§ Mr. George F. Young
rose to make his promised Motion upon the subject of evidence given by the hon. Member for Bridport before a Select Committee, upon the subject of the Timber Duties. He assured the House that he had never before risen in his place to address that House under circumstances of such difficulty or with greater reluctance, although, he was happy to say, that his conscience acquitted him of all personal or party motive in making this necessary allusion to an hon. Member's evidence, for whom he entertained much respect. He should obtain, he believed, credit with the hon. Member and with the House for an anxiety on his part to-night to abstain from any observation or expressions of an irritating character on this subject, although it was a matter of direct personal reference to himself. It was not necessary he should now insist upon the importance to this country, in a commercial and political point of view, of the exercise of a due vigilance over the interests of the timber trade. in pursuance of that object a Committee had been granted during the existence of a former Government, with power to examine evidence upon this subject. Constituted as that Committee was, he should have opposed it. The expectations of the well-wishers of the trade had, with him, been disappointed in the persons selected to perform the duties of 139 the Committee so appointed. Instead of their being all persons, as they ought to be, unprejudiced and unpledged to any opinions on the subject of this trade, he must complain that there were nine Members for sea-port towns who had expressed their opinions beforehand to their constituents upon the subject of the trade, and ten Members of it, Members for inland places, similarly pledged, with one individual—
§ Mr. Young
said, that he thought he was quite justified, whilst stating that an allegation of unfairness in the decision of the Committee had been publicly made, to attempt to trace its cause to the constitution of the Committee itself. Out of the thirty-two Members who were appointed on that Committee, twenty were pledged by their speeches or avowed opinions to a particular opinion, four were neutral.— He could have wished to have seen more impartiality and fairness on the part of the Committee, as far as the numerical strength of the witnesses examined on both sides of the question was concerned, for there were only twelve persons called before them to speak on behalf of the colonies, whilst no less than eighteen were allowed to give evidence on behalf of the Baltic and Norway timber trade. Many important witnesses, who attended on behalf of the colonial interests, were altogether refused attention by the Committee; and one gentleman, who had come from Ireland, and who was the deputed representative of a large body of timber-merchants in that country, was compelled to return without having undergone examination. After these witnesses had been examined, the hon. Member for Bridport rose up in the Committee and demanded to be heard by them. Now, considering that although each hon. Member who composed the Committee had a right to support the particular views and opinions which he might entertain upon this subject, yet as the hon. Member for Bridport had distinguished himself very much in advocating his own side of the question, and had taken a very active part, as well as shown very strong partialities on behalf of his own views, he had certainly felt himself called upon in 140 fairness to oppose the admission of the hon. Member's evidence. His opposition, however, was overruled, and, in consequence, the examination of the hon. Member was proceeded with, and upon the evidence which was given by him was grounded the motion about to be submitted to the House. The inquiry itself had, as was well known, excited great interest amongst the public, and the publication of the evidence was looked forward to with equal interest on the part of the public, in order that it might be ascertained, by its examination, upon what grounds the Committee had come to their unexpected, and he might almost say, hasty resolutions.— Those resolutions were reported to the House in the month of August; at the close of the Session the evidence was still unprinted. In the month of October he wrote to the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, expressing the anxious desire which his constituents felt to have the evidence laid before them, and requesting to know when it might be expected to be ready. The right hon. Gentleman had very courteously replied to him, informing him that he was ignorant of the cause of the delay which had occurred, and promising to hasten the publication of the evidence as much as was in his power. In the month of December he again wrote to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, who, in his reply, dated December 17, stated that the delay was occasioned by some intricate calculations and tables to be furnished by the hon. Member for Bridport, but that these being completed, the evidence would be published in a few days. It was not, however, completed in a short time, for it was not until the month of February, in fact, until the meeting of the House, that they got the evidence taken before that Committee, which had furnished its report to the House in the month of August. Thus the opportunity of investigating that evidence, upon which it was most probable the House would, during the present Session, proceed to deal with the timber duty question, was lost to those on the other side of the Atlantic, who were most interested in the matter, and who, being deprived of it, lost thereby the opportunity of expressing their opinions upon it. This consideration brought him at once to the case, which it was now his duty to lay before the House. On looking over the evidence printed under the name of the hon. Member for 141 Bridport, his mind misgave him, and he said to himself—"Surely this cannot be the evidence given by the hon. Member at the Table of the Committee." He accordingly went to the Journal-office, and procured a transcript of the short-hand writer's notes, as corrected by the hon. Member for Bridport. On examining these notes, and comparing them with the hon. Member's evidence, as printed, he found the most extraordinary discrepancies between the two; but before he took any public steps in the matter, he went to the hon. Member, and asked him if he could afford any explanation of those discrepancies. The hon. Member replied, that they were mere verbal alterations, and that he might take what steps he pleased with respect to the matter; which answer, of course, left him no alternative but that of laying the facts before the House. In a case like the present, it was difficult to define, or to draw a line of demarcation as to the extent to which witnesses ought to be restrained in correcting their evidence. He was disposed to give them a great latitude in this respect, and he should not ask the House to look narrowly at verbal alterations, or at any alterations in minor points. That such was not the case in this instance, he was prepared to prove, and he might state, that two of the witnesses who supported the views of the hon. Member for Bridport had been allowed to correct their evidence, but not to alter or add to it. Let him now proceed to show the House, whether the same observation could be applied to the evidence of the hon. Member for Bridport. If the House would examine the two documents—namely, the short-hand writer's notes, and the evidence as printed, the difference between them it would at once be seen was enormous. He had gone through the first sixty-one pages of the short-hand writer's notes, which consisted of 129 pages altogether, and he believed that these sixty-one pages might be taken as a fair average of the whole, as he did not suppose they contained more alterations than the remainder of the evidence. Well, these sixty-one pages contained 5,000 words altogether; of these 3,332 words had been struck out by the pen of the hon. Member for Bridport, leaving 1,668 words in the printed evidence as originally spoken by him before the Committee. Now, how had the hon. Member corrected his evidence? He had intro- 142 duced no less than 6,940 words in lieu of the 3,332 struck out by him—making in the whole 8,608 words, of which nearly 7,000 were not uttered by him before the Committee. He submitted the fact in this form to the House, as it was the most convenient, and afforded the best opportunity for them to judge of the extent to which the hon. Member had carried his alterations; and he certainly looked upon the question to be one of very great importance to the subject of inquiry before the Committee, as it involved very serious interests; nor did he despair of showing that the alterations were of moment. The first question to which he was disposed to call the attention of the House was, whether it was allowable in any person to alter the mode in which his evidence was given, so as to make it assume an argumentative form, which it did not originally possess before the Committee; for this would naturally lead people to believe that such evidence had been of much more weight and importance than it really was. The hon. Member then proceeded to give specimens of the alterations to which he had referred, and observed that he did not complain of the statements themselves; but only of the fact that they had not been made before the Committee, but. had been interpolated upon the actual evidence of the hon. Member for Bridport. The next point upon which he had to complain was, that by the alterations thus made, the arguments adduced by the hon. Member in support of his views on the. Timber Duties had been considerably strengthened; and in order to enable the House lo judge of this fact, he should end by moving, that the short-hand writer's notes be printed. The third point to which he must draw their attention was the circumstance that the hon. Member, who certainly must be looked upon as one of the most important witnesses on his side of the question, had, by the course which he thus adopted, altogether escaped that cross-examination to which he would have been subjected, had he made the same statements before the Committee as were now contained in the printed evidence, and he would have very probably been met and contradicted in some of his most material statements; he more particularly referred to what the evidence contained as having been stated by the hon. Member upon the subject of the tariff on Baltic and Norway deals, which, had he stated 143 at the table of the Committee, would most assuredly have been questioned. He would, however, not weary the House by going any further into the details of these alterations, it was sufficient that they could be proved to have been made, and he would now further explain that his allegations did not refer to the corrections made in the papers and tables handed in by the hon. Member at the Committee, and which he then expressly observed were not correct, owing to the haste in which they were prepared. The observations which he had made, referred to the text of the printed evidence, and to that only; and if he had succeeded in showing that alterations of that magnitude had been made, let him ask in what manner it became the House to act on the occasion? He would not assert, that the present was an unprecedented occurrence; but he had searched the Records of that House, and had found no traces of any precedent, and most certainly the present was the first time that any question relating to such alterations had been brought before the House. The interest which he took in the whole question of the Timber Duties rendered him very desirous of seeing the evidence actually given before the Committee by the hon. Member for Bridport, printed in juxta-position with that contained in the volume laid before the House. He could have desired, as no doubt other Members of that House did, that the evidence had not been altered. But as the hon. Member, who had been examined at the eleventh hour, had altered his statements, he asked, in justice to his own views and opinions, that the House should be put in possession of the short-hand writer's notes, and thus be enabled to judge of what the hon. Member really did say. The next consideration which he had to submit to the House was, the degree of value which, by their declining to notice the present case, would in future attach, either within those walls or in the public at large, to the printed minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committees. Why should the farce of taking and printing evidence be gone through, if such circumstances as the present were permitted to pass unnoticed? Why not rather suffer each person to send in a treatise on the subject for examination? If a case like this were to pass, and no definite regulation were laid down as to the correction or alteration of evidence, 144 what value, might he ask, would in future attach either to Reports from Select Committees or printed minutes of evidence? The case was, however, now in the hands of the House; he had been actuated by no personal motives in bringing it forward, and he should rest contented with the decision of the House, whatever that might be. He begged, therefore, to move that the evidence given by Henry Warburton, esq., a Member of the House, before the Select Committee, on the Timber Duties, be printed verbatim from the short-hand writer's notes, with the same evidence from the published Report of the Select Committee placed in parallel columns opposite each question and answer.
§ Mr. Warburton
said, that during the ten years he had had the honour of a seat in Parliament, he had abstained from occupying its attention with anything personal to himself, because he considered the public business of so much more importance than anything that affected him; but after the motion which had been made by the hon. Member for Tynemouth, he could not forbear from stating to the House what his conduct had been on the subject. He did not know that the hon. Member had acted quite fairly in attempting to couple his name with the constitution of the Timber Duties Committee and its appointment by the Government, and by striving to create a prejudice against him in the minds of those Members who were opposed to that Government, by endeavouring to connect his conduct with the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers. He did think that the hon. Gentleman, considering how personal this motion must be, ought religiously to have abstained from creating any prejudice of this kind in the minds of those who had to entertain this question. This was the second attempt the hon. Member had made, to use a vulgar phrase, to burk his evidence. The first attempt was in the Committee. At an early period of the inquiry, he (Mr. Warburton) had informed the Chairman, that he was ready to give evidence before the Committee, and he left the Chairman to fix the time and opportunity for giving it. At the close of the inquiry, it was proposed that he should be examined. To this the hon. Member and his friends objected, contending that the witnesses ought to be examined first, one on one side and then one 145 on the other; and they were for having them marshalled like the black and white men on a chess-board, as if witnesses were not to be valued by their weight but by their number; and, therefore, his (Mr. Warburton's) evidence was to be excluded. He informed the Committee, that he was not anxious to deliver his opinion on the subject; but being in possession of historical details for the last eighty years, collected from authentic documents, the owners of which were connected with the timber trade, he wished to lay them before the Committee. The hon. Gentleman, however, and his friends, brought forward a motion, that his (Mr. Warburton's) evidence should not be received. The hon. Gentleman was, however, unsuccessful in his endeavours to procure abortion, and now he tried to strangle the babe in its cradle. He would now come to the changes he had made in giving his evidence. Having stated to the Committee that he had matters of fact and history to lay before them, he adhered to his purpose of communicating them only; but some hon. Members of the Committee, who sometimes showed more zeal than discretion, knowing his opinion to be opposed to theirs, when they thought they had some fact which favoured their theory, endeavoured to break a lance with him; and, therefore, the House would find that sometimes, when he was driven into a corner, he had been obliged, when questions were asked on some matters of opinion, to answer them. For instance, the hon. Member for Worcester bad a favourite theory, that the continuance of a trade was no proof that the trade was not a losing one. He had some questions put to him on this point, which he answered; and he mentioned this to show, that he was obliged sometimes to give evidence on matters of opinion. The House would, however, find that the points on which his evidence on matters of opinion was given were limited to very few. With reference to those, be had said, that it was impossible for him to fill up the details at that time. One of these points was, that whilst there was war on the continent, and the ports were open, prices were not lowered; another, that freight was the most varying of all the elements constituting price. It so happened that he was then asked by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland, and the noble Lord the Member for West- 146 moreland, to supply the prices of the whole market for the last eighty-one years; he had undertaken the task, being also requested by the Chairman of the Committee; and, to complete it, it had taken up three months and a-half of his time, at twelve hours a-day. Having undertaken, then, to supply the details, he had thrown a few flowers over the barren path along which he travelled; and, because he had done so, were the hon. Members opposite to treat him like a school-boy, and to say, "You are tied to your lesson, and if you deviate from it you shall be flogged?" He read part of his evidence from tables which were then incomplete, and which he was then engaged in making. Allowing that there was very great delay in publishing the Report; still, if he could not complete what he had undertaken to do without the sacrifice of a great part of the long vacation, surely it was too much for the hon. Member to say, "You are the guilty cause, and it is attributable to you that persons on the other side of the Atlantic have not had an opportunity of reading the evidence." He did claim the liberty of making remarks on that table, which had cost him so much labour and so much time. All that he had done was, he had supplied all the details on the points which he had raised in the Committee himself, and he claimed to himself a degree of forbearance in not raising any questions of opinion on those details which were not raised in the Committee. He had ventured to strike out some words in questions, because they did not seem to him to be connected with the subject which was under the consideration of the Committee. For instance, he was asked, "Is not timber an article which, like wine or other things, improved by keeping?" Now, it appeared to him, that the words "other things" were not strictly connected with the subject; and, therefore, he took the liberty of striking them out. He had now stated the whole of his defence. He had told the Committee, that he could not supply all the details then; he had undertaken, at their request, to prepare them; and if he had sinned, let the Committee bear together with him that sin. No new points of opinion were raised by him in the published Report which were not raised by him in the course of his evidence before the Committee, and the 7,000 interpolated words which were laid at his door by the hon. Member were 147 the consequences of his undertaking the completion of the Table. Upon the whole, he really ought to be much obliged to the hon. Member for unintentionally conferring a favour on him, for though the hon. Member wished to throw discredit on his evidence; yet, just as libels were spread by their authors being prosecuted, he had no doubt that, thanks to this Motion, where he should have had but one reader, he should now have one hundred.
§ Mr. Robinson
did not know what effect the speech of the hon. Member for Bridport might have had upon the House, but it appeared to him that he had not answered in the slightest degree the allegations of his hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth. The hon. Member might have been content to meet the charges which had been brought against himself instead of going out of his way to attack others. The hon. Member had said, that a great labour had been imposed upon him by the Committee, and then he asked the House whether he could help delaying the Report. Now, he (Mr. Robinson) denied that either the House or the Committee imposed on him any such labour at all. The hon. Member told the right hon. President of the Board of Trade that he had evidence to give before the Committee; but that evidence was proposed to be given when many of the members of the Committee had left town, and when those who were opposed to the hon. Gentleman's views were not able to produce evidence in controversial of the evidence given by the hon. Member. When they found that a majority was against them in favour of hearing the hon. Member's evidence, they proposed that some one else should be heard on their side; but the Committee would not allow it. The hon. Member for Tynemouth said, that he had no objection to the tables being completed; but what the hon. Member had complained of, and what he (Mr. Robinson) complained of, and what the House had to deal with, was, that alterations had been made in the substance of the evidence. This question might be treated as a party question, but let them, if such alterations were to be made with impunity, look to the effects which they would produce in impugning the integrity of the Report of the Committee. If the House was willing that gentlemen should write treatises and send them for the consideration of the House, 148 let all parties stand on an equal footing; but he maintained that at present the public had no security whatever for a correct report of the evidence given before Committees of that House. He contended that the right hon. President of the Board of Trade ought to have intimated to the hon. Member that he might make his tables at his leisure, but he should not have delayed the publication of the evidence. The motion of his hon. Friend, to which the hon. Member for Bridport did not object, was, that the evidence in the report, and the evidence as taken by the short-hand-writer, should be placed in juxtaposition, and till that was done he thought hon. Members ought to suspend their opinions on the subject. He would remark, that other witnesses were told by the Chairman that they were not at liberty to do more than correct any verbal inaccuracies in the short-hand-writer's report, and the question was whether a witness, because he was a Member of that House, should be allowed to make alterations in his evidence, and keep the report in his hands three months and a-half? He had even done more than alter his own evidence, he had absolutely altered some of the questions. He acquitted the hon. Member of every thing except irregularity; but he knew how great an advocate he was for free trade, and how much his zeal might influence him.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that having been referred to by the hon. Member for Bridport, he would state the facts of the case as far as they were known to him, for before the evidence closed he had left London. He could state, if any statement of his was necessary in confirmation of what had been said by the hon. Member for Bridport, whose honour had been un-impeached during the ten years he had known him a Member of that House, what took place with regard to that portion of the suggestion made by him with respect to the tables. The hon. Member for Bridport having made known to the Committee that he was in possession of details, resting on authentic documents, of the state of the timber trade for the last eighty years, he was asked to communicate them, but he said that they would be comparatively useless except in a tabular form, and to prepare tables at that period of the session was impossible. It was then suggested by himself and the noble Lord the Member for Westmoreland, that as the 149 hon. Member was to be examined, he should be at liberty to complete his tables afterwards. The question then narrowed itself into one of irregularity; the hon. Member for Worcester put it no higher. He did think it important that published evidence should be strictly authenticated and printed as it was given; that, be believed, was the rule, as far as he knew. If any alteration was shown to the Chairman which did not touch the substance of the evidence, he might permit it to stand, but if it touched the substance, the Committee alone could permit it. Allowing it to be an irregularity, it arose from the permission given by the Committee under the peculiar circumstances of the case, in order that the tables might be filled up. This was a departure from the general rule, and was not he was bound to admit, strictly regular. He could not altogether exculpate his hon. Friend for having altered any of the questions which were put; it was only a matter of discretion, but it was a pity to do so, although every one would acquit him of having done so from sinister motives. But then the question was, whether this motion was to be pressed. He thought that sufficient had been done in bringing it forward, and that it would be of use in keeping the reports accurate in future, and no one could say that the irregularity affected the accuracy of the report or the hon. Member's honour.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
would tell the House, so far as he was acquainted with the subject, what had occurred. In vindication of himself, particularly after the sort of charge which had been brought against him by the hon. Member for Worcester, with respect to his conduct as Chairman, he must say, that till the hon. Member for Tynemouth mentioned the subject, and he saw the hon. Member's notice on Tuesday, he was utterly ignorant of any alteration being made, and his attention, as Chairman, was never called to it, nor did he ever hear a syllable on the subject. He could most completely confirm every part of the statement made by the hon. Member for Bridport. His hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport, when he appeared before the Committee, brought with him papers from which he read certain portions of his evidence, and he referred to other documents, which the hon. Member informed the Committee were not in a state of preparation fit to be laid before them, and that it was necessary 150 that he should have the documents before he completed his evidence. So for as his (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) recollection carried him back, it. was most distinct that the hon. Member for Bridport did on this point state that he must be permitted to fill up all the chasms which might occur in his evidence, and that, so far from the case being such as had been stated by the hon. Member for Worcester, his (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) recollection was, that the hon. Member for Bridport was not only permitted, but authorized by the Committee to do so. There was another point referred to by the hon. Member for Worcester in respect to which his (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) recollection did not agree. The hon. Member for Worcester had stated, that the hon. Member for Bridport had not been authorized to correct his evidence, inasmuch as it was considered wholly satisfactory to the Committee. Now, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) remembered that a considerable difference of opinion prevailed in the Committee as to the propriety of the hon. Member for Bridport at all giving evidence, as it might involve matter of opinions to which he had arrived; but he also remembered, that after his evidence had been given, there was in the Committee an expression of opinion that the evidence of the hon. Member for Bridport referred to facts, and not to mere matters of opinion. With regard to the statement of the hon. Member for Worcester, that he, and those who entertained similar views with himself on the subject of the Timber-duties, had not been afforded an opportunity of answering the evidence of the hon. Member for Bridport, he could only say, that such an opportunity was given them, but they did not think proper to call another witness. Now, to what after all did this charge amount? He (Mr. Poulett Thomson) contended, that there could be no charge of impropriety on the part of the hon. Member for Bridport, because whatever he did was authorized, not by him as Chairman, but by the Committee itself, all its members being present at the time. It was true it was not communicated to the hon. Member in an authentic form by him, as Chairman, but it was communicated to the hon. Member publicly before the Committee. If the evidence of the hon. Member were valuable, it could only be so when correct; and if it were capable of disproof, the hon. Member would have an opportu- 151 nity of so dealing with it when the subject of the Timber-duties came regularly before the House. He thought the House would do wrong if it consented to publish the evidence in the manner suggested by the present motion, for it could answer no good purpose, while it would cast a slur and reproach upon his hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport. But the hon. Member for Tynemouth had also attacked both the nomination and the conduct of the Committee. If the hon. Member had really any charge to make as to the nomination of the Committee or its conduct, why had he not brought it forward at the time the Committee was sitting, or, at all events, during the last Session—why had he allowed the Committee to terminate its labours without bringing forward his complaints? With regard to the nomination of the Committee, the hon. Member had given notice of a motion for the appointment of additional members; and after bringing that motion forward last session, he came to a compromise and withdrew it, so that in this respect he ought not to complain. On what ground of either fairness or justice, then, could the hon. Member, after ten months had elapsed, come down and complain of that Committee? In respect, however, to the charge brought against the Committee, and against him, as Chairman, he would appeal to the hon. members of the Committee, and especially to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Sandon), whether the conduct of the Committee had not been correct and proper, and whether there had been anything like partiality in his conduct in the chair? It was true he had a difficult task to pursue, on a subject with respect to which parties were strong in one opinion, while others were equally warm in another and a different view; but the best proof of the proceedings being impartial towards both, was afforded in the fact that at the close of its labours he had been told by many hon. Members that they had got through a most difficult task with great good humour and with greater success than they had anticipated at the outset. The hon. Member for Tynemouth had said, that he was bound to see the evidence printed as delivered, and had also urged as a charge against him the delay which had taken place in supplying the report of the evidence. Now, he had inquired into the cause of the delay, and had received for answer that the Tables ordered by the 152 Committee to be put into the evidence had not reached the printer's hands. He had then applied to his hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport, who fairly told him that the labour was so great that he had not yet finished all he had to do, but that he would lose no time. He had again sent to his hon. Friend on his return to town; and when he was informed by that hon. Gentleman of the extent of labour that he had undergone, his answer to his hon. Friend was, that he wished the Committee had known that the business would have been so laborious, because, if so, he would not himself, and he was sure the Committee would not, have taken upon themselves to impose on any hon. Gentleman such a task. Was, then, this onerous task now to be made a charge against the hon. Member, and was his conduct to be inculpated, as if it was something criminal? The hon. Member for Tynemouth had chosen to state, as an instance of unfairness in his (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) conduct as Chairman, that he had prevented other witnesses from altering the evidence they had given, whilst he had permitted the hon. Member for Bridport to do so. Now he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) had stated to every witness that he might look over his evidence, but was not to make material alterations. But he contended, that there was a vast difference between those witnesses and the hon. Member for Bridport, who had been expressly required by the Committee—authorized, nay, ordered by them—to append the documents in question. If there was an objection to this course, why had the hon. Member not raised it at the time? Did the hon. Member think that the hon. Member for Bridport would have undertaken a three months and a-half labour if he had not been desired by the Committee? He thought the hon. Member for Bridport stood most completely exculpated, and he could not consent to a motion which, while it answered no good purpose, cast a slur and a stigma, as it were, upon his hon. Friend.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
said, that he had been a Member of the Committee, and thought that in carrying the alterations to the extent which had been done a great irregularity had been committed. He thought it was establishing a bad precedent to recognize such a practice, and therefore the House was much indebted to the hon. Member for Tynemouth for drawing' its attention to the matter. It had 153 been admitted to be an irregularity, and this notice of it would doubtless be sufficient to prevent the recurrence of such a transaction. He trusted, therefore, that the motion would not be pressed to a division, especially when every hon. Member who had spoken had disclaimed attributing any dishonourable motive to the hon. Member for Bridport. He trusted that the explanation which had been afforded would be thought sufficient, and that his hon. Friend would not divide the House on a subject of so personal a nature.
§ Mr. Hume
thought it ought to be generally understood that no alterations of evidence, as delivered, would be permitted by the House. This was necessary to give the effect they ought to have to the reports submitted to the House from select Committees. If the present case stood without excuse, he should have joined in censuring the proceeding as an irregularity which ought not to be permitted, but his hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport, had only done that which had been requested of him by the Committee. That was admitted, and after licence and authority thus given, and more especially after the explanation afforded to the House by his hon. Friend, it would be very hard that anything like a censure should be passed upon him for executing with so much ability, and after extensive labours, a duty imposed upon him,—labours for which he, for one, thanked his hon. Friend. He hoped the hon. Member for Tynemouth would consent to withdraw his motion.
Sir Matthew White Ridley
concurred in thinking it desirable the motion should be withdrawn. If, however, it went to a division, he must vote for it, because, if a material alteration had (as was stated by a member of the Committee) been made, it was only just and right that the evidence should be printed in the manner proposed, in order to come to a fair conclusion as to how far it could be answered or varied by cross-examination. If, however, he thought the motion conveyed the slightest censure on the hon. Member for Bridport for having improperly altered his evidence, he would not support it. The hon. Member for Tynemouth had himself acquitted the hon. Member for Bridport of any such intention, and the object of the motion was merely to prove the correctness of the evidence as now printed, and thereby to guide the House on the discussion of the existing timber duties. The 154 motion attached no imputation on the character of the hon. Member for Bridport, which was above suspicion.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
reminded the House that the hon. Member for Bridport had not acted in the proceeding on his own motion, but upon the request and authority of the Committee. As a matter of principle, he was of opinion that evidence ought to be printed as given before a Committee; but when a Committee of its own accord gave instructions to a witness to complete his evidence, which, as in this case, could not be done pending its sitting, then he must say, that animadversion upon such a course was more applicable to the Committee directing it than to any other party. Believing, as he did to the fullest, the statement which had been made by the hon. Member for Bridport, supported (if it needed support) by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham), he thought the hon. Member for Bridport had cause to thank the hon. Member for Tynemouth for bringing the matter forward, because otherwise the important labours of the hon. Member would have been unknown. He must further say, that he never knew such an instance of labour and exertion devoted to the public service of the country. Nothing could be more important than the history of the timber trade for the last eighty years, which these labours and exertions had afforded to the House. As to the motion, if carried, it would convey a censure not intended either by the hon. Member for Tynemouth or those who supported him, and he therefore trusted he would take the advice thrown out, and not press the question to a division. If the hon. Member pressed the question he should most cheerfully, and from his heart, vote against it, affirming thereby the proceedings of the Committee, and affirming what was still more valuable and important—namely, that there was not a shadow of imputation against the hon. Member for Bridport; but that, on the contrary, the House had every reason to feel grateful to his hon. Friend for the pains and labour he had devoted to the subject.
§ Mr. Hardy
conceived that the question was not merely a matter between the hon. Member for Tynemouth and the hon. Member for Bridport, but one in which the public was interested and deeply con- 155 cerned, and by the adoption of the motion they ought, in reference to a great and important question, to have an opportunity of seeing on what part of the evidence reliance was to be placed.
§ Mr. George F. Young
was at all times ready to bow to the feelings expressed by a majority of the House, but he must complain that he had been placed in a most unfair position, inasmuch as during the conversation which had taken place all the eulogy had been passed upon the hon. Member for Bridport, and all the blame had been attached to him. He had attended the Committee daily, and he repeated that he had never heard a syllable of such instructions to the hon. Member for Bridport as had been to-night stated, except that the hon. Member having said that he had not had time to prepare the tables, was desired to furnish them and attach them to his evidence. This statement had not been refuted, nor could it be. He maintained, that if the evidence were printed as he suggested, it would appear that alterations had been made both as to facts and opinions. He stood aloof from party, and therefore could not look to party for support, but he never would shrink from defending with independence any conclusion to which, after the exercise of his best judgment, he arrived. It was not his intention to prefer any charge against the hon. Member for Bridport, and he should not be indisposed to withdraw his motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.