HC Deb 29 May 1906 vol 158 cc366-76

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. EMMOTT (Oldham) in the Chair.]

>Clause 1:—

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause stand part of the Bill.''

LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)

said that among the powers to be exercised by the Commissioners was that of issuing a warrant of committal to prison "signed by one or more of the Commissioners" for a period not exceeding three months. He did not think that it was right, say, for Mr. Alfred Lyttelton or Mr. Whitmore acting individually to be given the power to commit any person for contempt of Court, and he would like an explanation from the Home Secretary as to the working of the clause. He thought the power should be committed to three Commissioners acting together. He wished to know whether the clause was drafted in a technical form customary in measures of this character.


pointed out that the clause strictly followed precedent, as, for example, in the procedure of the South African War Stores Commission.


said it was unusual to find the Member of the Government responsible for such a Bill absent when it came up for discussion. He understood the Home Secretary to say that the Commission would have ordinary powers, except the power to give an indemnity to witnesses. He did not see this stated in the Bill, and he wanted to know the reason of the deviation from the usual practice.


explained that the Home Secretary was absent unexpectedly, because the earlier business had been disposed of sooner than had been anticipated. There were reasons why a witness should not be entitled as a right to a certificate of indemnity. The charges made in this case were of a serious character, involving not only the persons whose names had been lately before the public, but officers of justice and other individuals against whom subsequent proceedings might be taken if necessary.


thought that the reply given was an extraordinary one. An indemnity was given to a person whom otherwise it might be desirable to prosecute, but it had been thought more desirable to allow a guilty person to escape than that the truth should not be known. In order, therefore, to secure the disclosure of the truth the House had agreed in many similar cases to give an indemnity to a guilty person in order that he should make a clean breast of the facts known to him. The present instance seemed to him to be a case where they wanted to get at the real truth, and where they should pursue the ordinary methods precedent had marked out. In the absence of the Home Secretary he did not see how it was possible for the Committee to proceed with the Bill, and therefore he moved to report progress. He submitted that argument with confidence, because the Bill concerned the honour not only of private persons, but of the force which it was the duty of this House to protect. He trusted that the House would not allow the aspersions which had been cast upon various persons to remain without due inquiry, and therefore that the motion would be accepted.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. J. Chamberlain.)


said that when the Bill come up for Second Reading he withdrew the objection he had to it on the understanding that the Minister in charge of the measure, which was in one respect non-contentious, would give full explanation of its clauses. That Minister was now absent, and he held that progress should be reported.


said that the hon. and learned Gentleman had done all that possibly could be expected of him in his improvised defence of the Bill. But he did not think it was in consonance with the practice of the House that they should pass an important stage of a Bill exciting so much interest without the Minister in charge of the Bill being present. He was anxious that the Bill should pass. He believed that the police desired it, and that the result would be to clear them from the aspersions cast upon them in regard to the discharge of their duties. But, after all, the point raised by his right hon. friend was one of substance, viz., that they should not have discussions of a Bill without the Minister in charge of it being present. The acceptance of the Motion would make very little difference to the prospects of the Bill, as it could not pass before Whitsuntide; and he should certainly resist to the utmost of his power the passage of this or any other Bill before the Motion for the adjournment. There was not single Cabinet Minister on the Treasury bench. [MINISTERIAL ironical cheers, during which the Postmaster-General came in.] He had not seen the right hon. Gentleman before and he apologised. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would feel with the Opposition that they required some guidance in this House. That had never been the way of conducting the business of this House. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh."] He was sorry he could not identify the hon. gentleman who said "Oh," but he asked was he in the last Parliament, or in any other Parliament before?

MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)

said that he was a Member of the last Parliament, and he would recall the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the occasion when he moved a Resolution on the Fiscal question, and the whole of the then occupants of the Treasury Bench left the House.


said that that was a most happy illustration of the hon. Member's knowledge of Parliamentary business. The complaint now was that the Minister in charge of a Bill was not here to conduct it through Committee. The complaint of the hon. Member was that when a Motion was brought forward by a private Member the debate upon it was not listened to by those who he thought ought to listen to it. The question that the Minister in charge of a Bill should be present during its discussion in Committee was one of very substantial importance, and the only thing in his opinion was to adjourn this discussion.


said that his name was on the back of the Bill, and he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, should have thought fit to throw unnecessary delays in the way of passing a Bill of this character. If delay was not the object of this Motion for reporting progress he did not know what was the object. A number of reflections had been made upon members of the public service and the sooner they were cleared up the better. It was essential that the Bill should pass with the least possible delay. The Home Secretary was absent partly because it was not expected the Bill would be reached, and partly because the Bill had never been regarded as controversial. A wholly artificial point had now been raised on a question with regard to indemnity to witnesses, to which the Solicitor-General had given a complete and satisfactory reply. If the Home Secretary had been there he would have given the explanation in exactly the same words. It was, he held, undesirable to report progress at this stage.

MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)

said that even if they went on with the Committee stage that evening it would be impossible to pass the Bill before the Whitsuntide holidays, and therefore if progress was reported there would be no unnecessary delay. There were two questions of great importance which required the attendance of the Minister in charge of the Bill, viz., the conferring of the powers of the High Court upon the Commissioners and the question of the very important and drastic powers which were conferred upon them. He thought it essential that the Minister in charge of the Bill should be present to deal with the questions raised.

MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid)

said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the ex-Prime Minister had achieved their object. They had been delaying a Bill to the passing of which they pretended to be favourable. This was the Committee stage of the Bill, and if there was any point the right hon. Gentlemen thought of importance, notice of an Amendment could have been put on the Notice Paper. If there had been notice of any such Amendment the Home Secretary would have been in his place. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the ex-Prime Minister had taken this method by a mere hollow pretence.


Mr. Emmott, is there not a rule of the House which prohibits the imputation of motives?


I think the hon. Member's words were a little strong.


said he would withdraw the word "hollow" and say it was a "mere pretence." There was nothing on the Paper to show that this matter would be brought forward, and therefore the Home Secretary was not present.


said it was not for him to say whether the modification of the imputation of motive by the hon. and learned Gentleman was or was not in the spirit of the Chairman's ruling. It was not for him to judge, and he did not pretend to judge. The hon. and learned Gentleman had suggested that the conduct of his right hon. friend and himself and the pretence, not the hollow pretence, of which they had been guilty in dealing with this particular crisis was based upon some desire to prevent the Bill passing into law. That was absolutely false.


I suppose the right hon. Gentleman means "inaccurate."


said he desired that the Bill should pass into law, but he thought that there were points which were worth discussing on the Committee stage, and that the point raised by his right hon. friend was one of them. He had learned for the first time that a Minister in charge of a Bill need not be in attendance unless there was an Amendment on the Paper directing his attention to his own Bill. On the Committee stage of a Bill that was, he believed, new, and he did not know that it was the principle which the hon. and learned Gentleman advocated when in opposition. He had yet to learn that what every Member of this House supposed to be the practice was wrong. He had yet to learn that it was not competent and proper to raise points which had not been put formally on the Paper as Amendments and discuss them. The hon. and learned Gentleman was one of those who poured in Amendments without notice during some of the long-contested nights in which the hon. and learned Gentleman and himself on opposite sides of the House to their equal dissatisfaction took part in the late Parliament.


Not on my part.


thought the hon. and learned Gentleman would admit that an Amendment moved without notice was not an unfamiliar method, and it was certainly a most proper method of proceeding in this House. For the hon. and learned Gentleman to get up and suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had been guilty of delaying this matter by means of a pretence showed that he was either totally ignorant or had utterly forgotten the traditional methods by which business was conducted in this House. He was convinced that there was not a man on the Treasury Bench who would get up and defend the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman that it was unnecessary, unless an Amendment was put down upon the Paper, for a Minister to be in his place to support his own Bill.


Although there was no distinct agreement with the front bench on that side of the House—


Was there any agreement?


May I be allowed to finish my sentence? Although there was no distinct agreement with Members on that side of the House that this Bill should be regarded as a non-contentious measure, there was a general understanding throughout the whole House that it should be regarded as non-contentious, and be passed as soon as possible, in order to set this Commission to work. The action of the right hon. Gentleman is, in my judgment, a breach of that understanding.


I believe I have had a longer experience than any man now listening to me of the manner in which the business of this House is conducted. Never have I heard a responsible Minister get up and claim that what he calls a general understanding, never made with any responsible individual, is a thing with regard to which a breach of pledge can be made. No man in this House has more difficult duties to discharge than the hon. Gentle man who has just made the charge—


I am afraid I must stop this. The Motion is to report

progress. Both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman must confine themselves to that matter.


On a point of order, Sir, may I ask you whether, having been charged with a breach of faith, I am not permitted to reply to that charge?


The right hon. Gentleman was charged with a breach of an understanding. I understood him to have repudiated any agreement, and therefore I considered that the matter was at an end.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes, 244. (Division List No. 106.)

Anson, Sir William Reynell Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J.(Birm Meysey-Thompson, E. C
Arkwright, John Stanhope Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Nicholson, Win. G. (Petersfield)
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Craig, Captain James (Down, E Paulton, James Mellor
Balcarres, Lord Fell, Arthur Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Loud.) Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Raphael, Herbert H.
Banner. John S. Harmood- Fletcher, J. S. Rawlinson, John Frederick P-
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Forster, Henry William Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Haddock, George R. Starkey, John R.
Bignold, Sir Arthur Hamilton, Marquess of Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G.(Oxfd Univ.
Bowles, G. Stewart Hill, Henry Staveley (Staff'sh.) Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark)
Boyle, Sir Edward Hills, J. W. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hunt, Rowland Younger, George
Carlile, K. Hildred Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W.
Cave, George Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Cavendish. Rt. Hn. Victor C.W. Lowe, Sir Francis William Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Magnus, Sir Philip
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Benn, John Williams (Devonprt Channing, Francis Allston
Acland, Francis Dyke Benn, W.(Tw'r Hamlets, S. Geo Cheetham, John Frederick
Adkins, W. Ryland Berridge, T. H. D. Cherry, Rt. Hon. R, R.
Agnew, George William Billson, Alfred Clarke, C. Goddard (Peckham)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Black, Alexander Wm. (Banff.) Clough, W.
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Black, Arthur W. (Bedfordshire Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)
Armitage, R. Bolton, T. D. (Derbyshire, N.E. Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Brace, William Cooper, G. J.
Astbury, John Meir Bramsdon, T. A. Corbett, C.H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Bright, J. A. Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Brooke, Stopford Cotton, Sir H. J. S.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Bryce, J. A. (Inverness Burghs Cowan, W. H.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Davies, Timothy (Fulham)
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Burns, Rt. Hon. John Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)
Barnard, E. B. Burnyeat, J. D. W. Delany, William
Barnes, G. N. Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway
Barran, Rowland Hirst Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles Dodd, W. H.
Beale, W. P. Byles, William Pollard Dolan, Charles Joseph
Beauchamp, E. Cairns, Thomas Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness
Beaumont, W. C. B. (Hexham) Carr-Gomm, H. W. Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)
Beck, A. Cecil Cawley, Frederick Dunne, Major E. M. (Walsall)
Bellairs, Carlyon Chance, Frederick William Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)
Elibank, Master of Lyell, Charles Henry Rowlands, J.
Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward Lynch, H. B. Runciman, Walter
Essex, R. W. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Evans, Samuel T. Macdonald, J.M.(Falkirk B'ghs Scarisbrick, T. T. L.
Eve, Harry Trelawney Maclean, Donald Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)
Everett, R. Lacey MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S. Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne
Ferens, T. R. MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E. Seaverns, J. H.
Ffrench, Peter M'Callum, John M. Shackleton, David James
Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter M'Crae, George Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
Fuller, John Michael F. M'Kenna, Reginald Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)
Fullerton, Hugh M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.) Silcock, Thomas Ball
Ginnell, L. M'Micking, Major G. Simon, John Allsebrook
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Maddison, Frederick Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
Glover, Thomas Manfield, Harry (Northants) Spicer, Albert
Goddard, Daniel Ford Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
Gooch, George Peabody Marnham, F. J. Steadman, W. C.
Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Massie, J. Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Micklem, Nathaniel Strachey, Sir Edward
Gulland, John W. Mond, A. Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Sullivan, Donal
Hall, Frederick Morrell, Philip Summerbell, T.
Hardie J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Morse, L. L. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Murphy, John Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw) Tennant, E. P. (Salisbury)
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Nicholls, George Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Haworth, Arthur A. Nicholson, Charles N.(Doncastr Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E
Hazel, Dr. A. E. Nolan, Joseph Tomkinson, James
Hazleton, Richard Norton, Capt. Cecil William Toulmin, George
Hedges, A. Paget Nuttall, Harry Verney, F. W.
Helme, Norval Watson O'Brien Kendal (Tipperary Mid Vivian, Henry
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Henry, Charles S. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Walsh, Stephen
Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S. O'Grady, J. Walters, John Tudor
Higham, John Sharp O'Hare, Patrick Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)
Hobart, Sir Robert O'Malley, William Wardle, George J.
Hodge, John O'Mara, James Waterlow, D. S.
Hooper, A. G. Parker, James (Hailfax) Watt, H. Anderson
Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset N Paul, Herbert White, George (Norfolk)
Horniman, Emslie John Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester) White J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke) Whitehead, Rowland
Hudson, Walter Pickersgill, Edward Hare Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Jenkins, J. Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Johnson, John (Gateshead) Radford, G. H. Wiles, Thomas
Johnson, W. (Nuneaton) Rainy, A. Rolland Wilkie, Alexander
Kearley, Hudson E. Rea, Russell (Gloucester) Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Kekewich, Sir George Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro' Williamson, A.(Elgin and Nairn
Kennedy, Vincent Paul Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Wills, Arthur Walters
King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Rendall, Athelstan Wilson, Henry J.(York, W.R.)
Laidlaw, Robert Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mptn Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester) Richardson, A. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Lambert, George Ridsdale, E. A. Winfrey, R.
Lamont, Norman Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wodehouse, Lord (Norfolk, Mid)
Layland-Barratt, Francis Roberts John H. (Denbighs.) Woodhouse, Sir J.T.(Huddersfd
Lehmann, R. C. Robertson, Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee) Young, Samuel
Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd Yoxall, James Henry
Levy, Maurice Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Lewis, John Herbert Robson, Sir William Snowdon TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Roe, Sir Thomas Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.
Lough, Thomas Rogers, F. E. Newman
Lupton, Arnold Rose, Charles Day

Original Question again proposed.

And, it being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.

Ajdourned at a quarter after Eleven o'clock.