HC Deb 22 June 1847 vol 93 cc798-802

said, an occurrence which in some degree concerned him, having taken place last evening, in that House, during his absence, he had to solicit the indulgence of the House for one moment only, while he offered a few words in explanation. If he could have had the most distant notion that there was an arrangement in contemplation for moving an Order of the Day, to enable some hon. Members to engage in a discussion on the proceedings which had taken place before the Andover Committee, he should most assuredly have been in his place yesterday evening. But he had received no intimation whatever of any such arrangement being intended. And under these circumstances he trusted that the House would kindly extend him their indulgence while he now offered to their attention the few remarks which he was unable to address to them on the preceding evening. he could assure the House, that if it were himself only who was concerned in this affair, he should not think of again alluding to the matter. For his own part, he was quite satisfied that those who were desirous to know how the case stood, and to ascertain who were in the right, and who in the wrong, should be left to the ordinary sources of information, and to the official reports which had been laid on the Table of the House; hut there was another person in question, and it was entirely on that ground that he wished to refer to what had occurred. He had said that there was another person involved in this question—he alluded to Sir Frankland Lewis. When he (Mr. Villiers) first brought this matter forward, he explained that he did so simply because, just before entering the House, he had received a letter from Sir Frankland Lewis, who had been a witness before the Committee, in which he communicated a statement which appeared to him (Mr. Villiers) to be entirely at variance with a statement made in that House on a preceding evening. That gentleman (Sir Frankland Lewis) had heard with extreme astonishment that a question put to him as a witness before a Committee of that House—a question which had been distinctly put to him, and which was persevered in, and to which he had given an answer in detail—had been denied by the person who put it as having been put at all. Sir Frankland Lewis was in the first instance deeply impressed with the conviction of the question having been put to him; he had not been shaken in his conviction by anything that had since occurred. He was still convinced that the question had been put, and that he had answered it: and, farther, that lie had been obliged to go into details in answering that question so put and so persevered in; and that with respect to the professed object of the question, that had been made the subject of distinct inquiry, and was also answered. It had been denied by the hon. Member for Weymouth, on his honour as a gentleman, that he had ever put that question. He was aware that it was contrary to the forms of that House to dispute any fact for the truth of which a Member pledged his word of honour; but at the same time it was quite competent for a Member to refer to what was identified with that House—namely, its own journals; and, without doubting the honour of the hon. Member for Woymouth, he might take leave to refer to Number 22,622 of the questions put before the Committee. The simple matter at issue between him and the hon. Member was whether he did or did not. put to Sir Frankland Lewis the question of whether, "when he ceased to be a Commissioner, he did so on an arrangement that his son should succeed him?" He (Mr. Villiers) had believed that he had done so. Sir Frankland Lewis believed it now, and was convinced that he answered the question, and that it was contained in the report of the evidence; and, notwithstanding this very stout denial of the Member for Weymouth that he ever put the question, the House could not doubt that this question did actually appear in the official report of the evidence, viz:— When you ceased to be a Poor Law Commissioner, will you inform the Committee whether you ceased upon an arrangement being made that your son should succeed you? The hon. Member for Weymouth's commentary on this was, that he explained to Sir Frankland Lewis that the object of the question he put was to ascertain whether Sir Frankland Lewis had cautioned his son against Mr. Chadwick; but the two questions were totally distinct, as was clearly perceived by the Committee. Therefore, when Sir Frankland Lewis had that question put to him, he proceeded to explain how no arrangement of the sort had ever been made:— I am anxious to explain to you," said the hon. Member for Weymouth, "that I do not refer to any arrangement which might not have been made with perfect propriety, and without any imputation against either you or your son. But all that had nothing whatever to say to the real matter at issue. What he (Mr. Villiers) said was, that the hon. Member had no right to put a question as to any arrangement between the father and son. It was not the matter at issue before the Committee, nor was it all in keeping with what the hon. Member declared to be his object—namely, to ascertain whether Sir Frankland Lewis had cautioned his son against Mr. Chadwick. Such was his (Mr. Villiers') statement, and he found in the Journals of the House that this was the question the hon. Member had put. There was no question whether the arrangement was proper or not; but the question was, did he ask Sir Frankland Lewis respecting an arrangement with his son? The report made to the House represented him as putting just such an interrogatory; and the Member for Finsbury was represented as having declared that it ought to be answered. Three questions lower down the hon. Member for Weymouth put the following question: "When your son succeeded you, did you put him on his guard against Mr. Chadwick?" That was the question which the hon. Member declared he had in view in proposing question No. 22,622; but the House would observe, that there was not the smallest possible connexion between the two questions, and they had, in fact, been put separately. He (Mr. Villiers) was bound to believe what the hon. Member asserted upon his honour; but he had been misled by reading the evidence as taken in shorthand, and as officially reported to that House, and to which the hon. Member was himself a party. As to giving notice to the hon. Member of his intention to allude to the matter on a former night, he begged to say he had conferred with a Member of the Committee (the hon. Member for Finsbury), who gave it as his opinion that if the official report of the evidence bore out his (Mr. Villiers') statement, made the night before, the House would be satisfied with that explanation, and with the grounds on which that statement had been made. He accordingly went up to the library, and finding the official report there, he brought it down, and used it to prove the accuracy of what he had said. He begged to say that he did not attach any importance whatever to the point of whether the room had been cleared by the hon. Member for Weymouth: as soon as the hon. Member asserted that it was he who had caused it to be cleared, he rested satisfied, and did not dispute the point, for it was quite unimportant. The fact was certain that the question put was an improper one, and that the room was cleared. It seemed that it was a part of the arrangement last night that some hon. Members friendly to the hon. Member for Weymouth were to come down to support his character, and speak in favour of his conduct.


rose to order. The hon. Member was carrying his explanation to too great length in referring to other Members. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would perceive the propriety of abridging this proceeding, and bringing the matter to a close.


The hon. and learned Gentleman ought certainly to confine his remarks to a justification of himself.


had not intended to trangress the rules of order, but would, of course, at once bow to the decision of the Speaker. He could only say that he was not on the Committee himself; but when witnesses described the manner in which they were treated, they were entitled to be heard, and, if respectable, believed. He (Mr. Villiers) founded his statements on the authority of the witnesses themselves, many of whom, notwithstanding the evi- dence which had been borne in favour of the hon. Member for Weymouth by his friends, complained grievously of the conduct of that Member towards them, and of the character of the questions he put to them. He could name several who complained at the time. Sir Frankland Lewis complained at the time, and had repeated his complaint to the noble Chairman of the Committee since the inquiry had ceased, of the manner in which the inquiry had been conducted. It should have been remembered that Sir Frankland Lewis was an old Member of that House, and from his position in society was entitled to be treated with respect. Mr. Westlake also—[Cries of "Order!"] He (Mr. Villiers) thanked the House for the indulgence with which they had heard him, and would not further trespass on their attention.


Sir, I am quite satisfied with the manner in which the House received my distinct denial of the charge last night; and I consider it would be beneath me to again deny it after the solemn pledge which I have already given of its injustice. After the honourable testimony borne to my conduct by many hon. Members, and amongst others by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury, who saw and heard me daily, I am sure I properly interpret the feelings of the House when I believe it to be averse to the prolongation of the discussion.

The matter dropped.

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