§ MR. DARLING
called attention to the expenses incurred in the proceedings taken to obtain the extradition of Jabez Balfour, and moved to reduce the vote of £7,000 by £100. He had put several questions to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to when the country might expect to see Jabez Balfour. Several of his intimate friends were at this moment placed on their trial, and some regret was felt that Jabez Balfour could not be included among them. He had not been able to get from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs an exact explanation of what was the position of affairs with regard to the extradition of this gentleman, nor what were the expectations of the Government as to his arrival in this country. Jabez Balfour was a very notorious and important public man; he had exercised a very great influence in the politics of the country; £7,000 had been spent in obtaining his extradition, 455 and still his extradition remained unaccomplished. He wanted an explanation of the way in which the money had been spent, and what the Government had done to obtain the extradition. He gathered from other sources that Mr. Jabez Balfour was in the Argentine Republic, lived there in comfort, and wrote from his home there articles for The Pall Mall Gazette. The Government professed to be anxious to secure his return to this country, and what had they done? He understood they had negotiated some sort of special Extradition Treaty. But the Committee should know, and were entitled to know, if they did enter into an Extradition Treaty—a special Extradition Treaty "ad hoc," as the Solicitor General would say—what had been the result? Whether there had been a Treaty or not, some one was found, after Mr. Jabez Balfour's extradition had been directed, to bring some sort of collusive action against him. He would like to know who this was, and what the action was brought for? As the result of this collusive action, Mr. Balfour was detained in Argentina. The moment was not propitious for his arrival in this country. What prospect was there of the termination of the action? What were the points raised? What had the Government done to combat those points? And what prospect was there of the Courts of Argentina being influenced by the arguments urged on behalf of the Government? The kind of arguments that would influence the Courts of Argentina should be known to the Law Officers of the Crown. They ought to know from the Government all that the Government knew. If the Committee knew half that the Government knew it would be enough. Would the Government tell them exactly what they had done? If they had entered into a Treaty, what did it provide? If the Treaty had been without effect, how did it become inefficacious? What was the action that delayed Mr. Jabez Balfour's departure? And how was it that, while the Government were asking the Committee to pay for the watching of a man who could not leave his bed or his room, M. Herz, the newspapers stated that the detective put to watch Jabez Balfour had been told to return to England? Was Mr. Jabez Balfour still watched by a detective? Was he under 456 arrest or free? Had this country any rights over him? Until he was satisfied on these points the Government would have difficulty in getting this Vote.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he would like to point out to the House that the whole of this extraordinary expense in connection with the tardy action of the Government——
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the whole of the expense incurred in attempting to bring Mr. Jabez Balfour to justice was due to the original neglect of the Government to take action in time. His point was, that there, was a period when the Official Receiver's Report was made known to the Law Officers of the Crown; that that Report contained practically the whole case as it was now known against Jabez Balfour; that several weeks were allowed to pass by the Government without anything being done to prevent Jabez Balfour leaving the country. By allowing him to escape, all this expenditure had become necessary. The same extraordinary delay took place in the institution of proceedings against those who were jointly responsible with Jabez Balfour. The proceedings were begun after a delay of 12 months, and only two days before the opening of Parliament—just in time to save the Government from a very serious charge. He made no attack upon the present Attorney General, who was not responsible; but the charge was good against the Government and the previous Law Officers.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said that, as far as the Foreign Office was concerned—and their concern extended to the whole of the points traversed by the hon. and learned Member for Deptford—his intention was to conceal nothing from the House of what the Foreign Office knew in this matter. He hoped that the Committee would accept that statement in the spirit in which it was made, and he should like to be confident that the hon. and learned Member for Deptford would accept it also. [Mr. DAKLING: "Hear, hear!"] He hoped that he was justified in saying that the object of the hon. Member's 457 speech was not to attribute to the Government any want of good faith; because, if it were, the hon. and learned Member could not accept his statement on any point. The hon. and learned Member complained that he had not been able to get any explanation from the Government as to the circumstances of the case. He had given him that explanation in answers to questions, and if those answers had been accepted, some parts of the hon. and learned Member's speech would not have been justified. He was asked in the House originally what the position of affairs was, and he then stated to the House that the Government had applied to the Argentine Government for the extradition of Jabez Balfour, and that legal proceedings were pending in the Republic as to whether, under the Extradition Treaty, Jabez Balfour could be extradited. The request was made directly after Jabez Balfour arrived in that country. Various complicated questions arose under the Treaty. Considerable time and expense were entailed in threshing out those questions in the Courts of the Argentine Republic, but it was eventually decided that, under the Treaty, the extradition ought to take place; and the Federal Government declared themselves prepared to carry it out. But, during this time, Jabez Balfour had been not at Buenos Ayres, but at Salta, a place 2,000 miles distant. The Argentine Republic had a Federal Government, and several Provincial Governments, under one of which Salta happened to be. The Federal Government having decided that they were in duty bound to extradite Jabez Balfour, a further question arose under the Provincial Government. Suits were there brought against Jabez Balfour for offences which he was alleged to have committed since he arrived in Salta—offences of which Her Majesty's Government could have no knowledge, but which, the Argentine Authorities said, must be decided in the Argentine Courts. That was all that the Foreign Office knew, and all that they could know. They could not possibly try or go into the details or actions brought for offences committed long after leaving this country, on Argentine soil, and in circumstances of which they knew nothing. But Her Majesty's Government did 458 press their demand that, as it had been decided that Jabez Balfour should be extradited, the extradition should be proceeded with. The answer given to the British Government was that, under the Treaty they had signed with the Argentine Government—and by the general Law of Nations it was an established practice—a prisoner whose extradition was demanded should first be called upon to satisfy the Law Courts of the country in which he was, for offences committed in that country. On that point also, appeal was made to the Argentine Courts, and the Courts decided that, under the Treaty, they were entitled, first of all, to try Jabez Balfour, and to see that he paid the penalty for offences committed in that country before he was extradited. This was what was stated in answer to the hon. Member for Deptford the other day. The Provincial Authorities of the Province in which Salta is decided that they must try him on the charge brought against him in that Province, and he told the hon. Member the other day that the legal vacation in that Province ended about the end of last month, and at the close of the vacation the prosecution was to be proceeded with. The result of this prosecution was not yet known; but meanwhile we had contended that under the Treaty the Federal Government ought to extradite Jabez Balfour, and we had done our best to secure that the extradition should take place immediately; but the Provincial Authorities put forward their claim to try their case first. There was one further point, and it was whether there was any flaw in the Extradition Treaty which the present Government might have avoided, and by the avoidance of which the extradition might have been expedited. He had pointed out that the Government had done everything they could to enforce the provisions of the Treaty which exists; the only remaining point was, whether they were in any way to blame for the fact that it did not contain provisions as stringent as it might have done. The hon. Member for Deptford talked about a special Extradition Treaty, passed with special reference to this case, ad hoc being the phrase he used. When Jabez Balfour arrived in the Argentine Republic there was no Extradition Treaty 459 between it and this country. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Deptford said "Hear, hear !" Why was there not? An Extradition Treaty between us had been drawn up and signed, not by the present Government, but by the late Government—he was not quite certain about the date, but he thought it was in 1888; anyhow, it was signed one or two years before the late Government left office. The present Government came into office and found it signed. The late Government were undoubtedly anxious, and rightly anxious, that an Extradition Treaty should exist between the Argentine Republic and this country, and they had got it signed; but they did not succeed in getting that Treaty ratified by the Argentine Republic. Then arose a case of great interest and notoriety owing to Jabez Balfour having taken up his residence in the Republic. He did not know whether in those circumstances it would be supposed it would have been more easy for the present Government than it had been for the late Government to have secured a rapid ratification of the Extradition Treaty. It was, however, the fact that the present Government, within a comparatively short time of its coming into office, did find itself in a position to exchange the ratifications of that Treaty which had been signed by the previous Government. The present Government, finding themselves without an Extradition Treaty, and finding themselves face to face with the fact that an Extradition Treaty had been signed, but had not been ratified by the Argentine Legislature, spared no expense and no trouble to get Jabez Balfour extradited under that Treaty. Immediately it was ratified the point was raised whether its action was retrospective or not, because it was not ratified till after Jabez Balfour arrived in the Argentine Republic. That was a very serious and novel point. It was decided that, although the Treaty was not ratified until after Balfour's arrival, it did apply to his case, and since then his extradition had been pressed for. There was no reason to presume that if the prosecution of Jabez Balfour in the Provincial Court resulted in a conviction he would not undergo the proper punishment for his offence; still less was there any reason to suppose that, if the prosecution 460 failed, the Federal Government would not at once act up to the spirit of its own declaration and proceed—as it had already endeavoured to proceed, and but for these prosecutions in the Provincial Courts would have proceeded—at once with the extradition of Jabez Balfour.
§ MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he was sorry there should be in the minds of any Members of the Government the slightest suspicion of a desire to attribute to Her Majesty's Government a want of good faith; but he was bound to say he did not think the imperfect statement just made had very much improved the case. Until the hon. Baronet rose he was certainly under the impression, which he shared with other Members, that, for this expenditure of £7,000, at least an Extradition Treaty had been obtained; but now the Committee had been told that the Treaty existed before the Government came into Office.
§ MR. COHEN
said, he was coming to that. The Treaty was signed before the Government came into Office, and all that had been secured by the zealous efforts of the Government was a ratification of this celebrated Treaty, and as the result we were no better off than we were before the ratification, when we had not incurred this expenditure. It would have been interesting had the Under Secretary informed the Committee what portion of the expenditure had been incurred in connection with Jabez Balfour, and how far the position had been improved by the zealous efforts of the Government. All that was generally known was that a Police Inspector had been sent to the River Plate, the cost of his passage being some £80 or £90, and the ratification of this Extradition Treaty seemed to be the only return for 87,000 now asked for. He did not think the country would grudge £15,000 or more to obtain the presence of this much-sought-for ex-Member who held an office under the Crown, to which he was appointed by Her Majesty's Government before he left the country. The efforts to obtain that presence had turned out abortive, and he thought the 461 country would have been better satisfied had this money been made a contribution to the Liberator Fund, where it would have done more concrete good than in obtaining the ratification of this Treaty, which had not secured nor did it seem likely to secure the extradition of the person for which object the Treaty was ratified. The country would be disappointed with the statement of the hon. Baronet, which showed we were no nearer our object than we were 18 months ago.
§ SIR E. GREY
I just wish to explain that an Extradition Treaty signed is worth nothing until ratified.
§ MR. W. R. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, Members could not disguise from themselves that there was a strong feeling out of doors among large sections of the people and not confined to any political Party—that some Members of the House had no sincere desire to see Jabez Balfour return to this country. He expressed no opinion as to the accuracy of this belief, but that the belief did obtain among a large number of people of this country it would be idle to deny. There was a general belief, too, that Her Majesty's Government had not made the efforts they ought to have made to secure the return of the person in question. He did not say that he shared that belief, but the feeling existed and was growing. He had listened attentively to the speech of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and did not think it answered one or two questions in so complete a manner as the Committee had a right to expect. He failed to gather whether Her Majesty's Government had made any effort to ascertain the nature of the charges made against Jabez Balfour at Salta. It was natural to expect this information, and to obtain it was a duty Her Majesty's Government owed to our countrymen, hundreds of thousands of whom had been victimised by this man. Could the Government say who was the prosecutor and was it a collusive or a bona-fide action? Another mystery attaching to the matter was, whence came the funds which enabled Jabez Balfour to remain in that, part of the world? Thousands of pounds had been expended in efforts to prevent Jabez Balfour from being extradited. He had heard 462 that a large sum of money went out about a year and a half ago, ostensibly for the purpose of some waterworks, said to be in progress in that part of the world. Was the statement true, and if so, where did the money come from? He was surprised that hon Members should laugh at his statements, especially as so many thousands of people had been absolutely ruined by the collapse of the Liberator and the other Companies. He contended that it was the duty of the Government to find out from what source those funds came. It was rumoured that they came from a certain source——[An hon. MEMBER: "What source?"] He was not going to fall into that trap. There was also a question put by the hon. Member for Sheffield, as to whether there was any desire or intention on the part of the then Government, whether in fact they winked at the escape of Mr. Jabez Balfour? He did not think they did, but the point ought to be cleared up, and he hoped the Under Secretary of State would give more information on that head, so that the suspicion which the hon. Member for Sheffield had voiced should be set at rest and silenced from this date.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
apologised for troubling the Committee again, but he happened to know something of this case, not only from his police experience, but from having been in Argentina, and in a personal capacity seen the Minister there in reference to Mr. Jabez Balfour. Of the charge of£7,000, £600 was due on account of the case of Cornelius Herz; and, on the police regulations bearing thereon, he contended that the French Government should bear the expense as regarded Herz. As regarded Balfour, he thought there had been a great deal too much formality and Government action. No doubt an Extradition Treaty was of no avail until ratified, but the case was perfectly well known in police practice, and he was quite sure the Metropolitan Police would have done everything possible to have effected the arrest of Jabez Balfour, and he did not doubt they had put forward every possible exertion. It was well known that it was often easier to obtain the surrender of a prisoner from a country with which there was no Extradition Treaty than from a 463 country with which such a Treaty had been concluded. The arrest of a prisoner was generally a mere matter of energy and money. He knew that the late President of the Argentine Republic and the Minister of the Interior were most anxious to facilitate the extradition of Jabez Balfour, and the greatest credit was due to Mr. Welby, the First Secretary of the British Legation at Buenos Ayres, and to the Consul-General at Salta, for the efforts which they had made. The Government ought to let the Argentine Republic know that they attached the utmost importance to the speedy surrender of this criminal. If that view was expressed energetically, he believed that there would be very little delay before Jabez Balfour was shipped to this country. He did not understand why such an enormous sum should have been expended in connection with this case, especially as we seemed to be as far away as ever from the time when this infamous fugitive should appear in the dock at Bow Street.
§ SIR R. T. REID
explained that in addition to the expense of sending police officers to Buenos Ayres, very heavy legal expenses had been incurred in that country, where the scale of legal remuneration was, he was informed, more satisfactory than it was here. If, as had been said, suspicions were entertained in connection with this case he trusted they would be duly formulated. The hon. Member behind him had spoken of suspicious sources of money, and he regretted that when he asked what those sources were the hon. Member should have thought that he was laying a trap for him.
§ MR. CREMER
said, that he thought the question was addressed to him from the other side of the House by the hon. and learned Member for Deptford.
§ SIR R. T. REID
said, that the hon. Member's explanation was entirely satisfactory. He could quite understand men and women who had lost very large sums of money through fraudulent companies entertaining suspicions even if they were unreasonable. His view was that the sooner these rumours were translated into plain language the better it would be.
§ MR. CREMER
I will do as the hon. and learned Member suggests. The 464 general impression out of doors is that the money has come from the Debenture Corporation.
§ SIR R. T. REID
said, that he had never heard that rumour before, and that he had himself no knowledge of the sources from which the money had come, if money had been sent to Jabez Balfour in Argentina in order to assist him to remain abroad. If the hon. Member would bring to his notice any proper ground for instituting criminal proceedings against any one in the United Kingdom in respect of this or any other offence he would see that justice was done. The hon. Member had asked him to explain the nature of the charges at Salta that had delayed the extradition of Jabez Balfour. He believed that they were charges of fraud in conection with some brewery company which was supposed to have been formed by Jabez Balfour in Argentina. It was not in the power of Her Majesty's Government to estimate the importance of those charges. The point was this—in the Extradition Treaty the Government of the Argentine Republic were bound to hand this individual over to the Government of this country, but it had been decided in the provincial Court of Salta, in Argentina, that before handing an individual over to any foreign country he must first have met any such charges that might have been made against him in Argentina, and the Public Prosecutor in Argentina would not forego that. The point was that the Government of this country were not in the least responsible for what had been done in Argentina, and he would further say they knew nothing at all about the question of where the funds came from, but if anyone would give him information on the subject it might be of service and would receive attention. The hon. Member for Sheffield made certain observations with regard to the delay which had taken place in this case, and he was good enough to exempt him from the very sweeping, and he thought unfounded, charges he had made against his predecessors in office. He would much have preferred it if the hon. Member had made these charges when those gentlemen were in the House to meet them.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Kent, Thanet)
I made precisely the 465 same charges last year, and the hon. Gentleman explained to me that he was not personally responsible for the delay.
§ SIR R. T. REID
said, his observation was that he wished the hon. Gentleman had made those charges in the presence of those to whom he imputed the delay. The person responsible in this matter was not the Solicitor General but the Attorney General, and when the House met last year the Attorney General was Lord Justice Rigby, and his predecessor was the Lord Chief Justice of England. But he, personally, had never had any responsibility whatever in regard to this matter until the month of October last, when he became Attorney General. It would be a very strong thing if any Attorney General had winked at the escape of Jabez Balfour. It really would be, he should imagine, a proper subject for impeachment, and it would be a most shortsighted policy for any man to do anything of the kind. The facts were these. At the time when the prosecution against Hobbs and Wright took place, in December, 1892, there was no evidence before the Public Prosecutor which would warrant any charge being made against Jabez Balfour, and if the hon. Gentleman had only seen the huge mass of papers in the case he would well understand how long a time it took to extricate from its confusion the enormous volume of complicated transactions which were involved. In December, 1892, when Hobbs and Wright were arrested, there was no case whatever to warrant proceedings against Balfour. Immediately on the arrest of Hobbs and Wright, Balfour disappeared from the country. Why was there any delay in endeavouring to bring him back? At first the difficulty was that the Treaty had not been ratified. Then, from that time proceedings had been going forward constantly in the Argentine Republic, and they had been in the hands of the Foreign Office and had been carried on, he had no doubt, with all expedition. It was only in October, 1894, that, the final order of the Court of Appeal was made for the extradition of Balfour, and immediately upon that came these proceedings in the Provincial Court, which, it had since been held, precluded the extradition until Balfour had met the charges made against him in that country. 466 As long as it was thought, as it was thought from month to month, that Balfour would be sent to this country, proceedings were postponed, because it was obvious in the interest of public justice, that all these men should be tried together; but immediately it was seen that there would be indeterminate delay in the case of Balfour, proceedings were commenced against the others. As far as he could see, there had been no delay whatever, except such as was deliberately adopted in the hope entertained from month to month that Balfour would be returned to this country for trial. He hoped there would be no suspicion—for it would be a very unworthy suspicion—that there was the slightest desire on the part of any Members of the Government, past or present, to shield from trial the person against whom these charges were made.
§ MR. T. T. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
, whilst accepting without reserve the statements made by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs and others who had spoken for the Government, did not think that those statements had gone far enough, and that they had not got quite so much light on the subject as they ought to have. The facts as stated by the Government were these: That having obtained this extradition order so to speak, from the Federal Government, Jabez Balfour, at the very critical moment, went to Salta, where some charge was preferred against him.
§ SIR E. GREY
He was at Salta, and the Provincial Government there said they could not give him over to the Federal Authorities until he had satisfied the charges brought against him at Salta.
§ MR. BUCKNILL
said, that being at Salta, he understood Jabez Balfour had committed some offence against the criminal law within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government, and what they wanted to know, and what he thought they had a right to know, was what was the offence against the criminal law with which Balfour was charged, and until he had answered which the authorities at Salta declined to hand him over to the Federal Government. Fraud was a very general term. What they desired to know, and what the Government surely ought to know, was what were the charges of fraud with regard to 467 some alleged brewery business? Salta was not a large place, and this matter could surely have been somewhat better cleared up than it was at the present moment. If the fraud charged related to something which, by some representative out there, could be made known to the Government here, the Government had been very lax in not obtaining more information than they seemed to have got. Then, were they to understand that if Jabez Balfour was acquitted of the charges made against him by the Provincial Government of Salta he would be immediately handed over, without further trouble or expense, to the Federal Government, who would transfer him to the law officers of this country.
§ SIR E. GREY
replied that the Government had never contended or admitted that the offences with which Jabez Balfour was charged before the provincial authorities were entitled to impede his extradition to this country. On the contrary, they had pressed for his extradition in spite of these charges. The central fact, however, was not what the charges were, but that the public prosecutor of the provincial Court had refused to abandon those charges, and the provincial Court had refused to give Balfour up until such charges had been satisfied. That was the central point, and it was one which it was not in the power of the Government to overcome. As to the other question of the hon. and learned Member, if Jabez Balfour were acquitted of the charges, the Federal Government had demanded that he should be given up by the provincial authorities. As far as the Government knew and understood, the only ground upon which the provincial authorities had refused to surrender him to the Federal Authorities was that the, charges in their Courts must be first satisfied, and they had every right to assume that if he was acquitted of such charges the provincial authorities would surrender him to the Federal Authorities who were anxious to do the best they could to extradite him under the treaty.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
remarked that the narrative of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs stopped at the most important point. Inspector Tonbridge had 468 now come home, and there could be no earthly doubt that he had told the Government the whole details of the proceedings now pending against Jabez Balfour. What they wanted to know was, were these instituted by the provincial authorities or were they instituted at the instance of a private individual?
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
Was there any engagement that upon his regaining his liberty this country should be entitled to claim his extradition?
The hon. Member was speaking at Twelve o'clock, when the Debate stood adjourned.
§ The House resumed.