HC Deb 03 May 1887 vol 314 cc693-4
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Who is the Minister of the Crown responsible for instructions given by the Solicitor to the Treasury to Counsel in a prosecution conducted by the Treasury; whether Mr. Poland, in his application to the magistrate at the Marylebone Police Court, to withhold from a jury the cases of the seven defendants charged before him with riotous conduct, was acting by the direction of a Minister; and, whether his intention to make such application was officially communicated to any Minister? The hon. Member said, he would further ask, whether the Home Secretary desired to withdraw the statement that Mr. Poland was not instructed by the Treasury; also, whether he was aware that five of the defendants, who were not Socialists, were most anxious to appeal, but were prevented doing so owing to the amount of bail—namely, two sureties in £50 each; and, whether, having regard to the position in life of the persons, such bail was not oppressive?


(who replied) said: The first of the hon. Member's supplementary Questions is covered by the answer I am about to give to the Question on the Paper; and of the second I shall require Notice. The Question on the Paper does not discriminate between the functions of the Treasury Solicitor, as such solicitor, and his functions as Director of Public Prosecutions. In his latter capacity, he may act either on his own motion or on the instructions of some particular Department. When he acts simply as Solicitor to the Treasury, he acts under the authority of the Minister who instructs him. In this particular case, the usual application was made by the Commissioner of Police for the authority of the Secretary of State for the employment of counsel, and the authority was accordingly given. Such an application is always acceded to, as a matter of course, when the case is one of difficulty, and instructions are formally given through the Treasury Solicitor. When once instructions have been given, it is not the practice for a Minister of the Crown to interfere with the conduct of the case, and he did not do so in this instance. Nor, as a rule, does the Treasury Solicitor interfere with the discretion of counsel in a prosecution of this sort, and the Secretary of State did not so interfere in this case. In the particular line pursued by Mr. Poland, he was not acting under the direction of a Minister. Nor, as far as the Secretary of State is aware, did he communicate his intention to any Minister.