HL Deb 26 July 1888 vol 329 cc502-4

(The Lord Monkswell.)


House again in Committee (according to order).


said, he did not propose to move any new clause to take the place of Clause 7, which had been struck out, because Clause 7 was really very much the same as Clause 7 in Lord Campbell's Act. He agreed with what the Lord Chief Justice stated the other night as to the great undesirability of having two enactments on the Statute Book dealing with the same subject-matter in much the same way, and he preferred the section in Lord Campbell's Act, because it had been the subject of judicial interpretation.

Clause 10 (This Act shall not apply to Scotland).


Why is the Bill not to apply to Scotland?


Because the existing Law of Libel is different there from that in England, and somewhat resembles what the law will be if this Bill is passed.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 11 (Short title) agreed to.

House resumed.

On Question that the Bill be reported?


said, that he was under the impression that a new clause would be proposed to make a person liable for a libel spoken at a public meeting in the same manner as if it were published in a newspaper.


said, that a new clause for the purpose would be proposed on the Report.


said, he understood that some remarks made on the last occasion when the Bill was before the House, in reference to the clause moved by the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Coleridge) providing that criminal prosecution for libels published in newspapers should not be instituted without the fiat of the Attorney General or an order of a Judge at Chambers, had been thought to reflect on the manner in which the Public Prosecutor had exercised his duties in granting fiats for criminal prosecutions for libel. He (Lord Halsbury) felt sure that they were not made in that sense—there was no intention to cast any reflection upon him. He had received a letter from Sir Augustus Stephenson embodying some statistics from which it appeared that since his appointment 82 applications had been made to him under Section 3 of the Newspaper Libel Act, of which 53 were refused, 27 were granted, one was withdrawn, and one stood over for consideration. Those figures showed conclusively that the fiat of the Public Prosecutor was not granted as a matter of course, as the Lord Chief Justice seemed to suppose. He (Lord Halsbury) was quite satisfied that Sir Augustus Stephenson was the very last person to discharge any duty he undertook in anything like a perfunctory manner.


said, nothing was further from his mind when he proposed his Amendment than to cast any imputation upon Sir Augustus Stephenson. On that occasion he did not profess to give any opinion of his own; he simply read a letter which was addressed to him by the secretary of a large body of newspaper proprietors embodying their views, and expressing a wish that some such clause as that which he moved should be added to the Bill. As to the general functions of the Public Prosecutor, if it became necessary, he should be glad to call the attention of their Lordships to that matter, but at present he did not desire to enter into any discussion.

Question put, and agreed to.

The Report of the Amendments made in Committee to be received on Tuesday next.