§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG) (Wilts, Devizes)
I very much regret that it is my duty to invite the attention of the House for a few minutes to a question of Privilege. I regret very much to observe, unless I am mistaken, that the House is not honoured to-day by the presence of the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner). But that is no fault of mine, for on Friday evening, when I determined to take the course I have now adopted, I intimated to the 1168 hon. Member by a letter, which I have reason to know the hon. Member received, that it was my intention to bring this matter on to-day at 4.30; and, consequently, I naturally anticipated the hon. Member would show to the letter and to the House the courtesy of attending. I will endeavour to state, in as few words as I possibly can, what happened, and to put the House in possession of the facts which have led to my complaint. The House will remember that, after the last Division at the end of the Morning Sitting on Friday, the hon. Member for Mid Cork complained, I believe, that his vote had not been taken in the Division. I myself was not in the House; I was in the "Aye" Lobby finishing a letter. After finishing my letters, I passed through the House with the intention of posting them. On my way through the House I heard reference to the incident that had taken place immediately before in the Lobby; but I had no knowledge, direct or indirect, of that incident, or of what its nature had been, or of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I went on to the post office, and immediately opposite the post office I met the hon. Member face to face. Thoughtlessly as it may have been, I asked him what had taken place. Well, Sir, the hon. Member answered me in terms which, in my judgment, form ample and sufficient justification for the course which I have ventured to take on this occasion. In order that I might avoid any possible inaccuracy, and in order that my repetition to the Committee of what took place should be as correct as possible, I, very shortly after the occurrence, reduced to writing the words I heard the hon. Member use. I went further than that, in order that I should not trust solely to my own memory. I asked three people who were present, two of them being hon. Members of this House—namely the hon. Member for East Dorset (Mr. Bond) and the hon. Member for the Brentford Division of Middlesex (Mr. Bigwood)—to be good enough to look independently at what I had written down, and to tell me whether my account of the proceedings was accurate or not. They both assured me that it was absolutely accurate. Perhaps the House will agree with me that it is better that I should read the statement I wrote down within a compara- 1169 tively short time of the occurrence itself rather than that I should trust to a repetition from my own memory. I met the hon. Member, as I have already told the House, opposite the post office. I had no intention whatever of offering the hon. Member any offence, or of wounding his feelings, or of saying anything that would in any way hurt him.
§ MR. LONG
I addressed him civilly, as I have said. My remark may have been a thoughtless one, but I submit it was hardly one to warrant the remarks of the hon. Member. This is what I wrote down at the time—I said—"Did not something go wrong with you in the Division, Dr. Tanner; what was it?" His answer was—"You are one of the Tories, ain't you?" My reply was, "Yes, certainly." To that he replied, "Then, I wish to God you would not speak to me." [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Hear, hear!] "I have told you d—d Tories before not to speak to me. You have your own d—d lot, talk to them." To which I replied, "I beg your pardon, I was not aware that you did not wish to be spoken to;" to which he replied, "Well, I wish you would keep your d—d tongue in your lips, and not make a d—d fool of yourself." He then went to the centre of the Lobby, where he shouted, "That's a d—d snub for you." It will be for the House to decide whether the hon. Member's description of his language to me is a correct one or not. I desire, Sir, to make no further comment upon what took place; but I beg to assure the House that I addressed the hon. Member solely with the desire to know what had happened. I had no wish to wound his feelings or to irritate him in any way whatever, and I would remind the House that at the time I spoke to the hon. Member I was in complete ignorance of what had taken place within these walls. I have only to add that in bringing this very painful and disagreeable subject before the House I am actuated by no personal motives whatever. My natural inclination was to treat the language of the hon. Member with the contempt which in my opinion such language deserves. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Why did you not?]. But the incident took place in the presence not only of hon. Members 1170 of this House, but of very many strangers; and I felt—whether rightly or wrongly I do not pretend to say—that it was an offence against the House more than against a humble individual like myself. I have nothing else to do but to express my regret, and the great reluctance which I have felt in obtruding myself or these circumstances upon the attention of the House. I have only done so because I believe it to be my duty, and I have nothing to add but to submit the case as I have honestly, faithfully, and I believe truthfully, put it before the House for the consideration and arbitrament of the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am sure the House has heard with infinite regret the statement made by the hon. Member—
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) proceeds with such interruptions, the next time I have to speak it will be to present his name to the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sure, I repeat, the House has heard with infinite regret the statement made by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long). Whatever may be our differences in this House, we are, at least, united in one desire to maintain the order and the decorum of its proceedings, and to visit with severe censure any hon. Member who at any time is guilty of an offence against the House or against any other hon. Member. On former occasions the House has visited with severe censure disorderly conduct on the part of its Members in the Lobby of this House; and whatever opinions may be entertained as to the conduct of hon. Members in the House which you, Sir, would immediately notice, it appears to me that similar conduct in the precincts of the House is, at least, deserving of as severe censure as an offence committed within the House itself. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes has stated that this incident occurred in the presence of strangers and was noticed by strangers, and therefore we have the painful consciousness that strangers are made aware of the inability of hon. Members to restrain their conduct within those bounds which are consistent with the character of Members of Parlia- 1171 ment and of gentlemen. It appears to me that my only course, under the circumstances of thecase—the hon. Member for Mid Cork having had ample notice that complaint would be made of his conduct, and not having deemed it his duty to be in his place—is to move the Resolution which follows.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That in consequence of the disgraceful and insulting words addressed in the Lobby of the House on Friday evening last, by Dr. Tanner. Member for the Mid Division of the County of Cork, to an honourable Member of this House, Dr. Tanner be suspended from the Service of the House, and excluded from its precincts for a Month."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I think, Sir, that from the point of view of chivalry and of fair play, the present proceedings, if carried through successfully, will be scarcely less disgraceful to the House than any conduct which can be imputed to any Member of the House. I will make one observation upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). The right hon. Gentleman said it was necessary to maintain the order and decorum of the proceedings of the House. But, Sir, I think he indulged in rather an extension of the idea of Order in the proceedings of the House when he spoke of anything that may happen in the Lobby in the way of conversation between Members as being subject to an identical rule. It appears the incident related by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) occurred after you, Sir, had left the Chair on Friday evening and after the House had risen; and it also appears from the language of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) that he had repeatedly requested hon. Gentlemen who are Members of the Party opposite not personally to address him. [Laughter] Well, Sir, hon. Members of the House have different degrees of feeling and susceptibilities; and if my hon. Friend desires to be relieved from personal address by Members of the Conservative Party, I think it would be hardly contested he is entitled to that degree of seclusion. I submit that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) would certainly have done more wisely if he had refrained from addressing my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork at such a moment. You, Sir, were not in 1172 the Chair at the moment my hon. Friend complained on Friday evening that his vote had not been recorded; the complaint was made to the Chairman of Committees. My hon. Friend was in the Lobby at the time of the Division, and through some mischance, the nature of which I do not distinctly understand, my hon. Friend was not allowed to record his vote in that important Division. From his tone it was evident he felt his exclusion from the Division very deeply, and it is also evident from what occurred afterwards that he was very much excited in consequence of his exclusion. I suppose the House will generously and fairly agree with me that the moment at which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) addressed my hon. Friend was a moment at which my hon. Friend was labouring under some excitement of temper; but I do not believe the House will be inclined to take a strict or punitive view of any language which may have been used at that moment by my hon. Friend. Divested of certain expletives, which although they are in common use are not usual, I should hope, within this House or its precincts—divested of its expletives, which have no great weight or significance of their own, the language of my hon. Friend amounted simply to this—that he protested against the personal appeal made to him by the hon. Gentleman; that he informed the hon. Gentleman he had before requested Members of the Tory Party not to speak to him; that he reminded the hon. Gentleman he had friends to whom he could speak if he desired any information upon any of the proceedings of the House; and, finally, he regarded what he said as a snub to the hon. Gentleman. Now, taking out the adjective, the use of which I very much regret, I appeal to the House whether what happened concerned the order and decorum of the House, and whether the hon. Gentleman would not have consulted his own interests best by taking no notice of the matter? I think the House will serve its own interests and its relations with its Members most wisely by taking no notice of the affair. Upon the question of Notice to my hon. Friend, I think everyone will agree with me that a question of Privilege personally affecting an hon. Member ought not to be brought to the notice of the House unless prac- 1173 tical and adequate measures have been taken to give the hon. Member an opportunity of attending. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gent-Davis), who smiles in such a superior manner, questions what I lay down. How would he like—the Member for Kennington is it—how would he like it if any hon. Member, in his absence, brought his conduct before the House? How would he like it if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in his absence, moved that, in consequence of his disgraceful conduct, he ought to be expelled for a month. The hon. Gentleman, to the extent of his puny powers, would make the country ring about it. Now, what does the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) say? But before I come to what he says, let me ask him if this is not true—that he had no desire whatever to take any notice of the matter if another hon. Member who heard what happened had not thought it beneath him to play the part of a spy between two hon. Members of the House.
§ MR. LONG
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me a moment. I said nothing of the kind. I said that I had no desire to trouble the House with this as a personal matter, but that I brought it forward as one affecting the House. With reference to the hon. Gentleman's charge of eavesdropping, I do not know what it has relation to; but the Gentlemen who overheard the remark were the three hon. Members who were standing by my side at the time of the occurrence.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not refer to anything said by the hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was, I think, conceived in a spirit of good taste; but I think if he had been left to himself this matter would not have come under the notice of the House. Judging from what I have heard of him, either as a politician or as a Member of this House, I believe he would consider it beneath him to punish any Member in respect of such a business as this. What I was endeavouring to elicit is this—whether the hon. Gentleman has taken this action on his own initiative; whether the Motion which has been made to-day is due to the fact that the right hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet, and Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Colonel King-Har- 1174 man), happened to hear of this, and brought it to the notice of the authorities of the House in such a way as to force the hand of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long)?
§ MR. LONG
I have had no communication, direct or indirect, with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet Division of the County of Kent (Colonel King-Harman); and, so far as I know, he was not even aware, except through the ordinary channels open to all other Members of this House, of the action I proposed to take.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Member can only speak of what he was aware of himself. It is impossible for him to say what other Members may be aware of. How does he know that the other two Members referred to—the hon. Member for the Brentford Division of Middlesex and the hon. Member for East Dorset—may not have brought the matter to the notice of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet?
§ MR. SEXTON
There is a third hon. Member to be accounted for. I think it extremely unfortunate this matter has been brought on to-day. We heard the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Henry Holland) deprecate a Question on the Paper being asked, because he said it had an electioneering tendency, though he delivered a very electioneering reply himself. I say it is very unfair, upon the eve of important political contests in the country, that an attempt should be made to warp the minds and obscure the judgments of the electors of the country by a very petty and feeble attack upon an Irish Member. Now, has my hon. Friend (Dr. Tanner) received notice? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) has spoken very vaguely upon this point. He has informed the House that he addressed a letter to my hon. Friend on Friday evening. May I ask where that letter was addressed?
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, Sir, the conduct of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite goes far to explain at any rate, if it does not justify, the language of my hon. Friend. I certainly think he was perrfectly right, judging from the manner of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in requesting that they should not address him. Now, my hon. Friend had a public engagement in Ireland which it was impossible for him to forego. A convention of the electors of County Cork is to be held in Cork in the course of a day or two. My hon. Friend thought it necessary to leave London for Ireland on Saturday morning in order to attend that convention; and I must say frankly I do not blame him, if, comparing the relative importance of the engagements, he thought it more requisite in him to attend the convention in Cork than to await the pop gun charge of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long). I maintain that my hon. Friend, having made a public engagement with his constituents, did what any other Member of this House would have done—he kept that engagement. I lay down the principle, which, I believe, will meet with universal assent—namely, that every Member of this House charged with a Breach of Privilege, and threatened with suspension for a month, is entitled to ask that his action shall not be considered in his absence. I am sure that if any intimation is made by your authority, Sir, to him—my hon. Friend—who, whatever else he is, is not a shirker or a coward, will attend here on whatever day it may suit the pleasure and convenience of the House. That no action may be taken in the absence of my hon. Friend I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I do not wish to oppose the Motion for Adjournment without sufficient reason; but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will feel that he has not offered to the House a sufficient reason why the debate should be adjourned. I always regret when it appears necessary to make a charge against any individual. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has made a statement 1176 on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), and I must remark, in regard to that statement, that no expression of regret or of apology has been made to the House, or to the hon. Gentleman to whom the words complained of were addressed. No apology was made by the hon. Member for Mid Cork himself to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes, and no request has been made by the hon. Member for Mid Cork for delay. No intimation has been conveyed to the hon. Member for Devizes, or to the House, that there was a desire to have this debate adjourned; but now, after a Motion is made, the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton), who has certainly done his best for his hon. Friend, has suggested that the debate should be adjourned. The facts are admitted. [Cries of "No, no!"] They are not denied. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: They are.] Well, Sir, I contend that no denial whatever has been made to the House of the facts as stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am bound to say that whatever the position of any hon. Member of this House may be, if he has notice—ample notice, that his conduct will be brought up for the consideration of the House, and if he pays no regard whatever to that notice, but lets his private engagements, whatever they may be, however important they may be, carry him from the precincts of the House, and does not put into the mouth of any hon Friend an authorized statement of his case, the House would not be acting with proper regard for its own dignity, and with proper regard for the order of Business in this House, and for the decency which should be preserved in the House, if it failed to record its opinion of, and pronounce its judgment upon, such conduct.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I believe there are few cases on record—in fact, I think there is only one case—in which a personal altercation between two Members of this House—which has taken place, as I may say, outside the cognizance of the House, and not in reference to any question of the proceedings before the House at the time—has been brought foward by the aggrieved Member. I do not think a charge against 1177 an hon. Member has been substantiated in his absence; and I hold that no charge can be substantiated against any person in his absence, even if he be the worst of criminals. We have not heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) has to say, either in explanation, in palliation, or in defence. If it should be substantiated that my hon. Friend has addressed language of an improper character to any hon. Member, I should be among the first to deprecate any such language having been used, and, undoubtedly, to censure its user; and I should not think for a moment of attempting to defend such hon. Member in the use of any such language, or to stand between him and the judgment of the House. But the case is otherwise. We have had the statement of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) and his Friends, and while I do not wish to throw any doubt upon these statements, I must point out that we have not had the statement of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. Now, Sir, I was going to say that there are few cases on record where formal complaint has been made of the conduct of a Member in speaking in the heat of a personal altercation to another Member, and I believe there is no case on record of the House having taken any action in reference to the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) desires to suspend my hon. Friend for a month without giving him any opportunity whatever of saying anything in his defence. I humbly submit that the opportunity which was afforded to my hon. Friend of being heard to-day was not a sufficient one. My hon. Friend had signed a call for a convention of the seven Parliamentary Divisions of the County of Cork. He was joined in this solemn and responsible public act, having regard more especially to the circumstance of Ireland at the present time, by his six Colleagues in the representation of the County of Cork. It was necessary for him to proceed to Ireland in order that he might take counsel, and consult with the leading political personages in the County of Cork with reference to the conduct of the proceedings of this convention. I can only say that in my judgment the hon. Member would not have been justified in breaking this important engagement, or in doing 1178 anything which should prevent his action at that convention being effectual and responsible. If I had been in the place of the hon. Member, and had felt that it was necessary for the efficiency of my action at that convention that I should have been there, I should have felt myself compelled to go over to Ireland, and keep my prior engagement even in the face of such a Motion as that now made against him. But, Sir, I come to the question of fact—that no opportunity has been afforded by the House. I am not now speaking of the action of the hon. Member for Devizes, but of the action of the House—the House will bear in mind there is a distinction between the two points. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) saying that he intended to bring his conduct before the House to-day; but my hon. Friend, by reference to precedents, might easily have supposed—I am not in a position to say whether he did so suppose or not—that the House would not be in haste to take hostile action against him and deprive him of his vote, or of his power to act as a Member of the House, because on all previous occasions when the conduct of Members has been impugned, even in their presence, the House has always asked such Members for an explanation, and has always given them an opportunity of making such explanation as might seem fit. Therefore, it is not a question now of the responsibility of the hon. Member (Mr. Long) who has brought forward this matter, because that ceases where the House takes it up; and I contend that my hon. Friend (Dr. Tanner) has received no opportunity from this House of making that explanation to the House, which I certainly consider is called for from the hon. Gentleman, and possibly, or probably, of making that full apology to the House, which the House has always shown itself, in such circumstances, willing to accept from its Members. I urge upon the Government to consider whether they are acting in accordance with precedent, or in accordance with that generosity and forbearance which have always distinguished the House in its action in these matters, if they now proceed to pass judgment on my hon. Friend without having heard what he has to say in his own defence, or in palliation of his 1179 conduct, or without giving him an opportunity, if he admits the justice of the charge and the foundation for the charge, of making that full and ample apology to the House which will, undoubtedly, be required from him in such circumstances. I, therefore, beg to support the Motion for the adjournment of the debate which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I ought to apologize to the House for intruding myself upon its attention; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was not present during the early part of this debate, and, therefore, I who have heard it from the beginning may, perhaps, be permitted to offer a few observations. Let me say, in the first place, that in my opinion, nothing could be better or more appropriate than the manner in which the hon. Member for the Devizes Division of Wiltshire (Mr. Long) laid his case before the House. He stated it without heat of any kind, and he put the case not as a matter of insult to himself, but as of insult to the House; and, having given to the House the full particulars so far as he was aware of them, he submitted the case for the decision of the House itself. Now, Sir, I cannot but think that in a personal matter of this kind the House would be very reluctant to act, except with deliberation and with perfect certainty that the course proposed to be taken was the most appropriate one that could be taken. The House has not been in the habit of dealing with these questions in great haste. On the contrary, certainly since I have been in the House, the custom has been to decide a question of this kind very deliberately and in a judicial manner, and not to be carried away by the feeling which it cannot but have, that the language attributed to the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) was such language as ought not to be addressed to a Member of the House, either within the House itself or beyond the precincts of the House to which our Rules extend. The House ought also to consider this fact—namely, that when the hon. Member for Devizes spoke just now, he was not in possession of the reason why the hon. Member for Mid Cork was unable to be here to-day; but we have heard those reasons since from the hon. Member for 1180 Cork (Mr. Parnell). The hon. Gentleman explained very clearly that his hon. Friend had to be at Cork to-morrow in compliance with a public engagement of some standing, and that, therefore, it was not in his power to be present in his place to-day. Now, that being the case, and stated upon the responsibility of the hon. Member for Cork, I cannot but hope that in a personal matter of this kind the House will give the hon. Member an opportunity of explaining or apologizing for what he has said. No harm will be done to anyone by delay, and the honour of the House will not be violated. The House will stand just as well, whether it decides this question to-day or postpones it for a day or two. Let me remind the House what it is the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury proposes. The right hon. Gentleman proposes that for language which I can only say is language of a very grave character, and which ought not to be tolerated on the part of a Member of this House, this House should inflict on the hon. Member for Mid Cork a mere serious punishment than would be inflicted if the hon. Member were Named by you, Sir, from the Chair, and that his constituents should be deprived of his services in this House for a whole month. [Laughter.] I do not know why it should be considered a matter for laughter that an hon. Member's constituents should be deprived of his services for four times as long a period than if he were Named for improper language from the Chair. This is, therefore, a very serious proposal, and I appeal to the House, whose generous consideration of faults committed against itself has been so long recognized, not to rush suddenly to a decision on this matter, but to give the hon. Member the necessary time to return to his place in the House to make an explanation as to what he said. If that explanation should be unsatisfactory, I shall not have a word to say. It is perfectly impossible for the House to tolerate such language as that which has been described by the hon. Member, whether used in the House or outside of it within its precincts, where a Member is responsible to the House for having used it. But it must be remembered that the hon. Member for Devizes himself was obliged to say that he doubted—I forget the exact 1181 words—whether he had been wise in speaking to the hon. Member for Mid Cork, and in using the light sentence which he spoke to him in the Lobby. I need not say that this, to my mind, would afford no apology for the language alleged to have been uttered. On the other hand, I repeat that the House is generous in respect of faults committed against itself, and has not been in the habit of adopting violently and suddenly a decision in these cases. Above all, the House has always had an explanation from the hon. Member whose conduct in a matter of this kind is impugned before arriving at its decision. Therefore, before arriving at a decision, I would appeal to the House—I would appeal to the Government itself, and especially to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—to allow this question to be adjourned, not for an unreasonably long time, but until the hon. Member is able to attend, and to offer an explanation and submit himself to the judgment of the House. When he does so, I have no doubt that right will be done; but, in the meantime, I would ask that he should have the indulgence of the House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I think that the House ought just to consider the position in which it is now placed—not only its position in reference to what happened last Friday, for it is impossible to shut one's eyes to what has gone on before in the present Session, and what stands upon the Records of this House. But it is not for that reason that I intrude upon the House. I will show the House, in one moment, that the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) knew, in the most distinct manner, that at half-past 4 o'clock today this matter would be brought before the notice of the House; and yet he has not made the slightest communication, either through a friendly Member, or by letter, or even by telegraph, asking that the matter may be adjourned, or giving the slightest explanation. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), who said everything he could in the painful circumstances in which he was placed, stated honestly and candidly that he had had no communication of any kind with the hon. Member for Mid Cork. In fact, as the matter stands, 1182 apparently no communication has been made to anyone who is authorized to represent the hon. Member for Mid Cork, or to state how the matter stands in reference to him. The hon. Member for Devizes has handed to me the letter which was addressed to the hon. Member for Mid Cork, and delivered to him by a messenger of this House. That was on Friday night, and the letter was in these terms—
§ "Sir,—I beg to give you notice that I intend, at half-past 4 o'clock p.m. on Monday next, to call the attention of the House to your conduct in the Lobby this evening."
§ "W. H. LONG.
§ "C. K. Tanner, Esq., M. P."
§ That letter, which was signed by the hon. Member for Devizes, was put into an envelope, addressed to C. K. Tanner, Esq., M.P., and handed to a messenger of this House, and it was sent back by the messenger from the hon. Member for Mid Cork without a single word of acknowledgment, the letter simply having been opened, and put into au envelope, and returned. Now, I ask the House to consider the position in which it is placed. Nobody denies that language of this kind is likely to promote disorder. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has not said anything to justify or palliate the language used; and I am sure that no Member in any part of the House would say anything in its defence. But it does seem somewhat strange that when a charge of this kind is made in a plain, straightforward statement as to time and place, and when the House is asked to deal with the matter, it should be expected to pass lightly over the fact that the hon. Member for Mid Cork is not only not in his place to meet it, but has not made any communication whatever on the subject to the hon. Member for Devizes, or to any of his own hon. Friends, in reference to an adjournment. It was only after this Motion was made that there was any suggestion that the hon. Member for Mid Cork could not be here. I speak with great deference; but I think it is due to the dignity of the House, if not due to my hon. Friend, that when a serious charge of this kind was—as the hon. Member for Mid Cork know from the distinct notice that he had—about to be made, some explanation should have been given. The hon. Member for Mid 1183 Cork knew very well, from what had passed, to what the letter referred. We have heard something about the cause of his absence, and I am quite sure that the hon. Member for West Belfast told us exactly what he knew as to the cause; but it is very unsatisfactory to the House that there should be no communication from the hon. Member for Mid Cork by letter, or telegraph, or by a friend asking for a postponement of the matter. I think the House should be very jealous indeed of such language used by an hon. Member within the precincts of the House. As has been pointed out, no distinction can be drawn between the House and the Lobby, except in regard to the way in which the language is brought to the notice of the House. If it be used in the House, you, Mr. Speaker, would take immediate notice of it; if it be used in the Lobby, you cannot take judicial notice of it, but your attention has to be drawn to it. Of course, the House will do what it thinks right in the matter. I have only put the facts before it, leaving it to form its own conclusion as to whether, under the circumstances, there ought to be an adjournment. Whether any explanation, apology, excuse, or withdrawal was intended to be made, at least it was due to the House that there should be some formal communication made to it on the authority of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, and that the hon. Member should not have left his friends—who have certainly done the best they could for him—to make, without instructions or authority, an explanation which may or may not be endorsed by him.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I can assure the House that if I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) that it would be wise to adjourn this debate, it is not through under-estimating the importance of the matter before us, but because I think it is one of a very grave character. But, before I go further, I wish to advert to the statement with which, somewhat to my surprise, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General commenced his speech. I have no wish to complain of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but we look on the Law Officers of the Crown to guide the House in acting judicially, and I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that this 1184 transaction could not be properly considered without reference to former transactions—that is to say, that this very grave complaint was apparently to be the subject of some prejudice and adverse presumption on account of matters which had taken place on some former occasion, and that on that account—I do not say it was said, but it was inferred—the hon. Member for Mid Cork is to stand in the position of one who is to be presumed guilty before he is heard, and that this question is to be entered upon with some prejudice.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Will the right hon. Gentleman pardon me if I say that I had not the smallest intention of prejudicing the case? What I meant was simply to say that from what has passed in this Session it could not be taken as an isolated case. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Sir, I rise to Order. I ask you, in the first place, whether this interruption is in order; and, secondly, whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is addressing himself to the Question before the House—namely, that of adjournment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is quite true that it is difficult to distinguish between reasons for the Motion and reasons against the adjournment; but, unquestionably, it is to the Motion for Adjournment that remarks ought to be strictly confined.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. and learned Gentleman is going, apparently, to commit a breach of the Rules of the House in regard to references to past debates in the present Session.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not know what the hon. and learned Member is going to say, and therefore I cannot say whether he is out of Order or not.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
If I am at all out of Order one word from you, Sir, will induce me, of course, to refrain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) asked me to explain or withdraw a statement I had made. I am simply going to read from the report in Hansard what has happened this Session in reference to the conduct of the hon. Member for Mid Cork.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must say that the question as between the hon. Member for Mid Cork and the hon. Member for Devizes is one which stands upon its own merits. Anything that has passed on any previous occasion in reference to the conduct of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Cork must entirely be kept out of the question, and should have no influence in guiding the action of the House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I have not a word more to say on that point. My contention would have been to the effect that the question must stand by itself, and be judged upon its own merits. Looking at it from that point of view, I think that what has been said by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) is quite true. I did not enter the House until the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast was addressing the House; but I think I have fairly collected the merits of the question in regard to the issue now before us. What I would venture to put very strongly to the Government is this—that it is extremely unfortunate if in any given place—especially a ease of a grave character, a personal character, and a judicial character—it is extremely unfortunate if when probably or possibly there is no difference of opinion on the merits of the case, and when a harmonious judgment may possibly be given by the majority of the House—it is extremely unfortunate if any course is taken which tends to produce out-of-doors, either on this side of the Channel or in Ireland, an impression that there has been anything unfair done. I am not at all inclined to take a lenient view of a complaint such as that which has been made by the hon. Member for Devizes. I entirely accede to what has been said as to the propriety of the matter being laid before the House by him; and the manner in which that painful office has been performed by him may well stand on the acknowledgments already made. But, for the present, I think it would be a mistake to assume in any respect the absolute culpability of the hon. Member for Mid Cork; but this I say, that if he cannot shake the base of the statement of an offence of that kind the offence is a very grave offence. With that very grave offence it is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury at once to deal; and I own, 1186 though I think it a very grave offence, yet I could have wished for some little opportunity for consideration as to the measure of the punishment to be inflicted, because, Sir, we have means provided for judging of these matters in the punishment now inflicted by the House when there is distinct and contumacious resistance by a Member of the House to the judgment of the House, and to the authority of the Chair. I apprehend, Sir, I am right in saying that you never name a Member until, in your judgment, contumacious resistance has been offered to the authority of the Chair. I am also, I apprehend, right in saying that one week is the term during which for the first offence the Member is subjected to disability. That is the amount of punishment it is usual to give. I feel it difficult to decide at a moment's notice on a matter of this kind. I cannot tell whether there are palliating and excusatory circumstances as between one Member and another; but it is proposed for the first offence—[An hon. MEMBER: It is not a first offence.]—to give four times more punishment than is given for contumacious resistance to the authority of the Chair. I do not complain of the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. I am quite sure he has done no more than what he thought to be his duty. I wished to say those few words as to the amount and proportion of punishment. One word more upon the absence of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I must say that, unless the circumstances stated by the hon. and learned Attorney General can be met by some adequate explanation, they distinctly form a very serious aggravation of the original offence, supposing the original offence to be established. About that I feel there can be no doubt whatever, and it is, therefore, that I say in all likelihood it may be found—and I have nothing more to say than what has fallen from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)—it may be found that we all take substantially the same view on this question. The original question has possibly been complicated and aggravated by the absence of the hon. Member for Mid Cork from the House; but all the more because it has been so complicated, and because there is an aggravation of the original offence, I hold it is most desirable on every ground that we 1187 should know the whole case before we decide, and have the hon. Member present before we arrive at our sentence. If there is any question of undue delay in his appearance here, and if it is thought that the authority of the House ought to be exercised in order to secure his speedy attendance, I cannot conceive the slightest objection. I do not enter upon that at the present moment. Probably we may hear from some Gentleman who is personally acquainted with the hon. Member for Mid Cork when the hon. Member is certain to be in his place. That is a question which ought to be considered, perhaps, after the adjournment, if the adjournment is conceded; but I do put it on every ground of policy, propriety, equity, and on every question connected with the dignity of this House—and it is most important that this House should act as a body—I do put it that the right hon. Gentleman would exercise a wise discretion if he consents to allow a reasonable time to elapse before calling on us to give judgment in this case?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
After the appeal which has been made to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), I think it would be fitting that I should agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for West Belfast for the adjournment of the debate. I have no desire, in a case of this kind at all events, to secure the triumph of a majority. I thoroughly reciprocate the feelings expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that the judgment of the House should, if possible, be as nearly unanimous as it can be. An offence has been charged against the hon. Member. The offence charged is an offence against the House, not against an individual Member, nor against a Party, but it is an offence against the House itself; therefore, it is most desirable on every ground that as nearly as possible the unanimous feeling of the House should be given in dealing with so grave and serious a question. I, therefore, consent to the adjournment of the debate, but I will follow with the Motion—"That Dr. Tanner do attend in his place at half-past 4 on Thursday next." I think that would afford ample time.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I claim the indulgence of the House for a moment. I have not one word to say in defence of the hon. Mem- 1188 ber for Mid Cork; but it will be in your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that I brought under your notice some time ago a matter of a somewhat similar character, in so far as it affected the Privileges of this House, and one which I considered to be of considerable importance. Upon that occasion, Sir, you informed me that as the circumstances to which I desired to refer had not occurred within the House, it was not a matter of which the House could take cognizance. Under these circumstances I hope the House will refuse to entertain any Motion in regard to this matter. In my opinion a much more serious breach of the Privileges of this House occurred in the Lobby after I had brought forward a Motion some time ago relating to the Corporation of the City of London. You will probably remember, Sir, that on that occasion you asked me—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the Motion before the House is a Motion for the adjournment of the debate; but the hon. Member is entering into another matter altogether.
§ MR. HOWELL
Then I will only urge on the Government not to proceed with the matter further. After the manner in which the subject has been brought under the notice of the House, I feel persuaded that it would not be consulting the dignity of the House to pass a Resolution upon the matter. I think the House would consult its dignity very much more if it would pass away from the subject altogether.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have now to move—That Dr. Tanner, Member for the Mid Division of the County of Cork, do attend in his place on Thursday next at half-past Four o'clock.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I see no reason for objecting to that Motion, which is only a just and reasonable one.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That Dr. Tanner, Member for the Mid Division of the County of Cork, do attend in his place on Thursday next, at half-past Four o'clock.
§ The following is the Entry in the Votes:—
§ Complaint made to the House by Mr. Long, Member for the Devizes Division of Wiltshire, 1189 of offensive expressions addressed to him in the Lobby by Dr. Tanner, Member for the Mid-Division of the County of Cork:—
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in consequence of the disgraceful and insulting words addressed in the Lobby of the House on Friday evening last, by Dr. Tanner, Member for the Mid-Division of the County of Cork, to an honourable Member of this House, Dr. Tanner be suspended from the Service of the House, and excluded from its precincts for a Month:"—(Mr. William Henry Smith:)—Debate arising;
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Sexton,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.
§ Ordered, That Dr. Tanner, Member for the Mid Division of the County of Cork, do attend in his place on Thursday next, at half-past Four o'clock.—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)