said, he was most unwilling to intervene between the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the present time; but the House had always conceded precedence to questions of Privilege over other matters, in the interest of discussion and debate. He, therefore, ventured to hope that the House would concede to him the same privilege on the present occasion which it had always conceded to individual Members on former occasions. It was with very great regret that he was obliged to draw attention to articles in The Times of March 26, The Globe of the same day, and The Evening Standard of the 29th of March, in which were libels concerning hon. Members of that House in their capacity as Members; and he should move that the language in those articles was a breach of the privileges of this House. Sir Erskine May, in his valuable work on Parliamentary practice, told them that on several occasions libels upon Members of the House had been constantly punished, 533 and he (Mr. Parnell) thought he should be able to prove that these articles contained libels upon several Members of the House who were mentioned by name, and that they contained offensive imputations and misrepresentations which were also contrary to the privileges of the House of Commons. Sir Erskine May said, that in order to constitute a breach of Privilege any libel on a Member of the House must be said about that Member's character and conduct in his capacity as a Member; because the remedy for what was said about him as a magistrate, an officer in the Army or Navy, or in his private capacity, could be brought under the cognizance of the Courts of Law. Now, the libels of which he (Mr. Parnell) had to complain had been written about hon. Members in their capacity of Members of this House; and he contended, after certain portions of the articles had been read by the Clerk at the Table, the House ought to determine to punish the editors and publishers of the journals to which he referred. Sir Erskine May stated that on April 22, 1669, it was resolved that the publishing of the names of Members of this House, and reflecting upon them and misrepresenting their proceedings, was a breach of Privilege and destructive of the freedom of Parliament. Although that Resolution was of ancient date, he hoped, as they had a Conservative Government in power, with their respect for ancient institutions, they would be prepared to uphold that Resolution of 1669, and he hoped that the first and last part of the articles would be read by the Clerk at the Table. He would not inflict on the House the whole articles, and he merely asked that the first and the last line should be read, while the rest might be taken as read. He would point out to the House the precise portion of the articles of which he had to complain. It would be within their recollection that on the memorable occasion last Session when he was ordered to withdraw from the House, in order that his Parliamentary conduct might be considered, the Speaker had ruled that wilful obstruction of the Business of the House was contempt of the House. Now, he complained that some of the London newspapers had taken upon themselves to accuse certain Members of Parliamentary contempt, and had thus usurped functions which properly be- 534 longed to the Speaker and the House. He also complained, as an unprotected Member, and one who came from a country the Press of which was not represented in the House, that the London newspapers, who were given exceptional privileges, had abused those privileges to the prejudice of Members who came from Ireland. The London Press monopolized nearly all the seats that were set aside for the purpose of reporting the debates; consequently, the Irish Members were placed at a considerable disadvantage with regard to the utterances which they, from time to time, made. Where they were not left unreported, they were misrepresented, and it was impossible for them to set themselves right. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary that the matter should be brought under the notice of the House. In The Times of March 26 some criticisms were published with reference to the conduct of certain Irish Members in Committee on the Mutiny Bill. He found it asserted that not only was there a prolonged discussion before the Speaker left the Chair, but in Committee the 1st clause was, with great ingenuity, made the vehicle of weary speeches with regard to the manner in which the country was governed, to the relations between England and India, the means which were taken to suppress the Indian Mutiny, the military arrangements of South Africa, the drift of public opinion in Sunderland, the extent to which individual Members of the Government, or the Government itself, could be made chargeable with breach of faith, and many other topics not having any very clear bearing on mutiny or desertion. He also found it asserted that during the debate, a persistent opposition was made by a small section, and obstruction was as rampant as on any occasion during the last two Sessions. He complained that that article, with that ingenuity for which The Times was remarkable when it was dealing with Irish subjects, had deliberately distorted and misrepresented the facts of the case. It put down to the credit of the Members who initiated the discussion on the particular Amendment in question the whole of what followed. He would first deal with the observations in The Times as to the extent to which individual Members of the Government, or the Government itself, 535 might be accused of a breach of faith. That discussion was not initiated by him, but by the the Secretary of State for War. They were then told that the subject of public opinion in Sunderland was brought into the debate, and it was left to be inferred that Irish Members were responsible for it; but it would be within the recollection of the House that the hon. Member for Stoke (Dr. Kenealy) and the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock) originated the discussion. But it was to the concluding part of the article to which he wished to call particular attention.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
rose to Order, and inquired whether the hon. Member was in Order in bringing this subject under the notice of the House, before he had read the whole of the article alleged to be libellous, and specified the precise libel alleged—so that the House might judge whether any libel or breach of Privilege had really been committed or not—and whether he was entitled to enter into extraneous matters on a question of Privilege?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Meath is bound to confine himself strictly to the question of Privilege which he has brought before the House.
also rose to Order, and asked, whether the hon. Member in bringing before the House a question of Privilege of that kind, was not bound to begin by having the passages of which he complained read by the Clerk at the Table? Should the House, on hearing the article complained of read, be of opinion that they did not constitute a breach of Privilege, they might be saved a long and, perhaps, useless discussion. For his part, he had been listening attentively, and, so far, was unable to say whether a breach of Privilege had been committed or not.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The ordinary course under the circumstances is that the article complained of be read by the Clerk at the Table. The hon. Member is certainly exceeding the ordinary latitude allowed to hon. Members in bringing forward questions of Privilege, in making remarks which scarcely appear to be relevant to the matter before the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that his charge of breach of Privilege was founded on the decision of Sir Erskine May, who said that libels on Members had been constantly punished; and also on the 536 Resolution of April 22, 1669. He did not desire that the whole of the Articles complained of should be read, because they contained a good deal of matter which he did not object to. He had only proposed to read the passages which he maintained were libellous; but as it had been ruled that they must be read by the Clerk at the Table, he would bring them up for that purpose.
The hon. Member accordingly did so.
§ MR. SPEAKER
When an hon. Member complains of a breach of Privilege having been committed by the publication of what he regards as a libel on a Member of this House, he is bound to bring up the newspaper itself in which the article complained of appears. The hon. Member having failed to take that course, and having brought up cuttings from newspapers instead, the question of Privilege which he has brought forward cannot now be entered upon.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he would bring the newspapers in question as soon as he could procure them, and that he would raise this question of Privilege on some subsequent day.