HC Deb 08 August 1888 vol 330 cc10-35

Bill, as amended, further considered.

Clause 2 (Powers of Commissioners).

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

, in moving, after the word "action," to insert "and shall exercise the same as in the case of such action," said, that the clause gave the Commissioners all the powers and privileges of a Judge trying an action at law, and the result of the Amendment would be to provide that those powers should be exercised in accordance with the recognized practice of the Courts. One effect of the Amendment would be to make the Commission a public Court where evidence must be taken publicly; whereas, in the discretion of the Commissioners, as the Bill stood, it might be a private Court, and evidence might be taken secretly. That would be a most unfortunate course to take in a matter of this kind. With reference to the observation of the hon. and learned Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Addison) on a former occasion that this inquiry ought not to be conducted according to the rules of the game of legal fence, he would remind him that those rules were the result of long experience, and were framed for the purpose of insuring that justice should be done between parry and party, and between the Crown and the accused. Unless the Government intended that this trial should be utterly illusory, or unless they intended that the powers of the Commissioners should be exercised to the disadvantage of the accused, he saw no valid reason why the Commissioners should not exercise their judicial discretion according to the established procedure.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 2, after the word "action," to insert the words "and shall exercise the same as in the case of such action."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

said, that though it was true the established procedure of the Courts was founded upon long experience, yet its rules were framed to apply between party and party, and not to an inquiry such as this was intended to be. The case of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another" showed how entirely inapplicable the strict procedure of the Courts would be to an inquiry of this kind. That case was conducted according to the rules of a civil action. The result was that the counsel for the plaintiff was the master of the situation so far as the conduct of the case was concerned, and made what was considered a clever move in the game—no doubt it was because they were told it received the sanction of the two most eminent lawyers in England. But it was a false move, and the plaintiff was checkmated in consequence. Had the Judge in that case been at liberty to disregard the discretion of the plaintiff and to call what witnesses he chose, the result might have been that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would have been examined and persuaded the Court of the truth of his cause, and nothing more would have been heard of this matter.


said, he wished it to be understood, whatever might be pretended to the contrary, that his Friends and himself desired that the powers of the Commission should be absolutely effectual for every reasonable purpose. They desired extremely that witnesses should be compelled to give evidence; that necessary documents might be examined; that persons might be punished for contempt; and they held it to be essential that evidence should be taken abroad. They would be sorry to assent to any action that would limit the powers of the Commission in any of these respects; but he held it had always been found that the powers of the High Court were absolutely sufficient for the full discovery of truth, and he failed to see any reason why the powers of the Commission should be in excess of those. He would also like to learn from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for England whether the Court would be an open Court, as the Bill left that matter undecided? After the course that the House had taken last night in refusing to sanction the release of Members of Parliament in prison under the Coercion Act to enable them to attend the sittings of the Commission it was all the more important that the Court should be an open one, and that there should be some provision that persons in prison should be made aware of its proceedings.


said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken that it was the desire of the Government, as of hon. Members on his side of the House, that the powers of the Commission should be full and ample in the directions named. As to the question that had been addressed to him as to whether the Court would be an open one, and whether the evidence would be taken publicly, he was surprised that such a question should have occurred to anyone. He could not imagine that a Commission sitting under such circumstances should depart from the practice of all other Commissions, and take evidence in secret affecting the reputations of many persons.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

said, that many Commissions had taken evidence in private.


said, he was quite satisfied with the assurance that had been given by the hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, that with regard to the Amendment, this Bill gave to the Commissioners all those powers which were given to other Judges to be used in their discretion as they might think necessary. If the proposed words were put in the clause the effect would be a mandatory provision, commanding the Commissioners that they were to exercise the powers given to them. If anybody said to the Commissioners that a witness ought to attend and give evidence, they would be bound to issue a summons for his attendance, and imprison him if he did not come, although it might be perfectly evident to them that complete evidence was already before them, and that his evidence would be perfectly useless.


submitted that the powers proposed by the Amendment were no more mandatory than the existing powers were upon any Judge sitting in the High Court for the trial of any action. The discretion was a judicial discretion governed by precedent.


thought the Solicitor General could not have read the Amendment.


Yes; I have.


said, the Amendment only provided that the Commissioners should exercise the powers as in the case of an action. He did not see how it could be said to take away their discretion. The Government had been endeavouring to escape, not only from the title of their Bill, but also from its Preamble. The title applied to Members of Parliament, and the Bill did not. The Preamble did not say that the Commissioners were to inquire into anything and everything. They were not entitled to do that, but were to inquire into the charges and allegations made in the particular action of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another;" and if there were any charge not brought forward in that action, the Commissioners would have no power to inquire into it at all. They were absolutely prohibited by the Bill from doing so, and by the 1st clause of the Bill. Surely if the Bill gave to the Commissioners the powers that were given to a Judge in an action, it was not immaterial or unreasonable to require also that those powers should be used as they would be used in an action. The discretion was no more taken away by the Amendment in the case of the proposed inquiry than it would be taken away in the case of an action.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker with held his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)

said, that the result of compelling the Commissioners to exercise their judicial discretion as in an action would be that they would be unable to call any witnesses whom they might think it necessary to have before them for the discovery of the truth, for they would only be able to enforce the attendance of such witnesses as the parties chose to call. He hoped the House would not agree to the Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 60; Noes 148: Majority 88.—(Div. List, No. 266.)

On the Motion of Sir JOHN SIMON, Amendment made, in page 2, line 5, after "or," by leaving out "otherwise" and inserting "promise and declaration."


said, he begged to move an Amendment, the effect of which was to provide that a summons signed by one or more Commissioners should be equivalent to formal process, not only for compelling, but for enabling the production and inspection of documents.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 6, after the first word "the," to insert the words "enabling and."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, he considered the Amendment of vital importance. They knew that the forged letters had been for years in the possession of The Times, and that they had been submitted to the examination of experts. He was also informed that The Times had retained all the eminent experts in England, and that there was not an eminent expert who had not been so secured. The result was that if his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) wished to obtain the services of experts, he would have to go to France, or some other country, for the purpose. He wished the Government to say whether or not they would insert provisions in the Bill to enable his hon. Friend to inspect the documents before the trial or during the progress of the trial, and before he was called upon to give evidence. To refuse to do that would subject his hon. Friend to a fatal disability. It was absolutely necessary that the documents should be produced and inspected in advance by his hon. Friend, and the experts on his behalf. If that facility was not allowed, public opinion would stand amazed, and would most sternly condemn a proposal by which the parties producing the impugned documents would be allowed to accumulate scientific evidence on the subject of their genuineness, while the parties chiefly concerned with the genuineness of those documents were deprived of the right of examination of them before they were cross-examined in reference to them.


felt sure that the Commissioners would do justice in this matter. The moment a document was produced, it would be in the custody of the Commissioners, and he did not entertain the slightest doubt that they would allow the persons implicated ample time and opportunities for inspecting it.


said, it would not be possible for the hon. Member for Cork to stand cross-examination as to the documents without an examination of them beforehand. He, therefore, hoped that the Government would allow the Amendment to pass.


contended, that unless those words were inserted in the clause the Commissioners would not have the power to order inspection.

MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)

held the insertion of the proposed words to be of the utmost importance.


said, that if the hon. Member would consent to the withdrawal of this Amendment, he would afterwards move to insert, in another part of the clause, the following words:— The Commissioners may order that any document or documents in the possession of any party appearing in the inquiry should be produced for the inspection of any other party.


suggested that his hon. Friend should accept the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he begged to move the omission from Sub-head iv. of Sub-section i., which authorized the issue of a Commission or request to exa- mine witnesses abroad. He did not quite understand what the Government thought would be effected by this sub-section. In his opinion, it was possible that persons might voluntarily attend to support particular statements, and it might not be possible for the persons impugned by those statements to compel the attendance of witnesses to give rebutting evidence in the countries where the examination was held. This was a quasi-criminal proceeding. At any rate, it was a proposal to inquire into crimes alleged to have been of a very serious character, and it was a proposal to take evidence that certain persons were accessory before the fact. But while under existing Acts, like the Merchant Shipping Act, the power to take evidence was confined to Her Majesty's Dominions, this Bill proposed to take evidence in France, Italy, and America. He submitted that it would not be possible to take evidence in the presence of the accused. Then was the initiative as to these Commissions to be on the application of The Times, or were they to suppose some special knowledge on the part of the Judges? It was quite impossible to do that, for if they were impartial they could not have this knowledge. It could only be communicated to them by the defendants in "O'Donnell v. Walter." Was there to be notice given, and, if so, to whom, as to the issue of the Commissions? Might the parties stipulate for the right to be represented by agents to cross-examine witnesses? Were these unknown persons, the Commissioners who were to take evidence abroad, to have power to grant certificates? That was a power which might be entrusted to the Judges here; but were the unknown persons appointed in the interests of The Times abroad to have this power? He would submit these points strongly, and with confidence, but for the fact that everything appeared to be turned upside down. He had, for instance, just been told by the Solicitor General that the practice was for Royal Commissions to take their evidence in public. The practice was the other way. An hon. Member near him, the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), who had been a Member of four Royal Commissions, had informed him that in not one of those cases had the evidence been taken publicly. He hoped the proposal in the Bill would be struck out, for he was convinced that it could not be attended with any good. It was at variance with every principle of law, and calculated in many respects to inflict gross injustice and the gravest abuse.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 7, to leave out from the word "contempt," to the word "and," in line 10.—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said, he might point out that the most extreme attacks in The Times were directed against persons residing in the United States; and as The Times had very able correspondents in every part of America, some of them officials, some of them lawyers, it was requisite that they should hold the balance fair. In his opinion, no Commission should be held abroad in the absence of notice to the parties whose conduct was about to be investigated, and that they should be at liberty, either personally or by counsel or solicitor, to examine or cross-examine witnesses.


thought that all the points raised were covered by the rules which related to the subject-matter of the Commission. The arguments of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) would be good against a Commission abroad in ny case, because there was no compulsory machinery. The great advantage of a Commission was that it might be desired to get evidence from people who did not wish to have to come over to this country to prove facts with regard to which there might be very little controversy. It would be extremely hard for any party to have to bring over people in such cases. With regard to the question of notice, it was impossible for any Commission abroad to be settled without notice of it being given. If an action for libel had been brought by hon. Members opposite, The Times would have had the right to ask for a Commission to examine into the same facts as would be examined into by a Commission appointed by the three Judges under this Bill. All Commissions abroad were defective, in that the evidence must be voluntary and there was no power of punishment; but in practice the power of issuing a Commission was extremely convenient to both parties, saving the unreasonable cost of having to pay the travelling expenses of witnesses to this country. Its rejection would shut the door against valuable information.


thought this was one of the most important questions raised in the Bill. What was clear was that a foreign Commission might in matters of the gravest importance open the door to very serious consequences. Suppose that a Commission were sent over to examine a particular person. The person examined might, for some reason or other, have a great desire to injure some person in this country, and he might give evidence inculpating that person in a very serious manner. What power would the person so inculpated have of meeting the accusation by evidence which he might desire to give? A Commission sent abroad might consist of some excellent barrister who had not had much to do; and if a witness who might have received some large inducement to give particular evidence against certain persons gave evidence against them, the parties accused had no power to compel the attendance of witnesses to rebut that evidence. That was why there was no such thing known as a Commission in criminal cases. The Home Secretary had said that the objection of the hon. Member for Northampton would equally apply to all Commissions; but in an action for libel the parties accused could protect themselves against the evidence, while in this roving Commission hundreds of persons might be involved in the evidence without anyone knowing when he might be attacked by some person. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would seriously consider this matter, because they were introducing what was an absolute innovation as far as criminal procedure was concerned.


supported the Amendment, believing that the proposal in the Bill to empower the Commissioners to delegate their power of examining witnesses and of making inquiry to some unknown persons in Paris, New York, and other places was a serious innovation. He doubted whether in previous Royal Commissions there was any precedent for conferring on the Commissioners such a power.


There is no such power given in the Bill.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman could not deny that there was no precedent of the kind, and the sending of Sub-Commissioners was, in point of fact, a delegation of the powers conferred on the Court of Inquiry by the Bill. He believed that neither the Solicitor General nor the Home Secretary had considered this question, especially with reference to the possibility of an inquiry abroad being held in private.

MR. SWETENHAM (Carnarvon, &c.)

said, he confessed that he was not very much in love with the sub-section. At the same time he could not help feeling greatly astonished at the nature of the objections urged against it from the other side. It seemed to him that it was a case of "Save me from my friends." Of all the important clauses for the protection of hon. Members who might possibly be the subject of this inquiry, this clause was about the most important in their interests. He apprehended that it was quite as much the object of the inquiry to ascertain not only the guilt of certain persons, but their innocence. The Times was quite as much on its trial as hon. Members opposite; and, as far as he was concerned, he could say, on his honour, that there was nothing he desired so much as to see the innocence of hon. Members opposite fully and fairly established. If the innocence of hon. Members opposite was established, then the conduct of The Times would be so condemned that it certainly would lose its character for the future as a first-class journal. This Commission, therefore, might be of the greatest importance to hon. Members, and why should they not embrace this opportunity of having their characters vindicated at hardly any expense to themselves? The Commission was going out to examine witnesses, not to prove the guilt of hon. Members, but their innocence.


said, they had no objection to the Commission going abroad. They only desired to have the security of examining witnesses before it.


thought, as a matter of fairness, the Commissioners would give notice to anyone whose conduct was sought to be impeached; they would not send out a secret inquiry be- hind the backs of hon. Gentlemen. The Commissioners would give abundant opportunity of sending out persons to cross-examine witnesses on behalf of hon. Members.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

said, they did not object to this branch of the inquiry; on the contrary, they looked upon it as a valuable assistance to them in the making of their case clear. The Irish Members acknowledged, whether they liked it or not, that the Government were bound to put in such a sub-section as this, because the Preamble of the Bill set forth the charges and allegations in a particular trial as the subject of investigation. As large portions of those charges and allegations were concerned with their alleged associates in America, the necessity of holding an inquiry in that country was the necessary complement of this Commission. But what were the safeguards they had a right to demand with regard to the Commission? He appealed to the Government to meet them on this point. Their first demand was that any person who might be expected to be incriminated should have notice; and, secondly, that he should have the right to appear by counsel or solicitor for the purpose of examination and cross-examination. For instance, Mr. Byrne was charged with complicity with crime. Some of the Irish Members, having been official associates in the Land League organization with Mr. Byrne, were accused of guilty knowledge of his complicity with crime. It was of great importance to them, when Mr. Byrne was examined, to find out whether or not they had guilty knowledge of his complicity with crime. The Sub-Commissioner, in some respects, would have duties more grave and important even than those of the head Commissioners, because he would have to examine a man charged with more serious offences than those charged against Members of Parliament, and to examine him far away from the centre of action, and, therefore, with fewer opportunities of guarding against unfair dealing than would exist at home. The Sub-Commissioner would also be a man of inferior legal position; and, therefore, it was more absolutely necessary that protection should be afforded in his case than in the case of the chief Commissioners. It was said that all those safeguards were already provided by the Bill, but there ought to be no room for doubt on the subject, and the words suggested by the hon. Member for West Belfast, if inserted, could do no harm, and might do good.


said, he hoped that the claim to put in fresh words in the Bill would not be pressed. The only Commission that would be sent abroad would be a Commission to take the evidence of a particular witness, and the Commissioner would not have any judicial power to exercise in the matter. He would be obliged to take down the evidence given, both question and answer, and report it to the Chief Commissioners, and when he came back it would be published like the other evidence and then dealt with. The practice of sending out such Commissions was one well known to the Courts. The examination was taken upon interrogatories and vivâ voce, with liberty to the other party to cross-examine the witness upon interrogatories and vivâ voce, and then he could be re-examined. The whole examination would be reduced into writing and returned to the Commissioners. Somebody would have in the first instance to apply to the Commissioners for an order to examine a certain witness or witnesses, and then the persons affected by that would have power to cross-examine. Therefore, the Government could not consent to put fresh words into the Bill. They were dealing with those Amendments with a sincere desire to make the Bill complete in regard to the ascertainment of the truth in the matter in question; but he assured hon. Members that all that they reasonably expressed a wish for was met by the Bill as it stood; and he hoped they would now allow the House to direct its attention to other subjects.


said, that after what had fallen from hon. Members near him he would not press his Amendment to a Division.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Motion of Sir EDWARD CLARKE, Amendment made by adding to Clause 2 the following provision:— The Commissioners may, if they think fit, order that any document or documents in the possession of any party appearing at the inquiry shall be produced for the inspection of any other such party.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 (Power to appear by counsel).

Amendment proposed in page 2, line 21, after "solicitor," add "practising in Great Britain or Ireland."—(Mr. W. Redmond.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he would be happy to accept that Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 21, after the word "solicitor," to insert the words, "Where it shall appear to the Commissioners that any person affected by any of the said charges or allegations is at any time during the holding of the said inquiry detained or imprisoned under any of the provisions of The Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1887, the Commissioners may, subject to such conditions as regards bail or otherwise, as they may prescribe, order the release of such person during the pendency of the inquiry, or during such period as may be necessary to enable him effectually to defend himself against such charges and allegations."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, he understood the hon. Member (Mr. Courtney) to suggest the other evening that the Commissioners should be empowered to order, not the release, but the attendance of any person affected by any of the charges.


said, he had suggested a modification of an Amendment of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) to meet the case. It was to the effect that if any person affected by a charge or allegation before the Commission was detained or imprisoned during the holding of the Commission— The Commissioners may order the attendance of such persons at such inquiry for such time and on such conditions as regards bail or otherwise as to the Commissioners may seem fit.


expressed his willingness to accept the words just suggested.


doubted whether the word "attendance" would be sufficient, as it meant nothing more than having a prisoner up in his prison dress to give evidence, whereas he should be at liberty to consult his solicitor in reference to the preparation of evidence in his defence.


said, no power was necessary, as a Judge possessed it already, to require the attendance of a prisoner. The word "attendance" had here no relation to a person appearing in his prison dress merely to give evidence.


said, if the word "attendance" was too narrow, and "release" too wide, he would suggest instead that "such person shall be at large during the pendency of the inquiry."


said, he could not accept the words "at large."

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

said, he wished it to be made clear that the prisoners set at liberty should not be subject to any surveillance or restraint other than that imposed on a prisoner liberated on bail, who was simply bound to appear at the time required.


urged that the words suggested were not large enough, as they might merely enable prisoners to be brought up in custody to give evidence, whereas it was necessary that the persons against whom charges were made should hear the evidence of others, and have freedom to prepare their defence. He feared that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) would simply enable them to attend the Commission in their prison clothes and in custody, without power to consult a solicitor, as had happened in the case of Mr. W. Blunt.


considered that the suggestion of bail conveyed that the prisoners should be released; but as he was anxious to meet hon. Members below the Gangway he would amplify the Amendment by inserting the words to the effect that the attendance of witnesses should be ordered "in such manner" as the Commissioners thought fit.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Motion of Mr. COURTNEY, the following Amendment was agreed to:— The Commissioners may order the attendance of such persons at such inquiry in such manner, for such time, and subject to such conditions as regards bail or otherwise as to the Commissioners may think fit.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, at the end of the last Amendment, to insert the words "Where evidence is taken abroad, due notice shall be given to persons entitled to appear before the Commissioners, and such persons shall be entitled to appear, and to be represented by counsel or solicitor, when evidence is taken abroad, and to examine and cross-examine witnesses."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, the object could have been obtained by inserting in the earlier part of the clause the words "may appear at the inquiry," which would cover everything."


ruled that it was too late to make that Amendment.


said, that if they were inserted in "another place" no objection would be made on the return of the Bill to this House.


said, the hon. Member could not bind the whole House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Penalty for false swearing) agreed to.

Clause 5 (Power to cross-examine and examination of witnesses).

On the Motion of Mr. SEXTON, Amendment made at the beginning of the clause extending the power of examining and cross-examining witnesses to Commissioners for the examination of witnesses abroad.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 (Indemnity to witnesses).

MR. SEXTON moved to omit words in paragraph 2 which were calculated to protect any party examined before the Commissioners from a civil action resulting from evidence given at the inquiry. This clause, as it stood, was simply calculated to protect The Times. The Irish Members were willing to forego any such protection. They neither sought nor desired any indemnity, and the Government should assent to this Amendment, and not offer protection to The Times.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 1, after the word "any," to leave out the words "civil or."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Question put, "That the words 'civil or' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 168; Noes 105: Majority 63.—(Div. List, No. 267.)

On the Motion of Mr. MAURICE HEALY, Amendment made, in page 3, line 6, at end, by adding— Provided that nothing in this section shall be deemed to apply in the case of proceedings for having given false evidence at an inquiry held under this Act, or of having procured, or attempted or conspired to procure, the giving of such evidence.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)

SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

, in rising to move as an Amendment— That this House declines to appoint a Commission for inquiry into matters connected with political movements unless such inquiry be confined to definite charges of a criminal nature against specified individuals, said, that he had been a good long time in the House, but did not remember any measure of the same dimensions which had caused so much expenditure of time and trouble, and so much temper, as this Bill. He only prolonged the debate because he believed that the Bill would not give satisfaction to any of the parties concerned. The Bill was caused by a declaration in The Times newspaper about a year ago that the hon. Member for Cork was the accomplice of assassins. The hon. Member for Cork, in reply, said to The Times—"You are a forger." The matter was interesting to the public at large, on account of the prominence of both parties. The hon. Member for Cork was the Chief of the Irish National Party, and The Times was an influential organ. The senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) some years ago described it as "the organ of the Devil upon earth." It was not so now; it was the organ of the Unionist Party. It was said, on the other hand—"Why does not the hon. Member for Cork proceed against The Times?" That was a very fair remark. On the other it was argued—"If such evidence exists against the hon. Member for Cork, why are not criminal proceedings taken against him?" That was equally plausible. Why had they this Bill before them? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said that the Bill had been brought in on account of the tremendous indictment formulated by the Attorney General in the late trial. After that statement, it was absurd to speak of the Attorney General in this connection as simply a professional man. These proceedings were directed, it was thought, against the black sheep of the House. As an old Parliamentary hand, he was never more shocked than when the Leader of the House got up and explained that the Bill had been brought forward as a bargain between somebody or other and the Irish Members. He looked upon the matter as involving every Member of the House and the honour of the House. The only justification for the measure was that charges were brought against Members of the House. If these accusations had concerned anybody out of the House—Mr. Spurgeon, Professor Tyndall, or Mr. Davitt—the House would never have interfered. There was an old saying that every man was the guardian of his own honour. That House was also the guardian of its honour, which ought not to be left to the decision of three Judges. It was said that a Committee of the House would not be impartial. Nobody was absolutely impartial; but he knew of no fairer tribunal than a Committee of Members of the House of Commons. If a charge were brought against him—if he were accused of getting drunk, or anything of that sort—he would trust himself to the hands of a Committee, even if they were all Tories or brewers. A Committee of English Gentlemen was quite as good as three Judges. But this was what The Times of that day said— The whole body of the charges and allegations contained in our articles must be probed to the bottom. So it was no longer an inquiry into the character of one of their Members. To that he thoroughly objected. Now, on the ground taken by the Government the inquiry ought to be above suspicion. He had never gone before any of these Judges; he hoped he never should. But one of them had been voted against by no fewer than 190 Members on the ground of words quoted from him throwing contempt on the Irish people. Mr. Arnold Forster had complained of the attack made on Irishmen by this learned Judge in the Belfast Commission. It was, therefore, not a Commission to inspire confidence. He, for one, believed—although he knew nothing about it—[Ministerial laughter.] Hon. Members opposite knew nothing about it either, or they would not want the Commission; but his opinion was that the Land League and the National League and other forms of Irish agitation had done a good deal that was not above suspicion. But was the Tory Party above suspicion? Was any Party above suspicion; were the Liberal Party above suspicion? Was there any political association pure? He did not believe that the Anti-Corn Law League was pure. He did not know that the United Kingdom Alliance was above reproach. They were making this Commission far too wide. It was a Commission to inquire into the whole history of Ireland in the last 10 years, and he doubted very much whether the history of England for the same period would bear investigation. But supposing all these charges against the Irish Members were proved, would it be supposed the Liberal Party was going to give up Home Rule for that? They had not taken up Home Rule because those men were good characters or bad characters. He should continue to support Home Rule, because 85 Members were returned from Ireland in its support; and what could the Government do when the Commission reported? Suppose all the charges were proved, did hon. Gentlemen opposite suppose they were going to give up Home Rule? On the other hand. Suppose it reported in favour of the Irish Members, and they were proved to be angels, were the Ministerialists going then to become Home Rulers? No; he knew them too well. They would maintain their support of the landlords and Orangemen of Ireland as before all along. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said two days ago, in a park in Kent, where he went to roast an ox and make a speech, that, so far as he was concerned, the case which he had made against the Parnellite Party would not be weakened if the charges made in Parnellism and Crime were proved to be baseless accusations, and he knew that that opinion was shared by Mr. John Morley, Lord Rosebery, and others of the Gladstonite Party. Well, then, what would be the use of this Commission? No one cared a rap what its Report was. It appeared to him that the proposal would prolong and embitter the controversy, and was unworthy of the House. This subject was very hateful, and it was unworthy of the House to go into it. It might be said, why did they not move the rejection of the Bill on the second reading? Well, they were not always wise upon the Opposition side of the House; but it must be remembered that they hoped the Government would be wise and sanction Amendments, but time and discussion had proved the contrary. He believed he spoke for a few Members of the House when he said that they would not feel comfortable if they did not oppose the third reading of a Bill which they thought was unfair to the Irish Members, unjust to the Commissioners, as imposing upon them an impossible task, and unworthy of the best traditions of the House of Commons.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House declines to appoint a Commission for inquiry into matters connected with political movements unless such inquiry be confined to definite charges of a criminal nature against specified individuals."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

confessed he could not vote for the Amendment, because, if carried, it would mean that the House agreed to appoint a Commission to inquire into matters connected with political movements, if such inquiry be confined to definite charges of a criminal nature against specified individuals. He should ask the House to negative the proposal for the third reading. He intended to state very briefly the reasons why he should oppose the third reading; but he could not join his hon. Friend, who was far too moderate a man for him under the circumstances.


said, he had no desire to put the House to the trouble of two Divisions; and if the course suggested by his hon. Friend was preferred, he should be happy to withdraw his Motion in favour of it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.


said, he was not going into the history of the Bill, which was begotten in injustice, conceived, hatched, and brought forth in injustice, and when it became law it would remain a perpetual monument of the sort of judicial tribunal that was established under political partizanship. He objected to it because the tribunal was a Court of political inquiry, a sort of Star Chamber and Inquisition, and because the Bench had been packed by a political partizan—the Lord Chancellor. He thought they had a right to challenge the names submitted to them, and they did challenge one name, but the challenge was not admitted. He objected in regard to procedure, because all the guarantees and safeguards which ordinarily environed the accused were suppressed in this Bill. He objected because the accused did not know the charges brought against them. He objected also because they understood the primary object was to look into the genuineness of certain letters. That had been set aside as a mere secondary question, and every effort had been made on the part of Mr. Walter to burke it and cover it up with a mass of matter more or less irrelevant. He objected because by this Bill The Times was protected from the civil remedy which bon. Members possessed at present. This tribunal had been forced down the throats of Members on that side of the House. He considered the Bill—The Times Protection Bill—a fishing Bill made to try to discover evidence against political opponents of Her Majesty's Government. He objected to it because it was not limited in any respect, but roamed over 10 or 12 years. If it were as just a Bill as it was otherwise he should object to it, because he thought a Select Committee would have been the proper tribunal. He considered that the Bill established a most dangerous precedent. Under these circumstances, he gave Notice to move the rejection of the Bill on the second reading; but the hon. Member for Cork would not authorize that course, because he thought the Government would consent to considerable alterations in Committee. But in Committee the Bill had been considerably extended. He had not on this occasion asked what the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends now intended to do; but he perfectly understood that they were actuated by a chivalrous desire to accept combat and clear their character on any terms; but the Radical Members were there to see that everything was done fairly between the contending parties, Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Members. The Radical Members were the assessors in the matter. They considered the conditions were unfair. He believed hon. Members from Ireland would prove their innocence notwithstanding those conditions; but, at the same time, he thought the House ought not to consent to them meeting their adversaries in that unfair and invidious manner. In order that it might not be thrown in their teeth that this Bill was read a third time nemine contradicente, he should certainly go to a Division.

MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)

wished to say a few words to explain his reasons for voting against the third reading of this Bill when be had not voted against it on the occasion of its second reading. When the Bill was read a second time it was supposed on both sides of the House that the desire was the same—namely, that there should be a full and complete inquiry into the charges made against certain hon. Members below the Gangway, although there might be a difference as to slight details. For that reason he had abstained from voting against the second reading of the Bill; but since that time Amendment after Amendment had been proposed for the purpose of carrying out what on that side of the House they had supposed to be the common desire without the Government giving way, and it had become evident that the object of the Bill was not to deal with the charges against hon. Members of that House, so much as to open up an inquiry into the proceedings of the Land League and the National League. The inquiry which had been asked for and which had first been suggested was a totally different one. Again, he believed the proposed trial of hon. Members below the Gangway to be absolutely unfair. He called it trial, though he knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not regard it as a trial, but trial it was, and trial it must be; and regarding it as a trial it was impossible to say that it was to be carried on subject to the conditions of a fair trial. It had been stated, both inside and outside the House, that if hon. Members were innocent they would not be afraid of such an inquiry. That was a misunderstanding of the nature of all trials and rules of evidence. Did hon. Members suppose that the rules governing the Courts of Justice when trying a person accused of crime were instituted and acted upon for the purpose of allowing a criminal to escape? It was admitted that in spite of all the safeguards that could be devised innocent people were sometimes convicted, and was there no chance of this happening in the present case? Assuming the innocence of hon. Members below the Gangway, if people had forged letters for the purpose of ruining the political character of hon. Members, was it inconceivable that persons would come forward and give false evidence? The present conditions made the inquiry absolutely unfair. The Government were subjecting these hon. Members to an inquiry to attend to which would go far to cripple and exhaust the resources of far richer men than the hon. Members accused were or pretended to be. This was not a question for the Irish Members, but for the whole House. It was not creditable to the character and honour of that House that any such inquiry should be allowed to go forth as coming from the House. It would, however, be known that it was the act of a majority alone, and that a considerable minority refused to coincide and protested against it. He thought that even from their own point of view hon. Members opposite would find that they had made a serious mistake, when, even if those who were accused were found guilty, they would be able to say that they had been denied that fair trial which had never been denied to any subject of the Queen.

MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)

observed that he had had very strong objections to the Bill upon Constitutional grounds, and his objections to it had been strengthened by the discussions which had taken place. From charges against persons it had passed to charges against a political movement, in order that the Party opposite might gain political capital against their opponents. He objected to allowing the power of dealing with the conduct of Members to pass from the hands of the House to that of an outside body. Inquiries into the conduct of Members of the House had been always conducted with perfect fairness, and the results had been invariably satisfactory.


Sir, I do not intend to vote upon the Motion. If I were to vote against the Bill, such a vote, no matter how justifiable it might be, would be interpreted as evidence of a desire to evade inquiry, and inquiry has, from the first, been the desire of my Colleagues and myself, and inquiry has all through been our demand. But if I were to vote in favour of the Bill, it might be argued that I am satisfied with the Commission that has been set up. Sir, I call to mind that the Government declined to appoint a Select Committee, because they stated that a Select Committee would not be fair to us, seeing that it was certain to contain a majority of our political opponents. I cannot now be satisfied with a Commission which is wholly composed of adherents of the Government, which includes upon it a Judge who, from the Bench of Justice, has levelled an insult against the Irish people, and in regard to whom there is evidence before the House, from one of his own Colleagues on a Royal Commission, that he is inspired with a fanatical hatred of the Irish Leader and of the Members of the Irish Party, and that he has absolutely made himself the medium of malignant calumnies against them. I cannot be satisfied with such a Commission, nor can I be satisfied with such a Bill, for the Bill not only fails to include, but, on the other hand, by a sinister design, excludes, all the ordinary securities for individual self-defence, and all the necessary guarantees for the due, orderly, and speedy elucidation of important truths. Under the cover of enabling us to defend our characters you have plunged us into an unlimited and illimitable political inquiry which may extend for years, and which will probably subject every man of us to the loss of any means he has, to the ruin of his health, and to the withdrawal of him, perhaps for years, from the discharge of those public duties for the performance of which he was elected to this House. You are using your strength against our weakness. I look forward to the future with hope. Truth, they say, is great. I hope in this case it may prevail. I believe and I trust that our innocence will enable us to defeat all efforts and overcome all obstacles and plots laid against us. I say to our enemies, wherever they may be—whether upon the Bench or in the office of The Times—I say to them that we defy them. I stand apart from this Motion. I say to the majority, pass your Bill, and may God defend the right!

Main Question put, "That the Bill be now read the third time."

The House divided:—Ayes 180; Noes 64: Majority 116.

Addison, J. E. W. Elliot, hon. H. F. H.
Ainslie, W. G. Elton, C. I.
Aird, J. Ewart, Sir W.
Ambrose, W. Eyre, Colonel H.
Amherst, W. A. T. Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.
Anstruther, H. T.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Field, Admiral E.
Baden-Powell, Sir G. S. Finch, G. H.
Baird, J. G. A. Finlay, R. B.
Balfour, rt. hon. A. J. Fisher, W. H.
Banes, Major G. E. Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.
Barclay, J. W.
Baring, Viscount Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.
Bartley, G. C. T.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Fletcher, Sir H.
Bates, Sir E. Folkestone, right hon. Viscount
Baumann, A. A.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Forwood, A. B.
Fowler, Sir R. N.
Beadel, W. J. Fry, L.
Beckett, E. W. Gent-Davis, R.
Bigwood, J. Gilliat, J. S.
Blundell, Colonel H. B. H. Godson, A. F.
Goldsmid, Sir J.
Boord, T. W. Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.
Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.
Gorst, Sir J. E.
Bristow, T. L. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Granby, Marquess of
Gray, C. W.
Bruce, Lord H. Green, Sir E.
Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B. Grimston, Viscount
Gurdon, R. T.
Caldwell, J. Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.
Campbell, J. A.
Carmarthen, Marq. of Hamilton, Lord E.
Clarke, Sir E. G. Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.
Coddington, W. Hartington, Marq. of
Coghill, D. H. Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M.
Collings, J.
Colomb, Sir J. C. R. Herbert, hon. S.
Cooke, C. W. R. Hermon-Hodge, R. T.
Corbett, A. C. Hervey, Lord F.
Corbett, J. Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.
Corry, Sir J. P.
Cranborne, Viscount Hill, A. S.
Crossley, Sir S. B. Hoare, S.
Curzon, hon. G. N. Hornby, W. H.
Darling, C. J. Howard, J.
Davenport, H. T. Hozier, J. H. C.
Davenport, W. B. Hughes, Colonel E.
De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P. Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.
Dimsdale, Baron R.
Dugdale, J. S. Hunter, Sir G.
Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W.H. Isaacs, L. H.
Edwards-Moss, T. C. Jackson, W. L.
Egerton, hon. A. J. F. Jennings, L. J.
Kelly, J. R. Plunkett, hon. J. W.
Kenyon, hon. G. T. Powell, F. S.
Kerans, F. H. Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.
Kimber, H. Rasch, Major F. C.
Knowles, L. Reed, H. B.
Lafone, A. Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.
Lawrance, J. C. Robertson, Sir W. T.
Lawrence, W. F. Robertson, J. P. B.
Lea, T. Rollit, Sir A. K.
Lennox, Lord W. C. G. Ross, A. H
Round, J.
Lethbridge, Sir R. Russell, Sir G.
Lewis, Sir C. E. Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.
Lewisham, right hon. Viscount Saunderson, Colonel E. J.
Llewellyn, E. H. Sellar, A. C.
Long, W. H. Sidebotham, J. W.
Lymington, Viscount Sinclair, W. P.
Macartney, W. G. E. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A. Spencer, J. E.
Stanhope, rt. hon. E.
Maclean, J. M. Stanley, E. J.
Maclure, J. W. Stephens, H. C.
Madden, D. H. Stokes, G. G.
Maple, J. B. Swetenham, E.
Marriott, rt. hon. Sir W. T. Sykes, C.
Talbot, J. G.
Matthews, rt. hn. H. Tapling, T. K.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Taylor, F.
Mildmay, F. B. Temple, Sir R.
Milvain, T. Tomlinson, W. E. M.
More, R. J. Townsend, F.
Morrison, W. Trotter, Colonel H. J.
Mount, W. G. Watson, J.
Mowbray, R. G. C. Webster, Sir R. E.
Newark, Viscount Whitley, E.
Norris, E. S. Whitmore, C. A.
Northcote, hon. Sir H. S. Wodehouse, E. R.
Wood, N.
Norton, R. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
O'Neill, hon. R. T. Wright, H. S.
Parker, C. S.
Parker, hon. F. TELLERS.
Pearce, Sir W. Douglas, A. Akers-
Pelly, Sir L. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Anderson, C. H. Hingley, B.
Asquith, H. H. Howell, G.
Balfour, Sir G. Hunter, W. A.
Barbour, W. B. Lawson, Sir W.
Barran, J. M'Arthur, A.
Bradlaugh, C. M'Arthur, W. A.
Broadhurst, H. M'Donald, Dr. R.
Buchanan, T. R. M'Ewan, W.
Burt, T. Mappin, Sir F. T.
Campbell, Sir G. Neville, R.
Causton, R. K. Philipps, J. W.
Channing, F. A. Pickard, B.
Cobb, H. P. Pickersgill, E. H.
Cossham, H. Portman, hon. E. B.
Craig, J. Potter, T. B.
Crawford, D. Provand, A. D.
Crawford, W. Randell, D.
Cremer, W. R. Rendel, S.
Esslemont, P. Roberts, J.
Evans, F. H. Roberts, J. B.
Firth, J. F. B. Robertson, E.
Foster, Sir W. B. Roe, T.
Gourley, E. T. Roscoe, Sir H. E.
Graham, R. C. Rowlands, J.
Gully, W. C. Rowntree, J.
Hayne, C. Seale- Simon, Sir J.
Stanhope, hon. P. J. Warmington, C. M.
Stewart, H. Will, J. S.
Stuart, J. Woodhead, J.
Summers, W. Wright, C.
Sutherland, A.
Swinburne, Sir J. TELLERS.
Thomas, D. A. Labouchere, H.
Wallace, R. Dillwyn, L. L.

Bill read the third time, and passed with an amended Title.