(12.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £37,731, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the House of Lords.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
said, the House was aware that a Royal Commission had been appointed about 18 months ago to inquire into the Public Departments for the conduct of Business and into the scale of their expenditure. That Commission, however, had no power to inquire into the expenditure of the House of Lords. It appeared to him that no one would argue that the expenditure of the two Houses of Parliament did not require revision, and that they were not conducted on the most lavish scale. A very largo number of persons were employed, while the work could probably be done by a smaller number, and many of these persons appeared to receive a higher salary than was necessary. But, whether this were so or not, it was an important fact that the two Houses of Parliament were not within the scope of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Public Departments. Certainly an inquiry ought to be made into the present establishment of the two Houses. The First Lord of the Treasury would recollect that it had been his intention, when at the Exchequer, to propose the appointment of a joint Commission of both Houses to review their respective establishments. When he mentioned his proposal in that House it was not ill-received, and if things had gone on in their normal way the proposal might have been carried out. He believed that a very considerable reduction might be made in the expenditure of the Houses of Parliament. Of course there was a much larger question in connection with the Private Bill legislation of the two Houses. If a Committee of the two Houses came to the conclusion to remove all Private Bill legislation from the Houses of Parliament, then a much larger reduction would be pos- 645 sible. But apart from that, there was every reason to suppose that the expenditure of the two Houses was higher than it need be, and he would press upon the First Lord of the Treasury the advisability of appointing a Committee of both Houses for the purpose of reviewing their expenditure, which amounted to an enormous sum of money. The two Houses managed to spend on themselves something like £120,000 a-year. That expenditure had never been inquired into, as far as he was aware, and in view of the fact he trusted that his suggestion would receive favourable consideration at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
It will be in the recollection of the Committee that last Session a discussion arose upon this Vote, and that I then undertook, on the part of the Government that inquiry should be made, at any rate in the House of Lords, as to the extent of the expenditure of that House. I am hardly aware, however, of the suggestion made by the noble Lord, that a Joint Committee should sit to inquire into the expenses of the two Houses of Parliament. The suggestion, however, that the subject should be treated in that way is very well worthy of consideration, and I think it is possible that a Joint Committee might be able to effect economies which would be acceptable to both Houses. But my noble Friend the Prime Minister has been engaged with a small Committee of the House of Lords in investigating the expense of the establishment of that House, and my noble Friend mentioned to me a few days ago that he had every reason to hope he would be able to recommend considerable economies in the expenditure. But as the Committee is still sitting, and has not reported, it would be premature for me to make any statement in respect of alterations which my noble Friend believes can be effected. As far as the House of Commons is concerned, I do not know whether the expenditure is greater than might reasonably be expected for Gentlemen of whom a large amount of attendance is required in the public interest. Still, I shall be exceedingly glad if the noble Lord's suggestion can be adopted. Without pledging myself absolutely, I will un- 646 dertake to confer with those who are well acquainted with the subject, and with the authorities of the House; and I will endeavour to make some recommendation to the House with the view of securing that this question shall be fully, impartially and carefully considered. The arrangement I made with the House occurred very late in the Session, and sufficient time has not elapsed for maturing the recommendations which may come down from the House of Lords, but as I have said the whole matter shall have our consideration.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he regretted to have to state that the right hon. Gentleman's reply was eminently unsatisfactory. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been more correct if he bad said it would be premature if the Committee passed this Vote rather than that it was premature to state what would be done because the Committee was still sitting. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) pointed out that seven or eight months had elapsed since the right hon. Gentleman agreed, under great pressure, to have a Committee appointed, and now he came down and claimed to have carried out his pledge, by saying that the Committee had not finished its investigation. That seemed to him a most extraordinary way of fulfilling a pledge given in the House of Commons, and he ventured to say that if the Committee had passed this Vote without protest, the right hon. Gentleman would come down, after another nine months had elapsed, with his usual suavity of manner, and say that they must wait a little longer. He thought under the circumstances he was justified in saying that the right hon. Gentleman was trifling with the House. The sums paid to officials in the House of Lords were ridiculously high as compared with the officials of the House of Commons who had much more onerous duties to perform. The Sergeant-at-Arms in attendance on the Lord Chancellor had £1,500 a-year; then the Messenger to the Crown Solicitor had a salary of £1,500 a-year. But all these officers received additional payments for various offices which they discharged, besides their regular duties. The best way of dealing with this subject, however, was to make a comparison between the two Houses. He found that the Chairman of Ways and Means re- 647 ceived £2,500, and the Chairmen of Committees in the House of Lords received the same salary, yet 20 minutes or half-an-hour was the average length of a sitting of the House of Lords, taking one sitting with another throughout the year. The Counsel to the Chairman of Committees received £1,500 per annum; the Examiner of Standing Orders £900; the Clerk of the Parliament £2,500, in addition to £500 as an allowance for a house; the Clerk Assistant £1,800; the Reading Clerk £1,200; the Chief Clerk of the Parliament Office £1,200; the Senior Clerk £1,000; the other Senior Clerks £1,000 each. He presumed that some of these gentlemen belonged to that mysterious body of gentlemen whose work it was to say "La Reine le veut" when the Royal Assent was given to Bills. Among other ornamental officials was Black Rod, an officer who received £2,000 a-year and also received emoluments as Admiral on the Retired List, in addition to fees which he received for his own use as an officer of the Garter. He thought this gentleman must be a happy man to have so many official salaries to draw at the expense of the taxpayers of the country; while his only duty was to take part in the piece of periodical tomfoolery of knocking at the door of the House of Commons and summoning the Speaker to attend the House of Lords, and to give Members of the House of Commons leave to take ladies and gentlemen into the other House. Then there was the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, who received £1,000, and the principal Doorkeeper, who received £600 for discharging duties which any ordinary porter could be found to perform for 25s. a-week. Then there was a further array of Assistant Messengers and Porters who received £2,225 between thorn, and there was a Librarian who received £810. The duties of this gentleman must be very light; because he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was satisfied that not one Peer in a dozen ever read a book in the Library of the House of Lords or elsewhere. This gentleman, however, had the aid of an Assistant Librarian with the salary of £439. He would not pursue the subject further than to say that the Estimates of the House of Lords were a perfect scandal, and he was not at all surprised that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord 648 Randolph Churchill) had risen to protest against them. As he would not be in Order in moving the postponement of this Vote, he should propose its reduction by the sum of £1,000, part of the salary of the Chairman of Committees.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Item B, £5,000,—Department of the Chairman of the Committees of the House of Lords,—be reduced by the sum of £1,000."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he did not think the First Lord of the Treasury had a clear recollection of what passed last year on this Vote. The salaries of the officers of the House of Lords were then discussed at length on a Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). In the course of that discussion he (Mr. Childers) had called the attention of the House to the discrepancy between the salaries of the officials of the two Houses.
said, he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the Motion before the Committee was for the reduction of the Vote in respect of a single item, and that this should be disposed of before the subject referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was dealt with.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was quite willing to withdraw his Motion in order to allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, on the occasion referred to it was his duty to take part in the debate, and he had called especial attention to the great excess of the Estimate for the House of Lords over that of the House of Commons. On that occasion, he had ventured to make an appeal to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who was opposing the Vote, to withdraw his amendment, if the First Lord of the Treasury would give an undertaking that when a vacancy arose, the successor to the office should not receive morn than the amount of salary that would be paid in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had replied that he would undertake on the part of the Government, that the subject should receive consideration in the spirit in which 649 he (Mr. Childers) had suggested it should be considered; and that although he could not undertake absolutely that when vacancies occurred, the salaries should be in each case and in every respect in accordance with the salaries in the House of Commons, he would give an engagement that full inquiry should be made with a view to the salaries being brought down to the amounts paid in the House of Commons. He (Mr. Childers) was not then quite satisfied with the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, and, in reply to his further observations, the right hon. Gentleman said he would undertake to open negotiations with the other House with a view to carry out this arrangement at once. The right hon. Gentleman had now told the Committee that he had had some communication with his Colleagues and the Prime Minister with reference to this matter; but he would point out that this was a very different thing from opening negotiations to carry out the arrangement at once—namely, that the officials in the House of Lords should be put on the same footing as those in the House of Commons. Under the circumstances, he thought the Committee must call for something more definite from the right hon. Gentleman. The matter was an important one, and ought not to be put off. In his opinion, some pressure should be used, and that it should be shown that the wish of the House of Commons in this affair was paramount. He would, therefore, urgently ask the Secretary to the Treasury to allow this Vote to be withdrawn for the present, as there was no urgency in the matter, in order that a Joint Committee of the two Houses might be immediately appointed to consider the whole question. If necessary, Votes on Account could, of course, be taken; but they ought not to allow this very important matter to drag on. It was, therefore, important that the Joint Committee should be appointed to go into the matter.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) is asking rather more than the circumstances of the case demand. The discussion to which he refers, took place in the month of July last year, when, under the circumstances in which we were placed, it was almost impossible to get together an adequate Committee charged with these duties in the House 650 of Lords. At the earliest time this year, however, the Committee met to consider the question, and is now pursuing its inquiries. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that the revision of salaries which might be proposed could not, in justice, be made to apply to the present year. What we wished at the time was, that as vacancies occurred, no office should be filled without duo consideration, with regard to the engagement made. Well, Sir, that has been done. The principle has been acted on in the case of the office of Taxing Master to the House of Lords which has been vacated. The late holder of the Office received £1,000 a-year, and the Office has been filled by the appointment of a person to perform the duties at £250 a-year and two clerks at £150 a-year each, the gross payment being now £550 in lieu of £1,000 formerly paid. It is perfectly true that there is an increase in the Vote, of this amount, as the Taxing Master's fees did not appear at all, but as the fees will now be paid into the Exchequer, there will be a saving of £450 a-year with reference to this Office. I only mention this by way of evidence that the Treasury and the Government are anxious to carry out the engagement made, that it is being carried out, and that the inquiry is of a searching character. It was not suggested last year that the inquiry should be conducted by a Joint Committee, and I think it only reasonable to leave it to the House of Lords to make its own proposals with regard to any reduction of the establishment that may be considered desirable. But I have undertaken now to consider whether a Joint Committee of the two Houses can sit with advantage. I am inclined to regard the proposal with great favour, because it is most desirable that there should be agreement between the two Houses as to the cost of their establishments. The present inquiry has already proceeded to some extent; but I should certainly be disposed to press upon my Colleagues in the House of Lords, the desirability of the appointment of a Joint Committee. I trust I have said enough to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman opposite that Her Majesty's Government have done as much as they could reasonably be expected to do in the time which has elapsed to fulfil their engagement. We have already effected an economy in re- 651 spect of one Office alone, and the Committee may be assured that steps will be taken in the direction of further economy as vacancies arise.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he thought the statement of the right hon. Gentleman quite satisfactory. It would be hardly possible for the Government to withdraw the Vote, as it would appear like a refusal of the House of Commons to pay the salaries of the present year. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) opposite would see that the withdrawal of the Vote under the circumstances could not take place without great disrespect being shown to the other House, and he would go further, and say that had be known that the pledge given by the Government last year had been carried out as it now appeared to have been, he should have abstained from the remarks he had made. He agreed that it was impossible that an inquiry could have been conducted in the short space of time—barely one month—that remained of last Session; and it would not have been easy to get together an authoritative Committee of the House of Lords to sit through the months of August and September. They had heard that the Committee had made great progress. He did not know how it was composed; but they might expect that it would make its Report before long, that it would be in the direction of economy and that it would be communicated to that House. He therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bring into this discussion no unnecessary heat or accusations, but be satisfied with the general assurance which his right hon. Friend had been able to give with regard to the stops to be taken for the solution of the question. There seemed to be a general agreement between both sides, that steps should be taken to review the Establishment of both Houses, and he had a distinct recollection that in the Autumn Session of 1886, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, he bad proposed that there should be a Joint Committee appointed; and that this proposal was accepted by his Colleagues at the time. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had urged that the salaries in the House of Lords should be reduced to the level of those in the House of Commons; but that, in his opinion, would 652 not be at all adequate. It was most desirable that there should be a Joint Committee; because, otherwise, either House would be indisposed to make its salaries lower. If they appointed a Joint Committee the Members of both Houses would come together, and the whole subject, having regard to the work to be performed, would be threshed out, and a better result would follow. He believed that a considerable reduction would take place in respect of the Establishments of both Houses when the subject had been thoroughly examined in the way suggested, by a Committee empowered to take evidence as to hours, labour, and remuneration of the officials. He felt confident that the First Lord of the Treasury would press this question upon his Colleagues and that no unreasonable delay would take place, so that when the next Session came round, the two Houses would be in possession of fuller information on the subject of their respective expenditures.
§ MR. CHILDERS
After the explanation given by the First Lord of the Treasury I may be permitted to say that I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman did act in the spirit of the pledge which he made last year. I was not aware of the alteration which has been made in the case of the successor of the late Taxing Master of the House of Lords. I was under the impression that there had been too great delay, but I am now satisfied that this is not the case, and therefore agree with the noble Lord that we ought not to postpone the Vote. If the right hon. Gentleman will undertake that a Joint Committee shall be shortly appointed, I think the object I had in view will be obtained.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he should like to hear from the First Lord of the Treasury the names of the Members of the Committee of the House of Lords and how often the Committee had met.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I should be glad to give the hon. Member the information asked for if I had it, but at this moment I do not know the names of the Members of the Committee. I have stated to the Committee all the information received from the Prime Minister to-day, and also the information conveyed to the Secretary to the Treasury 653 by the Clerk of the Parliaments. With regard to the sittings of the Committee, it has met more than once, and I know that considerable progress has been made in the direction of economy. That I say on my responsibility in this House, and with it I trust the hon. Member will be satisfied. I am personally in favour of a Joint Committee being appointed, and I hope it will be possible to arrange that such a Committee shall take this matter into consideration; but I must of course confer with my Colleagues and the Prime Minister on the subject before giving an undertaking that the Committee will be appointed.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
Am I to understand that the Committee of the Black Rod Department is considering the whole expenditure voted by this House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked, whether the Secretary to the Treasury had any information as to the number of times the Committee had sat? Was it correct to say that the Committee had only met once? Because, if so, how was it possible to say that considerable progress had been made?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, there was considerable difficulty in giving particular information on this subject, and the question with regard to how many times the Committee had met formally was one which he was unable to answer. But he was able to assure the hon. Member that the investigation which was being made was most thorough, and reached throughout the whole expenditure of the House of Lords. From the information given that day he had come to the conclusion that there had been a very searching inquiry, and that the proceedings of the Committee were approaching a point at which they would be able to report the result of their investigations.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he was unable to answer that question until the Committee had reported to its own House?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked, if the hon. Gentleman would give the names of the Committee, and the number of times it had met by the time the Report of the Vote was taken.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he had no hesitation in saying that he would inquire whether there was any objection to that proposal. As far as he was concerned, he was perfectly willing to do so.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he thought it would be exceedingly unfair to press the Financial Secretary to the Treasury any further on this matter. He desired to ask the hon. Gentleman if he could give an explanation of the system under which officials of the House of Lords were placed on the retired list. There was in the House of Lords an anomalous institution called the Fee Fund. A sum of money was invested, and the interest, together with fees on judicial proceedings, Private Bills, and the taxation of costs, was paid into the fund, while, on the other hand, various sums were written off; one was paid into the Exchequer, another went as remuneration to those concerned in the taxation of costs, and a third sum was applied for superannuation allowances to certain officers of the House of Lords. It was with regard to the last item that he desired information, and he asked what was the authority which decided upon the retiring and pensioning of the officers of the House of Lords? Who was it that decided when money was to be drawn from the Fee Fund for superannuation allowances; and what was the authority which sanctioned the grant which was annually made from the Exchequer, extra receipts in respect of the Fee Fund in aid of the retiring allowances? All these things were so mixed up as to be perfectly unintelligible; he defied anyone thoroughly to understand from the Paper the system on which the retiring allowances to the officers of the House of Lords were regulated. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to impart some information on this subject, which he assured him could be done without any breach of confidence.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, the hon. Member was aware that there was a sum at the disposal of the House of Lords, the result of the accumulation of fees received. This fund, which amounted to about £43,000, is invested, and the deficiency of interest supplemented to the extent which might be necessary for the payment of these pensions. It was 655 generally supposed that they were granted on a much higher scale than obtained generally throughout the Civil Service. He was not able to say that there were no cases in which the Committee charged with the duty in the House of Lords had not granted pensions on a higher scale, but he was sure that the general practice was to follow exactly the scale of remuneration adopted by the Treasury. If cases were to be found in which exception might be taken on the ground of departure from the general rule, there were also cases in which the same objection would apply to the action of the Treasury with regard to the Civil Service. The fees went to make up the pensions, and the balance was paid over to the Exchequer. In the case referred to by the First Lord, the officer in question was paid out of the fees received; but his successors would be paid by salary, so that the House would know exactly what was received. The fees would henceforward be paid into the Exchequer, and the arrangement in the case of the Office of Taxing Master had secured a saving of something like 40 per cent.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the hon. Gentleman had not answered his question as to what authority sanctioned the allowances on retirement of Officers in the House of Lords. Was it the Black Rod, the Treasury, or the House of Lords? It would appear that the Fee Fund was in the hands of some official of the House of Lords over whom the Treasury had no control whatever. If the Fee Fund was insufficient to pay the retiring allowances, the fees which would otherwise be paid into the Exchequer were drawn upon for the sums necessary to supplement it; in other words, there was an authority independent of the House of Commons competent to place on the retired list any officer of the House of Lords; and in order to furnish each pension, that authority had power to draw not only on the Fee Fund, but also on the foes which, in the ordinary course, ought to be paid into the Exchequer.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, that beyond the information he had given that a Committee of the other House awarded the pensions in question, he could not answer the question of the hon. Member. He thought he had made it clear, that although the pensions were not 656 awarded by the Treasury, they were on the scale adopted by the Treasury in dealing with Civil Service pensions generally. He sympathized with the hon. Gentleman in his desire to have everything relating to these matters in order, and he believed he was justified in saying that this was one of the questions which was being considered.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked, how far the duties of the Clerks of the House of Lords corresponded with those of the Clerks of the House of Commons?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
In answer to the hon. Gentleman, I believe the Clerks referred to conduct the Business of the House of Lords between them in precisely the same way as the Clerks of the House of Commons conduct our Business. But they have also to take charge of the Judicial Business of the House of Lords, and in November and December those officers have to be in. attendance from 10 o'clock till 4.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he had called attention to the fact that the Senior Clerk had a number of Judicial Clerks under him at £150 a-year, and also a Clerk of the Journals. He understood what the Clerks in the House of Commons did; but surely the Clerk of the Parliaments, the Clerk Assistant, and the Chief Clerk of the House of Lords did not take part in the judicial duties of the House of Lords?
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he had gone into the question, and he believed that if the Chief Clerk were challenged he would be able to show as good a record as any officer in that House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he regarded the salaries now received by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and by the Yeoman Usher as excessive, and he should therefore move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,500, being £1,000 in respect of the salary of Black Rod, and £500 in respect of the salary of the Yeoman Usher.
Motion made, and Question put,
That Item E, £6,075—Department of Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Salaries—be reduced by the sum of £1,500."—(Mr. T. P. 0'Connor.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 78 Majority 45.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (13.) £43,387, to complete the sum for House of Commons Offices.657
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, that when last year he raised the question of the appointment of Clerks to the Staff of the House, he had pointed out that, whereas the whole of the Civil Service outside the House was practically open to competition, and the old system of patronage and nomination had been abolished, here, at the head-quarters of government, no such system prevailed, and the appointment of Clerk to the House was a close borough, admission to which was obtainable only by privilege. At the time the First Lord, or an official representing the Treasury, undertook to communicate with the officer in charge of the Department, in order to ascertain whether the practice in the House might not be assimilated to that which prevailed in other Departments of the Service, and whether the appointments might not be thrown open to public competition. He asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether that communication had resulted in any arrangement being made?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, he had no information to give the Committee which would lead them to look forward to the appointments being very shortly thrown open. He understood that there was for thorn what was called limited competition. A certain number of gentlemen were called upon, amongst whom there was competition before admission took place. There was a very limited number of offices to be filled, and he was informed that the present system worked well.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, his proposal would do no injury to any man on the Establishment of the House of Commons at the present moment. He was not attacking any person; he was merely claiming for the public at large the right of access to the offices. The hon. Gentleman said that the present system was working well; but, of course, every system worked well in the opinion of those who benefited by it. They had removed the old system of nomination and patronage in the great majority of cases; why, then, was it maintained in the House of Commons? They could set up any standard of fitness they might wish, and they might exact any qualifications, however delicate they might be; they had Commissions perfectly fitted to 658 test the qualifications of men for any post, however exceptional. Why, then, should they refuse to enforce the system of open competition which had answered well in the India Service and in the Civil Service generally, and which anyone would suppose would be adopted in the House of Commons? There was nothing that stood in the way of open competition in the House of Commons but a very narrow piece of personal patronage, which ought not to be allowed to stand in bar of the very fair claim of thousands for employment in the Civil Service. Although the system had worked well for those who obtained the appointments, it had not done so for those who had no chances of admission. He asked the hon. Gentleman what answer he had received to the inquiry which he undertook to make last year with the view of seeing whether these posts could not be thrown open, but to that he had received no answer. Had the hon. Gentleman received a pointblank refusal—had the officer in charge of the department said that he would not surrender his patronage? But if there was any moot point between the hon. Gentleman and the officer in charge, he might possibly have it settled by Monday next, when the Report came up. If he could promise that, he (Mr. O'Connor) should be satisfied; but it was an anomaly that the House of Commons should be the last entrenchment of a system of patronage which had been most successfully attacked.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he had no objection to the hon. Member putting a further question to him on Report, if he desired to do so. He had endeavoured to convey to the Committee that the result of the inquiries he had made had not led him to the conclusion that he could usefully press this matter in the particular way which the hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest. There was patronage in the appointments, no doubt, and it used to be close patronage; but a considerable step had been taken in the direction in which the hon. Gentleman desired to travel, because it was not now by nomination but by limited competition that the offices were filled. He was sure that those charged with this responsible duty had far more regard to the manner in which the work was clone than to the particular point of patronage. His intention had been to 659 convey his belief that the system worked well so far as the duties discharged in that House were concerned. No doubt the system of open competition had led to the admission into the Services of a large number of very able men; but they did hear sometimes of men who, although they had passed examinations extremely well, was not always perfectly successful in the performance of the particular duties which they were called upon to discharge. He had no objection to saying that he Would take up the question again, and see whether any further effect could be given to the wishes expressed.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (14.) £50,222, to complete the sum for the Treasury.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
asked the reason of the increase in the charge for the office of Parliamentary Counsel? It was £4,465 last year, and it was now £5,000. Parliamentary Counsel, who previously received £2,500, seemed to have their salaries increased to £2,811, and there was still the same number of them.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, this was a growing charge, as the hon. Member knew; but in recent years there had been an increase in the salary of the second officer. Parliamentary Counsel, as the hon. Member knew, received salaries which increased from time to time. The salaries began at £2,500, and went on to £3,000.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that was not the arrangement. The arrangement was that the Parliamentary Counsel should have £2,500 for two years, and then have £3,000 instead of £2,500; but here they saw the amount put down at £2,811. He should like to know on what system they paid for Parliamentary Counsels' work. Take such a Bill as the Employers' Liability Bill, which was founded upon the Report of a Select Committee. The drafting of that Bill had to be placed in the hands of some competent draughtsman; but, allowing any amount of time for the preparation of the Local Government Bill, and one 660 or two other Bills which the Government had in hand, there would appear to have been abundant leisure for the Parliamentary counsel or his assistant to draft such a Bill as the Employers' Liability Bill. He wished to know whether any portion of £2,811 for Parliamentary counsel, or of £1,500 for the assistant counsel, was taken in consideration of such a Bill as the Employers' Liability Bill, or was that Bill given up to some other counsel who were en rapport with the Treasury, and who received special fees for their work, and if so, would the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) say who these counsel were?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
said, the course of business was this. There were, as the hon. Gentleman knew, two permanent draftsmen at the Parliamentary Draftsmen's Office, and under ordinary circumstances when Bills had to be prepared for the Government, those gentlemen prepared them. But there were measures upon the drafting of which special knowledge had to be brought to bear, such as the Land Transfer Bill, and other Bills of a complicated nature, and in connection with these measures particular counsel were employed. As to the Employers' Liability Bill, he thought that had been entirely drawn by the Home Secretary and the ordinary Parliamentary draftsmen. He was not able to mention the name of the special counsel who have been engaged on particular Bills; but he did know this, that since he had had the honour of holding his present Office from the year 1885, special gentlemen who happened to have been specially acquainted with certain subjects, had been engaged at ordinary fees to take part in the work of drafting.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he should like to know with reference to the next item—namely, "Fees to Counsel," what there was in the circumstances of the present year which rendered it necessary to raise the sum of £1,200, which was quite adequate last year, to £1,500 this year. Unless he was greatly mistaken the number of Bills which it had been necessary to deal with this year had not been particularly heavy.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that in the first place during the present year the drafting had been very heavy indeed, and in addition to that, as was generally known, Mr. Jenkyns had been ill, though he was now quite recovered. There had probably been as great pressure on the Drafting Office during the last nine months as there had ever been during any equal period since the office had come into existence.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (15.) £80,734, to complete the sum for the Home Office.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to a portion of the work of the Home Office, which, so far as he knew, that Office had no apparatus for doing, and which the country would not think did this work satisfactorily. There was hardly any Department of the State, so far as he was aware, which had undergone so many alterations as had the Home Office; but in regard to the specific Department to which he was about to refer, there had been no change whatever. There had been new functions thrown upon the Home Office; but for the discharge of the new duties involved new machinery had always been provided, and everyone he thought would admit that the Home Office, generally speaking, had discharged its work very well; but there was a good deal of the old work of the Office for which there was only old machinery or no machinery at all with regard to which good reason for complaint arose. The jurisdiction of the Home Office in capital cases was always about as important a function as the Office could perform, as it loft in the hands of a single Minister decisions in cases of life and death. That jurisdiction was always important; but he ventured to say that in recent years when life got to be considered as much more sacred than it used to be in the old days, and sentences were more lenient than was formerly the case, the exercise of this jurisdiction was a much more delicate matter than in years gone by. It had also become more extended, because, as a matter of fact, whereas in the old days the jurisdiction of the Home Office, that was to say of the Secretary of State for the Home Department acting in the name of the Crown, and by virtue of the Prerogative of the Crown, exercised his 662 jurisdiction chiefly under the jurisdiction of Parliament. Now, Sir, to a great extent the idea of the Parliament had dropped out of the jurisdiction, and as a matter of fact, the Home Secretary acted to a great extent as a Court of review and in reality re-tried prisoners, and reviewed the decisions of Judges at the Home Office. His (Mr. Hanbury's) contention was, that for work of this kind there was no provision at the Home Office at the present time. The work almost wholly fell upon the Secretary of State himself personally, as an individual practically without any assistance. The Secretary of State had no machinery to enable him to come to a proper decision, and there was no reason whatever why he should have any legal or other qualification. The right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) no doubt was an able lawyer, but other holders of the Office might not have the slightest legal qualification for work of this kind, and, in addition to that fact, it must be remembered that a great deal of extra work had been thrown on the Office of the Home Secretary within recent years, rendering the Home Secretary one of the hardest worked Ministers of the Crown. The work of the Home Secretary in Parliament itself had largely increased, so that it came to this—that a special description of duty, which had become more direct and enlarged in its scope, was thrown upon a Minister who might have no special qualification for dealing with it, and who, besides, was one of the hardest worked Ministers in the Cabinet. He (Mr. Hanbury) did not intend to touch upon the subject of criminal appeal generally, as no doubt if he did, he should be ruled out of Order by the Chairman; and, further, the subject was too large a one for him as a layman to deal with. It was, however, possible for an ordinary layman as a looker on to see that the Home Office in some of those cases where appeals were made to the Royal clemency arrived at decisions which, he ventured to say, were not in accordance with common sense. He was not going to base his remarks to-night upon mere theory, because his attention had been called to this matter by some recent decisions of the Home Office, and because one of these cases he considered a matter of urgency, and one which should be brought before the notice of 663 the House without any further delay. What had tempted him to take up this question had been the case of the convict Bowles. This man had been convicted by a jury of murder, and he ventured to say if the murder for which Bowles was tried was actually committed, it was as bad a murder as any man ever perpetrated; and if Bowles were guilty, he ought undoubtedly to have been hanged. It was one of these cases in which, so far as the accused was concerned, there was no third course open. Either the man was guilty of a most ferocious murder—in which case it would have been criminal not to have hanged him—or he was innocent, and ought to have been let off scot-free. But what had happened? Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in this case seemed to have split the difference, and to have made a compromise between the innocence and the guilt of the unfortunate man, whose sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. That, be (Mr. Hanbury) contended was a most illogical course for the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to have pursued. As he (Mr. Hanbury) had said, either the man was guilty and ought to have been hanged, or he was innocent and ought to have been let off. And the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman was all the more remarkable, as there were two cases under his eye which should have taught him that to sentence a man to penal servitude under such circumstances was a most serious matter. Two men named Beesley and Rice had within the past few months been released after serving 15 years' penal servitude. Why had these men been let loose? Their original sentence had been commuted to one of penal servitude for life, and why had they not been allowed to serve out the sentence? Was it that there had been fresh evidence forthcoming to prove their innocence? He did not think anything of the kind had happened, and he held, in regard to these two cases, that either great injustice had been done to the public or great injustice had been done to the prisoners. If these men were guilty of murder the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had no business whatever to let them out of gaol at all at the end of 15, or even 20, years imprisonment, for we could not afford to have murderers let 664 loose upon society. Evidently, then, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary felt that these men were innocent, and the result was that, having undergone 15 years' penal servitude, they have been let out as innocent, because it was impossible to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman would have let out guilty men. Such a thing would have been an act of lunacy; therefore it must be assumed that the right hon. Gentleman was convinced of the innocence of these men. He (Mr. Hanbury) said then, with these facts before his eyes, and feeling that Beesley and Rice had suffered 15 years' penal servitude in respect of a crime of which they were innocent, it was a very strange course of procedure to send this man Bowles to the very same kind of penal servitude which he knew Beesley and Rice had innocently endured for the long period of 15 years. Some people said that they did not want a Court of Appeal or any appeal at all in these cases. He did not wish, however, to discuss theories, but to look at facts, and the facts in the cases to which he referred, as they could judge from the conduct of the Home Office, went exactly the other way. The fact was, in the first place, that it was very often necessary to review cases of this kind; and, in the second place, it was clear, from the practice of the Home Office, that it was not merely a question of remitting sentences or pardoning prisoners, but a question as to the fact of the guilt or innocence of the prisoners—a question of trying them over again. There was a third fact equally apparent, and it was that the Home Office, either in theory or practice, was about the worst Court of Appeal they could institute in cases of this kind—and he called it a Court, although it only consisted of one man. How did the Home Secretary and the Home Office come to consider cases of this kind at all? It came under cover of the Royal Prerogative of mercy or pardon. No one wanted—he certainly did not—to limit the Prerogative of the Crown in its dispensation of mercy one iota; and he maintained that if we had a Court of Appeal in criminal cases that Prerogative would remain untouched, and would be just as large as it was at present. But he wished to call attention to this fact, that so far—certainly up to recent years—the Prerogative of the 665 Crown was a Prerogative of pardon, and of pardon which extended itself either to remitting sentences altogether or remitting them partially. But the Prerogative of the Crown, as he understood, in such cases, was exceedingly limited. For instance, it was not possible for the Crown to give anything like the Scotch verdict of "Not proven"; because if the Crown once granted its pardon, however guilty the man might afterwards be proved to be, there was no possibly of his being again tried for the same offence. It was impossible for the Crown to look upon a man as innocent; it merely pardoned him. This was hard on an innocent man, for, if the Home Secretary really believed that a man was innocent, that man ought to be able to go back to his home without a stain on his character, and not simply as a merely pardoned man. Formerly this pardon—as he had said—was a real pardon. It was limited chiefly to the cases of political offenders, and it was afterwards extended to the cases of persons who were sentenced to barbarous punishments which were not approved of by public opinion. The Crown in the exercise of its Prerogative mitigated and made milder these sentences; but at the present moment the Prerogative of the Crown was exercised by the re-trial of the guilt or innocence of a prisoner. This he held to be a very momentous difference. Everyone could see that a great change had taken place in the way the Prerogative of the Crown was exercised, and as to the class of cases to which it applied, and without questioning the right of the Crown in any way as to the exercise of its Prerogative, he submitted that such exercise of Prerogative was open to these three remarks. In the first place by re-trying prisoners, the Crown superseded the functions of its own appointed Courts, and this was entirely contrary to the theory of pardon which was the basis of the Prerogative. In the next place this exercise of the Prerogative was entirely inadequate, because it was not sufficient merely to pardon a man who was innocent—there ought to be a Court to decide that a man was an innocent man and not merely a pardoned man. He (Mr. Hanbury) mentioned that the plain facts as to these cases was that the Home Office did actually retry the question of the guilt or inno- 666 cence of the prisoners. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could deny that. Let them take the case of Bowles for instance. Was there any ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could have given his decision, except upon the question of Bowles' guilt or innocence? Everyone admitted that the murder for which that man was tried was a most atrocious murder, and there was no other issue than that he was either guilty or innocent—there was no possibility of any other questions arising. He (Mr. Hanbury) would go further, and say that if they once admitted that there ought to be a re-trial in such a case, it ought to be a re-trial by a Judge in open Court—a full and complete inquiry with the ordinary apparatus of judicial proceedings, and not a hole-and-corner secret inquiry at the Home Office. What was the present position? How were such cases dealt with by the Home Office at the present moment? At present the appeal to the Home Office was a haphazard affair. It was a question almost of accident whether a case came before the Home Secretary at all, the circumstances very often depending on the activity and perseverance of the prisoner's counsel. If there was to be a re-trial, it should be by a duly qualified Judge, and not by a Home Secretary, who might be a layman, and who was always an overworked official. The prisoner, if he were to be re-tried, had a right to re-trial in open Court; and the hole-and-corner way in which capital sentences were now reviewed at the Home Office was a disgrace to English justice. If a man had a right to re-trial at all, he had a right to retrial before a jury of his peers, and in a Court in which he could know what was going on, and could have counsel present capable of dealing with all the facts of the case. He (Mr. Hanbury) would go even a trifle farther, and say that whether a re-trial took place in the Home Office or in a regularly constituted Court, at any rate the ordinary principles of justice which were acted upon in open Court ought to be most rigidly observed. It ought not to be in the power of the Home Secretary or anyone else to keep a prisoner in gaol merely on the chance of further evidence turning up as to his guilt or innocence. 667 Yet, when he had questioned the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on this point, he had told him that penal servitude was not an irrevocable sentence, and that evidence might turn up to prove a man's innocence. But that was not an answer—that was not the spirit in which this matter ought to be dealt with. It was contrary to the principles of English law that a man should be kept in gaol on the chance of evidence to prove his innocence turning up. No prisoner ought to be kept in confinement unless his guilt were thoroughly established; indeed, in this, as in other cases, the prisoner was entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Clearly there had been in the case he (Mr. Hanbury) had referred to a doubt in the right lion. Gentleman the Home Secretary's mind; and he contended that the prisoner should have had the benefit of it. The prisoner was entitled to a plain "Yes" or "No," as was a prisoner in open Court, none of our Courts recognizing compromises—
The hon. Member is perfectly entitled to criticize the action of the Home Secretary in advising the Crown in the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy; but he is entering into an examination of the extent of the limits of that Prerogative, which is outside the scope of this Motion. He is discussing the question of the re-trial of prisoners.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he was pointing out that he was not so sure that it was within the Prerogative of the Crown to come to such a decision as the Home Secretary came to on the occasion to which he had referred.
The hon. Member would be entitled to question the action of the Home Secretary, but not those principles which are independent of the action of a particular Home Secretary.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he desired to criticize the conduct of the Home Secretary in not coming to a different decision to that which he had arrived at in the case of this man Bowles. He maintained that it was unjust to the man, and contrary to the ordinary principles of justice, not to give a plain "Yes" or "No" in the case. Either the man was guilty or he was innocent. If he was innocent he ought to have been allowed to go free, and if he was guilty he ought, un- 668 doubtedly, to have been hanged, and the Home Secretary no more than any ordinary jury had a right to give a decision which was a mere compromise between "Yes" and "No." Further than that, he held that the reason given for commuting the death sentence to one of penal servitude in the case of the convict Bowles would not hold water for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the sentence was not irrevocable. Well, in theory, no doubt, the sentence of penal servitude for life was irrevocable, but in practice it was not, as was illustrated by the case of Beesley and Rice, these men having had their sentence commuted to penal servitude for life and having been released after 15 years' imprisonment by the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, who must have had a doubt as to their guilt. It was argued that such sentences as penal servitude for life were lighter than the death penalty, but he very much questioned whether to an innocent man that was so; and where the Home Secretary's decision was delayed to the eleventh hour, it seemed to him (Mr. Hanbury) that the commutation of the death sentence into one of penal servitude was almost an additional sentence. Gaol Chaplain after Gaol Chaplain had written to him complaining of the bad practice which in recent years had grown up on the part of Home Secretaries. Formerly, they said, Home Secretaries used to make up their minds and give their decisions at once; but latterly they had put off their decisions as to the guilt or innocence of prisoners sentenced to death until 24 hours of the time fixed for the executions. In the case of a man like Bowles it was hardly an exaggeration to say that he had already undergone the death penalty, and that the sentence of penal servitude for life, or even for 15 years, was almost an additional sentence to the one of death, which he had already undergone. He had been urged to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the extreme cruelty of the course of not giving decisions in these cases until the eleventh hour. It was most cruel in the case of the innocent man, and in the case of the guilty man it was just as cruel. In theory, an interval between the delivery of the sentence and the execution was allowed in order to enable the convict 669 to prepare for death; but in cases where an appeal was made to the Home Secretary for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of mercy, owing to delay in arriving at a decision, the convict did not know whether the death penalty was to be inflicted, and remained in a state of painful uncertainty and unable to prepare himself for death. Here, again, was an evil existing under the present system which would not exist if we had a Court of Criminal Appeal. This uncertainty, he was told, had a most painful effect upon the criminal classes themselves. The Chaplain of the Gaol in the county of which he knew most—namely, the County of Stafford—had written to him telling him that during the time he had held the office of Chaplain of the Gaol, out of 14 men sentenced to death only two had had their sentences carried out, and that the undoubted effect upon the criminal classes of the uncertainty attaching to these sentences, and the knowledge that the chances were that they would not be carried out, was to produce a most painful feeling. It was certain that a great deal of uncertainty must arise under the present system of retrial, on which so much depended on the character and en the political views and the general views on such a subject as capital punishment of a particular Minister for the time being. If we had, instead of a single administrative official, an ordinary Court to deal with these cases, the proceedings would be a good deal more regular, and there would be a much greater certainty of punishment following crime—and it was that certainty of punishment much more than the stringency of it which had so great a deterrent effect on the criminal classes. And there were other reasons why the appeal in capital cases should be much more real than it was. If the present system was to continue, something at any rate ought to be done to strengthen the hands of the Home Secretary. He (Mr. Hanbury) did not refer so much to the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, who was an eminent lawyer, but it was necessary to provide for cases where the Home Secretary was not a lawyer at all, and in dealing with this point he wished not to touch upon the question of the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal. They must remem- 670 ber that this appeal was an appeal which touched the social system at its two 'extreme ends. It touched the rights and the Prerogative of the Crown on the one hand and the rights of the poorest and most ignorant subjects of Her Majesty on the other. Already English law told too much in favour of the guilty at the present moment, and he was heartily glad that changes were about to be introduced which at the other end of the scale would make it more difficult for the guilty to be acquitted than it was at present. But he must say that at the other end of the scale they wanted something to protect the innocent prisoner. The system pursued by the present Home Secretary of deciding neither the one way nor the other until the last moment, was one which told very greatly against the innocent man. And then, again, in the present state of English law, when they had appeal after appeal allowed in cases affecting property, with which the rich were principally concerned, they ought to be very careful indeed that the only appeal which was left to the poor man, namely, an appeal in regard to that which was dearer to him than any property, that was to say his person or his life, was a real and genuine appeal, giving him every opportunity of having justice done to him. But, as a matter of fact, the poor man, in capital oases, had no right of appeal at all; and then, when an appeal was granted, he had no opportunity of making himself heard by counsel before the Court, the appeal being heard in a hole-and-corner manner. It would be better if the decision of the Judge and jury were final, than that a prisoner should be exposed to all the uncertainty which attached to the review of that decision in the Home Office. He (Mr. Hanbury) held that by the present system they weakened the responsibility of jurors, who always knew that there was a possibility of their verdicts being reviewed. In the next place they increased the uncertainty of punishment because of the particular idiosyncrasies of Home Secretaries and the constant changes which took place in the Office of Home Secretary; and, finally, they weakened the adminstration of justice by lessening the respect in which justice ought to be regarded among the criminal classes. He would repeat what he had said at the beginning, that his attention 671 had been called to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative chiefly by the way in which that Prerogative had been exercised in the case of the convict Bowles; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—looking at the cases to which reference had been made, the cases of Beesley and slice, who had been released from penal servitude only within the past few months—to realize that a sentence of penal servitude for life was almost irrevocable, and that it was most unfair to re-try a prisoner without giving him an opportunity of defending himself or of getting a barrister to defend him. They had some right to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that he would act on the same principle of justice and administer the same sort of justice as was administered in the ordinary Courts, and that if he had a doubt in his mind he would give the prisoner the benefit of it. By acting in this way the right hon. Gentleman would increase respect for the authority of the law. There was a strong feeling that in the case of Bowles the right hon. Gentleman ought to have made up his mind sooner than he did, and there was some fear that there had been a miscarriage of justice.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he would venture to interpose between the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) for a few moments, for two reasons—first, because when he went to the Home Office he held almost precisely the opinion which the lion. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury) now entertained; and, secondly, because he was a layman, and with all the disadvantages which the hon. Member had referred to in the course of his remarks. What he (Mr. Childers) wished to say was this—that the experience which he had obtained at the Home Office with reference not only to the 14 cases of capital convictions which came before him during the short time he was there, but, also, with reference to many cases of minor offences and convictions as to which applications to mitigate sentences had come to him, had led him to a very different conclusion from that with which he had originally gone to the Home Office. In the first place, he should like to got rid of one idea which ran through the whole of the 672 speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury); and in dealing with this point he did not wish to trespass in the direction which the Chairman had so well pointed out. The function of the Home Secretary, under the present practice, was not to re-try a case. He could not put that too clearly. The Home Secretary was not a Court of Appeal. He was not going to say whether there should or should not be a Court of Appeal, although he was of opinion that even if there were a Court of Appeal the exercise of the Queen's Prerogative would be asked for on behalf of convicted offenders just as much as it was now. The function of the Home Secretary was simply this, when a prisoner had been convicted, to be the medium of the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The prisoner under our present law, having once been found guilty of a criminal offence, had no right to a re-trial; and he (Mr. Childers) was not now going into the highly technical question of the Court for Crown Cases Reserved, which did not enter into this debate. The question raised was whether the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy, which, as he had said, they must be perfectly clear from the first was not a re-trial, took place in a judicious and satisfactory manner. If it did not, it ought to be amended; but if no clear case for amendment was shown—and he should discuss the question at no very great length—then he thought the proposition which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury) had placed before them fell to the ground. He wished to deny altogether, at the outset, before he went through the process which the Home Secretary had to follow and the assistance he got, one statement the hon. Member had made, so far, at least, as Ms (Mr. Childers's) own experience was concerned, and so far as the experience of those who went before him was concerned. As to the experience of the present Home Secretary, of course no one but the right hon. Gentleman himself could speak to that. According to his (Mr. Childers's) experience, it had not been the practice to defer the decison of the Home Secretary until just before the time fixed for the execution of a criminal. In the cases which had come before himself inquiries were made, and the prisoners' friends and the prisoners 673 themselves and the prison officials were informed of the Home Secretary's decision, not just before the sentence was carried out, but as soon as the Home Secretary's mind was made up. He was not speaking for the present Home Secretary, but of what was the case in his time. He wished also to make it clear to the House what the Home Secretary had to rely on in dealing with this most important of all his duties—the duty of exercising the Queen's Prerogative of Mercy. There was nothing which filled him with greater relutance when he was offered the Office of Home Secretary in the late Government than the knowledge that he would have to exercise this power, and that it would depend on him either to mitigate, or not to mitigate, the sentence of prisoners. He had approached the Office with some dread and with a keen sense of responsibility, and almost his first act when he went to the Home Office was to ascertain precisely what the practice in this matter was, and what assistance he should have in dealing with this most important part of his duty. The hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury) appeared to think—in fact, he (Mr. Childers) thought he had used the words—that the Home Secretary had to act upon his own unguided mind in dealing with these matters. But that was not the case. In the first place, the Home Secretary had at the Home Office, and had had for a long time, two permanent Under Secretaries, one of whom was called the Legal Assistant, both of them trained lawyers; secondly, he had the opportunity of obtaining the advice, if he should deem it necessary, of the Law Officers of the Crown; and, thirdly, he had the opportunity of obtaining—as, in one notable case, he (Mr. Childers) had found it necessary to obtain—the assistance of the officer connected with the Treasury—he referred to the Public Prosecutor. The Home Secretary had also, and above all, the benefit of the advice and assistance of the Judge who tried the case, and that advice and assistance was not necessarily obtained only once. He remembered one case which came before him in which the advice of the Judge was taken in writing, and by personal interviews three or four times, before a final decision was arrived at. So far then from its being the case that it was the judgment of a Secretary of State, and an over-worked 674 Secretary of State, upon which the exercise of the Queen's Prerogative depended, and that the Prerogative was likely always to be exercised in a particular way, almost the opposite might be said to be the case. The Home Secretary had the written opinions, the advice, and personal consultation with two distinguished lawyers at the Home Office, the opportunity of appealing to the Law Officers of the Crown—although it was not usual to appeal to them—the advice of the Crown Prosecutor as to certain questions of fact, and, above all, he had the assistance of the Judge. He (Mr. Childers) could say with certainty that, whether or not it would be expedient to establish a Court of Criminal Appeal, he doubted whether any machinery could be invented in an Office, the head of which dispensed the Queen's Prerogative of Mercy, more efficacious than that which now existed. After the experience he had had, he did not see how more valuable machinery could be invented, or how the Prerogative of Mercy could be more satisfactorily exercised. Therefore, he thought that before the House adopted the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), they required to hear a great deal more than he had laid before them. The hon. Member must remember that with respect to legal advice of different kinds, and from different quarters, the Home Secretary was armed with advice to such an extent, and of such a character, that he doubted whether any better channel for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative could be discovered. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston seemed to think that there was something haphazard in the action of the Home Secretary. Well, he (Mr. Childers) would not deal with the special case which had been referred to, in which a man who had had the capital sentence passed upon him, had quite recently received a commutation of that sentence to penal servitude for life. He did not know the facts, and it would be rash of him to found any argument upon newspaper reports of them; but he would say this, that if the Secretary of State had to discharge the duty, not of retrying cases, but of exercising the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, there must be cases in which the evidence as it came before the Home Secretary contained just that element of 675 doubt which would perfectly entitle him to retain the man in prison for life, or for a long period of years, but which would not justify him in saying that that should be done which, once done, could never be undone in respect of that man. No one but the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could know the circumstances of the case in question, and he (Mr. Childers) could not say whether they ought to be disclosed now. He (Mr. Childers) was perfectly aware that such cases had arisen, and must arise. The hon. Member for Preston had said something about the action of the Home Secretary being illogical. Well, it would be the most illogical thing in the world to tell a person who was to exercise the Queen's Prerogative—"You must either hang the man, or let him out upon the public again." He (Mr. Childers) did not intend, when he rose, to speak at any length, but he desired to put forward in a few words what was the practice of the Home Office, what was the assistance the Home Secretary received in these cases, and what was the result of that assistance. He could certainly say this, that what was done, in the case of the 14 appeals which were made to him whilst he was at the Home Office, was eminently logical. He had to become acquainted with the facts of the trials, the Judges' notes came to him, the reports of the trials themselves were submitted, and every fact in public knowledge which could be obtained was carefully collected. Then the Judge himself was consulted both by written communications and orally. A most careful report, prepared by the two lawyers in the Home Office, was then considered, and in some cases it was thought desirable to seek assistance from the outside. These proceedings, which were by no means casual, but each had been built up gradually by successive Secretaries of State—certainly this had been so during the whole of the Queen's Reign—seemed to him to be satisfactory, and he did not think that the present moment was a time at which to alter the existing arrangements. Therefore, while he was no optimist, and did not believe a thing to be good merely because he happened to have found it in existence, he concluded by saying that it would be for the hon. Gentleman opposite, and for those who agreed with him, to point 676 out distinct blots and flaws and to propose for them categorical remedies before the Committee adopted the views he had expressed.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
said, he felt some difficulty in following the hon. Member who had introduced this subject, through his extremely interesting speech, and through the legal topics he had raised, as he (Mr. Matthews) gathered from the ruling of the Chairman that he should be out of Order in discussing the question of a Court of Appeal as compared with the exercise of the Queen's Prerogative of Mercy. He confined himself to the personal criticism—of which he by no means complained—contained in the speech of the hon. Member. To start with, however, he should like to endorse what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers)—namely, that the idea that the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy amounted in any way to a re-trial was contrary to the whole spirit of the law in criminal cases. The only effect of constituting a Court of Criminal Appeal would be that a new trial would take place before a fresh jury, a new trial would begin de novo, as if there had never been a previous trial, and if a new trial were granted in the case of a conviction, it must also be granted in the case of an acquittal, and he did not know how that could possibly be of benefit to prisoner. With regard to the advice given to the Crown in a capital case as to the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy, it was not in any sense a re-trial. In his own opinion, it was somewhat an abuse of the existing system which had sprung up in recent years that cast upon the Home Secretary the necessity of considering new matters of facts which had not been before the jury, these matters coming up for consideration not through the action of the Home Office, but through the action of outsiders, who, feeling sympathy with the man whose life was forfeited to the law, cast about for new facts to press them upon the attention of the Home Secretary—facts not proved upon oath or sifted by the valuable tests of open inquiry in Court. Was it possible for the Home Secretary altogether to shut his eyes to these various facts, and to refuse to consider 677 them? The Home Secretary was placed in a position of extreme difficulty and delicacy. He agreed that the Home Office was not a satisfactory tribunal to ascertain new facts with regard to a case, but did the hon. Member for Preston suggest that a really new fact undiscovered at the trial, and coming to the knowledge of the Home Secretary afterwards, was to be disregarded, and the man hanged in spite of it? The hon. Member would hardly suggest that. Once they let in the principle that there was to be a now trial before a jury because a new fact had been discovered supporting the theory of innocence, would anyone say that they could refuse a new trial when a new fact had been discovered supporting the theory of guilt? Now, in the case in question there was a man with whom were living his wife and her son. [An hon. MEMBER: His son.] No, a wife and her son. At night the woman and the boy died, undoubtedly by poison. The post mortem examination proved that conclusively, and the doctor had no doubt of it. The jury found the man guilty. He and the learned Judge who tried the case went over every line of the evidence given at the trial, and also over the depositions given before the magistrates and the coroner, and they both came to the conclusion that it was impossible to say that the verdict of the jury was wrong. It was quite true that the evidence before the jury did not trace any of the poison to the prisoner, he was not shown to have become possessed of strychnine within any reasonable period before the lamentable occurrence, and another blot in the evidence was that no adequate motive for the murder was shown. On the other hand, the only possible theory of the prisoner's innocence was that the unhappy woman who died committed suicide and murder. As he had said, neither he nor the learned Judge could say that the verdict was wrong; but, at the same time, it was clear from the facts before the jury that there were gaps, so to speak, in the evidence, and that there was a possibility of its turning out some day that the woman had procured strychnine, and taken it herself and given it to her son. There was also the possibility of its being shown that the man had obtained strychnine. There was a most material fact which was not covered 678 by the evidence at the trial, and which, according to the way it turned out, might show that the verdict was absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Was it possible, under the circumstances, to give that simple "Yea" or "Nay" which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury) said he (Mr. Matthews) was bound to give? It was impossible for him to say that the man was innocent, and that, therefore, he ought to be allowed to go free; and, on the other hand, he did not feel justified in sending the man to execution. He therefore, thought—and the learned Judge agreed with him—that the man should be subjected to the next severest punishment known to the law, but which was not irrevocable, and would allow of his being set at liberty if his innocence should afterwards come to light. He agreed that that was an illogical proceeding; but the Prerogative of Mercy was full of illogical consequences. Thousands of considerations that were illogical were constantly allowed to prevail in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Let him take, for instance, a case which excited great interest last year—the case of Miriam Jones, who murdered her child. She was a girl who had been seduced at the ago of 14, abandoned by her seducer, and left to poverty and want. Her case, when she tried to get rid of her shame and the consequence of her own distress, caused most poignant sympathy throughout the whole of the Principality of Wales. They might say it was illogical to give countenance to that kind of public sympathy; but he apprehended that, illogical as it might have been to exercise the Prerogative of Mercy, to minimize the girl's punishment, and to award the lightest punishment the circumstances admitted of, it was a proper case in which to exercise the Prerogative of Mercy. The hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury) had criticized his (Mr. Matthews') action in the case of Beesley and Rice. If the hon. Member had told him he would have referred to that case, he (Mr. Matthews) would have refreshed his memory. The hon. Member said he (Mr. Matthews) released those men, because he must have known them to be innocent. The hon. Member was quite mistaken. The two men, with others, had got into a riot and fight outside a public-house in Leeds, in which fight a man met with his death. 679 Beesley and Rice were participators in the fight, which resulted in the publican's death. Altogether five men were convicted—two of them were hanged, and the other three had their sentences commuted to penal servitude for life. Although technically and legally guilty of murder, yet the part these men played in the attack upon the publican was slight. They were not the actual inflictors of the wounds and violence which led to the man's death, and he (Mr. Matthews) felt when he released Beesley and Rice that their sentences had lasted long enough for the ends of justice; and, with the full concurrence of the learned Judge who tried them, he allowed the men to be released. They were young men, not otherwise of bad character, and they acted in the heat of blood. There was a sort of partizan feeling actuating them—he was not sure if there was not some feeling of race. Certainly he knew there were circumstances of that sort in the case which considerably mitigated the character of their offence. They had less of the guilt of the man's death upon them than those who were executed. They had not inflicted the actual blows which caused his death, and he thought that, after 15 or 18 years' imprisonment, he might, with the sanction of the learned Judge, allow the men to return to what he believed, from all he could learn of their circumstances and history, to be an honest course of life. The men had conducted themselves well in prison, and the proper discipline of prisons required that they should hold out to prisoners the hope of an alleviation of their sentences if their conduct was perfectly good and satisfactory while they were in prison. If they were to preclude the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy in such cases, they would find it very much more difficult to maintain discipline in prisons. Again there were cases in which prisoners, in consequence of extraordinary good conduct, such a thing as saving a warder from murder and attack by another prisoner, were very justly forgiven the remainder of their sentences. These were perfectly illogical cases too. The hon. Member would have a man hanged, so that there should be no possibility of his release, if he were found guilty of murder, but, illogical as it seemed, there were cases of murder in which it was proper that the 680 Prerogative of Mercy should be exercised. There might be cases in which there had been some mistake in law. He could hardly fancy any tribunal which was more abundantly assisted by the best legal advice than the Home Secretary. He had never dealt, not only with capital sentences but with cases of any gravity, without consulting either by writing or by word of mouth the Judge who tried the case. In some cases he had called in the assistance of the Law Officers. A case occurred the other day in which, on a point of law, he was advised by the Law Officers to pardon a man sentenced to death. The Lord Chancellor was always ready to assist him, and he never knew a Judge refuse to come in, in a case in which he had not been connected, in order to give his advice to the Home Secretary. In one case in which his Predecessor refused to interfere with, the verdict, but which had been again pressed upon the attention of the Government, he had solicited the services of the Master of the Rolls, and had asked him if he would meet him (Mr. Matthews) and the Judge who tried the case, in order to review the case. As far as legal advice went he believed the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy was abundantly well guarded. The most painful, and upon the whole most unsatisfactory proceeding, was when new facts were pressed upon the attention of the Home Secretary as a reason for the exercise of the Prerogative. The Lipski case brought that home to his mind most forcibly. The disadvantage under which he tried in that case to grope his way through a variety of new facts which were presented to him and alleged to be true, was certainly most embarrassing; but he believed that unless they took away the Prerogative of Mercy altogether, he did not know how any Adviser of Her Majesty could refuse to listen to cases of that sort. For his part, the principle upon which he had gene, had been not to listen, but to refuse to listen, to allegations which were contradicted by sworn testimony at the trial, and to listen with great reluctance, and an unwilling mind to any statements of fact that might have been proved at the trial, but were not, and only to lend a willing oar to matters that had bonâ fide come to light since the trial. It might always happen that some fact was not known 681 at the time the trial took place, which had been since discovered, and had a very material and important bearing on the result of the trial, and which ought not to be overlooked. He did not know whether the explanation he had given to the hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury) was satisfactory to him; but he frankly surrendered his own action to the severe criticism of the hon. Member in the confidence that, though there was always a possibility of error, he had used every means in his power to ensure the right and proper exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy. He certainly thought it was a safe course to take, if there was any reasonable and substantial ground, although illogical ground, for not putting the prisoner beyond the reach of any further mercy, to substitute for the punishment of death the punishment of penal servitude for life, which could be revoked and put an end to if the prisoner proved to be innocent. The hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury) must not suppose for a moment that the advice he (Mr. Matthews) gave to Her Majesty to spare this man's life was tendered because he supposed the man was innocent. On the contrary, he relied on the material before the jury, and on the jury not being wrong. The materials before them were not so complete as to shut out the possibility of the man being innocent, and, therefore, in order to afford an opportunity of a mistake being rectified, he asked Her Majesty to substitute the sentence of penal servitude for life for the irrevocable sentence of death.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated the facts of the Bowles case with accuracy; but he had omitted one incident which seemed to him (Mr. Pickersgill) relevant, and which he thought should have been stated. The right hon. Gentleman said very accurately that the jury brought in a verdict of guilty. They did; but, at 9 o'clock in the evening, they came into Court, the Judge was re-called, and the jury informed his Lordship that there was no chance of their agreeing, and they intimated that they were about equally divided. The learned Judge addressed them, and told them, in language as plain as it was decent for him to use, to acquit the prisoner. They then left the Court, and an hour afterwards returned and brought in a verdict of guilty. It 682 was obvious that the Judge was perfectly astounded at the result, because he was so overpowered that it was some minutes before he could speak. He (Mr. Pickersgill) was as jealous as any man of the interference of any Government with the verdict of a jury; but he thought that a jury which came into Court at 9 o'clock and said they were hopelessly divided, and then at 10 o'clock brought in a verdict of guilty, had by their conduct discredited themselves, and that, therefore, the Home Secretary might with less hesitation have superseded or over-ruled the decision at which they had arrived. So much with regard to that case. He should be unwilling that this Vote, which included the salary of the Home Secretary, should be passed by the Committee without some criticism from the quarter of the House in which he sat of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct on other grounds. The Home Secretary, of all the Ministers of the Queen, occupied a peculiar position towards the citizens of this country. Their relation was very intimate; one might perhaps almost say it was a kind of domestic relation. It was extremely important they should have as the occupant of the Home Secretaryship a Gentleman who was ready to lend an attentive ear to substantial grievances. But if that was the position which the Home Secretary occupied towards the community at large, the relation was peculiarly marked so far as the citizens of London in particular were concerned. It was so in many particulars, and especially so in one to which he wished now mainly to refer, one which concerned, or might concern, the daily life of all of them, and especially of those who belonged to what were called the humbler classes of society. The difference arose from the circumstance that in other towns the ratepayers, through their Representatives, had the control of their police, whereas the ratepayers of London had not control of the police. The head of the police force was in this House, and whereas the citizens of Manchester and Birmingham might, if they had grievances against the police, approach the members of the Watch Committee and have the matter investigated, the only resource for the citizens of London, when they had grievances against the police, was to bring those grievances to 683 the knowledge of the Home Secretary through Members of the House of Commons. He was not going to blame the Home Secretary upon this occasion for refusing to inquire into anything which occurred on the 13th of November. It would be unfair to saddle the Home Secretary with any special responsibility for refusing inquiry with regard to anything which occurred on that day, because, as he (Mr. Pickersgill) very much regretted, the House had covered the right hon. Gentleman's conduct and had declined to authorize an inquiry. But the vote of the House was strictly limited to the events of the 13th of November, and he challenged respectfully the attitude which the Home Secretary had taken up towards grievances which had been brought to his knowledge relating to other dates. A little while ago he brought to the knowledge of the Home Secretary the fact that a young man, proceeding along Holborn on the 20th of November, was seriously assaulted by the police. How did the Home Secretary meet him? The right hon. Gentleman said that if the complainant would tell his story to a magistrate, or to the Chief Commissioner of Police, and not through him (Mr. Pickersgill), the matter would receive attention. The reply was scarcely so courteous as the right hon. Gentleman no doubt intended it to be, but that matter, perhaps, was a small one. He submitted that the Home Secretary, in making a reply of that kind, was quite overlooking the Constitutional rights and privileges both of a citizen outside the House and a Member of the House. As he understood it, there was no right, no privilege, more ancient, more well established, than that if a citizen had a grievance against a servant of the Government he should bring that grievance to the knowledge of the Government through a Member of the House of Commons, and that especially that was the case where, as in the case which he brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice, a citizen could not have resource to the ordinary remedy of the Law Courts, because, owing to unavoidable circumstances, he was not able to identify the particular person who assaulted him, although there could be no doubt he had been assaulted. There were other cases which were brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice, with regard to 684 alleged assaults upon prisoners whilst in custody. So far as they knew, nothing was done in consequence of the complaints, and he submitted that the attitude assumed by the right hon. Gentleman was extremely unsatisfactory. What was the result? He saw that yesterday, at one of the Metropolitan Police Courts, a charge of a most serious character against the police was endorsed by one of the Metropolitan Magistrates. What did that Magistrate say upon the very question which was brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice—namely, that in frequent cases—he (Mr. Pickersgill) hoped that they were not habitual—it had become the practice of the Metropolitan Police to assault persons whilst in custody? The right hon. Gentleman declined to do anything in regard to the complaints which were made, and what was the result? They found that yesterday, at the Wandsworth Police Court, the Magistrate declared that a policeman in plain clothes struck a prisoner, whilst in the station, on the back of the head. The Inspector positively swore that no assault was committed. The learned Magistrate continued, "I am bound to say I do not believe the Inspector's evidence. I am very sorry, indeed, to have to say so, but I do not believe it all the same." The Magistrate came to the conclusion that the man was injured by someone while in the station, and he concluded, "I consider the whole conduct of the police, of all concerned, from the highest to the lowest, eminently unsatisfactory, and it must be inquired into." These were the words of a Magistrate who was as little likely as any man upon the Bench to use language of that description unless the thing was well founded. They were the words of Mr. Montagu Williams, a keen man of the world, as well as a most experienced criminal lawyer. Mr. Montagu Williams had set a good example to some of his colleagues by bringing to the judgment seat neither prejudices nor prepossessions. They had the complaints which had been made in the House of Commons endorsed by a magistrate, speaking with all the responsibility of his judicial office. But there was another matter, perhaps a more significant matter than the fact that these constables had misconducted themselves, because it threw some light upon the general practice and regula- 685 tions of the Metropolitan Police, which he submitted were most inimical to the liberties of the citizens of this City. How did Mr. Montagu Williams endorse the charge sheet? Why, "I consider the conduct of 200W, 496W, 574W, and 431M, (156W on the last occasion, having since been been removed to Southwark) and Inspector Spencer, unsatisfactory and their evidence unreliable." What did that show? It showed that whilst this charge, a charge of a most serious character, was hanging over the head of this constable, he was removed from the districts in which he had been serving, to another district, and not only so, but instead of remaining 156W he became 431M.
Order, order. I do not see how that is connected with the action of the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman's remarks must be directed to the action of the Home Secretary.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
said, that, of course, he should submit most willingly and cheerfully to the Chairman's ruling, but he would ask if he might indicate how he connected his remarks with the action of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was the head of the Metropolitan Police, and he (Mr. Pickersgill) was pointing out that there was a rule or a practice of the Metropolitan Police, which, in his judgment, was very injurious to the public.
A general statement of that kind could be entered into on the Police Vote, but on this Vote hon. Members must deal with the specific action of the Home Secretary.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
said, he would content himself with having brought these facts to the knowledge of the Home Secretary, and with asking the right hon. Gentleman what he proposed to do in the matter. Mr. Montagu Williams said that inquiry must be made. Of what nature was that inquiry going to be? He asserted distinctly that an inquiry by Sir Charles Warren would be a pure farce. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] With all respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, he asserted that in the opinion of, at all events, a very large proportion of the citizens of London, a portion of whom he had the honour to represent, a private departmental inquiry by Sir Charles Warren, such as that which took place lately in the case of Constable 686 Bloy, would be a pure and unadulterated farce. The only inquiry which would satisfy the public mind would be a thorough and open and public inquiry, and he should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what course he proposed to take in these very grave circumstances?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that he never meant to be discourteous to him. On the occasion to which reference had been made, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the case of a young man unknown, who had been attacked by a policeman unknown.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
said, that he mentioned both the name and the address of the young man, and he would give them to the right hon. Gentleman now if he desired it.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, that the policeman's name was certainly never mentioned. The hon. Gentleman asked him if he would direct an inquiry, but he could only direct an inquiry which, in the opinion of the hon. Member and those who sat with him, was unsatisfactory and inconclusive. He must decline to institute fishing inquiries of the sort indicated before he knew what were the facts with which he had to deal. If any definite case of misconduct was brought against a policeman, and it assumed a criminal complexion, he would, as he had already said to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) send it before a magistrate, but if it was a mere breach of discipline, a mere breach of duty by a policeman, the proper course was to send the case before the First Commissioner of Police, who was the only tribunal competent to deal with it. He could not institute fanciful inquiries—the law did not admit of it—simply because the hon. Member chose to suggest that there had been some misconduct by a policeman unknown. With regard to the case reported to-day, he would tell the hon. Member what he had done. Before this afternoon, the constables implicated in the censure of Mr. Montagu Williams were suspended. He had applied to Mr. Montagu Williams for his notes, and as soon as he got the notes and a copy of the evidence, he would look into them. He had, however, already directed that the matter should go to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and that being so, 687 he thought the hon. Member would feel it would not be right or proper for him to make further allusion to it.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
said, that if any justification were needed for the speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) it was to be found in the two addresses which followed it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) admitted that the function of advising Her Majesty as to the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy was undoubtedly the most important of all the duties appertaining to the office of Home Secretary. That carried out the contention the hon. Member for Preston put so clearly before the Committee, for it proved that the judicial portion of the office was far more important than the administrative portion. The Home Secretary himself told them that there was no question of re-trial in any sense, and that it was an abuse of right to press on the Home Secretary any new matter. The right hon. Gentleman further said—"I agree it is a bad tribunal to re-try a case," but he virtually went on to give them reasons why he had re-tried the case brought before them by the hon. Member for Preston. The Home Secretary also said one blot in the evidence was that no adequate motive had been shown for the murder. How could a case for re-trial be put more clearly? The right hon. Gentleman further admitted that there were gaps in the evidence, and that a material fact was uncovered. That led up to another very important remark of the Home Secretary—namely, that he agreed that the Home Secretary did form a bad tribunal to re-try a case. Speaking of the two men whom he had liberated, the Home Secretary said that was a peculiar case; he added that considerations of partizanship entered into the attack upon the publican, and that otherwise Beesley and Rice were not of bad character. Surely, an administrative officer holding a seat in the House as a partizan could not be the best tribunal to re-try these most serious cases, because, in the eyes of the country, there were virtually re-trials. It certainly seemed to him that the case against the present system had been very fully made out.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he thought that the most interesting part of the discussion that even- 688 ing was not so much the speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) as the two speeches which followed, one from the ex-Home Secretary and one from the present Home Secretary. Certain statements were made by those right hon. Gentlemen which were of a most interesting character, and which must cause all thinking men to consider not only whether the Home Secretary was a proper person to decide the awful question as to whether a man should be sent to execution or not, but whether they were prepared to continue the present system of condemning men to capital punishment. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) had said he respited the man Bowles not because he believed him to be innocent, but because he thought there was a possibility of its being shown that the verdict of the jury was wrong.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Not because I believed the jury were wrong in drawing the inference that the man was guilty, but because the facts were not complete, and a new fact might turn up to show that the verdict was wrong.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that another statement of the right hon. Gentleman was perhaps still more significant; it was that he believed it might be positively the duty of the Home Secretary, whilst he was convinced there was still a possibility of evidence being forthcoming which might show that a man was not guilty, to send the man to execution. That was a fearful state of affairs, and it ought not to be allowed to exist. This country stood alone almost amongst the civilized States of the world in maintaining such a system. The discussion to-night showed that the present system for dispensing the Prerogative of Mercy was exceedingly unsatisfactory, and he believed what had been said would tend to greatly ripen public opinion upon the subject.
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said, that notwithstanding all that had been put forward against the present plan, it was impossible to suppose that any other tribunal would do away altogether with the need of the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy by the Crown through the Home Office. There was a recent case that proved that a man named Habron was tried at Manchester a few years ago for murder. He was found guilty. The circum- 689 stantial evidence was so clear and strong that there was no general doubt in the public mind that the man was guilty. There was no recommendation to mercy; because if the man were guilty the murder was a very bad one indeed. Habron was respited, but it was never made public why he was respited; he (Mr. Provand) believed it was because the Judge who tried the case had some doubt as to his guilt. Within a year the notorious Peace was arrested, and confessed to the murder for which Habron had been sentenced to death, and Habron was set at liberty. That case could not have been met by any Appeal Court for criminal cases. The Home Secretary had stated, and no doubt it was quite true, that the action in connection with the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy in capital and other cases must always be more or less illogical. The inquiry which took place at the Home Office never could be the same as a new trial, as circumstances and probabilities were taken into account that could not be considered at a regular trial. On the other hand, he (Mr. Provand) was certain the Prerogative was never exercised on the opinion of the Home Secretary alone, and only after conference with at least the Judge who tried the case and the Law Officers of the Crown, which gave security that no point in favour of any prisoner would be overlooked.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he noticed there was a charge of £4,000 for the inspection of explosives. Salaries were provided for no less than three Military Inspectors, but he could find nothing in the Vote showing that the Board of Trade dealt with the question at all. As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had been badgered enough by hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would ask the Under Secretary (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) to say whether it was the duty of any one of the three Inspectors to see that merchant vessels receiving as part of their cargo dynamite, gunpowder, or guncotton were properly fitted for the conveyance of such explosives. He also desired to know whether proper precautions were taken by vessels which shipped and transported petroleum, and whether, in the case of vessels carrying cargoes of coals, it was the duty of anybody to see that the holds of such vessels were pro- 690 perly ventilated, so that coal gas could not accumulate. If the hon. Gentleman assured him that one of the Inspectors was told off for the duty he had specified, he should submit it was a public scandal that not one of the three Inspectors was a naval man who know something about ships.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART-WORTLEY) (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, that the duties in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman was interested were laid down by virtue of Section 34 of the Explosives Act, 1875, upon Harbour Authorities who, with the sanction of the Board of Trade, made bye-laws regulating, the loading, unloading, storage, and conveyance of explosives. There was also a power of searching ships under section 73. He was not aware that there was any particular system of apportioning duty amongst the three Inspectors of explosives. They were all very valuable public servants, and he had no doubt that the Board of Trade could, whenever necessary, resort to them for advice.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he did not think it would be quite fair to the Home Secretary to raise again the question which was debated at considerable length a short short time ago—namely, his action with reference to the meetings in Trafalgar Square, and he did not propose to do so. He listened very carefully to the speeches the right hon. Gentleman made upon the question, and, if he might say so, they were very able from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view. What he wished, however, to call attention to was the statement made in the course of the debate to which the right hon. Gentleman indicated his assent across the Table. The main defence for the prohibition of the meeting in Trafalgar Square was the disorderly character of certain meetings which had taken place about the time or immediately before the 13th November. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was not going to say whether the right hon. Gentleman did or did not make out a satisfactory defence; but he thought this was a fair summary of his case—namely, that while public meetings could be held under proper circumstances, and under proper authority at certain times, there was a certain condition of affairs at that time which 691 made the meetings undesirable. [Mr. MATTHEWS indicated dissent.] He did not know whether he was very lucid in his attempt to summarize the right hon. Gentleman's contention. Perhaps he might sum up the right hon. Gentleman's view by saying that while he did not object to meetings in general in Trafalgar Square, he did object to them at that particular season and under the particular circumstances of the time. The right hon. Gentleman would remember that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) was speaking, and was making one of the strongest speeches made in the debate in favour of the action of the Government The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied to a question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell). The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney asked how many public places were now left in London for meeting, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury replied—"That there were just as many places now as there were before the 13th of November;" and he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) remembered very distinctly the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said "Hear, hear!" across the Table of the House to that statement. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury went on to say under what circumstances, in his opinion, meetings would be allowed in Trafalgar Square. The requirements he laid down were that the meetings should be called for a legal and proper purpose, and called by responsible persons. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) held that the meeting called for the 13th of November was called for a legal and legitimate purpose, and was called by a perfectly responsible body—namely, the Federation of Radical Clubs in London, which had previously conducted many public meetings in Trafalgar Square, and always done so in a most orderly manner. The question he wanted to put to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) was whether he did not consider that the exceptional state of things, which, in his opinion, justified him in prohibiting meetings in Trafalgar Square, had not passed away, and whether it was not now his duty, for the purpose of maintaining good relations between the authorities and 692 the people of London, to remove the prohibition, and to order that there should be no interference with any responsible body which wished to hold meetings in Trafalgar Square for legal and legitimate purposes?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, that he was unable to assent to the version the hon. Member gave of the remarks he (Mr. Matthews) addressed to the House on the occasion of the debate upon the Motion relating to the Trafalgar Square meetings. The proposition which he made on the occasion in question was that meetings in public thoroughfares were not lawful; that it was only by licence, suffrage, and permission, and by winking at illegality, that any meeting could be held in any public thoroughfare at all. He stated that North, South, East, and West there were places, pointed out by Act of Parliament, where meetings could take place without interruption of traffic, and without interference and without inconvenience to trade and business in this crowded Metropolis. But, unfortunately, last autumn those meetings which had been, though illegal, such as the authorities could regard as likely to do no harm, assumed proportions that required in the interest of public security a prohibition from the authorities. That was the justification of his action, and gave a wholly different form to the arguments used by the hon. Member.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman had not quite understood his statement, because that was quite consistent with the version of the matter the right hon. Gentleman had just given and the argument he had laid down. The right hon. gentleman denied the legal right of the people to use Trafalgar Square as a meeting place, but, at the same time, he conceded that usage had established the custom of using the Square for the purpose.
There is a Rule of the House that forbids a recurrence to former debates in the Session. The hon. Member can by question refer to a former debate, but he cannot go into a question which has been the subject of debate on a former occasion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, then he would put his observation into the form of a question, and ask the Home Secretary, did he now see his way to continue 693 the action of former Governments, including Conservative Governments, to permit public meetings in Trafalgar Square for legal purposes; whether, in view of the different state of things existing now from that which existed in the autumn, he would withdraw the prohibition?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, no; he could not see his way to make any alteration which might prevent the peaceful and orderly use of Trafalgar Square by the public.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £61,073, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, this was an extremely important Vote, and he wished to make some observations upon it. But the Committee had been discussing Votes for a long time, and he thought the Government might be satisfied with the result, and not ask the Committee to take more Votes at that hour (11.5.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. P. O' Connor.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he was quite prepared to admit that considerable progress had been made with Supply during the last two nights, and he should be sorry to ask the Committee to proceed beyond a time when it was entirely agreeable to do so under the circumstances. The Government were grateful to the Committee for the satisfactory and business-like spirit with which the Votes had been dealt with, and would not object to Progress being reported, but they must ask that the Report of Supply granted on the previous night should be taken immediately afterwards.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.694
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.