HC Deb 05 December 1890 vol 349 cc681-4

On the Motion for adjournment,

(5.33.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster)

I think the feeling of the House is in favour of an immediate adjournment. Last night we agreed that no business except Government Business should be taken this evening. I see that my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Lowther) has a Motion on the Paper, but this is hardly an occasion in which to discuss a Motion of that character. I therefore beg to move that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

I have the following Motion on the Paper:— To call the attention of the House to the grave miscarriage of justice in the case of Walter Hargan, who is undergoing a sentence of 20 years' penal servitude for defending his own life; and to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that a free pardon be granted to Walter Hargan. and I must own the Motion of my right hon. Friend the leader of the House is of a most unusual and scarcely decent character. The other day a Motion was made asking private Members to give up their privileges. I was under the impression at the time that my right hon. Friend had no wish unduly to interfere with the rights of private Members, except in so far as it was necessary to do so in order to effect the object which the Government had in view—namely, the despatch of urgent business. The Resolution which stands in my name as an Amendment to the Order of Supply relates to a subject which has aroused a great deal of interest. It is now only 25 minutes to 6 o'clock, and there is ample time to discuss this matter without interfering unduly with those social functions which, no doubt, at this hour are uppermost in the minds of some hon. Members. My right hon. Friend will be committing an outrage upon the rights of the House at large if he insists upon the Motion for Adjournment, and will be showing that the only object of the Government in making their Motion the other day is to strangle the privileges of private Members. I shall certainly object to the Motion for Adjournment.

(5.38.) COLONEL DAWNAY (York, N. R., Thirsk)

I earnestly appeal to the leader of the House to re-consider his decision as to the adjournment of the House. A great many Members take a very serious interest in the question which my right hon. Friend wishes to bring forward. He may not have another opportunity this Session of bringing the matter forward.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I withdrew the Motion which stood in my name in order to give the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) an opportunity of introducing his, and, therefore, for what it is worth, venture to add my appeal to his. While I am on my feet, I should like to draw the attention of the leader of the House to an answer given earlier in the day by the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir J: Gorst), because unless by Monday some attention is paid to the matter, it may be my duty to raise a debate in a way which would be unpleasant to all of us.

(5.40.) MR. W. H. SMITH

The Government are not at the present moment in a position to discuss the subject of my right hon. Friend's Resolution. The matter is now receiving the most serious consideration of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The House, I am sure, will feel that in these circumstances the Government cannot fitly discuss this grave subject, which concerns the administration of justice and the exercise of the prerogatives of mercy by the Crown. My right hon. Friend has assured me that he is weighing carefully all the circumstances of the case. Could it be right to debate in this House a matter which, in his quasi-judicial capacity, the Home Secretary is still considering with a full sense of his responsibility? It would certainly not be in accordance with precedent to force on a Debate before the Secretary of State, the officer responsible to the Crown, has had full opportunity of forming a definite judgment.


The right hon. Gentleman has taken no notice of the other point put to him.


I will undertake to communicate with my right hon. Friend on the subject.


With the indulgence of the House, I would say that this is a subject which in no way concerns myself specially, but it is one which involves the liberty of the subject. I shall certainly not waive my present opportunity of bringing it forward unless the right hon. Gentleman assures me that when Parliament re- assembles after Christmas I shall be placed in as good a position as I occupy now for drawing attention to the matter. If I am assured that my Motion will be given the first place on the Paper on some afternoon soon after the re-assembling of the House I shall be satisfied.


I cannot give my right hon. Friend an assurance of that character. I can only assure him that the Secretary of State will give full consideration to all the facts of the case.


Will the Government give me a day?


I cannot undertake to do that. My right hon. Friend will be able himself to find a way to bring the matter forward.


I shall take the sense of the House.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

May I point out that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) has the matter entirely in his own hands. If he wants an early day for a Debate on this important subject, in which a large number of Members are undoubtedly interested, he will be able to secure the opportunity by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House. I can only say that if my right hon. Friend should see fit to give way to the appeal made to him by the leader of the House, I would certainly support him on a subsequent occasion in a Motion for an Adjournment of the House.


On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, am I to understand it would be within my power to bring the subject forward on a Motion for Adjournment as an urgent matter of definite public importance?


That would be for the occupant of the Chair to settle, but I think there are examples warranting the belief that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to take that course.


Under these circumstances I shall give way, but I shall raise the question on an early day after the re-assembling of Parliament.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, till Monday next.