HC Deb 23 February 1855 vol 136 cc1864-8

then put the names of the proposed Committee seriatim.


said, he would submit that the House ought not to proceed further in the nomination of the Committee at that late hour, especially as no two Members who had spoken in defence of it had expressed the same opinion with regard to it, or had agreed as to whether it was to be confined to the past or to enter into the future; no one yet knew whether it was to be a gross fraud, a delusion, or a full and searching inquiry, such as had been pointed at by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). If he stood alone, he should divide the House against this inquiry.


said, he trusted that, as it was decided to have a Committee, hon. Members would see the propriety of not having continued and protracted discussion. The question had been fully and most ably discussed on both sides. He believed he was right in saying that, according to the forms and rules of the House, when a Committee was appointed to inquire into a subject, it was not in the power of that Committee, without the express instructions of the House, to inquire into any matters of a subsequent date to the time when it was appointed.


said, that although feeling a very strong objection to the appointment of the Committee, still he would not be a party to any further prolongation of the difficulties in which he considered the House, the Government, and the country were placed, in consequence of the vote of that House.


said, he did not see any disadvantage that could result from the appointment of the Committee, if it were to confine its labours to an inquiry into the conduct of those departments in this country whose business it was to supply the wants of the army. But he felt persuaded that any attempt on the part of the Committee to enter into military matters in the Crimea would be productive of the most fatal consequences to the public service.


said, it was not his intention to propose any limitation to the inquiries of the Committee. It appeared to him that the first and main object to be attained was to appoint a Committee consisting of Gentlemen in whose discretion and judgment the House might repose confidence. He thought the selection which had been made was a selection which entitled the Committee to the confidence of the House. He thought the names perfectly unobjectionable. He for one was prepared to repose in those Gentlemen sufficient confidence. He thought that in the pursuit of their inquiry they would not travel into those delicate and dangerous topics which had been adverted to in the course of the debate. It did not appear to him to be impossible for them to pursue inquiries with regard to the condition of the army in the Crimea without travelling into those questions which would affect our relations with our allies. It would, indeed, be a most unfortunate thing if they were led to make inquiries which would wound the feelings of our allies. He thought, therefore, it could not be too strongly impressed on the Gentlemen who formed that Committee to abstain from any inquiry which would have so calamitous a result. It appeared to him that if they pursued the inquiry with proper judgment and discretion, they would satisfy the expectations of Parliament, without giving rise to the evil to which he had adverted. As far, then, as he was concerned, it was not his intention to put any limitation on the inquiry of the Committee.


It is not my intention, Sir, to move any instructions to this Committee, for I think the words of my Motion do limit the inquiry of that Committee. The words are that they should Inquire into the condition of our army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those departments of the Government whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of that army. Now, it appears to me that these words are definite, they explain themselves; and such being the case, I think, the Committee require no instructions. The House, when it selects a Committee, generally has some confidence in that Committee, and, perhaps, the House will allow me to say a few words upon the selection which has been made in this instance. I have to apologise to the Gentlemen whose names I used in the first instance for not being able to carry out my original intention. I found, however, that those names did not appear to meet with the confidence of this House, and I, therefore, felt it my duty to place myself immediately in communication with the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The result of my communication with him is, that I have been enabled to present to the House a Committee in which I think they have confidence, and if that Committee deserves the confidence of this House it requires no instructions. I perfectly agree with everything said respecting the difficulty in the way of this inquiry. But I think the difficulty justifies and calls forth inquiry. The difficulty is great; I know we are trenching as closely as possible upon a prerogative which we ought not to trench upon; but still, all that notwithstanding. we have before us an army melting away; we have the people of this country demanding inquiry; and I believe we should not satisfy the desires of our constituents did we not grant the inquiry I have asked for. It is on these grounds, and on these grounds alone, that I have ventured upon this delicate and, I will say, dangerous investigation. No inquiry, indeed, could be more delicate and dangerous; for, depend upon it, you have a people to satisfy who will not be satisfied until they have probed to the bottom the circumstances which have caused the destruction of the finest army that ever left the shores of this country.

Committee nominated:—Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Drummond, Sir John Pakington, Colonel Lindsay, Mr. Layard, Mr. Ellice, Lord Seymour, Sir George Lewis, General Peel.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Bramston be one other Member of the said Committee."


said, he begged to explain to the House the reasons why he wished to substitute the name of Captain Scobell for that of Mr. Bramston. He thought it desirable that some hon. Member connected with the navy ought to be on the Committee, as the conduct of branches of the naval department was called into question.


said, he thought the proposal arose out of a misconception. The Committee could examine naval witnesses, and be able to appreciate the evidence.


said, he hoped the House would abide by the list as it stood. The Committee was not going to inquire into seamanship, but into the management of public departments.


said, the present Amendment was made without his knowledge or concurrence in the first instance, and he felt no desire to serve upon it. At the same time, he thought a naval officer ought to be put upon it, as the conduct of the transport service was in question.


said, he would appeal to his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) not to press his Motion. It was desirable to have the unanimous consent of the House to the appointment of the Committee. There were now eleven Members; there might be a twelfth appointed upon a future stage if it was considered desirable to have a naval man upon the Committee.


said, he thought the country would be very much disappointed if no naval officer were appointed on the Committee. He had heard of the nomination of Captain Scobell with great satisfaction. Question put, "That the name of 'Mr. Bramston' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 80: Majority 21.

On the Motion that Mr. John Ball be appointed another member of the Committee,


gave notice that on Monday he would move the insertion of the name of Sir George Tyler in the place of that of Mr. John Ball. He thought it highly requisite that upon a Committee of this nature there should be at least one naval officer.


said, he would also give notice that on Monday he should move to add the name of Mr. Miles to the Committee. He thought it only fair that, as Lord Raglan had no one in the Committee to stand forth and take his part, some Gentleman should be appointed to attend the Committee and defend his character. Mr. Miles was connected by marriage with Lord Raglan, and was, therefore, the most proper person to represent his interest.


said, this was the first time he ever heard that a member of the jury ought to be a relation of the prisoner in the dock.


said, he was confident that Lord Raglan's character would be perfectly safe with the Committee as proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He trusted the Committee would strictly investigate the conduct of the civil departments, for these were the departments which had more failed than any other.


said, he had been sorry to hear the expressions which had just fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck). He (Mr. Napier) never knew an instance of a person being put in the dock without a bill of indictment having been first found against him.

Motion made, and Question put, "That Mr. John Ball be one other Member of the said Committee."

The House divided:—Ayes 98; Noes 62: Majority 36.

The House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock till Monday next.