HC Deb 19 June 1902 vol 109 cc1187-203
(9.0.) MR. SPEAKER

informed the House that he had received the following Letter relating to the Imprisonment of a Member—


June 18, 1902.


I have the honour to inform you that at a Court held here today under the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887, at which Mr. Patrick Aloysius M'Hugh, M.P. for North Leitrim, appeared as defendant, Mr. M'Hugh was committed to Sligo Gaol by me and Mr. Harrel, resident magistrate, for a period of three months on his refusal to enter into recognizances to be of good behaviour, he having grossly insulted the Court.

I have the honour to be,

Your obedient servant,


MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

I paused for a moment when you had read the communication, Mr. Speaker, in order to enable the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the House, to take the course which as far as I understand, as far as I have been able to gather from reading precedents of the past, which has invariably taken on occasions of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman in alluding to this matter earlier in the day, stated that he intended to take action upon this matter when this letter was read. Therefore the silence of the right hon. Gentleman to me is absolutely inexplicable. As far as I know there has been no instance in the history of the House of Commons for the last one hundred years where in a case of this kind the responsible representative of the Government has allowed a communication of this kind to be read to the House without advising the House and proposing that a certain action be taken. I do not think, Mr. Speaker, it is necessary for me to go at any length into precedents in this case, it may be sufficient for me to allude to them shortly. During the course of the nineteenth century there were four distinct cases when it was reported to Mr. Speaker that a Member of this House had been committed to prison for contempt of Court. They were the cases in the first instance of Mr. Wellsby in 1831, secondly of Mr. Charlton in 1837, thirdly of Mr. Worley in the year 1874, and the fourth of Mr. Gray in the year 1882. In each one of these cases the Leader of the House moved at once, upon the letter being read by Mr. Speaker, that a Committee be appointed to enquire into the circumstances of the case with the object of enabling the House to have a report before it, as to whether the circumstances constituted any reason why the House should take further action. Even in cases which were on exactly similar lines to the case at present under consideration if we are to judge the merits of that case from the terms of the letter which you have just read. Never before, as far as I can make out, has the Government refrained from putting a Motion before the House. [Mr. Balfour made a remark which was inaudible in the Press gallery.] I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has any right to interrupt me. I think the right hon. Gentleman should in this instance have followed the invariable practice adopted by every predecessor of his on the Bench. It is now apparently left for me to make a Motion which in every case in the past has been made by the Leader of the House.

I will deal in a moment with the case as to whether this was really a case of contempt of Court or not, but in the first place let me deal with it on the lines of the letter which has just been read. The letter states that Mr. M'Hugh has been committed to prison by these justices because he refused to give the bail for good behaviour which they asked for. The last occasion of that kind which was before the House, was I think the case of Mr. Healy which took place in the year 1883. In that case Mr. Speaker read a letter addressed to him announcing that Mr. Healy, one of the Members for the county of Wicklow—(that is a mistake; he was Member for Wexford)—had refused to enter into recognizances to be of good behaviour and had been committed to prison. That is a case exactly analogous to the case as stated in the present letter. Instantly the letter had been read, the Marquess of Hartington, who is now the Duke of Devonshire, rose on behalf of the Government and submitted a Motion to this effect, "That the letter of the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench do lie on the Table." The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is purely a formal Motion, but it is a Motion which invites discussion, and it is a Motion which was in pursuance of a practice unbroken through many generations, and I believe I would be right in saying centuries in this I House. I want to know if this is to be regarded as a case not of contempt of court but as a case of imprisonment in consequence of a refusal to give bail for good behaviour? I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of this House and of the Conservative Party, which is supposed to be anxious to conserve all its traditions, has set an example unknown in the history of Parliament, and has refrained from submitting any Motion on this question for the consideration of the House of Commons. I want to know why he has left a private Member like myself to introduce a Motion in order to have a discussion. In making the Motion in 1883, the then Marquess of Hartington pointed out that there were distinct cases of imprisonment of Members which might come under the consideration of the House. In the first place, imprisonment on civil process; secondly, for contempt of court, and, thirdly, for crime. He went on to show the view the House had always taken of the first branch of offence. Every Member of Parliament is protected from arrest in respect of civil process, and the House has always ordered, and will, no doubt, insist upon, the discharge of a Member so arrested, holding that the presence in the House of a Member of Parliament is of more importance than the discharge of pecuniary obligations. Then as to the second class of case, that of contempt of court. The Marquess of Hartington went on to say that that was a class of case which the House had always jealously scrutinised, and always appointed a Committee to inquire into. With regard to the third class of offence, that is, offences which come into the category of crime, he stated that in this instance the House of Commons had not been in the habit of ordering any special inquiry. If this is to be judged as a case not of contempt of court but of refusal to give bail to be of good behaviour, I think no Member will say it is fair to regard that as coming within the category of crime. It would be an abuse of terms to suggest anything of the kind.

The first point I desire to make is this, that an explanation is called for from the Leader of the House as to his reason for deviating from the invariable practice of this House. As far as I have been able to judge from private communications which I have received myself, and from the reports which have appeared in the public newspapers, this case of Mr. M'Hugh is clearly a case of contempt of court. Mr. M'Hugh refused to express regret for the expression he had used and which the Bench regarded as an offensive expression. Mr. Brown, the presiding magistrate, then said: "We call upon you to find bail in £100, and two sureties of £50 each." Mr. M'Hugh then said: "What for?" Mr. Brown said: "Contempt of court." It was clearly a case of contempt of court, because it was an offence committed against the supposed dignity of the tribunal. The magistrates sitting in petty sessions in Ireland have only limited powers of dealing with offences of contempt of court. Their power of commitment is limited by statute to seven days. But what happened in this case? The hon. Member having been guilty of an offence of contempt of Court, and the magistrates apparently not thinking that their powers of dealing with contempt of Court were sufficient, fell back upon an old statute, that of Edward the Third, and sentenced the hon. Member to three months imprisonment. I say that that is a gross abuse of their powers—an abuse which could not take place in this country. I would respectfully challenge any Gentleman of this House, on either side of the House, especially those Members who are experienced in the administration of law in England, to give a single instance within the last hundred years in this country where anything of the kind has taken place. There are special tribunals in Ireland that have absolutely no parallel in England, and therefore we feel bound to bring to the attention of the House of Commons every instance of this character. It may be said that my friend, Mr. McHugh, used very violent and unjustifiable language. It is no business of mine to enter into that question. The question is whether this tribunal, by invoking the aid of an old and obsolete statute, have exercised jurisdiction in excess of their statutory powers under the Petty Sessions Act. For my part, I have no hesitation in saying that if my hon. friend the Member for North Leitrim had the idea and intention to throw ridicule and contempt upon the tribunal before whom he was brought, I sympathise with that intention with my whole heart. It is a question, of course, whether he took the best way to do that or not; possibly many people may think he did not. Let the House bear in mind the circumstances. Here is a public man, a Member of this House; an honoured journalist in Ireland, the President of the Journalists' Association in Ireland, a body made up of men of all political opinions; a man four times elected mayor of his native city; this man is charged with criminal conspiracy, one of the gravest criminal charges that can be brought against any man, and instead of being brought before the tribunal of a jury, such a tribunal as he would be entitled to be brought before in England, in Scotland, or in Wales, he is brought before a specially created tribunal consisting of two paid agents of Dublin Castle—two men who are supposed to constitute both judge and jury, and who as judges are not independent of the Executive, and as jurors have not a proper discrimination between the Crown and the prisoners. These tribunals do not deserve, and will not receive, the respect of the people of Ireland. If they were constituted in this country, they would be swept away in one month by the indignation of the people of England. Most of these magistrates are promoted from the police, and others are broken down half-pay officers. It was reasonable for any man to ask for the names of the jurors who were going to try his case, in order to find out whether they had the qualifications required by Act of Parliament. Mr. M'Hugh's request for those names was refused, and he was told that it was an attempt to obstruct the proceedings of the Court, and then, with very natural and as I think proper indignation, the hon. Member retorted upon the Bench. I want no distinction between his imprisonment for refusing bail, and his imprisonment for contempt of Court. I ask the House of Commons to follow the precedents I have mentioned, and I therefore beg to move a Resolution which is a copy word for word of the Resolution which has been passed in other cases for the last one hundred years.

Motion made and Question proposed—That the Letter of Mr. Robert L. Brown, U.M., of the 18th June, 1902, informing the House of the imprisonment of Mr. M'Hugh, a Member of this House, be referred to a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into all the matters connected with the proceedings referred to therein, and of reporting whether they demand the further attention of the House.—(Mr. John Redmond.)

(9.28.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)

Is it conceivable, Sir, that the Leader of the House has nothing to say to the House on a question of this kind? What were the words used by the right hon. Gentleman today when reference was made to the probability of this occurrence at this time? He said it would be his duty to move the appointment of a Committee to examine into the circumstances of the case. These, I think, were the words used, but when the Speaker read the letter he had received, the right hon. Gentleman—as I understand, for I was not in the House at the time—made no sign, and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford proceeded to address the House in the speech to which we have just listened. He concluded his speech with a motion for a Committee, and even then the right hon. Gentleman has no advice to give, no opinion to offer to the House. Putting aside the question of the constitution of the Court, of whether this unusual Court is deserving of the confidence of the Irish people or not, we have on the case before us, as it is stated to us, that this Member of the House of Commons has, on account of contempt of Court, been sent to gaol. [Conversation on the Treasury Bench here elicited cries of "Order" from the Nationalist benches.] If the Whip of the Party opposite will allow me to conclude—perhaps he has not got enough of his supporters gathered together, but even in that ease, if I continue my speech it might so far assist him. This Member of the House has been committed for a contempt of Court to a period of imprisonment, which, under the ordinary law, is not within the competence of the Court, and recourse is had to an old and fusty and rusty weapon, to an Act of some decayed Parliament long since gone, which is held to apply to such a case. Surely that additional complication makes it the more necessary, in defence of the interests and privileges of every Member of this House, that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the case. Yet the right hon. Gentleman showed an extraordinary want of alacrity in rising to give that advice to the House which we naturally expect. We await that advice with patience and curiosity.

(9.31.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of patience. If it is patience that he has been showing, it is the most extraordinary that I have ever come across. But, if he is so anxious to hear what I have to say upon this subject, I have no hesitation in gratifying him, although personally I should not have been at all averse to hear what other persons of experience had to say on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted very accurately some words which fell from me this afternoon, and had he thought it worth while to go back to a former debate within the last few weeks, he would have found that on a similar subject I made use of very much the same expression. He would have found that I referred to a simple case of committal for contempt of a Court of law; and I need hardly tell the House that in that case I should have followed the practice and precedent of the House, which I believe are invariable, of moving for a Committee to consider the circumstances very much in the language which I believe the hon. Gentleman has borrowed from the latest case on record—that of Edward Dwyer Gray.


I am founding my Motion on the case of Mr. Healy in 1883.


Well, I think the hon. Gentleman would have done better to have gone back to the case of Edward Dwyer Gray, the last case of actual contempt dealt with. That would have been the Motion I should myself have made, had it been obvious on the face of the warrant that this was a case of committal by a Court for contempt of Court. The real difficulty arises from the fact that this is not a simple case. [An HON. MEMBER: It is an Irish case.] The very fact that the hon. Gentleman quoted the case of Mr. Healy in 1883 shows that he has not truly appreciated the bearings of the case on our practice, or the true precedents which ought to guide us. The case in 1883 of the hon. Member for North Louth, who was then Member for Wexford, is really not a case in point at all. It was not a case of contempt of Court; it was not a case arising out of the action of the magistrates in Ireland, and whether or not the then Leader of the House was justified in pursuing the course he took, and in saying that the letter should be allowed to lie on the Table of the House. I do not presume to judge at the present time, and in any case it is not relevant to the question we are now considering. If I have been rightly informed, but I have not had an opportunity of consulting Hansard on the subject, the Motion was made, not as the hon. Gentleman would have us suppose, as a kind of preliminary to the appointment of a Committee to look into the case, but as an alternative suggestion that a Committee should be appointed, hon. Gentlemen who sat in that quarter of the House at that time actually moved that a Committee should be appointed. Lord Hartington's was a counter Motion.


If the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me, I will state what occurred. He says he has not had the opportunity of looking into the matter, but some of us have had the time and opportunity to do so. The Marquess of Hartington, the Leader of the House at that time, opened the proceedings by moving that the letter should lie upon the Table of the House, and in doing that he said he moved it in accordance with invariable practice. The Motion for a Committee was an Amendment to the Marquess of Hartington's Motion.


I take the historical statement of the hon. Member as perfectly accurate, but the difference between him and me is irrelevant to the particular point I was endeavouring to bring before the House. The point I am bringing before the House is this—from those Benches in the Member of Louth's case in 1883 an attempt was made to obtain a Committee to investigate it, and then the Leader of the House the Marquess of Hartington moved his Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: No] He resisted that, and adhered to the original Motion that the letter should lie on the Table of the House. His view in connection with Mr. Healy's case was that it was not a fit case for a Committee, and, although the Motion that the letter lie on the Table of the House gave a case for debate, he resisted successfully the case for investigation. So much for Mr. Healy's case. But there is a much more relevant case to the present issue which the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned, and that is the case of Dr. Tanner, which is absolutely on all fours with the present case, so far as I know. I am not aware from such investigations as I have been able to give that there is the slightest difference between the case of Dr. Tanner and the case now under the consideration of the House. In both instances an Irish Member was brought before the resident magistrates for an alleged breach of the law; in both cases the accused insulted the Bench, and in both cases the magistrates adopted the course of binding them over to good behaviour under the statute of Edward III. I am not going to argue whether that is right or wrong. I will only point out that the right hon. Gentleman opposite describes this as something outside the ordinary law. It is the ordinary law. (An HON. MEMBER: "In Ireland.") It may be a good law or a bad law (An HON. MEMBER: "Balfour law," and cries of "Order.") At all events, it is not a new law, and therefore it does not come under the description which apparently the right hon. Gentleman thinks appropriate, and it cannot be referred to as part of the Crimes Act legislation which this House has passed in recent years. In both these cases a Member of Parliament insulted the Bench; in both cases the Bench proceeded against the Member by binding him over to good behaviour, and in both cases the Member of Parliament need not have gone to prison had he found sureties. In both cases the hon. Member preferred not to find sureties and to go to prison. That is the story, and I think the House will see that I am accurate in saying that the two cases are absolutely on all fours. What happened in the case of Dr. Tanner is a precedent, and what happened in the case of the hon. Member for North Louth is not a precedent to this case. In the case of Dr. Tanner there was a warm debate in this House on the subject immediately after the arrest took place. That is not specially relevant to the present case. There was a power to bring the action of the resident magistrates before the superior Court on certiorari in order to see whether they had or had not exceeded their power. That procedure was adopted in the case of Dr. Tanner, and Chief Baron Palles delivered an elaborate judgment upon it. What was the conclusion and the general substance of that decision? Chief Baron Palles relied entirely on English precedents, and said that it was within the competence of the Court to proceed in the way in which these resident magistrates had proceeded. He showed that there were English precedents that persons could be committed for contempt of Court in consequence of action taken outside for the obstruction of justice, and that the Court could bind over those guilty of this offence to be of good behaviour, and he asked with unanswerable force whether there could be a distinction between using this procedure against persons obstructing the course of justice outside the Court when you are going to take similar procedure against persons obstructing the course of justice inside the Court. Chief, Baron Palles came to the conclusion that the magistrates had acted entirely within their jurisdiction. In an appeal of that character the question whether or not the magistrates behaved with discretion was not the point. He did say, and that with an authority which I think in this House no one will attempt to minimise or criticise, that the magistrates had been acting within their jurisdiction in taking this procedure and in binding the person over to good behaviour.

It seems to me to be a now practice to have to examine into a case of this kind. Remember what the House did, or rather, I ought perhaps to say, omitted to do, in the case of Dr. Tanner. Dr. Tanner in 1889 did precisely what the hon. Member whose case we are considering has done in 1902. In 1889 the House took cognisance of what had occurred in an Irish Court. Mr. Sexton, then a Member of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, a distinguished Member of the Opposition Bench, the then Attorney General for Ireland, and myself took part in the debate, but never was it suggested in the heated discussion that the proper procedure of this House was to have a Committee of inquiry into the question of a committal for contempt of Court. I think the House will admit that I have shown a conclusive case, at all events on behalf of my own attitude, that it is not simply a case of moving for a Committee, that it is not simply the case of a committal for contempt of Court, and that to move for a Committee is not in accordance with precedent. To move for a Committee is not to go with the precedents in their most formal aspects, but to go against them, altogether against precedent. There fore it is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that I was anxious to hear what arguments could be advanced, or ought to be advanced, in favour of one course or the other. The hon. Gentleman who initiated the debate argued for some length, though I think with an imperfect recollection of the precedents. I cannot say that the Leader of the Opposition threw any light on the subject.


I did not profess to throw any light on the subject.


On the whole, Sir, having given the best consideration I can to the matter in the short time that has elapsed since the facts have been before me, I am rather inclined to think though there is some doubt, that a committee ought to be granted. The reasons against the Committee are that, though there have been committees in the past, I am not very anxious to extend the practice of Parliamentary Committees on all occasions where any Member of the House copies into collison with the law of the land. No doubt this is an extension, because there is no precedent, so far as I know, for the granting of a committee in this case—for, as I have shown, the case of Dr. Tanner fails as a precedent. Therefore, while admitting that this is a slight extension of the existing practice, and that so far it is to be deprecated, I think there is some force in what has been said. It may, I think, be urged with great force that the Irish magistrates had two courses open to them in dealing with any person accused before them. They might have followed the course which is suggested by the statute—they might have committed for a week. They might also, as Chief Baron Palles laid down, have pursued the course which the magistrates pursued in the case of Dr. Tanner, and which was pursued in the case now before us—which is that of binding the person charged over to good behaviour. Both courses are perfectly legitimate that have been laid down. But I think there is a certain paradox in attempting to sustain the argument that when the magistrates took one of those courses there ought to be a Committee granted, and that if they took the other course there ought not to be a Committee granted. It may be said that in one case they have used the machinery of the law, which is more in the nature of criminal procedure than in the other, but, on the whole, I suppose, we ought not to raise too much and too fine distinctions—that we ought in this case to ignore precedent, or the absence of precedent, which took place in the case of Dr. Tanner, and that we should rather rely upon the unbroken course of precedents followed at all events since 1830 in regard to direct and simple committals for contempt of Court. As I think on the whole we ought not to rely too much upon the difference of procedure where the offences are the same, and when the punishment is closely allied, on the whole I am not disposed to resist the Committee which the hon. Gentleman has suggested. I do not at all regret the course I have taken in not having myself nominated the Committee. I am not anxious to initiate any extension of the practice of appointing Committees in the case of those who come within the criminal law; and yet, on the other hand, as the proposal has been made, I do not think that the House would be well advised in relying too much on a distinction as to precedents, a distinction which is rather technical in its nature and does not partake of a fundamental character.

(9.52.) MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the decision which he has just announced to the House. I am surprised, I confess greatly surprised, that the right hon. Gentleman had not in view all the considerations he has now so reasonably brought before us.


made a remark in reply.


I will not go into the right hon. Gentleman's doubts. I wish he had not even interjected that interruption. I should have been glad to think that for the sake of his position in this House he now recognises that this is a case which requires special consideration. I think it is to be regretted for his own sake that he required my right hon. friend who sits near me to draw him into this concession [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Well, it seems to me to be so. I do not pay the slighest attention to the arguments used by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Water-ford as to the constitution of the Court. That Court was a Statutory Court. I have a pretty strong opinion as to these Courts, but that is not now the question. The question is a very simple and plain one, and I would observe we are agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that we are really very ill informed as to what actually and specifically took place. We have newspaper telegrams to go upon, which are a most unsafe foundation. But what is to me clear from the words closing the letter which Mr. Speaker read to the House as to the foundation of the proceedings against Mr. M'Hugh, the Member for North Leitrim, is that he very grossly insulted the Bench. If the newspaper reports are to be relied on—I do not know whether they are or not—it is beyond all doubt or question that the Bench was grossly insulted, and that the Bench would have been greatly wanting in self-respect if they had permitted such conduct to pass without punishment. With that, I think, we must all agree; but surely the House will see that this is a very serious thing indeed, and that no such thing could have happened in England or Scotland. Here is a man, whether a Member of Parliament or not, who has committed a gross contempt of Court. He is liable, therefore, to such punishment as the law empowers the Court to inflict. What does that Court do? I am not going to argue the case—I am only pointing out why this is a special case. This Court, finding that it has not, under the Petty Sessions Act, power to punish as they think adequately such a gross contempt, falls back on the Statute, which I have fallen back on myself before now—the Act of Edward III.—in order to make up for what they considered their own defective power; they fall back on this extremely stringent and strenuous Statute, which ought never to be used, except in the case of the greatest social emergency.


The Coronation year!


Can any Gentle man opposite, or on this side of the House believe for one moment that this was a case of social emergency. It would be quite wrong and out of order for me to argue the case now; but I repeat that we may congratulate the House that we will escape from what I think a rather ignoble position—that we should allow a Bench in Ireland to withdraw a Member from the service of the House, and, further than that, to withdraw the consideration of the arguments and the law which justified the withdrawal from the consideration of the House. That was the position taken up in one part, I thought, of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman; that, because Mr. M'Hugh had been sent to prison under the Statute of Edward III., we were debarred from considering the case in the ordinary way. If this contention were to be upheld it would put in the power of one of these Special Courts to take one, or two, or more Members out of the service of the House and cut off from the House the consideration of the circumstances in which the withdrawal had taken place. I think the case is a very clear one, and that the right hon. Gentleman has come to a very sound conclusion.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E)

I wish to say a very few words to bring the debate to a conclusion, because the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman relieves us of the duty of debating it at any considerable length. I cannot understand how there could exist any doubt in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and it was that doubt which caused the consumption of time which has taken place this evening. This was a case which would fall under the proceedings governing the contempt of Court. I hold in my hand a report of what happened in the Court, and it states that when Mr. Brown called upon Mr. M'Hugh to find bail and to enter into his own recognisance for £100, Mr. M'Hugh said "For what?" Mr. Brown said "For contempt of Court." Was it to be maintained for a moment that, because these magistrates, actuated, I am sorry to say, by spite and a desire to punish the hon. Member for contempt of Court with a longer and more vigorous punishment than the Statute gave them power to do, could resort to an old and unprecedented method under the Statute of Edward III. in order to inflict a punishment twelve times greater than the Petty Sessions Act gives them power to inflict. I challenge any hon. Member, with the collective experience of all the lawyers in England, Ireland, and Scotland, to produce a single instance in which that statute has been used for such a purpose in the administration of the law. This is a course of procedure which the people of England and Scotland would not tolerate for an hour. We, in Ireland, are treated as common tramps and pick-pockets. This Statute was devised, even in the days of Edward III., for common tramps who could not give an account of their way of living; and yet that is the Statute which is had recourse to in Ireland in order to imprison respectable and honest men, representatives of the people on local boards and in this House. I say it is an outrage. I am extremely glad that at last an opportunity has been offered to bring under the consideration of a Committee of this House the scandalous, infamous, and intolerable conduct of magistrates in Ireland in applying an Act originally passed for dealing with people of low character to respected citizens and representatives of the people of Ireland in this Parliament.


I rise to say a few words in reply to the hon. Gentleman opposite. He has spoken as if this method of procedure was one peculiar to Ireland. If he will look into "Stone's Justices' Manual," he will find it reported that it has been laid down that if anyone insults a Bench of Justices in England the proper procedure for them to take is to bind him over to be of good behaviour under this very Statute. I was surprised to hear it stated that it was a monstrous hardship that a man should be punished, not for insulting the Bench, but for refusing to undertake not to repeat the offence.

MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)

said he was astonished at the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement of the law. In Ireland there was a Statute which limited the power of a Petty Sessions Court to inflict punishment for contempt of Court to seven days. This was a case, if ever there was one, in which the House should protect the privileges of its Members. Was the House to be deprived of its jurisdiction and discretion, and its right to inquire into the circumstances in which a Member was committed for contempt of Court, because a magistrate who was aggrieved at a rash and hasty exclamation chose to remove from this House the discretion it could exercise by sentencing him under the Statute of Edward III? He challenged the Attorney General to produce any case, except two of a political character, in which any bench of magistrates attempted to impose more than seven days imprisonment for contempt of Court.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That the letter of Mr. Robert L. Brown, K.M., of the 18th June, 1902, informing the House of the imprisonment of Mr. M'Hugh, a Member of this House, be referred to a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into all the matters connected with the proceedings re erred to therein, and of reporting whether they demand the further attention of the House.—(Mr. John Redmond.)

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