HC Deb 04 July 1895 vol 35 cc193-5

On the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill,


said, that it was understood to be a measure intended to meet the case of Dr. Herz, but if that were so it would be useless unless a provision were inserted for trying an accused person in his absence. He had spoken to the late law officers on the subject, and they had informed him that they saw no objection to the inclusion of such a provision. The text of the Bill dealt everywhere with fugitive criminals only, and he was not lawyer enough to say whether this would cover the case of a man who was willing to meet the charges brought against him. He did not know whether the Bill would really cover a case like that of Dr. Herz.


said, that while not disagreeing with the principle of this Bill, he desired to know a little more as to its history. The First Lord of the Treasury had stated the other day that the Bill had been introduced in consequence of obligations incurred with the French Government, but that statement had been to a great extent removed to-day. (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: "Entirely."] It was said it had been entirely removed, and that there were no treaty obligations and no correspondence on the subject between this country and France, but he thought it would be well for the House to know that there had been no pressure of any description used by one Government towards the other. The Bill as it stood could not possibly have any application to a case where a defendant was willing to meet the charge against him but was prevented from doing so owing to his health having declined. During the period that Dr. Herz had been in England his health had so declined, and, even if a charge could be heard in the particular place where the accused person resided, unless the Bill were so extended as to allow of the hearing of a case in the defendant's private residence it would not benefit either the French Government or Dr. Herz. If the system of espionage, and apparently the spirit of persecution could be done away with he had no objection to the extension of extradition. He would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cardiff if it were moved.

MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

said, that as the late Government were responsible for the introduction of this Bill, he might be allowed to say, first, that it was a wholly unfounded idea which had been put forward in some quarters, that this Bill was brought forward in response to pressure from any foreign Government. There had been no correspondence or communication between the British and French Governments on the subject. The Bill was, undoubtedly, suggested to the late Government by the case of Dr. Herz. Without going into the general question of the treatment of Dr. Herz, or the suggestions that he had been subjected to unreasonable espionage, he desired to state that, within the limits which the existing law allowed, the treatment of Dr. Herz, so long as the late Government were responsible in the matter—and he had no doubt that it was so still—had been, not only humane, but most considerate. Dr. Herz had from first to last been treated with indulgence, and there was no foundation whatever for the statement that, so far as the existing law permitted, he had been subjected to any hardship. There was, however, undoubtedly a defect, not only in the existing Act, but in our treaty with France, inasmuch as the treaty demanded that the inquiry should be held in London. He had, however, no doubt that a representation that this condition should be waived would meet with a response from the French Government. It had been said that the Bill would be inoperative to relieve Dr. Herz from the undoubtedly hard position in which he had been placed; but if the opinion of Dr. Herz's doctors were accurate—and he had no doubt that they were—he was not now and never had been while in this country in such a state of health that his examination could have been conducted at all without some danger to his health. He could not help thinking, however, that the health of Dr. Herz might possibly improve, and, if it did, and if this Bill were passed, one objection to the present law as applicable to his case would have been removed. He should object to the Government accepting the proviso unless it were safeguarded by an Amendment.


hoped that if this Bill were to pass the hon. Member would amend his Amendment before he put it on the Paper, in conformity with the conditions suggested by the late Home Secretary.

Bill read 2°, and committed for To-morrow.