§ Clause 2 (Extension of summary jurisdiction).
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I have to move as an Amendment after the word "shall," in the first line of the sub-section, the words "wilfully and knowingly." I am compelled to move this Amendment owing to the peculiar form in which the Government have worded their clause. They appear desirous of creating new crimes which have never before been heard of. We know very well what the crime of conspiracy is, and in the enactments dealing with that crime the offence has been specifically named. But for the purposes of this Act the Government describe the offence not as ''conspiracy," but as taking part in any criminal conspiracy. The point I wish to make is—that no man can criminally conspire without being guilty of conspiracy, but that any man may innocently take part in a criminal conspiracy, and it is to protect a person in that position, who may be affected by the peculiar phraseology of the clause, that I move this Amendment. I do not know what attitude the Government may be disposed to assume towards it; but I presume they are not anxious to commit anybody under the clause unless he has been guilty of some offence. If a man participates in a criminal conspiracy, no doubt he ought to be punished; but there are a number of acts which a man may do innocently, but which would, nevertheless, make him liable under this clause. For instance, let me suppose that one of the overt acts of conspiracy was the holding of a meeting, and that the conveners of the meeting employed a bill-poster who was utterly innocent, who did not know what the meeting was called for, and who might even be unable to read the placard. As the Bill stands, 541 the posting of the placard convening the meeting may be held to be an overt act of conspiracy, and the bill-poster would have rendered himself liable to punishment under the peculiar phraseology of this section, which punishes a man not for conspiring, but for taking part knowingly or not in a criminal conspiracy. I trust the Government will see that, as the clause is drawn at present, there is a distinct difficulty which ought to be removed in some way or other.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 17, after the word "shall," to insert the words "wilfully and knowingly."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
As far as I understand the words proposed by the hon. Member, they would neither add clearness to the wording of the Bill, nor improve its substance. In those circumstances, and according to the canon I laid down yesterday, it is impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I protest against this mode of dealing with an Amendment on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He will not even condescend to give us his reasons for refusing the Amendment. We have seen some strange proceedings already this evening; but the right hon. Gentleman is presuming a little too far. I ask, and I ask respectfully, that we shall have some reasons given to us for any decision the Government come to. We cannot be expected to be content with the simple declaration of a Minister that he will not accept the Amendments we put forward. I protest against the attitude the right hon. Gentleman has assumed, and I ask him to observe the ordinary courtesy of giving the reasons of the Government for not accepting an Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I meant no discourtesy, and with due respect to the hon. Member, I did give a reason. I said the reason why we refuse the Amendment is that according as I read the words they neither make the Bill clearer nor in any way better.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Does the right hon. Gentleman think he has added to his former statement?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then, if he has added nothing to his former statement, he has been wasting the time of the Committee. There is such a thing as tedious and irrelevant repetition, Mr. Courtney, and when that is committed by a Minister it becomes specially offensive. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman this—that if the Government suppose they will shorten the discussion by giving such answers, they are greatly mistaken. A reply by the Government having been refused, I beg to move, Mr. Courtney, that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided.—Ayes 114; Noes 253: Majority 139.—(Div. List, No. 159.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I maintain that the Government ought to provide some safeguard for innocent persons, and not leave the matter to the Resident Magistrates. Language so vague as this section, as it now stands, has never been employed in an Act of Parliament. The terms of the Amendment, however, are the common phraseology of an Act of Parliament, so that the Irish Chief Secretary is altogether mistaken when he says that the Amendment will not improve the clause. It improves it in a most distinct manner. Take the case of a carman, who has driven persons to a meeting. The persons who are on the car may be attending the meeting for the purpose of taking part in a so-called criminal conspiracy, which the Lord Lieutenant has proclaimed. An election may be going on, or it may be a National League meeting that is about to be held; but the carman will have taken these men on his car quite innocently. Nevertheless, under this clause, he may be proceeded against for having taken part in a criminal conspiracy. Then, again, take the case of a man who has addressed envelopes. There may be to-morrow, in the City of London, men addressing envelopes by the thousand, but the contents of the letters enclosed in such 543 envelopes may be altogether unknown to those who address them, and yet the mere fact of addressing them may involve a criminal conspiracy. In this case we throw the burden of proof on the individual. If this were an English Bill, it would be said that this is a very grave and important matter, and that a conspirator so-called should act with knowledge. The Bill does not say that any criminal conspirator should be punished, nor does it deal with a conspiracy; but it uses a much wider net, and says that "any person who takes part in a criminal conspiracy"—a vague term, never used hitherto in an Act of Parliament—shall be punishable under the clause. We are, therefore, driven to ask that it shall be "any person who knowingly takes part in a criminal conspiracy." We think the Government are bound to employ some saving phrase in the case of these men. The Chief Secretary refuses even to put in the words "criminally conspires," which would be a sufficient safeguard, because even the most far-reaching Resident Magistrate would not be able to say that the mere fact of driving a man upon a car was proof that the carman had criminally conspired. Let me give, as an illustration, what actually did take place in the County of Kerry a short time ago. A carman was unfortunately engaged to drive some men who were drunk, or rather, he gave them what is called a ''lift." One of them fired off a revolver for mere swagger—a practice which the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) is, no doubt, very familiar with in the region he represents. The police not only arrested the unfortunate driver of the car, but kept him in gaol for four months, when a nolle prosequi was entered, and the case was laughed out of Court. There was no pretence for saying that the car driver had anything to do with the transaction; yet he was detained in prison for four months, without bail, the Court of Queen's Bench having refused bail simply because he happened to be driving a man on a car who committed an indiscreet act. I wish the Committee to bear in mind that this was done under the ordinary law, which is not nearly so harsh as the provisions of the present Bill. We have no desire that persons who are guilty should not be brought within the meshes of the law; but we 544 remember the old proverb, "That it is better that ninety-nine guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should suffer." The very reverse of that proposition is provided in this subsection. It says virtually that ten men may be guilty of a criminal conspiracy, and 1,000 may take part in it innocently, but that all ought to suffer alike. I have pointed out that in this case the Court of Queen's Bench refused bail, and yet in the end the case was never brought to trial at all, but a nolle prosequi was taken. When you were discussing the English Law as it affects English Trades Unions, and persons who may conspire together in that way, you took very good care to provide that those who were to be punished should have taken part wilfully and knowingly in the conspiracy.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
The words which my hon. Friend (Mr. Maurice Healy) proposes to insert very frequently occur in Acts of Parliament which deal with crime. I think this clause undoubtedly requires it to be specified that before a person can be punished for taking part in a criminal conspiracy, he should wilfully and knowingly have participated in it. In offences proceeded against under the Excise Acts, it is always necessary to prove that the offender wilfully and knowingly broke the law, before any penalties can be recovered, and in that case proof is exceedingly difficult, because questions of law and fact are inextricably mixed up. The highest lawyers have held that persons may take part in a conspiracy, and yet be perfectly innocent of conspiring. How, then, is an Irish peasant to determine for himself whether any combination he may enter into is to be raised up to the standard of a conspiracy or not? Surely that would depend on his knowledge of the facts and the means to be employed, together with an accurate knowledge of the object to be attained. The means might be the means of rendering a combination criminal, or the object to be attained might import criminality into it. Under those circumstances, whether the Government accept the words proposed by the hon. Member, or the words which appear on the Paper lower down, "knowing the same to be criminal," I maintain that the clause should not be allowed to stand as it does. I cannot 545 see that the acceptance of the Amendment, in drawing a distinction between what is criminal and what is not criminal, can in any way injure the efficiency of the Bill. Certainly some words of this kind are needed in order to protect an innocent person. Men may enter into a conspiracy to secure what they believe to be a laudable object; but moans may be resorted to afterwards which may render the conspiracy criminal, but which were totally unknown to those men at the time they joined it. I think it ought to be made perfectly plain to the Resident Magistrate that the person brought before him know that the conspiracy in which he had been engaged was criminal, and this Amendment would enable even a Resident Magistrate to discriminate between an innocent and a criminal conspiracy. I think the Committee will do well to press on the Government the necessity of importing some words into the clause—I do not say the exact words proposed here—so that persons who may enter into combinations quite as innocent as trade combinations, may not find themselves afterwards within the meshes of the law.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
In framing the Bill the Government have put in words where they ought not to be, and have loft them out where they ought to be. If they will look at Sub-section 2, they will find the words are—Any person who shall wrongfully and without legal authority use violence or intimidation;and further on—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; or to or towards any person or persons in consequence either of his or their having done any act which he or they had a legal right to do, or of his or their having abstained from doing any act which he or they had a legal right to abstain from doing.Now, if a person has a legal right to abstain from doing an act, no person has a legal right to compel him to do it. Therefore, the words of the Government in this case are altogether superfluous. What we require in the clause is protection for those who have no intention or desire to break the law. We know that any person who takes part in 546 a riotous assembly, for instance, is responsible for the acts committed by any individual in that assembly; but, in that case, the person taking part must do so knowingly; because the Riot Act will have been road first as a warning. I do not know the legal moaning to be attached to these words; but, to my mind, it seems to be a plain, commonsense matter, to provide that no man shall be punished for anything he has not wilfully or knowingly done. For instance, the man may not have thoroughly understood the full extent of his act when he entered into the so-called conspiracy; he may have been merely performing a perfunctory part in connection with such conspiracy, such as writing letters, or driving a man to a meeting. I think the Government ought not to punish such persons. If they in tend to do so, they ought at least to get up and toll us what their object is. From their present silence we can only conclude that they intend to make an indiscriminate use of the Act in regard to the innocent and the guilty alike.
§ MR. COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I think we ought to have from, the Government an indication of what they mean by the words "who shall take part in any criminal conspiracy." Do the Government mean, or not, that it shall be the same as if it read "any person who shall conspire?" If so, those words are much higher, very much more simple, and very much more clear to the unlearned understanding. If the words do mean "any person who shall conspire to compel or induce any person or persons either not to fulfil his or their obligations," &c, let them say so, and put the language as briefly and plainly as they can. But if they mean something more, and wish to bring within the meshes of this clause something above and beyond criminal conspiracy by introducing words which seem to be much wider than the mere inclusions of persons who are conspiring—namely, "persons who shall take part in any criminal conspiracy," I think the Government should tell us why they use these words, and what their object is. If their object is to bring persons within the meshes of the Criminal Law, who are naturally not conspirators themselves, then I ask them to say what sort of persons they mean to get at. I am sure any lawyer would say that the addition of the words "wilfully 547 or knowingly," to the word "conspire" would be surplusage; but if they were surplusage, they would do no harm. It must not be forgotten that the provisions of this measure are not to be interpreted by lawyers, but that the Act is to be administered by persons who are not lawyers primâ facie, and have not had experience in construing Acts of Parliament. I think the Government may reasonably say, whether or not they mean in this first sub-section "any person who shall conspire" or something further and beyond that, and if so, what is it they mean by the words "any person who shall take part in a criminal conspiracy."
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I do not think that these three words "wilfully and knowingly," are by any means surplusage, but they point out very clearly what the meaning of the provision is. Undoubtedly, there are in conspiracies acts which may be done without being punishable as criminal A and B may conspire together to do a certain thing which, if done by A separately, or by B separately would be perfectly lawful, and which only becomes a conspiracy when it is done by two or more parsons. The offence is in the agreement, and not in the act, The Government propose to take a number of acts which are in themselves innocent, and make them crimes. In point of fact, they are making a new crime of certain things which are perfectly innocent as the law now stands, and at least they ought to insert words in the clause to require that an Act which is now innocent shall, if it is to be made criminal, have been done "wilfully and knowingly." The magistrate should have power to say—"This is an act which in itself is a perfectly innocent act, and it is desirable that I should have evidence that the person who did it did it knowingly and wilfully in furtherance of a conspiracy. Unless that is proved, I do not see how I am to commit him." I know the Government do not intend that, but that they wish to catch any person who takes part in any conspiracy. Let me put a case which may be considered farfetched, but which is perfectly possible. I remember a case in which a Resident Magistrate sent a boy of 12 to gaol for a month, because he whistled at a policeman in Limerick. Suppose a cabman drives Mr. William O'Brien from a 548 railway station on the Great Western Railway in Ireland, is it to be held that that cabman has taken part in any conspiracy in which Mr. William O'Brien may have been engaged? [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Or the engine driver.] Yes, or the engine driver. If you add these words "wilfully and knowingly" the person accused would be able to say—" I did not know that Mr. William O'Brien was going down to the place to which I drove him for the purpose of instituting the Plan of Campaign." As the clause now stands, all the Resident Magistrate would say is this—"What I want to know is, whether you took part; in the matter. Your guilty knowledge is nothing to me, and therefore you must go to prison for six months." I defy any lawyer sitting on the Treasury Bench to point to any code of law, whether European, or Indian, or oven Chinese, which establishes such an offence as taking part in a criminal conspiracy. The whole thing is a farrago of nonsense in order to enable the Resident Magistrate to do anything he likes.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I must express my astonishment at the reiterated answer on the part of the Government, that these words will not improve the clause. I do not think that they can be regarded as mere surplusage. If they are, how is it that you find them used so frequently in the English Acts? I may point out that in the Act of 1875, dealing with contracts of service between masters and workmen, the words are "wilfully and maliciously breaking a contract of service, or breaking a contract involving injury to person and property." In the fifth section of that Act, the words are any person who shall "wilfully and maliciously break a contract." Why should that be proper in an Act relating to England, and be pure surplusage and altogether useless in a Bill which is to apply to Ireland? Why should words be reasonable in one Act, and unreasonable in another? With regard to our present proceedings, we are engaged in making criminal now that which has not been criminal before. It is a well-established rule that in taking proceedings against a man for crime, the offence he is accused of should be exhaustibly set forth in full detail, and there is nothing more common than to say that a thing 549 has been done wilfully. Here you propose that a man is to be held guilty of criminal conduct when you admit, by implication at least, that you are not prepared to prove that his intent was criminal. Let me take this case, in order to enable tenants to get rid of their cattle before they could he seized by their landlords. Men have been employed in posting notices announcing the fact that a fair or auction for the sale of cattle would be held at a particular place, on a particular day. That sale is held for the express purpose of enabling the tenants to defeat the object of the landlord. Under this section, as it is at present worded, every innocent bill poster who posts the notice may be held to have taken part in a criminal conspiracy, and, not only so, but every newspaper which advertises the sale, or the book-stalls of W. H. Smith and Co., who sell the newspapers in which such advertisement appears—all of them, under this clause, may be held to have taken part in a criminal conspiracy. Under these circumstances, having regard to the great laxity of language in which the section is drafted, and the extremely harsh and cruel character of the section itself, I think it is not unreasonable to ask the Government, at any rate, so to modify the wording of the section that no one shall be liable to be sent to prison for six months' hard labour against whom it has not been clearly established that he was not only guilty of the act imputed to him, but that he did it with a guilty knowledge.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
A suggestion has been made by the hon. and learned Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield (Mr. Coleridge) to substitute the words "shall conspire." I have an Amendment lower down on the Paper to leave out "take part in any criminal conspiracy," and to insert "conspire by violence or intimidation." I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend that if the word used is "conspire," then the words "knowingly and wilfully" would be surplusage. I do not intend to say that they may not be surplusage as they stand; but, certainly, they would got rid of any ambiguity which might be entertained in regard to the meaning of the section in its present shape. I think it would be much more 550 intelligible to say "shall conspire" instead of saying "any person who shall take part in a criminal conspiracy." Those are words which, as far as I am aware, do not occur in any other Act of Parliament. I think the Committee would be satisfied if the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant would say that he will omit the words "take part in a criminal conspiracy" in order to adopt the words "shall conspire."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
That is a matter which will come on later in a subsequent Amendment. I have already put down an Amendment myself to provide that the criminal conspiracy shall be one now punishable by law. I cannot regard the words which have been proposed as anything but surplusage, if attached to the words in the clause "take part in a criminal conspiracy," or to the word "conspire," which it is proposed to substitute. The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has referred to an Act of Parliament passed in 1875, in which the words "wilfully and maliciously" occur, and he asks why they do not occur here. He seems to forget that that Act dealt with contracts, and the essence of the offence in that case is that the contract should be "wilfully and maliciously broken" or otherwise the breaking would be quite innocent. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: That is exactly our case here.] By using the words "criminal conspiracy" you are referring to a thing which, in the very nature of it, must have been done "wilfully and knowingly," and, there-fore, the addition of these words would be mere surplusage, and even worse than surplusage, because they might introduce an element of doubt.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I can congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on being, at all events, able to argue the matter; because that was not the course taken by the Chief Secretary, and every Amendment proposed on any subject whatever may be met by saying it does not make the matter more clear or better. I wish to point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that his argument exactly makes out our case, because he says the words "wilfully and maliciously" have been applied to the breaking of a contract. Surely a contract and an agreement are 551 very much the same thing. Why is a man to be a conspirator in the case of breaking an agreement, and not to be a conspirator if he takes part in the breaking of a contract? Why in the one case should you insist that it must be done "wilfully and maliciously," and not in the other? Therefore, the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman triumphantly substantiates our case for the Amendment. We only ask the Government to follow the precedent stated in the Act of 1875, introduced by an eminent Conservative authority from his own point of view—Sir Richard Cross. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has accurately stated the purport of that Act. The words "wilfully and maliciously" occur both in the 4th and 5th clauses of the Act. The 4th section runs in this way—Any person who wilfully and maliciously breaks a contract of service, knowing the consequences of breaking it.That is exactly our case. Am I to be told that a man can break a contract without knowing it? Section 5 says—"Where any person maliciously and wilfully breaks a contract." That Act was passed in 1875. I do not see any Gentlemen now present on the Treasury Bench who assisted in passing that Act; but there are Gentlemen on that Bench who took part in amending it, and who considered, that it was for the interests of the British artizans to insert the words "wilfully and maliciously." Why, then, should we not follow that precedent, and take good Conservative words—some good Primrose language? I fail to see what objection can be taken to them, and especially by the Conservative Party, under the circumstances. I think it is a little too bad for the Conservative Irish Chief Secretary to say that the words of his own Statute do not make the matter more clear.
§ MR. A. COHEN (Southwark, W.)
According to the highest authorities, conspiracy is nothing else than a criminal agreement. The Attorney General for England will assent to that. Then how can you speak of taking part in an agreement? Is not that an absurdity? You can be parties to an agreement; but it is absurd to talk of taking part in an agreement.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I wish to emphasize the fact that I have been compelled to draw up and move this 552 Amendment by the use, on the part of the Government, of language of a novel and untechnical character. When you use language in a Bill which is not in accordance with the rules of grammar, you tell us it is technical language that is clearly understood. Now, I maintain that if the crime is murder, you should say murder; if it is arson, you should say arson—and not taking part in murder, or taking part in arson. In the 4th section, there are some half-a-dozen crimes described in proper and technical language—namely,Murder or manslaughter; attempt to murder; aggravated crime of violence against the person: arson by statute or common law; breaking into, firing at or into, or otherwise assaulting or injuring a dwelling-house.I fail to see why, in this section, the Government should have departed from the use of ordinary and well-established legal language, and say that the words I propose to insert are surplusage. Now, I think it would have been surplusage if I had used the word "conspire," because every lawyer knows that to conspire implies "wilfully and knowingly." The Government have gone out of their way in using words of a novel character—namely, "any person who shall take part in a criminal conspiracy;" and I think we are compelled to step in and see that words so wide in their character are not to be wrested from the meaning it is intended by the Government they should bear. I consider that this is an important Amendment, and that it is not surplusage.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I must say that the silence of the Government is exceedingly ominous. The hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Cohen) has pointed out the extraordinary character of these words, and, as the Government remain silent, we are naturally led to suppose that they have some purpose in retaining words so peculiar, and that they will not condescend to give any expression of their views to the Committee. The words are—"any person who shall take part in a criminal conspiracy;" and as the hon. and learned Member for Southwark has pointed out, those words are simply absurd, unless it is intended to use the clause in an operative way, and in some way which would not have been possible if ordinary language had been used. Let me give this illustration. The Par- 553 liamentary Party to which I belong consists of 86 Members. If one of us were brought up, and the charge were brought home to him of having taken part in a criminal conspiracy, every one of those 86 Members of the Irish Party would be liable to prosecution; and so those who have voted with us would be held to be parties to everything that has been going on in Ireland. There is another matter which occurs to my mind—namely, the fact that everybody connected with a newspaper who may advertise a sale of stock in Ireland under the Plan of Campaign, any person engaged in printing or selling that newspaper, or in working the press in the office, may be held to have taken part in a criminal conspiracy. All we want is that the Government should confine the clause to those who may be actually engaged in a conspiracy. Before we proceed to a Division, I hope I may be allowed to say that the Government are themselves to blame for the length to which this discussion has extended. The discussion of the Amendment has taken quite three times the length it would have taken if the Government had met us, in the first instance, with ordinary courtesy.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 155: Majority 41.—(Div. List, No. 160.)
§ MR. CHANCE
An Amendment in my name stands next on the Paper; but I do not feel inclined to stand in the way of the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), and, therefore, I will not move it.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
In rising to move that the words "take part in any criminal conspiracy" be omitted, for the purpose of inserting the words "conspire by violence or intimidation," I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will be good enough to apply his mind to the reasons I am about to give in favour of the Amendment. I fully recognize the position in which the matter now stands—namely, that certain points have been determined by the Committee in the Votes which have already been taken on this part of the Bill. I am, of course, ready to recognize the fact that the Committee have settled that the inquiry into offences in 554 Section 2 is to take place under Section 1; and also, that on the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) it was decided yesterday, that conspiracy is one of the offences and crimes in regard to which summary jurisdiction may be exercised by the Resident Magistrates. Fully bearing that in mind, I believe that my Amendment is quite in harmony with the decisions which have been arrived at. Considering who the magistrates will be by whom the Bill will have to be administered when it becomes law, it is necessary, for their guidance, to lay down clearly and distinctly, that the conspiracy with which they will have to deal is one of a defined criminal character. I think it is impossible—and I say so with all deference to my hon. and learned Friends on the other side of the Table—it is impossible to defend this clause as it now stands. The first observation I make upon it is, although the discussion has to some extent been anticipated—and I shall avoid as far as I can repeating it—these words—"take part in a criminal conspiracy," are not words, as far as I know, which can be found in any Statute. In dealing with a criminal question, I think we are entitled to know—and the reasonableness of the demand will be recognized—what the Government mean by these words, "take part in a criminal conspiracy," and why they have departed from the use of the usual language in such cases—namely, "shall conspire." In other words, we are entitled to know what is meant to be covered by the words, "take part in a criminal conspiracy," which would not be covered by the words "shall conspire," and if anything is left to be covered by the words "take part in a criminal conspiracy" which would not be covered by the words "shall conspire." Why have they adopted these unusual words? It is not at all an exaggeration to say that undoubtedly these words, "take part in a criminal conspiracy," may, in their construction, be stretched beyond what the Government honestly desire in the legitimate administration of the Act. Is it intended by the use of those unusual words to include not only the offences directly dealt with under this section, but something which does not amount to conspiracy? If the man who "takes part 555 in a criminal conspiracy" is to be the conspirator who conspires, why not say that the section is to apply to persons who "shall conspire." Cases have already been pointed out, and they may be multiplied indefinitely, in which by the use of this language, persons may be said to have taken part in a conspiracy, although in no sense have they really been conspirators. Let me assume a combination among tenants to pay a reduced rent, and that the persons who are combining hold a meeting, and the proceedings at such meeting are reported in the columns of the newspapers. Is it to be said that reporting the meeting is "taking part in a criminal conspiracy," so as to make the newspaper proprietor an accomplice in a conspiracy under this clause. Is it to be said that anybody who takes part in anything which may lead up to a conspiracy is necessarily a conspirator? It is essential that there should be no ambiguity on this point, and we are entitled to have a clear explanation from the Government of the reason which has induced them to depart from the usual language of an Act of Parliament. To illustrate what I mean, let me refer the Committee to the 5th sub-section of this clause—Any person who, by words or acts, shall incite, solicit, encourage, or persuade any other person to commit any of the offences hereinbefore mentioned.So that under that sub-section any person who might incite, solicit, encourage, or persuade, A and B to take part in a criminal conspiracy with C and D, to compel or induce the rest of the letters of the alphabet to do any of the offences mentioned in the Act would be a criminal offender. It is absolutely necessary, if there is to be any real safeguard for the working of the Act, that the words should be much more closely drawn, and the offences proposed to be dealt with more clearly defined than is the case in the clause as it now stands. I wish, however, to make my position clear upon another ground. The Home Secretary, speaking in the debate on the 12th of April, said—This Bill is not directed at combinations among tenants to pay only a reduced rent, provided they do not have recourse to violence or unlawful means."—(3 Hansard,  784.);and later he interrupted the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and said— 556Any combination of tenants in which they agree between themselves to pay a, lower rent, without using any means of coercion on the landlord, would be a lawful, and not a criminal combination."—[Ibid, 798.)If the Government really means that these combinations are only criminal when criminal means are used they ought to alter the first line of this subsection, so as to put the matter beyond doubt. Having called attention to the language of the Home Secretary, lot me refer also to a letter written by Lord Bramwell to one of the newspapers, in which he declares that it is not conspiracy for tenants to agree to act together; that there is no such crime as inciting to do a lawful, and not an illegal act. Yet this Bill is making it a crime to solicit anyone to do what is admitted not to be unlawful in itself. We have had long and learned discussions on the Law of Conspiracy, and I think the conclusion to be derived from those discussions is, that the Law of Conspiracy which exists in this country is of an exceedingly vague and indefinite character. It is hardly too much to say that at one time, according to the current of judicial opinion, anything might have been called a criminal conspiracy which any Judge chose to regard as morally, socially, or politically wrong. The safeguard was that it did not depend upon the Judge to determine whether or not there was guilt under a charge of conspiracy, because in the administration of the Law of Conspiracy the functions of the jury always came in as a protection and a defence against Judge-made law on the subject. But that is a protection and a defence which the Government, by their present scheme, are taking away, and they are leaving the Law of Conspiracy, admittedly vague, to be dealt with by a tribunal in which we have had ample proof, in the course of this discussion, no great amount of faith can be reposed, and which will be drawn mainly from a class adverse to the class against which the provisions of the Bill are to be directed, and a class of men who have no right to be considered lawyers equal to the task of discriminating nice questions of law. Therefore, we ought to make the law clear and plain, and that is the object of the Amendment I am about to propose. It is no answer to my Amendment for the Government to say that they do not pro- 557 pose in this Bill to codify the Law of Conspiracy. I do not ask them to codify the Law of Conspiracy; I leave the general Law of Conspiracy to be dealt with by the ordinary law and the ordinary tribunals. Ail I ask by the Amendment is to restrict the exercise of this summary jurisdiction which you are giving to this tribunal to cases of conspiracy which are clear, unmistakable, and criminal in their character. Therefore, I am not answered by the objection urged the other night by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, that I am asking the Government to codify the Law of Conspiracy. There is another matter in regard to the vagueness of this clause of the Bill—namely, the use of the word "criminal" as it is used in the context. I submit, with great confidence, that the word "criminal" as it stands in the section has no force whatever greater than the section would have if that word had been omitted. The section begins by saying—"Any person who shall commit any of the following offences," and omitting the word "criminal," it proceeds to say—"Any person who shall take part in any conspiracy," and so on. If the word "criminal" were not used the Legislature would show that it in-tends to treat as offences under this section the doing of the particular matters which are specified, and the matter is not substantially improved by the Amendment of the Attorney General—No. 25—by which he seeks to introduce the words "any criminal conspiracy now punishable by law." What guide would that be to the uninformed tribunal which is to administer this section as to matters upon which there may be a serious difference of opinion? In my opinion, it is not possible to formulate any judgment on the Law of Conspiracy much closer than that which I have ventured to suggest, and the interpretation of the law will depend very much upon the mind of the Judges of the particular tribunals who will have to administer it. But I will point out to the Committee some further reasons why it seems to me to be important in the matter whether there ought to be this distinction. The whole tendency of the legislative efforts of successive Governments has been to get rid of the present vague and indefinite state of the law which goes under the general designa- 558 tion of the Common Law of Conspiracy; and my hon. and learned Friends will remember that upon the Commission on which some of the most distinguished Judges sat, including Mr. Justice Stephen, Lord Blackburn, Lord Justice Barry, and Mr. Justice Lush, the Commission sought to limit the Law of Conspiracy to certain definite subject-matter which they specified under various heads, and to remove entirely from the law that reference to the Common Law of Conspiracy which is now, under general words, introduced again in so insidious and dangerous a form. In their Report, the Commissioners go the length of saying—We have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of recommending that conspiracy (amongst other crimes) should no longer he indictable at Common Law, and the principal statutory conspiracies provided for wore "—I direct the attention of the Committee to this because it gives an exhaustive enumeration of criminal conspiracies—treasonable seditions to bring false accusations to defraud and to commit indictable offences.When Sir John Holker brought in his Bill it was framed on the lines of the recommendations of the Criminal Code Commission; but I do not find in the wide which he proposed any such provision as this—To compel or induce any person or persons either not to fulfil his or their legal obligations, or not to let, hire, use, or occupy any land, or not to deal with, work for, or hire any person or persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation, or to interfere with the administration of the law.There is no such category contained in Sir John Holker's Code under the head of "Conspiracy." The Amendment I now propose to the Committee will, if adopted, make the clause read—"Any person who shall conspire by violence or intimidation to compel or induce any of the things specified in the clause to be done." I wish to know what reasonable objection can be urged to that Amendment? What is the offence that is criminal in its character which is not covered by those words? What criminal conspiracy is not included in the words "any person who shall conspire by violence or intimidation" to do certain things. I had not the pleasure of bearing the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General the other 559 day, but I have read it. It was delivered in connection "with another clause, in regard to which I conceive that the discussion was a little premature. I believe that you, Mr. Courtney, gave an intimation to that effect, and, if I may say so, I quite agree with you. My hon. and learned Friend was pressed to say if the object of the clause was not covered by my words. What was his answer? He made this strained suggestion—that there might be a case of putting pressure upon a man to compel him to do or not to do a thing—such as a combination to injure and defame. Is my hon. and learned Friend able to say that that is a common offence? Certainly, we have no evidence of its existence in Ireland. I do not recollect a single case in my life in which a charge of conspiring to injure and defame has ever been tried. Therefore, if my hon. and learned Friend has nothing further to say than that, I think he has given no answer at all to my Amendment. I submit that if any such cases should arise, it would be only right and proper to leave them to be dealt with by the ordinary law, and not to be dealt with by a tribunal with summary jurisdiction. I again wish to impress on the Committee that I am not seeking to have anything declared to be no offence, which according to law is an offence; but I wish to have it shown in unmistakable language that what the Legislature means in giving this power to the Irish Resident Magistrates is to give them power to deal with conspiracies which are conspiracies by violence or intimidation to coerce persons to do or not to do certain things. These are the reasons which induce me to think that the Amendment is one which ought to be accepted by the Government, and all the more, because of the character of the tribunal to which this jurisdiction is remitted, and because the Government have professed to the House that they intend to put down real crime only. I say that the clause, as it stands, goes far beyond that; that the language in which it is couched is imperfect, indefinite, incomplete, and objectionable; that it gives power to the Resident Magistrates which they ought not to have, and it makes use of language which is easily capable of being misconstrued. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice.
In page; 2, line 17, leave out the words "take part in any criminal conspiracy," and insert the words "conspire by violence or intimidation."—[Sir Charles Russell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
My hon. and learned Friend complains of the words "take part in any criminal conspiracy." I do not agree with him that this language is untechnical. The reason why that language is adopted is because the Government are of opinion, rightly or wrongly, that it correctly expresses what is the legal effect of the acts which constitute conspiracy. I pointed out the other night that it was not only the conspiracy or agreeing; which was important in relation to this matter, but that it was the intent, purpose, and means by which it was proposed to carry out the agreement, and that some of these matters will have to be considered as questions of fact, and not as questions of law, when you are dealing with the question of criminal conspiracy. My hon. and learned Friend says that the word "criminal," inserted in the Bill, means nothing, and he says, also, that I mean nothing by the Amendment which I have proposed, the words of which are "any criminal conspiracy now punishable by law." [Sir CHARLES RUSSELL: I said it was too vague.] If my hon. Friend had waited, I think I should have, in another instant, have made my meaning clear. I will point out again to the Committee why these words were inserted. We have argued over and over again that there are combinations or conspiracies which are not unnecessarily unlawful or criminal; and we consider it desirable that on the face of the section, especially when we are transferring the jurisdiction to a new tribunal, we should indicate that we do mean conspiracies of a criminal character, and not combinations which, although they might be objectionable—such, for instance, as that to which I referred the other night—are still not criminal in their character. Therefore, we thought, and still think, that the word "criminal" is operative and effective. What I propose to do is this. It is suggested that you would be able to treat things as conspiracies 561 which would not now be regarded as conspiracies, owing to altered circumstances. It was for the purpose of meeting that objection that the words are to be introduced "punishable by law." I am surprised that it should be imagined that the words in Sub-section 5 can be construed as inciting to do a lawful thing; the simple object of the words is to enable an accessory to be dealt with, and it was in no way with the object of making anything unlawful which was otherwise lawful that these words are introduced. There is a further argument of my hon. and learned Friend which I wish to deal with. He said you ought to lay down some strict definition of conspiracy, because you are going to transfer the jurisdiction from the jury to the magistrate, and because you are taking away the safeguard of the jury. I am aware that this is an important matter; but will the Committee for a moment consider what the real safeguard of the jury is? The only ground on which this could be suggested is that the Resident Magistrates would not be as good judges of facts as the jury are; but it is not that the jury are competent lawyers, but that they are considered to be good judges of facts, and of the intent or purpose with which an act is done. That, I think, might be left to the Resident Magistrate, because you say we are taking it out of the region of inference of law. I assume that the Resident Magistrates do their duty, and that they are not corrupt or partial, but honest men. Then, I say, that they are as good judges of fact, and even bettor, than the highest skilled and trained lawyers, although they do not know so much of the law. I submit that the very criticism against the removal from juries which the hon. and learned Gentleman has brought forward is an argument in favour of the transfer to the jurisdiction of the Resident Magistrates. My hon. and learned Friend says you will find nothing in the Criminal Code which contemplates such a distinction as this with regard to conspiracy. My hon. and learned Friend read out somewhat hurriedly an enumeration of the different kinds of conspiracy, but I think I caught the words "conspiracy to commit an indictable offence." I believe those words wore there, and if so, I say that is not a narrow definition of the Law of Conspiracy; 562 it is a net spread as wide as it can be spread. My objection to the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend is not an argument drawn from any Act of Parliament; it is that it narrows the offence to a degree to which it ought not to be narrowed. I want to know why a conspiracy "by fraud'' to compel people to do these acts should not be an indictable offence? If I put in "by fraud," it might immediately be said that we are endeavouring, for the purposes of this Bill, to codify what is criminal conspiracy; and I protest that it would be unwise to insert in this Bill the particular acts which are to constitute criminal conspiracy. There are a great variety of cases outside the words "violence or intimidation" which may have to be dealt with under this section; and to accept the Amendment would be to lot go free many conspiracies which we are endeavouring to put an end to. For these reasons, it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to accept the Amendment.
MR. J. B. BALFOUR&c.) (Clackmannan,
It is, I think, impossible to exaggerate the importance of this question, although it may, perhaps, appear dry and technical. We are now upon a clause dealing with the matter of summary jurisdiction, and the proposal is to amend it by the substitution of certain words. With regard to what the hon. and learned Attorney General said on the subject of conspiracy to defraud, I believe that all such cases in Scotland have been dealt with by the ordinary law and the ordinary tribunals; and I am quite sure that it is not for the purpose of striking at any such thing that this Bill is brought in, or that it is proposed to establish summary jurisdiction. I think the Attorney General admitted that, to take part in a conspiracy, was simply to conspire, and that to conspire was to agree to do an unlawful thing. If that is so, why do not the Government accept the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, and say "conspire." I think that if the words proposed by my hon. and learned Friend were introduced, no one would suppose that something wider was intended; but if the Bill is allowed to remain as it now stands, the Resident Magistrates might be persuaded that a person who had been concerned otherwise than as an agreeing party should be got at under 563 this clause. If the words "take part in" are intended in the proper sense of take part as a party, then, I say, use the word "conspire." It is the danger I have referred to, and which we think exists in the Bill, that makes it right that the words in question should be struck out; and even if the Attorney General is satisfied that nothing more than the words "take part in" should be struck out, the Government ought, I think, to accept the word "conspire." Now, that is the first point which is involved in the Amendment. The next point is the use of the word "criminal." This has been made the subject of discussion already, and I do not propose to go farther into it; but if the word "criminal" is intended to have any efficacy, it should be made clear what that efficacy is, because I apprehend that nothing can be more dangerous than to put before an unskilled tribunal such a word as "criminal" to characterize things which are not in themselves crimes. It is customary in Scotch indictments to use the words "wickedly and feloniously;" but it is held that these are words of style, and that the use of them does not make the thing described by them a "crime," unless it is so apart from the use of these words. If the word which we are considering is only a word of style, and not intended to make a thing criminal which is not in itself criminal, then it ought to be struck out; but if it is meant to characterize as criminal something that was not so before, then, I say, there ought to be some definition of what makes it criminal. If things are to be made crimes which are not in their essence criminal, then you should say so; but, in that case, the words ought not to be used. Again, if what is meant is only to characterize the thing as criminal, if done by criminal means, we ought to know what these means are, and what my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment proposes is that the clause should tell us the means, so that a magistrate may know whether an act is done by means which are illegal or not. This is a matter of great importance, and it is particularly so in view of the kind of tribunal by which the Bill will be administered. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South 564 Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), endeavoured to deal with the argument that an Act which might be safely administered by a higher tribunal, and a jury, might not be so safe if administered by Resident Magistrates. I understand the Attorney General to say that the value of a jury consists in this—that the jury is a good judge of fact, although it might not be a good judge of law, and that the Resident Magistrates of Ireland are to be assimilated to a jury on account of their ability to judge of facts, although not of law. I do not suppose that anyone would say that an average jury is so good a judge of fact, pure and simple, as a Judge; but then a jury brings in other elements, one of which is a common-sense way of looking at things. The great complaint with reference to Resident Magistrates is that they would not introduce into the administration of the Criminal Law the mitigating and commonsense elements which the jury introduce; but, on the contrary, they would add a new terror to it. I say, therefore, when you are confiding a novel jurisdiction to novel administrators, you ought to give these administrators the clearest instructions as to what they have to do. I believe there is no offence known to the Criminal Law surrounded by so much difficulty and delicacy as that which is called conspiracy. If the question is whether a man has picked a pocket or committed an assault, there is no delicacy about that; but when you are considering whether he is guilty of conspiracy, that is to say, whether he has conspired to do something unlawful, you get into a very delicate region. Therefore, when you have to deal with so subtle a matter as you may have to deal with under this clause, there ought to be no doubt left either as to the character of the acts intended to be struck at, or as to the means by which they are to be reached. For these reasons, I shall support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, as the only available safeguard in this very special and difficult matter.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Hackney involves two distinct points; first, there is the point, which has been to some extent already discussed, as to what is the effect of using the words "take part in," as distinguished from the technical term 565 "conspire;" and the second point is, what is the meaning to be attached to the word "criminal." If the Government mean that to "take part in a criminal conspiracy" is the same as "conspiracy," I ask whether they should not put that meaning into the Bill? If they really mean that these words are to be read in this way, that they only apply to persons who are parties to a criminal conspiracy, then there is no great difference between and "criminally conspiring." The terms are practically synonymous, and, therefore, there can be no reason why the Amendment should not be adopted. But I do urge upon the Government not to leave the clause in its present form. It is all very well for hon. and learned Gentlemen to get up and say what they intend to do; but there is the greatest reason to suppose that the Resident Magistrates will be very far from accepting the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. My opinion is, that the clause, as at present constructed, will allow innocent persons to be convicted. The Government say that they have no desire to have the clause construed so as to affect innocent persons; but where you have a Resident Magistrate administering the clause, he may come to the conclusion that, in certain cases, he might convict persons who have no guilty knowledge in the matter. It was that which I had in view when I moved an Amendment to a former subsection; but, of course, I do not wish to go back to that. I say that if the Government intend that the section should be limited in the manner pointed out by the Attorney General for England, I think they should not confine their intentions to mere expressions in this House, but embody them in unambiguous words in the clause itself. We then come to the argument turning on the word "criminal," and it appears to me that on this point the contention of the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) is simply unanswerable. He said that the word "criminal" is used in one of two ways; it is used either with the object of making acts criminal which have been regarded hitherto as innocent, or it is used as a definition. If the word is used in the first sense, I cannot imagine any more serious act on the part of the Government than to come down to the House and seek to 566 introduce so great a change by this means. If the Government wished to make certain combinations illegal, and to make it illegal to combine under any circumstances, then I say that they are bound to express their intention by distinct and express enactment, and should not attempt to make so great a change in the law by the mere introduction of an adjective into this Bill. I say it is clear that by the use of this word the Government intend to effect a great change in the law. I am content to believe they do not mean to do anything with regard to the Bill in an equivocal sense; but then we are driven on to the second horn of the dilemma of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Lord Advocate. If the word is used as a definition, then I can imagine no worse mode of drafting a Bill, and the remedy for that loose draftsmanship is that pointed out by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell). If the Government mean to draw a distinction between criminal conspiracies and conspiracies that are not criminal, they should select the form of combination which they wish to strike at, and expressly define what that form of combination is. Let them tell us what is the particular species of conspiracy which they consider criminal, and then we shall be prepared to discuss the matter on more equal terms. The Amendment before the Committee attempts a definition of this kind; it limits the species of criminal conspiracies which can be struck at under this clause to the overt acts pointed at in this clause. Now, if the definition of threats and intimidation is not sufficiently wide, let them tell us what it is they mean to strike at. This is a perfectly clear demand, and I think it is one to which we should have some answer further than that which has been given by the Attorney General. The Attorney General for England has suggested the word "fraud," and if the Government want to introduce that, I do not suppose there will be any strong objection to their doing so. At any rate, if they wish the wording of the clause extended, let them extend it, provided that they, in some manner, define what is the class of conspiracies at which they want to strike. There has been a considerable amount of argument on this word "criminal," and 567 if the Irish Resident Magistrates are in the same state of doubt and difficulty on the subject as has hitherto prevailed on the two Front Benches, I imagine they will have rather a distressing time of it. But, for my part, I think there has been some confusion in this matter. It has been put forward that the words "criminal conspiracy" has no more meaning than the words "criminal arson" or "criminal burglary," and the Attorney General replied to that by referring to a book on the subject. My view is that there ought to be no difference of opinion about the matter. It is true that in. speaking of conspiracy lawyers have more or less used the phrase "criminal conspiracy" instead of stating what the criminality is; but it does not follow that the superfluous words have no meaning. Lawyers have used the words "criminal conspiracy," but, so far as I am able to judge, the word "conspiracy" is never used to apply to innocent combinations; and if the word "criminal conspiracy" are only used where conspiracy is meant, I say that the words have, in my judgment, no force in themselves. There are no such offences as criminal and uncriminal conspiracy in practice, whatever the theory may be. The term "criminal conspiracy" does not enable anyone to discriminate between certain classes of combinations, and say this is criminal and this is not criminal; and, therefore, unless the Government wish to introduce an enormous difficulty in the construing of this clause, they are bound to define to what class of conspiracy they refer, and not content themselves with standing on the words of the Bill. That brings us to the consideration of the question as to what classes of conspiracies are to be included in this clause; and on that point it seems to me that the Government, on their own case, are not entitled to any larger scope in the section than that pointed out in the Amendment. Their case is that intimidation prevails in Ireland, and that the tenants are compelled to enter into conspiracy to Boycott people in order to induce them not to pay rent. That is their whole case as stated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who said that such a state of intimidation prevailed that persons in Ireland are compelled to go into conspiracies to induce 568 others by Boycotting not to hire or take land. That being the mischief which they say is struck at by this clause, I am of opinion that the House of Commons will be doing wisely in limiting the remedy proposed to be applied to the particular mischief of the section.
MR. R. T. REID&c) (Dumfries,
I do not expect to be able to make any impression on the Government, because I am afraid that in respect of all the clauses of the Bill they will decline to listen to any Amendment; but I rise to express my adherence to the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), and to say that I regard this as a very dangerous clause, and one which ought to be amended. The first objection I have is that the words are used—"any person who shall take part in any criminal conspiracy." Now, the argument has already been put forward by my hon. and learned Friend; but I observed that the Attorney General, in answering him, did not attempt to deny the accuracy of his statements. The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that taking part in a criminal conspiracy might be the same thing as conspiring. The Attorney General said it was the same thing, but he declined to go further and say why, if the two things are similar, the Government decline to leave out the words "take part in." I should like to ask the hon. and learned Attorney General why he insists upon using those words instead of the simple word ''conspire?" And again, to repeat what was said by the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney, will he give us any authority to show that those words have been used before? There might be a conspiracy—for example, a combination to commit murder like the Ku Klux conspiracy—and there might be many degrees of guilt or innocence in those who took part in it. A man who conspires would have been one of the persons actually taking part in a combination for the commission of murder; but a man who takes part in a criminal conspiracy may be one who takes part in something quite different. There are, as I have said, many degrees of guilt, and using language of this kind, which is not legal language, might lead the Resident Magistrate to say that, although that man had not conspired, he, nevertheless, took part in that which 569 is conspiracy for the commission of an offence; and therefore I hope the Attorney General will explain why it is we are not to have the word "conspire," instead of the words "taking part in a criminal conspiracy." I will now turn to another point mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend which was was met by the Attorney General for England. My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that it was exceedingly important to define the particular kind of conspiracies which were to be determined by the Resident Magistrate, and the Attorney General said that the Law of Conspiracy is very difficult of definition. It is so difficult that I believe those on the two Front Benches will not be able to define in what conspiracy consists. If that is so, I think the Government should determine what is the nature of the offence aimed at by this section, and curiously enough they have attempted to do so—it is not persons who conspire not to perform their legal obligations, but those who conspire to make others not perform their legal obligations. He would be a bold man indeed who should endeavour to codify the law with respect to conspiracy, and I should be sorry to take any part in an attempt to do so. The answer of the Attorney General for England to this Amendment is a very short one. He said it is quite true you are asking us to define conspiracy; but what are the reasons why you ask us to do that? The reason you put forward is that the safeguard of the jury is withdrawn, and it is perfectly true that the safeguard of the jury is of exceeding great importance, because whether the offence is punishable or not, it is a mixed question of law and fact. But the Attorney General seems to think that we have an excellent substitute for the jury in the Resident Magistrates, who, he says, are excellent judges of fact. I ask why, if they are excellent judges of fact in the delicate case of conspiracy, they should not be made judges of fact in England. Scotland, and Wales? But the truth is, a safeguard is required, not because we are disposed to impeach the integrity of those gentlemen, but be-cause we do not think they are in touch with the people of the country, which is that which makes trial by jury so valuable elsewhere. If it is true that the words ''take part in criminal conspiracy'' are dangerous, and that danger is not 570 removed by the Attorney General placing on the Paper an Amendment to say that the conspiracy contemplated here must be a conspiracy now punishable by law, because, in the case of innocent agents, there is no protection, unless you extend to them that protection which you refuse to extend to them, by inserting such words as "wilful," or "knowingly." It is that which makes this clause so formidable. Therefore, I say, do let us try to get rid of the danger of employing empty, vague, and general language in this clause. The last part of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend has the words "conspire by violence and intimidation." No doubt violence and intimidation are two really formidable methods by which conspiracy is carried out. But conspiracy might be carried out by persuasion, and that is not the sort of thing which ought to be struck at by exceptional legislation, nor the kind of thing which is dangerous to anyone. Therefore, I ask that there may be a definition here, and it would be almost bettor to have any definition than to have none. If the words which the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney proposes are not sufficiently wide, let the Government suggest others if they will, but do not leave the clause undefined and doubtful in character in reference to an offence which is difficult and impossible of definition. I ask the Attorney General again why the words "taking part in a criminal conspiracy" are put into this clause, and why he will not define those particular phases of offence which it appears are to be submitted to summary jurisdiction.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The first point of the hon. Member opposite is that we have used the words "take part in a criminal conspiracy" instead of the word "conspire;" and in the next place, he asks me to de-fine the nature of the conspiracies which are to be submitted to summary jurisdiction. I do not regard the words used as contrasted with the word "conspire" as anything more than a choice of expression. I am aware that the words "unlawful combination" sometimes occur; but with a large experience in the administration of the Criminal Law, I am of opinion that an indictment would be perfectly good in the words we have made use of. As I have said, the 571 words in the clause "take part in a criminal conspiracy" and the word "conspire" mean precisely the same thing; and as far as our knowledge of the law goes, make no difference whatever. The hon. and learned Gentleman has argued that a conspiracy is a thing criminal in itself, and that it was absurd to speak of "criminal conspiracy," as it would be to speak of criminal burglary or criminal arson. I do not agree with that. I find that the words "conspiracy" and "combination" are interchangeable in Acts of Parliament. We all know very well that there are innocent combinations and criminal combinations—innocent conspiracies and criminal conspiracies. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have charged us sometimes with taking part in a conspiracy of silence, and in doing so, I presume the charge made against us is not of an indictable character; and we, on the other hand, have sometimes retorted that there was on their side a conspiracy to talk, but I would not mean by that they were engaged in a criminal act. It is for the purpose, of removing the doubt which might exist in some minds, that the Attorney General for England has put down the words "punishable by law." The hon. and learned Member asks us to define the offence which is to be submitted to summary jurisdiction; but the subject is too wide for definition, and were we to attempt to do so, we should fall into the very vice which the hon. and learned Member has referred to. The intention of the Government is that where there is an unlawful object aimed at by conspiracy, the conspiracy to get that object will be the offence dealt with summarily under this Act.
MR. J. SHIRESS WILL&c.) (Montrose,
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has, I venture to think, not given us any further information upon the point which we say must, if possible, be cleared up before these powers are entrusted to Resident Magistrates. Now, a great difficulty is felt over the word "criminal." What is the answer the Attorney General for Ireland, in his able argument, has given? His answer is that it is necessary to have that word, and the reason which he assigns is this—in order that all conspiracies that are now punishable should be punishable under this clause. Unfortunately, this power is to be given to a 572 tribunal the most unfitted in the world for defining conspiracy. Surely, according to the conviction of hon. Gentlemen opposite, these offences have gone on long enough in Ireland to enable them to make up their minds what are the conspiracies which are being committed in Ireland. It is said it is difficult to define or codify the Law of Conspiracy. I agree. I do not think it is so impossible, but I agree it is difficult. But the particular kinds of conspiracies and offences which have been occurring, and are said to be now occurring in Ireland, are surely by this time known, and can be defined. Well, why is it that the definition is avoided? Surely it is not at all desirable that these gentlemen—whom I will not again describe, because, however honourable they may be, it is already shown they are totally unfit for finding out the niceties and intricacies of so refined a law as the Law of Conspiracy, a law which, puzzles Judges, counsel, and juries, and which, even now, according to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, it is impossible to accurately and definitely explain—surely it is very undesirable that these gentlemen should be left to construe an Act of Parliament of this kind—I mean without any guide being given to them as to what it is that you desire to draw within the purview of this clause. Well now, under this clause, some of these gentlemen who are not lawyers may take the view pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid), that is, that if a man simply posts a letter which contains a conspiracy he takes part part in the conspiracy. It is quite possible that these learned or unlearned ex-Majors and Captains of the Army will be guided by policemen, who may say to them—"Sir, I assure you that the prisoner did take part in this conspiracy, for he carried the conspiracy to the Post Office." Evidently that is not intended. Now, let us see what is intended. Suppose that there should be an eviction, or a series of evictions, in a particular district. Examples of the cruelty of evictions have been often in the course of this Session brought before the House. Well, Sir, suppose that where some of these evictions occurred, the people are so shocked at what has taken place that they agree with one accord that no man 573 ought to tender for or hire a certain piece of land. Will that of itself be conspiracy; will it be sufficient to be a criminal conspiracy, if it comes into a Criminal Court? All this vagueness is left to the gentlemen who are to decide upon this clause. Now, let us go one step further, and see whether it is absolutely necessary this crime should be strictly defined. I do not say that conspiracy should be absolutely codified, but that it should be more defined. By this Amendment it is proposed to take out the words "take part in any criminal conspiracy," and insert "conspire by violence or intimidation." Now, it is clear, except to those who will not see, that if a man conspires by violence and if he conspires by intimidation, that is unlawful; but do Gentlemen opposite say that you may unlawfully conspire without using any violence or any intimidation? ["Yes!"] Then how—we want to know how? Over and over again we find that ordinary Acts of Parliament are passed without proper definitions, and with an imperfect laying down of what the intention of the Legislature is. What is the consequence? Infinite delay, very great expense, over and over again clients are nearly ruined, and over and over again learned Judges complain that the Legislature has been lax in not strictly defining their intention. If that be so in civil matters, surely, when you are creating crime, creating punishment for crime, and over and above this, giving the power of summary jurisdiction to such men as the Irish Resident Magistrates, it is essentially necessary that some more careful definition should be attempted, Now, Sir, the difficulty of defining conspiracy under the Common Law is that the Common Law is a thing which has grown up under the administration of learned Judges for a long time, and that learned Judges have applied to new circumstances what they conceive to be old principles of law. But they are just as liable to be wrong in that application as to be wrong in any decision which they may honestly and ably give every day of their lives, and upon which they are every day corrected by Courts of Appeal and by the House of Lords. Therefore, without, in any degree, impugning the ability or the wisdom of the learned Judges, mistakes are inevitably liable to occur; and when this Legislature is asked to recognize this 574 fine Judge-made and Judge explained Law of Conspiracy—which has gone the length of saying some things which many of us think contrary to sense—I think it is time to pause and adopt the course which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell)has suggested. Forinstance, it is held that each of two men may do a thing singly and their action may be perfectly lawful, yet if they co-operate to do the same thing their action will be held to be a criminal conspiracy. When such a doctrine is laid down, and the Legislature is asked to confirm such a doctrine, and at the same time to set aside the ordinary law and the ordinary tribunal, which is a jury, and to relegate matters to persons unlearned and unversed in the law, I think it is time to consider seriously the proposal of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Charles Russell). Now, let us see how fair this proposition is. My hon. and learned Friend does not propose to interfere in any respect with any Judge-made law, or any Law of Conspiracy which stands. Whatever law there is at present in this country, or in Ireland or Scotland, that law will continue. A man will have to be indicted—he will have to be tried before a learned Judge, and he will have to be tried before a jury. It is impossible to blink the fact that juries over and over again will not accept from learned Judges any law which is contrary to their feelings of justice and common sense. Over and over again they have, contrary to judicial guidance, strained a point in favour of a prisoner in order to bring him in not guilty, because from their view the law, as laid down by the Judge, has been contrary to their sense of right and justice. That safeguard is to be taken away, and therefore it is extremely advisable that the definition proposed by my hon. and learned Friend should be made. Now, if it be a matter so plain to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), let him toll us this—if there be any conspiracy in Ireland known among the Irish nation proper to be put down under this Bill which does not come within the scope of the words "conspiracy by violence or conspiracy by intimidation." let him tell us what it is. It will not do to tell us it is conspiracy not to hire a man's land—or for two or more to interchange their purpose not 575 to hire the land, and their opinion that ti ought not to be hired—because, that by itself, is no offence. If my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General had ever so many fine estates, and I and those who sit around me declined to take any of them, he surely would not construe our action into a breach of the law. Surely it would not be contended that it is an offence for a man to say—"I will not deal with So-and-so and I will not work with So-and-so," and for his neighbour to say, "That is my own view too." I want to know what are the circumstances and the nature of the violence or intimidation which will make perfectly lawful acts unlawful. I trust that some responsible person on the Government Bench should say why it is that, short of codifying the law, some attempt cannot be made to define what they mean and intend by conspiracy under the particular circumstances of this Bill.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. Shiress Will) and other hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway who have spoken on this Amendment have very greatly relieved Irish Members. Only one of my Colleagues (Mr. Maurice Healy) has as yet spoken upon this Amendment, and he spoke at a time when very few hon. Members were present. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. Shiress Will) has referred to the character of conspiracy. We on these Benches have never heard of any complaint in Ireland except against conspiracy accompanied by violence and intimidation—the warmest newspaper opposed to us has never mentioned any other kind of criminal conspiracy. It is quite impossible to apply to many of the combinations which now exist the definitions of conspiracy which have come down from times when other and very different combinations were in the minds of the men who made the definitions. The habit of men combining together or working together in various forms has become an acknowledged fact in these days; but it is impossible to conceive the application of the old definitions of conspiracy to such combinations. There is not the slightest doubt that what the Government really desire is to secure to the landlords of Ireland their rents. They aim at the combinations which the tenants have formed to resist 576 the excessive rents; but why not attempt to put down conspiracies on the part of landlords to make men take their farms and to work with persons they have an objection to work with? Why should a man pay his rent before he pays any other debt he owes? We have got at the naked truth, and got it out of the mouth of a responsible Member of the Irish Executive, that the object of this clause is not to deal with conspiracy as conspiracy, but to deal with tenants as against landlords. At one moment I thought the Attorney General for Ireland was going to say he did not agree with the Attorney General for England in his definition or explanation of the words "take part in." The right hon. and learned Gentleman said these words mean "engage in;" but the Attorney General for England said they mean "party to an agreement." Any person who is acquainted with the English language must admit that the words "any person who shall take part in" mean that a person must take an active or principal part in an act. The effect of the unanswerable arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) has been to make it clear that the Government mean "to conspire;" but they will not say so. Why are we so anxious to call attention to the words "take part in?" Because it is now plain that it is the means or the weapons used in the alleged conspiracy which are to be left to the discretion of the magistrate—this functionary is to declare whether the means are legal or illegal. A man may agree with the object and disagree with the means, or he may agree with part of one and part of the other, and yet he may be held to "take part in" the conspiracy. Those words, I am sure, have not been framed by a lawyer, but have been sent over from Ireland by men who have a distinct object in framing the clause in this way. Now, if proof is given to a Resident Magistrate that the tenants on a certain estate are backward with their rent, and one man is suspected to be the leader of the tenants in the revolt against exorbitant rents, that man will undoubtedly have the torture of the first section applied to him. He will say—"I did not pay my rent." And then it will be said—"You are taking part in a conspiracy." He will be punished for a perfectly legal act—an act he is quite at 577 liberty to do. Let me cite another case. It is well known that in Ulster many farms have been for 12 and 15 years left vacant, rather than that the Ulster Tenant Eight Custom should be broken. The farm next to mine may be vacant. It may be a very desirable farm to have; but I do not care to take it; and it is not taken by anyone else. It is very likely to be held that there is a conspiracy not to take the farm, and that I am taking part in it. If tenants do not do exactly as landlords wish them, they will assuredly be held to be guilty of conspiracy. It is quite evident that the Government are bringing in this Bill for the purpose of compelling men to pay in full rents which it is impossible for them to pay, consistently with the times that we live in. I think the Committee has a right to insist upon some further explanation why these very extraordinary words are used, and why we are not to revert to the ordinary technical words which have been always used in criminal Statutes to define offences.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) stated, in reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid), that this is a mere question of choice of words—a mere question of the choice between the words "take part in a criminal conspiracy" and "conspire." We often hear complaints about our debates being prolonged for useless purposes; but I never heard a more singular example of the prolongation of debate than that afforded by the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland, This debate has now proceeded for an hour and a-half over what the right hon. and learned Gentleman calls a mere choice of expression. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes; prolonged by the Members of the Government. They admit that the words, "take part in a criminal conspiracy," are precisely the same in meaning and intent as "conspire;" but they are prepared to prolong the debate rather than to consent to substitute for the words, "take part in a criminal conspiracy," the simple word "conspire." I suppose that they are quite prepared to debate the question for another hour and a-half, rather than to give in to the Opposition. They have refused to answer the question put to 578 them by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. T. Reid). The Attorney General for Ireland rose with the express intention of answering the hon. and learned Gentleman frankly; but the Committee will bear in mind that from the beginning to the end of his speech he never gave a trace of an answer to the question why he prefers the words "take part in a criminal conspiracy" to "conspire." We know the reason perfectly well. we know perfectly well that it is in order to include, under the section, several offences which are not offences according to law, but are simply offences in the eyes of the landlord or the minions of Dublin Castle—to include offences which regular Courts of Law would not tolerate being brought before them. The Government are asked why they do not define the word "conspiracy "—they are ready enough to define other terms under the section. At the end of the Bill they indulge in several definitions; they define the words "Lord Lieutenant;" they define the most simple expressions that can possibly be thought of. They define, as I say, the words "Lord Lieutenant;" they define "county;" they define the words "Court of Assize;" they define the expression "Attorney General;" they define the words "writ of possession;" they define what is an aggravated crime of violence against a person; they define the word "intimidation;" and they define the words "the Whiteboy Acts." But one thing at which they stop is a definition of the very elastic word "conspiracy;" that is a very suspicious circumstance. The explanation is that hitherto the Government and the landlords have been saying things have been done in Ireland by intimidation which were not done by intimidation at all, and that if they were compelled to go into Court to prove that things had been done by intimidation it would soon be found that the charge was unfounded. The result is that they bring in a Bill framed in such a manner that they need not prove a legal offence at all, but simply leave it to the discretion of magistrates, who are neither learned nor fair, to define whether offences have been committed or not. It seems to me that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) gave up the whole case, because he said 579 in his speech—"If we assume that the Resident Magistrates in Ireland are unfit to discharge these delicate duties I admit this clause is badly framed." The hon. and learned Gentleman assumed that the Resident Magistrates of Ireland are fit to discharge these duties. Our assumption is that they are utterly unfit—our assumption is that they are not only incapacitated from discharging these duties from want of legal knowledge, but that they are a set of partizans; and my personal conviction is, judging from all I have heard of them, that not only are they partizans, but they are corrupt. Our belief, founded on experience, is that these Resident Magistrates are capable of being bribed, and have been bribed. No kind of bribery is more common than rewards for special services. The Resident Magistrates who, in the past, have been most active in the oppression of the people are precisely the Resident Magistrates who have been promoted; and there is not the least doubt in the world that under this Act the Resident Magistrate who shows himself most zealous in giving the widest possible interpretation to this Act, and in gathering into his net the greatest possible number of Nationalists, will receive the greatest bribe in the shape of reward and promotion. Sir, we have now had several successive illustrations of the real meaning of this Act. The real intention of the promoters of this Act is not to put down crime and outrage, but to put down political and social combination; and that, I am sure, the English people are begining to understand. It is impossible any longer to conceive that the object aimed at in this Act is simply and solely to put down crime and punish criminals, an object we do not object to, an object we would help them in accomplishing, because crime is not an advantage to us, as has been clearly shown at various elections. The Home Rule majority at the election yesterday would probably have been much greater if these charges of crime and outrage had not been repeated by Liberal Unionists and others. This Bill is not brought in to put down crime and punish criminals, but to put down political combination. That is the evident object of this Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I do not rise for the purpose of prolong- 580 ing this debate, but, as far as I can, of contributing to the conclusion of it. I think the opinion that we entertain upon this side of the House is that, as far as argument has gone, we have not had the worst of it. We are very willing that the judgment should be taken upon, that argument. Now, there is one point in this discussion which, I think, ought to be made perfectly clear. The Government, from the earliest time when this matter was brought into debate, have rested upon their phrase "criminal conspiracy." Now, at the very earliest period, I challenged the Law Officers of the Government to show any example in which, in any Statute or in any indictment, the words "criminal conspiracy" appear. They have failed to meet that challenge. They cannot show that the words "criminal conspiracy" is a phrase known to the law, to which any definite meaning can be attached according to any interpretation which has been given to it by legal decisions. Well, then, what is the conclusion from that? It is that they are introducing a new phrase which will carry with it a new offence, and which must be subjected to a new interpretation. Now, that cannot be denied, and unless they are prepared to meet my challenge that is a thing which must go uncontradicted. They admit that if it were not for the word "criminal" they could not defend this clause. According to their allegation, they are not prepared to defend the clause if the word "conspiracy" stands alone. Then they say—"Oh, the introduction of the word 'criminal' alters the whole thing, and that is the thing upon which we are prepared to stand." Therefore, they have introduced a new legal phrase.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman has overlooked Amendment No. 25.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Oh, the offences are to be "now punishable by law." That means a conspiracy according to the existing interpretation of Common Law. If that is what you mean, why introduce the word "criminal?" For what reason is this new phrase introduced? But I will take you upon your own ground. What you stand upon is the Common Law of Conspiracy now punishable by the Common Law. That is the very thing against which Parliament legislated in 1875. 581 It was conspiracy punishable by law as interpreted by the Judges, which was condemned in the year 1875 as applied to the labourers of England. We say that to apply the Common Law of Conspiracy, as interpreted by the Judges, to the tenants of Ireland, would be equally unjust, and against that we protest. But, whenever we use that argument, you say—"Oh, no; that cannot be BO, because we say criminal conspiracy, and that means something different." Well, if it means something different, tell us what it means? If you introduce a new phrase into the law of the country you are bound to define it, and if you do not attempt to do so we have a right to attempt in the Interpretation Clause to say what a "criminal conspiracy" means. We have a right to challenge a new phrase introduced by you into the law, and say what "criminal conspiracy" shall mean and what it shall not mean. If it means the Common Law of Conspiracy now punishable by law, we say that would be a most unjust law to apply to the combinations of tenants in Ireland. The question we have a right to put to the Government is this—what do you mean by conspiracy which is not criminal? If you say that criminal conspiracy is the thing you are aiming at, tell us what is a conspiracy which is not criminal? I shall like very much to hear a definition of conspiracy from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke). The word "conspiracy" in the law is a very old word; you find it in the works of Lord Coke referring to legislation of a much earlier period. The phrase "conspiracy" is to be found in the Statutes passed in the time of the Plantagenets, but no such phrase as "criminal conspiracy" is to be found in any Statutes. It is very difficult to assert a negative, but I invite the Government to cite a positive and to give us proof; I confess my ignorance. If they are able to produce Statutes, or to produce an indictment which contains this phrase "criminal conspiracy" upon which they rest, something may be said for the clause. I do not at all agree that the title of a book is sufficient ground for the introduction of this phrase in legislation; you cannot import titles of books into indictments; therefore, I challenge you to say what you mean by this phrase "criminal conspiracy." I have challenged you three or four times, 582 and you have never ventured to answer me. If that be so, and if you can give no example from Statute, indictment, or judgment of Courts, we have a right to demand that upon the face of this Statute you shall give a meaning to this phrase which you, for the first time, import, and which you say is the significance of your Bill. I again ask the question, if "criminal conspiracy" are the patent words, explain to me what that conspiracy is which is not criminal? That is a very plain and clear question, and I should like to have an answer to it. Let the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), or let any of the numerous Law Officers who sit upon the Government Bench, give us an example of conspiracy which is not criminal in English law. If you mean by conspiracy unlawful combination, why do you not say so? That is a very plain and clear issue. This Amendment is moved in order to make it clear what is meant by conspiracy against which you are directing this Act. It is very necessary that the people who are to be affected by this Act should have a clear understanding what they may and what they may not do; and we say it is most unfair that people in the position of the tenants of Ireland should be exposed to the penalties provided for in this Act unless some definite information is vouchsafed to them as to the meaning of the Act. It is quite clear you are not prepared to say what are the things you will allow and what are the things which you will not allow. What are the combinations which the tenants of Ireland may enter into in reference to land—in reference to the occupation of land and the owners of land—which the Government assert are lawful, and what are those which the Government assert to be unlawful and criminal? In the absence of any answer to that we have a right to claim that this proposal of yours is an unfair proposal, and that it is a proposal made against the tenants of Ireland, and made in the interests of the landlords of Ireland; that it is spreading a net which is intended to be cast round the tenants of Ireland, which is intended to operate exclusively in favour of the landlords of Ireland; that it is a law made by the landlords for the landlords, and that it will be administered by the agents of the landlords. That is our distinct declaration upon this clause, and your failure to give any instance of 583 what you regard as lawful combination, and what you are prepared to treat as criminal conspiracy, is a proof to us that we are right in the interpretation we have placed upon this clause.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Sir, I rise now instead of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), because I really think the argument has got beyond the phase of any technical legal discussion. This is the third time we have discussed the same question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) prides himself that he has got much the best of the argument. I will not dispute that now; but I will only call the fact to the mind of the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman is hardly in a position to say whether his side has got the best of the argument or not, because, unless I am very much mistaken, he has not been in the House during the time the argument has been going on, and he neither heard the most able and temperate speech of my hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell), a speech to which I listened with the greatest admiration, nor the reply, on which we rest our case, of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster). Not having heard either the case for the prosecution or the case for the defence, he is, I venture to think, hardly in a position to say that he has got the best of the argument. I am not going to discuss whether we ought or ought not to introduce into this clause the expression "criminal conspiracy." That the expression is not a foolish expression from a legal point of view is shown by the fact that the greatest legal authority on this subject uses it in the title and uses it on every page of his book. Whether there is or is not precedent in any Statute for the use of the phrase, the fact that an eminent legal writer has distinguished criminal conspiracy from conspiracy which presumably is not criminal is a proof, at all events, that the phrase is not nonsense. But, apart from that, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) has argued the whole case as if my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) had not put down upon the Paper Amendment No. 25. 584 If there was any ambiguity before as to what we meant was criminal conspiracy that ambiguity is wholly removed, or will be removed when my right hon. and learned Friend has introduced into the Bill the Amendment of which he has given Notice. Therefore, I think that any argument founded upon any supposed or presumed doubt as to what class of offences is aimed at by this clause is entirely out of place. Is it too much to ask that we should now proceed to a Division? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin County (Mr. Clancy) told us that we have been talking for two hours upon an Amendment respecting a mere choice of expression. Well, Sir, two hours are surely enough to decide the choice of an expression; and, therefore, I respectfully ask that we should now come to a decision upon the point.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided,:—Ayes 237; Noes 165: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 161.)
The decision come to by the Committee disposes of Amendment 21, "page 2, line 17, after 'take' insert 'active;'" Amendment 23, "page 2, line 17, leave out 'criminal;'" and. 24, "page 2, line 17, leave out 'criminal conspiracy,' and insert 'conspiracy by acts in themselves criminal.'" I am unable to attribute any meaning to Amendment 22, "page 2, line 17, after 'part' insert 'in conjunction with other persons;'" and, therefore, the Committee will proceed to Amendment No. 25.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 17, after "conspiracy," insert "now punishable by Law."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of pointing out and placing beyond all doubt the conspiracies which are to be punishable by the Summary Jurisdiction Courts under this clause. I intend to give all the opposition in my power to this Amendment, and the reason why I propose to do so will be very easily seen. I do it on two grounds—in the first place, because I think it is an illusory conces 585 sion to this side of the House—in fact, that it is no concession at all; and, secondly, because it defines more clearly the conspiracies at which the Government are aiming by this clause. It has already been pointed out, very often in the course of these debates, what an enormous change has been made in the administration of the Criminal Law of Ireland by removing from the people of Ireland the protection of Judge and jury in cases of "criminal conspiracy." In spite of all that has been said against removing from the people of Ireland this protection, and in spite of all that has been said about the tremendous change that this clause will make in the position of everybody engaged in political work in Ireland, all the concession that the Government is prepared to offer is contained in the words—That no conspiracy shall be dealt with under this section of the Act that is not already punishable by Law.Now, Sir, we have only to return to the Charge of Judge Fitzgerald, and the Charges of Judge Murphy and Judge O'Brien, in order to know what are the conspiracies which are now punishable by law in Ireland. Of course, this subsection, as amended by the Attorney General's Amendment, would be interpreted not as looking towards such conspiracy as is practically punishable in Ireland—that is to say, such conspiracy as it has been found practicable or possible to get punished by the machinery of Judge and jury; but it applies to such conspiracies as, according to the law laid down by the Irish Judges, the juries ought to convict for, and which, ought to be punished by law. And we have laid down, as has been said more than once in the most clear and unmistakable language, what the character of these conspiracies is; and in order to bring home as forcibly and clearly as possible to hon. Members the character of the legislation they are engaged in, I will read once more the language of Judge Fitzgerald on this point. Before I do so, however, I desire to point out that the language of Judge Fitzgerald, so often quoted in this House, is clearly and unmistakably different, and different in most important particulars, from the language of the Attorney General for England when laying down the law in this House the other day. I listened with the utmost 586 attention to the Attorney General for England when he was laying down what he considered to be the Law of Conspiracy as professed or laid down in this country; and I am perfectly certain that the law, as laid down by him, was clearly and distinctly different from the law as laid down by the Irish Judges. Judge Fitzgerald, in laying that down, as we know, said that it was conspiracy for two or more individuals to join together to do an act which, if done by one individual, would be nothing more than a civil wrong; and he instanced the fact that for one tenant to withhold his rent was not in any degree criminal, but only a civil trespass; while for two or more tenants in concert to withhold their rents was conspiracy. Judge Fitzgerald did not use the words "criminal conspiracy;" but he said it was a conspiracy punishable at Common Law. Now, what does that entail? It entails that this concession of the Government leaves it open to these Courts of Summary Jurisdiction in Ireland to hold it to be conspiracy—or, if they will have it, "criminal conspiracy"—for two or more tenants to combine and confederate together for the purpose of bringing about a reduction of rents. There can be no doubt that the Government have in their minds the using of this Act for that purpose, and to punish as guilty of criminal conspiracy tenants who withhold their rents, or men who advise tenants to withhold their rents, for that case also was dealt with in Judge Fitzgerald's Charge. I invite the Attorney General to tell the Committee whether such offences are not "now punishable by law," as the law stands at the present time, and whether it will not be punishable by these Summary Jurisdiction Courts? I would ask the Attorney General to say whether, if two or more tenants withhold their rents, or if anyone advises them to do so, such conspiracy would not be conspiracy punishable by the Common Law in Ireland? Let us consider, for one moment, how this clause would work in Ireland. Combinations of tenants to withhold their rents, with the object of getting their rents reduced, you must recollect are by no means confined to the National Party in Ireland. You must remember that combinations of tenants to withhold their rents for the purpose of bringing about reductions are looked upon all over Ire- 587 land, by men of all religions and by men of all politics, as perfectly legitimate. Such combinations have been entered into by persons belonging to the Loyal and Patriotic Association—to which the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) belongs—on the estates of the Marquess of Downshire, of the Duke of Abercorn, of the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and on numberless other estates, like Wallace's estate in the North of Ireland, where the tenants are opposed to us in politics. Meetings were held, and resolutions passed at these meetings, frequently moved by Protestant clergymen, the purport of which was that rents should be withheld, in the hope that, by so doing, the landlords would be induced to give reductions. It is true that, in this case, the agitators stopped short in their operations—that is to say, they do not go the length, and did not adopt the courses, that we advised the tenants in the South and West of Ireland to adopt. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; that is so; they did not go so far as we did; but that fact does not affect my argument in the slightest degree. The action of these persons in the North of Ireland—on the estate of the Duke of Abercorn, for instance—was just as much a conspiracy under the words of this Act as it was for tenants elsewhere to adopt the Plan of Campaign. According to the Charge of Judge Fitzgerald, to combine together to withhold rents, with the object of obtaining a reduction, is conspiracy at Common Law; and whether the conspiracy stops at passing resolutions at public meetings, and whether they stop, as they did, on the Duke of Abercorn's estate—on which, be it said, they succeeded in their object, for after they had withheld their rents for two or three months the tenants got considerable reductions—whether they are content to stop after receiving advantages such as those, or whether they go on to further measures, such as the tenantry who have adopted our advice have taken, I hold that they are guilty of the same conspiracy according to the dicta of the Irish Judges; and what I want to bring home to the Committee is that, by refusing to give us any definition of the crimes and offences that are punishable under this section, they leave it open to the Executive in Ireland, should they so desire to do, to absolute prohibit all 588 public meetings in Ireland called together to consider the subject of the payment of rent. It cannot be denied, if this Amendment is all the limit the Government is prepared to insert in tip's section, that, from the day the clause passes into law, no meeting of Irish tenants can be held for the purpose of getting reductions of rent without those who take part in it being guilty of criminal conspiracy under this Act, and it will be simply and solely at the discretion of the Castle and the Resident Magistrates whether they shall be punished or not. It may be that men like the Lord Lieutenaut of Ireland, from motives of decency, not wishing to have their tenants dragged into the Courts, may desire to spare them; but, however they may cherish that desire, this clause will be able to strike these people. Even if such tenants are not affected, we shall have in Ireland what has been done with so much mischief in the past—namely, the tenantry of such and such a Lord spared, whilst the tenantry of other persons, for the same offences, are committed to prison. Where, I ask, are the lines to be drawn which will satisfy anyone's mind as to the difference there will be between a combination on the Marquess of Lansdowne's estate and those on other estates in Ireland? On the Marquess of Lansdowne's estate the tenantry adopted our policy, and the Marquess of Lansdowne had all his legal remedies. When the law came to the doors of the tenants they were put out of their holdings. The tenantry of the Duke of Abercorn did not go so far as we did—they got terms; and will any lawyer point out to me the difference, from a legal point of view, between the combination in the one case and that in the other? I want this clear—that this limitation proposed by the Attorney General is absolutely illusory. It gives us nothing whatever, and as it gives us nothing I shall certainly oppose it to the best of my ability.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] Well, I do not see at all why I should not agree with the hon. Member. I know that hon. Members opposite have laid it down, as a fundamental principle, that on every Irish question it is absolutely necessary to differ from every Representative of Ire- 589 land. That is according to their system of government in Ireland. They do not attempt to govern that country according to the opinion of the Irish people. They govern it by the English sword. They do not agree with any representations from the Irish Representatives as to their claim upon the English House of Commons. That is the Tory doctrine, and the principle upon which the present Government propose to govern Ireland. I quite understand that that is not the principle that we adopt. We desire to govern Ireland in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people You think that a monstrous proposition; but we regard it as a fundamental principle, certainly of the Liberal Party, and I think you yourselves will one of these days find it a necessary principle for the English Government to adopt. That time will most assuredly come. Well, now, with reference to the Amendment of the Attorney General, though I certainly agree, and I repeat it, with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that it gives no security at all, we are not here to oppose its introduction. It would be a great mistake to suppose that this Amendment really alters the matter the least in the world. Why it was not originally introduced, and why it is left to this period to be inserted, it is idle, perhaps, now to speculate. It is a curious thing that upon this, one of the most important features of the Bill, the Government have absolutely failed to secure one single word of support from Unionist Liberals in this House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, one of the greatest authorities upon the Law of Conspiracy, with whom I have fought the battle for many a year in this House, has been silent upon this question. He has not supported the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. He could not have done so without having contradicted every word that he said in the year 1873. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen who are crying "No, no!" never heard the debates in 1873, and know nothing about the Law of Conspiracy, or about the great contests that went on in this House. I say that it would have been impossible for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury to 590 have supported this clause in accordance with the principle he maintained at that time on the subject of Trades Unions. What is it that the Attorney General's Amendment does? It throws open the whole Law of Conspiracy as expounded by the interpretation of Judges under the Common Law. That was the very thing which worked the whole injustice against the Trades Unions. That which was punishable at Common Law as conspiracy was the very thing complained of, the very thing condemned, and the very thing legislated against in 1873. Then the whole of that law in its injustice is now to be applied to the tenants of Ireland in their combinations without any of that protection which has been given to the English labourer. The Government have refused that protection, and they say that the law which was so applied to the English labourer shall be now applied to the Irish tenant. Well, we have protested against that as best we could; we have laid our arguments before the House and the country; and I do not think there will be any advantage in continuing the discussion further. But I think that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may be certain of this—that if in the administration of this law the magistrates or Judges of Ireland should ever practically apply to the tenants of Ireland the Common Law of Conspiracy in the way that it was applied to the labourers of England they will find that the public opinion of Great Britain will be arrayed on the side of the tenants of Ireland, and that they will inevitably have the voice of the Legislature brought to bear to reverse their decision, as it was brought to bear to reverse the decision of the Judges as to the Law of Conspiracy in this country. We have made this issue perfectly clear. You have opened up the whole of this loose, mischievous, and oppressive Common Law of Conspiracy which the people of England, after long debates, overruled in favour of the English labourers. You are now going to place that law in the hands of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland, under the influence of the landlords, to apply it to the tenants of Ireland. We cannot, in the present state of the House of Commons, get any remedy here to-day; but so surely as his law is applied, and as soon as injustice in its application is observed in 591 Ireland in the case of the tenants as it was observed in England in the case of the working men, so surely will that remedy be applied, and I think we may be perfectly content to look forward to that time.
§ THE CHIEF SECERTARY FOE IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman in his disquisition on Home Rule with which he began his observations upon this Amendment. That did not seem to me to be at all relevant, and I will not occupy the time of the Committee by replying to it. Neither will I again go into the question of the Law of Conspiracy, upon which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken now, I believe, about six times. It will suffice if I again repeat to the Committee that the intentions which are accredited to Her Majesty's Government and the framers of this Bill and the Irish Executive, of levelling it not against crime, but against legitimate combinations of Irish tenants, is wholly and absolutely unfounded. It finds no justification either in any utterance of any Member of the Government, or of any Gentleman who adheres to the policy of the Government, nor in any provision which we have introduced into this Bill. Now, I hope the Committee will allow this Amendment to be introduced into the Bill without a Division. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has told us he means to divide against it. I think that surely, from his own point of view, he will be ill-advised to do that. He may think that the limitation or the explanations we have given are inadequate. He may desire further restriction introduced into the Bill; but the Committee have already decided that point. They have decided against further restriction; and that being so, would the hon. Gentleman not be well advised if he allowed us to put the words in the clause which, whether necessary or unnecessary, at all events make it perfectly and absolutely clear what is the view of the Government in framing this clause?
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I also am of the same opinion as the hon. Member for East Mayo. But I go beyond the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and I think that we should oppose the introduction of these words. It appears 592 to me that the words are mere tautology. We have in the clause the words "criminal conspiracy," and what, I ask, is "criminal conspiracy" but a conspiracy punishable by law? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] This Amendment is clearly tautology. Well, if these words are tautology and unnecessary, on the other hand, they accentuate that which we ought to object to—namely, the introduction into this Bill of the vague and indefinite Law of Conspiracy, instead of giving us what we have pressed the Government for—namely, some definition of the conspiracy to which this measure is to apply. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary denies that the Government desire to put down legitimate combination. That is the point. I want to know what is a legitimate combination. Is a combination of tenants not to pay rents until they can come to terms with their landlords a conspiracy? That is what we want the Government to tell us. That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian have pressed the Government again and again to tell us; but they have not told us and they will not tell us; and that being so, we, having been denied any definition or explanation of what is a criminal conspiracy, it does seem to me that we should be wrong in allowing the Government to introduce words which strengthen the Law of Conspiracy, but do not, in any degree, define that law.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I do not intend to make any lengthened observations on the question before the Committee, but I should like to ask some of the lawyers in the House what change in the effect of the section will be brought about by the introduction of these words? In the early part of the evening the Government opposed two Amendments of mine, on the ground that the words I proposed to add were surplusage; and, that being so, I am not sure that the Amendment that they now move is not open to the same objection. It is only right that those who introduce these words should be able to give some meaning to them—should be able to point out that they make some modification of the section, and should rise in their place for the purpose of doing so at once. I notice that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney 593 General did not rise in his place for the purpose of moving the Amendment.
§ MR. DILLON
I object to this Amendment, because it really is no limitation of the clause. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General know that perfectly well. It is put into this Bill for the same purpose, as the measure is entitled "A Bill for the Amendment of the Criminal Law of Ireland." It is put in in order to throw dust in the eyes of the people of England, and to load them to believe that what is punished under the Criminal Law of England will be punished under this Act in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has just stated, for the third or fourth time, that the accusations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, when he accused the Government of the intention of using this section against legitimate organizations in Ireland, are entirely unfounded. If that be so, why do not the Government accept limitations that will put it out of their power to use this section against legitimate organizations? We all remember the declaration of the poet—I do not know whether I recollect the words accurately, but I think they were—So glorious is the privilege to kill,All court the power, but none avow the will.The Government want the power to put down our organizations, but they deny that they have the will to do so. Why, I ask, if they have not the will, do they not propose a limitation that will take the power out of their hands? We reserve to ourselves the right to entertain our own opinion as to that. Whatever the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary may be, I know perfectly well what his action will be when he gets this Bill passed into law. If I held to my own inclinations I should certainly divide the Committee against this Amendment; but as some of my Colleagues would prefer not to have a Division I shall not persist in the matter.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, whether the Government are prepared to divide the House on this Amendment? They have not been able to give a single 594 argument in support of it, or to show that it will make the Bill better; and when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy pointed out that the words "criminal conspiracy" conveyed just as much as the words "criminal conspiracy now punishable by law," the Chief Secretary readily intimated his assent to that proposition. Under these circumstances, where is the justification for the introduction of these words? At any rate, what would be the justification of detaining the Committee during the time which would be necessary for taking a Division in order to get the words introduced, seeing that they are unnecessary, and will not improve or elucidate the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN called on Mr. R. T. REID; and there being no response—
MR. R. T. REID&c.) (Dumfries,
I did not intend, Sir, to move my Amendment, because I understood that an hon. Member who has put down an exactly similar Amendment intended to move it instead; but if he does not I will move mine. My proposal is in page 2, line 18, to leave out the words "or induce." The object of my Amendment is very simple, and I will state it in two or three words. The grounds upon which I think these words should be omitted are because, if there has been any kind of moral suasion, even good advice, or advice thought to be good, it may be the means of rendering a man liable to punishment for crime. What I take to be an improper operation on the mind of another man is to put pressure on him against his will; but using suasion or argument such as I refer to does not seem to me to be an element of criminal offence. I desire to limit the harshness of this section, and that is the reason why I move to omit these words "or induce."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 18, to leave out the words "or induce."—(Mr. R. T. Reid.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I do not see how we can accept 595 this Amendment after the discussion we have already had and the alterations we have introduced into the clause. The clause deals with an agreement to commit an offence under the section, and it would seem necessary to include in the provision any persons who might induce others to become guilty.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I wish to point out very briefly to the Committee the position in which we are. The case of the Government was that a conspiracy meant an agreement which might be either lawful or illegal, and that it was necessary to put the word "criminal" before it in order to show that a criminal association or agreement was meant. Now, conspiracy is a mere act of agreement, and what makes it criminal or lawful is the object of those who conspire. It is the means employed or the act agreed on that makes it lawful or illegal. The clause defines the means, and the object of the so-called conspiracy, the position we are in is this—that an agreement to compel or induce any person or persons not to do so and so is declared by the clause to be criminal. What would be the effect of it if we leave the word "induce" in? Why we shall have a statutory declaration that it is criminal to agree to induce any person to do so and so. That is a most undesirable position. We cannot exclude the question of the objects of an agreement. The objects are defined in the Bill, and the only question which will be loft is whether an agreement has been come to or not. To leave out of sight the question as to whether or not the agreement has been come to for specific unlawful objects, and to make it criminal merely to combine to induce any person not to fulfil a lawful obligation, would be introducing an entirely new change into the law.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
The word "induce" is governed by the word "criminal," the Attorney General says. If that were so, I should not object to it. It would then mean that the inducement must be by criminal or fraudulent means; but that is not the meaning of the clause. The word "criminal" does not apply to the word "induce," but to the word "conspiracy;" it has no effect on the word "induce." If it were otherwise I should not object, and should not support the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I have tried to find out where this phrase comes from, and I think we shall discover it has been borrowed. This is the precise term found all through the Whiteboy Acts, which go so far as regards this compelling and inducing as to say that it is to be an offence against the law to use "threats, promises, persuasion, or other undue means." So that promises are undue means, and persuasion is an undue means, and now we are to link together persuasion as an undue means with criminal conspiracy to persuade, and you are to get into the clause the whole of the Whiteboy Acts that we are to consider afterwards.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said just now that this Bill was not intended to be used against legitimate combinations on the part of the tenantry or any other class in Ireland. After that declaration I cannot, for the life of me, see any good grounds for the Government's refusal to accept this very moderate Amendment. Sir, the object of the Amendment is to protect people from the operation of this Act who may influence the actions of their friends and neighbours by legitimate advice the Bill is supposed to be framed to be used against people who practise intimidation and violence to compel others to adopt their views with regard to the holding of land, and with regard to other affairs in Ireland. Well, Sir, by all means, if you wish to apply this Act to check intimidation, and to prevent people from compelling other people by violence from doing that which they consider they have a right to do, you may do it. Do that by all means; but do not bring people under this Bill for merely giving advice to their friends. Now, unless this Amendment is accepted, it will be thought that no two or three people will be at liberty to go to a friend and give advice about the taking of a farm, or the buying of cattle at a fair, without laying themselves open to be branded under this section for conspiracy. Sir, it ha3 been over and over again pointed out that the law with regard to conspiracy is extremely vague, and it has been stated, without contradiction, that almost every agreement arrived at upon any matter by more than two persons might be called a criminal conspiracy. So that if two or three, 597 men were to advise a neighbour not to take a particular farm because they thought it would not be to his ultimate advantage, these people, though they might only have given friendly advice, without any illegal intent whatever, merely with a view of helping the man, might be proceeded against for criminal conspiracy. I cannot see on what grounds the Government refuse the Amendment; since it does not hamper the administration of the Bill against persons who may use violence or intimidation to enforce their views; but only provides that men who use legitimate persuasion or advice to induce their friends not to take a certain course of action shall be exempted from the operation of this Bill. I do not think that the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland gave any satisfactory reason to the Committee why this Amendment should not be accepted; and I should like to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why it is that the Government, if they are anxious to prove their sincerity—in stating that they do not wish this Bill to be used against legitimate combinations—will not accept this. Why will they not give us this security, and guarantee that the measure is not to interfere with legitimate combinations of tenantry in Ireland? It is perfectly evident that under this clause, if they do not accept the Amendment, that no one in Ireland will be able to give advice or to use legitimate means of persuasion there on any earthly subject. You will shut the mouths of those who are friendly to the people, and practically give the landlords complete power over their tenantry; you will stand between the tenants and those unjust and unreasonable bargains which the landlords might wish to make them take. I think the Attorney General for Ireland should give us some good reason why the Government will not accept this Amendment to drop out these two words "or induce," which alteration will by no means interfere with the stringency of the Act against persons who use violence or intimidation, but which will give a guarantee that persons will not be taken up and put in prison for conspiracy when they only gave such advice to their friends as is given every day, not only in Ireland, but in Great Britain also.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
The reason these words are retained by the Government in opposition to our wish is not only that they may enable the Government to lay its hands upon associations or conspiracies that may be criminal, but that it may bring before the summary tribunals words which may be used on public platforms. I maintain that the Government insist upon these words in order that they may connect persons who speak on public platforms with conspiracies—that is to say, that they may charge them with conspiring with the tenants not to pay rent. Assuming that you can connect the National League, we will say, in any part of Ireland, with a movement upon any particular estate to withhold the payment of an excessive rent, you immediately connect with that so-called conspiracy every branch of the League, and take in every meeting that is being held under its auspices. You could make people speaking 200 miles away from the estate upon which the tenants were advised to withhold the payment of excessive rents liable to criminal proceedings under this Act. These words "or induce" will enable the Government to strike at every man who dares to open his mouth on a public platform in Ireland. There is no word that a man could utter on a public platform in Ireland in respect of which this section, framed as it is, will not lay him open to a criminal prosecution, and so long as public men are prevented from using platforms in order to induce people to adopt certain political views, there is an end of freedom of speech in Ireland. If such a law as this could possibly come into operation in England, the most conspicuous of the Tory orators of the day would have exposed themselves to incarceration in the cells of the prisons of this country. It would have been possible to have convicted and imprisoned them under this section. Let us suppose that two ordinary cattle dealers are looking over, criticizing, and estimating the value of a lot of cattle. Suppose a third person comes up and asks them their opinion of the cattle, as he thinks of buying them; if they say "These cattle are not very good, and you ought not to buy them," this man may communicate that to the landlord or his agent, or the agent may overhear it, an information may be sworn to the 599 effect that these two cattle dealers conspired to prevent the sale of the landlord's cattle, and there will be at once a preliminary inquiry and a prosecution before two Resident Magistrates. In that way really harmless words spoken at a fair between ordinary friends, and with no criminal intent whatever, may lead to the punishment of perfectly honest people. We know that the value of the word "criminal" before "conspiracy" is absolutely nil. It means absolutely nothing, and its omission would leave the clause exactly as it is. That has been maintained to-night from the Government Bench, and maintained with truth. The words "criminal conspiracy" will be no protection, for the criminality will not be criminality in the view of Judges of England or Ireland, but simply in the opinion of the Irish Resident Magistrates.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
If you take these words "or induce" in connection with the words which follow, such as "not to fulfil his or their legal obligations," or "not to let, hire, use, or occupy any land, or not to deal with, work for, or hire any person or persons," it will give the Government the power of indicting a person for the most petty offence under the name of "criminal conspiracy." Not only will the Government be able to indict people for anything, no matter how potty, but the Irish Attorney General has pointed out that the whole machinery of this Act may be put in force by any person. I do not say that the Government will necessarily draw the line where the Act may be put in operation in the wrong place; but I do not like giving over to the Government, and to any person in the whole of Ireland, the power of drawing the line at any offence. To say that every person shall have the power of saying that every trivial act a man may do is a criminal offence is a reductio ad absurdum. I do not suppose that the Government would punish these things as a criminal conspiracy; but, supposing that two or three persons should combine to leave their pigs on the road, that, no doubt, would be very wrong; but the offenders should hardly be indicted for a criminal conspiracy in respect of it, and yet, under this Act, if one "induces" others to do such a thing, anyone may indict them, and have them punished for a criminal 600 conspiracy, But take another case which is often attended with a certain amount of violence—a case which is very well known in England—where a number of persons lay claim to a right of way. A man may wish to maintain a right of way, or the owner of land may wish to close a right of way, and a person may "induce" others to assist him in attaining his object. If the Government choose, or the person supposed to be in possession of the right of way cares to exercise the power, they or he can have those persons indicted for criminal conspiracy. Such an offence, however, ought not to be punished by imprisonment, or as a criminal proceeding; but where the case is established a fine of £10, £20, or £30 ought to be inflicted. Then I would take another case—the case of the Guardians of a Poor Law Union. I myself have often "induced" other Guardians to put certain machinery in motion; that machinery may be legal or illegal, for it is often extremely difficult to know what is really the law which governs Poor Law Unions, and what are really the duties of Guardians—I go further, and say that in Ireland it is very often extremely difficult for Guardians of the Poor to comply with the law and their legal obligations. Well, if we do not comply with the law and our legal obligations we are subject to certain punishments, either as a union, or in our individual capacities; but I do not think we ought to be indicted for criminal conspiracy even if we fail to comply with our legal obligations, and yet, if this Bill passes in its present shape, we should be constantly liable to such indictment. Politically speaking, in my own case, I am afraid it would be perfectly impossible for me to make a single speech to my constituents without laying myself open to indictment for criminal conspiracy. Even if I told the electors not to vote for the Conservative candidate I should be brought, in some way, under this Bill. I quite admit that the whole case is very different so far as the word "compel" is concerned. If you "compel" a person to do any of the things mentioned in this section—that is to say—Not to fulfil his or their legal obligations, or not to let, hire, use, or occupy any land, or not to deal with, work for, or hire any person or persons in the ordinary course of trade, business, or occupation,601 there is a strong primâ facie reason that you are liable to punishment; but merely for "inducing" a combination amongst individuals for a certain purpose, unless the combination is itself criminal, not oven the tremendous powers of this Act should be put in force. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member who is now sitting amongst the Conservative ranks would allow me to explain, I would point out that the chief objection I have to the proposal of the Government is that it leaves it to almost every policeman to draw the line; it enables them to draw the line at an offence infinitesimally small, and to indict us for the most ordinary acts. If this section becomes law as it is framed, it will enable a policeman to indict a person for an offence of such a small and ordinary character that it would be better punished by a fine of 5s. and the infliction of costs than by putting the powers of this Act into force.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
We are, to my mind, at the turning point of the whole matter. It is argued in this House that the present political situation in Ireland, and the representation of the country in this House, has been produced by intimidation. Well, we challenge the Government, and those who make this assertion, to make good their words, and to stand, in this clause, by the words "compel" or "terrorize." But they insist upon the word "induce." What will be the result of adopting this word? Why, I hold in my hand a Petition, which I have been asked to present to this House, from an elected body of Guardians, trying to "induce" Her Majesty's Government to improve the Land Act, and to have a general re-valuation, so as to bring about a reduction of rates. It seems to me that that is trying to "induce" Her Majesty's Government not to do an act which they have a legal right to do. Am I to be told that because a newspaper writer tells the people of Ireland how best to combine in order to secure for themselves a just and fair rent, that because he writes what he thinks in the open light of day, and is prepared to take the consequences of his action, he is to be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy? Why, if this clause is carried, there is not a single speech that can be made, there is not a single expression that can be used, on the part 602 of the tenants in Ireland, which may not bring the person who utters it under an indictment for a criminal conspiracy. [Laughter.] I tell the Government, whether they laugh at us or not—I tell them plainly and flatly that, whatever meaning they attach to this word "induce," so long as the present state of things is maintained in Ireland, so long as we see exorbitant rents extracted from the pockets of the miserable tenantry, and the roof-trees burned over the heads of people who cannot pay their rents, so long shall we stand up and speak and use every effort to induce those people to combine against the payment of unfair rents. And what I say hero I will say elsewhere, where it will be more useful to say it than here, and where I shall get a more sympathetic audience. My words will not be an incentive to violence—they never have been. I challenge anyone to point to a single word of mine, written or spoken, which has incited to violence, or has been calculated to incite to violence. I shall use every endeavour to get the people to combine against rack-renting and oppression, and I sincerely hope I shall be the means of inducing them to combine. I say that in absolute defiance of what the Government may do. But there may be many people less physically capable than myself of facing the consequences of such a course. We challenge the Government upon their own declaration, which was that their Bill was directed against terrorism. Why do they not direct it against terrorism? ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. and gallant Gentleman who cheers that observation does not seem to appreciate the point we are now on. Surely it is too much to say in the case of a man with the instincts of humanity in his breast that he should abstain from advising people to resist tyranny, and that if he does so and is successful you punish him. Do you declare that any man who should advise his fellow-countrymen in this way shall be brought up under this clause? There would be some sense in that, but the word you use is "induce." It appears, then, that if a man advises another to resist tyranny he is not to be prosecuted at all; but if a man induces another to resist it he is to be sent to gaol. That is an old policy which is not calculated to soothe, but to sow strife among all 603 classes of people. You will allow advice to be given to the tenants; but if men, in the earnestness of truth, stand up for a certain class in Ireland, and induce them to combine, then Her Majesty's Government are very ready to prosecute. I will show why the Purchase Bill of the Government itself should come under the operation of this clause. At the present time a tenant in Ireland agrees at the point of the bayonet to purchase his land at a certain exorbitant price. I give an instance where the landlord has asked his tenants to agree to purchase all their holdings at an exorbitant figure; the landlord evicts these people, because they do not agree to his proposal. I know an instance where a Sheriff has gone to a tenant with a writ of ejection in the one hand and a written agreement to purchase the land in the other. It is said you have a legal right to make these agreements; but we interpose and say we will not allow the purchase to take place. I myself know an instance in which land has been bought at 18 or 20 years' purchase which the Land Commissioners would not ratify, because the land was not worth the price. Therefore, I say that the Land Commission, in refusing to allow the land to be purchased in that way, would come under the operation of the clause. Suppose that we, having the interest of our people as much at heart as ever you have had it, go amongst the tenants and advise them to stand together and consult among themselves as to what is reasonable. I ask is it because we induce them to do this that we are to be made the victims of this enactment? I do not, of course, expect to induce any hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to do anything of the kind. I would as soon go into a cabbage garden and expect the cabbages to listen to me. I say if the Government would consider for a moment that we have at heart the interest of the country in which we were born, and which we represent in this House, and if they would in some way shape their Act in the direction which we indicate, it is quite possible that we should stand off and give it a fair trial to see whether it would be of any use for the purpose of putting down criminality in Ireland. But if I find that this is to be an Act to perpetrate injustice in Ireland I shall ever speak of 604 the Act as it appears to me—[Interruption.]—and as little as I care for the interruptions of hon. Members opposite so little shall I hesitate to state my view of the case in Ireland. You have put us in a position in which we are forced to be opponents of every word and line of the measure in this House, and we shall not hesitate to take up the same position in regard to it when the time comes, if it ever does come, for its application in Ireland.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I think we might now go to a Division on this subject. I am sorry that the Government have not accepted the Amendment, because the contrast between the word sought to be introduced and that which is in the Bill is so clear that there can be no misunderstanding about the matter. The Government, by their action, show that the clause is distinctly to be used against innocent combination. If there was ever any doubt about that these words make it perfectly clear. The introduction of the word "induce" makes it evident that the object of the clause is that every combination shall be attacked, though it may be a combination entirely devoid of any criminal intention. In taking this Division—[Laughter, and cries of "Divide! "]—I cannot but admire the manners of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am doing what I can to facilitate the conclusion of this discussion, and I am endeavouring in the briefest terms to indicate the true character of this clause before we take a Division upon the Amendment; and, having done so, I think the sooner we take the Division the better.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I wish to draw attention to the fact that throughout the discussion on this Amendment Irish Members have been most persistently interrupted by hon. Members opposite. I would submit very respectfully that, to say the least of it, it is not decent, when Irish Members are endeavouring to do what, in their opinion, is their duty to their constituents, that they should be interrupted thus by hon. Members opposite who are opposed to their views; and I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to ask hon. Members who have no interest in the details of this discussion, and who desire to engage in conversation, to leave the House and allow us to proceed with that which to us is a matter of the greatest moment.
I regret that there should be any ground for complaint, but I am forced to confess that there is.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 265; Noes 180: Majority 85.—(Div. List, No. 162.)
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
The Amendment which I am about to move is one which the Government can use for strengthening the Land Bill, when it comes into operation in Ireland. Suppose when largo numbers of the tenants avail themselves of the Land Bill, they find that their action brings them within this clause. I ask how they are in that case to get the benefit of the Land Bill? Surely, to give the Resident Magistrates power to say whether they shall do so or not is pushing the matter to absurdity. Whether you appeal to a man's fears or passions, whether you use force or terror, or whether you use reason, you have no right to tell him you repudiate his liability. Unquestionably, it will many a time be the duty of a man towards his family, or towards the State or local government, to insist upon withholding certain payments. It will be a tremendous thing if men are not left to the ordinary freedom of a country to combine to determine in what priority they shall discharge their legal obligations. There are some Amendments which, I believe, will not be moved. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear! "] I trust that on that account hon. Gentlemen opposite will be all the more inclined to accept my Amendment. There are some Amendments upon the Paper which plainly show in what way even a landlord, by compelling men to fulfil their legal obligations to him, would thereby take from the men the means of fulfilling their other obligations. I deny that in Ireland rent is so sacred an obligation, and one of such supreme importance that it should be paid before any other debt. I beg to propose the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 18, to leave out the words "not to fulfil," in order to insert the words "to repudiate."—(Mr. O'Doherty.)606
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'not to fulfil' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I presume that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Doherty) means, by the insertion of the word "repudiate," that there should be some action done by the tenant to inform his creditor, whoever he may be, that he repudiates the matter altogether. I certainly cannot consent to that, and I think, having regard to what the Committee has already done, it must be admitted that for persons to conspire together to induce a person to repudiate his obligations is an offence, and it must be admitted that it is equally an offence if they compel or induce a person to keep his money in his pocket, and not to fulfil his obligations.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I think my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Doherty) explained with sufficient clearness what the distinction was. Repudiation would be a total denial of an obligation, but it could not be said that a tenant repudiated his obligation to his landlord if he offered his rent at a 20 per cent reduction. That is the distinction, I think, which my hon. Friend made, and which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has not made. Now, Mr. Courtney, let me put a particular case. Five years ago this Parliament passed an Act, which was called the Arrears Act. By virtue of that Act tenants in Ireland were enabled to apply to the Land Commission, and the Land Commission was authorized, in certain cases, to remit a portion of the arrears due by tenants. Now, you can imagine that Act being in. force at the time this Bill became law. It would be actually a criminal offence if any Member sitting in this quarter of the House or if any public man in Ireland went among the tenants for whose benefit the Arrears Act was passed, and advised them to take advantage of the provisions of the Act, and go to the Land Commission and ask for a reduction of their rents. The Arrears Act lapsed some years ago, and my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Doherty) pointed out very properly that the Government have themselves in contemplation, and have introduced in "another place," a measure which is intended to enable tenants in Ireland, in certain cases, to retain a remission of 607 their rents, and which will enable those tenants to discharge their obligations as regards their arrears of rent by the payment of a portion of the sums due from them, and that if this Bill passed in its present shape any Member of Parliament or any public man who goes among the Irish tenantry, and takes it upon himself to recommend them to take advantage of the provisions of that other Bill which the Government profess themselves anxious to pass, will make himself liable to the provisions of this clause, and subject himself to the penalties provided. That Bill provides—I do not want to discuss it, but I may refer to one of its provisions by way of illustration—that Bill provides that, in certain cases, the tenants can go into the County Court and say that they are unable to pay their arrears of rent, that the rent is exorbitant, and that they should be released from their obligation to pay the rent in full, on offering or tendering a certain portion of it. Now, Mr. Courtney, if this Bill passes, it appears to me that to recommend the tenants to take advantage of that provision would be a criminal offence. What does this Bill provide? It provides that any person who shall take part in any criminal conspiracy—and it is now agreed that the word "conspiracy" means nothing more in the opinion of the Government than an agreement—any person, therefore, who shall take part in any agreement to induce any person or persons not to fulfil his or their legal obligations shall be subjected to the penalties of this Act. Because a man recommends the tenants to go into Court and obtain the benefits of the Government Bill, he recommends those tenants not to fulfil their legal obligations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland may say this case is governed by the word "criminal;" but the word "criminal," we have it over and over again—and we have it from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—would not govern a case of this kind, because acts done by an individual, innocent in themselves, became criminal if done by a number of persons. Consequently "criminal" does not help us in the least. It amounts to this—that if a number of persons agree to induce tenants to take advantage of the Bill which the Government are passing in "another 608 place," they will be liable to be hauled before two Resident Magistrates, and to be imprisoned for six months. The distinction given by my hon. Friend is perfectly plain. If you accept his Amendment, the clause of the Government will not apply to a case of that kind, because the tenants who acted on the advice given to them, although they would not be fulfilling their obligations, they would not be repudiating them. Let us remember, in this connection, the famous dictum of Lord Fitzgerald, in the case of "the Queen v. Parnell." In that case Lord Fitzgerald laid it down that a landlord's right was to his full rent and not to a part of it; and anybody, or any body of persons, who recommended or advised tenants not to fulfil their legal obligations to pay landlords their full rent, were guilty of taking part in a criminal conspiracy, and could be punished for it. Now, that is the point my hon. Friend raised. If you use in this section the words "not to fulfil" you will place on the tenant the obligation of paying their rent to the very last penny; if, on the other hand, you accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and substitute for the words "not to fulfil" the word "repudiate" you will enable the tenants to make the best terms they can, and either to induce the landlords to give them a reduction, or to take advantage of the Bill the Government are passing in "another place," and which, we are told, is intended to confer a great many benefits on the Irish tenants.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Mr. Courtney, judging from past experience, there can be no question that we shall be accused of engaging in criminal conspiracy. It must be remembered that that distinguished statesman (Mr. John Bright)—I speak of him in his general capacity, not as a Member of Parliament—always refers to the Irish Party as a rebel conspiracy. [Mr. JOHNSTON: Hear, hear!] Fortunately the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) is not a Resident Magistrate. We are always referred to as a rebel conspiracy, or as a conspiracy to induce the tenants of Ireland to do certain unlawful things. This Bill is brought in, and the question at issue is a question of rent pure and simple. Now, our contention has been that the rents of Ireland are too high; we say 609 to the tenants of Ireland that Lord Cowper's Commission recommends you a reduction of 18 per cent, and, under these circumstances, you are entitled to a reduction which English landlords are giving to their tenants. We are met by this Bill, in which it goes without saying that we shall be considered a criminal conspiracy. Eighty-five Members of the House of Commons have been described by Mr. Bright——
The distinction the hon. and learned Gentleman dwells upon is not real. The fact that a present Member of the House makes a speech out of the House is not sufficient to entitle the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak of him by name. It is only in referring to the past, that names of Gentlemen are used in the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I heard Mr. William O'Brien referred to to-night by name without protest. Anyhow, Mr. Courtney, the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) always refers to this Party as a criminal conspiracy. Now, if we recommend the tenants in consequence of the state of the crops, or the state of trade, or anything else to insist upon reductions which English landlords give their tenants, we shall of course, in the judgment of hon. Gentlemen opposite, be sharers in a criminal conspiracy, and Resident Magistrates in their pay and at their back will at once find us guilty of criminal conspiracy. We have said, and I trust we shall continue to say, to the tenants of Ireland, if you are unable by reason of the season to pay your rents without defrauding your other creditors, you must not do so. We contend that in equity the tenants have more claim to their rents than the landlords, and therefore we advise tenants to pay the shopkeepers with whom they deal, before they pay the landlord. That will be considered an incitement under this Act to people to engage in a criminal conspiracy not to pay a particular person, whereas it is nothing of the kind. I submit it is giving a preference to no particular creditor, but treating all men on the same scale. We have never advised the tenants to repudiate their obligations, and therefore, we claim the protection that the word "repudiate" 610 will give. I think it is only a reasonable thing that the Government should accept this Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 259; Noes 137: Majority 122.—(Div. List, No. 163.)
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I beg to move, Sir, that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to assent to this Motion, in order that we may go on with Report of Supply and consider several important questions that arise therein.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Clark.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I understand there are several Amendments on the Paper that will not be pressed, and some that will not be moved, and under the circumstances, I think it would be better that we should run through these and go on with the Committee until we come to some substantive Amendment upon which there is opposition.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman should remember that some hon. Members have been waiting here all night in order to bring questions forward on Report of Supply. It is intended, I believe, to raise a discussion in reference to the Scotch Crofters Act, and seeing that private Members, owing to the action of the Government in taking the whole of the time of the House for the Coercion Bill, have been unable to bring matters under the notice of the House on private Members' days, I think the least the Government can do is to allow us some time on Report of Supply to take such discussions. We on these Benches desire to raise attention to the question of the suppression of meetings in Ireland, and we shall certainly do it at some hour of the night or morning. As we are to have an Autumn Session the Government have plenty of time on their hands, and I do think, therefore, it would only be reasonable on their part to let Progress be reported. If you will appoint 6 o'clock to-morrow for the meeting of the House, it will be reasonable, per- 611 haps, to go on with the Committee; but it certainly is not reasonable to expect us to sit here all night discussing Amendments, and then to proceed to consider questions on Report of Supply afterwards, and to come here at the ordinary time this evening. At this hour (1.5 a.m.), it is only reasonable that Progress should be reported.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman must have misunderstood me. I said it was understood that a number of the Amendments next on the Paper will not be moved, or if moved, will not be pressed, and that under the circumstances I thought it would be better to proceed with those Amendments.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
If the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) withdraws his Motion, it will be competent to make a similar Motion at any time.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I have been asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) to move the Amendment standing in his name—that is to say, in page 2, line 19, after "or," to insert "to compel any person or persons, by means of threats, intimidation, or violence." Since this is a very substantial Amendment, and as it comes from the Tory part of the House, I think it should be properly discussed. I would, therefore, ask that Progress should be reported.
In page 2, line 19, after "or," insert "to compel any person or persons, by means of threats, intimidation, or violence."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Motion made and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. W. H. Smith,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.