HC Deb 26 April 1887 vol 314 cc14-7
MR. CAREW (Kildare, N.)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is true that, in a letter addressed to the Bournemouth Habitation of the Primrose League on Saturday last, he, through his Secretary, used the following words:— Mr. Smith feels the necessity of passing the Crimes Bill through its different stages as speedily as possible, so as to put an end to the tyranny and coercion of the loyal and peaceful peasants of Ireland by the National League, and to secure the punishment of these dastardly and cowardly assassins; and, whether he means to convey by this expression that there is a connection between the National League and assassination?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I have not seen the letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers; but I am, of course, responsible for the acts of my Secretary. He informs me that the letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers contained the reference to "dastardly and cowardly assassins," and that his reference to "dastardly and cowardly assassins" applied to those men who had been guilty of grave offences in Ireland against the peace of the country and against poor and unoffending persons.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

May I ask whether, seeing that the language of the letter is correctly quoted, it does establish direct relations between the League and dastardly and cowardly assassins? I wish, further, to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has any objection to address a fresh letter to the Bournemouth Habitation of the Primrose League for the purpose of removing the false impression under which they have been placed?


I am not prepared to accept the statement that this is an accurate representation of the letter of my Secretary. I have not seen the letter, but I shall take care to look at it.


I wish to ask another Question with reference to a statement in The Standard of this morning to the effect that a letter has been addressed to a Tiverton Conservative Working Men's Club in which the following words are used by the right hon. Gentleman:— The Government will resolutely carry its measure into effect in spite of the unconstitutional obstruction of the Gladstonians and the avowed enemies of England. I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that report is correct; and, if so, when such alleged unconstitutional obstruction as that complained of occurred? Also, who are "the avowed enemies of England "with whom he associates the Gladstonian Members in such obstruction; and, lastly, whether he, the Leader of this House, will in future take note at the time of what he deems to be obstruction before denouncing it to persons outside the House who have no knowledge of the facts?


The hon. and learned Member quotes a letter which he states to be my letter. I did not write the letter. It was written, no doubt, by one of my Secretaries.


The paragraph states that the letter was written by the right hon. Gentleman.


That is inaccurate, as a good many statements of that kind are inaccurate. [Cries of "The Times!"] I did not write the letter, and I have not seen the letter; but I am not prepared to say that the purport of the letter is that from which I desire to withdraw. I am entitled, Sir, as hon. Gentlemen are entitled, to have my own opinions as to the character and result of the proceedings in Parliament? and the discussions may, in my judgment, have arrived at a point where obstruction may have arisen from them. Whether it is unconstitutional obstruction or not depends entirely on the judgment of Parliament, the judgment of hon. Gentlemen who may express that opinion, and the judgment of hon. Gentlemen who differ from it; but I may say this for myself—that I think the Records of Parliament have seldom presented, if they have ever presented, a condition of affairs such as that at which we have now arrived, under which the Public Business of the country has been delayed and frustrated, and the public interests have suffered. Whether that be an unconstitutional obstruction or not is for the country and for the public to decide. I am asked whether the epithet about the "avowed enemies" of England is one which I am prepared to acknowledge. I do not wish, Sir, to apply epithets if it is possible to avoid them; but if hon. Gentlemen avow themselves to be the enemies of England, it is, I think, not altogether undesirable that that fact should have attention drawn to it. I am again asked whether, as Leader of the House, I will call atten- tion to obstruction when I deem it to be obstruction? I will as far as, in my judgment, it is wise and advisable to do so, and I shall seek to exercise the powers which, the House has put in the hands of Members of the House in order to prevent that obstruction; but I must have regard to the fact that, by repeatedly drawing attention to obstruction, I may be myself also contributing to that terrible evil which I am afraid threatens the Parliamentary institutions of this country.


The right hon. Gentleman has not given a direct answer to my second Question—Who are the avowed enemies of England? I will put it in another form, and I will ask him who are the Members of this House to whom he refers as having avowed themselves to be enemies of England?


Sir, I refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the columns of United Ireland. I have not wished to name hon. Members. [Cries of "Name, name!" and "No cowardly reserve!"] No; I will not do so. ["Oh!"]

An hon. MEMBER

We defy you to do so.


Order, order!


If the hon. and learned Gentleman refers to the pages of United Ireland and other Nationalist organs, I think he will find that I am justified in what I say.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury—


Order, order! Mr. De Lisle.

Mr. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)

, not being present.