which is used almost every week in Scotland. The intricacies of the law are often trying to an English lawyer; but they are much more intricate to an Irish layman like myself; and I confess that the general impression among Irishmen, and even among Englishmen, has been that whenever a grave crime was committed in Scotland, such as murder or attempt to murder, the ordinary, popular, and usual mode of procedure was a preliminary investigation of this kind to begin with. I now find that I have been labouring under a complete delusion, and that this power has never, within the memory of man, been employed in Scotland at all. I was rather astonished to see the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) sitting quietly on the Treasury Bench while one of the principal proposals of the Government for the support of the Bill was being removed without any attempt to defend it. I was somewhat disappointed at the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). Because a particular law happens to be good for Scotland or England it does not necessarily follow that it would be good for Ireland, and that it is not to be inquired into. The excellence of a law depends largely upon the administration of the law, and I implore the Committee, in considering any proposal under this or any other Bill, not to lose sight of the fact that the administration of the law, whether good or bad, in England or Scotland, is subject to the control of public opinion, while in Ireland it is entirely independent of public opinion. I will not go into questions of controversy; but there is this fundamental distinction between Irish administration and English and Scotch administration—that the latter is more or less in sympathy with the people, whereas in Ireland the administrators of the law are not only out of sympathy with the people, but are in a hostile camp. I want to bring home, as clearly as I can to English and Scotch Members, how a law like this will work in Ireland. 387 Let me take one point. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has several times laid stress upon the fact that this extraordinary law is only to come into operation in districts which have been proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly candid in his statement. He is under the impression that this is really an effective and honest safeguard against the abuse of the power. Let me bring to the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman a fact which he must remember if I only jog his memory. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was imprisoned under Mr. Forster's Coercion Act in 1881. That exceptional law was only applicable to a district which had been proclaimed. We all thought that a district would only be proclaimed when there existed -within it a large and widespread amount of crime, which would render it liable to disturbance. But what happened? The City of Dublin was proclaimed. But in the City of Dublin there were no offences against the ordinary law; no agrarian crime existed; and, although there was disturbance going on in several other parts of Ireland, there "was none in Dublin. When Mr. Forster was brought face to face with this Proclamation he was perfectly candid and honest in his answer. He said, in the course of debate, that the reason for proclaiming the City of Dublin was that the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon)—for he represented Tipperary then—were delivered mainly in the City of Dublin, and that Dublin had been proclaimed in order to enable him to imprison my hon. Friend, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if that fact does not effectually dispose of his idea that the necessity of proclaiming a district has anything to do with the wide-reaching application of the Bill? Many allusions have been made to the Crimes Act of 1882. I am not going to be the apologist of that Act. I objected to it strongly, and I opposed its administration strongly after it came into operation. Under that Act there were some gross and terrible cases of hardship and injustice. There was the case of my hon. Friend the Member for West-meath, now Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T.C. Harrington). My hon. Friend was put in gaol for 388 having delivered a speech in which he was supposed to have intimidated the tenant farmers of the County of West-meath, and a few weeks afterwards he was elected as the Representative of the very farmers he was accused of having intimidated. At the same time, I wish to declare that these cases of the employment of the Crimes Act of 1882 for political purposes and against political opponents were isolated cases, and they stand out in bold relief against the shameful abuse of the administration of the Crimes Act of 1882 for other purposes. We have the testimony of Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan, that they were mainly concerned in the administration of that Act, and I have now given you the testimony of an opponent of the Act. Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan are perfectly justified in their claim that the Crimes Act was used against serious crimes, and not against political offences. But we found that juries were unfairly selected, and that verdicts was got in some cases which were not entitled to moral consideration; but our opposition to them did not hurt the course of law and order. That, however, does not alter the fact that the crimes proceeded against under the Crimes Act were crimes of murder, attempt to commit murder, and other grave crimes. Are we to compare the employment of the Crimes Act against a man who is accused of murder with the provisions of a Bill like this, which, by the confession of the Government, is intended to be employed against political opponents and agrarian combinations? [An hon. MEMBER: NO.] I am glad that I have got that contradiction. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for North West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton) who said "No."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
No; I am told it was the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
No; I said nothing.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I must say, Mr. Courtney, that this is one of those occasions where silence, like discretion, is the better part of valour. I was saying that there was what almost amounts to a confession on the part of the Govern- 389 ment that the Bill is to be used against political opponents. If the Bill is intended to be directed against crime—such serious and grave crimes as murder and attempt to murder—if it is intended to be used only against crime, why do not the Government accept the Amendment, and insert the word "crime"? Why do they stand by the word "offence?" I will tell the Committee why. It is because it has a wider and broader meaning than the word "crime"—because "offence" implies political action, social action, individual action, and agrarian action; and all those things the Government mean to arm themselves with a perfect armoury of weapons to put down. Let me tell you how this will work. There are two parish priests at present in prison in Ireland—Father Keller and Father Ryan—because they have refused to answer certain questions in the Court of Bankruptcy. Father Keller is in prison now under the jurisdiction of the Judge of a Superior Court in Ire-land; but if he had refused to put himself under the jurisdiction of the commonest Resident Magistrate he can be, when this Bill becomes an Act, put in prison by a man who belongs to the most dastardly class who ever coerced, or shamed, or disgraced a country. See how this will work. The 5th. subsection of Clause 2 applies the Bill to—Any person who, by words or acts, shall incite, solicit, encourage, or persuade any other person to commit any of the offences hereinbefore mentioned.If I write an article in a newspaper encouraging the tenants of the Marquess of Clanricarde to ask for a reduction of 25 per cent of rent—a much smaller reduction than the Judges of the Land Court have made, for there has been a singular revelation within the last few weeks in this respect—namely, that the Judges of the Land Court in Ireland have more heavily mulcted the landlords than the Plan of Campaign Bought to do; but if I, as a writer in a newspaper, write an article to persuade the tenants to ask for a reduction of 25 per cent of rent, I am guilty of an offence under Section 2 of the Bill. I can be hauled before one of these Irish Resident Magistrates, and if I refuse to give evidence I can be sent to prison for month after month for 12 or 18 months—just as long as the Resident Magistrate 390 thinks it necessary to keep me in prison for terrorizing Her Majesty's subjects. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has the face to declare that the Bill is not levelled against the combination of tenants to secure abatements of rent. lean only put down the right hon. Gentleman's statement to invincible ignorance. I say that we are now testing the bona fides of the Government and of the Liberal Unionists, and not even among our most sanguine anticipations could we have imagined that, as early as the second line of the Bill, the Government would have exposed their whole hand, and shown that this Bill is a great network and machinery for putting down all political combination and all social and agrarian movements.
§ MR. J. B. BALFOUR (Clackmannan, &c.)
As in the course of this discussion appeals have repeatedly been made as to the law of Scotland, I desire, as a Scotch lawyer, to say a few words as to the practice there. What I have to say, however, is rather of a negative than a positive character. It is that, although I have for a considerable number of years taken part in the administration of the Criminal Law in Scotland, I do not recollect of any case in which the power now in question has been exercised—I mean, of course, the power of putting on oath and examining persons with regard to a crime in respect of which no one had been put under charge. While in the text-books it is stated that that power exists—and I have no reason to doubt that it does exist—the Committee may gather some indication of the manner in which it is viewed by those whose duty it is to administer the Criminal Law of Scotland when I say that I am unable to recall any instance in which, in my experience, it has been exercised. I do not say that in some very grave and exceptional case it might not be right to exercise it; but to make it a normal and ordinary part of the Criminal Law would be wholly contrary to the spirit in which that law is now generally administered. I may add that if it were proposed to extend or apply the exercise of that power to the case of what may be called petty offences, I feel perfectly certain that such a thing would never be assented to by any Lord Advocate, or tolerated in Scotland for a single day. If I am asked as to the manner in which 391 such a power would be exorcised, I should find it difficult to give a definite answer, because I have no experience of its having been put in force; but I should say that it would only be exercised subject to careful precautions and safeguards. An inquiry on oath in regard to a crime with which no one was charged would only be held in the presence of a magistrate who was a lawyer, such as the Sheriff; and he would, no doubt, disallow the examination of any person who was not a competent witness, and decline to permit any questions to be put which would not be competent questions in a Court of Law. I cannot imagine, in an investigation of this kind, that there would be greater latitude of inquiry than would be permitted in the case of an ordinary witness in open Court. I may add that there are various provisions in this clause which strike me as open to grave objection. I do not propose to go into any details just now; but one appears to me to be so objectionable that I have put down an Amendment to it. [Cries of "Order!"] I am not going to discuss that Amendment now; but I was merely going to indicate the mode in which the provisions of the Bill are proposed to be carried out. Further, the Bill is directed against many things which are not crimes at all. At all events, it is, in my opinion, clear that many of the so-called "offences" specified are not criminal offences according to the law of Scotland. As an example of the objectionable proposals of the Bill, I may mention the one by which it is intended to enact that the usual protection which exists as a safeguard for a witness shall be done away with, and that he is to be called upon to answer questions which may criminate himself. As I have said, there seem to me, and to my hon. and learned Friend near me the Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Asher), that there are a great many things struck at by this Bill which, according to the law of Scotland, would not be crimes at all. I am not going to anticipate the discussion upon Clause 2; but our opinion is clear that many of these things against which that clause is directed would not be oven offences in Scotland. Historically, I am unable to find that the power in question has ever been put in force in Scotland, except in the case of crimes of a grave description; at all events, I am sure that it 392 would never be used as a means of pursuing what may be termed a fishing inquiry into matters of the character specified in Clause 2—a kind of inquiry which, if permitted, might involve every person in a whole parish or country side being summoned and interrogated on oath in regard to the action of his friends and neighbours in regard to matters not criminal. When you come to such charges as combination, you at once get into a maze from which it is impossible to say that any man can escape, and every man may be examined as a possible witness against his neighbour. I do not believe that in Scotland such a law so administered would ever be tolerated. I owe an apology to the House for speaking somewhat hypothetically in regard to the rules of Scotch law and practice in pursuing inquiries by way of examination on oath where no one has been put under charge; but my justification must be that I am without actual experience of the power in question having been put in practice, although I believe that the power does technically exist.
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
Having heard from the highest authority what the law of Scotland is, it is quite as well to see what the law of England is in regard to the words "offence" and "crime" introduced here. They appear to have been introduced in gross ignorance of their meaning. The 1st sub-section of the clause says—Where the Attorney General for Ireland believes that any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district, he may direct a resident magistrate to hold an inquiry under this section, and thereupon such resident magistrate may, although no person may he charged before him with the commission of such crime, sit at a police court or petty sessional court-house, or police station, and examine on oath concerning such offence any witness appearing before him, and may take the deposition of such witness; and, if he see cause, may hind such witness by recognizance to appear and give evidence at the next potty sessions, or when called upon, within three months from the date of such recognizances.Now, there is a well-known A B C book on English law—Blackstone—who says of the acts punishable by Criminal Law, that they are divided into two categories—crimes and offences; that crimes are indictable offences only, whereas offences in a broader sense include every- 393 thing not indictable. There are two technical words which, in a work by one of the highest Constitutional writers on the law, have their true technical meaning given to them. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) argued as though the two words are synonymous, and I am sorry that there should be such gross ignorance. In an Act of Parliament it is probable that the first word used will be held to govern all the rest of the clause; and, therefore, the word "crime," which appears in the section later on, will most likely be interpreted to mean an "offence." In that sense it may be made applicable to the most trivial matters; and let me see what such trivial offences may be. There is "conspiracy to combine" to induce anybody not to fulfil his legal obligations. Whether that is a crime at all I hardly know. It is certainly not a crime under the English law. Nevertheless, it is one of the offences under this Bill. Two persons seen speaking in the street may be suspected by a shopkeeper or a landlord of conspiring to put the Plan of Campaign in force, so far as the landlord is concerned, or to Boycott the shopkeeper. For this offence, of trying to induce any person to do anything contrary to the Act, anyone speaking energetically to a friend may be accused of contemplating Boycotting, and on such an accusation may be subjected to a preliminary examination. The result must be that it will not be safe for two persons to speak together in the street. If they are seen to do so they may be subjected to the proceedings sanctioned by this clause. This, I think, shows the wide scope of the Bill, and how its provisions may be made to apply to the ordinary relations of life. It is not enough to say that such and such is the intention of the framers of the Bill. The intentions of the framers of the Land Act were set at defiance in the famous case of "Adams v. Dunseath." A law must be interpreted according to its words, and not according to the intentions of its promoters. When this Bill is passed it will be all in vain for any person in Ireland to say it was the intention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill, the Attorney General for Ireland, that the Bill should not be applied to minor offences, but to indictable offences. We 394 have really nothing to do with the intentions of these right hon. Gentlemen. The word "offence" is a well-known word. An offence is anything punishable by either fine or imprisonment, and the Act must be applied according to the rules governing the administration of law. That would be so if the gentlemen who have to apply the Act were learned in the law, if they were men without prejudice, if they did not now form a portion of the very class who are intended to be armed with this Act as a means of oppressing another class. If it is the intention of the Government that "offence" is only to mean crime which is punishable by indictment, they have absolutely no alternative but to substitute the word "crime" for the word "offence." There is evidence in every line of the Bill of a covert intention on the part of the Government. The Bill is more dangerous than it pretends to be. There is a dagger under the cloak. I ask the Government to remove this impression by expunging the word "offence," and substituting the word which will give effect to what they say is their intention.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should like to submit a few considerations to the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). the right hon. Gentleman knows a good deal about newspapers and the Law of Libel. Suppose I write an article in a newspaper, and that article is declared, under this sub-section, to be an incitement to crime. The Government will then be entitled to examine everybody in the newspaper office, down to the printer's devil, as to who wrote the article. Of course, all the newspaper employés will refuse to answer, and then you will practically stop the issue of the newspaper by the operation of this Bill. There are such things as Smith's bookstalls, through which this article inciting to crime may be circulated. Suppose this Act is made perpetual; that a Liberal Administration come into Office with their views as to how the Act ought to be used; that they summon everybody supposed to be connected with the publication of the article, and examine them as to whether they published it or not; that they get admissions, and use those admissions afterwards for the purpose of an examination before two Resident Magistrates—you may have the entire machinery of the right hon. Gen- 395 tleman's business dislocated. Is that a reasonable thing?
§ MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are none of Smith's bookstalls in Ireland? They belong to Charles Eason and Son.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I thought the hon. Gentleman would be guilty of some grotesque interruption. I put it to the Government that it is the liability to these acts we object to. They may say, of course, that they do not intend it; but their intentions are nothing to us. There is a landlord in Ireland called Colonel King-Harman; we sometimes hear of him in this House. He meets the landlords in the Kildare Street Club. If a landlord does not get his rent, he may suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—or to Colonel King-Harman, a gentleman connected with the Irish Government—that it is desirable to hold an inquiry. The magistrate who puts the questions is the judge of whether they are relevant or not. He may ask a witness if his children have got the small-pox, and if he declines to answer he may be sent to prison for contempt of Court. There is no restriction of any kind, sort, or description upon this Bill or its operation. The man who administers the Act is the man who puts it into force. The man who orders the inquiry, along with the Attorney General for Ireland, is the judge of whether the case which is inquired into is a crime or not. Everything depends upon the individual initiative of some gentleman connected with the landlord Administration of Ireland. The Government say—"You had this power in the Crimes Act." I say—"You had nothing of the kind, and if you had, it is one thing to trust a landlord Administration, and another thing to trust a Liberal Administration." As a matter of fact, we did not trust the Liberal Administration, and no taunts thrown from the Benches opposite will affect our movements. If we are between two millstones we are hurt, no matter who grinds them. The point is this—that in the Crimes Act you had nothing of this description. You may have had inquiries into Boycotting and assaults on bailiffs and cases of that kind; but there was nothing about the letting of farms or land, or Whiteboy offences. "We are told there 396 was; but my hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) has shown that that was not so. The distinction is to be seen in this way—How did you apply the law when you applied it to yourselves? How did you frame the law when you were making it applicable to the Three Kingdoms? When the Criminal Code Bill was before the Grand Committee in 1883, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, then Attorney General (Sir Henry James), proposed it should include indictable offences; but Mr. Cecil Raikes, the Postmaster General in Her Majesty's present Administration, was not satisfied to have it confined to indictable offences, but proposed to leave out the words "indictable offences," and insert "treason, treason felony, or murder." If that was good Tory doctrine in 1883, as applied to the three countries, what are we to say now? This is a Bill which may be used by a Liberal as well as a Tory Administration. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think themselves perfectly safe at the present moment; but when a Liberal Government comes in, I shall enjoy what theologians have called morose delectation if I see this Act put into operation against the Party opposite, and Gentlemen connected with the Orange Society and the landlord Party given a little touch of the things to which we have been constantly subjected. And, mind you, that is the mistake you are making. You are legislating for all time. You think you are going to last all time, which, in my opinion, is rather an error, to put it extremely mildly. I put it to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) who interrupted me a moment ago, and who blocked the Arms Bill last year, because he thought a Home Rule Government was coming into power, how he would like, under a Liberal Administration, to have his house in Rathmines invaded, himself arrested and dragged before a Petty Sessional Court? This kind of thing may be done if it is suspected that a witness is not going to attend to give evidence. I could suspect the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) was not going to attend the Court, have him sent to prison, and kept there as long as I liked; he would have to wait my time. This was how matters were worked by men like Plunkett in 1882. I think the English people would be fools to adopt such 397 a provision as this. What is the effect of this provision? If I were a Resident Magistrate, and I thought certain acts were crimes, I could, by any kind of false representation—by sworn information, for instance—get his permission to hold an inquiry. Sworn informations need not be in writing. Is that so or not? [No reply.] At any rate, there are plenty of sworn informations which are not in writing; the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not deny my statement. Well, I could come to him, possibly when he has left the Kildare Street Club, where he has been cogitating with landlords down the country, and by any kind of false representation get his permission to hold an inquiry, and, of course, as no one would answer, the entire tenantry could be sent to gaol for contempt of Court. You say you are anxious to put down crime. Very well, take care that you get the means of putting down crime. If this clause passes in its present shape, and is thus applicable to small offences, it is very probable the leaders of the people will recommend the people not to answer to any of the summonses. You cannot indict a nation. Your gaols will only hold 5,000 persons. You will have the entire population refusing to give you any assistance. While the discovery of murder and other serious crime is desirable, you will, by the way in which you use this Bill in regard to petty offences, raise such a prejudice that the people will refuse .en masse to come to Court, and take the alternative of going to prison. What we ask is not very much. We ask that this provision should be limited in its operation. We ask that men should not be asked about things that really do not concern the Government. We ask that petty offences should be excluded from the operation of the Act. We ask you to confine the Act to serious and grave crime, such as murder, manslaughter, maiming, and the like. I can only say of this clause that if you get it without such limitation, you will get a clause which will be able to do serious mischief in the sense of creating dissatisfaction and disaffection, without enabling you to detect and punish crime.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
In debating this question, some hon. Gentlemen seem to have gone on the assumption that the clause now under discussion is borrowed from the law of 398 Scotland. It may appear very presumptuous in an Irishman to interfere with Scotchmen in this matter; but I venture to say a word or two, and if I am wrong I can be corrected. I say that this is not the Saw of Scotland at all. The law of Scotland is different to this in several important particulars. It is worth while inquiring what those particulars are. In Scotland you must have before you have the secret inquiry—the Star Chamber inquiry, which is proposed by this Bill—a public trial before the Sheriff. That is a most important provision. The Procurator Fiscal in Scotland, on being called upon by any private person—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The discussion has taken a very wide range; but it is out of Order to enter into the details of the legal procedure in Scotland.
§ MR. CLANCY
I was naturally led to suppose, from preceding speeches, that I might be allowed to explain that the power given by this clause cannot be exercised in Scotland. I hope some other opportunity will be afforded of showing how the matter really stands. At present I will content myself by deliberately re-asserting that this is not the law of Scotland at all. Now, a remark was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) to which attention ought to be drawn. The right hon. Gentleman said a safeguard against the abuse of this power would be found in the fact that the power would be exercised under the supervision of Parliament. Now, if that were the case, there might be some safeguard and some protection for witnesses and accused persons in Ireland; there might be some chance of their being treated justly. But we know very well what will take place. We know well, from actual experience, that when an appeal is made to this House from the authorities in Ireland we shall be denied a hearing, and shall be told that this is no place for reviewing the judgments of the Irish tribunals. This power will not be exercised even by the Lord Lieutenant. Sometimes the Lord Lieutenant may be a person quite incompetent to understand Acts of Parliament. I have only to refer to the present ease—the case of the Marquess of Londonderry. Everyone knows that he is something very like a nincompoop—
§ MR. CLANCY
I will withdraw the expression if you desire it, Mr. Chairman, and say that everyone knows that the Marquess of Londonderry is a man of such meagre intellect that he is not able to write his replies to the addresses presented to him, and that he is not able, and never will be able, to understand an Act of this sort. The result will be that the persons who will practically investigate these charges, in the first instance, will be the political companions of the landlords of Ireland, the intimates and associates of the landlords of the country; such persons, for instance, as the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, who has the strongest possible reason for thinking that the worst crime that can be committed is to cease paying rent. The Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman) has already suffered by a reduction of rent, effected in the Land Courts, to the extent of 50 per cent; and, therefore, it is not unlikely that when he receives a communication stating that a combination exists against the payment of rent he will be inclined to regard the act of combination as an offence within the meaning of this Act, and he will be backed up by the whole corps of Crown solicitors in every part of Ireland, most of whom are of the landlord class, and all of whom have got into their offices by back-stairs intrigues, exercised by persons of the landlord class. The result will be that the most trivial offences will be regarded as crimes, and prosecuted as such. I say that if this Act were exercised under the supervision of Parliament, or under the supervision of a competent man like Lord Spencer, who had intelligence of his own to apply to these matters, and not under Viceroys like the present Tory Viceroy, we might have some ground to expect that there would be no abuse of these powers. Exercised as these powers will be by landlord understrappers of all sorts and degrees, prejudiced to the last against any combination against landlords, these powers will become an infamous engine of tyranny, and as such ought to be resisted, and will be resisted. No man in Ireland will answer any question put to him on such sub- 400 jects; he will be prepared to go into gaol and stay there as long as necessary rather than submit to "Star Chamber" inquiries directed against acts which are not crimes, and conducted by agents of the Government who are simply partizans of the landlord class.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
Mr. Courtney, I think it is agreed on all hands, even by the Government who are bringing in this clause, that what is proposed is a very severe inquisition. At the end of the clause I find that an offence is defined to be a misdemeanour. Everything, therefore, that is a misdemeanour can be brought within the Act, which I maintain is a very severe course of proceeding, and one quite unknown to the English law. I should like to put a few questions to one of the Legal Authorities of the Irish Government. I had intended to put them to the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), but I see he is not in his place. Perhaps the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) will be kind enough to inform us what are misdemeanours? I have no doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite capable of explaining the law of Ireland; and, therefore, I should be extremely glad if he will give us the benefit of his advice on this subject. Perhaps I may be allowed to help the Solicitor General for Ireland in the matter by suggesting to him a few cases, and asking him whether they are misdemeanours, and whether, consequently, they come under this section of the Bill? Take, for example, poaching. It may be argued that poaching, under any circumstances, is a misdemeanour. My own belief is that some cases of poaching are misdemeanours, and others are not; but I should like a little information upon the point. [Laughter.] I see that the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) smiles. Now, I will mention one subject upon which he is a very good authority—namely, that of fisheries. ["Oh!"] Yes; I had the honour of working with him as a Colleague upon the Fishery Commission, and I must say he was certainly one of the most valuable and able Colleagues I ever had. I would like to ask him whether he considers salmon poaching in any case a misdemeanour; and, if so, are not a large number of people constantly committing a misdemeanour, and would it be wise 401 to apply such stringent provisions as these in such a matter? Then there is the case of cutting sea-weed. I do not say that that ought not to be considered an offence, but it certainly is not that class of offence to which we ought to apply this very severe mode of proceeding. An enormous number of people, probably 200,000 or 300,000, are affected; and, therefore, I should like to know whether the cutting of sea-weed is to be considered a misdemeanour? If so, will this clause be applied to the enormous number of cases of contested rights which are continually occupying the Petty Sessional Courts in the coast districts of Ireland? Again, I should like to ask the Irish Law Officers whether offences against the Excise are misdemeanours—whether all of them, or some of them, are misdemeanours? I should like to know whether the distillation of whisky, without a proper licence, or without the intention of paying duty, is to be considered a misdemeanour? I do not think we want to strengthen the hands of the Excise to that extent; I mean that the House has always, as a rule, kept the police and the jurisdiction of the Courts as much as possible free from the Excise Office. I cannot help thinking that this Act may be availed of by the Excise Authorities, and that a very great evil will result therefrom. The offences against the Excise are extremely numerous. No doubt, the cases of distillation of whisky without licence are the most numerous; but there are many other offences against the Excise, such as not reporting concerning malt, and the other articles which are used in distilleries. These offences may be considered misdemeanours. It is as well we should receive some information upon the point from the Law Officers of the Crown. There are other cases which I know, judging from my Petty Sessional experiences, are of frequent occurrence. I wish to have regard to all offences that come before Petty Sessions, and I want to know can this Act be applied to them? Because, if so, you are instituting an enormous machinery, and very severe machinery, for dealing with the large number of Petty Sessional offences. Let us take, again, offences against the Sunday Closing Act. They are misdemeanours. It may be wrong to sell whisky or beer on Sundays; but I do not think this Act ought to be applied 402 to such cases. I do not know whether harvesting, or the making of hay on Sunday, is a misdemeanour in Ireland. I should like to get some information on that point from the Irish Law Officers of the Crown; because, if that is a misdemeanour, a very large number of people will be affected. There is one thing which I believe is a misdemeanour in Ireland. I believe it is actually a misdemeanour to celebrate Divine Service in Ireland with locked doors. I have been informed, on very high legal authority, that this is considered a very severe offence in Ireland. It wag constituted an offence under some old Act—I do not know whether it is one of the Whiteboy Acts, but I do know it has never been repealed. It is necessary we should know whether this Act is to be put in force against such breaches of the law. These are a very few instances of what may be regarded as misdemeanours. I could, of course, cite many others. For instance, the non-vaccination of a child, the many offences against sanitary law, such even as the non-whitewashing of a house when it has been ordered. These are all matters which ought to be expressly excluded from the operation of this Act. There are cases of driving cattle upon other people's land. These cases are continually cropping up before Petty Sessions. I wish to know if such cases as these are misdemeanours; because, if so, you are putting a totally new class of machinery in force for the offences which I may say are of daily occurrence in Ireland. There are, in fact, an enormous number of misdemeanours. There is one, and a very important one. We ought to be told whether the taking or cutting of turf under any circumstances is a misdemeanour, because that will affect one-half of the population. I do not say that the people are right in cutting turf; but if they offend in this direction, there ought to be a civil action against them. Certainly, the machinery of this Act ought not to be put in force in such cases. I have mentioned about one-half or two-thirds of the classes of cases which usually come before Petty Sessions in Ireland, and I desire to know whether I am wrong in supposing that all these cases, or nearly all of them, are misdemeanours which may be brought within the purview of this Bill? If I am right in my supposition, surely it is 403 necessary the Law Officers of the Crown should give us some pledge that they will so amend the definition of the word "offence" that it shall not include some, at any rate, of the cases I have enumerated.
§ MR. FORREST FULTON (West Ham, N.)
It appears to me the Committee has got into a state of the most inextricable confusion about a very simple matter. The word "offence" is one which in perfectly well understood by lawyers. The word "offence," which we are now discussing in line 2, Clause 1, is used in its generic sense—that is to say, it includes offences punishable by indictment and offences punishable on summary conviction, and in this sense the word "offence" is synonymous with the word "crime" used in the Preamble. In Section 5 you see the word "offence" used in both senses, in its generic sense and in its specific sense. In line 11 the word "crime" appears. That is clearly a draftsman's error. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian will look at the section he will see I am right. He will see that the word "crime" is used there in the same sense as the word "offence" in the second line of the paragraph. Now, it must be manifest that this is not the proper place to consider such an Amendment as this. When we come to Sub-section 5 we may well consider whether the offences to which the section is to apply should be limited to those punishable by indictment only. I think this may be a very important subject for discussion, but that it should not be brought up now, but when Sub-section 5, which defines what offences shall be subjected to these inquisitorial powers, is reached. I think, however, the Committee will see that the word "offence" is properly used in the line now under discussion.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I am very glad the hon. and learned. Gentleman (Mr. Forrest Fulton), who has risen to lend the weight of his authority to the Government, thinks this clause requires amendment, so that the power it gives cannot be applied to all misdemeanours.
§ MR. FORREST FULTON
I said it might very well be the subject of argument, when we come to Sub-section 5, whether that should be so or not.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
If the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks it 404 might be the subject of argument, I conclude he sees some argument which might be used in favour of the proposition. He thought he was assisting the Government by suggesting it might be well to entertain the question of restricting the operation of this clause; but, in other respects, the hon. and learned Gentleman, whose aid is, undoubtedly, most valuable, is flatly in contradiction with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). The hon. and learned Gentleman commented upon the generic and specific sense of the word "offence," and the difference in meaning between the word "crime" and the word "offence." Yes; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has expressly declared that in the view of the Government there is no distinction. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] The hon. and learned Gentleman will see that he has, to a certain extent, wasted his pains, because he has established a flat contradiction on the verbal point between the right hon. Gentleman and himself. Now, we have been debating this Amendment for two and a-half hours. We often hear complaints of the time that is occupied in the discussions upon this Bill. Who is the person responsible for occupying the time? We assert that, in this Amendment, we have a most important object. To us it amounts pretty nearly to a question of principle. Is that the case with the Government? No; for the Government say there is no difference whatever between crime and offence. If that is the case, what is the definition of obstructive debate? The definition of obstructive debate is that we occupy the time of the House in arguing for that which is not material. It is not obstructive debate for any Gentleman to occupy the time of the House in arguing for that which, in his view, is material. That is the exact description of the position of the two Parties in this House. I do not understand why the Government do not at once accede to this Amendment. It is an important Amendment, in our view; and if, from the point of view of the Government, crime and offence are the same thing, why should they oppose the great majority of the lawyers who have spoken, the great weight of legal authority, and the wishes of a large portion of the House, and the mass of the Irish 405 Members, in a matter where the Government thought there was no important principle at stake? I must say I think, in such a matter as this, the Irish Representatives are entitled to some very small and infinitesimal share of consideration. The Chief Secretary for Ireland says it would be better drafting if, in a subsequent line—I think the 11th—we substituted the word "offence" for "crime." But I can tell the right hon. Gentleman he must expect that, when we come to the 11th line, we shall make the best fight in our power for the retention of the word "crime." we are not going, under the pretext of better drafting, to part with the word "crime," which we think valuable, in order to substitute for it the word "offence.' If crime and offence are equivalent, which is the contention of the Government, then they ought at once to accede to the Amendment. If, on the other hand, crime and offence are not equivalent, then it is a most extraordinary thing that in the framing of this Bill, and in finding a title for it, they should describe it as "a Bill to make better provision for the prevention and punishment—not of offences in Ireland—of crime in Ireland." The whole argument in favour of this clause—and a very weighty argument it has been on many points—is derived from the case of Scotland. My hon. and learned Friend the late Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Asher) has, I think, declared in this House, and is prepared to declare again, that he has never known that power to be used. My right hon. and learned Friend the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) has also declared that, in Scotland, he has never known that power to be used. Another hon. and learned Gentleman, speaking from a Bench behind me (Mr. Anderson), has made a similar declaration in still broader terms. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) has been distinctly challenged on the question, and has not replied; he has sat here under the most pointed challenge, and has not replied. If the hon. and learned Gentleman did reply, I do not imagine he would be able to overcome such a statement as has been made by my hon. and learned Friends. So far as I have been able to gather the effect of the various declarations, especially of 406 Scottish lawyers, on this matter, there appeared to be some doubt whether in some extreme case, on some very particular occasion, and at some very indefinite period, this power might have been used. But that is the only distinct glimpse we can have of it as a practical power. It is plain that, for all practical purposes, it is not used, and that if it ever were used, it would be used in the case of very heavy and serious crime. Well, now, if that is so, what is the application of this Scottish argument to the case before us? In Scotland, as we have seen, this is not an instrument of ordinary application. Is it the purpose of the Government, under the plea of equal legislation which you profess, to bring this power into the Irish law, to place it in the same position which it occupies in the law of Scotland? No; you are intending to use it for totally different purposes, and on an unlimited number of different occasions. In Scotland it is applied by persons of legal authority and education. The Government are going to give it for cases where it will be under the superintendence and control of persons not having legal authority and education. But what is more important is this—and I must confess I have never had the advantage of hearing the case discussed so fully as upon this occasion—the impression made upon my mind as a listener is this—that while it may be useful and wise to retain a power of this kind in the system of Scottish jurisprudence, it is a power only suited to countries where the people are in thorough sympathy with the law, and where the Administrative Body is not alienated and estranged from the people. The question is, primâ facie, that we are going to carry it into a country where, from our mismanagement, the people are not in sympathy with the law, and where, as the necessary result of that unhappy state of things, the Administrative Body is not in sympathy with the people. Now, that being the state of the case, you are going to take this almost obsolete power from the Scottish law, and carry it into England—no, not into England; for I have a sufficiently good opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Richard Webster), who now occupies the Office of Her Majesty's Attorney General, to believe that he would be the first man to offer a stern and stout resistance to such a proposal— 407 but in Ireland, and you are going to give this power for daily use by persons, the majority of whom have no legal knowledge or skill in the management of affairs. Besides that, you are going to apply this power to a set of cases for the use of which it has never been dreamt of, and for that purpose to bring in the word "offence," which in your unofficial, un-judicial letter obiter dictum of debate, may be said to be synonymous with "crime," but which your own independent supporter behind you has told you is not synonymous with crime. As the Bill stands, it is not one for the punishment of crime, but one for erecting into crime a multitude of acts which are not crimes under the present law. It is the intention of the Opposition seriously to struggle to restrict the effects of this clause, and all the powers given under it, to crimes of the most serious character, and to erect an effectual barrier between any plan of conspiracy, I may say, on the Treasury Bench to extend the application of this power beyond serious crimes. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has told us that there are many innocent conspiracies; and, therefore, I am making no charge against the Government in saying that there is probably a conspiracy on the Treasury Bench on this subject to carry by numbers what they are unable to justify by argument. In my opinion, the Government have shown no adequate grounds to justify their refusal to accept this Amendment, and the discussion upon it has now occupied two and a-half or throe hours.
§ THE SOLICITOE GENEEAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON) (Bute)
I should not presume to reply to a Member of the House of such eminence and authority as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) were it not that he threw out a direct challenge to me. That challenge was accompanied by the prediction that any reply I could offer would be of the utmost futility and inutility. I almost fear that the right hon. Gentleman has invited my participation in the debate for other purposes than that I may make a solid contribution to this discussion. But I will answer the right hon. Gentleman's challenge. The question which is immediately before the Committee is, whether there should be any distinction between classes of offences when it is 408 proposed to confer this power on the Executive in Ireland. I say, as a matter of law, the authorities in Scotland who represent public prosecutions have that power; and, what is more, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour), who, after much persuasion, was induced to rise to say something which might sound rather like a contradiction of what I have said, was obliged to admit that my proposition is absolutely accurate, and that, by the law of Scotland, this power is invested in the Public Prosecutor. It was said, by way of answer to the present proposal, that, as a matter of fact, the power is seldom exercised. I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clackmannan will agree with me when I say that there have been instances, within living memory, in which precognition on oath has been resorted to where no one was under charge; but that proceeding has been sparingly used.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
What is your authority? [Cries of "Order!"] Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give us his authority?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
; I am speaking on a matter requiring great precision of statement, and I am adopting moderate language which will commend itself to the judgment of my hon. and learned Friends opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in discussing this Amendment, has used phraseology which is eminently adapted, not to elucidate, but to confuse this question. He has persistently spoken of the system, and has asked whether this system is in use. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that? Does he mean the system of the preliminary private examination into facts by a magistrate—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Certainly not.]—I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; but I have not completed my proposition—backed by powers of imprisonment against recalcitrant witnesses, and backed by the power of putting witnesses on oath when that is necessary? That, I think, is a fair and accurate description of the system embodied in this clause. That system, I assert, is the present law of Scotland; but I agree entirely with the guarded statement of my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. 409 J. B. Balfour) that the examination upon oath in a preliminary inquiry of witnesses before anyone is charged is an uncommon occurrence; and I quite accept what my right hon. and learned Friend said—namely, that he has not known it occur in practice—nor have I in my experience. [Opposition cheers.] But I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought, before they indulge in such exuberant rejoicings, to condescend to notice that this admits that these powers, by the law of Scotland, are at the disposal of the authorities when required; and if they have not been exercised, it is merely because the circumstances of Scotland do not necessitate their being put in force. They have found a lodgment in the Scottish law, in order to meet the exigencies of a less settled state of society, and they were exercised in Scotland when the requirements of society compelled it. If it is necessary now, owing to the requirements of Ireland, to put such powers in force, they will be put in force, and if not, they will not. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and those who have spoken from the opposite Benches, have introduced another confusion into their statement which completely destroys the force of the arguments they have used. They have said that the power of examining on oath before a charge is made against an individual has never been used except in the case of a grave charge. Again, I accede to that; but the gravity of an offence is measured by its danger to the community. There is no limitation to this law in Scotland, except what the customs of society have placed round the land; there is no distinction of offences to which this power may be applied; the limitation in the use of it is merely owing to our happy circumstances. My proposition is not, and never has been—the right hon. Gentleman knows it as well as anyone else—that this is a daily practice in the law of Scotland. I never said so; but I have said that the main scope and features of the system are settled in the Constitutional Law of Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. J. B. Balfour) will allow that, in not very ancient memory, there have been cases where witnesses have been examined on oath where there was a charge made. I will go farther, and 410 say that my right hon. and learned Friend has done that himself. Why is it witnesses are not put on oath at preliminary inquiries where no person is charged, and that the power of imprisonment is not resorted to? It is because the community is willing to give evidence. You do not require to hold preliminary inquiries, and to put on oath people who are prepared to speak fairly and frankly the truth about a crime. The question is not whether these weapons are in daily use in Scotland, but whether they are at the command of the State if the exigencies of society require them. Before closing my remarks, I may be permitted to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to certain words which seem to me to most admirably describe the state of things which calls for remarks of this kind—As impunity for crime was the great curse and plague of the disturbed districts of Ireland at the present moment, and as that impunity depended upon the difficulty of obtaining evidence, it wag proposed to put any person who might be able to give evidence to no other inconvenience than might result from rendering them liable to be examined before there was a defendant. That was the sole distinction between the existing law and that which the Government proposed. He thought the majority of the House would consider, under the circumstances of Ireland, that if they were to have a Bill of this kind at all, it was not an unreasonable demand to make. It went to the root of the mischief with which they were dealing.These are the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and they seem to me to justify completely what is proposed now. No argument is needed to convince the constituencies, if that is what was intended by the impassioned observations of the right hon. Gentleman, of what is already well known in England to be the case about Scotland, and what is in Scotland perfectly notorious. The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect means for obtaining information for the detection of crime; and if they have the sanction of the precedent of Scotland, as I think is undoubtedly the case, that will commend itself to what is not the least law-abiding, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, is one of the most intelligent portions of Her Majesty's Dominions.
§ MR. ASHER (Elgin, &c.)
Mr. Courtney, I think the Committee is now in a position to form a very clear opinion as to how far the action of the Govern- 411 ment is justified by the law of Scotland. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J.P. B. Robertson) had considerable reluctance in adding his contribution to this debate; and I think it is pretty plain, from what my hon. and learned Friend has said, that there is no foundation whatever in the law of Scotland for the attitude of the Government with reference to this particular Amendment. I understood my hon. and learned Friend not materially to dissent from the view of the Scottish law and practice which has been stated from this side of the House. We have never disputed that, according to the letter of the Scotch law, a power does exist to examine upon oath in the course of a preliminary inquiry, even when no one is under charge; but we have asserted that, in the experience of my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J. B. Balfour) and myself, as Law Officers for Scotland, we did not remember any case in which the power had been exercised, and we are now in a position to say that the experience of the hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite, who are now the Law Officers for Scotland, has been the same. I was anxious to hear what my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) would say with regard to the law of Scotland as applicable to this particular Amendment. What is the Amendment we have been considering for the past few hours? It is whether this power of preliminary inquiry, when no one is under charge, is to be given in the case of a crime only, or in the case of an offence. Now, as has been pointed out, there is no substance in the discussion which has taken place, unless a crime is something different to an offence, and it is perfectly evident that the Government are resisting this Amendment because they intend to make this inquisitorial power applicable, not merely to that which is known to the law as a crime, but also to that which is to be created into a statutable offence by the clauses of this Bill. My hon. and learned Friend has not suggested either that it is, or that it ever was, the law of Scotland—even the letter of the law—that inquisitorial power on oath should be applicable to anything but crime. It is impossible, in considering the Amendment, not to have in view what are the offences created by this Bill. We say, distinctly, that it is proposed to make a great many things offences 412 under this Act which certainly, in the minds of Scotch lawyers, are not crimes at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland did not attempt to deal with that portion of the speech of the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour), in which he distinctly stated that, after careful consideration, he had come to the conclusion that many things would, under this Bill, be made statutable offences which are not crimes according to that law. In that opinion of my right hon. and learned Friend I cordially concur, and my hon. and learned Friend opposite doe3 not dissent from that view. To these statutable offences you are going to apply this inquisitorial power. I am bound to say that when one looks at the subject-matter of these offences, and sees how they are interwoven with the social relations of the people in a variety of ways—for instance, in regard to the taking of land or a house, or the employment of a tradesman—one must come to the conclusion that to give power of this kind in such cases is nothing but to set up a Court of Inquisition from which no man is safe. I believe that there is not, and there never was, in the law of Scotland, a power of this kind applicable to that which is not crime, but a mere statutable offence of the nature contemplated in this Bill. It seems to me the Committee may safely assume, by the admissions of lawyers on both sides of the House, that, in so far as this Amendment is concerned, the argument with which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland justifies this clause of the Bill—namely, its analogy to the law of Scotland, has no weight whatever; but that, on the contrary, if the Government's object is to assimilate the law of Ireland to that of Scotland with reference to preliminary inquiries, this power should not be made applicable to anything but crime, and the Amendment ought, therefore. to be accepted.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
When the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) rose to answer the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), to disgrace him in the opinion of this Committee, he was loudly cheered by all the Members of the Tory Party opposite, and I began to think 413 that perhaps there was some chance of the right hon. Gentleman being beaten by the Solicitor General for Scotland. But of all the speeches we have heard upon this Amendment, the worst speech is that of the Solicitor General for Scotland, and I will explain why I call it the worst speech. I do not say it was not oratorically clever; but it was not straight, and I will prove my statement. The hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to show that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was wrong in his arguments; he described what the law would be in Ireland under this clause, and then he endeavoured to induce the Committee to believe that that which had existed in Scotland was identical to that which is about to be enacted for Ireland. During his remarks he made use of the words "the prevention of crime in Scotland." That was a bad argument, and a bad argument involves a bad speech. By a quibble of words you endeavour to deceive your hearers, and support an argument which you must admit was not a just argument. It was the crime in Scotland the hon. and learned Gentleman laid stress upon. That is begging the whole question. The argument of hon. Gentlemen upon this side of the House is founded upon the word "offence," and I think I am entitled to say the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was not quite as fair as we are entitled to expect from a Gentleman holding the high position in this House of Solicitor General for Scotland. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to persuade the Committee, by a quotation from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), that this law, which exists in Scotland in a modified form, was some time since put into force. When he was challenged from these Benches, he did not give a single example of this power being used in Scotland. Does he mean to say that the statement of the late Lord Advocate was correct or incorrect? The late Lord Advocate stated that this law was never put into force in Scotland, and the Solicitor General for Scotland rose to show that it was. Can he show that? I ask, is it fair to endeavour by a quibble to lead the Committee to believe that what is now proposed for Ireland is identical with what exists in Ireland when that is not so, I do not wish to 414 be discourteous; but I think, without being so, I am justified in saying the speech of the Solicitor General for Scotland was not worthy of him, and was not a straight speech. Who is to put this clause of the Bill or of the Act, if it passes, into force? The Attorney General for Ireland. Now, who is the Attorney General for Ireland? He sits upon the Treasury Bench there, and under this Bill a great deal depends upon his belief. We have had some beliefs of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We have his beliefs about four or five times in a week. Let me give some examples of his beliefs. He believes, for instance, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), that the County of Mayo is bordering upon civil war. That is his belief, and yet it has been proved conclusively in this House, by statistics from your judicial authorities in Ireland, that Mayo is, in fact, more peaceful than any county of England. Now, what is the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the Irish Members? He has expressed it in this House upon several occasions, and anyone who examines the speeches of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find that his belief is that every Irish Member should be imprisoned. Let me go a step further, and ask who the Attorney General for Ireland is? Is he an independent Member of the Government? Has he even been an independent Member of the Government? Has he not simply carried out the instructions of the Government night by night? Is he not as much a counsel holding a brief when he sits on that Bench, as he is when he goes into Court? And yet he is a Member of the Government which declares that everything in Ireland is wrong; that every act done by the people of Ireland is an offence, meaning, of course, a crime; that nothing in Ireland is honest; that the starving peasantry are dishonest when they cannot pay their rent—yet this is the Gentleman who has the power, upon his belief, based upon his instructions from the Government, to put this clause into effect in Ireland. We can form a very good opinion of the class of cases and evidence which will be sufficient to satisfy the Attorney General that he ought to put this inquisitorial power into effect. Now, who are they 415 who are to be entrusted with the carrying out of this Act? The Resident Magistrates Speaking, the other day, at a meeting in the country, I described one of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland, who happens to be one—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is going through the clause almost word by word. The Question before the Committee is, whether the word "crime" or the word "offence" should be employed.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I was going to show that the Resident Magistrates are totally unfit to exercise the legal functions conferred upon them by this Bill; but I will not pursue the point. I shall have plenty of opportunities of doing that at later stages. Now, as to an offence, I will deal with the Attorney General for Ireland's belief of what is an offence. We saw an hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Forrest Fulton) rising from the opposite Benches with an anxious desire to support the Government. We heard his description of an offence, and we have received from the Treasury Bench some very vague definition of an offence. But is there, in this Bill, any limitation to the word offence? Will the Attorney General for Ireland get up and say there is any limitation of any sort whatever to the word offence?
§ MR. MOLLOY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have an opportunity of explaining the matter fully. We are aware that the Whiteboy Acts are to be included in this Bill, and I say distinctly, and I challenge contradiction, that there is practically no limitation to the word "offence." It means nothing more than this—that any act which may be disagreeable to the Government, or which may not be generally approved of by the Government, becomes under this Bill an offence. I hope the Attorney General for Ireland, who was so quick to rise a few moments ago, will explain this point when he rises hereafter. "Offence," practically, has no limitation whatever, and the passing of this Act means that Parliament will put it into the power of the Attorney General for Ireland, not even an independent Member of the Government, and of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland, to hold inquisitorial examinations into every act, private or otherwise, of every per- 416 son in Ireland. Now, that is the real definition of the word "offence" as used here, and I challenge denial from the Attorney General for Ireland. It is because of the wideness of the word "offence" that I have so serious and strong objection to its retention here. I and my hon. Friends are bound to insist upon this Amendment, and to do all we can to put such limitation upon the clause as will compel the judicial authorities in Ireland to be honest in the exercise of the powers to be conferred upon them
§ MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
So much reference has been made to the Scotch law that I should like to refer to an analogy which has not been pointed out as yet. From the time my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Scotland spoke a week ago, and from the time the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) referred to the subject of the Scotch law, we all on this side of the House have been distinctly under the impression that it was asserted and alleged that this power of examining witnesses upon oath, when no charge was made against anybody, is a matter of common practice in Scotch law. That is the point which we traverse. That is the point which I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) to contradict, and not to question whether any description of preliminary inquiry such as prevails in Scotland is, or is not, a good thing in itself. Now, I think it is established on the authority of my legal Friends on this side of the House that this power of examining witnesses upon oath, when no person is to be under charge, has never been exercised within the memory of living man. We have that on the best legal authority on this side of the House, and we have it on the tardy admission of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland. I think I am justified in saying that this feature in the Scotch system is an obsolete one, and that my hon. and learned Friend has not pointed out a true analogy to the present proposal in the Scotch Criminal Law. Now, I think it is possible to point to one. Under the Scotch law the offences of arson, rape, and robbery are still capital offences, unless the law has been changed recently. I have 417 taken part in many criminal cases, and my recollection is that those are still capital offences, and that the Judge has no alternative but to pronounce sentence of death upon the prisoner, unless the Lord Advocate, or the Advocate Deputy who is prosecuting, stays the application of the law. I ask whether hon. Gentlemen opposite are ready to apply that law to Ireland or to England? I do not deny that it would be congenial to the spirit of the Bill if it were to make a great variety of offences punishable by the penalty of death. But I hardly think the Government will be bold enough to make such a proposal. As enough has been said upon this question, I am not going to detain the Committee further than to say that I have submitted what appears to me to be a true analogy, and that it is an unfair and misleading argument to urge that an obsolete Scotch law may be applied in Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 120: Majority 37.—(Div. List, No. 100.)
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
I propose to insert in line 7, after the word "committed," the words "after the passing of this Act." The wording of the clause is—Where the Attorney General for Ireland believes that any offence to which this section applies has been committed. …The object of my Amendment is very clear; because, as the clause stands at present, it will be quite open to magistrates to open inquiry into offences committed years ago. The result of that will be that you will induce probably an amount of false swearing in connection with crimes that were unable to be proved at the time; it will also give an amount of insecurity to society that will be perfectly intolerable, besides giving a fresh start to the manufacture of spurious offences for the purpose of harassing honest men. In a subsequent section that error seems to be avoided; for instance, it provides that summary jurisdiction shall apply only to a person who shall commit the offence after the passing of the Act. The present section, however, says nothing as to when the offence, about which inquiry is made, shall have been committed. If the Government mean to leave it open to institute inquiries 418 into offences committed last year, four years, or seven years ago, then, of course, they will oppose my Amendment; but, if not, then I can conceive no reason why it should not be accepted. It interferes in no way with the clause, either in respect of grammar or sense, and cannot, in any way, impair the legal meaning of the Act.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, after "committed" insert "after the passing of this Act."—(Dr. Commins.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES)
Our intention is that the provision should apply to offences although they may have been committed before the passing of this Act.
§ MR. HOLMES
I do not hesitate to say that any Government that did not think it necessary to introduce a clause of this kind, having regard to the state of affairs in Ireland, would be nothing less than culpable. The clause creates no new principle whatever; its object is to procure that evidence which in most other countries can be procured with considerable facility for the purpose of detecting crime. We are all aware that in Ireland there have been some very serious crimes—some very dreadful crimes—committed in the last few months, which remain undetected, and in order that they may, if possible, not escape detection, the Government bring in this Bill. The hon. Member for South Roscommon (Dr. Commins) has drawn attention to the fact that in a subsequent clause the drafting is different. It is different, of course, because the Bill provides there for a different procedure, and it is reasonable and proper that drafting should correspond. But when we are dealing with the detection and of crimes—
§ MR. HOLMES
To detect these crimes it is necessary that the Bill 419 should be retrospective, and for that there is abundant precedent. In the Act of 1870 there was a similar provision, and also in the Act of 1882, both being retrospective; and I remind hon. Members that if the clause in the latter Act had not been of a retrospective character the murderers of the Phœnix Park would not have been discovered. In 1883 an Act was carried almost unanimously which dealt with dynamite explosions, and that also was retrospective. Therefore, it seems to me that nothing can be more proper than to make this clause retrospective, and I am glad that the hon. Member for South Roscommon has drawn attention to the fact. It is said that it is retrospective with regard to those offences which are made crimes for the first time under the Bill. [Laughter.]
§ MR. HOLMES
I am sorry to see that hon. Gentlemen opposite are very much confused in their ideas. If there be any new offences created under this Bill, and I deny that there are—[laughter, and "No, no!"]—these cannot be affected at all by the retrospective character of the clause. That cheer of hon. Members was, therefore, premature, and if they had listened for a moment they would have seen the folly of it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am sure that the Committee is delighted with the ingenuousness and candour of the right hon. Gentleman's reply. We have been all the evening on the question of the difference between offence and crime, and the Government have adhered to the word "offence," but as soon as we propose this Amendment we get the word crime over and over again, and we are reminded of the murders in the Phœnix Park. We have it here that the Government intends to do what the law of England has always looked upon with abhorrence—to go into stale treasons. It is the Plan of Campaign which sticks in the throats of the Government. We know that the right hon. Gentleman gave his famous opinion on the Plan of Campaign; we know he said there was a way in which it could be dealt with; we know that he instructed his police to seize the money; we know that he put our hon. Friends on trial, and that he 420 did not got the money because he did not know where it was; but now he is going into matters which occupied his attention last November and December, and thinks to have every one up at the beck of men like King-Harman and Tottenham. [Cries of "Order!"] I am not speaking of them in the capacity of Members of this House.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentlemen are referred to in connection with the present Bill. The hon. Member must speak in accordance with Parliamentary usage.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have yet to learn that it is not a fact that there are such landlords in Ireland as King-Harman and Tottenham, and I say that I have a right to refer to them typically. We now know what the Government mean. We have now, for the first time, learnt that the Act is to be retrospective; and we know that the Government have refused to define the crimes which can be committed under the Act. the hon. Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) will perhaps be surprised to hear that the Bill deals with bribery and corruption, and that even election proceedings can be gone into. Under the circumstances, I ask what is more monstrous than that the Government should pretend that the Act creates no new crimes, and that any matter may be gone into which has occurred during the last 20 years. I ask if there is to be any limit at all. Even Mr. Forster put a limit into his Bill. In connection with murder, manslaughter, or moonlighting, no possible complaint against the drafting of the Bill can be made. But the right hon. Gentleman speaks of now offences, and I venture to think that the result of the Bill will be that from the day it becomes law, if it ever does, you will not be able to get evidence of any crime, however hideous and abominable it may be. The word will be passed. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad the hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear," because it shows that we can pass the word. You propose to smash up the National League, but perhaps even from the prison cell will issue the voice of intimidation—the voice of the suppressed National League which you have tried to stifle by this Bill—and from one end of the country to the other you will not get a single man to come forward.' ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Baronet 421 opposite cheers that statement. That too shows the forces you are playing with, and I tell the Government that by this clause which they think is so innocuous they are putting their hand into a hornets' nest, and they will be stung before they get it out. Now, I put this to any sensible man, such, for instance, as the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman), a man whom we know to have no prejudices against Nationalists. I put it to him as a Member of the Goment, whether or not it is their object by the machinery of this clause to put down crime. We may quarrel with the clause, but it is our interest as much as it is the interest of the Government to put a stop to the terrible crimes which have occurred in Ireland and in England; it is our interest to put down and to detect crimes, not only because of their moral guilt, but because we are aware of the immense prejudice which they raise; but is it not the interest of the Government not to prejudice the entire population of Ireland against the Bill, who will know that it is directed not against crimes, but against offences political and agrarian? I think the Government have begun very badly. I have no doubt that by certain odds they may push forward the Bill; but I say it is a serious thing for Her Majesty's Government, in face of the opposition of five-sixths of the Irish Representatives and the greater portion of the Liberal Party, to give no recognition to the arguments which we put forward. Are we to get no concession from the Government? We have had none as yet, but I hope the Government will see their way not to allow themselves to be misled by the representatives of reactionary landlords with regard to the retrospective portion of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Sir Richard Webster) is the representative of the landlords, and although I have the greatest respect for his abilities, to his opinion on a political matter I would not attach a feather's weight, because he is simply the landlords' mouthpiece. This result of going retrospectively into this matter will be that you will have Ireland a seething sea of discontent and disorder. You will probably order inquiry under this clause into the Plan of Campaign; a, witness will refuse to give evidence, and 422 like the first policeman who resigned the other day, he will be followed by many more. The first imprisonment under this Act will be the keynote of this state of things. I warn the Government to walk with circumspection, and if they wish to make practical use of the measure let them begin well. They have not begun well. They propose to go into stale matters. Let them by all means go into murders and cases of manslaughter, maiming, and serious offences of that character; but, with regard to the new offences which the right hon. Gentleman has admitted will be created, I would warn them to take another course, because I should not have the smallest hesitation in getting up on the first available platform and seeking the first available plank bed by telling my countrymen to refuse to attend these summonses.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I must confess, after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), as to the serious crimes which he said had been committed in Ireland, that I could not help thinking it most unfortunate that the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) should have been absent from the House before this Bill was brought in. We had a statement from him a short time before he resigned his Office—he said to his constituents that the state of Ireland left little or nothing to be desired. But that right hon. Gentleman who was then responsible for the state of the country, and who was able to say this of the state of Ireland, has been stowed away by the Government. But what are the difficulties that are to be obviated by this Bill? Does the right hon. Gentleman think seriously that by going back on offences that have been committed in Ireland—petty offences, for he asks powers with regard to these as well as serious offences—he will be contributing anything to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland? Is it not more likely that he will disturb even the present state of the country, and make it worse than it is at the present time? I was astonished at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Phoenix Park murderers would never have been brought to justice if it had not been for the retrospective character of the Act of 1882. This has been the 423 statement over and over again; but the very contrary is the fact. All the circumstances of the murder were known to the authorities in Ireland long before the Act passed through the House, and long before inquiry was held. Everything which the provision in the Act could bring to light was already known. Again, the right hon. Gentleman stated that this clause cannot be retrospective with regard to new offences. But I think he has overlooked the fact that up to the present time it has not been made punishable that men should refuse to give evidence on the ground that he might incriminate himself. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland is not in his place; but he has stated to the House that in regard to new offences the provisions of the Act are not retrospective. I would have liked to call his attention to the 3rd sub-section, which says that a witness examined under this section shall not be excused from answering any question on the ground that the answer thereto may criminate, or tend to criminate, himself; but that any statement made by any person in answer to any question put to him on any examination under this section shall not, except in the case of an indictment or other criminal proceeding for perjury, be admissible in evidence against him in any proceeding, civil or criminal. But the words "in any proceeding against him for perjury" announce that examination may take place with regard to offences committed before the Act, and that his answer may be given as evidence against him, and he may be punished even if it tend to criminate him. There would be no opposition to the adoption of a clause of this kind if we had a reasonable limitation; but if it is the intention of the Government to go back on petty offences that may have been committed in Ireland and drag private citizens before them for the purpose of inquiry, we are entitled to oppose it in every way. I repeat, for my part, that if there were a reasonable limitation, I would not for one moment object to the provision being embodied in the Act—if it wore applied only to serious crimes—but if you apply it to political purposes and Party purposes, and in order to assist Irish landlords in getting the unjust rents which have been recently condemned by the Sub-Commissioners 424 in Ireland, I shall strongly oppose it. the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has referred to the recent trial of the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and others for the adoption of the Plan of Campaign, and that since that time the very demand made by the tenants have been justified by the Sub-Commissioners, and more than justified, because, while the tenants only demanded a reduction of 30 per cent, the average abatement made by the Sub-Commissioners amounts to 35 per cent. This is one of the offences, no doubt, to which it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to apply the provisions of this Act. So far as we are concerned, we have no reason to dread any use they may make of the Act; but we have a deep and vital interest in the peace of the country, and I maintain that, so far as the maintenance of peace, and the maintenance of law and order, the application of these provisions to petty offences will plunge the country into a state of ruin, and that right hon. Gentlemen opposite will have most to regret the difficulties they have created by their adoption. Everyone having the slightest acquaintance with Ireland knows how the provisions of the Act of 1882 have been worked. The Government are most anxious to get the provisions of the Act of 1882; but all I can say is that even when the administration of Ireland was in the firm grip of Lord Spencer, the Act of 1882, in spite of his best efforts, was used by his officials for Party purposes. At that time we had the clauses relating to secret inquiry and other clauses of the Bill administered in a way that any Government would be ashamed of. Even now if it is not the intention of the Government to limit this section, they will find that their partizans in Ireland will be too strong for them; and if they are not stronger than the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General and his subordinates, I can understand the amount of difficulty and trouble in store for them. We had cases in Ireland under the secret clauses of the Act of 1882 where inquiries were instituted, and persons were summoned who could not by any means be brought into connection with the offence that had been committed; yet they stated publicly, after their examination, that they had been examined in respect of circumstances 425 which could not possibly have any connection with the offence. I have no doubt that if that was the case in the past, the same magistrates would make very unsatisfactory use of the powers given in this Act, and especially if they believe that the Government will protect them in any lawlessness which they may perpetrate.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
My hon. Friend, in support of his very reasonable Amendment, pointed out that the clause was retrospective; and the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) replied that there was nothing unreasonable in that, inasmuch as it enables you to discover and punish crime. His statement was perfectly reasonable; but I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he seriously contends that this section does not create new crimes retrospectively. I think he will find that it does create new crimes with respect to old offences and punishes persons for them. I admit at once that where new offences are made by the Act it is obviously not to the interest of the Government that they should be punished unless committed after the passing of the Act. Now, I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the 2nd and 3rd sub-section of this clause. Under the 2nd subsection any witness declining to answer any question put to him is liable to be committed to gaol for contempt of Court, as for declining to give evidence on an indictable offence. I point out that, up to the present, no witness is compelled to answer any question tending to criminate himself; but going to the 3rd section, I find that it can be applied to any witness who refuses to answer a question on that ground. That is distinctly a new offence. I suppose that we may be told that punishment for contempt of Court is not punishment for an offence; but if a man is sent to gaol for a number of years for contempt it will not be a great stretch of language to term that a serious offence. A man declines to incriminate himself with respect to an old offence, and he is sent to gaol—that is creating a new offence in respect of an old offence. I am told that if we read further we shall see that—Any statement made by any person in answer to any question put to him on any examination under this section shall not, except 426 in the ease of an indictment or other criminal proceeding for perjury, he admissible in evidence against him in any proceeding, civil or criminal.Well, obviously, all this is mere quibble. A man, for instance, may say that he collected rent, gave a receipt and paid the rent into a bank; the Government gets the facts, goes to the cashier of the bank and questions him. It is clear that in this case the witness has been compelled to give the Government a weapon that may be very unfairly used against him. His evidence may also be used against him on a charge of perjury. In this way, on three points the Government raise new crimes on old offences. Does the Bill thon recommend itself to any sensible Member of this House?
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
From the fact that a portion of this clause is to be retrospective in its operation, we may gather that the whole object of inquiry is to make it possible to punish Irish Nationalists for acts done in the past which hitherto have not by law been regarded as crimes. Unless the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Roscommon (Dr. Commins) be accepted, it is quite possible that my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) will come under this particular clause. It is impossible to persuade any Irish or English Member that the acts of my hon. Friend were criminal acts; but under the Bill, as it stands, the Government can now say that the acts of my hon. Friend were done in a proclaimed district, and are offences under the Act. As my hon. Friend has just very successfully shown, the operation of the clause will make ex post facto inquiry into acts which have not been punishable for the purpose of dealing with them under the Bill. This discussion has shown the importance of the previous discussion which has taken place on the word ''offence," and how necessary it is that the Government should define the meaning of the term in this Bill, because they would then have to show that the operation of the clause is to crime only, to which, of course, we could not object. But they have refused to make any definition of the word "offence." They stick to that term, although the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) did not push it to great 427 length in his reply. There is no limitation proposed to the application of the clause; and although, as far as I and my Colleagues are concerned, we have no fear of any act of ours being inquired into, yet transactions may be brought up which occurred 10 or 15 years ago. The whole object of the Bill is to create the state of feeling which the Government will say was shouldering in Ireland when they brought forward the measure. We shall advise our countrymen not to reply to inquiries under this Act. On every opportunity I have in Ireland I shall call on them not to reply. We do not wish to create bitterness of feeling; but there are men outside the lines of the political movement who will not harken to our advice, and the Government, having made them, will have to deal with them. I trust that the alternative words proposed by the hon. Member for South Roscommon will be accepted by the Government.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
I must express my surprise, seeing the number of lawyers on the Front Bench opposite, that no one of them has thought it right or has felt himself called on to rise in reply to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance). That hon. Member raised a number of questions of great importance, upon which, I think, we ought to have had some expression of opinion from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am bound to say I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) with the deepest regret and with some surprise. I have been accustomed to look upon the science of law as a noble science, and to think that the adepts in it have some respect for it. I have been accustomed to think that these Gentle man have a sound idea as to what constitutes law, and are not persons likely readily to take part in the passing of measures which have none of the characteristics of law. I say that this clause has none of the characteristics of law. [Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen think it proper to meet that statement with derision I can easily prove what I say, though it will compel me to address the House at greater length than I desired. The clause we are discussing is peculiar in this respect—that it will not make any change until the fiat of the 428 Lord Lieutenant is issued. The Bill is simply a catalogue of arbitrary powers, which you leave the Lord Lieutenant to enforce as a political partizan; but I must not travel far on that road. I must confine myself to the first clause. I will put the case in this way—I have a right to say this. If you bear in mind the relation between the 2nd and 6th and 7th clauses, you will see that it will be possible, under the 1st clause, to inquire into the speech or writing of any Irish Member of Parliament, or any Irish contributor to the Press, who in times past, however distant, has spoken in approval of these things which we call the Plan of Campaign and the National League; and I want to know whether the Government really think it decent, and think it worth their while, to take such a power in this clause? Is it not enough to start from the date of the passing of this measure? What possible advantage can they gain by raking up the past? Surely, as a matter of policy, there should be some limit to a proceeding of this kind. I do not think, even if the Committee pass the clause, the Government will find it to their advantage to put it in operation in that way; but I call on them to say whether they desire to be invested by the House of Commons with such an extraordinary power as this? But the hon. and learned Gentleman has put another case, which requires an answer from the Law Officers of the Crown. He has shown that when an inquiry takes place with reference to an offence which may not be an offence under this Act—an offence committed, or supposed to be committed, before the passing of this Act—and a witness refuses to give evidence with regard to it, he will practically commit an offence under this Act. That, surely, requires an answer. ["Hear, hear!"] "Hear, hear "from the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General; but his argument is this—"We do not create an offence; we do not take power to punish an old offence." But you do the same thing. You inquire into an old offence, not being an offence under this Act, and you punish the man who refuses to criminate himself by giving evidence which may tell against himself. So that a new offence is linked with the old one. You say such a man is safe because his statement cannot be brought in evidence against 429 him; but my hon. and learned Friend showed conclusively that you compel the man to furnish you with evidence, and put you on the track of evidence, with which you can confront him on subsequent indictment; and, therefore, practically speaking, you do take power here of a retrospective character to enable you to bring within the operation of the law a man who would not otherwise be under it. Is it worth while to do this—is it a decent proceeding? One of the best known and most thoroughly recognized principles of Criminal Law is that it ought not to be ex post facto and retrospective; and I must express my amazement at that which I see with great regret—namely, that amongst the number of distinguished lawyers opposite, there is not one who, for the sake of his profession and the science to which he belongs, will rise up and protest against being made responsible for the establishment of the new legal principle involved in this clause, the object of which is so much of a Party character—I do not mean as between the two Parties in this House, but I mean that you have made up your minds that there is an Irish Party you are determined to subjugate, and you take powers in this Act in order that you may subjugate it. I think we are at least entitled to some explanation, in regard to this matter—to some defence from the Government.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has said that the clause now proposed has none of the characteristics of law; and he has asked the Government whether they think it decent and think it worth while to propose such a clause to the House. Well, I have a very substantial answer to that question, and I say that the clause has the characteristics of law, that it is exactly the same in its scope, intention, and operation as the sections with regard to procedure which are constantly passed in all the Acts which go through this House. I would point out that this clause is the same as the clauses which have appeared in three Acts of Parliament for which the right hon. Gentleman has been himself responsible—whether by active advocacy, by the support of his vote, or by silent acquiescence in this House, I do not care. In one way or other, he has been responsible 430 for three Acts of Parliament in which sections of the same kind as this were put, which have had what he has called a retrospective effect, but the effect of which was not truly retrospective.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
The Acts of 1870, 1882, and 1883. In each one of these cases a clause was contained in the Bill, and passed through the House, corresponding to the one now under consideration, and without any such limitation as is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He asks if this proposal is decent. I think I have satisfactorily answered his question by reference to action he himself sanctioned in times gone by.
§ MR. STANSFELD
I must interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was not responsible for one of these Acts.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
If the right hon. Gentleman tells me that in 1870—when, I think, he was a Member of the Government—he did not sanction the Act that was passed, of course I retract my statement at once. As for the Acts of "1882 and 1883, he was, at any rate, a Member of the House when they were passed—
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
And what I said was that the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the Acts that wore passed; and that, either by speech, vote, or silent acquiescence, he was, therefore, a party to the passing of this clause. Of course, I have not had time to refer to the record of the votes which were given in the House at that time. That, I think, sufficiently answers the right hon. Gentleman's question as to whether this is decent. Now, then, I come to the question as to whether it is worth while to pass this clause. If the House of Commons had put in such a limitation as the right hon. Gentleman now suggests, it would be giving impunity to offences—it would be exempting any offences which might be committed before the actual passing of this Act from that machinery of detection which the Committee has thought it desirable to adopt. Truly speaking, there is no retrospective character in this at all. [Laughter.] No; properly so speaking, there is no retrospective character in it at all; and what is provided is this—that from the time that this Bill passes, and gets the Royal Assent, there will be 431 put in operation a machinery deemed necessary for the detection of crime. That machinery will operate from the time the Act passes, but, of course, will be applicable to crime, whether it has been successfully completed before the time the Act receives the Royal Assent or not. Why is it that we are desiring to pass this Bill at all? It is because the offences to which it refers are in daily operation in different parts of Ireland; and it would be preposterous to ask the House of Commons to tie its hands and say, by putting in this Amendment, that everything that one might succeed in doing before the time the Bill becomes law should be exempt from the operation of the measure. No answer was given to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance), for the reason—and I say it with all respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman—that it was perfectly clear to our minds that there was nothing at all in that speech. The hon. and learned Member said the Bill creates a new offence, and deals with an offence committed before the passing of the measure. There is no foundation for that statement whatever, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman will only read the clause through from end to end, he will see that there is not.
§ MR. CHANCE
I did not say that. What I said was, you use an old offence to compel a new and unconstitutional crime, and then say the clause is not retrospective. If by reason of an old offence you compel a man to commit a new offence, the section is clearly retrospective. Owing to what he did before, you oblige him to commit a new offence and punish him for it.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
Language seems to have lost its accustomed meaning. The hon. and learned Gentleman says you use an old offence in order to make a man commit a new offence.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
But you do not make him commit an offence at all. From the time this Act has passed, if this clause is adopted there will be a certain procedure for inquiry into and investigation of crime, and if a man is called up under that procedure—
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
If a man is called up he is asked certain questions 432 as to what has taken place. He may, if he likes, refuse to answer those questions. If he does, he will be punished for that refusal. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, for refusal to answer. That refusal will be an act done after the passing of this measure. Or he may, if he feels himself in conscience coerced to commit a crime at all, choose to commit perjury, and then he will be punished for perjury; but the perjury will be committed after the Act has passed. There will be no obligation on anyone to commit that offence. I may say that it was only in consequence of the serious importance with which the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) seemed to invest this matter that I rose to make this explanation.
§ MR. STANSFELD
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General has spoken of the Acts of 1870, 1882, and 1883. I wish to state precisely my responsibility with regard to every one of these Acts. With regard to the Act of 1870, I had some responsibility of an official character, as I was a Member of the Government, though not of the Cabinet; but it must be remembered that in those days Coercion Bills were not permanent. [Laughter.] Yes; that makes all the difference in the world. My argument is this. These Bills were not permanent Bills; they were passed with almost universal consent, and, as a matter of fact, close attention was not given to them by every Member of the Government. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] This is really the truth. Anyone who has been in Office knows that it is perfectly impossible for a man to keep himself perfectly alive to all the Business in the hands of his Colleagues when his time is so much taken up with the consideration of his own Bills, and with the management of the Business of his Department. I accept the official responsibility I have described, and no more. With regard to the Acts of 1882 and 1883, I had no official responsibility for them at all, as I was not a Member of the Government, and I was prevented by circumstances of a private nature from attending much at the House. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite will accept this explanation.
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
I am glad the question as to whether or not 433 this measure will be retrospective has been raised. I think the point should be stated in the Bill in express terms, so that there can be no doubt as to the construction to be placed on the provisions. Looking at Section 1, which relates to Proclamations having to be issued before the Act can come into force, we see these words—the Lord Lieutenant may—By Proclamation declare the provisions of this Act which relate to proclaimed districts, or any of those provisions, to be in force within any specified part of Ireland as from the date of the Proclamation, or any later date specified in the Proclamation.I should have thought that, after the Proclamation of a district, Section 1 would come into operation. The words in Section I., as they stand, run—Any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district.I should have read that "in a proclaimed district after it has been proclaimed." I am told that it means "committed in a proclaimed district before or after it has been proclaimed." I wish to see the interpretation which has been put upon this by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) made clear. The meaning ought to be made perfectly clear if we are going to pass a new law in consequence of the old law being insufficient. I agree that it should be retrospective. I have no desire to give leave and licence for the commission of offences up to the time when the Bill becomes law; but I think the intention of the Act should be clearly set forth. I also think that if there is to be a distinction made between crime and offence—between any of the crimes mentioned in Section 2 and Section 4—that also should be clearly denned in the Bill and should not be left a matter of argument. If we in this House do not know what the Bill means, and the extent of the litigation which it may involve, I think, if any for the guidance of the Courts, it is essential that the definitions of the measure should be clear and precise. We should be very careful to make the meaning of the words "committed in a proclaimed district" clear, because, as I have said, I should have thought they meant "committed in a proclaimed district after the proclamation of the district," and I do not want any more inefficient prosecutions.
§ MR. CHANCE
I regret that I cannot thank the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) for having extended any very conspicuous courtesy to me. I may, at least, thank him for this—namely, for having in his observations pretty clearly shown to the House that he was not prepared to meet the point that I raised, and that he was able to evade it by a series of those discreet generalities which are better suited for the Old Bailey, at which he is such a distinguished practitioner, than for the High Court of Parliament. What I said was simply this, that a small offence committed before the passing of this Act will be made a lever for forcing a man into the commission of a new offence, and that when that new offence has been committed the man may be imprisioned for an indeterminate period. That is my case, pure and simple. I am met by this statement, that the clause does not compel a man to commit this new offence. But I pointed out that if he declines to criminate himself he commits an offence punishable by indeterminate imprisonment, and that is a pretty good description of an offence in a despotic country. A man will have the option either to criminate himself or to hand over to the Crown evidence against himself which will lead to his conviction for some other offence. That is not a reasonable position in which to put a man, or a reasonable way to deal with the Commission of an offence before the passing of the Act. It is the introduction of the despotic idea into the law. It is an entirely new suggestion that a new unconstitutional, un-English punishment should be attached to an old offence. I defy the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to point out a case where a retrospective offence has been punished by a new penalty. An old offence is to be used here as a nest egg for the creation of a new offence.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It seems to me there is one aspect of this question which has been overlooked. As well as I can understand it the position of the Government now is that an offence under the Act, committed in a district before it is proclaimed, even before the Act is passed, can be made the subject-matter of one of these inquiries. But a most important consideration arises with. 435 respect to this. There cannot be a shadow of a doubt that there are matters made offences in this Bill which, in the eyes of the majority of the people of Ireland, are not only not offences at all, but meritorious acts. That is the very essence of the Bill that we complain of. It is a fact beyond denial—the Government will not attempt to deny it—that many of the offences under this Bill, before the passing of the Bill, have not been in the consciousness of the vast majority of the people of Ireland offences or crimes at all, but have been acts committed openly, of which they have not been in the least ashamed. That is a matter of most vital import to the question at issue. What do the Government propose to do? A thing which no just Legislature has never done in history, to make or pass a law that constitutes certain actions or proceedings offences which are not only not really offences, but which, in the minds of the people for whom you are legislating, are meritorious acts in which they openly and proudly engaged in the face of day. That, to my mind, is one of the greatest grievances to which you can subject a people; because what will be the effect of it? You will institute an inquiry into some of the operations that I myself have been engaged in carrying on; you will institute an inquiry into certain meetings in private houses, at which I have been present, or in which associates and comrades of mine have taken part; we, unquestionably, shall refuse to come up to give evidence in your Courts, and as a consequence we shall be found guilty of crime and put into prison. Can anything be conceived more unjust, more scandalously unjust, than creating, ex post facto, certain things crimes which were not believed to be crimes by the people who committed them, which are not crimes, and which no law that you can make will induce the people to consider as crimes, and then punishing people under the machinery established by this Act because they will not betray confidences, repeat conversations, and turn themselves into informers in the face of their own people? Now, I contend that the effect of that will be, in the first place, to bring the law in Ireland into greater disrepute than it is at present. In my opinion, the great task that lies before any Executive or Go- 436 vernment in Ireland is not at all as much to enforce the law as to try and get the people into sympathy with the law. You cannot do that, and you cannot enforce the law when the law does not recommend itself to the public conscience, and to imagine that you will improve the condition of Ireland by passing a provision like this, which not only will fail to recommend itself to the consciences of the people, but will revolt their consciences, seems to me the greatest act of fatuity in which a Government could engage. It seems to me that, from their own point of view, they should be cautious to avoid passing laws which seem to be the infliction of gross injustice on the people. This provision, if it is passed, will, to my mind, avail the Government nothing whatever. There is no grave crime at present prevailing in Ireland—with the exception of one or two cases which the Government have failed to prove—and, therefore, in that respect there is a very marked and wide difference between the condition of affairs prevailing in that country now and that which prevailed at the time of the passing of the Act of 1882. There is the greatest possible difference. In the year 1882 we struggled and protested against any retrospective action in that measure. But there cannot be the slightest doubt that the condition of things which prevailed in Ireland at that time was as widely different from the condition of things that prevails to-day as one thing can be from another. I recollect that when the Act of 1882 was being discussed in this House, several most desperate and atrocious murders took place in Ireland. There was the murder of Mr. Burke and the dragoon who was guarding him, and several other most terrible murders. The Government said they could not discover the perpetrators of these murders, and one of the objects of their Act was to investigate these matters. But that is not the object now. At the present moment the Government have nothing to go upon with respect to combinations which are open and not secret, and it ought not to be forgotten that any investigation of this kind will fail to unravel or discover them. There is nothing to show that any widespread combination for the perpetration of any serious crime has been the cause of this Bill. My contention is, having regard to past and present transactions in Ireland, that it 437 cannot be the honest intention of the Government to discover or to track out crime, but that this provision is to be used for the purpose of imprisoning men for refusing to give evidence against their comrades, and in that way, as I understand it, by an underhand and mean dodge to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, as in 1881. I cannot doubt that the clause, if it is put in force, will be put into effect in the spirit in which the Government are now contending; that it means, simply and solely, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act as against the people engaged in the movement against unfair rents in Ireland, who will be summoned to give evidence, and upon their refusal to say what is required of them, "will be forthwith imprisoned.
§ MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouth, W.)
It has been supposed by an hon. Gentleman that something is now proposed which will have operation throughout Ireland. But that is not the case. The section will have operation only in what is called a proclaimed district. A district cannot be proclaimed until after the passing of the Act, and consequently it is impossible that an offence contemplated by the Bill can be committed in a district until it is proclaimed; and, further, it cannot be proclaimed until the Proclamation has been issued. Of course, however, that does not get rid of the difficulty as to what is the effect of the section. There is the other question as to what the effect ought to be; it is a very difficult one, and upon that I hope the Government will give attention to what has been said on this side of the House. It has been urged, over and over again, by those who are Representatives for Ireland, that they do not desire that there should be any difficulty in the way of inquiry into any real or grave crime; that is to say, they have no objection to the application of this power which is of Scotch origin, to the same purposes as those to which it has been applied in days past. But what do the Government propose to do? They propose to apply this section to every conceivable offence under the Criminal Law. I challenge the Attorney General for Ireland to get up and say that there is any offence known to the law to which this section will not apply, because he has taken care not to limit the word "offence." He has defined it by saying that it shall apply to every felony, mis 438 demeanour, and offence made punishable in this Act. The consequence is that as soon as the Act is passed it will be put into force against political offences. There is nothing to prevent that. If a political libel has been published in Ireland he will be able to examine the editor to get evidence whereon he may found a criminal indictment against the writer. It is said that these are not crimes against which the Act is to be made use of. Why then, do the honest thing and define the crimes in terms by which you really intend to abide. If you mean to make the Act retrospective make it so in clear terms.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, by saying that the offences which he says the Bill does not apply to are punishable under the clause which we are now discussing. I say nothing about indictable offences which are to be tried by a Judge and jury in the ordinary way, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, and nothing about the machinery under the section relating to the trial of persons by jury. But I altogether object to trial by Petty Sessions Courts of agrarian offences. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that those Courts are, to a large extent, composed of landlords and land agents; and are we to under-stand that the sheep is to be given up to be tried by wolves?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is wandering from the point now before the Committee, which is, whether the words "after the commencement of this Act" shall be inserted.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
I have referred to two classes of trials—trial by Judge and jury, and trial by Petty Sessions Courts, to the latter of which I especially desire to call the attention of the Attorney General for Ireland. I say that the offences committed before the passing of the Act are manifestly those to which the Act ought not to apply, and I submit that my argument was perfectly in order. [ Cries of "Order!"] The Chairman, at any rate, is much more lenient to me than hon. Members opposite. In discriminating between these offences, the only thing there is to rely upon is the discretion of the Attorney General for Ireland. No doubt the clause provides that he must be satisfied on oath that an offence has been com- 439 mitted, and then he must exercise his discretion as to whether he shall direct his officer to go down and inquire into it. I have no doubt that it will occur that the case will be tried by a tribunal by which the public and I would have no confidence that justice would be done. Why does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman take care to say that agrarian offences shall be not tried by the tribunal proposed.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is not confining himself to the point before the Committee to which I directed his attention—namely, that as to the insertion of the words "after the commencement of this Act."
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
I will then call attention to another point—the machinery of the clause. This is not the machinery of the Act of 1870 or 1882. In those cases, if a man refused to give evidence he was only liable to the ordinary penalties of refusing to give evidence on trials; but, now, he will be liable to all penalties he would be liable to in the case of an indictable offence. As far as I can see, there remains nothing now but the discretion of the Attorney General to prevent the most insignificant misdemeanour being inquired into by such cumbrous and terrible machinery as this.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I am glad to find myself in accord with the proposition put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General—namely, that the English language has lost its meaning in this House. The Solicitor General, who always argues with exceeding clearness, says there should be power to examine witnesses as to offences which are being now committed; and that the offence of refusing to give an answer, or a false answer, would be the new offence within the meaning of the Act. Then if that be the meaning of the Act in the minds of the Government, it is clear that it is not the meaning of the word, and that it has not the same meaning as that which it bears in ordinary books. It was pointed out by one hon. Gentleman who supports the Government that the operation of the clause was limited to any offence committed in a proclaimed district, and I think I see some approval on the part of the Attorney General for England, which induces me to think that that is the correct view of the meaning of the 440 words. But it appears now that the meaning of "proclaimed in the future" is the same thing "proclaimed in the past." I must be excused for saying that that is a lesson in English which I got for the first time to-night.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I believe it will be found that the attempts to work this Act will, in a great measure, tend to impair what is supposed to be the intention of the Act. If you confine this investigation to the discovery of indictable offences—offences of a serious nature, which are included in the meaning of the word crime, the proposal, in my opinion, would be a fair and reasonable one, and you would have a larger majority than you will have under present conditions. But that is clearly not the intention of the Government. Let us not mince matters. We assert, and in this we are corroborated, that your whole purpose in putting this Bill forward is the maintenance of rents in Ireland at their present figure. For that purpose, you will dive into matters political and semi-political; and in that connection I say that when my hon. Friend near me referred to acknowledged agrarian crime, he did not mean crimes which might appear as agrarian in the statistics, but, as they are called, agricultural offences. These are the things you want to investigate. With regard to the working of the Act, what will happen is this—If you bring a guilty man before you, and he commit perjury—[Cries of "Order!"]—I do not think I am out of Order. I am dealing with the inquisitorial clause, and with regard to its retrospective operation I think it would be well that a line should be drawn, and that we should not place it in the power of every local despot or intriguer to investigate political or semi-political matters. If you do, the result will assuredly be that you will make it respectable to refuse to give evidence. The most respectable men in Ireland will thus be the first to be brought before these tribunals.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
If it had not been for the explanation of the hon. and learned Solicitor General I think there would have been no doubt as to the construction to be put upon this section. My hon. and learned Friend says the section makes the Bill retrospective with regard to three classes of offences—felony, misdemeanour, and any 441 offences punishable under the Act. Now, with regard to the third class, I think that may be left out of consideration; but with regard to the other two—felonies and misdemeanours—I understand that he claims that, in respect of these, this Act is retrospective.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I said it was not truly retrospective, but dealt with procedure after the passing of the Act.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
That is a distinction which may have some meaning in the mind of my hon. and learned Friend, but I should say it is a distinction which may be said to make no difference whatever with regard to what I have said. We want to be informed upon this point—whether the felonies and misdemeanours that the clause will deal with are those which have been committed in a proclaimed district? I did not gather from the statement of the hon. and learned Solicitor General that he was speaking of the felonies and misdemeanours which are committed in a proclaimed district only. If that was his meaning, I hone he will say so; because, if they are to be offences committed before the district is proclaimed, then the words of the Amendment become necessary.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I wish to point out that the intention of the Government is that this inquiry in a proclaimed district may be made in reference to crimes which have been before committed. That was said at the commencement of this discussion, before we had the advantage of the attendance of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lockwood). We are now discussing whether the words "after the passing of this Act" are to be inserted or not. We do not say that a district ought to be proclaimed because crime is going to be committed—the point is, that where crimes have been committed there will be a difficulty in getting evidence as to those crimes; and, therefore, as in the Act of 1882, so in this Act, there will be the means of getting evidence with reference to them, whether they have been committed before or after the Proclamation. I must say that it would be simply stultifying ourselves, if we did not make provision against what has taken place before. If there is any 442 doubt on the matter, we will put in words to make the meaning perfectly clear.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I imagine that this is the first time in the history of the House of Commons that the Attorney General of a Government has got up and defended a measure which is to make a penal act retrospective. [Sir RICHARD WEBSTER intimated dissent.] The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to dissent from that. But his remarks have no other meaning; for he says that the Government only mean the Act to be retrospective in a proclaimed district; but he forgets that many of the acts to which this Bill are to apply are not now offences. Therefore, when you proclaim a new district, you create new offences; and when you create new offences as you do by this Act, you make the Criminal Law retrospective And you do so for this reason—because it is clear that persons will then be capable of being examined as to matters which are now understood to be innocent combinations. You propose then to have up and examine persons—it may be Members of this House—as to acts which may have taken place at this moment. That is indeed your object. The Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), in the language which he used, veiled that purpose with some amount of subtlety, but the Attorney General has not disguised it. He said, in effect, "We intend to make the National League responsible for every act done before the beginning of this Act; we mean to hit the Plan of Campaign," and it may be that hon. Members near me may be attacked. When new offences of this kind are created, I am astonished to hear the Attorney General defend the making retrospective a provision of this serious and drastic character. I cannot, indeed, understand the conduct of the Government. Before the Attorney General spoke, the purpose of the Government was not clear; but now it is clear, and we shall, on this side of the House, all divide with great satisfaction in favour of the Amendment, for the purpose of protesting against a practice unknown to the Criminal Law of England—that of making an Act of so serious a character retrospective.
§ MR T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
The speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General for England 443 casts additional light on what we are doing by passing this Act. During the discussion of this measure, up to the present time, we have been told repeatedly that there is a safeguard as to the application of the provisions of this measure held out to the House, in the fact that the Lord Lieutenant will exercise discretion as to issuing Proclamations to put the Act in force. But the speech of the Attorney General now shows that it is not merely as to crimes that may occur after the passing of this Act, but with also as to offences that may have been committed in past years before the Act comes into force, that the Lord Lieutenant will exercise his discretion in proclaiming a district. That does away with the safeguard supposed to be offered to the House in as king them to rely on the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant in proclaiming a district. For, as the matter is now explained, the Lord Lieutenant is to proclaim a district because offences were committed there last October, or in the course of last year or the year before, and an inquiry is then to be instituted into those offences—that is to say, into offences which were not offences at the time they are said to have been committed, but have been for the first time created offences by the issue of the Lord Lieutenant's Proclamation of the district. I say that you will thus set up an instrument of extraordinary and unparalleled tyranny in the districts which may be proclaimed. This might be all very well if you wished to inquire into serious crimes. We have no objection to have an inquiry as to serious crimes. But if the Lord Lieutenant proclaims a district for one offence, he proclaims it for all; and the provision which gives him power to have an inquiry does in effect, as I have already said, create new offences.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
I would beg to remind the Committee, after what has fallen from the hon. Member for Elgin, that if the clause in the Act of 1882, which corresponds to the clause under discussion, had not existed, the perpetrators of the Phoenix Park murders would never have been discovered.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The Committee has been for some time discussing the question whether the operation of this measure will be retrospective; but I can assure hon. Mem- 444 bers that the Act will be administered in Ireland by tribunals who will have no doubt on the point. This Act will be administered by Resident Magistrates, and they will have no difficulty at all in construing the Act in the sense which the Government have declared that they intend it to bear. The draftsman who has drawn the Bill so skilfully—drawn it so as to suggest to hon. Members who read it that this clause is not in fact intended to be retrospective, or to affect offences committed before the passing of the Act; while the Government know that any Court or Body of Resident Magistrates to whom the administration of the Act may be handed over will not have the smallest difficulty in construing it as retrospective. In discussing the Amendment before the Committee, we are in considerable embarrassment from the necessity of making a distinction between crimes which we understand to be crimes, and of other offences which are known in this Bill as "offences." For the purpose of considering the effect of my hon. Friend's Amendment, you must divide crimes into three categories. You have, first, crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, and arson, which everyone in the House and in England knows to be crimes. Secondly, there are crimes of a political or quasi-political character And, in the third place, you have the class of offences known as offences against this Act. As to the first class—such as murder, manslaughter, and arson—I do not think there will be any difference of opinion in any quarter of the House. The position we take up is this. We are unwilling to have this Star Chamber inquiry at all. We say that it is not necessary, and that it will do no good. But if you are determined to have a judicial inquiry of the character contemplated, and, with that view, pass this clause, then I do not think it can be argued that it should not apply to crimes of that character whether committed before or after the passing of the Act. But as to political or quasi-political offences, they stand in a totally different position and, certainly, this clause should not be made retrospective as to offences of that kind. The Government have sustained a series of mishaps during the past 12 months in dealing with combinations in Ireland. They have instituted a series of prosecutions for the 445 purpose of putting an end to these combinations, and we know what has come of them. We know that, in some cases, the prosecutions were abortive; that in other eases, these prosecutions came to an issue only to be decided by the jury in favour of the defendants; and that in a third class of prosecutions, the proceedings have resulted in the disagreement of the jurors. How will any fair-minded and intelligent man get up and defend the proposition that the Government, having failed in these prosecutions, having brought my hon. Friends near me before a jury, and having lamentably failed in the prosecution—are now to take powers in this Act to renew these prosecutions, and that under the section we are now discussing they are to hold Star Chamber inquiries, are to bring up any witnesses they choose, are to examine tenants, members of the National League, and perhaps even Members of this House, and are then, with the evidence so obtained, to attempt to renew these prosecutions? The Government may attempt to defend that action; but I do not think that action of that kind will commend itself to any reasonable being, and I should be surprised to hear any hon. Member in any quarter of the House rise and defend any proceeding of that kind. Then take another class of cases, that of political libel. Is it to be contended that it is fair or reasonable that the Government should have power tinder this clause to ransack the old files of United Ireland, or any other Nationalist papers, to select any articles they may think liable to prosecution, to hold Star Chamber inquiries as to articles—I do not know how many years old, for there is no restriction as to time in this clause—and to bring the real or supposed writer of those articles before Resident Magistrates with the disadvantage of having arrayed against him the exceptional and extraordinary powers conferred by this clause? I do not think that is fair play, or that it is dealing in a fair and reasonable manner with political opponents, and I shall be surprised if action of that kind commends itself to the good sense and good feeling of the House or of the mass of the English people. Now, I come to the third class of offences I have mentioned. As to these offences the Government, as I understand, admit the reasonableness of our position. One Gentleman tells us 446 that there are no offences created by the Act; and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland tells us that there are certain offences newly created, but that this clause will not be retrospective as to these; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to show that the clauses are so drawn that the Act only applies to offences committed after the passing of the Act. But I would point out that that is no answer to our argument on this point. The position of the Government in regard to these clauses is, as I understand, that they do not create new offences, but merely introduce a new procedure, and that the whole effect of these clauses is to enable these offences to be tried summarily by Resident Magistrates. But we object to that. And even assuming that the Bill, as drawn, would not warrant the Government in holding inquiries for the purpose of obtaining evidence to prosecute persons before Resident Magistrates for offences committed before the passing of the Act, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Government from holding inquiries as to such offences, and then prosecuting the persons, who are said to have committed them, before a Judge and jury. The whole contention of the Government as to this matter is, that the Summary Jurisdiction Clauses are not retrospective; but the only effect of that is that crimes cannot be tried summarily; but there is, as I have said, nothing to prevent the holding of a Star Chamber sort of inquiry, followed by the trial of the accused, not before two Resident Magistrates, but by a change of venue, either in England or in some other district in Ireland. Now, we contend that this should not apply to offences of a political character. Gentlemen opposite get up and declaim about the terrible crimes of murder and Moonlighting committed in Ireland. On the other hand, if we propose to restrict the Bill to crimes of this character, the Government then say that the Bill is not intended to be confined to them. The practical conclusion of the Government is, therefore, much wider than the premisses from which it is supposed to follow. I think the Amendment before the House is a most proper one. It is a most intolerable grievance that, as regards articles in United Ireland, and offences committed in the execution of the Plan of Cam- 447 paign, the Government should be permitted to hold Star Chamber inquiries under this measure, and thus bring to punishment offences committed before the passing of the Act. I appeal to hon. Members on both sides to give us fair play in this matter. As regards political offences, this clause should certainly not be retrospective.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
It is with unaffected diffidence that I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland on the construction of a section of an Act of Parliament for which he has a parental responsibility. But if it had not been for the confident opinion he has expressed in a different sense, I should not have entertained a doubt that this clause applies only after the date of the Lord Lieutenant's Proclamation. What are the words of the clause? They are that—Where a sworn information has been made that any offence to which this section applies has been committed in a proclaimed district.I ask, how an offence can be committed in a proclaimed district until that district has been proclaimed? And then, let me call attention to the language of the 5th clause, which deals with the Proclamation of a district, and provides that—The Lord Lieutenant … may from time to time … by Proclamation, declare the provisions of this Act which relate to proclaimed districts, or any of those provisions, to be in force within any specified part of Ireland, as from the date of the Proclamation; and the provisions of this Act which are mentioned in the Proclamation shall, after the said date, be in force within such specified part of Ireland, and that part of Ireland shall be a proclaimed district within the meaning of the provisions so mentioned.At what date, then, does a district become a proclaimed district? Either from the date of the Proclamation, or from some date specified in the Proclamation. I ask, then, how an offence can be said to have been committed in a proclaimed district until after the Proclamation which brings that district to the status of a proclaimed district? Then this section is declared to apply to offences to which, in the later part of the clause, the section is said to apply. Now, look at the 5th sub-section of the clause. It runs as follows:—The offences to which this section applies are any felony or misdemeanour, and any offence punishable under this Act.448 On that I make two observations. In the first place, the language of that subsection is clearly in favour of the construction that this Act creates an entirely new category of crimes. There are only two classes of indictable offences known to the English law—felonies and misdemeanours. And, therefore, the latter words of this sub-section can only apply to offences created by this Act, and made by it for the first time punishable; Next, let us look to the first part of the clause, and see how it would work out, according to the Attorney General's construction. According to my hon. and learned Friend, a preliminary inquiry may be held as to any offence, whether committed before or after the Proclamation of a district. If so, an inquiry may be held, under the 5th sub-section, as to an offence which becomes punishable for the first time under this Act. That is to say, you take power to inquire into an offence which was not a crime when it was committed, but became a crime by the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant making the district in which it was committed a proclaimed district. By the construction put on this clause by the hon. and learned Attorney General, he does, by his own admission, a thing which no Act can be presumed to do—that is to create retrospective offences and enable an inquisitorial investigation to be instituted into them, although they were not offences at the time they were committed. I say that if the hon. and learned Attorney General meant by this clause to convey the meaning he has suggested, then the language which he used as a vehicle for his meaning has failed of its effect. But I admit that the language he has used is so equivocal as to render it necessary to insert in the clause words which shall prevent Resident Magistrates in Ireland from giving a retrospective effect to it, and for that reason I shall support the Amendment. But I think my hon. Friend (Dr. Commins) has been too liberal to the Government in this matter. He says, in his Amendment, "after the commencement of this Act." Now, the incriminating offence may be done after the commencement of the Act, but before the issue of any Proclamation by the Lord Lieutenant. I would, therefore, propose that he should change the wording of the Amendment, so as to make it run "committed in a proclaimed dis 449 trict, after the district has been proclaimed." That, I think, would moot the fair and legitimate requirements of the case.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I can understand the position of my hon. and learned Friend and other hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. Of course, they object to this clause. They objected to it on the second reading of the Bill; and, objecting to it, they are acting wisely in endeavouring to minimize its effect. But, in spite of the objections raised to the clause, the Bill has been read a second time. The question now is, how the intention of the majority is to be carried out; for I suppose the Committee will not allow this intention to be defeated, although the manner of giving effect to it is, of course, open to criticism. The Amendment before us refers not only to offences which may be created by the Bill, but to all felonies and misdemeanours; and the effect of the Amendment, if it were carried, would be that, although a great deal of crime were found to exist in a district—and until it has been so found to exist the Lord Lieutenant cannot proclaim the district—there would be no power to inquire into this past crime, and this clause would be perfectly inefficacious as to crimes committed in the past. Why is the clause not to apply to offences that have been committed in the past and only to apply to those committed in the future? Suppose this Bill comes into operation upon, say, the 31st of August, and great crime is found to have existed in a certain district in September and October, and the district is proclaimed on account of that crime, yet it is said that the detection of the crime is not to take place because of its being anterior to the Proclamation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) says this was never done in any Act of Parliament before. Why, it was done to tidem verbis in the Act of 1882 in respect of felonies, misdemeanours, and offences created under that Act. With one exception, the Bill framed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was, in its 10th clause, exactly the same as the provision we are now discussing. The words are entirely the same. I may be wrong, hut I think that when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was under discussion an 450 Amendment was moved similar to that now under the consideration of the Committee. The suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Fife, or his first criticism as to a proclaimed district, is against himself; because if he is right that the clause as framed will only refer to districts after they are proclaimed, he stands as the friend, the candid friend, of the Government, pointing out that this provision is insufficient for its purpose and requires strengthening. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman agree to the insertion of words to make it perfectly clear that the clause shall apply to districts before they are proclaimed? I should say that on this point my hon. and learned Friend is hypercritical. The district and the county will be the same though it may not have been proclaimed. The clause speaks of the geographical area, and when it mentions a proclaimed district it means the district or county in which the offence has been committed. But do not let us waste time over this question. As I understand the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, he agrees with the Government, and wants to correct the drafting of the Act of 1882. We thought it was right at the time; we thought we were making the Act what you call retrospective and quite safe and sure; but, as I say, we need not waste much time in argument as to this drafting if the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to make the clause retrospective. The question as to whether the retrospective principle should apply to offences existing under the measure makes the matter much more serious and important. I presume there is no substantial objection to the principle being applied to felonies and misdemeanours; but when we come to the definitions I would ask the Government whether they think it desirable to make it refer to offences under the Act, because, really and truly, except the offence under Clause 7, which does not become an offence until the district is proclaimed, there would be nothing which would be affected by foregoing the principle. Therefore, I think it would be well to humour my hon. and learned Friend in this matter, and, confining the retrospective action of the clause to felonies and misdemeanours, reconsider the question of applying it to offences under the Act.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
We are very much indebted to my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir Henry James), because, though he came in like a lion, he wont out like a lamb. He began with a vehement and rhetorical denunciation of everybody sitting on these Benches, and ultimately conceded that his distinguished pupil was perfectly right, and that what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) proposed was a thing which, in fairness, should be allowed. Let us recognize, then, the advice given to the Government by one of their main supporters. We are going to got some good out of the Liberal Unionists after all. Of course, this is the whole keystone of the position, that the offences under this Act should be struck out of this examination or inquiry by a Resident Magistrate. That they should be struck out is the advice that my right hon. and learned Friend has given, and, therefore, we have got the main part of what we are contending for. I am surprised that my right hon. and learned Friend's memory is beginning to fail. He talked to us of the Act of 1882. It so happened that when my right hon. and learned Friend spoke I was just looking at the discussion which took place on this clause in the Act of 1882. Though I worked the labouring oar in the passing of that Act, when we came to legal points I received valuable assistance from my right hon. and learned Friend, who was then Attorney General. He seems to have entirely forgotten what occurred in 1882. The clause in the Act of that year was not totidem verbis with the clause in this Bill, and if my right hon. and learned Friend had been in the House as I have been since 5 o'clock he would have heard the matter discussed over and over again, and he would have had his recollection freshened. He would have seen that the two clauses differ on this very point on which the argument turns, because the clause in the Act of 1882 took especial care to except from the operation of the Act all those provisions in which anything like a now offence was created. That is the very gist of the new arrangement, and the consequence is that my right hon. and learned Friend's contention is strictly in accordance with the Act of 1882; and, therefore, the statement of the right hon. 452 and learned Gentleman (Sir Henry James) on the subject of the clause of 1882 might have been entirely spared. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman—even if by a circuitous and singular route—has come to the conclusion to which I have adverted. If the Government take his wise advice and will strike out from the operation of this clause all words as to offences under the Act, and will take the advice of their other learned advisers who spoke earlier in the debate from below the Gangway, and strike out the word "misdemeanour," we shall have got this section into working order. I think the independent supporters of the Government have tendered useful advice, and I hope it will be carried out.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFORE) (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) who has just spoken has forgotten something. He says that under the Act of 1882 there was no inquiry into crimes created by the Act.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No; there were other clauses that created offences which came under the Act. This was one provision—Every person who knowingly is a member of an unlawful association as defined by this Act, or takes part in the operations of an unlawful association as defined by this Act, or of any meeting thereof, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.And if a person was guilty of an offence against the Act, and there was no special exemption made in favour of that offence, there was an inquiry. So that although the right hon. Gentleman, as he himself said, ''worked the labouring oar," that process does not appear to have imprinted upon his memory any great recollection of the provisions of the measure. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT dissented.] I give the right hon. Gentleman a copy of his handiwork (handing him a copy of the Act). The present clause in the Bill differs in no respect from the 9th clause of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite except in this only, that we limited the operation of our clause to the proclaimed district, and he did not. If any objection lies against our clause as differing from the right hon. Gentleman's clause, it is only in so 453 far as we lay down safeguards, and he did not. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) pointed out that if the criticism of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Fife is carried, the Amendment now be-fore us will be useless. But we do not hesitate to say that we do believe that the Amendment really substantially is required to carry out the intention of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. We do not agree that that intention should be carried out. We are distinctly of opinion that after a district has been proclaimed there ought to be the power of making such inquiry into crimes committed be-fore the Proclamation as to enable us to discover the perpetrator of these crimes. [An hon. MEMBER: Offences!] Well, offences or crimes. I need hardly point out that the contention of some hon. Gentlemen that offences, if there are any created by this Act, will only be offences after the Act is passed, and after the district in which these offences are committed is proclaimed; and, of course, with regard to such offences, the Amendment now before us is entirely irrelevant and will have no effect. I hope the discussion we have now had is sufficient. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, we have discussed the subject for three hours. The principle we have adopted in this clause is one which has been adopted by successive Governments and by successive Houses of Parliament. If I am to discuss the value of this clause, perhaps I might read a quotation from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) when he was defending a clause of exactly similar import. In introducing a provision of this kind in the Explosives Act of 1883 he used these words—It is a clause which was originally in the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act "—that is, the Act of 1881—"it was re-enacted by this House in the Prevention of Crime Act of last year; and it has proved of singular efficacy, because it was by its use"—its retrospective use, I may interpolate—"that the Phœnix Park murders were traced. … Therefore this clause is one of the most essential and important clauses of the Bill."—(3 Hansard,  1848.)Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has changed his opinion on a great many questions connected with the go 454 vernment of Ireland, and I do not in the least wish to reproach him with that now; but there is one subject on which, I presume, he has not changed his opinion. I presume he is as desirous now as he was in the year 1883 that if crime—anything like the crime which occurred in the Phoenix Park—exists in Ireland machinery shall be at hand by means of which that crime shall be detected.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), as he seems to be so familiar with these Acts, and with the necessity of a Proclamation for putting the clauses in operation, what district he will proclaim for the purpose of inquiring into conspiracy? Take the Plan of Campaign. That was a "conspiracy" for which hon. Gentlemen, Members of this House, were indicted. They were alleged to have made speeches, one in Galway, one in Limerick, one in Dublin, one in Sligo, one in Monaghan, and one in Cork—one at the Giants' Causeway, and another at Cape Clear. Some English Members may not be familiar enough with Irish geography to know what that means; but I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who knows all about Ireland, and who will, naturally, take in the point at once, what district he would proclaim in order to have an inquiry into such a case as this? You may change your venue as much as you like; but where would you hold your inquiry for this conspiracy, which "spreads like a cancer," as we have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite? What district would you proclaim for the purpose of holding that inquiry? That is the real way to test this matter. I defy the Government to do it unless they proclaim the whole of Ireland. I see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) in his place, and I am thankful that he should have made a practical suggestion, though, as he will have observed, the Government have not taken the slightest notice of that suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has not noticed the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman recommends the suggestion we have been making all along. Inquire into as many murders 455 or serious crimes as you like, or take power to do it-—although some hon. Members will not have the word "crime"; I suppose they wish now to speak of the Phoenix Park ''offence"—for we must speak by the card now, sines the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Take power to deal with these serious "offences;" but with regard to what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) admits to be a new crime, what is going to happen? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury was very much twitted during the passage of the Corrupt Practices Act on certain points, and I would ask him whether in this matter there is not an implied repeal of the Corrupt Practices Act? [Cries of "No!"] I think so. I would remind him that if he refers to the 49th section, he will see that everything under that measure is felony or misdemeanour. You can inquire into all these felonies and misdemeanours, no matter when they occur. Take the case of bribery at Taunton—suppose Taunton were in Ireland—or the case of Londonderry, the late Member for which place has been made a Baronet by Her Majesty's Government for having been unsuccessful in practising "offences." I say it would be impossible, in spite of the provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act, once you get this clause passed, to hold an inquiry into Election matters—I will not say "crimes," but "offences." The Corrupt Practices Act says, notwithstanding the provisions of 15 & 10 Vict. c. 57, the Election Commissionersshall not make any inquiry concerning elections that have taken place prior to the passing of this Act.I have a distinct recollection that when this Act was being passed the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) twitted the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury in a most unhandsome manner, saying that this was to protect the corruption of Taunton—for which borough the right hon. and learned Gentleman then sat—and making some most personal allusions. Fortunately, however, Taunton is not in Ireland. But I say that it would be possible in all electoral matters, after the passing of this Act, to go back, and this is an implied repeal of the 49th section of the Corrupt Practices Act. 456 Furthermore, if you are going to use this Act for the purpose of any crime, no matter when committed, remember it is to be said to the credit of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury that he certainly acted in that matter with great consideration to the House. I moved an Amendment, when his Bill was under discussion, to the effect that none of the provisions of the Crimes Act were to apply, and what happened? Why, in the 69th section we find these words—No person shall be tried for any offence against this Act, committed under any of the provisions of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882.If the Prevention of Crime Act were in existence you would not want this Bill, and the provision to which I refer would be in force. The least, therefore, we can ask the Government is that they should adopt some provision similar to that which formerly operated, and with which the Government were perfectly content. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Attorney General interrupts. He has not given the same attention to this Bill as was given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, though that right hon. and learned Member was as much against Home Rule as any hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in a Statute which did not refer to coercion, which was only a Corrupt Practices Act, providing for extraneous and non-coercive matters, provided that the Crimes Act should not be availed of. Is it reasonable when you are dealing with "terrible conspiracies," with "frightful outrages, "and "offences against women," about which you write through your private secretaries, and which make the hair of the Primroser stand on end, that you should he legislating retrospectively against these new "offences" which you are creating in this measure? Deal with the new offences when you create them if you like, but with nothing of a stale nature. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury says the measure necessarily will have an ex post facto operation. I challenge him to say whether his Criminal Code Bill would have had a retrospective operation? [Sir HENRY JAMES: Yes.] Here is the Bill, which would come into law 457 some time in 1883, and which, naturally, would speak from the sign manual of Her Majesty. According to that measure—Any justice who has reason to believe that any offence has been committed "within the limits of his jurisdictioncould have that jurisdiction the moment this Act had passed and not before. No doubt he got his jurisdiction the moment he received Her Majesty's Commission for all other purposes, but he could not have held inquiries into criminal matters until the Act passed. [Laughter] Let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General that though he may laugh now for the purpose of leading a number of Gentlemen who know nothing of these matters into the Lobby, if he were arguing in some place where those who would have the decision of the matter understood what they were called upon to decide he would not be so much inclined to smile. Under the circumstances, I do think it reasonable that the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, at least, should be adopted. The Government are obtaining the support of the Liberal Unionists in the passing of the Bill, then let them give effect to the opinion of the Liberal Unionists. Let them pass this clause for felonies and misdemeanours, but do not allow what you call "incitements to Boycotting," "incitements to joining the Plan of Campaign," agreements not to take a farm, agreements not to buy tea or sugar from a particular person—do not allow these "crimes" which, admittedly, have not been offences, and will not be offences until this Bill is passed, to be made the subject of inquiry until they are committed in the future. The Liberal Unionists in this matter should insist upon having effect given to their opinions. They should not allow the Government to avail themselves of their support in one place and then deride their opinions in another. The Tory Party by itself, even if it were 100 stronger than it is now as a homogeneous Party, could never pass such a Bill as this—would never attempt to do it. It is the support of such Gentleman as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), and the noble Marquess the Member for Rossen- 458 dale (the Marquess of Hartington)—it is the support of these Gentlemen that is putting violence into the Tory Party. The Tory Party would not dare by themselves to face this English House of Commons with such a Bill as this. [Laughter.] No, Sir; they would rather make an alliance with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); they would rather send Lord Carnarvon to interview that hon. Member to find out his opinions; and I venture to think that if there were a Tory Government in power, and Lord Carnarvon had consulted the hon. Member upon such a point as the passage of this section, some deference would be paid to his opinion. But, yet, here you have the noble Marquess and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury supporting the Government just as my hon. Friend the Member for Cork might have been supporting them, and surely when they give their opinion some deference ought to be paid to it. The same deference ought to be paid to it as would have been paid to the opinion of the hon. Member for Cork when Lord Carnarvon met him in the drawing-room of an hon. Member opposite, whose name I could mention, but I will not. I do think the time has arrived when right hon. Gentlemen opposite should give us some concession of a substantive character with regard to this matter. Any serious crime you want to inquire into you can inquire into with all your hearts. But as regards newly created offences, I do ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, as he is giving the Government the benefit of his support, to insist upon due weight being given to his opinions by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. DILLON
The action of the Government to-night is, I am afraid, likely to prolong the debate to a very considerable extent. Some hours ago we moved from these Benches a reasonable and fair Amendment; but no single Member of the Government has mot us in a fair way from the time this discussion started until now. Over and over again those hon. Members on the other side, who have stood up, have referred to old worn-out topics, such as the discovery of the Phœanix Park murders and other crimes discovered and punished under the Act of 1882. I pointed out at an early stage of the debate—as 459 also did other hon. Members—that we were not objecting to retrospective action in reference to inquiries affecting murders or serious crimes; but when we had two hours ago made that clear beyond all question, the noble Viscount the Member for Petersfield (Viscount Wolmer), who is distinguished for his love for the Irish people, started up on these Benches and said he desired to remind this House that the Phœnix Park murders would not have been discovered had it not been for the retrospective action of the clauses of the Act of 1882. The noble Lord was followed in that parrot cry by every Member who stood up on the Benches opposite; and, finally, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) made a most extraordinary statement, for he said that no district in Ireland could or would be proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant unless and until a large and serious amount of grave crime prevailed in it. Will any hon. Member representing the Government stand up and give us a pledge to that effect? If anyone will, I will undertake, on behalf of the people of Ireland, to say that no district will be proclaimed under this Act at all. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury made that extraordinary statement; but I noticed that no hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite attempted to say a single word on that subject. We know perfectly well that the week after this Act has passed into law, a large district of Ireland—every district, in fact, in which the people are making any resistance to the payment of rent—will be instantly proclaimed. We complain of inaction on the part of the Government, or of this, that instead of replying to the arguments addressed to them from these Benches, they persistently give the go-by to everyone of these arguments, and reply to arguments not addressed to them at all, which they merely set up for the purpose of overthrowing. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when he last addressed the Committee, what did he say? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) had, at an earlier period of the discussion, pointed out that the new crimes that were especially created by this Bill would not become crimes until a district was proclaimed, and that, 460 therefore, no inquiry would be held with regard to them. That is true; but that is not what we are complaining of. What we are complaining of is that conspiracy, intimidation, and the various offences under the Whiteboy Acts, all of which are crimes already in Ireland, but which are, by this Act, to be shifted from their ordinary Courts of Procedure into the Courts of Summary Procedure, will form a net so vast and wide-reaching and narrow in its meshes that the entire population of Ireland can, under the interpretation which it will be possible to put upon these offences, be caught in it. Read the Whiteboy Acts to observe what are offences in law, and the House will see it will not be necessary to institute inquiries in every portion of Ireland in order to bring the whole population into this net, and that it will not be necessary to have recourse to these new offences at all. Read the charge of the Judge in my trial in Dublin, and the House will see what is the law as laid down by Mr. Justice Murphy; read the charge of Lord Fitzgerald in "The Queen v. Parnell," in 1881, and it will be seen that it will be impossible to enter into a political controversy which may have for its results pecuniary injury or loss to any class of the community without exposing you to the Law of Conspiracy as interpreted by a Judge or a partizan magistrate. The greatest abuses can arise under this Law of Conspiracy if you have not the protection of a jury who will give to the law a Constitutional interpretation. I say the Law of Conspiracy, as laid down by these Judges and the new offences laid down by this Bill, are almost unnecessary, because, in the present social condition of Ireland, it would be impossible to have any political association whatever, except an association to further the views of the Executive, that would not be swept into the net of a conspiracy prosecution; and the result of that—and what we complain of, and the Government must understand it, though they have made no effort to meet us in argument up to the present—is that under this clause, after the Act has passed and the Proclamations are issued, the Government may proceed to inquire into offences which are not under this Act, but were made before this Act was passed. Inquiries may take place, and the result may be to imprison me and all 461 who have been working with me, because we refuse to swear against our fellows. Suppose I were brought up before a Magistrates' Court in one of the proclaimed districts, and were questioned as to what I had said to a man in reference to the working of the Plan of Campaign, do you think I should reply? And if you took up 40 or 50 priests, and questioned them in the same way, do you think they would reply? Of course they would do nothing of the sort. I say that until the Committee put a proviso in the Bill tying the hands of the Government for such conduct, we are entitled to say that they deliberately look to this clause as a means of imprisoning men because they cannot, in honour, consider themselves free to give evidence before such Courts of Inquiry as may be created under this Bill. I ask this Committee, is it reasonable, and I would say to the Government is it a prudent course for them to adopt, to utterly refuse to meet us in argument on this question, and to refuse to go into this practical and important question whether they will administer the measure in this way, or will not, and why, if they do not intend to do so, they do not put in some proviso which will bar them from that course? I heard the hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) making use of suppositions that we have had ad nauseam. I heard him declare that we must go upon the supposition that this Bill will be fairly administered; but we remember that plea being put forward by the late Mr. Forster. I do not deny that when Mr. Forster put forward that plea he meant what he said; but when he went over to Ireland, and found himself in the hands of the permanent officials of the Castle, it would have taken 10 Mr. Forster's to resist the pressure put on him. Whereas he pledged himself, night after night, that the Bill would be used only against village ruffians and criminals, and laughed to scorn the idea that Members of this House would find themselves imprisoned under the Act. The measure was not in operation six weeks before I found myself under lock and key. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] "Hear, hear!" says an hon. Gentleman. I do not deny—I never doubted—that there are many Members on the Benches opposite who consider that the fittest 462 place for me and for many hon. Gentlemen around me would be under lock and key in Ireland. I never questioned that; but what I ask is that there should be honesty in the debates in this House. Do not tell this House and the country that you are introducing Bills to deal with criminals in Ireland, and then, when the Bill is passed, and, under false pretences, the consent of this House has been procured for it, turn it to uses which hon. Members and Members of the Government gave their word of honour it would not be put to. I want, at least, to know this—that whatever measures are introduced against the people of Ireland, they will be introduced honestly and straightforwardly; that we shall be told that they intend to suspend the Habeas Corpus—and they will be able to do that with perfect ease under the provisions of this Bill. I ask that the Government will tell us what they mean to do, and will not get up and say—"We do not mean to suspend the Habeas Corpus; no man can be punished under this Act unless he is a criminal; no man can be punished under this Act unless he gets a fair trial," and so on. I have heard it said that, under the provisions of this Bill, I and hundreds who have worked with me, and stood by me in the operations of a legal organization, can be imprisoned and held in prison because we will refuse to say what was stated to us in confidence and honour; and I say that until the Government give us a pledge—and not only do that, but put it in the shape of a proviso that will tie their hands against the pressure that will be put on them in Ireland—we are entitled to say that they are knowingly and wittingly taking those powers knowing that they will use them.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), who has just sat down, is justified in all that he has said to-night. To every argument that has been addressed from this side of the House to the Government to-night the parrot answer has invariably been given—"Do you, or do you not, wish to give us power to put down murder and other serious crime?" Speaker after speaker on this side has declared, in most emphatic terms—"We do not object to your taking powers to search out serious crime." The question they put is not our point; it is begging 463 the whole question. It is deceiving the Committee when hon. Gentlemen get up from the Tory Benches and continually make this claim, saying—"You are refusing to give us power to put down serious crime." Let it be clearly understood that that is not our intention. It has not been the intention of any hon. Gentleman on this side during the whole of the debate. Our contention is a totally different one, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, from whom we expected very little assistance indeed—even he, in his speech, got up and pointed out this difference, and suggested to the Government that they ought to introduce such an Amendment as would meet our case. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has been indulging in these phrases all the evening. He cannot rise in his place to speak to any Amendment but he uses the words "murder" and "attempt to murder," and "other serious crime," though they have no more to do with the argument that we are engaged in than if we were to discuss a question of foreign policy. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite said—of course, I mean the last time he favoured us with his opinions, of which he is very chary—that everything that is not an offence now will not be an offence under this Act, punishable under this Act. I think I accurately stated what he said. He does not deign to give me any reply, therefore I assume that his silence gives consent. I think his statement is not correct, and I will point out how it is not. There are combinations of tenants in Ireland now some of which, according to lawyers, may be illegal; but there are others which, according to almost the entire legal opinion, are not legal acts and are not offences. It has been stated in the course of the last two or three days from the Government Benches that there may be combinations of tenants with a view to obtain reductions of rents which are perfectly legal. It is no offence now for these combinations to take place. But when this Act passes, will these combinations be legal or illegal? Why they will be made illegal at once by some authority under the Bill. Inquiries will take place by the Resident Magistrates, and docs anyone in the House suppose for a moment that the Resident Magistrates, without 464 any legal training or knowledge, will be able to discriminate as between the legality or illegality before the passing of the Act and the legality or illegality after the passing of the Act? Of course no distinction will be made by these gentlemen, and under this Bill acts that are now perfectly legal, according to the best authorities that have been admitted in the course of the last few days, will become illegal under this Act. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was a very brief one, and it was to the effect that such a thing could not take place, and that nothing that is now a legal act could be inquired into. I think I have shown that the statement he makes is wrong, as he would find if he were not in such a hurry, and would carefully consider the matter and examine into the facts. It is perfectly illusory for the right hon. Gentleman to make these statements to the House, for it is clear to everyone who has given any consideration to the matter that acts that are now legal can be treated under this Act as illegal, and, though permitted before the passing of the Act, will be punished under the powers of the Act.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
The Government, I expect, will begin to accuse us of obstruction; but the real obstructionists are the Treasury Bench, who are endeavouring to defeat the just and solid arguments we are advancing against this clause as it stands, and in favour of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Roscommon (Dr. Commins), by a conspiracy of silence The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) made to the Government a very reasonable proposition; but, as has been pointed out, they have thrown overboard that statement, and will not listen in any way to his suggestion. I think we could not have a better example of their bona fides than this. If they had a bond fide intention of applying this Star Chamber Clause only to investigations into crime, no one on these Benches would have any objection; every speaker on this side has said so. But it is clear the Government have an arrière pensée as to this power, and that they do intend to apply the clause to the investigation of acts which were committed or took place before the passage or inception of this Bill at all when they get the Lord 465 Lieutenant to do what he is certain to do at their bidding—namely, proclaim any district. I am going to make a suggestion, which I think will put the bona fides of the Government to a complete test. I would suggest to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Roscommon that he should withdraw his Amendment on the Government undertaking to put at the end of the clause certain words which will carry out the object we have in view. I propose this to meet the difficulties which have arisen in the course of the debate. Of course, my objection to the whole clause still stands, and I shall still object to it, no matter how the Government amend it. The Government will by brute force carry it against us, as they have carried the Bill against us; but I would endeavour, by this Amendment, to make them make an honest, a fair, and open use of it. They should not, I contend, obtain these powers under one pretext, and then apply them to a different state of things altogether. The suggestion I would make is this—that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roscommon should withdraw his Amendment on the Government undertaking to add at the end of the clause these words—Provided always, no such inquiry shall be held into the commission of any offence"—or "act" would, perhaps, be more correct—"committed or done before the passing of the Act where such offence is one which is made an offence by the passing of this Act, and is included in those to which the Summary Jurisdiction Clauses of the Act apply.That will, I think, test their bona fides perfectly well, for this reason—we object to their holding inquiries into acts which took place before the passing of the Act, which acts are not crimes in any sense of the word; we object to their inquiring into combinations—lawful and legal combinations—of tenants for the purpose, for instance, of refusing to pay an exorbitant rent until they get a just abatement, or such an abatement as operations on other estates have shown to be necessary and just—such an abatement as that obtained at Loughrea, where the result of combination on the part of the tenants was to induce the Marquess of Clanricarde, one of the most notoriously bad landlords in Ireland or out of it, to make an allowance to the distressed tenants, the rents being for a time retained under the 466 Plan of Campaign. Under this Act, after such an operation has occurred, the Lord Lieutenant can have an inquiry held—if the Government do not act straightforwardly in the matter—and can take the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), or anyone in this House who happens to go over to Ireland and take part in these operations, and examine them before this inquiry, and when these Gentlemen and the tenants refuse—as undoubtedly they will refuse—to answer any questions on the subject, the magistrates can put them into prison, suspend their liberties indefinitely or as long as they please, and then the Government may say to this House and to this country—"What a peaceful country we have made of Ireland; this has been a most beneficent Act, and has put down all manner of crime!" That, we hold, would be a dishonest use of the Act; and though the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) may be sincere in saying that he does not intend that the Act shall operate in that way, we say that it would take a much stronger man than he to resist the pressure which the landlords of Ireland will bring to bear upon the Executive in that country when they find that their rents are not being paid, and which cannot be paid under existing circumstances. In a short time the right hon. Gentleman may find himself forced into the position he now repudiates, and then he will see himself discredited like many of his Predecessors in the position he now holds. It has been said that the Chief Secretary ship for Ireland has been the grave of many political reputations, and the right hon. Gentleman may himself experience this disagreeable truth if he does not take care, in matters like this, to save himself from the possibility of being discredited.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford)
I can well imagine that some would have this discussion confined to legal Gentlemen in this House; but I think that laymen in this House, at any rate on this side of it, have a very important duty to discharge. They have to listen and watch with the greatest anxiety and intelligence what is to be the scope of this measure, what powers are to be given to the Government, and how these powers are likely to be exercised in Ireland. We have had a debate now 467 for over two hours as to the real meaning of this 1st section. We know very well that the measure is without limit prospectively, and we have ascertained from the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and from the hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster), that retrospectively—as to time—the Act is to be without any limit whatever. We seemed as if we were approaching an understanding by the friendly interference of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) a short time ago; and at one moment, when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was speaking, I really thought he was inclined to take hold of the suggestion—I might almost have said the mandate—of the right hon. Gentleman. The Government, knowing that the keystone of the arch is on this side of the House, cannot refuse to pay attention to the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as a Liberal Unionist. I do not hesitate to give the Liberal Unionists some credit in this matter. They have some merits of Liberalism left in them, and they must be anxious for the share of responsibility which will fall on their shoulders. I do not wonder at the right hon. and learned Gentleman intervening thus early in the debate, and attempting to give such a character to this measure as will not stamp it with infamy when it becomes an Act of Parliament. I venture to think we have not heard the last word from the Government; therefore, in sitting down, I would move, Sir, that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. If that Motion is accepted, the Government will then be in a position on Monday to say in a full House, and with the concurrence of the House, that the machinery of the Act shall apply to murder and offences approaching murder without any limitation whatever, but that it shall not include misdemeanours—that to any point beyond serious crime it shall be limited prospectively, so as to have no effect whatever unless a district has been proclaimed, and the offence should have been committed after the passing of the Act. If the clause we are discussing is passed in its present shape, and it is used for the purpose of stifling political discussion in Ireland, it may bring about an alarming state of things. We shall have a Star Chamber in existence again. 468 There has been no defence made for this clause by the other side of the House; and I consider the Irish Party will be justified in withstanding to the utmost any such scheme as has been indicated from the other side—by which new offences are set up and will be punished retrospectively in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. I beg, Sir, to move that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I am very glad indeed that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) has moved to report Progress, because it is desirable in this discussion that we should give right hon. Gentlemen opposite time to think. I observe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen over there do not seem capable of saying much in this House; but, perhaps, they think all the more, and in the hope that their thoughts may be productive of some good result, I think we should facilitate their operations if we occasionally moved to report Progress and so gave them a little additional time. It is very unfortunate that, on great and important questions such as we are now discussing, we should not have some advantage from the robust intelligence I see before me on the Front Ministerial Bench, and from the keen and philosophical attainments which sit beside it. There is an old saying of Juvenal's, I think, that knowledge is worth nothing unless you can impart it to others. I am afraid that the truth of that maxim is being illustrated by Her Majesty's Government, though they seem to think that knowledge is an excellent thing to be bottled up and kept to themselves. If they have any arguments, I think it would be well that they should let us know what they are. If they have no arguments—which is more likely to be the case—the sooner the country knows that the better it will be, because the sooner the country will see the honesty of those who are now misrepresenting them. When the Motion now moved has been fully discussed and disposed of, I may have something further to say on the clause before the Committee; but as I have been away for a portion of the evening, I am desirous of asking the Government, before they proceed further, what the exact position of affairs is, because I have been unable to gather from hon. Members on this side of the House 469 what is the exact question under discussion. No one appears to know exactly, and, that being so, we are likely to get rather mixed in our ideas, and not to succeed in pursuing a regular and orderly course. I sincerely trust, without pressing the matter any further, Her Majesty's Government will accede to this Motion for reporting Progress, not because it is a comparatively late hour, but because the matter has been now under discussion the whole evening. It is well understood that there are some important Bills coming on—measures which are of great interest generally—and it is only fair that we should have some opportunity of considering them before we are thoroughly exhausted. We have to discuss the important provisions of the Truck Bill, and those of the Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Bill, and we ought to do that before we get into the small hours of the morning. On these grounds, Sir, I second the Motion for reporting Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Illingworth.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Mr. Courtney, regard for the order and regularity of debate does not permit me to refer to the observations of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. But, Sir, with reference to the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), I wish to point out that the House has been discussing for nearly four hours the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Roscommon (Dr. Commins), and that Amendment has been repeatedly answered from this Bench, although hon. Members who were not in the House at the time may not have heard those answers, for the House is much fuller now than it was.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
We, who sit on this Bench, have a responsibility, no doubt; but it is no part of our duty to obstruct the progress of the measure which we desire to pass through the House. Answers having been given re- 470 peatedly, it is not, from the point of view of the Government, our duty to repeat them over and over again; and, under these circumstances, it is impossible for me to consent to the Motion for reporting Progress. We must, therefore, ask the Committee to make real Progress, as this is a measure of very great importance, after such ample discussion as has been given to the proposal before the Committee.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury forgets that the Amendment now under consideration was not moved until nearly 10 o'clock.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) says that Her Majesty's Government have answered all the questions and arguments laid before them. May I point out to him that one most important suggestion was made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James)? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any assurance that that suggestion shall be considered by the Government? Because I think that such an assurance would probably facilitate the progress of the Bill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Morley) is under some misapprehension as to when the discussion of this Amendment commenced. I imagine he was not here at the beginning of the discussion, which began at half-past 8 o'clock. He now accuses us of not having given some reply to the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). The reason why we have not done so is that that suggestion, though very important, and deserving of every consideration, especially considering the quarter from which it comes—[Ironical cheers from the Opposition Benches]—the importance of the position which the right hon. and learned Gentleman occupies—important, if for no other reason, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman was one of those who took no small part in the enactment of the Bill of 1882—I say the reason why we have not given a detailed answer to his suggestion is, that it is not relevant to the Amendment now before the Com- 471 mittee. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] I hear hon. Gentlemen laugh loudly, and, I presume, ironically, at that. Perhaps they are not aware of what it is that the Amendment now before the House refers to. It refers to the retrospective, or so-called retrospective, character of the investigations which this clause sets on foot. The suggestion of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, so far as I understood it, was that the last few words at the end of Sub-section 5 should be omitted.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
No; I said you should limit the powers under which the clause is to be made retrospective.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, I accept the correction of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is, perhaps, relevant to the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). I now understand that the suggestion put forward is this—that any offence punishable under this Bill—that is to say, any offence created by this Bill, if such there are—shall not be subject to retrospective investigation. Well, Sir, the Government would accept that suggestion at once, if they thought it was not amply carried out by the form of the Bill as it stands. As we understand it—and I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will doubt the interpretation as I put it upon the clause—the clause, as it stands now, does not, I think, give any power to admit of retrospective investigation into an act which was not a crime before the passage of the Bill, or until the Bill becomes law. I therefore do not believe that we could make the Amendment suggested, without introducing a contradiction in terms into our Bill. But I will, at all events, give this pledge to the House—that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on reflection, thinks the clause, as it stands, does not carry out this intention, which we have over and over again expressed to-night from this Bench, and which it is our desire should be carried out, we will introduce words into the Bill which will carry it out in the clearest possible manner.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
Then I suppose, under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman will not object to report Progress? It seems an unkind suggestion to say that my 472 right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) speaks "without reflection," and I imagine, from my long knowledge of him, that he never speaks without reflection, and that he has naturally reflected upon this subject, which is a very important one, and has not made his suggestion to the Committee without reflection. Why, then, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour) should say my right hon. and learned Friend will do something "on reflection," I confess I do not understand; and if time for reflection be wanted by anybody, I should think it is rather wanted on the part of the Government than on that of my right hon. and learned Friend. If the Government will take time for reflection, and see how they can make their Bill square with the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend, and carry out that which is clearly consistent with justice and with the principles of law, we shall be able to get on with the Bill. Under these circumstances, I would say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has made out the strongest possible argument in favour of the Motion which is now before the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I think my right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt) has acted rather ungraciously towards the Government. A Motion has been made to report Progress in order to obtain an answer to a suggestion for which I am responsible. An answer has been given, and there will be no occasion to act upon that answer until we come to Sub-section 5, line 12, where the words, if necessary, should be inserted. Why, then, should we report Progress? I say we ought not. I will not get into conflict with my right hon. Friend. I cannot help looking back to what went on five years ago, when we were associated together in carrying a similar measure; and I cannot help thinking of what my right hon. Friend would have said then if any Motion similar to the one before us now had been made when we were engaged in passing the Crimes Act of 1882.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
We all know how very soon lovers' quarrels are made up. No sooner was there any ripple in the wave than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) at once gave way to the Government. I do say that in a matter 473 of this kind, on which the whole peace of Ireland depends, whether we report Progress or not, it is most desirable that this matter should be made clear. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury has made a suggestion which his friends the Government are unable to entertain at the moment. On a second thought he has been recommended to take time for reflection. The Government think that the alteration he suggests is not needed. The first intimation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury was that his speech was altogether out of Order, and had nothing whatever to do with the point immediately before the Committee. That was the first unkind suggestion. The second was, that he spoke without reflection. To us, who will have to bear the infliction of this Bill, it is very edifying to see these altercations between the two Front Benches; but I would point out that, whichever way the lash falls, it always cuts us. We take very little interest in the academic quarrels of right hon. Gentlemen on the two Front Benches; but what we want to know is, whether the Government will give us a promise to give this matter an independent consideration, with the view of providing that the Bill shall apply retrospectively only to serious crimes, and not to offences such as those dealt with by the other sections? I will make a suggestion, which may lead to this Motion for Progress being withdrawn. The sooner this Bill is brought into operation in all its naked horror, the sooner Englishmen will realize its effects; and, therefore, I make a suggestion with a view to the withdrawal of the Motion for reporting Progress. The Government say their intentions are so and so. As the Bill will be administered, when passed, not by lawyers, but by Resident Magistrates, will the Government have any objection to insert a provision, under which those Resident Magistrates may have quoted to them, as authoritative, the words used by the Government, as reported in Hansard? Lawyers have to refer to text books and cases; but when you deal with men who are not lawyers. and who are nothing better than gentlemen of the Captain Plunkett type, then you ought to have references to Hansard to show what the Act is really intended 474 for. If the Government would agree to that, this Motion for reporting Progress might be withdrawn; because then we might say to Captain Plunkett and other magistrates of the same stamp—"When the Bill was before Parliament the Chief Secretary for Ireland said so and so;" or—"The First Lord of the Treasury said so and so;" and by that means we might have a proper legal decision in these matters. I am in favour of making progress with the measure, and placing it on the Statute Book; but I would like to see everything decent and in order; and as the Government have admitted a flaw in the Bill, perhaps they will give us a pledge that they will accept the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, and exclude the retrospective operation of the clause from all cases but serious crimes. The Motion for Progress might then be withdrawn, and we might—I will not say pass the whole of the Bill to-night—but sit a little longer upon it, at all events.
§ DR. COMMINS
There is one thing that should be put to the Committee—one thing which is necessary for us to know—and that is, what is the intention of the Government by this Bill; or, what are we to understand by this section of the Bill? Have they made up their minds? If not, the very best thing to do is to give them a little time to make up their minds. The effect of the Amendment is clear enough—nobody has any doubt about that—but what is the intended effect of the thing to be amended? What is that? For there all the difficulty lies. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) started up, at the very beginning of this discussion, to say that he could not accept the Amendment, because it was the intention of the Government that the Bill should have a retrospective effect. Is that their intention with regard to all classes of crimes and offences? because I confess that the meaning of the Bill is not very clear in that respect. If the Bill is intended to have a retrospective effect, it would have been fairer to have said so, as in the Act of 1882. But then it was rather puzzling, after the declaration of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, to hear the hon. and learned Solicitor General for England (Sir Edward Clarke) say that the section, as 475 it stands, has no retrospective effect whatever. I think it would be a very useful thing if these two hon. and learned Gentlemen could be got to agree as to their interpretation of the Bill, and as to which of the accounts given to the Committee is the correct one. Well, we have also had a third account given as to what it is that the Government intend by the Bill, and as to what is the operation of the clause. The hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) has a different version; because he told us that the clause was intended only to have a retrospective effect from the date of Proclamation. That is a third interpretation of the clause which we are trying to amend. Then we come to still other interpretations; but I will not quote them all. There have been a variety of them, all differing as to what it is that we are actually discussing. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury gave us a different version. If this discussion is to be profitable at all, it is desirable that we should have some authoritative declaration of the intention of the clause, and of what the Government intend to effect by it. Are we to have retrospective investigation into crimes of a grave character, and not into minor offences; or is there to be no distinction? If that matter were once settled, we might, perhaps, go on. I cannot help congratulating the Committee upon the better tone and feeling which have lately been displayed in the discussion. Well, I hope that the Government will see their way to the exhibition of a better spirit when they come to deal; not with the words of the Bill, but with the substance of it; and in order that they may have time for reflection, and to reconsider their own disagreement as to the drafting of the Bill and its effect, I cordially support the Motion for reporting Progress.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
I should not have risen again, Mr. Courtney, had it not been for a few words which fell from the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith). I can quite appreciate his sense of responsibility and anxiety for the progress of Public Business, and that feeling excuses me for saying that I have no less anxiety for the efficiency of the House of Commons than he has. But, Mr. Courtney, I should like to observe that when the right hon. Gentleman assured the Committee that 476 every important point had been answered hours ago by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, I think he went altogether wide of the mark; and in proof of that I would refer to the fact that when the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) rose in his place to reply to the appeal which had been made to him, he, himself, showed that he did not understand the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), and when the right hon. and learned Member set him right as to what was the real significance of that suggestion, why, then, he replied by hinting that the right hon. and learned Member for Bury should also take time for reflection, and that if, upon reflection, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not satisfied that the section, as it stands, really did nothing more than he desired, then the Government would give an understanding that they would alter the clause. No doubt, that is a great compliment to pay to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, and if the matter be left to any one influential individual in this House I do not know anyone more competent than he to come to a conclusion upon it; but I do not understand that he will undertake the task, or that he would be likely to discharge it to the satisfaction of all the Members from Ireland. There are 24 or 25 Orders of the Day, and this is a Government night. I did not propose that we should report Progress at an untimely hour; but I think—now that we have been discussing this Bill from 5 o'clock until half-past 12—it is only reasonable that we should turn to something else. I cannot, therefore, withdraw my Motion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have a suggestion to make, Mr. Courtney, that I hope will help us, and perhaps solve the difficulty into which the Committee has got upon this Amendment. It has been suggested by the Government, as well as by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury, that the proper time to deal with this matter is when we come to the end of the clause, on Sub-section 5. Well, it is quite plain that the Government are disposed to make some alteration in this Sub-section 5, at the end of the clause, in conformity with the sugges- 477 tion made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury; and if that be so, it is far better that we should have the advantage of knowing what that alteration will be. Now, if the hon. and learned Member for Roscommon (Dr. Commins) will withdraw his Amendment at this stage, we may then discuss this matter in the fuller light which has been thrown upon it. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members should laugh. I am endeavouring to make a suggestion to save the time of the Committee. If my hon. and learned Friend will withdraw his Amendment, we shall then be in a position to know what are the alterations which the Government are prepared to make at the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury, and then we can deal with the question in a thoroughly satisfactory manner when we come to Sub-section 5, at the end of the clause. If that is done, it appears to me that it will make our path easier; but, otherwise, we shall go to a Division without really knowing what is the decision of the Government in the matter. I hope my hon. and learned Friend will withdraw his Amendment, and we shall then be able to discuss this matter.
§ Question put.
§ Dr. COMMINS and Mr. CHANCE rose together—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Courtney, this is my first—[Cries of "Order!" and "Name!"] From my personal observation, I say my hon. Friend rose to address the Committee before the Question was put. [Cries of "Order!"] The hon. Member then resumed his seat, and speaking with head covered, said: From my personal observation—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (still seated, and with head covered)
I can say, Mr. Courtney, from my personal observation, that my hon. Friend had 478 risen to address the Chair before you put the Question.
MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (also seated, and with head covered)
I can Speak from the same personal observation. I saw my hon. Friend rise to do that.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I regret that there should be any misapprehension in the matter; but I am afraid it is now impossible to correct it.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 241: Majority 83.—(Div. List, No. 101.)
§ Amendment again proposed.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am very anxious, in a few words, to repeat the explanation I have already given, and I would submit to the Committee that, upon this particular point we have had so long under discussion, we might really now take a Division. The Amendment is to add the words "committed after the passing of this Act." I do not for the moment consider what the clause purports to include; but the suggestion was, by those who supported the Amendment, that everything—felonies, misdemeanours, or offences under the Act—should not be included unless committed after the passing of the Act. It is clear the Government could not accept these words; and, in fact, hon. Members below the Gangway have now admitted that they do not wish felonies and misdemeanours to be affected by the Amendment; they are agreed that the clause should apply to felonies and misdemeanours committed before the passing of the Act; therefore, I would point out to the Committee that on the particular question whether there should be this limitation the Committee is ready to go to a Division. Upon the other point, the point of difference between the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and ourselves, our view is distinctly this—that in as much as the offences to which this section applies include felonies and misdemeanours, it is clear that felonies and misdemeanours, whether committed before or after the passing of this Act, may be inquired into. Our view also in respect to offences punishable under this Act, inasmuch as they would not be offences until a district is proclaimed, is in accord with that of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith)—there 479 is no offence to inquire into until the district is proclaimed. That is the strict and true meaning of the section, and no Amendment is necessary. But I put it to the Committee whether the question of limiting the clause to after the passing; of the Act should not now be decided after four hours' discussion?
§ MR. DILLON
So far as we are concerned we have no desire to stand between the Committee and a Division; but at the same time, before we proceed to divide, I wish to point out that, in my opinion, the delay that has occurred is entirely due to the way in which we have been met. Nobody can deny, after the statement of the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster), that a serious practical question is raised by the Amendment we have been discussing. We have complained constantly that we were not met in debate in a clear and specific way. I must repeat, before we proceed to a Division, that the complaint we made at the outset, and repeated again and again during the discussion, was never met. We did not complain strongly of this inquiry being made retrospective in respect to felonies and serious crimes; but we complained of the retrospective action not in regard to crimes in a proclaimed district, but to crimes or offences of a lesser character, like combination or unlawful confederation, which are offences before this Act is passed at all, and, therefore, so far as the Act is concerned, would be treated as felonies or serious crimes. Now, I understand the Government will introduce words that will define their position, in this regard. I trust we are correct when we make the assumption that we have it from the Government that they will place words on the Paper defining the position they will take up in this regard, so that the Committee will have an opportunity of considering that position before we proceed any further. On this assumption I have no objection to a Division now.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is well we should understand the position if we allow this discussion to close. The matter is clear so far as the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General goes—that is, that the Government believe that the words of the section are clear, though we do not. Very well. Believing that their meaning is 480 clear, they will undertake to make their meaning clear to us from their view. We do not ask them to adopt our meaning, but that they will introduce words to remove all ambiguity. More we do not ask now—though we may afterwards press them to make it wider—than to introduce words making their meaning clear to us.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, we do not believe that is necessary. We believe the wording of the clause absolutely clear as it stands; but, if there is any doubt about it, we are willing to introduce words to remove it.
§ DR. COMMINS
It is evident that the Government have not made their meaning clear to their own followers, for there have been arguments from them against the retrospective action of the clause, and they have not been answered yet. At any rate, I hope they will make their meaning clear.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I understand that the Chief Secretary says he intends to affix the same meaning to the words as is desired on this side. The Government do not think that additional words are necessary. But still, as a doubt exists, they will not object to the insertion of words to satisfy our desires and their own wishes?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If we can add words conveying our meaning and not making the clause nonsensical. Surplusage there will be; but, however, we will not object to that. But I hope it is understood what we do mean; I hope there is no doubt about that. The clause is to apply to existing crimes; the retrospective action is to apply to existing crimes, not to such crimes—if such there be—as are created by this Act.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Just let me ask a question on this point, that we may have the matter clear and avoid misunderstandings and complications later on. The contention of the Attorney General is that no offences under this Act can become offences until the Act comes into operation in a proclaimed district. The contention of my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Dillon) is that there is a large number of offences under this Act, and, to a certain extent, created by the Acts which already come under existing legislation, as, for instance, the Whiteboy Acts. My hon. Friend says you have altered the method of dealing with, these 481 offences that are dealt with under existing laws. We want to limit the retrospective action of the clause to serious agrarian crimes, and that is what I understand the right hon. Gentleman to accept?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
All existing crimes, felonies, and misdemeanours under the existing law may have this retrospective power applied to them.
§ MR. DILLON
What we want is this.—We want the Government to place on the Paper words that will define what they consent to do, and that will raise the issue. We will postpone discussion until then, if the Government will promise to place such words on the Paper? It is clear, I think, that the Chairman will allow the subject to be raised, and so we postpone discussion of the matter.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
I should like to be allowed to make a suggestion. I will not occupy the time of the Committee, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will allow it is worth attention. If he really wishes the clause to be effective, for the purpose of procuring evidence, then I caution him that the sooner he makes up his mind to draw a distinction between graver offences and lighter offences the better for himself and his Government. If the retrospective action of the clause is to apply to inquiries into lighter offences, the result will be that every person who is summoned before the inquiry, if he does not go to gaol, will be regarded as an unpopular man. If you make it applicable to lighter offences—small offences, not crimes in the ordinary sense of the word—you defeat the very object you pretend to have in view.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I suppose, after what has passed—after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—the hon. and learned Member for South Roscommon (Dr. Commins) will withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
May I ask when the words the Government propose to place on the Paper will be in the hands of Members?
§ DR. COMMINS
After what has passed, I will, with the leave of the Committee, withdraw my Amendment.
MR. T. P. O'CONNOE
I really would appeal to the Ministry to use some of their influence with their followers to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn. I am sure they are bound to do so by the pledges they have given to this side of the House. Fairly and frankly—I give them all credit for it—they have undertaken to meet us when the question arises. They will prejudice the consideration of this question if there be any foregone conclusion; and I think there will be a foregone conclusion if a Division is taken on the Amendment of my hon. Friend, which will put us in a very unfair and prejudiced position. I appeal to right hon. Gentlemen to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn. [Cries of "No, no!"] I do not appeal to hon. Gentlemen behind the Treasury Bench; I appeal to a somewhat higher order of intelligence. I appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has met us in a fair spirit, not to mar the attitude he has taken up.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
With regard to the appeal of the hon. Member, and the words which will be put down on Monday, may I point out again to hon. Members that the Amendment proposed would limit the clause in regard to felonies and misdemeanours to those committed, after the passing of the Act. It is necessary, at any rate, to have the decision of the Committee that felonies and misdemeanours are subject to the clause.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
The hon. and learned Gentleman takes a rather unusual view of the matter. We have been discussing the Amendment for a considerable time. The Government say the clause means one thing, the Opposition say it means another. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) makes a suggestion that appears to be acceptable to a large section on both sides, and the Government say they will consider that suggestion; while maintaining the principle that the action of the clause shall be retrospective for felonies and misdemeanours, they are willing it shall be prospective for other offences that are created by the Act. Then the usual 483 course is to withdraw the Amendment in dispute, and let the question be fairly raised upon the new words when they are before us. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) says He wants a definite decision that the words of the clause shall have a retrospective application so far as felonies and misdemeanours are concerned. Yes; but we contend, and this is why the Amendment is urged, that the words will carry us much further than he wishes us to go. When we are trying to come to a workable understanding, I am afraid it will not tend to the progress of Business to insist upon a decision on the Amendment now.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
We have no desire to avoid coming to a workable conclusion; but, as the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, if the Amendment is withdrawn on this occasion, it will be perfectly open to hon. Gentlemen to raise the same question over again—that is to say, another five hours may be added to the same period already spent on this question. We gave our interpretation at first, and contend it is the correct one. It is only now that hon. Gentlemen accept the limited interpretation we contend is the right one; and we, therefore, say that the proper result of this discussion is that it should be accepted by the Committee in the sense we present it. We also add, if there is any question in their minds which we contend there ought not to be, that new offences will not be within the retrospective action of the clause, then we will bring down words on Monday to make that perfectly clear. That being so, we must, in the interest of Business, ask that the Amendment be negatived, so that the whole question may not be renewed at our next Sitting. If the words we shall present are not satisfactory, then it will be perfectly open to the Committee to reject or amend those words.
§ MR. CHANCE
I want to point out distinctly the attitude the Government have taken up. We have never objected to this power being given in the fullest manner, retrospective and prospective, for the discovery of grave crimes and the punishment of criminals; but we do object to all offences being included—we object to its application to the offence of conspiracy. Speaking of this offence 484 of conspiracy, Mr. Justice Stephen says—There is no doubt that plausible reasons may be found to declare it a criminal offence to combine to do anything which, in the opinion of the Judge, is politically or socially dangerous.Well, the offence of conspiracy has hitherto been tried before a Judge and jury, and you have a great safeguard, yet you have the opinion of Justice Stephen brought out distinctly, that there is danger in leaving to the Judge the power of declaring the Law of Conspiracy. But, under this Act, the power will be given to Resident Magistrates appointed, by the Castle, dismissed by the Castle, and dependent for their pensions on the certificate of the Chief Secretary that they have served him with diligence and fidelity. While allowing them to declare combinations criminal, you will enable them to create new offences; you will enable them to get evidence as to old transactions which no Judge and jury would have punished, if you allow the retrospection to apply to misdemeanours. You will hand over such cases to be tried on such evidence for what would be really new criminal offences, in the opinion of two Castle officials. We desire to prevent that being done. We decline to allow the Act to be made retrospective, so that it may be made to apply to offences to be created by it. If we allowed the Government to take a decision on this point, the result would be that they would say, when the end of the 1st section is reached, it has been decided to include conspiracy and misdemeanour in the retrospective action of the Act. We desire to prevent that, and if we have to discuss it for the next few hours we will do our best to prevent it.
§ MR. DILLON
I think the whole of the delay this evening has been caused by the way in which the Government have met us. After the last Division on the Motion to report Progress, I made a proposal with a desire to come to an arrangement to end the discussion. I endeavoured to point out to the Government that while we did not desire to raise any further debate upon the question of the retrospective action of the clause with regard to felonies, yet, with respect to misdemeanours, we did distinctly say that the issue had not been 485 sufficiently debated to allow a decision to be taken. And I distinctly understood the Government to say—"We are willing to put on the Paper words which will raise this question again, and enable the House, without having its hands tied, to come to an understanding as to what crimes or offences they would allow the clause to be retrospective in its action." But now the Government endeavours to tie our hands. Evidently, en the question of misdemeanours, a point of the greatest possible moment rests, and the Government must have known that that was the question I wished to raise, I myself was put on my trial in Dublin for misdemeanour; and on that occasion the question of the combination of the Plan of Campaign was struck at by the Government. If they make this clause retrospective with regard to misdemeanours, they will be taking to themselves power to imprison all of us in Ireland for things we have done long before this Act was spoken of. Is it fair play towards a Party like ours to insist on a decision being taken on that important point at so late an hour in the night? I admit it would be fair play enough, if the question had been debated; but it has not been debated. You cannot call it a debate, when one side has for some time been putting forward its case, and the other side of the Committee have never attempted to reply. We have not had the question we put answered by a single Member on the Government Benches. I have been compelled to repeat our case over and over again; no hon. Member from that side of the House has oven pretended to answer whether it is intended to use this clause retrospectively in regard to misdemeanours, and we, therefore, have a right to think it is intended to use it in such a way as to expose myself, and others who have worked with me in Ireland, to imprisonment for refusing to give evidence before the tribunals to be constituted. I understood that the Government were willing to leave that matter to be raised on Monday; in that case, we should be willing to have this Amendment withdrawn. But when I said that under such circumstances we would not press the Amendment to a Division, it never occurred to me the Government would try to bind our hands on the matter by forcing a decision.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
It is complained that this Amendment has been discussed at considerable length; but I appeal to the fair sense of the Committee whether there is not ample explanation for that in the fact that, after it was moved, a very startling revelation was made by the Government that the Bill, as drafted, would have a retrospective effect? Such an announcement as that would naturally lead to prolonged discussion. What is the proposal of the Government as we have heard it from the hon. and learned Attorney General? He says it is necessary that the Government should obtain a declaration from the Committee by means of a Division taken on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Roscommon (Dr. Commins), to the effect that, at any rate as regards felonies and misdemeanours, the retrospective character of the Bill should not be limited. If the Division is taken on the Amendment with the object which the hon. and learned Attorney General has described, the decision will be operative, not only with regard to felonies and misdemeanours, but also with regard to everything covered by the word "offence." The position of the Government is perfectly untenable, for it will bring within the Act many things which the House has no suspicion of. Let us look at some of the proceedings punishable as felonies and misdemeanours under the Whiteboy Acts. Here is one—if any person shall send, or cause to be sent, any notice or message directing or requiring any person to do, or not to do, any act, any person so offending shall be liable—to what? To transportation or imprisonment. There is the penalty of felony; at any rate, that is a misdemeanor. That is the kind of offence—sending a message to do or not to do any act is the kind of offence with regard to which you are to give these Resident Magistrates summary jurisdiction. I am perfectly certain there is not a Member of this House outside the Cabinet, excepting, possibly, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who had the least suspicion the Act was intended to give such powers as these to these men. It does appear to me unreasonable on the part of the Government to force a Division on the Amendment; it does seem to me to be unfair to ask the Committee to 487 proceed with the consideration of this clause until we have before us the express words which the Government propose to add to the clause.
Mr. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
I wish to point out that, to my mind, both sides of the Committee seem to have misconceived the importance of either withdrawing or negativing these words. I think it is practically unimportant. It is clear that the view taken by the Government is incorrect. The hon. and learned Attorney General stated that he wished to have these words negatived, in order to affirm that the Act, as regards felonies and misdemeanours, should be retrospective. If these words are negatived, they will not affirm that; they will only affirm that certain offences which are not defined, and which will not be defined until the 5th section comes under consideration, will come under the retrospective action of the Act. There will be nothing to prevent any Member of the House proposing later on that the retrospective portion of the Act shall only apply to, say, murder and larceny: and, if that were carried, not even all felonies would come under the purview of the section. It appears to me immaterial to the Government whether or not the Amendment is withdrawn; and it also appears to me equally immaterial to hon. Members below the Gangway whether or not it is negatived.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I agree. I am quite ready to go to a Division on the matter. It does not matter a button whether the Amendment is negatived or withdrawn. If hon. Gentlemen opposite have not the courtesy to allow us to withdraw it, we do not wish the Committee to be troubled with a Division, although, as far as we are concerned, we are ready to take one. I never heard anything more extraordinary than the doctrine laid down by the First Lord of the Treasury. It sounds like an extract from a comic opera to suggest that the passing of this Act makes a distinction between a felony and misdemeanour. The Bill has entirely misled both sides of the House. Now, Sir, I wish to point out one thing. In this Act you are incorporating the provisions of the Petty Sessions Act, so that you can compel a witness to produce books, accounts, and documents, as he may required; and refusal to do so will con- 488 stitute misdemeanour. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland is the person who is to set this law into operation. He has, from his point of view, been atrociously libelled in regard to his action relative to the Plan of Campaign. If this Bill is to be retrospective, he can issue a summons compelling the editor of United Ireland of bring into Court his account books and papers to be examined with reference to libels on him; and he can inquire fully into the Plan of Campaign. I ask the Committee—Are We unreasonable in asking that there should be some definite and restrictive words upon that point? Now, the noble Marquess is the real prop of the Government in this business, and I ask him, if we are unreasonable in saying that when the operation of the Plan of Campaign has already been made the subject of criminal inquiry, and in regard to which a jury containing six Protestants has disagreed, it should not be made the subject of an inquisition under this Act? I do not think we are; and for the Members of the Government to complain that time has been wasted is nonsense. I say it has been usefully spent. If the Act is passed in this form, do not suppose for one moment that you will get any information out of mo, or that if you summon me to give evidence I will attend. I tell you plainly I will not. I am only using our case for the purposes of illustration. We do not disguise the mutual hatred between us and you. Every time I hear an expression of hatred from that side of the Committee I am ready to pay it back with redoubled interest. But I am here arguing on behalf of the people of Ireland—on behalf, not of myself, but for a large number of men who are not inclined to go to gaol for refusing to show their books and papers—people whose time is valuable to them, and I do ask the Government is it unreasonable that we should ask, in regard to ancient matters of history, in relation to stale old matters affecting the Plan of Campaign, that they should be definitely excluded? The word misdemeanour seems to sound sweetly in the ears of hon. Members opposite, in the same way as Mesopotamia did to the old lady. It may be a very trifling matter; but where can you draw the line? There is the forged letter in The Times; there is the Boycotting at the 489 bookstalls; they are misdemeanours according to our view of the law; but, of course, we cannot expect it to be endorsed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do not let us be misled by words; let us deal with serious crime. If the Government will let us raise the question of misdemeanour at a later stage, I see no objection to a Division being taken. If they will not agree to that, then let us argue the matter an hour or two longer. It makes very little difference to us. You, Sir, to whose ruling I have always been able to give my intellectual as well as Parliamentary adhesion, because they always seem founded on common sense and reason—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very well, I will say nothing more about that. I cannot see how we are later on to be precluded from raising this question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There can be no doubt that, at a later stage of this Bill, the question whether misdemeanours are to be included will be open to discussion. There is no question about that. It does not turn on the decision on this Amendment. But, at the same time, we think it very desirable to come to a decision on it, and if hon. Gentlemen will allow it to be negatived the question raised by it will be settled. That question does not relate to misdemeanours; it is a question whether retrospective action of every kind should be excluded, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite can surely have no objection to a final decision on that point being come to. The question they desire to raise can be discussed in the fullest manner later on.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Before the Motion to report Progress is made I wish to ask a question. The Government, by accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, have agreed to the omission of certain words. I wish to ask if there are means of raising a Question as to those omitted words?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I think the acceptance of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton will not preclude the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dublin City being taken in its order.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.