HC Deb 14 February 1854 vol 130 cc697-700

said, he would now beg to move the appointment of the Committee agreed to on Tuesday last, and to whom is to be referred the complaint of the paragraph contained in the Times of last Monday week. He would name fifteen hon. Gentlemen as the Members.


hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would not insist on the Committee consisting of fifteen members. There could be no doubt that it was the wish of everybody that there should be a full, fair, impartial, and searching inquiry; on that point there could not be a second question. It was equally true that Her Majesty's Government, as a Government, had no interest whatever in the question, inasmuch as it alone affected the honour of the House. The allegation which had been made simply amounted to this—that the Government having granted the nomination to an appointment to some one, that nomination had been sold. The only question, then, was, had the person who made the nomination sold it or not? That was an inquiry which touched the honour of the House, and it therefore we incumbent that a most searching investigation should be set on foot, in order either that the guilty party might be discovered, or, if no person had committed such an act, to affix the guilt upon those who, without due inquiry, or without probable grounds, had put forward so very grave a charge on imperfect information. Well, then, a searching investigation being the object in view, he thought it better to have a smaller number on the Committee, binding those, however, who were nominated to a daily continuous attendance. Such a course would be much better than appointing a Committee of fifteen, some of whom might or might not attend, as, for instance, himself, his duties rendering a daily attendance out of the question. For his part he thought that no one put upon the Committee ought to give his vote unless he had heard the whole of the evidence. For, let it be remembered, it was most important to observe the demeanour of witnesses, the mode in which their testimony was delivered, and how they acted while under cross-examination. Now, that could not be done without a continuous attendance. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would yield to his suggestion that the Committee should consist of nine members, and that it should be impressed upon those gentlemen that their attendance should be continuous. He understood, however, that the hon. Gentleman would meet with great difficulty in reducing the numbers to nine; that being so, he (Sir J. Young) would not object to their standing at eleven, but on the consideration that the quorum should be fixed at nine; and also that if any gentleman was forced, either by illness or press of business, to absent himself from attendance on the Committee for two days, that that gentleman should no longer consider himself a member of the Committee, and that he should not be entitled to vote at the termination of its proceedings. There might, perhaps, be some difficulty in reducing the list offhand, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman would do him the honour of conferring with him (Sir J. Young) on the subject, probably the desired reduction could be brought about. For himself, speaking not as a member of the Government, but as an Irish representative, he earnestly hoped that if the charges which had been made were well-founded, that they might be brought home to the guilty quarter, and that the individual might meet with all the discredit which he merited. On the other hand, however, he trusted that, if the charges were groundless, the disrepute of having alleged such gross calumnies, without sufficient inquiry, against the whole body of Irish Members, would be attended with lasting disgrace.


said, he hoped that he, at least, might be released from at- tendance on an inquiry of so painful a nature. When the hon. and learned Genleman proposed his name originally, he (Lord Hotham) had informed him that he thought, having done his duty last year on a Committee of a very peculiar and painful character, that he was entitled to exemption on the present occasion, but that, as he had belonged to a profession which never shirked its duty, he would have no objection to be placed on the Committee, if the hon. and learned Member wished it. From what had previously passed he was led to believe that the Committee would consist of but five members; it seemed now, however, that it would be more extensive. However, be its numbers what they might, or no matter what its composition, he would beseech the House to lay it as an injunction upon each and every Member to be constant in his attendance. He hoped, also, that, whether eleven or nine, no quorum would be allowed, for the inquiry was a most important, as well as a most painful one.


said, he was quite ready to admit the importance of the inquiry; but he wished for a clear definition of what was meant by a continuous sitting. If they were to sit continuously for a month, it would certainly be excessively inconvenient to him to do anything of the kind, otherwise, however, he had no objection to serve on the Committee.


said, he thought the House ought to be very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Young) for the course which he had taken. It was quite plain to the House that he (Mr. Butt) had had the advantage of a personal conference with the right hon. Baronet, and he believed that he had perfectly satisfied him that he had not pressed his original Motion without good reasons for doing so. At the same time he was now quite prepared to acquiesce in reducing the number of the Committee to eleven, though he still thought, notwithstanding what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Hotham), that it would be more convenient to fix a quorum of nine. For otherwise, perhaps, even on their very first day of meeting, when necessarily their business would be but little beyond a formal character, they would be obliged most inconveniently to adjourn in consequence of the absence of one of their Members. With regard to the necessity of constant attendance, he trusted it would be unneces- sary to enforce that, or that if any Gentleman should be absent during the delivery of a portion of the evidence, that he should thereupon cease to be a Member of the Committee. But as to effecting a reduction in the Committee, that was a task which fell rather invidiously upon him, for there was not a single gentleman on it whom he had not personally solicited to serve. For himself, he would be perfectly delighted to be relieved from the task of serving; indeed, he had several times wished that he had never taken the matter up. Looking, however, to the names, for instance, there was that of the hon. and learned Attorney General, who doubtless would find it impossible to attend daily. He also found that the hon. and learned Member for Clonmel (Mr. J. O'Connell) had personal reasons for not wishing to serve. Then, again, there was his right hon. and learned Friend below him, Mr. Napier, who, though perhaps the most valuable name on the Committee, was still the last appointed to it. And that evening, the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. K. Seymer) had informed him of his inability to serve on the Committee, in consequence of his having been made Chairman of another. That would seem to bring about the required reduction.


said, he quite agreed that, as far as the House itself was concerned, it did not very much matter from what side the Members were appointed. But he was afraid that, if the Committee were to stand as thus constituted, it would not bear an impartial aspect in the eyes of the public, as there were perhaps too many gentlemen from one side of the House. He would, therefore, advise the hon. and learned Gentleman to postpone the nomination of the Committee until to-morrow, when an opportunity would be afforded of substituting some names. He must say it would be very difficult to find any name more calculated to inspire general confidence than that of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. K. Seymer).


said, he would consent to allow the nomination of the Committee to stand over until to-morrow, when the question would be taken up again as an adjourned debate.


then moved the adjournment of the debate.

Agreed to.

The House adjourned at half after Nine o'clock.