§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
, in rising to call attention to the recent appointments 911 to Official Receiverships in Bankruptcy; and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the manner in which the patronage conferred on the President of the Board of Trade by the Bankruptcy Act of 1883 has been exercised by him,said, he could assure the House that it was with a deep sense of responsibility that he rose to move the Resolution; and nothing but a sense of duty would have persuaded him to do so, as it was practically a Vote of Censure on one of the Ministers of the Crown. He trusted, however, that he would be able to convince the House of the necessity of appointing a Committee to inquire into this matter. While the Bankruptcy Bill was in Committee a great deal of anxiety had been expressed as to the danger of giving to a Minister the large and extensive patronage conferred by that Bill. The question was brought forward over and over again, and every time an assurance was given that it should not in any way be used unfairly. Unfortunately, the proceedings in the Standing Committee were not reported, so he could only state what he knew as a Member of the Standing Committee to which that Bill was referred. But the matter came again before the House; and the President of the Board of Trade, in the course of the debate upon the Report, on the 14th of August, 1883, said, speaking after the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets—He agreed with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ritchie) that if the Bill was to be a success, that result would be obtained entirely in consequence of the choice which would be made, in the first instance especially, of the officials who were to carry it into effect; and he could not conceive any policy on his part more suicidal than to allow Party feeling to influence him to such an extent as to prevent him appointing the best men.Again, the right hon. Gentleman said—He proposed, in the first instance, to make a rough selection, and then to refer the matter to a Departmental Committee, and, to a large extent, found his action upon the recommendations of that Committee. Although he should reserve to himself some control, he hoped to avoid any suspicion of anything like improper Party considerations entering into the selections of the officials."—(3 Hansard,  525.)He (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) had, therefore, to ask the House whether the facts which existed at present were in accordance with that pledge? A general feeling had existed during the Recess in 912 the country that the posts were being filled up in such a way as to further Party ends, and that they were given away as rewards to strong partizans; and on a former occasion he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was true that out of 67 appointments 51 had been conferred on Liberals, 13 of whom were election agents; and whether he considered that a fulfilment of the pledge he had given to the House? To that Question he received the most extraordinary answer ever given in the House, for, in the first place, the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to shield himself behind a Committee of his own appointment; and, in the second place, said he had fully carried out the pledge given to the House. He was, however, bound to admit, and to apologize to the right hon. Gentleman for it, that his Question was not strictly correct. The real facts were that for the 67 appointments 51 Liberals were selected, 19 of whom, instead of 13, were election agents. Of these 19 four were agents of the present Ministers of the Crown. Did the House, then, consider the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman had been fully carried out? Even if that Committee had been an independent one, the right hon. Gentleman could not shield himself from responsibility, and still less when that Committee was of his own appointment. But what was the composition of that Departmental Committee? Two of its Members, Mr. Giffen and Mr. Stoneham, were permanent officials of the Board of Trade, with whom the right hon. Gentleman had been in daily communication for three or four years, and one of them had been rewarded for his services by the appointment of his own son as an official receiver. The other two Members of the Committee were Mr. Harding and Mr. Smith—the one a Conservative and the other a Liberal. He agreed that those were two good appointments; but both these gentlemen were at the time under a deep debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore they would naturally be only too glad to reciprocate the kindness by falling in with his views. He thought that was common sense. But could such a Committee, he asked, be called independent? It would not be a satisfactory answer if the President of the Board of Trade were to say that he did not know 913 the politics of the candidates for the post of official receiver, because, having given a pledge that he would take care that the appointments should not be affected by political considerations, it was his business to make himself acquainted with the politics of the candidates, so as to make sure that his pledge should not be disregarded. Either the right hon. Gentleman had been careless about the appointments which were made, or he had been false to the pledges which he had given. There was no doubt somebody had been extremely well informed as to the politics of the gentlemen appointed. Could it be believed that out of 1,900 applications for 67 appointments 51 of them should fall to Liberals, 19 of whom were Liberal agents? No man in his senses would believe so. He knew that in many cases persons who recommended candidates were asked what were the politics of their nominees. [Cries of "No!" and "Name!"] Gentlemen who came before the Departmental Committee were positively asked the question, though they were told that it was of no consequence. [Cries of "Name!"] He would give the names by-and-bye. He held that if the matter were investigated by a Committee it would be found that the appointments which had been made constituted a very grotesque commentary upon the promises made to Parliament. The President of the Board of Trade said the appointments were submitted to the local Chambers of Commerce where they existed. He (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) did not know what took place in every case; but in many instances what was done was this. A letter was sent stating that Mr. So-and-So had been appointed, and asking whether there was any objection to the appointment. But was it to be expected that any Chamber, after an appointment had been made, would perform the invidious task of registering objections to the appointment? Many Chambers acted with a due sense of their own dignity, and refused to say whether they approved or disapproved of the selections that had been made. Why were not the names of all the candidates submitted to the local Chambers of Commerce before the appointments were made? They would then have had an opportunity of recommending the best men. Had that course been followed, a 914 very different class of men would have been appointed in the place of the motley crew of chemists, tailors, and drapers who were now official receivers. He would give the House a few instances to show the necessity for the appointment of a Select Committee. In the borough of Ipswich a person named Messent was appointed. He was at one time so successful in business as a tailor in Birmingham that he was obliged to ask for the indulgence of his creditors; but he belonged to the Birmingham Eight Hundred. Soon after the return of the present senior Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) Mr. Messent went to that town, giving up his flourishing business in Birmingham, and he was then made an official receiver. Was not that a political appointment, and could that be called the appointment of the best possible man? At York, where a contested election was fought in the Recess, a draper named Wilkinson acted as the agent of Mr. Lockwood, the Liberal candidate, his services being given almost gratuitously. The result was that after the election Mr. Wilkinson was rewarded by being made Receiver in Bankruptcy for the City of York. From that city came up four candidates of the highest standing, one a Doctor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford and a Liberal; but he had not done the service of Mr. Wilkinson, and consequently his qualifications were overlooked. The next case to which he (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) would ask the attention of the House was that of the City of Hereford. A Petition was presented to the House against the return of the two Members who had been returned; but that was at the last moment withdrawn, and an agreement, which he held in his hand, was drawn up. This agreement was to the effect that one of the sitting Members should apply for and accept the Chiltern Hundreds before Easter, 1882; that the vacancy should be filled up by the unopposed return of a Conservative; that thenceforward each Party should have one Member to the end of the present Parliament; and that at the next General Election each Party should only nominate one candidate. That agreement was signed on behalf of the Liberals, amongst others, by Mr. Scobie, who, having taken so prominent a part in these proceedings, was appointed Official Receiver for the City of Hereford. 915 There could be no doubt about his being a strong Party man, and it was on that account that he had obtained this appointment. Then, at Taunton, the Attorney General's confidential agent who kept his canvass book had been appointed official receiver; and at Sheffield the gentleman appointed was the election agent of the President of the Board of Trade himself when that right hon. Gentleman contested Sheffield in 1874. In Oxford the gentleman whose name was mentioned in the Election Petition which was to be found in the Library of the House, and who was one of the Home Secretary's agents at that time, was selected for the office. It appeared to him that the Home Secretary's agents had had more than their fair share of the plunder, because when he turned to Derby he found that the election agent of the right hon. and learned Gentleman there was also appointed to the official receivership of that city. He held that the appointments which he had brought to the notice of the House presented a primâ facie case for the appointment of the Committee for which he asked. The appointment of a Committee would give the President of the Board of Trade an opportunity of explaining away the charges, which were generally felt to be true. It was usual to grant Commissions which were asked for upon subjects in which the conduct of Ministers of the Crown was impugned, and as statesmanship should always show a subjection of political partizanship to the interests of the State he trusted the Government would not oppose his Motion. The rewards given after successful election campaigns by political Parties had done more than anything: else to corrupt political life in the United States. It would be a bad day for England when the cry of "Spoils to the victor "became a Party watchword. Believing that the Liberal Party had done more in this matter to corrupt our political life than anything against which the Corrupt Practices Act was directed, he begged to move the Resolution which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the manner in which the patronage conferred
on the President of the Board of Trade by the Bankruptcy Act of 1883, has been exercised by him,"—(Mr. Dixon-Hartland,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. M'INTYRE
said, he was quite certain that neither Her Majesty's Government nor the President of the Board of Trade would have anything to fear if this Committee were granted; but he was surprised that while the hon. Member had travelled over the whole of England he had carefully abstained from going into the county in which the borough which he represented was situated. If he had done so he would have found that the persons who were most opposed to the Government were those who had received the appointments. The hon. Member must have known that the gentleman, able as he was, appointed for Worcester and the district around, was one who had denounced Her Majesty's Government on every possible occasion. [A laugh.] The late Home Secretary might jeer at him; but he could not alter the fact, and the fact was that the best men had been selected by Her Majesty's Government without reference to politics. If the right hon. Gentleman would look fairly at all the appointments, He would see whether a man was a tailor or a confectioner, one, at all events, who was able to do the work had been selected, without reference to politics at all. It was remarkable that where the hon. Gentleman must have had local knowledge and experience he had abstained from impugning the appointments, but had gone far away, where his information must have been given by prejudiced persons. The hon. Member, therefore, depended upon hearsay evidence. He would oppose the Resolution of the hon. Member, and he hoped the House would acknowledge that the President of the Board of Trade had been actuated by the purest motives, and had selected the best men according to the evidence brought before him.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he had hoped that the President of the Board of Trade would have risen at once to meet the grave charges that had been brought forward, and he did not think that the hon. Member who had just spoken had at all mended the case. The hon. 917 Member had dwelt very much upon the City of Worcester. But the charge was not that in some solitary instances Conservatives had been appointed, but that 19 official receivers were actual Liberal election agents, and 13 were election agents of Liberal Members, and that four were election agents of Members of the Cabinet. That charge was a most serious one, because these gentlemen had been appointed to carry out a most important Act; but there were rumours throughout the country that the Act had not been carried into effect successfully. [Cries of "No!"] Rumours to that effect were continually reaching him from Liverpool and from other parts of the country. The success of the Act would depend very much on those who occupied this position. He was one of those who were very anxious to carry the measure through the House, and he did attach considerable importance to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it would be fatal to its success if it should ever be supposed that in making appointments the Minister of the Crown should have been actuated by Party motives. Not only Gentlemen on that side, but Gentlemen on the other side also, must have been surprised to hear that 51 out of 67 of the persons appointed belonged to the Liberal Party. He had rarely heard such a grave charge made against a Minister of the Crown, and it was one of those charges which ought to be met at once. If the Departmental Committee had deceived the right hon. Gentleman because he said he made the appointments in consequence of the Reports of that Committee, they had ill performed their duty to the House and the country in thus exposing the right hon. Gentleman to the grave charges which had been brought against him. The right hon. Gentleman might say that he had the confidence of the Chambers of Commerce; but his hon. Friend (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) had explained what that meant. The same line of argument was adopted some time since by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dodson). That right hon. Gentleman made certain gentlemen, all Liberals, Justices of the Peace, and then submitted their names to the Council of the Corporation of Liverpool to pronounce judgment upon them. The Council of the Corporation, however, he was proud 918 to say, stated that they always considered the appointments of Justices no Party question, and declined to pass any judgment on the names submitted. If it was to be assumed that the Minister of the day could manipulate Acts of Parliament for the benefit of a political Party there would cease to be that confidence in the persons appointed to carry out the Acts which had hitherto been reposed in them. The observations of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. M'Intyre) were utterly beside the question. It was no answer to say that a Conservative had been appointed. The charge was—and it was a very serious charge—that the Government had appointed as official receivers several election agents on the Liberal side, but had not appointed a single Conservative election agent. He did not mean to say that a tailor or draper might not be competent. What he did say was that many men might be appointed who were far above all suspicion. He should have expected that the hon. Member for Worcester, in his desire to exculpate the right hon. Gentleman, would have said that these charges were utterly without foundation, and therefore would have supported the Resolution of his hon. Friend. But the hon. Member did nothing of the sort, but limited himself very wisely to one place of which he had a knowledge. His hon. Friend admitted that 16 of those appointed might be classed as Members of the Conservative Party; but his charge was that many persons were appointed who were not entitled by their former position to occupy a very important office, and that they were so appointed because they were members of the political Party opposite. He would have thought that instead of those who had been referred to, it would have been possible to select men of high position as accountants or solicitors to act as official receiver—men who would have been above the suspicions and charges which had been brought forward by his hon. Friend. Hon. Members who took exception to these appointments spoke not as Members of a political Party. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He, at all events, spoke as the Representative of a great commercial City—a City upon which the Bankruptcy Act would have a most important influence—and he maintained that whether the Bankruptcy Act was to be successful or 919 not depended very much upon the character of the official receivers, and that the charges brought forward that night, unless disproved, would do much to lead the commercial community to believe that sufficient confidence was not to be placed in those gentlemen. He felt that very little confidence could be placed in some of these official receivers, which would do very much to spoil that legislation upon which so much time was spent last year. He had great pleasure in supporting the Resolution; but he did so not in the interests of Party, but in the interests of the country and the commercial Classes
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down complained that he did not rise immediately after the speech of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland); but he would bear in mind, and the House would bear in mind, that this was an impeachment of an individual. There was only one person in the House, he was sorry to say, who was in a position to make a reply to the charges brought forward by the two hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, and to other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who might be prepared to speak. He thought it was, therefore, natural that he should show some little hesitation in rising too early, and until he had heard what was the full case against him. He must say that if hon. Members on the other side were animated by the spirit just shown by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Whitley), he had very little reason to hope that anything he might say would have the slightest effect upon them. The hon. Member for Liverpool had said that whatever the President of the Board of Trade might say he had made up his mind that the Bankruptcy Act was not likely to produce any satisfactory results. The hon. Member also said that this was a very serious charge. It was a very serious charge; but the sense in which he felt it to be serious was that it was a charge made against men to whom had been in trusted the administration of the Bankruptcy Act throughout the country. If it were a fact that he had misused the powers in trusted to him, and that he had appointed bad men, then, of course, the Bankruptcy Act would be a failure; and the charge was that he had appointed 920 bad men. The charge was not that he had appointed a number of Liberals; but that the men appointed, whether Liberals or Conservatives, were not the best men that could have been appointed. While these men were endeavouring to gain the confidence of the commercial classes, hon. Members had come forward and condemned them, without knowledge, as absolutely unfit to undertake the work with which they had been in trusted. That was the serious part of the charge. He did not entertain the pessimist view of the operation of the Bankruptcy Act which he was sorry to see was entertained by the hon. Member for Liverpool. All the information he had received on the subject went to show that the Act was working most admirably, to a degree altogether beyond his most sanguine anticipations. The average number of bankruptcies under the old system varied from 10,000 to 15,000 a-year; and in all the calculations of the Board of Trade with respect to the working of the new Act, they assumed that the number would be reduced to 9,000 a-year. As a matter of fact, the number for the two months past averaged less than 3,000 a-year. He had obtained the opinions of various persons in a position to judge of the working of the Act. The answer he had received from one of the Judges with reference to the cause of this extraordinary reduction was that it was "no longer an advantage to a dishonest debtor to become a bankrupt." One of the County Court Judges gave the opinions of several of his colleagues—gentlemen who were impartial in this matter. One, at least, of those gentlemen was a Conservative, and his opinion, he thought, would be considered important. The first gentleman whose opinion was quoted was the Judge of the Halifax, Dewsbury, and Huddersfield district. He stated that the Act was working admirably so far; that "fraud was nipped in the bud, instead of being allowed to fall into the sere." The County Court Judge of the Hull district bore similar testimony. Mr. Mottram, the County Court Judge of Birmingham, who was opposed to himself (Mr. Chamberlain) in politics, said that he anticipated before the Act was passed that it would work well as far as Birmingham was concerned. He had never faltered in 921 that opinion, and he was now more than ever confirmed in it. The Judge of the Sheffield County Court—one of the Courts referred to by the hon. Member for Evesham—said that attempts had been made in various quarters to discredit the Bankruptcy Act; but he saw no reason to apprehend anything else than that we should have a successful Bankruptcy Act for the first time. He bad mentioned these instances to the House to show that the rumours to which the hon. Member for Liverpool bad referred had no foundation in fact. The charge in regard to these appointments had been described as a serious one; but it would appear that the hon. Member who brought it forward did not think so, because, when an attempt was made an hour ago to count out the House, he walked out behind the Speaker's Chair, instead of waiting for the purpose of helping to form a quorum. The charge was a serious one, and he regarded it as such. The hon. Member based the charge on this—that he, having pledged himself that he would endeavour in every case to secure the best man for the post of official receiver throughout the country, had been swayed in these appointments entirely by political considerations, and had appointed, out of 67 official receivers, 51 Liberals, of whom 19 had been agents for the Liberal Party. How did the hon. Gentleman know that? What authority bad he for that charge except an anonymous letter in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph? He (Mr. Chamberlain) was totally unable to answer the charge, because he did not know the political opinions of the great majority of the men whom he had appointed. He could not say whether it was true that he had appointed 51 Liberals or 51 Tories, because he did not know. But he asked the hon. Gentleman who brought this serious charge and impeached the conduct of a Minister of the Crown, what authority he had? What right had the hon. Member to come to the House and state as a matter of fact that 51 out of these gentlemen were Liberals? The course be took in carrying out his pledge to the House that in making these appointments he would endeavour to secure the best men was this—he bad told the House that he intended to make a sort of preliminary selection, and then refer the matter to a Committee. He found 922 the applications so numerous that it was absolutely impossible for him with any success to make any kind of selection, and he abandoned the idea altogether of a personal selection, or even of reading the vast number of testimonials which came to him. What he did was to make at once, on his own responsibility, four or five appointments. The first was that of the Official Receiver of London—Mr. Harding—who was doing his work admirably, to the entire satisfaction, he believed, of the commercial community of London. At the time he made that appointment he did not know Mr. Harding's political opinions. He had heard since that he was a Conservative. He did not know that Mr. Harding was a Conservative at the time, and he was very sorry subsequently to find that he was one. The best appointment, valued at £2,000 a-year, had, therefore, been given to a Conservative. The second appointment was that of the Inspector General in Bankruptcy—Mr. Smith, who was well known to everybody who had taken the slightest interest in this subject, as having had a larger acquaintance with bankruptcy practice and Bankruptcy Law than any other commercial man. Mr. Smith had also been managing director of one of the London banks. When that gentleman was appointed he knew nothing of his political opinions. As a matter of fact, Mr. Smith was a Liberal, and he was glad to hear it. The third appointment was that of the Official Receiver for Birmingham. During the preparation of the Bill, among other gentlemen he saw Mr. Luke Sharpe, who gave him most valuable information upon the subject. That gentleman had a most extensive practice, and he was very much impressed with his shrewdness and ability. He determined to offer him the appointment, and he would frankly tell the House that he wrote to a friend in Birmingham asking him what were Mr. Sharpe's politics, and was told that he was a Conservative. He was very sorry, but still offered him the appointment; and, as a matter of fact, he had been appointed on his merits alone. He made two other appointments of gentlemen who were officials under the old Bankruptcy Act, and whose politics he did not know even now. He had told the House the whole of the personal part that be 923 took. Having made these five or six appointments, he then asked a Departmental Committee to deal with the subject, and this Departmental Committee consisted of gentlemen who would be hereafter responsible for the administration of the Act. Two of them were—Mr. Giffen, who was at the head of the Commercial Department of the Board of Trade; and Mr. Stoneham, at the head of the Financial Department of the Board of Trade, in whose office would be vested the management of all the financial part of the administration of the Bankruptcy Act, the control and audit of accounts, and so on. The other two were Mr. Harding, the Chief Official Receiver, and Mr. John Smith, the Inspector General in Bankruptcy, one of whom would have the control of receivers in the Metropolitan district, and the other the control of receivers in the country. Was it possible he could have appointed gentlemen who had more interest in getting good men? He protested against the attack made upon this Committee, and especially against the imputation that they would be influenced by improper motives, and likely to pander to the supposed improper propensities of their official Chief. The credit of the permanent Civil Service of the Crown was really a matter of national concern. Whatever might be the case in the United States, with which the hon. Member appeared to be familiar, there had never been any imputation cast upon the honour of the members of our Civil Service, who discharged their duties without regard to politics. Having appointed this Committee, he thought it right to trust them, and he handed over to them the applications and testimonials, and asked them to prepare a scheme for dealing with them. The method they adopted had been described in a Report which had been laid before the House. In their Report these gentlemen said—In the papers before the Committee there were no recommendations of the candidates on political grounds or referring to their political opinions, and in prosecuting their inquiries, they took care to have regard solely to the fitness, qualifications, and characters of the candidates before them. They relied chiefly on inquiries made of neutral persons occupying responsible positions in each district, and did not think it any part of their duty to inquire into the political opinions of the candidates. The Committee were thus entirely unacquainted with the politics of the candidates selected, and 924 this ignorance continued during the subsequent proceedings, except in one or two instances, where the candidates themselves inadvertently referred to their politics. ['Oh!' and laughter.] Such reference, of course, received no attention from the Committee.He could not understand the meaning of that laughter. It was perfectly natural that some would think of recommending themselves by declaring their politics; it was also certain that some, from a scrupulous sense of honour, thought that they were bound to declare their politics when they were opposed to the Government. He had one or two such instances brought to his knowledge by letters addressed to him privately. The Committee distinctly said that whatever statements were made they were put aside, and such statements did not influence the selections, which were made solely with regard to merit. The Committee went on to state, what was the fact, that in every case he accepted their recommendation. He might stop there, simply showing that he had taken every precaution he could to secure the best men. But he was not satisfied with that. He felt that in dealing with this vast number of applications from strangers to himself and the Committee, it was possible to fall into traps, and mistakes might be made; a man might have been a bankrupt, or made a composition, and that would be a disqualification. He, therefore, asked the Committee in every case to communicate with some public official or body—as County Court Judge, Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Agriculture, or Town Council—asking whether the proposed appointment was approved of. To have laid before these the full list of candidates would have been to have evaded any responsibility for the making of the appointments, and Parliament had thrown upon him and upon his Department the duty of making the selection. In the vast majority of cases no objection was raised to the appointments. In two or three cases public bodies either declined to give an opinion, or expressed a preference for another candidate. In these few cases he impressed upon the Committee the necessity of making further inquiry; and they did not rest until they had satisfied themselves by the fullest inquiry they were able to make in the locality that the appointment was not fairly questionable. In all cases, 925 the further inquiries justified the original recommendation, which was accordingly acted upon. Having stated the general principles on which they proceeded, here he might fairly stop. It was specially difficult for him, in the circumstances, to go into individual cases. When the Notice of Motion appeared upon the Paper he caused a letter to be written to the hon. Member to say that if it was his intention to bring particular cases before the House, it would be convenient if he would furnish the names beforehand, in order that he might refer to the Departmental Committee for information. After the lapse of some time, the hon. Member wrote to say it was his intention to question the appointment of political agents. Another letter was sent to him to say that the President of the Board of Trade did not know who were political agents and asking for the names. To that letter there was no reply.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he was much surprised at that; he thought it was sent out two or three days ago.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
said, he believed that that was so; but, being out of town, he did not receive it till this morning.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, the original application was sent two or three weeks ago; but no reply was received till three days ago. Another letter was sent immediately, and the list of names could have been furnished even that morning—if it had been, he could have been prepared with a fuller statement. But it appeared that the hon. Member was more anxious to make a charge on anonymous information than to obtain accurate information. The hon. Member said that Mr. Messent, who had been appointed at Ipswich, had been a tailor, and had had to ask for the indulgence of his creditors. He should like to know upon what authority the hon. Member made that statement. The Committee laid it down, with his full approval, that, as a general rule, no man should be appointed who had been in such a position; he believed that in every case a direct question was put to the candidate himself; if an appointment had been made under a misapprehension in this respect he would reconsider it; and unless the hon. Member 926 was prepared to make the assertion as to the one case on his own knowledge, he must say that he did not believe the statement. A strong case of alleged political duplicity was that of York; it was said that the gentleman appointed was the agent of the Liberal Party; he dare say that was true; but, so far from having been anxious to make this political appointment, he did all he could to put York in the same district with Scarborough, and he protested against a separate appointment; but this aroused so much local feeling from both Liberals and Conservatives, that he was compelled to yield in order to secure the smooth working of the Act. The gentleman appointed might have been a draper, but he was now studying for the Bar. There was every reason to believe that he was a fit person to hold the appointment. Then the hon. Member referred to the case of Hereford. He knew nothing about it, nor did he understand what was the gravamen of the charge. At Taunton it was alleged that the agent of the Attorney General had been appointed. On that he would only say that another rule laid down was that, although the fact that a man had been an agent for a political Party was not to be held to exclude him from being appointed as an official receiver, it was made a condition in every case that the person appointed was to abandon all political appointments. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General gave him the information, which, thanks to the neglect of the hon. Member for Evesham in not furnishing him with the ground of his attack, he had not before—that that gentleman was not his election agent at all, and that he was the Deputy Registrar of the County Court. Ex uno disce omnes. The House might judge of that tremendous impeachment of the hon. Member for Evesham from that one case, which they were fortunately able to bring to a conclusion. But he thought it highly probable—inasmuch as the great majority of these appointments had been from solicitors—that they had been political agents on both sides. [A laugh.] He did not say the same men had acted for both sides. What he meant was that in those country towns they could hardly find any solicitor holding a prominent position and fitted for such work as they proposed to in trust to him who 927 had not at some time or other been a political agent either for Conservatives or Liberals. Then the hon. Member said that at Sheffield he (Mr. Chamberlain) appointed a gentleman who was his political agent when he was a candidate for that borough. Now, he did know something about the case of Sheffield, because it was brought prominently to his knowledge by the fact that the Chamber of Commerce of Sheffield objected to the nomination that was submitted to their consideration. The gentleman appointed there was Mr. Clegg. When he was candidate at Sheffield his political agent was Mr. Herbert Bramley, who had since been a political agent for the other side. Subsequently, in the course of the election, his candidature was united with that of his right hon. Friend, and that nominal connection—for it was really little more than that—had escaped his memory, and when Mr. Clegg's name was put before him he did not recognize the fact that that gentleman had been his agent in conjunction with Mr. Herbert Bramley. Mr. Clegg had been originally selected as a gentleman who was in every way qualified to fulfil the appointment given to him; and all the information since received from local sources showed that, if not the very best, he was a very good candidate for the office. The other day there was brought to him the completion of a case under the new Bankruptcy Act, and it so happened that that first bird fell to the gun of Mr. Clegg. He had been able to wind up that bankrupt estate under the new Act, and had paid 20s. in the pound with a very moderate percentage of expenses. If that experience was general they would have no reason to complain of the operation of the Bankruptcy Act. Then the case of Oxford had been attacked. It was very similar to that of York. The Committee recommended that Oxford should be attached to another district. Originally it was proposed that an official receiver for Banbury and Oxford should be appointed, and the person to whom it was first offered happened to be a resident in Banbury. He declined, and they were obliged to take the person who had since been appointed, who, he believed, was perfectly qualified for the post, and who might have originally been—although he knew nothing of it—the agent of the Liberal Party. But it was impossible 928 to allege that that was an instance of political corruption, because it was the original intention to appoint a Banbury and not an Oxford man. He had now gone through the individual cases as well as he could at short notice, and without the special information which common courtesy would have suggested that the hon. Member for Evesham should have afforded him. He had also stated to the House the general principles on which he had proceeded; and he submitted to the House that there was not the remotest shadow of a case for the charge which had been brought against him.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he regretted the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), who had opposed the second reading of the Bankruptcy Bill. [Interruption.] He must suggest that the hon. Member for Stockton should behave himself. It was disorderly for the hon. Member to interrupt a Member who was addressing the House. He had made no observations of an offensive character; and, therefore, it was not too much to ask the hon. Member for Stockton to restrain himself. His hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire had opposed the Bankruptcy Bill on the second reading on the very ground that it would put an undue amount of patronage into the hands of the Government; and the President of the Board of Trade met that objection in a straightforward manner by giving the assurance that the best men should be appointed irrespective of their political opinions. Now, the facts which the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) had brought forward that hon. Member said he could substantiate before a Committee. ["No!"] He asked for a Committee; and who was most likely to be in the right, he who sought for an inquiry or those who refused it? The hon. Member said he could produce witnesses and evidence that he believed to be incontrovertible, and he denied that he had accepted any anonymous statements. The hon. Member said that out of 67 appointments 51 were given to Liberals. He did not attach much importance to that fact if it was one, because he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it was impossible for anyone in his place to know the political opinions of every individual who was appointed. But the 929 gravamen of the charge was that 19 out of the 51 were Liberal political agents.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, there might have been some, but he knew nothing about that. What his hon. Friend asserted was that 19 out of the 51 Liberals appointed were election agents. If that was so the defence of the President of the Board of Trade failed. It was simply absurd to suppose that so high a proportion as that fact implied of the whole available talent for the discharge of these official duties under the Bankruptcy Act could only be found in the ranks of the Liberal election agents; and if his hon. Friend's statement was correct it was strong primâ facie ground for inquiry. He dared say that the President of the Board of Trade had adopted the steps which he thought adequate to carry out the solemn pledge he had given to the House in regard to the exercise of that patronage; but the right hon. Gentleman could not take shelter behind a Departmental Committee, and if the pledge which he had given had unfortunately been broken the right hon. Gentleman must be held responsible. Let them dismiss from their minds all animus in the matter, and let them look at the Ipswich case. There was a gentleman who had been a tailor at Birmingham, who had not been very fortunate in his business, and yet who had, on the recommendation of Mr. Jesse Collings, who was at once Member for Ipswich and a prominent member of the Caucus, been appointed to that town, with which he had no connection whatever.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. Mr. Messent is now resident in Ipswich. It was represented to me that Mr. Messent was a gentleman living upon his means in Ipswich at the time of his appointment. I do not believe the statement that he has compounded with his creditors.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that what he understood his right hon. Friend to assert was that Mr. Messent spent a great part of his life in Birmingham. If it was true that this Birming- 930 tailor became connected with Ipswich through the hon. Member for Ipswich, might they not arrive at the conclusion that he was appointed simply because Mr. Collings happened to be Member for that town? Then, again, let them take the case of the appointment in York. The President of the Board of Trade said he had not wished to make the appointment; he had thought it unnecessary, but he had yielded, and had appointed a gentleman who had almost gratuitously discharged the duties of a Liberal agent. It was evident that that gentleman had been appointed because he was a Liberal agent. Then there was the instance of Taunton. The Attorney General had denied that the gentleman was his election agent, but he had kept the canvass-books. All these were matters which ought to be cleared up. If the statements made by the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) were true, it was clear that the precautions taken concerning these appointments had been insufficient. There had always been a suspicion as to the manner in which this extensive patronage would be used, because the President of the Board of Trade was the head of the Caucus, an institution which had done so much to degrade the Civil Service in America. In America the great object of all reformers had been for years to dissociate the Civil Service from the electoral machines, and yet here they had placed an exceptional piece of patronage in the hands of a Minister who, by its means, placed persons who got it in an exceptional position to obtain information as to the affairs of other people. This patronage should have been conferred on persons who were free from suspicion, and not given to anyone for political services. Complaint had been made that sufficient information had not been given beforehand to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the charges made against the Department; but the House must bear in mind that these charges had been repeated over and over again in newspapers during the Recess. In The Sheffield Daily Telegraph there had appeared a detailed list of all the persons appointed and their antecedents, and the attention of the President of the Board of Trade must have been called to this, because he (Lord George Hamilton) had seen a letter written by the right hon. 931 Gentleman's secretary to the effect that the President of the Board of Trade declined to take any notice of the attack in the newspapers, but would be ready to defend himself in Parliament.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not know that the hon. Member was the mouthpiece of The Sheffield Daily Telegraph.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman did not know it even then; it was not the ease, as the hon. Member for Evesham stood, so to speak, on his own bottom. At the same time, with the charges made publicly in the Press before him, the right hon. Gentleman was hardly justified in complaining of want of information. The hon. Member for Evesham had collected from various sources information which he considered justified the statements he had made. The charge made by the hon. Member had in no way been met by the President of the Board of Trade. If these statements of the hon. Member for Evesham were true, and the hon. Member was quite prepared to substantiate them, it was clear that the pledge made to the House had been broken, and they had a right to inquire how it was this came about, and all his hon. Friend asked was an opportunity of proving it.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he was willing to acquit hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite of any desire to make a Party or personal attack on the President of the Board of Trade; but some unpleasant language had been used that night, which ought to have been avoided. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) spoke on the authority of a newspaper—for no other authority had been given in that House—to induce the House to consider the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the conduct of a Minister of the Crown. Even in a criminal case there must be some primâ facie ground of the truth of the charge, and hero some evidence must be given before asking for a Committee of Inquiry.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
I stated that I had investigated every case myself, and written 600 letters on the subject.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he could only have wished that the hon. Member had written 932 601, and that the last had been a letter to his right hon. Friend informing him of the charges he was going to make. What did the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex say? He had said that there had been a promise that these appointments should be made for no political causes, and then he had proceeded to admit that the right hon. Gentleman had delegated these appointments to a Committee; that they were the persons who made these appointments, and, therefore, they had misled the right hon. Gentleman. But of what politics were these men? Did the noble Lord suppose that they were not reasonably loyal to their office? But if that was true, these were the persons responsible for those appointments, although he admitted his right hon. Friend was responsible to the House. His right hon. Friend had omitted to state one matter. He had the power to make the appointment of every one of these 67 gentlemen for life, and, with the exception of eight of them, he had appointed them from year to year, so that they could be dismissed by his Successor at one year's notice. That was his right hon. Friend's individual action, and quite distinct from any obligation cast upon him. Let them not be mealy-mouthed. This was a charge of corruption against a Minister—and on what sort of evidence was it based? As regarded the case of Taunton, the legal political agent, who was one of the candidates, had not obtained the appointment, but the person who was Deputy Registrar of the County Court, and was recommended in the most earnest way by the County Court Judge, on account of his experience in dealing with bankruptcy cases, had been appointed. It was true that the gentleman in question had accompanied him on his canvass, but He was not in any way his agent. From first to last, until the hon. Gentleman had made the charge against his right hon. Friend and himself, no one human being had denied that that appointment was the very best that could be made. There was a time, perhaps, when political animosity got the better of that chivalry which was usual among men, and he feared that such was the case now; for when they heard the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex tell the House that he abhorred those who had anything to do with the Caucus, it was 933 not difficult for hon. Members to trace the spirit in which these charges had been made—charges which, as he had said, had so utterly fallen to the ground.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, He thought the right hon. Gentleman, when He gave his pledge to the House, must himself have felt that he never would have got the Bill passed unless the House had placed implicit confidence in that pledge. No one could deny that there had been a most uneasy feeling throughout the country—["No, no!"]—a very strong feeling, even among the Friends of the right hon. Gentleman—as to the way in which these appointments had been made. That was not to be wondered at when the results were looked at in broad figures; they were sufficient to warrant at least a suspicion in men's minds that that pledge had not been fairly fulfilled. Everyone had a right to expect, and did expect, that the particular officer of the Government who had charge of the appointments would see that pledge strictly and liberally carried out. At all events, the figures were quite sufficient to arouse public inquiry in the matter.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the figures had not been revised by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but they had been stated to the House on the authority of a Member of the House, and, primâ facie, the authority and word of a Member was to be believed when he said he had made strict inquiries into a matter. What were the results of the figures? There were 67 appointments in all, 51 of whom were Liberals; 19 of the 51 were election agents, and four out of the 19 were election agents for Members of the present Government. It was for the honour and credit of the Government that this statement should be met, for if there was the smallest suspicion that this patronage had been wrongly used the country was entitled to inquire into it. The hon. Member who brought the matter forward said he would not mention more than six of the names of these gentlemen; and the right hon. Gentleman had said, in reply, that he ought 934 to have had full knowledge of the names in the cases that were to be brought forward, in order that he might be enabled to answer. It was very remarkable, however, if the names were perfectly new to him, what an intimate knowledge the right hon. Gentleman displayed of the majority of them. Without referring at length to the cases in which these appointments had been made, he might refer to a few of them as typical of the rest. The first he would mention was that at Ipswich, where the gentleman appointed came from Birmingham, and was one of the 800 or 900, or whatever the number might be, who controlled the elections in that borough in the Liberal interest. This gentleman went down to Ipswich with the present senior Member for that constituency, and assisted in procuring his election.-A few months later this gentleman was appointed Official Receiver for the district in which Ipswich was situate, and it was scarcely possible to doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was aware of his antecedents before the appointment was made. He was sure that hon. Members below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House, who so recently cheered the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, were as strongly opposed as he could be to the perpetration of a job, and he asked them to bear in mind the facts which he had stated. It ought to be the highest object of this House to see to it that these and all other appointments in the Civil Service of the country were beyond suspicion, and that the Service should be maintained in a state of purity, which was its pride, and in which it transcended the similar Services in every country of the world. The next case was that of a draper who was appointed Official Receiver at York, and who was an active agent, acting on behalf of the Liberal candidate for that city—a fact which, if it was not within the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman before the appointment was made, might have been easily ascertained by him, and, being ascertained, ought to have had weight in the question of making the appointment. As far as this gentleman was concerned, it was admitted further that he was not the strongest among the candidates; and, even if he had been, it would surely have been better not to make a selection 935 which could give rise to an idea that in future—no matter what Party might be in Office—political services were almost as a matter of course to be rewarded by appointments in the Civil Service. In the case of the appointment to Hereford, the gentleman selected for the office was not only a strong Liberal partizan, but he had also been party to a questionable compromise which was effected between the rival political sections in the case of an Election Petition which was presented and tried. Then, in the case of Taunton, the Official Receiver was a gentleman who had care of the canvass books of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, this was not so. The gentleman had not care of his canvass books, but accompanied him from house to house in his canvass, and was in no way responsible for the management of the contest.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, it was clear that if the gentleman was not an election agent, he at any rate assisted the hon. and learned Gentleman in his canvass. Then, again, it was admitted that the gentleman who was appointed at Sheffield had acted as an election agent; and in Oxford and Derby the appointees were gentlemen who had on occasion acted as the election agents of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was now Secretary of State for the Home Department. When the hon. Member had shown that out of 67 gentlemen appointed 51 had been Liberals, of whom 19 had been Liberal electioneering agents, and four the agents of Members of the Government, he thought that a sufficient case had been made out for inquiry; and it was for the credit of the Government and of the right hon. Gentleman himself that some further answer should be given, because, without such answer, the country would not be satisfied.
§ MR. DODDS
said, the general question had been so fully entered into by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that he should not have risen unless he had had some personal experience of the matter in dispute. The first of the cases alluded to in connection with these appointments was that of York. It had been said over and over again that Mr. 936 Wilkinson had been the Liberal election agent for York; but that statement was an entire misrepresentation, and was not true. [Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Members might cry "Oh!" as much as they pleased; but he had not risen to say anything that he was not thoroughly acquainted with, and he was fully acquainted with all the details of the York appointment. There were residing at York a Liberal agent for that city and a Liberal agent for the North Riding of Yorkshire, but neither of them was Mr. Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson was a draper of the highest respectability in the City of York. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh, but there had been other respectable drapers in York, one of whom not very many years ago became a Member of that House, and a very distinguished member and ornament of society. He referred to the late George Hudson. Mr. Wilkinson was not an unworthy representative of the City of York; he had retired from business some time ago on a competency, and, having retired, he was anxious to fill up a portion of his time with some active employment. Mr. Wilkinson made an application for this appointment at a time when he had not acted as election agent in anyway. [Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Members might say "Oh!" as much as they pleased, but he repeated that Mr. Wilkinson had not acted as election agent in any way whatever at the time he applied for this post. When, however, the Corrupt Practices Act came into operation, it became doubtful how far paid agents might be employed; and at a recent bye-election for the City of York, when Mr. Lockwood, a barrister on the Northern Circuit, became a candidate, Mr. Wilkinson acted as his honorary election agent. He could see no reason why that fact ought to disqualify Mr. Wilkinson from being appointed to this office. He believed that pressure had been put upon the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade by leading Conservatives in York and others in order to induce him to alter his determination as to appointing a Receiver in Bankruptcy at Scarborough instead of York. A deputation, composed of gentlemen belonging to both political Parties, waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, and he (Mr. Dodds) knew that the President of the Board of Trade yielded to their representations 937 under great pressure. One of the leading Conservatives in York told him (Mr. Dodds) how the right hon. Gentleman had relieved the city from a a great difficulty. Inconsequence of his own personal knowledge of both political Parties in the North of England, and the professional position he occupied in that part of the country, he had received more applications for recommendations in connection with these appointments than probably any other man in that House. Perhaps the House would allow him to state what had happened in his own immediate neighbourhood. Among the applicants was a leading Conservative agent in the borough of Middlesborough, who had acted as agent for the junior Member for the North Biding of Yorkshire (Mr. Guy Dawnay); and he (Mr. Dodds) had endorsed the application with a statement that the gentleman in question was a good man. Before, however, the appointment was made—as soon as the application became known to the Town Council of Stockton and the people of Middlesborough—there was a great outcry from both of these boroughs against the appointment of a Conservative to the office. Representations were accordingly made to the Board of Trade, and the answer returned by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was this—"We have not considered politics at all in making these appointments; we only consider the fact that the gentleman we propose to appoint is a good man, and we, therefore, intend to appoint him." He had been appointed accordingly. He (Mr. Dodds) spoke of these matters as having occurred within his own personal knowledge. He had happened to go to the Board of Trade to see Mr. Giffen with reference to another of these appointments—[Cries of "Name!"]—and he had found from the beginning to the end that political considerations were never allowed in the smallest degree to interfere in the matter. As a matter of fact, in his own borough and in his own district a Conservative had been appointed, proving conclusively the truth of the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that political considerations had nothing whatever to do with these appointments.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, that, in the few remarks he intended to make, he should 938 endeavour to avoid all Party animus. He had acted as one of the Members of the Grand Committee on the Bankruptcy Bill last year, and at the commencement of the sittings of that Committee there was a natural anxiety that the patronage created by the Bill should not be used for the furtherance of Party and political objects. They were all glad, therefore, to receive the positive assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that any such course would be avoided. He did not for one moment dispute the correctness of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that he had endeavoured, and that the Committee entrusted with the important task of making these appointments had also endeavoured, to select only the best men; but in most, if not all, places there must have been several men of equal ability and fitness for such appointments, and the present complaint was that, there being a choice of competent men, a great preponderance of gentlemen of one particular Party had been selected. In regard to his own district, the person who had been appointed was a gentleman at Preston, against whose fitness and capacity not a word would be said by him, and he believed not a word would be said by anyone; but it so happened that Preston was a town where Conservatism was exceedingly predominant, and if this gentleman was eligible for the appointment he must maintain that there were men equally eligible in the other political Party who were passed over. This was not a matter which ought to be discussed in regard to mere Party and personal considerations, and if that were the only meaning of it, he, for one, would certainly decline to take any part in the discussion. The Bankruptcy Act, however, was an important measure in regard to which he had entertained sanguine hopes that it might tend to the promotion of commercial morality in the country. How essential, therefore, even from the beginning, to avoid any possible imputation of Party objects in connection with the appointments made under it. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, no doubt with perfect sincerity, asserted that he had not allowed himself to he swayed by political considerations in making the appointments; but, in his 939 (Mr. Ecroyd's) opinion, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have laid down as a rule for the guidance of the Committee which he had appointed to act in conjunction with the Board of Trade this simple principle—that no man who had occupied the position of election agent in connection with either political Party should be eligible for the appointment of Official Receiver. It was perfectly absurd to say that such a rule would have narrowed the choice so much that eligible appointments could not have been made; and certainly, if such a principle had been laid down for the guidance of the Committee, the most grievous suspicion in regard to the furtherance of Party and political aims would have been avoided. He did not, for one moment, believe that the right hon. Gentleman had consciously departed from the pledge which he gave; but he did believe that there had been a serious and lamentable misadventure which had created grave doubt in the minds of many people as to the safety of measures of a centralizing character such as the Bankruptcy Act. The fact was now patent to the country that out of 67 appointments 51 had been made of gentlemen who were closely connected with the political Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged, and it was even more lamentable that of those 51 no fewer than 19 had been Liberal election agents. The appointment of a Select Committee was now necessary to reassure the country in this early stage of the operation of the Bankruptcy Act that there was no danger of the development of officialism or centralization, or of the institution of a system which had proved most disastrous in the United States of America. They knew perfectly well that the principle of conferring the spoils upon the victors had been worked out in the United States in a manner highly detrimental to the best interests of that country; and he was sure he might appeal to Gentlemen of the Party opposite who had been Members of the Grand Committee on Trade last year to confirm him in stating that there was a feeling not confined to Gentlemen of one political Party, but freely expressed by both, that this great political danger should be avoided. He believed, if a full inquiry were made into the whole matter, and if it could be proved that every endeavour had been made to avoid 940 attaching the slightest Party interest to these appointments, such a result would allay much legitimate anxiety now felt throughout the country. For himself, He believed that the right hon. Gentleman himself had the greatest interest in assenting to the appointment of a Select Committee, and he entertained a confident expectation that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to show that he had not intentionally failed to fulfil the pledge he had given upon this subject.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he thought it was a remarkable circumstance that of the four hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who represented very large centres of population, and who had taken part in this debate, not one had made any complaint whatever in regard to the operation of the Act, or the distribution of patronage under it in those parts of the country which they respectively represented. Of those four hon. Members three came from the county in which he also had the honour of representing a constituency. The fourth was the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and not one of them, in dealing with the subject, had made a single representation in regard to the maladministration of the Act in the district with which he was most intimately connected. He thought it would have been much more to the credit of the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) if He had made some reference to the distribution of the patronage in the county which he himself represented. In that county there was a population of 4,000,000, and it was a matter of the greatest importance that the Act should be properly administered. What was, therefore, incumbent upon the right hon. Gentleman was either to allege against the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade or the Government that the Act was not being properly administered in Lancaster, or that its administration in that county had failed. It was well known to the right hon. Gentleman that in the chief town of Lancashire—namely, Lancaster—a Conservative solicitor had been appointed, to the great dismay of the Liberal Party. The hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) informed the House that in making these 941 appointments the Government had paid regard to the political opinions of the different candidates for the office. All He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) could say was that, to his own knowledge—and he believed the Members for Manchester would make the same representation—although the Representatives for Manchester and Salford had recommended the applications made by several persons, they were perfectly ignorant of the politics of these persons; and there was this additional fact, that not one of the applicants recommended by the hon. Members for Manchester and Salford had received any appointment whatever. There was only one accusation which had been made that evening which deserved attention, and he was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had directed his attention to it. The hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hart-land) said that one of the gentlemen who had been appointed to this office had made a composition with his creditors. [Mr. DIXON-HARTLAND: No.] The hon. Member had stated, at all events, that the gentleman in question had been in an unfortunate position with regard to his creditors. He regarded that as an unfortunate statement, and he would on no account be in the position of the hon. Member for Evesham, who, having received a letter from the President of the Board of Trade asking him for the names of the persons whose appointments he intended to question, had neglected to answer that letter, and had, nevertheless, made a statement seriously affecting the credit of persons who were now officially connected with the State, without having done his utmost to ascertain whether the allegations he made were well-founded and correct. He regretted the Party and political animus which the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had imported into the debate when he talked about the Birmingham Caucus, and the political influences which had been brought to bear upon the matter. The question for the consideration of the House was one of a plain and simple character—namely, the desirability of the appointments which had been made; and he thought the debate might have been confined to that simple point. He thought the judgment of the House 942 would be unanimous. The statement of the President of the Board of Trade did him great honour; it not only acquitted him from the charge made against him, but it showed that in circumstances of great difficulty and delicacy he had used his best endeavour to discharge his duty to the State with the utmost conscientiousness.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he would only detain the House for a few moments while he gave the reasons why he should refuse to support the Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Motion was—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the manner into which the patronage conferred on the President of the Board of Trade by the Bankruptcy Act of 1883, has been exercised by him.If the House were to agree to that Resolution, it would express dissatisfaction with the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade, and would declare that that statement was altogether insufficient to acquit him of personal responsibility in the matter. Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, he would ask the House what more could any man have done than the President of the Board of Trade had done? He did not think that any man could have done more than had actually been done by the right hon. Gentleman to shield himself from all suspicion of favouritism in making these appointments; but, while he said that, he must be allowed to express regret that the right hon. Gentleman had not seen his way to accede to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry, not into his own appointments, but into the selections which had been made by his own Departmental Committee, because it was impossible not to see, whether consciously or not he would not say, that those who had the management of the selection had given a most extraordinary proportion of the appointments to persons who belonged to the political Party now in power. It was perfectly incredible, as the noble Lord on the Front Opposition Bench (Lord George Hamilton) had remarked, that all the available talent, or even to the extent of 30 per cent. was concentrated in the small ring constituted by Liberal electioneering agents. It would strike a blow at the political life of the country, if such an example was to be 943 set without any inquiry being made. He could not forget that this was not the first occasion on which appointments under the Bankruptcy Act had been criticized. He could not for a moment suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, for the sake of his own good name, which was indissolubly connected with this measure, would allow that name to be associated with anything like favouritism. The right hon. Gentleman would be judged as a successful politician and statesman by the success of the Bankruptcy Act, and he was far too great a man to jeopardize the Act by appointing men to important judicial offices whose only recommendation was to be found in the activity with which they had promoted Party movement among the borough constituencies. He (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had thought it necessary to make this statement in order to show why it was that he should vote against the Resolution in the case of a Division, and he would only repeat the expression of his regret that some inquiry was not to be instituted.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had come down to the House under the idea that they were going to discuss the Estimates; but he found the House engaged in an idle and profitless discussion upon the bankruptcy appointments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) said there was primâ facia evidence in support of the charges of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland), and, therefore, a Committee ought to be appointed; and he knew that hon. Members from Ireland were constantly asserting that the appointments made in connection with that country were monstrous. Would, however, the right hon. Gentleman get up to support a Committee of Inquiry into every one of them? Now, what were the facts of this case? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had appointed a Departmental Committee, and had told that Committee to find the best men for Official Assignees who could be found. It did not at all surprise him (Mr. Labouchere) that out of 67 appointments it had been discovered that in 51 cases the best candidates for the appointments were Liberals. That was precisely the result he should have anticipated. While the hon. Gentlemen 944 opposite had been complaining of the conduct of the President of the Board of Trade, he (Mr. Labouchere) had been sitting there nearly boiling over with indignation, because he also had a complaint to make against the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had appointed a Committee, and had actually told them not to ask whether a candidate was a Liberal or a Conservative. He strongly protested against the right hon. Gentleman having given so many as 16 of these appointments to Conservatives. It was a falling away from all the old traditions of political life. He quite agreed with the remark of Lord Palmerston when that noble Lord said—" The best man is the man I like best." Hon. Gentlemen opposite when in Office always appointed Conservatives to desirable posts, and never appointed Liberals. He, therefore, did complain of his right hon. Friend for having, in this instance, appointed any Conservative at all; and he did so because there was no principle of give and take in the matter. The Conservatives never appointed Liberals or Radicals; but yet the Liberals were perpetually appointing Conservatives. Look at the Bishops and the Judges. A Liberal Government were continually appointing the Rev. So-and-so to a Bishopric, and when any inquiry was made as to his political principles it was found that he was a Conservative. He held that a Liberal Government should never appoint a Conservative until they discovered that no sound Liberal was prepared to take the place. His notions might be old-fashioned; but they were the notions which had made England what it was, and they might depend upon it that they would gain nothing by altering them in this objectionable manner. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) said that when a man asked him for his aid in getting an appointment, he never thought of inquiring whether he was a Conservative or a Liberal. Now, if a man asked him (Mr. Labouchere) to aid him in getting an appointment, the first question he put to him was—"What are your politics?" And if he did not find that his politics were sound he invariably said—" Wait until your friends come in and then you may get what you want." He hoped, if the hon. Member for Evesham intended to take a Division, he would do so at 945 once, so that the House might be able to enter upon some more practical question.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
said, he should be glad to learn whether the Government adopted the extraordinary argument contained in the speech to which they had just listened, because it would simplify matters very much. If it was upon that ground that the Government was to be defended, then the case was clearly proved. There was, however, one slight element forgotten in the speech to which they had just listened—namely, the pledge that had been given that no such considerations as that referred to should affect any of the appointments. Of course, the hon. Gentleman might think that an immaterial circumstance, but most hon. Members would regard it as of some importance. He (Sir Hardinge Giffard) had been a little surprised to hear the concluding portions of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), because, although the hon. Member stated that he could not support the Motion, it appeared to him (Sir Hardinge Giffard) that he gave cogent reasons for supporting the appointment of a Committee. There was one reason given by the hon. Gentleman which he heartily sympathized with—namely, that they must accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that he had nothing to do with the matter. He had no doubt they would all receive that assurance on both sides of the House. At the same time, however, it seemed to him that a serious principle was involved in the assumption that when a Minister was intrusted with a Parliamentary duty, he could not only shield himself, but everyone else, from responsibility, by simply saying that personally he had had nothing to do with it. He should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman had something to do with it, and that it was his duty to see that the pledge which he had given to Parliament was not broken. They all accepted what the right hon. Gentleman said; but let them see what the facts of the case were. He did not propose to deal with the argument that 51 out of 67 were Liberals; but he would like to know what a learned Judge would say if he were dealing with the appointments which had been made in this 946 instance, and whether a candidate at an election had been guilty or not of corrupt practices when he gave certain appointments to persons who happened to be supporters of his own political Party? He had been glad to see the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) on his feet—they often heard the hon. Member without seeing him on his feet. The hon. Gentleman had given the House a remarkable example. He told them that one of the appointments had been given to a gentleman who had assisted a very distinguished member of the Bar at a recent election for the City of York, under these peculiar circumstances—that since the Corrupt Practices Bill passed, it was impossible for any election agent to receive remuneration from the candidate, and, therefore, he ought to receive remuneration from the Ministry. So far as he (Sir Hardinge Giffard) could see, that appeared to be the only justification for this particular appointment. What was it they were now asking for? It was not for condemnation, but for inquiry—an inquiry that would satisfy everybody that there was no ground for the accusation, or, if ground was shown, that then they might act upon it. He did not intend to treat seriously the trifling which the question had received at the hands of the last speaker; but how did the public regard the question? An hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to verify the accusations which had been made public in various parts of the country, and he said—"I have satisfied myself that these accusations are true, and I undertake to prove them, if you will give me a Committee." What was the answer given to that statement? Did the Ministers say the accusations were not true? No. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) said he did not know anything about them, and that he certainly was not aware that any gentleman appointed was a Liberal agent. That, however, was not the question; but whether these appointments had been very largely given to prominent Liberal partizans as a reward for their political action? It certainly appeared to be a questionable transaction which it was very necessary to inquire into, and especially one incident which had been mentioned—namely, the withdrawal of a Petition and a bargain between the two political Parties in a borough. That seemed to 947 him to be a very serious charge; and so far he could not understand that there had been any denial of it. All that his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) asked was that he should be allowed to prove these accusations. With reference to the cases that had been mentioned, he thought it would have been better if the names of the gentlemen whose appointments it was intended to call into question had been given to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; but, at the same time, it was quite true that these were not things that were heard of now for the first time. All the names had been published, and the nature of the cases also. If the names had been given that morning—and he thought it would have been better if they had been—it would not have decided the matter "Aye" or "No" that night; but there must have been a question either of adjournment or of allowing the case to go to a Committee of Inquiry, and that was what his hon. Friend asked for. He (Sir Hardinge Giffard) did not say that the charges were true, or, at any rate, every one of them; but he should be glad to know that there had been no such malversation as was suggested in the accusations which had been made. The matter ought not to be passed over without inquiry, either for the sake of the gentlemen who were concerned, or for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman himself. It would be most unsatisfactory to let the matter stay where it was now. No one could doubt that it would be the subject of accusation throughout the country hereafter if an opportunity were not afforded of having it cleared up now.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that the adoption of the Motion would not involve any censure on the President of the Board of Trade. He had never yet heard of an instance in which a Committee had been moved for except on the ground that a primâ facie case of misconduct on the part of the Minister had been made out. If this Committee were granted, those who now said it could be granted without any censure being passed upon his right hon. Friend, would go through the country saying that the House of Commons had condemned 948 him for the way in which he had exercised the patronage of the Crown. He knew something himself about the way in which persons went about the country making accusations upon no better foundation than that. To appoint a Committee to inquire into the mode in which the patronage of the Crown had been exercised by a Member of the Government would have the further disadvantage of discrediting the officials who had been appointed. They could not appoint such a Committee or have such an Inquiry without a certain amount of discredit being attached to the officials, and in that way the working of the Act would be materially impaired. That being so, it required a very strong case indeed to justify the appointment of such a Committee. He knew personally something about the course which had been taken in making those appointments. Of his own knowledge he was aware that for months past his right hon. Friend, in conjunction with those who had acted with him, had considered these appointments with au earnest and anxious desire to select the best men who could be obtained. He said no more than the truth when he said that his right hon. Friend was anxious only for the success of these appointments; that they should have nothing to do with politics, but that the country should get the best men who could be obtained in order to insure the satisfactory working of the Act. He hoped the House would look at the matter from a common-sense point of view. The reputation of his right hon. Friend depended to some extent upon the way in which the Act worked. What evidence was there, on the other hand, that any improper political motives had entered into the making of these appointments? It was suggested that his right hon. Friend had appointed more Liberals than Conservatives, and that the proportion was grossly unfair. Was it at all likely that his right hon. Friend would have allowed such a consideration to influence his mind? He had the strongest reasons for acting in a totally different spirit. If he had been foolish enough to do anything of that kind he must have known that the work in which he was engaged would have been known in the course of a month, and that his own political reputation must be sacrificed. Political objects 949 in making the appointments never once entered the mind of his right hon. Friend; but his only thought was how to get the best men. His right hon. Friend appointed a Committee to save time in the work of sifting every case. They did sift every case. He knew of his own personal knowledge that the object had been to ascertain who were the best men, and that no politics whatever had entered into the matter. It had been said that a great many more Liberals had been appointed than Conservatives. First of all, the statement rested entirely upon the assertion of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland). They had that statement, and they were asked to take it as evidence of an improper motive on the part of the President of the Board of Trade in making the appointments. In making the appointments his right hon. Friend was guided by the action of his Departmental Committee, whose Report was before the House. His right hon. Friend might have made these officials permanent officials, so that they could not be displaced when the other political Party came into power, but he had not done so; he had merely made temporary appointments, every one of which could be set aside if right hon. Gentlemen opposite came into power. Surely that was very strong evidence of the good faith of the right hon. Gentleman, and showed that he was really anxious to get the best men he could. The House had before them, under the hands of the Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman, a statement that they had recommended the men who appeared to them to be most fitted, and they had never concerned themselves about the politics of the applicants, and that in the vast majority of cases they knew nothing whatever about the politics of the candidates. That statement was signed by Mr. Giffen, Mr. Harding, Mr. Storeham, and Mr. John Smith. Was the House going to say that that statement was false? And if it was not false, was the mere statement of an hon. Member of that House to outweigh the statement made by the Members of the Departmental Committee and signed, in which these Gentlemen pledged themselves that politics had never entered into their consideration? Was that statement false?—because, if it was not false, 950 there could be no ground for an Inquiry. It was said that the majority of those who had been appointed were Liberals; but all the appointments were based upon a Report from public officials, and he challenged hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that those officials were not public servants of the highest honour and integrity. Some of them had been for many years in the Public Service, and they pledged themselves to the truth of the statement they had made. If that statement was true, there could be no ground for an Inquiry. There might have been a blunder, but, to the best of the knowledge of these gentlemen, they had selected the best men; at any rate, they had not allowed themselves to be actuated by political motives. If hon. Members pressed for an Inquiry they necessarily suggested that the statement made by these gentlemen was false, and in that way they cast the most serious imputation upon men who had been long in the Public Service, and who were men of as much honour and integrity as any Member of that House. So far as he could make out, no one had said that the appointments were improper or that there were better men in competition. What the charge amounted to was that so many Conservatives had been appointed against so many Liberals; but, unless the signed Report of the Departmental Committee was absolutely untrue, there was no ground whatever for saying that political considerations had entered into the appointments. It was impossible for the House to appoint a Committee without involving an accusation of that kind; and he asked them in all seriousness whether a primâ facie case had been made out? Had any Member ventured to say that any one of these appointments was an improper appointment? No such charge had been made, or was attempted to be substantiated. The real charge was this—that, although the best men might have been appointed, they were not Conservatives. That was what the case came to; and was that a ground for appointing a Committee of Inquiry? Hon. Gentlemen opposite admitted that they had no case; at any rate, they had not brought one forward. What they said was, there ought to be an Inquiry, because it was wrong to appoint men, even if they were the best men, if they happened to be Liberals. But, as he had pointed out, 951 there was a far more serious matter involved in the question than the mere appointment of a Committee of Inquiry—namely, the fact that a Committee could not be appointed without casting a serious imputation upon valuable public servants, two of whom were gentlemen exercising most important functions under the Bankruptcy Act—namely, the Chief Administrator in Bankruptcy, and the Chief Official Receiver in London. What was proposed by the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) was to upset all the valuable work they were doing, and to cast upon them the stigma that they had been influenced by improper motives. He submitted that he had made out a very much stronger case in the public interest against the appointment of this Committee than anything that had been made out in its favour.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he always listened with attention and interest to his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, especially when his hon. and learned Friend endeavoured to argue a question rather than to carry away the House by the mere force of declamation; but he would remind his hon. and learned Friend of a case that occurred before he (the Solicitor General) became a Member of that House, and in which he (Mr. Raikes) was personally concerned. Therefore, he could speak from positive recollection. The case he referred to occurred as far back as 1871 or 1872. It became his painful duty at that time to move for a Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of a Minister who was a Member of the last Liberal Administration with reference to certain proceedings in connection with his Department, and the Motion he made was at once seconded by the Minister himself whose conduct the House was invited to inquire into—at any rate, if he did not formally second it, he rose and said he was sorry that someone else had done so, because he had been anxious to have that opportunity himself. That was the way in which a Minister of that day met charges of this nature. What a change had come over them since. That night a Motion had been made for an inquiry into the conduct of the President of the Board of Trade in the administration of the powers conferred upon him by the Bankruptcy Act of last Session, and they had had speeches of great anima-952 tion, but not very much argument, from Gentlemen of the Long Robe who adorned the Treasury Bench. All of them deprecated the Motion; but he could not help being reminded of the words—Methinks the lady doth protest too much.He thought that hon. and learned Gentlemen who had seats on the Treasury Bench should confine themselves more to argumentative statements, and not appeal so much to the feelings of the House. His hon. and learned Friend (the Solicitor General) was of opinion that if any inquiry were granted a terrible slur or stigma would be cast upon three or four most respectable members of the Public Service. That was the gist of the argument of his hon. and learned Friend, and the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to draw the House aside from the responsibility which necessarily attached to the Head of the Department, in order to induce them to abstain from inquiry out of consideration for the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman's subordinates. He did not suppose that any Member on that side of the House would yield to his hon. and learned Friend in the respect he entertained for the gentlemen whose names had been mentioned; but, although they respected those gentleman, there was no particular reason why they should not inquire into the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman whose course of action in this matter was impugned. He thought they were going to hear something about another document which appeared in the public Press in close connection with that which had been referred to. He remembered reading that document with feelings almost of awe. It was a Minute of the Lords of the Council. He had always been accustomed to treat with proper respect a document emanating from so distinguished and so respectable a source, and he had seen occasionally the names of two or three distinguished Members of Her Majesty's Government placed at the head of such a document as having been present when those Minutes were being propounded. On that particular occasion he felt that the document which had emanated from the Council Chamber, and which bore the name of the right hon. Joseph Chamberlain, was one which deserved the consideration of the House and the 953 country. That document, however, did not have a place in the speech of the hon. and learned Solicitor General; but he thought it formed part of the question which would come under the consideration of the country and the House in connection with the matter raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham. He would advert for one moment to the result of the Motion which, 10 or 12 years ago, he ventured to make in that House for inquiry into the conduct of a Member of the Administration. As he had said, in the first instance, the Government met him with extreme willingness to grant that inquiry; in fact, he might say that the Gentleman who then managed the Business of the Government in that House came to consult him as to the persons who should form the Committee. But after the statement made on that occasion by the Minister into whose conduct the inquiry was asked for, he was desirous of withdrawing his Motion. The zeal, however, of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, always the depositories of purity, prevented his withdrawing the Motion he had propounded, and it was negatived by the House. Three days afterwards the Minister resigned. He thought this was a matter worthy of the attention of the House in connection with this subject, though he did not wish at that moment to refer more particularly to the Gentleman whose conduct was then the subject of the Motion for Inquiry. He thought, himself, that the speech which that Gentleman made in the House was a fair answer to the charge which he brought against him, and he was anxious to withdraw his Motion. He mentioned the subject to show how such questions were then dealt with by a Liberal Government. He had not heard the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham; but he had had the advantage of listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and he could not but think that if any speech were required to prove the case of the hon. Member for Evesham, that hon. Member's speech had made it absolutely necessary that a Committee should be appointed to investigate not only this subject, but the question of other appointments made by Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Northampton was the 954 enfant terrible of the Liberal Party—he said what he thought, and the House was always indebted to him for the light which he brought to bear on questions of this kind. He (Mr. Raikes) would not express an opinion upon the charges which it was sought to submit to a Committee of that House; but he was confident that if Her Majesty's Government could desire by any means, or in any way, to shake public confidence in the distribution of patronage by the Liberal Party, or in any way to expose themselves to attack as to the use they had had made of that patronage, they could not do so more effectually than by meeting this Motion with a direct negative. He had been in hope that a different answer would be forthcoming than that which had been given by the Law Officers of the Crown to the Motion of his hon. Friend. There was another point which deserved the attention of the House in connection with this subject—namely, that the Bankruptcy Bill, under which these appointments were made, came back to the House from the Standing Committee on the 13th of August last, and it was absolutely impossible to raise, at that time, a fair discussion as to whether it was desirable that the appointments should be vested in the President of the Board of Trade, or in any other person or persons enjoying official positions. Therefore the Government, by bringing in the Bankruptcy Bill late in the Session, in pressing it on the House and in securing its enactment in the last days of the Session, had assumed a responsibility for the measure which did not ordinarily attach to measures which were fairly debated in that House. The House of Commons had had no opportunity of discussing fully, fairly, and freely the propriety of these appointments being vested solely in the President of the Board of Trade, and, that being so, he should have thought that the President of the Board of Trade would not have acted unadvisedly had he himself moved for an inquiry as to how this patronage had been distributed. There had been a great deal of vain talk of imputations being cast upon Members of the Government in consequence of such a Motion as this being accepted by the House. But the Members of the Government were not made of sugar-candy, and they must be prepared to have their conduct 955 considered and discussed like other people. As he understood the Motion, his hon. Friend prejudged nothing; there was no assertion that any of the information which had reached him was matter of proof; and he only asked the House to take the opportunity which this Motion afforded of instituting an inquiry which he (Mr. Raikes) should be happy to find resulted in whitewashing the President of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he viewed this matter, more or less, from the standpoint of an outsider. Irish Members, of course, came to that House expecting a considerable amount of instruction; but what did they find? They found an Assembly of the first Gentlemen in Europe, members of a superior race, blackguarding one another with charges of venality and corruption. [Interruption.] Why, the President of the Board of Trade, in one of his recent speeches, was good enough to taunt Members of that House with using language tantamount to the employment in warfare of poisoned wells and explosive bullets. If he were the right hon. Gentleman, he should say that a Motion of this kind was a great deal worse than the so-called poisoned wells and explosive bullets said to be employed by Members from Ireland, because they had never charged the Members of the Government with corruption. If he voted with the Government it would be because he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had only been able to appoint 16 Conservatives. He only wished, with regard to Ireland, where nine-tenths of the population were Catholics and Nationalists, that out of 67 appointments even one had been given to a gentleman of the persuasion and politics of Irish Members on those Benches. He should tender the President of the Board of Trade the homage of his support on that occasion for the extraordinary liberality he had shown to the Tory Party. One hon. Member had said that it was extraordinary that all the talent of the country should he on the Liberal side. They were continually told that the Tory Party was the stupid Party. In saying that, he was only using the language of Englishmen; and when he contemplated the equation of talent as between Liberals and Conservatives, he 956 would say that the ratio was probably as 60 to 16. No one doubted for a moment that, if the Tory Party in that House had anything like common ability or leadership, the Members of the Government would not be occupying their present position. There could be no talent in the Tory Party, or its Leader would not have made a fool of himself in the North of Ireland. [Interruption.] He was not applying that term to anyone as a Member of that House; but he was entitled to express his opinion as to what went on outside the House. He believed this Motion was levelled at the President of the Board of Trade because he was the spokesman of the Radieal Party, and, further, that if he were not so outspoken this outcry would not have been made against him. Looking at the way in which the government of Ireland was conducted, and seeing that not a single Catholic had been appointed in that country, where nine-tenths of the people were Catholics and Nationalists, he congratulated the President of the Board of Trade on having made 16 Conservative appointments out of the 67 at his disposal, and for that reason he should vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Evesham.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 53: Majority 48.—(Div. List, No. 28.)
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.
§ SUPPLY,—Committee upon Monday next.