§ No alien shall be entitled to sit upon a jury in any judicial or other proceedings if challenged by any party to such proceedings.—[Mr. Bottomley.]
§ Brought up, and read the first time.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."
I understand that for once we are in agreement, and I gather that if I limit this exclusion from juries to cases where the alien is challenged that the Home Secretary will accept. I do not need to speak of the old maxim that we are entitled to be tried by our peers. I have had some experience myself. I remember one case in which the foreman of the jury did not speak a word of English, and if that could happen in one case it could happen in a hundred cases. Service on juries is a duty as well as a privilege, and I think it is a great danger that a jury trying a British citizen might consist of aliens.
§ Mr. BILLING
I beg to second the Motion.
It is not all of us who have had the opportunity of having had to deal with a jury. Like the hon. Member who proposed the Motion I should take it very unkindly were 131 I to find myself being tried by aliens. I would have preferred the Clause without the condition as to challenging. No prisoner or defendant likes to challenge a jury, for directly you start challenging there is an atmosphere of distrust, and the jury regard you as someone whom they do not like quite so well as before they were challenged. When we have got the principle that a man shall be tried by his own countrymen, I fail to see why the Home Secretary should not consent.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Like my hon. Friend I dare say I would not like to be tried by a jury of aliens. I would like to see the word "challenge" removed. The defendant probably does not know very much about the law and he has not the right to say, "Are any of you aliens, and, if so, I object?" On the contrary, he will accept the jury when they are sworn, and there may be more than one alien upon it, and when he learns that fact he may dislike it very much. Therefore I would ask my hon. Friend to agree to leave out the words "if challenged by any party to such proceedings," and to lay it down broadly and simply that a Britisher shall be tried by Britishers. That is a good, simple proposition which my hon. Friend (Mr. Bottomley) proposed upstairs, and which he would have stuck to but for some remarks made by the Home Secretary, and I regret to say that even my hon. Friend's impeccable virtue was undermined on that occasion. I now offer him the opportunity of recovering his reputation by agreeing to the omission of these words.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Major Baird)
Perhaps the House will allow me to endeavour to shorten the discussion by at once accepting the principle of the Amendment. There is only this point I would like to put, that the Amendment rather implies that it is a privilege to sit upon a jury. That is rather a new light, and if means could be found to alter the phraseology so as to make it quite clear that it is not withdrawing a privilege, probably that would meet the view of the Mover of the Clause and of the House as a whole. Subject to that, we are quite prepared to accept the Clause, and I hope the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Butcher) will not press his suggestion far a further alteration. It seems to me that it is a pity that a foreigner, who enjoys all the privileges of 132 living in this country and all the advantages which can be got in that way, should not also have to bear same of the burdens, such as liability to sit on a jury if called upon to do so. At the same time, if anyone who has the misfortune to be tried objects, as most of us probably would object, to being tried by a foreigner on a jury, it is open to such a person at once to object to the foreigner's presence. If, therefore, the Clause can be left, subject possibly to an alteration in the phraseology for the purpose of making it clear that it is not a privilege that we are removing from the foreigner, the Government will accept it.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
May I suggest that the word "may" should be inserted instead of the words "shall be entitled"?
§ Sir H. NIELD
I approach this subject with some trepidation. I should desire to ensure that a Britisher should be tried by a British jury if possible, but on the other side of my mind I have the immunity it gives to a man who comes here and takes advantage of our civic institutions. [An HON. MEMBER: "To hang us! "] I hope it will never come to that. It is my duty to sit once a month on the other side of Parliament Square, and my first duty there is always to receive complaints from those who do not desire to serve on a jury, and I think that fully one-third if not one-half of the jurymen ask to be excused on one ground or another. I remember on a notable occasion when the Gothas were dropping bombs in this vicinity, on the 7th July, 1917, a German took that as being an appropriate moment to ask me to exempt him from service on a jury because he was a German, and when I expressed my surprise that he was out and about taking the air at that moment, he produced a ticket authorising him to travel for five miles from Charing Cross. I told him I would not require him to sit in the jury box, but that he would have to sit in Court the remainder of the day and share what danger there was for the rest of us from the activities of his countrymen, and I suppose he stayed there and did so. I am not anxious to allow these gentlemen to escape from the performance of their civic duties. You can always find out who the men are. If this Bill passes with the Clause against a change of name, you will be saved from some unpronounceable Polish-Jew or German assuming the name of Howard or Clifford, or 133 Grosvenor, or those many other names which we know they are accustomed to adopt, and if they are obliged to appear in their own name a look will at once enable the defendant silently to indicate that that particular gentleman should, be required to leave the box if already there or should not be allowed to enter the box. It is only with that desire to protest against relieving these men, if they are allowed to come here, from a very salutary opportunity of seeing how much more fair English justice is than they probably see in their own country that I dislike this Clause, but I have too much respect for my hon. Friends on either side of me to differ from them, and therefore I shall not challenge a Division.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I understand the hon. Member for South Hackney has a predilection for being tried by his peers. If this Clause gives him that right I have no objection, but I ask how is that possible?
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause accordingly read a second time.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
May I move to leave out the words "if challenged by any party to such proceedings? I do not want a British subject who is brought up before any Court to be put in peril of being tried by one or more aliens, and I hope my hon. Friend who represents the Government will see that that is quite a reasonable request. Why should a man be put in the rather invidious position of challenging the jury?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
When a Clause has been read a second time it can be amended. I paused for a moment because I thought someone would move to leave out the words "be entitled to."
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I beg to move, to leave out the words "if challenged by any party to such proceedings."
§ Major BAIRD
I hope this Amendment will not be pressed. I do not think we want to confer privileges on foreigners not enjoyed by our own countrymen. It is perfectly competent, under the Clause, if anyone objects to an alien on the jury, to have him removed, and I do not think we ought to relieve an alien, who has all the privileges of an alien in this country, from discharging his obligation.
§ Mr. BILLING
Would it not be well that when jurymen answer to their names they should answer to their nationality as well, so as to give the prisoner or defendant an opportunity of knowing whether they are British or otherwise?
§ Sir H. NIELD
Would a compromise be acceptable to my hon. Friend and to the Front Bench by inserting the words "save in the case of a coroner's jury "?
§ Major BAIRD
I would much prefer to leave it as it is.
Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.