HC Deb 26 February 1886 vol 302 cc1386-9

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether it is true, as reported in The Morning Post of the 25th instant, that he and the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department were present at a banquet to the labour representatives in Parliament, given at the Criterion Restaurant on the 24th instant, at which the health of Her Gracious Majesty the Queen was received with "hissing, which was received with greater vehemence when about one-third of the company rose to honour the toast;" and, if true, whether he and the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, being Members of Her Majesty's Government, remained in the room without protesting against such disgraceful and disloyal exhibition? Before the hon. and learned Gentleman answers the Question, I beg leave to ask the following Question on the same point, of which I have given him private Notice:—Whether he has read the following account of the dinner in question which appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette, on the 25th instant, and whether he will say that such account is untrue:— Lord Hobhouse rose again, and in the good old-fashioned way began—'There is one toast, gentlemen, which in every assembly of English men'——when he was stopped by a distinct outburst of dissent. He proceeded, however, to say that Her Majesty's care for her subjects, and her faithful and unremitting attention to the duties of her exalted position, entitled her to the respect and affection of Englishmen everywhere. This was accompanied by a running fire of hisses and expostulatory cries of 'No;' and when the toast was drunk, quite a number of those present remained seated, and the hisses were both lound and long? And I beg further to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman—and I am sure he will excuse me for not having given Notice—Whether he has read the letter which appeared in The Times, signed by Oswald J. Simon, son of a well-known Member of Parliament, who was present at the dinner, and who says that the hissing was loud and long, and that whole tables remained seated while the toast was being drunk?


When the hon. Member last night gave Notice of this Question, he proposed to put it to the Under Secretary for the Home Department, but, learning that my name was coupled with the Question, I represented to the hon. Member that if he desired to call in question my conduct, a Question ought to be addressed to me, so that I might have the opportunity of answering it. I have to thank the hon. Member for recognizing the propriety of the course which I suggested. I shall answer the Question he puts to me categorically. It is true that I was a guest at the banquet given on the 25th instant, at the Criterion, to celebrate the return to this House of 12 hon. Gentlemen, who are described frequently as direct representatives of labour, all of whom I believe sit on this side of the House. I was there as a guest, invited as such before I was offered the position I have now the honour to fill. I wish to state most distinctly, in spite of the statements which the hon. Member has read, I did not upon that occasion hear any hissing whatever. I wish to call the attention of the House to one or two remarkable circumstances in connection with this matter. I am sorry to be obliged to admit, from the statements made to me by hon. Members whom I have questioned, that undoubtedly there was—I greatly regret it—some hissing. It was partial, not general, and not such as to call any general attention to it. I had previously not read any of the morning papers in connection with this matter; but I find that only one morning paper—one supposed to represent the views of hon. Members opposite—The Morning Post, contained the statement that hissing took place on the proposal of the health of the Queen. I find that while the proceedings were reported in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Standard, Daily News, Daily Chronicle, and Echo, no reference is made in any of these papers to any hissing, from which I may fairly ask the House to assume that it must have been very partial and confined to a very limited portion of the company, which numbered some 200 or 300. When this Question was put to me, I at once communicated with Lord Hobhouse, who presided on the occasion, and next to whom I was sitting, and he has assured me that he heard no hissing whatever. Since I came into the House to-day, the hon. Member for Burnley, who was sitting on the other side of the Chairman, and not far from him, has also assured me that he heard none. [Mr. RYLANDS: Hear, hear!] That being the state of the case, I hope I have made out to the satisfaction of the House that the statements referred to have been grossly exaggerated. The hon. Gentleman also asks whether I have read the account in the Pall Mall Gazette. Having received Notice of this Question, I did read the account in The Pall Mall Gazette, and I will say of it that it does not purport to be an ordinary, dry, and historical account, so to speak, of the proceedings, but partakes of a highly sensational character. And I have no hesitation in saying that, judging by my own observation, it has been greatly exaggerated, and does not truly represent what occurred on this occasion. I hope that the House will think that I have fully and satisfactorily answered the Questions.