« ForrigeFortsett »
tion on the part of the persons reflected have the right to go into the witness
out, and he could not think the re-comply with the request. It was not to striction was unfair. The registration of the interest of a newspaper proprietor to newspaper proprietors appeared to him circulate what was incorrect. It would to be a very important part of the Bill; not add to the reputation of the paper, but he was not sure whether the Bill and certainly it would not add to its would not be better without the clause, influence, to give persistent publicity to which imposed a £10 penalty for the unfair and incorrect reports. Everyone omission of the printer, or publisher, to now admitted the hardship under which make the required return. A proprietor newspaper proprietors lay in being held who wished to conceal his name would responsible, both civilly and criminally
, not be made by so small a penalty to for fairly reporting proceedings of public disclose it; and it would be better either bodies. The Bill would free them from to make the penalty £10 for every that responsibility. In consideration for month during which the return was not that concession, newspapers were to refurnished, or to leave the omission to gister the list of proprietors. That he be dealt with under the ordinary law. regarded as a retrograde step. It was
MR. J. COWEN said, he trusted the going back upon an obsoletë law. In Bill would be read a second time, and former times the owner of every printing that reasonable facilities would be al. press had to be registered. Printers lowed to his hon. and learned Friend for were regarded as disturbers of the getting it through the House this Ses- peace. Their types were considered as sion. The subject had been dealt with explosive materials, and they themselves many times, and in no instance had a
were treated as rogues and vagabonds more generally satisfactory solution been or dealers in dangerous commodities. hit upon than that now before them. That was when the Press was in its inThe late hon. and learned Member for fancy. The law had gradually been moGlasgow, the late Mr. Butt, and himself dified, and now it had only a nominal had been concerned in more than one Bill force. Papers might be registered, but dealing with this subject during last it was not compulsory for them to be so. Parliament. The difficulties that now He did not see any reason why the beset the question had beset them; but owner of a newspaper should be registhose who were formerly unwilling for tered any more than the owner of a coal legislation had been brought to see the mine or the owner of a chemical works. necessity and the justice of it. Two A chemical works might destroy the vegespecial Committees had inquired into tation in a neighbourhood, or it might the whole matter. Both the public and injure the health or lead to the death of the newspaper proprietors had had an cattle. Persons who suffered by these opportunity for putting their case before had their remedy against the proprietor this Committee, and the Bill was the of the works, although these proprietors outcome of these deliberations. He re
were not registered. If, in consequence cognized the difficulty of defining what of the working of a coal mine, the sur, was a public meeting; but, after full face subsided and injury was sustained consideration, the words that were in by anyone, the people who suffered the Bill had been hit upon as the best could sue the coalowners and get rethat could be chosen. Anyone who was dress, and yet the coalowners were not capable of suggesting better words could registered. He did not see why news. do so in Committee. After repeated papers should be treated differently. If trials, those who had concerned them- newspapers undermined the character of selves in the question had failed to de- anyone, the persons attacked could get fine the meetings more accurately than at the owners of the newspaper just as in the clauses as they stood in the Bill. easily as people could get at the owners He thought it was only fair that persons of chemical works or coal mines. He who felt themselves aggrieved should objected to this exceptional legislation. have the liberty of requesting the inser. It was quite true that there had been tion of corrections or explanations. If isolated instances where newspaper proreports of public meetinge were to be prietors had got out of their responsiprivileged, the public, on the other land, bilities by quibbling; but these cases should be at liberty to correct any inaccu- were rare. That was a point of the Bill racies in these privileged reports, and he objected to, and, when in Committee, newspapers would only be too willing to ho would try to modify it or amend
it; but the Bill generally was a fair at- of the House, including the hon. and tempt to settle a complicated and diffi- learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warcult subject, and he hoped the House ton), who as a rule did not sympathize would assist his hon. Friend in giving it very strongly with attempts at legislathe force of law.
tion on the part of Liberal Members ; MR. MACLIVER said, he thought that but he could not entirely agree with reports of the proceedings of Boards of any part of this Bill. The point as to Guardians, of Town Councils, of School being privileged ” was a good one. As Boards, and of other public bodies to deciding what a public meeting was, through which public money was ex- they knew there were a great many pended, should be held to be privileged. bodies who often excluded reporters just He cited a case in which the law, as it at as they pleased, and there was also a present affected Boards of Guardians, class of meetings which were semi-private. operated manifestly to the prejudice of For instance, meetings of Conservatives the ratepayers. When the Bill got into in different parts of London, to which Committee, he should propose a clause admission was almost invariably by to the effect that any report of any public ticket, could hardly be termed public body having the administration of public meetings. It was unfortunate that they funds, such as Town Councils and Boards should have to discuss this Bill so much of Guardians, to whose meetings repor- in detail; but it was not their fault, beters of the Press were admitted, should cause it in reality consisted of three meabe privileged, if such reports were fair sures, which might be embodied in three and accurate, and published without different Bills, and more closely debated malice. Such a provision would be a in Committee. With regard to prosecuconsiderable protection to newspapers, tions by the Attorney General, he did and would confer a real benefit upon not think that provision was all that was the public.
wanted. What was wanted was that MR. WARTON said, he rose for the magistrates should have a discretionary purpose of supporting this Bill warmly. power of dealing with them. They In his opinion, the Bill would be more might have the power of inflicting fines useful than all the other measures put or short sentences of imprisonment intogether which had been brought for- stead of sending defendants for trial. ward on the Ministerial side of the There was a danger arising from occaIlouse since the present Government sions which were not very important, came into Office. He did not, however, but distinctly libellous. Magistrates agree with the criticism of the hon. and desired to give defendants the benefit of learned Member for Rye (Mr. Inder- the smallest possible doubt. He did not wick), as he thought that no definition think the scheme, as at present proshould be given of a public meeting ; posed in the third part of the Bill, would but that every case should be left to work at all. There were two classes of be decided by a Judge and jury, who proprietors. They would have to deal would consider all the facts and circum- with what he might term good proprie. stances of the case. He most strongly tors and bad proprietors. This Bill was supported the 3rd clause, believing that aimed at the wicked proprietors; but no criminal prosecution for libel should sufficient machinery was not provided to be brought without the consent of the carry out the intention of the Bill in this Attorney General. Very often criminal respect. Very often, too, the printers proceedings were taken in respect of and the proprietor were entirely differsibels for the purpose of stopping the ent people. The responsibility for libel mouth of the defendant. Until the time was now a meaningless one.
It was came when the Criminal Code, which quite right that there should be civil was too valuable a measure for the Go- and criminal responsibility ; but it was vernment to deal with, was before the well known that newspaper proprietors House, he should not like to say any. were often civilly responsible when they thing on the subject of the propriety of were not criminally; and criminal acpermitting defendants in criminal cases tions were often brought against pubto give evidence.
lishers who ought not to be implicated MR. ASHTON DILKE said, he was at all in the Law of Libel. It should be sorry to interrupt the harmony which defined where the criminal responsibility this Bill had brought from every part ought to end. He thought the penalty VOL. CCLXI. (THIRD SERIES
of £10 was a ridiculous one. A wicked the meantime was found out and he had proprietor would give the printer an in- to abscond. This incident showed the deninity, unless the amount of the fine importance of their not narrowing the was extremely heavy. They would find scope of the Bill so as to exclude the that under this provision the law would reports of the public meetings of combe practically inoperative, and things panies from the category of privileged would go on very much as they did at reports, and he thought some improvethe present moment. Whatever lawment might be made in that particular. was passed, they would find that the Mr. LABOUCHERE hoped that the man they were seeking to get hold of Bill would be read a second time; but was seeking to evade the law, and they thought that certain changes would have would be no better off than they were to be made in Committee. It would be before. He should not oppose the necessary to define more clearly than second reading of the Bill; but he the 2nd clause did what was a public thought it might be materially altered meeting. With regard to the 3rd in Committee.
clause, he did not entirely agree with it. MR. JUSTIN MCARTHY said, he He thought it was a mistake to vest any fully shared the objections against the more power than was absolutely reBill which had been raised by the hon. quired in a Minister of the Crown or Member who has just spoken.
other central authority. If a summons tirely agreed that the registration of for libel were obtained, the magistrate newspaper proprietors was antiquated, was not able to dismiss the case sumobsolete, and unsuited to the present marily, even if he thought a jury would time. As to public meetings, it had been not convict. He was obliged to send the argued that the definition applied only case to trial. If a newspaper were to to meetings of corporate bodies or great say when the claimant came out of prison assemblages open to the public, and did that the claimant had been in prison, not include the meetings of public com- the claimant might go before a magis. panies. But this latter class of meetings trate, and might insist on the newspaper were the very class to which it was most proprietor or whoever was responsible necessary often, for the sake of the pub- being sent for trial at the Old Bailey. lic, that attention should be called, and He might put him to heavy expense, fair reports of the proceedings published although there was no doubt there would in the newspapers. He had known be an acquittal. It, therefore, seemed instances where companies in a tottering to him (Mr. Labouchere) very desirable condition had been enabled to keep on that, instead of a fiat being obtained drawing in new victims by the absence from the Attorney General for a trial in of fair and full reports of their proceed- such a case, a magistrate should be able ings. If fair and full reports were to deal summarily with any application given of the proceedings of such con- made to him on the subject. As to the cerns, the public might be warned, and registration of proprietors, there was the final crash of the company fore- formerly not a register of proprietors, shadowed. There was no class of reports but a register in which one person was out of which libels were more likely to entered as proprietor. He might have arise than those of the proceedings half-a-dozen partners; but it was not at meetings of public companies and necessary to enter their names in the shareholders. He remembered one register. The hon. Member for Newcase in his own experience in which castle (Mr. J. Cowen) had remarked that some of the shareholders of a com-colliery owners were not registered. pany felt convinced that one of the The cases were, however, different; and officials was literally cooking the ac- while everybody knew the proprietor of counts and mismanaging the affairs. A a colliery, it was difficult with regard to meeting of shareholders was called, and newspapers to discover who was the the charges were distinctly repeated, responsible person. In almost all cases and a newspaper with which he (Mr. the printers and publishers of news. Justin M‘Carthy) was at that time con- papers were mere dummies. He subnected published a report of the pro- mitted to the Attorney General whether ceedings. The person accused brought it would not be possible to render the an action for libel, and no doubt would printer liable if he did not give up the have got a verdict but that his guilt in name of some responsible person as
Mr. Ashton Dilke
proprietor. He did not see the necessity | a few persons might meet together, of registering the names of all the pro- and by means of private scandal ruin prietors. Some were mere shareholders the character of any man.
But no in a newspaper, and it would only editor would have the protection of gratify an idle curiosity to put their this Bill in such a case as that, for names in the register. He thought the the editor must show that the publicaBill was in the right direction, and he tion was for the public benefit, and that hoped the House would agree to the it was not a mere private slander. The second reading
objection to Clause 3 which the hon. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Member for Northampton (Mr. LabouHENRY JAMES), said, the Bill appeared chere) had urged-namely, that the reto him to be a very useful measure, and quirement of a fiat from the Attorney he hoped it would not only be read | General before proceedings for libel a second time, but that an opportu- could be commenced would have the nity would be afforded for reading it a effect of giving too much power to the third time. The House would remember Executive Government, was an objection that newspaper proprietors had formerly which he would meet by stating that the serious cause for complaint in being principle was one which had been much held liable for criminal proceedings extended of late years. He had alwhere they had not personally erred, ways given notice to persons accused and that this state of things produced to say what they had to say before he considerable discussion some years ago issued his fiat; but he would suggest to in relation to the liability of news- the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill paper proprietors. But some few years that the 2nd clause should be so altered ago, in a case that was heard before in Committee that a fiat should not be the late Lord Chief Justice, the opi- issued against editors of newspapers until nion was strongly expressed by the they had had an opportunity of making Court that Lord Campbell's Act would a statement before the Attorney Geneprotect from criminal proceedings those ral. As to the question of registration, who had intrusted editorial duties to he thought that registration was, on the others and had not been deficient in any whole, beneficial to the public, while he want of care themselves. This Bill did did not think it was injurious to editors not deal with that point, because it was of newspapers. That, however, was a felt by the Committee which considered matter to be discussed in Committee, the matter last year that the law already and he would now content himself by existing afforded sufficient protection. asking the House to allow the Bill to be The Bill was the result of the delibera- read a second time. tions of a Select Committee of last Ses. sion, on which it could not be said that CLERICAL DISABILITIES ACT REPEAL those interested in nowspapers had any
BILL.--[Bill 117.) thing like a preponderating influence,
(Sir Gabriel Goldney, Mr. Thorold Rogers.) but in which the general public were
SECOND READING. well represented. One or two objections had been made to the Bill. It had been
Order for Second Reading read. said that there ought to be greater clear- SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY, in moving ness in the definition of what a public that the Bill be now read a second time, meeting was. As to that objection, he observed that the object of the Bill was would only observe that those who inades to get rid of a statute called Horne it should be good enough to define what Tooke's Act, which was passed for the was a public meeting. Directly you de- purpose of getting rid of a man whose fined what was a public meeting you political opinions were obnoxious. The excluded all other meetings from the Act excluded clergymen from sitting in operation of the Bill. Ho thought it the House of Commons. Mr. Horne was much safer to leave a judicial tri- Tooke was returned for Old Sarum at a bunal to define the term “public meet- time when political feeling was very ing." Prima facie, he should say if strong. He (Sir Gabriel Goldney) did reporters were admitted in order to re- not know the reason why his right hon. port, the meeting would be regarded as Friend (Mr. Beresford Hope) sitting public. The hon. Member for Rye below him and others objected to clergy(Mr. Inderwick) said under this Bill men sitting in the House of Commons,