HL Deb 11 May 1854 vol 133 cc147-9

in naming the Select Committee on this Bill, said, that he had not the most distant intention that the Bill should interfere with the enforcement of the private rights of any portion of Her Majesty's subjects. It was intended by the Bill, as originally framed, to prevent such deputations as that to Florence upon the case of the Madiai. His own opinion was, that such a proceeding was not in the exercise of any constitutional right, that it was not, generally speaking, calculated to gain its object, and that with regard to the great Powers of Europe, it might be attended with inconvenient results. After hearing the opinions which had been expressed by noble Lords for whom he had a sincere respect, particularly by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury), he would willingly abandon that part of the Bill which applied to such cases, and would consent that the operation of his measure should be confined to such deputations as should seek to attain objects injurious to the British empire, where there should be an intention to thwart the measures of the Government, or to do that which would be productive of inconvenience to the public service. With that restriction he hoped that the Bill would meet the approval of their Lordships.


wished to know if the Bill would apply to such a deputation as had recently proceeded to St. Petersburg from the Quakers of this country.


said, the Bill, in its restricted form, would not apply to such a deputation as that which had recently proceeded from the Quakers of this country to the Emperor of Russia. Although he con- sidered the tendency of such deputations to be very injurious, he believed the intentions of the particular deputation to which he referred were perfectly harmless, and such deputations would not be prevented for the future. The Bill would only apply to such cases as that of Mr. Smith O'Brien, or that of the deputations which went to France in 1791, where there was an intention to carry out views prejudicial to the interests of this country.


wished to know what was left in the Bill, now that the noble and learned Lord proposed that it should not apply to persons, who, though their proceedings might be injurious to the country, had no evil intentions. It appeared to him that the Bill with the modifications proposed by the noble and learned Lord, would apply only to the case of persons who were engaged in conspiracies with foreign Powers against this country, and he conceived that persons who entered into such conspiracies could be punished under the existing law. He wished to know, therefore, why their Lordships were asked to sanction such a measure?


said, that there remained in the Bill provisions which he regarded as very important, and which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), who was not now present, fully approved. The Bill would include the enactments of the American law, which were admitted on all hands to be highly salutary, and would also make certain proceedings which English subjects might now do abroad with perfect impunity punishable, for the future, as misdemeanors. He thought he had stated the other night, without any risk of being misunderstood, that, by the law of England, cognisance could not be taken of acts committed beyond the territory of England. Acts, however mischievous, which were committed beyond the seas, might be committed with perfect impunity; and one object of this Bill was, to render English subjects amenable to the law of England for acts committed in foreign States, which acts might be detrimental to their own country, although they might not be punishable by the existing law.


wished to remind the noble and learned Lord that there were some 5,000,000 of British subjects in Ireland who professed the Roman Catholic faith, and who necessarily must communicate through their bishops, or other persons, with the Pope of Rome. He hoped the noble and learned Lord would take care that his Bill did not interfere with such communications.


said, that he believed that the Bill, as it originally stood, would not have interfered with the spiritual intercourse between Roman Catholics and the See of Rome; and he was quite certain that as it was now framed there was not the smallest possibility of its offering any obstacle to that communication.

Committee named.