§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he has read a speech made by the Right honourable Member for Halifax in London on the 25th of October 1881, in which the following expressions occur:—In exchanging Mr. Shaw Lefevre for Mr. Osborne Morgan we have lost a trustworthy and intelligent friend and have gained an opponent, and the mischief and the bitterness for the Liberals amongst us lies in the fact that his opponent is the nominee on the Committee of Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Osborne Morgan has in my opinion played the part on that Committee of a partisan advocate. Mr. Osborne Morgan has so played his part as to outrage members of the Committee who are opposed to these Acts. He has sat there as the advocate of the Acts. What I say about him I say simply because he is the representative on that Committee of the present Government. I have made representations to the Government upon the subject. Either he represents them or he does not. If he does, then they are our opponents on the subject. If he docs not, it is time for them to look after him lest he should commit them too far;whether, as alleged by the Right honourable Member for Halifax, the Judge Advocate General was the nominee and representative of Her Majesty's Government upon the late Committee on the Contagious Diseases Acts; whether any grounds exist to sustain the allegations that the Judge Advocate General played the part of a partisan 1276 advocate on the Committee, and conducted himself so as to outrage any of the members thereof; whether Her Majesty's Government intend, either by Parliamentary inquiry or otherwise, to test the truth of the charges thus deliberately made against the Judge Advocate General, or whether these charges are to remain unchallenged; and, whether it is the fact that the Right honourable Member for Halifax has made any representations to Her Majesty's Government upon the subject, and what were the purport and effect of such representations?
My attention was not called to the paragraph of the speech in question until I saw the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Question upon the Paper this morning; but I have no difficulty in answering his inquiries, with the exception of the last one, to which I am unable to give a perfect answer. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks mo, in the first place—Whether the Judge Advocate General (Mr. Osborne Morgan) was the nominee and representative of Her Majesty's Government upon the late Committee on the Contagious Diseases Acts?In reply to that inquiry, I have to state that we were originally parties to the agreement under which my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) acted upon the Committee, and in a certain sense he represented the Government; and in that same sense the Judge Advocate General represented the Government for the purpose of assisting the proceedings of the Committee, but by no means in the sense of representing any official opinion. I believe my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works had declared his views on the question before going on to the Committee; and I believe the Judge Advocate General had made no declaration of his views. He went there only to represent the Government to the extent I have stated—
Well, my right hon. Friend is here, and can answer the 1277 House himself on that point. Then as to the next part of the Question—Whether any grounds exist to sustain the allegations that the Judge Advocate General played the part of a partisan advocate on the Committee, and conducted himself so as to outrage any of the members thereof?In reply to that Question, I can only say that if the right hon. Member for Halifax wishes to raise any controversy upon this point, he is at liberty to do so. But I am convinced that the Judge Advocate General never had any intention to conduct himself, and that he is incapable of conducting himself, in the manner described in the Question. I may further say this of the Judge Advocate General—although his opinion on the subject is not my own, that he entered the Committee without any strong opinion on the Acts, and that the conclusions at which he arrived were the effect of the evidence that he heard. As to the next Question, whether Her Majesty's Government intend to test the truth of the charges, I may say that we have no intention of entering into any such investigation, for we are quite satisfied on the point; and I am sure that if there is any misapprehension in the mind of the right hon. Member for Halifax on the subject five minutes' conversation with the Judge Advocate General will set him completely right with regard to it. As to the last paragraph, I have to state that I have received no such representation from the right hon. Member for Halifax, and I am not aware that any such have been made.