§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
asked the President of the Local Government Board, If he has received a copy of the resolutions of a public meeting held at Folkestone on the 31st March (the mayor in the chair), and a letter from the medical officer of health (Mr. Bateman) in reference to a statement reported to have been made by the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath, impugning the sanitary condition of the town; and, if the details given by the Medical Officer of Health are correct, viz.: that in the years 1873 and 1874 there were only four fatal cases of fever and scarlatina, and in the three past months of this year no case of fever at all, in a population of 13,000; while the whole average mortality in past years has been under 17 per 1,000?
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
, in reply, said, he had received only that morning a letter in reference to the matter to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, accompanied by a report from the medical officer of health for Folkestone; that the statement which the hon. Gentleman had quoted was in accordance with the facts stated in the letter, and that there was no information at the office of the Local Government Board to lead him to doubt to accuracy of that statement.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, as the statement just made would seem to impugn his accuracy, he must claim the indulgence of the House for a few moments whilst he set himself right in its estimation. He considered it a duty which every Member owed to the honour of the House, not to rest for a moment under the imputation of having deceived the House even in the smallest particular. In the first place, he had a right to complain of want of courtesy on the part of the hon. Gentleman who had put down this Question without having given him any Notice by letter or otherwise of his intention to ask it. He might 367 have been absent, he might not have returned from the Recess, and then the hon. Gentleman would have had an opportunity of blackening his character while he would not have been able to defend himself. The way in which this matter arose was as followed:—While the House was in Committee on the Artizans Dwellings Bill he was anxious to extend the operation of the measure to places of less population than 25,000, the figure proposed by the Home Secretary. His argument was, that in the smaller towns, worse places, more dens of fever, were to be found than in the largo towns; and he gave as an example a town in which he had lived for many years, and with which he has well acquainted—namely, Folkestone. He stated then—and he repeated now—that there were dens of fever there worse than could be found anywhere else in this country. That statement was challenged by a town councillor of the name of Harrison, who went round with a paper with the view of getting the Mayor to get up an indignation meeting, because he was anxious that those dens should not be inspected, while he (Lord Robert Montagu) and those who were acting with him tried to force inquiry into those matters. The argument which he (the town councillor) used to the lodging-house keepers was that, if statements were published about the sanitary condition of Folkestone, visitors, by whom the lodging-house keepers made their livelihood, would not come to reside there in summer. "We are great as Diana of Ephesus; we gain our livelihood by lodging-houses; no matter about the health of the people."
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the noble Lord was entitled to give a personal explanation, in order to show the accuracy of the statement he had made; but he was now passing the bounds of explanation by debating the question.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he would confine himself to explanation. An indignation meeting was held, and to show the House the way he was attacked, he would quote one sentence from the speeches which were made at that meeting, when the resolutions to which the hon. Member's Question referred were passed. One speaker, the person to whom he had already referred, characterized his remarks in Committee of the House as being "the most 368 glaring, lying, barefaced statement I ever saw in print." Had he brought that language before the House as a Question of Privilege, he ventured to think that the Speaker would have said that it was a serious breach of the Privileges of that House to make such an assertion with respect to the remarks of any Member in Committee. He did not, however, think it right to take up the time of the House by bringing the matter forward as a Question of Privilege. Nor did he think that those persons were worthy of the distinction of being brought to the Bar of the House, as they were persons who were always daily to be seen in their shirt sleeves. He preferred, rather, to treat them with the contempt they deserved; but he unhesitatingly asserted that if any hon. Gentleman would go to Folkestone and inspect the place, they would see for themselves that in the statement he had made in Committee he was not deceiving the House. He referred them also to the Registrar General's Returns, as published in The Times on the 19th of August last, where they would find that Folkestone stood, not in the first, nor the second, but in the third category of towns where the death-rate was 23 per 1,000, and not 3 7 per 1,000—that high death-rate being caused by those very fever dens to which he had referred. The rest of Folkestone was healthy enough, and it was in the localities of those fever dens where the death-rate was so high as 23 per 1,000. He would only add that in the statement he had made in Committee he had spoken accurately, and he never would be guilty of deceiving the House in any matter
§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
said, he wished to say a single word in reference to what the noble Lord had said about not having received Notice of the Question on the Paper. He did not think that he had been guilty of any want of courtesy towards the noble Lord. When he gave Notice of the Question he was aware that the noble Lord was in the House, and therefore he thought there was no occasion to call the attention of the noble Lord to the matter, as he otherwise would have done. He would not enter into the matter of controversy beyond saying that he believed that the statements which had been made to the House in regard to the condition of Folkestone had still been made in error.