§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he took no credit to the Government for bringing this measure before the House, as they had enjoyed the advantage of the lab ours of other men and of previous Governments in previous years. The Bill proposed that prisoners and their wives should be competent but not compellable witnesses; that a man or his wife might give evidence on the man's behalf, but could not be forced to do so. There were, however, certain restrictions in the Bill as to the cross-examination of prisoners. The first great reason for the Bill was that during the last 20 years some 10 or 15 new offences had been created, with regard to which, almost without exception, a prisoner or his wife could give evidence. This was so, for instance, in the Explosives Acts, the Acts relating to conspiracy, the Food and Drugs Acts, the Merchant Shipping Acts—as to sending unseaworthy ships to sea—and notably in the case of the Criminal Law Amendment Act passed in 1885. The result was that the law was in a most anomalous condition. There was a number of offences in regard to which a prisoner could give evidence, and a number of kindred offences in which he could not give evidence. He had been furnished by members of both branches of the Legal Profession with extraordinary instances of the unjust operation of the present Law of Evidence. There was a prosecution at the Old Bailey, and two prisoners were indicted. It was desirable to prove their presence in another place at the time. One prisoner was married, and the other kept a mistress, and the latter was allowed to give the evidence which the lawful wife was debarred from giving. A man could be examined as to whether he had forged a trade mark; but he could not be examined on the charge of forging a cheque. Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act a man was permitted to be a witness, and might prove his own innocence; but if charged with precisely analogous 69 offences coming under the pre-existing law his mouth would be closed. It might be asked whether the changes already made in the direction of the Bill had proved to be satisfactory. He had communicated with a number of the Judges to ascertain their opinion on the question whether the new law on this subject worked well. They had many years' experience of it, and during the last three years hundreds of cases had occurred under the Criminal Law Amendment Act; and the unanimous testimony of both Bench and Bar was that it had the effect of allowing innocent men in several instances to get off, and causing guilty men to be convicted. He could, for instance, give several cases in which the evidence of children under the Act just referred to could only be rebutted by the statement of the man charged; and it had been on his statement, and the way in which he had given evidence, that an acquittal had been obtained, which could not otherwise have been obtained. All would admit that the first object to be attained was that the innocent should not suffer; and that it would be better for several guilty persons to escape than that one innocent man should be convicted. Mr. Justice Stephen had expressed himself strongly on the absurd state of a law by which a man charged with personating a voter could be examined, but not a man charged with personation and attempt to defraud; and a man could be examined with respect to the sending of an unseaworthy ship to sea, but not on a charge of manslaughter by negligence in so doing. But the Parliamentary history of the question was enough to justify the Bill. Efforts had been made for more than 20 years to change the law in this direction. The first Bill on the question was brought forward by two Irish Members—and he commended this fact to hon. Members below the Gangway—Mr. Scully and Mr. MacMahon. From that time to 1878 constant attempts of the same kind were made, and in 1879 the Report of the Criminal Law Commission was published. In 1883, before the Grand Committee on Law, the matter was fully investigated, with the result that a Bill was introduced in 1884 by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 70 Derby (Sir William Harcourt), and Lord Herschell, the then Solicitor General. On the lines of that Bill the present measure proceeded. The Bill had passed the House of Lords three or four times; and he would remind those who had studied the speeches of the great lawyers in the past of the unanimity there had always been amongst them on this question. He believed this Bill had the assent of the lawyers, and of every hon. Member who had considered the question from a practical point of view. No one, he thought, could deny that there was an urgent demand for this Bill. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) was recently defending a man who was indicted for shooting another under very curious circumstances. On that occasion his hon. and learned Friend expressed his hope that the present Bill might become law; and Mr. Justice Stephen, concurring in this view, urged his hon. and learned Friend to do what he could to press forward this much-needed change in the law. The proposals he had submitted would tend to elicit the truth, would conduce to the ends of justice, would load to innocent men being acquitted, and would bring out the truth in the case of guilty men. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
said, that this was not the first time that this Bill had been before the House, and that he had expressed the opinion, formed after considerable thought and experience, in favour of it. There were two considerations which made it perfectly clear that the law could not be allowed to remain as it now was. The first of these was that the law as it now stood was utterly inconsistent, inasmuch as in one set of cases the person accused was allowed to give evidence on his own behalf, and another set in which he was prohibited from doing so. This Bill, also, was justifiable on a very broad and sound principle—that the rule of law which incapacitated an accused person from giving evidence on his own behalf had the effect of excluding the evidence of the person who knew most of the transaction in question. He did 71 not hesitate to say that, upon his present information and judgment, he should be prepared to go even further than this Bill proposed to go, and to make the party accused not only a competent, but in some cases, at least, a compellable witness. He would ask the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) whether he did not think there was, at least, one case in which a prisoner should be a compellable witness? That was the case of four or five persons jointly charged with an offence, against three or four of whom there might be cogent evidence, but as to the fifth there might be some evidence, but not of a cogent kind. As the law now stood, the fifth man might be convicted; but if he were enabled to call the men beside him in the dock, they would be compelled to say that he was not present at the commission of the crime. In the Maamtrasna case, many hon. Members—not only those from Ireland—felt very uneasy in their minds with regard to one of the accused persons who was hanged. He knew that the Solicitor General, the Under Secretary of State for India, and he himself, took great pains to investigate the case; and they all three came to the conclusion that there was strong reason for doubting whether one man who was found guilty of murder with the rest, and suffered for it, was guilty of or took an active part in the crime. Could that man have called his fellow-prisoners and his wife as witnesses, it would, in all probability, have saved him from death. The law ought not to be directed towards the protection of the guilty, or to extend to them even an artificial protection; and he was prepared to go beyond what the Bill proposed in the matter of examining accused persons. There was one point that he should like to ask the Attorney General, whether he thought it necessary to insist upon doing what the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) did not insist upon doing—extend the operation of the Bill to Ireland? In the interest of the Bill itself, which, after all, was a new departure in our judicial system, it would be better to see how it operated in England before extending it to Ireland, where, whether rightly or wrongly, under the existing system, a widespread distrust of the administration of the law was unquestion- 72 ably felt. He would relate a little incident to illustrate that feeling. During the trials of the dynamitards at the Old Bailey, before Judge Hawkins, a few years ago, a friend of his, a respectable Presbyterian minister, from the North of Ireland, was desirous of hearing the trials, and he (Sir Charles Russell) obtained him a pass to the Court. Subsequently the clergyman called on him at his chambers, and said—I was never more astonished in the whole course of my life! Why, a criminal trial in the Old Bailey is not like what I am accustomed to see in Ireland. The prosecuting counsel and the Judge were most anxious that nothing unfair to the prisoners should be mentioned, while in Ireland it is a scramble on the part of those who represent the Crown to secure a conviction.He did not wish it to be thought that, in giving this illustration, he intended to infer that the Judges, or others who were entrusted with the administration of the law in Ireland, were intentionally or consciously unfair; but he knew that there was a very considerable feeling against legal administration, which would, he feared, be intensified if the Bill were applied to Ireland.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, that he also was very desirous to see the Bill passed, and would join in the appeal of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster). Everybody who knew anything about the administration of the Criminal Law knew how badly this measure was wanted in the interests of justice and mercy. It was wanted for the purpose of obtaining the exoneration of innocent men, as well as for deciding upon the degrees of guilt, for it affected not only the verdict, but the sentence. They had had experience of the Bill in many directions; and many a man who had been prosecuted under the Criminal Law Amendment Act would now be undergoing penal servitude but for the right which he had to give evidence on his own behalf. If a justly accused prisoner gave his own version of the affair for which he had been arrested, the Judge, from merely hearing his evidence, could form an idea as to how far he was implicated, and might possibly mitigate some of the terribly severe sentences now inflicted. At present the Judge heard but one side of the story of brutality, cruelty, and false conduct. With regard to the inclusion of Ireland, he consented in 73 1883 to exclude Ireland from its operation, because he believed that it would be well to do so until they had had some experience of its working in this country. After some experience of its working in England, he thought it might be applied to Ireland; but as it was well known that the Irish Representatives were at present strongly opposed to it, he hoped the Government would not insist upon forcing it upon an unwilling people. He might remind the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite of the saying that the greatest enemy to the good was the best.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W. R., Ripen)
said, he believed that this Bill, which he hoped would pass into law, was one that would greatly assist in their duty those who had the administration of the Criminal Law, and also secure to those who were wrongly accused of crime greater facility for establishing their innocence. But there were three points to which he wished to refer. First, he read in the Bill that a person charged with an offence might be called as a witness, and, he asked, who was to call the prisoner? Was he to be called by the prosecuting counsel, the defending counsel, or by the Court itself? It seemed to him that on the Committee stage of the Bill it would be wise if some words were inserted more clearly to specify by whom the prisoner might be called. Secondly, with reference to the inquiry before the Grand Jury, the Bill said that the prisoner should not be called before the Grand Jury. He had always felt it to be a very anomalous condition of things that they should have an inquiry involving a charge against a prisoner entirely conducted in his absence; and he now thought that when they were dealing with a Bill of the kind it was worthy of their consideration whether this practice should be retained. His third question was, would the calling of the prisoner, without further evidence on his behalf, entitle the counsel for the prosecution to reply? He could not help thinking, if that were so, that this power of calling the prisoner might become something in the nature of a trap. It might be looked on as a trap if the counsel for the prosecution was to have the right of making a long speech on the statement which an unlearned or ignorant man might make. As he had said, he hoped 74 the Bill would pass, because he believed it would be the means of securing the acquittal of innocent persons; and if it tended to the conviction of the guilty, so much the better.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.) ,
in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said, he desired to express his acknowledgments for what had fallen from the two hon. and learned Gentlemen (Sir Charles Russell and Sir Henry James) with regard to the application of the Bill to Ireland. If the Bill were to be applied under normal conditions he should offer no opposition to it. At present, however, the power to examine a prisoner and his witnesses as well existed in Ireland, and was frequently used in a manner most detrimental to the interests of the accused. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), however, was wrong as to the grievance complained of in the Maamtrasna case. The grievance was that Myles Joyce was not allowed to have his wife examined in his defence. He wished to know whether this measure, like the Coercion Bill, was going to be forced down the throats of the Irish people? The atmosphere of an Irish Court was totally different from that of an English Court of Justice, inasmuch as in the former every effort was made to insure the conviction of a prisoner. Nothing would do the Irish Judges more good than if they were obliged to spend a few weeks in English Courts. Every Judge in Ireland had been a Crown Prosecutor; and a Judge who had gone through a course of Crown prosecuting in Green Street Court House could scarcely believe any man innocent whom he saw in the dock. One of the best Judges on the Irish Bench was the other day led to charge a jury who were convinced of the innocence of a man, accused on the most flimsy evidence of the brutal murder of a woman, to find him guilty of manslaughter if they would not convict him of murder. He contended that cross-examinations, as they were conducted in Ireland by Crown Counsel, would simply leave the case in a worse position than before. Was it reasonable to suppose that with all the best trained intellect of the Irish Bar against a poor wretched prisoner who did not possess 200 words in the whole of his vocabulary the man 75 would not be broken down in the course of the cross-examination? He (Mr. T. M. Healy) would offer every opposition to this Bill being extended to Ireland. He could imagine it being a good measure under normal circumstances in England; but quite a different condition of things prevailed in Ireland. In England there was no prejudice or bias against a prisoner. It was not the interest of the Crown in England to obtain the conviction of a prisoner; but the Crown Prosecutor in Ireland regarded the conviction of a prisoner much in the same way as the Red Indian regarded the addition of a scalp to his belt, and all the talk of the Bar in Ireland was in that sense. He objected especially to this Bill on account of the character of the Resident Magistrates who would have this power of cross-examination and inquisition. The political spirit was at the root of every prosecution in that country, and convictions had to be obtained at all hazards. Personally, he felt so strongly about the measure that he would treat it, if applied to Ireland, in the same spirit as the Coercion Bill of last year. He would devote his days and nights, as far as the Rules would allow him, doing all in his power to defeat it, and he would ask his Colleagues to meet the Bill in a similar spirit. There was great force in the observation of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, that the Bill should be put in operation in England for a few years first in order to see what rules the Judges laid down regarding it. Let them see whether the prisoner was to be allowed to be asked leading questions by his own counsel; and whether the cross-examination was to be generally ad rem to a particular crime, of the character, so to say, of that in the Bravo case. Let them see what the practice would be; and then they would be prepared to consider whether a somewhat similar measure might not be applied to Ireland at a future time. If at the present period they applied the Bill to Ireland they would have a feeling created in the country that they were adopting a Coercion Act in disguise; and the entire mind of the people, and the opinion of those who conducted defences on the popular side, would be that the Bill had been introduced for political purposes. Though a similar law to that proposed existed in foreign countries, 76 there was also at the same time existing the right of appeal. That was a most important matter. And in America, where a prisoner could be called in his own defence, there was an express provision in the Statute of some of the States. He thought he was correct with regard to Massachusetts, at any rate, and he believed, also, with regard to some of the States there was an express provision that if the prisoner abstained from going on the stand—as it was called—and giving evidence, his abstention should not be commented on by the Judge in his Charge to the jury, or by the counsel of the State. The result was a whole series of appeals, the accused having a better chance of justice being done him than in this country. In France the whole machinery of appeal was open to the prisoner. Why, then, did they not bring in a Bill to create a Court of Appeal, instead of bringing forward this insidious measure of piecemeal legislation? He invited working men Members of that House to consider whether there was not some danger in connection with that matter, especially remembering how limited the jury class was, even in this country. In Ireland the case in that respect was far worse. To show the limited class from which special jurors who tried cases in Ireland was drawn, he had obtained a Return which proved that while there were in the County Kerry 20,000 voters, the special jurors did not number 200. There would, under the Bill, be a great chance of the escape of a guilty man, and very little chance for an innocent man. If an ignorant man declined to put himself into competition with learned counsel, he would be taunted with fearing cross-examination. The Bill was another link in the chain of coercion which the Government were weaving in Ireland. He asked English Members not to consider the Amendment which he now begged to move unreasonable. It was—That it is inexpedient to make any further change in the Criminal Law until a Court of Appeal in criminal cases is established, and that this House is not prepared to extend to Ireland a measure which would confer on removable magistrates the power of cross-examining a prisoner deprived of the protection of a jury.In the interests of Ireland it was most desirable that the disgraceful crimes which existed, especially in the County 77 of Kerry, should be as speedily as possible detected and punished. He himself should be glad if the local population—seeing that the police were unable to check those crimes—would take the matter into its own hands, and by stringent means put a stop to practices of that kind. It was certainly in no sense of shielding criminals that he deprecated the extension of that Bill to Ireland; but he respectfully asked for the consideration of that Amendment the unbiassed opinion of English Gentlemen, whose minds he would ask to be freed from prejudice in dealing with this matter. The Act would lead to the conviction of the innocent. The clover men who were guilty would escape, while the stupid men who were innocent would be convicted.
Amendment proposed,To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to make any further change in the Criminal Law until a Court of Appeal in Criminal Cases is established, and that this House is not prepared to extend to Ireland a measure which would confer on removable magistrates the power to cross-examine prisoners deprived of the protection of a jury,"—(Mr. T. M. Healy,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)
said, he thought it was very satisfactory that there had been so much agreement on the part of those who had spoken as to the application of that measure to England and Wales. There had been, so far, no difference of opinion on this point—that it was desirable that the measure should pass with regard to that part of the United Kingdom. He confessed that he was very strongly in favour of the measure; and to his mind it was only astonishing that the present system should have existed so long as it had done. It seemed to him most extraordinary that, for so many years, they should have gone on carefully excluding the evidence of those who knew most about the subject-matter of the case. He was disposed to agree with the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) that it would be desirable either to omit altogether the Proviso to which he had referred, or to modify it to such an extent as to give the 78 power, in certain cases, of compelling the evidence of a prisoner. It would, he thought, be hard, where there was more than one prisoner being tried, if one of the accused was not able to call the other, who might be able to give evidence that would secure his acquittal. He assumed that it was intended to apply the measure to Scotland, and that it did apply; but he should like to ask the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, respectfully, whether certain modifications would not be necessary, and, perhaps, a new clause required, to render the Bill properly applicable to Scotch criminal procedure? No doubt, the Lord Advocate would give that point his attention. The only other question which remained was whether the Bill should apply to Ireland as well as to England, Scotland, and Wales. If that were a matter which depended only on local considerations, he (Mr. Finlay) should be prepared to act on the opinion which, he understood, was entertained by a great many of the Representatives of Ireland on that point. But, to his mind, that was a matter of general principle; and, speaking for himself, he thought it would be a great mistake if they were to have one law on a matter of that kind for one part of the United Kingdom and another law for another part. The question of what person should be allowed to give evidence was not one to be considered upon local considerations peculiar to Ireland. It was a matter of general principle, and a question on which he thought they ought to be guided by those broad considerations which were applicable to every part of the United Kingdom. He presumed that in Ireland, as in other parts of the Kingdom, it sometimes happened that an innocent man was put on his trial. Was it not desirable that he should be allowed to give his own account of the transaction, and submit that evidence which might secure his acquittal? There might be cases in which the only man who could give evidence necessary to establish his innocence was the prisoner himself; and yet they were told, when it was proposed to apply a measure of that kind to Ireland, that that was coercive legislation. Was that a correct statement? He would call the attention of hon. Members below the Gangway to the fact that the hon. 79 and learned Member for South Hackney gave one very striking illustration of the evils, as he said, of not allowing prisoners to be called to give evidence. Into the merits of that case he would not enter; but he would remind hon. Members below the Gangway that the Maamtrasna case, selected by the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney to illustrate the necessity of such a measure, was a case occurring in Ireland. And yet now it was said that the measure ought not to extend to Ireland. They had hoard a good deal from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) in regard to the spirit in which Irish prosecutions were conducted. He was very sorry to hear what the hon. and learned Member said; but, assuming it to be the case that there was that animus for convictions, he would ask the hon. and learned Member whether it was not all the more reasonable to allow a man on his trial to give the evidence which, it might be, was the only means for securing his acquittal? He was strongly of opinion that it would be a mistake if the Government excluded Ireland from the operation of this measure.
§ MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
said, he could quite realize that if a man charged with a crime was compelled to give evidence in open Court gross injustice might arise, because it very frequently happened that some prisoners were of that nervous temperament that it was impossible for them to do justice to themselves in the witness-box. It would be still worse for such a person to stand in the witness-box without the protection of counsel to defend him; and he could also imagine that if he went into the box without the protection of counsel and was badgered as he had heard witnesses sometimes badgered by counsel his safety might be jeopardized. For that reason, he should object to the compulsory application of the Bill to all prisoners. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) had referred to the question of the application of the Bill to Ireland, and he had been supported in his remarks by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). He (Mr. Milvain) confessed that he sympathized with the view that the Bill was not, at the present moment, necessary for the 80 administration of justice in Ireland. He did so, not on account of anything which had been said by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) as to the spirit of the administration of justice in Ireland, nor because he agreed with him in the instance which he quoted of the Judge, who, because the prisoner was not guilty of murder, charged him with manslaughter. Unless the procedure in the Criminal Law in Ireland was very different from the procedure of the same law in England, it would not be within the province of the Judge to charge the prisoner with manslaughter under the circumstances; but it would be in the province of the jury, taking a merciful view of the case, to find a prisoner guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. Nor did he sympathize with the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, because of his threats of obstruction. If this law were necessary for Ireland at the present moment, he should not hesitate for an instant to continue to walk through the Division Lobby again and again, as they had done last year, in order to pass the Bill; but, at the present time, he did not think that the Bill was necessary for the administration of justice in Ireland. He would ask the Government to consider whether, for other reasons than those which had been advanced, the Bill ought to be extended to Ireland? In the first place, they had had an amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland last year; they had this subject then threshed out, and under the Act of last year the prisoner was protected against his evidence taken at the preliminary inquiry being used against him on his trial. If that was done last year, he asked the House whether, if the present Bill were applied to Ireland, it would not constitute an amendment of the Criminal Law (Ireland) Amendment Act as enacted last year? He objected also for this reason. They were told that law and order had become supreme in Ireland. They knew that in Ireland there was jealousy of the administration of the law, rightly or wrongly he did not pretend to say; but, considering that that fooling did exist, he asked the Government to consider whether it was desirable in any sense whatever to increase that feeling by extending to Ire- 81 land the provisions of this Bill? The examination of prisoners was a subject which he had watched with considerable interest, and he was glad to say that he agreed with the general principle. He therefore supported this Bill, which would also remove the anomaly which existed at the present time. Several instances had been quoted by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) which showed that there were many cases in which the prisoner might give evidence, and many other cases where he was precluded from so doing. He (Mr. Milvain) approved the principle of the Bill, because it got rid of this anomaly, and in that respect it was a legislative step in the right direction. But there was another reason why he agreed with the principle of the Bill, and that was because it corrected an existing evil. As the law existed at present, when the prisoner went into the witness-box to give evidence, he might be asked if he bad been previously convicted of any offence. He could give an instance which occurred in his own hearing of a man who was charged with a crime under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. The man had been previously charged with a similar offence, and had suffered imprisonment; but after he was discharged from gaol he came into some money—a large sum for him, of about £600—and immediately afterwards a second charge was laid against him. Fortunately, he was defended by counsel, who believed he saw that the charge was the result of a conspiracy to extort money, and was fortunate enough in breaking down the case in cross-examination of the first two witnesses; the man was thereupon discharged with the approbation of the Judge. He would ask the House what would have occurred had that man not been defended by counsel? If the case of conspiracy had not been established before the case for the prosecution was concluded, and the man had been permitted to go into the witness-box to give his testimony, his previous conviction would have been put before the Court, and the jury would not have hesitated a single moment in convicting him. He said that the principle, but not the letter, of this Bill corrected that evil. The Bill said that no person examined under this Act should be examined as to 82 previous convictions. But might it not be contended rightly by counsel that this Act did not apply to the Acts under which prisoners might now be examined, and that under the Criminal Law Amendment Act questions as to previous conviction might be put to the prisoner? He suggested, with every deference to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, that a clause should be added to the Bill providing that it should not be lawful for any prisoner to be called and examined as a witness otherwise than in accordance with this Act, and that the clauses of previous Acts relating to this matter should thereby be repealed. Subject to that Amendment he agreed with the principle of the Bill, because he believed its effect would be to render more certain the conviction of the guilty and the acquittal of the innocent.
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
said, the Legal Profession in Scotland entirely approved of the principle of the measure. With reference to the Amendment, there could be no doubt that special reasons required to be given why a measure affecting Criminal Law should be applied to Great Britain and not to Ireland. But he thought the reasons given by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) why the Bill should not be extended to Ireland would appear very satisfactory to the House. The maxim which the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) laid down was a very weighty one—namely, that the Criminal Law of the land should be the same in all parts of the United Kingdom; but coming from his lips it had all the charm of novelty, and must have been a surprise to the House. He (Mr. Crawford) did not, however, make that remark for the sake of fixing upon his hon. and learned Friend the imputation of stating a paradoxical opinion, or following an inconsistent course of action, but in order to point out the reason why this part of the Criminal Law should not be the same in Ireland as in Great Britain was because his hon. and learned Friend and his Friends had succeeded in bringing it about that the main body of the criminal procedure in Ireland was not the same as in the other parts of the Kingdom. He (Mr. Crawford), and those who thought with him, contended that the administration of the 83 Criminal Law in Ireland partook of the nature of an inquisition; that a prisoner was not safe; that he was not protected or sure of obtaining fair play; that the law was not in itself in conformity with the opinions and the feelings of the people, and, therefore, was not administered in a way which they considered fair and just; and, so long as that state of things continued, he thought the Irish should not be deprived of what they felt to be a real protection. It would be a harsh, arbitrary, unjust, and unwise thing if the opinion of the Irish Members was not allowed to prevail on this question. But his principal object in rising was to express the acknowledgment that the Bill, so far as Scotland and England were concerned, was a welcome improvement of the Criminal Law. The subject was not new to them. It was many years since the Faculty of Advocates, of which he was a member, affirmed the principle of the Bill when it was first brought in by a private Member, and the feeling in favour of it had steadily grown. They had always in Scotland had some experience of the principle of consideration being given to the evidence of a prisoner. When the prisoner was apprehended, he had the opportunity of making a statement; and if he did so, his statement formed a necessary portion of the criminal proceedings. It was true that, technically, it could only be used as evidence against him, and not for him; but its production had hardly ever been refused by the prosecution, and had often been a safeguard of the innocent. Accordingly, their experience had led Scottish lawyers and the Scottish public to the opinion that the extension of the principle would be a beneficial thing. At the same time, there were certain details in which the measure might, with advantage, be better adjusted to the wants of Scotland. He was sure his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate would give due consideration to them, and that in Committee the necessary corrections would be made.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he found some difficulty in this matter, because he was thoroughly in favour of the Bill as it stood. He opposed the Bill when it was brought in by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) 84 in 1886, because he thought there was not then sufficient protection for ignorant prisoners, especially in cases of poaching offences and trade disputes; and to meet the objection he then raised, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted had some force, and which would then have been dealt with had it been possible at that period of the Session, a clause had been added which protected that class of prisoners. It was because he believed the Bill to be iu its present condition an exceedingly valuable one, and one which might be of enormous benefit to prisoners in the country, that he appealed to the Government—he did not know that any kind of appeal could have weight after the appeal made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Durham (Mr. Milvain)—he appealed to the Government in the interest of the Bill itself not to include Ireland in it, and he trusted to give satisfactory reasons in support of that appeal. It was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) that the Bill dealt with a general principle, and that it ought, therefore, to apply generally to the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. That would be an effective argument if legislation had always been conducted on that basis; but it had not been. On many matters of general principle they had excepted one or the other country. He always thought that unfortunate; he always thought that of itself gave some colour to the claim that there should be separate Legislatures dealing with the separate countries; but he was bound to say that they had exceptional circumstances here which did justify at present the appeal to exempt Ireland from this Act. He did not quite understand the point urged by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness as to one defendant not having given to him the right to call other defendants included in the same indictment.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, that he simply endorsed what his hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney said upon that point.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, at the present moment the law of England cer- 85 tainly, and he thought the law of the other countries also, was that so long as the whole of the defendants were not given in charge to the jury, any one of the defendants might apply to be tried separately, and might ground his application on the fact that he wanted to call his co-defendants as witnesses, and he had the right to do that, and, as far as his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) knowledge went, the Court would always accede to that request. Therefore, he did not understand the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness. If this Bill were passed in its present form, he understood that a prisoner would have the right to tender himself as a witness, or to tender his wife as a witness, on his behalf, or the prosecution or any co-prisoner would equally have the right to call him as a witness with this reservation, that the prisoner and his wife would have the right to refuse in the event of their thinking it would be right to do so. There was one point raised which he thought would be worthy of very serious consideration when they got into Committee, and that was the point that neither the Judge nor the counsel for the prosecution ought to have the right to comment hostilely upon the abstention of the prisoner from going into the witness-box. The matter ought not to be dealt with as it would be in a civil case. He had reason to remember a case in which three persons were indicted together; one of them applied to be tried separately, and the counsel for the prosecution in that case said he should comment upon the fact, in the event of their not being put in the box, of the other prisoners not being called by the one who would be tried separately. In that case the prisoner put the others in the box, and said nothing to them, except to ask them their names, thus relieving himself from the risk of hostile comment on account of not calling them; but it was not every prisoner tried by himself who had sufficient knowledge of what was in his power to do. A man would not care to render himself open to the unfair position in which he might be placed, and he (Mr. Bradlaugh) thought there ought to be in Committee an addition made to the Bill to the effect that there should not be any hostile comment either by the prosecuting counsel, or by the Judge, or by any advocate for any other prisoner charged 86 upon the fact that the prisoner or his wife had refused to exercise their right of going into the box. It would be a mistake to leave them the right of refusal if the exercise of it was to weigh against them as though it were a matter of guilt. Now, having dealt with that point, and expressed his hope that this Bill might become law for England, Wales, and Scotland, he ventured to say a word upon the appeal made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). As he understood him, the hon. and learned Member agreed with the principle of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member agreed that wives should have the choice of being called, and he agreed that prisoners also should have that choice, if it were not as he alleged—and he (Mr. Bradlaugh) thought with good grounds—that an exceptional state of things existed in Ireland. He would not discuss how that exceptional state of things had originated which would make the examination of prisoners as witnesses absolutely unfair. One of the hon. and learned Gentleman's grounds of objection was that the magistrates before whom the people must often come in the cases he had in mind were magistrates not of the ordinary character, but removable magistrates, tempted to act rather as partizans than as Judges, and as advocates for the prosecution rather than as persons seeking for the truth. There did seem to him to be real and material objection in that, and it was put very fairly to the House by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Durham that if they extended this Bill to Ireland now they would really override what the Government themselves consented to last year having an overwhelming majority at their disposal, when they exempted prisoners from having their examinations brought up against them as evidence in their trial. The objection which he (Mr. Bradlaugh) made to the Bill had been fairly and fully met, and it was because he did not desire that he should be driven into voting, as he must vote, for the Amendment, which he did not like—it was that he should not be driven into voting for an Amendment which, if carried, would be fatal to the whole of the Bill, that he asked the Government to take into consideration the appeal which had no 87 Party character. It was an appeal made to them from their own side, an appeal made to them by the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, who certainly had this Bill at heart, and who, to his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) knowledge, took great pains with it in previous Sessions when it was in his hands; and it was an appeal which he (Mr. Brad-laugh) made in no antagonism to the Government at all, but because he believed that the Bill might be risked in passing, if the wishes of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford were not acceded to, wishes which were very justly founded upon the way in which justice was administered in Ireland. He was sorry to hear the hon. and learned Member for North Longford say there was prejudice in this country against the poor on trial. He did not think such a prejudice existed; it was true that in some trade disputes, and it was true that in some poaching offences, they did get what he might call a Party administration of justice; but outside such cases, and they were very exceptional, he did not think there was any excuse for saying that the Criminal Law in this country was pressed more harshly against the poor than against the rich, or that it was pressed more harshly against the unpopular man than it was against the popular man. He deemed it right to say that. He could quite understand the hon. and learned Member for North Langford saying what he did, considering his unfortunate experience of the administration—it was hardly fair to call it justice—of the law in his own country. No doubt the hon. and learned Member thought that what obtained in Ireland obtained in England also, but it did not. He would not trouble the House with any further remarks upon the point. He did not quite understand what the hon. and learned Member for Durham meant by the compulsory provisions of the Bill, for there were no compulsory provisions. There was great power of ascertaining the evidence given; but the prisoner was told—and by the clause the hon. and learned Attorney General had inserted, which met entirely the objection he (Mr. Bradlaugh) raised for two years to this Bill—the prisoner was told "you have the right to refuse." It was only needed that there should be in Committee inserted in the Bill some 88 provision that the refusal of a prisoner to give evidence should not be commented upon against him. If that were done he did not see a shadow of unfairness in the Bill at all, and he ventured, in sitting down, to ask the Government to exempt Ireland from the operation of the Bill, which would then pass practically as an unopposed measure. All Members concurred in wishing to make the Bill law, and all would like to see it extended to Ireland when a better state of things came about, and when its administration would not be associated with exceptional legislation which was rightly regarded as coercive.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
said, that in the few observations which he desired to lay before the House he would confine himself to the duty or expediency of including Ireland within the scope of the measure. There had been absolute unanimity in favour of its principle, and he submitted that its character in connection with the administration of justice and the admissibility of evidence made it primâ facie to apply equally to every portion of the United Kingdom. Suppose the Bill, if passed into law, were not to apply to Ireland, how extraordinary the position would be? If a man happened to be accused of a crime in England, everyone was agreed that it would be for his protection, if innocent, that he should be able to give his own version of the story. The same man could not give his version of the story if accused in Ireland. What shadow of excuse could there be for limiting the measure in that way? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and others urged their appeal to the interest of the Bill, But the question to be considered was the interests of the administration of justice in Ireland. He looked upon this measure as a remedial measure, and, therefore, he thought it should be extended to Ireland. It would be very easy to take hold of this Bill as a convenient peg on which to hang a denunciation of the administration of the law in Ireland. It had been stated to the House that there existed in Ireland a widespread feeling of distrust with reference to the administration of justice in Ireland. It had been also stated that Irish Judges were inclined to lean rather more heavily 89 against an accused person than were English Judges. He did not now intend to enter into a defence of the Irish Judges, but he altogether denied that statement. A certain portion of the administration of justice was now entrusted to what had been called "removable" magistrates; but a certain portion of the law was administered the same way in England.
§ MR. MADDEN
But if there was a small portion of the law administered in this way, were they to legislate for that special portion? It occurred to him that if the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) were examined they tended to show that there was all the more necessity for the extension of this Bill to Ireland. If Judges were unfair this Bill was all the more wanted, because everyone who had spoken had admitted that the Bill would be a protection to an innocent man who found himself in the dock. If the hon. and learned Member agreed that that was the case, and at the same time argued that the innocent man in Ireland was exposed to peril on account of the unfairness of the Judges, he thought the argument led to the opposite conclusion. If they were going to improve the method of taking evidence under the criminal system, surely they ought to improve it throughout the entire Kingdom, and for the benefit of every class. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford said that—It is inexpedient to make any further changes in Criminal Law until a Court of Appeal in criminal cases has been established.No doubt, the question of the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal was a question of the very greatest importance. But what was the force of the argument which had been deduced in favour of the establishment of such a Court? It was that miscarriages of justice might occur in the trial of a case before a jury. But was this Bill a Bill to improve the mode of conducting trials, or was it not? If it was not, what was the meaning of this consensus of opinion in its favour? If it was, how could it be said that the chances of miscarriage were not diminished? In conclusion, he ventured to hope that the House would come to the decision that 90 this measure was an efficient measure, and one which was in favour of a class which, above all others, the House was bound to consider.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he was sorry to have to trouble the House a second time, but as an Amendment had been moved which narrowed the question before the House he wished to make a few further observations. Of course, all would appreciate the fact that the Bill before the House would give an advantage to innocent persons; but it was necessary to look to the circumstances in which that opportunity was given, and practical reasons and difficulties occurred to his mind why he thought that it might be that a different effect would be given to that opportunity in Ireland than would be given in England. He had hoped the Government would have given way to the appeal made by the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) and himself, and have excluded Ireland from the operation of the Bill. He would not go into the question of the administration of justice in Ireland, but did not think it was possible to assert that the conduct of criminal cases in Ireland was exactly the same as it was in England. Anyone who had watched the conduct of criminal cases in England would know that no prosecuting counsel ever thought of exercising any ingenuity to secure a conviction. The Judge was always careful that no prosecuting counsel should for a moment exceed the line of his duty. He hoped and believed that was the state of things in Ireland; but he was not quite sure that in some class of cases there would not be an neuter phase of forensic rivalry than would be displayed in this country, so that the efficacious principle might not be the same in Ireland as in England. But then there was the question of a prisoner who did not wish to be called. English prisoners, he was sure, as a rule, would regard this Bill as a beneficent and merciful measure in their favour, and would in most cases wish to be examined on their trial. But they must take Ireland as it was. They must take the opinion in Ireland as it was, and they must take into consideration the opinions of the Representatives of the Irish people as they were. Although he thought they would be teaching the 91 Irish people wrongly, yet they would teach the Irish people that this was a hostile measure; and if they did that, might it not be that the Irish criminal would take up an attitude of dogged hostility to this measure, and refuse to go into the witness-box? If that should prove to be the case a position would be taken up by the Irish prisoner which would defeat the very object of the Bill. He would remind the Government that those who were united in their efforts to maintain the Imperial Parliament constantly stated that they were willing to listen to the opinions of Irish Members, and, in matters solely affecting Ireland, to give to those opinions their due weight, having regard to their being based on local knowledge. The Bill would only succeed if it were regarded as a beneficent Bill; and if it were regarded as a measure establishing a tyrannical inquisitorial power it would not be a good Bill. He therefore appealed to the Government to accede to the Amendment, and allow the Bill to come into operation in England without further delay. When experience had manifested the beneficial operation of this change in the law, a desire for its extension to Ireland would, no doubt, soon arise in that country.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
said, he was very glad that the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) had had an opportunity of addressing the House again, and of developing what he called the arguments in favour of this Amendment. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman had made an appeal to the Government in favour of the Amendment was a matter of importance, having regard to the right hon. Gentleman's previous connection with this Bill. His words were entitled to be considered; but they, in effect, amounted to a most amazing argument. The right hon. Gentleman was strongly in favour of the principle of a prisoner being allowed to give evidence in his own defence, yet, though he could point out no distinction in principle between Ireland and England, he now urged the House to withhold this beneficent Bill—to use his own term—from Ireland. His argument was that it ought not to be extended to Ireland, because the Irish Members were against it. If the right 92 hon. Gentleman believed that this change in the Law of Evidence would make the administration of the Criminal Law more fair and just, there was no reason for not extending it to Ireland, save that which was based on the alleged partiality of Irish Judges, which was a ground disavowed by the right hon. Gentleman himself. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had appealed to the Government not to extend the Bill to Ireland; but the only real argument that had been adduced in support of such a course was that it would be more easy to pass the Bill if this Amendment were agreed to. That argument had great force with him, for before he entered the House he had pledged himself to do all he could to have the law amended as the Bill proposed to amend it; and he was most anxious to see it placed upon the Statute Book, even if it only extended to England. But this was not the end of the Session, and the House had still plenty of time to deal with this subject; and if it was right to extend the Bill to Ireland the House ought not to be frightened out of doing so by the throats of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he did not think it right that the hon. and learned Gentleman should apply such a term to what he said. He made no threat; he merely expressed his intention of exercising his Constitutional right of opposing the measure.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, he should like to know what single word the hon. and learned Member would use to describe the intimation he had given them?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, the word he had used was the nearest he could think of to describe the intimation of the hon. and learned Member that if the Amendment was not accepted he would devote his days and nights to constructing Amendments.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, at this period of the Session it would not be just or wise or right to yield to such an 93 intimation as this. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) had dealt with what might be styled the "atmosphere" of the Irish Courts. But the worse the atmosphere was, the more essential was it that the prisoner should be allowed the privilege of giving evidence. It was said that an ignorant prisoner would be pounced upon and unfairly cross-examined by experienced Queen's Counsel; but his experience of criminal trials was that if an ignorant witness was unfairly cross-examined the sympathies of the jury were always drawn to him. [An hon. MEMBER: Packed juries.] Well, if the Judges were partial and the juries were packed, no rules of evidence were of much importance. The safeguard afforded by publicity existed in Ireland as in England. The hon. and learned Member for South Hackney had referred to the Maamtrasna case. With regard to that case he (Sir Edward Clarke) had in the past expressed his opinion. He adhered to that opinion, and was quite ready to repeat it at any time. But that case was very curiously introduced by the hon. and learned Member, who argued that if the prisoners could at the Maamtrasna trial have given evidence an innocent man would have been saved, and then the hon. and learned Member went on to argue that this change of the law should not be extended to Ireland. At present there existed absurd anomalies, owing to a man charged under the Criminal Law Amendment Act with an assault on a child being permitted to give evidence, while another man charged with an attempt to commit a still more serious crime could not. These anomalies existed in Ireland as well as in England, and ought to be abolished. He felt very strongly in favour of that portion of the Bill which swept away that barbarous rule which prevented a husband and wife giving evidence for each other. It was amazing that such a rule should have been allowed to continue on the Statute Book until now. The inequity of this rule was strongly brought home to his mind by a case in which he appeared for a prisoner some years ago. The prisoner, a respectable man, who had been 28 years in the employment of the same firm in London, was charged with setting fire to the premises. He was the last person known to leave the 94 premises. He left at 6 o'clock, and the fire occurred at 8 o'clock. He believed the prisoner to be innocent—the man being of the highest character and having no motive for committing the crime. He asked him to account for the interval between 6 and 8 o'clock. The man said he had been making a few purchases at one or two shops, and then went home and helped his wife with the children. The children were too young to be put in the witness-box, and by the existing laws of evidence neither the wife nor the husband could give any evidence. He did not dare to call the persons at whose shops the prisoner had called, for they could only account for half-an-hour of the two hours, and one hour and a-half would have remained unaccounted for. Fortunately the presiding Judge carefully looked into the case, and the man was acquitted. But this case firmly convinced him of the unfairness of not permitting a wife to give evidence on behalf of her husband. There was no real ground for the suggestion that the change which the Bill would effect would injure any innocent prisoner. Hon. Members from Ireland said that prisoners in that country were tried in an atmosphere of adverse prejudice. Well, given an unfair Judge, a jury prejudiced against the prisoner, and a prosecuting counsel inclined to be unfair—given such a state of things, what possible chance would a prisoner have who could not give evidence in his own behalf? By shutting out the evidence of an innocent prisoner, tried before an unfair Judge and a biassed jury, dealing with inferences and hypotheses they would be doing the very thing which must destroy all his chances of proving his innocence. He had known many cases of prisoners who had saved themselves by the statements which they were permitted to make to the jury; and again and again prisoners had asked him, with tears in their eyes, whether they could not give evidence. The present practice was not at all satisfactory. It would be remembered how, at the trial of O'Donnell some four years ago, the counsel for the prisoner claimed the right to state to the Court, as a narrative of facts, the story supplied to him by his client, and how the Judges decided that counsel had no such right. In consequence of that decision the dangerous practice had arisen of allow- 95 ing a prisoner to make a statement before his counsel's address to the jury. This gave a great advantage to a clever rogue, but if he were liable to cross-examination his cleverness would avail him little. In the witness-box clumsy innocence would succeed in gaining an acquittal from a jury far more certainly than clover roguery. He trusted that the House would persist in its determination to pass the Bill unaltered, and thus to do an act of real and substantial justice to innocent defendants, not only in this country, but in Ireland also.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, that the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), powerful as they were, were not directed to the point of the Amendment, but to the defence of the general principles of the Bill. There was no difference of opinion as to the utility of the measure. They were all agreed that to allow prisoners to become witnesses when they wished to do so would be a humane and beneficent change. He was unwilling, for that reason, to make a remark of a political character. But the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) must now perceive that the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite of the principles upon which Ireland ought to be governed were not the views he entertained. He could not agree that all the reasons which existed for the application of the Bill to England must necessarily exist in the case of Ireland also. The hon. and learned Solicitor General said that there was no distinction between the cases. It would be very easy to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman why he did not lay down the same principle in such a matter, for example, as local government. If the principles upon which the demand for the extension of local government was founded were admitted to be beneficent and wise, why not extend their application to Ireland? The hon. and learned Gentleman had not dealt effectively with the argument of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy)—that the atmosphere of an Irish Court was not supposed by the people of Ireland to be favourable to the prisoner. The argument of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford proved that there was all the difference in the world between the operation of a measure in 96 Courts like the English Courts and its operation in Courts such as the hon. and learned Member and his Friends believed theirs to be. This was a Bill in favour of the prisoner; but the Government were going to apply it in a country where it would inevitably be regarded—whether rightly or wrongly—as being hostile to the prisoner. The effect of the measure upon Irish opinion would be the very opposite of that which was justly claimed for it in England. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) had argued with great plausibility that the supposition that there was animus in the mind of a Judge against a prisoner was all the more convincing reason why they should give the prisoner the chance of exculpating himself by giving evidence. But it must not be forgotten that if the contention of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford were correct, and if there was animus in the mind of an Irish Judge and a strong animus in the prosecuting counsel, the prisoner under this Bill would be exposed to the risk of a bitterly hostile cross-examination, and enforce on him a very serious disadvantage. It appeared to him (Mr. John Morley) the sheerest pedantry to insist that because this was a wise and desirable change in itself and in this country, they were, therefore, bound to force it upon Ireland against the wishes of her Representatives, and against the opinion of so staunch a partizan of the Government on the Opposition side as the right hon. and learned Member for Bury. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury was free from the suspicion of motive which attached to the Irish Members below the Gangway, and he had shown that he was strongly opposed to the change itself; and on both these grounds his opinion was entitled to the greatest weight. Would the Government insist upon extending the legislation to Ireland against the wish of all the popular Representatives of that country, and against the opinion of a partizan of their own who was most competent to give an opinion upon that subject? He wished to underline the argument of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Durham (Mr. Milvain), which he was surprised the Government did not see the force of. They considered they were engaged on the difficult task of restoring law and order in Ireland. They said 97 they had now got a state of opinion in Ireland much more favourable than it had long been to the maintenance of law and order and respect for the administration of the law. They must admit, therefore, that it was most undesirable politically to arise fresh jealousy by introducing a single element of suspicion or irritation into the administration of the Criminal Law in Ireland at a moment like this; and yet they must equally admit that this would be the effect of the provision which, with deplorable tenacity, the Government insisted upon extending to Ireland. For his part, if his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy) limited his Amendment to the proposal that it was inexpedient to extend to Ireland a measure which would confer on magistrates the power to cross examine prisoners, he (Mr. John Morley) would support it with a clear conscience, and with no desire to do anything but to further the passing of the Bill as regards England and Scotland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND) (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, he thought they were all agreed that they ought to extend to Ireland, when it was possible, every beneficial measure they gave to England. Therefore, what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had had to do was to show that in Ireland circumstances were different in some matter relative to the particular issue before the House. The special illustration used was the most astonishing and extraordinary he ever heard; because, while in the matter of local government the circumstances of Ireland were enormously different from those of England, there was great similarity between them in the administration of justice. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had enunciated a proposition which he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) strongly repudiated—namely, that the Bench in Ireland showed a bias against a prisoner, which their brethren in England did not show. Learned gentlemen did not practice before the Courts in both countries; and the impression he had derived from speaking with those who were acquainted with the administration of Criminal Law in both England and Ireland, was that the Irish Judges 98 were as careful as their English brethren to see that everything was urged for the prisoner that could be urged, and that the inclination of justice should always be in favour of the prisoner whenever there was a doubt. What the right hon. Gentleman contended was not so much that the machinery was bad as that public opinion in Ireland was against it. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) ventured to say that public opinion in Ireland—or, for the matter of that, in this country either—did not exist on this subject outside legal circles. If they put this machinery in force, and if the Irish people on seeing how it worked concluded that it worked badly, he would admit that there was something in the plea that public opinion was opposed to it. But at present, what was against it was the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford—not an opinion which he underrated, because he believed that it would materially assist in the passing of the Bill. What they ought to look at in this matter was not the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) or the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, however great ought to be the weight of these opinions in the House. What they had to consider was whether this Bill was an improvement of the machinery of criminal justice, as every human being admitted it to be in England; and no argument had been brought forward to show that it would not be an equal improvement in Ireland. It was surely an unorthodox proposal that because there was a certain amount of uninformed sentiment against the change in the mind of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, they should therefore refuse to innocent men in Ireland the protection they gave to innocent men in England. Whether Irish tribunals were good or bad, it must be in the interests of justice that full evidence should be brought into the light of day with regard to every case that was tried. If there was prejudice against prisoners, and magistrates were unjust Judges, the way to keep them in order was that public opinion should be brought to bear upon their action, so as to compel them to have brought into Court all the evidence which could tell in favour of innocent 99 men. Inasmuch as this Bill was admitted to be one of the most powerful pieces of machinery for effecting that object, he should for that reason, if for no other, do everything he could to bring it into operation for Ireland as well as for England.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, the light hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) entirely forgot the argument put forward from the Irish Benches. What he (Mr. Dillon) and his hon. Friends contended, and what they believed was, that the atmosphere and the methods adopted in Irish Courts would prevent this machinery being favourable to the prisoner in Ireland, as it would be undoubtedly in England. In that lay the whole essence of the controversy. It was a most important point of the controversy, and so it had been justly and properly dwelt on by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench—namely, that it did not matter so much whether they were right or not in their opinion; the question was whether they were faithfully reflecting the sentiments of the people of Ireland in this matter, and if that were so the argument in favour of omitting Ireland from the Bill was unanswerable. He thought the reception given to the appeal made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) was a further and most striking illustration of the uselessness of having Irish Members in the House of Commons at all. What was the good of the Irish Members in the House? He overheard an hon. Gentleman say it would be better if they were not there. [A Cheer.] Yes, hon. Gentlemen cheered the idea that they were useless. He asked the Speaker whether this instance was not an extremely apposite illustration of the utter uselessness of Irish Members being in the House of Commons at all? What was the good of the Irish people sending Members to Parliament if the House of Commons refused to believe that they were stating the views of their constituents? They had to-night heard the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) and the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in the most self-satisfied way, proclaim themselves to be better judges of how the Irish people 100 would receive this measure than the Irish Members. That was certainly what the whole of their argument amounted to. Coming to the question of how this Bill would be received in Ireland, he maintained that it was impossible for anyone at all acquainted with the condition of Ireland to doubt that it would be received by the people of that country as a measure directed against prisoners. Let him point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it was an unhappy circumstance in the history and condition of Ireland, that the people of Ireland were obliged to follow the administration of the Criminal Law a great deal more closely than the people of England. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) told the House that there existed no public opinion in Ireland upon this matter. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely mistaken, and he would find that the moment this Bill and its proposals became known to the people, there would be a great outcry against it. Men in Ireland did not know from week to week how soon they might be hauled up before the magistrates, and therefore there existed a much keener and wideawake public opinion on the question of criminal practice than existed in England. This was not a question confined to lawyers, and to those persons now administering the Criminal Law. It was perfectly absurd to suppose that in Ireland there was the same confidence in the impartiality of the Judges and in the fairness and impartiality of prosecuting counsel as in this country. Everybody who was acquainted with the past history of criminal procedure in Ireland knew that the vast majority of prosecuting counsel followed the prisoner like bloodhounds on the track, and they had been over and over again proved to have carried on such proceedings for the conviction of a man, both in the manipulation of evidence and in their conduct in Court, as would simply horrify an English lawyer. The great aim the Irish prosecuting counsel had set before them was, per fas out nefas, to get a conviction. He ventured to say with confidence that if any English lawyer, accustomed to criminal prosecutions in this country, were to attend a Bar Dinner, or a meeting in which there were a number of Crown Prosecutors in Ireland, he would come home horrified 101 at the tone and temper adopted by these men towards prisoners. He (Mr. Dillon) did not accuse any particular individual Crown Prosecutor; but he alleged that it was a common proceeding for these gentlemen to endeavour to get a conviction under any and all circumstances. They knew the history of Mr. Peter O'Brien—they knew what he had done, and he was at the head of the whole criminal prosecuting system in Ireland, and when they were told by hon. and learned and by right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the system proposed by this Bill would have come to the relief of the accused in the Maamtrasna murder case, he would assort his belief that it would in no way have come to the rescue of Myles Joyce. He did not think that Myles Joyce or anyone else would have dared voluntarily to face the cross-examination of a man like Peter O'Brien. He (Mr. Dillon) knew perfectly well the story of the manner in which the evidence in the Maamtrasna case was manipulated by the prosecuting counsel and the prosecuting solicitor before it came into Court. They knew that Mr. Peter O'Brien was in possession of evidence the tendency of which would have been to give the prisoner a chance, and that they deliberately suppressed it. Evidence would have been forthcoming from a certain boy whose testimony might very probably have shaken the opinion of the jury as to the guilt of the prisoner; but the Crown Prosecutor would not allow it to be used, and it was with regard to such men as this—to protect prisoners and give them fair-play—that the Irish Members were asked to assent to the principle of this Bill. He (Mr. Dillon) held that if Myles Joyce had had an opportunity of going into the witness-box and submitting to an inquiry, he never would have dared to avail himself of it so long as Mr. Peter O'Brien was the prosecuting counsel, and there hon. Members would appreciate the difference between England and Ireland. An Englishman, whatever he might be accused of, knew perfectly well that if he got up in Court and told his story simply and fairly, he would not be bullied and browbeaten by the prosecuting counsel, and he knew perfectly well that if he convinced the prosecuting counsel that there was a doubt in the case he would get the benefit of the doubt. But in the mind 102 of the Irish prisoner such a belief did not exist. He (Mr. Dillon) spoke on this subject with a perfect knowledge of the opinion of his fellow-countrymen. It was preposterous for the English Attorney General and Solicitor General, who had probably never put a foot on Irish soil in their lives, and knew nothing about the people of Ireland—it was preposterous for them and the Irish Secretary to tell him that they know the minds of the Irish peasantry better than the Irish Members did, and that the Irish peasantry would accept this Bill as an emancipating measure. Whatever might be the faults of himself and his Party—whatever might be their sins and ignorances—surely they might be allowed to speak on behalf of the feelings, aye, and the prejudices, too, of the Irish peasantry if they desired. He declared that this measure would not be accepted for a moment as anything but an addition to the coercive system for strengthening the awful machinery of the law in Ireland directed against the peasantry. The ordinary Irish peasant, when he felt he was innocent, would not dare to go into the witness-box. He certainly would not do so as long as the present Irish Attorney General was in Office. The reputation of that Gentleman in Ireland was such that anyone who had not the greatest confidence in his own ability would not dare to face him. And what would be the result on the Court if the accused person, having this dread in his mind, were to refuse to give evidence on his own behalf? Mr. Peter O'Brien would say—"What more evidence do you want?—this man refuses to go into the box, and is, therefore, manifestly guilty." That argument would tell enormously with a jury carefully packed, as juries were packed in Ireland. He (Mr. Dillon) knew very well how this thing would operate. It would operate in the direction of increasing enormously the distrust of these poor people in Ireland in the administration of the law, and it would operate to put into the hands of the Crown Counsel a still wider discretion than that they had used latterly, and which they had used with most fatal effect on the minds of the Irish people. Let him bring to the notice of hon. Members who thought that he (Mr. Dillon) and his Friends were exaggerating when they stated that the 103 Crown Counsel in Ireland were not impartial and honest in the discharge of their duty, the facts of a recent murder trial in Wicklow—and when he detailed these facts he did not believe there was a man in the House who would not be thoroughly convinced that the individual accused in this trial could not for a moment believe in the just spirit either of the prosecuting counsel or of the Judge. What happened? The Clare peasants who were accused of the murder of the policeman Whelehan under the Crimes Act were brought from Clare to Wicklow, and when in Wicklow they were brought before a special panel, and the jury was packed upon that special panel. The men were convicted. The Crown strained every nerve to get a conviction; and he was bound to say that the feelings of these men must have been something frightful when they saw the jury which was selected to try them. Well, immediately after that trial, there came on the trial of the murderer of Kinsella, and the Crown Counsel, having the power to do so, placed this man on trial before his own employers—that was to say, the owners of the property forming the scene of the murder. They did not exercise the power they exercised in the other case. No opposition was offered on the part of the Crown Counsel when Kinsella's murderer applied for a change of panel from a common to a special jury. When the accused was brought with the consent and connivance of the Crown before a jury of Wicklow landlords, the Crown Counsel refused to challenge any jurymen, and allowed the first men whose names had been called to be put on the panel. They had allowed the prisoner 30 challenges, but in the other case they had themselves used 30 challenges against the Clare men in order to pack the jury. And then, in open Court, the whole demeanour of the Crown Prosecutor was friendly to the murderer of Kinsella, and he did not take the trouble to conceal, after the trial was over, that he was rejoiced at the acquittal. Now, in the face of these trials, which had occurred within the last six months or so, were the Irish Members to be told that there was no ground for the belief of the Irish peasant when he might happen to be charged with offences to be put upon his trial, that the atmosphere of the Court was not unimpartial? It was in the face of these facts that he said to 104 hon. Members opposite that they must not be surprised if the Irish Members did not give the same reception to a measure of this character which the English Members and the English people did. But this was not the whole case; it was only one branch of it. He had noticed that the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Solicitor General for Ireland had passed very lightly over the case of the Resident Magistrates. The Solicitor General for England, with his usual glibness of argument, said that if they were improving one branch of criminal administration for one part of the United Kingdom they were improving it for all. He (Mr. Dillon) would ask the House to consider the principles laid down by Resident Magistrates in Ireland. Only the other day, in a certain case which came before one of these Resident Magistrates, the magistrate said—These men are accused of holding a certain meeting, and there is a presumption—a general belief—that the meeting was held, and they, if they can, have to give proof that it was not held,and thereupon he sentenced them to terms of imprisonment with hard labour. This Resident Magistrate had actually laid the burden of proving that a meeting was not hold upon the prisoners. The police could not give evidence that a meeting was held, but only of the existence of a presumption that it was held. It must be remembered also that there was this difference between law in England and in Ireland in these cases—namely, that there was no appeal in Ireland when sentences were short sentences. Was it that the Government were going to introduce a system with regard to short sentences in which the Crown Prosecutors were going to be allowed to call on every prisoner to go into the witness-box and prove his innocence, and submit to cross-examination before a hostile counsel and hostile magistrates—gentlemen who did not conceal their ferocious hostility, and who had actually been known to give a physical expression to that hostility the moment after they had left the Bench. The magistrates in Ireland never were impartial, they were always strongly opposed to prisoners, and he (Mr. Dillon) maintained that if this new law were introduced into Ireland the procedure of the Resident Magistrates would be 105 this. To every man who came into Court accused of a crime they would say "Are you going to be examined? If you are not, you are guilty." That would be a very serious matter, and he (Mr. Dillon) declared that he did not believe that he was exaggerating in the slightest degree what would be the result of this measure in a Magistrate's Court. The Irish Members were told that they did not give a single argument why there was any difference in Ireland from the position of affairs in England with regard to these laws. He would ask, what use was it for them to give any arguments? For all practical purposes the Irish Members on these benches might just as well sit as dumb logs. When they gave arguments they were sneered at, and when they gave the opinions of their constituents they were told by English officials that they knew more about those things than the Representatives of the Irish people themselves did. In conclusion, he would ask whether any hon. Member would explain on what ground the Government wanted to retain Irish Members at Westminster instead of allowing them to go away and manage their own affairs at home?
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, he must join in the appeal which had been made to the Attorney General for England. He was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman should persist in joining in this Bill two countries so differently situated as England and Ireland—countries to which the same arguments did not in any degree apply. Every consideration which induced them to support this measure for Scotland and England compelled them to refuse their assent to it for Ireland. If the Attorney General were actuated by a single desire to benefit the people of England, he would, without the slightest hesitation, cut Ireland out of the Bill. But the hon. and learned Gentleman reminded him (Mr. Hunter) of what Macaulay said about the Puritans and ball-baiting—namely, that the Puritans were opposed to bull-baiting not because it hurt the bull, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. It seemed to him, from the course the debate had taken, that the intention of the Government was not so much to benefit the English people as to pass a measure which would be injurious and offensive 106 to the Irish people. The Government seemed to search with the greatest eagerness for opportunities of trampling upon the opinions of the Irish people. In that respect they had been joined by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay). Well, he (Mr. Hunter) was not surprised. His hon. and learned Friend was logical because he was one of those Gentlemen who thought it would be a great misfortune if Scotch questions were to be decided by Scotch Members; and, holding that view, perhaps, he would think it equally bad that Irish measures should be influenced by the opinion of Irish Members. He (Mr. Hunter), however, did not think that these were opinions that were held in Scotland, or were opinions such as would recommend themselves to this House. He was one of those who very strongly supported this Bill two years ago, on the understanding that it would not be applied to Ireland. What were the reasons that the Bill should be adopted for England and not adopted for Ireland? He would answer that question in a single sentence. It was the greatest fallacy in the world to pretend that the examination of an accused person was, under all circumstances, and in every case, necessarily for that person's benefit. There were many circumstances and many cases where it was a measure not calculated to promote the administration of justice, and not calculated to facilitate the discovery of truth, but calculated for a very opposite purpose. Wiry did he support this Bill for England? He did so for two reasons. In the first place, there were a great many poor people in England who could not afford to fee a counsel for their defence. One hon. Member stated to-night that the poor man had an advantage as compared with the rich man; but the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had reproved him for the assumption, and said that he himself believed that the advantage was in favour of the rich man as against the poor. He (Mr. Hunter) believed there was no system so well calculated to screen the guilty and protect the innocent as the English system of criminal procedure, when they had counsel on both sides and a Judge and jury. But, at the same time, his belief was that if they had not counsel fur a prisoner there was 107 no system so injurious to a prisoner as the English system. The reason was this. The English system was full of technicalities with regard to the examination of witnesses; and what chance could an unfortunate prisoner have to defend himself under these circumstances? Take a case. A witness was under examination. The Judge invited the prisoner to cross-examine that witness; and how did the prisoner begin? He said—"You said. I did so and. so." Instantly he was pulled up by the Judge, who informed him in solemn tones—"Sir, you must not make a statement, you can only ask a question." Well, the result was that the unfortunate prisoner was dumb-founded—he did not know where he was. He did not know in what shape to put his question, or how to conduct his case; and then what happened? Why, when all the witnesses were passed over without cross-examination, and the prisoner said "It is not true, as has been stated, that I did so and so, and so and so," the Judge interrupted him with the observation, "It is now too late to go into those matters, you should have asked questions with regard to these points of the witnesses when in the witness-box." The effect of the existing system, where counsel were not employed, was that the Quarter Sessions was very often like leading sheep to the slaughter; but the bias of the Judge was always in favour of the plea of "Not Guilty." He (Mr. Hunter) thought that the English Judges almost invariably acted upon the principle that it was better that 10 guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should suffer. In these cases, where prisoners were not defended by counsel, and where they were protected by perfectly fair and impartial Judges, he believed that the passing of this Bill would be an immense help and improvement to these prisoners, and, to a large extent, would be an effectual substitute for counsel they could not employ. But everything depended on the Judge—everything depended, also, on the prosecuting counsel, and on the way in which the prosecuting counsel was allowed to deal with the prisoner. There were such things as fair questions and unfair questions, and a prisoner was protected by counsel who could guard him against questions on cross-examination which ought not to be put, and 108 even if the prisoner had not counsel in England when such questions were put, the Judge himself would protect the prisoner. But what assurance had they that before the Resident Magistrates—before the removable magistrates—any such protection would be afforded? Now, he read a short time ago a letter written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) relating his experience at the trial of Mr. Wilfrid Blunt before a County Court Judge in Ireland, and he saw there that the right hon. Gentleman expressed his horror and consternation at the spirit and manner, at the unfairness with which the trial was conducted both on the part of the prosecuting counsel and on the part of the Judge. That was the impression on the mind of an English gentleman who was accustomed to the administration of justice, in one case, and that a notorious one. That was not the case of an obscure individual, but one in which the Judge know perfectly well that the eyes of the newspapers were on him, and it might, therefore, be assumed that unusual pains were taken by this gentleman to give, at any rate, an appearance of impartiality to the proceedings on his part. Now, if this happened in the green tree, what would happen in the dry? Could anyone say that anything had been done which would give any English or Irish Member the right to believe in the impartiality of the Irish Resident Magistrates? Since this matter was before the House in 1886, he (Mr. Hunter) had read the criminal cases and reports of trials before the Resident Magistrates in Ireland, and those trials had reminded him, not of anything within his experience, but of State trials which took place 250 years ago. If the present English Judges were like the Judges of the Stuart period, if prosecutors were like Lord Coke and other gentlemen who prosecuted in those days, he (Mr. Hunter) should be the last man to vote for a Bill of this kind, for instead of it being a weapon for the defence of the innocent, it would probably be used as an instrument for convicting prisoners when the prosecutor desired to do so. The Judge would draw attention to admissions made, and enlarge upon them and magnify them elaborately—he would drive home every single admission as a most valuable piece of evidence; 109 but when the prisoner said anything which was in his own favour, if the Judge was not honest and fair and impartial, what he would do would be this: He would point out to the jury—if he had to deal with a jury—that such and such statementsrested on no better authority than the evidence of the prisoner himself. He (Mr. Hunter) could, therefore, well believe that in Ireland this Bill would operate to the greatest injustice and hardship, and the greatest cruelty, and would utterly and entirely defeat the object of justice—namely, the discovery of truth. In the present day, in England, we no doubt had impartial justice; but he would just quote one or two sentences from the time of Sir Walter Raleigh, to show the way in which prisoners used to be treated by Attorney Generals in those days. Just imagine if an Attorney General addressed prisoners in that way at the present time, how far they would be from passing such a Rule as that now before the House.Sir Walter Raleigh interposed. The Attorney General said to the prisoner: 'Thou art a monster; thou hast an English face, but a Spanish heart.' Then when Sir Walter Raleigh objected that no evidence had been given against him, and said 'If my Lord Cobham be a traitor what is that to me?' the Attorney General said: 'All that he did was nothing to thee, thou viper! For I "thou" thee thou traitor!'"Would the present Government tolerate a rule such as that contained in this Bill when admonished by such a prosecuting counsel as this, and before such a court? To put the whole argument in a nutshell, he (Mr. Hunter) said that the examination of a prisoner as a witness in a case was not in itself necessarily an advantage to a prisoner, nor calculated to promote the cause of justice. It depended entirely upon the way in which justice was administered. It depended upon the Judge, and it depended upon the counsel. It was a powerful weapon, but it was a weapon which could as easily be used against the prisoner as in his favour; and he could not entertain any doubt, from the conduct of the Government in regard to this Bill, that their object was not merely to improve the law of England, but to give an extra example of the principle of that odious Bill that was passed last year.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said, the Government now proposed a measure which they declared was much de 110 sired by public opinion in England; but the Irish Members now came forward and said—"What you say may be correct; it may be true that the measure is demanded by the English public; it may be true that the public opinion of England demands that a prisoner should have the right of being examined on his own behalf in criminal cases; but, at any rate, there is no demand of that kind in Ireland. We, who represent Ireland in this House, are hostile to such a measure, and believe that so far from its being a benefit to Irish prisoners, it will, on the contrary, too often be used to their prejudice and destruction; and we ask that this measure should not be extended to Ireland." Now, the Irish Members were met by the declaration on the part of the Government that what they had to consider was, in the words of the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), a broad and great principle, and that it was not with reference to Irish needs, or the local circumstances of Ireland, that the measure must be considered, but by those broad principles which it was said were embodied in the Bill, and which it was generally agreed must be applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland threw out a challenge which he (Mr. Maurice Healy) thought was a very fair one. He taunted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) with what he considered a novel consideration as proceeding from those on the Opposition side of the House—that was to say, that it did not follow that because a measure was a good and desirable one for England the same measure was good and desirable for Ireland. It did not appear to him (Mr. Maurice Healy) that this was a novel principle coming from this side of the House. It appeared to him that it was because he endeavoured to lay down a principle of that kind in 1887 that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was condemned for having banished political economy to Saturn. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had laid down what he (Mr. Maurice Healy) considered a sound principle, and that was, that in applying a measure of this kind it should also be applied to Ireland, and that those 111 who resisted it should show that the circumstances of Ireland materially differed from those of England. That was a fair challenge to make; and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) would answer that the case of the Irish Members was that the circumstances of Ireland in connection with the administration of justice and in matters with which this measure dealt were such that the Bill ought not to be applied to Ireland. He would quote, as that of a distinguished authority on this subject, the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) two years ago in one of the speeches he addressed to his constituents. Speaking to his constituents in Bristol two years ago the right hon. Gentleman said—"Unfortunately, to many persons the administration of justice appeared as a foe, and not as a friend." Now, that was the whole case of the Irish Members in regard to this measure. The whole case of the Irish Members might be compressed into that sentence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that to many persons in Ireland the administration of justice appeared as a foe, and not as a friend. That was the ground they took up, that they maintained that because that state of things prevailed there, though what was urged with regard to the measure might be true as applied to England and Scotland, the arguments had no validity when they came to consider the application of the measure to Ireland.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present,
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
said, he asked whether it was not an unfortunate thing that time after time it should happen in that House that those who represented the vast bulk of the inhabitants of Ireland should demand certain measures, and that time after time the Government should set their wishes aside and refuse those measures; and that time after time measures emanating from the Front Bench opposite should be thrust down the throats of the Irish people in spite of the strenuous resistance of their Representatives? The Government proceeded on the principle that whatever the Irish Representatives asked in this House they should not 112 get, and whatever they resisted and complained of they should have, whether they liked it or not. He would ask whether that was the proper principle on which to proceed in carrying on the legislation of this country? As it had already been asked in this debate to-night, what duties were Irish Members supposed to perform in this House? What was the value of their representation here if, when the wishes of the Irish people were expressed by those who were sent to this House to give voice to their opinions, they were set aside by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and treated as though they never existed? He maintained that the state of things which existed in England, and which was considered by hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite to justify this measure in England, did not exist in Ireland. In England they had none of that friction between the people and the forces of the Crown and administration of the law which unquestionably existed in Ireland. In England they had none of these political prosecutions which they too often had in Ireland. In England the administrators of the law were popular with the people; the law was carried out in sympathy with the people; English views and opinions were constantly consulted, and hostility between the people and the law was avoided with the utmost care. The very antithesis of this state of things existed in Ireland, and yet they were told that because the measure now before the House was fit and proper for this country, it was equally applicable to the totally different situation that prevailed in Ireland. Now, he was not going to labour the point which had been made more than once in this debate as to the way in which criminal prosecutions were conducted in Ireland from that which prevailed in this country; but he very well remembered how struck he was when he was told once by a gentleman who was concerned in many criminal prosecutions what took place in Ireland a few years ago. He remembered well the barrister, who defended a prisoner in a particular case—he thought it was in regard to a charge of conspiracy to murder or some charge of that kind—telling him that the trial was before a Judge and a special jury of the City of Cork, the prisoner being found guilty, and that when his (Mr. Maurice Healy's) informant went into the 113 Bar room, after the trial was over and the news came in that the unhappy man was convicted, the principal counsel for the Crown pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and waved it over his head in exultation at having got the man 10 years' penal servitude. That was not the spirit in which cases were conducted in England, and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) declared that so long as they were conducted in that way in Ireland the effect of this, so far from being an advantage to accused persons, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite claimed for it, would be wrested to their destruction. As to the Maamtrasna case, it was said that if this Bill had been in existence at that time, the prisoner Myles Joyce, who was believed to have been innocent, would have been examined, and would have been able to give his version of the matter, and that, therefore, the miscarriage of justice that they all complained of could never have taken place. He (Mr. Maurice Healy) would say to English Members who made that statement that they little knew what went on in connection with criminal trials in Ireland. He supposed that while he had been in the Legal Profession he had had as much experience of criminal prosecutions as most people. He had defended prisoners of all kinds, criminals and non-criminals, and his experience was that no matter how innocent a prisoner might be, and however convinced they might be that he was tolling the truth, the most dangerous thing the defence could do was to produce any witness whatever. Over and over again he (Mr. Maurice Healy) had carefully to consider with counsel whether he should not entirely refuse to produce any witness for the prisoner, having regard to the manner in which these witnesses would be treated by the Crown Counsel and the use which would be made of the necessary mistakes which ignorant peasants would inevitably make in being cross-examined and cross-hackled by the counsel as to what might be utterly irrelevant details. It would be the very same thing when instead of putting up an alibi witness or a witness to prove the case, they put up the prisoner to prove it himself. They would be always met by the argument, "If the prisoner was wicked enough to commit this crime do you think he would have any hesitation in going into the witness-box and committing perjury?" 114 That was an argument which would be used with fatal effect with the jury, and, therefore, it would come to this, that everything that the prisoner could say that would prejudice him, every admission that he would make and everything that would fall from him and could connect him with the crime, would be used against him, whilst everything that he said in his own favour would be treated with the observation, "You cannot rely on what he says, for anyone wicked enough to commit this crime would have no hesitation in going into the box and committing perjury." It was said that there were a series of offences under the existing law in connection with which prisoners were already examined, and that what was wanted was simply to extend that series. It was said that if it was possible to examine a prisoner as a witness in one case, it was possible in all cases. Well, he (Mr. Maurice Healy) denied that. The cases where it was possible to examine a prisoner were of a special character. Take a case under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, for instance, and cases under the Explosives Act, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir. Henry James) had referred to. What was the fact? Why under the Explosives Act the duty was thrown on the prisoner of clearing himself. If he was found in possession of explosives his guilt was assumed until he cleared himself. Unless there was a clause in the Act to the effect that the prisoner should have an opportunity of clearing himself he would be necessarily convicted in every case. That was why a prisoner was examined in his own defence under the Explosives Act, and for almost a similar reason the law was changed in the late Criminal Law Amendment Act, because, in the nature of the offences, there were never likely to be more than two persons present—namely, the prosecutor and the prisoner; and, that being so, it would be most unjust to the accused party not to be allowed to give his version of what had taken place. That was the ground upon which the enactment in that case was defended—a special ground which would have application in nine out of 10 cases. This was the case in a whole series of Acts of Parliament—though a very small series—under which the prisoner had a right to be examined in his 115 own defence. He could show the whole set of circumstances which induced the Legislature in each case to depart from the general rule that a prisoner should not be allowed to be examined on his own behalf. He said that, in this matter, the analogy of England did not apply—he held that the proper analogy in this case would be that of England 200 years ago when libel and other criminal prosecutions were of daily occurrence, and when Englishmen had to deal with such Judges as Jeffries and Colepepper, if it had been proposed that, under such circumstances, a prisoner should go into the box to be brow-beaten and attacked by the corrupt Judges of that day. He maintained that if they wanted an analogy in this matter they should riot take that of the England of to-day, but the England of 200 years ago, when prosecutions for political offences were common and they had the same state of things prevalent in England as now existed in Ireland, political offences being frequently punished as crimes, and the whole of the country rankling under the oppression. Repeating what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) he declared that it was the worst pedantry to say that because this Bill would be proper for England, therefore it would be proper for Ireland. Then again, they were told that the Bill was proper for England whether public opinion was in its favour or not. It was said that in a matter of this kind there could be no real public opinion, as the matter was one more or less for specialists. It was held that the House should take the public opinion of those who were most familiar with the question. Well, decided in that way, he had no doubt the Government would be able to show that in this country public opinion was in favour of the Bill. But how were they to judge of English public opinion in the matter? They had a means of doing it by taking the opinion of the Parliamentary Representatives of the people, and he maintained that if they wanted to get the public opinion of Ireland they must take it in the same way. The Irish Members, however, were told that in order to find what Irish public opinion was the House must not take the statements of Gentlemen on the Irish Benches, but these of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for 116 Ireland and the hon. and right hon. Members who sat by his side. That was the merest travesty of Parliamentary Government. It would be better that Parliament should not continue at all than that measures should be thrust down the throats of the Irish people in defiance of the wishes of nine-tenths of their Representatives. One day the Irish Members come here and asked for a particular measure, as they did yesterday, and they were voted down by horse, foot, and dragoons. To-day the Government bring in this Bill, and the Irish Members resist it, but they were not to be allowed to have a voice in the matter. He said, therefore, to the Government, let them expel the Irish Members from the House, but do not have this travesty of Parliamentary representation which was illustrated by the Government yesterday, and which was being further illustrated by the proceedings to-night.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, he had long taken an interest in the subject-matter of the Bill, and he was surprised at the objection taken to it on the opposite side. He was also disappointed that the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) had not enlightened the House more on the merits of the view he took. The right hon. and learned Member said the main reason why those on the Government side of the House should not support the Bill, and should not apply it to Ireland, was because their motives were liable to be misrepresented by the Irish Members; but he (Mr. Lawrence) would ask if ever they could go to ask a character from those Members? Was it not a fact that the best of their motives were always misrepresented? He (Mr. Lawrence), at all events, would not decline to support the application of the Bill to Ireland, because his motives were liable to be misrepresented by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. For instance, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and other Irish Members said it was impossible to convince the Irish people that justice was fairly administered in Ireland. An Irish Member had even seemed to think that the Irish Judges were as bad as Scroggs and Jeffries.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE
, continuing, said, when they heard such sentiments as those coming from hon. Members below 117 the Gangway it was impossible not to look upon them as exaggerations, wholly incapable of proof. If the argument was that we could not convince the Irish people of the justice of modern judicial decisions in Ireland, he was prepared to give up trying to do so, and to take the course he believed to be right. The House was asked to pass the Amendment, because the magistrates in Ireland were removable, and therefore would act unfairly towards the prisoners brought before them. But even the Judges in England were not removable only as long as they behaved rightly while they sat on the Bench, and so in Ireland, he believed, that no magistrate would be removed as long as he dealt fairly to the criminal who stood before him, the person who charged him, and the Crown who put him there. The Amendment, therefore, if it was carried, would practically amount to a Vote of Want of Confidence in the integrity of the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor, who might have the removal of the magistrate. The Amendment was a perfectly inconsequential Amendment, and unworthy of support by men who, like himself, believed that the Irish magistrates were only concerned in dealing out equal justice between man and man, between the Crown and the people who might find fault with it. He wished to point out that the measure before the House was of a permanent character. The legislation, such as that of last year, was in one sense of the word of a permanent character, inasmuch as it was not a temporary Bill, yet they all hoped it was a measure which would cease at some time to be law. But the present Bill was a measure the general principle of which applied to all judicial affairs, and therefore it was most fitting that it should obtain, not only in England and Wales and Scotland, but in Ireland too. It was, in fact, generally applicable to all systems of criminal procedure in the Three Kingdoms, and such being the fact they might fairly vote for it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) compared this kind of legislation to the Local Government Bill, and said the Government were inconsistent in refusing to apply the former Bill to Ireland and in applying the latter. The right hon. Gentleman must know per- 118 fectly well that the reason why the Government deferred granting Local Government to Ireland was because the Irish people were too much given to lawlessness, and the reason why the present measure was applied was two-fold; first, because it would prevent any suspicion of the miscarriage of justice such as was said to have occurred at Maamtrasna; and next, just as on account of the lawlessness they refused Local Government, so they were called to make the law firmer because there was this lawless spirit abroad. If they did not pass the Bill that Session, they might wait until doomsday before the Irish people became so enamoured of the law as to come and ask them for a measure to secure that the right man should go to prison. He was glad the Government were resolved to stand fast. As to gaining the goodwill of the Members below the Gangway, he did not in the least expect them to do that, but if they went forward with careful legislation, the time would come when Ireland would appreciate their motives and do justice to their actions.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, that this question of the extension or non-extension of this Bill to Ireland was merely a matter of expediency. The question was whether, being desirous of seeing the Bill applied to England and Scotland, they were wise in attempting to hamper it with considerations of a political character. The whole matter was fully discussed in the Grand Committee some years ago, and they all knew that it was distinctly upon political grounds that the Irish Members objected to the application of this principle to their country. It seamed to him the question was whether the Government should adopt the easy method of applying the Bill to England, or whether they should hamper its progress and its efficiency by endeavouring to apply it to Ireland against the wishes of the Irish people and their Representatives. Perhaps they had better leave Ireland alone in dealing with this question. Putting that measure aside, he was glad to say that he concurred most heartily in the principle of the Bill. That principle was that in criminal cases an accused person should no longer have his mouth shut. It seemed to longer that that had been one of the most extraordinary and 119 incredible principles of English law, and when this Bill was passed the country would wonder that that superstition had continued so long. The principle of the Bill was that the mouth of a prisoner should no longer be shut, but that he should have an opportunity—he did not say should be compelled, for he did not know how they could compel a man to speak, as they did not apply the torture now-a-days—of giving his own version of the circumstances which had led to his prosecution; that, in fact, he should be invited to speak. But he doubted whether the principle of the Bill was put before the House in a right form. He had had great experience in dealing with the system under which prisoners were examined, and his own impression was that the form in which the Bill was put before the House now, and had been put before the House on previous occasions as applicable to England, was not the right form. He dissented from the view that they could not put before a Court of Law evidence which was not sworn. The examination of a prisoner should be a judicial examination of an accused person and not the examination of a witness. That was the law which prevailed in all countries except England and the United States of America, which drew their law from English law. It was the case in Scotland. It was proposed to apply the Bill to Scotland, but it seemed to him that it would be very difficult to do so in its present form, because they already had an examination of an accused person in Scotland. In Scotland they had never shut the mouth of an accused person, but, on the contrary, had always invited him to make a statement or a declaration. The first thing which happened when an accused person was brought before a Justice in Scotland was his being invited to make, what they called, a declaration, and this form constituted nothing more nor less than a judicial examination of that accused person. He had also had some experience of the working of this principle of law in India. In that country they had the advantage, not of an antiquated law such as prevailed in England, but of the most modern law made by the most modern Jurists, and what were the provisions of this Code in regard to the matter under discussion. Why, in this Code they had nothing of the nature of 120 the accused person appearing as a witness, but they had a judicial examination of an accused person. That was the law of India and that was the law of Europe, including Scotland, and it seemed to him that it was the law of all countries that were not prejudiced by English law. It seemed to him that if they adopted this system of determining by law that a man's mouth should only be open when he appeared as a witness on oath in a case, they would be involving themselves in a very great difficulty. They might make provision by law, in the manner proposed by the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), to prevent the refusal or the assent of an accused person to give evidence being cited in the case against him. After all, that might be the law, but they could not prevent the minds of the jury being influenced, as they would be reasonably influenced, by the fact that an accused person had not come forward to give his own statement of the case. That being the case, it seemed to him that a prisoner would be practically forced to make a statement, and it appeared to him (Sir George Campbell) that it would be very right that so much compulsion should be applied. It was right in the interest of the innocent and the guilty alike that a certain moral compulsion should be exercised upon the accused in order to get them to make statements and say what was their account of the matter; but it seemed to him, to be placing a man in a very peculiar position to insist upon his taking an oath. It was all very well to do so, perhaps, and to adopt the existing system in cases of secondary degree; but when they came to cases such as murder, he asked, was it right or fair that they should drive a man to come forward and say upon oath whether he had committed the crime or not? That would operate as an irresistible temptation to a man guilty of murder to add to the peril in which he stood as to his life, peril to his soul, by perjury. The kind of judicial examination he referred to would be more efficacious in getting out the truth than any forcing of a man to make a statement on oath. He thought some matters would have to be settled in regard to the Bill. At present, apart from the giving of evidence on oath, it was doubtful whether or not a prisoner could make a statement in his own de- 121 fence. The practice of English Judges varied very much in that respect, some Judges permitting it and others refusing to do so. It was desirable that that question should be settled, and, for his own part, he was anxious to see it settled in the direction of allowing a prisoner to make a statement in his own defence. He thought that the should be read a second time, but that it should be considerably modified, and perhaps it might be so modified.
§ SIR WILLIAM EWART (Belfast, N.)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) had assumed too much that Irish opinion was in favour of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). On the contrary, he (Sir William Ewart) had no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland would hail with pleasure the passing of this measure. What was this Bill? It was simply a Bill enabling a prisoner to give evidence, if he wished, and enabling a husband or wife to give evidence in a case against the other. He confessed that he had hoard with some surprise the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. After this question had been so thoroughly thrashed out, and public opinion had been so fully formed upon it, he thought the hon. Gentleman was very bold in coming forward practically to offer it opposition, and especially when he himself had said that there was really no difference of opinion as to the passing of the measure for the United Kingdom. No case had been made out, to his (Sir William Ewart's) mind, for excluding Ireland from the operations of the Bill. The opposition had entirely failed; indeed the reasons given by the hon. and learned Member for Longford were altogether in favour of the Bill. If the Irish Judges were corrupt—which he indignantly denied—it was all the more important and needful that it should be in the power of the accused to clear himself. He was, as far as possible, in favour of equal laws for all parts of the United Kingdom, and on every occasion, as far as possible, he should give his support to equal laws. On the present occasion he had much pleasure in supporting the application of 122 the Bill to the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)
said, he felt bound, on behalf of the constituency that he had the honour to represent, to enter his protest against this Bill. He believed that it contained a very dangerous principle. He was against the principle of the Bill altogether, but he was especially against it on account of the proposal to extend it to Ireland. He thought the Bill a mistake, and it seemed to him, in his humble judgment, a rather curious thing that the producers and the supporters of it during the whole course of the debate, though it was a Bill proposing to introduce into English law a principle accepted else-where, say in France, had never produced anything like an array of testimony to show from experience that the principle was one which worked to the approval of the lawyers of France or other countries. In his opinion, and he thought this would be borne out by everyone who had followed even recently the course of certain trials in France, the principle of this Bill was one which, at any rate in France, had not been an unmixed good. The principle they were about to give up, that of excluding a prisoner from making a statement or submitting himself to cross-examination, had, no doubt, a great many drawbacks. He should like to know any human principle that had not; but had the principle they were proposing to introduce no drawbacks? He held that it had, and very decided ones. He believed that the principle of making the Judge a seeker out of evidence, and an examiner of a prisoner as a witness in a case, was one which would interfere very seriously with that judicial and impartial frame of mind which had so distinguished the English Judges. That judicial and impartial frame of mind had raised the English Judges above the Judges of any other country in the world. The English Judges remained in a higher atmosphere, and, if they were asked to step down from that higher atmosphere and to examine prisoners, the effect would be to interfere with that judicial frame of mind which had always characterized them. Look at any trial in France—at the Pranzini trial for instance. He (Mr. T. P. Gill) had read the manner in which the Judge 123 at that trial examined and cross-examined and bullied and threatened that prisoner. It was the most scandalous thing that ever occurred. The Judge taunted the man with keeping back the truth. He said—"You were cruel to your mother, why should you not be cruel to your mistress?" and so on. Then look at the still more recent case, the Vignor affair, in connection with the trial of M. Wilson. They had there the Judge d'Instruction, who entertained at dinner one of the defendants in the case. He gave the man a rich dinner, and plied him with wine, and over the walnuts and the wine he succeeded in extracting damaging information from him, and after that he talked over the telephone wire with another of the defendants, changing his voice and pretending he was M. Wilson. Why did he do that? Why, because in France the constant effect of this system on the judicial frame of mind had been to transform the Judge more or less into a seeker out of evidence and a runner down of the prisoner. The glory of a Judge in France consisted, just as much as if he were a Crown Prosecutor in bringing a prisoner to conviction. That Judge had carried the thing so far that it became a public scandal, and he was dismissed from his office. That was only a few weeks ago, but let them take any trial that occurred in France, and they would find that a Judge in Francs behaved on the Bench in the manner in which he examined a prisoner and ran him down, in a way which would be shocking to the sentiments which had grown up in England with regard to the course of law. He (Mr. T. P. Gill) further said that the principle was a dangerous one, though they were rushing upon it with a light heart. The House seemed to be taking for granted that it was all very fine. He had no doubt that there was a great deal to be said for it, and that there were a great many cases in which justice would benefit by having this principle in force, but he thought that the cases in which it would do an injury to the cause of justice, and create almost a scandal, would be more numerous still. He did not think the House had properly weighed the pros and cons of the case. That being so as to the principle generally, how much more were the Members for Ireland justified in oppo- 124 sing the application of such a principle to Ireland. The Judges in England, and the Crown Prosecutors in England, as had been universally conceded, lived in a higher atmosphere, in a more impartial, a more calm, and a more just atmosphere than the Judges and Crown Prosecutors in Ireland; and if this practice of allowing a Judge to cross-examine a prisoner, and to sift his evidence, were injurious in the case of men who were entirely impartial and lived in an impartial atmosphere, what would be the effect in Ireland on Judges who were simply fresh from being Crown Prosecutors and reeking with an atmosphere like that of Green Street? He knew a case where a man was tried for his life—the Gould case. The Crown Prosecutor did his best to get Gould convicted. He made a most eloquent denunciation of the prisoner on his first trial. The prisoner came up for trial a second time, and the Crown Prosecutor, who prosecuted him on the first trial, was sitting on the Bench in the case of the second trial. Fancy a case like that. In Ireland they had such jobbery and partizanship in connection with the administration of the law that even a Judge failed to see any impropriety in sitting on the Bench and trying a prisoner on a second trial whom he had himself prosecuted on his first trial. Could such a thing occur in England? He ventured to say that no one could get up and contend that it could. To say that they were introducing on equal terms a principle such as that contained in the Bill into England and Ireland was to make a most monstrous and unjustifiable assertion. The whole course of feeling in Courts of Justice in Ireland was that both the Judge on the Bench—this might be an injustice to a great many of the Judges in Ireland, but let that be as it might—the feeling was that both the Judges on the Bench and the Crown Prosecutors were excessively anxious to obtain convictions. The belief in the popular mind was that when a man was unfortunate enough to get into the Dock there under any circumstance whatever, the only person not bent on running the prisoner to earth was the counsel engaged in his defence. In this country he believed that a Crown Prosecutor would occasionally give up his brief when he was convinced that a prisoner was inno- 125 cent. ["No, no!"] Well, some hon. Member said that. ["No, no!"] Well, someone had said the converse of that at any rate, that was to say, that the counsel for a guilty person would some-times gives up his brief when he thought the prisoner guilty, and it was only fair to assume that where an opposing advocate thought a person innocent he would also be moved to throw up his brief. They might, however, live till doomsday before they would see such a thing as that occur in Ireland. As had been stated in a newspaper article not long ago, the whole purpose of an Irish Crown Prosecutor was to get a verdict, hook or by crook. The gentlemen on the Bench in Ireland were gentlemen who had stepped up from the position of Crown Prosecutor to that of Judge, and, that being so, it appeared to him that a case of irresistible force had been made out against the introduction of the principle contained in the Bill in Ireland. He thought it an unwise principle, and one the advantages of which would not come near to overpowering its disadvantages. In the case of Ireland there was no reason whatsoever why this principle should be thrust down the throats of the Irish people against the wishes of the vast majority of their Representatives. Goodness only knew that they had had instances enough in which the inequalities existing between the two countries had been exemplified of late, and it appeared to him that the House of Commons was making itself absolutely grotesque by these contradictions. There had been three measures introduced into the House of Commons within the space of some months. One of these proposed to make a tremendous change in the law of Ireland, but it did not propose to apply the same change to England. Another of these measures proposed to make a radical extension of liberty in England and not to extend it to Ireland; and now the Government brought forward a proposal which they said was good for England and they gratuitously proposed to extend it to Ireland, although the Irish Members entreated them with all the warmth they could command not to do so. In spite of the wishes of the Irish people the measure was to be thrust down their throats. He thought that the most prejudiced mind in the House would agree that there was a gross disregard of popu- 126 lar opinion in Ireland in this House when it sought so to legislate. He should hope that the protest the Irish Members had made to-night would have some effect on the Government, though he was afraid he was much too sanguine in entertaining such a view. At any rate, disregarded as his opinion might be on the question, he had felt it to be his duty, and he distinctly agreed with all his Colleagues in giving a most determined opposition to the application of this Bill to Ireland.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down. N.)
said, that the argument of the depravity of the French Courts did not apply in the smallest degree to the present case, because it was not proposed to put in the power of any Judge to cross-examine a prisoner under any circumstances whatever. He rose principally to protest against the universal assumption of hon. Members below the Gangway to speak for the people of Ireland. It was enough for them to express the opinion of the people of Ireland on the question of Home Rule when they had taken steps to consult them on the matter under discussion; but even then he ventured to think the Gentlemen who were notoriously nominated by a committee—which, though it might be either small or large, was not the constituency of Ireland—had no right to assume to speak in the name of the entire people. He would not venture to speak for the portion of Ireland which he had the honour to represent, because he had not evolved out of his own inner consciousness what their opinion would be. He did not assume to have the gift of prophecy, as hon. Members opposite did; but he believed if the question were put before them they would one and all be decidedly in favour of the provisions of the Bill being extended to Ireland. When he practised at the Bar he considered the want of such a provision a fatal defect in the English Law as compared with that of other countries. He hoped no representation of the supposed opinion of Ireland would prevent the Government pushing the Bill through for the whole Kingdom.
§ MR.NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange) ,
said, it seemed to him that there was a fallacy lurking under the arguments of the opponents of the Amendment, 127 which ought to be put plainly before the House. It was said to Liberals that if they accepted the principle of the measure for England, they must be wrong and inconsistent in supporting the Amendment; because if the principle was good for one case, it must necessarily be good in the other. That seemed to him (Mr. Neville) to be fallacious, for this reason; because he did not think that by accepting the principle of the measure they committed themselves to the opinion that it was a principle to be applied to all places and under all circumstances. There could be no doubt that, originally, the exemption of prisoners from giving evidence was intended to be for the protection of the prisoner. He had not such a low opinion of our legal ancestors as to suppose they were utterly wrong in the view they took at the time of what was for the prisoner's benefit, or that the prisoner would have been better if he had in old days been allowed to give evidence in England. The reason why he and he believed the majority of the English Liberal Members on that side of the House would support the measure, was because they believed, in the existing circumstances of England, it would be for the benefit of innocent persons who might be accused of crimes, because they and most of the English people had full confidence in the administration of justice in that country; and if they took the opinion of those persons who might be in the position of being tried before a Judge and jury in an English Court, they would tell them they were perfectly satisfied that they would get a fair trial. He was not there to say the contrary was the fact in Ireland. It would be utterly presumptuous for him to say anything on the question, for he did not profess to have any personal knowledge of the administration of justice in Ireland; but he would say that it was not a question for English Members to decide. He could not conceive with what object the Representatives of the Irish people were there, if the House was always to turn a deaf ear to those Representatives and to the feelings and wishes of the people of Ireland. The hon. and learned Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) had characterized the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) 128 as extraordinary. He (Mr. Neville) was not surprised at that statement, because it appeared to him that the Solicitor General did not in the least understand what the right hon. and learned Member for Bury's argument was. That did not astonish him (Mr. Neville), because that right hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking from a standpoint which unfortunately hon. Members opposite seemed perfectly unable of taking up for themselves. What he understood the right hon. and learned Member for Bury to mean was, that the reason why he supported the measure before the House—and he had himself brought in a measure to the same effect on a former occasion—was that he believed it would be in the interests of innocent persons accused of crime; but he did not for a moment conceal from himself, or from the House, that if the giving of evidence by prisoners was something liable to abuse, it might be used against the interests of the innocent person accused of crime. And though he had perfect confidence that in this country it would not be so, and though he knew that the mass of the people in the country so regarded the question, he understood from the Irish Members that that was not the point of view adopted by the Irish people, and, therefore, without expressing any opinion himself as to whether or not there was any truth in the allegation that there was a difference in the atmosphere of the Criminal Courts in England and in Ireland, he said it was enough for his argument if the Representatives of the Irish people said so. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury said that if the Irish representation meant anything at all, it meant that great attention should be paid to the views of the Representatives of the Irish people; and in a case in which they were dealing with the interests of the Irish people, and in which the interests of the country were not suffered to enter, he would give way to their opinion, and would not be a party to forcing what was brought forward as a remedial measure upon the Irish people in the teeth of their Representatives. The argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman had, he thought, proved clear and convincing to many Members on both sides of the House. It had been said by Members on the Go- 129 vernment side of the House that the worse the atmosphere of the Courts, the more important the application of this measure to Ireland. He did not think such a position could be honestly and sincerely maintained. He did not believe for one moment that if the Representatives of the English constituencies had not unbounded faith in the fairness of criminal trials as they take place in this country, they would got a single man to vote for any alteration in the law, and they understood from the Irish Members that, unfortunately, they did not take the same view of criminal prosecutions in Ireland. The reason why he ventured to protest against the course adopted by the Government was, that it seemed to him that, in habitually neglecting the representations of the Irish Members, and refusing them a share in the boons in which they asked to be permitted to share, and insisting on their being partakers in a measure which they had resisted as strongly as they could, they took a course which could not lead to the reasonable and just government of Ireland. He would add his humble voice to those already raised on his side in urging the Government, even now, to pass the measure as one applying to England only, and not to insist on forcing it on Ireland. If the Government persisted in the course they had adopted, they were only putting one further argument in the hands of their opponents as showing that they were determined to proceed in a course of utter disregard to the representations of the Irish people whenever they submitted them to that House.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
said, that it seemed to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General in introducing this Bill had hardly given to the House the idea that he was dealing with a Bill of any importance. He introduced it in a few words, and even in those he seemed to deal not only with assumptions, but with what appeared to be false arguments. This Bill—this precious document—had been 20 years hatching, and, remembering that fact, anyone would have expected it to be a very perfect one when produced, but they had just heard from a scotch Member that it would be absolutely unworkable without the introduction of a new section into the Scotch Procedure Act. He (Mr. Chance) looked upon this 130 measure as one to compel a prisoner to give evidence on his trial, and not only that, but also to give evidence on preliminarly proceedings. Although under the law, as it at present stood, a prisoner might reserve his defence without any observation being made upon the fact, in the future, if this Bill became law, he would be put in the position that the magistrate presiding at the hearing of the charge against him might inform him that if he were an innocent man it was his duty to go into the box, and that if he were not he could adopt the protection which the law gave him and keep out of the box. The result of this would be that they would have jurymen prejudiced against the prisoner in consequence of what took place at the preliminary examination, and even before the trial had taken place. The Attorney General spoke of hardship occurring under the present law. He told them of the case of two prisoners, one of whom was married while the other was not, but lived with a paramour. The married man had not the benefit of his wife's evidence; but the other man had the benefit of evidence given by his paramour. He (Mr. Chance) somewhat irregularly interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman, and somewhat to his surprise he discovered that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the result of the trial. It seemed to him, therefore, that the case did not afford an illustration of any hardship. There might have been hardship if the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone on to tell the House that the married man was convicted and that the other man, who had the benefit of his paramour's evidence, escaped. The Attorney General then fell back upon the favourite argument of the Front Bench; for he told them that the Judges were in favour of this change. He (Mr. Chance) did not know that Judges, in dealing with changes of the law, had been celebrated for their wisdom or the large-mindedness of their views. It was mentioned in the House last session that Judges were unanimously opposed to the alteration of the law which would prevent men being hanged for thefts of goods worth 5s. and upwards. The Judges then prophecied that there would be an enormous increase of offences against property; but when, in face of 131 their opposition, the cruel and contemptible law of that time was changed, no evil results were known to follow. He thought that in moving the second reading of a Bill of this kind the Attorney General might have found some better advocates than the Judges. Now, he came to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), who made what he must undoubtedly call one of those able speeches which were more suitable for the atmosphere of a Court of Justice with a jury in the box than for the atmosphere of the House of Commons. Curiously enough, the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was the first example of the evil operation of this Bill, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) was ill-advised enough to get, so to speak, in the witness-box to defend and explain his own position, and, therefore, he was pounced upon by the Solicitor General, who showed, to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the Supporters of the Government, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury had damaged his case and deserved the verdict to go against him. The Solicitor General spoke of the difference between the atmosphere of an English Law Court and that of an Irish Law Court; but the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman amounted to this—that because he could prophecy that this Bill would be good for England it should therefore be good for Ireland. His own observations, however, were more or less destructive of his argument, because he commenced by assuming, in his own favour, an absolute unanimous opinion in favour of this Bill. He should have gone on to show that the conditions under which law was administered in Ireland were the same as those under which law was administered in England; but he did no such thing. It seemed to him (Mr. Chance) that it rested with the supporters of this Bill to make out a case for it in Ireland; but they totally ignored that branch of their duty, and they wandered away into the most vague and extraordinary assumptions. It was a curious fact that the most strenuous supporters of this Bill were utterly ignorant of the proceedings in Courts of Justice in Ireland. If they knew as much as he and his hon. Friends did of 132 those proceedings, their advocacy of the extension of this Bill to Ireland would be much less powerful than it was. Certainly there was one Irish lawyer put up to speak in favour of this Bill—namely, the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden), but the hon. and learned Gentleman knew very little indeed of the administration of Criminal Law in Ireland; happily for himself, up to the present he had been engaged in the serene and calm atmosphere of the Equity Courts. He (Mr. Chance) did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman had ever defended a prisoner in his life; certainly, he had never acted as a Crown Prosecutor. Therefore, it seemed that the evidence in favour of the Bill given upon the Government side of the House was notable for the fact that the Gentlemen who gave that evidence knew nothing about the subject. What was the reason for this new-born zeal for the administration of law in Ireland, and for the protection of Irish prisoners? During the whole of last Session and the Session before the House was wearied by statements from the Treasury Bench that prisoners in Ireland could not be convicted; but tonight he had not heard from the Treasury Bench of any case in which a prisoner was convicted when he was innocent of the crime he was accused of. The attitude had been to assume that in every case when a prisoner was convicted he was convicted properly. In such circumstances it could not be surprising that Members of the House who sat upon the Irish Benches looked with a certain degree of suspicion upon this now-born zeal in the interests of prisoners in Ireland on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they were so zealous and so desirous of improving the administration of the Criminal Law in Ireland, he advised them to keep the pledges they made in this House, and not to continue under the stigma of being guilty of what was described in the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) as a dishonourable breach of faith. The administration of law would be less unsatisfactory if, in the first place, there were appeals from magistrates who were not only removable, but Executive officers; and if, in the second place, the Executive in Ireland, when they desired to procure the conviction 133 of political opponents, ceased to resort to the disgraceful practice of packing juries. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University (Mr. Madden) had still another argument. He said that oven granting that justice was not satisfactorily administered in Ireland, the right which this Bill gave would be a protection for the prisoner—that it would be a weapon which would aid in the execution of justice, and therefore no one ought to grumble at that. That argument seemed to him (Mr. Chance) to be based on a somewhat curious fallacy. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think that the sharper the weapon, independent of the hands that had to wield it, the better it was for the administration of justice. That would be all very well if the people bad confidence in the administration of law in Ireland; but, not having that confidence, it seemed to him to be a curious argument that the sharper the weapon, and the more powerful the means of conviction you put into the hands of Crown lawyers, the more certain it would be that justice would be done. The argument was illogical, and completely at variance with the rest of the arguments advanced from the other side. He thought he could throw a little light upon the real reason why Ireland had been included in this Bill. When this Bill came on for discussion late last Session there was a very vigorous opposition to it from these Benches, and the result was that it did not pass either for Ireland or for England; and he had reason to suppose last year that the punishment which would be inflicted by Her Majesty's Government for their action would be to insist, in spite of any argument adduced in this House, that this Bill should operate in Ireland as well as in England. That was the real or one of the real reasons of the persistence of the Government in forcing this Bill down their throats. The second reason was that, in accordance with the policy which was now fashionable on the Benches opposite, the Government desired to give the Irish Members a snub. He passed from that, however, because it was not worthy of very considerable mention; but the last and gravest reason was the desire of the Government, that men of the type of Cecil Roche and other gentlemen who wielded judicial powers in Ireland, should 134 have an opportunity of proving their zeal for the maintenance of law and order by cross-examining and torturing prisoners, by commenting in severe language upon their refusal to criminate themselves, or upon their refusal to subject themselves and their evidence to the strongest observations on the part of Crown lawyers. What would be the benefit to a prisoner in Ireland of any evidence given by him? It was obvious that if the prisoner went into the witness-box his evidence would be divided into two parts—the first part would be the evidence in his own favour, and as to that there would be an argument of undeniable weight and force used against him. The Crown would say, and say with great force and truth, that where a man was on his trial, the result of which might be that he would be imprisoned for 10, 15, or 20 years, or, perhaps, for life, he had the very strongest possible interest in making out the best case he could; and they would say that, under such conditions, the sanctity of an oath could not weigh very much with him; that he had most overpowering reasons for perjuring himself, and therefore anything said in his own favour must be pooh-poohed, and must not be considered by the jury. On the other hand, the most trivial particular in which the prisoner disagreed from his own witnesses would be given enormous significance to discredit them, the Crown officials would say—"This is a man who has the greatest interest in procuring his own acquittal, and he is a man who must know the facts of the case." For these reasons, stated as briefly as he could state them, he certainly strongly protested against this Bill being applied to Ireland, but even though Her Majesty's Government might not be inclined to admit the validity of these reasons, he thought it would be but a very small concession on their part to let this Bill have a fair trial in England before applying it to Ireland. In spite of all prophecies the Bill might not be quite successful, and it was only a reasonable thing that this new medicine should be tried in the country where there was some confidence in the administration of the law and the constitution had strength to bear the experiment oven if unsuccessful, leaving it to be extended hereafter to a country in which 135 there was not such confidence, if its operation proved beneficial.
§ THE FIRST LORD or THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he considered the subject had been now sufficiently discussed, and that it must be generally felt that the time had now arrived when he was justified in claiming the right to move that "the Question be now put."
Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put." The House divided:—Ayes 160; Noes 111: Majority 49.—(Div. List, No. 50.)
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I beg, Mr. Speaker, to submit to you a question on a point of Order. I submit, Sir, that under the Rule, while you are able and compelled to put the Question regarding the Amendment which is now under discussion, and which you have put without permitting any further discussion on that Question, yet that when the time comes for you to put the Question upon the Original Question—that is, that the Bill be now road a second time—it is within your competency to allow further discussion if you should think fit, upon that Question, and I wish to give you Notice that I shall claim the right, subject to your permission, to discuss the Question when you put the Main Question.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
The House divided:—Ayes 173; Noes 119: Majority 54.
|Addison, J. E. W.||Bigwood, J.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Birkbeck, Sir E.|
|Ambrose, W.||Blundell, Col. H. B. H.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Bond, G. H.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.|
|Baird, J. G. A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Brookfield, A. M.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Bruce, Lord H.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Burghley, Lord|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Campbell, Sir A.|
|Campbell, J. A.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Carmarthen, Marq. of|
|Bective, Earl of||Charrington, S.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Coghill, D. H.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Cross, H. S.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Grossman, Gen. Sir W.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Darling, C. J.||Johnston, W.|
|Davenport, H. T.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Dawnay, Col. hn. L. P.||Ker, R. W. B.|
|De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.||Kerans, F. H.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||King, H. S.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Knowles, L.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. B.||Lafone, A.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Lambert, C.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.||Lees, E.|
|Edwards-Moss, T. C.||Legh, T. W.|
|Egerton, hon. A. de T.||Lennox, Lord W. C. Gordon-|
|Elliot, hon. A. R. D.||Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Elliot, hon. H. F. H.|
|Ellis, Sir J. W.||Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Ewart, Sir W.||Long, W. H.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Low, M.|
|Farquharson, H. R.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Fellowes, A. E.||Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Maclean, F. W.|
|Finch, G. H.||Maclure, J. W.|
|Finlay, R. B.||M'Calmont, Captain J.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Madden, D. H.|
|Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.||Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount||Maple, J. B.|
|Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||Matthews, rt. hn. H.|
|Fulton, J. F.||Mattinson, M. W.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Gedge, S.||Milvain, T.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Morrison, W.|
|Godson, A. F.||Moss, R.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Mount, W. G.|
|Mulholland, H. L.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Newark, Viscount|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Noble, W.|
|Granby, Marquess of||Norris, E. S.|
|Gray, C. W.||Norton, R.|
|Grimston, Viscount||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Parker, hon. F.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Parker, C. S.|
|Pearce, Sir W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Robertson, J. T. B.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Robinson, B.|
|Hastings, G. W.||Royden, T. B.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Russell, Sir G.|
|Russell, T. W.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Salt, T.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Selwyn, Capt. C. W.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Hoare, E, B.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Hoare, S.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Holloway, G.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Howard, J.||Smith, A.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Hubbard, hon. E.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Taylor, F.|
|Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Tollemache, H. J.|
|Tyler, Sir H. W.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Waring, Colonel T.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Webster, Sir R. E.||TELLERS.|
|White, J. B.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Wolmer, Viscount||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Kenny, J. E.|
|Allison, R. A.||Kilbride, D.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Lalor, R.|
|Asher, A.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Leahy, J.|
|Austin, J.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.||Lockwood, F.|
|Ballantine, W H. W.||M'Donald, P.|
|Barbour, W. B.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Barry, J.||Mahony, P.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Mayne, T.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Morley, right hon. J.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Morley, A.|
|Bright, W. L.||Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.|
|Brown, A. L.||Murphy, W. M.|
|Brunner, J. T.||Neville, R.|
|Burt, T.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Caldwell, J.||Nolan, J.|
|Cameron, J. M.||O Brien, J. F. X.|
|Campbell, H.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Causton, R. K.||O'Brien, W.|
|Chance, P. A.||O'Connor, A.|
|Clancy, J. J.||O'Connor, J.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||O'Hea, P.|
|Coleridge, hon. B.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Condon, T. J.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Conway, M.||Paulton, J. M.|
|Corbel, W. J.||Pease, A. E.|
|Cossham, H.||Provand, A. D.|
|Cox, J. R.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Cozens-Hardy, H. H.||Quinn, T.|
|Crilly, D.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Crossley, E.||Roberts, J. B.|
|Deasy, J.||Roberts, J.|
|Dillon, J.||Rowlands, J.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Rowntree, J.|
|Ellis, J.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Samuelson, G. B.|
|Fenwick, C.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Finucane, J.||Spencer, hon. C. R.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Stack, J.|
|Flower, C.||Stewart, H.|
|Flynn, J. C.||Sullivan, D.|
|Foley, P. J.||Sutherland, A.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Fry, T.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Fuller, G. P.||Thomas, D. A.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.|
|Gill, T. P.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Tuite, J.|
|Grey, Sir E.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Haldane, R. B.||Wayman, T.|
|Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.||Will, J. S.|
|Harris, M.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Healy, M.||Woodhead, J.|
|Healy, T. M.||Wright, C.|
|Hunter, W. A.||TELLERS.|
|Joicey, J.||Biggar, J. G.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Carew, J. L.|
|Kenny, C. S.|
§ Main Question, "That the Bill be read the third time," put.138
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to say a few words in view of the decision which the House has just come to—that the Bill shall apply to Ireland—upon the general application of the measure, but more especially upon its application to Ireland, and in doing so I shall endeavour to keep myself strictly within the Order of the Rules of the House and to refrain from discussing even incidentally any matter which would be more properly discussed upon the Amendment which the House has just decided upon adversely to our views and to our wishes. But perhaps, Sir, you will allow me to say generally that I greatly regret that I did not have an opportunity of speaking upon that Amendment. I was a Member of the Grand Committee in 1884, sat upon a measure of a similar character to this. It is a question that I have always taken a great deal of interest in, and there are several special reasons on account of which I think I might have been afforded an opportunity of speaking my views upon the immediate question which was then under discussion of the application of this measure to Ireland. However, Sir, that is a matter which has been decided upon by the House. It is past and gone, and I will only say regarding it, that I trust that when the Bill gets into Committee the Government may see fit to re-consider their decision, which may, perhaps, have been rather hastily arrived at to-night without full consideration of all the various aspects of the question, and that they may be led, as the result of the reconsideration, to treat the Bill as a purely English measure, and as one in which we consequently need not take that interest which we are so unfortunately compelled to take in many measures which are brought forward by the Government, and proposed to be extended to Ireland. I had hoped and was most desirous that the pledge the Government gave at the commencement of this Session, that this was to be a British Session, should be kept, and I think it is most unfortunate that, except in a case of absolute and urgent necessity, such as the measure brought forward yesterday, and which, if it were agreed to, we should not have trespassed on the Government for any facilities whatever in getting through its Committee stage. I have been most anxious that this Session should be a Session of 139 British legislation, and had the Government carried out the pledge to which I have referred, we should have been able to show we can stand by and exhibit the height of fair play to the two English Parties when discussing questions of legislation only affecting their own country. But the decision which the House has come to puts us in this position—The measure, which we should otherwise have been only too glad to see passed through the House without our opposition, we shall be compelled to oppose on every stage, simply from the point of view of Ireland. I regret this, as I have said, very much. As regards the general question, and entirely apart from the merits of the measure itself, there are special features in reference to the application of this Bill to Ireland—namely, that it will, in our opinion, injuriously affect our country—which would make it absolutely necessary for us to oppose the measure as a whole. I do not disapprove of it, and, therefore, I regret that necessity. It may be, and undoubtedly is, a very good and salutary measure for Great Britain, and we should have been most happy to have seen it passed through its different stages with the general consent of all sections and all Parties in this House; but you put us in this position, by compelling us to take an interest in it from an Irish point of view; you put us in the position of obliging us to subordinate your interest to our interest with regard to it, and, naturally, as Irishmen, we must feel a greater interest in the measure, because it is an Irish measure, than we should feel in it if it were English. I think I have said enough to show that we have some ground of complaint; first of all, because I was shut up from expressing my opinion fully upon the proper stage of the measure, and, secondly, on account of what I think has been undoubtedly the most precipitate conduct of the Government in the matter. I trust that without my saying anything more upon the subject at the present moment—because I shall have another opportunity of saying what I have to say with regard to the subject on the Motion for going into Committee upon the Bill—that the Government will see the reasonableness of the position which we have taken up, and that they will feel that it is desirable and will allow us to treat 140 the measure as a purely British measure.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I think, from the point of view of progress of the Bill, that it is to be regretted that, owing to the course which the Government have thought fit to take in this matter, we have not been allowed to hear the views of the hon. Member for the City of Cork upon the issue before us; and that, consequently, there is danger that the progress of a measure, upon the principles of which we are all agreed, may be considerably impeded. I think that it will be a very deplorable circumstance if we do not have an opportunity of hearing the views of so leading a politician as the hon. Member for the City of Cork on the question. I must say that I am also afraid that the discussion of the Bill in Committee will be much impeded by the fact that the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) was not able, owing to the Forms of the House, to alter his Amendment in conformity with the views I ventured to lay before the House. I think that the course which the Government have taken will by no means expedite the progress of the Bill. I regret and deplore that fact, as I think that the measure is one that should be passed with all possible expedition. I repeat that by the course which the Government have taken, they have done that which will most certainly delay the passing of the measure.
§ MR. DILLON
I rise only for the purpose of entreating the Government to put the Committee stage of the measure off until a reasonable period after the Easter holidays.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can only say that I regret equally with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John Morley), that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) did not avail himself of the ample opportunity he had of expressing to the House his views with regard to this measure. ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member did not, to my knowledge, appear in his place until a very late period of the debate, which has now gone on for five hours. I am satisfied that, had it been necessary, any hon. Member on this side of the House would have willingly yielded to the hon. Member had he shown a desire to address the House during those five 141 hours. In response to the appeal of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), I may say that the Government are perfectly willing to give ample time for the consideration of the measure before taking the Committee stage. They, therefore, do not propose to take that stage until Tuesday fortnight, April 12, at a Morning Sitting.
§ MR. DILLON
That does not meet our views at all, and I cannot consent to the Committee stage of the Bill being taken so soon.
The House divided:—Ayes 231; Noes 92: Majority 139.—(Div. List, No. 52.)
Bill read a second time, and committed.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon 12th April, resolve itself into the said Committee."—(Mr. W. Smith.)
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to again set down the Committee stage for the 3rd May. The Government had, in spite of the earnest appeals and protests of Irish Members, made of that Bill an Irish question; and he felt bound to say, and believed many Members would agree with him, that seeing the Bill had been made one of vital interest for Ireland, some consideration should be show, for the convenience of Irish Members. They were dragged some 400 or 500 miles from home and detained half the year in Parliament, and when permitted to return for a short Recess on Tuesday next the Government deliberately proposed that after a brief interval Irish Members should be dragged back again to London by the necessity of being in their places to attend to this Bill which, in spite of all that might be said to the contrary, was a question in which the Irish people took a vital interest. Of necessity, then, Irish Representatives must attend the discussion; and so the Government compelled them to return from Ireland not allowing a reasonable Recess. So far as he could remember, at least for a very long time, it had been an uniform practice to consult, in some measure, the convenience of Irish Members in regard to the arrangement of Irish Business, whether Bills or Estimates, or whatever Business it might be in which they were interested. Now, when the right hon. Gentleman was asked to meet the views of 142 Irish Members in this particular, he met the appeal by deliberately setting down the Bill for the first day of the reassembling of Parliament after the Easter Recess.
§ Ma. DILLON
said, he was under the impression that Thursday fortnight was mentioned. However, be that as it might—[Laughter]—it was not such an absurd proposal as he supposed it to be, but at the same time let hon. Members remember that the proposal was to hurry Irish Members back to London and the proposal was made in the most gratuitously offensive way, the convenience of those Members being in no way consulted. It was really and truly very great evidence of want of consideration and want of courtesy on the part of the Government towards Members who sincerely desired to let the Bill pass, and have been prepared to do so. If the Government had met Irish Members in a reasonable spirit, the second reading might have been passed hours ago, and the Committee appointed for any day desired. But they must needs make of it an Irish question, in spite of all protest, and it had become a burning Irish Question to which Irish Members must attend, for their constituents required that duty of them. He thought it a reasonable proposal to fix the date as May 3rd, and made that Motion.
Amendment proposed, to leave out "12th April," and insert, "3rd May,"—(Mr. Dillon,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That '12th April' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, there was one point in respect to April 12th which had considerable interest for the House generally. For that day the second reading of the Local Government Bill had been set down. Were they to understand that the Government intended to postpone the Local Government? [Mr. W. H. Smith: No.] Then was the House to understand that this very important Bill was to come on at a quarter to 12, or some such hour? What was the real meaning of this Government?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not been very long in the House, but he had been a Mem- 143 ber long enough to be very well aware that the Government or any Member in fixing a day for the further consideration of a Bill, fixed a day before which that Bill could not be taken. The day named for this Bill (April 12) would be just one week after the re-assembling of the House. Parliament assembled on the 5th, and he thought he would be fairly meeting the views of hon. Members from Ireland who were usually in their places within four or five days of Business being resumed. It was utterly impossible for any Government to insure that among the first Business no measure should be proceeded with that had not more or less interest for Irish Members. It was the intention of the Government to proceed with the Local Government Bill on the 12th, and in all probability the Standing Committee on Law Bills would by then be set up, and it was within the power of the Government to refer this Bill to that Law Committee; but the Government must reserve to themselves the right, if they thought fit, to refer this Bill to the Law Committee on or after the 12th.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he could not be exposed to the same reproach as his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for he had the misfortune to enter the House of Commons at the same time as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman would have made his views a little more clear if, when he was asked about the Bill, he had stated that he did not mean it to come on on the 12th of April. But the understanding now was that the Bill should not come on on that day. ["No!"] Then let the understanding he made clear. The right lion. Gentleman seemed not only to have misled Members on that side, but even some who sat behind him. Was the Bill to come on on the 12th of April? Was it to come on on the same day with the Local Government Bill? Surely the hon. Gentleman who said "No" must have been in the House a very short time indeed. But he thought they all understood the Bill would not be taken OR the 12th of April, but that it might come on after then. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill was to be referred to the Law Committee, which was not yet set up; therefore, he thought his hon. Friend need not trouble 144 himself by the fear that the Bill was likely to come on on the 12th of April, or for a good many days after that.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not been very long Leader of the House, but he had been long enough in the position to have the opportunity of showing some consideration and courtesy towards an important minority in the House. But from the period of his appointment to his elevated position to the present hour that section of the House had experienced from him nothing but discourtesy. They had never received from him at any time during his tenure of Office that consideration that had usually been extended to that minority by every other Leader of the House, Conservative or Liberal. It had always been usual to show some consideration to Members coming from distant parts of the Kingdom from constituencies separated by hundreds of miles from London. Members who had, or most of them had, quite enough to attend to in their own country if they were only allowed to attend to it. They could have pardoned the right hon. Gentleman for his action when he said it was his "painful" duty to move the Closure; but there was no duty incumbent upon him to fix for the next stage of this Bill a day that must be inconvenient to the opponents of the measure. To-night the right hon. Gentleman had had a good lesson on the method of managing the Business of the House. From the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, who was not by any means an enemy of the Government, he had received disinterested advice to treat Irish Members with some consideration. For the first time the House was made aware of the intention of the Government to refer this Bill to a Grand Committee, which, in his opinion, would add still further to the unpleasantness connected with the proceedings on the Bill. If that was the intention, then the composition of the Grand Committee became an important question for Irish Members. They were entitled to know who were the Members of the Committee, and must be present when the composition was discussed. Was it reasonable to bring Irish Members over from Ireland on the 12th, on what was practically a wild goose chase, and when there was no probability of the Bill being discussed. Usually, Irish 145 Members were thought to take a malignant interest in the Business of the House; but now they asked to be excused from attending for some time, and when they wished to take a respite, they were to be needlessly brought over either to discuss the Bill or the composition of the Committee to which it was to be relegated. The Government might have saved the whole evening from 6 o'clock if they had struck Ireland out of the Bill, and a quarter of an hour ago might have saved this further debate, if they had allowed a reasonable interval for the next stage, having regard to the position of Members who represented distant portions of Her Majesty's Dominions. Was it likely that their loyalty towards the British Parliament would be increased by losing met in such a spirit as this? If they were obliged to attend at Westminster some consideration should be shown them. Therefore, he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who seemed about to rise, would signify his sense of the case with which the Conversion scheme was allowed to pass—in which certainly Irish Members might have taken considerable interest—by showing some consideration to Irish Members, and reciprocating the courtesy shown him, and allow a longer interval before proceeding with the Bill.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he had risen not for the purpose the hon. and learned Member suggested, but to enter his most emphatic protest which would, he believed, be endorsed by all hon. Members on that side, and many Members on the other side, against the charge of discourtesy made against his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith). He did not think such a charge, coming from such a quarter, ought to be passed over in silence. Frequently assailed by vituperation and personal observations, of which he felt sure the great majority of Members opposite would be ashamed, his right hon. Friend had invariably observed the most courteous bearing towards all sections of the House. In his duty of arranging the Business of the House his right hon. Friend had conscientiously endeavoured to meet the wishes of all sections and to preserve moderation in debate, and it was really a libel upon his right hon. Friend to say he treated any Member with discourtesy. The hon. and learned Member for North 146 Longford spoke of the manner in which the Conversion scheme was received—of the consideration shown to that measure. He (Mr. Goschen) was grateful to hon. Members of all sections for that consideration; he acknowledged it fully, he had acknowledged it that afternoon, and he was glad to do so again. With regard to this particular question, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) seemed to ignore the constant custom of Governments and of private Members to put down Bills for a certain day, to be considered on that day, if circumstances were favourable, but more frequently they were sot down so that when the day came they might be more definitely fixed for consideration. It was with that view, and certainly not to cause inconvenience to any Member, that it was proposed to set down Committee on this Bill for April 12th. It was obviously almost impossible that the Bill could be discussed on that day, but it was possible that a proposal might be made on that day to refer it to the Grand Committee on Law. The Government must reserve, in regard to this, the same right they had in regard to other Bills; but he repeated it was highly improbable and almost impossible to take the discussion on April 12th.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, surely the sensible course, seeing that it was highly improbable, and almost impossible, that the Bill could be taken on the 12th, was to accede to the very reasonable request of his hon. Friend, and not compel Irish Members to take a long journey—some of them of 600 miles—on the bare possibility of the Bill being taken. The return journey of some of his Colleagues covered 1,200 miles. He would not enter into a discussion of the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, except to say that on a recent occasion, when he exhibited not his courtesy, but his back to Irish Members in moving the Closure, they were not able to distinguish that feature in the view presented. To his (Mr. Parnell's) knowledge, the right hon. Gentleman had not shown any courtesy or consideration to Irish Members during the Session—not to speak of other Sessions—which, he submitted, might have bean expected under the circumstances. The greatest possible consideration ought to have been shown by the right hon. Gentleman towards Irish Members, who had, on every 147 possible occasion, when the interests of their country allowed them to do so, effaced themselves in order to expedite Government Business. The return for that made by the right hon. Gentleman was to move the Closure whenever an Irish Member rose to speak. He would not say that was want of courtesy, since the phrase was objected to; but he would say it displayed a want of consideration and an absence of that judicious character that best became a Leader of the House, and the presence of which ensured that rapid transaction of Business the Tory Party professed to desire. Of all Leaders of the House he had known, the right hon. Gentleman was most like that publican who was his own best customer—he was the champion Obstructionist of his own business. The House had for the last hour been discussing a matter which never ought to have been discussed, if the right hon. Gentleman had possessed a particle of tact. He had originated by his conduct first one discussion, then another, on points entirely unnecessary; and so far had he been from saving time, that he had now lost the chance of bringing forward another Government measure, to which it was presumed he attached some value, and which he might have proceeded with had he shown some consideration for the views of Irish Members. It was to be hoped that at the eleventh hour the House might be spared a prolongation of this discussion, and as it was highly improbable, and almost impossible, that the Bill could come on on the 12th April, the Government would accede to the Motion of his hon. Friend, and put it down for some day when it would be highly probable and most possible that it would be brought on.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 198; Noes 130: Majority 68.—(Div. List, No. 53.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee upon Thursday 12th April.