§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I beg to move that the Committee on Packet and Telegraphic Contracts do consist of nineteen members; and, in justification of so large a number, I can only say that it was found it would be very difficult to compress this Committee into the number of fifteen. Where various Governments have for a series of years been connected with the formation of these contracts, it appeared impracticable entirely to exclude those who have been connected with office; and if they were to be included, it seemed desirable on the one hand to give them a representation which would be adequate for a full elucidation of the facts, and on the other hand this involved the necessity of a strong representation of the independent Members of the House. Under these circumstances, I hope the House will agree to the number which I have proposed.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, this was a very important inquiry, and he feared it was going to degenerate into a party contest. Nevertheless, he would beg of the House, and especially of the members of whom the Committee was about to be composed, to take into its serious consideration the very 1078 important principle which was involved in the proposed inquiry. Parliamentary Government was by some looked upon as ope-rose, and it certainly would be so if the House of Commons were to diverge from its proper functions into the performance of the duties of an Executive Committee. There were, he believed, some hon. Members who desired that this should be the case, and that the Committee in question should not merely inquire into the conduct of the late Administration, but should call in question the validity of its acts. If the latter course were taken, then would the House of Commons be constituting itself an Executive Committee, and for the purposes of such a body no assembly could be so entirely unfit. There had been of late in that House, as well as elsewhere, a vast outbreak of what he might term "virtue," and there was a bench opposite to him (the Treasury Bench) which had become peculiarly distinguished for the production of that article. Its occupants had all of a sudden discovered that in the interests of public morality the proposed inquiry was absolutely necessary. Now, he had no objection to that inquiry; but he would put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with whom the Motion had originated, what was really proposed by it? He put it to him as a statesman of great importance and weight, and as one whose opinions about constitutional government would hereafter as well as now have great influence, whether he was not doing great damage to the cause of constitutional government by lending the sanction of his high authority to the course which was being taken. It had, indeed, been said distinctly that the object of the Motion was to fix upon the late Government the responsibility of their own acts. So far he could very well understand its scope; but there were those who went beyond that, and who contended that the end sought to be attained was to call in question and to jeopardize the existence of a contract to which the late Government had lent its sanction. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Card-well) appeared to have seen the difficulty which was involved in the subject, for in answer to a question which was put to him he slated very clearly, and, as he thought, very satisfactorily, that the validity of the determination of no Government with respect to any contract should be made a matter of discussion. That, however, did not seem to be the understanding on the 1079 part of the whole of those who sat on that remarkable bench whose members were so distinguished for their public virtue. They appeared to call in question not merely the conduct of the previous Government, but their very acts in that capacity. He would make himself understood by a reference to that on which the vials of wrath of these virtuous gentlemen had been poured—the Galway contract. He wanted to know whether the occupants of the virtuous bench opposite did not desire, and intend to call in question that very contract itself? If the right hon. Gentleman were to adopt such a course he should tell him that he was about to enter on a discussion which would tend to bring disgrace on that House, and which would render constitutional government impossible. He could understand a policy which would make a Ministry responsible for its acts; but if the House were to proceed to the extent of saying that such acts were not binding until they had received the sanction of the Legislature, the action of the Executive would be paralyzed, and to paralyze that action would, he should remind hon. Members, be, at a time like the present, to pursue a line of conduct hazardous to the country. We were entering on a period of no ordinary gravity. Was it the wish of hon. Members that the Government should wait to enter into contracts to provide for the national defence until they had first received the approval of the House of Commons? If not, where, he would ask, was the line to be drawn? To make provision for the defence of the country required money, and it would appear that it was the opinion of those who sat on the Treasury benches that that money should not be expended until the opinion of Parliament as to the propriety of that expenditure had been first taken. If that was the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to proceed he should tell him that it was of extreme danger to the State. He should therefore call upon the right hon. Gentleman to say whether it was his intention, in moving for the proposed Committee, to call in question the acts of the late Government, or to throw on their shoulders the responsibility of a proceeding for which they might be liable to the censure of that House. If the latter were the right hon. Gentleman's object, then he was not disposed to doubt the propriety of the course which he had pursued; but if the former were the end which he sought to attain, then he should 1080 warn him against taking a stop which, with all the ability which distinguished him, he might not be able to retrieve. To possess the splendid qualities of a rhetorician was one thing, but to be a great statesman was another. For his own part, it was by the wisdom of the statesman, and not by the trumpery arts of the rhetorician that he desired to see the proceedings of that House directed.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, there were only two Irish Members on the list of the Committee, while there were three Scotch. The subject was one of the greatest importance to Ireland, and she ought to be fairly represented. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would consent to omit at least two of the names in the list and to substitute for them the names of two other Irish Members.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Select Committee on Packet and Telegraphic Contracts do consist of nineteen members.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had asked whether, in proposing the Committee, Government meant to question the acts of the late Government as contradistinguished from the acts of former Governments. In reply he must inform the hon. and learned Member that he was not prepared to place any limitation whatever on the functions of the Committee, either as to the past or future, except, of course, that which ought to be taken for granted, that they would act with the strictest regard to the obligations of public faith. With respect to the difficult question of the proportion of Scotch and Irish Members who should sit on the Committee, he could only say that he thought both countries were adequately represented. There were three Scotch and two Irish Members upon it. [An hon. MEMBER: "Only one Irish Member."] His arithmetical faculty seemed to be already at fault, but he believed he was right, and he could assure the House that when the Committee was chosen he had laboured under the impression that there were three Irish Members nominated. It might not perhaps be thought unnatural that such was the case when he said that one of the names which figured on the list of the Committee was that of the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), of 1081 whom he had a strong recollection in connection with discussions in reference to the distillation of spirits in bond and other questions relating to Ireland, and though the noble Lord might not strictly be an Irish he might reasonably be taken for one. And, although he should not for a moment presume to doubt the affection which that noble Lord entertained for Cockermouth, yet he was disposed to believe that it was one which his regard for Ireland completely transcended. He might, therefore, be regarded as effectually representing on the Committee the interest of that portion of the kingdom. It was, he could assure the House, a matter of no ordinary difficulty so to frame the Committee as that, while the opinions of the different Governments which were interested should have full expression, adequate provision should, on the other hand, be made for the defence of the public interests. For his own part, he did not think there was any disproportion in the number of Members on the Committee, representing England, Scotland, and Ireland, respectively, of which complaint could justly be made; and he trusted that the views and opinions of all parties would obtain a fair hearing, while there would be enough of independent force and weight in the Committee to preclude it from being regarded as useless, or its appointment looked upon as an insult to the public feeling.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that everybody knew that this question had been brought forward in consequence of the Galway contract, which many persons believed to be a purely party transaction. Therefore, to exclude Irish Members, who were chiefly interested, would be unjust. He was competent to give a fair opinion, because he represented an antagonistic port to Galway, and he claimed justice for the whole country when he protested against the systematic exclusion of Irish Members from the Committee. He thought there ought to be fewer Scotch and more Irish Members upon it.
§ MR. BRADY
said, that when an Irish subject was to be inquired into Irish Members were excluded because they were interested, and when the subject-matter to be inquired into related to England, they were excluded because they were not interested. He agreed with the hon. Member that this Committee never would have been called for if the Galway guarantee had not been granted. There was a small and contracted feeling in this House re- 1082 lative to Ireland, for he knew that there was an arrangement whereby Irish Members were excluded from Committees, which was highly discreditable to the House.
thought, the Government ought to deal fairly by the Irish Members and place an equal number on the Committee. They had a very deep interest in the question, and he hoped the Government would reconsider their decision, and introduce one additional Irish Member at least.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, although there ought not to be any such number of Members interested in the contract so as to influence the decision of the Committee, yet it would be highly advantageous if they had Members on it who were fully acquainted with the circumstances of the case, and competent to call witnesses on the various points.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Mr. COBDEN, Sir FRANCIS BARING, Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE, Lord JOHN MANNERS, Mr. CORRY, Sir HENRY WILLOUGHBY, Mr. SCHOLEFIELD, and Mr. DUNLOP nominated Members of the said Committee.
§ On Motion that Mr. Baxter be one other Member of the said Committee,
§ MR. MAGUIRE moved the omission of the hon. Member's name, and that Mr. Hennessy should be put in his place. He objected to the hon. Gentleman because he had been known to express very strong feelings in reference to the most important questions that would come before the Committee.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the Motion could only be for the omission of the name, and notice must be given of the substitution of any other. He hoped that his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter) would not withdraw his name. It was true he might have expressed an opinion with regard to the Galway contract, and if that were a reason for taking off his name they would have to strike off the names of several hon. Members who had already been nominated. If the House were to strike off gentlemen who had expressed such opinions what were they to say as to placing upon the Committee gentlemen who were officially responsible for having entered into the Galway contract? For his own part, he should regard the omission of the hon. Gentleman's name as taking away one of the titles of the Committee to public confidence.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he was not aware 1083 that in consequence of having entertained certain opinions connected with our ocean packet service he was thereby disqualified from serving on this Committee. He thought the time had now come when there was no necessity whatever for subsidizing the Galway or any other line. If, however, the House felt that having formed an opinion against the system of large subsidies ought to prevent a Member being on a Committee, he at once admitted his name had better be withdrawn.
said, he admired the candour with which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had admitted that his mind was made up on the subject about to be investigated. He complained that though every man in the West of Ireland was in favour of Galway as a packet station, there was only one Member on the Committee from that part of the country.
said, he looked with great suspicion on this proposal for inquiry, for at the first blush it appeared to him as a party move of the most unmistakeable character. He thought the late Government was entitled to credit for having given a packet station to Galway, though, as an individual, he held that they might perhaps have selected a more desirsble port in a part of the country with which he was connected. He submitted that great injustice had been done to Ireland by not placing a fairer proportion of Irish Members on the Committee.
§ MR. M'MAHON
hoped that Mr. Baxter would assent to the withdrawal of his name from this Committee, seeing that the hon. Member would go into the Committee with his mind made up.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
thought it very unfair that a Gentleman should be put upon this Committee who had told them that his mind was made up with regard to the question of subsidizing these companies.
§ MR. WILSON
said, that the hon. Member for Montrose advocated a distinct principle, and that was whether the postal service of the country could not be carried on without subsidies at all; and therefore he thought that he would be a very valuable member of the Committee to cross-examine the witnesses with a view to illustrate the principle he advocated. The Committee was not confined to the Galway packet contract, but extended to the general ocean packet service.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, one charge brought against the late Government was that when in office they employed their power to sub- 1084 sidize a particular company—or rather it was very broadly insinuated that they corruptly exercised their power for that purpose. Now, the Galway contract was not the only mail-packet contract; and he would press on the Committee now being nominated that there were other contracts made by former Governments which could also be inquired into, and in which corruption had been imputed. If the Committee should be at a loss to find individual instances he would undertake to find some for them. He trusted that the Committee would go over the whole of the contracts, and that they would not confine themselves to the contracts either of the late or the present Government.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that when he saw the first list of names it occurred to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made an unfortunate selection. One of the most unsatisfactory things in the business of that House was that so small a result followed from the appointment of a Committee. So strong had been his feeling on this subject that he had on every possible occasion abstained from serving on Committees as much as he could from the belief that his labour and time would be almost thrown away. When the Committee was first nominated he felt that it would not give satisfaction to the House, because it contained too many members who were now in office, or who had been in office under the late Government, and they would both go into the Committee Room with a disposition to justify everything that had been done. The officials of the present Government were equally well disposed to support everything which had been done by their predecessors, and the few Members on the Committee who might be called independent would find themselves overborne by the votes of those who were concerned in the very things the Committee had to inquire into. For these reasons he had intended to object to the nomination which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed. Indeed, he believed that right hon. Gentleman had found out that the Committee, as he had originally composed it, would not be agreed to, and he had therefore added four more names, making in all nineteen members; and by so doing he had made the Committee too large and cumbersome; there would be twice as many questions asked than necessary for the purposes of the inquiry, the whole thing would fall into confusion and would turn out as resultless 1085 as the labours of a Committee usually were. If he (Mr. Bright) might recommend a course to be pursued—and which he should pursue if he had the appointment of the Committee—it would he that the whole list should be rubbed out, and then that a Committee should be proposed which should have upon it no more official Members than were absolutely necessary for the complete elucidation of the general principles which had been laid down and acted upon by the Treasury in respect of contracts. He did not agree in thinking that it was necessary to have upon the Committee the hon. Member for Gal way, or one of the hon. Members for Liverpool; indeed, he thought those hon. Members ought not to be upon the Committee, because they knew well that they represented constituencies that had a great interest in a matter of this kind, and it was well known that constituencies expected their Member to take a very favourable view of what promised to be for their interest, and therefore hon. Members in such a position wore indisposed and incapacitated from acting honestly and intelligently on a question of this nature. He thought therefore that in forming a Committee two classes of Members should always be avoided—Members holding official appointments and Members representing local interests; and he felt sure that Gentlemen belonging to both sides of the House, and who were not in such positions, could be found who were capable and intelligent enough to serve upon this Committee; and the Report of such a Committee would have infinitely more influence, both in the House and throughout the country, than a Report prepared or passed by a Committee having local and official interests. With regard to the name of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) he could not object to it, and he would undertake to say that that hon. Gentleman was of the average ability of the House; and though he (Mr. Bright) was not in the habit of passing compliments, he would state that he was as fit to serve on the Committee as most other men. That hon. Gentleman had travelled through America, and he had written a useful book. He was in his opinion just the man to be appointed, and therefore he should not vote for his exclusion. The official and local Members might be supposed to take a partial view of the question, and therefore he should omit their names altogether. In 1853 the Chancellor of the Exchequer in proposing the budget, expressed very great doubt 1086 upon the wisdom of the enormous expenditure incurred in this subsidizing system, and he had no reason to doubt that the right hon. Gentleman's willingness to inquire whether it might not be reduced. It was well known that they could not go among commercial men without hearing something about these contracts; there was a universal suspicion that there was a great deal of unnecessary expenditure, if not jobbing, about them; and to prevent suspicion arising, the House ought to select a Committee which should be as independent and as intelligent as both sides of the House could make it.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he he should certainly urge the House to retain the name of the hon. Member for Montrose upon the Committee, and he did so for this reason—this Committee was to be appointed for the wise object of looking into the whole subject of the packet contracts, which was one that required the full attention of those hon. Members who might be selected; and in the interest of the late Government, whose conduct had been attacked, he should demand that the hon. Member for Montrose should be placed on the Committee. This inquiry ought not to be skin-deep, but fully and properly gone into, and he believed the more the subject was inquired into, the more it would redound to the credit and not discredit of the late Government. The subject was one which could not properly be discussed in that House, but should be referred to a Select Committee; and if it were discussed without the assistance of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, it might be said that the Committee had not been appointed fairly, nor the subject properly gone into. This Committee would have to go into the whole question as to what were the principles upon which the packet contracts were founded, and they would have to state whether the Galway, Dovor, and other contracts were right or wrong, He quite agreed that the Committee would be best if it were composed entirely of non-official Members; but if, on the other hand, the whole truth was to he got out, they must have a certain number of gentlemen who could bring out the points of the case; and, therefore, it would be desirable that they should have two or three Members on the Committee who were acquainted with official proceedings. He felt satisfied with the appearance of this Committee as it now stood, and thought that a fair inquiry would be instituted, 1087 which was all that the late Government required.
§ SIR EDWARD GROGAN
wished to point out that these contracts had been going on in various ports and towns of England. Up to the present moment not one shilling had been given to Ireland, and until it was proposed that Ireland should benefit by one of these contracts no inquiry had been demanded. As soon, however, as an attempt had been made to assist private energy in Ireland, the whole power and weight of English Members were brought to bear against them. It might be prudent that neither the Members for Galway, Limerick, nor Liverpool should serve, on the ground of private interest, but the same objection could not apply to the whole commercial community of Ireland. Why should not a Member for Belfast and Dublin serve on the Committee? It was a matter peculiarly interesting to Ireland, but the constitution of the Committee was not such as to give satisfaction to the people of Ireland.
§ Question put, "That Mr. BAXTER be one other Member of the said Committee."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 34: Majority 101.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Mr. BAXTER to be a Member of the Committee.
§ Mr. LEICESTER VERNON, Captain GLADSTONE, Lord NAAS, Mr. HUBBARD, Mr. HOPE, nominated other Members of the said Committee.
§ On Motion that Mr. WILSON be one other Member of the said Committee,
§ MR. HENNESSY moved, that the right hon. Gentleman's name be omitted, in order to insert the name of some Irish Member, who should be connected with Galway.
§ MR. SCULLY
seconded the Motion, declaring that the Committee was not at all fairly constituted. There were only two Irish Members, for the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), although an Irishman, was an English Member. As well might the present Member for Marylebone (Lord Fermoy) be called an Irish Member, but he was nothing of the kind. Ireland was not fairly treated, either in this Committee or in the Cabinet, where there was not a single Irishman. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, although bearing an Irish title, was no more an Irishman than the Marquess of Douro was a Portuguese. He would reserve for another occasion remarks on the constitution of the 1088 Irish Government, but he would now observe that the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, the Under Secretary, the Chief Commissioner of Irish Police, the Chief Commissioner for the Irish Poor Laws, and even the Commander of the Forces, were none of them Irishmen. There was not an Irishman at the head of any department in the country. He did not blame the Government, that House, or Englishmen for this state of things; but he blamed Irishmen, who ought to assert their own position and be true to themselves. He was glad to think that there was a sounder feeling springing up among Irish Members, and if it grew stronger there would soon be two, three, or four Irishmen brought into the Cabinet. There were always at least three Scotchmen in the Cabinet, and Scotland was a much smaller and more insignificant country even than Ireland; but the Scotch Members made their position felt.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that he, like every Member in the House, felt great respect for the right hon. Gentleman whose name was now proposed, but, if the Report of the Committee was not to be a nullity, the House should endeavour to get a non-official and independent Committee. The Government were the assailants in this matter, and partly with a political object; and, however fair Mr. Wilson might be, there were fairer men, as that right hon. Gentleman had a strong political and party bias. Let some Independent Member be appointed who would not regard the interests of faction on either side, but only the interests of the empire.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
thought it of the utmost importance that this Committee should be fairly and impartially constituted. It was thought desirable to have on the Committee one or two Members connected with the late and present Governments, who might be able to direct attention to what those Governments might bring before the Committee. Such Members, however, should be put, not on the Committee, but in the witness-box, and then they could bring before the Committee all the points they might think it desirable to direct attention to. He would suggest whether it would not be fair that the name of one of the Government Members should be withdrawn, and some Independent Member appointed instead.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, he would not obtrude himself on the House; but in consequence of the observation made on his vote 1089 in the last division by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, it was only right to say in reference to that observation that there were no national prejudices in the borough he had the honour of representing, and it was an injustice to his constituents to say that he gave that vote in consequence of their national prejudices. The vote was on the question whether the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) should be one Member of the Committee. On that question he had voted "Aye," because the hon. Gentleman was known to represent in a very decided manner the views which many persons in the House and in the country entertained on this subject. He did not mean by that vote, however, to say that he approved of the constitution of the Committee. On the contrary, he agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham that it was not a Committee constituted in a manner to be approved of. He gave his vote precisely the same as if he were Member for the county of Cork, but, at the same time, he would submit to the Government that it was very invidious that hon. Members should be called on to vote for or against a particular Member, and he thought the general question of the constitution of the Committee should be brought forward. He would, therefore, recommend that the Government should reconsider the question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
agreed with the noble Lord that if there was a sentiment of dissatisfaction on the part of the Irish Members in respect to the constitution of the Committee it would be more convenient to raise that point by a separate Motion rather than upon the question being put on particular names. It had been suggested that Mr. Wilson's or Mr. Laing's name should be omitted; but he thought it necessary to point out that the House had now appointed fourteen members out of nineteen, and among the fourteen were four official gentlemen connected with the late Government. Under these circumstances, it was not an unfair or immoderate proposition that two gentlemen in office connected with the present Government should be put upon the Committee. It was his business to come into some sort of relation with the Committee, and this would be effected through the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Laing), who belonged to the same Department as himself, and with whom he was in constant communication with respect to all matters of the Department. The Vice-President 1090 of the Board of Trade (Mr. Wilson) was nominated for the Committee for the same reason as the hon. Member for Stamford (Sir S. Northcote) had been nominated, because for many years he had been perfectly conversant with the affairs of the Treasury. The House did not seem to think that all official persons should be excluded from the Committee, and he did not think it would be wise to do so.
§ MR. HORSFALL
quite concurred that it was undesirable the Members for Liverpool or for Galway should be on the Committee, although if placed on it himself he should have endeavoured to do his duty; and he might observe that if he had any bias in the matter it was in favour of Ireland. He was anxious to bear his testimony to the great importance of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Wilson) being on the Committee, as that right hon. Gentleman was better acquainted with matters of this kind than any other Gentleman, and he hoped therefore his name would be retained.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
also supported the retention of the right hon. Gentleman, and suggested that, if hon. Members were objected to in consequence of having belonged to one Government or the other, some hon. Member would move the omission of his name, which had been placed on the Committee without his knowledge.
§ Motion agreed to; Mr. WILSON to be one other of the Committee.
§ On Motion that Mr. LAING be one other Member of the Committee,
§ MR. MAGUIRE
hoped the further consideration of the subject would be adjourned till to-morrow. The reason why the last Motion was not opposed by a vote was that he and some of his friends hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer might reconsider the question, and be ready to agree to some improvement of the Committee to-morrow.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
did not see, considering the progress they had made in appointing the Committee, in what way they could improve it in the sense understood by the hon. Gentleman. He thought they ought to proceed with the nomination. The next name was that of the Secretary to the Treasury, and after him came an Irish gentleman, to whom there could hardly be any objection.
§ MR. SCULLY
did not see any such difficulty in the way of reconsidering the matter as the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1091 supposed. ["Divide, divide!"] He was determined not to be stopped by these interruptions, which all came from the neighbourhood of the bar. He would take all such interruptions as an indication of a desire to hoar him at considerable length. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not see how it was possible to improve the Committee; but he might do so by adding Irish Members to it. ["Divide!"] There ought to be a preponderance of non-official men upon the Committee, and its constitution would then be satisfactory. He would suggest the addition of twelve members to the Committee, as it was one of great importance, and he remembered that Committees upon subjects of less importance had been composed of as many as thirty-one members.
§ Motion agreed to; Mr. LAING to be one other member of the Committee.
§ Mr. HENRY HERBERT was nominated one other member of the said Committee.
§ On Motion that Mr. CRAWFORD be one other Member of the said Committee,
§ MR. VANCE
said, the Committee included the representatives of two of the great commercial cities of England, but the commercial cities of Ireland had been entirely overlooked. There were only two Irish Members on the Committee, and neither of them was the representative of a great port, or of a largo manufacturing town. There were, however, upon the Committee representatives of London and Manchester. He did not object to the hon. Member for Manchester, but the interests of that city were so closely connected with those of Liverpool, that it was almost the same thing as placing one of the Members for Liverpool on the Committee. He believed that a Committee, constituted as this was proposed to be, would be very unsatisfactory to the people of Ireland, and that if their report condemned the Gal way contract it would be regarded with the utmost contempt.
§ MR. BUTT
said, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to increase the Committee from nineteen to twenty-one members, he (Mr. Butt) would suggest that one of the Members for the city of Dublin and one of the Members for Tipperary be added to the Committee. If the proposed Committee agreed to a Report adverse to the Galway contract, the feeling in Ireland would be that the interests of that country had not been fairly represented.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
observed that he would be satisfied if the Chancellor of the Ex- 1092 chequer assented to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Youghal.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the most convenient course would be that hon. Gentlemen who complain that there was an insufficient representation of Irish Members on the Committee should give notice of a Motion on the subject. He would then have time to reflect upon the general bearing of the proposition, and he could afterwards inform the House of the decision of the Government.
§ Motion agreed to; Mr. CRAWFORD, to be one other Member of the said Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. BAZLEY be one other Member of the said Committee."
§ MR. MONSELL
expressed his regret that Ireland was not more fairly represented upon this Committee. There could be no doubt that the Galway contract would be the first subject of its inquiry, and he was desirous that the subject should be fairly and impartially investigated. If the decision of the Committee should be unfavourable to the Galway contract it would undoubtedly be the opinion of the Irish people that the question had not been determined by a fair tribunal. Under these circumstances he thought the request of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was not unreasonable, and he moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he could not agree with those hon. Gentlemen who contended that the Committee did not contain a fair and impartial selection of Members to try the particular question of the Galway contract, if that were the only subject to be investigated; but while they pointed out that there were only two or three Irish Members upon the Committee, they seemed to overlook the fact that the Committee would include three or four Members of the late Government, by whom the contract was made, and who were therefore as much interested in maintaining the propriety of the arrangement they had concluded as any Irish Member could be. He saw no reason either for altering the constitution of the Committee or adjourning the debate; but even if any hon. Member wished on a subsequent day to propose an addition to the Committee, an adjournment of the debate was not necessary for that purpose. He hoped, therefore, 1093 that the House would now assent to the Committee nominated by his light hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he had supported the Government in the nomination of this Committee, and he need, therefore, scarcely Bay that he was not disposed to put them to any unnecessary trouble; but he thought the observations of the noble Lord were not altogether just. The noble Lord had said that the Committee comprised the names of some three or four Members of the late Administration who were entirely committed to the Galway contract and who would take care that that subject was properly dealt with. It must be remembered, however, that those Members of the late Government who were upon the Committee had a special duty to perform. They had to take care that the question was fairly placed before the Committee—that there was no want of information—and that the Committee should be acquainted not only with the facts, but with the opinions which had induced the late Government to sanction the arrangement. Now what was required was a Committee which would investigate this and similar transactions in such a manner as to satisfy the country that the inquiry had been conducted by impartial persons. The argument of the noble Lord therefore amounted to nothing, unless they were satisfied that there were on the Committee a certain number of individuals who could not be biased, or supposed to be biased, by any predilections whatever, cither with reference to the late Administration, or any foregone conclusion as to this particular scheme, but who had no other object than to arrive at an impartial and just conclusion upon the merits. He must say he thought it would have been more satisfactory if there had been a stronger representation of Irish Members upon the Committee. He altogether acquitted the Government of having been actuated by any but the most fair and impartial intentions in the constitution of the Committee; for he knew from experience how difficult it was to form a Committee, especially upon a subject of this kind, which could give entire satisfaction. After the discussion which had taken place, however, he thought it was impossible to deny that there was not a satisfactory representation of Irish interests upon the Committee. He was unwilling to see the names of any member of Committee superseded by others merely on the ground that they were Irish Members, and he had 1094 supported the names of the two hon. Gentlemen whoso names had been opposed. He thought the Committee was already too large; but if, for example, the Member for the City of Dublin and a Member for some important port in the west of Ireland were also placed upon it, it would, he believed, on the whole be more satisfactory to the House and the country. If a proposition of that kind were made on a proper occasion he should be disposed to support it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman nearly coincided with what he had himself suggested and been taken to task for mentioning. He had said it would be open to any Gentleman on a future occasion to propose an increase to the Committee; and the quarrel with him was not that he would not assent at the moment to such an addition to its numbers, but that he would not accede to the precise proposal and the particular names which had been put before him. In asking for time he had conveyed the impression that he was acting precipitately. To be candid with the House he would tell them fairly where the difficulty originated. It originated in the large official representation of the late Government on the Committee. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with his strong sense of the necessity of adding to the Irish clement, would reduce the number of Members of the late Government from four to two, then there would be two vacancies, which the Government would not have the slightest objection to fill an with Irish Members.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned" put, and negatived.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Power to send for persons, papers, and records; five to be the quorum.