HC Deb 25 April 1887 vol 313 cc1801-3
MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I wish to ask the hon. Member for the Guild-ford Division of Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) a Question, of which I have given him private Notice—Whether he is correctly reported in The Manchester Courier of Saturday last, as having made a speech on the previous day at Blackburn, in which he used this language— There was one subject on which their opponents were exceedingly blind. He meant the letter of Mr. Parnell, which appeared in The Times. He was not going to mince language about that letter, and he said it was Mr. Parnell's letter.


In reply to the hon. Gentleman, I have to say that the expressions to which he has alluded are taken from a report which I have not with me, but which, of course, I accept as stated by him. I am under the impression that I did not use the exact words to which he refers. I used the expression—"I will not mince my words; I call it Mr. Parnell's letter." I gave my reasons for so calling it in the absence of any action taken to disprove it in a Court of Law. I believe, Sir, I was absolutely in Order. I should have been out of Order in this House in not accepting the explanation of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); but I believe that I should not be entitled outside the House to doubt the authenticity of what has appeared in The Times any more than the hon. Gentleman's statement in this House; and I would leave the designation of the letter which I gave, and which I believe to be the popular designation, to the judgment of the House and the country.


I wish to ask you a question, Sir, and if possible to procure your ruling on a matter which appears to me to be one of Privilege. You will observe that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey substantially adheres to his statement, and he calls the letter, "Mr. Parnell's letter." I recall to your memory the fact that last Monday, the hon. Member for the City of Cork, from his place in this House said that the letter was a villainous and barefaced forgery, and, further, that it was an audacious fabrication, and, he added, there— I certainly never heard of the letter; I never directed it to be written, and I never saw such a letter before I saw it in The Times this morning. What I wish to ask you, Sir, is this. On the 22nd of February last the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) called your attention to an article in The Times, imputing that certain Members associated with criminals, and asked you whether he would be in Order in moving a Resolution in refer-once to that language as a question of Privilege. In the course of your reply, you used these words— The Rule is that, when imputations are made, in order to raise a case of Privilege, the imputation must refer to the action of hon. Members in the discharge of their duties in the actual transaction of the Business of this House."—(3 Hansard, [311] 287.) In regard to that relation and to the circumstances of the speech of the hon. Member, it is clear that the hon. Member imputes deliberate falsehood to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork—falsehood uttered in the course of a speech delivered by him from his place in this House. I therefore ask you, Sir, whether, having regard to your previous ruling, the matter is not one which can be dealt with as one of Privilege?


It does not appear to me from what has passed that the speech of the hon. Gentleman amounts to a question of Privilege. I do not say that the hon. Gentleman is not fully entitled to take notice of it; but, as far as I can gather, the words in the speech of the hon. Gentleman did not refer to any action in this House. That was the limitation that I placed on the question of Privilege. I do not wish to extend my ruling, or to contract it; but I think no question of Privilege has arisen, and it does not appear to be a case which falls within my definition of Privilege.