HC Deb 05 July 1895 vol 35 cc258-9

Considered in Committee.

Mr. MELLOR in the Chair.

(In the Committee.)

SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff) moved to insert the words:— Clause 1, page 1, line 16, after 'is,' insert 'and at the request and with the consent of the criminal, made or given in writing, the order may, if the Secretary of State is of opinion that that course is necessary to avoid danger or injury to the health of the criminal, permit the case to be heard by the magistrate in the absence of the criminal.'


said that, as far as he was able to form an opinion, he saw no objection to the proposed Amendment; but he might mention that he had been informed by a high legal authority in the House of Lords that their Lordships might take a different view of the situation. If so, the Bill would be lost, and if the hon. Member insisted on moving his Amendment, the hon. Member must take the risk of that.

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

said, there was certainly a difference of opinion as to this provision, which, though undoubtedly a novel one, safeguarded as it was here, could not, he thought, do much harm. As, however, his hon. Friend had been told that the Bill might be lost altogether if he persisted in pressing his Amendment, his hon. Friend might find that, in his attempt to make the measure more perfect, he might lose it altogether, and he ought to weigh well the responsibility he was incurring.


said, that he gave full weight to that consideration, but it was balanced by the future consideration that the Bill could be of no use without the Amendment in the particular case that it was designed to meet. He was aware of the peculiar nature of the proposal he was putting forward. He would ask the First Lord of the Treasury, if the Amendment were now inserted and if the Bill should be thrown out by the House of Lords, whether the Government would give a pledge that on the reassembling of the new Parliament they would take the whole case into their consideration and see what could be done; because he thought that, circumstanced as they were at this moment, it was desirable to make provision for cases of this nature.


said, that he did not know on which side of the House he might be sitting in the next Parliament. But whoever might be sitting on the Treasury Bench when the next Parliament reassembled would probably feel very little energy or desire to get through more than the necessary financial business. The hon. Member seemed to look at this Bill as a measure for the relief of one particular individual, but it was not from that point of view that it should, he thought, be regarded. He looked upon the Bill as effecting a desirable Amendment in the present law, which required that these accused persons should only be tried at Bow-street, although they might live at the other end of the kingdom.


said, he thought the point was not an unreasonable one, and that it was one which was sure to receive the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, the Bill itself was a reasonable one, for it simply proposed that the case should be heard in a county town as well as in London. That was no new principle, but there was the point of hearing a criminal charge in the absence of the criminal. At that late period of the Session he did not think that this Amendment ought to be allowed.


said, it appeared there was some feeling in the matter, and therefore he could not accept the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported without Amendment; read 3°, and Passed, without Amendment.