HC Deb 13 May 1864 vol 175 cc462-6

Sir, I have to solicit for a few moments the indulgence of the House once more to make a short personal Explanation, and I need that indulgence very greatly, because I am quite aware that the case is one of the first impression, and I may appear, though I hope wrongly, to trespass too much on the indulgence of the House in what I am going to say. The fact is in the remembrance of the House that yesterday a document was produced of which I had no notice—a document of which I had no knowledge, a document of which it was impossible for me to give any satisfactory account to the House without searching the records of the Privy Council Office. On that document a statement was founded, that though what I had said to the House on a former occasion was true in intent it was absolutely false in fact. Now, I am not accustomed to have the words "absolutely false" connected with any statement of mine, and though those words were coupled with the statement that my intent was to speak the truth, I cannot regard them with indifference, and therefore throw myself on the indulgence of the House, asking hon. Members to allow me to explain what that document really is, and to give them the result of the searches which I have made about it. According to the technical rules of debate, I know that I ought to have risen at once in my place and have explained. But I was unable to do so then; I can now; and if the House will permit me I will proceed to do so. Sir, there are two kinds of Inspectors' Reports. The one, general Reports—which are made for the purpose of being submitted to Parliament—on the general state of the district in which the Inspector reports. It was with reference to these Reports that the Minute of 1861 was issued, which has been so much discussed; it was with reference to these Reports that the Resolution come to by this House on the 12th of April was passed; it was with reference—and solely with reference to these Reports that the explanation which I offered to the House on the 19th of April was made; and I venture to say it was with reference to these Reports the Committee was moved for last night by Her Majesty's Government. There is a second Report made by the Inspectors which may be called a "special" or "particular" Report. It is the Report of the Inspector on each school he visits, and it is not intended to be laid before Parliament. It is a Departmental matter; it is made by the Inspector to the office; and a summary of that Report is prepared in the office and sent to the school at the same time as the grant is made. When I said on a former occasion that I had given orders in 1862 that no interlineation should take place in the Reports of the Inspectors, I spoke, and I am sure the House understood me to speak, of the Reports which were laid before Parliament. It was to them that the whole discussion was directed; it was only with respect to them it could be said with any plausibility the instructions were contrary to the previous understanding; and I am sure the memory of every hon. Gentleman will bear me out when I say that those were the only Reports we had in our mind during the whole of these debates. A Report was produced yesterday which had been given to the noble Lord who produced it by Mr. Morell, who had been an Inspector of Schools, and who had been dismissed from his office; and who, as the noble Lord says, naturally reveals the secrets of his prison-house. That Reports mainly consists of some not very material remarks on schools, and concludes with these words— The discipline is good, and the instruction, though not very forward, is accurate and appropriate as far as it goes, and as advanced as can be expected, considering how recently the present teachers have been in charge. The noble Lord stated last night that the words "considering how recently the present teachers have been in charge "had been expunged by the Department of the Privy Council, and that circumstance was alleged in direct contradiction of my assertion that, as far as I knew, there had been no expurgation or interlineation in any of the Inspectors' Reports since 1862. I am sure every hon. Gentleman who heard the noble Lord must have understood that the Report then produced and then urged as a distinct proof that my statement was absolutely false— that it was exactly contrary to the truth, and other words equally strong—that the Report then read and produced was one of the kind to which my observations originally pointed. Therefore, I believe it will be with some surprise the House will hear it was not of that nature. It was the Report of a single and particular school—a school Reports prepared for the information of the Department, and not, therefore, coming within the Minute—not coming within the order issued in 1862—not coming within the class of Reports which have been under the consideration of the House. Further, it was said that it had been returned to the Inspector to be expurgated. I have inspected to-day, by the kindness of the Lord President, the copy of the Reports made by the copying machine in the office, and that copy as well as the testimony of every one in the office who had anything to do with the Report, proves that it was sent to the school without those words being omitted, the omission of which is made use of to give me me this flat and absolute contradiction, I thank the House for the kindness with which they have heard me, and I hope I may be allowed to draw attention for a single instant to a practice which is growing up among us. I do not allude to the practice of officials betraying the trust reposed in them. In all professions however honourable—and there is none more honourable than the permanent official service —there are men of that kind; but what I do allude to and what I do press on the consideration of the House is the practice, the new practice, which is growing up of Members of Parliament suffering themselves to be the instruments for putting off these contraband wares. I have only to say—




I rise to Order, Sir. As long as a Member of this House confines himself to personal explanation, the House is willing to hear him, though he may not be strictly in order; but when an hon. Member goes beyond that, and attempts to cast a censure on other Members, I trust the House will not give its countenance to such a proceeding.


I hardly know whether I ought to address the House in answer to a statement so irregularly brought forward. The House has appointed a Committee to examine this Question, and it appears to me that it would be a far more convenient way for the right hon. Gentleman to have waited till he could have appeared before that Committee and made, in his own justification, the statement we have just heard. Part of the statement, as I understand it, consists of a contradiction of the allegation made by Mr. Morell; and I have only to say that Mr. Morell will, no doubt, be summoned before the Committee, when we shall have an opportunity of hearing him, and of judging as to whether, in stating what he does, he is stating what is true or not. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken as to the various kinds of Inspectors' Reports. I confess I have read over his former speech to-day, and my opinion is, that his words, naturally interpreted, seem to refer to all the Reports which the Inspectors make. He now tells us that the Committee of the Privy Council never, since the date to which he has referred, mutilated the general Reports of the Inspectors, but he appears to admit that the practice has prevailed with reference to the special or particular Reports. I regret that I did not draw the distinction, but I doubt whether the Committee of Council will feel very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the distinction which he has drawn between the general and the special Reports.