HC Deb 01 May 1884 vol 287 cc1061-2

I must ask the indulgence of the House while I refer to a matter which concerns my personal character and honour as a Member of this House. In the animated speech of the Prime Minister on Friday evening last, he charged me with having intentionally used the vowels A E I O U, in referring to the different heads of the Income Tax Schedule, instead of the letters A B C D and E, in order to avoid disclosing that my scheme of adjustment would effect a further burthening of Schedule A; because, on the previous day, I had secured the support of the landed interest in this House. He said he thought it would have been better had I used the five letters of the Schedule and not gone to the five vowels, "in order to obscure the operation of the plan." Now, Sir, I need hardly say that the imputation of purposely avoiding the disclosure of any of the consequences of my plan involves a charge of untruthfulness, hurtful to myself, offensive to my constituents, injurious to this House, of which I have the honour to be a Member, and damaging to the cause which I have espoused, and for which I have laboured, however imperfectly, with absolute truthfulness of purpose. I defer to a fitting opportunity the exposition of the fate of Schedule A; but I do not delay my appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to do me justice. He has known me and I have known him longer than any person in this House, and I ask him to withdraw unreservedly the charge he has made against me, which from his lips has proceeded to the five divisions of the globe, and which is altogether undeserved.


I am extremely sorry if my right hon. Friend thought that there dropped from me any words which could possibly constitute a charge against his veracity, and that no opportunity was given me, by his appeal to me at the time, of withdrawing any such words. I am glad to think that, at any rate, the charge could not have been a very obvious one, when it is now six days since the debate before he has made it the subject of complaint in the way of any public or other reference. If he had stated it to me in private, I would not have waited this appeal in the House, but would have myself stated to the House that I should regard, with the strongest disapprobation, the conduct of any man, and especially my own conduct, if I were capable of making any imputation on the veracity of the right hon. Gentleman. The utmost that I ever charged my right hon. Friend with, if I ever did charge him with anything, was this—that he had not made it his care to put forward into the most prominent position what I considered to be the real points of his case. I beg my right hon. Friend to accept from me the expression of great regret if I have used words conveying the impression he has described; for, in my opinion, there is no man in this House who less requires to defend his honesty, or his public or private character, in this or in anyother respect than my right hon. Friend himself, and most happy should I have been in private to lay this explanation before him instead of waiting for his appeal.