HC Deb 01 June 1863 vol 171 cc241-5

moved, that the Select Committee on Holyhead Harbour do consist of the following Members:—Colonel Dunne, Mr. Corry. Mr. Laird, Colonel Pennant, Colonel Vandeleur, Lord Naas, Mr. John Tollemache, Mr. Lefroy, Mr. Milner Gibson, Mr. Stansfeld, Mr. Herbert, Mr. Dalglish, Colonel French, Lord John Browne, and Lord Richard Grosvenor.


I do not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to the nomination of this Committee, but at the same time I beg to say, on the part of the Government, that we retain all our original objections to its appointment. The Government were of opinion from the first that this was not a case which it was desirable to refer to a Select Committee; but the House overruled their decision on that point. We were quite willing to concur with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dunne) who moved for the Committee in the composition of an impartial tribunal; but unfortunately we were altogether unable to arrive at any common view on that head. In my opinion, the list of names which the hon. Gentleman opposite has undertaken to move is as far as possible from being an impartial Committee. I have not a word of objection to offer to the name of any individual member of that Committee; but, as a body of gentlemen, these cannot be said to come without prejudice and with open minds to the consideration of this question. The minds of the majority, at any rate, are not in that impartial state, and therefore this list is in no degree entitled to be spoken of as an impartial Committee. To begin with, the majority are Irish Members or Irish gentlemen who have a direct personal concern in the amount of accommodation to be offered at Holyhead. That majority is backed up by the hon. Member himself (Mr. Laird) who has given his opinion on the question in favour of the view taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Queen's County (Colonel Dunne) who introduced the subject. Of the remaining Members some are locally connected with the traffic finding its way to Holyhead Harbour; so that in point of fact, after deducting the two Gentlemen holding office, who are supposed abundantly to represent the views of the Government, only one, the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Dalglish), is left to represent the independent Members of the House of Commons. The Government might, of course, propose that some of these names should be omitted and replaced by others more impartially selected; but that is a course which would be invidious and annoying to those Gentlemen to whom individually we should regret to be wanting in proper respect. After, all we have protested in limine against the Committee as one the appointment of which ought not to take place; and I need not add that our own view is very much strengthened by the materials of which it is proposed to constitute the Committee. I only state this to avoid giving trouble to the House and to the hon. Member, and to give him fairly to understand that we retain all our original objections, very much heightened and strengthened by the not altogether common course adopted in the selection of these Gentlemen. My right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson), whose name has been put upon the list, will be very glad to give every assistance in his power to the Committee; but I feel myself bound to say, even before the Committee sits, that we do not think the subject one that ought to be referred to its consideration, and that we shall not be able to look upon its finding as the verdict of an impartially constituted tribunal.


The course which the right hon. Gentleman has just pursued is one which, I venture to think, is very unusual. The right hon. Gentleman does not venture to propose the insertion of other names upon the list in place of those now standing upon it; but, by some process of reasoning, which I am at a loss to understand, he arrives at the conclusion that these names, although individually fit to serve upon the Committee, in the aggregate are not likely to come to a fair decision. I say it with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, but I do think it would have been more becoming in him, more graceful in Her Majesty's Government, to bow to the decision of the House in reference to the appointment of a Committee on a subject of such serious interest to the two countries, and to have waited till the subject had received, as I have no doubt it will receive, the impartial consideration of that Committee, than to prejudge, as he has done, the entire question—intimating, at the same time, in terms not to be misunderstood, and very far from complimentary to that tribunal, that Her Majesty's Government are hardly prepared to pay attention to the decision of that Committee, whatever it may be. At such an hour it would not be becoming in me to comment upon the names put upon the Committee. I can only say, with regard to my own name, that when it was intimated to me that there was the slightest objection to it, not directly, but on account of my connection with a company forming one of the contracting parties for the carriage of the Irish mails, I at once bowed to the objection, and declined to allow my name to be placed upon the Committee.


After the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Wexford, it is hardly necessary for me to add anything, but I cannot refrain from saying that the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman is entirely without precedent. He states that the appointment of this Committee was carried in opposition to the Government. If that be so, I should imagine it was the duty of the Government to bow to that decision. The right hon. Gentleman objects to the Irish Members of the proposed Committee. Pray, how are Committees to be constituted in this House? At this moment there are about twenty Committees sitting. Several of these are without an Irish Member at all; nine of them, I think, include only one Irish Member, and of the remainder the proportion of Irishmen does not exceed two in any instance. The Irish Members had a right to the nomination of this Committee, but they wished to act in a spirit of fair play, and they offered to the Government the nomination of a certain number of Members. The names of several Gentle- men, of whom some were English, were submitted to an officer of the Government, and were capriciously rejected. At this moment there are upon the Committee eight Members who do not represent Irish constituencies; that is, more than one-half. To the intimation, therefore, which we have received that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not pay attention to the Report of this Committee, whatever it may be—


Those were not my words.


—No; but that was the meaning of them. We regard that intimation as an idle threat. The recommendations of the Committee must stand or fall by their justice and truth; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopts that tone towards us, we must appeal to the House, to decide whether their Report is or is not entitled to its favourable consideration.


—I also must enter my protest against the course taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and if the observation be not un-Parliamentary, I would designate that course as unbecoming, feeling as I do very strongly on the subject. He says that upon a question of that sort Irish Members are so much interested that they are not fit to sit upon a Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman had to cross the Channel as often as we have in all sorts of weather, according to his own opinion he would not be fit to sit on this Committee. We heard it stated, early this evening, that the mode in which Supply is taken is a farce. If Committees are to be appointed, and then their recommendations are to be treated in the manner proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the appointment of Committees will become a much greater farce than the taking of Supply. I do not think we have to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for anything we may have gained by the appointment of this Committee; for I remember sitting till a late hour, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the adjournment of the House, to avoid being beaten on this very subject. The course he now pursues puts me in mind of the forced consent of Othello's father-in-law to his marriage with his daughter— I here do give thee that with all my heart Which, but thou hast already, with all my heart I would keep from thee.

Motion agreed to.

Select Committee nominated, as follow:

Colonel DUNNE, Mr. CORRY, Mr. LAIRD, Colonel PENNANT, Colonel VANDELEUR, Lord NAAS, Mr. JOHN TOLLEMACHE, Mr. LEFROY, Mr. MILNER GIBSON, Mr. STANSFELD, Mr. HERBERT, Mr. DALGLISH, Colonel FRENCH, Lord JOHN BROWNE, and Lord RICHARD GROSVENOR:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.