HC Deb 25 July 1888 vol 329 cc495-500

MR. SPEAKER acquainted the House, that he had received the following Letter, relating to the arrest of a Member of this House:—

"25 July 1888.


I have the honour to inform you that Mr. J. J. O'Kelly, M.P. for Roscommon, was arrested last night in Mark Lane, in the City of London, on a warrant granted by H. Turner, esquire, a Justice of the Peace for the County of Roscommon, and duly backed by me, a Metropolitan Police Magistrate, for taking part in an unlawful assembly, and for inciting other persons to take part in an unlawful assembly at Boyle, in the said county of Roscommon, and that the same Mr. J. J. O'Kelly has been handed over to officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary for conveyance to Ireland in custody under such warrant.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient servant,


The Right Honourable

The Speaker of the House of Commons."


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), with reference to the arrest of the hon. Member for North Roscommon, whether there is no way in which persons resident in England can be cited before Courts of Sum- mary Jurisdiction in Ireland except by arresting them?


Well, Sir, that is a legal Question, to which I am afraid I can give no answer. I do not know whether any of my learned Friends can—I certainly cannot. But if the hon. Gentleman will put the Question on the Paper, I will endeavour to answer it.


Then, I will ask the legal Gentleman who sits by the right hon. Gentleman's side. I mean the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden). I think he ought to be able to answer such a small point connected with Summary Jurisdiction Law in Ireland.


I am not aware of any means of enforcing in England a summons, which, of course, would be the alternative to a warrant. There are statutory provisions for enforcing warrants, but those provisions do not apply to summonses.

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

The question is not that of enforcing it. It is a question of issuing and serving a summons—that is what I understand to have been the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork. The objection is that the issuing of a warrant instead of a summons goes to support the wilful presumption that seems to exist in the minds of the Government, that hon. Members in the House would shirk inquiry under the Crimes Act, and that is not borne out by the facts.


The usual course under the Crimes Act would be by summons, and if the Government have decided to proceed by summons on this occasion the hon. Member for North Roscommon might have remained in England and performed his Parliamentary duties until the time of the preliminary inquiry. But the effect of the Government suddenly seizing him by their agents is to remove the hon. Member from the performance of his Parliamentary duties, although there could be no apprehension in the mind of any sane person that the hon. Member would have avoided responsibility for his action. This is a cowardly and vindictive proceeding on the part of the Government, and I wish to ask the Government whether they will, at least, undertake that when my hon. Friend is brought before the magistrate in Ireland, they will instruct their legal agent to assent to his being released on bail in order that he can continue to take part in the discussion of the important Irish questions pending before the House, and perform his Parliamentary duties until the time arises when he shall become answerable to the tribunal before whom he may be required to appear?


I have no doubt that the proper course will be taken by the magistrates when the hon. Gentleman is brought before them; but I do not think the magistrates will be, or ought to be, influenced by any consideration of what the hon. Member would or would not do in this House.


Will the right hon. Gentleman instruct his legal agents, who appear, not to oppose bail, especially as there is no ground for apprehending that my hon. Friend would fail to appear?

[No reply.]


I must press for an answer to my Question, whether any way exists for citing persons resident in this country before Courts of Summary Jurisdiction in Ireland other than by warrant?


I think I have answered that Question, at least I intended to do so. The two modes of procedure are by summons and by warrant. There are statutable provisions for backing warrants and enforcing them in England. I am not aware, and I do not believe, that there is any such statutable procedure in regard to summonses; and, therefore, an Irish summons, as I recollect the Statute, could not be enforced in England. But if the hon. Member requires a more careful and deliberate answer, perhaps he will put a Question on the Paper.


But could the summons be served?


I do not believe, speaking offhand, that it could be served. I do not think there are any provisions whatever for the service in England of a summons issued under a summary jurisdiction in Ireland. I do not believe there is any such procedure known to the law, and certainly it could not be enforced. That is, speaking from my recollection. If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I will look into the matter carefully if he will put a Question on the Paper.


Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether there is any precedent for a communication to the House of the arrest of a Member, and whether the precedents have not been for communicating only the conviction of a Member; also, whether you, Sir, as presiding over this House, conceive it to be your duty to instantly make the communication at the end of opposed Business of the day, and at the time of unopposed Business; and whether it would not be more to the convenience of the House if you conceived that your duty was to make that announcement to-morrow at the commencement of Business, when, if there was any irregularity in the communication, or anything arising out of the circumstances which might make it the occasion of a question of Privilege, the House might be in a better position for a discussion of the matter? Of course, at the present time there can be practically no discussion.


There is nothing in the argument of the hon. Gentleman. At an earlier period of the Sitting, complaint was made by hon. Gentlemen who sit near they hon. Member that no communication had been made to the House by me; and I then informed those hon. Gentlemen that no communication had been made to me, and that the moment it was made it would be my duty to communicate it to the House. I have always acted on the principle that the arrest of a Member is a most important matter, and ought not to be kept back from the House; and I therefore took the earliest opportunity of making the communication of the fact to the House.


Cannot the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland give a more definite answer to the Question of the right hon. Member for West Belfast, as to whether the agents of the Crown will be instructed to agree to bail, so that my hon. Friend may return to his Parliamentary duties, more especially in view—and this has reference to the Executive in Ireland—of most important proceedings affecting Irish Members which are now pending?


I have no doubt that substantial bail will not be refused, unless there is very good ground for refusing it. I am not aware whether there is such ground or not; but hon. Gentlemen will see when the proceedings are gone into. The hon. Member knows that it is for the learned Attorney General for Ireland to regulate these matters, and I certainly could not give an answer.

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

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why it was the arrest of Mr. O'Kelly was made yesterday for a speech delivered two or three weeks ago, in the month of June?

MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)

And may I ask was the meeting which Mr. O'Kelly attended, which is described as an "unlawful assembly," a proclaimed meeting; and, if not, why was it an unlawful assembly?

[No reply.]


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland how it was, when Mr. O'Kelly was arrested last night in the City of London, the warrant having been issued in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman did not take the trouble to be in his place this morning to answer the Questions which had been addressed to the Members of the Government present, not a single one of whom was acquainted, or who at least professed not to be acquainted, with the arrest of Mr. O'Kelly?

[No reply.]


May I press upon the right hon. Gentleman that in the event of a similar case occurring he will be in his place, and not run away, as he is in the habit of doing?


Order, order!


I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman previously, which he did not answer, and I do not know whether he requires Notice. Is it not a fact that the speech for which Mr. O'Kelly has been arrested was delivered on June 24, and it is now July 25? I will ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can explain why it was that the hon. Member was not arrested until a month after the speech had been delivered?


Certainly, that is a Question that requires Notice.