§ Clause 1 (Inquiry by order f Attorney General).
In page 2, line 12, at end, add, committed in a proclaimed district whether committed be-
fore or after the passing of this Act, provided that no inquiry shall be held under this section concerning any offence punishable under this Act committed in any district before the proclamation of such district, unless such offence would have been indictable if this Act had act passed."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
This Amendment provides that offences to which the section applies committed in a proclaimed district, whether committed before or after the passing of this Act shall be the subject of inquiry provided that no inquiry has been held concerning an offence punishable under the section committed in any district before it was proclaimed, unless such offence would have been indictable if the Act had not been passed. Now, it seems to me that that provision is somewhat unintelligible unless it means that an inquiry is to be held into offences committed in a district, whether the district has been proclaimed or not. I wish to point out that the Government have had another Crimes Bill under which they were able to hold an inquiry into any offence committed previous to August, 1885, and I think it would be most unreasonable to make this preliminary inquiry apply to offences committed before that date. I will, therefore, move as an Amendment to add to the clause the words "unless such offence was committed since the expiry of the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1882."
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTOENEY GENEEAL FOR IEELAND (Mr. HOLMES (Dublin University)
I have no objection to the words proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That the Amendment, as amended, be added to the proposed Clause," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. HOLMES
I have now to move a further Amendment to provide that every summons shall be in the form contained in the Schedule, and that every warrant to commit a witness to prison for refusing to answer a question shall 261 set out the question which the witness refused to answer.
In page 2, line 12, at end, add, "(10.) Every summons under this section may be in the form in the Schedule to this Act, or to the like effect. Every warrant to commit a witness to prison for refusing to answer a question put to him on an examination held under this section shall set out the question which the witness refused to answer."—[The Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The summons itself, I presume, may be susceptible of Amendment. In this proposal the form of the summons is in reality left in blank. May I ask if this is the proper moment to discuss the summons?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then I wish the Government to take notice of the fact that I propose to move an Amendment in regard to the form of the summons when the Schedule is reached. I now come to the second portion of the Amendment which applies to the warrant. I presume that this Amendment has been put down by the Government in fulfilment of the pledge given by the Attorney General for Ireland to the Committee that the Court shall have full knowledge in dealing with a witness committed for contempt, for refusing to answer a question put to him, of what the question was which the witness refused to answer. As the law stands at present no warrant to commit a witness for contempt in refusing to answer a question gives the Court any power unless the question was a lawful one which the witness refused to answer. All the Court would do would be to receive a warrant regularly setting forth the question; but it would have no further power except to ascertain, in the first instance, that everything connected with the warrant was regular, and that the witness was not entitled to refuse to answer the question put to him on examination. The Government have rejected an Amendment to provide that the questions shall be lawful questions, and as the clause now stands there is nothing to restrict a magistrate from putting unlawful questions. For instance, a 262 magistrate might ask a witness in an inquiry for wilful murder—"Was your child vaccinated?" and if the witness declined to answer, and was committed to prison, that question would appear on the face of the warrant. Of course, it would be open for the Court to say that it might afford some clue in regard to the murder whether the child had been vaccinated or not; but it is very like the old saying of the strawberry mark on the arm. I am of opinion that unless the Government will consent to add something to the words now proposed, the present Amendment will be entirely illusory.
§ MR. HOLMES
The object of the Amendment is to give the means of quashing an illegal order of commitment. I may point out that the law on the subject is that where the committal has been made by a Court of inferior jurisdiction, it is necessary to show on the face of the order what the ground of committal was. By the general law it will be requisite to show that a summons had been duly issued specifying the character of the crime and the ground upon which the witness had been sent to prison—namely, that he had declined to answer a question put to him. It was pointed out that, although the offence would be mentioned in the warrant, still the Court would hardly be in a position to judge whether the commitment was justifiable unless the question the witness had refused to answer appeared on the face of the warrant. Under those circumstances, I said that the Government had no objection to the question being set out, and if it should appear that there was no jurisdiction in the Court below to put the question, the warrant could be quashed. That is the intention of the Government, and in the Amendment on the Paper it is provided that the Court shall inquire whether the magistrate properly exercised his jurisdiction. If it can be shown that the magistrate exceeded his jurisdiction, then, of course, the warrant would be quashed, and the magistrate himself would be liable to an action. That would be the position of the magistrate; but, at the same time, it is desirable to place him in a position that will enable any complaint as regards what occurred on the inquiry to be considered by setting out what the question 263 was which the witness refused to answer. We certainly cannot consent to throw upon the magistrate any greater responsibility on an inquiry under this section than would be entailed upon him in an ordinary inquiry.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I think the proposed Amendment is very objectionable in the form in which it stands. The Attorney General for Ireland says that the inferior Court must show that it had jurisdiction to put the question, and that if the warrant does not show that the magistrate had jurisdiction, the magistrate himself would be liable to an action. No doubt that would be so in an ordinary case, but in the case of a warrant of this kind no crime would be specified, and there would be no person accused. In the case of an ordinary warrant, there is a crime specified and a person accused, and the warrant stating the crime would afford the accused an opportunity of showing whether the magistrate had jurisdiction or not. In this case you have neither a crime specified nor an individual accused, and therefore the Court would have no means whatever of testing, on the face of the warrant, whether it had been issued within the jurisdiction of the magistrate or not. The first part of the Amendment states that—Every summons under this section may be in the form in the Schedule to this Act, or to the like effect.I cannot imagine how it is possible to use more objectionable words. As they stand, it would undoubtedly be hold by the Court of Queen's Bench that the magistrate had power to commit a man under any warrant and under any form of summons. I will move the omission of the word "may" in the first line in order to substitute the word "shall."
§ MR. CHANCE
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the Registration Acts, he will find that the word is "shall," and not "may."
§ Amendment to the said proposed Amendment, to omit the word "may," and insert the word "shall,"—(Mr. Chance,)—put, and agreed to.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I had hoped to get from the Attorney General for Ire- 264 land some statement as to what he conceives to be the language of the Amendment. Quo ad the decision which was arrived at some days ago, in my opinion it is perfectly valueless, and does not advance the matter one jot. It does not provide or indicate that the Superior Court is to enter into the whole matter, but the law is left entirely as it stood. Is it intended that the Court of review shall have the shorthand writer's notes before it? Is there any objection to that?
§ MR. HOLMES
I believe that in this Amendment I have given what I proposed to give, and all that I proposed to give.
§ MR. CHANCE
This Amendment, if carried, will decide the question as to what is to appear on the face of the warrant. It has already been ruled that, as far as the form of summons is concerned, it shall be decided on the Schedule. Is it not desirable that the same course shall be taken in regard to the warrant—namely, that every warrant issued under the section shall be in the form contained in the Schedule? I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if that course were adopted, and, therefore, I will move the omission of all the words after the words "Every summons under this section may be in the form in the Schedule of this Act, or to the like effect."
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To omit the words "Every warrant to commit a witness to prison for refusing to answer a question put to him on an examination held under this section shall set out the question which the witness refused to answer."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. HOLMES
The form of the warrant is given in the Petty Sessions Act to which reference has been made.
§ MR. CHANCE
The warrant given in the Petty Sessions Act cannot possibly be used for this purpose, and for this reason, that the warrant in that case states the offence, it gives the names of persons, and a number of other things, which cannot possibly be stated in a warrant committing a man for refusing to answer a question in this preliminary inquiry. If such a form of warrant is 265 used it will only involve trouble in future. How can you fill up a warrant stating specific names, when the very essence of the preliminary inquiry is to discover whether a crime has been committed, and who committed it? I think it is only reasonable that the question should be postponed until we reach the Schedule. We are making substantial progress with the clause, and we have every desire to assist the Government. Nothing could be more reasonable than to accept this simple Amendment, which only postpones the matter until the proper stage for entertaining it is reached.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I wish to point out to the Attorney General for Ireland that the Amendment, as it stands, is absurd, because it says that the warrant shall set out the question. The investigation may, however, involve a great number of questions—for instance, as to what the witness has been doing for several weeks. He may be asked—"Where were you on a particular day?" and he says—"I decline to answer." How could the Court judge, from that question, whether it was a question a witness was bound to answer under the Act? In the Court of Chancery, when a witness is asked a question, and refuses to answer, it is necessary to set forth the context of the examination, and unless this is done in this instance, it is impossible to determine whether the witness refused to answer a question which the magistrate was entitled to put. I am sure the Attorney General for Ireland will see the force of what I am pointing out. To give one question alone would, in many cases, be altogether absurd. I, therefore, hope that the Government will consent to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member, and that the form of warrant shall be contained in the Schedule, and shall set forth what it was substantially that the witness refused to answer. It is quite evident that a certain portion of the examination must be set out, in order to show the relevancy of the question the witness refused to answer.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
While I am of opinion that the Attorney General for Ireland has met the promise he made the other day, and while I think the statement of the question would enable the person challenging it to raise the matter in another Court, I submit 266 there is some slight inaccuracy in the view put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that it will be sufficient to adopt the form of warrant already set out in the Petty Sessions Act. I do not think that that form can be adopted here, and there must be a special form to meet the requirements of this measure. We are, therefore, only wasting time in discussing the matter. If we are going to provide that the form of summons is to be specified in the Schedule, I think it would be better to provide, also, that the warrant shall be set forth in the Schedule. A form of warrant used in other cases cannot apply literally to this clause.
§ MR. HOLMES
It would not apply literally, but if you give a new form of summons the warrant would follow that summons. This is the third time that this question has been discussed, and if it is now allowed to stand over until the Schedule is reached without taking a Division upon it, in all probability there will be a fourth discussion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I am anxious to save the time of the Committee, and I will, therefore, ask the hon. Member, who moved the Amendment, if it is really necessary that be should press it. The Attorney General for Ireland, as I understand, has agreed that the warrant shall set out the question. I do not quite understand when the question is set out what the Court is to do; but I do not believe the Court would allow itself to be baffled when a question has been sent up to be dealt with; but that it would insist on having brought before it all the particulars affecting the question. It is quite evident that there must be a now form of warrant if a common form of warrant would not do; but I think that all these matters may be left over to a later stage, because any decision we may arrive at now would not conclude the matter at all. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have already obtained a considerable concession in the fact that the warrant is to set out the question which the witness has refused to answer.
§ MR. CHANCE
I am willing to withdraw the Amendment providing it is perfectly understood that I shall not be precluded, at a later stage, from raising the form of the warrant which is to set out the question "the witness refused to 267 answer." The form of warrant will be a very large question indeed, and must be discussed either on the Report or on some stage or other of the Bill. I think the Government would be well advised if they left it over for discussion until the Schedule is reached, rather than take it upon the Report stage, because upon the Report the matter would be more elaborately and more formally discussed. I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee that it should be raised on the Schedule. If, however, the Government do not choose to take that course, it is their own fault if further discussion arises.
§ Amendment to proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The Amendment as it now stands provides that the warrant shall set forth the question which the witness has refused to answer; but there is nothing to compel the person drawing up the warrant to specify the offence in relation to which the witness has been committed. I would ask the Government to consent to add these words at the end, "and shall specify the offence in reference to which the inquiry has been held."
§ MR. HOLMES
A warrant of this character would not hold water for a moment, unless the offence is distinctly set forth.
§ MR. CHANCE
I would remind the Attorney General for Ireland that a warrant was issued under Porster's Act, which ran in this way—To commit a man to gaol for having "been reasonably suspected of having at some time or other, at some place or other, committed some offence against the peace of Her Majesty the Queen.If we are to adopt the form of warrant used in the Petty Sessions Act I do not see how it can be made available, because it is not at all relevant to a case of preliminary inquiry. This, however, is a miserably small wrangle upon minor matters, and if the Government really want to act squarely, it would be easy to give an assurance on this small but very reasonable point, and not to prolong a discussion when we want to arrive at more substantial points.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg to move to add in page 2, at the end the following Proviso:— 268Provided that no examination under this section shall be held in respect of any matters relating to public meetings, or transaction relating to the lotting, hiring, or occupation of land, or the dealing with, working for, or hiring of any person in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation.In moving this Amendment it will be my object, although I feel that it is a difficult one, to keep clear of other parts of the Bill. I will try to do so as far as I possibly can. Everyone will perceive this, that this first clause includes all the offences under the Bill, and the question I desire to raise is that there should be certain things which may be created offences under the Bill which shall not come under the operation of this clause. A Division was taken the other night upon the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Lockwood), which specified certain offences to which alone the clause should be applicable—such as murder, arson, and so forth. The Committee decided against the Amendment, but the Amendment I now move has a different scope. It will be seen that it admits the application of the clause to all offences except those specified in the Amendment; but then those are offences which are within some of the clauses of the Bill, and to which, I venture to submit to the Committee, legislation of this kind should not be applied. The first observation I will make is, that the favourite argument that this was done in 1882 cannot be applied, at all events, to this argument, because the Bill of 1882 did not introduce as an offence the matter of conspiracy, such as is found in Clause 2, Sub-section 1, of this Bill; and, therefore, there is no question of making inquiry into questions of conspiracy. A similar clause in the Act of 1882 also excluded that part of this Bill which refers to public meetings. Therefore, it will be seen that there is no question of the application of the Act of 1882, either in regard to conspiracy or to matters relating to public meetings. In the provisions of the Criminal Code as introduced into the House by Sir John Holker, to which reference has frequently been made, it was distinctly admitted that these private inquiries were not to be of universal application, and that they were to be applied only to offences to which they might be considered appropriate. In the Code of 1882 there was an express exception of all offences except those in which a man 269 might be arrested without a warrant, a term which indicated that, in regard to the classification of offences, there were certain offences which could only be dealt with by summons, and which would not be subject to a private inquiry of this kind. It would seem to be unwise and unjust to make inquiries of this kind extend to minor offences, and expose people to an investigation into all the circumstances of their social and private life. The popular representation of this Bill is that it is directed against crime, and, in the case of Scotland, which has been cited in justification of the measure, it is thoroughly understood that the so inquiries must be directed against crime. Now, people understand by crime murder, arson, outrage, moonlighting, cattle maiming, and so on; and it is to such crimes that these inquiries may be properly applied. It is not necessary for my argument that I should enter into the discussion of this point at this moment. I admit that it is so, but that is not the point which I desire to raise. What I ask is, will the Government be content with that? If they be content to direct this inquiry against that which is popularly understood as crime, then they may get on very fast with their Bill. It is one of my principal objects to got at the mind of the Government on the subject—to know what are the purposes and what are the objects to which they intend to direct these powers; and I hope we shall have from them a frank and a clear statement on this subject, which may very much facilitate this discussion and considerably shorten our labours. If the Government say that they do not intend to apply this power to murder, outrage, moonlighting, cattle maiming, and so on, but that they mean it for something else, then I would ask what else? The Attorney General for England stated the other night that the Government mean to direct this power against Boycotting. Let us go a step further. What do they mean by "Boycotting?" Do they mean "intimidation?" There, again, I should not feel inclined to take issue with them, but do they mean by "Boycotting" combination? Again, I put the question pointedly to the Government, and I ask for an answer, and a plain answer, to it. Do they mean combination apart from intimidation—the intimidation which was dealt with in the Trades Unions Act of 1875, 270 which contains a definition of intimidation. A second question I ask the Government is—Do they mean to apply these powers to combinations in reference to land, in reference to dealing, in reference to labour, and so forth, which have not been an element of intimidation? I am sure the Government will admit that we ought not to allow the Bill to be passed for one offence, and actually to be used for a purpose totally different. Therefore, we have a right to understand exactly, plainly, and clearly what it is the Bill is intended to be used for, To my mind, the expressions contained in the Bill are very suspicious. In the first sub-section of Clause 2 the conspiracies and combinations are set out, and they are kept altogether separate from violence and intimidation. The intimidation section is Sub-section 2; but the section which relates to conspiracy and combination is Sub-section 1, which has no reference in it to intimidation. I can, therefore, only conclude that the Government are directing this Bill against combinations which are not combinations of intimidation. Otherwise, why do they make that distinction? It is quite plain that under Sub-section I the Government may deal with combinations which are not combinations of intimidation at all. Combinations for purposes of Trades Unions have been declared by Act of Parliament to be lawful. It was found necessary by Statute to declare them lawful, because the Judges had declared them to be unlawful; and, therefore, the words which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has put on the Paper to meet that objection—namely, "which would be punishable by law—do not help the matter at all, because they simply throw the tenants of Ireland back into the position of workmen before the Act of 1875—that is to say, that they are subjected to the law affecting Common Law conspiracy without protection. To show what dangers people may be exposed to under Common Law conspiracy, I will simply quote a passage from a very high authority—a friend of mine, Mr. Wright, who is well-known to all lawyers, and whose book was of great assistance to us in the contest we engaged in some years ago in regard to Trades Unions. Those Trades Unions' discussions were founded upon the necessity of making clear, and, to some 271 extent, overruling, the decisions of the Judges, and more especially the decision which had been given in the case of the gas-stokers. Mr. Wright says that in the old days it was a criminal offence to break a contract between master and servant, and this was laid down to be the law—that to break down a contract of that character was a criminal offence; but if there was not evidence of a conspiracy, it was not held that the breaking of a contract, or a combination to break a contract, was any offence at all. It cannot be maintained in law that a combination to break a contract is a criminal offence, and yet that seems to be what is indicated in the 1st subsection of the clause, where it says—Any criminal conspiracy to compel or induce any person or persona not to fulfil his or their legal obligations.What do the Government mean by that? Do they mean that if three persons agree together not to perform a contract that that is a criminal offence? I ask the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland and the hon. and learned Attorney General for England to answer that question. No doubt the Judges, as Mr. Wright points out in his book, held that an agreement to break a contract was a criminal offence. That, however, was universally recognized to be wrong; and of the great objects of the Act of 1875 was to make it clear that no agreement, or combination to break a contract, was a criminal offence. I take it that the right, hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland will not deny for a moment that, under that Act, a combination not to keep a contract is not made an offence in the Criminal Law, and yet it seems that that is intended by the present Bill. It is a subject of which, I think, we ought to have a clear indication from the Government as to their view of the matter. We ought to be told by them do they, or do they not, hold that, apart from intimidation, an agreement to break a contract is a criminal offence. If that is so, it militates against the fundamental principle of law, which is this—that the Criminal Law is not to be brought in in aid of the enforcement of a civil contract. If it be true that a combination to break a contract is a criminal offence, then the person who enters into a marriage contract, and who is induced by his friends to break it off, instead of being liable in 272 damages, may be liable to a criminal indictment for a conspiracy to break a contract. I ask the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland whether, in order to enforce a contract of marriage, he proposes that it may be possible to indict persons for conspiracy to break that contract. I only wish to know where we stand, and what the view of the Government is upon that question. No doubt, in the old days the language of the Courts was extremely loose; and there is great danger here, because the Government are going, for the first time, to entrust the dealing with this question of conspiracy to the Resident Magistrates—men who are not necessarily learned in the principles of the law, and who may have a disposition to strain those principles of the law. If a man chooses to strain the law of conspiracy, there is nothing that he cannot do, and no person whom he cannot bring within the meshes of the law. In the case of Eccles, decided in 1783, it was laid down by Lord Mansfield that the illegal combination was the gist of the offence, so that if a person in possession of any article of trade may combine to sell it at a certain price, or not to sell it under a certain price, every person who combined in a strike of that kind could be indicted for conspiracy. That is the Common Law doctrine in regard to conspiracy—'namely, that if three tradesmen or merchants agree together not to sell an article under a certain price, they are guilty of conspiracy. I see that the Attorney General for England smiles at that, but I will tell him that that was the doctrine which we found it necessary to legislate against in the Trades Unions Act. That is the Common Law doctrine of conspiracy; and, therefore, if any tradesman combines with another set of tradesmen to obtain a certain price for certain articles, he is guilty of a criminal offence; and every labourer who combines in a strike subjects himself to an indictment. During a great part of the present century men have been frequently sent to prison for such combinations without having resorted to any intimidation at all. Parliament felt the extreme danger and injustice of such a state of the law, and in the Bill which was brought in by Sir Richard Cross they overruled that doctrine, and gave the people security against it. I had 273 the honour of taking part, with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), in the discussions which resulted in that Bill being brought in. The question which I have now to ask the Government is this—Will you give to the tenants of Ireland the same protection which Parliament has given to the labourers of England by the Trades Unions Act? Apart from intimidation under the Trades Unions Act a combination is lawful, and cannot be dealt with as a criminal offence by any Judge or any magistrate in England. Do you propose to make the law in Ireland the same as in England, and, if not, will you give some reason for not doing so? In England the feeling of the Judges was—and no doubt they were perfectly honest in expressing that feeling—that combinations of this kind were unlawful, but all that was altered by the Trades Unions Act of 1875. Will the Government place the Irish tenants in the same position with reference to their combinations? Will they declare that every combination of the tenants of Ireland with reference to the tenure of land, so far as it may affect the interest of the landlord class, is lawful, and ought not to be dealt with as an offence? If the Government will not do that, they must give some reason for their refusal. I ask no more than that the Government shall make it perfectly clear, beyond any possibility of contradiction, that the right of combination of tenants in Ireland with respect to land, which is their industry, shall be placed upon exactly the same footing as the combination of labourers in England with regard to their wages.
I am extremely reluctant to interfere with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman; but I must point out that the whole of his argument, so far, has been directed towards an Amendment to the first sub-section of Clause 2, and is not strictly relevant here. The argument here ought to be of this character—although certain transactions may be made punishable, they ought not to be examinable. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that they ought not to be punishable, and that contention should be raised on the first sub-section of Clause 2. I do not know whether it is convenient to the 274 Committee that the discussion should proceed now. Although it may be irregular, that may no doubt be done by an understanding being come to by the Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I recognize the pertinence of the observations that have fallen from the Chair. I commenced my argument by saying how difficult I should find it to separate the two cases, because I felt how closely interlaced they are one with the other. It is extremely difficult to discuss them separately, because it is necessary to consider how this power of inquiry into a particular matter really involves the matter itself.
§ THE CHIEF SECEETAEY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say on behalf of his Friends that they mean to take the discussion now, and not on Clause 2? ["No, no!"]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
No; I do not say that. The discussion on Clause 2 will be taken when that clause is reached. It is impossible for me to give a pledge of that kind. One of the arguments used for applying this Bill against combinations is that they fear the character of coercion. Well, but what do you mean by coercion? Every strike is a coercion, in its very nature. As Mr. Wright says—" The very meaning of a strike is a combination to cause a master or workman to act in his business or employment in a manner in which he does not wish to act, i.e., to coerce him." Therefore every strike is coercion; every combination is coercion. Every combination is, of course, an injury to the person against whom it is meant. If a dozen men say they will not work at less wages than a particular figure, that is an injury to the employer who, if he could take each man separately, might get his work performed at a lower rate. Therefore all these combinations are of the nature of coercion, and are to be put down per fas et nefas. It depends upon the heinousness of the offence whether we are to put it down by extraordinary methods. This is an extraordinary method. Nobody doubts that. The question is to what offences is the remedy to be applied, and I say that it is not to be applied to offences of this character, and if the Government endeavour to justify its application to a 275 combination of this kind, because they say it partakes of the character of coercion, then I say that that is an argument which will apply equally to a strike, because a strike is necessary in the character of coercion. Therefore I say that you ought not to apply limits of this kind merely for the purpose of maintaining civil contracts. You are not to do it by imposing this form of punishment, and here I will point out that this is a preliminary question to the question of punishment. It is not as if there were proof that anybody had committed an offence that a magistrate might surmise that there had been a combination of which there was no evidence, except what he was going to obtain by the mere force of this examination. There is nothing until the examination commences in the shape of a corpus delicti at all. The magistrate may get hold of all kinds of persons, and may inquire into their habits of life and all their business transactions in order, if possible, to discover a combination which, when he has discovered it, he might convert it into a crime. That is the real operation of this clause. I do not charge the Government with intending it, but I point out that this is what may happen, and what I ask from them is a distinct disclaimer, and a Parliamentary security that this shall not be the result of the present legislation. The question which I want particularly to ask is this. If there were a Land Trades Union—I will give it that name—if there were a land Trades Union in Ireland in every respect upon the lines and the principles and the details of a labour Trades Union in England, and if it were applied to the tenure of land in Ireland, do the Government intend to apply this private inquiry to such Trades Unions? If you do, tell me why you draw a distinction between a land Trades Union and a labour Trades Union. I put this hypothesis that the tenants of Ireland may constitute themselves a Trades Union, and call themselves a Land League or a National League or anything else; but, as a matter of fact, they are only a land Trades Union, and if they proceed by combination among themselves to deal with the tenure of land in particular districts, or even throughout the whole of Ireland just as Trades Unions do in England, do you mean to apply this investigation to such 276 Trades Unions in the hope of discovering in their transactions something which may make their combination criminal? That is the definite question which we ought to consider. It would appear that it is absolutely necessary that combinations of this kind should be entered into. We have before us the fact, that last February rents which had been imposed of £7,550 a-year, had been fixed by the Land Court at £5,664, showing a reduction of more than 30 per cent. More than that, there are a great number of tenants who cannot go into the Court now because their rent has been adjudicated upon; therefore they are unable to defend themselves. They can only defend themselves by means of combination. Combination is their only defence, and the question is—How are you going to deal with those combinations? Are you going to root them out by the help of these private inquiries under Clause 1? Are you going to set to work under that clause by putting every man under examination to see whether he is in a combination or whether he intends to join one, because the words of the clause are—Any person who, by words or acts shall incite, solicit, encourage, or persuade any other person to commit any of the offences hereinbefore mentioned.Is a person who advises a combination in reference to the land, presumably examinable in a private inquiry under Section 1? I remember that when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and myself were working together in regard to the law of Trades Unions in England, my right hon. and learned Friend said the complaint of the working man was that the law of conspiracy pressed with peculiar irritation, by reason of its uncertainty. He said that that was the law laid down by the Judges, and he maintained that in punishing what the law called conspiracy we wore punishing what the working man called combination. Apply that sentence to this case, and apply it to Section 2 of the Bill—that in punishing what the Act calls conspiracy, we are punishing what the tenants in Ireland calls combination. My right hon. and learned Friend added these words—They are bound to combine; and experience shows that without combination, all attempts to improve their situation is hopeless.277 Is not that true of the present situation? Let us know whether this Bill is directed against combination. Let us know how far it is to go against combination, and if you strip it of the element of intimidation, do you mean to act against it preliminarily by the private inquiry and subsequently by imprisonment? I have said all that I need say in respect to the land; but the section goes much further. It deals with persons working for, or hiring any persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation. Consequently you may inquire into the reason why any man does not deal with a particular tradesman. The magistrate may send for him and say—"Why don't you deal with so and so." Why am I to answer such a question—a question which may be put to me, in order to extract from the answer some proof that I may have combined with other people not to deal with a particular individual? I very much doubt whether, if you invoke the old Common Law doctrine, you can establish that that is a conspiracy. Are you to proceed against half-a-dozen people who say they will not deal with a certain publican because they object to the character of his house. Is a combination of that kind a conspiracy? Or take the case of an ordinary grocer. I only want to ascertain what the doctrine is which the Government hold on the subject, and how they are going to deal with it, The words of the clause are "hiring any person or persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation." Surely that would strike everybody who comes within the definition of the Trades Unions Act? The Bill recapitulates the old law before the Trades Unions Act was passed, and converts these acts into a conspiracy. In fact, the Bill is a frightful extension of the Criminal Law, and it gives a frightful extension to the inquisitorial preliminary inquiry, because even if you admit that the combination itself is punishable, you are not going to apply this inquiry to people who have been proved guilty of combination, but to order an inquiry in order to ascertain whether there has been a combination or not. I want to know who, under such an Act, would be safe? The Attorney General for Ireland himself might be had up and asked as to his dealings with others, who he works for, and by whom he is paid? All 278 these investigations may be applied to one man as well as another, and rigidly applied, would make social life intolerable. These are things which I maintain you ought to leave to the Civil Law. I know that it is said the essence of the offence lies in the combination; but if there is a thing which it is lawful for one man to do, why should it not be lawful for two men, or three, or any number of men to do the same thing together, unless they use intimidation, which the law very wisely provided for in the Act of 1875? I sincerely hope that we are not going to introduce, for the first time, a doctrine of conspiracy, which, as far as the action of Parliament is concerned, has never been introduced before, and which in itself is unfair and unjust. I am sorry to say that recently the Irish Judges, in regard to the doctrine of conspiracy, have gone far beyond what has ever been held before even in the most extreme cases. That is a fact which ought to make us still more careful. We found it necessary in England to legislate against the doctrine laid down by such an eminent Judge as the present Master of the Rolls—Lord Esher—then Mr. Justice Brett—in the case of the gas stokers. There would be infinite danger in leaving the matter loose and at large in Ireland, especially in the present social condition of Ireland. I strongly protest against the inquisitorial power conferred upon the Resident Magistrates under this clause of the Bill. You may justify it, as it was justified in 1882, if you have the same justification—namely, that there is a dangerous prevalence of secret societies in Ireland, as was mentioned in the Preamble of the Act of 1882. I will admit, for the sake of argument, that you may use this power as it was proposed to be used in the Act of 1882 in regard to what is ordinarily understood by the word crime, but not for the purpose of dealing with combinations which, in my opinion, are perfectly legitimate. There is now only one other point to which I wish to refer—the question of public meetings. I hope, when we come to the clause of the Bill dealing with that question, we shall press the Government. If they want to make use of the Whiteboy Acts, they ought to put into the Bill an abstract of the clauses of those Acts which they desire to incorporate with the Bill. In criminal legislation it is 279 especially necessary to be precise, and it would be easy to condense into a short clause such provisions of the Whiteboy Acts as the Government mean to use. They have given a number of fragmentary clauses of which it is extremely difficult to make head or tail. This, at least, is clear—that by virtue of those Acts and the Bill, if any persons assemble by day or night to the "terror of Her Majesty's subjects," by the decision of the magistrate it is an offence. It is quite true that the Act says "to the terror of Her Majesty's subjects," and that no persons ought to meet to the terror of Her Majesty's subjects. Who is to define what constituted such terror? What do the Government mean? I will tell you what a Tory Government of former days decided in the case of the Peterloo riots. Those riots arose out of the meetings called for the reform of Parliament. The military fired on the mob, and the question arose whether the meeting was an illegal one. Two great legal authorities—Lord Eldon and Lord Redesdale—gave their opinion in favour of the Government—that it was an illegal meeting. We shall find here what was then held to be an illegal meeting "to the terror of Her Majesty's subjects." Lord Eldon said that when he read the law books he found that numbers constituted force, force terror, and terror illegality; and, under those circumstances, he said he could not deny that the Manchester meeting was an illegal meeting. Look at the process of reasoning; numbers constitute force, force terror, and terror illegality; and, therefore, that meeting, without having been proclaimed, was illegal. Consequently, a numerous meeting is necessarily a terror to Her Majesty's subjects. I will ask the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland if he accepts that as the doctrine in reference to illegal meetings in Ireland? Lord Redesdale went even further. He said that every meeting for Radical reform was not only a seditious attempt to undermine the existing Constitutional Government by bringing it into hatred and contempt, but was an overt act of treasonable conspiracy against that Constitutional Government, which the King, as its head, was bound by his Coronation Oath to maintain. Therefore, as a meeting that is numerous is an illegal meeting according to Lord Eldon, a meeting 280 for reform is a treasonable conspiracy according to Lord Redesdale. There is nothing to prevent a Resident Magistrate from holding the same doctrines as Lord Eldon and Lord Redesdale; therefore, if a meeting is numerous, the numbers inspire terror, and a meeting in favour of Home Rule is, of course, a treasonable conspiracy. I want to know if these doctrines are to be left to the Resident Magistrates to determine so far as the application of the Whiteboy Acts is concerned. Not merely anybody who goes to a meeting, but anyone who gives notice of a meeting or publishes it, or even has it in contemplation to do so, may be secretly interrogated by a magistrate, and if the magistrate does not approve the objects of the meeting, it may be forbidden, and even imprisonment may be inflicted. But there is a much more serious power which comes up under Clauses 6 and 7. Clause 6 provides that—If the Lord Lieutenant is satisfied that any association formed for the commission of crimes, or carrying on operations by the commission of crimes, or encouraging or aiding persons to commit crimes, or promoting or inciting to acts of violence or intimidation, or interfering with the administrution of the law, or disturbing the maintenance of law and order,he shall have power to proclaim it. That sounds all right, but if hon. Members will look at the bottom of the clause they will find that the expression "crime" means any offence punishable under the Act. Therefore, it is not even the Resident Magistrate, but if the Lord Lieutenant is of opinion that any association is a criminal conspiracy under the section, or a combination of which he does not approve, he may without any judicial decision, or even the form of application to a Resident Magistrate, by his mere ipse dixit, make it criminal, and everybody who has had anything to do with it may be sent to prison summarily on his declaration. Any half-dozen people selected by the Lord Lieutenant may be declared to be an association of this character. By Clause 7 the term "association" is made to include any combination of persons, whether the same be known by any distinctive name or not. Therefore, any combination in reference to land proposing to hold a meeting will be at the mercy of the Lord Lieutenant, who may deal with it without any preliminary inquiry whatever, or any legal discussion. It is converted 281 into an illegal meeting ipso facto, and all persons belonging to it may be sent to prison. At this early stage, I think we have a right to know to what purposes the Government mean to apply these clauses, and whether or not they really intend to do that which appears, on the face of the words of the Bill, to be the purpose of it. I hope, and fully expect, to receive a disclaimer from the Government that they intend to do anything of the kind. If they have no such intention, I trust they will accept my Amendment, so as to prevent the possibility of the Bill being applied to such purposes.
In page 2, at end, add—"Provided that no examination under this section shall be held in respect of any matters relating to public meetings, or transaction relating to the letting, hiring, or occupation of land, or the dealing with, working for, or hiring of any persons in the ordinary course of trade, business or occupation."—(Sir William Harcourt.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRE-LAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I must protest, although in no hostile or controversial spirit, against the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, who has delivered a long, elaborate, and able speech, but a speech which would certainly have been more appropriate at a later part of the Bill. I have no doubt the same arguments would be repeated hereafter, either by the right hon. Gentleman himself or some of those who sit near him, with not less detail or elaboration. The result will probably be that what might have been dismissed at one sitting will now be extended over two or three. If the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to the Committee are of such a kind as to convince the Committee that the offences dealt with in the later clauses ought not to be included in the Bill, then ipso facto, by the very action of the Committee, they will cease to be the subjects of a private inquiry under this section. Therefore, it would have been more for the convenience of the Committee that the discussion should be taken upon the question whether certain offences are to be punished summarily or not, and act upon the subsidiary question whether there should be a private inquiry into them. 282 I have said that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was very long and elaborate. There was, however, one remarkable omission in it, and that was that he never once alluded to his own Amendment. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the drafting of the Amendment. It seems to me that it is couched in terms so vague, so wide, and obscure that I have not been able, even with legal assistance, to find out what its operation really would be. Look at the wording of the Amendment. It says—No examination under this section shall be held in respect of any matters relating to public meetings.As I understand, the result would be that if a murder happened to be committed at a public meeting no examination should take place into any of the circumstances connected with it under the first section. Then the Amendment goes on to say, that no inquiry shall be held into anytransaction relating to the letting, hiring, or occupation of land, or the dealing with, working for, or hiring of any persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation.That seems to me to exclude all agrarian offences whatever. Take the case of the murdered man Murphy as an example. I do not suppose that that is the object of the right hon. Gentleman, but it is the effect of the clause. The murder of the man Murphy undoubtedly was connected with the letting, or hiring, or occupation of land. If the clause were adopted textually it would certainly preclude examination into cases like that of the murder of Murphy. I do not think it necessary to spend a longer time over this Amendment, considering that the right hon. Gentleman never referred to it once in the course of his speech. Therefore, in the few remarks I propose to make, I shall confine myself to the remarks the right hon. Gentleman has made to the Committee. But the right hon. Gentleman asked two or three categorical questions with regard to the interpretation we put upon the clause and the combinations we wish to punish under it. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman into his learned disquisition upon the law of conspiracy. The conspiracy the Government mean to punish under this Bill, and mean to inquire into under this clause, is sufficiently defined either in the body of 283 the Bill itself or by the Amendments the Government have put upon the Paper. The Government have made it, I hope, perfectly clear that, while they make no attempt, and mean to make no attempt, to modify the law of conspiracy, they mean to confine the operation of the Bill strictly to conspiracies which, by the law as it at present stands, are criminal and indictable conspiracies. "We consider that to be a sufficient limitation. Then, says the right hon. Gentleman, it was found necessary in 1875 to alter the law of criminal conspiracy with regard to workmen, and ought we not to extend to the tenants of Ireland, if they combine with regard to rent, the same protection which is extended to the workmen of England when they combine in trade disputes and in the matter of wages? The right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that the law of conspiracy as it regards wages has a special history of its own entirely distinct from the law of conspiracy as regards such matters as the letting and hiring of land. Every lawyer in the House will be perfectly aware that according to the doctrine universally prevalent in this country a number of years ago, it was a grave public danger that there should be any combination at all with regard to the rates of wages. The Courts of Law and statesmen looked in the most jealous manner upon any attempt on the part of workmen to deal with these matters; and, therefore, it was that as the Common Law relating to criminal conspiracy was regarded as extremely harsh, onerous, and unjust, it did well to limit and alter it in 1875. But there has never been any similar application of the law of conspiracy in the matter of the letting and hiring of land. The right hon. Gentleman has allowed his imagination to wander at large and to conceive all manner of cases in which the tenants might combine to alter rent. He has invented cases of conspiracy which no lawyer would admit to be cases of criminal conspiracy under the existing law. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the case of three tenants agreeing together to try to induce a landlord to let land to them at 15s. instead of £1 per acre. He said that under the existing law that would be a criminal and indictable conspiracy, and that therefore it would be punishable summarily under the Bill 284 we have drafted. It would be nothing of the kind. It would not be criminal conspiracy, and it would not be indictable conspiracy, nor would any Judge ever decide that it was. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the law of conspiracy is an obscure law. It is said that it is a difficult law, which is capable of dangerous extension, and that we are leaving its administration no men who are not learned in the law—namely, the Resident Magistrates. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot to say that the Resident Magistrate's decision is not final.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not complain of the interruption. The hon. and learned Member is quite correct in saying, that under the Bill, as we have drafted it, we may have followed too closely the Act of 1882, and that by the existing law of Ireland there is no appeal if the imprisonment is for less than a month. But we propose to give an appeal in every case.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There will be an appeal in every case to a County Court Judge, and if, on legal technicalities, the County Court Judge is objected to, the Government will be prepared to consider a plan for giving an appeal in cases in which a legal difficulty may be involved to a still higher tribunal. Therefore, no weight is to be attached to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, that those who will have to administer the law in the first instance will not be trained and competent lawyers. The right hon. Gentleman says—"Restrict the Bill to those offences against which it is popularly supposed to be directed, and we will allow you to pass it." He says that it is popularly supposed to be directed against crime. The special offence which the right hon. Gentleman desires to exclude by that limitation is, as I understand, the offence of Boycotting.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. What I said was combinations in which there was no intimidation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not going on this stage of the Bill to enter into a definition of the word "Boycot- 285 ting;" but if the right hon. Gentleman supposes, for one moment, that the people of this country imagine that this Bill is not directed, among other things, against the offence of conspiracy to Boycott, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is very much mistaken. I believe there is nothing going on in Ireland at this moment which causes more universal horror and disgust in this country than this widespread practice of Boycotting. [An hon. MEMBER: And the operations of the Primrose League.] I should not think the Bill worth going on with if the Committee were to compel us to exclude from its operation the offence of conspiracy to Boycott. To return for a moment to the clause under discussion, which the right hon. Gentleman left so very wide. We are of opinion that every offence which is worth punishing under the Bill is an offence worth inquiring into under this clause. To that broad principle we mean to adhere. It will rest with the Committee to decide what the offences should be; but decision must be made, not upon this clause, but upon the later clauses of the Bill. I will conclude by saying, that although the right hon. Gentleman holds out to us the hope that if we are ready to make the large concession that is asked for, and which, it is understood, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) supports, and which the right hon. Gentleman indicated in a speech recently delivered, we shall get rid of our principal difficulty in passing the Bill, all I have to say is, that the Government are distinctly of opinion that that which they are not prepared to yield to argument they are not prepared to yield to Obstruction.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
In my opinion, this is one of the most important Amendments which have yet been moved. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, just before he sat down, remarked that any offence which is worth prosecuting under this measure is worth inquiring into under this clause. Now, Sir, that leads me to ask this question—What is the object of the clause at all? What is the justification the Government put forward for retaining it? There is no question here of the failure of juries. The clause has nothing to say to juries, whether juries 286 do their duty or not. The ground upon which the clause is justified is simply the difficulty which is alleged to exist in Ireland of obtaining evidence, and of bringing offenders to justice, or rather of making them amenable—to use a technical expression contained in the clause. I think it will be admitted by every Member of the Committee that we should closely watch a Bill of this kind, and that we should put no power into the hands of the Executive, in regard to a necessity for which they have not made out a strong and complete case. Let me admit, for the sake of argument, that there are cases in which there is a difficulty of obtaining evidence, and a difficulty in making a person amenable for the offence he may have committed. Can anyone say that that applies to offences in the nature of combination—combination such as I have myself been engaged in? In such combinations there is not the smallest difficulty in obtaining evidence, or in making persons amenable. Look at what occurred in Ireland during the last winter. Combinations which we desire to exempt from these preliminary inquiries were well known to exist in the country, and that the Government desired to make us amenable to the law. Had they the smallest scrap of difficulty in obtaining evidence, evidence as to all our proceedings, and in making us amenable to justice? Nothing of the sort, and the Judges who tried the case stated that that there was not only evidence, but a superabundance of evidence as to the whole nature of the conspiracy in which we had entered. It was the jury who failed to see that there was any evidence of conspiracy at all. Therefore, in combinations of this character, there is no difficulty in getting all the evidence you desire to have; no difficulty whatever in bringing that evidence before the jury; no difficulty in making people amenable; but the difficulty consists in convicting the prisoner. Therefore, I say, with regard to these combinations, leaving out of the question transactions connected with public meetings, there is not a shadow of excuse for including them in this preliminary inquiry, even if a case should be made out for punishment under the Bill. Therefore, I think I have given an unanswerable reply to the contention of the Chief 287 Secretary for Ireland, who said that, in the opinion of the Government, any offence that is worth punishing under this Bill is worth inquiring into under this section. I think I have shown that the offences which the Government consider to be worthy of punishment under this Bill are plain and manifest offences, and that there is no necessity for inquiring into them under this section, inasmuch as they are done in the open light of day with abundant evidence of what has been done. That is one strong reason which induces me not to accept the clause of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the opening portion of his speech, criticized the drafting of the Amendment at considerable length. I think that is a very poor way of conducting a debate of this character. The truth is, and this is the real point at issue—if the Government are prepared to grant any concession, the right hon. Gentleman should have pointed out the terms on which the Government are willing to consent to an Amendment which may meet the difficulties we find to exist in this clause. The right hon. Gentleman characterized this as a subsidiary and an unimportant question. Now, I do not think that it is either subsidiary or unimportant. I have held from the very outset, as I hold still, that this clause places in the hands of the Executive powers of the most oppressive character if they choose to abuse them. And the matter largely turns on the question whether the Executive Government of Ireland will abuse these powers, or whether they will not? If the Executive Government intend to abuse the powers conferred upon them in this section, I do not believe it is possible to conceive any more intolerable oppression than may be put in force under the clause. I believe that this is one of the things the Government will do, when they secure the passing of the Bill. Under this section, they will be empowered to make inquiry in any district in Ireland, whether there has been a combination under the Plan of Campaign, or whether a combination against the payment of excessive rents exists. They will be able to summon every man in the district before a secret inquiry who is suspected of holding Nationalist opinions, or of sympathizing with the views of the Nationalists; and if no 288 limit is put to the questions which may be asked, there cannot be the slightest doubt that they can so frame their questions, and still keep them legal, as to enable them, under this clause, and under the pretext of inquiry, to enter into matters with regard to which there is not the smallest necessity for inquiring into, because they will be matters of public notoriety, and they will then be able to imprison every man who is considered by the Government to be an obnoxious and a dangerous character in a particular district. We have seen persons sent to prison in open day for refusing to answer questions put to them with a political bias; and powers of this kind will be used to imprison and remove persons who are obnoxious and troublesome to the Government. "We are not concerned, in opposing the power of the Government, to inquire into Moonlighting offences and other offences of that nature; but what we are afraid of is that they will be required by the pressure of their supporters in Ireland to carry out an investigation in connection with the estates of every landlord in Ireland who is undergoing the Plan of Campaign, or who is in fear of the Plan of Campaign. Any landlord, whose tenants do not pay their rents satisfactorily, will swear that there exists a combination on his estate, and that that combination has been brought about with the intention of lowering rents. An investigation will then be ordered, and when that investigation is ordered, what will be done? The local leaders of the Nationalist Party will be summoned to give evidence. They will not be inclined to give evidence if they are respectable men, and even those who may feel inclined to do so, will not dare to do so, because we know what a man would feel if he were placed under the stigma of being called an informer in Ireland. Therefore, these unfortunate men, no matter how respectable their position, and however free from crime they may be, will be placed in this cruel position—they will be called up before a bogus secret investigation to give evidence as to some alleged conspiracy. They will be asked to give evidence which, in their minds and in the consciences of their fellows around them, bears upon the private concerns of their neighbours. They will refuse to give that information, and they will be thrust into gaol 289 and kept there for a month, or two months, according to the nature of the warrant, without security that when they are released they will not have to undergo the same ordeal again. The Government say that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman will include agrarian crimes. That is not the intention of the Amendment, whatever its words may be. The intention is that this system of oppression—and I am confident that it will be in full swing in the course of a month or two after the Act has passed—shall not be possible. They say that we must trust in a matter of this kind to the Government that the Act shall not be abused. Now, I am not inclined to trust to any Government, either Liberal or Conservative; but I agree with Sir George Trevelyan that, from the very nature of the case, we are bound to distrust a Tory more than a Liberal Government, because in Ireland a Tory Government will consist of the landlords and their agents and supporters. Therefore they will be bound to strain the powers conferred on them in the interest of the only supporters they have in Ireland. With this foreknowledge, we are entitled to assume that the clause will be strained, and that the most oppressive use will be made of it against the tenants and in favour of the landlords. The Government say that they want to inquire into conspiracies, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland gives us an assurance that they have put certain Amendments in the Bill which will prevent anything being treated as a criminal conspiracy under the Act, which was not an indictable offence before the Act passed. That is a very comforting assurance, or, at any rate, it may be to the Government; but we who have gone through the mill in Ireland, and have had some experience in matters of this kind, know very well what amount of protection it will afford us. Lord Fitzgerald has laid down what the Law of Conspiracy is in the case of the "Queen v. Parnell." Lord Fitzgerald's judgment in laying down the Law of Conspiracy as far as Ireland is concerned, and I suppose it is the same in England, is now quoted by all Judges of any authority in Ireland. He has declared, in the clearest and most unmistakable language, that a combination of tenants in Ireland formed for the purpose of lowering rents, or for 290 holding rents, is a criminal conspiracy in Common Law, and an indictable offence. He used these words—For a single tenant to withhold his rent and break his contract with a view of coercing his landlord to lower the rent is no offence at all; hut for two or three tenants to agree together for the same purpose and for the same object is an indictable offence in the Criminal Law.Then what comfort is it to be told by the Government that they are not going to use this law in order to secure a conviction for a conspiracy which is not an offence against the Criminal Law already? Let me take my own case. I have never been out of a criminal conspiracy since the year 1879. The Judges in Ireland clearly laid that down on the two occasions on which I stood my trial. Then, how was it I escaped, seeing that I had broken the law? Why, everybody knew that I had done so. I have spent all my life advising the tenants of Ireland not to do certain things, and the reason I escaped was that the Government were not able to get a jury in Ireland to agree to find me a criminal under the Common Law. If the Irish people had the power, they would give the same protection to the tenant farmers of Ireland as is now enjoyed by the labouring men of England, and the Law of Conspiracy would be checked by Statute. This Bill is a Bill to deprive us of the protection of juries, and for the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say that nothing will be held a conspiracy or an indictable offence except what is now a conspiracy in Common Law, is really a most contemptible way of dealing with the matter. Supposing an investigation is ordered in Ireland in regard to some particular estate, in regard to which there has been trouble. Take, for instance, Mr. Shirley's estate in Monaghan. If the provisions of this Bill were enforced, Mr. Shirley's agent is the man who would swear the information upon which the secret investigation would be ordered, and every single individual who has taken a leading part in encouraging the tenants would be directed to give evidence, and would probably be put in gaol. The confederacies of tenants are not the only confederacies which exist in Ireland. We have, also, in Ireland a great number of landlord confederacies, and I fail to see why it should be held to be criminal and punishable by law, 291 and why investigations are to be conducted into confederacies to lower the rent, when it is admitted on all hands that the rent is too high, while the confederacies of landlords, who conduct their operations much more secretly than we do, and who do not publish their proceedings in the newspapers, are to be allowed to continue unchecked. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland institutes proceedings against our combinations in Ireland, will he order investigations into similar combinations on the part of landlord confederacies and emergency men, with the view of meting out the same justice to them? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: I will.] I understand the Chief Secretary to say that he will deal out the same justice to the landlords as to the tenants; but I will tell him that, strong a man as he is, he dare not, and he will not do it, because, if he attempted to do it, he would be hunted out of Ireland by the Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman does not know Ireland well enough yet to be aware how any interference with the projects of the Irish landlords would raise a hornet's nest about his ears. Notwithstanding the promise which the Chief Secretary is inclined to give, I know that these inquiries into confederacies will be entirely one-sided, and that while the combinations of the tenants will be put down, those of the landlords will be left absolutely free. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has not attempted to give a solitary reason why he objects to make this exemption under the clause. I have shown that there is no necessity whatever for including these things. If these combinations are punishable and ought to be put down, there is no necessity for this preliminary investigation. The combinations are openly conducted, and those who are concerned in them can always be got at. I have shown, I think, that the Bill will place a power in the hands of the Executive which will be unfairly used. Our past experience affords us no security that a power of this kind will not be unfairly used, and I ask the Government to state a reason why they should not except combinations, where no crime is shown to exist, from an inquiry which even they themselves must confess to be uncalled-for and useless. The adoption of the Amendment will do no harm to their Bill, and it ought to be enough 292 for the Government to know that it will be regarded as a concession by us.
§ MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)
We are asked why we should not do as much for the tenants of Ireland as we have already done for the working men of England, and the whole of the elaborate argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was based upon the analogy between the Plan of Campaign and the strikes of artizans in this country. Now, that analogy is not only insulting to the artizans of this country, but it is hopelessly illogical. May I be permitted to point out to the Committee that, in order to make that analogy even approximately applicable, one would have to imagine mill hands holding a mill during the progress of a strike, or miners taking forcible possession of a mine. The analogy between the Plan of Campaign and the combination of working men in England is destroyed by the one fact never mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that the English artizans strike with their own labour, whereas the Irish tenants strike with their landlord's land. That omission seems to me to be altogether destructive of the elaborate argument of the right hon. Gentleman, which was entirely one of analogy, and we know that false analogy is the fruitful parent of error. I must say that I think it is very much to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland should have dealt, what seems to me, to be a very serious blow at the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. If there is in future to be an appeal from the decisions of the Resident Magistrates to the County Court Judges, it does not require very much prescience to foresee that this Bill will produce a plentiful crop of them. If the Resident Magistrates are not fit to administer the law which this Parliament makes the sooner they cease to be Resident Magistrates the better.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
May I remind the hon. Member that there is a power of appeal now in the case of any conviction for crime in any part of Ireland.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I do not intend to give force to the conviction expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that all persons associated 293 with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby intend to dwell at great length on this question, I confess that I waited for a moment after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because I entertained the hope that some further elucidation of the matter would be given, and that there would be some further prospect of satisfying those who earnestly desired to see some simplification of the question and some light thrown upon the obscure objects and purposes of the Bill; but as no other Member of the Government has risen for that purpose, I feel it my duty to say a few words in order to point out in what manner the Chief Secretary for Ireland has left the question. The right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, began by complaining that the Amendment is not legitimate because it is avowed to have reference to a subject-matter, which subject-matter has not yet been adopted, and which is an abstract principle which may be excluded from the Bill—that is to say, that my right hon. Friend proposes to exclude from the operation of this clause certain provisions which are now included in the 2nd clause, which provisions, the right hon. Gentleman says, may drop out of the clause, and, in that case, they would of themselves drop out of this clause also, and, consequently, this Amendment is illegitimate. That is a very ingenious mode of putting the question from one point of view; but there is another mode of putting it. Supposing that these provisions do not drop out of the 2nd clause, what becomes of the right hon. Gentleman's argument? The question for us to consider is, whether it is likely that these provisions will drop out of the second clause? Are not the forces of the Government on that side of the House and on this mustered for the purpose of keeping them in, and, if so, what chance has my right hon. Friend of excluding them? We must get at the rational principle, and the rational principle is—especially after the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland—that they will not be excluded from the 2nd clause; and, therefore, this is really the proper time to endeavour to exclude them from the 1st clause, having regard to the distinction drawn by you, Sir, that if they are inquirable they shall not be examinable. Some of the points which 294 were made by my right hon. Friend have been entirely passed over by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. There were two points put by my right hon. Friend with great force and great clearness. My right hon. Friend stated—"Suppose the case of a Land Trades Union formed in Ireland. Will you extend to that Land Trades Union the same, and only the same, protection as that which you have given by the Act of 1875 to the Labour Trades Union of England?" I am sorry to say that on this subject the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was too distinct; but I am glad that the question has been so plainly put, because it is well that the matter should be plainly understood, and, by degrees, it will be understood by the country. Ireland, under the present constitution of things, is to have the benefit of equal legislation. The argument of my right hon. Friend is that land is the subject of Irish labour, just as the question of wages is the matter that determines generally the character and capacity of the English Law; and we want to know whether they are to have the same protection? The Irish Minister tells us distinctly—"No, they are not to have the same protection." He refuses to give to Irish labour employed on the land the same protection as is enjoyed by English labour given in return for wages. What is the reason the right hon. Gentleman alleges for this unfavourable answer, and for this decided refusal? It is that the law with respect to wages has been illegitimately aggravated as against the working man, but that there has been no such aggravation of the law with respect to land in Ireland. That contention was distinctly met by my right hon. Friend with the assertion that the fact stated is entirely erroneous. I believe that we, and others who are better acquainted than. I am with the law, are of opinion that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who has just sat down, has correctly and accurately stated the doctrine of conspiracy affecting the taking of land laid down by the Irish Judges. Now, Sir, what is the protection given to English labour under the Trades Unions Act which ought not to be given to Irish labour? Let that be stated, and let that be understood, because, on the face of it, the present state of the case is clearly this, that there is to be a protection 295 given to English labour which the Government, with professions of equality upon their lips, are about to refuse to Irish labour. We must hear, and hear from authorities more acquainted with the law than the right hon. Gentleman, what the special case is with respect to English labour, and the necessity for an alteration of the law in regard to Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's version of my argument. I never said anything about Irish labour.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am sorry if I have seemed to confuse the matter. I meant the labour given for wages in England, and the labour given upon land in Ireland. It is a question, in that point of view, between English labour and Irish labour. The Chief Secretary for Ireland did not think it proper to take any notice of the argument of my right hon. Friend upon the subject of public meetings, which have a vital bearing upon the whole matter, because it is not a question with regard to the combination for conspiracy, as it now exists in Ireland. It is not a question of Statute Law; it is a question of the doctrines of the Common Law, and the extensions of that law which have been given to it by the dictaof the Judges. My right hon. Friend has shown—and his statement is not contested—how, in the case of public meetings, according to the doctrine of a very high authority, the mere numbers of a meeting constitute force, because numbers make force, force makes terror, and terror brings persons within the purview of the law. Then, Sir, another point was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), if possible, of greater importance, that of Boycotting. What was the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland? He said he would not give a definition of Boycotting, and, having said that, he said that the repression of Boycotting was the object and purpose of his Bill in so high a degree that if the efficacy of the Bill against Boycotting were taken away the Bill would not be worth proceeding with. Well, why does he not toll us what he means by Boycotting; did my right hon. Friend leave to him an excuse for the evasion? It was put by my right hon. Friend in the most pointed manner. 296 Boycotting, I apprehend, is not a statutable term, and we have a right to ask what is meant by it; we have a right to know from Her Majesty's Government what they mean by Boycotting. My right hon. Friend has made it perfectly simple for them to explain their views on the matter. Do you mean by Boycotting, acts which involve intimidation? If you do, there is no dispute between us. Intimidation is a legal offence, and there we are with you. But if you do not mean that, do you mean combination which does not mean intimidation, because, if so, then all our charges against this Bill are justified, and we must give it the best opposition in our power. Well, Sir, why did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland refuse to answer that question? Is it Boycotting which involves intimidation, which involves legal offences, or is it Boycotting signifying only combination and exclusive dealing, and not involving legal offence? We did right in asking that question, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland says he will not yield to Obstruction what he will not yield to argument, I beg leave to say that we will not yield to tyranny what we will not yield to reason. I doubt the wisdom of introducing such topics either on one side or the other; but surely it is no Obstruction that a Gentleman on the Ministerial Bench, who refuses to explain the very thing which he declares to lie at the base and foundation of his Bill, should be pressed for an answer. I shall be very glad if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) who, I understand, is likely to. follow me and who, I think, is a more hopeful subject to deal with than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, will explain to us what this Boycotting is at which this Bill is aimed. I also hope, Sir, that with respect to public meetings the Committee will learn from the hon. Gentleman whether the doctrines which have been laid down by the Chief Secretary for Ireland have been extracted from the Common Law, or have been wrung out of the Common Law, or have been foisted into the Common Law by political prejudice, and are still in vogue and are still to be the basis of the action of the Government. I think some gain will be achieved by this discussion if 297 we get from the Government a clear account of what it is that constitutes the special necessity for protecting labour in England that does not exist in Ireland. The vital point is whether their intention is to punish combination which leads to or includes intimidation or combination which does not, and which, however little desirable it may be in itself, however characteristic it may be of a defective state of society, yet is the only weapon by means of which the poor, humbler classes of the people of Ireland can defend themselves against the risk of oppression.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
Mr. Courtney, I am unwilling to stand between the Committee and the Division. Upon the other hand, I have not the slightest wish to avoid answering the direct appeal made to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). I have certainly not in the least desired, and I am certain no other Member of the Government has desired, that there shall be the slightest doubt as to what our intentions are, and as to the meaning of this Bill. We have alleged over and over again that this Bill is directed against crime, and we draw no distinction between crime and offences. It is with that object that the clauses of this Bill have been framed, and we ask anyone to point out language or words in the different sections which are capable of any meaning but that. Now, Sir, we have heard a very interesting argument from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby on the Law of Conspiracy, and part of that argument has been repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and who has, also, asked us, are you prepared to refuse to the tenants of Ireland the same protection that you give to the labourers of England? Sir, of course we are not prepared to refuse to persons in Ireland, in the same position as the labourers of England, exactly the same protection we give to the labourers in England; but those who study the law, and those who do understand the question, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does, cannot seriously mean that there is any real parallel between the state of cir- 298 cumstances which led to the passing of the Trades Unions Act and the circumstances which affect the rights between landlords and tenants. In the first place, we have that significant distinction to which attention was called by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the law, as between masters and servants, had developed into such a condition of things that it called for remedy, and called for remedy because criminal proceedings were taken in respect to matters which ought to be the foundation of civil remedy, and that it was because there had been a practice, partly founded on ancient Statute, and partly founded on Common Law, of treating matters as between masters and servants as within the purview of the Criminal Law, that it became necessary to interfere in the matter. But will any lawyer in the House suggest that there has ever been a practice or instance of setting in force the Criminal Law as between landlord and tenant. I only hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), or some of his right hon. Friends, will make his meaning clear. It is impossible to question the right of tenants to combine for the purpose of saying "We will try and induce our landlords, by fair means, to charge a lower rent, or we will agree together that we will leave our farms rather than pay a certain rent." I do not believe that there is any Judge who would pretend that such a combination was unlawful. [Cries of"Yes! over and over again."] I repeat my statement, I do not believe there is a Judge who would allege that in such a case there was a criminal conspiracy. But when the tenants who can pay combine for the purpose of bringing the landlord to his knees, for the purpose of keeping out of the landlord's pocket the money which belongs to him, an entirely different set of circumstances arises. It requires no deep study of the Law of Conspiracy to see the distinction between a combination of a number of men to say—"We are not willing to give more than a certain amount, but we think there should be some fair pressure put on the landlord to make him come to a fair agreement with us," and a combination between people who are in a position to pay, and who would be willing 299 to pay individually wore it not that they are induced to abstain from paying because the hope is that thereby the landlord will be deprived of his money, and will be coerced into making an arrangement which will be putting an end to legal bargain. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) will give me his attention for one moment. I have suffered more than once in this House from observations made by the right hon. Gentleman when my mouth was closed, and at a time when, owing to the course of debate, I could not interrupt him, because I do not like interrupting speakers on the other side, and never do it if I can avoid it. When I said that there was a broad distinction between criminal conspiracy and conspiracy, the right hon. Gentleman subjected me to his most caustic criticism. He turned round to hon. Gentlemen behind him, and asked if they had ever heard of criminal murder, of criminal perjury, and said, was it not a ridiculous thing to talk about criminal conspiracy? I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has since that speech consulted that admirable treatise to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby referred to-night when he referred to an opinion which every English lawyer respects, I mean the opinion of Mr. Wright, well known to hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite as well as to those who sit on these Benches. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian know that that very work, which was quoted so much by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, is a work in reference to the law of criminal conspiracy? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has said that my statement, that there is a distinction between criminal conspiracy and conspiracy, is nonsense, and, therefore, I think I am justified in retorting on the right hon. Gentleman by quoting an authority to which he and his Colleagues have referred, in which pages are devoted to the distinction between criminal conspiracies and other conspiracies. On page 57 of that work, there will be found these words—It must be remembered that there is no intrinsic efficacy in the word 'conspiracy,' or in the word 'confederacy,' or in the word 'combination.' Conspire (said Lord Campbell in 300 Hamp's case, 1852) is nothing; agreement is the thing.'It is therefore the criminality of the conspiracy that is important, it is the agreement either to do an unlawful act or to obtain an unlawful end, which constitutes that which is a criminal conspiracy. I assure the right hon. Gentleman I have not made this reference simply for the pleasure of doing so, and I am perfectly willing to submit my argument upon this question to the judgment of the House. We never intended to suggest that when four men meeting together said—"We think we are over-rented, and we will ask for a reduction from next Michaelmas, and unless we get it we will hold this land no longer," it was an improper combination. I have stated the law both of England and Ireland, and although I am not going to lengthen the debate on this point, I think it necessary to make good my observations with regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian asks the Government for an assurance as to what we mean by our Bill; our answer is that the Bill clearly shows its own meaning. Now the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has asked us to put some words into the Bill which will indicate the class of conspiracy. There could not be a more unwise step; there could not be a more misleading step; there could not be any step, in my opinion, which would be more retrograde in connection with the Criminal Law. It is utterly impossible for any person to define beforehand what may be the actual case which will constitute a criminal conspiracy, and for this reason, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, that the intent you have at the time you are doing an act may make that which is an innocent act for one purpose a criminal act for another purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has asked if we mean intimidation—if we mean anything else but intimidation? Why, Sir, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to suggest to this Committee that there are not classes of Boycotting which are perfectly well known and understood by every Member of this House, and which you could not very strictly bring within the meaning of the word intimidation? I can imagine cases in which there have been conspiracies for the purpose of belling individuals. 301 [Home Rule cheers.] I have no sympathy with conspiracies to libel individuals; but I may say that it is just because you can. imagine some of the direst forms of oppression of this kind brought to bear on peaceable individuals, which do not come within the legal or popular meaning of intimidation, that you do require to have a clause which, while it shall indicate on the face of it the criminality of the act, shall not attempt to define that which is or is not a criminal conspiracy. I think I mentioned this on a previous occasion, but I may be permitted to mention it again, that it is not very many years ago that you could not find the word Boycotting in the dictionary. It arose from that which was undoubtedly a criminal act practised upon Captain Boycott, and here we have got that which many hon. Members admit to be a state of things which ought to be put down. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), certainly the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), has over and over again said that he protests against Boycotting. We have got, undoubtedly, a state of things which everybody agrees ought to be put down, and yet we are asked to define in this Act what will be Boycotting, perhaps, 10 years hence. Reference has been made to a passage from page 7 of the Report of Lord Cowper's Commission. I am not going to read it again because I have read it at length in the course of the debates on this Bill; but if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian wants to know what we mean by Boycotting, we mean the practice there spoken to in that strong language of condemnation by a Commission which is frequently appealed to by hon. Members below the Gangway. I believe it to be impossible to define what Boycotting may develop itself into in the future. Now, I hope I shall be pardoned for a moment if I refer to the Act of 1882. I never have referred to that Act for the purpose of justifying the conduct of Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion. We justify our conduct on the reasons which we have over and over again explained to the House. But I ask, when you are dealing with a particular remedial proposal, and when you find that that particular remedial 302 proposal has been directed to certain evils two or three years ago, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have changed their minds on the matter, whether we are not surely justified in asking why, if an inquiry clause were considered to be a proper kind of clause to be applied to certain offences in 1882, it is not a proper clause to be applied to the same kind of offences in 1887? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) have referred to intimidation. Does the Committee remember that, according to the Act of 1882, it was considered necessary that you might have a secret inquiry in the case of intimidation by an individual? ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby evidently agrees with me on this point. Now, I want to know if it was a right thing to inquire secretly into intimidation by an individual, which means that you have to have a man up and ask him, were you intimidated by a particular individual, on what logical argument can it be said it is not right to inquire into a conspiracy to intimidate?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have never said that this power should be applied to intimidation; what I said referred to conspiracy, apart from intimidation.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I want know, if conspiracy to intimidate is to be inquired into, why other kinds of conspiracy are not to be inquired into? Much mischief might be done by slanderous remarks with regard to individuals, and I am utterly at a loss to understand on what grounds it can be suggested that that class of conspiracy is not to be made a subject of inquiry. What we say is this, that if you once get the principle recognized, that it is necessary that you should be able to get at the bottom of societies which are, to a certain extent, I will not say secret in name, but secret in operation, which are by ways and means which are not apparent on the surface interfering with the free action of individuals, who wish to be unmolested, by acting upon, or getting other people to act upon, them in an unlawful or criminal way, we care not what shape it may take, whether it be violence, intimidation, attempts to get 303 people not to deal with them—we say that the vice which lies at the root of this conspiracy and combination is the same, and once you grant there shall be inquiry into one, there ought not to be any halting place in the inquiry into them all. It is unnecessary for me to deal at the present moment at greater length with that matter. I confess I was somewhat surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) should have thought it worth while to unearth what he called the dicta of Tory lawyers in connection with the Peterloo riots, for the purpose of suggesting that Tory or Unionist lawyers of the present day have the same ideas in their minds as the lawyers of that day had. Will he kindly refer to the speech of any public man on this side of the House, or among the Liberal Unionists, who has ever suggested that to such a public meeting as could fairly be described as a harmless meeting, the law in regard to unlawful assemblies should be applied? The right hon. Gentleman would have us believe there is no such thing as an unlawful assembly—that it is a term unknown to the English law, unless the rule which was supposed to be applied in the case of the Peterloo riots was to be the test of what is an unlawful assembly. He would have us believe that the opinion held in regard to the Peterloo riots is to be taken as a to of the opinion which prevails in the minds of some Gentlemen as to unlawful assemblies in the present day. I must say that, if that kind of argument is going to be used in regard to the meaning of unlawful assembly, we are justified in asking hon. Gentlemen opposite what they meant when they said in the year 1882—Every person who, in a proclaimed district, takes part in any riot or unlawful assembly, shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence under this Act.I say this, if a private inquiry clause was deemed to be a proper kind of clause to apply to unlawful assemblies in the year 1882, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me why a similar clause applied to certain offences should be wrong in 1887? That question I submit to the judgment of the Committee. We have never had one single answer to that, nor have we received from right hon. Gentlemen opposite one single word of argument. I 304 am not going to argue at any greater length as to what is the meaning of Clause 2. I fear that notwithstanding the honest wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that we should discuss the principle of this clause at the present moment, we shall be treated to the same kind of debate that we are now having when we come to that clause. I will say, in conclusion, that the Government are making no change in the law. We are not seeking to re-enact or disinter fossil dicta which have remained buried for years, and which no Judges of modern times have unearthed. We have, on the face of our Bill, stated the conspiracies to which we wish this Bill to apply, and what we wish the procedure of inquiry and the procedure of punishment to be. In the first place, the conspiracy will be criminal, and in order to make that meaning clearer, I have put upon the Paper an Amendment whereby we have said that the conspiracies shall be conspiracies punishable by law at the time of the passing "of this Act." I do not know that any lawyer who honestly wishes to define the offence and to show what are criminal acts could do more than that. I protest against the suggestion that the Government intend to pick out certain acts of individuals and condemn them as offences for political reasons. I do not apologize for detaining the Committee so long, because I desired to make our meaning clear. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman opposite can say that I have not made my meaning clear. He may not agree with me; but I would ask the Committee not even to adopt the spirit of his Amendment, which we conceive would be most mischievous.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not propose to detain the Committee, but only rise for a moment or two to offer a personal explanation. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that interruption is often very inconvenient, and I therefore did not interrupt him in the course of his speech. I wish to say that I am totally unaware of the offence with which he charges me. I have never presumed to criticize at all, much less to describe in disrespectful language, any legal opinion given by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It would be extremely wrong in me, and very absurd 305 of me, to do so. I was criticizing the language used by another person not having legal authority.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The matter arose in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the first reading of the Bill, in which he offered most caustic criticism on the use of the words "criminal conspiracy." Thereupon I, interlocutarily, called attention to the words "criminal conspiracy," and the right hon. Gentleman at once replied that the expression was nonsense, and turning to me, said to me across the floor of the House, "Would the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General think of speaking of criminal murder, or of criminal burglary?" [Mr. W. E. GLAD-STONE made a gesture of dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman will pardon me, what I state is not for the purpose of justifying myself, but for the purpose of showing that there is a solid distinction which the law regards as between "conspiracy" and "criminal conspiracy "—between combinations and criminal combinations.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
We are not discussing the validity of the distinction at this moment. What I wish to say is, that if I used the word "nonsense," it was not in reference to any remarks of the Attorney General. I was making no comment on his proceedings. I disclaim that altogether, and my appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman was meant to be a testimony of my respect for and of my confidence in any legal opinion he might give.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If the fault rests upon anyone it rests upon me. I believe I was the person who objected to the use of the words "criminal conspiracy," and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian was only an accessory after the fact. I objected to the words "criminal conspiracy" in an Act of Parliament, whether we use them in language, or in the title of a book, and I shall be glad if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General will produce any Act of Parliament in which the words "criminal conspiracy" occur. When he has done that, I will withdraw the statement I have made, which is, that it is a perfectly improper legal expression.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
There are absolutely only two propositions before the House, one of which was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant for Ireland which has been supported by the Attorney General. I desire to deal with the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen with the respect that is due in each case to their positions; but I must say that I was astounded to hear the Chief Secretary for Ireland suggest, after having put what was so perfectly true—namely, that the Courts of Law in relation to combinations of working men had strained the doctrine of conspiracy to the fullest extent—I certainly was startled to hear him say that an agreement between three or more tenants to fix the price of land or of the rent of land would not be an indictable offence. I see I have correctly represented the position they took up, for the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General indorses that. Do I understand his contention to be that an association or agreement between two or more individuals to fix the price of any article whatever, be it rent or anything else, has not been held to be conspiracy and therefore indictable? The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that no Judge has ever held it to be so, or would ever hold it to be so. I avow that I thought he was wrong when he was saying it, but not daring to trust my memory against such a high authority I took an opportunity of refreshing it, and I have been a little puzzled since I came back with the authority, because I am warned that the Government are not going to act on "fossil dicta" that no lawyer would take up to-day. I do not quite understand such a proposition. I thought, and still think, that every decision in a criminal case is good until it is overruled, and is binding on every Judge of equal or inferior Court, and I have here a case as to which there can be absolutely no doubt at all, in which it was held to be an indictable offence for two or more persons to associate together, and to agree together to fix a price at which they would sell. I admit that there is no magic in the word "conspiracy," and if two or more agree to do a thing, no doubt it means the offence of conspiracy. 307 In the ease to which I am referring, it was held to be an indictable offence to combine to fix the price of salt. That case is surely familiar to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, for it is in the 2nd Vol. of Lord Kenyon's Report, page 300. The judgment given in that case was a judgment upon which men were sent to gaol. It is a a judgment that is still part of the law of the land, and which the Courts must feel bound by. Though it may be a fossil dictum on Lord Kenyon's part, it has survived in most modern editions of the Digest. I have refreshed my memory with the modern edition of Fisher's Digest, in which this fossil is preserved. But the hon. and learned Attorney General managed to puzzle me still more. I understood him to argue to the Committee that two or more persons agreeing to do what one might rightfully do by himself would not necessarily constitute the crime of conspiracy. I take leave not only to differ from him, but also to refer him to what is not quite fossil dicta; but relevant judgment on this subject. I will refer him to the 14th Vol. of Cox's Criminal Cases, page 508, where he will find that the Court, in express terms, adjudged exactly the opposite of what he has laid down. The law, or the rulings in relation to conspiracy have been—if one may say so, speaking of the judgments of the High Court—of the very loosest description. It has been held to be conspiracy—and conspiracy is always hold to be a crime—to stir up ill-will between classes of Her Majesty's subjects. Now, the Attorney General put it that no honest combination, no combination between two or more tenants who felt that they could not pay and who felt that they ought not to pay certain rent, and who combined for the purpose of getting their land at a lower rent, would amount to the crime of conspiracy, but that it would begin to be a crime of conspiracy when some one or more persons combined who happened to be able to pay, or when persons able to pay began to be connected with that combination or association. Do I understand the learned Attorney General gravely to argue that that is a crime done by a man with money in his pocket, which is no crime in the eyes of the law if done by a man with an empty pocket? I will not venture to put my 308 small—I will not say acquaintance with the law; I will not put it as high as that—but my small study of the law against the opinion so plainly put by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General; but if we were arguing this matter before a tribunal that would have the right to pronounce a definite judgment between us, I should rely with confidence that the decision would not be in favour of the learned Attorney General. But what is sought to be done by these statements of the learned Attorney General? It is sought to impart prejudice into the definition of conspiracy here, so as to carry away the Committee for the moment; but I feel that the good sense and humanity of the Committee will be against declaring that it is a conspiracy for tenants in the position of those described by Sir Redvers Buller as unable to pay who may combine against the rent which Sir Redvers Buller swore was higher than they ought to have to pay. I respectfully protest against having imported into the matter this side issue, for the sake of prejudicing the argument that the Government would not object to those poor people, that they would not seek to prosecute them for combining, and that it is only the people who can pay who would be proceeded against for taking part in the combination. Then it comes to this—that so long as agreement, that association, is between people who by their poverty are unable to give any effect to combination, you will allow it to take place; but the moment the element enters into it, that one tenant who has means to pay says—"I will join with O'Brien, who has not money, and by putting my rent in my pocket, or in some place of safe custody, will induce the landlord to show a measure of justice to O'Brien that he otherwise would not show," then that is a crime. I dare not use the word "nonsense," because it would be impolite, coming from one like myself to one in the superior position occupied by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. Still, I venture to say that that would be the view of the Judges, if such an argument were brought before them. I venture to say that they would make no such distinction between persons who had money in their pockets and persons who had not. The hon. and learned Gentleman pressed the matter further, and 309 said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had taken the illustration of the old Trades Unions, and that there was no parallel whatever between the position of the Irish tenants now and the English workmen then. Of course, in a sense it is true that there is never any parallel between things that are different; but there is in this ease similarity enough to make the matter of similarity worthy of the consideration of this Committee. What is it that is said? It is said that the construction put by the Courts upon the law of combination was so harsh as to create a wrong for which it was needful that there should be a legal remedy provided for it in this country. Well, I put it that that is exactly what you have in regard to the tenants of Ireland. The conduct of the landlords under cover of law, supported by decision after decision, has been so harsh that, while it may be as perfectly legal as the conduct of the employers against the employed prior to 1875, it produces a state of things that requires some legal remedy from this House. Well, I do not want to obtrude upon the Committee, but I say, notwithstanding what has just been argued by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, that the distinction of "criminal conspiracy" is a distinction which has never been drawn, except, perhaps, on the title page of some book, or on the label or advertisement on the back of it, and that the best test will be to take Viner's Abridgment, Bacon's Abridgment, and Comyn's Digest. Under the head of "crimes" you will find "conspiracy," but you will look for ever before you will find "criminal conspiracy." You will find conspiracy under the head of crimes, just as you will find murder; just as you will find burglary; or just as you will find any other matter which is either felony or misdemeanour. But it is not true that in law—and I say it with all respect—that there has ever been a distinction in our Courts between "conspiracy" and "criminal conspiracy." I cannot speak for what Irish Courts may have done; but I suppose in that matter English law is binding, and there never has been a distinction between what is called a mere honest combination of two or more persons to effect a particular object and conspiracy. In each case it has been a conspiracy, and though the maker of the conspiracy 310 might influence the sentence, it in no case influenced the conviction.
CAPTAIN COLOMB&c.) (Tower Hamlets, Bow,
I should like to say one word with regard to the illustration which has been given us as to the analogy between conspiracy on the part of Irish tenants not to pay rent, and combinations on the part of English workingmen by Trades Unions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has put the case as it exists in his view, and he speaks of labour given for wages in England, and labour given for land in Ireland. He asks is the protection which is given to English labour to be denied to Irish labour? But I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the State in England has never attempted to fix wages, and that the State in Ireland has fixed the wages given for labour for land; and the whole point is this—is it to be tolerated that where the State has fixed certain rents, laws, and regulations with regard to the rent of land in Ireland, private conspiracies are to defeat the law of the land? I think that point is very material, and I merely wish to point it out.
§ Mr. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne) here rose, and being called upon by the Chairman, he at once resumed his seat.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I am rather sorry that the Attorney General would not allow the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne to address the Committee, because I was myself, for personal as well as political reasons, rather curious to know how the hon. and learned Gentleman would reconcile his defence of a case like this, with the attitude he took up during the Elections of 1885 and 1886. I shall assume that the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to speak against the Amendment, and in favour of the clause as it stands; and as he gives, by his silence, consent to that, I will give him notice that I shall avail myself of some future opportunity of making a slight comparison between his attitude now and his attitude at the Elections. I should not have risen, if it had not been for the somewhat critical position into which the debate has got, owing to the Boycotting or conspiracy to intimidate exer- 311 cised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General this evening. I am told—and I have no doubt of the accuracy of the assertion—that if the Attorney General were living in Ireland, and I were in Dublin Castle, and had the working of a Bill like this in my charge, I should be able to bring the hon. and learned Gentleman within the operation of the present clause and find him guilty of intimidation. Let me point to another authority. The Attorney General said that a conspiracy of labour would be as injurious as any other form of conspiracy, and therefore might require as much investigation. Well. Sir, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept an offer from me, I will undertake to say very little on any further stage of this Bill, if he will consent to apply as much of this Bill to this country as will enable us to bring the editor of The Times before a secret inquiry in order to find out who supplied him with the forged letter. I know very well that the hon. and learned Gentleman has no intention of doing anything of the kind, and the fact of the matter is, that while every man in this country is at liberty to take part in any conspiracy he likes, for any purpose he likes, yet hon. Members on these Benches, and persons who may go to Ireland, and may go to the impoverished tenantry, and make an offer to assist them in their difficulties as regards rent and their relations with their landlords, if that offer is accepted they will be liable to punishment under this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General is against Boycotting; well, will he undertake to bring under the survey of this clause the action of the Primrose League in this country?
The hon. Gentleman is, I think, travelling very wide of the subject before the Committee.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am very sorry, because I think I am approaching a subject which is not at all agreeable to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Now, I wish to put a point that I think is certainly in Order, and which I think is certainly within the narrowest limitations of this debate. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General said a little while ago that such a case as was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby could not arise under this Bill, and I remem- 312 ber the other night that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said the same thing. I put this case then, supposing a certain number of men on the estate of the Marquess of Clanricarde combined to get a reduction of 25 per cent from their rents, they would be guilty of conspiracy as this Bill would be interpreted by Stipendiary Magistrates. The Chief Secretary said—Not at all; there could be no conspiracy in such an action as that, and there is no Judge who would so declare.But if the Attorney General will, for a moment, give me his attention—I do not wish to delay him, but his mind does not seem to be bent upon the point with which I am dealing—I want to show him some facts of Irish life, with which, I am sorry to say, he is not very well acquainted. I say that under this Bill, as it would be interpreted by the Irish Attorney General, who is sitting next him, and by the Irish Judges, combinations of tenants on the Marquess of Clanricarde's estate to get their rents reduced by 25 per cent would be an act of criminal conspiracy. That is my statement. That statement was controverted. Now, will the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General be surprised to hear that a learned Judge, not a Tory Judge, and not a fossil Judge, but a man still in the enjoyment of life, and a Member of "another place" so recently as 1881, laid down the doctrine that any combination or any incitement for the purpose of obtaining a reduction of rent was a conspiracy under the existing law. Now, I will read to the hon. and learned Gentleman a passage from the judgment to which I allude. Judge Fitzgerald said, in the case of "The Queen v. Parnell"—By the law of the land, what the landlord is entitled to receive is the full rent, and the tenant is called upon to pay nothing more and nothing less "—Now, I recommend that to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Addison), and I should like to know what he thinks of it—nothing more and nothing less, and though these rents have been characterized as rack rents I have now to tell you, with the entire concurrence of my learned Colleague, that to incite tenant farmers not to pay their rent is an offence against our Common Law, and subject to 313 an indictment for conspiracy as a breach of the Common Law.Now, I wonder do the hon. and learned Attorney General and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne know that that law was laid down in Ireland, and do they agree with that law? Do they agree with Lord Fitzgerald that any incitement to tenants not to pay their rents is an offence against our Common Law, and subject to an indictment for conspiracy? And mark the words which precede this. Judge Fitzgerald says—"The landlord is entitled to a full rent; nothing more and nothing less." Well, then, if we incite the tenants to ask the landlord to accept 25 per cent less than the landlord is entitled to, according to the law, then, we make ourselves subject to an indictment for conspiracy. Is that not the law in Ireland now? That statement of the law may be an absurd statement of the law, may be an idiotic statement of the law, may be a monstrous statement of the law—and I think it is all these things—but it is the law as laid down by Judge Fitzgerald, and it has not been revised on appeal by any other tribunal. And so we have it laid down clearly, as the existing law, that an attempt to induce men to bring about an abatement of their rent would make the persons who do it subject to indictment for conspiracy and bring them within this Bill. And it is in the face of well-known facts like these that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with his characteristic ignorance of Irish affairs and of Irish law—I am not surprised at his ignorance of Irish law, because there never was such law laid down in the world as that of our country—should get up and say no Judge could possibly decide that which, as a matter of fact, Judge after Judge has decided in Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said to-night was, that if three or four tenants agreed together, by combination, to get the landlord to reduce their rents, that would not be a conspiracy.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Then I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of what Lord Fitzgerald said with regard to the law of the laud. What does the right hon. Gentleman say to that? Have I not proved that a Judge has decided that which the right hon. Gentleman said no Judge would ever decide— 314 namely, that the incitement of tenants to pay a farthing less than their judicial rents would be subject to indictment for conspiracy, and therefore would bring everybody who took part in it within the lines of the 1st clause and subsequent clauses of this Bill. Now, there is a style of argument used on the Treasury Bench that I strongly object to. They say—"You must trust to the way in which these laws will be carried out—you must trust to their being carried out in a bonâ fide and honest manner." Trust to an Irish official as to the way in which the law is to be carried out! I am justified in saying this, by the moral character of the present officials in Dublin Castle. I say that, if Dublin Castle were manned by Liberal officials, instead of, as it is now, by men belonging to the Orange combination in Ireland, even then this law would be carried out to the fullest extent. Our old experience is that every single power which repressive legislation gives to Dublin Castle will not only be used, but abused, to the very utmost limits that imagination can conceive, and to the widest interpretation of the law. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Coercion Bill of 1881. What was said in this House during the whole passage of that Bill? Why, the late Mr. Forster got up time after time and used the words which the Chief Secretary for Ireland is constantly using. I sometimes think that the right hon. Gentleman is quoting to the House what he has imbibed from the speeches of that distinguished statesman. Mr. Forster said, over and over again, that his Coercion Bill was not directed against tenants or combinations of tenants, and that it was not passed for the purpose of collecting rents, and, above all, for the purpose of collecting rack-rents, but that it was passed simply as a measure against crime. And now we have the Attorney General getting up and saying that this Bill is not directed at all against combinations of the tenants, but solely and exclusively against crime. A few days ago I went over a list of the men who were placed in gaol under Mr. Forster's Act. The warrants, it will be remembered, had to set forth the crime of which these men were reasonably suspected; and over and over again in those warrants the crime was stated to be inciting tenants not to pay rents. An hon. 315 Friend near me remarks that the warrants in which the crimes were set forth were printed warrants; and, as I have said, the crime was over and over again stated to be inciting tenants to intimidation. In the case of Mr. Forster's Bill, we had a measure, professing to be aimed at crime, used almost entirely for the extortion of rent. If we go back in Irish history we find the same thing. In 1846, Mr. Daniel O'Connell spoke of some Acts which gave power to magistrates to whip people in prison; it was said at the time that those powers were not used, but Mr. O'Connell said—"I have known men to be whipped almost to death under these Acts." Now, the moral of all this is, that the pledges made in Parliament have always been falsified, and the Acts, when passed, used to the utmost possible limit. The Chief Secretary for Ireland laid down what appears to be the policy of the Government plainly and lucidly. He said that the Government thought it worth while to inquire into any offence deserving of punishment. Now we exactly understand where we are. A combination against rent, being proved according to the existing law, is a criminal conspiracy; therefore, a combination for the non-payment of rent comes under the 2nd clause of the Bill, and, being under the 2nd clause, it comes also under the 1st clause; and, therefore, we come to this—that the Government claim the right to use their secret inquiry against every combination for the non-payment of rent. In the face of that, I cannot understand how any Gentleman possessed of ordinary intelligence of mind, and even the average conscientiousness of the House of Commons—I cannot understand how any man can get up in his place, and any longer describe this Bill as a Bill directed solely against criminals, and not directed against combinations of tenants. I think I have proved that this secret inquiry will be used by the Government themselves against combinations of tenants. But is this a power which the Government have not got already? Is it not notorious that rack-renting is almost universal in Ireland at the present moment? The Government appeal to Commissioners to prove that Boycotting is going on in Ireland; and, again, they also appeal to them to prove that a large majority of the tenants are unable to pay the rents 316 demanded of them; and, in the face of that, you take powers to suppress by imprisonment every combination for bringing about the reduction of rents. I may say that no more immoral or criminal policy has ever been followed by a Government. But if there is a general combination among tenants, are there no combinations among landlords in Ireland? There are three landlord combinations in Ireland, and they are under the control of the worst landlords there are in the country. I say worst, in the sense of their having been heavily mulcted in the Law Courts. I am not going to say anything about the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman), because I assume that he is so largely occupied in doing the work of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he will leave the combinations of landlords alone for some time to come; but the three landlords who have been most heavily mulcted are the men who have the landlord combinations in Ireland at their disposal. Does anyone doubt for what purpose combinations under the control of such men will be employed? Does anyone suppose that these men, who are branded for rack-renting, will employ those combinations for any other purpose than that of keeping up rents? Here we have the three most powerful combinations of landlords in Ireland, and they are under the control of three of the most rack-renting landlords in the country, and, of course, these landlords will not endeavour to get better terms for the tenants from other landlords than they are themselves willing to give. Therefore, I think I have shown that these combinations will be employed for keeping up rack-rents, and increasing the number of combinations existing in Ireland. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary intend to use the 1st clause for examining into the working of these combinations? The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that a distinguished man has described the combinations of landlords in Ireland as contributing to the state of civil war and social disorder that exists there at the present moment. The main argument used in "another place" has always been that, as the tenants combined for the purpose of non-payment of rent, the landlords combine for the enforcing of evictions. If this Bill, which is now be- 317 fore the Committee, is for the purpose of putting down the combination of tenants, which is one factor towards social disorder in Ireland, ought it not also to be used for putting down the other factor of social disorder—namely, the combination of landlords? [Laughter.] The Chief Secretary sits smiling in his place, and does not even give mo the Cecil nod which we might have expected from his family relationship; but I would ask him whether he sees that there is any possibility of using this clause for the purpose of finding out the combinations of landlords? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: If there is indictable conspiracy.] Then indictable conspiracy is not the combination of landlords to keep up rents; indictable conspiracy means a combination on the part of the tenants to put down rents. That being so, I know very well that this Bill will leave the landlord combinations absolutely scot-free, and will do nothing to put them down. But is there no other reason why the tenants in Ireland should be allowed to combine at the present moment? Does not the right hon. Gentleman know well that intimidation and Boycotting means the system by which men force others to carry out their will? Does not he know that all these influences are employed now by the landlords for the purpose of forcing purchase upon their tenants? We have stated, over and over again, that the landlords in Ireland have tried to force their tenants into purchasing, and everyone acquainted with social and rural life in that country knows, that the landlords or their agents come to the tenants with a notice to quit in one hand, and an agreement to purchase in the other. What happens is this—the Sheriff comes with a posse of police, and then you have the tenant face to face with the eviction of himself, his wife and the children on the one side, and on the other, you have a Mephistopheles with his exorbitant purchase proposal. Are hon. Members surprised that, under these circumstances, the tenant prefers to make a bad bargain, rather than go on the road side? If you take any Tory papers of last year, or look at any of the Tory speeches that have been made, one argument has always been used with reference to the Irish Question. The daily Press, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), every Irish Tory who 318 has spoken on the question, has said in effect—There is no necessity to give this right to tenants to go into Court to get a reduction of rent, they can get a reduction by simple purchase; these gentlemen said that by means of an agreement of purchase they could at once produce a reduction of 25 per cent in the rent of the land; but that is not my way of looking at this question. I think that the tenant should be free to purchase at a rent which has been reduced to its proper level; and I hold that the Chief Secretary, by using this clause against tenant combinations, will be acting most unfairly and most unjustifiably to his own country; because these bad bargains which, under this Bill, will fall upon the shoulders of the Irish farmers, will come in time upon the English taxpayer, and then the Tories and the Liberal Unionists will be left to congratulate each other on having defeated the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin, Co., N.)
I think it right that the country and the House of Commons will, after to-night, at least, know what is practically aimed at by this Bill. The great pretence has been that the Bill is aimed at crime—at criminals, murderers, and persons who attempt murder, arson, and so forth; whereas now we know that it is aimed in reality at peaceable combinations of tenants to effect a reduction of their rents. A question was put to-night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) to the Attorney General for England, and I think that question went to the root of the whole matter; he asked the Attorney General whether this Bill was intended to put down Boycotting attended by intimidation, or, whether it was intended to put down Boycotting unaccompanied by intimidation. The right hon. Gentleman asked for a plain answer to that simple question, and the Committee now knows the answer which was given to it. The Attorney General spoke for a-half or three-quarters of an hour, and from the beginning to the end of his speech he never made an attempt to reply to that question. He evaded altogether the question whether the Bill was intended to deal with Boycotting unaccompanied by intimidation. We are, therefore, entitled to assume that this Bill is intended not only to put 319 down crimes, but also to put down combinations which in this country would be regarded as perfectly lawful and defensible. It seems to me that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) put the case very well when he said that the application of the Bill in ease of combinations depended upon whether the tenants had money or not. It appears that where there is money combinations will be protected, and that where there is no money poverty will be made a crime. That being so, the next point is to determine whether they have money or not, and that seems to be left entirely in the discretion of the Resident Magistrates. It will be in the discretion of gentlemen of this class to determine whether the tenants have money or not, and, consequently, whether or not they are to be liable to the penalties of this Bill. That is a nice state of the law. The Attorney General made one statement which I cannot allow to pass without notice. He said that the question as to whether these combinations would be put down or not must be accompanied by the question, "What is their intention?" If there has been anything determined in the course of recent legal proceedings in Ireland, it is that the question of intent has nothing to do with the matter. Again and again it has been laid down by the Judges, as in the case of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), that the question whether the hon. Member had good or bad motives did not enter in the least into the question; they said it did not matter whether he had the best motive, or the worst in the world; but that the mere fact that he had incited tenants to combine for a reduction of rent constituted a crime. I cannot help expressing surprise, as some hon. Members on this side of the House have already done, regarding the statements made with reference to the dicta of the Judges. Some of the most ridiculous and preposterous dicta which have been heard of in the criminal history of the country for the last six centuries have been revived during the last three or four years; and the Judges are progressing from bad to worse in this respect. Five or six years ago they began by reviving obsolete statutes of Edward III. and Charles I, while the doctrine of the inherent jurisdiction of 320 the Court of Queen's Bench to bind a man to the peace with the alternative of imprisonment—a jurisdiction never heard of in England since the days of the Aula Regis—was only introduced last winter. Some of us were amused tonight at hearing an hon. Member representing one of the Metropolitan constituencies, and who it seemed to me did not know even as much about agriculture as what is meant by an acre of ground, tell the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), the distinction between a strike of operatives in England and a combination among tenants in Ireland. The assumption of the hon. Member evidently was that the tenants in Ireland had no property in the land; but if there has been one thing established, not only by the inquiries of Commissioners, but by the legislation of this House, it is that the land does not belong entirely to the landlord. You talk every day of putting an end to the dual ownership in land, and you talk every day of establishing one instead of two sets of owners—that is to say, you yourselves recognize every day in every word you say that the landlords and the tenants are copartners in the land. It has been established by the Cowper Commission, by the Bess borough Commission, and others, that by reason of the improvements of tenants, which extend from the building of a house, even to the making of the soil, the tenants have ownership in the land; and, according to my reading, it seems to me that the tenants own more of the land in Ireland than the landlords. Consequently, I think it was rather presumptuous on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite to attempt to set the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby right in the matter of analogy between the operatives in England and the tenants in Ireland. I believe that we have now reached a very important point in the discussion of this Bill. One would have thought that the Chief Secretary, in the course of his speech, would have condescended to use some arguments in support of his case. He did not, however, attempt anything of the kind; he relies upon his own ipse dixit, which seems, in his mind, to settle everything. He made a remarkable observation to-night, 321 taking it for granted that everyone would believe it, because he said it, though without proof. He referred to the case of Murphy, who was murdered, and he said that, without a clause of this kind, that case could not have been inquired into. The man Murphy is supposed to have been murdered in consequence of something in connection with the hiring and letting of land; and the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that, if you could not bring those matters within the scope of the 1st clause, you could not inquire into the murder at all. Was anything ever said so preposterous as that? It is surely the fact that a man has been murdered that is to be inquired into, and not merely whether Murphy had displeased his neighbours by hiring or letting the land. Under this Bill you can inquire into any murder in Ireland, whether agrarian, political, or other; and, consequently, I think that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is nothing less than an insult to the intelligence of the Committee. As I have said, we have arrived at an important stage of this Bill. The Amendment before the Committee lets us know exactly where we stand, and places before the Committee and the country what is the exact character of the measure we are asked to pass. The Bill is defended on the ground that it is to be applied to crime and criminals. Now we know that that is not the case. We know perfectly well that, in addition to crime and criminals, amongst the objects aimed at are combinations unaccompanied by violence; and, that being so, I am afraid that the character of the opposition to this measure will not be mitigated in future; I am afraid that a good many Irish Members who have not taken any part yet in the discussion will be induced, owing to the rejection of this Amendment, by the prompting of their consciences and the duty which they owe to their constituents, to take their part in opposing this measure to the very last, no matter what the consequence may be. The character of the Bill is now known; it is one of naked tyranny; it has been proclaimed to be of that character by the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to-night, and it was so proclaimed in the speech of the Attorney General, when he refused to answer the 322 plain question put to him by the righ hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, whether this Bill would be applicable or not to Boycotting unaccompanied with violence or intimidation? I think that the miserable attempt of the Attorney General to evade that question conveys to all minds the knowledge that this Bill is not intended solely against criminals, but against peaceful, social, and political combinations which in England would be protected, and which I hope will continue in Ireland despite this law.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I desire to draw the attention of the Committee to the state of the House night after night, when these matters, which we think it necessary to discuss, are brought forward. I do not say that this is on account of any Boycotting or exclusion directed towards myself; but it is a painful and dreary task to stand up and address an empty Treasury Bench, or a solitary Minister keeping watch upon it. Knowing that the Government will bring every influence and pressure to bear upon their supporters to refrain from giving their honest opinion with respect to this Bill, we have carried before our faces the very practice which the Government profess to be going to put down in Ireland. A few moments ago an hon. and learned Member opposite, who desired to enlighten the Committee by a statement of his views, was at once extinguished by the Attorney General; and I recall the fact that, on the occasion when Irish Members were speaking the other night, the officials of the Tory Party got behind the Speaker's Chair and beckoned out their supporters, so that they might not hear the arguments which we had to urge against this measure. This system of manufacturing Crimes Acts is, I maintain, un-Constitutional. It is therefore hard for us to have any respect for the Bill; and although it is hopeless for us to seek to amend it, I think we cannot be blamed if in the absence of reply to our arguments, we indulge in reiteration, with the hope that something in the nature of an answer may be brought forward.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,323
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said: The Amendment which we are now considering runs as follows:—Provided that no examination under this section shall be held in respect of any matters relating to public meetings, or transactions relating to the letting, hiring, or occupation of land, or the dealing with, working for, or hiring of any persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation.We have from time to time been accused in this country, and in this House more or less directly, with being men who, in our hearts, sympathize with crime and violence; we have been accused of encouraging and inciting to crime in Ireland, and our opposition to the Bill is condemned as opposition for the purpose of sheltering crime and criminals. We say to the Government now that our attitude will be seriously affected by the position which they have taken up. We say, as you have conceived it to be right to bring in this Bill, and embarked in the pursuit of criminals, we will offer no opposition to you, provided that you honestly confine your investigation to crime and the cause of crime; but if you use the measure for political purposes then we shall oppose you. Common prudence would, I should think, dictate to the English Government that the greatest danger to social order would result from the fusion of crime and political offences. We are not now, as I take it, on the question of the extent to which this measure shall deal with political offences, and of the extent to which it creates new crimes. We are on this point—the working of the Secret Investigation Clause, and the use which will be made of it in Ireland. And while we are not, for a moment, contesting your right to change your venues for the trial of political prisoners, and to convict them in the ordinary Courts if you can, we object that if you refuse the present Amendment we shall be handed over to the Resident Magistrates, who will consider every act that displeases them an offence, and proceed to apply this torture clause for the purpose of investigating it. What are the things which are sought to be excluded from this inquisitorial process? They are public meetings, the letting and hiring of land, and matters of that kind. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that the Resident Magistrates will not seek to inquire into matters respecting which there is no need for inquiry. But we 324 are certain—we expect, and we have reason to believe from experience—that the Resident Magistrates will use these powers for breaking up every legitimate conspiracy—if I may be allowed to use that expression—every legitimate combination of tenants to obtain a fair reduction of rent. If you want to punish a man for speaking at a public meeting, why do you require an inquisitorial clause of this kind? In the first place, the Government have their reporters; you have the speech printed probably in the newspapers; thousands of people are present, for meetings in Ireland, unlike meetings in England, which are made up by means of tickets of a spurious character, are held in the open air; everyone is safe, although he may hold opinions hostile to those who convene the meeting. Why, then, do you take powers to apply this clause to public meetings in Ireland? Then with regard to the combinations of tenants. I cannot enter with authority into these legal matters; but will it not be held that it is right for the tenants to combine for their own protection, just as much as it is right for the landlords to combine for theirs? It must be so; and yet, because it is held by the Judges of Ireland that because their rents are fixed according to a form of agreement recognized by the law, it is said that the landlords have the right of entering into combination to maintain their rents, and that the tenants are wrong, because they seek a reduction adequate to the depression of the times. The opinions of the Judges in Ireland have been quoted, which declare that any combination of tenants to injure their landlords is an illegal combination, and we know the meaning which they attach to the word "injure," because they have defined it as injury to the pocket of the landlord. Suppose that three, four, or six tenants have an aggregate rental of £100 to pay; if they think that the depression of the times makes it necessary to demand a remission of 35 per cent, according to the dicta of the Irish Judges that would be a combination to injure the pocket of the landlord, and, consequently, an illegal combination and a criminal offence. We are not at the moment on the question whether you should punish that combination; we are on the question whether you ought to demand this power of secret inquiry into 325 it—the question of punishment is a wider question, and will come up hereafter. Now, if only the poor men on an estate combine, they will not get what they want, because the landlord knows that they have no money. The landlord knows to the last farthing what is in the till of the tenant; he knows when the postal order comes, and when the greenback comes from America; he has information on all these points; he knows the men who cannot pay him, and against them he will not proceed, because their combination, as far as he is concerned, is perfectly harmless. But let the man say, "I have a few pounds by me that is not made out of the land," and what happens? It has been laid down to-night that the moment a man who has a little money in his pocket enters into combination this clause is to be applied. Let me state what is the chief objection on our part to the use of this secret inquiry. It is not that we think there is anything discreditable or criminal in the combination of the tenants, and it is not that there is anything that we need fear, or be ashamed of disclosing before the world; but where tenants combine to keep in their own pockets, or place in the hands of a trustee, their money, we object that the power of secret inquiry shall be applied for the purpose of finding out where it is, and putting the men in gaol until their rent is paid. We know that it has occurred time after time that a tenant who has claimed a reduction of rent has been told by the landlord or his agent that if he did not pay he would be put into gaol within the next 24 hours. Do we not know that under the present Tory Government a Government representing the class interested in land in this country and in Ireland, and a Government which thinks it fit and right to give honour and place, if not emolument, to some of the Representatives of the worst rack-renting landlords in Ireland—have we not reason to believe that under such a Government this measure will be used for the purpose of torturing the tenants who enter into combination? Have we not reason to believe that this clause will be used to find out whether there is combination? The practical working of the Act will be this—that where a local landlord finds that his rent is not forthcoming he will instantly go and button-hole the Resident Magistrate, 326 who will get his printed form of authority from Dublin Castle to hold his secret inquiry, and, to break the ring, summon the tenants before him, who, because they make it a point of honour not to divulge what they know about a perfectly legal combination, will be sent to gaol as an example to terrify others who resist the payment of rent. As I do not want to detain the Committee at an inconvenient hour, I will not go farther into this matter than to say that any Government pretending to have before it the idea of maintaining law and order does a wrong thing when they begin to mix up political offences with crime. If there is one thing which you have failed to learn in Ireland, it is that your political opponent, who honestly speaks out his mind, is a person of very different class from those who commit crime. If the Government really intended to use this clause for the discovery of crime that has been committed; if they intended to use it with a view to elucidate and investigate the grave crime which has stained the country, we should have no moral ground to stand upon in opposing them, however un-Constitutional might have been their manner of proceeding; but now we have this ground—that, in the first place, they are un-Constitutional, and that, in the second place, they are confounding together the criminal and the political opponent. You are going to place, side by side, the man who has, perhaps, committed a crime of a disgraceful character—who is possibly spotted with blood—and one of those whom the people of Ireland have learned to respect as their champions. It is for this reason that we ask you to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I understand the object of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) is to provide that the interpretation of the law in Ireland under this Act shall be identical with the interpretation attached to analogous Statutes in this country. Now, Sir, seeing that this is an exceptional law, it appears to me to be reasonable to demand that no unusual and inconsistent interpretation 327 should be placed upon any portion of it. I believe that part of it is most liable to abuse at the hands of the Resident Magistrates, who are all persons, almost without exception, in an eminent degree unfitted to express anything like a sound opinion of a Statute. The principal danger will be that these gentlemen, acting on their own responsibility and power, and, it may be, on their own initiative, will place an interpretation on this portion of it, such as used to be placed on the Trades Unions Act at first even by the Judges of England—whose interpretation was so wrong in itself that a subsequent Act had to be passed by this House for the purpose of explaining its meaning. I say that when persons in the positions of Judges in this country, who have no object whatever to serve, who have no object even to consider, save a just and fair administration of the law—when these gentlemen of the highest legal eminence and of the greatest ability have involuntarily fallen into error in the interpretation of such an Act, and to such an extent as to necessitate the passage through this House of another Act to explain the previous one, it is only reasonable to infer that Stipendiary Magistrates in Ireland, who know nothing about law, and who are entirely unable to pass anything like an authoritative opinion as to the meaning of an intricate or vague section of an Act of Parliament—it is only fair that these gentlemen should be aided by the Legislature to this degree, that the Legislature, as far as it possibly can, in the drafting of the Bill now going through the House, should be so explicit that even the mind of an Irish Stipendiary Magistrate will not be able to place a false interpretation on its meaning. We heard to-night from the hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) a disquisition as to the relative meaning of the terms "conspiracy" and "criminal conspiracy." I do not know that it would be possible to differentiate closely between the terms conspiracy and criminal conspiracy, because really the conspiracy which is principally known to the law of this country is criminal conspiracy, because if the conspiracy is not a criminal conspiracy—except in a few instances—it does not come before the notice of the Courts; and this is a Bill dealing exclusively with the Criminal Law. In conspiracy 328 under the Civil Law, there is, of course, an extremely wide interpretation placed on the term; and the English law, so far as I understand it, affords no special encouragement or facilities to persons who pursue criminal conspiracy, who are only guilty of what we may term an ordinary conspiracy, which is not, by itself, either by its aims or objects, anything in the nature of a criminal conspiracy. But, Sir, the very discussion as to the relative value of the two terms, ''conspiracy" and "criminal conspiracy," is reduced to a minimum of importance by the fact that the policy of the Government avowedly is to treat all conspiracies in Ireland in the same manner, and to make ordinary conspiracies, which, by the law of England, are not criminal offences, and by offences crimes—because that is the gradation which the Government have adopted, thereby including all conspiracies, no matter what their character, as criminal conspiracies with the passing of this Act. I consider that course is a most mischievous and most deplorable course. It is a course which would not be tolerated for a single instant in this country. There is not a Judge on the English Bench that would for a moment tolerate the idea of treating in the same way ordinary conspiracy—which may only amount to competition in the way of trade—and conspiracy for a decidedly criminal object. I was looking only to-day at a case tried in the London Courts not many years ago, where it was decided that if the plaintiffs had sustained damage an injunction might be given restraining the defendants from the objectionable course; but the onus of proof would be thrown on the plaintiffs before an English Judge would issue an injunction to restrain the defendants from doing the thing complained of. We know that the principal object of this clause in its application to the state of affairs that may exist in Ireland will be in regard to combination on the part of tenants to induce, or persuade, or compel—if you like—the landlords to make reasonable abatements in their rents. Now, the hon. and learned Attorney General to-day differentiated between the two terms "induce" and "compel." He did not make the distinction clear; but when he referred to the compulsion of the landlord to ac- 329 cede to the demands of the tenant, he said that any attempt to keep money belonging to the landlord out of his pocket would be a conspiracy within the meaning of this clause, and might be proceeded against accordingly. Now, it is extremely risky to leave to the magistrates in Ireland the interpretation of the terms "inducement" and "compulsion," because we believe—in fact, we know—in the case of Ireland there has been no endeavour made to compel, by unlawful means, landlords to yield fair terms to their tenants. This has never been the practice in connection with the Plan of Campaign, against which this Bill is directed. It does not adopt a method of compulsion at all, but a method of reasonable inducement and persuasion, because it only keeps the money out of the landlord's pocket so long as he remains recalcitrant, and the moment he comes to a more reasonable frame of mind—as did Lord Dillon in the County Mayo—the money immediately passes into his possession. Lord Dillon could not complain of the Plan of Campaign, or of the manner in which his rents were collected. We have a declaration of the law in Ireland which is not a declaration that you can find in England. You can find no such declaration of the law in England; but you can find a declaration of the law in Ireland which will be brought to their assistance, which will be printed in Dublin Castle, and circulated among them for their guidance, and that is the Charge of Judge Fitzgerald in the case of "The Queen v. Parnell." The words of Judge Fitzgerald cannot be too often quoted. He said—"Gentlemen, I declare to you that it is a criminal act to agree;" and then he goes on to give his definitions of criminal conspiracy, the third of which goes to show that an act which may be proper for a single individual to do becomes a crime when done by two or three; and that judgment applying to persons who were at the time agitating to bring about reductions of rent in Ireland will, of necessity, be cited by every Irish magistrate for the purpose of showing that the clause ought to apply in the case of ordinary conspiracy, and that the public examination ought to take place. Now, Sir, it has been contended that there is no analogy between the cases of trades unionists and the case of tenants in Ireland. Well, 330 the case of tenants in Ireland may not afford a perfect analogy. It is difficult to find a perfect analogy between those who earn wages for themselves and those who earn an income for others, and receive no direct wages in return by that process. But I would suggest to the Committee that they may find something of an analogy in the case of the employment of waiters in this country. I understand that it is, in some instances, the custom for waiters to pay for being allowed to serve in hotels and restaurants. We will assume that this is the system in Dublin. Let us suppose that the waiters in one of the principal hotels, where they had to pay £1 a-week, put their heads together—or conspired—to reduce this amount to 10s. a-week. A Resident Magistrate, under this clause, would have a perfect right to hold a private inquiry, and examine these men successively as to the nature of their acts, their conversations, and their arrangements, and on their refusing to answer he might commit them to gaol from week to week, practically for an indefinite period. That, I think, will form a perfect analogy. But assume that anything of that kind was tried here in London, or in any part of England, what would be the opinion of the public with regard to it? Yet it is just as unjust to apply that system to the tenants of Ireland as it would be to the waiters in a London hotel. If the Government had any intention of observing the difference between conspiracy and criminal conspiracy—which the hon. and learned Attorney General insisted on so strongly—they would not have the slightest objection to accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby; and we must only expect this—that the Bill now before the House, instead of being aimed at the suppression of crime in Ireland, will be used, as Sir George Trevelyan has pointed out over and over again since the Bill came before the House in his speeches throughout the country, at political combination. It is aimed at the political opponents of the Government, and it is against men of that class, and not against criminals, that the Bill will be principally put into operation. Well, Sir, that being the case, as I am fully persuaded, I have only to say this—that any man summoned before any of these inquiries in 331 Ireland, ought, as an honest Irishman, to refuse to attend. If, then, viewing the practice on the part of the Government, which amounts to the grossest terrorism, which is invented to intimidate the people under the guise of promoting the preservation of the law—if men see that system adopted by the Government, it is, I say, their bounden duty not to give countenance or toleration to the system, whatever the consequences may be to themselves. They should refuse to attend and refuse to recognize the Court. They should reject it, as others have rejected illegal Courts before. They should repudiate the Court, and should seek to destroy it, as Englishmen, generations ago, sought to destroy the Star Chamber; and I tell the Government that if ever it should come to my lot to be summoned before one of these Secret Courts to give evidence against anything that has happened or is happening I should distinctly refuse to attend such an inquiry.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
Whatever doubts there may have been in the minds of hon. Gentlemen as to the real objects of this Bill, the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General must have set them at rest. I listened with all the attention I could to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman this evening, for I was anxious to ascertain from him, speaking as he was on behalf of the Government, what were the avowed intentions of the Government on this subject; and, therefore, I listened, and, as far as my abilities would allow me, endeavoured to understand the explanation which he gave. But, Sir, as I listened to his speech I gradually became aware of the object which was in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind—namely, that he was anxious to evade the questions at issue. He was splitting hairs from beginning to end. His speech reminded me forcibly of the pains which young counsel recently called to the Bar take to prepare a statement when called upon to give an opinion. They strive to offer an opinion which, whatever shall be the result of the case, will show that they were equally protected in giving that opinion. In reply to the straightforward question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) 332 he made statements which were vague to the last degree. Even he himself will admit with me that I am correct in supposing that if a verbatim report of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech is made to-night it will not find its way into Hansard without very considerable correction. The questions which were put to him were plain and simple. There are combinations existing in Ireland at the present moment—combinations of different characters and for very different objects, but all in the same direction in one sense. Now, we have a combination of landlords in Ireland—a combination for self-defence. We have this combination, the aim and object of which, from beginning to end, is to bring whatever influence they can exercise on the country, with the assistance of the Government or without it, to enforce the payment of rents which the tenants, looking to their own interests, regard as excessive. Now, the combination exists at the present time; but during the whole course of this debate—I do not mean this evening only, but the whole course of the discussion on this Bill—while they have over and over again denounced the combinations of tenants, they have never in any single instance attempted to cast any suspicion upon the combinations of landlords in Ireland. Now, the object of the combination of landlords in Ireland is, as I have said, identical with that of the combination of tenants. There is, unfortunately, a depreciation in the value of land in Ireland. The landlords, on the one hand, have inherited not only their estates, but all the circumstances that surround the holding of property in Ireland at the present time. In the same way, the tenants have inherited the tenancies, and the aim and object of all these associations and combinations is to see how much money can be got on the one hand, or saved on the other. So far as I can see, looking at the matter fairly and calmly, there is no difference between the combinations on the part of the landlords and the combinations on the part of the tenants, which exist at the present time. Both are trying to get that unfortunate difference—the rent—a difference which is equally necessary both to the one and to the other. In the observations of the hon. and learned Attorney General tonight there is one remark which struck me very forcibly. He spoke vehemently, 333 and made all the appearance of giving the fullest possible information upon the subject. So far as I understood him, he gave no interpretation at all of the objects of this Bill or the real intentions of the Government. Towards the close of his remarks he stated that the Government never did intend to coerce or interfere with—that is, so far as I understood him—the combinations of tenants for the purpose of bringing about reductions of rent in eases where tenants are unable to pay it. The hon. and learned Attorney General vehemently said—[Cries of "No, no!"] Am I wrong in the interpretation I put on the hon. and learned Attorney General's speech? [Sir RICHARD WEBSTER: Yes, certainly.] Of course, if the hon. and learned Gentleman says that, I am bound to accept his statement, and I do accept it. But I did not understand him in the least degree to say that when he spoke. But when you put in your proviso as to giving up the holding you alter the whole question. You make a difference that is impossible, because the giving up of the holding means the giving up, on the part of the tenant, of an absolute interest. Therefore, this was one of the provisos attached to the explanation of the hon. and learned Attorney General with which I am endeavouring to find fault. If you say to tenants having a large interest, by Act of Parliament, in the land, when they have combined not to pay the full rent demanded by the landlord, but who are willing, on the other hand, to give up the land to the landlord, that it is not conspiracy—why, it is not worth the while of the hon. and learned Attorney General to get up and make such a statement in this House. If that is the explanation he wishes to give to the Committee, it seems to me that the explanation is futile in the last degree. But I will take it in the sense in which I understood it, for the purpose of argument. I maintain there is no law against the combination of tenants for the purpose of obtaining a reduction of rent from the landlord—that I maintain, notwithstanding anything that the hon. and learned Gentleman may have said on the subject—though, no doubt, it may be presumptuous in me to do so. The landlord has always his claim at law against his tenants. But the tenants, we say, are rack-rented and unjustly 334 rented, and to say that they have no right to combine in order to secure a fair reduction of rent, and to say that such a combination is a conspiracy—to adopt the new language of the Government on this matter—is a doctrine that I, for one, cannot for a moment accept; for if you start by saying that such an act on the part of a number of tenants would involve them in the penalties of your criminal conspiracies, you are bound, on the other hand, to apply the same law to the landlords. The landlord has his interest, and the tenant has also his share of interest in the law; and, therefore, if it is wrong on the part of the tenant to combine for the purpose of securing a reduction of rent, is it not equally wrong, on the part of the landlord, to continue to force from the tenants the payment of rent which the land has never yielded? But the hon. and learned Attorney General went on to say that there was a great difference between a number of tenants capable of paying their rents, combining to refuse to pay them, and a combination on the part of tenants who had no money to pay. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not deny the correctness of the report I give of his two points. But what earthly difference can it make in the case of a number of tenants declining to pay their rent if some of these have money and some have not? If you said that the money had been earned out of the land I could understand your contention; but it often happens in Ireland that the money with which the tenant has to pay a rack-rent is not money which has been gained from the land, but is money which has been obtained from other sources, and it seems to me that if you draw a distinction between the two classes, it is not a fair distinction in any sense, because in most cases the money which tenants may have in their pockets is money that never came out of the land, but which came from America. Since 1848 the sum of £50,000,000 has been sent by Irish people in America to their unfortunate relatives in Ireland, and the greater portion of that £50,000,000 has gone into the pockets of the landlords in rack-rents; so that the doctrine that the hon. and learned Gentleman lays down in making a difference between combinations of tenants who may have money in their pockets wherewith to pay their rents and combinations 335 of those who have no money amounts to this—that if the law is unable to produce such a result as will enable the tenant to pay the landlord's claim in full, whatever his case might be in the eye of the law if he had no money, it is altered by the fact that money has been sent him by his relatives in America. So far as the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman went to-night, it really amounted to nothing; and if, as I have said, his speech were taken down verbatim, and were printed, there are no two Judges or magistrates who would agree upon any single decision, if based upon the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. This is a Bill which has not been introduced for the purpose of suppressing crime. It has been practically admitted by the Government that there is no crime in Ireland. This Bill is introduced for the purpose of upholding one section of the people against another. It is a Bill introduced—as is shown by the refusal of this Amendment—for the purpose of maintaining the rack-rents of the landlords in Ireland, and for the purpose of giving landlords the power of enforcing the law in order to drag out of these unfortunate people not only the money that the land may have earned, but the money they may have obtained from other sources. The discussion to-night also shows what is nothing new to me—for it was my opinion from the very first—that the second object of this Bill, now scarcely denied, but almost openly avowed, is to put down political opponents of the Government in Ireland. As the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, it scarcely seems worth while to argue at all. We shall all say that—not merely those who represent Irish constituencies on this side of the House, but you who represent English constituencies—when you pass this Bill, however you may torture the law to give it an outward appearance, your difficulties will not be at an end. Your real difficulties will begin the moment this Bill becomes law. You will go to Ireland and endeavour to put into operation the iniquitous clauses of this measure; but I feel perfectly convinced that you will fail.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
If any doubt remained in the mind of any hon. Gentleman in our portion of the House as to the real intentions of this Act, it would be removed by the reception 336 which the Government have given to the Amendment now before the Committee. Why, the Members of Her Majesty's Government have over and over again sought to assure the Committee that there is no intention under this Act, or under any portion of it, to attack political parties, or crush political assemblies which meet for lawful purposes. Now, Sir, that being so, I cannot see, reading this Amendment, what possible objection the Government can have to its acceptance. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), to my mind, devoted the larger portion of his speech to the manner in which this Amendment was drafted; but he did not once attempt to grapple with the very great principle that is involved in it. He passed some very pleasant criticism on the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) drafted this Amendment. He referred to "the looseness" of it, and to the fact that, if adopted and embodied in the clause, it would utterly nullify various other portions of the section which have already been passed through Committee. But even if this were so—if we could allow for a moment that this is the case—it would still be quite within the province of Her Majesty's Government to accept the spirit of the Amendment—to accept its scope, and and move the Committee to alter certain words in it. But it is quite evident, from the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and others who have spoken on behalf of the Government, that the intention of the Government is to strike at political opponents and crush political associations, so as to render impossible the lawful combination of tenants, or other bodies of people in Ireland seeking to do that which is at present lawful and just. I do not see how the powerful arguments brought forward by the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) can be met by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. He has proved to demonstration tonight that in the eyes of the law there has never been a distinction between combinations of two or more persons for unlawful purposes and combinations for a lawful purpose; and, therefore, the Conspiracy Clauses of this Bill contain provisions of the greatest 337 possible danger to the people of Ireland. As far as I understand the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England and of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, they both maintained this evening that there is no desire whatever on the part of the Government to suppress any combination of the tenantry of Ireland seeking for a reduction of rack-rents. But, Sir, when this law-comes to be interpreted, the Resident Magistrates who will get the parties brought before them are the Resident Magistrates who will hold the private inquiries. They will not turn up the pages of Hansard to see what right hon. Gentlemen have said—if, indeed, they should take any cognizance whatever of anything which has been uttered in this Committee. What they will look to are the words of the Statute which they will have before them. I would ask the attention of hon. Members to this fact—that all the knowledge and experience we have of magistrates and officials in Ireland emboldens us to say that they will give the widest possible interpretation to this Act in their own interest; that they will make the net as wide as possible so as to bring in every possible case or offence; and that they will make its meshes so small that not the most innocent man will be able to escape. We know the spirit which actuates the men who will have the administration of this Act, and I join with the hon. Member for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. J. Kenny) in saying that if this 1st clause passes un-amended, if the Government do not accept such an Amendment as this brought for ward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, the duty will be cast on every Irishman of spirit, upon every man of honour in the country, to treat this clause of the Bill with utter contempt—in his own person if it should become necessary, and in the persons of those over whom his advice has any influence. The Irish people must treat with contempt, and refuse to appear before, a Court of Inquiry instituted in such a manner, and empowered to deal in such an infamous way with the lives and liberties of the Irish people.
§ MR. H. J. GILL (Limerick)
We, on this side of the House, have made various appeals to the Government to agree to this Amendment. If they will not agree to the whole of the Amendment, let 338 them, at least, indicate their willingness to agree to a portion of it. Let us, at any rate, distinctly know what the clause deals with. The only concession which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and which has also been announced by the right hon. Gentleman, was that imprisonment under this clause might be subject to appeal. Well, we all know of the "law's delays," and if an innocent man, on account of not answering certain really illegal questions, is sentenced to a month's imprisonment with hard labour and a plank bed, what consolation will it be to him if at the end of the month, after he has gone through his punishment, it is decided that he is really not guilty of what he has been imprisoned for? I think we ought to ask the Government to adopt some alteration whereby it will be immediately heard, so that a prisoner will not be obliged to put in his imprisonment before his case can be decided. We all know, as I have said, of the law's delay, and with the law of Ireland administered, as at present, altogether in favour of the landlords and against the tenants, we can very well form an idea as to what will happen. It has been said that there is no analogy at all between Trades Unions in this country and combinations of tenant farmers in Ireland. An hon. Member said that when labourers or workmen in England struck they only withheld their own, whereas when the tenant farmers of Ireland struck they retained the land belonging to the landlord; but this I believe to be a vague and fallacious point of view. In a great number of handicrafts in England, we all know that the men supply and own their own tools, and when they strike in a factory or workshop they take their tools with them. Well, what are the tools of the tenant farmers of Ireland? They are the barns in which they keep their grain, the stables and stalls in which they keep their cattle, and the places in which they keep their hay and straw. These are their tools, and they are their own just as much as the tools of the artizans in this country are their own individual property. The artizans of this country can take away their tools when they strike; but, unfortunately for the poor tenants in Ireland, their tools are fixtures, and they cannot take them away, although, as I have said, they are 339 as much theirs as the tools of the artizan are his property, and they have just as much right to retain them—I do not say legally, according to the English law, but morally—they have just as much right to retain their tools as have the artizans to keep possession of theirs. I would give an instance in point from the Woodford evictions. The first three or four tenants against whom writs of eviction were issued owed the landlord something like £150; but it turned out that they had property in the shape of farm buildings and other fixtures, which had been erected by themselves or their predecessors, and these were calculated to be of the value of about £600. Still, the landlord could evict them to get the £150 which he claimed as due to him, and on this plea he could actually rob these poor people of £600 worth of property that belonged to them. I think here is an exact parallel between the two cases—the case of the tradesmen in England, and the case of the tenant farmers in Ireland. In both cases the men only tried to raise their wages. The workmen tried to raise their wages directly by getting higher pay; on the other hand, the farmer, ekeing out a miserable livelihood, and making 30 or 40 or 50 per cent out of his farm, tried to raise his wages indirectly by getting his rent reduced, and obtaining more to live on than he had hitherto possessed. "We want this clause to be explicit—a result to be attained by the acceptance of this Amendment—so that it will be known exactly what is to be dealt with. We know the great latitude that is taken even by Judges in deciding upon legal points, and if even Judges experience this great difficulty, what must be the danger of a strained or wrong interpretation in the case of magistrates who, in a great number of cases, have no legal knowledge or training whatever? A case in point, illustrating very forcibly what I am saying, occurred with regard to the Land Act of 188l, when the late Lord Chancellor Law, who actually saw that Bill through this House, and who was perfectly intimate with all the intentions of the Government in passing it, sat on the Bench with two other Judges when a case under it came on for trial. It was the celebrated case coming under what was known as "the Healy Clause." The contention was that the tenants were not entitled to have their rents 340 raised on account of their own improvements or the improvements of their predecessors. I say that, although Lord Chancellor Law was on the Bench, the other two Judges actually decided against what they knew to be the exact object of the Bill; and by doing that they inflicted great hardship on a great number of tenants in Ireland. There, I say, is a case in point—one of them, a Lord Chancellor, could not agree upon the point of law. How, then, can it be expected that on all these points with regard to conspiracies and public meetings which are touched upon by this clause the Resident Magistrates can come to a reliable opinion, unless everything is laid down in a clear, and distinct, and emphatic manner? Consequently, I think we are within our right in endeavouring to induce Her Majesty's Government to express their object definitely, and to lay down the law as they wish it carried out, so that the Act may not become an instrument of tyranny against the Irish people. At least let them take precautions to see that this tyrannous measure shall not press too heavily upon the people. I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby for trying to insist on the Government's acceptance of this Amendment, so that the section may not press with undue severity on the people of Ireland.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
We have heard a great deal this evening about Boycotting and conspiracy. Well, I think we have had some conspiracy here this evening—I will not call it a criminal conspiracy. At any rate, there would seem to be an agreement on the other side of the House to Boycott this side. The Benches opposite were empty for the most part of this discussion—I suppose it is that the discussion is not sufficiently exciting for hon. Gentlemen opposite. According to the law laid down this evening, conspiracy is an agreement to do something, but when there is no criminality attached to it it becomes a combination; herefore, I would say that hon. Gentlemen opposite are a combination, and not a conspiracy. But you see what a wide field the interpretation of this Act has opened up—the interpretation of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. It has opened up a wide field of speculation as to what 341 conspiracy is and what combination means. Now, this Amendment seems to me to be a very admirable one, because I find in the 1st clause of the Act and the 5th sub-section these words—The offences to which this section applies are any felony or misdemeanour, or any offence punishable under this Act.Now what does "any offence punishable under this Act" mean? What are these offences? They are stated in the next clause. In the 1st sub-section we see that it is to be applied to "an offence which is calculated to interfere with the administration of the law." This is a very flexible sentence, and may be applied to anything. Why, Sir, in our experience we have found very wide interpretations put upon what is called "interference with the administration of the law." Let us suppose a number of tenants are asking for a reduction in their rents. Let us suppose that they are not able to pay the rents, and are being evicted. Why, Sir, if any charitably-disposed person, or any charitable association, attempts to erect a hut, in order to shelter the evicted tenants, he or they may at once be described by the Resident Magistrate as "interfering with the administration of the law." It will, perhaps, be said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side that this is a purely imaginary instance on my part. No, Sir; it is not imaginary. Sir, that interpretation has already been placed upon the ordinary law of the land. I can remember very well—in the year 1881 I think it was—when the tenants of Lord Cloncurry were being evicted, that an association—I believe it was the Ladies' Land League—sent down a number of huts to shelter the people; but one of the magistrates—whose name is pretty familiar to the House, Mr. Clifford Lloyd—decided, in his great wisdom, that the erection of these huts, in order to shelter these people, would be interfering with the administration of the law, and would be, in itself, an act of intimidation. The huts were sent down, and they remained on the side of the road, whilst the people were shivering with cold; and it was not until a brave lady seized the reins of the Lord Lieutenant's horse in Dublin that the whole state of things was altered, and the huts allowed to be erected, and that Mr. Clifford Lloyd was censured for his over-officiousness. Well, we go 342 on to see what are the other offences to which this section is to apply, and which may be considered an "interference with the administration of the law." We see in Sub-section (a) of Section 2 of the 2nd clause that it is laid down as an illegal act—To cause any person or persons either to do any act which such person or persons has or have a legal right to abstain from doing, or to abstain from doing any act which such person or persons has or have a legal right to do.Now, how is this likely to apply in practice? We will suppose another case. I will put a case in point that came under my own notice, and within my own experience, lately—the case of the tenants on the Kingston estate in. the County Cork, who combined for the purpose of obtaining a reduction in their rents. In this case the Land Court declared, in 1881, the rents of these people to be 30 per cent over what was a just rent, and since that time a Royal Commission has declared that the value of land in Ireland has decreased by about 20 per cent, and consequently these people are rack-rented to the extent of 50 per cent. They combined to ask for a reduction of 20 per cent, but before that combination took place they were visited by certain Members of this House. These Members visited the tenants in order to inquire into the justice of their demands before the Plan of Campaign would be put into operation, and they had to encounter the hostile activity of the police of the district. They were hunted from pillar to post; they had to travel over mountain and moor land pursued by constabulary. Well, if this Act had been in operation, and if this clause in its present form had applied, no doubt the powers they contain would have been exercised in order to deal with the action of the Members of this House to whom I have referred, and to deal also with the tenants on the estate seeking for a reduction of their rent. The investigation would take place under the 1st clause of the Bill, and I have no doubt these Members of Parliament would be now suffering the pains and penalties which they would have incurred as having offended against this Act. But, Sir, we have contended all along that it is for the purpose of keeping up the standard of rent that this Act has been conceived, and is about to be put into operation. But have not 343 the landlords already sufficient guarantees for the collection of the rents? Have they not the power of eviction? Cannot they exercise all the legal power that they already possess for subjecting the tenantry of Ireland to all the pains and penalties which are to be incurred, by combining together in order to get their rents reduced? Now, there is another offence which must be considered as interfering with the administration of the law to which I would refer. Sub-section 3 brings under the operation of the Act any person "who shall take part in any riot or unlawful assembly." What is an unlawful assembly in Ireland? Who is to decide what it is? Why, Sir, according to the practice of the last few weeks, two Resident Magistrates can decide what is an unlawful assembly. We have seen, for the first time in our experience—for the first time in the history of the great movement in which we are engaged—we have seen that it is practically in the hands of two Resident Magistrates in Ireland to declare what an unlawful meeting is. Well, I can quite conceive these Resident Magistrates prohibiting every meeting that could be held for any conceivable purpose in Ireland. It is only a short time ago—in the course of last winter, I think—that we held meetings in Cork that were rudely invaded by the police, and scattered with bayonets and batons without any proclamation at all, without any declaration on the part of a single Resident Magistrate even, but simply upon the word of command of some petty officer of police. I have no doubt, from the manner in which these men have been treated since—the way they have been singled out for promotion by their superiors—that though this action was condemned by the tribunals of the country, I have no doubt, I say, that these Resident Magistrates would have exonerated them from all blame, or that their superior officers, who have promoted them, would have no hesitation, under similar circumstances, in proclaiming the meeting in the first instance which led to their attack upon the people, although those meetings would be perfectly legal in their object. I have no doubt that, under the circumstances, the meeting would be dispersed, and that those who took part in them would be subjected to all the indignities and the punishments 344 legalized in the 1st clause of this Act. Now, we have also had it stated that this Act can be applied to the system known as Boycotting in Ireland. But Boycotting is the outcome of the land movement in Ireland, and so long as the land movement lasts you will have Boycotting. I hold with the statement made by Lord Salisbury in his Newport speech. I hold that as the Crimes Act failed to suppress Boycotting so also will this Act. Boycotting will continue in some shape or other, and this measure will prove quite as futile for the purpose of suppressing it. Now, the combination by landlords has been dwelt on by many speakers in the course of the evening. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that this Act would apply to combinations of all kinds. But who is to determine what is an illegal combination of landlords? Who will say that a combination of landlords is illegal? Is it the Chief Secretary for Ireland who will have to settle the matter? Is it the Attorney General for Ireland? Is it the landlords' friends at Dublin Castle? Who will tell me that any of these authorities will say that the Cork Defence Union is an illegal association? And yet it interferes with the administration of the law. I stand under the correction of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) when I say that the quarrel which exists at the present time between the tenants on the Ponsonby estate and their landlord would have been settled long ago if it had not been for the interference of that nefarious institution, the Cork Defence Union, the president of which association satin this House and listened to the speeches of his distinguished Leaders to-night, and a distinguished Member of which sits behind the Front Bench opposite. No, Sir; the Government will not say that the landlords' combinations are illegal, and I take it that while this Act will be put into operation against combinations of tenants, combinations of landlords will be allowed to take place under the Act. I have no doubt that, no matter how defective and ridiculous may be the means resorted to in order to suppress tenants' combinations, the landlords' combinations will be allowed to go scot-free. I believe the operation of this Act, unless it be prevented by the acceptance of an Amendment such as that before the 345 Committee, will have a most detrimental effect on the condition of the country. It will simply, as Lord Cowper said before, drive discontent beneath the surface. You are by this Act about to sow the storm, and I have no hesitation in predicting that the Government, if they live long enough, will reap the whirlwind. I believe, however, that the Committee will see the wisdom of attaching considerable importance to the Amendment that is now before us.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I rise for the purpose of addressing some few observations to the Committee. I shall not intrude for any length of time on the attention of Members, and I think it is not the intention of my hon. Friends to prolong the debate. We have some reason to complain that the interpretation of Amendments of this kind are given by English Law Officers in this House in such a manner that they cannot be availed of by us afterwards in Ireland. It is a very significant fact that while an Act of this kind is passing through Parliament we have an interpretation of the law from English officials which gives, and very fairly, the interpretation of the law as it is rendered by English Judges; but we have no expression of opinion from the Irish Law Officers, who will have to take part in the administration of this Act in Ireland, and whose words we should be able to quote in the future if we saw that an undue or illegal use was being made of the powers contained in this clause. Probably it is not very wise to try to flog a dead horse, and it is hardly worth while endeavouring to draw a nice distinction as to some of these Amendments. What I believe of the Crimes Act is this—that it will be in Ireland whatever the Government like to make it; and no matter what Amendments we may succeed in getting adopted, the Government will still be able to pervert the measure to any use they may desire. If the Government put this clause in force as it at present stands, you will have a state of confusion and disorder in Ireland in regard to associations, organizations, and public meetings; and if there is any Amendment better calculated than another to raise an issue upon this matter fairly before the Committee, it is that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). It fairly raises the question as 346 to whether there is an honest desire on the part of the Government to grapple with serious crime, or whether there is not. If there is a serious and honest desire on the part of the Government to grapple with grave crime, then they will be careful not to pass this measure in such a way that the provisions which are meant to deal with serious crime will be used against offences which, in the ordinary sense of the term, cannot be regarded as crime. Everyone knows that a provision such as this in the 1st clause is an exceptional and extraordinary provision, and one which the Government could not attempt to justify under the ordinary circumstances in any country. Yet it is proposed that this extraordinary power, which amounts to a revival of the Star Chamber, which the Government have brought in, and which they have pretended before the public is meant to deal with serious crime—it is now proposed by the Government that it is to extend to every petty offence—for that I gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—that whatever can be punished under this Act is also worthy of being inquired into, and being inquired into under the extraordinary provisions which are contained in this measure. Well, I wish to state to the Committee what the inevitable result of that will be. We have every desire to assist the Government, if it is their intention to extirpate serious crime from Ireland. It is our interest to do so more than it is the interest of the Government, and we have always strived to act as far as we could honestly in the endeavour to stamp out serious crime in the country; but the Government, while professing to aim at serious crime, brings into the secret inquiries which will be held all sorts of questions that arise, and all the relations between landlords and tenants; and they bring in, at the same time, a provision which will set the whole of their machinery out of gear. You will have the same machinery to deal with serious crime as you will have to deal with petty offences, and a feeling will grow up in the country that the men who give evidence before your secret inquiries with regard to potty and political offences, which the people of the country do not recognize as crimes, will be regarded as traitors; and in course of time you will be unable to draw a 347 distinction between the man who refuses to allow himself to be examined as to his own or his friends' political action, and the man who refuses to allow himself to be examined where the subject of the examination is a serious and heinous offence against which the whole public opinion of the country might revolt. The Amendment, if adopted, would have the effect of protecting a man who refused to be examined with reference to his political organization, while it would not shelter in the public feeling anyone suspected of being concerned with serious crime. It may not be the intention of the Government to make extensive use of this provision at all. If it is not their intention to do so, I think they will see the desirability of modifying some of its provisions. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the moment powers like this are put in the Bill and handed over to Resident Magistrates for administration the whole machinery will act in spite of his best efforts to restrain it. Once the machinery is set in motion, once the Irish officials, who have used instruments of this kind before, and who have brought about by their use a state of confusion and disorder in the country which has done greater discredit to the British Government in the country than it has done to the Irish people—once, I say, the machinery is set in motion, no one in the position of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant will be able to restrain its action. Now, I do not intend to occupy the time of the Committee any longer. I will only say that I believe the intention of the Government in introducing this Bill was merely the intention of putting before the country some policy which would enable them to retain Office, and to keep up appearances before the country. There was never a time in my recollection of Ireland—and I think I know the country much more intimately than any hon. or right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Front Ministerial Bench—when it was more peaceable than it is at the present moment. I know very well the argument founded on that circumstance. We know the argument the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) used the other day as to the condition of our unfortunate country. Even when it is peaceable and quiet, the fact is used as a taunt 348 against us. The other day, in the speech which he delivered, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the condition of peace in Ireland—and I put it to any man who seriously loves his own country whether he thinks it proper to apply such language to another country in whose prosperity he feels some interest—was brought about by the shadow of the Bill which is now passing through this House. Sir, we deny that the peaceable condition of Ireland is brought about by the shadow of this Bill, and I warn the Government that as surely as this Bill will pass, so surely will its provisions be put in force; and, if that is the case, as surely as an absolute state of peace reigns there at this moment, so surely will there follow from the administration of this Act a hopeless state of confusion.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I wish merely to point out—I will not detain the Committee for more than one moment—that under the Indian law conspiracy is never punished unless it is followed by an overt act, and has for its object a criminal offence. According to the law laid down in the case of "The Queen v. Parnell," an act which would be legal if committed by one person, when committed by two or more persons becomes criminal. It is for the purpose of maintaining that definition of the law, and not for the purpose of enabling magistrates to find out criminals, that this Amendment is rejected. It would appear, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government are desirous of having one law for India and another for Ireland. I would point out, in this connection also, that in India they celebrate the Jubilee by releasing a number of prisoners; but in Ireland they propose to celebrate it by sending a large number of Irish citizens innocent of crime to gaol, and by rendering it easy for the Irish landlords to turn their tenantry out into the world homeless, and without the means of obtaining a livelihood.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I cannot agree with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the hon. and learned Attorney General, as to the Law of Conspiracy not being laid down as injuriously to the tenants in Ireland in reference to their holdings as ever was done in reference to the labourers in England with reference to their employ- 349 ment. I was fully under that conviction from what I recollect, especially as regards the law laid down by Judges in Ireland. There was nothing, I venture to say, in the most extreme times of the Law of Conspiracy—I was going to say the worst times, but I do not like to use that expression—as laid down by Judges in England which within the most recent period has not been exceeded by the Irish Judges. I hold in my hand a judgment of Judge Fitzgerald, and will read a sentence from it, and it certainly seems to me to be more "fossil" than anything that the hon. and learned Attorney General has referred to to-night as exploded and impossible of revival, and it is probably that fact which has led to the remarkable silence of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) during this debate. He is describing the various points that arose in the case of "The Queen v. Truitt,'' which case led to the Act of 1875—it was to reverse that decision that the Act of 1875 was passed. But the case of "The Queen v. Truitt" was taken as the standpoint and starting point of this decision in the Irish Courts. This is the law as laid down by Judge Fitzgerald—"Where two or more agree to do an injury to a third party"—that, of course, is constructive combination because "The Queen v. Truitt "is the illustration for it, the point there being that no act which results in an injury to a third party, though innocent, if done by one, becomes criminal if done by several—he says—Where two or more agree to do an injury to a third party, though that injury if done by one alone of his own motion would not to in him a crime or offence; it would be simply an injury carrying with it a right to a civil remedy.That is the very doctrine which, so far as it interferes with the case of labourers in England, is overruled by the Act of 1875. That is the very doctrine introduced as against tenants in Ireland in respect to agricultural holdings. Then, really, the ground upon which the Government have resisted this Amendment is entirely cut away from under them. The hon. and learned Attorney General has not remembered, I suppose, what has been the ruling on these very subjects; and I should like very much to know from the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, before we 350 divide, whether that is actually the doctrine which is maintained in the Irish Courts—whether they are still proceeding in eases of conspiracy on the "fossil" doctrine repudiated, and very properly repudiated, by the hon. and learned Attorney General?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided;—Ayes 180; Noes 242: Majority 62.353
|Abraham, W. (Glam.)||Fox, Dr. J. F.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Fry, T.|
|Fuller, G. P.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Gane, J. L.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Gardner, H.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-|
|Austin, J.||Gilhooly, J.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.||Gill, H. J.|
|Barry, J.||Gill, T. P.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.|
|Blake, J. A.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Blake, T.||Graham, R. C.|
|Blane, A.||Gray, E. D.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Gully, W. C.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Harrington, E.|
|Burt, T.||Harrington, T. C.|
|Byrne, G. M.||Harris, M.|
|Cameron, C.||Hayden, L. P.|
|Cameron, J. M.||Hayne, C. Seale-|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Healy, M.|
|Campbell, H.||Healy, T. M.|
|Carew, J. L.||Holden, I.|
|Chance, P. A.||Hooper, J.|
|Channing, F. A.||Howell, G.|
|Clancy, J. J.||Jacoby, J. A.|
|Cobb, H. P.||James, hon. W. H.|
|Cohen, A.||James, C. H.|
|Coleridge, hon. B.||Joicey, J.|
|Colman, J. J.||Jordan, J.|
|Condon, T. J.||Kennedy, E. J.|
|Connolly, L.||Kenny, C. S.|
|Conway, M.||Kenny, J. E.|
|Corbet, W. J.||Kenny, M. J.|
|Cossham, H.||Lacaita, C. C.|
|Cox, J. R.||Lalor, R.|
|Cozens-Hardy, H. H.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Craig, J.||Leahy, J.|
|Crawford, D.||Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.|
|Davies, W.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Dillon, J.||Lyell, L.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Macdonald, W. A.|
|Dodds, J.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Duff, R. W.||M'Cartan, M.|
|Ellis, J.||M'Carthy, J.|
|Ellis, J. E.||M'Donald, P.|
|Ellis, T. E.||M'Donald, Dr. R.|
|Esslemont, P.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Evershed, S.||Mahony, P.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Marum, E. M.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Mason, S.|
|Finucane, J.||Menzies, R. S.|
|Flower, C.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Flynn, J. C.||Montagu, S.|
|Foley, P. J.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Foster, Sir W. B.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Mundella, right hon. A. J.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Russell, E. R.|
|Murphy, W. M.||Sexton, T.|
|Nolan, Colonel J. P.||Shaw, T.|
|Nolan, J.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|O'Brien, J. F. X.||Sheehy, D.|
|O'Brien, P.||Sheil, E.|
|O'Brien, P. J.||Smith, S.|
|O'Connor, J. (Kerry)||Stack, J.|
|O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)||Stanhope, hon. P. J.|
|O'Connor, T. P.||Stansfeld, right hon. J.|
|O'Doherty, J. E.||Storey, S.|
|O'Hanlon, T.||Sullivan, D.|
|O'Hea, P.||Summers, W.|
|O'Kelly, J.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Paulton, J. M.||Thomas, A.|
|Pease, Sir J. W.||Tuite, J.|
|Pease, A. E.||Waddy, S. D.|
|Pickard, B.||Wardle, H.|
|Pickersgill, E. H.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Pinkerton, J.||Wayman, T.|
|Plowden, Sir W. C.||Whitbread, S.|
|Powell, W. R. H.||Will, J. S.|
|Power, P. J.||Williams, A. J.|
|Power, R.||Williamson, J.|
|Price, T. P.||Williamson, S.|
|Priestley, B.||Wilson, C. H.|
|Pugh, D.||Wilson, I.|
|Pyne, J. D.||Woodall, W.|
|Redmond, W. H. K.||Woodhead, J.|
|Reed, Sir E. J.||Wright, C.|
|Reid, R. T.|
|Roberts, J.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.|
|Roberts, J. B.|
|Roscoe, Sir H. E.||Morley, A.|
|Rowlands, W. B.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.|
|Allsopp, hon. G.||Brookfield, A. M.|
|Allsopp, hon. P.||Brooks, Sir W. C.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Brown, A. H.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Bruce, Lord H.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.|
|Baggallay, E.||Burghley, Lord|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Campbell, Sir A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Campbell, J. A.|
|Barnes, A.||Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Chamberlain, R.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Charrington, S.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Bass, H.||Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.|
|Bates, Sir E.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Compton, F.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Cooke, C. W. R.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Corbett, J.|
|Beckett, E. W.||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Beresford, Lord C. W. de la Poer||Cross, H. S.|
|Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Currie, Sir D.|
|Biddulph, M.||Curzon, hon. G. N.|
|Bigwood, J.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.||De Cobain, E. S. W.|
|Boord, T. W.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Bristowe, T. L.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||Holland, right hon. Sir H. T.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.|
|Dixon, G.||Holmes, rt. hon. H.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Houldsworth, W. H.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.||Howard, J.|
|Duncombe, A.||Howorth, H. H.|
|Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H||Hozier, J. H. C.|
|Edwards-Moss, T. C.||Hughes, Colonel E.|
|Egerton, hon. A. J. F.||Hulse, E. H.|
|Elcho, Lord||Hunt, F. S.|
|Elton, C. I.||Isaacs, L. H.|
|Ewart, W.||Isaacson, F. W.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Farquharson, H. R.||James, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Fellowes, W. H.||Jennings, L. J.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.||Johnston, W.|
|Kelly, J. R.|
|Field, Admiral E.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Finch, G. H.||Kenrick, W.|
|Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.|
|Finlay, R. B.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Ker, R. W. B.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Kerans, F. H.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W, J. W.||King, H. S.|
|King-Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.|
|Forwood, A. B.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, H. T.|
|Fulton, J. F.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.||Lafone, A.|
|Gedge, S.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Gibson, J. G.||Legh, T. W.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Leighton, S.|
|Godson, A. F||Lethbridge, Sir R.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Lewis, Sir C. E.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Long, W. H.|
|Goschen, rt. hn. G. J.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Gray, C. W.||Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.|
|Green, Sir E.|
|Greenall, Sir G.||Maclean, F. W.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Maclean, J. M.|
|Grove, Sir T. F.||Maclure, J. W.|
|Gurdon, R. T.||M'Calmont, Captain J.|
|Hall, A. W.||Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||March, Earl of|
|Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Matthews, rt. hn. H.|
|Hamilton, Lord E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||More, R. J.|
|Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Morrison, W.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Mount, W. G.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Mowbray, right hon. Sir J. R.|
|Hartington, Marq. of|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Mulholland, H. L.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Muntz, P. A.|
|Murdoch, C. T.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Noble, W.|
|Heneage, right hon. E.||Norris, E. S.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Norton, R.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Hill, A. S.||Pearce, W.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Penton, Captain F. T.|
|Plunket, rt. hn. D. R.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Plunkett, hon. J. W.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Pomfret, W. P.||Stewart, M.|
|Powell, F. S.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.||Taylor, F.|
|Rankin, J.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Rasch, Major F. C.||Townsend, F.|
|Reed, H. B.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Richardson, T.||Tyler, Sir H. W.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Verdin, R.|
|Ritchie, rt. hn. C. T.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.||Watson, J.|
|Robertson, W. T.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Rollit, Sir A. K.||Webster, R. G.|
|Ross, A. H.||White, J. B.|
|Rothschild, Baron F. J. de||Whitley, E.|
|Round, J.||Winn, hon. R.|
|Royden, T. B.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|St. Aubyn, Sir J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Salt, T.||Wood, N.|
|Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Sellar, A. C.||Wright, H. S.|
|Selwyn, Captain C. W.||Wroughton, P.|
|Sidebotham, J. W.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Sidebottom, W.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Sinclair, W. P.|
|Smith, right hon. W. H.||TELLERS.|
|Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Smith, A.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
Second Resolution read a second time.
The Amendment, No. 123, standing in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Elgin, &c. (Mr. Asher) has been decided.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I do not think it necessary to detain the Committee any great length of time upon the Amendment which stands in my name. We have heard a great deal of the Criminal Law of Scotland, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson), who explained the Scotch Law, informed the Committee that the Government had no wish to treat Ireland in respect to Criminal Law in any exceptional manner. I claim for my Amendment the vote of the Liberal Unionists, especially those who hail from Scotland. If the Government are sincere in their declaration that they do not intend to treat Ireland with any more severity than Scotland is treated, they can have no objection to my Amendment. Our Friends below the Gangway may also accept this Amendment, and Scotch Members may safely agree that no proceedings shall be taken under this section which would be incompetent under the Scotch Criminal Law. This Amendment is so reasonable in itself, and I am sure so thoroughly in accordance with the views which have been expressed by the right hon. Gen- 354 tleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour),and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), in respect to criminal proceedings under the Bill now before the Committee, that I shall not, in introducing it, trespass upon the attention of the Committee at any greater length.
In page 2, line 12, at end, add, "Provided always that no proceedings shall be taken under this section which would be incompetent under the Criminal Law as administered in Scotland."aa—(Mr. Esslemont.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there added."
§ No Member of the Government rising—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
It is a monstrous thing that the Government, who boast of their anxiety to apply the principles of the Scotch Criminal Law to Ireland—[An hon. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Who is it that cries "Oh?" I suppose he is some Scotch Gentleman. [The CHAIRMAN: Order, order!] I am only sorry we do not recognize the Gentleman. I say it is a monstrous thing that the Government, who have been boasting of their anxiety to apply the principles of the Scotch Criminal Law to Ireland, should attempt to allow this Amendment to be negatived simply on the declaration of the Chairman. If there is any Amendment upon which we should have a reply it is the one now before the Committee. The Government profess to be anxious to apply the Scotch Law to Ireland, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), who I am sorry not to see in his place, in a speech which was commented upon be admirably by Sir George Trevelyan, declared that he was not opposed to this Bill, because, in the main, it only applied the Scotch Law to Ireland. I never read a more weighty speech than that of Sir George Trevelyan, exposing, as it did, the hollowness of this pretence. And now, when a Scotch Member proposes that no proceedings shall be taken under this section which are inconsistent with the Scotch Criminal Law, the Government remain silent, in order, I suppose, that it may not go before the country what their exact position is in regard to this matter. Under those circumstances, I can only point out the curious fact that, whereas in the country the Govern- 355 ment's main defence of the Bill is that the Bill merely extends the Scotch Law to Ireland, in the House of Commons, when an Amendment is proposed providing that only the Scotch Law should prevail in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who has so little to do, according to the statements which appear in the newspapers that yesterday he had 16 hours sleep out of the 24, and who only comes down to the House at 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening when all the work is over, cannot find a single word to say on the subject.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRE-LAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
It was with no wish to be discourteous to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Esslement) that I did not get up earlier to reply to him. The truth is my reply is very short. In the first place, the accusation largely made against this Bill is that the Resident Magistrates who have to use the Bill are gentlemen unacquainted with the English Law. If this Amendment were earned, the Resident Magistrates would not only be required to know English Law, but Scotch Law too. If that reply is not sufficient there is another one—it is that no English Judge can take any cognizance of anything but English Law. Under this Amendment, Resident Magistrates in Ireland would have to have regard to Scotch Law. Under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman can hardly expect us to accept his Amendment.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
, who was received with cries of "Divide!''—If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not care to hear some remarks from me on the Amendment, they may hear some remarks from me on a Motion of my own. If the only difficulty in the way of the acceptance of this Amendment is that Resident Magistrates would have to have some knowledge of the Scotch Law, it would be very easy to get over the difficulty. I am not aware that the Irish Resident Magistrates have any particular knowledge of English or Irish law. Now, the Government might send over to Ireland the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald), who I believe is the distinguished author of a distinguished book on the Criminal Law of Scotland, to instruct the Resident Magistrates there in Scotch Law. I have no doubt 356 that in a very short time he could make them adepts in the law of his country. But if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not care to go across to Ireland he might send over a few copies of his book for the use of the Resident Magistrates. The objection to the Amendment advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Bal-four) is like most of the objections advanced from the Treasury Bench against Amendments proposed from this side of the House. As far as I can understand it, it is absolutely invalid. Not only the Chief Secretary, but all the principal supporters of the Government have been going through the country during the last two months and preaching what is not the fact—namely, that there is nothing in this 1st clause which is not already contained in the law of Scotland. Some of them have drawn the moral that under the existing law the Scotch people have managed to be pretty free from crime, why should not the Irish people be equally free from crime under it? If that is the banâ fide contention of the Government, let them accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont), which merely compels the acknowledgment of the fact that nothing can be done under this clause which cannot be done under the law of Scotland. We could not do better than Divide, in order to make it clear that the assertions which have been made by Ministers and their supporters have been quite erroneous.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I must say that the Government's reply upon this subject, coming from a Scotch Gentleman, as the Irish Secretary generally is, is most surprising. I had thought that if there was anything which would invite acceptance, it was an Amendment appealing to the Scotch soul of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It cannot be too much emphasized that this is a proposition taken, so to speak, from the very bowels of the Scotch law. We have had from the Government a distinct declaration, and one upon which the Primrose-Orchid Party has, to a large extent, founded its position—namely, that this Bill contains nothing but what is to be found in the law of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) has proposed an 357 Amendment to test the sincerity of the Government. What is the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland? It is an appeal to ignorance. He says that if the Irish magistrates cannot be expected to know Irish Law, how much less can they be expected to know Scotch Law. All the Government need to do is to present each Resident Magistrate with a bound and gilt copy of Macdonald on the Scotch Law; they would thus confer a favour upon a distinguished servant of their own, and, at the same time, give great assistance to the Irish Resident Magistrates. From the start the Government have pretended that it is only the law of Scotland that is to be applied to Ireland. Under these circumstances, I should have thought the Government would have hailed with pleasure this Amendment, Instead of that they say that the Irish magistrates cannot be expected to understand Scotch law. They certainly do not understand Irish law. Apparently, the idea of the Government is that they shall not know any law at all.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I am sure the Committee will not be surprised that I feel great disappointment at the way this Amendment has been received. We have been blamed for consuming too much time in an opposition to this Bill. [Ministerial cheers,] Mr. Courtney, you see how unreasonably one is treated. I have not spoken on the Irish Question in this House before this. I have not occupied a minute of the time of the House. But I have heard in my country, and out of it, that we are making a criminal law for Ireland exactly similar to that which has prevailed in Scotland for generations. We are told that it is in consequence of the excellence of the Scotch Criminal Law that the Scotch people are the quietest and best conducted people in the world. We have been told by every Tory lecturer on this question that if we only apply the Criminal Law of Scotland to Ireland we shall make the Irish people as happy and as prosperous as ourselves. I wish to settle the point by putting Ireland in the matter of procedure upon exactly the same criminal code as Scotland. I have been exceedingly modest in this demand. I have not asked you to make the crimes in Ireland the same as the crimes in Scotland. We have been told that new crimes are to be 358 created in Ireland; but I am content, whatever the crimes are, that the proceedings shall be conducted in the same way as they are in Scotland. It has been my duty for 20 years to have something to do with the administration of the Criminal Law in Scotland, and I am bound to say that I was very much astonished at the description of that law which was given by hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench. Certainly, I was never allowed to take such proceedings as are proposed in this section. I hope that the Government will either declare that there is no reference to the criminal code of Scotland here, that henceforth the pretence that the Criminal Law as laid down in this Bill is similar to that in Scotland will be given up, or that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) will give us his powerful elucidation of this subject and show wherein the provisions of this Bill do resemble the provisions of the law of Scotland.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
I think the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland is somewhat encouraging, and marks a step in advance, for it seems to indicate that now he has come to the conclusion that some knowledge of law on the part of those who are to administer this Act is necessary. An Amendment providing that the Resident Magistrates in Ireland, to whom the administration of this Act is to be entrusted, should be gentlemen with some knowledge of the Irish Law, was most bitterly opposed by the Government, and by no Member of the Government more strenuously than by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman on which leg he means to stand? Formerly he seemed to be of opinion that no knowledge of law on the part of the magistrates was necessary; now he seems to be of opinion that it is necessary that the magistrates should have a knowledge of law. I should like him to select on which leg he will stand.
§ Question put, and negatived.
The point contained in the Amendment 123b was decided upon the Amendment of the hon. 359 and learned Member for York (Mr. Lockwood).
MR. MAURICE HEALT (Cork)
I beg to submit, Mr. Courtney, that the hon. and learned Member's Amendment related to offences committed after the passing of the Act, while my Amendment refers to offences committed prior to the passing of the Act. I think that is a very substantial difference.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
The Amendment is also governed by the Amendment standing in my name, accepted early in the evening.
That is so. The Amendment adopted at the beginning of the evening provided for offences committed before the passing of the Act.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I submit to you, Sir, that the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman in no wise affects my Amendment. The Amendment of the Attorney General exempts from the operation of the Act a certain class of offences committed prior to the passing of the Act. My Amendment proposes to exclude certain other classes of offences.
It was decided early in the discussion that there should be no universal exemption of offences, whether committed before or subsequent to the passing of the Act. Then it was decided, on the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, that there should be a partial exemption in the case of offences committed before the passing of the Act.
I think that has been decided already. However, as I fail to discover the Amendment which governs the hon. and learned Gentleman's, perhaps he had better move it.
§ MR. ANDERSON
The Amendment 123f is one to which I attach very considerable importance. It is that to insert—In case of its being intended to call any witness examined under this section in support of a criminal charge, notice thereof shall be given to the accused ten days before the trial or hearing. The accused, by himself or his solici- 360 tor, shall be entitled to see and examine such witness, and for this purpose shall be entitled to call for the production of such witness at any time and place in the proclaimed district.
Order, order! I consider the question was decided by the adoption of the Proviso—Provided also, that upon any person being accused of a crime respecting which an inquiry under this section has been held, such accused person, or his solicitor, upon being returned for trial, shall forthwith be supplied with copies of all depositions taken at any inquiry under this section of any witness to be called against him.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I beg to point out that the distinction between the words you have read and my Amendment is obvious. The Proviso which you have read enables the accused person to have a copy of the shorthand notes. The giving of the shorthand notes is quite another thing to what is referred to here. My Amendment provides that the prisoner shall have the means of seeing the witness and take his statement from him. I have in mind a case where a witness in Edinburgh was actually imprisoned, and the Crown refused to let the prisoner's counsel or agent see the witness. The result was that when the trial came on objection was taken to the evidence of the witness, and the Court said that application ought to have been made to enable the prisoner's counsel to see the witness. It is laid down in the Scotch law books that a prisoner's counsel is entitled to see at any time any witness, who has been called privately and examined, and to take his statement. I think you will see, Mr. Courtney, that this Amendment is quite distinct from the Proviso you have read. Now, to my mind, this is a matter of great importance, because the Crown establish, by the provisions of this clause, that they are entitled to examine, secretly and privately, a witness. I maintain it is only fair, if that is so, that before the trial comes on the prisoner ought to have an opportunity of seeing the witness, and of hearing from the lips of the witness what he has to say. The principle embodied in my Amendment is clearly laid down in Alison's work on the Scotch Criminal Law, a work which was quoted the other day by the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Asher). After showing that a prisoner is entitled to see a wit- 361 ness, the writer goes on to point out a case in which a man was imprisoned in the Castle at Edinburgh in 1819, access to the "witness was refused by the Crown, the witness's precognition had been taken, and the prisoner's counsel, or agent, did not know what the witness had to say. Objection was taken at the trial that his evidence had not been received, and the Court pointed out that an application ought to have been made for an order to produce the witness to the agent of the accused. Now, I cannot help thinking that this is a matter of great importance, because what the Government may possibly do under this Act is to put a whole country side into prison, and evidence against the prisoners be kept secret until the day of the trial. Surely it is only fair that the agent of a prisoner should be able to see every witness, inasmuch as this principle has been laid down and emphasized by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) on his excellent work on the Criminal Law of Scotland. I hope the Government will embody some part of the law of Scotland in this Bill. Hon. Members cheered loudly just now when they threw over the whole law of Scotland upon the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont); but let me ask the Government to accept some small part of the law of Scotland, the part of it which is fair and just, and which ought to be introduced in this section.
In page 2, line 12, at end, add—"In case of its being intended to call any witness examined under this section in support of a criminal charge, notice thereof shall be given to the accused ten day a before the trial or hearing. The accused, by himself or his solicitor, shall be entitled to see and examine such witness, and for this purpose shall be entitled to call for the production of such witness at any time and place in the proclaimed district."—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I assure the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Anderson) that it is no light matter for me to discuss the law of Scotland. He, no doubt, has given that law a great deal of study; but I ask him to look into the English law, and acquaint himself with the elementary principles 362 of that law which are known to every Justice of the Peace and Clerk of Petty Sessions. If he were acquainted with. that law he would know this—that when a prisoner is returned for trial the witnesses are produced and examined in his presence; that he has a right of cross-examination by himself, or solicitor, or counsel; and that the depositions are read to the witnesses afterwards, and signed by them; and after all that is done the man is returned for trial, and they are the witnesses on whose evidence he is returned for trial. The object of this clause is to obtain evidence in the first place, which is not procurable without the holding of some such inquiry as is provided for under this section; but after we have got evidence it will be seen by the clause it self that we contemplate that the ordinary procedure in criminal cases must follow. The witnesses will then be produced, the prisoner will have an opportunity of examining them, and will be returned for trial in the ordinary way. In addition to that we have undertaken to give a prisoner shorthand writers' notes, so that he will not merely hear what the witness has to say, but he will have in his possession all the information the Crown will have on the subject. We certainly cannot, if the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman means anything more than that—or if the law of Scotland contains any other provision than that—accept the Amendment.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I am exceedingly indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) for giving me instruction in what he is pleased to call the elementary Criminal Law of this country. I assure him that I shall take that lesson to heart and study the law; but I may also assure him that it is about time that he should study his own Bill. He does not appear to know that all the cases under this Bill which are liable to preliminary examination are cases in which the magistrate may summarily convict, and he is probably aware—I see by his manner he is aware now—that in those cases there is no preliminary examination before a magistrate. At present you will have your private inquiries, and then you will have your summary procedure and commit a man for six months, possibly. What I want to provide is that the accused shall have the means 363 of access to, and take the statements of, those persons you have privately examined. In future, before the right hon. and learned Gentleman gives lessons in English law, I hope he will get up his own task a little bit better. With regard to the second point, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely wrong. I am quite aware that it is part of the elementary procedure of the Criminal Law of this country that, before a man is committed for trial for an indictable offence to be tried by a jury, there is a preliminary investigation before a magistrate. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to; but it has been known in the history of the Criminal Law of this country that without a preliminary examination witnesses have been obtained, and obtained secretly, by the prosecution. There have been cases in which, after preliminary examination before a magistrate, after the cross-examination to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, you have found two or three witnesses, you have taken their precognition in a secret manner, and you have immediately locked them up in prison, and then there is no examination after that. I know you give notice; but I want more than that. From what I have seen of them in this Bill I am entirely distrustful of the Government. Mr. Courtney, every safeguard ought to be put on the operation of this infamous clause; and unless there is some more clear explanation from my right hon. and learned Instructor on the Government Bench I shall press my Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. HOLMES
I think I must give the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anderson) a little more instruction on the subject. Upon what authority does he suppose that prisoners or witnesses are to be looked up in prison? I think that if there was anything of which the Committee was satisfied it was this—that a magistrate had no power whatever, after the evidence was taken, to do other than dismiss the men to their homes. What does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean by locking up in prison; what does he mean by saying we can put a whole country side in prison? Certainly he does distrust the Government of Ireland very much if he thinks there is a wish in this country to lock up men in prison without any law, when the result 364 would be that every man so locked up must inevitably get the very heaviest damages. It seems to me that when the hon. and learned Member talks about persons being locked up in prison without lawful authority he is simply trifling with the Committee.
§ MR. ANDERSON
I am beginning to feel that I must assume the position of tutor, instead of that of pupil. I never suggested for a moment that a witness was to be locked up because of his evidence. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Certainly not. I am suggesting that, by the course of proceeding you are going to adopt, you will take up a great number of people, and obtain evidence from thorn which a prisoner will not be able to see. It is perfectly evident that men will be taken out of their cells and examined at these private inquiries. That is the kind of examination I was referring to.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I am sorry I cannot congratulate the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland upon the success of the method he has adopted in dealing with this Amendment. I do not think that method of controversy will at all tend to advance the progress of Business. Now, the Amendment which is before us provides that every witness for the Grown shall, if the accused so desire it, be subjected to examination by the accused person, and that, in case of its being intended to call a witness, 10 days' notice shall be given to the accused. Now, the answer of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland is that the proposition is wholly unnecessary. Unnecessary, because the witnesses were produced at the preliminary proceedings in open Court previous to the committal for trial, and that on that occasion the prisoner was entitled to cross-examine. Does he moan to say that every witness who is examined at a trial for a criminal offence is produced at the preliminary examination before a man is committed for trial? We know perfectly well that such is not the case. We know that the process in Ireland very often is this—that one of the Resident Magistrates, or Orange land agents, bring forward one or two flimsy witnesses whose evidence is quite enough to get a man sent to trial, and that at the trial a whole body of really substantial witnesses are sprung upon the accused. This is what we desire 365 to prevent. We wish to prevent you, after a man has been committed for trial, taking privately other witnesses, because it is perfectly obvious that the prisoner will have no opportunity whatever to examine or cross-examine those witnesses until he stands in the dock and takes his trial, possibly before a Northern Orange jury. I suppose this Committee assumes that the accused, by himself or solicitor, is entitled to see and examine witnesses. I recollect a civil case in which the plaintiff was a gentleman of very infamous name and character—Mr. George Bolton. He not only robbed his wife of a large sum of money, but he also had the distinguished record of having seduced her servant girl of 20 years of age. His conduct was severely reported upon by an English Judge; but, in spite of his peccadilloes, he retained three Government offices—I recollect a case in which this gentleman was plaintiff, and Mr. W. O'Brien defendant; the case was sent by the Queen's Bench to be tried before an Orange jury in Antrim. I wished to examine, one of the witnesses for the defence; but this witness, however, I found guarded by a number of policemen. In attempting to take the evidence of this witness I was arrested and brought to gaol. Now, this was a civil proceeding; Mr. W. O'Brien was charged with no offence except the offence of having said the truth as to this infamous blackguard, who still retained throe Government offices. I wonder whether the Committee really knows in what manner Crown witnesses are dealt with in Ireland. A Crown witness—especially if he is an informer—is taken outside Dublin and kept there, provided with pocket money. The Crown officials go out from time to time to teach him the story he is to tell in the witness-box, and no one sees that witness until he is produced in Court under escort. These are the reasons why we think the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anderson) should be adopted, and I must say that the reply of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland was not, to say the least of it, very ingenuous.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I think the Committee would be well advised to refer again to the second Proviso inserted. The language of that Proviso only means the case of a person 366 returned for trial, and I think we are very much obliged to the hon. and learned Member who moved this Amendment (Mr. Anderson) for calling attention to the utterly unprotected state of a person accused of crime and tried summarily for what is not an indictable offence. Now, in that Proviso, if a man is sent forward to be defended by an able counsel, before a Judge who would be certain, or who it is presumed would be certain, to see that the man got fair play, copies of the depositions taken in secret would be handed to the counsel; but where he is to be tried summarily, presumably without the advice of counsel—where he is to be tried having only such legal assistance as may be at hand at very distant parts of the country—no provision is made for handing the depositions over. I would now, at this stage even, ask the Government whether they intend that a person should be charged, tried, and sentenced for what is really an indictable offence without having at his trial every means of defending himself properly? The Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman is one which ought to appeal with double force to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland; for he said, when we asked that prisoners should be supplied with copies of the depositions—''Remember, if you do get them, that we also will have the right to use them for the purpose of cross-examining the witness if he goes back on his statement." He did not exactly put it in these words, but he meant what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I ask the Representatives of the Crown whether they will, on report even, agree to give a preset tried summarily an opportunity of seeing the depositions? I think that would go a long way to meet the case which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anderson) has put forward. I think the Committee will agree that a prisoner tried summarily should have the same rights as if he were tried at Assize before a Judge and jury, and his counsel was provided for his defence. There are cases—and the hon. and learned Gentleman very properly mentioned them—in which witnesses are brought forward against the accused whose depositions have not been taken in his presence, of whose statements he knows nothing, and whom he has had no opportunity of examining. There are cases frequently 367 happening in which, in consequence of some charge against the witnesses themselves, they are not accessible or are actually kept in custody, very often for the purpose of preventing them being spoken to by others upon the case. I submit that for all these reasons some assurance should be given us that the Government will, at least, accept the spirit of the hon. and learned Gentle man's Amendment.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
Up to the present time the debate upon this Amendment has been conducted exclusively by legal Gentlemen. I think it will be acknowledged that we have been treated to some pretty fencing by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes). Certainly that right hon. and learned Gentleman confused me, and I have no doubt he confused a great many hon. Members on his own side of the House. The ordinary spirit of all English law, even of a court martial, is that the defence should be placed, at least, on an equality with the prosecution; that the defence should have the same power of knowing what is going on as the prosecution. That is obviously fair. In a good many cases, certainly in most murder cases, counsel for the prosecution even go further, they even show their brief to the defence, and do not expect the defence to show their brief to them. Under this clause the Government will be able to see all the witnesses they want and examine them secretly; but the defence will not know witnesses have been examined. In this way the prosecution will possess an enormous advantage over the defence. Now, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) proposes an Amendment which will put the defence again upon an equality with the prosecution. In reply to the Amendment the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland made a very clever speech, but I think it was more ingenious than clever. He said—"Oh, yes; you are on an equality. Under the present circumstances, witnesses are taken up before magistrates before trial, and the defence can cross-examine the witnesses." But, as was very properly pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn, the case is quite changed, because the whole object of this Bill is to hand over the trial from a jury to a magistrate. What we contend, and what 368 no doubt is the fact, is that, besides transferring these cases from a jury to a magistrate, you are obtaining a most unfair advantage in getting hold of witnesses beforehand, and having an opportunity of taking down their evidence, while the defence are in utter ignorance as to the evidence of which you are possessed. I can certainly see what the custom in Ireland will be. A great many witnesses, after being examined, will say no more about their examination, and the defence will never know that those witnesses have been examined at all until they are brought up in Court, unless some safeguard such as this Amendment provides is adopted. Now, I think that in common fairness the Government ought to introduce some provision by which the defence will be once more restored to an equality with the prosecution, and will be able to know before the trial what are the depositions of the witnesses, and will have an opportunity of calling the witnesses and cross-examining them. I support this Amendment, because I think that without it you are departing from the ordinary principles of English law in not allowing the defence the same advantages which you allow to the prosecution.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
What we want to have done, Mr. Courtney, is this—in the case of all witnesses examined for the prosecution the solicitor for the defence ought, some time before the trial takes place, to have an opportunity of cross-examining them and ascertaining what they have to say. But, as soon as this is proposed, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, with a great air of triumph, pounces on my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson), and charges him with knowing nothing at all about what he is speaking of, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes on to say that the existing law gives the solicitor to the prisoner all the rights and powers which the Amendment asks for. But what is the fact? We proposed, in an earlier Amendment to this Bill, that the power of holding secret inquiries under this clause should cease the moment any man was made amenable—that once a prisoner had been arrested and charged with the offence, there and then any further examination of witnesses should take place in the ordinary way in the presence of 369 the prisoner, and that once the prisoner was arrested, all power of secret inquiry under this clause should cease. The Government refused that Amendment. They insisted on keeping in their hands the power of holding a secret inquiry at any moment down to the trial of the prisoner; and now we may have this state of affairs arise, that this secret inquiry may be held long after the prisoner has been returned for trial. Fresh witnesses may be obtained whom he may have no opportunity of cross-examining at all. The Government have deliberately reserved to themselves this power of getting fresh witnesses, and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has the audacity—for I can describe his conduct in no other terms—to get up and tell the House that the prisoner would under the existing law have this power which it is proposed to confer by the present Amendment. Now, Mr. Courtney, let there be no mistake about this matter. It is quite conceivable that sufficient evidence might be obtained against a prisoner to return him for trial. It is quite possible that on the evidence so obtained the prisoner might be returned for trial, and that after he had been so returned for trial the Government might, by means of the machinery of this clause, find it in their power to get fresh evidence, and to have fresh witnesses whose evidence might be of the most vital and material nature, and the prisoner's solicitor and counsel might not have the smallest opportunity of cross-examination. That being so, is it not monstrous that when we propose that, should this clause be oppressive and effective in that manner, the prisoner's solicitor should have the right of having these witnesses before him and of cross-examining them, so as to know exactly what they have got to say—is it not monstrous, I ask, that when we propose this the Irish Attorney General should get up and say we have such a power already? I tell him we have no such power. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, I have been concerned in a number of cases in which, subsequently to the prisoner being returned for trial, most important witnesses have been obtained, and under the existing law there is no machinery whatever for enabling the evidence to be sifted by any cross-examination on the 370 part of the solicitor of the prisoner. I was defending a prisoner on a charge of murder, and almost on the eve of the trial, three months after the prisoner had been returned for trial, evidence of the most vital and important nature was given by a fresh witness never examined before, and the prisoner had to go to the trial on this awful charge without his solicitor having had the smallest opportunity of testing the value of that evidence and sifting it in the manner in which cross-examination alone would enable us to sift it. Is it fair that when we get up and make this most reasonable demand, that in cases where the action of this clause allows—after the prisoner has been returned for trial—the acquisition of some fresh evidence by means of this secret inquiry—is it fair that when we ask that these new witnesses shall be offered for cross-examination we should be met, first, by a really un can did statement of what the existing law is, and secondly by a direct negative of the Amendment? It is a most unfair proceeding, and I challenge the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to get up and say that the state of things I have suggested is not possible, and to say whether in fact if the clause be passed in its present shape it is not merely possible but probable. What is the value of this secret inquiry unless it tends to get fresh witnesses? Why do the Government retain the power of continuing these secret inquiries after the prisoner has been returned for trial, and up to the very moment of trial, unless in the meantime they hope to be enabled to get fresh witnesses not examimed before, and whom, therefore, the prisoner's solicitor has had no opportunity of cross-examining? I quite grant that in an ordinary case, where all the witnesses are known to the Crown at the time of the examination before a magistrate—I quite grant that what the right hon. and learned Attorney General says is right, because, of course, in that case the prisoner's solicitor might have an opportunity of cross-examination. But the point is, that, under this clause, a fresh machinery is provided for finding fresh witnesses", even up to the moment of the trial. Let us have a clear understanding on this matter. Do the Government insist that the prisoner will have to go into Court without any 371 opportunity of cross-examination? Do they insist that in cases of the very gravest kind where a man's life and liberty are concerned in the most serious manner, the prisoner shall take his trial and place himself on his countrymen without any opportunity of sifting the witnesses who are sworn to give fresh evidence? Such a proceeding is unfair in the highest degree. The Amendment is most necessary and most cogent, and I do trust that some further concession will be made by the Government.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I have not heretofore intervened in these discussions, Mr. Courtney, but I wish to say a word on this point to the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster), who, I am sorry to say, has not been in the House for a while. I have been a good deal absent from the House of late myself, having been unwell; but I sat in the country puzzling myself as to how it was that the Government got on so slowly with their Bill. But I have now discovered the reason, and it is this—that when a blot in the Bill is pointed out to them, they do not in a common-sense English way admit the blot, and try to get rid of it; but they leave it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) to utter the most disingenuous observations. I see the hon. and learned Attorney General for England present, and he does not seem to agree with my criticism upon his Irish Colleague. Well, I am an Englishman myself, and so is he, and I will put to the hon. and learned Attorney General for England the case which has been made out. I do not quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson). He seemed to argue, at first, that all prisoners under this clause would not have the opportunity of seeing the depositions; but he afterwards, on consideration, came to the conclusion that in cases that were sent for trial the prisoner and his solicitor would see the depositions. Well, the point I want to put is—that under this Bill you are going to try a number of prisoners summarily, who, under the general law, would be tried in a Superior Court. Now, before a trial in a Superior Court there would be a preliminary examination before a magistrate, and a cross-examination by the prisoner's 372 representative. Well, now, Mr. Courtney, I have sat in a Court myself and taken a good many of these depositions, and I have noticed one thing, that the deposition as set out by the witness upon his examination in chief is one thing; but the deposition when it finally took shape after cross-examination by the prisoner's solicitor, and after re-examination, was entirely a different thing. Well, now you say that the deposition would be handed to the accused. What deposition? A deposition without cross-examination? What is cross-examination for? Why, I have known 20 cases where, by cross-examination, most valuable hints have been given to the prisoner for use at the trial. But here is a man not going to have two chances—he is going to have only one chance. He is to be tried before two magistrates, perhaps not very much to be depended upon for justice to him. He is to be tried before them, and he is to be confronted by witnesses whom he has never before had the opportunity of cross-examining, and from whom therefore he could not get the valuable hints which he might have used at his trial. He is therefore to be worse off than under the ordinary law. Is the hon. and learned Attorney General for England going to make those men worse off? That is not fair. I will make a suggestion to the Government. I hope that they will in some degree accept the Amendment proposed. I want to get this Bill out of the way. I am not an Irish Member; I am an English Member, and I am utterly sick of this Bill, and of the Government which is proposing it. I do not know whether they have noticed it or not, but I have never taken the trouble to come and oppose them. I want them to get their Bill, and use it from my point of view. I am not opposing them now, but I suggest that they should put these people in the same position that they would be in if they were going to be tried in a Superior Court. For that purpose they might give them the right to see and cross-examine the witnesses before the trial, so that they might get the same valuable hints for their guidance which they would under the ordinary law. My suggestion is, that they should take the Amendment, and, after the word "charge," should insert the words "where the case is to be dealt with summarily." Limit the 373 Amendment to that. Then I would alter the 10 days. I think my hon. and learned Friend would admit that it is not possible in all cases to keep to that. The prosecution might get important evidence three days before the trial, and would be precluded from bringing it in, or else would have to adjourn the trial, and would suggest that he limits the number of days to three. I would ask the hon. and learned Attorney General if in England that would not be reckoned a fair thing? If so, I beg him, as an Englishman, proud of English Law, to do the same thing in Ireland. I beg to move as an Amendment to the Amendment, the insertion of the words "where the case is to be dealt with summarily," after the word "charge." If that is carried, I will move to strike out "ten," and insert "three."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the word "charge," to insert the words "where the ease is to be dealt with summarily."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Amendment is exceedingly important, Mr. Courtney. In the important speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), he almost understated the strength of our case, and has not yet fully appreciated the injustice which is to be done. He seemed to think the only injustice to be done to the prisoner would be that he would be denied the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses before his trial. But that is not at all what is complained of. What we complain of is this, that under the action of this clause, in a case where a prisoner would be tried before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and who would otherwise be brought before a Judge and a jury under an indictment, he would be brought face to face in Court with the witnesses, and would have no opportunity of knowing what evidence they were going to give at all. Not only would he have no opportunity of cross-examining them and altering their depositions, but he would not know until they were produced what the class of evidence was—he would not have the least inkling or idea of it. That is a much stronger case than even the hon. 374 Member for Sunderland has submitted. And not only is that the case, but the prisoner would, by the operation of these clauses, be deprived at one and the same time of the protection of a jury, and also of certain rights which he would have had if he was going before a jury. He would not only be committed to the tender mercies of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, but he would be handed over deprived of certain facilities for defence which he would have had before a jury. A stronger case of injustice cannot possibly be made out. What we cannot understand is, what is the motive of the Government in refusing an Amendment of this kind? Do they want it to go farther than that in these cases of summary jurisdiction? So great is their greed to get convictions that they will not allow a man the common ordinary means of defence. Do they not know perfectly well that in many cases a poor man may not be able to get the assistance of counsel? I am not at all sure that even another and more serious disability will not be placed on them. We know that in the case of some of these poor people it is the custom of the Judge to rule that they shall have assigned to them professional assistance at the expense of the Crown, where they cannot themselves pay for it. So far as we have gone in the Bill, we do not know but what the prisoner is to be handed over to this Court deprived of the protection of a jury, deprived of the knowledge he would have before a jury of the character of the evidence against him, and deprived also, if a poor man, of the assistance which it is the universal custom of Criminal Courts to afford to poor men brought for trial. I want to ask, is the attitude of the Government in this a fair and reasonable one? What do they want to do? Do they want to convict innocent or guilty men? If they do not want to convict innocent men, why do they deny us a simple, reasonable, and unobjectionable means of placing men in the same position and giving them the same advantages to get up their defence that they would have if the ordinary course of law had been followed? Now, Sir, I wish to point out also that here we have been for nearly an hour debating a most important Amendment, and during the whole course of that hour not one single attempt at an argument has been used 375 from the Benches opposite to show why the Amendment should not be adopted. We have heard the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland getting up and making a most preposterous sneer at the legal knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Elgin and Nairn, who moved the Amendment, and who knows just as much of the law as the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. That may be very amusing to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland; but such a line of conduct, according to my experience, invariably and inevitably leads to waste of time, because where one side think that an Amendment is important, and the Government treat their arguments with absolute contempt, and do not even take the trouble of endeavouring to reply to them, it is not to be wondered at that supporters of the Amendment should try whether they cannot compel some concession.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I wish only to say, Mr. Courtney, that I hope the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) will not press his Amendment, for I think it would spoil the effect of my Amendment, the purpose of which is most important, not only with regard to summary convictions, but also with regard to trials.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I see the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) on the pounce; but I think it would be unfit to have this discussion closed by the clôture, though the right hon. Gentleman looks like it. We have had from the Government, I may say, not one single word of argument in this discussion; but I do think, with regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), that we are entitled to some answer. I will say no more than that; and if the Government like they can now move the clôture.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think, Mr. Courtney, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland would have the effect of injuring the original Amendment; because, while the original Amendment, as it stands, applies not only to cases of summary jurisdiction, but to cases for trial at the Assizes and at the Quarter Sessions as well, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland would confine the protection proposed to be afforded to 376 cases of summary jurisdiction alone. Now, Sir, I think it is quite necessary to protect persons who are returned for trial at the Assizes from having witnesses brought up against them at the trial without previous notice. Therefore, Sir, I would respectfully suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland that he would allow the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) to go as it stands, and to be decided on its merits; and I hope, Sir, that even now, after this discussion, the Government will see their way to accept the reasonableness of that Amendment, which is really brought forward for the purpose of providing that persons shall not have evidence which has been taken in secret produced against them without any previous notice. I am sure the hon. and learned Attorney General for England would not think of tolerating any injustice of that kind in this country; and that being so, why should he allow the possibility of its being carried on in Ireland? The hon. and learned Attorney General should come to our protection in this case, and save us from the cock-sparrow intellect of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland.
§ MR. STOREY
I moved my Amendment, Mr. Courtney, for this reason. The hon. and learned Attorney General assured us that in all cases sent for trial the prisoner, or his representatives, would have the opportunity of seeing the witnesses beforehand. I therefore proposed my Amendment limiting the original Amendment to cases dealt with summarily. Of course, the hon. and learned Attorney General cannot deny it, or he would have done so, but in these cases the prisoner who, under the ordinary law, would have a chance of seeing the depositions beforehand, will not have such an opportunity. Under this new summary jurisdiction he will not have the chance of examining the witnesses beforehand. To that proposition of mine, and to the speech I made in support of it, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland does not do me the compliment of saying a single word. I thank him for his courtesy, and I can assure him that if that is the way in which the Government propose to treat independent Members, when once in a way they think fit to make 377 a suggestion, there is a strange lack of the old courtesies of Parliament.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I think, Mr. Courtney, I can suggest a compromise, which I would advise my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) to accept. The hon. and learned Attorney General knows very well that, according to the Proviso of the 1st subsection of this Bill, the prisoner is entitled to a copy of the depositions when returned for trial. Does the hon. and learned Attorney General see any objection to the prisoner getting the same thing in cases of summary jurisdiction? [No reply.] I really think that the conduct of the Government is going beyond all bounds. I spoke for about 30 seconds, and asked a Question, I hope in courteous language; but the Government are absolutely silent. Under these circumstances we certainly must continue the discussion.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
The conduct of the Government makes it necessary that we should take some course of a stronger character. I therefore beg to move, Sir, that you do report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Kenny.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I must appeal to hon. Members opposite. There was a distinct understanding on Friday night, when we consented to report Progress, that we should really make progress tonight.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Questions are answered in this House, but they require to be answered again and again, and again. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] The fact has been that, during the course of the debate, every Question raised has been disposed of over and over again. I am aware that hon. Gentlemen oppose this Bill with all their might. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Not a bit.] But it is necessary that we should come to a decision on these questions, and we do not want to answer over and over again matters which have already been answered. We cannot accept the Amend- 378 ment, and I trust that hon. Members will now be content to go to a Division.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
We are quite willing to act up to the arrangement that we entered into, in letter and spirit. We are prepared to give the Government the clause this evening. Knowing that that is to be the ultimate issue, the right hon. Gentleman knows that we are as much interested as he is in bringing the debate to as early a close as possible. It is no pleasure to us to sit up till 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. The reason we insist in worrying the Government with this Amendment, is that we think we have a substantial grievance, and we make a demand for a reasonable compromise upon it. The right hon. Gentleman has not been so much in the Committee as I have, and I quite agree with him, that one of the points raised has been discussed before; that in my remarks I altogether excluded any reference to the point already discussed—and raised an entirely new point. Will the hon. and learned Attorney General consent to apply to cases which are to be tried summarily the same privilege of a deposition which has been given in cases to be tried before a superior Court?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
It is impossible that we should make this concession in the matter of summary convictions, and for the reason that it is entirely foreign to the law of both England and Ireland. The reason why the concession was made with regard to trials by jury was that there would be a hearing before committal, and it was thought right that the previous statements made by the witnesses should be in the hands of those who defended as well as those who prosecuted at the trial, in order, that if those witnesses went back from the statements they had made, counsel would have an opportunity of cross-examining them. That has no application, however, and is entirely foreign to cases of summary conviction.
§ MR. ANDERSON
No reason has been given by the hon. and learned Attorney General for opposing this Amendment. He talks about something being entirely foreign to summary jurisdiction, but he forgets that the Government are introducing a foreign inquisition. [Cries of "Divide!"] You may call out 379 "Divide," but I shall continue this discussion——
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I would suggest to my hon. Friend (Dr. Kenny) that he should withdraw the Motion to report Progress, so that we can continue the discussion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
I will not detain the Committee long, but I must say that it is irritating to be told that we have been occupying time about a frivolous Amendment. The hon. and learned Attorney General tells us that we are introducing into this discussion a foreign question. Well, I protest, and I hope we shall all protest to the last against the introduction of the foreign and hateful provisions of this clause.
§ Question, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment," put, and negatived.
That the words, 'In case of its being intended to call any witness examined under this section in support of a criminal charge, notice thereof shall be given to the accused ten days before the trial or hearing. The accused, by himself or his solicitor, shall be entitled to see and examine such witness, and for this purpose shall be entitled to call for the production of such witness at any time and place in the proclaimed district, be there added.'"—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 219: Majority 95.—(Div. List, No. 146.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I do not know whether the Government have any objection to the next Amendment that stands in my name. I beg to move it. This is obstruction.
In page 2, at end, add—"Depositions taken under this section may be used at any time during the trial of an accused person by the accused or his advisers for the purpose of cross-examination or comment upon discrepancies or contradictions, and whether such cross-examination or comment relate to the evidence of a witness examined at such inquiry, or otherwise."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."380
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move the next Amendment standing in my name—namely, to add at end of page 2—The provisions of the Magistrates Protection Act shall not apply to any magistrate exercising powers under this section.The Government have been telling us all along that if the magistrates act out of their jurisdiction, or improperly, an action can always lie against them. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has waxed eloquent upon the actions that may be brought against magistrates if they act improperly, or out of their jurisdiction. Now, I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the provisions of the Magistrates' Protection Act. The measure was passed in 1849, in rather a dark period of British law in regard to criminal matters. The 1st section of the Act provides that any action against a magistrate must be brought as a test. That is a beautiful provision. And then you must allege that the act of the magistrate of which you complain was done maliciously and without reasonable cause. I should like to put the matter to the hon. and learned Attorney General for England, who certainly—without any disrespect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland—whose ability and courtesy I am glad to acknowledge—has shown us great courtesy. I would ask him how he would like to appear in an action in which it would have to be shown that the act was done maliciously and without reasonable and probable cause? It is an absurdity to throw on a man the necessity of proving that. It could not be proved. Nobody could show malice on the part of the magistrate, and nobody could show that his act was done without reasonable and proper cause. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland will soon be in the Queen's Bench, and what an amusing thing it would be for me to argue before him that Captain Plunkett had done a thing without reasonable or probable cause. Why, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would sling his wig at me at such an extravagant proposition. He would assume—as a matter of law—that every magistrate did act 381 with reasonable and proper cause. Another section of the Act provides that the proceedings shall not be taken in respect of a conviction, or order, until after the conviction or order has been quashed. Then the action must be started within six months, and notice of the action must be given within one month. I do not see why this Magistrates' Protection Act, which is 38 years old, should apply. As the Government have been going on all along on the pretence that a person who has been wronged will have his action, and as they have provided to have the question which the witness refuses to answer stated in the warrant, it seems to me that the whole question of whether the magistrate has done an illegal act or not might fairly be allowed to go to the jury. I do trust that, under the circumstances, the Government will say that the Magistrates' Protection Act shall not apply. As all the men who will be committed under this section will probably be very poor, I hope the Government will see their way to denude the magistrates of this unfair protection, which was created before such legislation as that now before us was ever dreamt of. English Members must remember that the cost of defending these actions will be paid by the State. It is not like an ordinary case, where the defendant has to defray the cost out of his own pocket. If an action is brought against a magistrate or the police in Ireland, the Government pay for it. Seeing, therefore, that the Government have the purse of the British Treasury at their disposal, and that the magistrates practically cannot suffer for any tortious act they may commit, I think that something like fair play should be granted to those who claim that they have been unjustly treated. I hope that the Government will see their way to accept the Amendment.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I have listened with great attention to the arguments of the hon. and learned 382 Member (Mr. T. M. Healy), and I am willing, I am sure, to follow the example of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and to answer any arguments that are put before me. I cannot admit, however, that the hon. and learned Member has given any reason why an exception should be made in this case. I am sure it was quite unintentional on the hon. and learned Member's part, but I do not think he has quite clearly brought before the House the distinction between the two cases to which he has referred. If the magistrate has exercised his discretion in a perfectly bonâ fide way, acting, at the same time, within his jurisdiction, the Act provides that he shall not be held liable. If he has made a mistake, malice has to be proved against him. If, however, the magistrate has acted beyond his jurisdiction, no such allegation as that of reasonable and probable cause is necessary. This was not an Act passed for the first time in what the hon. and learned Member calls the dark ages of the Criminal Law. It was a measure amending a series of Acts, which went as far back as 10 Charles I., and 43 Geo. III., whereby protection was given to the magistrates. The Act has been on the Statute Book since 1849, and a similar Act in regard to England has been on the Statute Book since 1848. I need not remind the hon. and learned Member that there has been a series of Coercion Acts in which the jurisdiction of magistrates has been extended. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman is able to produce a single case in which injustice has been done by a magistrate acting maliciously, or outside his jurisdiction, and there has been a failure to get damages or justice. If the hon. and learned Member can show us any case in respect of which there is a reason why magistrates acting bonâ fide should be made liable, and why magistrates exceeding their jurisdiction should not be subjected to the same liability as under the existing law, I shall be glad to hear it. But I think that no such case has been, or can be, produced. I do not see why we should make any alteration in the law in the manner proposed.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I am afraid that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard 383 Webster) has not quite accurately grasped the position in which the Amendment places the clause in the face of the existing law. Now, as regards either condition of magistrates—he, on the one hand, who acts within his jurisdiction, and he, on the other hand, who acts without his jurisdiction—which comes under the influence of the Justices' Protection Act, I think I can show that the Government have either not understood the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy), or they have blindly taken an altogether and totally wrong view of the matter. As regards the first section of the Act, I may point out to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the bulk of the Representatives from Ireland has kept urging the Government that the section should be administered by trained lawyers only, and not by every person incapable and partially capable who might have the good fortune to get appointed. When trained lawyers are appointed, it will be quite obvious to the Government that these gentlemen will be able, because they know the law, to act within their jurisdiction, and thus a great number of what might turn out to be very serious mistakes indeed, committed by incompetent persons, would be altogether avoided. It is my opinion that when the Government can take upon themselves the serious responsibility of giving the enormous powers under this section to a body of untrained men, the Government ought to be prepared to provide that, at the very least, the men who accept the powers should take the consequences of their own ignorance. Hon. Members on this side of the House have kept asking the Government that the men upon whom this authority is to devolve should be lawyers, and they have proposed Amendment after Amendment in that direction without apparent effect. But the Government have thought fit to take another view than that the enormous and tremendous machinery of this clause should not be exercised except by some persons who were acquainted in a skilled manner with the law, and they have steadily refused all our Amendments designed to destroy this evil-bearing blot. The Government see perfectly well the liabilities of the risks which will be run, the clause passing in its present shape, in the working of the machinery of the new 384 law, and yet they have assurance enough to coolly tell us now that, notwithstanding those adverse facts, they are quite prepared and willing to protect the incapable inquisitors, so long as they are such, whether they distinguish themselves by making mistakes or not. When a man suffers imprisonment through the incompetency of some of these darlings of the Government, it will be comical consolation to him to be told that the Government consider the erring magistrate has acted within his jurisdiction, because, practically, the ignoring of the error amounts to that. I must repeat most strongly that it is a monstrous thing that the Government should get up and tell this House and the country, that if the captains and colonels of Militia, and other persons of that character, in Ireland, who happen to be the agents of the Government for administering coercion commit serious and far-reaching errors of judgment under the plain law, by reason of their incompetency, and cause to be improperly imprisoned innocent persons, those errors will be hoodwinked, and the men who are guilty of them will have thrown around them the defending shield provided by this Magistrates' Protection Act, I say that this is most unfair. I would urge on the Government that if they are determined that this clause is to be worked by untrained persons—by men ignorant of the law, instead of by skilled lawyers—let us have the satisfaction of knowing that the gentlemen exercising the power will be compelled to take the consequences of their own ignorance and malpractice, and will be liable to the same consequences as other persons who make similar mistakes. It will be a most unjust thing if any person, who by the command of these magistrates, wielding their authority wrongfully and ignorantly, having been improperly imprisoned, is prevented, at any rate, from taking advantage and consolation for gross injury from whatever poor remedy he may have in an action at law. As to the second branch of the hon. and learned Attorney General's argument, I think he is somewhat incorrect in his notions as to the application of the provisions of the Magistrates' Protection Act. The Government, in this case, also have committed the mistake of allowing after-evils to spring up as a result of not destroying or removing or modify- 385 ing root-evils. The Government have refused the Party that sits on these Benches Amendments aiming at enabling any accused persons to go behind the warrant, in order that the true facts might be reached and taken advantage of—that is to say, as a matter of fact the Government will not allow any Court which has jurisdiction in these matters to go into exactly the facts and circumstances of the case and what exactly occurred. I ask hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench, is it at all a fair thing to throw on a man, placed at enormous disadvantages, the burdens which the Magistrates' Protection Act casts upon him. First of all, the party conflicting with the incompetent administrator will have to show cause why he will have to set aside the order upon which he is committed before he can take action according to the ordinary law of the land. Any magistrate of ordinary capacity and knowledge can draw a warrant which, on the face of it, leaves him always within jurisdiction. We had an example in point, the other day in Ireland, of how abuses and friction will arise under this clause if the Government allow it to remain unaltered. In the case of the Rev. Father Keller, the Court of Bankruptcy, through Judge Boyd, committed the witness (the Rev. Father Keller) to prison for refusing to answer certain questions. Now, the Act under which the learned Judge committed the defendant for that contumacy required that no question should be put to a witness, except such questions as related to the property of the bankrupt whose case was under the consideration of the Court. If anything could be plain, it was plain, from the warrant, that the questions put to the Rev-Father Keller had no relation to the property of the bankrupt at all, but was simply a question of this character—"Whom did you meet in the town hall at Youghal on such a day? "Thus the Court decided that it would not go behind the warrant, and hold that it lay on the person being questioned to show that by any possibility the question could be relevant. But then, any Court will throw on the defendant the onus of showing that the questions refused to be answered are questions which could not possibly be relevant. I need not say that it would be practically impossible in connection with a circumstance in a 386 case like this, which is remote and preposterous, to—
I must say to the hon. Member that I am unable to see the relevancy of what he is saying to the subject under debate.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
Sir, I will point out how I regard what I have said as relevant. I am now arguing that under the Magistrates' Protection Act before any person can bring an action in respect of any committal to prison under this section, the warrant of imprisonment should first be set aside. Now, having regard to the form of the warrant it would be practically impossible to get any Court to do any such thing. I think, Sir, this is relevant. To me it does not appear to be at all fair that any person sent to prison under this section should be called upon first to set aside the warrant under which he has been committed, because in practice I am confidently of opinion that any such thing would be absolutely impossible. In a word, Sir, I would ask the Government seriously to consider the whole bearing of this matter. In either aspect whether on the one hand in the case where the magistrate acts within his jurisdiction, or on the other hand in the case where the magistrate acts without his jurisdiction I would contend that the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend is a fair and reasonable one. It would be quite obvious to every unbiased person, that where a magistrate exercises such enormous powers of authority as the Government propose to extend to the Irish magistrates, the shortcomings and errors and offences of those magistrates should not be palliated or defended on the plea that the offenders not being trained persons in the law, are not responsible for what they do. All we want is that these men shall be responsible for what they do. It will be for the Government to appoint capable persons, but if it should happen that serious mistakes occur, it will be decidedly monstrous that all persons concerned shall be enabled to escape responsibility for their wrongdoing.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I beg, Sir, to move that you do now report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. As a matter of fact, we are all more than tired, and if we do not get home we shall not be in a very fit state for our duties tomorrow. We were here to about 3 387 o'clock this morning, and now it is a quarter past 1. We are to meet tomorrow at 12, and as I understand the Government intend to take other Business to-night, I hope the Government will see their way to drop this debate and to allow us to proceed with the remaining Business on the Paper. If we get away by 2 o'clock this morning we will have then only 10 hours between this and the meeting of the House to-morrow, to go home, sleep, eat, and get back again. I would earnestly point out to the Government that there is no use of coercing the House of Commons after the manner in which Ireland is coerced.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I must say to the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) at once that the Government cannot assent to the proposal to report Progress. There is an understanding that this clause shall be disposed of to-night, and I hope that there will be little longer delay in bringing the discussion to an end. As to the few remaining Amendments, we will strive to get through them as quickly as possible; and I ask hon. Gentleman below the Gangway to assist us in that purpose.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I said early in the evening that, so far as I was concerned, I was quite willing to go on with these Amendments.
§ DR. CLARK
Sir, I see that there are about seven Amendments, and it is the most likely thing in the world that we may be here until 3 or 4 o'clock tomorrow morning in discussing them. [Ministerial cheers.] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen desire to remain here through the night. I have no objection to remain myself, but besides the hon. Members it must be recollected that there are the servants and officers on duty to be considered. If you want to get this clause done with, I think that hon. Members from Ireland might very well withdraw such Amendments as have small chance of acceptance from an unwilling Government. If the House has come to an understanding about finishing this clause, what on earth is the use of wasting time in talking about it—the one side trying to convince the other of something of which they will not be convinced. I hope that hon. Members will see their way, either to go home at something like an early hour, or to cease 388 talking about a matter which has already been decided.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have been in the habit of sitting hero and moving Amendments for years, without cheers from either Party in the House; and I intend, so long as I remain in the House, to do my duty to those whom I represent, irrespective of the opinion of anybody above, below, behind, or alongside of the Gangway. I feel considerable sympathy with the officers of the House on duty, and especially with you, Sir (Mr. Courtney), who always do your work satisfactorily and fairly. In order that the clause may be got through speedily, perhaps the Government will be willing to do something of the nature of a compromise. Mr. Courtney, perhaps you will allow me to say that, simply out of deference to yourself and the officers of the House, that I would be quite willing to agree with any reasonable suggestion from the Government which will be anything of the character of a settlement in regard to the remaining Amendments on this clause.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
As to the few remaining Amendments, there are some to which the Government, of course, cannot assent. As to No. 130, the House will not take that. It will be recollected that we promised some modification of it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I put it to the Government, if that is a reasonable way of meeting hon. Members on these Benches? You may talk about Obstruction so long as you like; but I, for my part, have never spoken a word since this Committee commenced which could be construed into Obstruction. Now, however, I will withdraw the Amendment under the consideration of the House, and proceed to discuss my next Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.389
In page 2, at end, to add—"At the trial of any accused person, the Crown shall, if required by the accused, produce, for cross-examination, every person examined at any inquiry under this section in the same way as they are now hound to produce for examination by the accused all witnesses examined before a Grand Jury."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The inquiry under the Act is meant to be serious or not serious. Any inquiry, to be efficient, must be substantial, accurate, painstaking, and close; and every witness to the inquiry should have something to say which would throw light, in some way, upon the subject under investigation. The Government cannot think it likely that, if I was defending a prisoner, I would ask to have produced at the trial any witness who had not said anything in his depositions which would entitle him to be called by me in Court. The witness's name would be on the top of the indictment, and the Crown would have to produce him. The Government would put the accused to the trouble of calling and paying for witnesses, whether they were needful or not. The Treasury does not advance money for the payment or producing of witnesses, Thus, in the case of the Maamtrasna trials, the Crown compelled the accused to bring up their witnesses. I will be willing to compromise with the Government, by suggesting that the clause should apply to cases where 10 days' notice have been given. I make a rule not to speak on anybody else's Amendments, because I think I talk long enough on my own; but I expect to be fairly met when I make a fair offer. I cannot be accused of obstructing, because I do not talk till I know what I am talking about. Under all the circumstances, I would ask the Government to accede to my Amendment.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I do not think that there is any great—if any at all—necessity for the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. The ordinary procedure meets every difficulty. I think, indeed, that there are many cases in which the witness's answer to any question put with the view of detecting a crime would be that he 390 know nothing whatever about the matter. I certainly am of opinion that it would be very hard on the taxpayers of the country, and on the witnesses themselves, if all the witnesses should be brought forward at large expense to the public, and detained upon the chance of the prisoner's counsel calling them. The Crown know the witnesses they rely on, and they accordingly put them on the back of their bill, and I think that it is not too much to presume that the prisoner's counsel should know the witnesses upon which his case relies. There is certainly no need of the Amendment, and it is not of such a sort that the Government can entertain it.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I am afraid, Sir, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland scarcely speaks with accuracy in this matter. There is one thing which is keenly impressed on the minds of witnesses in the process of taking depositions, and that is that everything said or urged on behalf of the prisoner shall go into the depositions and be sent forward, so that they shall be available for the prisoner as well as for the Crown. Some of these are not in favour of the Crown at all, but strongly in favour of the prisoner, and this very fact is one of the brightest parts of the criminal procedure in Ireland, and is strongly upborne by the Judges. Now, here is a case in exact analogy, as I think, although the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot see the analogy. You have obtained by private inquiry certain information, and the prisoner, or his counsel or solicitor, discovers that this information would be rather favourable to the prisoner's case, and surely if he gives a few days' notice that he will require the attendance of certain persons at the trial, it is not too much to ask that they shall be in attendance. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman brings in his appeal on behalf of the British taxpayer. But during the whole time the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been practising at the Bar the British taxpayer has been paying for the attendance of witnesses for the defence at trials, and justice has been administered fairly well upon that plan. Altogether, I think it must be admitted the Amendment is consonant with what has been the practice, and might well be accepted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is a little saddening to think that the right hon. and learned Attorney General has given be little consideration to this matter. He has dealt with the Amendment all along as if these witnesses were to be brought up at Assizes; but the Government have abandoned that altogether, they will try all these people by summary jurisdiction. At Assizes we know the Government are bound to give notice of the witnesses they will produce to support their indictment, but here there will be no indictment, and the Government can bring up anybody, and are we to be told that the Government will only bring up their own men, throwing upon the unfortunate accused the expense of bringing up the other material witnesses? The Government talk as if these eases are to be tried at Assizes, but however difficult it may be to reach Tory understanding, I should have thought my Amendment was clear when I added at the end of it—In the same way as they are now bound to produce for examination by the accused all witnesses examined before a Grand Jury.This clearly points to my view that the Government will not treat these cases as matters for indictment at all, but will proceed by summary jurisdiction. Now, I will not appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—"He giveth his beloved sleep"—but I will ask the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland to remember that this is an Amendment dealing with summary jurisdiction. If this were a case dealt with as an indictable offence, you would be compelled to bring up every man who made a deposition; but here you wish to make a choice of the men selecting your own witnesses, and throwing upon the prisoner the duty never cast on him hitherto of bringing up a number of persons who in the case of an indictable offence he would not be bound to bring up at all. I suppose you will only take depositions. I presume so—though I seek enlightenment on this point—I presume you will not make formal depositions in any case where there is going to be summary jurisdiction? That being so, you will use quo ad summary trials all the depositions taken at the private inquiry, and you put the accused in a position of disadvantage he would not be in if it were a trial by jury. I put it to the right 392 hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland as a reasonable man, can he not really see his way to make this concession in common fairness? He must see it is a substantial point, and that it is a totally different thing from a trial at Assizes.
§ MR. HOLMES
I can assure hon. Members we have given this Amendment consideration, and that we have no foregone intention to refuse concessions; but, as I have said, this Amendment would be introducing an altogether anomalous procedure, and I do not see the analogy that hon. Members have sought to establish. It is only in the case of indictment that the Crown is required to produce witnesses. In cases of summary jurisdiction the Crown produces persons to give the necessary evidence, and, on the other hand, the evidence necessary for the defence is produced by the accused; and I do not see that the preliminary inquiry can affect that position.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
A most discreditable fact in connection with the administration of the Criminal Law in Ireland is the way in which the Crown Officials habitually treat persons required by prisoners to be produced as witnesses. It is the duty of the Crown to pay the expenses of prisoner's witnesses; but the Crown Officials delay to pay the witnesses anything until the trial is over, and sometimes the Assizes last for weeks. I have known an Assize to last for nearly a month. During the whole of this time the Crown keeps the witnesses hanging about the Court, not fixing any time for the trial, not giving any information as to the time within which the trial has no chance of coming on, and compelling the prisoner to advance the expenses of his witnesses during the whole of the time. The object of the Amendment is that where the Crown exercises power under this section, and holds an inquiry for the purpose of getting evidence, and having done that supplies depositions, that it shall be the duty of the Crown to produce at the trial any of the witnesses the prisoner shall call on them to produce. Is there anything unreasonable in that? Let us consider the matter. The Crown has at its disposal the funds of the State, and is unfettered by the want of pecuniary resources; but the unfortunate man under accusation will be in many 393 cases absolutely penniless, and to put upon him the task of keeping witnesses hanging around the Court until they are required, is to impose a burden for which he is quite unequal. I respectfully submit it is not a fair proceeding. I have known cases in which a prisoner's witnesses have had to go to the poor-house night after night while waiting for a case to come on, they not having the means to support themselves meanwhile in the Assize town. Surely it would be a grave scandal to have that sort of thing taking place under this section. The right hon. and learned Attorney General says it would be unreasonable to put on the Crown the duty of bringing up to Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions, or Assizes, as the case may be, witnesses there is no intention of examining; and, following his usual practice, he gave an illustration, but about as improbable a case as could be imagined. He imagines a case in which the Crown makes an experimental inquiry, and under this dragnet procedure summonses a number of witnesses to the inquiry. It may happen, he says, that a number of witnesses may reply that they know nothing about the circumstances upon which they are questioned, and that it would be hard to compel the Crown to produce such persons as witnesses at the trial. But I may ask what object would a prisoner have in asking the Crown to produce such witnesses? The prisoner will be supplied with a copy of the depositions, and is it conceivable, after he has had that copy, that he will require the attendance of a number of persons whose appearance would be of no value to support his case? With all respect, I cannot but say the reply of the right hon. and learned Attorney General is likely to mislead the Committee. Is it not only fair, that if the Crown chooses to examine witnesses under the powers of this section, that they should, at any rate, produce these witnesses for cross-examination, if the prisoner's defence requires that?——[Interruptions.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The understanding was that the Government should endeavour to keep their Followers behind them quiet. The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick) and others near him are somewhat demonstrative, and I fear we shall be forced to make a Motion which, for my own part, I should be reluctant to do. The 394 Government do not seem to have grasped the importance of this Amendment. I have known prisoners compelled to plead guilty, simply because they were unable to keep their witnesses hanging about the Court waiting for the trial for days. I have known this, and Judges have known it. The Crown have nothing like law and order in their arrangements for the trials of prisoners; a man never knows when the case in which he is concerned will come on. I saw myself, during Cork Assizes in 1880, 300 witnesses waiting about the Court, not one of them knowing when he would be wanted. All these 300 persons were detained at the expense of the prisoners, and many of them were compelled to go to the poor-house for shelter and food, because prisoners were unable to support them. I have known an Assize to last a month, with an adjournment over Christmas, and witnesses having to go to the poor-house for their Christmas dinner. Even before the trial was reached, after weeks of delay, I have known witnesses compelled to go away, something at their farm or home requiring them to return, and prisoners have had to plead guilty. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland knows nothing about this, nor can it be expected that the hon. and learned Attorney General for England has the knowledge, and I am quite sure the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury is a blank on the subject, but to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland I would say he really should not—when he gets a conviction, as he will, from his Resident Magistrates in these matters—he really should not inflict this fine, in addition to the conviction, on the unfortunate prisoner, by compelling him to keep his witnesses waiting. I have yet to learn if the witnesses are to be paid by the Crown. Is it likely that a prisoner would call witnesses who would be of no use to him? If the Government fear that, surely they can meet that by words requiring 10 days' notice to be given. I am willing to accept that Amendment of my Amendment. But to say, when you can gather to the Winter Assizes at Cork from that county, from Limerick, and Kerry witnesses by the hundred, poor, wretched, spiritless creatures, who hang round the Court, some of them smelling of their 395 poverty, when you have collected them and driven them to the poor-house for shelter, keeping them waiting in uncertainty because you will not take the cases in alphabetical or any other order, then I say, under such circumstances, it is only reasonable that we should press upon the attention of the Government the justice of requiring that the Crown shall pay the expenses of witnesses in any case where the attendance of such is required by the prisoner for his defence. Let the Crown proceed to recover afterwards if a witness is not called, and it is shown that the expense incurred was wholly unnecessary.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I only wish to make a suggestion which might be considered reasonable. Let a list be supplied to the accused of all the witnesses examined before the secret investigation, and from that list lot the accused have the right to impose on the Crown the duty of producing at the trial those persons whose evidence is required. That, I think, would meet the object my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy) desires to attain. I am disposed to think that the Amendment, as it stands, is rather sweeping, because it might involve the bringing up of a whole country side because they were summoned to a secret investigation. Something in the nature of the provision I describe would, I think, meet the case where a prisoner is unable to provide for his witnesses.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
I think that an unanswerable case has been made out for the Amendment. I am not a lawyer, and have nothing to do with legal procedure; but I am familiar with the state of things in an Assize town which has been described, and I know, from experience as a workhouse officer, that the people summoned as witnesses have sought shelter in the workhouse. You have in the latter part of the Bill a clause for changing the venue. Does not the hon. and learned Attorney General consider it a fair thing, under this clause, this very oppressive clause, not inaptly called the "Star Chamber" Clause, that a number of witnesses shall be examined and evidence collected, of which the prisoner should not be allowed to avail himself, he not having the means of compelling the attendance of witnesses on his behalf? The Government are anxious to get this clause passed to- 396 night; and would it not be wiser—more conducive to that end—to accept this small concession so cogently, so strongly urged, than to refuse and lead to unnecessary prolongation of debate? In some way, I think, the Government might promise a concession that would meet the point so strongly urged.
§ MR. DODDS (Stockton)
I have not spoken before in this Committee, and do so now to make a suggestion that the Government might meet the object of the Amendment, if the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), instead of requiring the attendance of every person examined at the preliminary inquiry, would amend his Amendment by substituting the words after "cross-examination"—Such of the persons examined at the preliminary inquiry under this section as the accused person considers necessary for the purposes of his defence.I think, with an alteration of that kind, the Government might accept the Amendment. They have pleaded the cost to the British taxpayer; but surely, when a man is accused under a new mode of procedure never heard of before in this country—surely every facility should be given him to defend himself by the attendance of witnesses. It has been pointed out how difficult it is for a prisoner to keep his witnesses in attendance owing to poverty; and, under the circumstances, I do think an accused person has a right to demand this as only justice, not from the Government, but from the British taxpayer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I shall be happy to accept this suggestion of the hon. Member for Stockton, and I am quite ready to strike out the words after "cross-examination," and the Amendment might run—"Such persons with regard to whom notice shall have been given by the accused" and, if you like, insert "ton days" before "notice."
§ MR. HOLMES
The practical effect of this would be to introduce a practice that is unknown to Irish or English law. I am not qualified to speak about Scotch law. In exceptional cases, as I have shown, the Crown is charged with the expenses of witnesses for the defence; but in this particular suggestion of the hon. Member, the Crown is to pay for all witnesses of the prisoner at the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, as well as at Assizes and Quarter Sessions.
§ MR. DODDS
No; my suggestion was that the Crown should produce in examination before Resident Magistrates, such of the persons who had been examined in the preliminary inquiry as the prisoner, or his counsel, think necessary for the defence. To pursue, in fact, in this examination the same course as would be followed had an indictment been brought, except in that case the names of the witnesses would be on the back of the indictment.
§ MR. HOLMES
These are the witnesses upon whom the Crown relies to support the indictment. But in cases of summary jurisdiction the Grown does not produce the witnesses for the defence. How can you refuse, if you grant this to make the same concession to prisoners in England?
§ MR. HOLMES
The inquiry makes no difference in the world. I think the matter has now been fully discussed, and we might make another step towards reaching the end of the clause.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
I think the importance of this Amendment has been fully shown. The hon. and learned Attorney General has informed the Committee that the Crown will call those witnesses upon whom they rely. But out of 15 or 20 persons examined at the preliminary inquiry there may be only five or six examined at the trial of the accused. We know also, for experience has not been wanting, that evidence may be fabricated in Ireland by informers. The evidence relied upon by the Crown may be such as to satisfy gentlemen of the calibre and unscrupulousness of Mr. George Bolton. But there may be a number of persons called before the inquiry whose evidence is worthless to the Crown, but might be material for the defence. If a list of these witnesses were supplied to the accused, and he had reason to believe that the attendance of some of them would be material to his defence, I think he has a right to the advantage of their testimony. There are a number of defences—that of an alibi, would, I suppose, be a very common one—in regard to which the evidence of such persons might be material, and the Amendment appears to me a most reasonable one.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The argument of the hon. and learned Attorney Gene- 398 ral, that the same practice might be demanded in England, is wholly beside the question, for in England it is not the Crown usually that prosecutes, it is an individual; except in a very few cases in England the Crown does not take up the prosecution, while in Ireland it is usually the Queen who is the prosecutor. There is no argument to be founded on the procedure in the two countries. I shall certainly press my Amendment.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I fail to see why this reasonable Amendment should be refused. It is bad enough to deprive the Irish people of trial by jury, without depriving them of the right they undoubtedly would possess if they went before a jury upon indictment. It is vain to attempt to draw the parallel between England and Ireland in reference to the law it is proposed to establish in Ireland. If you are going to send men before two Stipendiary Magistrates, depriving them of the right of trial by a jury of their fellow-countrymen, it is only right that they should have the means of producing the witnesses in the one case as in the other, that their case may be properly investigated. On the ground of unnecessary expense, I see no objection to the Amendment, because my hon. Friend has agreed to accept an Amendment by which the Crown shall receive 10 days' notice of the witnesses the accused proposes to call, and the Crown could object to any if they were unnecessary. The reasonable character of the Amendment has been brought out by the discussion we have had, limited as it has been by the conspiracy of silence on the Government Bench, of which evidence has been given on so many former occasions.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 191: Majority 105.—(Div. List, No. 147.)
In page 2, at end, add—"There" shall be laid before Parliament, at the beginning of every Session, a Return showing the number of inquiries held since the preceding Session, the number of summonses issued, the number of witnesses examined, the names of, and the sentences on, the persons committed for contempt, and the result, if any, of each inquiry."—[Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."399
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I dare say I shall save the time of the House if I now say the Government are prepared, in accordance with their pledge given the other night, to accept words to this effect—That there shall be published quarterly in The Dublin Gazelle a Return showing the number of inquiries held during the preceding quarter, the hours during which such inquiries were held, the number of summonses issued, the number of witnesses examined, and the names and calling of persons committed for contempt of Court.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
There is one point omitted. I should like the Return to indicate the number of days each inquiry occupied.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman also give the names of persons committed for contempt and who are still detained in prison at the end of each quarter?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Certainly. The Return will give the names of the persons committed, and the sentences imposed on them.
§ MR. MURPHY
But there may be cases in which no sentence has been passed, and where after mere detention the persons may have been released. The object of my suggestion is to enable it to be seen who are actually in prison at the time of the publication of the Return.
§ Amendment, by leave,withdrawn.
§ Amendment (Sir Richard Webster) agreed to.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I am happy to say we are getting to the end of the Amendments on this clause I beg to move, as an Amendment, the addition of a Proviso at the end of the clause. This Proviso is, I may explain, intended to provide against the depositions at the private inquiry being modified and contracted before production in open Court. I need hardly point out that the original notes would certainly be better evidence than a résuméof the witness's examination drawn out by a Resident Magistrate.
In page 2, at end, add—"The original shorthand notes of the shorthand writer shall be preserved in the office of the Clerk of the Crown for the county in which such inquiry as aforesaid shall be held, and so much thereof as relates to the examination of a witness shall be annexed to the deposition or depositions of such witness, and in all legal proceedings, civil or criminal, be produced therewith, and may be used in such proceeding to contradict or modify the statements made in such deposition or depositions, or to discredit the same.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I ought briefly to explain our objection to this proposal. It is already practically provided that the witness's statement shall be taken down by the Resident Magistrate, and afterwards read over to the witness and signed by him. When we consented that shorthand notes should be taken, a discussion turned on whether the word should be deposition or statement, and we propose to restore the word deposition. There is no objection that the shorthand writer's note should be attached to the deposition on every occasion on which it is brought into Court, and the Government will take the best moans of providing that this shall be done. But I submit that if these words are introduced into this clause it will load to confusion between depositions and statements.
§ MR. CHANCE
On the understanding that my object shall be otherwise attained I will withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ New Amendment proposed.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
In the original sub-section it is provided that the witness shall be brought up to the inquiry by process solely confined to indictable offences. I pointed that out to the Law Officers, and they agreed that the enactment relating to ordinary summary offences should also be included. Accordingly, we altered the words as follows:—The enactment of the Petty Sessions Act concerning matters of information for indictable offences, or concerning matters for summary conviction, shall apply for the purposes of the section.That arrangement was made because 401 we pointed out that if the summary process alone were used, it would operate very harshly. But there was another difficulty—that an offence punishable as a summary offence may also be tried by indictment, and, therefore, the Resident Magistrate at an inquiry might use whatever machinery he pleased. I would, therefore, propose an Amendment to the effect that the Attorney General, on being informed of the nature of the offence, shall inquire in the direction pointed out in these words whether it shall be tried summarily or by indictment, and he shall indicate the same to the Resident Magistrate, and show him what machinery he shall apply in bringing witnesses before him.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I do not think the point as to this can be settled until the remaining clauses have been gone through. It does not seem at present possible to accept the Amendment in the form which the hon. Member proposes. Suppose, for instance, there was an offence committed, say, the houghing of cattle, there might be some minor offences involved, and we cannot tell beforehand what it may be necessary to do in such a case. I am quite willing to undertake to consider the suggestion of the hon. Member.
§ MR. CHANCE
I would like to point out that before an inquiry can be held there must be a sworn information that an offence has been committed. Therefore, before the Attorney General can set the clause in motion, he must know precisely the technical description of the alleged offence. I do not see that his observations are very much to the point.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
I am satisfied that, having called the attention of the Law Officers to the matter, they will make it all right on Report. I will, therefore, withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ New Amendment proposed.
§ MR. CHANCE
I think this is only reasonable. The Crown possesses enormous powers, and, they having obtained their evidence, I do not see why the whole of it should not be available for the trial.
If it is intended simply for the information of the accused, then it is already provided for in 402 the Proviso at the end of the sub-section, which requires that, in the event of any person being accused of crime, copies of the depositions taken in the inquiry shall be sent to him.
On a point of Order, Sir, Amendment 127, which has practically been passed, refers to the trial of an accused person before a Court and jury. My present Amendment deals also with the proceedings before a magistrate. In addition, it will be necessary to produce the witnesses to the Grand Jury; under Amendment 127 it is not necessary to do so.
The Amendment is one which cannot now be taken, inasmuch as another practically applying to both cases has been rejected. The Committee has already decided the question of principle thus raised.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Now, Mr. Courtney, the hour has arrived when I think we may give the clause a parting kick, as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) said of the Land Bill. That the discussion of the clause has not been profitless is shown by the result that, whereas, as originally drawn, it contained only 33 lines, it now consists of 110 lines, irrespective of Amendments to the body of the clause, but not adding to its length. The Government have realized how rude was its structure, how crudely drawn it was. I say this, not for the purpose of casting discredit upon the Law Officers of the Government who have charge of the Bill, it only shows that they were not acquainted with facts we had collected from a careful watching of a similar clause in the Bill of the right hon. Member for Derby. The clause in that former Bill passed in one night. I remember that we, in Ireland, at the time were in ignorance of the scope of this secret inquiry clause; but it is in consequence of our observation of the manner in which it could be used that we felt obliged to move Amendments, and that we have been enabled to do so with so much success, often at very late hours of the night. If we have in some cases restricted and even abandoned our Amendments, let that not be taken in any sense—it is not so far as my Amendments are con- 403 carned—an indication that we did not believe that a substantial point was raised; it was in deference to the convenience of the Committee, which has, barring some little ebullitions of feeling from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite—excusable, under the circum-stances, and nobody objects less to a "row" than myself—addressed itself to the discussion with considerable patience. At the same time, it is only right to say that in the discussions which have sometimes been carried to some length, and not without benefit, we have, on the whole, no complaint of the way in which we have been met by the Law Officers of England and Ireland, although we have been obliged to attack the Attorney General for Ireland, and have received much more attention and concession from the Attorney General for England. All round, I think, now that the clause is finished, we can give the parting kick in good humour.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 171; Noes 79: Majority 92.—(Div. List, No. 148.)
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.