§ Clause 1 (Inquiry by order of Attorney General).
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N)
The Amendment which I propose to move is one which has reference to the application of this Bill by means of a Proclamation. It seems to me that we ought to know from the Government exactly to what portions of Ireland they intend to apply the measure. At the present moment we know that Ireland, with two or three exceptions, is peaceful and orderly, and my Amendment is to omit the words "in a proclaimed district." The clause, as it stands, says that—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.Now, I assert that the County of Kerry, the City of Londonderry, and the town of Belfast are the only places where offences, which might be brought under this Bill, have been committed during the last 12 months, and I think we are entitled to know from the Government exactly what the districts are which they have in their mind. We all know that Belfast has been the scene of bloody riots, almost bordering on civil war, for which, practically, no person has yet been brought to justice. We also know that in regard to the City of Derry the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) was petitioned against and unseated; and although he was not mentioned in the Report of the Election Judges as having been personally guilty of corrupt practices, several of his supporters were reported. We know, further, that in the County of Kerry there have been several crimes committed. What I want to know is whether the Government will 559 tell us exactly what portions of Ireland they conceive this Bill ought to be made applicable to, because, in my judgment, if these words are allowed to remain in the clause without some qualification, what might happen is this. The Government might proclaim the whole of Ireland outside the Province of Ulster; and, whenever any Catholics are murdered in Ulster, as usually takes places in the month of July, no Proclamation would be issued, and the stringent provisions of the Act would not be put in force. It, therefore, seems to me that we ought to know from the Government exactly what the districts of Ireland are which they propose to proclaim under this Bill. We know that in very recent years, under the Crimes Act, a murder of a most brutal character was perpetrated on a Catholic in Ulster, Philip M'Guire, but no inquiry was held, and the perpetrator escaped the consequences of his crime. Then, again, in the City of Derry, although the Government were represented there on a recent occasion by a learned Queen's Counsel, and an investigation was held into certain charges of bribery and corruption which had taken place in that city, and which led to the unseating of the Member who had been returned to represent it in Parliament, the Government have never since made the slightest attempt to make use of the information brought to their notice, nor has the Public Prosecutor pursued an investigation into the corrupt practices which took place at that election. The Government have simply allowed the whole matter to drop. Now, it seems to me that if the provisions of this Bill are to be honestly administered, and were I, unfortunately, to come under its provisions, we should find some gentleman occupying some distinguished position in connection with the Government who would be eager to prosecute me. I am, therefore, induced to ask what the regions of the country are which the Government intend to occupy, and whether the Bill, when it becomes an Act, is to be put in force in Kerry and Clare, while Belfast and Londonderry are to be exempted? Let us know, at any rate, what are the districts which are to be proclaimed, and what counties are to be proclaimed. What are the districts to which the Government propose to apply this measure? In order to give the Government an op- 560 portunity of answering the question, I will move that the words "in a proclaimed district" be struck out of the clause; and if that is done, I shall then propose to move to insert the words "Kerry, Londonderry, and Belfast," and I shall give my reasons for including the two latter places.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 7 and 8, leave out the words "in a proclaimed district."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'in a proclaimed district' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has asked for information which he is perfectly well aware it is not in the power of the Government to give. We have laid down from the beginning that we mean the provisions of this Bill to apply to those parts of Ireland, and those parts of Ireland only, where the existence of such crime may be found to exist as will justify its application. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me now to leave out the words "in a proclaimed district," and to insert in the Bill other words to bind the Government as to the districts in which the Act will be put into operation. The hon. and learned Member must see that that Amendment and the consequent Amendment are inconsistent with the whole scope of the measure.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am certainly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has not thought fit to tell us whether Belfast is to be proclaimed or not. There have been more people killed and wounded in Belfast in the last six months than in all the rest of Ireland during the last six years. A Royal Commission, appointed by the Government themselves, has inquired into the matter so far as Belfast is concerned, although no attention has been paid to their recommendation. I want to know if the Catholics of Ireland are to go unprotected when this Bill is passed; and whether it is to be applied only in the interests of the landlord party? I shall certainly press for information in regard to Belfast. There is in that town a large body of people with arms in their hands who have committed murder and outrage, but have been acquitted with 561 applause in an open Court. Although, in one instance, a soldier and a policeman wore killed, and in a second a policeman was seriously wounded, no person has, as yet, been hanged. I wish to know whether, under the circumstances, the Government consider that we ought to allow our co-religionists in the North of Ireland to be killed and wounded by their friends with impunity? I think we are fairly entitled to know what parts of Ireland are to be proclaimed under this Bill; and whether in that blood-stained region of Belfast, where 30 people have been killed, Her Majesty's troops shot at, and members of the Constabulary murdered, the criminals are to escape scot free?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What the hon. and learned Member has a right to know, and what I will at once tell him, is that the Government will exercise perfect impartiality between different creeds and different parts of Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has informed the Committee that the Act is not intended to apply to any part of Ireland except where crime exists. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: And disorder.] The right hon. Gentleman did not use the word "disorder" in his speech. It may be said that there was disorder in Mayo when the tenants would not pay Lord Dillon's rents. The right hon. Gentleman says that the provisions of the Bill will be applied impartially. This is not the first time nor the twentieth that we have listened to declarations of that character. When the Act of 1881 was being adopted in this House, the late Mr. Forster, who, I venture to feel, was quite as much entitled to credence as the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, declared over and over again that the Act was not to be applied in Ireland, unless necessity required its application. But what happened? Before the Act had been in force for a month, it was applied in the City of Dublin for the purpose of arresting me. There was no disorder or crime there. It has never been pretended that there was agrarian disorder, because it could not be said that there was anybody who happened to hold farms in the City of Dublin. Dublin was utterly free from disorder of any kind. Nevertheless, Dublin was 562 proclaimed for the sole object of arresting certain Members of Parliament. We know from experience when Acts of this kind are passed, that, notwithstanding the declarations of the Government at the time, the powers which such Acts give will be used unscrupulously by the Executive. The Chief Secretary has said that the provisions of the Bill will not be applied to any part of Ireland until there is such an amount of crime as to justify its application. Will the Chief Secretary take the trouble to look over the condition of Ireland, and say what are the districts in Ireland in which, at present, he considers there is a sufficient amount of crime to justify the application of such a measure at all? Is it not true that outside the Counties of Kerry, Clare, and Western Limerick absolute peace prevails in Ireland? I think we are in a position to make a tremendously strong case against taking away the liberties of the whole people of Ireland, and leaving them at the mercy of the Executive Government, because in a remote corner of the country there is a state of disorder. The Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend raises a most important issue. I think we have a right to protest test that because in a remote corner of the country there is a state of disorder we ought to take away the liberty of the whole nation. I have here the quarterly Returns of crime and outrage in Ireland for the last two quarters, and I find that in the Province of Ulster the crimes, leaving out of view threatening letters, were exactly six from September up to December. In the Province of Leinster, the largest and most populous Province in Ireland, the number of crimes for the winter quarter was eight in the whole Province. Is it not a monstrous thing that you should pass a Bill, which is to apply potentially to the whole of Ireland, when a condition of things exists as to absence from crime in regard to which you cannot find a parallel for years? In the Province of Connaught, in the same quarter, there were 29 crimes, excluding threatening letters; and, although that is not as favourable a condition of things as in Ulster and Leinster, it nevertheless shows an absence of crime which has been unparalleled for years. In those three Provinces there does not exist a shred of crime in justification for 563 a measure like this, and yet the Government are proposing to place in the hands of the Executive of Ireland a power to apply this Bill to all those Provinces—to three-fourths of the population of Ireland, who have been free from crime for years past. I come now to the Province of Munster, and the condition of things there is this—In Munster, excluding threatening letters, there were 44 serious crimes; but, deducting the outrages in Kerry and Clare, there were about 13 in the whole Province. Those were the figures of the winter quarter. I come now to the quarter ending with March 31, and in reference to both quarters I contend that an unanswerable case exists for exemption from the provisions of a Bill like this. I think the Government are bound to stand up and show that some case exists for such a sweeping measure before they can hope to get the consent of the Committee to it. In other measures which have been passed by Parliament, the provisions of the Act have been confined to special districts in Ireland. Take the case of Westmeath. Disturbances had existed there; but did the Government seek to include the whole population of Ireland? Nothing of the sort. They showed that a bad condition of things prevailed in Westmeath, and they passed the Westmeath Act. Why should we not have now a Kerry and Clare Act? The last quarter's Returns show a slight increase, but a very trifling increase, over the previous quarter, which has not usually been the case, and which is, undoubtedly, to be attributed to the change in the policy of the Government in reference to Ireland. Instead of putting pressure on the landlords, as they did in the winter quarter, with excellent results, the Government entirely changed their policy, and the consequence was that there was a considerable increase in the number of evictions. In the Province of Ulster the number of serious crimes during the last three months was 10. When I call them "serious crimes" I ought to tell the Committee that many of them were of an absurdly trivial character. In the Province of Leinster there were 21, and when I look down the column of serious crimes included in this Return, I find that such crimes as murder, conspiracy to murder, firing at the person, and assaulting the police, are all absolutely blank. The crimes included 564 in the Return are almost all of a trifling character, a good many of them consisting of injury to property. As the Government absolutely refuse to give us any information as to the nature of the crimes described under the head of injury to property, we can only conjecture that they are absolutely of the same character as the injury to property specified in the Blue Book of 1881. There is already standing on the Notice Paper a Motion for a Return of crime and outrages; but the Government have blocked it. In Leinster I cannot find that within the last three months there have been, more than seven or eight outrages of a serious character. In the Province of Connaught, during the same period, there were about 38; but several of the counties were absolutely free from serious crime. In the Province of Munster, outside the three counties I have already named, other than threatening letters, the outrages numbered 26. In the three counties of Kerry, Clare, and Limerick, they numbered 48; but if those three counties are eliminated from the Return I maintain that the condition of Ireland is such as not to afford a shadow or shred of excuse for this Bill. I contend that the Government are bound to act on the precedent of the Westmeath Act, and to confine the operation of their Bill, at any rate at this stage, to the three counties in which there does happen to have been this small modicum of excuse for it.
§ MR. W. H. K. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I hope my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) will press this Amendment and force it upon the Government, or, possibly, we may have a repetition of what occurred under the Coercion Act of 1881. By that Act, certain districts were proclaimed in Ireland, where there was certainly not a sufficient amount of crime to warrant their being proclaimed at all. Districts were proclaimed then not for the purpose of putting down crime, but for the purpose of putting down political agitation. In the County of Wexford the Return of crime made in 1881 showed that there had been 56 outrages in that county, and upon that Return Mr. Forster had the county proclaimed; but it is an important fact that when the Return came to be analyzed it was found that, leaving threatening letters out, 565 there were not more than eight or nine of what might be called crimes in the whole county. Nevertheless, that county was proclaimed, because the Government wanted to do then what they want to do now—not so much to put down crime or outrage, as to attack their political opponents and to put down political demonstrations. The Chief Secretary has mentioned crime and disorder. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by disorder? It does not take a vivid imagination to picture what may be considered disorder in the eyes of the Irish Executive and their officials. Disorder, in their eyes, may be the holding of political meetings, the delivery of political speeches, and the carrying on of the National movement generally. That is what the right hon. Gentleman means by disorder, and it is evidently what he is anxious to recognize by this Bill. That it is agitation he desires to put down is evident from the fact that he refuses to state to what district the Government propose to apply this Coercion Act in Ireland. I maintain that it is impossible for the Government to prove that there are more than two or three districts throughout the whole of Ireland where crime is in existence to such an extent as to warrant coercion, or the application of any exceptional law. Whatever hope the Government may have of inducing the people of this country to support them in coercing districts where crime unfortunately does prevail, I trust they will not have the sympathy of the country when they are endeavouring to put upon the whole of Ireland a severe and arbitrary measure of coercion which is not warranted by the existing state of crime. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to my hon. and learned Friend, said that while he could not accept the Amendment he would give an assurance that the Bill would be impartially administered. We, unfortunately, judging by the experience of the past, cannot accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, or of the Government of Ireland, as a sufficient guarantee that this Bill, if it is enacted for the whole country, will be impartially administered. I represent a district in the Province of Ulster which is most happily free from crime; but, still, it is a district where Orangeism extensively prevails, and out of the 84 magistrates of the county 82 of them 566 are persons who, if not actually Orangemen, still are in distinct and avowed sympathy with the Orange Organization. I could give many other instances, and I hope, in the course of a few days, to put a question as to the administration of justice on the part of certain magistrates in the County of Fermanagh. I could cite instance after instance where, in the most flagrant possible manner, the magistrates have put justice altogether aside, and have given their decisions directly in sympathy with the spirit of the Orange Organization. Surely this is proof enough that it will be most outrageous, and even fatal, to place a Bill of this description in the hands of Resident Magistrates with Orange sympathies all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman has given us an assurance that this Bill will be used impartially in the Catholic districts of the South, and in the turbulent Orange districts in the North. A right hon. Gentleman who is not now a Member of this House, but who formerly held the position of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, wrote a letter a short time ago to the newspapers, in which, from the knowledge he obtained during the time he held the Office of Chief Secretary, he gives his opinion as to how this Bill will be used. He does not hesitate to express a strong opinion as to the character of the men who compose the Executive Government in Ireland, and who would practically have the sole administration of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman to whom I refer—Sir George Trevelyan—cannot be accused by hon. Members who sit on the other side of the House, and who represent Irish constituencies, of any desire to exaggerate the facts of the case. I would ask the Committee to look at this Amendment, not from the Irish Members' point of view; do not let them be influenced by what we say, but let them take the words of Sir George Trevelyan, who, with his practical experience of the Office of Chief Secretary and of the working of a Coercion Bill in Ireland, has given his testimony that it will be impossible for the Government to administer the Bill impartially among Orange partizans of such notoriety as the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary 567 (Colonel King-Harman). These are some of the reasons which induce us to look with the greatest alarm and suspicion on the attempt of the Government to saddle the whole country with a Coercion Bill, and these are the reasons which have actuated my hon. and learned Friend in proposing this Amendment. We ask the Government to say distinctly, before the Bill leaves the House, to what districts of Ireland its provisions are to be applied, and to give some guarantee that Orange rowdyism and Orange crime will be put down in the North of Ireland, just as much as any crime which happens to be in existence in the South of Ireland. I cannot possibly conceive that a more reasonable request could be made by the Irish Representatives in this House than the request which they now make—that instead of saddling the whole of the country, which is admittedly free from crime, with this Coercion Bill, the Government, if they are intent on passing coercion at all, should content themselves with passing it upon those districts in the South and North of Ireland where, unfortunately, crime and outrage do prevail. As has been pointed out already, there has been more blood shed, more outrage, more lawlessness, and more real disorder in the Orange districts of the North of Ireland than in any number of districts in the South and West, and without the same provocation. If the Chief Secretary wishes to make the country believe that the Government are serious in their attempt to put down crime, he will rise in his place and say that they will rest satisfied with proclaiming those districts in which crime does prevail, and that they will not attempt to coerce or proclaim an entire country for the misdeeds of a few portions of that country. The Irish Representatives, whether Protestant or Catholic, protest against this infamous attempt to impose a law of this kind upon the people of all the constituencies; and I believe that if every Member representing an Irish constituency in this House were to protest in the same way against his constituents, who are free from crime, being coerced, he would only be discharging his duty towards the constituents who have sent him here to defend their liberties.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I would suggest to the right hon. and 568 learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. HOLMES) that he might make a concession to the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). The Attorney General is the person who will put the provisions of this Bill into operation, and he knows, if anybody knows, what the districts are in which it will be necessary to enforce the Act. He knows, if anybody knows, what the districts are, if this Bill had already become law, in which he would feel it his duty to give the Resident Magistrates the power of putting this 1st clause in motion. What I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should do now is that he should name or insert by name in the Bill these specific districts which he says require the operation of the Act, and that he should do so without prejudice to the general power of proclamation contained in the Bill. By doing so he would lose nothing whatever which the Bill proposes to give him; but he would enable the House to judge, from the list he would submit, how that impartiality which the Chief Secretary has promised in regard to the application of the Bill is likely to be exercised. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be pleased to name the places which he says require the application of such an Act, the House will then be able to see whether the list he gives is a fair and impartial list or not. If it is fairly impartial, the House will then be able to prognosticate the spirit and manner in which the Act is likely to be carried out.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The only reply which the Chief Secretary has vouchsafed to the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) is that he has already explained the scope and spirit of the Bill. Now, as far as I can see, the scope and spirit of the Bill are aimed at crushing out the Nationalists, and allowing the Orangemen to do precisely as they like. An Orangeman may commit murder, but a Nationalist may not grin through a horse collar. The Chief Secretary has given a pledge that the Bill will be administered impartially; but by whom is it to be administered? It is to be administered by gentlemen who, if they wish to be so or not, cannot be impartial, so bound up are they with the Orange faction in Ireland. They have 569 their feelings so strongly on the side of the Orange faction, that they cannot and will not be impartial. Who is to be the judge whether the Administration is impartial or not? They themselves, in a proclaimed district, are to be the judges of their own impartiality. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford claims that the Bill should be limited in its operation to those parts of Ireland where there is a certain amount of crime. You limit the Bill to Ireland; you do not apply it to the whole of the United Kingdom, and yet you are always telling us that there is no distinction between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Surely your reason for limiting the operation of the Bill to Ireland is because there is exceptional crime in existence there, and none in the United Kingdom. Therefore, you ought to limit the Bill to those parts of Ireland where you assert that exceptional crime prevails. The reason why I have risen now is this—whenever one of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench gets up and speaks upon the Bill, he always enlarges the scope of it. We were told that the Bill was directed against crime. We are now told that it is a Bill against crime and disorder. I always imagined that disorder could only be proved by the fact that there is crime; but the right hon. Gentleman implies that there is some distinction between crime and disorder. Before going further, I think we ought to understand from the right hon. Gentleman—I am sorry to disturb the sleep of the just in which he is indulging—but I think we ought clearly to understand what he means by disorder, irrespective of crime. We do not know under what conditions the district may be proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant. We had some idea that he might take a right or a wrong view; but we thought he would only proclaim a district where there was a considerable amount of crime. We are now told that he will not only proclaim a district where there is crime, but one in which there is only disorder. The vague distinction which has been used by the right hon. Gentleman is a most important one, and before we pass this clause we ought to understand clearly on what conditions, and on what conditions alone, Her Majesty's Government intend to use the provisions of the Bill.
§ MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I ask the indulgence of the Committee for a very few moments. I rise for the purpose of replying to the observations which have been made upon the Orange Organization and upon the City of Belfast by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). I think that the attack which has been made upon the City of Belfast by the hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to be allowed to be passed over in silence by anyone who has the honour of representing that constituency. The constituency which I represent has had nothing to do with any of the disturbances which have occurred in Belfast; but I cannot sit quietly here and hear the members of the Orange Society characterized as "blood-stained." I know we are accustomed to hear the Orange Organization calumniated.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! It would not be relevant to the Amendment now before the Committee to discuss the question of the Orange Organization.
§ MR. JOHNSTON
I did not propose to discuss the Orange Organization at all, nor have I any desire to say anything further. I only wish to repudiate the calumnious charges which have been made against the Orange Society by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford and the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond). Having done so, I will now resume my seat.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I trust the Committee will appreciate the anxiety of the hon. Gentleman to protect the Orange Organization.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether, having been called to Order myself, and having obeyed the ruling of the Chair, the hon. Member is regular in continuing the discussion?
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
The object of the Amendment is to limit the application of the Bill to certain districts in Ireland. As representing one of the counties which come within the category of disturbed districts, I think I am taking a proper position when I invite the Government to name that county in the Bill in order that the 571 causes of its disturbed condition may be investigated and, if possible, removed. I have no objection to see crime punished; but I think it is only justice to ask, concurrently with the Proclamation of a district and the punishment of crime, that the application of the provisions of this Bill should be limited to those districts where disturbance and disorder have prevailed. If Her Majesty's Government are desirous of getting at the root of the disorder in these disturbed districts, I think it will be found that it is attributable to the aggravated forms of injustice to which the tenants and others in those districts have been perpetually subjected. I thank the Chief Secretary for the word "disorder" which he has introduced into the discussion. It raises a new issue altogether, and I should like to know what meaning is attached, in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and Her Majesty's Government, to the use of that word "disorder?" We have from the beginning announced plainly, fairly, and above-board, that we have no objection to the Bill reaching crime in Ireland; but what we do object to is, that the Government should take a partizan and political view of what they are pleased to call "disorder," but which relates to transactions which it has been found necessary from time to time to resort to in order to prevent a worse and more general description of disorder. What we are afraid of is that the Government may direct the operations of their Bill towards that description of disorder, while they allow more serious forms of crime to escape scot-free. Hon. Members ought not to dismiss altogether from their minds the important facts brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) as to the condition of the counties in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary asserts that there is a state of disorder and lawlessness. My hon. Friend showed that there has been scarcely a single crime committed from boundary to boundary during the time covered by the Chief Secretary's statement. There is no use in mincing the matter. I will, however, endeavour to keep within the observance of Parliamentary Forms; but we believe that, from the highest to the lowest, the public officials of Ireland are saturated with Orange prejudices and with landlord antipathies to the people, and that, 572 consequently, there will be a scandalous maladministration of this Bill, which will not be limited at all in its evil effects by any assurance of impartiality that may given by the Chief Secretary. We place no value upon the right hon. Gentleman's assurances. His own mind may be of a more even character. Perhaps he is not so intimately associated with Orangemen and the landlord class in Ireland. Over and over again the same assurances have been given; but as long as Dublin Castle is Dublin Castle; so long as the Resident Magistrates get their instructions generally from Dublin Castle, stating the character of the persons they are to try, and virtually directing them what to do—so long as that system of government prevails in Ireland, it is in vain to depend upon any assurances, however sincere they may be at the time of their utterance in this House. I think there is now a distinct issue raised on this Amendment, and before we proceed further with the debate I think the Committee ought to insist upon some interpretation on the part of the Government of what meaning they attach to the word "disorder." Does the Chief Secretary mean to say that the County of Mayo is in a state of disorder, and that this Bill will be applied to that county? Is he unwilling to lay down a cast-iron rule that the Bill is only to apply to certain districts in Ireland? What we want to know from the Government is, whether they will tell us, taking Ireland as it is now, if the Bill were passed to-night, to what districts they would seek to apply it to-morrow? Surely that is not asking too much. The Government say they want to put down exceptional crimes—such as murder, firing into houses, mutilation of cattle, and Moonlighting. Are they of everyday occurrence in Ireland? If this Bill wore now passed; if all opposition ceased at once; if we grant to the Government the whole measure, will they tell us, in return, what the districts of Ireland are to which, in their present condition, they would apply the provisions of this Bill?
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
I think it is most important that we should have regard to the words we are discussing. The Amendment proposes to leave out the words "in a proclaimed district." But the speeches 573 which have been made referring to those words have not made the matter at all clear. The words "in a proclaimed district," as they are applied in the section, have reference to where the offence is committed. On Friday the attention of the Government was called to the specific construction that might be placed on this phrase as limiting the clause to offences committed in a proclaimed district after the district has been proclaimed. I understood the Attorney General for England to say that if there were any doubt as to the meaning of these words the Government would look into the matter, and, if necessary, change them. The junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), and others, also asserted that these words are meant to apply to offences committed in a proclaimed district after a district has been proclaimed under the Act. It has been proposed by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that the words "in a proclaimed district" should be struck out, in order to insert the names of three counties. I quite agree that those words ought to be struck out, but not for the purpose of inserting the names of three counties. Such a course would prevent the provisions of the Bill from being applied to any other part of Ireland in the future except those three counties. It would be very bad legislation to put down the mischief and crime which may arise in three counties, and to leave all the rest of Ireland open to the operation of the National League. My objection to the words as they stand is, that they would limit the operation of the Bill to offences committed after the passing of the Bill, and after a district had been proclaimed. It has been clearly declared by the Government that the Bill is intended to apply to crimes which have already been committed, and offences which have already taken place, but which have not yet been discovered, and I understand that an inquiry is to be made into past offences as well as into future offences. Therefore, I take it that these words will have to be struck out, and I was in hopes that some Member of the Government would state how it is intended to correct what appears to me to be a verbal inaccuracy. I understand the phrase to mean that "where the Attorney General for Ireland believes that any offence to which 574 this section applies has been committed." Then, taking out the words "in a proclaimed district," he may direct a Resident Magistrate to hold an inquiry under this section. If the clause were altered in that way, it would apply to every district now proclaimed, and to every district which may be proclaimed hereafter. It appears to me that we are really dealing with a verbal inaccuracy, and I think it would greatly facilitate the understanding of the discussion of this Bill if hon. Members would have a copy of the measure actually in their hands at the time the discussion is going on.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has devoted the greater part of his speech to an explanation of what everybody in the House understood. He objects to any limitation of the clause, and, no doubt, would prefer to see it very much extended. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has asked us to trust to the impartiality of the Executive in carrying out the provisions of the Bill. Now, we refuse to trust to the Government, or to their impartiality. We cannot do so. The Government is a Government of partizans, and the latest accession to the ranks of the Ministry shows that the Government are partizans, and also Orange partizans. The Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland is a member of every landlord organization in Ireland. He is a member of the Orange Society; he has advised the Orangemen of Ireland, in a remarkable speech, to keep their hands upon the trigger. I presume that the opportunity for doing so will arise under this Bill. At the present moment there is ample evidence in our hands that the Government now engaged in the administration of the law in Ireland is a landlord Government to the backbone and spinal marrow. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary tells us to trust to the impartiality of the Executive. What happened at the last Winter Assizes? In Sligo, when Catholic peasants evicted from the Clanricarde estates were indicted, not a single Catholic was placed upon the jury; but in Omagh no one but an Orangeman was set to try the Orange rioters of Belfast. It is an undoubted fact that the Government in the West of Ireland packed juries to convict Nationalist prisoners; whereas, 575 in the North of Ireland, they refused not only to pack juries, but to exclude the most notorious and well-known partizans from the jury-box. Under such circumstances, to endeavour to induce us to believe in their impartiality is to endeavour to impose upon our credulity. Take, again, the attitude of the Government on the subject of Boycotting. When the Boycotting is committed in Ulster by Orangemen we do not hear a word about it. Take the case of the Rev. Mr. Macaulay—a Presbyterian Home Rule minister. Mr. Macaulay is a venerable man, who has done great service to religion in his district. He has not only been subjected to Boycotting, but has been subjected to outrage. His property has been destroyed by the action of Orange partizans; but the Government have refrained from condemning either the Boycotting or the outrage. Indeed, they have gone to the extent of refusing to post up in the police barracks of the country notices offering a reward for the discovery of the perpetrators of the outrage on his church. The reverend gentleman offered a reward himself; but this Government of impartiality, which denounces Boycotting in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, which weeps bitter tears for imaginary cases of Boycotting like that of the midwife, has not a word to say as to the Boycotting, intimidation, and violence practised towards the Rev. Mr. Macaulay. How are we to trust a Government like that? There is another illustration I should like to bring under the notice of the Committee. We have heard within the last few weeks a good deal of condemnation of Irish juries, and of verdicts which they have either found or refrained from finding when the Crown have desired to secure a verdict of guilty. The jurymen have been held up as men who have wilfully disregarded their oaths; but we have not heard a word of a remarkable case which occurred a short time ago in the County of Fermanagh. In that case, some Orangemen were brought before a local Bench of Magistrates which was entirely composed of Orangemen. They were charged with firing with intent to kill at a body of Nationalists. Of course, in the view of Orangemen that is no crime at all, or next to none. Nevertheless, the Crown considered it so grievous an offence that they had the offenders brought before 576 the local magistrates. The charge was completely proved, but the Orange magistrates sot the culprits scot-free, declaring that there was no stain upon their character. The Attorney General had this matter brought under his attention, and he himself deprecating the gross partizanship displayed by the local Bench of Magistrates, and directed a re-hearing of the case. The result, however, was the same, and the magistrates acquitted these men once more, although they were plainly guilty of a most heinous crime.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is clearly wandering from the Question before the Committee in commenting upon the conduct of a local Bench of Magistrates.
§ MR. CLANCY
I was trying to make good my charge against the Government that we can have no confidence in their impartiality.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman has himself pointed out, in the case to which he was referring, that the Attorney General for Ireland had acted impartially.
§ MR. CLANCY
I was proceeding to remark, Sir, that, notwithstanding the action of the Attorney General, Her Majesty's Government took no further steps in the matter, but disregarded the plain duty they had to perform in the most disgraceful manner. They might, if they could have done nothing else, have dismissed those Justices from the Commission of the Peace, but they did absolutely nothing to mark their disapproval. I cannot understand the equity of an arrangement by which, no matter how heinous an Orange offence is, it goes altogether unpunished; whereas, for the commission of the most trivial offence, a Nationalist is severely punished. I refuse to trust to a Government of that kind. I assert that the Government is a Government of partizans from top to bottom. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is a member of the Orange Party. If there is anything Lord Londonderry understands, although I do not think he understands much, he comprehends the principles and rules of the Orange Society, of which, I believe, he is a Past Master. The Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland is a sworn member of the same Body, and he is convicted in this Blue Book—in the evidence given before the Cowper Commis- 577 sion—of having robbed his tenants in the most disgraceful manner.
§ MR. CLANCY
Well, then, I would put the matter this way—that the Parliamentary Under Secretary has had his rents reduced by 54 per cent, and that he has been convicted by the Land Courts in Ireland of having fleeced his tenants to that extent; and, no doubt, he would have continued to got those iniquitous vents if the Land Court had not stepped in. I am not permitted to characterize conduct of this sort as I deem right, but I know what is said of it out-of-doors.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is clearly irrelevant. He is not referring to anything which attaches to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman as a Member of the Government.
§ MR. CLANCY
I am referring to the antecedents of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I say we fully expect him to pursue in Office the policy which he has pursued when out of Office. I think it would be ridiculous to ask the people of Ireland, or any Member of the Irish Party, to regard other than as partizans in the highest degree a Government composed of such men as the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland.
§ COLONEL HUGHES
I rise to Order. I want to know whether, upon the words "in a proclaimed district," the hon. Member is in order in entering into the conduct of individuals?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The Question, "in a proclaimed district," involves the use of the discretion of the Government. I understand that the hon. Member is speaking of the trust which ought to be reposed in the Government.
§ MR. CLANCY
I am impugning the impartiality and bona fides of the professions of the Government. I maintain from its connections, and from its acts in this House and in the country, it will remain a partizan Government to the end, as it has been in the past. By a subsequent part of this Bill, the Lord Lieutenant is to proclaim districts in conjunction with the Irish Privy Council. I am told that the Judges do not take part in these administrative acts, although they are Members of the Privy Council; but that they put their signatures to Proclamations merely as a matter of form, being required to do so 578 as Members of the Privy Council. But there are men in Ireland who do take an active part in the business. Who are they? Here, again, we come upon the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman) who is a Member of the Privy Council. [Cries of "Order!"] I believe I am entitled to speak of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman by his name as a Member of the Privy Council. Then there is another Gentleman, Mr. Arthur Mac Murrough Kavanagh, the head of the I. L. P. U., and a man who also has had his rents cut down very considerably within the last few weeks. Then there is The O'Conor Don, another convicted rack-renter, who is not now a Member of this House, and, therefore, I may speak of him as I realty feel. These are the gentlemen who, acting in conjunction with Lord Londonderry, will have the power of putting the provisions of this Bill in force. I say that it is ridiculous and preposterous to expect, for a moment, impartiality from a Body of this kind, composed of Lord Londonderry, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, who has had his rents reduced by 54 per cent, Mr. Arthur Mac Murrough Kavanagh, who has robbed his tenants time out of mind, and The O'Conor Don, who has done likewise. I therefore protest against giving to the Executive in Ireland any discretionary power whatever. We believe that the Bill will be used solely for landlord and Orange purposes; we believe that Orange outrages in Ulster, however heinous they may may be, will go unpunished, and that the slightest offences perpetrated in other parts of Ireland by persons supposed to be Nationalists, will be made the ground for applying to those districts this most atrocious Bill, which I hope the Liberals and Radicals of this country will do their best to stop before it proceeds further.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY for IRELAND (Colonel King-Harman) and Mr. GLADSTONE rose together. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian gave way.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Colonel KING-HARMAN) (Kent, Isle of Thanet)
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to make a brief personal 579 explanation. I have no desire to say anything in regard to the Bill on its clauses. The matter of my rents has been repeatedly called in question by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, and it is simply in order that the House may understand the real state of the case that I rise to make a few remarks. I have been accused of being a rack-renter. I think that the House knows generally what is the meaning of Griffith's valuation. That valuation was made in the year 1854, at a time when prices in Ireland were lower than they are now. It was avowedly made by Sir Richard Griffith 25 per cent below the letting value of the land—[Cries of "No!"]—and it was distinctly stated that it was made as a basis of rating, and not of rent. In 1881, a large body of my tenants came to me, and asked to have their rents reduced to Griffith's valuation. I was then able to point out to them what I wish now to point out to the House—that in 1881 the rents on a very large property were within £100 of Griffith's valuation, which, as I have stated, was 25 per cent below the letting value of the land, and I had no opportunity, even if I had desired it, afterwards of raising the rents. If, in 1881, I was able to show that my rents were 25 per cent below the letting value, I can hardly be called a rack-renter.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I apprehend that, although the courtesy of the Committee has permitted the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to make a personal explanation, I am not expected to say a word on the subject of that explanation, because it would be abusing the patience of the Committee to attempt to do so. But I desire to refer to the Motion under discussion, and likewise to one or two points which have arisen in that course of the debate—to the important suggestion which has been made, and the demands which have been preferred in the course of the debate. Now, with respect to the Amendment, I would venture to make this observation. The words in the clause are "in a proclaimed district," and I find that they occur again and again before any power to proclaim a district is given. That may, or may not be good drafting of a Bill, or it may have been better to have 580 given power to proclaim before anything was said about a proclaimed district. It is, however, too late now to rearrange the clauses of the Bill; but I think it would not be satisfactory to the Committee to have a discussion of this nature raised again and again on the term "a proclaimed district" each time it arises. I would suggest whether it is convenient to proceed with the discussion on this basis. Assuming that this is a Bill which is to go through Committee, it is probable that there may be something in the nature of a power of proclaiming particular districts, and that the hon. and learned Member for North Longford himself recognizes. The words "in a proclaimed district" are in the nature of limiting words, and the simple omission of them would leave a power applicable to the whole of Ireland. Would it not, therefore, be best to leave the words "proclaimed district" at present, and when we come to the proclamation of districts in Clause 5, and the definition of the powers given to the Lord Lieutenant, then to raise the points which may be properly raised as to the conditions on which the Proclamation should take place? Other matters have occurred which I think require notice. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford has demanded from the Chief Secretary for Ireland to know whether Belfast is to be included in the proclaimed districts, and the right hon. Gentleman considered that he gave a sufficient answer when he said that all districts would be treated on a principle of perfect impartiality. I own that, after what has occurred, that answer is insufficient. The right hon. Gentleman himself has referred to particular parts of Ireland as being parts of Ireland the condition of which justified their inclusion in the present Bill. He described them, I think, as including one third of the area of Ireland, and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said they included only one-sixth of the population. After that was done, and Clare, Kerry, and other counties had been pointed at as requiring the action of a Bill of this kind, it became perfectly lawful, regular, and legitimate to ask whether Belfast was in contemplation. The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) has, with great propriety, felt it to be his duty to say something on behalf of his constituents, and he 581 has said what is to be regarded with credence, that the bulk of the people of Belfast regard the outrages in that town with horror. Is there not exactly the same thing in other districts? Are we not bound to make the same presumption with respect to persons who have not been guilty of crime and outrage in the districts which it is proposed to proclaim? If the apology is good for Belfast it is good for other places. Well, there is no doubt the conduct of certain persons in Belfast has stained the character of Ireland more than it has been stained by conduct in any other part of Ireland. Therefore, it is perfectly fair to ask what is the view the Government take of the case of Belfast. I shall never call this Bill a Bill for the repression of crime, for that is a most untrue description; but I suppose that crime is included in the purview of the Bill, and, if so, I think that hon. Gentlemen sitting for Irish constituencies are quite justified in pressing for some explanation as to the scope of the Bill, and what view the Government take of the state of things in Belfast—a state of things which, from recent accounts, has not oven yet reached its long wished for and right determination. Another point I wish to notice is the further explanation given by the Chief Secretary to-night of the scope of the Bill. It was a small Parliamentary incident which might not be noticed in any report of the debate, but which it is well to record. When the hon. and learned Member for North Long ford spoke of the Bill as a Bill for the repression of crime the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland called across the Table, enlarging that description, "crime and disorder." Now, that is a very important fact. We have heard that crime and offences are synonymous, to the great surprise of many persons in this House; but now we know from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman himself that he is not satisfied with the description which has been given of the Bill—that it is a measure for the repression of crime. We now know from his mouth that it is something else, which, although it may be bad and evil in itself, is not crime, but is, nevertheless, included in the scope of the Bill. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman can retract what he has said; but I wish to notice the words of the right hon. Gentleman as a full jus- 582 tification for the protest which has been made. When the Bill was originally introduced there was a disputable proposition—namely, that the Bill was directed, not simply against crime, but that it did include something which is not now crime, and did aim at connecting it with offences with a view of establishing a certain state of things in Ireland. I accordingly support the demand that we should know what view the Government take in regard to the case of Belfast. I see the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) in his place. I see that he has defined the purpose of a Coercion Bill as a Bill only to be proposed in the case of exceptional crime and outrage. In Belfast there is, undoubtedly, exceptional crime and outrage—[Cries of "No!"]—and I think we ought to know whether occurrences such as these in Belfast are what are not within the purview of the Bill. We do not want to be answered by the reply, "we cannot tell whether this state of Belfast will be continued." There may be perfect tranquility in Belfast; but that is equally true of all the other parts of Ireland specially referred to. Therefore, I hope the Government will throw a little light upon the subject. I think that the general question intended to be raised by the Amendment certainly requires full discussion.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
The suggestion the right hon. Gentleman has made as to the most convenient time for the Committee to discuss the question of the proclaimed districts is, I think, an admirable one; but he has greatly destroyed the value of that suggestion—that is to say, its practical value, for the purpose of bringing this discussion on, by raising two points which might easily be developed into points of great controversy, and lead to protracted discussion. I will venture, on one of those two points, to make a few remarks. The right hon. Gentleman found fault with the Chief Secretary for using and suggesting the word "disorder."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
; Yes; but, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman has distinctly made himself a party to the insinuation which has been freely developed from below 583 the Gangway, that the Government intend to apply this Bill to the South and South-West of Ireland, leaving Ulster free from the operation of the Bill. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman could not see that the use of the word "disorder" in connection with crime will bring Belfast under the operation of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has totally destroyed the value of the suspicion which he laid the Government open to by the attack he has made upon them for having added the word "disorder." There have been riots and disorder in Belfast—[Mr. CLANCY: Murder.]—there have been riots and disorder in Belfast, mostly of a serious character, and undoubtedly accompanied with loss of life—[Mr. CLANCY: Murder.]—accompanied by offences which may be regarded as murder; but the law has been asserted and vindicated in Belfast by Belfast juries.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I say that law and order have been restored in Belfast, and a great number of the rioters have been brought to justice. Many persons have been convicted, and one of them who was accused of murder was convicted of the crime of manslaughter and sentenced, I think, to a number of years penal servitude. The son of the same man would have been convicted had it not been proved that he was innocent. These men were tried, and it cannot be asserted that they did not get a fair trial, nor can it be asserted in regard to the riots in Belfast that the ends of justice have been in any way defeated. The law has been asserted in Belfast as well as it could have been asserted in any other great town in the United Kingdom where popular passion and excitement run high. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Loader of the Opposition seriously contended, and asked the Committee to believe, that there is no analogy whatever between the deplorable riots which have taken place in Belfast and the Moonlighting which have taken place in Kerry—Moonlighting outrages for the Commission of which not one single person has been made amenable.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Will the right hon. Gentleman assert that the juries in the North of Ireland have failed to do their duty in regard to the cases of disorder which have occurred in Belfast? [Cries of "Yes!"] Those cases are of a totally different character, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should gravely stand up and compare the diabolical outrages which have even been denounced by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in Kerry, Galway, Clare, and parts of Limerick and Cork with the riots in Belfast? Are they to be put on the same footing as the riots which constantly occur in Belfast, but which are invariably suppressed and put down, and which are invariably followed by the ends of justice being vindicated? It is a most deplorable thing that the right hon. Gentleman should use all his great influence, and his great abilities to confuse and mislead the Committee, and by pitting the diabolical outrages in the South against the Party riots in Belfast, that he should attempt to condone and apologize for such outrages.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, who has just sat down, very naturally feels some what sore on the subject of Belfast. Of course we have been told that "Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right." I have not risen, however, for the purpose of entering into any historical incidents in the career of the noble Lord. I wished to correct him in regard to a matter of fact as to the way in which law and order are administered in Ireland. We have been told by the noble Lord that law and order have been as well administered in Belfast as in anywhere else throughout the whole world, and yet we remember that some 300 or 400 people have been maimed for life, 35 murdered, and that not one single person has been hung, and only some two or three have been punished. The noble Lord complains, and the same calumny has been repeated by a right hon. Gentleman in a region which is not easily accessible in this House—namely—the Islands of Orkney and Skye—the noble Lord complains that the murderers of the Curtins and others have not been brought to trial and punishment in Kerry. The Government allow these Lies and calumnies to go forth when 585 the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) at the present moment can jingle in his pocket the guineas which he got for convicting those persons. So far from that statement being true, I assert, as a matter of fact, that within the last six months whole batches—I believe to the number of 40—of the Kerry Moonlighters have been brought to trial, and 20 within my own knowledge were convicted at the last Winter Assizes. And yet, the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland says, that as far as he is aware, there has not been a single Moonlighter convicted in Kerry.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
As far as I am aware, there has not been a single Moonlighter convicted in Kerry. It was only by changing the venue to the County of Cork that convictions were obtained.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may mislead the Committee; but he cannot mislead me. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there was a change of venue. There was no change of venue at all. What happened was this. The ordinary law enables the Government to transfer the trials of certain persons at the Winter Assizes to certain places. I know the City of Cork jurors, and I say this, that persons who convicted these Moonlighters were Nationalists almost to a man. Furthermore, I declined brief after brief and refused to defend these men, although some of them may possibly have been innocent. No Nationalist member of the Irish Bar defended them, and they were convicted. These facts are as well known to the Government as they are to us. Furthermore, when a Conservative Administration was last in Office, Lord Salisbury boasted in the House of Lords of the success of the Government in these transactions. Lord Spencer retorted that it was by means of Winter Assizes, and Lord Salisbury replied "Yes; but it was by the ordinary law."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Yes; and in 1886 as well, and it was under the ordinary law. Contrast this with what has happened, on the other hand, in Ulster. The right hon. and learned Attorney General himself knows well 586 that, as a matter of fact, he denounced the Tyrone juries, and said that they were worse than those of Kerry. I challenge him to contradict that statement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is always a straightforward and honourable opponent, and I observe that he does not contradict that assertion. What happened was this—the Walkers were put on their trial. There was no Winter Assize in Belfast; but, at the Tyrone Assizes, Judge Lawson, who, God knows, is no friend of ours, told the jury as plainly as possible that they were perjuring themselves, that they could not convict the prisoners of manslaughter, although they were willing to bring in a verdict to that extent, but that the offence was one of murder. Time after time the jury came back into Court; but they refused to convict, and then the Government transferred the trial back to Belfast—back to the scene of the labours of these prisoners on the Shanklin road. They did it in spite of the Report of the Commission which is contained in the Blue Book, and now before the House—a Commission presided over by one of the English Judges, supported by an Irish Queen's Counsel—Mr. Delapore Trench—and subscribed to by Mr. McHardy, a member of an Orange Society. That Report states—We are sorry to add that certain persona, Laving great influence in Belfast, thought proper, at various periods during the riots, to indulge in language, written and spoken, well calculated to maintain excitement at a time when all men of influence should have tried to assuage it. Mr. Cullen, the Divisional Magistrate of Ulster, and others, laid before us certain specimens of these utterances, some of which we print in Appendix D, and which speak for themselves. We feel it our duty to draw special attention to a letter of the 4th day of August, 1886, written by Mr. De Cobain, Member of Parliament for one of the Divisions of the town—a letter the publication of which the Mayor of Belfast most properly brought under the notice of the Government. Another cause of the continuance of the riots was the unhappy sympathy with which, at certain stages, the well-to-do classes of Protestants regarded the proceedings of the rioters. At one stage of the riots it seemed as if the greater part of the population of the Shankhill district united against the police. This is the more to be regretted, as it was on all sides admitted that no more valuable aid could have been given to the police than that afforded by respectable and influential people of the localities in which the troubles arose.In illustration of this charge the Commission called special attention to a 587 letter published by Mr. Do Cobain, winch was brought under the notice of Government; but, from that day to this, be attempt has been made to deal with the origin of these riots. It was with that Report staring them in the face that responsible and influential persons in Belfast sided with the rioters that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland sent these Walkers back to be tried in Belfast. He did so well knowing in his heart that these men would not be convicted, because they were Orangemen. I assert this as a fact—that no Orangeman in Ireland has ever yet been convicted on a trial for murder. I will give an instance to show the manner in which this particular trial was "rigged." The trial took place when Her Majesty's late Government were in Office, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) was Chief Secretary for Ireland. In the ordinary course, Mr. Walker, the Liberal Attorney General, and The M'Dermot, the Liberal Solicitor General, would have had the conduct of the trial, which ought to have gone naturally to the Summer Assizes. But the Liberal Government were likely to leave Office, and, therefore, it was arranged to have the prisoners returned for trial at a time when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the present Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), would be the Law Officers of the Crown. Whereas, in the ordinary course, the trial would have been conducted by Mr. Walker and The M'Dermot; it was so arranged that the men were returned for trial at a time which was too late for the Summer Assizes in Belfast. If this fact is not within the knowledge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, I can assure him that it is notorious to the Bar of Ireland. Without the slightest necessity for that remand, the case was remanded so as to throw off the trial until the following Assizes. In moving my Amendment, I referred to the state of Derry. I presume that bribery and corruption will be an offence under this Act, seeing that is a misdemeanour. Now, the grossest bribery and corruption were proved to have prevailed in the City of Londonderry at the last General Election, when the hon. 588 Baronet who now sits for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) was returned. It has been asserted that everyone connected with the candidature of the hon. Baronet, when the inquiry was about to take place, fled from Derry, and no summons could be served upon them. One or two of them were fortunately dragged up; but no person to my knowledge, although gross corruption was clearly established, has been prosecuted in connection with these charges, nor was even an attempt made to ascertain where these men were. The recognized agents of the hon. Baronet—the whole gang of them—were shown to be absolutely steeped in corruption; but not one of them has been punished. The Crown Prosecutor sat in Court mute, and yet the Election was given in favour of my my hon. Friend (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) on a single charge of bribery. Of course, my hon. Friend could have gained no advantage from continuing the investigation; but the whole burden of going on with it, and probing it to the bottom, rested with the Government. In Belfast the Government took a different course, and prosecuted an unfortunate cripple; but in Derry, where the bribery was of a most extensive character, every individual concerned in it got away absolutely unscathed. I have now explained the reasons why I have proposed this Amendment; but the moment I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. H. Smith) suggest that it would come in bettor at a later period, I rose to offer to withdraw the Amendment. Of course, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) naturally desired to make an explanation and to continue the debate, and, therefore, I gave way. If the Government desire that the Amendment should be withdrawn, I have no objection to withdraw it; but I hope they will take advantage of the opportunity, in order to give the Committee some explanation in regard to the points which have been raised. For my own part, I accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and after this explanation I am quite ready to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. HOLMES
The Committee will not be surprised, after the speech which has been delivered by the hon. and 589 learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), that even at the risk of continuing the discussion for some little time longer, I should desire to say a few words. I will ask the permission of the Committee to commence my observations by an allusion to myself personally. It has been said more than once, in the course of this and other discussions, that I am an Orange partizan. I wish to assure the House, at the very commencement of my remarks, that there is probably no hon. Member of this House less connected in any way with Orangeism than I am. I am not an Orangeman, nor have I had any connection of any kind, either by family or otherwise, with that society. It so happens that, as I believe, I am not even personally acquainted with three Orange-men, save and except hon. Members of this House, some of whom, for aught I know, may be Orangemen.
§ MR. HOLMES
I may say, further, that in the course of my career I have often taken opportunity publicly to express my strong abhorrence of these party demonstrations, which, in my opinion, both on one side and the other, have been highly detrimental to the prosperity and happiness of the North of Ireland. I trust the Committee will excuse my having, under the circumstances, made this personal reference. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford has stated that it was by the operation of the ordinary law in the South of Ireland that the Kerry Moonlighters were brought to justice. I took the liberty of interrupting him, because the statement he made was not precisely in accordance with the facts. As far as my knowledge goes, there has not been a single instance, in the last three or four years, of a Kerry Moonlighter having been convicted in Kerry, No doubt, at the Winter Assizes in 1885, there was a large number of Kerry Moonlighters convicted in the City of Cork. The hon. and learned Member says that they were convicted under the provisions of the ordinary law, but the hon. and learned Member will bear in mind that that only arose from the circumstance of the offences having been committed at a particular season of the year, and, therefore, the trial was trans- 590 ferred from one county to another. But I would ask, whether, if the Government is of opinion, from past experience, that it is necessary to have the venue changed from one county to another, they are not justified in asking the legislature to make an alteration in the law? Would not an alteration in the law be justified if under the present law a man who committed an offence in February or May got Scot free, whereas if the offence had been committed in September or October, he would probably have been convicted at the Winter Assizes? It is to meet this difficulty that the Government asked the House to enable a change of venue to be made.
§ MR. HOLMES
In regard to the Winter Assizes, in the year 1886, the hon. Member for North Longford is wrong when he states that 40 Moonlighters were convicted in the City of Cork.
§ MR. HOLMES
It is not for me to criticize the action of Cork juries, but I believe that there was nothing like an extensive conviction of Moonlighters at those Assizes.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the Committee how many persons were tried, and how many were convicted?
§ MR. HOLMES
I cannot go through the cases individually now. All I assert is that the number of Moonlighters convicted at the Cork Winter Assizes was very small. I now come to the observations which the hon. and learned Member has made in reference to the Belfast riots. In the first place, I may say that the hon. and learned Member is under a serious misapprehension as to the facts of the case. He says that not more than six or seven of the rioters were successfully prosecuted. I can inform the hon. and learned Member that by summary conviction more than 100 were brought to justice, and, at the Winter Assizes, about 66 were convicted and sentenced to heavy penalties. Therefore, it is a misrepresentation of the facts to say that only about six of the rioters were brought to justice. The hon. and learned Member proceeded to say that the results of this Winter Assizes at Tyrone were unsatisfactory, and that I 591 myself declared that Tyrone juries were worse than Kerry juries. The hon. and learned Member seems to imagine that because I listened to that allegation and remained silent, that, therefore, I assented to it. Now, I always think that when an hon. Member is making a series of statements it is better to wait for a proper opportunity of reply instead of throwing out interjectional observations. Not only did I never make such a statement, but no such idea ever occurred to my mind. I have stated over and over again that the juries at the Tyrone Winter Assizes did their duty with wonderful fairness and impartiality. There were three serious cases of murder tried at the Tyrone Assizes. In one case—the case of a Catholic indicted for a wilful murder committed in Lurgan—there was no doubt whatever that the offence was wilful murder, but the question was whether the prisoner was the person who committed it or not. The charge was one of murdering a Protestant during an Orange demonstration. The Tyrone jury acquitted the prisoner.
§ MR. HOLMES
It was the first case heard, and it was immediately before Donelly's case. Donelly was not tried for wilful murder at all. The case I refer to was a case of murder, and the sole question, as I have already stated, was whether the prisoner committed the murder or not.
§ MR. HOLMES
I presume the hon. Member does not suppose that I have any intention to misrepresent the facts of the case. I was in Court myself, and it cannot be supposed that for a moment I would represent that the result of my case was different from what it actually was. As I have said, the verdict in that case was one of acquittal, the prisoner charged being a Catholic, and the charge being one of murder. The second case was that of the murder of Head Constable Gardner. What occurred in that case was this—the jury disagreed. I was under the impression when I read the depositions in connection with the case that there was a substantial case, but when I heard the evidence given 592 in Court it seemed pretty clear to me that there had been a mistake on the part of the constable who identified the prisoner. This prisoner was subsequently acquitted, and one of the most distinguished judges on the Irish Bench—Lord Justice Fitzgibbon—on the second trial, which took place at Belfast, said that it was impossible for the jury to come to any other conclusion. That was one of the cases in which the jury disagreed at the Winter Assizes. The third case was the only case, as far as I am aware, which occurred at the Winter Assizes at Tyrone in which there was a failure of justice. It was the case of the elder Walker, who was indicted for the murder of a soldier named Hughes. The jury stated that they were willing to find a verdict of manslaughter, but they refused to find a verdict of murder. Now, I admit that in that case the jury ought to have found a verdict of murder on the admitted facts, and that was the only case tried at the Tyrone Assizes in which there was any failure of justice whatever. Catholic rioters were acquitted and convicted, and Protestant rioters were again and again convicted. I believe that more than 40 were convicted and sentenced to suffer punishment. I wish to impress these facts upon the Committee that in one or two cases where a Catholic was put upon his trial, and where there seemed hardly to be a doubt as to the proof of the offence, yet the jury yielded to the persuasion of counsel, and he was acquitted. Having read the informations that were laid against the prisoners, and all the depositions, I have had a full opportunity of knowing whether the juries did their duty or not, and I am sure that if the hon. and learned Member for North Longford had had the same advantage he would agree with me that the only single failure of justice during those trials, which extended over three weeks, was the case to which I have referred—namely the case in which the elder Walker was placed on his trial for murder, and in which the jury refused to convict him of anything but manslaughter. Although it has been charged against the Government that the Walkers were tried at Belfast, I can assure hon. Members that the honest desire was that they should not be tried there. But it was impossible to prevent it. I myself had a strong objection to that course being taken in 593 consequence of the excitement under which the people of Belfast were labouring at the time. In face of the fact that on former occasions Belfast rioters were tried before Belfast juries, and that the juries did their duty, and that we could not make out a case under the existing law to induce the Court of Queen's Bench to change the venue, we came to the conclusion that it was impossible for the Crown to remove the case elsewhere. I admit, however, that if we had had in force an Act of Parliament such as we now ask the House to pass, the case would have been tried with a different venue. The charge is that the conduct of this prosecution was taken out of the hands of the Law Officers of the Crown under the Liberal Government by delay, and placed in the hands of the Law Officers of the present Government. But, Sir, if the prisoners had been returned for trial at Belfast it would have been absolutely necessary for the Law Officers to have had the case tried at Belfast at the time the riots were going on; and the Law Officers who represented the Government of that day did go down to Belfast for the purpose of conducting these and certain other cases—other cases connected with the riots which had previously been returned for trial. But what did they do? They applied to the Court that each of the cases should stand over to the Spring Assizes upon the ground that the excitement was such that it was impossible to get a fair trial. [Mr. CHANCE: The Court of Queen's Bench made the order, then.] But something more with reference to that—the Law Officers of the Crown, although they applied that the case should stand over to the Spring Assizes, did certainly not seem to be of opinion that when that excitement had cooled down the case could not be properly tried at Belfast. In one of the most serious cases they gave an undertaking that the man should be tried in the County of Down. It is right for me to say that, according to my recollection, justice was done in this case by a County Down Magistrate at the Spring Assizes. [Interruptions.] I always make it a rule, while hon. Gentlemen are speaking, to abstain from interrupting them, knowing that I have the right to reply to their statements afterwards. It is very difficult while interruptions take place for anyone but the speaker himself to hear what he is 594 saying, and the effect of the interruptions which have unfortunately been made may be that the reply I have made on the charges of the hon. Gentleman has not been so clear to the minds of some as I desire that it should be. I have now gone through the case of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). Speaking in the hearing of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with whom it will rest, I say that if such a state of things as existed in the past existed in Belfast after the passing of this Act, the Government of the day would have no hesitation in applying the Act in Belfast in the same way as they would in Kerry. During the 18 months that I have been responsible for criminal prosecutions in Ireland, as far as I am aware, I have not shown the slightest difference as between one party and another. With regard to the action of the Bench of Magistrates in Fermanagh, I did in that case all that it was possible for mo to do. In the case of the man whom they would not return for trial, I took steps to have the case investigated a second time, and I regret to say that the result was the same; but my power ended there. The same thing occurred more than once in the South of Ireland, and I took the same course; but again with the same result. If we had had this Bill in force we should have got the persons charged summarily dealt with. But whether it be in Fermanagh or Kerry, I pledge myself that I will not make any difference between one party and another as long as I have this Act to administer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that so far as he is concerned he will make no difference between parties. On Friday last he stated, and even boasted, that this Act would be retrospective. The Government will have the fullest power of investigation under this clause, and they have already stated that they are looking out for evidence with regard to the Belfast riots. I ask whether, with regard to the crimes committed in the district and which are undetected, the Government really intend to break up the Orange Organization and put it down. That is the subject and purport of my inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has confined himself to dealing with general matters, on which, of course, it is difficult to make any reply. But let 595 me say that the action of the Tyrone juries as reported in the public Press, and described by Justice Lawson, has been of the most disgraceful character. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well in the case of the Donellys, who acted in defence of their own houses, that Justice Lawson charged for acquittal, that the jury refused to agree and the man was tried again; whereas, if the jury had done their duty, the men would have been acquitted. The right hon. Gentleman said he could have taken no other course than that which he took in Walker's case. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has only to go to the Court of Queen's Bench to get them to do all he wants. Am I to be told that the most servile and corrupt Court in Ireland—[Cries of "Order!" "Withdraw!"]
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that he must not speak in that way of Courts of Justice. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I shall of course withdraw it in this House. When I leave the House I shall speak in the same way. I say that the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland has never refused any application on the part of the Crown. If the Crown makes a motion it is always granted.
§ MR. HOLMES
I think I can say that my recollection is that out of five or six applications on behalf of the Crown the motion was refused in every case but one or two.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I admit that it was so at that time. I am referring to the last seven or eight years, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give a single instance where the Court of Queen's Bench has refused the motion of the Crown. The only case that I remember was in the case of the "Crown v. Boyd." That is the only instance which the right hon. Gentleman can give. I assert that there was a distinct connivance on the part of Her Majesty's Government to cause disorder at Belfast, and I will give as an instance the case of the Orangeman tried for the Monaghan murder, who was caught almost red handed in the act; who fired the shot, and who, because his mother got up and swore that he fired the revolver before he left 596 the house, was acquitted. In Belfast you have no necessity to resort to the system of change of venue. You have there your juries ready to hand, and, therefore, Orangemen escape and Catholics are always convicted. We know that has always happened. We ask the Government, with the Report in the Blue Book staring them in the face, whether they intend to put down the Orange disorder in the North as they have stated they will do in the case of agrarian disorder in the South. That is the object of this debate, and I take it we are entitled to an answer on that point. The Government have refused pratically to give any information as to the districts to which this clause will be applied. I am, however, willing to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) to postpone to a later day the exertion of pressure on that point.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I hope we may now consider that this episode, which, however important it may be, is hardly relevant to the question before the Committee—especially as the hon. Member has accepted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian—has terminated. The hon. and learned Member who moved this Amendment having accepted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that the debate should be raised on a later stage of the Bill, I presume that, in doing so, he speaks for those Gentlemen who are sitting near him. I do not intend to reply to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as I should certainly have done had I followed him in debate, except in a very few words. There is no intention on the part of the Government, and there is no power, to extend the meaning of the Bill beyond the words which are laid down within its four corners. The reason why I used the word "disorder" was because it appeared to me at the time that which would best convey my meaning to the House. There are many Members who talk as if Boycotting and intimidation were not crimes. To say to them that the Bill only dealt with crime would, therefore, have been misleading. No one can maintain that they do not constitute disorder; and this is why I 597 added that word to my description of the objects of the measure.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
So far as Members on these Benches are concerned the Amendment has been withdrawn. The discussion which has arisen, as far as I can judge, is entirely owing to the action of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill).
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The Government ask for this power with reference to crime in Ireland because they allege that evidence with regard to the Commission of crime is, for some reason or other, withheld. Now, I am of opinion that before you give power to the Attorney General to institute the inquiry provided for by the section, he should be satisfied, in the words of the Amendment I am about to move, that, "Owing to intimidation, or other improper cause, evidence in connection with such offence had been withheld." We say that before this power is given, granting the inquiry to be necessary, we should have some guarantee that the machinery placed in the hands of the officials shall not be abused to the harm of individuals. There can be no doubt that an Act of Parliament should be put into words which the Government think clearly embody their meaning, and, therefore, if they have no wish to cause harm to individuals, but only to reach cases where evidence is withheld through intimidation, they can have no objection to the insertion of these words. All we ask is that in the clause it shall be provided that the Attorney General shall not have power to sot the provision in motion unless he has satisfied himself that proof exists which makes it necessary to institute the inquiry. The clause is not limited to any class of crimes, it includes all; but we know that a multitude of the cases of ordinary crimes arise as distinct from agrarian crime. No one contends, in those cases, that there is any indisposition to come forward and give evidence, and no one has implied that it exists; and, on the other hand, it has been admitted that the Attorney General should not be able to order inquiry unless he has proof that it ought to be held for the reason assigned. For these reasons, I hope the 598 Government will accept the very reasonable Amendment which I now beg to move.
In page 1, line 8, after ''district," insert "and that, owing to intimidation, or other improper cause, evidence in connection with such offence has been withheld."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I can, in a few words, state why it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to accept this Amendment. I cannot think that the hon. Gentleman remembers that on Friday night we agreed to insert words providing that a sworn information shall be made before the Attorney General for Ireland takes action under the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman wishes us to say now that the Attorney General shall not act unless he is satisfied that, owing to intimidation or other improper cause, information has been withheld. It amounts to this, that however impossible it may be to obtain evidence, the Attorney General would not be able to act unless he had some evidence before him. The provision with regard to the sworn information will operate as a sufficient safeguard against the powers of the clause being applied where intimidation does not exist. We certainly cannot, for these reasons, assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
All my Amendment asks is that the information contain a sworn statement that evidence has been withheld through intimidation or other improper cause. It would not be exceedingly unreasonable that before the Attorney General for Ireland could institute an inquiry under the section he should hold a preliminary inquiry. What my Amendment provides is that the Attorney General shall be satisfied, not merely that the offence has been committed, but that a state of things has arisen such as the Government admit to be an indispensable preliminary to the proper use of the powers contained in this clause—that the information which sets the Attorney General in motion shall not merely contain a verification of the fact that an offence has been committed, but shall also contain an allega- 599 tion made on the sworn testimony of some person on whom he can rely as to the state of things in the district—that owing to intimidation evidence cannot be obtained.
In page 1, line 8, after "district," insert "and that, owing to intimidation or other improper cause, evidence in connection with such offence has been withheld."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to accept the Amendment, seeing that it has already been provided that the Attorney General is only to take action under the provisions of the Bill in cases where an. information has been sworn, which will operate as a sufficient safeguard against those provisions being extended to places where intimidation does not exist.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
I do not think that my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has done full justice to the arguments advanced in favour of this Amendment or to the Amendment itself. The Government do not propose, as I understand, that this is to be a provision which is to be put in operation in every case. They propose it as a provision which they say is necessary on account of several difficulties which are specified. The difficulties are alleged to be in getting evidence on account of people being intimidated, and the Amendment proposes that instead of this being a clause which might, if the Attorney General for Ireland gets a sworn information, apply generally, it shall be restricted to a class of specified cases in regard to which there has been a failure to get evidence. That, I understand, is the argument in support of the Amendment; and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General endeavoured to meet that by saying this is not workable at all, and is not necessary, because the clause provides, by the Amendment to which the Government agree, that there shall be sworn information. That is no answer to the objection made, and which this Amendment puts forward— 600 namely, that this sworn information should disclose something more than the commission of an offence, and that all the clause provides is that there shall be a sworn information to the effect that an offence has been committed to which this section applies. Now the section applies, not merely to offences punishable under this Act specifically, but it applies also to felonies and misdemeanours, which means all felonies, and all misdemeanours, and all offences under this Act, If the sworn information, according to the provision of the section, disclosed the existence of those special grounds upon which this particular clause is to operate, and which will be put forward as justification, that would be another matter; but it does nothing of the kind. The sworn information, according to the provision as it now stands and specifies, need not contain anything to show that there are any exceptional circumstances whatever within the district proclaimed which prevent evidence being obtained—which shows that intimidation or anything else prevails to prevent evidence being forthcoming. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has not quite met that contention. I quite agree with the criticism he made upon the wording of the Amendment itself; it would be better if the Amendment ran—"Owing to intimidation or other causes evidence in connection with such offences is not forthcoming."
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Mr. Courtney, I want to say a few more words upon this Amendment. It is well the Committee should understand exactly the view the Government take. This clause is to apply to proclaimed districts. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has referred to-night to the fact that we may have to discuss what districts shall be proclaimed. Her Majesty's Government will not proclaim any district without cause; they will not proclaim a district unless there are circumstances which make it right for such an inquiry to be held into the terrorism under which the people are living. Therefore, the fact that the clause is limited to a proclaimed district in itself implies that there is a state of circumstances under which it is desirable an inquiry should be held. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney 601 says that, in addition to that, there should be something like a statement, with the sanction of an oath, that there is intimidation or some other improper cause which prevents evidence in connection with particular offences being forthcoming. In our view, it would not be a right precaution or safeguard to throw around this remedial measure which we think most desirable. I do not want to go now into cases in which these inquiries have been held, and held with advantage to the public in the past; but we certainly do think that, once a district is proclaimed, once the responsible Government has said the condition of a district is such that it ought to be proclaimed, and that this section ought to apply, the discretion should be left to the Executive, to the Attorney General for Ireland, subject only to this precaution—that he shall, before putting the section into operation, be satisfied, on sworn information, that an offence has been committed. The Government cannot agree to the Amendment, nor can we agree to the substance of it, because we consider it would unduly limit the power of the Executive which is responsible for proclaiming the district.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
It is needless for me to say that we cannot admit the validity of the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Richard Webster). The case the hon. and learned Gentleman has made against the Amendment is simply this. No district will be proclaimed until the Executive Government has come to the conclusion that a state of general terrorism exists in the district. Then the hon. and learned Attorney General maintained that if terrorism does exist in a district, it is reasonable that the Executive power should abandon the ordinary law and resort to extreme powers such as those contained in this Bill. There is a certain lameness in that argument, because the hon. and learned Attorney General would have us believe that, because there is general intimidation in a district, there is general sympathy with every form of crime in the district. Greatly as Conservative Members of this House have maligned Ireland, I do not think any one of them will say that every description of crime is considered lightly in Ireland. I think that the real reason why the Government should, in the pursuance of their present policy, 602 decline to accept this Amendment is a very simple one indeed. They desire to use this weapon, not as a weapon to obtain evidence in cases where it has been withheld, or where it has not been forthcoming, but as a weapon to persecute people in Ireland at the bidding of any Member of the Privy Council, or, what is equivalent, any landlord member of the Constitutional Club. Although they could find plenty of land agents, and others who would be willing to swear anything, they decline to put the tender consciences of these individuals to the test of showing that there is some difficulty in obtaining evidence. The Government desire, on the mere allegation that a crime has been committed in a district, to put this section into force. Under this section as it stands, it will be perfectly competent for the Attorney General for Ireland, on receiving sworn information that an offence has been committed, to order an inquiry, to drag up men even from outside the district, and, if they refuse to answer any question put to them, run them into gaol. I think this Amendment is extremely reasonable. The foundation of this section is that evidence is not forth coming. We have heard a great deal of the good intentions of the Government; but when they are asked to embody their good intentions in the Bill they refuse. I am forced to the opinion that they intend to use this section at the bidding of any landlord in any district to torture, imprison, and ruin the people.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) is a little astray in thinking that this clause is applied to witnesses in proclaimed districts only. That is not so. A witness may be summoned from outside a proclaimed district, if the district in which he resides adjoins any county, part of which is proclaimed. A little area may be proclaimed, and three or four counties may abut upon it. This is a witness's section, putting witnesses to very serious inconvenience, and I think I may fairly say to real torture. It is their case which is to be considered, and not the case of criminals. If the hon. and learned Attorney General really does mean to confine the operation of the section to witnesses in a proclaimed district, it will be absolutely 603 necessary that the section should undergo some alteration. Now, if the Government think that they cannot get men to give a formal opinion, that evidence is not forthcoming on account of the intimidation which prevails, they are grievously mistaken as to the quality of the men they have supporting them in Ireland. They will have no such difficulty. But if this Amendment is accepted, there will be a chance of some one amongst the Government's supporters being honest enough not to swear up to the mark. I am well acquainted with what the effect in many cases of similar provisions to this is, and I do say that unless some precaution of this sort is taken, the same thing which occurred to my knowledge tinder the Crimes Act will occur again. If the Government do not accept some Amendment, confining in some way the operation of this section, undoubtedly it will be made the vehicle of very considerable oppression. I did not rise to detain the Committee at any length; but I thought it necessary to point out that this is a witness's clause, that it is the case of witnesses that is to be considered, and that the hon. and learned Attorney General for England is quite mistaken if he thinks witnesses are protected by the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I venture to think that, so far, the Government have not appreciated the immense importance of this Amendment. We have already seen, from the discussion, that the clause has been drafted in great haste and with a very great want of care. It is rather curious that, in an important Bill of this kind, such blunders should have been committed in the first few lines, occasioning, as they do, greater discussion in the Committee. The hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has already admitted the faultiness of the clause by accepting the Amendment as to sworn information. The Amendment now proposed does not carry the safeguard very much further, but its adoption will make people feel safer. The object of having a sworn information was to prevent an abuse of this very extraordinary provision, and I cannot conceive any Criminal Law which ought to be surrounded with greater safeguards than this. This clause simply amounts 604 to the introduction into the Irish Criminal Law of the Inquisition. It is the first time that it has been introduced permanently into that law. I should like to hear what the hon. and learned Attorney General would say, if it were to be proposed to introduce permanently such an Inquisition into the Criminal Law of this country. What is it that is demanded? It is proposed, and I think most reasonably proposed, that not only should there be a sworn information, but that there should be some inquiry made beforehand—before the sworn information is laid—that there is difficulty in getting evidence. We have not had any information from the Government as to the cases in which similar power, under the Act of 1882, was put into execution. The great danger of a clause of this kind is that it may be used for purposes other than the detection of crime. I can well imagine some unscrupulous official—however guarded you are, it is impossible not to have such people about you—using this power with the greatest cruelty. Now, what were the cases in which inquiries took place under the Act of 1882? We have been told that inquiries took place in 119 cases. I asked in how many cases the inquiries were held after examination? That is a most pertinent inquiry from the very point of view of this Amendment. We are entirely left in the dark on that subject. I think that if an answer had been given, we should have found that out of these 119 cases, probably half of them never ought to have been investigated. I suppose the discussion of this Amendment will take up some time, and that presently the Government will say we are obstructing the Committee. But I cannot understand any more important Amendment being proposed than this, and I cannot understand any Government who have really at heart the introduction of a measure which shall be an improvement to the Criminal Law not desiring that a provision of this kind shall be as little harsh and as little distasteful as possible. I think it is the duty of the Committee to insist upon this Amendment.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I really think that this is one of the points upon which the Government might very well have met the proposals that have been made from this side of the House. I cannot think that the 605 hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has fully answered the points raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell). First of all, the hon. and learned Attorney General says that if a district is proclaimed, it follows, as a matter of course, that this power should come into operation. In answer to that, you say that it is not at all a necessary consequence, that there may be reasons quite apart from the difficulty of obtaining evidence which might lead to the proclamation of a district. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has already, this afternoon, told us that with reference to the Kerry Moonlighters he had no difficulty whatever in obtaining evidence and convictions. The men were tried at Cork. Well, but you might have proclaimed both Kerry and Cork, and yet you would have had no difficulty in obtaining the conviction of the men. There is another thing the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has not remarked. He spoke as if this clause only operates in the proclaimed district. That is not so. The moment you have got a district proclaimed, and the offence sworn to upon information, you may force every man in Ireland to attend to give evidence—under this clause upon the mere suggestion that a man belonging to Antrim, Tyrone, Dublin, or elsewhere, knows something about what has happened in Kerry, you may subject him to this exceptional form of examination. The hon. and learned Attorney General has made no observation in answer to that point; therefore, it is quite plain that the operation of this clause is a far wider one than that of the mere proclaimed district. In point of fact, every man in Ireland is subjected to the operation of the clause. It is quite obvious that this is not a small question, but a very large question. What objection can there be to meeting hon. Members in this matter? I am quite certain that if this clause referred to England, we should not feel the difficulty about it we do now. We know very well that in England this clause would not be put into operation unless there were some very strong reasons for it, and that there would be confidence in the administration of the clause. We know that, justly or unjustly, that feel- 606 ing, generally speaking, would not exist in the greater part of Ireland; therefore, it is necessary to give satisfaction to all reasonable demands. Let me ask what is demanded? You are asked, first of all, that a sworn information should be made as to the crime. The Government admit that—a very proper admission. Well, what objection can you have, having that sworn information, that it should be sworn that you cannot get evidence? You have plenty of people at your command. Having admitted there should be sworn information as to crime, why should you object to having sworn information that a state of things exists which makes it impossible to got evidence without resorting to this section? You cannot, it seems to me, by the adoption of this Amendment impede seriously the administration of justice; whereas, on the contrary, it will give an appearance, at all events, which will satisfy people that this clause, stringent as it is, will not be applied unless there is particular reason for its application. The present proposal seems to be so reasonable that I cannot understand the objection of the Government to accept it.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Mr. Courtney, it certainly is difficult to speak in moderate language when one has to deal with the class of observations the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) favours the House with when criticizing the proposals of Her Majesty's Government. I have not the slightest objection to meeting fair criticism in the House, and I am perfectly willing, if I am wrong, to admit I am wrong, or if I feel I have put forward something I cannot support, to say so at once. I have been very much surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who has for years been known, not only to this House, but to England and the world, as a great jurist, who has been a Law Officer of the Crown, who for many years practised the science of the law, should put such arguments before us as he has done during the course of these debates. I do not want to refer to matters that have gone before, on the second reading of the Bill, although I may have to do so on some future stage of the debate; but we heard a great many arguments on Friday last from the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the distinction be- 607 tween the word "offence" and the word "crime," which were answered conclusively by Ms own Bill of 1882 and by the Preamble of the Bill of 1882.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I will with the very greatest pleasure. I will accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman. He told us the other night there was a broad distinction between "offence" and "crime"—that "offence" was a mild offence.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am sorry, Sir, that I somewhat irregularly accepted the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman. I must go into the question on another occasion. I will now deal with what he has said to-night on this particular Amendment. He has suggested that, in respect to this clause, there should be some such precaution set round the action of the Attorney General as that there should be a sworn statement that, owing to intimidation, or some other cause, evidence is not forthcoming. I wonder whether he remembers the section of his own Bill? Was there, in the Bill of 1882, any precaution of this kind? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No.] The right hon. Gentleman says "no." Why did he not say so when he was addressing the Committee? Why did he not tell the Committee what was the distinction between 1882 and the present time?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I will tell the hon. and learned Gentleman. The distinction between 1882 and the present time is the difference between the condition of Ireland at that time and now. [Cheers.]
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Sir, it is most extraordinary the right hon. Gentleman should think that can pass muster in this House. I am not dealing with the applause which comes from below the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman's point is that, although in a particular proclaimed district you cannot get evidence, in some other parts of Ireland you can get evidence with perfect ease, and that, therefore, you ought to put some safeguard round the person who has to put the Act in force. Our clause is certainly justified by the 16th section of the Bill of 1882. By that 608 section there was exactly similar power given to the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. Although I have no objection to the right hon. Gentleman swallowing his own words as often as he likes, I think that when he attacks this Bill and those who have framed this Bill, and when he insists upon precautions being inserted in this clause, he should, at least, tell us why precautions are required now and why they were not required in 1882. That is not all. Has England ever been proclaimed? Has it ever been necessary to bring in a Crimes Bill for England? Yet, what did the right hon. Gentleman do in the Explosives Bill of 1883—a year later? I do not suppose he remembers it—at any rate, it is very convenient to be able to forget all your own legislation, all your own speeches, all your own arguments, when what you wish to do is to make a Party opposition. I have noticed as a most curious thing that the right hon. Gentleman quotes everybody except himself, and yet there is nobody who has made more powerful speeches on these and kindred subjects than the right hon. Gentleman. I am not going to read the section, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman, and I inform the House, that in the Explosives Act of 1883 there was a section of a much more stringent character than that under discussion, for it said that in every part of the United Kingdom, without affidavit, without any person being charged, without a search warrant being obtained, or anything else, an inquiry of this kind may be set on foot. Neither the Bill of 1882 nor the Act of 1883 made provision for sworn information at all.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am obliged for the correction. The Act of 1882 does, but the Explosives Act of 1883 does not. Of course I cannot hope to convince right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are of the character of mind possessed and enjoyed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby; but, at any rate, when we are looking at this clause, and to the proviso that it is thought desirable to enact, I think we may fairly appeal to the House not to go back to a second reading discussion of this Bill. It is idle to suggest that the difference between this clause and the Act of 1882 is to be found in the 609 condition of Ireland now and the condition of Ireland then. Once given that the Preamble of the Act of 1882 was proved, then Clause 16 of that Act becomes a proper clause—once given that the Preamble of this Bill is proved, then this clause that we are discussing is proved. All I can say is, that willing as I am, and willing as Her Majesty's Government are to consider fairly suggestions for carrying out the Preamble of this Bill, we do object to Amendments being made, supported by right lion. Gentlemen opposite, which are totally at variance with the principles of the Bill, and at variance with the principles which he has accepted in measures of his own. I must say we are driven to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to facilitate the debate when he makes speeches like that which we heard from him just now.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
We are only at the beginning of what will be a long discussion in Committee; and I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) who, as we all know, is a very amiable man, should lose his temper, as it will prevent the Bill being discussed in a fair and judicial spirit. I must say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) spoke in a very calm manner, and without making any attack or any offensive observations upon anyone. He gave his reasons, which appeared to mo to be very solid reasons, in support of this Amendment in a very temperate way, and his reasons wore well worthy of consideration. If they are answered, they should be answered in the spirit in which they were delivered. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in answering the arguments of my right hon. Friend—if answer it can be called, because his style of meeting the case is worn threadbare—has referred to the Act of 1882. Well, as far as I am individually concerned, I disapproved of the Act of 1882, and I voted against it, and spoke against it, just as I am voting and speaking against this Bill; but my right hon. Friend near me was well founded in calling attention to the different state of things that existed in Ireland then, though I do not think his observations justified the measure passed in that year. But to meet this argument my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General 610 says, that once it is granted upon the second reading that the principle of a Bill is proved, then the necessity for the provisions of that Bill follows the proof of that Preamble. He says this is the case in regard to the Bill of 1882—so he says that the Preamble of the Bill now under discussion is proved, the proving of the provisions of the Bill also follows. But my hon. and learned Friend fails to see a marked distinction between the two cases. There was a Preamble to the Act of 1882, and it was—That whereas by reason of the action of secret societies and combinations for illegal purposes in Ireland, the operation of the ordinary law has become insufficient for the repression and prevention of crime, and it is expedient to make further provision, &c.Well, I turn to the Bill which my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General regards, I presume, with something like parental fondness. What is its Preamble? Where is it to be found? It is not to be found; there is no Preamble at all. This is the title of the Bill—A Bill to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of crime in Ireland, and for other purposes relating thereto;and straightway it goes on to the enacting part. There is no Preamble whatever. I would call the hon. and learned Attorney General's attention to another distinction between the Act of 1882 and the Bill under discussion. In the first place the Act of 1882 was not proposed to be incorporated in the permanent general Criminal Law of the country. It was avowed as a temporary measure, as legislation to meet a temporary condition of things. That Bill was put forward to meet an exceptional case, but the present Bill of the Government is part of what is to be their permanent policy for the management of the affairs of Ireland. It is not put forward as necessary to meet a sudden emergency, to grapple with some exceptional outbreak of crime. The measure is not resorted to as a "hateful expedient," because it could not be avoided in the nature of things; but it is to be regarded for the future as part of the Tory policy for the government of Ireland. There is another point in the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General to which I would like to refer. Clause 16 of the Act of 1882 expressly excluded from its operation a subject which this Bill relates to, and which will 611 be found, as we contend, liable to great abuse. Under the 16th section of the Act of 1882, all matters relating to illegal assemblies were excluded.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
Section 16 provided that where a sworn information had been made that an offence had been committed, any magistrate could summon a person to appear before him, though no one was charged with the offence. If my hon. and learned Friend will look at the 1st sub-section of that Section 16, in the Act of 1882, he will find that an offence for the purpose of that section means—Any felony or misdemeanour, and also any offence against this Act, with the exception of the offences specified in Sections 10 and 11.Now, the offence specified in Section 10 is the ease of illegal meetings; while Section 11 deals with the question of the arrest of persons found out at night under suspicious circumstances.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Section 10 deals with meetings prohibited by the Lord Lieutenant as being dangerous to the public peace and safety. Section 8, Sub-section 1, makes it an offence to take part in any riot or unlawful assembly.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
I gave references to Sections 10 and 11; but perhaps I ought to have said illegal meetings. I thought I had said so, and I think I did. So much for the answer, or rather the attempted answer, of my hon. and learned Friend opposite to the speech of my right hon. Friend near me. I do not think the attempt was at all a successful one. My right hon. Friend says that it would be possible under this section, unless some safeguard is introduced such as is contemplated in this Amendment, to summon persons from any part of Ireland for the purpose of giving evidence with reference to a crime committed in any other part of Ireland; and it is not too much to say that this exceptional power, which even the Government themselves have not sought to justify, except by reference to special circumstances which prevent evidence being forthcoming on the ground of intimidation, ought to be safeguarded by 612 showing the existence of these causes as justification for the provision. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General complains of the opposition to this Bill, and seems to insinuate, without stating it, that this Amendment is of an obstructive character; I deny that it is obstructive; but I do not hesitate to say that I look upon this Bill as mainly and essentially a bad Bill, and that I think it will work mischief; and, thinking that, I feel I should fail in what I consider to be my duty if I did not, so far as I could, resist it and where unsuccessful in resistance endeavour, to the best of my power, to get safeguards introduced into it.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I rise for the purpose of supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy). I do so because this clause, like the whole of this detestable Bill—which is more detestable to hon. Members for Ireland than it can be to anyone else—provides for what I may call a Star Chamber examination of the people in Ireland. With regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster), I may say that he is setting a very bad example to Irishmen here by falling into a temper without provocation. If there are men in any section or quarter of this House who ought to be excused for getting into a temper on this Bill, or who have reason on their side for getting into a temper over this Bill, it certainly should be, to my mind, the Representatives of the people of Ireland. I would, therefore, advise the hon. and learned Gentleman not to give way to that restiveness under criticism of this Bill, and not to copy the style of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) when dealing with matters affecting Ireland. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork simply provides that no person shall be arrested and brought before this inquisition unless there is sworn information to the effect that this is the only way of getting evidence to convict. But the Government mean by this secret inquiry—and they cannot get out of the situation in any other way—that there is intimidation abroad in the district that prevents evidence of the offences being given and causes evidence to be withheld. All the Amendment asks is that a clause might be inserted, or a line might be inserted, 613 in the Bill providing that before men are brought into this Star Chamber to be examined on whatever matter the magistrate likes—it shall be proved before this action is taken that there is intimidation in the district with regard to the crime upon which the person is called upon to give evidence. I do not think anything more reasonable could be proposed in this House. The refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment, to my mind, will be interpreted by the Irish people into a belief that the Government do not want so much to inquire about crime in these secret courts of inquiry in particular places in Ireland, but that they want to have power to examine in secret men of all kinds and descriptions on whatever subjects they may be interested in, or with regard to any matter which the landlords of the district may be interested in. I can conceive nothing more likely than that, in a district where some sort of offence has occurred, men in that neighbourhood for their own purposes trying to get evidence upon a certain matter, will accuse a number of leading politicians in the place and have them brought before the secret court or inquisition, and have them questioned on matters concerning the relations of landlords and tenants. The Bill may be also used in this way. The local landlords and the local magnates may find political agitation in their district very unpleasant, and they in conjunction with the Castle Authorities may wish to get their opponents out of the way.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is discoursing at large. He must confine himself to the principle of the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
What I was endeavouring to do was to show that if the safeguard contained in the Amendment is not accepted it may be possible for the Government Authorities to have men brought before these secret courts of inquiry on the pretence of their having some knowledge of crime in the neighbourhood, but in reality for the purpose of extracting information on subjects of quite a different nature—information on matters concerning the interests of the landlords. We know what has been done in Ireland, and the Amendment of my hon. Friend, as I take it, is framed for the purpose of providing that no person shall be called 614 before the secret court of inquiry except persons likely to give evidence in regard to crime, and who would not otherwise give evidence. Now, I do not see why—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman does not appear to have comprehended the Amendment, to which he is not speaking. The Amendment requires that "it shall be stated that owing to intimidation or other improper cause evidence is not forthcoming."
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I should wish, Sir, to be in Order, and what I was trying to argue when you interrupted me was that as the Amendment provides that there shall be evidence to prove that evidence cannot be got with regard to an offence in consequence of intimidation. This Amendment is only a safeguard that the court of inquiry will only be called into requisition in cases where it is absolutely clear that the usual mode of getting evidence has failed, or is not available. I do not think that it is at all unreasonable that the Government, before they seek to get evidence in this demoralizing way, in this unconstitutional manner, shall be required to have exhausted all other legitimate methods of getting evidence, and that they shall be in a position to prove before calling this Star Chamber method into play, that it is not possible to obtain evidence in the ordinary course. The refusal of the Government to accept this simple Amendment is nothing more than another proof added to those which they have already given, that they intend not only to give us coercion in Ireland, but to force whatever kind of coercion they like down our throats without any regard to our representations or inclinations in the matter.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has delivered three speeches in opposition to the Amendment without advancing a single argument against the substance of that Amendment. The first time he addressed us he simply objected to the wording of the Amendment as implying a preliminary inquiry which could not have taken place. That was a mistake which was disposed of by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), who pointed out that the word "forthcoming" should be substituted for "with- 615 held." When the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General got up a second time the only objection he advanced was that this section would not be put in operation except in a proclaimed district, and that that was safeguard enough. It was then pointed out that that was not a safeguard, inasmuch as the Lord Lieutenant could proclaim a district whenever it appeared to him necessary, and without any crime whatsoever existing. Then the third speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General was to the effect that there was a similar section inserted in the Act of 1882. It therefore comes to this, that the hon. and learned Attorney General supposes that there was some reason against such an Amendment discoverable in 1882, which in his opinion is not discoverable now because he has not stated it now. If there is a reason against it now why does not the hon. and learned Gentleman state it? And if there is no objection to it, and we assume so in the absence of argument, why not have the Amendment in the Act? Probably there was some objection to it in 1882 which is not now stated. The only reason why this section should be adopted at all is that there may be some difficulty in obtaining evidence. Will it be for one moment suggested that this section should be put into operation except on this ground? If this section should not be put into operation except on this ground, why not enact that it shall not be put into operation except on this ground? What is the objection to this enactment? The ground upon which the Act of 1882 was enacted was that there was a serious state of crime then existing in Ireland, and therefore the ostensible ground for it was the unusual amount of crime and disturbance; but it has been expressly stated that this measure has not been brought forward or based on statistics of crime. If this is so, then there is all the more apprehension that the Bill may be used for political purposes—much more ground for this apprehension than there was in the case of the Act of 1882. It has been stated—and I think it has been stated by a Cabinet Minister—that the object of this Bill is to put down the National League in Ireland. It is therefore only reasonable that Irish Members should be jealous as to the application of this Act, and should be careful 616 to see that safeguards should be inserted so as to prevent its being illegitimately used against political opponents, and not for the purpose of repressing crime. I could mention cases in this country where it would be very convenient for us Liberals to have such a power as that contained in this clause; but it would be a bad thing to give such a power to us. There are cases of Boycotting by the Primrose League, which it would be convenient for us to have the power of inquiry into under cover of investigating matters of crime. It would be very advantageous to us to be able to investigate all the operations and workings of the Primrose League. It would be convenient for us to find out how the practice of Boycotting had been applied to shopkeepers, and how the system had been worked, by the landlords, who are stated to have given their farms entirely to Church people and Conservatives. It is because it would be possible to abuse powers of this kind and to use them for these illegitimate purposes, that we wish to have the security guaranteed by this Amendment put into the Act. We wish to provide that the only ground upon which the power conferred by the clause in question could be put into operation shall be that of the difficulty of obtaining evidence. Another illegitimate reason for putting this power into operation would be the ascertaining the defence of a prisoner while putting him upon his trial, and without eliciting evidence in his favour. I do not say the Act would be used in this way; but it is only reasonable that we should take precautions to prevent such a thing, and that we should see that this section shall not be put into operation for any purpose except that contemplated by the Legislature when the clause was added to the Act.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
The clause the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) wishes to press upon the attention of the Committee is for the protection of witnesses from the insults they would be subjected to if the clause passed in its present form without this safeguard. When the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) rose to answer the arguments in favour of this Amendment and to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), we expected 617 that he would demolish those arguments, or, at any rate, that he would endeavour to deal with them. The hon. and learned Gentleman rose in such a heat, however, that he probably lost control of himself. At any rate, I think that everyone will admit that he did not touch the arguments adduced by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of this Amendment, and I think we cannot do better in discussing this measure than to avoid as far as possible the heated method in which the hon. and learned Gentleman addressed himself to the matter. He said that the first information, which merely stated on oath that the crime had been committed, was sufficient, and that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) was quite unnecessary. Well, Sir, the information on oath that a crime has taken place does not in the least touch the difficulty which the hon. Member for Cork wishes to guard against. The information on oath, as the Bill at present stands, is to state that a crime has taken place; but this does not meet the difficulty which my hon. Friend wishes to lay before the Committee. I think that in dealing with all the provisions of this Bill and with the Amendment, the Committee ought to devote great and serious attention to this matter, because it is now proposed that the terms of this drastic Coercion Bill are to be perpetual. Hitherto, when it has been the duty of any Government to propose a Coercion Act, the measure has always been limited to a certain period; consequently, when we are asked to pass a drastic Coercion Act, not for a period, but in perpetuity, it behaves hon. Gentlemen to be careful to safeguard the interests of the people whom they ask this House to coerce. We on these Benches would wish very much to have some other statement from the Treasury Bench besides that of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, in which some reasons might be convoyed to us for rejecting this moderate proposal. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General did not condescend to give us any reasons for rejecting the Amendment. Now that we see other legal Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench, we have a right to appeal to them on this matter, and I think the least one of them could do would be to rise and give us something, at any rate, 618 in the nature of a reason against this proposal.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
It seems to me that the arguments in favour of this Bill, and in favour of every clause of it, and the grounds upon which every Amendment proposed from those Benches is rejected are that the clauses of this measure are similar to the clauses in the Act of 1882, as if the Act of 1882 were the perfection of legislation, as if that Act were a just measure required by the necessities of the case. Hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, of course, do not agree with us; but there is not an Irish Member on these Benches—and I fancy there are now a good number of English Members in agreement with us—who did not regard the Act of 1882 as one of the most infamous measures ever submitted to Parliament. We contended then, and we contend now, that it was not required by the necessities of the day, and that there were provisions in that Act which were simply a disgrace to England, the only thing to be said for it being that it was not so bad as this Bill, and perhaps not quite so bad as some of the great Coercion Bills which preceded it. The answer to the argument that the clause was in the Bill of 1882, is, that two wrongs do not make a right. The argument that the clause was in the Bill of 1882, and that, therefore, without any other suggestion or argument, it is to be taken as a just proposal, is, to my mind, a most preposterous and ridiculous proposition, which would never be listened to for a moment in any Assembly except one prepared to carry this Bill through, whether it be right or wrong. With regard to the taunts which have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), in regard to his having "swallowed his principles," I should like to know who have most "swallowed their principles"—the Liberal Party, or the Party on the other side who declared, in 1885, that coercion was unnecessary—the Party who coquetted with the Nationalists through the Lord Lieutenant, and who said, if they were supported by the Irish vote, they would go in for Home Rule. The idea of the hon. and learned Attorney General taunting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with having forgotten his principles is an evi- 619 dence of an audacity that I should not have thought Members of this House capable of, if I had not evidence of it before my own eyes. What is the reason for rejecting an Amendment like this? Do Ministers really want this House to understand that they want this power of secret inquiry even when witnesses are forthcoming? Perhaps they do. But if they do not, why is it that they have not avowed it up to the present time? One of the pretences upon which they justify this Bill is that evidence is not forthcoming to convict criminals; but when they reject an Amendment of this kind, they confess that they want an inquisitorial power—that they want to confer upon the Executive in Dublin Castle power to act—not upon any sworn or trustworthy information which can be submitted to them—but that they want to act upon the information of Irish landlords, who will sneak up the back stairs of the Castle to confer with them in whispers in order to induce them to protect their interests. The Government want to act upon the whispers of ruffians and villians of this description. This Act would not be so bad if it were not for the fact that it will be used to advance the iniquitous cause of these landlords—these sneaking creatures who hate their countrymen, and who want to deprive them of all the liberty that a free people should possess. Again, it would be all right if these people to whom I am referring had not in Dublin Castle a sympathetic Executive. What will render the absence of this Amendment more than ordinarily unjust is that in Dublin Castle the rack-renting landlords will find sympathy from top to bottom. In Dublin Castle what every one of them whispers will be received as Gospel, and the oaths of the people, in contradiction of such whispers, will be treated as nought. This is what will render this provision, and will render every other provision of the Bill, so exceedingly dangerous. I cannot too strongly impress upon the House this feature of the case, and I hope every opportunity will be seized to make it plain to the English people that this Bill is to be worked, not by an impartial Executive, but by one that is thoroughly partizan, and is determined to be partizan, and will continue to be partizan so long as it can find support in this country.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I make no apology for addressing the Committee upon this Amendment at this period, because I think I speak with some authority upon this question—authority derived from my own criminal knowledge and experience, I myself having undergone imprisonment, accompanied with the luxuries of prison clothes and oakum-picking, for six months under a measure of this kind. When complaints and recriminations are bandied from one side of the House to the other, to me they are not very convincing. I was much struck by an observation of an hon. Friend of mine the other night. Speaking of the readiness with which different Governments adopted a coercive policy for Ireland, he said that whether it was the upper or the nether millstone that did the grinding—whether the Coercion Act was a Liberal or a Tory one—still we were ground all the same. With reference to this Amendment, even if we cannot get our views accepted, still we will stand in the position of making a reasonable demand in regard to every line of the Bill, leaving to the Government the onus of refusing those demands. What do we ask now? We ask, in this Amendment, that where a crime is committed that these ridiculous powers of secret inquisitorial investigation shall not be granted unless there is some reason to believe that an offence has been committed, and that, owing to intimidation, the evidence in connection with it is not forthcoming. I think that is a very fair and a very proper proposition. I had not the advantage of hearing the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster); but it has been reported to me from these Benches, that in that speech he said practically nothing, and that he only indulged in a tu quoque argument with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). I think we have a right to claim that some Member of Her Majesty's Government shall stand up and tell us what they want by this Bill. Do they want to put down crime? We give them very large power to do that. Do they want where crime has been committed to bring prisoners to justice? You have power to do that in the existing law, and where you have not we give it to you in this Bill, and we concede 621 full power to bring criminals to justice. But you say you want power to examine witnesses—either for or against the accused—secretly. I think this is an unconstitutional demand. It is one that ought to be given only on very solid grounds, and until you have shown that some very great necessity exists for it, you have not a leg to stand on. If intimidation is rife in Ireland, it must be very easy for you to prove it—and that is all we ask for in the Amendment—that you shall prove that crime is rife in a district before you ask for powers of secret inquisition—that you shall show that the people are unwilling to come forward to give evidence against criminals. If you do not do that, it is monstrous to ask for these powers. What will happen at these secret inquiries? Why, the Resident Magistrates—men who have no legal knowledge, except such as will satisfy the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—and I am of opinion that it is a very meagre amount of legal knowledge that will satisfy him—such Resident Magistrates may put to witnesses any questions they like. They may ask a man whether the moon is made of green cheese, and where, for certain philosophical or other reasons, the witness declines to answer the question, they may send him to prison for an indefinite period. Magistrates, it is said, have at the present time power to commit a person for not giving an answer, but that is not so much the question. The question really is the amount of power the magistrate is to have to originate inquiries. His legal knowledge, or the construction of his mind, may not be perfect—and yet, under the Act, you are going to have no check upon him. On that question, if it is to be asked, he himself is the sole judge and the only authority to commit the witness if he refuses to answer. Bearing always in mind the serious fact that in a disturbed district a person who goes before a tribunal and comes out in a mysterious way is set down, more or less, as a marked man, I think you should grant to us that there shall be proof that in those districts there is such intimidation as warrants you in taking the powers under the clause. We only ask that, before you take to yourselves power of bringing every man, woman, and child into the secret chamber of the magis- 622 trate—before you take power to examine them on every act of their lives, every act of association and intimacy—you should prove, not merely that there has been crime committed in the district, but that you should also prove that the state of disorganization is such that the people do not sympathize with the law, and that they are willingly shielding the criminal, and that evidence is not forthcoming. I say we have a right to insist, within the prescribed limits of debate here, that there should be an answer to this argument from the Government Bench. Why is it the Government will not answer these words? Let them stand up and tell us why they refuse to insert the provision which my hon. Friend proposes, that this secret inquiry shall only take place when it is proved that there is need for it. We want it proved that there is sympathy with the criminal, not before you punish crime, but before you adopt this secret method of procedure. I think we are entitled to an answer on that point, and that before we get much further we shall obtain it.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present.
§ MR. COX (Clare, E.)
said: I cannot understand why the Government do not accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy). It seems to mo that the Amendment is a very reasonable one—that the Attorney General should be satisfied that, owing to intimidation or other improper cause, evidence has been withheld before this mysterious inquiry is instituted. It is very easy for the Government to prove that intimidation exists, if it does exist; and we consider that this clause should be safeguarded by the Amendment of my hon. Friend, which will do something to remove from the minds of Members of this House and the people of Ireland the impression that the Bill is aimed at the political opponents of the Government, and not at crimes?
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
I think, in refusing the Amendment of my hon. Friend, the Government are themselves responsible for the delay which may take place in discussing this point further this evening. The Government ought, in my opinion, readily to admit an Amendment which, while it 623 explains their moaning, is some measure of protection that this clause shall not be put in force improperly. The fact that there has been intimidation can very easily be explained, and I cannot understand why the Government persist in refusing to accept our proposal intended to secure that this provision shall be fairly worked.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
As far as I can judge, the position of the Government on this point is that they have, by refusing to accept this Amendment, smashed their whole argument for the passage of the Bill. It is really on the prevalence of intimidation throughout the whole of Ireland that their argument for the Bill is based. If intimidation and undue influence exist all through Ireland, as has been contended by the Government for the last four or five weeks, the words proposed to be introduced by my hon. Friend would have no practical effect whatever en the working of the Act; because although the words may seem to be a limitation of the powers of the clause, if the contention of the Government is correct, there would be no limitation in practice. The words amount to this, that the Attorney General for Ireland shall satisfy himself that, owing to intimidation or improper influence, evidence has been withheld. I need not point out that if intimidation is so widespread as the Attorney General for Ireland says it is, the introduction of the words would not act as a real limitation of the powers in this Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, and everyone connected with the Government knows, that there is no such thing as general intimidation, except that exercised by the landlords. The original contention of the Government is fallacious in every respect, and they are aware that under examination it entirely falls to pieces. We ask that the Government should satisfy themselves that they have proof that there is intention to interfere with the ends of justice before they resort to the measure which is proposed; and I say it would be an abuse of government in this or any other country were that precaution not taken. In Scotland this species of inquiry is only applied to cases of major crime; whereas in Ireland it is proposed to be applied to every crime constituted by this Bill. I do not see why the Govern- 624 ment should refuse to accept this Amendment, unless, as I have pointed out, they have utterly given up the whole case on which they found the Bill. Of course, if they have abandoned their position, then I admit that they are consistent in rejecting the Amendment. What has been our experience? We know that a clause similar to this was applied in Ireland to the persecution of many innocunt persons by the permanent Heads of Departments. They are the same to-day as they were then, with the exception of Sir Robert Hamilton, who has been run out simply because he was a moderate man, and his place has been taken by a military person, who will probably be replaced by the Under Secretary for Ireland (Mr. King-Harman), or some notorious and rabid Orangeman. The clause will be in the hands of the permanent officials. It is because of that, and because it will not be applied to the honest detection of serious crime, but to the purpose of continuing excessive rents in Ireland and to purposes even more unjust, that we wish to insert these words; and it is because the Government have no intention whatever of asking for this clause for the purpose of detecting real crime, but for defeating their political opponents by these underhand means, that they refuse to accept it.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
We have been discussing this clause at very considerable length, and although this Amendment has been spoken against by eminent lawyers on the Treasury Bench, I wish to state that no really intelligent reason has been given for declining to accept this Amendment. It was the Attorney General for England who struck the key note, that we should have unlimited confidence in the Lord Lieutenant, and that when he proclaimed a district the mere fact that this was done was conclusive evidence that everyone in the district was a rascal or assassin. I have pointed out, that although a district may be disturbed or proclaimed, it does not follow that the people in that district would have sympathy with all crime. The sworn information might disclose crime or offences which every individual in the district might reprobate, and under the clause the Attorney General would be in a position to drag everybody in the county before a magistrate, if they do not give as much evidence as is wanted. 625 That is a very alarming state of things. But they were not satisfied with ending there; they harked back to the old Crimes Act of 1882, and asserted that similar powers were included in that Act. Now there is a very great distinction between the provision of the Act of 1882 and the provision of this Bill as to the procedure for setting on foot this special inquiry. In the Act of 1882 you will find that this inquiry is set on foot by sworn information made and handed to any Resident Magistrate, and then the Act goes on to say that upon the sworn information the Resident Magistrate might summon and examine witnesses whom he believes to be material witnesses concerning the offence. I need not point out to the five eminent legal Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench what the meaning of "may" is here. A Resident Magistrate is a judicial functionary, and you say he may do certain acts, which means that he shall. In 1882, upon the information of any individual the Resident Magistrate really should call before him any material witnesses whom he found within his jurisdiction. The position in this Act is entirely different, because here the information is to be handed to the Attorney General, a gentleman who is not a judicial functionary, but who will have it in his discretion to say whether he shall or shall not direct the Resident Magistrate to hold an inquiry. I also desire to point out the distinction as to the method of proclaiming a district. Now, in the Act of 1882, we find that a Proclamation could only be made upon specific allegations that there had been crime and outrage. But in this case it will be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim any district upon no allegation whatsoever, but upon his own opinion that it would be wiser and better for the district to be proclaimed. Not having the safeguard as to the power of proclamation we are entitled, I think, to have the safeguard we now suggest. It has been argued ad nauseam that this Bill is necessary owing, first, to the existence of crime; and, secondly, to the existence of widespread demoralization and intimidation. If intimidation does exist, and if this clause is only necessary for intimidation, surely it would be only common sense and reason not to put this clause into force until you 626 have got at least one individual to swear there is widespread intimidation. I do not think that it is a real safeguard that some individuals should be called upon to swear. I have no doubt that you will find scores of land-agents, bailiffs, emergency men, and members of the Irish Patriotic Union who will most readily swear there is a widespread intimidation, but at least we should have this safeguard, that if they do swear they can be pilloried in this House and the public Press as liars and scoundrels. The least we are entitled to ask is that when this clause, which gives most drastic powers, is put into force, we should have some individual charged with the responsibility of putting it into force, some individual whose name would be before the public, and who could be dealt with in the public Press and in this House. The Government do not desire that; they desire that some gentleman, slinking about the Constitutional Club, should say to the Attorney General—"There are a number of tenants who are not paying their rents, and an inquiry ought to be held." If these powers of secret inquiry were given to men like Plunkett, there is not the slightest doubt they would be used most drastically. That is what we desire to prevent. We desire that any proceedings putting this section into force must be taken in the light of day. If the Government has any real belief in the existence of intimidation they can have no objection whatever to accept this Amendment. They will not accept it, however, and why? Because they know there is no real intimidation in the country. What did Inspector Davies, of Castleisland, one of the worst districts in Ireland, say before Lord Cowper's Commission? He said—Intimidation is very rife, but there are only two persons who are seriously interfered with owing to it.It is quite evident the Government mean to use these powers against their political opponents, and this Amendment, at any rate, has had the good effect of showing the falsity and the hollowness of the arguments put forward on a previous occasion in favour of this Bill. One by one we have seen their arguments torn to shreds; our observations will go to the public, and we have no fear but what the public 627 will deal between us fairly and justly. For that reason I hope the debate tonight will be continued until the Government give us some more honest, more straightforward, or, at least, intelligible answer to this Amendment.
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
The object of this Bill, or of this clause, is the detection of crime. Let us see what grounds the Government can have for refusing this Amendment. We contend that however good the evidence of the Government may be, however much the framers of this Bill may have directed it against crime, it will be used for other purposes; for the purpose of collecting debts, for the purpose of intimidation, the very thing they say now it is to remedy—for the purpose of intimidating, especially the peasant class, and for the purpose of breaking up combinations, whether economic, social, or political, rather than for the purpose of the detection of crime. We are told we must have unlimited confidence in the honour of the Lord Lieutenant or the Attorney General for Ireland. Of course, whore a Constitutional Government exists, not only in form but in reality, there is unlimited confidence in the honour, integrity, and patriotism of the Executive from the highest to the lowest branch of it. But the very fact that there is that confidence in the Executive, and in the honour of the servants of the Executive, does not prevent their power being hedged around by the law in every way, so that if they should go wrong there should be a check preventing them going far wrong. However you may trust the administration of the Executive, you should have checks to prevent them going wrong. I want to know why it is the Government object to have this check upon the improper and unconstitutional use of these very drastic powers which it is proposed to grant to the Attorney General for Ireland and to the Resident Magistrates? Let us see how these powers may be used. The clause may apply to an offence of any kind, the pulling down of a garden wall, or the burning of four or five pennyworth of hay, cattle trespassing on the highway—anything may be considered an offence, and dealt with under this clause. Wherever it is wanted to interfere with the organization of the people, wherever it is wanted to put on the screw so as to enforce the collection of rents, wherever it is wanted 628 to get at the secrets of the tenants, an offence will be ready to turn up. There are people in Ireland who will create offences—a person who wants to put this section in motion has nothing to do but to write a threatening letter to himself and nail it up on his own door—as one man was caught in the act of doing—and then go to the Resident Magistrate the next morning and claim that this clause shall b e enforced. Let us take an ordinary case of crime. As the Bill stands at present, unless there is some check against the abuse of this power, it may be used, although the police in the neighbourhood, and the Resident Magistrates in the neighbourhood, may have ample evidence as to who has committed a particular offence. There is nothing to prevent a sworn inquiry being held with the sole object of exercising a terrorism over the whole people of a neighbourhood. I cannot see what loss or damage would be done to the administration of the law by the small delay which the adoption of the precautions recommended would entail. It would be a delay in the interest of justice, fair play, and the good name and the good character of the neighbourhood, and would conduce to no mischief whatever, or in any way prevent the detection and the final punishment of crime. There is another consideration which I wish to advance. the whole history of Irish agrarian crime brings out the fact very prominently that agrarian crimes are not committed by the persons residing in the neighbourhoods where the crime is committed. Every Special Commission reveals that Castleisland is acknowledged to be one of the most disturbed districts of Ireland; but even there, if we may judge from previous agrarian disturbances, it is quite possible that the offences which have been committed have been committed by people from a distance, by people coming, possibly, 50 or 60 miles. In a case of that sort let us see what an advantage it would be to have some breathing time. Let the authorities make inquiries, and see whether or not there is reason to suppose that the real criminals were people belonging to the proclaimed districts. Suppose—and the supposition is not only a feasible one, but a very likely one in a great many instances to be correct—suppose the man who maimed cattle, or fired into a house, came from a 629 considerable distance, what would be the result? For an offence of which every person in the district would be innocent, the district would be subjected to this inquisitorial proceeding, which would spread terror among innocent men and do nothing to detect crime.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I have failed for some time to see the connection of the hon. Member's remarks with the Amendment before the Committee.
§ DR. COMMINS
I did not think my arguments were going too wide, Mr. Courtney; but I will, of course, bow to your decision. I was just about to point out one evil that would follow from the non-adoption of this Amendment. It is this, that it will be in the power of the evil-disposed of any neighbourhood to turn on this inquisition with all its persecutions and invidious accessories upon a perfectly innocent district. Under these circumstances, I submit that this Amendment is a very proper one, and unless it is adopted, or something equivalent to it is adopted, the efficiency of the Act will be greatly curtailed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 206: Majority 96.—(Div. List, No. 104.)
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I would propose, on page 1, line 8, to leave out "he," and insert "the Attorney General for Ireland." This is a small consequential Amendment.
In page 1, line 8, leave out "he," in order to insert "the Attorney General for Ireland."—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ Question, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
There is another consequential Amendment. I want to know what is to become of the word "may?" It seems to me that there was some little protection for us in these words as they originally stood; but now, as the clause is altered, it may not be necessary even for the Attorney General to have his inner consciousness satisfied. The moment he gets this power, he may act. I do not 630 know where the words would now follow, but it seems to mo that the Attorney General should have satisfied himself that this thing is clearly the case. "May" is always read in these Acts as "shall," and the word "may" will be taken as mandatory. I think I am right in that. That being so, the moment the sworn information is laid, the Attorney General will be bound, as I understand it, to direct this inquiry. I think it would be well to insert, instead of "may," the words "the Attorney General, if he is satisfied or thinks fit, may," leaving it to the personal decision of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not think that is too much to ask. Therefore, I trust the Government, now or on the Report stage, will give us some guarantee that the words I have proposed shall be substituted.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We think the word "may" covers the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite; but we have no objection to add after the word "may," "if he think fit," if the hon. and learned Member desires it.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, after "may," insert "if he think fit."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question, "That these words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I think the decision the Committee has just come to, rejecting the Amendment which was under discussion for some time, makes this Amendment I now propose still more necessary. We in this part of the House consider, when Parliament confers on an Irish Executive such enormous powers as those contained in this section, that some form of restriction ought to be imposed with the object of giving protection to the general public living in Ireland against an abuse of these powers. Now, the Committee has just decided that it will not require that before the Attorney General puts this machinery into motion some credible person shall have sworn in effect that there is some necessity for the exercise of the powers contained in the clause. The Committee having come to that decision, it appears to me to be more and more necessary that this matter should not be left on the unchecked initiative of the Irish Attorney General, an individual who, necessarily, 631 from his origin and Office, is more or less of a partizan, and that before he can move in the matter he should have the authority and sanction of some judicial tribunal in Ireland. I, therefore, propose that, instead of leaving this power to the more initiative of the Irish Attorney General, leaving it to him to institute this inquiry or not, as he thinks fit, that the matter should rest with no official of that bind, but should rest with one of the constituted Courts of Ireland, to whom the Attorney General should apply, in the first instance, with the object of obtaining its sanction before he puts the machinery given by this section into operation. Now, I quite concede that if we on this side of the House were able to look upon the provisions of this Bill from the same point of view as Gentlemen sitting on the Front Treasury Bench, that none of these restrictions and none of these protective provisions, which we are now endeavouring to insert, would be necessary, I quite concede that if we could look upon the Irish Executive, and on their employés in Ireland, with the same confidence and the same opinions generally as Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench, the proposals we are now making would be groundless; but, unfortunately, we do not share the confidence in themselves and their officials which the Government seem to entertain. When we get up and move Amendments to this Bill we are told that the powers contained in this clause and in this Bill will not be abused. We are told by the Irish Secretary that this Act will be exercised impartially. We are told that these powers will be used equally towards all sections of the community, and that they will not be used to harass or oppress any individual or any Party in Ireland. We know from experience, unfortunately, however, that whatever may be in the minds of the officials in this House who give us these declarations, that when the Act comes into force and these powers can be put into effect in Ireland, the hands that wield them are not those of the officials who give us these pledges in this House, but are those of the permanent officials in Ireland, who are utterly unamenable to Parliamentary criticism, and over whom we have no sort of check. It is all very fine for the Irish Secretary to tell us that this Act will be administered im- 632 partially. I have no doubt in the world that when he says that he means it, and I have no doubt if he personally supervises every little detail of Irish administration, that, perhaps, we would have some hope that the Act would be well administered; but we know perfectly well that the Irish Secretary is, except on matters of policy, the mere mouthpiece of the Irish Administration. We know that, in all matters of detail, and that in regard to all practical working of the Excutive Government in Ireland, the permanent officials in Ireland hold the strings, and it is their hands which run the machine. We know very well that the Irish Secretary has little more to do than to defend their action in this House when it is impeached on the Irish Benches. That being so, we must be excused if we refuse to accept the declarations of the Irish Officials in this House; and if this Act is going to be administered impartially, in the same unhesitating system as, perhaps, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen might expect, well, we have our own ideas as to how this Act is going to be wielded. We derive those ideas not from any speculative opinions of our own, but from the experience of several past Coercion Acts which have been enforced in Ireland during the past half-dozen years; and we shall, therefore, have to act on the opinions formed on our past experience rather than on the declarations made from the Front Tory Bench—declarations made in this instance, as they have been made in the past by Gentlemen occupying the same position, only to be disregarded when the check of the Parliamentary Session ceases to operate, and the officials in Ireland get the Act into their hands to work it. That being so, we have to look out for some check on the action of the Irish Attorney General; and I do not think, whatever may be the opinion of the Government on the policy of the Amendment itself, that if we are to seek a check of this kind it is suggested that any more reasonable check can be imposed than that which I have proposed in the Amendment—namely, the sanction of a Superior Court to an inquiry of this kind before it is held. Well, now, we may be told that the Irish Attorney General may be safely entrusted with the powers which will be conferred upon him by this clause, and that he is not likely to abuse 633 these powers. We may be told that so important a functionary as the Attorney General for Ireland is not likely to be swayed by passion or influenced by prejudice, and that he may be relied upon fairly and impartially to exercise the powers granted by this section. But, before we can accept that view of the matter, we must examine into some of the past actions of the present Attorney General. Let me take a case. Lot me suppose that a particular offence has been committed in Ulster, and let mo suppose that it seems good to the Irish Nationalists to hold a meeting in that part of Ireland. Supposing that a declaration on the part of the Nationalists to hold that mooting is met by a declaration on the part of the Orangemen that they will also hold a meeting, a counter demonstration likely to lead to disturbance; and suppose they carry out their declaration, and the Orangemen do hold their meeting; and suppose, in consequence of such action, that policemen and other people are shot down, and outrages in various forms are committed by the Orangemen. Let us suppose that some lives are lost in consequence of such action on the part of these people. What comes of this when we look at the action of the Attorney General in a case of this kind, when we remember what has been the action of the present Attorney General in a cognate matter? We know that when a contingency of that kind arose before that the Irish Attorney General, who no doubt did not hold Office at that time, but who had held Office, and who may hold Office again—we know that, so far from condemning, as he should have done, the action of the Ulster Orangemen, he declared when, in consequence of this action one unfortunate man lost his life at the hands of the police, that the blood of this young man lay on the head of Lord Spencer, who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. What I say is this, that officials who speak, and think, and act as the present Attorney General acted in cases of that kind should not have confidence reposed in them—we cannot feel confidence that such enormous powers as those contained in this section will be fairly and impartially worked if conferred upon them. Therefore it is more and more necessary, before an official of that kind gets into his hands the tremendous machinery 634 that this clause will place at his disposal, he should first obtain the authority and sanction of one of the constituted tribunals of the land on a case made by him for the purpose. It is all very well for the Attorney General to get up and toll us in this House that he is not an Orangeman, and that he has never known an Orangeman. Why, of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not an Orangeman. If he were, he would seriously stand in the way of his promotion. No Government with any decency could appoint an Orangeman as a Judge, and therefore the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not an Orangeman does not tell at all in this matter. The question is—has he or has he not Orange sympathies? And we believe, judging from statements out of his own mouth, that he has such sympathy, and that holding such sympathy he cannot in any sense be regarded by us as anything but a partizan, a party man holding strong views on matters of public policy, and not at all to be regarded in the light of a judicial functionary. Now, can any objection be taken to the change I put in with regard to the judicial authority? I do not propose that the Attorney General shall ask the sanction of any hostile body. I do not propose that he shall have to get the sanction of any body of persons who are likely to look with disfavour upon any proposal he makes. I propose that the veto on his action should be vested in. the Judges of the land—gentlemen whose praises right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench are never tired of sounding, and against whom as the persons wielding this authority no objection can be urged with any degree of decency from that quarter of the House. If the Attorney General for Ireland can make out a proper case for the exercise of the powers of this section there can be no possible contention that the Courts of Justice in Ireland, in whom my Amendment would vest a veto on this question, would in any way throw obstacles in the way of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or make the administration of this section difficult. The Judges, as we must assume in a matter of this kind, would be exceedingly likely to view with favour and to assist and facilitate in every way the action of the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this point of setting this 635 machinery in motion, and in that aspect of the matter, at any rate, no conceivable objection can be taken to the form of the Amendment. That being so, I would really press on the Government the propriety of considering whether this or some Amendment conceived in a similar spirit should not be accepted. Looking at the matter from every point of view, I, myself, cannot suggest any valid reason or objection which could be urged against my proposal. It cannot be urged that the application to a Court would in any way prejudice the Attorney General, or would in any way tend to militate against the success of the inquiry that was afterwards held. All that the Amendment proposes to do is to require that before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sets these enormous powers in motion, he should go to a Court of Justice and make out his case, and that the Judges of the High Court should judge whether the holding of such an inquiry is a necessary or a proper thing to do. Now, it was urged in reply to the case we endeavoured to make out from the last Amendment I proposed to the House that the mere fact that a district had been proclaimed by the Government was of itself a prima facie proof that inquiries, such as this section proposes to hold, were a necessity, and that it might be necessarily inferred from the fact that a district had been in that manner proclaimed, that an offence was committed in that district, that it was unlikely or impossible that evidence would be forthcoming to convict the person charged with the offence and to bring him to justice. Let me point out what I pointed out before, that however just that argument is as to the offences that might be likely as it is alleged to excite sympathy amongst certain classes of the population, that no such case can be made out against offences of a non-agrarian character. It cannot be contended that if somebody's pocket is picked, or somebody's house is broken into by burglars, or some other offence of that kind is committed, that the inference will be that it has been done by a Moonlighter, and that the act is accompanied with agrarian sympathies. It cannot be alleged that in a case of that kind, free from the taint of an agrarian character, there would be the smallest obstacle thrown in the way of getting evidence by the people, and it 636 cannot be alleged that a person concerned in a matter of that kind—that is to say, any person made the victim of an offence of that kind, would have the smallest hesitation in coming forward to give evidence. That being so, is it not in the highest degree oppressive to confer on an irresponsible official like the Attorney General power to make an inquiry under this section in a case of this kind? It would not be of the smallest advantage to hold such an inquiry, and no results of a useful character could possibly follow. Hold your inquiry by all means in cases where you have reason to think that from intimidation or other possible cause, that which you fear is likely to happen—namely, that evidence will not be forthcoming; but, unless you can make out a case of that kind, and unless it can be shown that there is some hesitation on the part of persons coming forward to give evidence, or, unless it is shown that there is combination amongst the people against coming forward to bring offenders to justice, I hold that it is inexpedient to hold inquiries of this kind. We have been frequently referred to the Scotch law. We have been referred to it as a justification of the present proposal of the Government, and we are told that when powers of that kind exist in Scotland, in the Scotch law, it is not an unreasonable thing for these powers to exist in respect of Ireland. Well, it has been shown very effectually that that is not a valid argument, and that this power, even if it really exists, is not practically in operation in Scotland. But that consideration is not relevant to the Amendment I am moving. What is relevant is that under the Scotch law, as I understand, and as I have been able to obtain information, the proceeding is strictly analogous to the proceeding I propose in the present Amendment. As I understand it, before this process can be put in force in Scotland, the authority of some judicial officer has to be obtained. No inquiry can be held without such sanction. No official in Scotland has taken on himself the complete and absolute power of holding an inquiry of this kind without regard to the sanction of any judicial Court. As I understand it, in Scotland, before you can use this power of holding a secret inquiry, you have to obtain the sanction of some con- 637 stituted Court of Law. You have to obtain that sanction on a case made out for the purpose. When it is said, therefore, that in passing this clause the Government are only extending to Ireland legislation which already exists in Scotland, and that this Amendment of mine is not necessary, we may retort—"If you wish to give us this law, give it to us as it exists in Scotland. Do not give us your version of it. Do not give us the Scotch law diluted through the mind of the Attorney General, altered to suit the wishes of the Government." If the Government wish to obtain the benefit of their argument derived from the Scotch law, let us, at least, in Ireland have the protection which the Scotch law gives to the Scotch people. Let this power be vested in the Executive in Ireland as it is in Scotland; let the law do for us in Ireland what it does for you in Scotland; take this power out of the hands of irresponsible officials and vest it in a Court of Justice. I have very little hope that the Government will accept this Amendment having regard to the manner in which Amendments are uniformly received from this quarter of the House, no matter how they are moved, or by what arguments they are supported—I have no great hope that they will be disposed to view this Amendment with any exceptional favour or with any more favour than they have extended to other Amendments. But I do appeal to hon. Gentlemen who permit themselves to be influenced by the declarations of the Government to the effect that the proposal they are making in this clause is simply to extend to Ireland a law which already exists in Scotland—I do appeal to them to see, when Scotch procedure is transferred to Ireland, that it is carried out as it is in Scotland, and that the same protection shall be given to us in Ireland that the Scotch public have in Scotland under that law as it exists there. It has been pointed out, and has been pointed out very properly, that the persons we are seeking to protect by this Amendment of ours are not the persons who commit the offences, but are witnesses against whom these powers may be used oppressively. We have had, as I have already pointed out, some experience of the way in which Irish officials act in matters of this kind, and when we study the action of the local magistrates in the 638 exercise of those powers conferred upon them by the Crimes Act, we cannot come to any other conclusion than that these powers were abused in many instances. They were wantonly set in motion, and, in nine cases out of ten, their being set in motion led to no possible good result. That being so, we do ask that before powers of this kind are again placed in the hands of these gentlemen, that the Legislature shall at any rate impose some small check on the action of those officials, and that this House shall be satisfied before they hand over these powers to the Irish Executive that some protection is provided for the benefit of witnesses against whom the powers may be oppressively used. It has been pointed out that the powers may be used not only against witnesses living in a proclaimed district, but against witnesses living outside that proclaimed district; in fact, against witnesses living anywhere in Ireland; and this being so, I ask is it unreasonable that before the Irish Attorney General shall be allowed to put those powers in force, he shall at any rate go before a competent authority and get the sanction of that authority for what he is going to do. If we could be even satisfied that the Attorney General himself would investigate every case before putting these powers in motion, we might in that case be content with whatever protection his personal supervision could give us; but we know very well that the Attorney General in this matter will simply act on the unchecked suggestion of the local magistrates or other local officials who put him in motion. We know that the duties of the Attorney General are such that it would be out of his power to investigate every case that came before him and to make the proper inquiries before he puts these powers or any other powers into operation. We know very well that the Attorney General has simply to take the word of the permanent officials in Ireland, and that in issuing his fiat for the holding of an inquiry of this kind we shall not have in reality the authority of the Attorney General at all, but the authority of some magistrate in the country who had set him in motion. We ask that that should not be allowed, and that if the Attorney General wants these powers, he should go to a tribunal who can investigate his demand and inquire for themselves whe- 639 ther there is any necessity for the exercise of these powers, and whether it is or is not expedient that they should be granted. We say that, in asking for that, we are asking for very little indeed; and I contend that if these powers should be handed over without cheek or control to the permanent officials in Ireland, this House should have some other check to give protection to the persons who may be arrested and harried by the exercise of these powers. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
In page 1, line 8, after "may," insert "apply to the High Court for an order directing an inquiry under this section, and thereupon the Court may, if satisfied that an offence has been committed as aforesaid, and that owing to intimidation or other improper cause, evidence in connection with such offence has been withheld, make an order accordingly, and may."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
The hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to make a somewhat long speech in support of his Amendment; but I think I shall be able in a very few words to show the Committee that it is an Amendment that we cannot be reasonably asked to accept. It is proposed in this Amendment that application shall be made to the High Court for an order directing an inquiry under this section, and that if the Court is satisfied that an offence has been committed and that evidence is withheld, they may make an order accordingly. It is on these two conditions—namely, that an offence has been committed, and that owing to intimidation or other improper cause, evidence is being withheld—being proved to its satisfaction that the Court is to make an order. It will be observed that provision has already been made by an Amendment requiring sworn information to strengthen this case. Sworn information is now required, and that sworn information will be the only information upon which a Court or anybody can be satisfied that an offence has been committed, so that the precaution the hon. Member desires to take is already taken. And then as to the other point—where there is intimidation or other improper cause and evidence in connection with the offence is being withheld, the matter 640 has been discussed and decided already this evening. The Committee have refused to require that the Attorney General shall have before him proof that owing to intimidation it is impossible to obtain evidence. It would be most unreasonable now, I say, that a Court should be required to find satisfactory evidence which the Committee decided about an hour ago the Attorney General should not require before taking action. I would like to point out to the Committee as the matter stands now, how generally unreasonable and contrary to the object of this Bill this Amendment would be. In the first place, the Amendment would be no real safeguard to anybody. The application to the Court is an ex parte application. It must be. There is no person to whom any notice can be given. No person can appear before the Court to show cause against the order asked for, and, therefore, it would be an ex parte matter, on affidavits that have been previously before the Attorney General with regard to this point. The only effect would be that there would be delay in consequence of having to make the application to the Court, and there would be of necessity the publication of the information which had. come to the knowledge of the Attorney General—a publication which would have the effect of possibly preventing the detection of the crime which it is the very object of the clause to detect. The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken in believing that in Scotland any application has to be made to a Court of law. No such application is necessary there. Therefore, the whole of the quarter-of-an-hour which the hon. Member devoted in his speech to that point—namely, the argument that in this matter Ireland should be treated on the lines of the Scotch law—was wasted with an argument which had no foundation in fact. Therefore, on these grounds I trust the House will not assent to the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman, and the substance of which has either been already decided, or if accepted would be hostile to the Bill.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I venture to dissent wholly from the view of the Solicitor General. I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of this Amendment. And though I support it on grounds somewhat different 641 from those of the hon. Gentleman who has moved it, I support it on grounds which appear to me to be quite sufficient. The speech of the Solicitor General only shows how entirely the Lord Advocate has neglected what would seem to have been his duty—namely, the duty of informing right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit upon the Front Bench what is the nature of the law of Scotland upon this point. It should have been shown to them that the Attorney General in England, and the Attorney General in Ireland, occupy a wholly different position to that of the Lord Advocate in Scotland. If the Lord Advocate in Scotland is not a judicial functionary, at least he is a quasi-judicial functionary. He certainly exercises a control over criminal proceedings which is wholly unknown to the spirit of English and Irish jurisprudence—a control which is of a judicial nature; and what I understand this Amendment to propose is to distribute the power vested in an executive functionary in Scotland, sitting in what is really a distinct judicial capacity—in the capacity of having a control over the criminal proceedings of the country—what I understand this Amendment to propose is to distribute this power between the Attorney General and the High Court in such a way as will really bring the proposition into accord with what is the law in Scotland. What is the function of the Attorney General for Ireland? So far from his being a quasi-judicial official he is a mere litigant, pursuing accused persons in a spirit of hostility. I give every credit to the Attorney General for Ireland for desiring to do his duty. I feel confident he will do that duty in a fair spirit; but in asking that the Committee should give such powers to him as are proposed by the Government, I would point out that the Committee will be sanctioning powers of a character wholly different from those vested in the Lord Advocate for Scotland. There is another consideration which surely should have weight with us. This is a power to be exercised though no person is charged with any offence. Will the Lord Advocate get up and say that he has been accustomed to allow inquiries of this kind to take place without any person being charged? Will he get up and say that there is a single case in the recent 642 history of Scotch law in which a roving Commission has been given to search for the purpose of getting up evidence for the trial into the consciences of all kinds of men, to search into the consciences of men who are charged with no crime, and are brought forward for no offence, but are simply told they must attend and give evidence? In Scotland it is a case of merely giving evidence, but here it is proposed that evidence should be given upon oath for purposes wholly different from those known in Scotland. That is the case put forward, and we are asked to give legislative sanction to what is wholly unknown in Scotland. I certainly think that this Amendment should receive the support of Members on this side of the House; first, because it is a proposal simply to vest in a Court and the Attorney General in Ireland powers which will be properly so jointly vested, and which are vested in Scotland in a similar manner in a judicial functionary; secondly, because the power proposed to be given by the Bill is a power far wider than that conferred upon any functionary in Scotland; and, thirdly, because the case we have got here is a case in which it will be possible to take evidence for the purposes of the brief on the trial, and make use of that evidence when it is taken in a way for which there is no precedent either in the law of Scotland, or, so far as I know, any other system of civilized jurisprudence.
§ MR. CHANCE
I think the speech of the Solicitor General is a sufficient example of the danger of allowing any Law Officer of the Crown to form an opinion upon a matter without presenting an affidavit before a Superior Court. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy) addressed the Committee for 30 minutes, during the greater portion of which time the Solicitor General was either sleeping, pretending to be asleep, or engaged in sneering at the hon. Gentleman; and then he gets up and says he proposes, in a few words, to completely demolish the case of my hon. Friend. He proceeds to do it—to his own satisfaction clearly. He says my hon. Friend's arguments are wholly inadmissible, because the Court must be satisfied that an offence has been committed, and that intimidation is rampant in a district. But the Government, who 643 have introduced the Bill, have laid it down that they require this Bill and this power because these offences have been committed, and because intimidation has been rampant; but they decline to submit to any judicial tribunal any evidence to show that the contention on which they are getting rid of the liberties of the country is true in any single case. Why should not the Court be satisfied that an offence has been committed? "Oh," says the Solicitor General, "because we have already provided that the Attorney General for Ireland is not to be set in motion except on a sworn information." But that is a fallacy. What would satisfy the Attorney General for Ireland would not satisfy a division of the High Court. Anyone who has practised in the Court of Chancery knows very well that that Court often refuses to act on affidavits which have been settled by eminent counsel to their satisfaction. The learned Solicitor General's second point is that the Committee have just refused to require that the Attorney General should have proof that intimidation or other improper cause exists whereby evidence is withheld, and that it would be unreasonable that the High Court should require that which the Committee has decided the Attorney General should not require. In this argument he is also guilty of a fallacy. We refuse to make a condition precedent to any motion by the Attorney General that sworn information as to intimidation should be afforded; but it is quite another thing here, for the reason that we are considering what the Court should demand before granting power to hold an inquiry. For these reasons I do not think that the defence made for the clause by the Solicitor General holds good. We are now considering the question of the position of the Law Officers of the Crown. We have given individuals, without a shred of representative authority, power to make and unmake the law in particular localities; and now we are asked to go a step further, and destroy the distinction between the Executive and judicial authority; and we have, for the first time, a partizan Law Officer sitting on that Bench opposite responsible for the policy of the Government, with power to apply a law which never before could be applied to any individual, no matter how humble, except by a competent judicial authority 644 standing between the people and the Crown. It may be considered nothing to take this step now, and make the Resident Magistrates the more servants of the Executive, or of a particular Party; but it seems to me to involve a large principle. It seems to me this House would do well to consider whether it is wise to depart from the old principle that the Executive shall depend on the judicial tribunals when it seeks to put the law into force, and whether it is wise to give to a political Party the power of creating a political force to deal with political offenders, and to punish people at its own will.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)
I am satisfied, from all I have heard, that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side of the House have been misinformed on the subject of that part of the Scotch law which bears an analogy to the proposal in this clause. I come from Scotland and am familiar with the working of this law, and seeing that these preliminary inquiries are constantly occurring there, that we hear no complaints with regard to them, and that there is nothing extravagant in the principle, I am surprised that hon. Members should be startled at the proposal of the Government. I see that these inquiries are to be guarded in this clause in the most careful manner, and are only to be allowed when an offence has been committed. An inquiry will not take place whether an offence has been committed or not, but only when the Attorney General believes that such an inquiry should be held. In Scotland such a preliminary inquiry takes place when the Procurator Fiscal, who may be no more than a solicitor in a country town, thinks fit to initiate it. Supposing a haystack has been burnt down. It is not necessary that there should be a suspicion of arson against a particular individual, but this local legal official can institute an inquiry to find out how the thing occurred. If it has been an accident, well and good; but he investigates the matter in order to ascertain whether or not a crime has been committed, and he does that in 99 cases out of 100, off his own bat, so to speak, because he is Procurator Fiscal of the district. He examines witnesses on oath before the Sheriff, where the oaths and depositions are taken, or in his own office. The inquiry is not necessarily 645 one to be followed up by a committal and a trial. The Procurator Fiscal goes round and collects evidence behind the back of the accused—if there is an accused. If there is an accused he is arrested, but is not made acquainted with any of the evidence the Procurator is collecting against him. He is put in prison to await his trial, and is not even allowed to have the advice of a solicitor until the depositions collected by the Procurator Fiscal, whether sworn to or not, have gone before a magistrate, who says whether or not a committal shall take place. It is not until the committal has taken place on the evidence so obtained that the accused is allowed to say a word in his defence. This is the everyday system in Scotland. It is difficult to understand how hon. and right hon. Gentlemen can be serious when they come down to the House of Commons and say that something new and startling is being done in this Bill when a system quite as strong was introduced five years ago, and was about to be renewed three years ago by the right hon. Gentleman sitting below me (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). This is a proposal to introduce the usual system of preliminary inquiry, known to all of us in Scotland, into the Criminal Law of Ireland. I know that in most cases in Scotland it is not thought desirable to take evidence on oath, but in some cases it is. But when we come to look at what is being done, the whole question comes to this—whether or not a preliminary inquiry should be introduced, at the instance of an official representative of the Crown. That is the whole gist of the question. Whether in one case out of 100 evidence may or may not be taken on oath is a very minor matter indeed. The question is whether an official, representing the Crown, should be allowed to collect evidence on oath, and afterwards use it against an accused. I think the exaggerated and ficticious view which has been taken on this matter of preliminary inquiry, will astonish the people of Scotland, who are thoroughly accustomed to investigations of this sort.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I am quite certain that though my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) undertakes to speak with the greatest confidence for the people of Scotland, the opinions of the hon. and 646 learned Member are not in consonance with the feelings of the people of Scotland on any question with regard to the relations of the people of England and the people of Ireland. All I know of the people of Scotland and of their relations with their Representatives in this House gives me the impression that it would be impossible to resort to a worse authority than my hon. and learned Friend to ascertain the opinions of the people of Scotland. Sir, then the hon. and learned Member says that provisions similar to these were passed five years ago, and were about to be renewed three years ago; but he entirely overlooks that which we take to be a fundamental and essential difference in this matter—namely, that whatever provisions were framed five years ago were directed exclusively against crime, whereas our contention, confirmed as we believe by the language of the Government, is that this is not a Bill for dealing with crime. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] I really cannot have my mind influenced by outcries of that kind. I know that the Bill has been otherwise described by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I do not appreciate the force of their description. I know that reliance is placed upon it much more than upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, from which I gather that, in the view of the Government, this is not a Bill for dealing with crime. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I need correction—but I am afraid correction will not help the matter in the least—when I say that this Bill is not exclusively or mainly a Bill for the purpose of dealing with crime, but for the purpose of dealing with acts that are not crime, but which now, for the first time, are going to be made crime. That is, in our view, the fundamental difference between the proposal made five years ago and the present proposal. I do not mean to say that I should be ready to renew the proposal of five years ago. [Ministerial laughter, and "Hear, hear!"] No; I am not ready to renew it, and for the reason that I am perfectly convinced, as the House is perfectly aware from the declarations of last year, that this method of coercion only aggravates the evils which it seeks to cure, and that there is another method totally distinct that is a wise and prudent one to pursue. But my hon. and learned Friend has given 647 us his account, forsooth, of the law of Scotland. He was greatly surprised at the opinions expressed on this side of the House. Well, Sir, surprise is one of those feelings of which everyone has at his command an unbounded quantity. He can produce it according to the occasion. I, like my hon. and learned Friend, have an abundant stock of surprise in me which I expend, from time to time, as occasion offers, and I reciprocate the feeling of my hon. and learned Friend. My hon. and learned Friend's account of the law and practice in Scotland is in diametrical contradiction to that given by the late Solicitor General for Scotland. He says he is familiar in Scotland by daily usage with this practice, whereas the late Solicitor General for Scotland told us that the practice was not in operation. The distinct statement of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Scotland—a statement which did the greatest credit to his legal acuteness and impartiality—was, that the precognition in Scotland, though purely voluntary, was, as he said, backed by this power which was never exercised. The power of examination on oath, conducted by legal authority on the part of the Government without compulsion, and applicable to a country where the law and the people are in sympathy, is a thing so different from that now proposed that all the ingenuity of my hon. and learned Friend, and all his faculty for speaking on behalf of the people of Scotland, will not induce us to accept the account which he has laid down in flat contradiction to the late Solicitor General for Scotland.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I have lived many years in Scotland, and I have never heard of any such practice as that mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) of an inquiry on oath being held by a Procurator Fiscal when no person is accused. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated that Scotland was happy and free because she possessed this law; but I say that we are happy and free in Scotland because we possess no such law. I admit there are some statements in old books on the law in Scotland which are exceedingly vague; and I think that Members from Scotland have come to be of opinion, having regard to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the time has come when the law in Scotland should be reduced to a 648 more clear form than it is in at present. Suppose the members of the. Farmers' Alliance, which is the nearest approach we have in Scotland to the National League in Ireland, were to be examined by the Procurator Fiscal with reference to the transactions of the society. I will tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that every Scotchman worthy of the name would tear the notice in pieces and throw it into the fire. It is utterly untrue that anything exists in Scotland which can in any way be compared to this system of inquiry which is proposed for Ireland. An inquiry of a preliminary character by the Procurator Fiscal into crimes would in Scotland, as in every other country, receive the support of those who have any evidence to give; but this preceding is entirely of a voluntary character, notwithstanding the assertions in the books on the Scotch law. If the Lord Advocate contradicts me on that point, let him produce any case where, no person being accused, people have been compelled to come forward and give evidence. I say let the Government rest their case on any grounds they please, but do not let them vilify the fair name of Scotland by accusing us of having in operation any such law as this.
§ MR. HALDANE
In order to get rid of the difficulty pointed out by the Solicitor General, I propose to move an Amendment to the present Amendment, by adding after "the High Court" the words, "or to a Judge thereof in Chambers."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, in line 1, after the words "High Court," to insert the words "or to a Judge thereof in Chambers."—(Mr. Haldane.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I intend to put forward an Amendment, that the law under this section in Ireland shall be the same as the law in Scotland, and then to claim the entire vote of the Scotch Party on this side of the House. I have not the smallest doubt that it will be accepted at once by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Solicitor General for England dwelt largely on the fact that publicity in this country was necessary; but what the Solicitor General stood upon most was that this is an ex parte 649 application, and that it would be a mere "pro formâ" proceeding—absolutely needless. Has the right hon. Gentleman read the 4th section of this Act which deals with the change of venue, and that in connection with Section 3 the words are—Where an indictment for a crime committed in a proclaimed district has been found against a defendant, or a defendant has been committed for trial for such crime, and a trial is to be at a Court of Assize for any county in a proclaimed district, or at a Court of Quarter Sessions for any county or borough in a proclaimed district, the High Court on application by or on behalf of the Attorney General for Ireland, and upon his certificate that he believes that a more fair and impartial trial can be had at a Court of Assize in some county to be named in the certificate, shall make an order as of course that the trial shall be had at a Court of Assize in the county named in the certificate.The words are "of course." I am astonished that the Solicitor General should get up and say that we have not read the Bill. Let him presume on the ignorance of his own Party; but, so far as we are concerned, we have both read and understand the Bill. We ask that he should transfer the words from the 4th section to the 1st, and we ask no more. There is no doubt that the High Court, or a Judge thereof, would make the order when applied to "as of course;'' but the necessity of the Attorney General having to apply for the order would, at any rate, give the protection of publicity. Let us reverse the state of things. Supposing the Home Rule Government in Ireland were endeavouring to smash up the Orange Party and were proceeding to put them down, how would the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh thunder against giving us this power without reference to the High Court? You say that this is the law under the Act of 1882. I say that nothing is more absurd, and that of all the flagitious statements this is the foremost. The Act of 1882 said that the magistrate should not summon anybody who was not believed to be capable of giving material evidence. There is nothing in this Bill of that kind. What is the intention here? Why, anybody knows that it is intended to prevent the tenants entering into combination. We will take Lord Clanricarde, or the estates of the King-Harmans, the Smith-Barrys, or Tottenhams. One of these landlords will go to the Goverament and say—"There is a combination against our estates; 650 have up the ringleaders; examine and cross-examime them; put them on the rack, and if they refuse to answer you can give them a week or two of imprisonment;" you will not get the information, but they will be put in prison. But the right hon. Gentleman cannot go with such a story as that to the High Court. We propose to substitute for the action of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who will go with the landlords of the country as long as he is a Member for Dublin University, the action of the Court of Queen's Bench. Now, as the Court of Queen's Bench will always accede to any proposal made by the Attorney General there ought to be no objection to this Amendment. We are only asking the protection which, under Section 3, you give us yourselves. Why do you compel the Attorney General to go to the High Court if his Motion is to be granted "as of course?" Why do you compel him to waste the taxpayers money? You compel him to go before the High Court, in order that the High Court and the public generally may be satisfied that there is a fair case before this power is granted. The Government have said that the law in Scotland is the same as the provision under this clause. The Lord Advocate, who, I believe, has written a book on the subject, and who is probably the most learned man whom Scotland sends to this House, has, however, never ventured to open his mouth in support of that statement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows too much to do that; he is too learned a man for Her Majesty's Government, when they can get the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) to defend their position. I ask English Members, if they had the same apprehensions for their country as we have for ours, whether they would not compel the Attorney General to go to the High Court before this power is exercised? I trust the Government will not persist in rejecting every Amendment which comes from these Benches. I believe their intention is to show the country that their Bill is so splendidly drafted that it needs no Amendment; but the Bill is badly drawn; and I say that it is unfair to refuse every Amendment we propose on the pretence that the Bill has been beautifully drafted by the Attorney 651 General, and does not require to be amended. I say that we, in Ireland, are entitled to some consideration, even at the hands of the Tory Party, and that if Irish Members are to come into this House at all, you must, at any rate, listen to the voices of those who are really acquainted with the state of facts in Ireland.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment further amended, by inserting, in line 2, after the word "Court," the words "or Judge."
That the words 'apply to the High Court, or to a Judge thereof in Chambers, for an order directing an inquiry under this section, and thereupon the Court or Judge may, if satisfied that an offence has been committed as aforesaid, and that, owing to intimidation or other improper cause, evidence in connection with such offence has been withheld, make an order accordingly, and may,' be there inserted.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It has been stated as one reason for not accepting this Amendment that it would interfere with the discovery of crime. How the application to the High Court of Justice could interfere with the discovery of crime is beyond the grasp of my apprehension. The Solicitor General stated that this Amendment was perfectly unnecessary. What difficulty is there in inserting it? If it be unnecessary, and can do no harm to the Bill, while at the same time it satisfies us, why not agree to it and put an end to this discussion? I think the Government ought to have that amount of confidence in the High Court in Ireland, which would be shown by submitting these cases to it. Certainly our experience of that Court is not of such a high character as to make us much value the effect of this Amendment; but we regard it as likely to be some check on the action of the Attorney General for Ireland. When I was held to bail last winter the prosecution was founded upon affidavits, which were sworn by certain sub-inspectors of police; I defended myself on that trial, and I directed the attention of the Judge to those affidavits, and to the fact that Clarke swore to a number of things that he could not have known of his own knowledge. The Judge stated that he considered that two of the affidavits were illegal, and 652 that he dismissed them from his mind before giving judgment. This is a case exactly in point. What we contend is this—that the Attorney General shall be compelled to produce affidavits which will show something to justify his demands, and which shall be in legal form; and that these affidavits shall not be drawn up in Dublin Castle in the shape which the Government want, and sworn to without the person making them taking the trouble to read them. In the case I mention it turned out that two of the affidavits referred to were on old forms used against the hon. and learned Member for North Longford two years ago. The form was sent down, and Mr. Flower swore to it without considering whether he was in a position to swear to it or not. We want to prevent that practice which is going on in Ireland continually. The reason why we ask that this Amendment should be accepted is because the Attorney General would be assumed to go before Court with a decently sworn information; and it may be hoped that the Judges would ascertain whether the person swears to facts within his knowledge, or which he reasonably believes were true. I repeat that, if the Government consider this Amendment formally to be unnecessary, there is no use in refusing to accept the Amendment, which pleases us, and does the Bill no harm.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I understand the Solicitor General for England to object, first, that this Amendment might be destructive to the object sought to be attained, and, in the next place, that it would involve delay. Is it possible to imagine that it would cause any delay at all? There would be always some Judge acting at Chambers, which gets over the objection that the Court is not always sitting, and also provides for avoiding publicity if it be necessary to avoid it. I should have thought that the Attorney General would have been glad of the protection which this clause would give him against any chance of being supposed to be acting unjustly. I am sure that if this were a matter relating to England, the English Attorney General, having to take the initiative, would only be too glad to put upon another tribunal the responsibility of deciding what had to be done. I trust the Government will not cause a further occupation of the 653 time of the Committee by resisting an Amendment which cannot do harm if they mean to do right, and which cannot be otherwise than acceptable to hon. and learned Members sitting on the Treasury Bench. Of course, if these investigations are not aimed at crime, then I can understand the Attorney General would object to go to the High Court of Justice with a case which that Court would treat as deserving ridicule. If the investigation is aimed at grave cases, there is no reason why the Attorney General should not submit it to that high tribunal—indeed, he should be glad of having an opportunity of doing so. I trust that if it is only to palliate English feeling the Government] will agree to this Amendment.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), in the course of his remarks on this Amendment, complained rather unjustly that this Amendment should be proposed. I think that when it comes to be understood how great is the aversion which this part of the Bill creates in the minds of Irishmen, it will not be very wonderful that a great deal of time is spent in these discussions. There is not a clause in the whole of this Bill, as I have already said, that is more distasteful and detested than this, which provides for secret Courts of Inquiry to be conducted by Resident Magistrates, who are men totally out of sympathy with the great bulk of the people. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) will not accept this Amendment, simply and solely because he wants to have the right upon his own authority of causing the establishment of those Courts of Inquiry, of giving these powers to Resident Magistrates, without having his reasons made public. There can only be one reason possible for refusing to delegate this matter to the judgment of the High Court. That reason is that the Government fear that, in a great many cases, the High Court would refrain from establishing these inquiries, and giving Resident Magistrates these powers where the Attorney General would not hesitate to do so. The conduct and action of the Government in this matter goes to confirm the suspicion which the Representatives of Ireland have had all along with regard 654 to this Bill—namely, that it is not a measure to put down crime in the country, but that, on the contrary, it is a measure the powers of which are directed against the organization and the movement of the people for their self-preservation against landlords. If these Courts of Inquiry were only required to put down crime, would it not be to your advantage that the existence of crime and the necessity for these Courts should be made as public as possible, and brought before the High Court of Ireland, so that the people of this country might have your statements in support of this Bill fortified, and that you might be able to show to the people of this country that you really had grounds for proposing this Bill containing, as it does, most extraordinary coercive powers? But right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench do not court inquiry. They do not accept the Amendment to delegate the establishment of these tribunals to the High Court, simply because they are afraid that in a great many cases the High Court, not being so partizan as many members of the Executive in Ireland, would decide that there were no grounds for establishing these Courts of Inquiry, and so that by even the Courts of Ireland the necessity which you say exists for coercion would be disproved, and you would be further discredited in the eyes of the people. I hope sincerely my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Healy) will press this Amendment; I hope that, line by line and word by word, if possible, every portion of this clause will be contested here before it is allowed to become law, because there is no clause in that Bill that is more unconstitutional, more tyrannical, more unjustifiable, and more detestable to the people of Ireland than this 1st clause of your measure, whereby you propose to give to Resident Magistrates, to half-pay officers, retired and shelved police officers, men who are never in sympathy with the people, men who are allies of the landlord class of the country—whereby you propose to give to such men the power of terrifying and bullying in secret unfortunate men on every conceivable subject which may come into their heads, without ever having any report made of the proceedings. I maintain that such a provision is infamous in itself; it has been proved more infamous every minute in this discussion 655 by the action of the Government in refusing to allow the slightest ray of public opinion to fall on their proceedings, and in the keeping for the Attorney General, and, I suppose, for the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and that late Orange functionary, the new Parliamentary Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman)—in keeping for these men the power of life and death almost over the Irish people unimpaired. You are afraid to appeal to the High Court; you are afraid to let any public light fall on these affairs; you want to have it all worked by your chosen instruments, by your Attorney General, by your Parliamentary Under Secretary, men who, Sir George Trevelyan and others have declared, are unfit to have the control of the lives and liberties of the Irish people.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to move that the Question be now put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Question be now put."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ Question put accordingly.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 257; Noes 135: Majority 122.658
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Bond, G. H.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Bonsor, H. C. O.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Boord, T. W.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Borthwick, Sir A.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.|
|Baggallay, E.||Bright, right hon. J.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.|
|Baird, J. G. A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Brookfield, A. M.|
|Balfour, G. W.||Bruce, Lord H.|
|Baring, Viscount||Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Burghley, Lord|
|Bass, H.||Caine, W. S.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Campbell, Sir A.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Campbell, J. A.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Chamberlain, R.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Chaplin, right hon. H.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Charrington, S.|
|Beckett, W.||Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Bective, Earl of||Coghill, D. H.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. C.|
|Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer||Compton, F|
|Cooke, C. W. R.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Corbett, J.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Biddulph, M.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Bigwood, J.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Cross, H. S.|
|Blundell, Col. H. B. H.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Heath, A. R.|
|Dalrymple, C.||Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-|
|Davenport, H. T.|
|De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||Hermon-Hodge, R. T.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Hervey, Lord F.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.||Hill, Colonel E. S.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Hill, A. S.|
|Dugdale, J. S.||Hoare, S.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.||Hobhouse, H.|
|Duncombe, A.||Holland, rt. hon. Sir H. T.|
|Elcho, Lord||Holloway, G.|
|Elliot, hon. A. R. D.||Holmes, rt. hon. H.|
|Elliot, Sir G.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Hozier, J. H. C.|
|Elton, C. I.||Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.|
|Ewing, Sir A. O.||Hulse, E. H.|
|Feilden, Lieut.-Gen. R. J.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Hunter, Sir G.|
|Fellowes, W. H.||Isaacson, F. W.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Jardine, Sir R.|
|Fielden, T.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Finch, G. H.||Johnston, W.|
|Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Finlay, R. B.||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.||Kimber, H.|
|King, H. S.|
|Fitz-Wygram, General Sir F. W.||King-Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Lafone, A.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||Lambert, C.|
|Fry, L.||Laurie, Colonel R. P.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Lawrance, J. C.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Gedge, S.||Legh, T. W.|
|Gent-Davis, R.||Leighton, S.|
|Gibson, J. G.||Lewis, Sir C. E.|
|Giles, A.||Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Gilliat, J. S.|
|Goldsmid, Sir J.||Long, W. H.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Low, M.|
|Lowther, hon. W.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Lowther, J. W.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Gray, C. W.||Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A.|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Gunter, Colonel R.||M'Calmont, Captain J.|
|Gurdon, R. T.||Makins, Colonel W. T.|
|Hall, A. W.||Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Hall, C.||Mallock, R.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Manners, right hon. Lord J. J. R.|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Marriott, right hon. W. T.|
|Hamilton, Lord E.||Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Mayne, Adml. R. C.|
|Hanbury-Tracy, hon. F. S. A.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Morrison, W.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Mount, W. G.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Mulholland, H. L.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Muntz, P. A.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Murdoch, C. T.||Smith, A.|
|Newark, Viscount||Spencer, J. E.|
|Noble, W.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Northcote, hon. H. S.||Stanley, E. J.|
|O'Neill, hon. R. T.||Stewart, M.|
|Paget, Sir R. H.||Swetenham, E.|
|Parker, hon. F.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Pearce, W.||Taylor, F.|
|Pelly, Sir L.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Penton, Captain F. T.||Thorburn, W.|
|Pitt-Lewis, G.||Tollemache, H. J.|
|Plunket, right hon. D. R.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Tottenham, A. L.|
|Plunkett, hon. J. W.||Townsend, F.|
|Pomfret, W. P.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Powell, F. S.||Walsh, hon. A. H. J.|
|Price, Captain G. E.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Quilter, W. C.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.||Webster, R. G.|
|Rankin, J.||West, Colonel W. C.|
|Rasch, Major F. C.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Reed, H. B.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||White, J. B.|
|Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.||Whitley, E.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.||Whitmore, C. A.|
|Robertson, W. T.||Winn, hon. R.|
|Ross, A. H.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Round, J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Russell, T. W.||Wood, N.|
|Salt, T.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M.||Wright, H. S.|
|Saunderson, Col. E. J.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Sclater-Booth, right hon. G.|
|Sellar, A. C.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Selwin-Ibbetson, rt. hon. Sir H. J.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Conway, M.|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Cossham, H.|
|Allison, R. A.||Cox, J. R.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Cozens-Hardy H. H.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Craig, J.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Craven, J.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Crawford, D.|
|Blake, J. A.||Cremer, W. R.|
|Blake, T.||Dillon, J.|
|Blane, A.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Ellis, T. E.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Esslemont, P.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Fenwick, C.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Finucane, J.|
|Buxton, S. G.||Flower, C.|
|Campbell, H.||Flynn, J. C.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, right hon. H.||Foley, P. J.|
|Foster, Sir W. B.|
|Carew, J. L.||Fowler, rt. hn. H. H.|
|Chance, P. A.||Fox, Dr. J. F.|
|Childers, rt. hon. H. C. E.||Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-|
|Clancy, J. J.||Gill, H. J.|
|Cobb, H. P.||Gill T. P.|
|Cohen, A.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Coleridge, hon. B.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Commins, A.||Grey, Sir E.|
|Connolly, L.||Haldane, R. B.|
|Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Harrington, E.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Hayden, L. P.||O'Hea, P.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||O'Kelly, J.|
|Healy, M.||Paulton, J. M.|
|Healy, T. M.||Pickard, B.|
|Holden, I.||Picton, J. A.|
|Hooper, J.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Illingworth, A.||Power, P. J.|
|James, C. H.||Power, R.|
|Joicey, J.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Jordan, J.||Quinn, T.|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Roberts, J. B.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Robinson, T.|
|Kenny, C. S.||Rowlands, J.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Russell, E. R.|
|Lawson, H. L. W.||Sexton, T.|
|Leahy, J.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.||Sheehy, D.|
|Lockwood, F.||Sheil, E.|
|Macdonald, W. A.||Shirley, W. S.|
|M'Cartan, M.||Stack, J.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|M'Donald, P.||Stevenson, F. S.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Stuart, J.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Sullivan, D.|
|M'Laren, W. S. B.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Marum, E. M.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Mason, S.||Tuite, J.|
|Molloy, B. C.||Wallace, R.|
|Morgan, O. V.||Wardle, H.|
|Morley, rt. hon. J.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Murphy, W. M.||Whitbread, S.|
|Nolan, Colonel J. P.||Will, J. S.|
|Nolan, J.||Williams, A.|
|O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|O'Brien, P. J.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.|
|O'Connor, J. (Kerry.)||Morley, A.|
|O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ On the numbers being announced—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to address the Committee during a Division he must do so in the usual manner.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
(resuming his seat, and speaking with head covered): I desire to know, Sir, whether it is in Order for a number of hon. Members in the "Aye" Lobby to stand at the glass door and hoot hon. Members going to divide in the other Lobby?
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 142; Noes 261: Majority 119.—(Div. List, No. 106.)659
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I now move to insert in this clause, after the word "may," in line 8, the following words:—"By warrant in writing under his hand."
§ MR. HOLMES
I would suggest that the expression "by warrant" is a purely technical expression, and that the words "by writing under his hand" would be better.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I do not think the form suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be so good as that which I have proposed; but if he is of opinion that it would be better, I will not press my Amendment as against his.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of Mr. HOLMES, the following Amendment made:—In page 1, line 8, after "may," insert "by order in writing under his hand."
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I have now to move another Amendment which stands in my name, and which I desire to see inserted, because, otherwise, I think there is reason for suspecting that the clause may be used for improper purposes. I propose, therefore, to move that in Clause 1, page 1, line 8, after the word "may," there should be inserted these words—"Provided that no person has been made amenable for such offence." If this safeguard be not granted, the Crown may, when a person is in custody charged with an offence, make use of this section to bring his witnesses into a police station and subject them to a course of secret cross-examination, merely with the object of getting at the prisoner's defence. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland is aware that in civil matters, where a person is entitled to interrogatories, he is not permitted by the rules which have to be observed to ask questions relating solely to the defence that is to be set up; and all I ask is—whether by means of this Amendment in its present form, or by some other Amendment which may better meet the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—that something analogous to the practice followed in civil cases may be also established in criminal cases coming under the operation of this Bill. I should state, in order that the Committee may not think the evil which I wish to guard against is a purely imaginary one, that I have known cases, even under the existing 660 law, in which the Crown Prosecutor has improperly endeavoured to extract from the witnesses for the prisoner what the prisoner's defence was to be. Of course, there is no such machinery under the existing law as is set up by this clause; but the power that is resorted to is that which is given by the Winter Assizes Act, whereby the Crown is compelled to pay the expenses of the witnesses, this provision, innocuous and beneficial as it would otherwise be, having been frequently used for the purpose of making a contract with the witnesses for the defence, and then with the object of improperly seeking to extract from the witnesses what is the defence set up on behalf of the prisoner. It may be contended that where a prisoner is innocent this can do him no harm; but we say that what is good law and good sense in civil cases ought to be so in criminal cases. We all know that in civil cases no such proceeding as I desire to prevent in criminal cases is allowed, notwithstanding that there is the fullest power to administer interrogatories, the object being to prevent the interrogatories being addressed to the ascertainment of the defence. I may add that I have no particular attachment to the wording of the Amendment as it stands in my name; but I regard the point to which it relates as an essential one, and, therefore, I ask the Committee to adopt this proposal.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, after "may," insert "provided that no person has been made amenable for such offence."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. HOLMES
As I understand what the hon. Member for Cork means by the insertion of the words of his Amendment, it is that, where a man has been arrested for any offence, the investigation intended by the clause shall not take place. This is not an Amendment which the Government can possibly accept. The hon. Gentleman hardly seems to understand what is meant by the word "amenable."
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
The meaning I put on the word "amenable" is being arrested, or charged with an offence by being summoned upon a specific charge.
§ MR. HOLMES
If that is the hon. Member's view, I repeat that it is quite impossible for the Government to accept 661 his Amendment. It frequently happens that a great number have been engaged in the commission of a particular offence; and if in such a case any one of those persons were arrested, the investigation would, according to the Amendment, be checked altogether. If the hon. Gentleman means that if a man is summoned the magistrate is not to hold an inquiry unless that particular person is present, and unless the evidence is directed against that particular person, the Government cannot possibly accept such. a proposal. Why, a bogus summons might be issued against a certain person, and then no one could be required to give evidence. The Government desire to afford all proper protection to individuals; but the hon. Gentleman must see that it is impossible for them to go to the extent he proposes.
§ MR. CHANCE
The Committee has already had evidence of the claim put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) to shut up the proceedings of this House, and it may be that in this claim a large number of hon. Members seated on the opposite Benches fully concur, and are of opinion that this discussion has already gone to too great a length for them. Those hon. Gentlemen may, however, be told—and if they do not know it already they ought to be told, if they have any glimmering of intelligence at all—that the debates which are being conducted on this side of the House are not being carried on with any hope of moving either their minds or their hearts. They are being conducted with another object entirely. They are being conducted with the object of explaining the provisions of this infamous measure to the public, in order that the public may sooner or later send hon. Gentlemen opposite who are promoting the measure to the political perdition they merit. Of course, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), who is at the present moment hovering between the Treasury and the Judicial Bench, meets us with the regular non possumus to which he is accustomed, and the reason why he does this is sufficiently plain. He has stated that if any person is charged with the commission of a criminal offence, the effect of the adoption of this Amendment would be to prevent the extraordinary power of investigation conferred 662 by this clause from being exercised. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to disregard the fact that when a person is arrested the ordinary power of examining witnesses cornea into force, and persons may be sent for from any part of the Kingdom and put upon their oath, and if they decline to answer any reasonable question put to them they may be sent to gaol. But we have now got to a further stage. We understand that the extraordinary powers of this Bill are to be so employed that they are not to be relied upon for the mere purpose of supplementing the ordinary provisions of the law, but that when even the ordinary magistrates are not staunch enough to carry out the behests of the Government, then, whether a person accused of an offence has been arrested or not, a tribunal may be sent down armed with these extraordinary powers. As the section stands without this Amendment, although a person may have been arrested and made amenable, the Crown officers would be enabled to ransack the whole country for witnesses, and send them to gaol if they failed to give such answers to the questions put to them as might be deemed desirable. We know very well who and what the Resident Magistrates are, and that it will be a very simple matter to send one down with a roving commission to catch witnesses for the defence in any particular case, and send them to gaol for four, five, or six months for having given unsatisfactory answers when interrogated, so that, when a prisoner has been got hold of, his witnesses may be safely kept on one side. We are told that we do not understand the meaning of the word "amenable." Let me call to the recollection of hon. Gentlemen opposite that when statistics were being used to defame the juries of Ireland, it was their Chancellor of the Exchequer who showed that prisoners had been made "amenable" in a large number of cases, and that in a very small number of instances were they convicted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not think the Committee need debate this question at any serious length, as it is almost hopeless to point out and demonstrate the objectionable nature of the course being taken by the Government. I would simply put this one question to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland—would the right hon. 663 and learned Gentleman consider it fair, supposing, for instance, I were being put upon my trial for murder, and I bad, say, 10 witnesses for my defence, that all those 10 witnesses should be examined by a process of private inquiry, and everything relating to my defence gone into, so that he might be furnished with full particulars on the subject in his brief? But I will take another case. Let us apply this argument to the Maamtrasna case, or the Huddy case, in both of which everybody who was called on to give evidence spoke the Irish language. All of them were Irish-speaking witnesses, and they wore all extremely poor. Not one of these could be brought up to Dublin to give evidence at the cost of the prisoners, and their names had to be furnished to the Crown Solicitor in order that they might be brought to Dublin at the expense of the Government; and of all the mean things I ever heard of the meanest would probably be this—that when these wretched peasants were brought to Dublin from the West of Ireland, and the Crown Solicitor had got their names, they should be taken into a room at the Castle and there pumped under this section of the Crimes Bill, and their statements taken down and furnished to the Attorney General in his brief. Such a thing would be odious and hateful, and could not have been done in Franco during the worst days of Napoleon. And yet this is what is proposed to be done in the Jubilee year of Her Most Gracious Majesty. There is not a pickpocket in England whose witnesses would be subjected to such treatment as this. Well may we ask, is this the way Her Majesty's Government are going to treat us? A prisoner may be guilty, but the law assumes him to be innocent. The duty of proving his guilt lies with the prosecution. Everything connected with the defence will, under this clause, be in the hands of the Government, who will very carefully conceal the depositions made against a prisoner by their own witnesses. I say, if you are going to fight us in Ireland like this, you had better proclaim martial law at once. We hear that the Government have been very much troubled in these matters. Why should they not insert a simple little clause that would enable them to do as they please? This would simplify matters everywhere, and would 664 very much simplify them to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). Here we put before the Committee an Amendment on which the Committee might do one of two things. They might say either let the Government inquiry be suspended until the accused person has been arrested, or they might provide some safeguard when he has been arrested against the witnesses being subjected to secret examination, so that they might not be thumb-screwed by George Bolton and Company. The Government may object to our Amendment, but they know very well what is at the bottom of it. Do not let them take these verbal objections about being made amenable. Is that can dour? Is that the way in which they ought to treat fair-minded opponents? Yes; we, at all events, give fair battle and use plain language, if necessary, such as can be understood even by the Tory Party below the Gangway; and we say it is unreasonable to ask us to submit to a system which throws the entire defence of the prisoner, because of his poverty, into the hands of the Crown, and which asserts that by whatever steps the Government plan must be followed.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I rise, Sir, to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) the desirability of reporting Progress. It is most unusual to go on after half-past 12 with any important Bill, and I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that by applying the closure to-night he has got through more Business than he might have expected to get through. The Committee has had the advantage of hearing the opinions of hon. Members on both sides upon the Scotch law, and on many other important points. According to the right hon. Gentleman's own Rules, we are to adjourn every night at half-past 12 o'clock, and it is now a quarter to 1. There is a long Bill on the Paper which will take at least a quarter of an hour, even if there is no other Business to be disposed of. I, therefore, beg to move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Colonel Nolan.)665
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It is not, Sir, in my power to assent to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says we have made great progress this evening. I am unable to agree with him, and I am sure that very few hon. Members in the House will agree with him. The progress made this evening is, in my opinion, progress which will not reflect credit on this House. We have disposed of nine Amendments out of 140 of which Notice has been given on the 1st section of the Bill. Under these circumstances, I must ask the Committee to sit for some time longer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think my hon. and gallant Friend will be unwise to press a proposal of this kind, and I hope he will withdraw it. But I think we are entitled to some answer from the Government as to the Amendment. The fact that we got no answer naturally drove my hon. and gallant Friend to make the Motion for reporting Progress, I am quite prepared to go on with this discussion, provided that we are treated with even Tory courtesy. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend, on receiving some reply, will withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I do not care much whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman withdraws his Motion or not; but I am of opinion, whatever the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, that we have sat here quite long enough discussing this Bill. [Laughter.] If we are not allowed to express our opinions, at any rate we can register them; and I shall venture to express my opinions until the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) brings down his extinguisher again. My reason for supporting the Motion placed before the Committee is that there are several important Bills coming on. At any rate, there is one measure—the Truck Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh)—which we have been promised should come on this evening. We cannot give due attention to the various provisions connected with that Bill if we prolong the discussion upon this measure through the early hours of the morning. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury gets up whenever anything is said 666 from this side of the House with the remark that in his opinion this, that, and the other is not right, and that to his intense regret he finds it his painful duty to oppose us. In this he reminds me more than anything else of a celebrated character of Charles Dickens, whose name, I think, was Pecksniff. All I can say is that if the right hon. Gentleman will be so perverse—[Cries of "Order!"] Well, when hon. Gentlemen opposite sit in the Chair they will be able to rule me out of Order—not before. As the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury never will listen to a single word we say, I, for my part, shall have the greatest pleasure in making him walk through the Division Lobbies.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I am quite willing to withdraw my Motion; but I trust that when the Amendment is disposed of, the Government will consent to report Progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment again proposed.
§ MR. HOLMES
I can assure the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that it was not from any discourtesy to him, or any desire not to answer his observations, that I did not rise again to reply. But I had already stated that this Amendment could not possibly be accepted. As far as I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman, he did not contest that. He wont upon another point, and asked me whether I considered it fair that the Government should adopt the machinery provided by this clause in the case he mentioned. I think it would be unfair, but I do not see how any Amendment introduced here could provide against such a case. Nobody can say who a prisoner's witness will be. I have heard Judges say over and over again that nobody ought to describe a witness as a witness for the Crown or a witness for the prisoner, because a witness ought to be absolutely impartial and to give his evidence truly. If an investigation takes place under this section the persons who will be brought before the magistrates are persons who are supposed to know something of the matter. No one can toll up to the time when the trial takes place who will call the witnesses. But the Crown will not willingly adopt this provision for the purpose of extracting a prisoner's 667 case from those who may be his witnesses. I most willingly give that assurance.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) is not correct in saying that the case respecting a misuse of the clause for the purpose of extracting a prisoner's case from his witnesses has not been made out. That was the ground on which I submitted the Amendment to the Committee. The arguments I ventured to address to the Committee have not, I think, been answered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is very easy for him now to get up and tell us that this clause, if passed, will not be used in the manner we suggest; but will he be willing—I do not care whether he takes my words or uses words of his own—to introduce a declaration into the Bill, whether in the form of a Proviso or otherwise, that the clause shall not be misused in the manner which I have described? The right hon. and learned Gentleman says it is impossible to distinguish between those who may be witnesses for the prisoner and those who may be witnesses for the Crown. I venture to tell him that there is no such impossibility. I will put a very common case to him. Let us take it that the prisoner's defence is an alibi. The prisoner's witnesses in such a case could not be persons who could possibly prove the Crown case. The witnesses who would prove the Crown case would be parties who witnessed the commission of the offence or knew something about it. Those who would be called to prove the alibi could not possibly be witnesses for the Crown. I quite grant that in certain cases it is quite conceivable that it would be difficult to draw a distinction between witnesses for the Crown and witnesses for the defence; but that difficulty arises in every civil case. If the right hon. Gentleman's observations are true of criminal cases they are equally true of civil cases; but, notwithstanding this, the Courts of Law have no difficulty in administering the law so as to prevent the misuse of that process of the judicial system which might otherwise enable one party to improperly get hold of the case of the other party. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman again whether he will be willing to give effect to the promise he has given here, and to make 668 it binding on his successor when he himself is sitting on the Judicial Bench? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduce words into the Bill to carry out the pledge he has given that the powers granted by this section shall not be improperly used for the purpose of getting at witnesses for the defence?
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has plainly admitted that under the clause, as it is proposed to pass it, cases of gross unfairness may possibly arise, and all the guarantee he offers against the occurrence of such cases of unfairness is that the Government do not intend that such things should happen.
§ MR. HOLMES
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I did not for a moment admit that, under the clause as it stands, it would be possible at all for unfairness to arise; but what I said was, that it would be grossly unfair to use the power for the purpose of extracting the prisoner's case. I did not say this would be possible.
§ MR. PICTON
Well, we understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it will be possible, in certain eases, that a witness who would testify for the prisoner may be examined in secret on oath, and have the whole of his testimony extracted from him. Well, Sir, I think that a very grave scandal would arise under such circumstances. What should we think in this country if a man who was lying in gaol accused of a certain offence had his witnesses examined on oath by the prosecution without his knowledge, and without anyone who represented him being present? I think we should consider that the days of Stuart tyranny had come back, and that we should be ready to rise in rebellion. I thought that the power conferred by this clause was to be used, in cases where no one was accused, in order to ascertain the origin of particular crimes, and that when an accused person was forthcoming it would sink into abeyance, and the ordinary procedure would be adopted. Under the circumstances, unless we have some fair answer to the appeals which have been made from this quarter of the House, I feel that we shall be responsible for a grave infraction of all the principles of justice if we do not contest this clause.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
When the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) said that he had made no admission that this clause might be used for the purpose of getting hold of the case of a prisoner, he was technically right; but when he said that it would be grossly unfair so to use it, he practically admitted that it could so be used. We cannot, Sir, accept any promise such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, at the present time, is, as it were, suspended between the House of Commons and a seat on the Judicial Bench; and when he has gone from here, which I believe will be in a very short time, we shall have a new set of officials, who will not be in any way bound by what he promises, and who will, in the most ready manner, repudiate any responsibility for the statements made by their Predecessors. The fact is, that the Government seem to be determined to play against every prisoner with loaded dice. They will only have their own case, and the means of securing the fullest evidence against every prisoner; but they are providing moans for securing, in advance, the evidence of witnesses for the defence. They are also providing themselves with machinery to tyrannize over, persecute, and intimidate the witnesses for the defence. These things have been done before by a set of men who will be at the game again in a few months—that game in which they are such practised adepts. They know how to go into prisoners' cells and to tell them that there are in the next cells persons who will come forward as witnesses against them. They understand the process of manufacturing cases for the purpose of getting men out of the way. There are men whom they want to get out of the way now, and they will do it in the same way as they have done it before. We want something more than a mere assurance from the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland that the powers conferred by this clause will not be used for preventing fair trials taking place in Ireland. If this clause passes into law in its present shape, the Government will have an absolute power to conduct any criminal proceedings they like. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) 670 spoke of the Stuart days. It will be worse than that. The Government will be able to carry on their trials in a more abominable way than in the worst days of Irish misgovernment. It would be infinitely more honest and honourable for them to say at once that this is what they intend. Even if the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) be accepted, I doubt whether it will afford sufficient protection. It would, however, do something towards affording prisoners the chance of a fair trial in Ireland; and therefore it ought to be accepted in a reasonable spirit. If the pledges which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland is so profuse in giving to the Committee are anything more than mere empty words, I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government why they have not introduced a clause which would embody the real opinions and give us effective safeguards against the taking away of the lives and liberties of men in Ireland, whose lives and liberties ought to be secured? The Government have given us no effective assurance of their sincerity. I want to know from the English Law Officers why they have not shaped the clause in such a way that, whilst giving the Government the liberty they claim to secure evidence against prisoners, it would afford prisoners an assurance that their witnesses would not be seized upon, persecuted, tortured, and thrown into gaol, so that they may be forced to give such evidence as the Government desire, or to withhold such evidence as the Government do not wish them to give?
§ DR. COMMINS
The longer the discussion of this Bill proceeds the more we become aware of the depths of what I might almost call the chicanery to which its framers have descended. Practically, it is not denied that, after a prisoner is committed—I will not use the expression "made amenable," as right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench seem to have forgotten its meaning—it will be open to the Attorney General for Ireland, unless some such Amendment as this is carried, to bring before two magistrates appointed by him every witness whom he may imagine to know something in favour of the prisoner. He may get their evidence, hand it over to the prosecution, and 671 exercise such pressure upon them as may prevent them coming forward at the trial, or may look them up in gaol until the trial is over. It is not denied that such things are possible. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has given an instance of such a. course being pursued. We need not, however, have any instance, because it is clear that it can be followed; and, unless the Government intend to use this power for some such purpose, I do not see why they seek to obtain it. When they are driven into a corner they say—"Oh, you must trust to us. We do not intend to do anything of the kind." Well, that has been the plea of despotism and injustice all the world over. We cannot trust to their good intentions. We know where good intentions lead to. A large number of good intentions have gone to that place from the Treasury Bench, and a large portion of its foundation has a Treasury odour about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) has given instances, such as the case of an alibi, in which the witnesses for the defence may not know anything at all about the charge against the prisoner. There are other cases in which it would be still more dangerous to tamper with witnesses for the defence. A good many crimes of violence will be dealt with under this measure, and a good many cases of assault upon the police and upon bailiffs. We know that in all these cases the guilty party is, as as a rule, the person who begins, so that you have only to keep out of the road the person who knows who began the quarrel, in order to put it in the power of an Emergency man, or a policeman, to attack anybody he thinks fit. If the offending party can keep out of the way any looker-on who can say who commenced the dispute, he can have it all his own way, and will be able to half-kill a man first and send him to gaol afterwards. This is the power given by this Bill; this is the power we are asked to entrust to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland on his promising that it will not be abused. We cannot trust anybody with such powers, and if they are forced from us we must expose them thoroughly, and let the English people see what the provisions of this Bill really amount to.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I regret, Sir, that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has not seen his way to give a more specific and definite pledge to meet the very reasonable objections urged by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). I think there is no doubt—and I do not understand the Attorney General for Ireland to deny it—that under the clause as drawn very great and serious abuses may arise. I have some recollection of what took place under the late Act, and I think that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are not wrong in saying that some abuses occurred two or three years ago. I, for one, shall certainly vote for the Amendment. As, however, the arguments have now been stated, and the Government remain obdurate, a Division might as well be taken without delay.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Mr. Courtney—[Cries of "Divide!"] I may remind hon. Members opposite that I have not yet spoken on a single Amendment. I was going to urge, on behalf of the Amendment before the Committee, that the very argument which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has advanced against the proposal proves our contention, which is that the Government under this clause will be able to get at, and to tamper with the witnesses of an unfortunate prisoner. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that it is wholly unfair to got hold of witnesses and to deal with them in the manner which, as has been stated on this side of the House, has been adopted. That very intimation, as was pointed out, appears to me to convey the necessary inference that there is a possibility of these things occurring under this clause. But I go further, and say that, according to the argument of the Attorney General for Ireland himself, those deplorable consequences must ensue, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, that when the preliminary inquiry was taking place it would not be known who the witnesses would be. Now, that being so, I submit that the first effect of these persons being summoned and interrogated and subjected to the rack and the thumb-screw will be to pollute 673 the source of justice from the outset. People who may, or may not, be witnesses for the prisoner will be got hold of, and, before you can tell whether they will or will not be witnesses for the defence, will be subjected to all the interrogations and racking inquiries which will be permissible under this Act. I said you would be submitting them to the rack and the thumb-screw. It is quite true. I do not mean that even this Government will introduce physical torture again. But I would point out that there are other means of torture. [Ministerial ironical cheers.] Well, in the case of persons who have more sensitive nerves than hon. Gentlemen opposite, there are other means of torture far worse than the thumb-screw, or the boot, or the rack. I maintain—and I shall endeavour to make right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench appreciative of my contention through the method of the Division Lobbies, if that course should be necessary—that under this clause, as it at present stands, the Government will do all they can to get hold of witnesses and compel them to answer under the threat of longer or shorter periods of imprisonment. This, in fact, is an abominable effort on the part of the Government to endeavour to manufacture evidence for the purpose of bolstering up cases which would be scouted out of Court if left to stand or fall on their merits. It is most monstrous that witnesses should be capriciously subjected to this inquisition and mental rack and torture, which is only worthy of the most iniquitous tyranny of the Middle Ages. I confess that I wonder that even a Tory Government can be so far degenerate as to assent to a clause which unrestrictedly permits the tampering with witnesses and with their evidence to the prejudice of the unfortunate prisoners. To me it is perfectly evident, and even on the very argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) himself, it is completely fair and just that the disgraceful evil which this Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Healy) aims at counteracting—and which will necessarily ensue should the clause become law—should be cut out from this Bill which the Government has brought in with the object of suppressing the Constitutional liberties of the Irish people.
§ MR. CHANCE
We have been often told, Sir—and told with an assurance which is a scandal in the face of the little basis of fact which is behind the statement—during the course of this debate that the procedure proposed in this Bill of the Government is in many points similar, if not identical, to the procedure which is the admitted practice under the law of Scotland. Now, Sir, I have taken the trouble to consult authorities in this matter, and I find that in this volume—Hume on Crime—the procedure in the Scotch Courts is laid down in this manner—that after the libel is raised all intercourse between the Crown and the witnesses for the prisoners is forbidden and prohibited expressly. This prohibition is what we desire to create by the Amendment which is under the consideration of this Committee. In these circumstances I find it—I must necessarily find it—very difficult to understand what is the exact position in argument, and in common sense, of those Gentlemen who tell us, over and over again, that the clause against which the Amendment is directed is the same as a provision contained in the Scotch law, and make a strong effort to justify themselves on this false ground, in their desire to retain to the Government the right to torture and interfere with the witnesses for the defence—the witnesses for prisoners against whom the prosecutors are already prejudiced. Surely, Sir, we do not ask too much when we look for some explanation of unreasoning belief and conduct of this sort.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I think, Sir, considering the many alterations which it will be now necessary to make in this measure, that it should be presented to the Members of the Committee in a clearer form. I would like to learn from the Government whether, in consequence of these numerous alterations which have taken place, it is their intention to have the Bill reprinted for Members' convenience?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I think that surely the hon. Member (Sir John Swinburne) will remember that up to this moment the Committee has got through exactly three lines and a: half of the measure, and I would ask him to accept as reasonable that under these circumstances the Government think it too much to ask, and quite un- 675 necessary, that this Bill should be reprinted at present.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.