§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
in rising, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the Government to certain statements as to the manner in which Dockyard workmen who are Voters for the Borough of Devon-port have been examined in the Dockyard with reference to their intended evidence before the Election Committee for that Borough, and to ask for explanation, said: I am sincerely sorry that I am compelled by a sense of duty to ask the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and of the House, to the statements that have been laid before me with regard to certain proceedings that have been taken during the last few days in the borough of Devonport. I confess I had hoped that the day of political scandal and intimidation, or even of the suspicion of either in our dockyards, had passed away; and I very much hope that my noble Friend opposite (Lord Clarence Paget) may be able either to state that I have been misinformed, or to offer a satisfactory explanation with regard to the allegations that I am about to lay before the House. Sir, the facts to which I wish to draw attention are very simple, and I think I shall be able to state them in a very few sentences. The first fact to which I wish to call attention is a telegram which I am informed was sent down by the Admiralty to the borough of Devonport last week. It is dated February 20, but it was not sent down to Devonport until the following day, the 21st. The wording of the telegram is as follows:—Admiralty, Feb. 20, 1866.Every facility is to be given for serving the Speaker's warrant on the workmen in the yard in the ease of the petition against the sitting Members for Devonport.—For the information of the officers.I wish to ask a few questions relative to this telegram. In the first place, By whom was it sent?—by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Clarence Paget), or by Mr. Romaine, the permanent Under Secretary? and, if it were sent at all, it was sent by order of the First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Board? In the second place, I wish to ask to whom this telegram was sent? I presume, and I do not think my noble Friend will contradict me, that no order would be 1288 communicated to the officers or the workmen of the dockyard except through the medium of the Admiral Superintendent. I must inform the House that I know nothing personally of what has been going on at Devonport; but I am informed that the duties of the office of Admiral Superintendent of the dockyard were never more ably or more honourably performed than by Admiral Symonds, the present Admiral Superindendent. I am especially informed that no officer ever held the office of Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard at Devonport who has more honourably and scrupulously observed the strict injunctions given against political interference in the yard. I therefore, Sir, desire to know whether the Admiral Superintendent was called upon to carry out this telegram?—because I am convinced, from what I know of this officer, that he would not have acted upon this telegram unless he had direct injunctions from head-quarters. I ask, then, to whom this telegram was sent?—but the most important question I wish to put is this, Why was it sent at all? Why was it necessary for the Board of Admiralty, either through the Admiral Superintendent or any other agency, to interfere in the proceedings preliminary to the trial of the petition against the return of the Members for Devonport? Every voter who is a workman in the dockyard is a resident in the town of Devonport, and every such workman votes as a £10 householder; they are all easily accessible at their places of abode, which are perfectly well known; and therefore I wish to know what is meant by it when I am told that the Lords of the Admiralty have telegraphed that every facility is to be given for serving the Speaker's warrant? What facilities were wanted? How are the Speaker's warrants served in those boroughs where there happens to be no dockyard? How are they served in Devonport upon voters required as witnesses who are not workmen in the dockyard? As a matter of course in every case of a controverted election it is the constant practice to serve the voters with these warrants at their own houses. What reason was there, then, for telegraphing that facilities should be afforded in this particular instance for serving these warrants upon the workmen in the dockyard, instead of leaving them to be served at the voters' houses in the regular and ordinary course? This is the first point on which I wish to elicit information from my noble Friend. I now 1289 pass to the manner in which the instructions of this telegram were carried out. The telegram, as I hare stated, was sent either on Tuesday, the 20th, or Wednesday, the 21st, and on this day week (Thursday, the 22nd) I am informed that the messengers and principal officers of the yard were employed, early in the morning, in going round the yard with a list of the names of the men, and giving them to the inspectors and leading men, with directions for the men to attend in the sail-room at ten o'clock—the workmen here alluded to, some thirty or thirty-five in number, being workmen in the yard who had given their votes for the present Members for Devon-port, Mr. Ferrand and Mr. Fleming, were on that day ordered by those officers to assemble in the sail-room of Devonport Dockyard. I understand that that sail-room is now used as a police-office by the Government police acting in the dockyard, On Thursday, the 22nd, at ten o'clock, these thirty or thirty-five dockyard workmen were taken away from the discharge of their duties—taken away from the work for which we are about to pay by our Votes in Supply—and were assembled in that police-office. The only persons at that time in that police-office who were not either policemen or workmen in the yard were first of all the town-crier, who, I understand, is a very warm political partizan, an attorney in the town, who is a solicitor for the petitioners, and a gentleman not known to the parties, but who, I believe, is an agent of the petitioners, and was sent down from London. Well, when these thirty or thirty-five workmen were brought together, one of them—for the sake of the men I had better not mention names—was called forward and subjected to examination by these hostile examiners. He was called upon to criminate himself. He was asked whether he had accepted bribes for his vote at the election, and when he denied any such illegality he was then cross - examined in an offensive and hostile manner as to his powers of memory, and even questioned, I believe, whether he recollected his own birthday. After this examination he was dismissed; and I am informed that the examination of the first man not turning out quite satisfactorily to the examiners, as soon as it ceased an inspector of police was called in who desired all the voters so assembled to go outside the building, which they did. Thereupon, the men were called in one by one, and singly exposed to the same system of hos- 1290 tile examination, cross-examination, and attempts to make them criminate themselves which had been adopted towards the first workman. These are the main facts as regards what took place on Thursday, the 22nd. I am informed that on Friday the same sort of scene was repeated. Some fifteen or twenty voters were brought together in the same place and served with the Speaker's warrant: and I have heard that similar proceedings have taken place on subsequent days. Here, I must again ask, What reason was there for all that? What could have been the motive for bringing these voters to the police-office and thus calling on them to criminate themselves, under circumstances which, without at all wishing to prejudice the matter, I must say, unless they are fully explained, unavoidably inspire in one's mind the suspicion that the object was to intimidate and alarm these men? The warrants might have been served—it appears to me they ought to have been served—at their residences, after their hours of work were over. Instead of that, however, all these men—between thirty and forty on the Thursday, some twenty others on the Friday, and more I am told since then—were taken from their labour, they were each absent from it, on an average, for an hour and a half—in some cases less, in others, as much as two hours; and this amount of labour of fifty or sixty men was withdrawn from the yard, and for what? To submit to a process which could have been more conveniently, and, as I contend, far more properly carried out at their own houses. There is another fact to be noticed, to which, however, I would not attach undue importance—namely, that one of the petitioners on whose behalf this telegram was sent, or on whose behalf these men were withdrawn from their work and brought to be examined in the police-office, is an official of the Board of Admiralty—a gentleman well known to all of us, I mean Mr. Phinn, who long held the office of Secretary to the Board of Admiralty, and is now their standing counsel. These, Sir, are what appear to me, to say the least, to be the most unusual circumstances connected with the manner in which the service of these warrants took place; and after all that has passed in former years—I hope the case will never arise again—I believe the House would feel that I should fail in my duty if, when these alleged facts were brought before me, I did not call upon the noble Lord opposite to give some explana- 1291 tion of the reason why the ordinary practice on such occasion has in this case been departed from—and this under circumstances which, as I have before said, are attended with some degree of suspicion. I need not detain the House any longer, but simply beg to ask my noble Friend opposite in the first place—Are the statements which I have made correct? Have I been rightly informed or misinformed? And, in the next place, if I have been rightly informed, I have to call on my noble Friend to state whether he is able to offer any satisfactory explanation of circumstances which, I must say, on their first aspect, wear an appearance of grave impropriety and irregularity.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Sir, I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in bringing this matter before the notice of the House, has not accompanied his speech with any very strong remarks; but, on the contrary, he has made a temperate statement, and calls upon me to reply as to how far it is correct. I will, therefore, in a very few words explain all that I know of this transaction. The right hon. Gentleman first asks me whether I was cognizant of the telegram that was sent from the Admiralty to the Admiral Superintendent at Devonport. Well, what I am about to read to the House will show that it so happens that I was not cognizant of this transaction until it was brought to my notice by him. On Monday evening my right hon. Friend came to me in the lobby and said, "I find it necessary to give a notice for Thursday next, which I request you to read." This is the paper which he placed in ray hands—To call the attention of the Government to certain statements as to the manner in which dockyard labourers, who are voters for the borough of Devonport, have been examined in the dockyard with reference to their intended evidence before the Election Committee for that borough, and to ask for explanation.Now, thinking this looked serious, I asked my right hon. Friend whether he would allow me to retain a copy, in order that I might write to the Superintendent and inquire what had occurred. My right hon. Friend consented; and, accordingly, that evening I enclosed the notice in a note to the Superintendent, Admiral Symonds, asking for full information. I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend give Admiral Symonds credit for being above acting on any political consideration whatever. I got a letter next day from the 1292 Admiral Superintendent, which I am permitted to read, and which was as follows:—H. M.'s Dockyard, Devonport, Feb. 27,1866.My dear Lord Clarence Paget,—I send you copies of the orders under which I have acted, also of the applications made to and approved by me in obedience to the two orders, which contained the same words, 'on workmen in the yard.' I therefore ordered that the people sought and applied for should assemble at the hour requested in a quiet part of the yard, instead of their being sought separately at their work—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen no doubt think it very diverting; but I believe they will see that the course which the Superintendent took was the best for the public service. He goes on to say—Where they saw the parties applying by Speaker's warrant, and were perfectly uninterfered with by their own officers. You have everything I can think of.—Yours faithfully,T. M. SYMONDS.And the Admiral makes a remark at the end of the letter which I commend to the attention of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He says—Is not this much in favour of disfranchising dockyards?On inquiry at the Admiralty I found that my noble Friend the Duke of Somerset had received a letter, which I will read to the House. It is dated from 43, Parliament Street, the 20th of February, and is from Messrs. Travers, Smith, and De Gex—We have the honour to inform you that a petition has just been presented against the return of the sitting Members for the borough of Devon-port. A large number of the witnesses who will be required to attend on the Speaker's warrants are employed in the dockyard, and the hours of their attendance are very long. It would not be necessary that they should be disturbed at their work for more than a few minutes in the case of any witness, but it would be a matter of very considerable inconvenience and annoyance to the men, as well as of the utmost possible difficulty to ourselves as agents having the conduct of the petition, if it were necessary to find them at their own residences after the hours of work. Under these circumstances, we have to request that we may be favoured (should there riot be any objection to such a course being taken by the Department) with a letter addressed to the Port Admiral requesting that officer to afford our chief clerk facilities for serving the Speaker's warrants in the dockyard, and seeing the men during hours of work for that purpose. We believe we are not wrong in saying that in an analogous case pending before the courts of common law where it would be necessary to serve a subpoena this facility would be given. We may mention that the Speaker's warrants went down by special messenger this morning, and we shall, perhaps, under these circumstances, be permitted to beg that our request may receive immediate attention.—We 1293 have the honour to be, Sir, your very obedient and faithful servants,TRAVERS, SMITH, and DE GEX.The Duke of Somerset upon this sent the following telegram to Devonport yard:—Every facility is to be given for serving the Speaker's warrants on workmen in the yard, in the case of the petition against the sitting Members at Devonport.That was the telegram, and a letter to the same effect was directed to the Admiral Superintendent by the same night's post. Now my noble Friend (the Duke of Somerset) is a man who, as every one will admit, is known to be extremely fair. The letter is dated "Admiralty, Feb. 20, 1866," and is as follows:—In confirmation of my telegram of this day, their Lordships desire that every facility may be afforded for serving Speaker's warrants on workmen in Devonport yard, in the case of the petition against the sitting Members for Devonport. By command of their Lordships,W. G. ROMAINE.The Duke of Somerset considered that there were two dockyards against the Members for which there were petitions pending, and he decided that the proper course was to give the Superintendents directions to afford facility for inquiry. Now, Sir, I understand that your warrant has access to all public establishments, and the fact of these Parliamentary agents applying was a mere matter of courtesy, as they had a perfect right to enter the dockyards with your warrant every hour of the day. And the Superintendent had either of two courses to follow—to allow these persons to go into the workshops, disturbing the men and causing a certain degree of excitement, or to ask the names of the men and the hours at which they were wanted. The latter was the course which the Superintendent took. He desired that the names of the individuals wanted should be sent; and instead of allowing the clerks of the Parliamentary agents to disturb them in their workshops, he directed that the men should be sent to the same spot. That such was the course which was taken will be seen from what I am now about to read. The persons armed with the Speaker's warrant wrote on the 21st of February to the Superintendent to say—Sir,—We have Speaker's warrants to serve on the following persons in the matter of the Devonport election petition.Then follow the names. My right hon. Friend is perfectly right in stating that 1294 I believe upwards of fifty men were taken away from their work for an average of about an hour and a half. I lament equally with him that such a proceeding was necessary. On the 22nd the same persons requested "the attendance of the under-mentioned dockyard men at the Bail-room of Her Majesty's Dockyard;" and again on the 26th they asked for a certain number of men. Now, I will appeal to the House whether the Duke of Somerset could, on the representation of those persons that they were armed with the Speaker's warrant, refuse to give them access; and if that be so, whether it was not his proper course to order the Superintendent to give them facilities; and, again, whether it was not better that the Superintendent, having the names of the men given to him, should direct them to go to the sail-room—a large empty room—than to have the lawyers' clerks go into the workshops and disturb the men while they were at their work, in order to take the evidence of the men? I can only say, in conclusion, that the same course which has been pursued at Devonport will be followed at Portsmouth, where also, unhappily, there is a petition pending; but I think it is a matter which both sides of the House should consider whether the workmen in the dockyards should be disfranchised or not.
The latter part of the noble Lord's speech appears an anticipation of a proposition which we are to expect on the 12th of March. I think it will be convenient to defer the consideration of that question until we have arrived at the much wished-for day. Coming, however, to the subject immediately before the House. I do not know whether the answer given by the noble Lord to my right hon. Friend's Question will be considered by the House as exceedingly satisfactory. I confess for my own part, when I hear any person accused of a particular charge praised for his excellent character, I am inclined to think that there is nothing else to be appealed to; and, therefore, when the character of the Duke of Somerset is praised by the noble Lord—a course which is universally adopted at the bar, but never when any other course is open to the defence—I think the noble Lord misapprehended the real nature of the charge made against the dockyard authorities. There is no doubt, Sir, that your warrant has access to all the dockyards, and if these workmen had merely been assembled 1295 together and the warrant placed in their hands, no human being could have a word to say against it. But what really happened was this—The counsel for the petitioners were given a facility for getting up the case for the petitioners during the time when these workmen were earning public money, and under the sanction of officers to whom these men look for their daily bread. I want the House to imagine in what light the workmen looked upon the attorneys' clerks who were authorized to subject them to a hostile examination. They were summoned by their own authorities, they were taken to "a quiet part of the yard," and a gentleman came forward, called them out in an authoritative manner, and subjected them to a cross-examination, which no one had a right to do except in a court of law; and, as I understand, two policemen were actually employed to enable them to carry it out. Now, this House has always shown the greatest jealousy of the interference of executive Governments in the conduct of an election. We know how these things are done in France; and the spectacle of what goes on there has perhaps sharpened our zeal to prevent any imitation of them on this side of the water. Therefore the slightest expression of preference for any candidate on the part of any officer in the employment of the Executive has always been looked upon by this House as deserving of censure. The House will recollect the deep censure that was passed on an officer of the Admiralty, because he was seen in company with a candidate for a dockyard constituency. But this case is at least equally bad—it is taking distinctly the part of one of the candidates, and every man in the dockyards must know that they to whom he looks for support are plainly aiding those who desire to upset the case of those who sit for the borough. But this is not the gravest part of the matter. Supposing the evidence of these men to be true, I think the case is bad enough; but, supposing it should turn out to be false—supposing it should appear that some of these men, having been submitted to this sharp cross-examination under the sanction of the Admiralty, come and give perjured evidence to the House of Commons, and this be afterwards proved—what do you imagine the public will believe, and what will they have a right to believe? Why, that some subordinate officer of the Government has been engaged in suborning evidence for the purpose of ousting a Member opposed to the 1296 Government. And if the case rest on perjured evidence, the responsibility will lie with those that have illegitimately assisted in procuring it. I am sorry this way of putting the question is so distasteful to hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, but I will test their opinions in this way: I will ask, do they suppose that, if the Portsmouth Election Committee had come first and Devonport afterwards, the electors of Portsmouth would have been taken into "a quiet part of the yard," and that the Conservative attorney would have been allowed to cross-examine them? If the noble Lord will answer me that question in the affirmative, I will give him credit for great presence of mind. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: I did not hear the question.] The question is this—Supposing the Portsmouth election case had come first, whether he imagines that a similar telegram would have been sent down to that port, and the electors gathered into a quiet corner of the yard to be cross-examined by the Conservative attorney?
Well, I will keep my promise, and I give the noble Lord credit for the utmost presence of mind. Is there any other virtue you would wish me to ascribe to him? I do not wish to pursue this discussion further. I hope, however, that the Election Committee upon the case will take into their serious consideration the statements that have been made this evening, and will consider what weight they are to attach to the evidence sent up to them by the electioneering agents.
§ MR. LOWE
I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down (Viscount Cranbourne) that an impropriety has been committed in this case. It is quite clear to me it was not right that these men should be cross-examined by the attorney for the petitioner in the dockyard, and in the manner described, because they must necessarily have felt that they were under duress to answer questions which it is not likely they would have answered if put to them in their private houses. Looking at the matter fully and fairly, it is quite clear that the question we are really concerned with is, not whether the clerk of the petitioners may have been a little over-zealous in pressing this matter, and have availed himself to the utmost of the advantages he obtained, but whether any serious blame or discredit rests upon the authorities by 1297 whom he was enabled to take this advantage. I listened as carefully as I could to the statements that have been made, and it appears to me that all that was done by the authorities of the Admiralty in London, was to permit the Speaker's warrant to be served in the dockyard. That, I think, was perfectly reasonable. It was more convenient for the petitioners to execute their warrant at the dockyard, and probably it was more convenient for the men than if they had been waited upon at their own houses. In this way time and expense were saved—though that, perhaps, is not a matter much considered- in election petitions. I think these circumstances ought not to be lost sight of; and I am not able myself to say that the Admiralty authorities are in any degree to be blamed in permitting the execution of the warrant in the dockyard. Whatever was done beyond may have been a matter of indiscretion or oversight on the part of the local authorities of the port. I am not, however, of opinion that because this authority was in some degree abused in the manner I think it was, from the facts stated by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty, there is any ground for a charge against the nobleman who has presided over the Admiralty during the last seven years—I am sorry to say, probably from circumstances not under his own control, without giving us a satisfactory new ship or new gun—but certainly without the slightest stain on, or doubt respecting, his absolute integrity.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in absolving the heads of the Admiralty from all blame in this matter, although, perhaps, the consequence of the permission given by the Duke of Somerset was not, in the first instance, properly attended to. Now, let us observe how the case stands. We all know that, according to the best authorities, the warrant of the Speaker can be served perfectly well, not personally, but by being left at the dwelling-houses of the persons required to give evidence. All that was necessary on the part of the agents for this petition was the service of the warrant. They knew where these men lived, and all they had to do was to leave the warrant at the dwelling-houses of the witnesses. But I must do the agents the justice of saying that nothing could have been more explicit than the statement they made to the Duke of Somerset. In the letter to the noble Lord, if I correctly heard the words, the agents of the peti- 1298 tioner in substance said, "We have got the Speaker's warrant." Here let me observe that the ordinary course of procedure before you get the Speaker's warrant is to find out the persons who are to be called as witnesses, and then to obtain the warrant and serve it on them; but the agents do not stop there; they say, 'We have got the Speaker's warrant to serve upon these men; we know very well where they live, and we also understand that they are employed for a number of hours in the dockyard. We want some conversation with the men which will take a considerable time; but this we cannot obtain at their own houses."["Oh, oh!"] I am not repeating the exact words of the agents; but I think, that if the noble Lord will read the letter again he will find that it bears this interpretation. The agents say, "We must have some time with the voters for conversation, which can only be obtained at the dockyard." Now, my belief is that the proper way of serving the Speaker's warrants is either personally or at the dwelling-house. Well, what does the head of the Admiralty say in his letter? He says, in effect, "I will put the men at the disposal of the agents, allow them to be assembled in a quiet part of the dockyard, and cross-examined to the extent required." I am quite willing to believe that the Duke of Somerset did not perceive the consequences of granting such a permission. But any person on reading the letter of the agents ought to have seen that their object was to get the authority of the heads of the Admiralty in order to obtain what the Scotch call a precognition of these witnesses. Observe what the agents have done. They have actually got the Speaker's war-rant to be served upon, as far as I can learn, 100 persons, without knowing anything as to the evidence any one of them would be able to give. The agents wanted to make up their case, and they went down under the colour of a Speaker's warrant to conduct an inquisition, and I will say that it was an abuse of the authority of the House. It was not merely an abuse of the Speaker's warrant, but it was an abuse of the power of Parliament, to obtain warrants for the purpose of assailing 100 persons who had never been examined; and when it was not known what they would say, to take them out into a private yard, and search out their consciences and see what evidence they would give. Remember, they were not examined as to what they could tell of their neighbours, but as to what they could 1299 tell about themselves—they were examined in order to make them criminate themselves, without any kind of assistance—they were called upon to give answers under the supposed authority of the Lords of the Admiralty, which might be used against them on other proceedings. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty has answered one question in the most solemn and emphatic manner. I take the liberty of asking him another. Does he suppose that if the gentleman had gone to the house of each of these workmen, after the hours of labour, and said, "I am agent for the petition founded upon certain charges against the sitting Members for the borough. Will you be kind enough to tell me did you get a bribe or anything of that kind for the vote you gave?"—does he suppose that these men would have answered the questions in their own houses? I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he thinks the same sort of answer would be given by a man in his own house and by a man in a corner of the dockyard when summoned by the Admiralty?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks for information as to a particular passage in the letter of Messrs. Travers, Smith, and De Gex, which I have already read to the House.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The whole letter? ["No, no!"and "Yes, yes!"] Well, I have no objection to read as far as the hon. and learned Gentleman likes.We have the honour to inform you that a petition has just been presented against the return of the sitting Members for the Borough of Devon-port. A large number of the witnesses who will be required to attend on the Speaker's warrants are employed in the dockyard, and the hours of their attendance are very long. It would not be necessary that they should be disturbed at their work for more than a few minutes in the case of any witness, but it would be a matter of very considerable inconvenience and annoyance to the men, as well as of the utmost possible difficulty to ourselves as agents having the conduct of the petition, if it were necessary to find them at their own residences after the hours of work.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
I wish to say merely a word or two upon this question. It may be difficult to determine—my learned Friend himself has not a decided opinion upon it—whether personal service of the Speaker's warrant is necessary or not, and I will for the present assume that such service is not absolutely required. We all, however, know that it 1300 is no easy matter to find the place of abode of those dockyard labourers. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, I have canvassed the borough of Plymouth myself, and, speaking from experience, I can safely assert that it is uncommonly difficult to catch dockyard men at home. Any prudent attorney would, of course, under those circumstances, be aware that it would not be sufficient for his purpose to leave a warrant at the place where one of those men was said to be lodging, and that it would be his duty to put it, if possible, into his own hands. That is the course which any attorney who knew his business would take; and if he were to act otherwise, and content himself with simply leaving the warrant where he was told a man lived—not knowing whether it would ever reach him or not—he would be guilty of gross neglect. It was, therefore, clearly the duty of the attorney in the present instance to serve the warrant on the men personally if he could, whether it was absolutely required by law or not, and all the Board of Admiralty did was to afford facilities for the discharge of this duty in a proper manner. That is the whole question. ["No, no!"] It is the whole question, at all events, so far as the Admiralty are concerned ["No, no !"], and my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) saw no ground for blaming their action in the matter. I do not know exactly what occurred in the dockyard. I have not heard the whole of the discussion, for I have only just come into the House. It may be that it would have been better not to cross-examine the witnesses, if, indeed, that was done. At the same time, we all know that it is not very easy to stop the months of attorneys if they are determined to ask a number of questions. All that we are concerned with, however, is the conduct of the Admiralty, and that has been, I contend, entirely free from blame in the transaction.
§ MR. WALPOLE
My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General does not apprehend the nature of the case altogether, if he imagines that the main issue is involved in the service of the warrant. At the close of his speech he touched indirectly upon the graver part of the subject. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) that no Minister of the Crown has ever conducted himself more ably, and, I believe, more honourably, than the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty. But really that is not the question before us. The question 1301 is, not as to the conduct of the Admiralty, but whether, having regard to the perfect freedom of election and electors, any undue and improper influence has been exercised over the electors of the borough of Devon-port under the guise of the Speaker's warrant, which need not have been taken into the dockyard, but might have been served on them in another place. In my opinion there was very great impropriety, in the first instance, in the solicitors making the application which they did. They knew they could serve the warrants without such application by going down to the dockyards, and the whole object in their minds in getting the authority of the Admiralty was to exercise an improper influence over the men. With regard to the other part of the question, which the Solicitor General did not advert to, I believe I am right in saying there is nothing which the courts of justice are more anxious to set their faces against than that those who are liable to be criminated in any way whatever should be bullied into statements by means of an inquisitorial examination which may afterwards in any way tend to their prejudice. These witnesses, or supposed witnesses, were first of all brought together, as I understand the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, and one witness was examined and cross-examined in the most hostile manner as to his conduct at the late election. The witness gave a denial; but the gentleman who had cross-examined him did not hesitate to direct the other witnesses—all having been in the first instance brought together—to go out from that place. They were then brought in one by one, so that even they could not bear witness to their fellow-workmen as to whether improper treatment had been dealt out towards them I say again, the question is not one affecting the Admiralty, but it is a question affecting the independence of elections and of electors; and I think that the explanation which the noble Lord was invited to give cannot and ought not to be considered satisfactory by this House, and I hope that such proceedings will not occur again.
§ MR. HORSMAN
There are two questions arising out of this discussion as to which I cannot, from the explanation which we have received, arrive at a distinct understanding, and with respect to which I hope to hear something further from my noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty. There is, in the first place, the question of the facilities given by the Admiralty for serv- 1302 ing the Speaker's warrant, and then that of the facilities afforded for taking evidence in the dockyards. As far as I can gather from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), he seemed to me to convey tlre idea that the Government had authorized the giving facilities in the former, and that they had also sanctioned or afterwards approved of their being given in the latter instance. Now, I want to know whether that is or is not the case. So far as we can gather from the Admiralty telegram, they directed the authorities at Devonport to give facilities for serving the Speaker's warrant. It appears that those authorities afterwards afforded facilities for taking evidence in the dockyards. I should like to be informed whether the Admiralty sanctioned that course, whether they were aware of its having been taken, and whether they approved or disapproved it?
§ COLONEL NORTH
I regret that the Government should appear to have sanctioned in any way interference with those voters. The real ground of complaint is not that they were collected together, but that they were subjected to cross-examination; and I should be glad, Mr. Speaker, if you would be good enough to inform me whether your warrant did justify anything beyond the mere service on the persons to whom it is addressed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Speaker's warrant is simply a warrant commanding attendance before an Election Committee; and the only reason for applying to the Speaker for his warrant is, that until the Committees are appointed there is no Chairman with authority to issue his warrant to summon witnesses before them. Application for the purpose is, therefore, made to the Speaker until the Committees are appointed, and he issues his warrant requiring the attendance before them of witnesses. If it be agreeable to the House, I will read the form of the warrant. It is as follows:—Whereas a petition of, complaining of an undue election and return for the of has been presented to the House of Commons, the matter of which petition is to be tried by a Select Committee to be appointed under the 'Elections Petitions Act, 1848;' these are, therefore, to re quire you, to be and appear before the said Select Committee at such time or times as shall be notified to you by the parties, or either of them, the said petition, or their or either of their agents or agent; and to receive and obey such further order as the said Select Committee to be appointed to try the matter of the said petition shall make concerning the same. As you will 1303 answer the' contrary at your peril.—Given under my hand, the day of, 186.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), who asks whether the Admiralty gave any authority in the present instance beyond that which relates to the serving of the Speaker's warrant, I have to state that the only authority given by them had reference to the service of that warrant, and that they knew nothing whatsoever of any further transaction until my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington) laid the circumstances of the case before them this evening.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Then I understand 'the noble Lord to tell us that, until he heard the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite, he was not aware that evidence had been taken in the dockyards, and that the Admiralty, therefore, had no opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject.
§ LORD HOTHAM
Although this question has in all probability been discussed sufficiently to enable every hon. Member to make up his mind upon it, yet I would ask? permission of the House to say a few words before the discussion closes. Shortly after the meeting of Parliament, during the time when Lord Derby held the post of First; Minister to the Crown, serious imputations were made by Sir Benjamin Hall (then Member for Marylebone) upon the conduct of the Board of Admiralty then presided over by the Duke of Northumberland—in reference to the elections which had just taken place, and pointing to the interference of Government officers in the dockyards, and also to improper appointments which had taken place in the dockyards, upon—as was stated at; the time—political grounds. A Committee was appointed upon the subject, and it was my misfortune to be a Member of that Committee. I say it was my misfortune, because the inquiry was a long and intricate one, and because it became the duty of the Committee to report unfavourably on the proceedings of the then Board. Inasmuch as Lord Seymour, now Duke of Somerset, was the Chairman of that Committee, my attention has been especially awakened at hearing imputations cast upon the Board of which he is now the head. With reference to the important part of this discussion—which, no doubt, is that relating to the examination of witnesses in the dockyard, and with reference to the 1304 permission asked of the Duke of Somerset to afford facilities for the serving of the warrants in the dockyard—recollecting, as I so well do, the feeling displayed by the Duke of Somerset throughout the inquiry to which I have just alluded, and recollecting the straightforward course he pursued during the continuance of that inquiry, I cannot bring myself to believe that if he had known that permission was unnecessary for the serving of the Speaker's warrants in the dockyard, and if he could have foreseen the possible use that might have been made of that permission, he would have listened to the application for one single moment. The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget), at the end of his speech, asked whether this discussion did not prove the necessity of providing that the men in the dockyards should not have votes. It did not need this discussion to prove that; for one of the recommendations of Lord Seymour's Committee was the disfranchisement of the Government men in the dockyards, and, therefore, during the time that the Duke of Somerset has been in office he has had the opportunity, if so disposed, at any rate to propose to his Colleagues in the Cabinet to carry into effect the measure which that Committee recommended. With reference to the examination of men in the dockyard, no justification, I think, can possibly be put forward for that. I know very well, and so does every one else, even if he be a Member of this House for the first time, what is the construction put upon such interference, and especially in the dockyards. Believing as I do that the Duke of Somerset has not changed his opinion upon the subject of interference in the Government dockyards, I can only say I shall be greatly surprised if, after what has taken place in respect to the examination of these men in the dockyard, if the noble Lord is not instructed on a future day to come down and declare on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty not only that this has been done without his knowledge, but that it meets with his most serious and entire disapproval.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
There are one or two points to which I desire to call the attention of the House arising out of the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Clarence Paget). The agents have the opportunity of gathering all the evidence in the first instance, before they apply for the Speaker's warrants; because I suppose each warrant is addressed to a particular person by name. They must 1305 therefore know the quality of the evidence and what direction it will take beforehand; and if it be adverse to their case, they do not apply for a warrant. The Solicitor General has said it would be difficult to serve men at home when they live in lodgings; but I must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that if they lived in lodgings they would have no votes, and therefore there would be no warrants to serve. It is as easy to serve the warrants at the men's houses as at the dockyard—what object then could there be in assembling a number of men together, to the number of fifty at once, unless it was for the purpose of "coaching" them up in their evidence? In the letter from Admiral Symonds, which the noble Lord has read, an observation is made in favour of disfranchising the dockyard men. May I ask the noble Lord why the Admiral chooses this occasion to advocate that they should be disfranchised if there has been no illicit influence exercised over them, and they have given their votes fairly and honestly. Did not the Admiral make that suggestion because he knew that the men were especially open to illicit influence, that it had been exercised, and that it might be exercised again? Let me remind the noble Lord that this has not occurred at a time when a strong Government appears before the House; but it is when a Government is tottering to its fall that it endeavours to snatch from every one else that power which itself has abused.
The charge against the Admiralty is, that permission was given to serve the Speaker's warrant in the dockyard, and that the opportunity was taken to examine the witnesses. I cannot conceive that any reproach can be directed against the Admiralty in this matter, although there may be some blame attaching to the agent for having exceeded the powers given him. That blame, however, rests with him, and does not extend to any Members of the Government. With regard to the serving of the warrants in the dockyard, I presume that hon. Gentlemen whose seats in the House are menaced do not sit idly by and allow them to be lost without taking the opportunity of defending them, but I suppose they have the same privileges afforded to them as are afforded on the other side. I should like to know what would be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite if they, having asked for permission to serve the Speaker's warrant on men 1306 employed in the dockyards, had been refused by the Admiralty. I apprehend that in that case there would have been a still more grave charge brought against the Government. And I think such a charge would have been much more just than that which has been brought this evening.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
In common with the greater portion of the House, I have felt considerable difficulty in ascertaining the real nature of the facts in this matter. The Government have heard now for the first time the statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman made it most conscientiously; but it would have been a great advantage to us, and would have saved the time of the House, if we had been in a position to admit or deny with precision, or to qualify in any way, that which has fallen from the right hon. Baronet. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: The noble Lord has admitted it.] I assure him that my noble Friend, not being in a position to deny the statement he has made, has cautiously and properly abstained from denying it; but my noble Friend by no means affirms or admits it, otherwise than by not being in a condition to question it, without having other information to give the House. I have no option but to follow the same course, and to assume the right hon. Gentleman to have been accurately informed—which may or may not be the case, but if not, it is not his fault. There is, then, but little room for difference of opinion. If we take the sole and single act which the Admiralty has done in this case, I think the severest judge would admit that no considerable blame could be ascribed to that Board for desiring that every facility should be afforded for serving the Speaker's warrant. That is a document of authority, and it is directed to a large number of persons in a public establishment. The parties armed with the warrant appeal to the Admiralty for facilities to serve it; and I think it was the duty of a public department, primâ facie, to give those facilities. But it is plain that if there were any covert intention on the part of the Admiralty, and if the intention was to give facilities for more than serving the warrant, such an intention would have been exceptionable, but there is no proof of its having been entertained. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman intended to make that imputa- 1307 tion; but I will take his statement as implying that the facilities given were not confined to facilities for serving the warrant. I conceive that personal service was probably necessary, and I believe that the service might obviously be accomplished without interruption to the work in the dockyard; and that the whole of the officers of the establishment studiously kept themselves away, so that there might be no appearance of intervention whatever; yet the fact of the gathering together of these men within the walls of a public establishment, and ostensibly under the authority of the directions there given, was a proceeding which savoured somewhat of influence, and consequently it is one with regard to which we, always assuming the precise accuracy of the statement, do not hesitate to say that we regret and censure. This is all we are able to say on the subject, except this—that my noble Friend near me will make careful inquiry into the circumstances. If he finds he is not able materially to alter the statements made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, the strictest directions will be given to prevent the recurrence of any such proceedings; and if, on the other hand, he finds that the right hon. Gentleman has been misled, it probably will be only justice to the parties that he should make it known on the first convenient opportunity.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has any just cause of complaint against my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) for the manner in which he has brought this question before the House. Certainly not on the ground of want of sufficient opportunity on the part of the Admiralty for obtaining the information which was required. What is the case? My right hon. Friend, four days ago, gave private notice to the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty of his intention to make the statement he has brought before us. Surely that was sufficient notice in these days of railroads and electric telegraphy—and we have seen that the Admiralty know how to work a telegraph. And then there was also the public Notice given in the usual form in the printed paper. I, therefore, do not clearly understand what is the purport of the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For I put this question—if transactions of the character now before us occur, how are they ever to be made known to the House or the country unless the course pursued by my right 1308 hon. Friend is followed? A complaint of a grievance is placed before a Member of this House; what is his duty under the circumstances? He makes those inquiries which guard him against making any misrepresentation to the House; he looks into the matter; he convinces himself that the complaint is just; he makes himself master of the facts that he may place them before the House; he gives ample notice to the Minister whose conduct is impugned, or whose Department is brought into question, in order that, with a general knowledge of the matters to be brought forward, he may have the opportunity of obtaining the information required; and after due notice the matter is brought before the House of Commons. I want to know in what other manner than that which has been pursued by my right hon. Friend the present case could have been brought before the consideration of Parliament. Then what is the use of the osbervations—the somewhat querulous observations—of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does the House approve the conduct pursued in the Dockyard of Devon-port with regard to these men who are voters? Do they approve the dockyard men who are voters being assembled in the manner which has been described? I do not agree that the Speaker's warrant should have been served upon these men as it has been served. I think the proper answer of the Admiralty to these election petition-mongers should have been, "If you want to serve the Speaker's warrant we leave you to take that course which the law of the country prescribes, and which your own discretion must guide you in pursuing." That should have been the answer of the Admiralty. But I ask the House this question—Do they approve the conduct pursued in the Dockyard of Devon-port with respect to the workmen who were voters? I take it for granted they do not. What was that conduct? It is not the act of insulated indiscretion described by the Solicitor General, who informed us that he was not present early in the debate—a piece of information that was quite superfluous—it was not an act of insulated indiscretion on the part of an attorney's clerk in a moment of excitement asking a question which he was not justified in doing of any single voter. Why, this examination was a prolonged examination ! The average time occupied in the examination of each voter was from one hour and a half to two hours. ["No!"] There was at least such a waste of time that the Se- 1309 cretary to the Admiralty felt it his duty to write to inquire what loss would be occasioned to the public service by this proceeding. But, says the Solicitor General, there may have been a question asked which I do not mean to say was at all justifiable. Why, the examinations were going on for three days. These examinations did not consist of merely a single inquiry. This prolonged inquiry was going on for three days in the dockyard, with the cognizance, with the sanction, and by the authority of the Admiral Sperintendent. The Admiral Superintendent by his letter tells us candidly that in all he was doing, in securing to those agents of the petition-mongers this opportunity of fishing for evidence, he was obeying the orders and acting according to the instructions he received from the Admiralty. Well, but, says the innocent Admiralty, we never heard of this matter till it was brought before the House of Commons by the right hon. Member for Droitwich. But they have heard of it now for some time, and have they disapproved the conduct of the Admiral Superintendent? The conduct of the Admiral Superintendent, according to their own views, was extremely blamable; have they censured the conduct of the Admiral Superintendent? It is impossible not to feel that no answer whatever has been given to the matters brought under the consideration of the House. No man of the world after the discussion which has taken place can for a moment be mistaken as to the real character of this transaction. No one can doubt that your warrant, Sir, was used to fish up evidence for an election petition. I see by the arrangements made to hear the election petitions that the petition against the return for the borough of Devonport could not, by any possibility, be brought on till after Easter. There was no hurry, therefore, to serve the Speaker's warrant in order to obtain the presence of witnesses. And who is the petitioner in this case? It is impossible to shut our eyes to the charactor and status of the petitioner. I remember the gentleman who is the petitioner—a very respectable gentleman. He was a Member for some time of this House. He was made counsel for the Admiralty. He retired from that honourable post to become permanent Secretary to the Admiralty. He is the petitioner for the borough of Devonport. Certainly, therefore, it cannot be said that he lacks experience or opportunity to avail himself in the most 1310 efficacious way of the mode in which the object of his honourable ambition may be attained. Well, I say, these are circumstances of very grave suspicion. I think no man can deny that the Speaker's warrant has been used in a colourable manner, and for a purpose that has not been avowed; and when these matters are brought before us, which no one defends, which oven the Chancellor of the Exchequer apologizes for—when these irregularities, and more than irregularities, occur, what is the natural question? The natural question that arises is—Who is responsible? Is it to be tolerated that the head of a Department should get up and say, "All that occurred we highly disapprove, but we are perfectly innocent?" What, then, is to become of the responsibility of those who administer the affairs of the country? When a transaction of this kind has been, I will not say proved, but acknowledged, confessed, not even defended or denied by the Government, the next question is to ask who is responsible? No one will deny that the person responsible is the chief of the Department. This matter requires more inquiry than it has yet received. I am very glad to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we are to have some further inquiry; but I do not think the matter ought to end by the Government merely saying they are not prepared to defend their conduct, which they confess is liable to blame. ["No, no !"] Not liable to blame! Then, you vindicate the conduct of the Admiral Superintendent? Not liable to bame! Then you vindicate—you are proud of your singular indiscretion? You go into partnership with the agents for the petitioner, and give them every facility. I say that wants further inquiry. I am glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised further inquiry. But that further inquiry should not terminate, I think, in merely furthering fresh instructions to the authorities at Devonport, saying that the Government regret they have been placed in an indefensible position, and they beg for the future that affairs may be managed with more discretion.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I should not desire to prolong this discussion at all were it not for the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House referred to the notice which he supposes the Government to have had of the particular statements, or their effect, made this evening by the 1311 right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). Now, I cannot but think that this mode of bringing forward a subject of this kind is, to say the least, not that which is most advisable to adopt, if it is intended to give the Government full opportunity of ascertaining the actual facts of the case and dealing with them as they may require. The House would suppose, from what has fallen from the right hon. Baronet, that the right hon. Gentleman had communicated to my noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty the substance of the statements he intended to make. Such is not the fact. What took place was this. The right hon. Gentleman on Monday put into the hands of my noble Friend a mere copy of the Notice which is upon the Order of the House to-night—"to call the attention of the Government to certain statements"—What statements? Until we knew the substance of the statements to be made ["Oh, oh!"] how could we know what the statements were? Hon. Gentlemen on the other side seem to be able to understand what statements would be made before they hear them. ["Oh, oh!"] At all events, on the part of the Government I disclaim any such knowledge. The language of the Notice is—Certain statements as to the manner in which dockyard workmen who are voters for the borough of Devonport have been examined in the dockyard with reference to their intended evidence before the Election Committee for that borough, and to ask for explanation.That is good notice of the subject of the statements, but not of their particular nature. That was all the notice given to my noble Friend. The noble Lord did all he could under the circumstances. I take upon myself to say that the Admiralty were perfectly justified in pursuing the course they adopted in giving facilities for the service of the Speaker's warrant. It was necessary that the warrant should be personally served if it were intended to be of use; and, under the circumstances, I do not hesitate to say that the course adopted by the Admiralty was a proper one. The application was one which it was right for the Admiralty to grant without reference to the side by which it was made. The thing to be done was merely to serve a legal document upon persons who were bound to obey it, in the most convenient manner, and in the place where they were most likely to be found; and to that the Admiralty had properly offered no objection. Then, when you come to look at the Notice given to the 1312 Government by the right hon. Baronet, you will find that it does not state the particular matters which he intended going into—it did not explain in what manner the men were said to have been examined. Upon the receipt of the notice the noble Lord without loss of time at once wrote for information, and he received, as quickly as possible, by post, an answer, in which the Admiral stated—and we may therefore assume that this was all that he was able to state—that he had caused the people to be assembled at the hour mentioned in order that they might be served with the warrant issued by the Speaker. In that letter the gallant Admiral said—I send you copies of the orders under which I have acted, also of the applications made to and approved by me in obedience to the orders which contained the same words, 'On workmen in the yard.' I therefore ordered that the people sought and applied for should assemble at the hour requested, in a quiet part of the yard, instead of their being sought separately at their work, when they saw the parties applying by Speaker's warrant; thus giving them 'every facility,' and were perfectly uninterfered with by their own officers. You have everything I can think of.Now, I entirely agree that in the exercise of what I have no doubt was an honest discretion the Admiral Superintendent erred. I think it would have been better had the men been seen separately. Assuming that the information received by the right hon. Baronet is correct, no doubt a serious error was committed in so assembling the men, as an opportunity was given which was grossly abused, and which enabled that to be done which beyond all question should not have been done. But the House will see that this letter gives no information as the examination of the men; and the only conclusion I can come to is that the gallant Admiral was himself ignorant of the advantage that had been taken of the facilities which he, acting upon the instruction he had received, had given to the agent of the petitioner. Of course, I say this on the assumption that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is correct. I must, however, say that there is some inconvenience in a statement of this character—which may be perfectly justifiable of itself—being made without its being reduced to the form of a petition to the House, or, at all events, to such a shape as would enable those who were affected by it to have notice of all its details. I believe I have shown that the Government is not responsible for anything—I mean that I know of nothing in the mere 1313 granting of facilities for the service of this warrant which should render the Admiralty liable to censure; while I admit that an improper advantage may have been taken of the facilities given, which (if the statement made is correct) were grossly abused by the agent of the petitioner.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed us would have done better had he left the case of the Government in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for certainly his arguments have done nothing to mitigate the opinion the House must have formed of this transaction. The hon. and learned Member said that the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) did not give the Government a sufficiently detailed notice as to the subjects on which he required explanation. But every Gentleman who reads the Notice which was put into the hands of the noble Lord will see that it contains every information it is possible to give. The hon. and learned Gentleman further says neither did the letter from the Admiral convey any information to the noble Lord that any man had been examined in the dockyard, and that therefore the Government could not be aware that any such examination had taken place. But I say that it is stated in the Notice of Motion given by the right hon. Baronet that such an examination did take place, and that, therefore, it was the bounden duty of Government to have again communicated with the Admiral Superintendent, and to have asked him for an explanation of this grave charge. But what did the Government do when they became aware of the nature of the right hon. Baronet's Question? Being in possession on Monday night of the Notice of the Question to be put by the right hon. Baronet this evening, the Government do not appear, up to the present moment, to have communicated with any of the authorities of the dockyard upon the subject of this most serious charge; and now, when the debate is about to close, the Attorney General gets up and says it was impossible for Government to have been aware of the Question to be put to them from the Notice given them in private by the right hon. Baronet. I believe this to be mere special pleading, and I believe the House and the country will form a similar opinion on the subject. We are now told that the matter will be inquired into further. I hope that the further inquiry will be prosecuted in an impartial and free 1314 manner, and that, at any rate, in the long run we shall derive this benefit from it—that gentlemen who may be connected in one way or another with the Admiralty, will no longer be able to turn the Government Dockyards into a kind of political Star Chamber.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
wished to explain that if he had led the House to suppose that Lord Clarence Paget knew of the telegram before it was sent he was in error. Of course, he now knew that it had been sent.
§ MR. SELWYN
I can scarcely think that the Attorney General any more than his Colleague the Solicitor General can have been present throughout this debate, or else he would scarcely have complained of the terms of the Notice given by the right hon. Baronet. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty had no means of knowing what had taken place. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman been in the House he must have heard the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty state that he had caused inquiries to be made into the subject of the examination of the men, and that he was informed that each examination had lasted more than an hour. The fact is, that the simple service of the warrant signed by the Speaker would not have occupied more than half a minute; and, therefore, when the petitioner's agent wrote to the Admiralty for facilities in serving the warrant, stating that only a very few minutes would be required in the case of each witness, the Admiralty should have foreseen that something else was intended besides the mere service of the warrant. But, notwithstanding the suspicious circumstances under which the application was made, they sent a telegram and a letter to the Admiral Superintendent, directing him to give the facilities asked for. They learn afterwards that the men were each occupied for an hour—and that in the case of fifty workmen—and I want to know how they supposed that hour was occupied. I say the conclusion the Admiralty should have come to upon the receipt of the letter from the petitioner's agent was that something more was intended than appeared upon the face of it. And I go further and ask why, when they heard that something else had been done, they did not institute inquiries in order to find out the real truth of the matter?
§ COLONEL PERCY HERBERT
I do not wish to make any attack upon the 1315 character of the Duke of Somerset, because I believe that his impartiality is notorious to every Member of the House; but, although we may fully acquit the noble Duke of having done anything further than to give directions for facilitating the service of the warrant, yet I think that he was guilty of a certain amount of indiscretion in not confining his instructions to a direction to the Admiral Superintendent to give a simple opportunity to the petitioner's agent to serve the warrant. It is not to be forgotten that the First Lord of the Admiralty, holding as he does the whole patronage of the navy in his hands, is a very powerful person, and a gallant sailor like Admiral Symonds, accustomed to obey orders, might doubtless, in his zeal, have a little exceeded his orders. I approve the a pologetical tone taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I trust that the discussion will turn out hereafter to have been of benefit to the Admiralty.
The hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) asked the noble Lord to read one letter only; but had he asked for the other letter, it would have been found that facilities were to be given to the agent for the petitioner alone. If this had been done when the Gentlemen on this side of the House were in power, a Committee of the House would have been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the matter; and I think that that course ought to have been pursued on the present occasion, because I do not believe that the public generally will be satisfied with a private inquiry instituted by the Admiral, who is himself implicated in these transactions.