HC Deb 28 April 1884 vol 287 cc727-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he can now make any further personal explanation on the subject of the claim against him for flowers supplied during the Oxford Election; or, whether he would prefer that Notice should be given of a Question on the matter?


Sir, if the House desires a personal explanation on a matter of this kind, and thinks it consistent with the dignity of Parliament to receive it, I shall be delighted to give it. With the help of my family, I have now investigated the matter as far as I can, and brought all the knowledge I can to bear upon it. A good many things have happened since 1880, and it is rather difficult to trace out the whole of this profound mystery. I learn from my private secretary that, last year, he received a claim of £4 15s. without any statement of what it was for; and with the discretion which becomes a good private secretary he wrote to ask for particulars. Then a bill was sent in some time early in the year, and it was put aside—[Laughter.]—hon. Gentlemen laugh too soon—to be paid at the end of the current spring quarter. It was actually filed, with others, to be paid in the month of April, with the rest of the small bills of the establishment. As far as I can learn, this was the only bill that reached me on the subject; and it was filed with the rest of the bills to be paid in April. In the meantime, it appears, proceedings were taken in the County Court at Oxford. The hon. Member wishes to know why I never heard of them; and I will explain. He will remember that the House rose for the Easter Holidays on Tuesday, the 8th of April. I left town early on the morning of Wednesday, the 9th of April. It appears that a summons was sent to my house on that Wednesday; and I naturally asked why I did not receive it. It appears that the summons was delivered to a young footman at my house, and, with the intelligence characteristic of the race, he left it on the hall table. It appears also—as the hon. Member desires that Parliament should be informed of this—that the second housemaid, with the assiduity peculiar to that class of persons, hid it away with the advertisements and newspapers, from among which it was unearthed this morning. That was how I did not come to know of it, and how this profound and important mystery came about. But the hon. Member would like to know about the flowers themselves. The mystery of the flowers, as far as I can remember or ascertain, is this. I was residing at Oxford at the time of the election in March or April four years ago. I am informed by my family that we were walking together through the market, when we saw some nice fresh flowers which they thought they would like to have, and these flowers appeared to have been ordered, I am informed by my eon, for himself and the rest of the family, and they were supplied to us for our own use during the fortnight or three weeks we were there. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Guildford is in the habit of indulging in flowers for purposes either of personal adornment or of entertainment; but, if so, he will probably find that they are not very cheap things at this time of the year. That is really all that I know. If he supposes that these flowers were bought with some dark design of corrupting the constituency of Oxford, I can assure him that is not the case; they were supplied entirely to my own family, and not to the electors; and while I am sorry to think that my connection with the town of Oxford should have terminated, the fact is, though the vase is shattered, the scent of the flowers will cling to it still.