§ Order read for the Attendance of Dr. Tanner, and Dr. Tanner being in his place:—
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [18th July],
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.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.1632
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Co. Mid.)
Sir, in the first place, in rising to make my explanation of the unfortunate occurrence which took place on last Friday evening, I must express my deep regret that this House has been put to such inconvenience in connection with this matter. I also still further express my regret that a highly estimable officer of this House has been put to the inconvenience at this season of the year of undertaking along journey of about 1,000 miles to let me know the wish of this House that I present myself here this afternoon. I can assure you, Sir, and the House that directly I became aware of the fact that notice was to be taken of the incident on Friday, and that it was to be brought before the House, I then and there determined without any delay to present myself before the House and to acquaint them with my version of what occurred. Now, Sir, I understand that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) in making his complaint in connection with this incident said that he committed his recollection of it to writing, and with the permission of the House, as I have done the same, I will read what I have written as my recollection of the occurrence. On Friday evening, Sir, in connection with the second vote for the Motion for the closure, after I had complained that my vote was not recorded, I considered that I was jeered at from the opposite side of the House, and at the adjournment which then took place I was addressed on the subject of the mistake that I had made while walking down the floor of the House by a Member of the Conservative Party under circumstances which annoyed me considerably. I had never spoken to the Gentleman in my life and I did not know his name. When, therefore, I reached the Lobby, I was again accosted at the Post Office by another hon. Gentleman, whom I also did not know, in a tone and manner which I considered— however it may have been intended— was an attempt to throw ridicule on me on the part of Members acting, as I had supposed, in concert. I heard before this Gentleman accosted me the tittering going on behind me, and then this Gentleman, the hon. Member for Devizes, advanced and said to me "That was a nice sell you got." I said "Who are you? I have not addressed you. Are you a Tory?" He gave a sneering laugh 1633 and said "Certainly." I rejoined "I wish you to know that I do not want to be addressed by any of your d—d lot." I deny, Sir, having used any of the further expletives on the occasion in question which have been attributed to me by the hon. Member. The hon. Member for West Donegal was present at the time, and can also state what occurred. It is true that I spoke in haste, and the incident would never have arisen but that I considered that I had been twice importuned on a subject with regard to which I was smarting from annoyance at the moment by hostile Members whom I do not know, and who I considered ought to have abstained from addressing in private Members of a Party whom they constantly denounce in public. Sir, I regret very much what has occurred for my own sake as well as on account of the House; and I can only gay that, but for the fact that I regarded the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) and his Friends as aggressors, I should not have used the expression complained of. Finally, it remains for me to withdraw that portion of my language which was indecorous and improper, and also to express to the House my regret for having used it.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG) (Wilts, Devizes)
I am aware, Sir, that I can only now address the House by the indulgence of the House, as I have already spoken in the debate. But I trust I shall be allowed to say a few words in answer to the explanation just made by the hon. Member—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member; but I submit to you, Sir, that the hon. Member for Mid Cork ought in fairness to be allowed to be present to hear any reiteration of the charge made against him by the hon. Member for Devizes; otherwise he will be placed at a great disadvantage.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If it be the general wish of the House, I see no objection to the hon. Member for Mid Cork being present.
§ MR. LONG
I am very glad that the hon. and learned Member for Longford suggested that the hon. Member for Mid Cork should be in attendance. I have but very few words to add to those which I spoke in this House the other day. I have to deny absolutely that I used the word "sell," or any other words than those which I stated to the House when I addressed it on Monday. With reference to the hon. Member for Mid Cork's statement that the incident concluded with the first remark, I have only to repeat—
§ MR. LONG
I adhere to the statement that I made to the House last Monday, which I believe now, as I said then, to be absolutely and literally correct. I deny the statement that I used the word "sell," or that by word or manner I gave the hon. Member for Mid Cork cause for offence; and although I regret that it has been necessary in this House or anywhere else to call upon anybody to pledge for my statement, I am compelled to ask those hon. Gentlemen who were present at the time, two of whom heard everything that passed from the beginning to the end, my hon. Friend the Member for the Brentford Division of Middlesex (Mr. Bigwood), the hon. Member for East Dorset (Mr. Bond), and the hon. Member for the Tyne-side Division (Mr. W. B. Beaumont). I will ask them to say to the House whether or no my account of what took place is accurate. I have nothing beyond that to add to what I have already addressed to the House.
§ MR. BIGWOOD (Middlesex, Brentford)
As my name has been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Devizes Division, I think it well to explain to the House what occurred on the occasion in question so far as I am aware. I passed, immediately after the Division, into the Lobby, and was standing near the Post Office, when the hon. Member for Devizes came up, passed me, and spoke to the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I had, therefore, an opportunity of hearing all that was said, and I certainly do not remember the use of the word "sell" in connection with the conversation. 1635 The conversation as reported to the House seems to be particularly accurate, and why I know it is accurate is that the language affected me at the time so much that I proceeded to write down the words myself.
§ An hon. MEMBER: It is a plot.
§ MR. BIGWOOD
When the hon. Member for Devizes read the words to me I looked at what I had taken down, and I found that they corresponded exactly. The hon. Member for Devizes has been particularly accurate in the statement given to the House; but he has not made, perhaps, so much as he might have made of it. He has not alluded to the very offensive manner in which the words were spoken. I may inform the House that the impression I had when the conversation commenced was that the hon. Member for Devizes was officially inquiring into the mistake; for it will be in the recollection of those who were in the House that the hon. Member for Mid Cork particularly asked the question what was to be done; and it occurred to me—not recognizing for the instant the hon. Member for Devizes—that he was making an official inquiry. That must remove from the minds of hon. Members the idea that there was any conversation of a bantering description or of a light character. The conversation was almost word for word such as has been stated, and I must say that I do not recollect the use of any such word as "sell" during the conversation. [An hon, MEMBER: Read.] I have nothing to read. Perhaps, as a proof of the assertion I make, I may say that in a copy of The Birmingham, Daily Mail there appears a statement very much of the same character as that I make—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. Gentleman refers to what appears in The Birmingham Daily Mail. May I ask him whether he is not himself the correspondent who supplied it?
§ MR. BIGWOOD
Certainly not. I was not under the impression that those words would be seen in print. I certainly conveyed to a gentleman in the outer Lobby the fact that I was extremely indignant at what I had heard, and that I thought it was the duty of some per- 1636 son to bring forward such conduct to the notice of the House of Commons.
§ MR. BIGWOOD
I thought for the honour of this House that language of that sort ought to be brought forward, because, being spoken in the presence of strangers, I deemed it to be a very grave offence against the dignity of the House.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned that he took a note of the conversation, I think the hon. Member should be asked to read it.
§ MR. BOND (Dorset, E.)
Having been in company with the hon. Member for Devizes on the occasion referred to, I most distinctly say—and I left the House with him and was in his company during the whole incident—that the words imputed by the hon. Member for Mid Cork to the hon. Member for Devizes were not used. I must say, further, that the manner of the hon. Member for Devizes was such as could not have caused the slightest irritation to the hon. Member for Mid Cork. His manner was most courteous, and I may also say that the hon. Member for Mid Cork was at the time, I think, reading a letter, and upon being addressed by the hon. Member for Devizes he looked up with a smiling countenance. When he asked the hon. Member for Devizes whether he was a Tory, I thought it was done in joke. I must say that the hon. Member for Devizes has given a fair and impartial statement of the case, and all I can add is that I most heartily endorse every word he said.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
I, Sir, am under the disadvantage of not having on the spot committed to writing what took place, and must, therefore, trust to my memory. I was in the House at the time when my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork asked the Chairman of Committees with regard to his vote—"What was to be done?" He and I walked out of that door together. Behind us I distinctly heard tittering and jeering, as if hon. Members were making fun for themselves at the expense of my hon. Friend. In the centre of the Lobby an hon. Gentleman, I think—for my vision is rather imperfect—the Member for Devizes, said—"What is this nice 1637 sell you have got into, Dr. Tanner? At this time my hon. Friend was considerably chagrined with regard to his vote, and the conversation he had with me was as to how the mistake he had fallen into could be remedied. I considered that he was unnecessarily worrying himself in the matter; but it was evident to any person that he had taken it very seriously to heart. In the centre of the Lobby the words I have quoted were used, and my hon. Friend turned round and said—"I have not addressed you; I do not know who you are. Are you a Tory?—perhaps you are a Tory," or something like that. There was a laughing reply given in the affirmative. Of the words my hon. Friend used my recollection is quite as distinct as that of any hon. Member who has spoken. The words he used were—"I wish you to know that I do not desire to address or to be addressed by you, or by any of your d—d lot," or d—d something, or words to that effect. When he went away, I remonstrated with my hon. Friend on the heat he had displayed, and he said—" Why on earth do not they mind their own business?" That is what I can bear testimony to, and, though not having committed the matter to writing, that is the evidence I should give if I were placed in the witness-box.
§ MR. W. B. BEAUMONT (Northumberland, Tyneside)
I have been appealed to to say a few words. In the first place, I cannot help expressing my regret, which I think must be shared in generally, that my hon. Relative (Mr. Long) did not adhere to the determination he expressed to me at the termination of this unfortunate incident, and that was to let the matter drop. But, Sir, be that as it may, having been appealed to, I am bound to speak, and I will tell, to the best of my recollection, exactly what occurred. I was posting a letter, and I heard a considerable noise, the hon. Member for Mid Cork using language which he has himself described. I turned to my hon. Relative, and I said, "What is this?" And he said, "There is chaff going on." I will not be certain that he used the words "going on;" but I am perfectly certain that he used the word "chaff," and that word appeared to convey something beyond that which has been mentioned in the House. Having said that, I do not think that I 1638 am able to throw any more light on the subject.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
I think it is time the House should ask itself whether this matter ought not now to close? The hon. Member for Mid Cork has, I think, apologized to the hon. Member for Devizes for the language which he used, and we all know that he is of an excitable nature.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I was under the impression that the hon. Baronet was about to give some evidence on the actual facts. I only intervene because I think it proper that the hon. Member for Mid Cork should now withdraw.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID
It is our experience that men in the excitement of the moment use language they afterwards regret. Over and over again it has been ruled that language used outside the House ought not to be discussed in this House, it being resolved by some hon. Members, as I was told just now, to give as good as they got, as the homely phrase is, rather than to trouble the House. I think I have a right to speak, as I have been addressed by the hon. Member for Mid Cork in language which I considered most unsuitable. Knowing something of the excitable character of the hon. Member, I thought it would be useless and unnecessary to trouble the House with the matter. Now. Sir, I would suggest to the hon. Member for Devizes opposite, whom everyone knows to be of a kindly and courteous disposition, that in the interests of the House he should drop this subject, and that the House should go to the next Business. This would be far better than to occupy more valuable time in discussing an incident which every hon. Member in the House must deplore. I think the House will agree with me that the use of strong language does not add to the force of one's observations, for it shows lack of temper and judgment. In the little controversy I had with the hon. Member I did not use any strong language at all, and yet I think I got the best of it. I think it would be well if hon. Members remembered the excitable temper of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, and came to the conclusion that it is not worth while to bring the hon. Member's language in the Lobbies 1639 to the notice of the House. I hope that the First Lord of the Treasury will now allow the matter to drop.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I know, Sir, it is only by the indulgence of the House, as I have already spoken, that I can be allowed to speak again; but I regret that I am not able to take the view which the hon. Baronet (Sir Julian Goldsmid) takes upon the conditions which should exist in the Lobby. I understand him to take the view that strong language—as he calls it—may be used in the Lobby, and that hon. Gentlemen should take no notice of it. Well, I am afraid that if that view were sanctioned by the House we should be exposed to incidents that would throw great discredit on this House. It is obviously impossible that this House should refuse to extend its jurisdiction to language spoken and acts done within the precincts of the House, though not in the House itself. If so, hon. Gentlemen who considered themselves insulted might take the remedy into their own hands, and we might have very disgraceful scenes within the precincts of the House. Unless the House is prepared to recognize a principle which it has never yet sanctioned, the House must insure that order and decency are maintained in the Lobby as well as in the House. I have listened with care to the statement of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. He has called in question the accuracy of the statement of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long), although that statement is sustained and corroborated by the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Bigwood) and the hon. Member for East Dorset (Mr. Bond). The attributing of falsehood to the hon. Member for Devizes, thus corroborated, is an aggravation of the original offence.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I wish, as a point of Order, to ask you, Sir, whether, with regard to the statement of the hon. Member for West Donegal (Mr. O'Hea), who corroborated the statement of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, it is in Order to speak of that as an imputation of falsehood? The statement—
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I think it will be more convenient if the hon. and learned Member waits until I have concluded, and then corrects any statement I may make. I consider that an imputation of falsehood has been cast upon my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, and that is an aggravation of the offence. But there is one other point to which I am anxious to draw the attention of the House. No explanation whatever has been given by the hon. Member for Mid Cork of the failure to attend in his place on Monday. He received the letter giving notice that it was the intention of the hon. Member for Devizes to call the attention of the House to his conduct on Friday afternoon. He returned the letter to the hon. Gentleman opened, showing that he had received and read it. He left this House and went away from the precincts of this House altogether, and conveyed to the House no explanation of any kind, and the House received no explanation, except that which was tendered by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) on his own motion, without instructions as to the cause of the absence of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I think the House must mark its view of the conduct of the hon. Member, who failed to regard the rules and customs of this House, and set at nought regulations which are laid down for the good order of this House. I say so without regard to the question as to where any hon. Member sits in this House. But circumstances within the knowledge of this House—I will not repeat what has been said by the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid)—but I say circumstances within the knowledge of this House render it in my judgment necessary and expedient that the House should, as regards any Member, assert its authority, and make it distinctly clear that it intends that decency and order shall be maintained not only in debate, but in the House itself after debate, and within the precincts of the House. If the House does not assert that authority, and make it clear that a severe censure and punishment shall follow upon any breach of that order, then I apprehend that some of those disorders which we unfortunately have seen during the present Session may be repeated with very serious consequences to the dignity of the House, I must, 1641 therefore, persist with the Motion I have made, though—so far as I am concerned—if the House is of opinion that one month is an unduly long period of suspension, I am willing to amend the Motion in that particular and shorten it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
In justice to the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), I should say it was at my suggestion he omitted any reference in his statement as to the letter. He consulted me about it; he had it in his explanation; and I blame myself for his taking it out. It was an error of judgment—but it was mine; and the reason I advised him to omit it was because I considered it to be a subsidiary incident to what I supposed to be the gravamen of the charge. My hon. Friend's explanation was this—and I assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. Long) I do not wish for a moment to convey any additional circumstances of aggravation to the other side. The explanation of my hon. Friend was this—that he considered the sending of this letter to be a portion of the offence which, in his opinion—[Cries of "Oh, oh!" and interruptions]—well, now, hon. Gentlemen surely know that there are two sides to every question, and my hon. Friend considered he was not the aggressor. He said the hon. Gentleman opposite was the aggressor, and his explanation of the sending back of the letter was that it was a further attempt to keep up what has been termed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tyneside Division of Northumberland (Mr. W. B. Beaumont) as this "chaff "—this "offensive chaff." That was the explanation which my hon. Friend gave to me, and I said, after all, that was not the grievance of which the House complained—the grievance of which the House complained was that these offensive words should be used in the Lobby, and it is that I said with which your statement must deal and nothing else. When my hon. Friend consulted me, he consulted, perhaps, a bad adviser. If he has made a mistake I am entirely to blame for it, and there is no reason whatever why the blame should be shared by the hon. Gentleman. I considered it was controversial, and would add fuel to the fire, by saying he considered the letter addressed to him was an additional cir- 1642 cumstance of aggravation, and so I advised that that portion of his explanation should be omitted. And now, having said that much, may I be allowed to say one or two words on the general merits of the question? Is it to be said that because a statement made by an hon. Gentleman opposite, and corroborated by two of his Friends, and where on this side a counter and rebutting statement is made, corroborated by one of our Friends, and certainly not uncorroborated by the relative of the hon. Gentleman opposite, is it to be said that this House, which has important affairs of the Empire to attend to, and just now has the grievances of 500,000 Irish tenants to give its attention to, is going to continue to occupy its time with this trumpery and miserable case? There is only one precedent for words spoken in the Lobby having been noticed by the House—that of Dr. Kenealy and the late Mr. A. M. Sullivan, and that was a case in which Mr. Sullivan brought under the notice of the House words which had been used towards him by Dr. Kenealy, who called him, I think, "a d—d liar." Now, these words had arisen in reference to a debate in this House, and for that the explanation and apology of Dr. Kenealy were accepted, he being an English Member; and now are you going to say that in a matter on which doubt has been cast that this Housoisgoingtotake— [Cries of"No!"] I do not say doubt in an offensive sense, and I do not think there is the least imputation on the hon. Gentleman opposite. But in a Court of Justice do not witnesses take different views of a case? And that is what has occurred in this instance. My hon. Friend admits the use of the expression "d—d." The hon. Gentleman opposite thinks it was used more than once, and I put it to the House, is it a desirable thing that the House should engage in such a frivolous case in a species of investigation, when doubt has been east upon the matter, when we are not unanimous, and when we are all anxious to suppress disorder in all parts of the House? [Cries of "No, no !"] I challenge the hon. Gentleman opposite to say, whatever my action in this House has been, that I have ever given the least offence outside it, or have ever addressed any hon. Gentleman whom I did not know. We Irish Members occupy admittedly a 1643 peculiar position. We have been denounced outside the House, and some of us in it; and I say if there is this attempt to circumscribe us, and distinguish between the Irish and English Members, I say it is an unfortunate thing. I will put it no further—that this conversation should have been initiated, I will not say by the aggressor, but, at any rate, by the complainant in the case. I think the hon. Gentleman himself will be the first to admit that. I have an Amendment down, which I do not desire to move, so as to prolong the discussion; but I will move it formally. I do not do so with any desire to prolong this controversy; but we know very well that while it is absolutely necessary to repress disorder outside the House—we know very well that Mr. Speaker is a fair arbiter, and my Amendment comes to this—that any hon. Gentleman having addressed himself to Mr. Speaker with regard to offensive words which might have been used towards him, and the hon. Member so offending having made an ample apology then and there, the House will be prepared to take immediate and stringent action. That is an Amendment which the Government might accept as being a fitting close to this deplorable incident. We do not desire for one moment to at all labour this point. We desire that this matter should be brought to a close, and I have not the slightest doubt that what has taken place will be a lesson to all Parties, both English and Irish, Liberal and Tory, and will cause them to keep, I will not say the demeanour that has been maintained in the House, but to avoid all causes of offence. I can only say this—our position in this House, and in this country, is peculiar enough and unfortunate enough without adding any additional circumstance of aggravation to it; and I think, after the explanation entered into on both sides of the House, it would be an unfair thing, and that the English public will regard it as an unfair thing, that this House should, against an Irish Member, take punitive and unusual steps absolutely unprecedented and never once taken before. I have referred to precedent in this Amendment, and we know that Mr. Speaker has accommodated differences between private Members where allegations were made involving a complaint of language being used of an equally offensive cha- 1644 racter as that complained of. I rest myself upon that precedent. We all feel in these delicate matters that we can appeal fully and fairly to Mr. Speaker; and certainly, if I may be allowed to say so, whenever we have had occasion in private to appeal to him, he has always mot us in the spirit which anyone occupying his great and eminent position should do. We recognize that, and my Amendment recognizes it; and I trust, in asking leave to move it, I am not adding any element to the controversy. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
Amendment proposed to be made to the Question,
To leave out all the words after the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that, as the words complained of by Mr. W. Long were not spoken within the House, and resulted from a conversation initiated by him, the better course for the honourable Gentleman aggrieved would have been to have first claimed the good offices of Mr. Speaker, in accordance with precedent; but that this House is prepared, should the private intervention of Mr. Speaker prove ineffectual, to repress all disorders in the Lobbies as in the House itself,"—(Mr. T. M. Healy,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN E. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
I do not desire to prolong this controversy, but I must protest against the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that there is any doubt about the present question. No doubt exists that the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) used language which was an insult to an hon. Member in the Lobby of this House. If the language he used had been used in this House, you, Mr. Speaker, would have intervened to restore order, and the hon. Member for Mid Cork would probably have apologized in his place. The hon. Member for Mid Cork was informed that the matter, having occurred outside the House, would be brought before the House the next time it met, on Monday. The hon. Member has given no explanation why he did not attend on that day. Indeed, we learn it was by the advice of the hon. Member for North Longford that that explanation was not given.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) stated on Monday that the reason why the hon. Member for Mid Cork had to absent himself was that he was one of the signatories to a notice calling a convention for the county of Cork, and that he was obliged to attend.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
The hon. Member for Mid Cork did not repeat that statement himself, nor did he send any written answer to the letter of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Long). If the hon. Member for Mid Cork had asked the hon. Member for Devizes to postpone the matter until he could attend there might have been grounds for appealing to the generosity and indulgence of the House; but the hon. Member for Mid Cork did nothing of the kind. He left my hon. Friend to bring the matter before the House, and so force the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to submit a Motion on the subject. This House cannot afford to pass over the matter. We should have been glad to do it if the hon. Member had told us he would take the first opportunity of offering a full and frank apology for the language used.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
Both for the language used and for his demeanour towards the hon. Member. When a matter of this kind is brought before the House, as this has been, the House must have regard to its own dignity. It is not in the power of the Speaker to maintain the dignity of our proceedings unless the House shows itself jealous of its own dignity and maintains its own character. I think the House would be to blame if it passed over this matter; and, therefore, I hope the House will support the Motion of its Leader, and show in some signal way its sense of the misconduct of the hon. Member for Mid Cork.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I shall detain the House only for a moment. I wish to add a word to what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). I think that the Amendment which has been moved will meet all the circumstances of the case, and that in the circumstances the apology of the hon. Member for Mid Cork might be accepted. 1646 I feel, Sir, when you remember the peculiar circumstances connected with myself, that I may make an appeal that may have some weight with the House and the Government if I ask that the Motion may not be pressed.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
I wish to say one word as to the words which were imputed to me by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford on Friday last. On the last occasion—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! It is impossible to go back to March last, and to a case which has no relevance whatever to the present subject.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John Mowbray) appears to think that a punishment ought to be inflicted upon the hon. Member for Mid Cork, not on account of the principal offence, for which he has apologized, but on account of the conduct of the hon. Member after the first offence to the hon. Member for Devizes. [Cries of "No !" and "Yes!"] That is, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he proposes that the hon. Member for Mid Cork should be punished, not for the original offence, but on account of his conduct in the matter of the letter which the hon. Member for Devizes had addressed to him. That, at all events, is my construction of what the right hon. Gentleman says.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
I wish to explain. I do not know what construction the right hon. Gentleman may put upon my words; but that is not the meaning which I intended to convey. I said the hon. Member for North Longford had stated that there had been a mistake and a misunderstanding. I said there was no mistake and no misunderstanding. There is no mistake about the insulting language, the use of which in the Lobby has been admitted to-night by the hon. Member for Mid Cork himself. But the letter is only an incident in the transaction. If the hon. Member for Mid Cork had appeared in his place on Monday, and had then apologized promptly for the language he used on Friday, the House might have passed it over; but the gravamen of the complaint is the language used on Friday in the Lobby to the hon. Member for Devizes.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The construction I put on the language of the right hon. Gentleman is the construction I thought most favourable to his understanding and his judgment. But that construction he now repudiates. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that that portion of the proceedings which relates to the letter and to the non-appearance of the hon. Member in the House of Commons constitute the grounds on which we ought to censure the hon. Member. The right hon. Gentleman cannot but be aware that the hon. Member for Mid Cork has apologized. He has used language expressing his regret. [Cries of "No, no!"] Is there the smallest doubt as to that fact? If not, I should desire that the hon. Member for Mid Cork should be recalled and requested again to read that portion of his statement in which he, as I understood, unequivocally and unconditionally expressed his regret for the improper language which he had used, and the grave offence which he had committed. And the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford said if he had apologized on Monday the apology might have been then accepted; but he did not appear on Monday; he has apologized on Thursday, and, therefore, his apology is not to be accepted. This raises an important question which I wish to state and to argue without prejudice. What I put to the House is this—that the offence, if there was one, was, it appears to me, very difficult to represent as an offence against the House. Am I to be told that if any hon. Gentleman gives me notice that he will bring my conduct at a certain date under the notice of the House I commit a punishable offence against the House if I take no notice of it? I may commit an error in many ways; I may commit an error in policy; I may commit an error in judgment; I may commit an error in courtesy. I should have said the hon. Member for Mid Cork did certainly commit an error in all these points of view if I had not to take into consideration two matters that have come before us. One is that the hon. Member for Mid Cork appears to have considered that he had a grave public duty to discharge elsewhere, which would prevent his attendance in this House; and, secondly, he had a strong belief, which must be considered an important factor in his view 1648 of the case, that he was originally the aggrieved and wronged party. He conceived that the proceeding of the hon. Member for Devizes was a distinct wrong—he has not used the word insult —upon himself. The hon. Member for Devizes called witnesses into court, and one of those witnesses has told us that the hon. Member for Devizes himself said there was "chaff going on." In that chaff there cannot be the smallest doubt who was the Gentleman to begin; there is no doubt about that. I do not hesitate for one moment to believe that the hon. Gentleman meant nothing discourteous in his chaff; but he himself described it as chaff, and surely he must feel that to address a Member who was excited and annoyed on account of an occurrence which had taken place in a tone which he himself has described as chaff was not a prudent or discreet proceeding. It seems to have created in the mind of the hon. Member for Mid Cork an untrue impression that the hon. Gentleman intended—and he was backed by others in the opinion—to do something offensive to hint. It appears to me that the sending back of the letter of the hon. Gentleman was a matter of courtesy between the two Gentlemen; but I cannot understand how that is to be treated as an offence punishable by this House. Although I admit that in prudence and policy and courtesy the hon. Member should attend to a notice of that kind, yet I must say that if he does not attend I cannot understand how his non-attendance in reply to the notice of a private Member on a method which the House has never entertained, and on which it has laid down no distinct and positive rule, is to be constituted an offence punishable by the House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) introduced, I must say, a most unfortunate and ill-advised element into this case. The right hon. Gentleman said that by the contradiction given to the hon. Member for Devizes there was an imputation cast upon that hon. Gentleman's word.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
An imputation of falsehood. Is that statement of the right hon. Gentleman one-sided or two-sided? Does the hon. Member for Devizes, by his assertion and re-assertion of every 1649 word—which he is quite entitled, in my opinion, to do, in obedience to his own recollection and conscience—cast any imputation of falsehood upon the hon. Member for Mid Cork? Is the imputation of falsehood on the hon. Member for Mid Cork to be treated as on a footing with the imputation of falsehood on an English Member? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House appears to think that the imputation of falsehood upon a particular Irish Member is one thing, and an imputation of falsehood on an English Member another thing. I must say that a more unfortunate element could not have been introduced into a case of this kind. How do I deal with this question of imputation of falsehood? In the plainest and most unequivocal manner. There is no imputation of falsehood one way or the other. When contradictory statements are made by hon. Members in this House in their places in the House—unless it sees grave cause for formal inquiry under circumstances of a peculiar nature—I hold that our duty is to explain the whole contradiction by the involuntary method of comparison between the two sides, and for imputations of falsehood there is no place whatever. Anyone who introduces that element into the discussion commits a grave and serious indiscretion. How does the case stand? I stated myself that, presuming the facts remained unexplained, the question of the letter being returned and the offence not being purged would be an aggravation of the offence. I cannot conceive that the question, as it has been placed before us, constitutes an important portion of the subject-matter before the House, which is, whether a punishable offence has been committed against the House, and not whether sound judgment, or even right feeling, has been consulted in the personal relations and personal proceedings of one Member towards another Member. On the imputation of falsehood, in my opinion, there is no question to be entertained at all; and I ask the House to support me in that view. If, indeed, there be such things as imputation of falsehood to be recognized as facts, then, in my opinion, there should be a thorough sifting of the matter. The only other course is to decline to recognize such imputations. I say I believe absolutely in the perfect good faith of the hon. 1650 Member for Devizes, and in the perfect good faith of other statements made by different Members in various quarters of the House. How does this case stand? A point has been raised about the Lobby of the House. Well, Sir, I myself think that you in your wisdom will some day consider whether this question of the Lobby and the conduct of hon. Members of this House there requires any further examination or consideration; and I am quite sure that any decision you come to on the subject will be accepted with perfect confidence and satisfaction by the House. There is one precedent, that of a gentleman now, I believe, dead, who had, undoubtedly, committed a very gross offence. But that offence was purged by an apology. The hon. Member for Mid Cork has apologized. [Cries of "No, no!"] Sir, is there the smallest doubt of that fact? If there is, I beg to ask that the hon. Member for Mid Cork be recalled. Sir, there is no doubt of the fact that the hon. Member for Mid Cork apologized for his offence. [Cries of "No, no!"] As these hon. Gentlemen call no, I ask that the hon. Member for Mid Cork be asked to again read that portion of his speech containing his apology.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If it will in any way tend to finish this very painful controversy, I should be very glad, if necessary, that the hon. Member for Mid Cork should return to state the actual terms of the apology he made.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The words are here. The hon. Member has left his papers behind him. The words are these—Sir, I regret very much what has occurred, for my own sake as well as that of the House; and I can only say that, but for the fact that I regarded Mr. Long and his Friends as aggressors, I should not have used the expression complained of. Finally, it now remains for me to withdraw that portion of the language which was indecorous and improper, and also to express my regret to the House for having used it.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That fact stands beyond dispute. Sir, I feel with you and with a large portion of the House a great desire that this matter should draw to a close. When an hon. Member has withdrawn offensive words complained of, and has expressed his regret and made his apology to the House for having used them, it is the 1651 principle and the practice of the House to consider that the hon. Member, I will not say ipso facto is absolved, but is entitled in prudence and policy to the indulgence of the House, and to pass from the matter without further consideration. I look upon that principle and practice as one of the utmost value; and I hope it will never be departed from. If it is departed from, I would rather it were departed from in the case of any other Member than in the case of any hon. Member who sits on that Bench. I would entreat the House to reflect upon setting a precedent for the first time. [Mr. DE LISLE: No! and cries of "Name him!"]
§ MR. SEXTON
I rise to Order. Mr. Speaker, I wish to call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) has been guilty of disorderly interruption. I do ask you, Sir, to direct the hon. Member not to stand in the Gangway, but to take his seat.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If I notice disorderly interruptions from any hon. Member it shall certainly be repressed to the utmost of my power. I hope it will not be resumed.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am very sorry that such an interruption should have occurred for a moment, because of the extreme gravity of the matter with which we are endeavouring to deal. I trust the House will not overset one of its most wise, salutary, and necessary Rules, and establish an unfortunate precedent that after such an expression of regret for such language, and after such submission to the House by apology for the offence, the offence is still to be regarded as unpurged and punishment is to be inflicted by the House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
Not one word shall fall from me which will, I hope, affect the minds of hon. Gentlemen who think that a lenient view should be taken of this matter. But, at the same time, I think it is impossible to allow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) to pass without observing that it is directly contrary to the speech which he addressed to the House on Tuesday. I made a statement to the House on that occasion, which the right hon. Gentleman did me the honour to say was a moderate state- 1652 ment of facts; and he used language which I distinctly recollect, and which I have since verified, to the effect that if there was not a sufficient and proper explanation of the fact that the hon. Member for Mid Cork had not attended or sent any communication either to his Friends—
§ MR. SEXTON
I beg pardon for one moment. I wish to remind the House that as soon as the hon. Member for Mid Cork learnt of Monday's proceedings he sent me a telegram, which I read at the close of that day's Sitting.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The hon. Member for West Belfast was not following what I said. I am stating that prior to Monday—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian pointed out—the hon. Member for Mid Cork had sent no communication either to his Friends or by letter, or even by telegraph, requesting that the matter might be postponed. On Monday the hon. Member for West Belfast, making the best defence that he could for the hon. Member for Mid Cork, threw doubt upon the possibility of the letter having reached that hon. Member.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am in the recollection of the House. The hon. Member for West Belfast asked the hon. Member for Devizes how the letter was addressed, and how it was delivered, and the hon. Member for Devizes stated at the Table that he had handed it to a messenger, who had come back to him after giving it to the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I hope the House will understand how this matter stands. On the corner of the envelope sent by the hon. Member for Devizes were the words, "W. H. Long," indicating that the communication, addressed to "C. K. Tanner, Esq.," came from a gentleman whose name was Long. Instead of the letter being sent back unopened, it is opened, and opened, as we know, by the hon. Member for Mid Cork, and is then returned, in the open envelope, to the hon. Member for Devizes by the same messenger. Now, I do appeal to the House that when the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian says or suggests that this matter had been properly explained—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I never said so. I said distinctly it was not properly explained, but pointed out that 1653 it was a question between Members, and not one that it was possible to make the subject of a punishable offence.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I must again remind the House that on Tuesday last the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian used these words—I must say that unless the circumstances stated by the Attorney General can be met by some adequate explanation, they form a very serious aggravation of the offence.Now, what does the statement of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) amount to? It was not that there was any explanation or even excuse given to the House for not replying to a perfectly civil letter, stating that the hon. Member's conduct would be brought before the House, but rather that the sending of the letter was in the nature of an insult, or as something which the hon. Member for Mid Cork was entitled to look upon as an act of aggravation of which the hon. Member for Devizes ought not to have been guilty.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
That does not come from the paper of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, because the word "chaff" had not been mentioned when the hon. Member read the paper to the House. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite has dealt with the question of falsehood in a way which the House cannot regard as satisfactory. We heard the categorical statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, and heard the explanation of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. A great part of the offensive language has not been dealt with by the hon. Member for Mid Cork at all. There has been no denial by the hon. Member, and no withdrawal of one part of the language.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I am in the recollection of the House. This particular part—[An hon. MEMBER: Which part?] I will read it. What the hon. Member for Devizes said passed was this—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. I have told 1654 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 wag 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.'I say that ought to be denied categorically. It is not sufficient to take one sentence and say with regard to it—"I did use the expression, and so far as that offensive expression is concerned I withdraw it."
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The House cannot get rid of this charge of falsehood, or, rather, suggestion of falsehood. If the hon. Member for Mid Cork wishes to make any further explanation, no doubt the House will hear him; but as the case now stands we are in the unfortunate position that three hon. Members of this House have heard this grossly offensive language, and there is not, even from the hon. Member for West Donegal (Mr. O'Hea), a contradiction or denial of it.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
I entirely deny that the hon. Member used such an expression as that "I wish to God you d—d Tories would not speak to me." It would have been impossible for him to have used those words without my having heard them.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I think the House will reconcile as best it can the statement of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, the partial admission he has made, and the statement of the hon. Member for West Donegal. I have but one word more to say. I hope the House will not recognize that there is any distinction between the Lobby and the House in this matter. The only distinction is this—in the House Mr. Speaker at once takes notice of a thing of this kind, whilst when it occurs in the Lobby it has to be brought to his notice. When within a few feet of this House language is used which one Gentleman would not use to another, I hope the House will take notice of it, and deal with it properly. I must say that it is not possible to deal with this matter as a light or trivial incident. I do not think that apologies are sufficient with regard to conduct of this kind, because, if such conduct is to be purged by apology, there is not much reason why serious notice should be taken of it. I 1655 fear the House must regard the matter as having been aggravated by the neglect to send an answer to my hon. Friend's notice; and I think the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, on Monday last, was entitled to more weight than the judgment he has now given us. At any rate, the House must look at the whole facts, and will have to judge whether the explanation given by the hon. Member is satisfactory and sufficient, and to the judgment of the House I leave the whole case.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
I desire to say only one or two words in this very painful controversy. It is greatly to be regretted that it seems to be impossible we should come to an unanimous or even a nearly unanimous decision; but as it is likely the question will come to something approaching a Party Division, I think it is due that I should say one or two words in explanation of the course which I propose myself to take. I am fully aware that in the opinion of a very large number of hon. Members of the House the offence against the order and decency of the House and its precincts was so grave that it was a moot or doubtful point whether it would be possible that the offence could be purged by any apology, however ample or complete. I must admit that there is a good deal to be said in support of that view. It is not a question between Member and Member. It is a question of the order and decency of the House—in which we have to transact our business—and its precincts. If the offence, which is to a great extent admitted, had been committed by any stranger, those who are entrusted with the guardianship of the precincts of the House would have known how to deal with it, and certainly it is not one that would have been condoned by an apology, however ample. And it does seem to me somewhat doubtful whether the House ought to be more lax in the way in which it deals with offences against its order committed by hon. Members themselves than the guardians of the precincts would be in the case of a stranger; but it is a very doubtful question whether, if this offence had been apologized for amply and frankly, the House would have thought it necessary to act. I am bound, however to say—after listening carefully to 1656 what has taken place—that it does not appear to me that the statement given by the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) does amount to that full and frank and satisfactory explanation, withdrawal, and apology which the House has a right to expect. That statement appeared to me to be in part a denial, in part a justification, and in part a very partial withdrawal of a portion of the language. And in the way in which that explanation struck me, it appears to me it is not one which can be considered as satisfactory to the House, or which the House ought to accept. Unfortunately, we have had lately a good deal of experience in these matters. It has frequently been necessary for the Speaker to call attention to breaches of Order in the House itself. We have heard over and over again a Member rise in his place and, in obedience to your order, Sir, withdraw the expression which has been taken notice of. He has done it sometimes with, sometimes without, an expression of regret, and the offence has been committed again almost immediately. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) says we ought not to act so as to create a new precedent. I am afraid the state of order and discipline in this House is such that it is quite possible there may be an absolute, necessity that a new precedent—some more stringent condition than has hitherto been adopted—should be adopted by the House in order to mark its sense of the injury which is being from time to time inflicted on the order of the House by these incidents. I cannot altogether reconcile the view which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition takes to-night as to the incident of returning the letter with the view which he took the other night. It appears to me that if an hon. Member has received formal notice from another hon. Member that his conduct is going to be made the subject, of discussion in the House, it is due, not to that hon. Member as a personal matter, but to the House, that either he should attend in person or write an explanation to the Speaker, or commission one of his friends to explain the circumstances. It is evident that the manner in which the letter of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes was received was either a studied indignity to the House, or else 1657 it showed that the hon. Member for Mid Cork thought the incident of no importance whatever, and not worth his while to take any notice of it or make any explanation. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it did constitute a serious aggravation of the offence, and that it should not have been thought necessary by the hon. Member for Mid Cork, or his adviser the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), to tender an explanation of that incident on the present occasion seems to me to show that neither of them appreciate even now the real gravity of the offence which has been committed against this House. For these reasons, though I regret extremely that it should be necessary on the part of the House to do anything in the nature of a penal character against the hon. Member, for whatever constituency in the country he may sit, I cannot forbear, if this question is pressed to a Division, voting for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I do not think anyone on this side of the House will dispute what has been said by the Attorney General or my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale as to the gravity of the offence. Neither do I for a moment draw any distinction between action in this House and action in the Lobby. It is perfectly clear that hon. Gentlemen ought to treat one another with that courtesy and propriety in the Lobby which they should observe in the House. But the question is, this offence having been admitted to be a grave one, how ought the House to deal with it? How has it dealt with such matters in past times? I think everyone will agree that it would be a very serious mistake that we should demand in this particular instance to deal with the matter in a different manner from that in which it has been dealt with in respect of English Members in past times. My noble Friend has, for the first time, said that this is to be a Party Division. That explains a good deal, I think.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It is very likely to become a Party Division, especially after the speech of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for the Devizes Division told his hon. Relative that the 1658 whole thing was a piece of chaff, and another hon. Gentleman wrote down what occurred and communicated it at once to the Press.
§ MR. BIGWOOD
It is not the case that I communicated this matter to the Press. I met a gentleman in the outer Lobby. It will be in the recollection of hon. Members that the Sitting of the House was at an end; and I simply told this gentleman the occurrence, but not with the view of publication.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The hon. Member must be a person of little experience if he meets a gentleman in the outer Lobby and communicates to him incidents of this character, and does not discover that he is the reporter of The Birmingham Daily Mail. In the innocence of his heart, and the hon. Member for Devizes not intending to appeal to the House or to the Speaker, this communication was made to The Birmingham Daily Mail, and hence the whole affair. The Attorney General has pointed out that there are two things which, in our own minds, we ought to keep distinct—the original offence, and what is called the gravity of the offence. As to the original offence, no one will palliate it. The language was perfectly indefensible. The Attorney General has endeavoured to draw a distinction between what the hon. Member for Mid Cork said and what he has denied; and he says that the hon. Member has not apologized for the whole, but only for a part. But the hon. and learned Gentleman overlooks the fact that a man cannot apologize for that which he says he never spoke. The hon. Member for Mid Cork denies that he said more than he had apologized for; and to say that that is an imputation of falsehood on the hon. Member for Devizes or the other hon. Gentleman is a monstrous assertion. Who has ever known a quarrel between two persons, each person giving the same account of the incident which occurred? It may well be that the two hon. Gentlemen have different recollections of what occurred; but I understood the hon. Member for Mid Cork had expressed his deep regret and had apologized for all he said. The question now is—"Will the Government—for they are the prosecutors in this affair—accept that apology?" The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir John Mowbray) has said 1659 that if the hon. Member for Mid Cork had come forward and made his apology on Monday, he thought the House might have dealt with him generously. But let us come to what is called the aggravation of the offence. The aggravation consisted in returning the letter of the hon. Member for Devizes without an answer. The explanation of that circumstance is given by the hon. Member for Mid Cork, who says that he believed that that was a continuation of the chaff. You have not given an opportunity to the hon. Member for Mid Cork himself to give a reason why he returned the letter, and the hon. and learned Member for Longford did not read what he would have said; but the fact remains that the hon. Member considered it to be a continuation of the chaff which he understood had begun.
§ MR. LONG
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I have not felt justified hitherto in taking notice of the statement of my hon. Friend and relative opposite; but as the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is based on the assumption that this word "chaff" was used, and as I have a distinct recollection of what took place, I beg to say that the word "chaff" was never used by me.
§ MR. W. B. BEAUMONT
With your permission, Sir, and with the permission of the House, I repeat that I distinctly recollect hearing my hon. Friend and Relative use the word "chaff."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Which accuses the other of falsehood now! [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!"] Oh, yes, against an Irish Member it is falsehood; but against an English Member (the remainder of the sentence was lost in the loud interruptions from the Ministerial side). Will the First Lord of the Treasury charge the hon. Member for Mid Cork with having brought a charge of falsehood against the hon. Member for Devizes? Will he say the same of the hon. Member for Tyneside? Let us test the spirit of justice and impartiality of the right hon. Gentleman. Who does not know and believe that the hon. Member for Devizes and the hon. Member for Tyneside are both of them speaking conscientiously as to what they believe took place? Of course they are. Then why should another Member sitting below the Gangway be treated differently? It is unfair, it is unjust, it is improper, and does not 1660 comport with the dignity of the House in the treatment of such a question. The hon. Member for Devizes has said that he does not recollect using the word "sell." The hon. Member for West Donegal (Mr. O'Hea) states the contrary; but no imputation of falsehood is laid upon him at all. Everyone knows that when heated discussions of this kind take place men do not recollect exactly what they have said; and all I can say is that I understand the hon. Member for Mid Cork to have said that "as far as I recollect the improper language which I used I withdraw it and apologize." Let us see how the House has previously treated matters of this description. The case has been mentioned of Dr. Kenealy. What happened on that occasion? Dr. Kenealy in the Lobby called Mr. Sullivan a liar. Mr. Sullivan brought the matter before the House. Dr. Kenealy did not apologize, did not withdraw; he justified the use of the word on the ground of the provocation he had received. He said—I now place myself in the hands of the House, and if the House thinks I have done wrong I will apologize to it; but, at the same time, I appeal to the hon. Members of this House, who are men of honour, to consider this matter without reference to the prejudice which the hon. Member sought to raise against me in a speech …. unprovoked by me; and I appeal to them whether, under the circumstances, I was not justified in using the expression?"—(3 Hansard,  953.)What was the course taken then? Did the Government of that day come forward and say, "Suspend Dr. Kenealy?" Not at all. Mr. W. E. Forster made a Motion in the nature of an Instruction to the Speaker—That the honourable Member for Stoke be ordered to withdraw the offensive expression addressed by him, in the Lobby, to the honourable Member for Louth, and to apologize to the House for having used it."—[Ibid. 956.)The Motion was agreed to. Why did you not make that Motion on Monday? Why are you to deal with the hon. Member for Mid Cork differently from the way in which the Government of the day dealt with Dr. Kenealy? That Resolution was moved, and then Dr. Kenealy came forward, and said he withdrew the expression that he had used in the Lobby and apologized to the House for using it. That is what the hon. Member for Mid Cork has done. What is the meaning of this Party and vindictive Motion? It is not to vindicate the dignity of the 1661 House. ["Yes!"] Well, but I have shown you how the House vindicated its dignity in the case of Dr. Kenealy. Why have you departed from the course which your Predecessors in this House have taken, and why have you done it at this moment? Throughout the length and breadth of the land the question will be asked why, when you have a precedent to guide you, you have deliberately departed from it? In that case the House considered it sufficient to call upon a man to withdraw the offensive expression and apologize for it; but you say no apology and no withdrawal shall satisfy us. It seems to me that the position now taken by the Government is very difficult to justify. The Attorney General referred to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian said on Monday. My right hon. Friend, when he spoke on Monday about the aggravation of the letter, had never heard what was said by the hon. Member for Devizes. I do not impute anything to the hon. Member for Devizes, I respect him too much to do anything of the kind. It might have been, had the hon. Member consulted the Speaker, that the Speaker would have told him, as I believe he has told others, that it is not for the dignity of the House to bring these matters on. It might have been prevented and avoided had the hon. Member for Devizes followed his first instinct and not brought it on. I do not wish to excuse the conduct of the hon. Member for Mid Cork; I think that with reference to the letter it was most unwise, most improper, most discourteous. But the question is whether you are not to follow the rule that a full apology—["Oh!"] You are determined to accept no apology. The hon. Member who cried "Oh!" knows that if the hon. Member for Mid Cork came on his knees you would give exactly the same vote; and you are determined that under all circumstances this Motion shall be pressed to its fullest extent. All I can say is that I think it is a most unfortunate proceeding. It will be taken against every precedent of the House of Commons. There is no instance in which when a man has made an apology, after he has been ordered by the House to make an apology, the matter has been pressed so as to drive him out of the House. We must guess for ourselves why the precedents are to 1662 be thrown over, and why this particular moment is selected for repudiating the practice of the House of Commons. I can only say that I deeply regret it. I shall give my vote certainly not as a Party vote. I shall give it as a vote in support of the old traditions of the House of Commons, and against the revolutionary and vindictive spirit which has prompted this Motion.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
If the House will allow me, I should like to make an effort to put an end to this discussion. No hon. Member who has sat so long as I have done in this House would suppose that I should stand up for a moment in support of disorderly language used either in the House or in the Lobby. I am strongly of opinion that such language ought to be repressed, and repressed it must be. But what I want to ask the House is this— Has not this incident gone far enough? Has not the House marked its sense of this language sufficiently? If this incident had occurred in the House the ruling of the Speaker as to the sufficiency or otherwise of the apology made would have been absolute and final. This matter occurred within a very few feet of the House, and what I desire to do, if I may be permitted, is, with great respect for the Chair, to ask you, Sir, whether in your opinion, after the apology, the affair has not gone far enough; and whether the offence, treated as it must be as an offence against the House, has not already been sufficiently marked, and whether the apology—the full apology—made by the hon. Member for Mid Cork, has not been sufficient for the occasion? I very much deprecate the idea that after an apology has once been made it is not to be accepted. I wish also to call the attention of the House to the very dangerous precedent which may be established. I do not mean that of not accepting an apology; but what strikes me as the very much graver danger of not seeking—earnestly seeking—the advice and decision of the Chair in a matter of this sort, instead of treating it as a question to be debated in the House. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite must be aware that sometimes language—I hope not of a gross character, but still of a violent character—is used outside of the House. Often the aggrieved party has sought the intervention of the Chair, 1663 and that intervention has been found sufficient. The time of the House ought not to be taken up by matters of this kind if it can be avoided; and if they are to be debated at length I am afraid that we shall have more than one painful incident of this description. With these few words I should like to ask you. Sir, whether you feel justified in advising the House in this very difficult matter, as to whether, after the apology, the case, in your opinion, has not gone far enough for the dignity of the House, and whether the expression of the sense of the House as to the language used has not been sufficient?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The appeal of the hon. Member places me in a somewhat difficult position, lest I should seem to venture to intervene between the House and the decision which would have otherwise been come to by its vote. The hon. Gentleman has stated that this matter might have been settled in the ordinary way. Now, I shall be perfectly frank with the House, and tell the House precisely what passed so far as I am concerned. The hon. Member for Devizes came to me late on Friday night and represented that an insult had been offered to him in the Lobby. He stated that there were two or three other Gentlemen who heard what passed, and could bear witness to it, adding that he was greatly hurt by what had occurred, and that he placed himself entirely in my hands. There have been repeated complaints made to me by Members of this House in the course of the Session of language used in the Lobbies which I have thought to be derogatory to the dignity and character of the House. The hon. Gentleman was deeply pained, and I told him that I thought that he was justified in bringing the matter before the House; that I thought it was not for me, in a case of that sort, to intervene; and that the House should decide for itself if he thought proper to bring the matter before the House. That is the history of the matter as far as I am concerned. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) has asked me whether I think that a sufficient apology has been tendered to the House. I hope, therefore, that the House will allow me, in these circumstances, without prejudicing its proceedings, to state my view. ["Hear, hear!"] It seems 1664 to be desired by a large portion of the House that I should do so. [Cheers.] I frankly own that if an appeal of that kind had been made to me some time ago I should have expressed the opinion that the incident should terminate. I consider that the incident may terminate without the least imputation resting on the honour of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Long), or on the honour of the hon. Member for West Donegal (Mr. O'Hea), or on the honour of the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), so far as regards what they have said here to-night as to what passed during the transaction in the Lobby. There can be no doubt as to their honour and conscientiousness in stating whatever they have stated to the House to-night on this painful matter. But unquestionably the House, as it seems to me, is unanimous on one thing, and that is in the opinion that offensive and un-Parliamentary language has been used—that un-Parliamentary and offensive language used I in the Lobby is an offence against this House—as much an offence, I might almost say, as if it were actually used in the House itself. But, on the other I hand, I consider that the hon. Member for Mid Cork has made an apology which covers all the offensive and un-Parliamentary expressions which have been used. He says that he regrets them; he says that he apologizes to the House for having used them. I know very well that there are many offences committed against this House which the House may justly deem not to be sufficiently met and atoned for by an apology. But, on the other hand, I must, with all respect to the House, point out that the incidents of this evening have been of a very marked and a very solemn character. The House has distinctly stigmatized the use of such expressions in the House or out of the House; the whole transaction is before the country in the most public and formal manner; and with the record of this evening's proceedings before the House and before the country, it is not likely that any offence of the same nature will be lightly committed. I hardly know whether I have transgressed the bounds of my duty to the House in what I have said; but I would respectfully urge the House, after the formal, distinct, and unreserved apology, as I regard it, that that apology 1665 should be accepted by the House, and that the House should no longer pursue this question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I may be allowed now to say, after the very complete expression of the views which you hold, Mr. Speaker, as to the incident which has been under the discussion of the House, there is only one course to pursue, and that is to ask permission to withdraw the Motion. I hope the House will understand that in taking the course which I have taken, and which appeared to me to be incumbent upon me to take, I felt that that course was necessary to maintain, as far as possible, the decorum of the proceedings of this House and maintain order within its precincts. I had no other view and no other object. The course which I adopted on Monday, Sir, was with your advice, and under the circumstances, I am glad now to accept the advice you have tendered to the House; and I hope, Sir, that the very strong language with which you have characterized the offensive words used will have the effect of preventing the use of such language, or the repetition of such disorderly conduct, in any part of the House.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.