HC Deb 05 February 1891 vol 350 cc51-110

As amended, considered.

(6.8.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

I rise to move the new clause which stands in my name. Clause 2 provides for the transfer of the collection of tithe to the County Court, and for the making of rules to enable the collection to be made. The clause I propose to add to the Bill is as follows:— The rules of Court shall provide for including in one and the same application to the County Court any number of separate claims against separate parties for the recovery of tithe rent-charge on land in the same parish, and for the apportionment between such parties of the costs. It has been generally conceded that tithe is a property which should be preserved. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have contended that it is the inalienable and sacred property of the Church We on these benches—at all events, many of us—have contended that it is public property which is only enjoyed at present by the Church, but which sooner or later will be taken possession of by the public, vested interests, of course, being compensated. Whether it is the property of the Church, or whether it is public property, which is only used for the time being by the Church, it is equally property that ought to be preserved, and that position has been recognised most emphatically and explicitly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian when he has on more than one occasion warned the public against allowing this national property to be lost or frittered away. The object of the Bill is to provide for the recovery of tithe, and I venture to submit it is desirable that the machinery should be practical and workable, that the provisions of the Bill should not be such as would result in a good deal of the property being uncollected and in process of time lost. As the Bill now stands there may be a separate application to the County Court in the case of each tithe rent-charge, and on each separate application there must be a separate receivership and a separate collection. There are, no doubt, in every parish many tithe rent-charges paid by one parson, and in such a case there will be under the Bill as it stands only one proceeding or application. But in some parishes there are many separate ownerships, indeed there may be a separate owner of each tithe rent charge. At the present time there is a tendency to increase the number of landowners, so that we have to look forward to a multiplication of the number of tithe payers. The House will probably be surprised to learn the number of separate tithe rent-charges; on a former occasion I referred to a case by way of illustration. If I may do so without wearying the House I will mention one or two more instances. The subject of tithe rent-charge was recently discussed at the Surveyor's Institute, and a gentleman addressed the meeting with considerable authority. He had obtained a good deal of information, and was able to form a very accurate idea as to the number of tithe rent-charges throughout England. He ascertained that in one parish in Wiltshire there were 573 tithe rent-charges not exceeding 20s. each, and 371 of them were less than 5s. each. There were 27 of between 20s. and 40s. each. So that there were in the parish 600 separate tithe rent-charges not exceeding 40s. In a parish in Yorkshire this gentleman stated that there were 684 tithe rent-charges not exceeding 20s. each. I have particulars of the sale of tithe rent-charges for £59 18s. fixed upon 40 separate parcels of land, and the charge on some parcels is as low as 1s. per annum. The gentleman who spoke at the Surveyor's Institute made a very careful calculation, and gave a summary of the answers he had received from all parts of England in response to advertisements for information. From these returns it appears that in 25 parishes, some large and some small, there are 534 tithe rent-charges up to 20s. only 147 between 20s. and 40s., and 518 over 40s. If these figures are multiplied by four and then by 100, you would have an average for the 10,000 parishes, the number of parishes in England with tithe rent-charge upon them. The result is that there are 213,600 tithe rent-charges not exceeding 20s., 58,800 not exceeding 40s., and 207,200 exceeding 40s. It will thus be seen that we have to provide for the collection of an enormous number of small tithe rent-charges. If you apply to the collection of these small rent-charges a separate application, a separate order for a receiver, a separate receivership, and a separate dealing all through, you will find your machinery will be very difficult indeed to work. If you make the collection so trouble some, and relatively so expensive, as possibly you may by this Bill as it stands, the result may possibly be that tithe owners will hesitate, in some cases, to resort to the Court to recover their tithe, and, if they do, a very heavy penalty in expenses will be inflicted on those who are brought to the Court. I say, then, that in the interest of the tithe owner, as well as of the tithe payer and of the public, you should, as far as possible, minimise the costs and expenses. The Government have recognised the desirability of doing so by putting into the Bill the Schedules suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James). I suggest that they should proceed further in the same direction. The jurisdiction you are giving to the County Court is much more ministerial than judicial. If the course I suggest be adopted, the County Court Judge will appoint a day on which he will deal with the tithe cases. The tithe owner, having applied in the usual way for payment, will put the defaulting tithe payers into a list, which will be taken into the County Court. One set of notices will go out, and by one process the Judge will dispose of all the matters, and will appoint one receiver to deal with all the cases. The costs and expenses can be easily divided, and the result will be that they will fall lightly on the tithe payers. I know I shall be met with the serious objection that, if this course were adopted, tradesmen would claim the right of adopting similar procedure, and issuing one process against all their debtors. We are not, however, dealing with private rights and private debts, but with property of a national character, and property which has formed the subject of special legislation over and over again. I do not know that after all the proposal is a very great advance on the custom of the County Court. Looked at without reference to legal technicalities, I do not know that it very seriously differs from the custom that prevails at the present time in County Courts with reference to the consolidation of actions. I find it laid down in the Annual County Court Practice that if several actions be brought in the same Court by the same plaintiff against several defendants, and the event of the actions depends upon the findings of the Judge and jury on some question common to all of them, the Judge may at any time (apparently either with or without application) select one action for trial and stay the others, and the stay will operate until judgment is given in the selected action. The object is to prevent unnecessary litigation and useless expanse. I cannot see why, even if my proposal goes a little further than the consolidation of actions, the House should not, to meet special difficulties in this special case of the recovery of tithe rent-charge, extend the principle of consolidation of actions, and so practically facilitate the recovery of tithe rent-charge.

Clause (Inclusion of several claims in one application,)—(Mr. Thomas Henry Bolton,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

(6.28.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

I sincerely hope the Government will not entertain this proposal. When it was made suddenly the other night I thought it was objectionable, and the more I have considered it the more objectionable it has. appeared to me. It violates altogether the principle on which we have proceeded on this Bill, namely, that we are not to place the tithe owner in a better position or the tithe payer in a worse position than at present. The hon. Gentleman says it will place the tithe owner in a position he does not at present occupy, and will enable the tithe to be easily and compendiously recovered, but he appears to be desirous of acting in the fashion of the Roman Emperor, who expressed a wish that the people had only one neck in order that he might cut off all their heads with one blow. There is no other body to whom this power of taking victims en bloc has been given. The parish cannot do it in respect to the rates; the rates are collected in small sums, though, of course, it would be exceedingly convenient to club the whole parish together and sue for the rates by one action. Why should we do this for the tithe owner? Not even the powerful Chancellor of the Exchequer can do this for his taxes. It would be highly convenient to the owner of a number of small tenements that he could issue a writ to which all his tenant occupiers would have to appear. The hon. Member has referred to the consolidation of actions, but surely he will see the difference from this case. The very essence of consolidation of actions is that they shall all arise upon the same question. But in these cases under consideration debtors may have totally different grounds of defence. Actions are often consolidated by consent of parties, but seldom by the Court, unless the absolute identity of the case is proved. Now, I saw the other day the prospectus of a Joint Stock Company—the "Tithe Rent-Charge Collecting Company, Limited"—whether the hon. Member is Chairman of that company, and proposes this Amendment in the interest of that company, I do not know——


I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that I have no connection whatever with the company, nor indeed did I, until the right hon. Gentleman mentioned it, know of the existence of such a company.


Of course, I was only speaking in joke, and did not mean it seriously; but if that was the object the Amendment would serve the purpose admirably; it would give to them on behalf of tithe owners a power, a screw, not possessed by any other owners of property in the country. The hon. Member has not concealed the fact; he avows it is an exceptional proposal not now to be found in the law, but he says it is for an exceptional object, namely, the collection of tithe. But I ask the Government not to treat this in such an exceptional manner. We have gone on tolerably amicably on the basis that we are to alter the nature of the property as little as possible. We have throughout joined in keeping out of view personal liability, keeping this as a charge on the land as it was originally, dealing with it in every respect on that principle, making the charges as small as possible, with the idea of making the liability fall upon the owner, not the occupier. But now the hon. Member, at the eleventh hour, proposes to place the whole of this property, in respect to collection, in a preferential and exceptional position occupied by no other property. I hope the Government will not depart so widely from the principle they have hitherto recognised, and that they will not encourage this Amendment.

(6.35.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)

I think the right hon. Gentleman has left out of view one or two arguments which can be used in support of the Amendment. It is, of course, a matter for the House to determine. If I thought it could be fairly represented as a favour to the tithe owner, then I should agree it is a change we ought not to make. But when the matter comes to be understood it really is not a favour to the tithe owner. The proposal is that, wherever there are a number of small sums of 2s. or 2s. 6d. due for tithe rent-charge, then the owner should be able to include them in the first preliminary notice to the County Court, and that being done, the defendants will give notice of their defence, and action will proceed. The saving in fees will be a slight advantage, but I do not see how this can be said to increase the remedy of the tithe owner, or put him in a better position. In regard to rates it may be mentioned that a distress warrant does issue for a number of cases, and, that being issued, a separate summons is sent in each case. This initial step is extremely like the issue of a distress warrant in the first instance. There is no analogy between this case and that of the Exchequer cases. Just let us appreciate the case. The tithe owner has tithe due to him from a number of small occupiers who hold land under the same title, hold land practically under the same circumstances. What harm can it do that the tithe owner can carry out his desire to include some 10 or 15 names in the same list and in one statement? But we have no very strong feeling about it. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken, I think, in considering it is a proposal in favour of the tithe owner simply, but I leave it to the House to decide.

(6.38.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

The Attorney General has fairly recognised the position, and the understanding that the tithe owner is not to be placed in a better position, and is not to have an additional advantage conferred upon him. If the proposition of the hon. Member was for dealing only with the occupier, I could quite understand the convenience of this mode of proceeding, though I should still entertain objection to it, but this procedure is directed against the owner who may happen to be occupier. Under the present law, where tithe is collected from a large number of occupiers in amounts of 3s., 5s., or 7s., of course the argument of the hon. Member for St. Pancras would apply, but it will not apply under the present Bill. It is not on the face of it likely that a large number of small owners in the parish will be in arrear in respect of tithe and under similar conditions. You will be dealing with owners. Under the rules of Court there will be one remedy against an owner in respect to tithe assessed on separate fields, but what the Amendment will do will be to club the whole of the owners in a parish together, though they may hold under different titles, and there may be no analogy between the different cases, and there can therefore be no test case. No analogy is offered in the case of a number of newspapers printing the same libel, and when the actions are consolidated in order to obtain one decision affecting the whole. This proposal contains an altogether new principle, and unless we are prepared to extend the principle to cover all debts and obligations, allowing a tradesman as plaintiff, to combine a number of debts, for instance, in one action, I do not see how we can agree to this clause.

(6.41.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

I am afraid the hon. and learned Gentleman has not considered all the inconvenience and injustice that may arise from the adoption of such a clause as this. The proposition amounts to this, that a number of defendants, each of whom may have a separate defence, may be consolidated in one action. It must not be assumed that the same questions will be involved in each case; the defences may be wholly different. One man may claim that he had sold his land before the tithe was due, another may contend payment already made, a third that the amount should have been allowed in account between the parties, or another that the charge is excessive. Are all these people, each with a separate defence, to be included in one common action? Each defence must be separately heard by the Judge, and every one of the parties will have to be present. Imagine the confusion that must arise among principals and counsel. I am inclined to think the proceeding would increase and not lessen costs. It may well happen that in some cases there will have to be certain interlocutory proceedings, and notice of special defence in others. Now, suppose 40 defendants joined together in one omnibus action, is a notice that really affects only one defendant to be served also on the other 39? If one of the number desires the case to be tried by a jury, are the others also to be tried by jury—a much more lengthy procedure than by Judge alone—simply because one of 40 desires it? Then there is the question of appeal. The decision may be such that only one defendant wishes to appeal; are the other 39 therefore to be dragged to the Court of Appeal? I am quite sure such a cumbersome procedure cannot be contemplated. My hon. Friend seems to draw a distinction between these cases and ordinary cases, say of a tradesman combining his debtors and firing one shot at all, on the ground that this is public property. That is true, so far as the nature of the property is concerned, but it is not true as to the action. Actions will be taken by private individuals, in whom for the time being the property is vested. Therefore it is private property in that sense; it is the right of the individual to put money into his own pocket; it does not partake in any way of the nature of public property, in so far as recovery in these particular actions are concerned. Taking all things into consideration, the confusion that would result in the endeavour to carry this thing through would exemplify the truth of the old adage, "More haste worse speed.'" I cannot conceive a method by which it would be more easy for recalcitrant tithepayers to delay recovery than by thus joining claims together in one action. We know how constantly it happens that in County Court actions a defendant is unable to appear from illness or other causes, and asks for an adjournment. In this number of 40 defendants, how likely it will be that one may be unable to attend, and will send a certificate of illness. Then, as it will not be possible to hear the case in the absence of one defendant, the whole action will have to be adjourned. The practice of the County Court is necessarily not carried on under the rigid rules of the High Court, that parties must be present and ready to proceed or the case is struck out. In County Courts such a rule, is not possible. It would be unjust to a number of poor people who have not the means of employing a solicitor. The expedition with which actions are tried in the County Court at comparatively slight expense is due to the fact that rigid rules are not adhered to. I have known the fact of one of the parties having missed a train being held as a reasonable ground for adjournment, so that judgment should not go by default, with the possible expense of application for a new trial and waste of time. There are so many objections to the clause that I am astonished the Attorney General should have taken up this neutral attitude; and I trust, on re-consideration, he will put his foot down determinedly on an Amendment that must lead to so much confusion and inconvenience.

(6.49.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

The hon. Member who has just spoken has not, I think, sufficiently remembered that the object of the clause is to compel the Court to frame rules, and no doubt the rules would be made sufficiently elastic to meet the varying circumstances and conditions. It may be that the rules might be so adjusted as to be free from the objections raised. But I rise chiefly in consequence of a remark made by the Mover of the Amendment, in which he bore testimony to the very small amounts which are collected by way of tithe in many districts. From my knowledge of the West Riding of Yorkshire, I am aware that the tithe is levied in very small sums—sometimes 6d. and 9d. Even as the law stands, many of these tithes are not collected at all. Within the range of my personal acquaintance there are many vicars who sacrifice a large part of their small incomes rather than collect these small tithes from their parishioners. Now, it is said we must not by our legislation change the law against the tithe payers; but we ought to remember that, so far as these small sums are concerned, we are altering the law seriously against the tithe owners, for these proceedings in the County Court will be more cumbersome, dilatory, and costly. I think it is only equitable, as we are increasing the difficulty for the tithe owners, that we should consider this facility suggested, and I hope that on consideration the Government may be induced to give a favourable ear to the proposal made.

(6.52.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

After the practical speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Roberts), who probably knows more about the working of County Courts than any other man in the House, I hope the Attorney General will consider the Amendment is not one that should commend itself to his judgment. I quite agree that tithe is national property that ought to be preserved; but I cannot see that as such it should be accorded special treatment to the advantage of the tithe owner, such as is not extended to taxes or to rates. See what the Amendment would come to. A tithe owner would club together from 20 to 50 defendants in one action, different owners with different properties held under different titles, raising different defences established by different witnesses! I imagine what it would be; what a confusion it would lead to. At present you can only consolidate actions when they are brought in respect to an identical matter. Moreover, if you begin to prescribe the course of proceedings for the County Court, then you should do so uniformly.


I confess I address the House on this technical matter with a considerable amount of diffidence. I do not pretend to an intimate acquaintance with County Court proceedings, and I do not know that I quite appreciated, when the hon. Member for St. Pancras mooted the question, the full effect of his proposal. Certainly I had in my own mind rather the case of a number of tithe rent-charges due to a tithe owner from a tithepayer than a number of small tithe rent-charges due to some tithe owner from a number of different tithepayers, who might hold their property under very different titles. Looking at the objections that have been urged, I think the hon. Member for St. Pancras would be well advised not to press his Amendment.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

(6.57.) MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)

I believe the Amendment which stands in my name will be accepted by Her Majesty's Government; and, therefore, in as few words as possible, and as I shall not have an opportunity of replying to objections, I will state the object of the Amendment. In consequence of a decision in the Law Courts it turns out that in the case of a tithe owner making default in payment of rates the only remedy is for the collector to recover against the occupier for a debt which is none of his, and the only remedy for the occupier is to recover from the landowner, and the landowner from the tithe owner. Only by this round-about process can the rates be collected from the defaulting tithe owner. Of course, the difficulties which arise, as can be easily imagined, are very serious. They have arisen in my own neighbourhood, and I have no doubt other Members know of instances elsewhere. The Amendment I desire to propose will be as printed in the Paper, but, in the third line, after "other," I would insert the word "occupying." The first part of my Amendment relieves the occupier from the liability to pay the rates of the tithe owner, and the second part makes the landowner liable to pay the collector the tithe rent-charge, in the event of the tithe owner's default of payment of rates, until the debt for the rate is settled. I have only to thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for having put my Amendment in such order that it is acceptable to the legal advisers of the Crown.

Clause (Rating of owner of tithe rent-charge,)—(Mr. Seale-Hayne,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be read a second time,")—(Mr. Seale-Hayne,)—put, and agreed to.

(7.4.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

We are indebted to the hon. Member for proposing this clause; but I think the 2nd sub-section is objectionable, and I move that it be omitted. I think the 1st sub-section amply carries out the object the hon. Member has in view, and enables any rate on the tithe rent-charge to be recovered from the owner. The 2nd sub-section at the end says— And the order maybe executed as if it were an order under this Act for the payment of a sum due on account of the tithe rent-charge. I think that this instead of facilitating matters would create difficulties, and put the owner and occupier to inconvenience on the default of the tithe owner. I move to omit the 2nd sub-section.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sub-section 2 be omitted from the proposed new Clause."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)


I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension in this matter. I do not think the effect of the sub-section will be to enable the rates to be charged on the property of the occupier. But in a case where the tithe owner resides away from the parish, or is abroad, and it is impossible to get the rate from him in the ordinary way, then a receiver can be appointed, not of the rent and profits of the land, but of the tithe of the owner. The landowner who has to pay the tithes, instead of paying them to the tithe owner will pay them to the receiver, who will deduct the rates, and pay over the residue to the tithe owner, who, as I say, may be residing abroad. It seems to me necessary that the sub-section should stand, for there would be no remedy in the case of a non-resident tithe owner, or a tithe owner who may be residing away from the country, or may be a lodger without goods on whom distress can be levied.


The object is to meet the case of the person responsible for the rates being out of the country. There is no possible danger of the clause in any way working otherwise than for the purpose of removing a blot in the law.

(7.7.) MR. ARTHUR WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)

So far as I can make out, the 1st sub-section makes the owner of the tithe rent-charge directly liable for the rate. Then comes the case of the owner of the rent-charge declining to pay the rate or the tithe. Because you cannot get hold of the owner you appoint a receiver to intercept the rate and pay it over to the poor rate collector. I do not see why, under the circumstances, we should complicate an already sufficiently complicated Bill by allowing this 2nd sub-section to stand.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, added.

(7.8.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)

I beg to move the following clause:— Whenever any proceedings of a criminal or penal character arising out of the recovery of tithe rent-charge under this Act shall be tried by a County Court Judge, the defendant may require a jury, and, if tried by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, the defendant shall, if convicted, have a right of appeal to the Quarter Sessions next ensuing after his said conviction, the enforcing of such conviction being suspended until the said appeal shall have been decided. The enforcement of this clause would carry with it the sympathy of the country. There is this much to be said against County Court Judges when adjudicating on questions affecting their own officers, that they would be liable to take an exaggerated view of any offence against a bailiff. They would rely to a great extent on the credibility of their own officer, and I do not think that in these cases there should be any presumption in favour of the prosecution. Apart from the judicial character of the County Court Judges, I think it important that a jury should be interposed between them and the defendants. Suppose there is a summons issued under the 48th section of the County Court Act—suppose a person is summoned for assaulting a bailiff. You may commit an assault without really being guilty of violence. There is such a thing as constructive assault—technical assault—such as the brandishing of a stick or the showing of the fist. I think it all-important that in such cases a man should not be sent to prison, in the manner contemplated by the Bill, without having the right of trial by jury. A man who is a trained lawyer would be liable to take too technical a view of that offence, whereas a jury would put aside technicalities and look at the common sense of the matter. I therefore submit that in such cases a jury would be a better judicial authority than a County Court Judge. Something was said the other night about juries in Wales being carried away by their sympathies when trying cases arising out of the present tithe agitation. But I would point out that the Registrar, on whom the duty of selecting the jury would fall, would not select persons who would be likely to be carried away by their feelings. I do not think anyone on a jury in the County of Carnarvon would be likely to be carried away by the prejudices of the anti-tithe men. With the exception of one Registrar, all the six in that county are Conservatives, and I believe the sixth is a Liberal Unionist. With such men it is a cardinal point in their creed that law and order must be preserved, and I do not think they would be likely to select juries who would favour disturbance of the public peace. I think the Government may rest assured that the Registrars would select jurymen who would be perfectly impartial. As to the other part of the clause—that relating to Quarter Sessions—I think it is highly necessary. The County Court Judges are not ardent partisans, and as judicial authorities they do not take it on themselves to interfere in politics, but that cannot be said of the Justices of the Peace. Whatever may be said about a jury, I do not think Justices of the Peace can be regarded as an impartial tribunal in matters of this character. There is this to be said with regard to a jury: In civil cases in the County Court where there is only a matter of £5 in dispute the defendant may demand a jury, and yet in cases which affect his own liberty he cannot at the present moment insist s upon a trial by jury at all. I think this is a great inequality of the law which ought to be remedied, and I hope in this case the House will consent to remedy it.

A Clause (Appeal in proceedings of a criminal or penal character arising out of the recovery of tithe rent-charge,)—(Mr. Lloyd-George,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

(7.16.) SIR R. WEBSTER

It is impossible for us to accept this new clause. I would submit to the hon. Gentleman, who has shown great acuteness in regard to this Bill, that, in the first place, the hon. Gentleman has made out no case for it; and, in the next place, it would be extremely unwise to introduce such highly controversial matter. The only cases to which the clause refers are cases which are met by Sections 48 and 162 of the County Court Acts, namely, assault, rescue, insulting the Judge, bailiff, or Registrar, or wilful misbehaviour in Court. It is the duty of those who desire to see justice properly administered to endorse the principle that the Court should have power to protect its own officers. The hon. Gentleman proposes that if an admitted breach of the law takes place—[Cries of "No!">] Well, the clause deals with proceedings of a criminal or penal character.


Not an admitted breach of the law.


I was not using "admitted" in the sense the hon. Gentleman understood me to be using it. I meant that if the offence were proved it would be admittedly a breach of the law. Well, the hon. Member proposes to alter the mode of dealing with such a case. I ask the House to endorse the decision it has persistently given not to take away from the bailiff the protection that is given to him in other Common Law cases. If it was a case of what happened before judgment it would be a different matter. It is practically conceded that the clause will affect misconduct either in the course of the proceedings, when the ordinary law ought to be enforced, or after judgment has been given, when of course it is to be assumed that the law will be obeyed. No exceptional privilege of protection from the consequences of misconduct ought to be inserted in this Bill, and I think we are standing on safe ground when we give the officers of the Court the same protection in this Bill as is given by the County Court Acts in other matters.

٭(7.20.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has misapprehended the effect of the clause. The hon. and learned Gentleman says it is of the utmost necessity to keep intact the power of the Court to protect its own dignity and to protect its officers. We agree. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman argues that we propose to take away from the County Court the jurisdiction it now has in that respect. But that is not what this clause proposes. The first part of it deals with the question of the defendant being entitled to demand a jury in proceedings of a penal or criminal character in the County Court arising out of any proceedings under this Act. I hope the Government will re-consider their decision on that part of the clause. In a purely civil case involving a sum of £5 and having no penal consequences, the Government say there may be a jury. In a case, however, where the liberty of the subject is concerned, where the proceedings are of a criminal character, and the punishment of either fine or imprisonment can be awarded, the Government wish the House to say that the defendant shall not have a jury. There is no ill-feeling at present existing between the people in the Principality and the Judges in the Principality. Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite would deem it an unfortunate thing if anything should happen to place the Judges and the people in conflict. I venture to say that the County Court Judges would prefer that questions of this character, which no doubt involve political considerations to some extent, and in which at any rate political feelings will arise, should be left to a jury. There are no juries at all, except in peculiar cases, before the Justices, and therefore my hon. Friend proposes that if these offences are prosecuted before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction there shall be an appeal. Upon a simple question as to the annual value of the land the Government have rightly granted an appeal. and yet in a criminal case, where it may be expected that the Justices will have strong predilections on one side, the Government say there is to be no appeal. The Attorney General's argument was not as forcible as it was brief. Indeed, he had no argument to produce against the clause, and I trust that the House will agree to insert it.

(7.27.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N. E., Darwen)

The hon. Gentleman opposite has said political feeling attaches to these cases. Well, political feeling ought not to attach to them. These are ordinary debts, which ought to be treated in the ordinary way. It is perfectly true, nevertheless, that political feeling is excited by these cases, and what conclusions are we to draw from the fact? Well, that such cases ought not to be tried by a popular body like a jury. The County Court Judge, who, being a man of education and position, must recognise that political feeling ought not to enter into them, will be much more capable of deciding justly in such cases. Our position is that the collection of these ordinary debts ought to be enforced in an ordinary manner, and the contention applies both to the first and the second part of clause.


The noble Lord says, in effect, that we ought not to have a jury in a political case. Surely if he had read English history he would have known that political cases were those in which a jury has always been held to be more necessary.


I deny that they are political cases.


I take issue entirely with the noble Lord on that point. The Attorney General has said it is the duty of the Judge to protect his own Court. Of course it is in common with every Judge in the land, and the Judge ought to have that power. What we say is that the power should also be exercised consistently with the protection of every person coming before the Court; whereas this Bill refuses that protection, because it prevents persons coming before the Court from having the right of trial by jury. I support this proposal for more reasons than one. It so happens that as I believe there is only one County Court Judge in Wales who understands the Welsh language, but everywhere the juries are familiar with the vernacular, and I may add that the Welsh juries are quite as impartial as the English juries. Again, although in civil cases a jury may be insisted upon when the stake is a small one, yet whenever a man's liberty is at stake he is to be denied to have the opportunity of being tried by a jury. Can anything be more absurd than to permit a jury in cases of more than £5, while it is refused in cases where a man's liberty is at stake, and where the result may be dependent on the view a Judge may take of the conduct of a man in waving a stick or even in shouting under circumstances of excitement? The County Court tribunal has hitherto been a very popular tribunal in Wales, and I, for one, strongly object to its being discredited by the slightest suspicion of partiality. I trust that, under all the circumstances, the Government will be able to see their way to the acceptance of this Motion.


I think the Attorney General, who I am sorry is not here, is under a misapprehension, in thinking that we on this side are not as much as any other portion of the House in favour of a proper administration of the law. Even in the case of this peculiar tithe process and distasteful exercise of the rights of property, I claim for the Welsh people that they are most anxious to avoid any forcible disobedience to the law. We have more or less discussed in Committee the 48th section of the County Courts Act of 1888. That section provides that the execution process shall be put in the hands of the bailiff of the Court, and that penal and criminal consequences shall ensue where the officer is assaulted or resisted in the execution of his duty. The new clause proposed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd-George) attempts to put those persons who, if they have done anything criminal, we admit ought to be punished, in a position which is fair and equitable and common to everyone now charged with such offences, according to the principles of our Constitution and the administration of the law by the Criminal Courts. We say that the man who alleges that an offence has been committed should not be both judge and jury in his own case. As this Bill now stands, a bailiff may imagine that certain manifestations amount to resistance, and may there and then without any warrant arrest any number of persons and take them before the County Court Judge. Beyond this, he may call on the bystanders at their peril to assist him in these arrests, and, as far as I can make out, the arrested persons may be put in prison and kept there until they can be taken before the Judge, who will then have to decide whether the law has been broken, and what are the penal consequences that should ensue. We say that this is an inequitable mode of administering the law. [Cries of "Divide!"] Hon. Members who cry "Divide!" are mistaken if they think we are going to allow these clauses, which we have brought up after deliberate consideration, to be stifled without full and fair discussion. We say that persons placed in the position I have indicated ought to have the opportunity of submitting their case to a jury. I do not wish to go into the political aspect of this question, although the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne), who has just spoken, never interposes in our Debates without introducing the political element. What we want are justice and fairness. We say that in justice to the man, and in fairness to the County Court Judge himself, the arrested persons should have the option of trial by jury. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. G. Osborne Morgan) in thinking that there is not a County Court Judge in Wales who would not gladly welcome this proposal. I, therefore, earnestly entreat Her Majesty's Government to accept this clause. The only alternative presented is that of taking arrested persons before the Magistrates. I will not say one word against the unpaid Magistrates of Wales. We try to do our duty with justice and impartiality, and under the existing law persons charged before the Magistrates with serious offences are entitled to demand that they should be sent before a jury. Where a man's liberty and character are at stake, it does not matter how trivial the case may be, he is entitled to have his case tried by a jury. All these questions should be tried, if necessary, by a jury, and a man should have the right of claiming, if he likes, to go before a jury. I ask the Government not to cause a new source of irritation, as they undoubtedly will throughout the length and breadth of Wales if they refuse this proposition. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman seriously whether it is sensible, on aquestion of this sort, to stand out and create a new source of irritation and injustice throughout the length and breadth of Wales by refusing to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend?

(7.47.) MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)

I wish to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to a mistake made by the learned Attorney General, in an observation which he made with regard to Section 162 of the County Court Acts of 1888. My hon. Friend's Amendment does not in any way affect the jurisdiction of the County Court Judge under Section 162, and therefore insults to the Judge, jury, witnesses, the Registrar, or bailiff, would not be in any way affected. It goes to cure the effects of Section 48, which says for any interference with the bailiff, or assault or attempted rescue, the Judge may impose a fine, or send the case to a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. It was admitted by a right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House that this is a Welsh Bill, and it is thought that the effect of the Bill will be to cause the agitation to disappear. Hon. Members who hold that view do not remember that the strongest of the opponents of this measure are the small yeomen farmers, who will have the same opportunity of protesting under this Act as they had under the old form of proceeding, and the fact will remain that it will be a matter of political feeling if they do not pay their tithes. As this political feeling would exist, it would be more just that their causes should be heard by a jury rather than that they should be decided by the County Court Judge. The acceptance of this Amendment would satisfy the Welsh people; and if the Bill is specially directed towards keeping them in order, then the least thing the right hon. Gentleman can do is to accept this proposal.

(7.53.) MR. W. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)

I cannot allow this discussion to close without making an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to accede to the representations that have been made to him from so many quarters of the House as embodying the wishes of the Principality. Though political feeling may unconsciously warp the views of the right hon. Gentleman, I feel sure it is his desire to meet the views and wishes of the people of Wales in as favourable a manner as possible. I really cannot understand the objection which induces him, against his better self, to oppose the wishes of the Welsh people. If the Bill is directed against disturbances in the Principality, it is of the utmost importance that nothing should undermine the belief of the Welsh people in the fairness of the new tribunal. Therefore, it is desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should make some concession, if he wishes to see the success of the measure which he has brought in. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen contended at one time that this was a non-political measure, and at other times that it was political. If it is not political, then surely none of those oppressive consequences which it is thought would result from the insertion of the clause could ensue. If it is a political question, then the noble Lord, and those who support him, are running counter to the whole current of political history. In discussing this question in Committee, I gave the illustration, which I repeat now, of Fox's Libel Act, in answer to the argument of the noble Lord that political matters ought to be withdrawn from the jury, and showed that the Libel Act pointed in the very opposite direction. We have not found any ill consequences result from the Libel Act, which was mainly due to the industry and public spirit of Mr. Fox. I do think it is a most dangerous thing that any one individual, however excellent a person he may be, should have the opportunity of unconsciously, no doubt, being biased towards creating a constructive offence, and then imposing a fine for the offence he himself has created. This Amendment avoids the great danger of the County Court Judge creating an offence and then punishing for it. I say it is important to satisfy the Welsh people that justice is intended to be done. The second part of the proposition seems to me exceedingly reasonable. Is it too much to ask that there should be right of appeal to the Court of Quarter Sessions—a Court much lauded by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and one which, therefore, they should accept as appropriate? Though some of the arguments used on behalf of the people of Wales may be considered sentimental, yet I do not think they should be less regarded on that account, for the sentiment is such as should be considered at the hands of the Legislature. There is no desire on the part of responsible citizens in the Principality to commit unlawful acts, but they do object to the possibility of equivocal or lawful acts being construed into unlawful acts. That is a danger against which we desire to guard; it is not an imaginary danger. I earnestly appeal on behalf of the people of Wales, and especially of the constituency which I represent, and which is affected more than any other by this question, to the Government to re-consider their decision, and to adopt a course which will further their efforts in ensuring that peace and quietness which they profess to desire.


The great danger of this Bill should be that the persons most affected by it—the small owners—will feel that they are liable to be County Courted. County Courting may be a very light or a very severe matter, but if yon allow it to be severe you will make the Bill odious to the people. At present it is impossible for criminal proceedings to be taken with respect to tithe, and without trial by jury. But you are going to alter that by transferring the jurisdiction to the County Court, and consequently the people who will be subject to the Bill will be put in a far more unfavourable position in respect of criminal proceedings than they occupy under the present law. We have been contending against that throughout these Debates. We have said let Parliament shift the burden as it likes from the occupier to the owner, but let it not make the burden heavier than it is at present. It is quite plain that any criminal proceedings which may arise and have arisen—we all regret the circumstance—by reason of tithe riots in Wales are brought under the ordinary Criminal Law. But by this Bill you are bringing the matter under County Court jurisdiction, and allowing the cases to be summarily disposed of without right of appeal. Under the 48th section of the County Court Act the bailiff will be able to take any offender into custody with or without warrant and bring him before the Judge. But suppose the County Court Judge is not to sit for a fortnight or a month, what is to be done in the interval with a person who has been arrested, with or without warrant, as he may be for the more serious offences? Where was he going to be kept? Is he to be imprisoned until he can be brought before the County Court without any provision for bail? You are placing the whole class of yeoman farmers in Wales under this serious liability. You are putting them under a harrow which they have never been under before; you are placing them in a disadvantageous position which they have never before occupied, and which they have done nothing to deserve. By all means, if persons act contrary to law, let them be proceeded against and punished in the ordinary course of law; but Parliament ought not to render such persons by exceptional legislation defenceless in comparison with the position they formerly occupied. I do hope that this Amendment will be accepted. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has so far met us in a very fair and reasonable spirit. I agree with him as to the general principle of the Bill, that it is only intended to make a new arrangement relative to the incidence and collection of the tithe, and that it is not desired to make the position of the tithe owners less favourable than before; but I repeat that unless you accept this Amendment you will impose fresh liabilities and commit a great injustice. (8.7.)

(8.37.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)

I do not propose to travel over any of the ground which has been occupied by my hon. Friends in stating the objections they entertain to the Bill as it stands, or in advocating the Amendment now under consideration. I rise for the purpose of taking up narrower ground, that of the personal experience of an ordinary Member of Parliament.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


I believe that the object of the Government and of the Members from Wales coincides in one important particular, and that is that the Principality should not be any longer under the risk of becoming the scene of disorder or violence in regard to the collection of tithe. The tithe movement in Wales has been very much misunderstood. It is thought by some people to be a selfish movement, an attack upon tithe as tithe. It is nothing of the kind; it is simply a movement against the application of tithe, and the movement is undoubtedly one of strong religious conviction. It could not, in the view of those who forward it to the utmost of their power, be otherwise than seriously aimed if it were accompanied with anything like lawlessness and disorder. It is from that point of view that I entertain grave anxiety as to the portion of the measure now before the House, unless it is amended as suggested by my hon. Friend. I am afraid that the new power given to the County Court Judges to summarily imprison will afford a temptation to some persons to make cases for the exercise of such power. It would be rash to say this unless one had some experience to back his view or fear. It will be within the remembrance of the Attorney General that at a very early stage of these troubles in Wales, certain disorder did occur, that it was necessary to investigate the extent and character of that disorder, and take responsible opinion as to the mode in which it might be dealt with. I am sure my hon. and learned Friend will agree with me that, as a result of such investigation, it was discovered that there had been a somewhat too serious view entertained by tithe owners in the locality as to the extent and character of the disorder, and that, on the whole, the disorder was not of an aggravated kind. If disorder did occur at all it was, I fear, partly due to the action of those who were interested in converting legal protests against the tithe, as now applied in Wales, into illegal, and therefore punishable, methods of conduct. I believe this Bill will increase the inducement to persons who are interested in putting down display of any kind, however legitimate, of objection to the application of tithe in Wales, to press their remedy; not directly, by costly appeal to the County Court, but indirectly, by challenging, and secretly fomenting disturbances when the County Court bailiff levies distress. They will, I fear, be only too ready to secure the imprisonment of refractory tithepayers. Inasmuch as Welsh tithes are, as a rule, broken up into extremely minute sums, it will constantly happen that the remedy in the County Court will be worse than the disease itself. Under the circumstances, interested persons will have a stronger inducement than ever to look for, to hope for, to pray for, disorder in connection with the manifestation of public opinion, in order that they may go the shorter way of breaking down the manifestation, namely, that of inflicting, through the County Court, imprisonment upon any of the persons who engage in the expression of public opinion, and who may, by a little recklessness, expose themselves to what the law calls a constructive assault. The County Court Judge may feel that he has had thrust upon him the necessity of guarding the dignity of his Court by resorting to imprisoning. Once a case of imprisonment occurs it will be difficult for Members from Wales, whatever influence they may hitherto have been able to exercise in favour of peace and order, to answer for the maintenance of peace. I think that some of those who are interested in the promotion of this Bill are not fully aware of the efforts made by Wales in the interest of the agitation against the application of tithe—not in the interest of the tithe owner or the tithepayer—to prevent the agitation being marked by any unseemly proceedings. Whenever there has been anything like the faintest ground for charging upon the Welsh, in connection with the collection of tithe, a want of perfect peaceableness and order, a full and loud expression of opinion has been elicited on the subject here and elsewhere. Last Session I asked a question of the First Lord of the Treasury, in answer to which he made the frankest and fullest admission that in the county which I have the honour to represent, and where perhaps there has been as full, as free, as steady and important exhibition of the public objection to the application of tithe as in any county in Wales, there has never been the smallest case of disorder for the last two and a half years. If this measure passes unamended, what will be the case? At present, thanks to the tact, the good sense, and the good temper of the Chief Constable for Montgomeryshire, all these proceedings have passed off perfectly harmlessly and peaceably. I trust that the Government will re-consider the question of giving the County Court Judge power to imprison, and will remove the danger of creating a worse state of feeling and things in Wales than has existed hitherto. I feel the force of the reply the Attorney General has made, but it must be remembered that this is a special Bill, intended to apply to a special set of circumstances. It is in the nature of a political Bill. We are thankful the Government have transferred the incidence of tithe from the occupying tenant to the owner, but it cannot be denied that another portion of the Bill is distinctly political in its origin. On political grounds I think it would be well to relieve the County Court Judges from a most invidious position, and to take away from the owners of tithe in Wales the temptation to have recourse to an indirect and most pernicious mode of punishing refractory tithe payers.

(8.55.) SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN (Swansea, District)

I do not rise with any hope of convincing Conservative Members, because it is rather a singular fact that there are only four Conservative Members in the House at this moment. At the same time, I feel constrained to appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to accept the most just and righteous clause of the hon. Member for Carnarvon. It has been said that County Court Judges in Wales visit their different circuits at least once in each month. I am informed that such is not the case, and that in many of the rural districts of Wales County Court Judges absent themselves for two and even four months. Under such circumstances, what may be the position of a man arrested under the operation of this Act? He may possibly be detained in prison without trial for two months, or even longer. Surely that is not a right or proper state of things. Then, I ask, how will this Act present itself to the inhabitants of Wales? If the clause under consideration is adopted the Welsh will know that they will be tried by a jury of their own countrymen, by an impartial jury, because I am quite confident that Welshmen on their oaths will try a case impartially. If the clause is not agreed to the people will say Parliament—in fact, Her Majesty's Government—have refused them trial by jury, and they will have no confidence that justice will be done them. I do not wish to cast the slightest slur upon the County Court Judges. I believe that, as a rule, they are men who act strictly in accordance with justice. At the same time, a County Court Judge is only a unit, and I cannot suppose that those who are tried will have the same confidence in his decision as in that of a jury of their countrymen. I believe it is the fact that in these cases tried under this Act for sums beyond £5 there is a right of appeal absolutely; but I have never heard it explained why it is right to admit the claim of suitors to trial by jury in cases above £5 and to deny it below that sum. It appears to me rather like a law passed for the rich and not for the poor. The average of cases that in Wales will arise under this Act will be something like £3, and so the greater number of cases will be excluded from trial by jury. If the House desired to have this Act freely accepted by the Welsh people, then this class of cases must not be refused trial by jury. This would in no way weaken the Court; surely it would strengthen it. Surely the presence of a jury makes a stronger Court than when there is only the decision of one man. I really fail to see how the argument of the Attorney General applies. The hon. and learned Gentleman appears to argue that the clause would weaken the Court and withdraw protection from the officer of the Court; but, really, I cannot see how that could possibly be. The effect of the other proposition in the clause is that if a defendant is convicted by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction he shall have the right of appeal to a Court of Quarter Sessions. Is that an unreasonable thing? Surely it is not a thing that hon. Gentlemen can reasonably deny. Is it wise or expedient to deny this right? Into cases of this kind it is admitted politics do to some extent enter, not perhaps Party politics, as usually understood, but politics as between Churchmen and Nonconformists. That being so, then as a means of giving confidence and of strengthening the Court give the right of appeal. How will the Bill appear when it conies to be applied in Wales? It will appear that the House deliberately, and after full discussion, denied the right to the Welsh people of trial by jury, and the right of appeal to the decision of a Bench of Magistrates. If the Government desire to carry the people with them in this legislation, they must see how unwise it is to oppose this most proper and just clause.

(9.5.) MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)

I am still not without some hope that the little Welsh Party will be able to convince right hon. Gentlemen opposite of the justice of our plea in this instance. This Bill has over and over again been admitted to be a Welsh Bill, and it is now close upon being carried through, carried in this House supposed to represent the people, but still carried against the expressed opinions, wishes, and desires of five-sixths of the Welsh Representatives. That in itself places the Bill in an unfavourable aspect before the Welsh people. That being so, and the Welsh Members having failed in their attempt to get Wales exempted from the operations of the Bill, it becomes our duty to do all we can to provide for its smooth working in the Principality. Conscientiously and sincerely, it is our opinion that unless right hon Gentlemen on the other side will consent to the use of this trial by jury the smooth working of the Bill will be impossible. There is no desire to evade the law when the Bill becomes law; our desire is to place the Welsh people on an equality with all other people. As it is, the Bill presents an unfavourable aspect. The Welsh people regard it, rightly or wrongly—rightly in our opinion—as a Bill to support a legal right, but to perpetuate a moral wrong. It is the duty of the House, then, to do all that can be done to ensure the Bill being received peaceably, at least, if not favourably, by the Welsh people. The changes in procedure give jurisdiction to County Court Judges, in whom the Welsh people have not confidence, and an indignity, an insult, will be added to injury. Again, there is the great difficulty of language arising, and the House must pardon me if I am considered to be bringing this subject forward too often. Its importance to the Welsh people can scarcely be over-estimated. If I could bring home to the minds of right hon. Gentlemen the real and substantial difficulties that arise in Courts in this connection, I am sure the Government would endeavour to meet them. In my capacity as Miner's Agent it has been my duty to attend Courts and inquests, and well I know the difficulties that arise from the Welsh people knowing their own language only, and the Court knowing the English language only, and the incompetence of interpreters produces the greatest absurdities. In one case I remember a Welsh witness, being told to give evidence in English, replied, "I cannot speak the truth in English"—his meaning being that he had not at command language to convey the exact facts to the Court. I earnestly appeal to the Government to re-consider their decision, and by accepting this clause to remove some spikes and thorns from the Bill.


Our great objection is that innocent persons may be wrongly convicted of assaults of which they are not guilty. The circumstances may arise in the confusion of a large crowd, and all we desire is that the facts may be ascertained by a tribunal most competent to elicit them. In all criminal charges a jury is most competent for the purpose. It is most necessary for, say, the Judge to be able to maintain the dignity of his Court, and we grant that, but these proceedings we have in view are in respect to the operation of the Act, not to proceedings of the Court. A disturbance arises, and the question is, who is the guilty party? Now, there seems to be a feeling that if there has been an assault, it is, first of all, necessary in the public interest that somebody should be punished. If you can get hold of the right man, well and good, but if you cannot secure the right man then punish the wrong man rather than that there shall be no punishment inflicted at all. We are apprehensive that a Judge, feeling perhaps to an unnecessary extent that the dignity of his Court is in peril, may, in a conflict of testimony give the benefit of the doubt rather to the dignity of his Court than to the person accused. That we consider will not conduce to the dignity of the Court, and we are desirous that every safeguard should be adopted against such a proceeding. The only argument suggested against a jury is that in some—not in all—cases, some amount of political feeling may arise. But granted that may be the case, our course should be to provide the best tribunal under the circumstances. I am quite aware that where strong feeling exists, you cannot get a perfect tribunal, for any tribunal will be more or less affected by political prejudices; but is the jury more or less likely to be affected by this prejudice than the Judge? Less likely I think, for prejudices will be balanced. A jury will invariably include representatives of both Political Parties, Liberals and Conservatives, Nonconformists and Churchmen. These opinions meet in discussion of the evidence, and surely it is more probable that a verdict will be given free from political bias than a decision on the irresponsible judgment of one individual who may be as much influenced by prejudice as any man on a jury. It is a mistake to suppose that prejudice is less strong with the educated; that is often shown not to be the case. There will be the additional prejudice on the part of the Judge in favour of his own bailiff, a feeling that he ought to stand by his bailiff, and a disposition to believe all his bailiff may say. These are tendencies that may lead to great injustice, and I think it is perfectly excusable in us on on this important matter to insist on the clause. It is, I think, the most important Amendment we have proposed of this character. Other Amendments were of pecuniary importance, questions of costs important no doubt to poor persons; but this is far more grave, involving as it does criminal proceedings and punishment by imprisonment. Then upon the latter part of the clause the power of appeal from the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, I would insist most strongly. I maintain that the Legislature cannot err in granting the right of appeal too liberally. I do not think it is always desirable to appeal from a decision; but my experience is, that when the right of appeal does exist there is a greater amount of caution exercised by the tribunal of First Instance; greater patience, more consideration to the arguments on either side. Go to any Court and contrast the summary manner in which Judges decide questions of costs as to which there is no appeal with the manner in which they deliberate upon questions of law; they decide questions of costs without vouchsafing an ear to either side. I do not wish it to be imputed to me that I say that our Judges are guilty of any misconduct in their proceedings. I simply say they share in the ordinary weaknesses of human nature, and the best men will be actuated by considerations of the same character under like circumstances. The whole object of law is to restrain the caprice of Judges. If we were certain that we could have men who would always decide in cases brought before them with absolutely sound judgment, then laws would be unnecessary, and we might trust the Judges to act from a sense of justice. I have known cases in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction arising out of the Tithe Act in North Wales, as to which, if an appeal had been granted, the decision would have been wholly different. I remember a case in which a respectable farmer, not a Nonconformist but a Churchman—I believe a Conservative, but certainly a Churchman—was distrained upon. A great crowd collected, and the farmer hearing a scream, and thinking that his little son was being crushed, pressed forward very forcibly to assist his boy out of the crowd. In doing this he pushed a policeman aside, with no intention of assault but simply in his eagerness to get to his boy. This the policeman construed into an assault, and technically it was so, and the man was convicted, and this, I believe, owing to the feeling that in the state of excitement and irritation then existing it was necessary to make an example. I am quite sure that if on appeal, and away from the passion and ill-feeling of the time, this decision had been re-considered, the conviction would have been quashed.

(9.25.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

I confess I am one of those led to believe that the safety of trial by jury is a great constitutional doctrine, and more especially where there is danger of political bias being imported into legal proceedings. But here we are constructing a new method of procedure, instituting a new mode of collecting tithe, a matter upon which much feeling has been excited, and yet in regard to offences that may arise the Attorney General declines to accept the principle of trial by jury. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. G. Osborne Morgan) that under Clause 48 of the County Court Act of 1862, a County Court bailiff has power, with or without warrant, to take possession of a man and lock him up for a month before bringing him before Magistrate or Judge.




Well, I speak as a layman, and I am speaking on the opinion of my right hon. Friend, who showed me the clause under which a bailiff of the County Court has power to arrest a man whom he thinks has committed an assault, and can actually keep him in custody for four weeks before bringing him before a Court of Law. If that is so, then I think it is monstrous to refuse to allow a jury in these cases under the Bill or to refuse an appeal to Quarter Sessions. The Justices, we know, are usually landed proprietors, and in Wales keen politicians. We are told that the Government are promoting this measure with the object of settling disturbances in Wales in connection with this vexed question of tithes, and I do not understand why the Government should refuse a proposal which will facilitate the object they have in view. I can see no cause at all why this should be refused not only in Wales, but all over England. This will be a crying defect in the law, and will make the Act most unpopular and unworkable. I think it is worth the while of Her Majesty's Government to re-consider their decision.

(9.31.) MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)

I should not have risen had it not been that the Welsh people throughout the Principality feel very keenly on this matter. I support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. At present the County Court has only a civil jurisdiction, except in cases of judgment summons, when it has penal powers. We have been careful in this Bill to do away with these penal powers, and I hope the House will go farther and will refuse to confer on the County Court an additional jurisdiction—a criminal jurisdiction of a very severe character. If the Government decline to accept the clause, practically they will be conferring upon the County Court a criminal jurisdiction. In Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, and other counties where this agitation prevails, the County Court Judges hold their Court only about every two months. Is a man to be arrested, and is he to wait two months for his trial until the County Court Judge shall come round? I hope the Government will see their way to accepting the Amendment.

(9.34.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

I am bound to say I differ more or less from the hon. Member for Glamorganshire in making an appeal to the Government to accept this Amendment. It seems to me it is not a matter of appeal, and that he is not bound to support his Amendment by argument, but that the onus is on the other side to show why people are first to be brought within the grasp of the criminal law, and then to be deprived of trial by jury. I submit to the House that the ordinary theory of the criminal law in this country wisely and properly provides that every one accused of a criminal offence shall have a right to be tried by a jury, with certain exceptions in the case of petty criminals, such as pickpockets. That law exists for the burglars and wife beaters in your great cities. Will it be said that the persons who may bring themselves within the scope of this Bill are petty criminals? I would ask the House to consider how any Welshman will bring himself within the grasp of the criminal law under this Bill. Why will he do it? Not because he desires to evade a just debt, or because he thinks that tithes are in themselves an unjust and oppressive impost, but because he objects simply and solely, because he feels he is made by the State to support ministers and a Church, that, however admirable, are not his ministers and his Church. He sees on the one hand the ministers of the Established Church living on his money, and, on the other hand, he sees his own poor ministers very badly off, perhaps declaring the Word of God to him in some wretched hovel and supported by the money of the miner and agriculturist of the district. Therefore, the Welshman does not in any sense come within the ordinary category of criminals, and is a person who, of all others, ought to have the protection of a jury of his own fellow-countrymen. Under this Bill a new jurisdiction has been given to the County Court Judge. The object of the Bill is to put the arm of the civil and criminal law more strongly and decidedly behind the class of people who are engaged in what is really a religious conflict for the great body of the Welsh people. Before this Bill was introduced what was the position? The tithe owner who sought to recover the tithe was compelled to employ his private bailiff, and if there was resistance and an action ensued, the tithepayer had the protection of trial by jury. Now, however, you are not only taking away that right, but by lending the Criminal Court to the tithe owner the man who resists will be clapped into gaol summarily, without, practically, any form of law at all. That is a change in the law which should require the strongest arguments to support it. Where the debt is over £5 a man will have the protection of a jury, so that where the amount is only £4 19s. 11d. a man is to be in an infinitely worse position than one who has to pay £5 0s. 1d.


That has nothing whatever to do with this Amendment.


I am dealing with the argument on which the trial by jury has been refused. The Government say they will give trial by jury where £5 is at stake, but not in cases where imprisonment can be inflicted. I make the right hon. Gentleman a present of that argument. I trust the House will not permit this important change to be made in the law without hearing first from the right hon. Gentleman the declaration that he considers that the Welsh people who, on the ground of religious belief, refuse to pay this tithe ought to be treated with as much justice as the ordinary burglar.


I do not quite understand the object of the last speech. The hon. Member evidently has not studied the particular proposal involved in this clause, and during the whole of his argument showed that he was thinking to some extent of an entirely different matter. Parliament has laid down a certain method of procedure for the punishment of offences against the County Court and its officers of a criminal nature in the recovery of debts. As lately as 1888, by the County Courts Act, it affirmed and sanctioned that method of procedure, and no one, as far as I am aware, has complained that any hardship has occurred or any one has been unfairly punished for assaults on bailiffs, or interfering with or insulting them. Nothing has been said in the course of the Debate by hon. Members to show that they desire any trial by jury or any appeal in the ordinary cases of debt dealt with by the County Court. Their own Amendment shows that the jury that is asked for and the appeal desired are confined to proceedings of a criminal character arising out of claims for tithe rent-charge.

MR. T. M. HEALT (Longford, N.)

Any other Amendment would be out of order.


Then why should we make a difference in this case? Why should we take from the power of the County Court Judge to protect his own officers and himself? The reason why we propose to give the officer of the County Court greater protection than is given to the bailiff under the present law is because now the bailiff is merely an agent of the tithe owner, but under the Bill he is an officer of the County Court, and is carrying out a decree of a Court of Law, made after hearing both sides. Therefore I submit to this House, as I submitted the other day to the Committee, that the bailiff is entitled to protection in carrying out the decree of the Court in cases of tithe rent-charge as in other cases. We do not propose to give him one whit more. There is no difference made between a Welshman who refuses to pay and a Cornishman. It is intended by the Government that this Bill shall make the law in this respect absolutely identical throughout England and Wales. I hope that I have shown myself willing to meet any reasonable wishes or arguments or proposals which have been put forward by hon. Members opposite, but I cannot consent to place the persons who attack, insult, or obstruct the Court bailiffs in Wales who are engaged in the recovery of tithe rent-charge in a better position than would be occupied by persons who do the same things when any other debt is sought to be recovered. On these grounds, therefore, I must ask the House to reject this clause.

(9.48.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has treated this question in such a technical manner. None of us have occasion to doubt that in the discharge of their ordinary duties the County Court Judges act with absolute impartiality, and are above suspicion, but does the right hon. Gentleman for a moment imagine that the difficulties that will arise under this Bill will partake of the character of an ordinary debt? Unfortunately he has the sentiment of a whole nation against the scheme of the Government. The object of the Government is by this process to make the exaction of tithe a little less difficult and a little less odious to the Welsh people. I believe the whole scheme of the Government will be a failure. I believe the Welsh people are infinitely too well instructed upon the change that is proposed by this measure to in any degree make their objection to the exaction any less than it has been in the past. But, on the other hand, what is the position of the County Court Judges? The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that in Wales, as throughout Great Britain, nine out of every ten of these officials are Conservatives, and they cannot altogether divest themselves of political and religious bias in the discharge of their judicial duties. If the purpose of the Bill is to make the Established Church in Wales more acceptable to the Welsh people, is the right hon. Gentleman taking the right course; is he likely to appease ecclesiastical feeling and prejudice in Wales by refusing trial by jury to a man who in a moment of irritation and from strong religious convic- tion may have thrown some difficulty in the way of the County Court bailiff? The right hon. Gentleman would be screening the Welsh County Court Judge from a very odious duty by casting upon a jury the obligation of deciding the guilt or innocence of a man charged with interfering with the County Court officer. I have a strong belief in the value of trial by jury. If there is any feeling on one side it is sure to be counteracted by feeling on the other, and you never will be able to satisfy the strong convictions of the people as to these exactions by the jurisdiction of a single individual. Nothing precipitated the final abolition of the Church rates so effectually as the sending to prison of one or two men who conscientiously objected to the legal exaction. For the same reason I would advise the right hon. Gentleman in the interest of the Established Church in Wales to show some consideration to people who in a moment of irritation may go further than they are entitled to go by allowing them trial by jury. If this demand is refused I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will find that he has not been well advised in his refusal.

(9.53.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I was somewhat surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman confine himself strictly to one single branch of the question. As a matter of fact, the Bill contains four means of punishment of those who obstruct the County Court officials. First, a man may be fined, and from that there is no appeal; secondly, he may be imprisoned, and from that there is an appeal; thirdly, he may be bound over to keep the peace, and from that there is no appeal; and, fourthly, he may be sent to prison for contempt of Court, and from that there is no appeal. So that now you are putting into the hands of the Welsh parsons or the Welsh tithe owners a scourge with four thongs to it, and except in one case out of the four the Welsh people will have no appeal from the punishment inflicted on them by Tory magistrates and Conservative County Court Judges. Is it, then, fair of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—whose courtesy we are all anxious to acknowledge—to single out the exceptional case of the County Court bailiff, and to say—"In this case we are only doing what we do in all other similar cases under County Court procedure?" I would remind the Welsh Members of this—that in this particular form of procedure the Welsh parsons are taking a leaf out of the book of the Irish landlords. The Government say they are only allowing the County Court to collect tithe in place of requiring the tithe owner to collect it himself. They are doing that, no doubt, and that is exactly what the Irish landlords do when they put their estates in chancery. It is a common dodge of theirs, for trespass or making a wry face at an agent becomes not an offence against the landlord but a contempt of Court, and is visited with the severest pains and penalties. And imprisonment for contempt, remember, is bounded by no limit of time, although the House of Lords in 1883 made an abortive attempt to limit such imprisonment to three months. The Welsh people are smarting under exactly the same grievance that the people of Ireland used to smart under, and are addressing the same unavailing appeals to the great Anglo-Saxon race; and what makes their religious grievance all the stronger is, forsooth, the declaration of the Government that they are not legislating for Wales. If it had not been for the struggle in Wales this Bill would never have been introduced. Is it Yorkshire or Cornwall or Northumberland that has made this Bill a necessity? No, it is Wales. And now I come to consider the other three branches of the question. Under this Bill there will be the power of imprisonment in default of bail. Take the case of a Welsh Nonconformist minister—"some village Hampden" who is breasting the "tyrant of his fields," and conducting a Methodist chapel, in the endeavour to keep the people solid about him—a Welsh-speaking minister who, complaining of what he believes to be an injustice to his religion, says, "I will not bow the knee to Baal; I will refuse to pay tithe to a foreign and an alien Church. Having refused to pay tithe, and my people having refused, I will attend the auction, or sheriff's sale, or tithe execution," or whatever is the Welsh phrase for such a process. Well, he attends that sale, and, in the opinion of the County Court Judge, he is taking part in an unlawful assembly, because every duty which a few men endeavour to discharge against the technicalities of the law is liable to be construed into taking part in an illegal assembly. If in Ireland a man sympathises with the oppressed peasantry, he takes part in an illegal assembly. If in Wales he sympathises with the people in their quarrel with an alien Church, teaching a religion they do not profess, he takes part in an illegal assembly. So the Welsh Nonconformist minister is brought before the Magistrates. We have seen specimens of these Magistrates in this House. There was one who represented Carnarvonshire, but, as he has gone, I will not refer to him personally. The measure he proposed was that the Irish people should be flogged by the order of a Removable Magistrate. "Oh, but," he said, "I only mean the moonlighters." That, I suppose, will be the sort of Magistrate by whom this law would have to be administered. Probably when the Welsh minister was brought up for the crime of sympathising with his flock, the Magistrate might say, "I do not wish to inflict punishment on you, because you are a respectable gentleman. I will, therefore, only bind you over to be of good behaviour and to keep the peace." From this there will be no appeal, and the result will probably be that the Welsh minister will go to gaol for his sympathy with his own people. Thus, for the first time, you will have a Welsh minister in prison; but when you had the Rev. Bell-Cox and other Anglican priests in prison you were not so very happy. In your processes against the Rev. Mr. Mackonochie and other priests who adopted Puseyite practices, the English people were not particularly happy in imposing the penalties required by Act of Parliament. But these men, at any rate, affected to belong to the Church of England. They broke its rubrics, however, and you were bound to punish them. The same thing would happen in Wales. The Nonconformist ministers would be imprisoned, and would have no right of appeal. I ask, is that a tolerable state of things? I should have thought it was only suited to the backwoods of Connemara. I should have thought it was only where an Irish priest was to have been imprisoned that you would have refused the right of appeal. But it would seem that the law is to be worse in England and Wales than it is in Ireland, because in Ireland whenever a fine of over 40s. is inflicted we have an appeal, outside the Coercion Act. Will this be so in Wales? It will not. As I have already shown, the rope by which the Welsh people are to be bound is composed of four strands, and only in one case out of four is there any chance of temporarily cutting that rope by means of an appeal. Where imprisonment is to be inflicted the right of appeal is in a worse condition than in Ireland, where we only have an appeal in cases of more than a month's imprisonment. No Englishman can suffer a day's or even an hour's imprisonment without the right of appeal. The case of the Welsh people is most unhappy. They are spread over a number of counties into which, to a large extent, publicity does not penetrate. They are almost even more isolated from the centre of what is called civilization than the people of Connaught or Donegal. They speak a language which you do not understand, and you will have your new law administered, not under circumstances where what goes on is shouted from the house-tops, where everybody may hear, but in little corners of the Welsh mountains, where the inhabitants are shut out from the press and from all acquaintance with the external world. Is this a desirable state of things? Who are to be the judges of these people? Will they be Nonconformists or Wesleyans like the mass of the community. No; almost to a man they belong to the Established Church. ["No, no."] Well, I speak of the mass of these Magistrates. There may be such a thing as a white blackbird here and there; but if you take the entire Bench of Welsh Magistrates it will be found that they are a Bench altogether out of sympathy with the Welsh people. On all these grounds I say the Welsh Members are entitled to the hearty sympathy of this House. They have shown a patience far greater than their fellow-Representatives from Ireland. They have granted the right hon. Gentleman the most extraordinary facilities for proceeding with this measure, as was shown on Tuesday night. I agree that it was a return for the courtesy which the right hon. Gentleman had extended to them, and that therefore he deserved it, and consequently, although a single voice would have barred the stage that was allowed to be taken, I would not, under the circumstances, have raised my voice for that purpose. But the right hon. Gentleman should remember that in this business we who address remonstrances from Ireland are absolutely desperate. He may say that this is no affair of ours, and if I were to say it was I should be jeered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Still, I do beg of him to extend to these poor Welsh districts some chance of ensuring justice. What is it that is asked? It is not a great deal. It simply amounts to an appeal from a Tory Magistrate to a Tory County Court Judge. I do not say an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, but an appeal from Philip unlearned to Philip with a wig on. Is this an unreasonable demand to make on behalf of the Welsh Principality? I say it is eminently reasonable. Why do you refuse to give the appeal which is asked for, merely to bolster up in Wales an alien Church? If this were a case of imposing the law which we hear so much about in Ireland, if it were a case of enforcing the law to the common every day circumstances of life, it it dealt with railways, trade, or commerce, or any of the ordinary matters of out-door business, this Bill would either never have been brought in, or if it had been the feeling which it has excited would never have been in existence. Why is so much feeling excited by this measure? Why are the English Members struggling over this Bill, as they would not struggle in the case of a Recovery of Debt Bill? Is it because they are influenced by one of the deepest sentiments of human nature, and endeavouring to maintain one of the dearest objects of our lives? We all know that in Wales those questions which arouse religious discontent are those on which the keenest and bitterest feelings are entertained. I say that the Government are making a profound mistake, and the next year or the year after they will probably recognise this. The English people view with calmness the imprisonment of one or of a score of the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland; but they will not view with calmness the imprisonment of a score of Nonconformist ministers, especially if that imprisonment is inflicted because they have resisted the payment of tithe to an alien ministry. In my opinion, you are inflicting one of the greatest blows that could be aimed at the Church Establishment in Wales by refusing the Welsh people even a buffer between their landlord Magistrates and those who may be acting in opposition to the law. We must all deprecate the exciting scenes that are constantly taking place at these tithe executions. We know that the law will ultimately get the better of the poor people who resist it, although the law may be a bad one; but we also know that the masses of the people will most assuredly in the ultimate result get the better of a bad law. When you consider the badness of the law, when you find that scores and scores of the Welsh people will be sent to gaol for that which under present circumstances would not involve imprisonment, it is useless for the Government to say they are only availing themselves of the existing procedure. You might as well say it would be profitable gardening to graft cherries on to cabbage plants. You are availing yourselves of the existing procedure for purposes for which the existing procedure was never intended. This was the grievance of the Irish people when the Coercion Act was passed. A good old common law everybody loves, because it is for the protection of all men. Such is our ordinary Petty Session Law, but when you graft new processes on that law, and avail yourselves of a mode of procedure which arouses men's passions and excites their strongest feelings against your action, you are doing that which is impolitic in itself, and deserving of the just condemnation of this House. You are now in addition giving power to imprison for contempt of Court. Instead of a fine for assault, or at the most six months' imprisonment, you may have not six but 60 months' imprisonment availed of for the purposes of this Bill. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to impose this new grievance upon the people of Wales. Let me remind the right hon. Gentle- man. that he has accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras which appears on the Paper.


I do not understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman means?


It is out of order to discuss it, but this is it:— Provided that where the lands, out of which any tithe rent-charge issues, are occupied by several occupiers who have contracted to pay the tithe rent-charge, any of such occupiers shall be liable only to pay such proportion of the sum paid by the owner of the lands on account of such tithe rent-charge as the rate-able value of the lands occupied by him bears to the rateable value of the whole of the lands out of which the tithe rent-charge issues.


I explained that on Monday. The hon. and learned Gentleman means the hon. Member for Peterborough.


Well, if the Government distrust juries on the ground that these are political cases, that is a question wholly separable and apart from the question of appeal. This Amendment involves the right of appeal from the Local Bench to the County Court, yet the noble Lord the Member for Darwen thinks he has disposed of it when he refers to that part of it dealing with the question of trial by jury. On the whole, I think the action of the Government on this matter is out of keeping with their general tone and policy throughout this Bill. I fully recognise that this Tithe Bill is far superior to its predecessors, but that only shows the value of discussion. It is possible if we killed the Bill of 1891 we might have a still better one in 1892. Still, we must not look the gift-horse in the mouth, and we must admit that the Bill of 1891 is superior to the Bills of former years. Speaking as an Imperial Member of this House, my anxiety is that if you pass this Bill it should be in a form to cause as little rankling and soreness in the breasts of the Welsh Members as possible. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, by his amenability, to accept this Amendment, which asks after all only for a small matter.

(10.23.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I disagree with my hon. Friend when he says that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this Bill is not the same as in every Bill. When- ever it comes to the question of trusting the people, no matter what the Bill may be, you find the Government absolutely refusing to trust them. We know perfectly well that trial by jury is being suppressed in Ireland, and I always suspected that they would make the same attempt in England. It is because they have been successful in Ireland, and because the people of England and Wales have not risen as one man to protest against the conduct of the Government in Ireland, that the same system is now being applied in this country. What is this offence which is to be punished? We know that the vast majority of the Welsh people conscientiously believe that they ought not to pay tithes so long as they are not devoted to the proper use. They do not object to pay tithes provided they are devoted to some national purpose; but they do object to paying tithes for an alien Church. Suppose the Government proposed that we in England should pay tithe to the Roman Catholic Church. It would be an outrage. Yet I cannot abominate the Catholic Church—I am speaking theocally—more than the Welsh people abominate the English Church. There is generally a strong antagonism in Wales to the National Church. Suppose some respectable Nonconformist minister, from conscientious motives, refuses to pay tithes, he is subjected to a distress, and should he even raise his hands and say "Avast!" when the bailiff appeared, he would be deemed guilty of constructive assault. Or, supposing some old man, coming that way, raised his stick, even accidentally, he too would be held to have committed a constructive assault. Before whom are the offenders brought? In the first place the County Court Judge. And by whom are the County Court Judges appointed? A politician, respected by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and respected on this side of the House. Still, the Lord Chancellor is a politician. Now I happen to know something of a County Court Judge in the north of Wales, appointed by the present Lord Chancellor. That County Court Judge had never held a brief in his life, and probably knew less of the law than I do. He was a friend of the Lord Chancellor, and that covered a multitude of—ignorance. This Judge had before him three jurymen who, when he asked them could they speak English, answered "No." That was about all they did know of English. The Judge remarked, "You said 'No' when I asked whether you could speak English. Now you shall sit through the case, whether you understand it or not." Here you have these County Court Judges in Wales and England who cannot refuse to have a case tried by a jury if the debt is above £5, yet you actually say that they can send men to prison for constructive assault without giving them the option of a jury. Now, who are the others? The County Magistrates, in whom I said the other day I have little confidence. I do not believe in Magistrates who are appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, because in almost every case these Lord Lieutenants are Peers, and it is practically giving the right to the House of Peers to select the judges of the country, and to give those judges power and authority to send men to prison. We know perfectly well that the great majority of the Magistrates are Conservative. Those who are not are Moderate Liberals, which to my mind is almost as bad as being a Conservative. There are hardly any Radicals amongst them, whilst in Wales the vast mass of the population—thank God!—are good and stalwart Radicals. What is asked by the Welsh? I am astonished at their moderation, and if this clause passes I shall move an Amendment to enlarge its scope. The Welsh simply ask that from two of these Magistrates there shall be an appeal to five or six—that if in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction a defendant be convicted, he shall have the right to appeal to Quarter Sessions. Do you know—the House does know perfectly well—that if a liquor trafficker is deprived of his licence by a certain number of Magistrates he may go to a Superior Court, and has a right to appeal. Thus you give this liquor trafficer a right to appeal, which you refuse to honest, conscientious Nonconformists. An hon. Friend said to me juat now, "There would be right to a jury; "but that is not so for appeals from Magistrates to Quarter Sessions. There is no jury. It is an appeal from Magistrates to Magistrates, and that is why I say that the Welsh are exceed- ingly moderate, and why, if this clause passes, I shall move the insertion of some words which will give the right to appeal not only to the Magistrates at Quarter Sessions, but, if desired by the defendant, to a jury. What is the sole reason we are told for this refusal? It is that it is a political question. What are the County Court Judges? I have shown what they are. They are essentially political appointments. What are the Magistrates? They are also essentially political appointments, We know that in England the magistracy in the counties has been stuffed with Conservatives. We know perfectly well that the Liberals do not have their fair share in the magistracy. We know, moreover, that the magistrates are taken from a particular class—from the landowners of this country. We know that there is the greatest antagonism in Wales between the landowners and the other classes of the community—that the landowners belong to one Church and are in the main Conservative, and that the people are in the main Radicals. There is the strongest political and religious antagonism, and I really can only call it effrontery in Her Majesty's Ministers not to give the right to a trial before a jury of 12 men honestly chosen from the community. Because the matter is a political one they place it in the hands of the County Court Judges, who are politically opposed to those they have to try. You might just as well tell me that you placed the trial of political offences in Ireland in the hands of Resident Magistrates because they have no politics. We know that would be pure nonsense. We know also that when 12 men, good and true, are sworn, they will give a just decision. I shall always support any proposal which has for its object an enlargement of the powers of juries. We now only ask that the Welsh shall be tried by their peers. It is an injustice to hand them over to the Magistrates as you propose, but I am not surprised at that, for I never knew you to bring in a single Bill which was not based upon injustice.

(10.35.) MR. W. P. MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)

I think we have a right to expect from the Attorney General something in the shape of consistent legislation. But his present attitude is altogether inconsistent. We are to be allowed the assistance of a jury in Wales in small matters, but in cases in which the liberty of the Welsh subject is at stake no jury is to assist the County Court Judge in arriving at a right and proper conclusion. I thought that trial by jury was so appreciated in this country as to be adopted on all conceivable occasions, but in the case of tithe, disputes we are to have the 48th section of the County Court Act applied to us in order to punish those who may obstruct the bailiff in the execution of his duty. The powers given under this section have prevailed for many a year, but hitherto have only been enforced in such a case as that in which a bailiff has been obstructed in collecting a debt due upon an unmistakable contract—a debt to which no sentiment attached. But this is a totally different matter to that which we are now considering. The sentiment of feelings of the Welsh people are outraged by the collection of tithes for the benefit and maintenance of a Church in which they never worship. We believe that if this clause is carried the County Court Judges will have to enforce it so often that the ordinary business of their Courts will have to be neglected. Every man who expresses an opinion adverse to a learned County Court Judge will be liable to be tried for contempt. That is a phase of the question on which I should like to say a few words. It has been said by some of our most eminent lawyers that a Judge ought not to be the tribunal to judge whether or not contempt has been committed in his Court. It does seem to be an anomaly that if a witness misbehaves himself in Court the Judge should be called upon to decide upon the question which has arisen between the witness and himself. But this is a thing you are now proposing to perpetuate by Act of Parliament, and notwithstanding the absurdity of giving a jury in cases in which the claim may only be 5s., you will not give a man the same privilege when his liberty is at stake. In the colonies where I have lived for over 20 years, such a Bill as this would be looked upon as a most patchy piece of legislation The Attorney General, who is in part responsible for it, may be a distinguished lawyer, but he certainly is not a consistent statesman.

(10.41.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I cannot but think that my hon. Friends near me are a little unreasonable in asking the Government to agree to this Amendment. The object of the Government in this Bill is to make the collection of tithe easier for the tithe owner n Wales, and if this Amendment is carried the existing state of things will continue. We wish the present state of things to continue, but the Government, from their own point of view, are right in not accepting the Amendment, because if it were passed they would not effect their object. Indeed, as an independent English Member of Parliament, I think they would be acting very stupidly if they consented to this operative clause in their Bill being amended in this direction. I repeat that I want the present state of things to continue, but I will not join in this appeal to the Government. We know that they mean to make the collection of tithe easy for the tithe owners in Wales, and if they do not pass the clause in its present shape they will not effect their object. The right hon. Gentleman who has been so willing to give way in other matters is strong in resisting this. He says he will not consent to the Court official being put in a worse position when collecting tithe than he is when performing his other duties. Very well, I do not know that he is far out from his point of view. But he also says there are no complaints as to the action of the County Court Judges under this 48th section of the County Court Act. How does he know that? I know of cases in many districts in which cause for grave complaint has been given.


Will the hon. Member excuse me? My argument was this: That in 1888 the County Court Procedure Act was revised, and if there had been any real complaint at that time it surely would have been raised by Amendments. At any rate, it would have found utterance in the speeches of some of the hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate.


My point is this: The cases of complaint are at present indi- vidual, and do not arouse any general feeling. But when this Act becomes law you will create a vast body of cases, which will give rise to a widespread feeling I will ask the Government, in two or three sentences, to consider what they are going to do. They are going, in the first place, to leave the County Court Judge uncontrolled to deal with cases of contempt of Court and resistance to the law. In political cases that is a dangerous course, and has always ended in mischief and the repeal of the evil law. I am not going to press the Government to alter their position. They must carry out their bargain with the Welsh clergy, although the result may be much friction, trouble, annoyance, and agitation. In the next place, they are going to refuse to the man who comes before the Magistrates the right of appeal. My hon. Friend who last spoke said this was merely an appeal from two Magistrates to five or six Magistrates. But it is more than that; it is an appeal from Magistrates living on the spot, and personally interested, perhaps, in the social conflict, to a wider body of Magistrates not specially interested in the case. How the Government can honestly or decently refuse that I cannot imagine. They are, no doubt, paying to the parsons the price agreed upon for their support; but this clause will lead to an agitation which will probably terminate, first the Government, and then this Bill.

(10.50.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I am induced by pure Conservative instincts to say a few words in support of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. We in this country have been educated in the belief that the right of trial by jury is essentially the prerogative and privilege of British citizens. But this measure only carries out the policy the Government have been systematically pursuing, first in Ireland and now in this country, for the purpose of destroying the right of trial by jury. That right has gone in Ireland, and unless we make a stand now we shall lose it in England. This clause shows how exceedingly infectious is the disease of coercion. Having once seized upon the mind of the Government who allowed it to become rampant in Ireland, it is now crossing St. George's Channel, and will spread with great virulence over England. There is another reason why I think that it is our bounden duty to insist on passing this Amendment, and that is a reason from a Radical standpoint. I am anxious to see the system of trial by jury vastly extended by legislation. Unfortunately, during the past quarter of a century it has been considerably reduced. Numerous offences have been classified under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts; and offenders under those Acts cannot now be tried by their peers, but they are tried before men who, if not their hereditary enemies, cannot, at any rate, be said to be strongly biased in their favour. Like the Member for Northampton, I have absolutely no confidence in the Magistrates. In cases where politics are at stake it is impossible for a poor man to get justice at the hands of the landlord and Clerical class, who are placed on the Bench by those political partisans—the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant. Why cannot the Government give fair play to poor men? They have deliberately set up the plea that in consequence of political bias it is desirable these cases should be withdrawn from a jury and placed entirely in the hands of the Magistrates. But it is entirely for that reason that I support the Amendment, because we know how biased are the Magistrates. If you look at the whole machinery for the administration of justice in this country it becomes apparent that from the fountain head down to the petty Magistrate every one engaged in dispensing justice is out of sympathy with the poorer classes. There are, indeed, in this House very few men who can be said to be in direct sympathy with the class to whom I am referring—the rustic labourers of this country. The First Lord of the Treasury gave expression yesterday to a sentiment which is peculiarly applicable to the present case. He pleaded in favour of respect being shown to prejudice, even if the prejudice is unreasonable. You have conscientious religious prejudice in connection with the payment of tithe, and if the plea of the right hon. Gentleman in favour of respect to the insane, foolish, and unreasonable prejudice of certain persons in England is to hold good, surely we have a right to insist that respect should be had to prejudice in the matter of paying tithe to an alien Church. If you are not going to take into account such deeply-rooted feeling as the unanimous evidence of the Representatives of Wales has made abundantly clear during this Debate, the least you can do is to introduce in some form or another a conscience clause, whereby the conscientious and religious prejudices of the people of Wales may be respected. It has been pointed out that in many cases County Court Judges in Wales are men who do not possess the necessary qualification for the position. In more than one case County Court Judges in Wales have shown themselves unfit for their positions, not merely by their ignorance of the language of the majority of the people amongst whom they are placed, but by wilfully insulting the character of the people by openly declaring that one cannot trust a Welsh jury: that it is impossible to find a Welsh jury that will not be guilty of perjury. [Mr. J. R. KELLY: Name.] No, I will not give names, because I have no wish to rake up old stories. But the facts are within my recollection, and I have a right to rely upon them. I do not go so far as to say that the County Court Judges were in such cases to be visited with very strong censure, because being ignorant of the language of the people whom they thus condemned they were probably the victims of a wrong impression. I shall support the Amendment before the House. I conceive that as the right of trial by jury is threatened by the action of the Government it is our duty as Englishmen to defend our privilege and rights against any attack even from the Conservative side of the House.

(11.5.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

This is more or less an exclusively Welsh Amendment, and, therefore, it seems to me one on which English Members can pronounce an opinion of an impartial character. The discussion this evening, not only on this Bill, but also on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. J. Lowther), has tended very strongly in the direction of showing the necessity for a Court of Appeal. The gist of this Amendment is that, in some form or another, the light of public opinion should be brought to bear upon the decisions at which the County Court Judges may arrive with regard to the disputes that may occur between tithe owners and tithe payers in Wales. There is no serious intention of disputing the impartiality of the County Court Judges in Wales; but instances have been adduced in which the decisions arrived at have not been, in the eyes of the people of the Principality, of a satisfactory nature. It occurs to me to be a matter of prime necessity that, whatever be the decision arrived at, it should have the complete approval of the persons mainly interested, and that is the reason why I support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The complaints urged in this country against County Court Judges have related rather to matters of detail, such as unpunctuality or want of technical knowledge; but in Wales the complaints are of a more grave character, and on that ground I think it is necessary there should be an appeal against the decisions the Welsh County Court Judges arrive at.

(11.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 163.—(Div. List, No. 35.)

(11.25.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I beg to move the clause standing in my name respecting the limitation of penalties. I think this clause is more important even than that on which the House has just divided, dealing as it does with the power of the County Court to inflict imprisonment under the new procedure respecting the collection of tithe. There was some discussion on the other stages of the Bill as to the reasons for which imprisonment might be inflicted. It has already been conceded by the Government that there shall be no imprisonment merely for non-payment, and I think we are entitled to hear what are the cases in which a County Court can impose a penalty by way of imprisonment. The chief object of the Bill is to shift the liability for the payment of tithe from the occupier to the owner. That being so, the House ought to take care that there shall be no greater power of imprisonment than there is under the present process. I propose that the cases in which imprisonment can be imposed shall be limited to those specified in Section 48 of the County Courts Act, 1888. The first is that of an assault upon the County Court bailiff. There is no one on this side of the House who will argue that a person who assaults a bailiff should not be amenable to justice. The other case is that of rescue. Rescue savours of contempt, and I believe such a case cannot arise until the goods have been actually distrained upon. The Attorney General said in Committee that if a bailiff was sent to execute the order of the Court and the tithe payer barred his house or was guilty of violence he was amenable to the ordinary law. I want to know to what ordinary law the tithepayer is now amenable if he bars his house? Moreover, the President of the Board of Trade has said tonight, supposing a bailiff is insulted or obstructed, must not the offender be made amenable? But is he going to enable a County Court Judge to inflict imprisonment under the pretext of contempt of Court on a person who merely insults a bailiff? What is an insult to a bailiff? My hon. Friend near me suggests that merely holding a fist up may be construed into an insult. The singing of a song in which the hero of the anti-tithe war has prominent mention may be considered an insult. What is obstruction? A bailiff going to levy distraint may find a barn-door locked against him. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to allow the imposition of the penalty of imprisonment for offences which may be construed by the Court to mean anything or everything? For what purpose is the Government going to employ the power of imprisonment in the County Court? Is it to compel the people to contribute towards the support of an alien Church? I am not quite sure that the next thing will not be the power of imprisonment to enforce attendance at church. Who are the people who have been agitating for this Bill? The Bishops—I will call them the lobbying Bishops—of the Principality. Are these people who have the spiritual care of the Principality—these pure-minded gentlemen in lawn sleeves—are these the people to impose imprisonment on honest men for these so-called offences? We take credit for being a most peaceable and law-abiding people. My hon. and eloquent Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Abrahams) has referred to the frequent presentation of white gloves at Welsh Assizes. If the Government are really going to oppose this clause and to permit extensive powers of imprisonment it will be a criminal act on their part, because it may goad the people of the Principality into acts of criminality. Do not let the Government imagine that to inflict imprisonment on the people will put down the agitation against the Church. There is sufficient spirit left in the people of Wales to induce them to go to gaol in support of their conscientious convictions. I really make an appeal to the supporters of the Church, the lovers of the Church on the other side of the House. We have no quarrel with the Church as a Church, and you love it as we do our Nonconformity, but I say if you wish to destroy altogether the influence of the Church of England in the Principality, a certain way to do it is to inflict imprisonment upon Nonconformists under this Bill. There is a claim made that the old Mother Church is getting back to its large and accommodating bosom many people who left it in days gone by. You are anxious to keep up the Establishment. Very well. We do not agree on this point. We think it would be better all round if the Establishment came to an end. But do you think your proposals will support the Establishment? The effect of the first imprisonment under this new tithe measure upon the connection between Church and State will be like the effect of dynamite exploded under a building. Your anxiety is to restore the people to the bosom of the Church. Is this the way to do it? You have, by yonr anti-national conduct, lost hold of the people. Broadly speaking, your churches and your cathedrals in the Principality are empty. You have in past times repelled the people and driven them to build chapels of their own. Let me tell the House a little personal experience to illustrate my point. On one occasion last year I visited Bangor Cathedral. It was a festival day of the Church of England. The Dean was there, two or three Canons, major and minor, were there, and the whole of the choir in attendance. But to whom, and for whom, was all this ministering? The congregation con- sisted of eight persons—five old women and two men besides myself—who were visitors. This was on a festival of the Church, and I say then in a general sense your Cathedrals are empty. Now, I have a hint from the Government that they cannot accept this clause, probably because it does not go far enough, and I make an offer to them which they may accept. They say that if the clause is accepted then the County Court will not have power of protecting its own dignity. Now, the 162nd section of the County Court Act has provided for committals for contempt in specified cases. They include wilful insult to the Judge, or the jury, or witnesses, the Registrar, bailiff, or any officer in Court, or wilfully obstructing such officer in going from or returning to the Court. I am willing to extend my clause in such a way as to give the Judge power to commit for contempt in the case of wilful insult offered in Court to the Judge, officer of the Court, or witness, but cannot accede to any proposal to give the Judge power to committal for an insult offered to an officer of the Court or witness in going to or coming from the Court, because it might be held that when an officer is despatched from the County Court office with a writ of distraint in his pocket against the goods of some honest Nonconformist he was on his way to or from the Court until he returned. Subject to this qualification, I will extend the clause to cases within the 162nd section of the County Court Act. The Government may expect considerable discussion upon this clause; and if they are not prepared to decide upon this offer now, I hope they will adjourn the Debate now to give themselves an opportunity of considering it. I can assure them this is a matter of the greatest importance to the Bill and to the Church, and in it we take the deepest interest.

New Clause (Limitation of Penalties,)—(Mr. S. T. Evans),—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."

٭(11.40.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I am extremely sorry the House should have listened to the speech we have just heard. The House knows perfectly well that, so far as I was entitled to do so, I ventured to pay tribute to the able and moderate way in which the hon. Member has conducted discussion throughout the proceedings upon this Bill, and I deeply regret that what I have previously said should be in any way contrary to the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman has now addressed the House. Speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite have professed a desire for peace in the Principality, and an anxiety to smooth the working of this Act, but anything less calculated to assist toward that end than the speech we have just heard it is difficult to imagine. This is a question of what we may call an ordinary legal proceeding, and yet we are told that if the Government maintain the line which, as the hon. Member knows from previous discussions they are bound to maintain, they will be guilty of a criminal action, and will goad the people into acts of criminality. We all know perfectly well what that means. When the hon. Member uses this language, ignorant people who do not understand the rights and wrongs of the question as he does will appeal to such statements and such language as justification for acts that he himself admits will bring them within the Criminal Law. It is not possible for us to accept this clause for reasons which I am sorry to say I have explained on three occasions. The hon. Gentleman has been good enough to support his argument for the clause by reference to what I have said. I do not know from what he was quoting.


From Hansard.


What I said was if a man barred his house and with violence prevented a bailiff from doing his duty—


No, the words are "if he bars his house and prevents a bailiff from doing his duty."


If those are the words I used, and if they are so reported, I suppose I did, then I went too far. I ought not to have separated the act of violence from the barring of the house. The simple act of a man barring his door would certainly not be sufficient to justify arrest. No doubt I spoke as I am reported to have spoken, but I spoke carelessly. I am glad to explain that the idea in my mind was obstruction coupled with violence. If any statement of mine has induced hon. Members to think there is danger of arrest from the simple act of barring the door I unreservedly withdraw it, and explain that I meant obstruction coupled with violence. Now, what are the objections to this clause? My first objection is a serious one. The hon. Member has, it is true, proposed to extend this saving clause, this limitation clause, over certain parts of Section 162 of the County Court Act. That section protects the Registrar, bailiffs, and officers of the Court from insult. It is a strong argument against the clause as it stands, and against the limit of extension, that the hon. Member is willing to give up certain offences under that Section 162, but he would restrict that section without the shadow of reason and only with the suggestion that there is something different in connection with these proceedings as compared with others. Except that there is not a shadow of justification for the clause. Now in a sentence let me repeat what I have already said, but which has not received the slightest notice from hon. Members. These proceedings take place on the hypothesis in the Bill that the defendant who owes the tithe has been heard in Court, that he has had an opportunity of making his defence if he has any to make, and then, judgment being given, that judgment has the force of law. In the name of all that is fair, in the name of common sense, when proceedings have arrived thus far, what ground is there for making the distinction suggested? We do not know—I do not know—of any case where it would be necessary to put in a saving clause; but I absolutely decline to put in a saving clause, and for this reason: that it would indicate that cases in which the County Court Judge might impose penalties for non-compliance with the orders of the Court, were outside the cases mentioned in the County Court Act, and outside the well-known jurisdiction of the County Court. If there be a case in which for a violent act or a disturbance of order, or for that which is in fact a criminal offence, County Court Justices have now jurisdiction, then the Court will get no more by virtue of this Bill, and it would be wrong to impose a saving clause, a limitation or powers previously held. Earlier in the evening we heard the hon. Member for Northampton tell us of his extensive knowledge of law.


Excuse me. I said, speaking of County Court Judges, that they knew less of law even that I did. That was not claiming much knowledge.


I was not referring to that. I was referring to a passage in which the hon. Member laid down certain principles when he said that an old cripple, inadvertently raising his stick, might constructively be held guilty of an assault, and so might a man for the clenching of his fist. Well, I hope the hon. Member will take better advice before he again ventures to express a legal opinion in the House. He will not find a lawyer of the most limited experience to endorse such a contention as he has put forward. There is one point which I think supporters of this Amendment have completely overlooked. Is not the Court to have control over its own receiver? It is essential that he should be under the control of the Court, and it may be possible that a receiver may have to be punished.


May I be permitted to point out that Sub-section 3 of Section 2 deals with that.


The hon. Member must pardon me. I am arguing against the clause he proposes to insert, and this clause runs— The County Court shall not have power to impose any penalty either by way of fine, or imprisonment for non-compliance with, or disobedience to, any order, except in cases specified in Section 48 of the Act of 1888. I am not arguing for the Bill as it stands—I am arguing against the clause. I have had, not from my own fault, to repeat arguments I have used against this contention on several occasions. I have listened to almost the whole of this Debate to-night, and I have absolutely heard nothing new in support of this contention. Hon. Members who have addressed the House to-night have admitted that this question has to some extent been discussed on previous clauses. I have stated my objections. It is not possible to make the concession hon. Members wish, and for the House to insert the clause now would be for the House to stultify itself. It would be drawing a distinction between the orders of the Court on the admission of a suggestion that the Bill will be a temptation to criminality that does not arise. I do not believe any such wicked ideas will arise among the Welsh people, and the reading of history does not lead us to such a conclusion. I agree that the law-abiding character of the Welsh people is matter for gratification, and that there is less crime in Wales than in other parts of the Kingdom, but that goes against the clause and not in favour of it. This goading to criminality argument is one I am sure the House will not accept, and I ask the House to reject the clause.

(11.41.) SIR W. HARCOURT

Anything more misplaced or unjustifiable than the lecture my hon. Friend has had from the Attorney General I have never heard in this House. We have, I think, all welcomed the ability, the temper, the moderation my hon. Friend has displayed through these discussions, and I do not think any man in so short a time has established so great a claim upon the esteem of the House of Commons. In the course of this Debate we have been compelled to acknowledge the conciliatory disposition of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; but we have no such acknowledgment to make to the Attorney General. Many Amendments have been grafted upon the Bill. Every one has been opposed by the Attorney General, and has afterwards been accepted by the President of the Board of Trade. The Attorney General has acted in a spirit of irritation and exasperation, and his speech is not calculated to do good to the Bill either in the House or in the country. I have never witnessed more unreasonable action than that of refusing to accept the Amendment before the House. The Attorney General admits that no case which ought to be included would be excluded by the Amendment, and yet refuses the Amendment. Such action shows that the Government are now addressing themselves to the discussion in a spirit with which we have not been treated before, except from the Attorney General. I protest against the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and against his conclusion, as tending to lead to exasperation in the administration of the Bill.

(11.58.) MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)

I venture to deny the assertion that the cases under this Bill are to be classed with ordinary County Court cases. These tithe cases never have been, and never will be, ordinary cases in any sense. The hon. and learned Gentleman says the Bill will not come into operation until judgment is given in the County Court; but that makes no difference to the freehold occupier in Wales, who will refuse to pay tithe. So far as he is concerned, the Bill comes into operation after the hearing and judgment, and when the judgment is proceeded upon by the bailiff being put in possession.

It being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed to-morrow.

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