HC Deb 08 May 1865 vol 178 cc1602-3

Sir, I wish to ask the indulgence of the House to a personal matter, arising out of the debate that took place in this House on Wednesday last, on the Borough Franchise Extension Bill. In the course of that debate I made a statement relative to what had taken place at an interview between the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and Mr. Mason Jones, as I was told, in the lobby. That statement I made upon authority which I believed to be sufficient, and the circumstances attending that interview appeared to be such as to justify my making the statement I did to the House. Subsequent to the debate I received a letter from Mr. Jones, in which he asked me for my authority, and said that I had misrepresented him. I declined to give up my authority, but I at once said, that nothing could be further from my intention than knowingly to misrepresent any gentleman, and that I should not have the slightest hesitation to express my regret publicly to the House for having misrepresented him. That led to a correspondence between us, and a meeting—and the result was, that the meeting ended in the most friendly manner, for we shook hands at parting. The part of the statement which I made, to which Mr. Jones takes exception was that part in which I stated that he apostrophised the hon. Member for Bradford in certain words, those words being "that he had no business to sit in that House." Mr. Jones said he did not use those words, and therefore I am bound to state that my informant in that respect was completely in error. With reference to the former part of my statement, in which I said that the hon. Member for Bradford had been asked to attend a meeting, and that on his declining to attend this meeting Mr. Jones addressed him in words to the effect, "Then, sir, we don't want you;" my statement on that point is admitted to be substantially correct; but Mr. Jones went on to say that he did not want the presence of the hon. Member for Bradford, because he would do more harm to their cause than good by attending the meeting, if he did not support the object of that meeting. It is but right that I should do justice to Mr. Jones by stating these circumstances, and by further stating that he himself had no knowledge of a meeting intended to be held of the working men on Easter Monday, and that the meeting to which this conversation referred was of a different kind. I have no hesitation in expressing my regret that I should have unintentionally misrepresented him in my place in Parliament, and I now do him the justice to say that, though lie appears to hold somewhat wild and visionary views, he seems to hold those views, which he expresses openly and in public, with sincerity and with earnestness.