§ Mr. SPEAKER,
acquainted the House that he had received a Letter from the Right honourable the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, which Mr. Speaker read to the House as followeth:—
§ Queen's Bench, Dublin,
§ February 9, 1883.
§ Mr, Speaker,
§ I have the honour of making known to you for the information of the House of Commons, that on the 24th day of January, 1883, an order was made by the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, that Timothy Michael Healy, esquire, one of the Members of Parliament for the County of Wicklow, do enter into Recognisances himself in £1,000, with two or more Sureties in an aggregate sum of £1,000, to be of good behaviour towards Her Majesty the Queen and all Tier Majesty's Subjects for the space of twelve months, and in default of entering into such Recognisances with such Sureties, that he be imprisoned for the space of six calendar months unless in the meantime he shall have entered into such Recognisances.
§ And I have further to state that the said Timothy Michael Healy, having failed to comply with the said Order, a Warrant was issued from 68 the Court of Queen's Bench on the 7th day of the present month of February for the arrest and commitment to Prison of the said Timothy Michael Healy, and that he has been arrested and committed, to Prison accordingly, I have thought it right to make this Communication for the purpose of accounting for the probable absence of the honourable Member, and of testifying my profound respect for the Honourable House.
§ I have the honour to be,
§ Sir, Your most obedient Servant,
§ GEORGE A. C. MAY,
§ Chief Justice of Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, before formally moving that the letter which has been read by you be laid upon the Table, I think it may be convenient that I should mate one or two observations. The Motion would, under ordinary circumstances, be made as a matter of course, and need no explanation whatever; but, having regard to recent occurrences, and to what may be in the minds of lion. Members, the question may perhaps arise why, in the communication which has been made, the same course should not be taken as in the case of the announcement of the imprisonment of Mr. Gray, the Member for Carlow. I wish to state in a few words what is the invariable practice of the House in such cases. I will not enter into any defence of the course we now propose to adopt, neither will I deal with any recital of precedents, although I believe that what I am about to state can be abundantly supported by precedent. I believe the Privileges of Parliament are in no way affected by the committal to prison of Mr. Healy, or that, having regard to the matter, any question of Privilege now arises upon which the House is in any way called upon to interfere. Members of Parliament are protected from arrest, but only under certain circumstances. There may be imprisonment for three different causes. In the first place, there may be imprisonment on civil process; secondly, for contempt of Court; and, thirdly, for crime, or for matters within the category of crime. As to the first branch of offence, every Member of Parliament is protected from arrest in respect of civil process, and the House has always ordered, and would, no doubt, insist upon the discharge of a Member so 69 arrested, holding that the presence in the House of a Member of Parliament is of more importance than the discharge of a pecuniary obligation. As to the second class, that of imprisonment for contempt of Court, that offence may be divided into two classes. It may be of a grave character, partaking of the character of a criminal offence; or it may be of a minor character—for instance, a refusal to pay a certain sum of money which has been ordered to be paid by the Court. In order to decide under which category the offence is included, it has been the practice of the House, upon receiving notice that one of its Members has been imprisoned for contempt of Court, to refer the matter to a Committee appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the circumstances of the imprisonment, and to inquire under which category of offences the imprisonment has been ordered. I believe that, in all such cases, the House has, without question, appointed a Committee of Inquiry. But as to the third class of offences—that is, crime, or offences coming within the category of crime—the House has never taken any steps to interfere with imprisonment of offenders of that class, it having been repeatedly held that committal of a Member for refusal to give bail to keep the peace came within the category of those matters into which the House has not thought it necessary to inquire. I have thought it necessary to make this short statement in order to remove any apprehension that may exist in the mind of any hon. Member as to the reason why it is not proposed, as in the case of the hon. Member for Carlow, to move for a Committee of Inquiry. I believe the case which has been communicated to the House does not in any way infringe on the Privilege of the House, and that it is not the duty, neither is it open to the House to take any action upon it. Of course, in anything I have said I do not in the least intend it to be inferred that the policy which has led to the arrest of Mr. Healy, or the circumstances which led to that arrest, may not be a matter for the consideration of the House. All I wish to say is that this is not a case affecting Privilege, and that the House has no ground for taking action in the matter. I therefore simply move that the letter which has been read be laid upon the Table.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Letter of the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland do lie on the Table."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ MR. PARNELL,
in rising to move an Amendment to the Motion, said: I think, Sir, it would have been very much more satisfactory if the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) had extended his remarks so as to put the House into possession of the precedents, which he said existed in support of his argument, that the arrest of a Member of this House, in default of finding bail, does not constitute a mutter for inquiry by this House with regard to a breach of its Privileges. I am sure that the House, in considering a question of this very grave and important character—namely, the arrest of a Member in default of finding bail on a warrant issued only four or five days before the meeting of the House, when the alleged offence, which had formed the subject of the inquiries of the tribunal in question, had taken place so long ago as two months, and when the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland had for that time the Member in question within their jurisdiction, and on several occasions actually present in Court, and desirous of having his case investigated, and when the Court had persistently refused from time to time to go into this matter, or to take any step whatever during that interval of two months until the time came for Parliament to re-assemble—I think, having regard to all these circumstances, the House, in considering this matter, should require to have before it full and adequate information as to the grounds and character of the arrest. What did the demand in the case mean? Did it mean that the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), who has always been most punctual in his attendance at this House, and who we have every reason to suppose would be as punctual in future, and would have been in his place from day to day during this Session, did it mean that he was to give bail as regards an offence that he might be supposed to commit in this House, or which the Court of Queen's Bench supposed he was to commit in this House, or did the Court of Queen's Bench suppose that the lion. Member should give bail as regards an imaginary 71 offence, which he had never committed, and which in all probability owing to his attendance at this House, he could never commit? The case, I think, is materially altered when we come to consider the circumstances of the matter, and I would direct the attention of the House to the important fact that the letter of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland is most meagre in its details. We are not informed, in accordance with precedents, as to the nature of the offence for which the hon. Member was required to find bail. We are not informed that the hon. Member had committed any offence at all. We are only told, in the most curt fashion, that the Court of Queen's Bench called upon the lion. Member to find bail; that the hon. Member refused to find bail, and that a warrant was issued by the Court of Queen's Bench for his arrest. That is all the information that has been vouchsafed by the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland to this High Court of Parliament, and I submit that this House has not been treated in accordance with the precedents observed by even higher legal functionaries than the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin. In the case of Mr. Charlton I find that the Lord Chancellor took the trouble to write to Mr. Speaker, and to inform him that he had issued his warrant—For the committal of P. L. Charlton, Esq., for contempt of the High Court of Chancery, by writing a certain letter to William Brougham, Esq., a Master of the said Court, which letter was followed by another addressed to myself. I have thought it right to mate this communication to the House for the purpose of accounting for the absence of the hon. Member, and to testify my profound respect for this honourable House.There is a very great distinction between the method of procedure followed by the Lord Chancellor of the day in that case and the method of procedure adopted by the Court of Queen's Bench in the case of the hon. Member for Wexford. I regret exceedingly that the noble Marquess who now leads the House did not give his reasons as to why he thought this grave matter ought not to become the subject of an inquiry by a Committee of the House. We have seen, from time to time, that Committees have been appointed as a matter of course to investigate the committal of Members of the House sentenced in accordance with 72 the law. We know, from what we gathered from the newspapers, that the jurisdiction invoked by the Court of Queen's Bench in the case is of an obsolete character. We are entitled also to say, as far as we have been able to examine the precedents, that no Court in England has ever invoked this particular jurisdiction for the purpose of checking or preventing political offences. We are given to understand that this is the first time that the summary jurisdiction of the magistrates—for that is the jurisdiction claimed as inherent in the Court of Queen's Bench—for the purpose of committing to prison, in default of finding bail, rogues and vagrants upon the high road, has been used for the purpose of imprisoning a Member of this House, and I feel sure that the House will pay much more attention to this grave exercise of jurisdiction than that which the Leader of the Government invites them to pay. We have before us the fact that a Member of the House has been arrested almost on his way to perform the duties which the Constitution and the mandate of his constituents impose on him. We have also the tardy action of the Court of Queen's Bench, which refrained for two months from taking any action in the matter. We might reasonably suppose that had the Court of Queen's Bench proceeded at once, the whole of the imprisonment of my hon. Friend might have expired by this time, for, in these days, it is idle to suppose that a sentence of six months' imprisonment can be carried out upon a Member like my hon. Friend. If there was such urgency for the action of the Court, and if the alleged offence was one of such gravity, why did the Court delay so long before taking any step? Why was its action withheld until the evident necessity for it had long since disappeared, and until my hon. Friend was about to resume his Parliamentary duties? We cannot suppose—and I do not wish to impute it—that Her Majesty's Government desired in this way to get rid of a troublesome opponent in this House; but depend upon it that it will be imputed to the Government in Ireland. There are many people who look upon this peculiar action as another proof of the desire of the Ministry to get rid of troublesome Members of this House; and they will consider that it is because my hon. Friend has shown remarkable 73 ability in defending the rights of his country, that he has been marked out, and that his Parliamentary right has been taken from him at this moment by the extraordinary action of the Court of Queen's Bench. Sir, I trust that the House will, according to precedent, appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the nature of this arrest, and into the letter which you, Sir, have read to the House. I beg to move an Amendment to the Resolution of the noble Marquess, that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire and report whether this matter requires the further attention of this House.
To leave out the words "do lie on the Table," in order to add the words "informing the House of the trial, arrest, and imprisonment of Mr. Healy, a Member of this House, be referred to a Select Committee, for the purpose of inquiring into all the matters connected with the proceedings referred to therein, and of reporting whether they demand the further attention of this House."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that he had very little to add to what had fallen from his noble Friend the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington); but he would remind the House that as the question came before them entirely as a matter of Privilege, and took precedence as such, they could not now enter either into the policy of the course of those who had engaged in those prosecutions, nor into particular proceedings during the trial in the Court of Queen's Bench. If those proceedings were illegal, there was a right in the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), as in every other subject, to contest their legality; and the House must leave the persons affected by them to their remedy elsewhere. The House could only deal with the question of Privilege, and it was only in that way that action could be taken. In regard to that, his noble Friend's proposition was that there was no Privilege in regard to the arrest of a Member of Parliament upon criminal proceedings, or on proceedings of the nature of criminal proceedings. He (the Attorney General) would support the statement by precedents, one of which he thought was conclusive. It was de- 74 clared, by a Resolution of the House of Lords, passed in 1626, that the Privilege of that House was—That no Peer of Parliament sitting in Parliament was to be imprisoned or restrained without the sentence or Order of the House, unless it were for treason or felony, or for refusing to give surety of the peace;and in 1697 a similar Resolution was adopted by the House of Commons, asserting that there was no Privilege in the case of breach of the peace. The letter from the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland just read stated distinctly that Mr. Healy was called upon and ordered to give surety for the peace, and refused to do so. Of course, sureties for the peace could not be given except to prevent a breach of the peace. That Resolution, both of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, pointed to a proceeding of the character of a criminal proceeding, and therefore he did not think the House could interfere. The House had always acted on that rule, and in the cases of Lord George Gordon, Air. Smith O'Brien, and Mr. Feargus O'Connor, it had never inquired into the propriety of the arrest. If it did, it would come into conflict with the Courts of Justice and the administration of the criminal law; and he was sure they would not, in supporting their right to claim Privilege, question the way in which the Criminal Law was administered. All that his noble Friend and himself now said was not urged by way of objection to any Motion which might be made in order to challenge the policy of the Government, or to comment on proceedings elsewhere. He merely submitted that it would be contrary to all the precedents, if the House were now to call in question the administration of justice by the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland; and he would respectfully suggest to the House that it would be asserting an undue claim of Privilege if it were to interfere in the matter.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
thought the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had given them very substantial reasons why the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) should be adopted. He had shown that the whole question was involved in such doubt and confusion, and that it was of so novel a character, that the House could not judge whether, in the present instance, it was maintaining its Pri- 75 vileges or not. Therefore, there ought to be some such inquiry as was proposed. The Lord Chief Justice, in the letter communicating this arrest, actually named a Member of the House who had no existence. He spoke of "Timothy Michael Healy, Esq., one of the Members for the County of Wicklow." No such person existed. Mr. Healy, as everyone but the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland knew, was Member for the Borough of Wexford. That was an illustration of the confusion in which the question was involved, and he must say also an illustration of the want of respect shown by the learned Judge to the House. The House was now dealing with a question of Privilege. If it were not so, they would not now be discussing it; and he contended that they ought carefully to ascertain whether or not Privilege had been struck at by the fact and the manner of that arrest. Precedent for the case there was none, and there could be none, because he believed this was the first time in the history of the House that a Member had been committed under an obsolete Statute, violently strained in its application; and therefore he thought they were entitled to ask the House to do what had been done in other doubtful cases—namely, to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole circumstances. If they did not, they would, in his opinion, establish a very evil precedent for the future.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the fact was that his hon. Friend the Member for "Wexford (Mr. Healy) was imprisoned for declining to give bail under a certain Act, which, by its very terms, excluded the idea of its being applicable to Members of Parliament. The Act of Edward III., under which the proceedings were taken, was an Act directed against common strollers, vagrants, and similar persons, who were likely to create a breach of the peace in the most ordinary and vulgar acceptation of the term. During all the centuries it had been in operation there was not an instance of its having been strained to cover the case of a Member of Parliament, who, in the exercise of his constitutional duty in rendering an account to his constituents, had used words which might or might not be pleasing to the Government of the day. That Act empowered magistrates to demand securities for good 76 behaviour from vagrant and vagabond persons, and it was passed to help magistrates to deal summarily with highwaymen and peacebreakers throughout the rural district, and was never directed against Members of Parliament, criticizing the conduct of the Government. His hon. Friend was at present a sufferer by that interpretation of this Act; but the Privilege of every Member of the House was gravely attacked when a Court of Justice could order a Member of Parliament to find securities for any sum, no matter how enormous, under an Act intended to restrain highwaymen and vagrants from breaking the peace. If that jurisdiction was to be upheld, no Irish Member would be safe against the monstrous interpretation given to the Act by the Court of Queen's Bench. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had warned the House against attempting anything which would look like a criticism of the administration of justice. They could not forget that on a recent remarkable occasion, this very Lord Chief Justice, addressing the Court of Queen's Bench, excused himself from discharging his judicial functions in a certain case, on the ground that he had prejudged the case, and therefore could not discharge his duty with impartiality; and yet it was the proceedings of this self-condemned tribunal that the hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to screen from the legitimate inquiry of Parliament. For his own part, he (Mr. O'Donnell) was sure that his hon. Friend the Member for Wexford was quite prepared to treat with indifference this infringement of his lawful liberties. His hon. Friend, he was sure, regarded this scandalous misinterpretation of an Act of Parliament, never intended to apply to such cases, as an additional reason why the masses of the Irish people should desire that the policy which the hon. Member advocated should be considered quite apart from the question of the Privilege of that House. He believed that the Government were actuated in this matter by the recollection that if the hon. Member for Wexford were allowed to appear in his place, he would be one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, witness to the breach of faith of the Government with regard to the promises which they solemnly gave last year to complete the legislation they had in 77 hand, by amending the Land Act. The Government also, he had no doubt, desired to screen themselves from the criticism, of a powerful opponent in the House. The Government, by their action in this matter, had done all in their power to provoke the people of Ireland to do something that might give a further excuse to renegade Liberals to show that they were well worthy of the atrocities of Turkey and Bulgaria. He would not intervene further between the House and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), who was evidently anxious to spring up to defend his Government in their most unjustifiable proceedings, and their small regard to the straining of an Act of Parliament, when they had to deal with the Representative of a popular Irish constituency. He had long since predicted the career that lay before the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he had no doubt that, on the present occasion, they were about to witness a further effort of the right hon. Gentleman to show how the admirer of Charles James Fox could defend coercion and lawlessness of the worst description for the consideration, forsooth, of the Chief Secretary's Office, and for a seat in the Ministerial Cabinet.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Sir, I rise only for one moment to make a speech of extreme brevity, because I wish to keep absolutely within the lines laid down by yourself. I understand that this is not the occasion to defend the policy of the present application before the Queen's Bench, a course which I may say was stated publicly and completely by me on the 1st December last. So far from shrinking from any examination of this question, I can fairly say that I court it more eagerly than an examination of any single question relating to our conduct in Ireland, for I conceive it is one of the most important, as it is one which most carefully needs, and I think will bear, the consideration of the House. I gathered, Sir, by your silence during the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that it was within the bounds of this debate to refer to the delay that had occurred between the speaking of those words which brought about the proceedings and the final committal of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) to prison. On that point it would not be 78 right to keep silence, because it would involve a misconception of the proceedings of the Court. The real fact is that the hon. Member for Wexford might have had his case brought before the Court and discussed and judged on the 5th December, the first day on which he appeared. [Mr. PARNELL: Yes; at a day's notice.] The interruption is needless, as the hon. Member will see as I go on. On that day Mr. Davitt applied for an adjournment of a week or 10 days, and I see that the hon. Member for Wexford was in Court at the time, and by his silence apparently gave consent to the application. The Attorney General for Ireland supported the application, and the Lord Chief Justice admitted the reasonableness of it; but, at the same time, he carefully explained both to Mr. Davitt and the hon. Member for Wexford that, owing to the arrangements of the Winter Assizes and the Christmas holidays, it would be extremely unlikely that the case would come on without very considerable delay. That was stated most clearly by the Lord Chief Justice; but, in spite of that, Mr. Davitt urged his application, and it was supported, as I say, by the tacit consent of the Member for Wexford. And when the Attorney General for Ireland asked that the same course should be adopted in all three cases, the hon. Member for Wexford did not object. The first occasion on which a full Court could be got together after that was the 17th January, because the Court of Queen's Bench very rightly thought it should not come before one or two Judges. The case was heard on the 17th, and very fully argued on both sides. Judgment was given on the 2oth that the defendants should give bail; and I think the longest time that could be given was given after the service of the order, to enable the Gentlemen concerned to find bail if they wished, and to make up their minds, with the very serious contingency of going to prison if they preferred that. After that space had elapsed, and not till then, the warrant was served. I need not use many words in repudiating the statement that the Government was anxious to rid themselves of the presence of the hon. Member for Wexford. For myself I most deeply regret the hon. Member chose the course he has, I would ask hon. Members to reserve 79 their judgment on the policy which the Government adopted on this matter, and to vote solely and entirely on the legal question as to whether this is a matter of Privilege, or whether it is not.
said, he thought they were entitled to a little more information than the Government was inclined to give them in the matter. For himself, he thought they had not treated the question with the consideration which its importance deserved. He hardly thought that at so early a period of the Session they should have cause to regret the absence of the Leader of the House. Whatever their disagreements with him might be, he always treated the House with full information on, and full precedents for, the course he asked the House to take on occasions such as the present. What had been the conduct of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Harrington) on this occasion? He merely said there were precedents, without giving a single one. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, who followed the noble Marquess, when challenged by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), referred them not to any precedent, but, as an authority for the Privileges of the House of Commons, he referred them to a Resolution passed by the House of Lords in the days of the Stuarts. That was the only precedent produced up to that time for the course the Government proposed to take in refusing a Committee of Inquiry to determine at once this important question of Privilege. They must treat this matter' of Privilege exactly as if it were the case of an English Member, and he protested against the doctrine laid down by the hon. and learned Attorney General, that the House had no jurisdiction to inquire into the legal proceedings which had taken place. The very fact that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given them that ex-parteinformation was sufficient cause for the appointment of a Committee to take evidence and inform the House what those proceedings had been. Contrary to all precedent, and contrary to what was necessary for the safety of the Members of the House, the learned Judge, in the information he had given to the Speaker, had not condescended to state the nature of the offence for which the hon. Member had been committed. That was contrary to all precedent. In support 80 of that statement he would refer the House to a Resolution of the Committee of Privileges which sat in 1831, and to the work of Sir Erskine May. That Committee, in summing up precedents, stated that it was established generally that Privilege was not claimable for an indictable offence. This was not an indictable offence at all. Then, in Sir Erskine May's book, it was stated that it was usual to state the cause of commitment. When Feargus O'Connor was committed to prison the police magistrate, Mr. Henry, subsequently Sir Thomas Henry, after he had committed him to prison, informed the Speaker that Feargus O'Connor had been committed to prison for seven days for assaulting a police-constable, and mentioned the Statute under which he was committed. In that case special information was given regarding the offence committed and the Statute under which the committal was made. He would ask hon. Members to contrast that with the information before the House in the present case, for the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland did not tell them that the hon. Member for Wexford had committed any crime. All the information contained in the letter presented to the House was that Mr. Healy had been held to bail for good behaviour. Before the House consented to pass over such a very grave act as the imprisonment of a Member, and before they consented to depart from precedent and from their ancient Privileges, they should require some further information from Her Majesty's Ministers than that which they had already received.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that the House had lately got rid of a good many of its Privileges; and he, therefore, thought it would be well if it took care of those that remained. He did not, however, think the House would be caring for the remnant of its Privileges, if it refused to grant the investigation into the circumstances of his hon. Friend's (Mr. Healy's) imprisonment. It had been pointed out that his hon. Friend had been put in prison just at the opening of the Session, and that that imprisonment would not be over until the Session had almost closed. If they did not look on that as an attack on the Privileges of Parliament he would be very much surprised. Under those circumstances, could they 81 doubt for a moment that the three Judges, who were well aware that Mr. Healy took an active part in the House in opposing the policy of the Government, had purposely framed his sentence so as to exclude him from Parliament? Why was it that Mr. Healy's imprisonment had been so long delayed? It was decided last Session that the cloturecould only be applied by a certain majority of Members of that House; but it now appeared that so far, at least, as Irish Members were concerned, the cloturemight now be applied by three Irish Judges. It should be remembered that in this case there was no trial, no jury, and that Mr. Healy's imprisonment was the act of three Judges; and if anyone would tell him that that was no interference with the Privileges of a Member of Parliament, he would be very much astonished, indeed, at his innocence. It might be said that Mr. Healy was at liberty to find bail; but the Judges in question very well knew that Mr. Healy would not give bail, because, by doing so, he would be making an admission of guilt, whereas he very properly regarded himself as innocent. The Judges knew very well that Mr. Healy would not give bail; and, therefore, he believed the object was to keep the hon. Member out of the House that Session. If that was not an attack on the Privileges of the House, he did not know what else it was; and he would be very much mistaken, indeed, if the House did not regard it in that light.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he desired to confine himself simply to the question of Privilege. He had listened to the statement of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), when he asked that the letter do lie upon the Table of the House, with surprise, and did not understand why that course had been adopted. He submitted inquiry by a Committee was the usual political and natural mode of proceeding. In assenting to these Amendments there was no binding assertion on the part of the House of the extent of their authority to interfere. There were circumstances of as novel character in the present case. Last Session, notwithstanding the findings of previous Committees in respect to the somewhat analogous case of contempt of Court, the Prime Minister had moved for a Committee to inquire whether the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. 82 Gray) was entitled to complain in their commitment. He might observe, as to the Resolutions cited by the Home Secretary, that they did not in themselves distinctly apply to the case of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy). He had, as he understood, been committed for refusal to give bail to be of good behaviour, and not for "surety of peace." The letter of the Chief Justice was of a vague and unsatisfactory character. It gave no definite and precise particulars of the nature of the offence alleged to have been committed, or the circumstances under which the warrant was issued, and their brother Member was detained in custody. On that ground alone, the House ought not now to adopt a Resolution, the effect of which was to justify the imprisonment complained of by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). It was not right to prejudge the case without full inquiry. That the House would not at the end of the investigation interfere with the committal by a Court of competent jurisdiction was answered by the precedent in Mr. Gray's case. A Committee would place before the House the full facts, and a decision could then be come to which would command confidence and respect in Ireland.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I only rise to make two or three observations with reference to what fell from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). He charged my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General with resting this case upon the precedents of the Stuart time. If that had been the case, in my opinion, precedents of the Stuart time would be the best of all precedents; because it was at that time that Parliament was asserting its Privileges against the Crown; and during the whole history of the Stuart time, questions of Privilege, and, I may say, the question of the liberties and Privileges of Parliament, were decided. But, passing by that singular misreading of the history of this country, I come to the point of the hon. and learned Member's argument. He said you cannot find any precedent, except one of 200 years ago; and another hon. Member said that this matter was so new that it ought to be inquired into by a Committee. Now, the point is not new, neither is it obscure; but it is exactly one of those points which the House is frequently called upon to decide. The matter does 83 not rest there, for you may go back for many centuries, to the time when the Reports were in Norman-French, and there you will find that the exemptions are treason-felony and refusing to give surety for breach of the peace. Century after century that has been acted upon. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham, with his usual courage, has cited an abstract from the work of Sir Erskine May, giving the Report of the Committee of 18 31; but if he had given the whole Report, it would have exactly contradicted the conclusion to which he has arrived. The Committee of 1831 goes back not only to the time of the Stuarts, but to the time of the Plantagenets; and I find that, referring back to the precedent of [675, the reference to the Privilege of Parliament is this—By law the Privilege of Parliament be-longs to every Member of the House of Commons in all cases except treason-felony and breach of the peace.["Hear, hear!"] Yes; hut that is only one of the series of precedents; and though the hon. and learned Member for Chatham lays it down that the Privilege of Parliament only applied to indictable offences, if he had read the Report of the Committee of 1831 he would have found refusal to give surety for breach of the peace.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It comes clearly within the interpretation of the precedent that the Privileges of Parliament do not extend to a Member in cases where he is bound to good behaviour for a breach of the peace that is apprehended. The case to which that Committee applied was not an indictable offence. Therefore, the contention that Privilege only applies to an indictable offence is clearly a misapprehension. The distinction had been clearly drawn by that Committee, and it has been to-night re-affirmed by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General; and I think the House will be very slow to endeavour, on this occasion, to extend the doctrine of Privilege to a degree never before anticipated.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that he wished to address a few words to the House on the subject. He was glad to find that an English Member had risen in his place to endeavour to procure the application of Constitutional law and practice to 84 this case, and to at least secure for the discussion of the case that attention which English Members seemed indisposed to give. He had listened with pain and disappointment to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and he would say that he regarded it as a pregnant example of that policy of evasion and make-believe which was the principal note of the new Administration in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to account for the delay in dealing with the hon. Member for Wexford's (Mr. Healy's) case by the adjournment for 10 days that had been asked for and granted; but he (Mr. Sexton) would like to know how an adjournment for 10 days could account for a consumption of three months. The Chief Secretary for Ireland told them that it was impossible to form a Court. There were a great many Judges in Ireland, however; but he (Mr. Sexton) supposed, on the principle that great bodies move slowly, it was impossible to get the Queen's Bench to form a Court during all that time. In that period, the Court of Queen's Bench might have called in a Judge and formed a Court; but the Executive in Ireland appeared to have so delayed the case that the imprisonment of the hon. Member for Wexford was made to begin, and would probably end with the Session. That was a grave ground for impeachment, on the principles of Privilege, both of the Executive and the Judges in Ireland, that they should imprison a Member of the House, so that the term of his imprisonment and of his withdrawal from that House should extend over a period when questions with which he was especially conversant should come before the House. Parliament had been always solicitous to inquire into the circumstances connected with questions touching the Privileges of its Members; and it would be of evil import, and have a most injurious effect on the public mind, at least in Ireland, did the House pass over, without due attention, the imprisonment of a man who had proved himself so active and useful in dealing with recent legislation of deep concern to such a large number of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had laid down a principle which appeared to strike the Treasury Bench 85 with horror, but which he (Mr. Sexton) would also urge. That hon. and learned Gentleman asked that this case should be treated as if it concerned an English Member. ["Hear, hear!"] Such a claim to the Treasury Bench seemed to be unparalleled—they would not for a moment acknowledge it, and they had abundant proof, as was apparent from the mocking cheer of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport. [Mr. HOPWOOD: I did not cheer or mock.] He would repeat they had abundant proof that this matter did not very much concern the House or Her Majesty's Government, as there was only an Irish Member in question. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House (the Marquess of Hartington) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General were astray, both on the fact and law of this case. Could they wonder that the Lord Chief Justice for Ireland should describe his (Mr. Sexton's) hon. Friend (Mr. Healy) as the Member for the County of Wicklow, when the hon. and learned Attorney General for England, who had sat with him in the House for three years, should call him the Member for the County of Wexford. The hon. and learned Attorney General for England endeavoured to excuse what had been done in this case by referring to a Resolution passed by the House of Lords in 1626; but he (Mr. Sexton) would wish to point out both to the hon. and learned Gentleman and to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that, whatever might have been the effect of that Resolution, that was completely neutralized, and, as the Prime Minister would say, pulverized by a Resolution which had been subsequently passed by the House of Commons. Before 1849 the Privilege claimed was that Members should not be imprisoned except for treason-felony.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The earliest definition of the Privilege of Parliament is to be found in "Larke's Case," Rol., Parl. 8, H. VI., in which in the old Norman-French, it is thus claimed by the Commons—La Privilege de votre Court de Parlement d'etre quieters de touts arresters durant votre dit courte forprise par treason felonie ou suerte do pais.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that the Resolution of the House of Lords was, that 86 during the sitting of Parliament no Member of that House should be imprisoned or restrained, unless for treason-felony or refusal to give surety ship of the peace. If that record stood it would, no doubt, be applicable to this case; but in 1675 the House of Commons passed a Resolution to the effect that the Privileges of the House of Commons should extend to Members in all cases, except in cases of treason-felony and breach of the peace. These were the exact words of the Resolution passed in 1675, and were evidently drawn in opposition to the Resolution which the House of Lords had passed previously. These words were not in the Norman-French quoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. They were in the English language, and were specifically quoted by Sir Erskine May in his work. It was idle for the right hon. and learned Gentleman now to endeavour to confuse the issue before the House, and try to peruade them that a breach of the peace and an apprehension of a breach of the peace were one and the same thing. With regard to the offence charged against his hon. Friend the Member for Wexford, and the course proposed to be taken, it must be apparent to everyone that the offence alleged to be apprehended was not even stated in the letter read by the Speaker; and although this excuse might be offered for the learned Judge, that his Lordship could not possibly cite an offence when there was none on the record, he thought it was not too much to say that a Judge who had shown himself so ignorant of the facts of the case might not also be ignorant of the law connected with it. The offence was not even stated on the warrant on which his hon. Friend was arrested. He was in possession of a letter received by him that morning from the hon. Member for Wexford, and he was informed in that letter that in the warrant committing his hon. Friend to Kilmainham no offence was specified. It was merely an order from the Queen's Bench in Ireland directing its subordinate officers to take Mr. Healy into custody and lodge him in Kilmainham. He challenged the Government to show that any offence was specified on the warrant, and declared that it was not even alleged that the conduct of his hon. Friend was such 87 as to lead to a breach of the peace. Of the three cases which had been cited by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) in respect to breach of Privilege, the first two were out of the question in regard to the treatment of the hon. Member for Wexford, and, as to the third, no act was or could be alleged against the hon. Gentleman. How then could it be said by the noble Marquess that the matter for which his hon. Friend was committed could be regarded as crime, or as falling within the category of crime? What was alleged against his hon. Friend was not even proved. The evidence against him rested on the memory of a police constable as to the correctness of a report in a newspaper of a speech made by his lion. Friend, and an allegation that ha used language and took a course of conduct which, if persevered in and repeated still further, might possibly have the effect of leading to a breach of the peace in the future. He thought, under all these circumstances, it was clearly established that there was no offence whatever committed that would disentitle his hon. Friend to claim the Privileges of that House, if the House were in any mood to pay attention to such a claim put forward by an Irish Member. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham had appealed to the House to deal with that question as if it affected an English Member, and if that appeal went unanswered, if it were received indifferently by the Government, the result would be great dissatisfaction among the Irish people, and it would lead to a belief that an unfair distinction was made between English and Irish Members. The impression conveyed to the Irish people would be that if an English Member were imprisoned the question of Privilege would receive their very serious attention; but, in the case of an Irish Member, the House was disposed to pay no attention whatever to it, but was disposed rather to let the Courts in Ireland work their own sweet will with Members of Parliament and everybody else there, and allow also the claims and privileges of the House to sink into disuse and contempt.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that in this case the onus of proof clearly lay with the Government. No doubt the House had heard several speeches from the Treasury Bench; but up to that 88 moment a similar case to that of his hon. Friend the Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), or to the course that had been adopted in reference to him, had not been brought before them. The Government, in this matter, were pursuing a course that no Government ever did before. They asked the House to allow this matter to pass unnoticed, and did not deign to bring forward any precedents to warrant that course. Now the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), in his latest and not his most improved style, impressed on the House the advisability of not discussing the policy involved in the arrest of the hon. Member for Wexford; but what he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would contend was this—that the matter was a matter of policy, because the Government were taking a course with regard to the hon. Member that no Government ever took before. The Government were doing in this case only what was in accordance with its general policy in Ireland. The last speaker (Mr. Sexton) was justified in drawing, so clearly as he had, the attention of the House to the singular difference in the Resolutions passed by the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and was justified in contending that that difference was not accidental. The House of Lords, it was plain, endeavoured to confine the limits of Privilege; but the House of Commons restored them to their original proportions. He wished to draw the attention of the House to a leading case with regard to the Privileges of Parliament—that of Wilkes, for in that case the Lord Chief Justice (Paget) laid down that in all cases except for treason-felony and actual breach of the peace a Member was free from arrest. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had advanced the same view of the law, and he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) strongly invited the attention of the Government to the point. At present the question involved the liberty of an Irish Member only; but to-morrow it might be that of an English Member; and, therefore, the matter was one of great importance to the whole House. A more dangerous doctrine could not be laid before the Irish people than that the treatment of the rights and Privileges of Members of that House depended on their nationality. It seemed, however, that that would probably occur. 89 It was also now laid down that a Member of that House might be taken up and lodged in custody as a rogue and a vagabond. There could, he thought, be no doubt that the Government were curtailing the Privileges of Members by the course they adopted; and, at the same time, they desired to limit discussion of political questions by Members on the ground that such discussion might cause discontent among' certain classes of Her Majesty's subjects. But, he need hardly say, not a Member of Parliament, of whatever Party, could make a speech without creating discontent among some of Her Majesty's subjects, and he urged that the House should not be led away by the Government in this matter. The House should take that course which their own independent judgment recommended. It ought not to refuse to extend its Privileges to a Member with whom the Government had dealt so arbitrarily, and in a manner for which there was no precedent.
§ MR. MARUM
said, he wished to point out that this case was one of sureties for good behaviour brought under a Statute of Edward III., and that it was entirely different from cases in which persons are bound to give sureties of the peace for specified offences. They were essentially distinct proceedings, and grounded upon different jurisdictions. There had been no precedent cited where the Privilege of Parliament was held to be barred by arrest in default of giving sureties for good behaviour. Not only were the proceedings different, but the principles upon which they rested were totally diverse—in one case it was the vague, undefined discretion of the Judge to conclude Parliament, whilst in the other a sworn statement of offence and threat should be exhibited in the articles of "swearing the peace," as it was vulgarly styled.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 353; Noes 47: Majority 306.—(Div. List, No. 1.)
§ Main Question put.
§ Ordered, That the Letter of the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland do lie upon the Table.