§ MR. CHARTERIS
said, the House would remember that when he called its attention the other day to certain rumours in regard to an expenditure of sums of money unaccounted for under the head of "Parliamentary Expenses" in a report recently published by a Committee appointed to inquire into the management of the affairs of the Eastern Counties Railway, he then gave notice, in accordance with what appeared to be the general feeling of the House, that he should move for a Committee to inquire into the whole matter. He should think that every Member would be anxious and eager to investigate this subject, and clear away those rumours which so prejudicially affected the honour of the House and the character of its Members. He could not anticipate any opposition to his Motion, and would, therefore, not weary the House by making any further remarks, but would at once move—That a Select Committee be appointed to in- 247 quire and report upon the expenditure of certain Bums which appear as unaccounted for, under the head of Parliamentary Expenses, in the Report which was recently published by a Committee appointed to inquire into the management of the affairs of the Eastern Counties Railway Company.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
seconded the Motion, and cordially thanked the hon. Member for having brought the subject forward. He only regretted that the hon. Member had not proposed a general inquiry into the whole of these railway companies. [An. Hon. MEMBER: One at a time.] Let them have an inquiry into the whole system. It was most desirable, in order to convince the country that these newfangled schemes were not deserving of their confidence. He alluded to no particular individual, nor to any particular company. Among a multitude there were good and bad. What he desired was, that the people should be able to discriminate between the good and the bad, and therefore he advocated a searching inquiry. They who feared inquiry tacitly admitted that they were not in the position in which they ought to be. He questioned all these new schemes. He was not old enough to recollect the South Sea bubble, but he had seen enough in his day on the part of men, as well on the Treasury benches as on those of the Opposition, to tell him that men who possessed power were capable of abusing it. These schemes had ruined the private interests of thousands; and, in his opinion, the whole railway system was a public fraud, and a private robbery. He would have the whole thing sifted to the bottom, that they might find out who was right and who was wrong; and if they even hanged the wrong he would subscribe to it, for it was high time that these new customs, systems, and doctrines were annihilated altogether,
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I am anxious that the House should not be led away by any misunderstanding of the nature of the Motion of the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire. It is a very grave subject, and should be dealt with gravely. The House should not be misled by any idle notions or peculiar whims of any hon. Member. Buffoonery is not the matter in hand; the matter in hand is that a serious and grave inquiry is suggested by the hon. Member opposite into what I understand him to have understood—namely, that certain insinuations have been made respecting this House—that insinuations and charges, which ought to be met and ought to be 248 investigated, affecting the honour of this House, through its Members, have been made; and the hon. Gentleman proposes that an inquiry should now be instituted by this House. [Colonel SIBTHORP: Hear, hear!] I beg the hon. and gallant Member will not at all take any thing to himself, even though I did use the word buffoonery. Well, Sir, I understand that the hon. Gentleman opposite having understood that certain charges were made, wishes to have an investigation made into those charges gravely and solemnly by this House. It does not affect any peculiar system of travelling in this country. It does not touch the question of railroads or of property therein vested; but it affects the character of this House, in legislating upon those companies, and not the peculiar character of the companies themselves, or of the mode of investment of property in them. And, Sir, we ought most carefully to consider that there is a large mass of property, belonging to all classes of men, invested in this species of enterprise. I speak without any particle of bias in favour of railways, not having one single farthing of interest in them; but I know it is the duty of this House not to cast upon any species of property any unfair insinuation or imputation. I am persuaded that such is not the desire of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire, but that he wishes to probe to the bottom the conduct of Members of this House who, as Members of it, have legislated upon this subject. I have seen, day by day, changes in the public mind, and changes in the manner of men depending upon success in these matters—fawning to-day, cringing and almost lying on their bellies before men—as I have seen done in the face of this House—while those men were in the ascendant, and called kings in their petty dominions; and now, when fortune has turned, they turn basely with the tide, and swell the cry against the fallen king whom they have cheered on in days gone by. I have the same feeling towards the fawning parasite I have seen opposite, and the cheering Committeeman who now dogs on this House to make an inquiry into past conduct. It is only done for the same base purpose: money led them on; money now leads them on.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
did not rise to give any opinion upon this subject, but he thought it would have been more satisfactory if the individual to whom partial reference had been made, had been permitted 249 to be in his place before the Motion had been submitted to the House. He could not but wish that his hon. Friend who had brought forward this Motion, had paused until the individual to whom all men's eyes were now directed—though he had not been mentioned by name—and whose character appeared to be so deeply implicated, had an opportunity of attending in his place. He had been told that the hon. Member to whom he referred, had had every opportunity of attending that House; but he (Sir R. Inglis) thought it could not be known to those who entertained such an opinion, that a severe domestic calamity had occurred to that individual within the last few days. He (Sir R. Inglis) had not learned this from any personal intimacy with the hon. Member to whom he alluded, nor from any one directly connected with that hon. Member; but he had to-day received a letter from Yorkshire, expressing an earnest hope that no measures might be taken by the House until the individual in question was enabled to attend in his place. He (Sir R. Inglis) would give no opinion upon the merits of the Motion; but, as to the time and circumstances under which it was brought forward, he could have wished that a longer interval had been allowed to elapse before such a measure had been taken.
§ MR. H. BROWN
said, that he had been present at a meeting of the Eastern Counties Railway that day, at which very full explanations had been given, and though he had looked very narrowly and closely into the accounts, he had not found any item affecting any Member of that House. Unless the Motion would compass the whole affairs of the Eastern Counties Railway, he did not think any practical good would result from it. Perhaps the House would excuse him if he mentioned the items which had been investigated that day. The items composing the amount respecting which a full explanation had been given were these:—Advertisements, l,537l.; solicitors, 1,619l.; loss on sale of shares, 3,400l.; advertisements (Barker & Co.), 342l.; printing, 465l.; balance, 231l.—being a total of 7,594l. He did not see what advantage could result from any inquiry by a Committee, as to whom these amounts were paid, because there was no doubt in the minds of the subscribers to the Eastern Counties Railway that not a penny of that money had been expended upon Parliamentary purposes.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
I do not wish 250 to trespass upon the time of the House, but the House has heard the opinions of the hon and learned Member for Sheffield, and there are personal feelings and personal character at stake. The hon. and learned Gentleman has told me that in what fell from him he did not apply the word "buffoonery" to me. I am quite ready to receive that statement; but the hon. and learned Gentleman will pardon me if I ask him to give me that distinct answer which I am sure he would upon all occasions be ready to afford.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Yes, if I understand the hon. and gallant Member's question. If he will be good enough to put it, I will answer it as plainly as I can.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I ask the hon. and gallant Member to put the question. I do not know what it is; but whatever it is I will answer him.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
Whether the expression that fell from the hon. and learned Member opposite—the word "buffoonery" was applied to me?
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I will repeat the words I used, and I am sure, Sir—addressing the Speaker—that you must have them in your mind. I said to the hon. Gentleman that I begged he would take nothing to himself, even though I used the word buffoonery. If that is out of order I will retract it.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
again rose, and wished, he said, to make some observations on a matter in which his personal character was involved. His character and his honour were the greatest treasures which he possessed. He hoped he had never sullied his character, and he hoped he never should. He defied the world to call his honour in question; but some individual in that House—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The words which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield in no way applied to the hon. and gallant Officer.
§ Subject dropped.
§ Motion agreed to.