moved that the witnesses' indemnity bill should be read a second time on Monday, and that the lords be summoned.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
said he did hot mean to oppose the motion made by his noble friend, he only wished to call the attention of the house to this bill, the object of which, 167 it would be recollected by their lordships, made part of a bill which was before the house last session, and which went to indemnify persons giving evidence on the impeachment of lord Melville, from both criminal prosecutions and civil process, in consequence of such evidence. Some doubts, however, then arose with respect to the indemnification from civil process, and only the indemnity from criminal prosecutions was agreed to. With respect to the civil indemnity, certain questions were referred to the judges, with a view of ascertaining whether persons were legally justified in refusing to answer questions, the result of which might subject them to a civil suit. Their lordships were aware that, a prorogation having intervened, the judges did not conceive that there were any questions now regularly before, them to which they were called upon to give an answer. The subject, however, which was involved in those questions, he considered to be of importance, and he suggested whether it would not now be advisable to refer similar questions to the judges, for the opinion of that learned body, before they proceeded upon the bill?
said, he did not object to the proceeding proposed by the noble lord; but, as there was an obvious necessity that their lordships should either pass or reject the bill now before them without loss of time, his noble friend would also be aware of the necessity of having the opinions of the judges as speedily as possible. The earliest day that could be named would, he conceived, be the most advisable to be appointed for the attendance of the judges, in order that their lordships might, without delay, proceed upon the bill, and either agree to its provisions, or finally reject it. After a few words interchanged between lords Hawkesbury and Holland, respecting the time to be appointed, it was ordered, that the judges should attend on Monday, for the purpose of then referring to them certain questions.