§ Order [19th April] for Returns relative thereto, read.
§ MR. LAING moved to discharge the Order of the 19th of April for a Return relative to Mr. Drought, and, instead thereof, to move for Copies of Correspondence between the Post Office and the Treasury, relative to the Grant of a Superannuation Allowance to Mr. Drought, late Surveyor of the Post Office Department in Ireland; and of the Correspondence which has taken place between Mr. Drought and the Post Office since he ceased to be an officer of that Department.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Order be discharged."
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he could not but express his surprise that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury should make this Motion. Mr. Drought, after thirty-six years in the public service, had been most unjustly dismissed. Since then he had held the office of high sheriff for the county which he had the honour to represent, and it was the opinion of the people that he had been most unfairly dealt with. He had asked for the particulars of his offence, but the Post Office authorities had decided that the evidence should only be published on one side, namely, the charges, and not the defence. The Return had been unopposed when he moved it.
§ MR. LAING
said, that he believed that no Motion should be taken as unopposed at the commencement of business unless agreed to. He had referred to the correspondence and found that some of it was confidential, but the correspondence subsequent to his superannuation would be published, and he apprehended that the whole case would appear in that. But it was clear that all private correspondence between the officers of the Post Office and their surveyors, &c, could not be produced as upon an unopposed Motion.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, it was exactly 1262 that correspondence which was refused by the Government that the friends of the gentleman who had been dismissed were most anxious to obtain. When it had been found that one of the officers in Mr. Drought's department had been removed from his office, of course that anxiety had been increased.
said, that he had some time back brought Mr. Drought's case before the authorities, and he repeated now what he had formerly stated, that it was not creditable to the Post Office authorities to refuse to produce that correspondence. If Mr. Drought deserved the censure that had been cast upon him, of course the correspondence would show that, and the Post Office officials would be exonerated from all imputation.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, the papers had been moved for as an unopposed Return, whereas in point of fact the Government had not been prepared to grant them. The Motion had been agreed to through a misunderstanding, and he might add that Returns were frequently moved for on the allegation that they were unopposed, when really there was an objection to them. Moreover, he thought there should be some reserve exercised in producing correspondence respecting the character of particular individuals, because, if it were known that confidential letters from public officers might afterwards be produced in the House of Commons, it would be extremely difficult to get a sincere expression of their opinions, and so the public service would suffer.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that he had applied to the Post Office authorities, and they had expressly stated that there was no objection to produce the correspondence asked for.
§ MR. O'BRIEN
said, that the public throughout King's County did not entertain the same affectionate regard for Mr. Drought as the hon. Member himself (Mr. Hennessy); but, on the ground of fair play, he hoped the correspondence would not be further refused.
§ LORD FERMOY moved the adjournment of the debate.1263
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he should not oppose the adjournment, but he should not give way in what he had asked for, and which he had obtained the order for as an unopposed Return.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he thought the hon. Member for King's County should, on public grounds, be satisfied with all but the confidential correspondence.
§ Debate Adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a Quarter after One o'clock.