HL Deb 18 June 1852 vol 122 cc903-4

presented a petition from Richard Sprye, esq., of 5, Oakley-square, Chelsea, a prisoner in Her Majesty's prison of London and Middlesex, complaining of being arrested while on his way to this House to be sworn, in order to his being examined as a witness before the Select Committee on the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Bill, and praying for relief. The noble Lord stated that Mr. Sprye had made himself a party to a private Bill, by presenting a petition with respect to it. That petition was referred to the Select Committee which had the Bill under consideration; and on Monday last Mr. Sprye was told he must appear before the Committee, by his Parliamentary agent or solicitor, to prosecute the petition: he also purposed to give evidence before it. On Tuesday, while on his way to be sworn and to give evidence before the Committee, he was arrested by the officer for debt, and, notwithstanding all remonstrance, taken to prison, where he now remained. Next day he appealed by petition to the Committee, but they informed him that he must apply to a Judge for a habeas corpus, in order to obtain his release. Accordingly, application was made to Mr. Justice Wightman at chambers; but he refused it on the ground that no precedent had been shown of a Common Law Court interfering for the purpose of protecting the privileges of either House of Parliament. The party now sought, by petition, the interference of their Lordships: and his case resolved itself into two points—first, his privileges as a witness; and, secondly, as a party to a Bill then before the House. There might be some uncertainty in regard to the first point, as Mr. Sprye had not been served with any subpœna, and was not under any compulsory process to attend; but, with reference to the second question, as a petitioner, he thought their Lordships were relieved from all difficulty, because a party to a Bill ought to have the same protection as a party to a common law suit, and the practice of all courts gave protection eundo, murando, et redeundo. There were precedents in favour of their Lordships' interfering in the matter; but as some doubts might be entertained upon it, he thought the better course would be to refer the petition to a Select Committee, who should inquire into the precedents and law on the subject.

Moved—"That the said petition be referred to a Select Committee."


suggested the appointment of a Committee on the case, as it would when settled pass into a precedent. This party was not entitled to protection as a witness, because it was only when a party left his house, which was his castle, under compulsion of the law, that he was entitled to protection. As to his being protected as a party, that point at all events would require investigation.


had no objection that the petition generally should be referred to a Committee.

On Question, agreed to.