HC Deb 27 March 1888 vol 324 cc404-7

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Powers of Commissioners).

MR. FIRTH (Dundee)

, in moving, in page 2, line 5, to insert the word "twelve," instead of "three," said, that the object of the Amendment was to increase the amount of imprisonment which the Commission might award to a witness for contempt of Court, that contempt of Court consisting of declining to answer questions put to him on matters which the Commissioners had to inquire into. Having regard to the character of the noble Lord and others who constituted the Commission, he submitted that that was not too much power to give them. He was of opinion that 12 months might be deterrent, while the shorter term of three months might not.

Amendment proposed, in line 5, to leave out the word "three," in order to insert "twelve."—(Mr. Firth.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause."


said, he thought the hon. and learned Member would not persist with the Amendment when he came to consider that this was a pure case of contempt of Court. In the Trades' Unions Commission power was given to the Commissioners to commit a man for three months if he was guilty of contempt of Court. In the Belfast Riots Commission a similar power was given, and he believed that the same term of imprisonment for contempt of Court was contained in one of the provisions of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act. Of course, he agreed with the hon. Member that they might trust to the discretion that would be exercised by the Court; but he was of opinion that it was unnecessary to increase the power of imprisonment.


said, he believed that a longer term of imprisonment than three months had been inflicted where there had been contempt of Court in Election Petitions, where a witness declined to answer questions put to him by the Election Commissioner. In one case a man was sent to prison for six months, and in the case of this Commission it was certainly one which demanded that the objects of the Legislature should not be defeated.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Indemnity to witnesses).


said, that this was the clause upon which he had asked a Question last night—namely, whether any provision had been made for the payment of witnesses who were required to give evidence before the Commission? Probably some Member of the Government would answer that Question now.


said, he understood that the Commission had been drawn up in the ordinary form. The practice was for the Commissioners to call before them such witnesses as they required, and to exercise their discretion in the matter of paying their expenses. The Commissioners would have power to refuse the expenses of a witness if they considered that he had not spoken the truth.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.


I think there will be no objection if I now move that the Bill be read the third time.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time,"—(Mr. Secretary Matthews,)—put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.