§ [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS (Antrim, N.)
Sir, I very much regret, but I feel it to be my duty to call the attention of the House to what I consider to be a grave Breach of Privilege. I hold in my hand The Times newspaper of yesterday. It contains a charge of wilful and deliberate falsehood against an hon. Member of this House, not only in his capacity as a Member of this House and his duty as a Member, but specifically in a speech 701 which he made in this House on the 22nd of last month. It is expressly by no inference, but by direct challenge, that the charge is brought against his conduct as a Member of this House, in the debates of this House, and the charge against him in this journal is, that he has deliberately, and of his own knowledge, made false statements when he was dealing in this House with a statement made by another and a noble Member. It is in regard to that statement, and to no other, that I desire to draw the attention of the House to what I conceive to be a most grave and serious matter. In order to make the matter thoroughly understood, it will only be necessary for me to remind the House that the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), some days previously to the 22nd of last month, made an explanation with reference to certain statements of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), which had been made some days before in debate. The noble Marquess entered into a long explanation as to the groundwork of the charges made against, among other persons, the hon. Member for East Mayo. What followed was this. On the 22nd of last month the hon. Member for East Mayo gave a long and deliberate explanation in detail in answer to the statements which had been previously made by the noble Marquess. Now, Sir, what has happened, has been this. It will only be necessary to read three extracts from the article which appears in The Times newspaper of yesterday, and which is headed "Parnellism and Crime," "Mr. Dillon "—who I need not point out to the House is the hon. Member for East Mayo—" and P. J. Sheridan." The first extract to which I invite the serious attention of the House is in these words—Mr. Dillon, M.P., has attempted upon two several occasions within the last few days to excuse his own connection and that of his brother Members of Parliament with P. J. Sheridan, Invincible, dynamiter, and assassin. We propose to test his statements as a sample of Parnellite testimony. We shall show that nearly all Mr. Dillon's material allegations are domonstrably and flagrantly false, and that Mr. Dillon might readily have informed himself of their falsehood had he chosen so to do. Mr. Dillon's defence amounts to this—that Sheridan refrained from murderous conspiracy while actually in Mr. Dillon's employment, and that the Nationalist Party hope he will 'have no occasion' to return to the ways of Fenianism, because they intend to realise the ends of 702 Fenianism themselves. We shall prove that the assertion of fact is false, and the hope groundless; that Sheridan did plot murder while he was an acknowledged Land League agent; and that he ostentatiously recanted the abjuration which he is said to have made and publicly proclaimed himself a relapsed dynamiter.I pass over all the detailed evidence, or alleged evidence, which intervenes between that statement and the next statement, which I consider to be a Breach of the Privileges of this House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that he proposes to bring-before the House a question of Privilege, which is a definite matter; and; the question of Privilege which I understand he is going to raise is an article which appeared in The Times newspaper with reference to the hon. Member for East Mayo. I do not think that the hon. Baronet is entitled to review the whole of a preceding debate upon a question which refers to a specific article in a newspaper which appeared yesterday, and which contains the charge which I understand he is about to deal with as a question of Privilege.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
With submission to you, Sir, I am now reading at this moment from the newspaper article.
§ MR. SPEAKER
the hon. Baronet spoke of a previous debate in this House in which the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale and the hon. Member for East Mayo took part.
§ SIR. CHARLES LEWIS
I speak with submission. I was not using any words of my own; I was reading from The Times. [Cries of "Go on!" "Read on!" "Read away!"]
§ SIR. CHARLES LEWIS
I will now, Sir, in order to put myself right with you, Sir, read verbatim, if I may be allowed, and entirely and slavishly from the article—The material parts of this statement are absolutely irreconcilable with Mr. Dillon's story. Mr. Dillon says that Sheridan's connection with the 'constitutional organization' ceased upon his arrest, and was never renewed. Ford, on the contrary, declares that Sheridan resumed 'his usual labours of speaking and organizing' on his release, and continued them until Mr. Parnell's arrest; that, thereupon, he helped to transfer the headquarters of the League to Paris, and from thence 'carried on the work through the Ladies' Land League and other agencies' until May or June of 1882. Ford's narrative was written a comparatively 703 short time after the transactions it relates; he had no apparent object in falsifying it. He had Sheridan himself at his elbow to supply the information. Fortunately, we are not driven to choose between the word of Mr. Dillon and the word of Patrick Ford and P. J. Sheridan, The testimony of the latter is corroborated, and the testimony of the former is refuted, by the unanswerable evidence of contemporary papers.I come now to the climax of the article, and that which contains the gravamen of the whole charge on which I shall base my Motion. The article says, in conclusion—Our present business, however, is not to prove that Sheridan is a murderer and a contriver of murders, or even to show that he organized murderous conspiracies when a paid agent of the 'constitutional organization' and a trusted member of the Land League Executive. We have treated certain episodes in this scoundrel's career in, perhaps, tedious detail, to demonstrate once for all the incredible falsehood and effrontery of Parnellite apologists. we have examined an elaborate explanation made by one of the most respected of Mr. Parnell's lieutenants from his place in Parliament, and we have shown that it is a tissue of gross and palpable falsehoods.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Baronet must not conclude with a Motion? Of course, this is a question of Breach of Privilege, and we are entitled to know whether he intends to conclude with a Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet is compelled to conclude with a Motion, as he has raised a question of Privilege.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I intend to take the invariable course, which is to ask that this article should be read by the Clerk at the Table; and upon this article I shall make a Motion. I will proceed with the extract—Whether Mr. Dillon was or was not conscious that the statements he was making were untrue is a point of little public moment. But it is right and necessary that the world should know that 'the Bayard of the League' has given an entirely fictitious account of a series of important transactions in which he himself and several of his leading Colleagues in the House were principal actors. We are reduced to this alternative—Mr. Dillon either refrained from all serious efforts of recollection and inquiry, and recklessly palmed off upon the House as ascertained facts within his personal knowledge a mass of confused, inaccurate, and unexamined memories, or he deliberately told the House a detailed story which he knew to be untrue. In either case several of his Colleagues must have known that his statements were unfounded.704 Now, Sir, the course which I thought it proper to pursue, under the circumstances, was to write this letter to the hon. Member for East Mayo, which was delivered to him, I believe, about midday or early this afternoon —"Sir Charles Lawis presents his compliments to Mr. Billon"—[Laughter.] I do not see why, in this case, I should disregard the ordinary courtesies of life—Sir Charles Lewis presents his compliments to Mr. Dillon, and begs leave to draw his attention to an article in The Times charging him with deliberate and intentional untruth in his explanatory speech delivered in the House of Commons on the 22nd ultimo. It is the intention of Sir Charles Lewis to bring this matter before the House as a grave Breach of Privilege; but should Mr. Dillon, as the gentleman chiefly and primarily concerned, desire to introduce the subject in vindication of his own character, Sir Charles Lewis will, on receiving an intimation to that effect, make way for Mr. Dillon, provided it is done to-day. Sir Charles Lewis reserves to himself the right to read this letter to the House.[Laughter and ironical cheers.] Well, Sir, I will make no remark upon the cheers which have proceeded from the other side of the House than this—that if hon. Members of this House, when a charge of wholesale and wilful falsehood is made against an hon. Member in connection with his conduct in the course of debate, think that it is a matter of no importance, I venture to disagree with them. In these extracts which I have read there is no possible evasion or escape from the result that a Member of this House is charged with having uttered a wilful and deliberate falsehood in the course of debate, with the intention to deceive the House. It is not necessary for me to repeat over again the extraordinarily strong language used in this article. Every gentleman is the guardian of his own honour. It is not for me to suggest what course any Member of this House should take; but what I venture to say is this—that never in the history of this Parliament have such charges been made in any public channel of communication such as the The Times newspaper, and have been passed without notice being taken of them. But while every man is the guardian of his own honour, this House ought to be the guardian of its own honour; and though certain persons may say that such charges, made with such circumstantial surroundings and detail, do not require to be noticed, 705 and only deserve the contempt of hon. Members against whom they are made, I venture to say that this House ought to take notice of them, and in whatever light it may regard the character of an hon. Member as a politician, is bound to take up this article and to resent the assault made upon the character of its Members, unless it can be justified and proved at the Bar of the House. I am not going to detain the House any longer on this occasion; but I shall have to make a Motion afterwards. I wish now to move, in the ordinary course, that the extracts from this article be read at the Table.
Complaint made to the House by Sir Charles Lewis, Member for North Antrim, of certain passages in The Times of the 2nd of May:—
The said Paper was delivered in, and the passage complained of read, as followeth: —Our present business, however, is not to prove that Sheridan is a murderer and a contriver of murders, or even to show that he organized murderous conspiracies when a paid agent of the 'Constitutional Organisation,' and a trusted member of the Land League Executive. we have treated certain episodes in this scoundrel's career in perhaps tedious detail, to demonstrate once for all the incredible falsehood and effrontery of Parnellite apologists. We have examined an elaborate explanation made by one of the most respected of Mr. Parnell's lieutenants from his place in Parliament, and we have shown that it is a tissue of gross and palpable falsehoods. Whether Mr. Dillon was or was not conscious that the statements he was making were untrue, is a point of little public moment. But it is right and necessary that the world should know that 'the Bayard of the League' has given an entirely fictitious account of a series of important transactions in which he himself and several of his leading Colleagues in the House were principal actors. We are reduced to this alternative—Mr. Dillon either refrained from all serious efforts of recollection and inquiry, and recklessly palmed off upon the House, as ascertained facts within his personal knowledge, a mass of confused, inaccurate, and unexamined memories, or he deliberately told the House a detailed story which he know to be untrue. In either ease, several of his Colleagues must have known that his statements wore unfounded. The party sat exulting by, and endorsed the fabrication.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
said: I now beg to move that the publication in The Times newspaper of the 2nd of May, of the article headed "Parnellism and Crime," is a Breach of the Privileges of this House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the publication in The Times newspaper of the 2nd of May, of the article headed 'Parnellism and Crime,' constitutes a breach of the Privileges of this House."—(Sir Charles Lewis.)
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
As a point of Order, I beg to submit that, according to the ruling in Sir Erskine May's book, it is necessary, in the first place, that the hon. Baronet should state the name of the printer and publisher whom it is desired to bring before the House?
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
I do not know whether this is the proper time for doing that; but I may say that the name of the printer is George Edward Wright.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Who is the publisher?
§ MR. SPEAKER
With reference to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), I may say that the first step is that the Motion be put, "That this constitutes a Breach of Privilege." It is for the House to decide that question, and also what further steps ought to be taken.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I will put the Motion first, and then any hon. Gentleman will be entitled to address the House. The Question is, "That the publication in The Times newspaper of the 2nd of May, of the article headed 'Parnellism and Crime' is a Breach of the Privileges of the House."
§ MR. DILLON
Mr. Speaker, I have not, so far as I am concerned personally, the slightest objection to urge against this Motion. As far as I am personally concerned, I welcome it, and I have only one objection against it, and that is, that it will inevitably lead to a great deal of waste of the time of the House. Before I make any observations on the charge levelled at me by the hon. Baronet, I would like to ask you, Sir, a few questions as to the course of procedure, of which I confess I am entirely ignorant. I want to know what course this debate will take, and whether, in the event of its being determined that this 707 is a Breach of Privilege, and that the printer be had up before the Bar of the House, at what stage it will be most convenient for me to make a detailed reply to these charges, inasmuch as I only read them carefully for the first time about an hour ago, it will be necessary to have a little time to look into these detailed statements. Therefore, I ask you, Sir, what is the usual course of procedure, as it may be more convenient to answer these statements at some other period than the present? Before I sit down, having asked that question, I have only to say, with regard to the course adopted by the hon. Baronet, that I was under the impression that your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the occasion lately when the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) brought forward an analogous case, was that it was not open to us to bring forward attacks made in the newspapers as questions of Privilege; and I may add that it has been my practice, since I became a Member of this House, to abstain from trespassing upon the time of the House, or wasting its time by noticing the repeated attacks of newspapers, which I have always treated with contempt.
§ MR. SPEAKER
With regard to the questions put to me by the hon. Member for East Mayo, I may tell him, in the first place, that I have not seen the article in any detail until it was shown to me not long ago. As to the exact Procedure in the case it is this. I have put the Motion to the House that the words contained in the article constitute a Breach of the Privileges of the House. That, of course, will be for the House to decide, and if the House decides that a Breach of Privilege has been committed, a Motion may be made that certain persons do attend at the Bar of this House. But, as the hon. Member says, he is not prepared at this moment to enter into a detailed statement in reference to these charges made by The Times newspaper, and read to-day by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim, the debate can be adjourned; and I need not say that if it is adjourned it will retain the same place and privilege of priority as it does at the present moment. With regard to the other question, there is no analogy whatever between the case brought forward by the hon. Member for West Belfast and the case now before the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I wish to state that I was entirely unaware of the intention of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) to raise this question until I came down to the House. It appears to me, Sir, that the course which you have suggested is the proper course to take, as the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has stated that he has not had an opportunity to consider fully the details of the charges made in The Times newspaper, which have been read by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim. He has indicated his desire—I think I am correctly interpreting him—to make a statement to the House with reference to them.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. The difficulty I felt myself placed in was this—that I did not know exactly what position to take up with regard to the Motion. I distinctly stated that I did not wish to postpone the matter. If the House decides that it is a Breach of Privilege and directs that the offender be brought to the Bar, I am perfectly prepared to face The Times newspaper, but I do not intend—I have no desire to enter into any personal statement or defence. The reason I asked the question was that if it is decided that this is a Breach of Privilege, and if you bring the printer and publisher of The Times newspaper to the Bar of this House I am quite prepared to enter into a statement. But I have no desire to do so unless it is declared that this is a Breach of Privilege.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have no desire to enter into the question whether the matter constitutes a Breach of Privilege or not, I understand that it is an open question; it is for the House to determine whether the statement contained in this newspaper article which has been read by the hon. Baronet constitutes a Breach of Privilege or not. But there are questions of fact involved, and questions of fact ought not to be argued without Notice and without consideration by this House. I should venture to think that the best course, under all the circumstances of the case, is that we should adjourn the debate. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, Sir, the hon. Member has himself expressed a desire to have some time to look into the matter. I deprecate 709 that the time of the House should be unnecessarily wasted by any unnecessary debate or consumption of the time of the House. If it be the wish of the House to consider at once questions of which we have had no notice whatever, I should not seek to interfere with that decision; but I think it would be more fair and reasonable to all parties, to the hon. Member himself, and to the hon. Baronet behind me, and more suitable to the serious questions involved in the statements made to the House, if further time should be allowed for consideration. I therefore beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Of all the unreasonable propositions I have ever hoard made in this House, the attempt of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) to shunt this debate is the most unreasonable. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) has made a series of charges against the hon. Member for East Mayo, founded upon statements which have appeared in The Times newspaper, and which he says form a Breach of the Privileges of this House, whatever the hon. Member for East Mayo might say with regard to them. Supposing that a man says that I am a murderer. That may or may not be so, but any statement made by me that I am not a murderer would make it less a Breach of the Privileges of this House. The House assumes, as a matter of course, that every one of its Members, including the hon. Baronet, is an honourable man, and therefore any statement made by the hon. Member for East Mayo in no way affects the question whether the charges form a Breach of the Privileges of this House or not. A statement of this character the House can decide upon its merits, bearing in mind what is due to the dignity of the House, and if the House declares that the charges form a Breach of its Privileges, then will come the time for my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo to make his reply, and the House will deal with the charges in a proper manner —whatever that manner may be. But surely the House is now in a position to decide whether a series of libellous statements affecting character form a Breach of Privilege or not. The last time the hon. Baronet called the attention of the House to a Breach of Privilege 710 was when he complained of a statement in The World that he wore a white waistcoat.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
The hon. and learned Member is not correct. I never brought that under the notice of the House as a Breach of Privilege.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
It is a very convenient thing for the hon. Baronet to have forgotten the fact, but if he has forgotten it I have not.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
Will the hon. Member favour me with the year, the month, and the day when I did so.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If the hon. Baronet can give us the year, the month, and the day, and the other particulars of his charges against my hon. Friend, I will also supply him with the particulars he asks for. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury for the adjournment of the House is most unreasonable. We ought to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends that the time of the House should be wasted by one of his own Party, apparently with his own connivance, and why, after having allowed a supporter, without a single word of protest, to advertise The Times, and to give Mr. John Walter the step in the Peerage which he desires, he should then, having allowed the hon. Baronet to give a poisonous stab which may or may not be suited to certain natures, he comes down, and instead of moving the closure—which is more in his line—he should, in order to save the time of the House, move the adjournment of the debate. I must say, that for the right hon. Gentleman to take such a course is, at least, most unreasonable. The right hon. Gentleman must have known what was going to take place, and if he wished to have saved the time of the House he should have made an appeal to the hon. Baronet at the proper time; but, having allowed the hon. Baronet to bring the matter forward, the least he can do is to allow the debate to proceed some little way; but instead of doing that the right hon. Gentleman makes a Motion, knowing that, in accordance with the strict rule of the House, every speaker is compelled to confine himself strictly to the question of the adjournment of the debate. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. As yet I have not had an opportunity of reading The Times, but copies 711 can soon be obtained, and I shall be happy to do so. Let the Motion be withdrawn, let us get a copy of this, and then the charges can easily be digested, and we shall be able to dispose of them in a proper manner. I do not ask that each of the 670 Members should be supplied with a copy; one will be sufficient. I certainly think the right hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw the Motion. These charges have been made by an hon. Member whom the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has lately promoted to the rank of a Baronet; and it has been distinctly stated by the hon. Baronet that they have been made in the interests of the House, and in the interests of Her Majesty's Government. [Cries of "No!"] Surely, the hon. Baronet is a faithful follower of Her Majesty's Government —he has been epauletted by them, and elevated into one of their recognized champions. Under the circumstances, I must say that the Government are taking a most unfair course towards the Irish Party. If a Motion of this kind is accepted, what will the supporters of the Government do? They will go to the country and crow, and pretend that we wanted an adjournment—that we are anxious to shelve these charges. We are not anxious to shelve them. We are anxious to deal with them when they are brought forward in a proper manner. When the extracts from the article in The Times were read at the Table, there was such a constant "buzz" in the House that we were unable to hear what the words were. We heard the name of "P. J. Sheridan" mentioned, but we have heard that name pretty frequently. We presume it was a repetition of the old and stale charges, and we are perfectly ready to deal with them. Any statement The Times may have to make against my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo will not affect the House at large. Any statement my hon. Friend may make will not affect his Colleagues. I, therefore, think that the right hon. Gentleman has been most ill-advised in the course which he has taken in moving the adjournment of the debate, which is practically giving the traditional day's start to the liar which is always of so much advantage in a lie. When these charges are brought forward in a proper way in this House, the Irish Members will be as they have usually been as 712 able to face them as the hon. Baronet was unable to face the charge of corruption at Derry.
§ MR. DILLON
I am bound to resist to the best of my ability the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury seems to have completely misunderstood the few words I addressed to you, Sir, in regard to the course of procedure upon the action which has been taken by the hon. Baronet. These charges were made against me in The Times newspaper, and, as I stated on a previous occasion in this House, I should never, as far as I am concerned, think of wasting five minutes of the time of this House on any charge which The Times—or any other newspaper of that class—might bring against me. But when an hon. Member of this House takes upon himself to write the letter which he has done. I can only say that if he had not brought this Motion I should have directed your attention, Sir, to it as being a gross breach of courtesy and good breeding, if not of the Privileges of this House, because the letter plainly charges me with deliberate falsehood, and with cowardice to boot, and then having written that letter—a most improper letter for any Member of the House to write to another—he comes down to this House and practically repeats the charges by the Motion he has made. I am, therefore, entitled to demand—although I am only an humble Member of this House—I am entitled to demand, at the hands of the Government, that that charge shall be brought to an issue here without further delay, and that the country and the supporters of the hon. Member opposite shall not be told to-morrow that I played the part of a coward here to-day; and as I am charged by the hon. Baronet with being, and that I shrank from facing this issue or requested any delay. That would be an utterly false statement of my position. My position is this—I deliberately say that the two columns which appear in The Times are calumnies, base and atrocious calumnies, and are deliberate, malicious, and abominable misrepresentations of the truth. I am prepared to face the printer and publisher of The Times at any moment, and more especially when he is brought here by the vote of this House, and to prove that he is himself—that which he charges me 713 with being—a foul and cowardly liar. I seek no time to make my defence, but I deny the right of the hon. Baronet to put me on my defence until he brings my accuser to that Bar, when a Motion of this kind is made. The reason, Sir, that I asked for your instructions in the matter was that I did not wish to place myself in the position of opposing this Motion. I support the Motion. I want the printer of The Times there at that Bar. And if he be brought there I shall prove to conviction that he is as base and as cowardly a liar as he wishes to make me out to be.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I take part in this debate with great reluctance, and I think I may be permitted to do so if I say at the outset that I do so as amicus curiœ, and in order to suggest, if possible, to the House what I think ought to be done. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) has read certain extracts from a newspaper, and the hon. Member for North Longford says—" We have not seen these extracts from The Times." I understood, Sir, that even you, in the incidental remarks you made, said that you had not seen them in detail. They are not only fresh to you, but I believe that very few hon. Members have been able to study them closely. The extracts have doubtless been read at the Table; but I venture to say, with the greatest respect to our able Clerk, that the reading of them at the Table did not convoy any accurate knowledge to the House of the contents of the article. As the vast majority of the Members of the House have not carefully studied those articles, it would be extremely dangerous to the character of the House as a tribunal seeking to do right between all the parties concerned, not only hon. Members of the House, but persons outside, to proceed to decide the question whether the articles are not a Breach of Privilege. Upon that ground, I, therefore, suggest that the Motion for the adjournment of the debate should be agreed to, and that the debate should be adjourned until Thursday next, the latest day to which it would be adjourned. I do not make that suggestion because I think that the hon. Member for East Mayo desires to put aside these charges. It must be admitted that he has made a most eloquent pro- 714 test. Between now and Thursday hon. Members can have the article in their hands, and have an opportunity of considering it. If the House does, on Thursday, come to the conclusion that the article is a libel and a Broach of the Privileges of the House, I have no doubt that the House will not hesitate to follow up the consequences of that conclusion—one of which, I apprehend, would be bringing the offender of the Privileges of the House before the Bar of the House. The hon. Member for East Mayo will not be injured in any degree by the delay. I think the character of the House requires that such a delay should occur before the House proceeds with a matter which involves the examination of an article which may be now to many hon. Members. I may further say, in support of postponement, that, on hearing the article read, I saw a manifest discrepancy—I do not know whether it is important or not—between the article and what the hon. Member appears to have thought he has found in the article. I mention that as an i lustration of the necessity for appealing to hon. Members, and especially to those who are, and may, justifiably and properly, be excited by the article being brought before this Assembly, to agree to an adjournment, so that we may approach, in a proper temper, the examination and the consideration of the article on Thursday next.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of giving what humble support I may to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) who has just sat down. I feel that the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has made is, in all the circumstances of the case, the wisest Motion that could be made, not only on the ground that it would be very convenient to hon. Members to have the opportunity of examining with care the passages complained of, but also on the ground that the House of Commons, at the present day, cannot, I imagine, be too careful in guarding against the multiplication of questions of Privilege. It appears to me that we should not hastily or rashly come to the conclusion that a claim to bring any matter before this House as a question of Privilege is necessarily a Breach of the Privileges of the House, 715 or a matter with which the House of Commons only can deal. There are other matters which might be examined which, undoubtedly, would be Breaches of Privilege, and which only the House could deal with; but there are other matters which the House of Commons had better leave to the Courts of Law. In so far as Breaches of Privilege partake of the nature of libel upon individuals, they are matters which, I think, the House of Commons should be chary of entertaining. The House of Commons cannot afford any adequate remedy to a person injured by a libel such as that which is complained of now. Suppose you had the printer and publisher of a libel at the Bar of the House, there is no penalty you could inflict upon him beyond imprisonment; but, suppose the printer and publisher of The Times has been guilty of a libel, is proceeded against in a Court of Law, and is convicted by a jury, then the penalty may be inflicted which may be of a most severe character. Therefore, what I would impress upon the House is this—we ought to be most careful not to admit that it is in the power of any newspaper to publish statements about hon. Members of the House of such a character as may at any moment produce a privileged interruption to our ordinary Business. That seems to me to be the danger involved in this matter. If you admit the right of The Times to make statements against a Member in respect of the debates of this House which are to be met subsequently at the Bar of the House, it is in the power of any newspaper to seek notoriety by writing libellous attacks upon Members of the House and being brought to the Bar to support them. Therefore, I advocate adjournment because I am anxious that those who have experience of the practice of the House, such as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and others, should examine the matter, and see whether, even if the statements complained of are libellous, they are still matters which ought to be treated as a Breach of the Privileges of the House. It is with no wish to decide partially as between one side and the other that I am anxious that the Motion of the Government should be agreed to. The liberty of the Press is so important, and has been so extended, that the House of 716 Commons should be most careful, in such a grave matter, not to take any false or hasty step.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) has suddenly grown astonishingly timid and circumspect. He himself has not been ashamed in recent speeches in this country, when he was not face to face with us, to avail himself of the currency of these scandalous and miserable charges for the sake of gaining a Party advantage. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), the Minister responsible for the affairs of our country, has not been ashamed to refer, in express terms, to the charges which are the subject of debate, and to give them the advantage of the further currency to be obtained by his political position, and the expression of his opinion that they were well founded. For some time past Gentlemen of the first position in this House have, from time to time, in various forms of language more or less direct, given countenance and currency to charges of this kind. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington is not ashamed to endeavour to place us in a position of further disadvantage by obtaining delay. Sir, we have been pursued for years by moral assassins. Our position in this country has been rendered painful, and in this House has been rendered most intolerable, and it is becoming a question necessary for us to consider whether it can be any longer endured. It is, at a moment like this, not ashamed of reaping advantage from these charges, the noble Lord comes up and endeavours to induce the House to consent to further delay—at a time when an hon. Member from whom we never expected a friendly turn —the hon. Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis)—has made an apparently successful effort in the direction in which our efforts were unsuccessful. I will remind you. Sir, that when we put Questions from this side of the House with reference to The Times you, Sir, informed us that you could not allow the matter to be raised without a Notice of Motion being put upon the Paper.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I never informed the right hon. Gentleman or the House to that effect. After the first 717 article had appeared in The Times, the question was put to me whether I regarded that as a matter of Privilege, and I laid down the limits of a question of Privilege, and I said, that, in my opinion, no question of Privilege had arisen; but, subsequently, some weeks alter the appearance of the first article, I used these words—"I am far from saying that questions of Privilege have not arisen."
§ MR. SEXTON
I am sure, Sir, that you will understand that I am not intending to call in question your ruling. But only a few days ago I called your attention. Sir, to the fact that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had, in a speech in this House, declared that the forged letter in The Times was a vindictive and a barefaced forgery. I called your attention to the fact that since that declaration hon. Members of this House had declared that the letter was Mr. Parnell's letter. Upon that occasion you ruled that I was not entitled to raise the question as a matter of Privilege.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The matter is one of very great importance, and I feel bound again to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. The distinction between the two cases is this. I laid it down the other day as a case of presumptive Privilege, that an attack had been made upon an hon. Member for his conduct in this House. The article, as far as I gathered from the words read by the hon. Baronet, went to this effect—that a statement made by an hon. Member in his place in this House was false. I do not wish to repeat the expressions that were used; but it was that charge which constituted the whole gravamen, and it was that which, in my opinion, constituted a question of Privilege, which I do not think it my duty to forbid being brought under the notice of the House. Whether it is a Breach of Privilege it is for the House to decide and not for me.
§ MR. SEXTON
I did not intend to refer to the matter in any critical spirit as to the ruling of the Chair; but I wished to point out that on other occasions similar questions have arisen that we have more than once—indeed, on many occasions—endeavoured in this House to call the attention of The Times and other calumniators as a Breach of Privilege; but up to the present moment we have not succeeded in doing so. 718 Therefore I am thankful and glad that the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim has made the Motion he has made to-day, and I address the House as a supporter of that Motion. I join my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo in resisting the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury which, Sir, I declare to be from the moment it was made discreditable to the Government, and the adoption of which will be dishonourable to the House. I heard with infinite surprise the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Courtney.) He said that the language of the article had not been distinctly heard; but who wants distinctly to hear it? Does it contain anything new? Have we not been exposed to these charges for months and years? Does anyone doubt the nature of them? Hon. Members may not have heard the exact words read by the hon. Baronet, or by the Clerk at the Table; but does not everyone in the House know that the hon. Member for East Mayo has been accused by this infamous print—The Times—of having stated in this House what he know to be a deliberate falsehood. If that statement is not a Breach of the Privileges of this House, I do not know what can be. Does anyone need to go beyond the title of the article "Parnellism and Crime?" The article asserts that there is a direct association between a body of the Members of this House and breakers of the Criminal Law of the country. The very title of the article constitutes a Breach of Privilege. What plea is raised for delay? The allegations against the hon. Member for East Mayo are definite, numerous, and specific, and my hon. Friend is ready to make his reply. Why should the reply of my hon. Friend be judged to be necessarily antecedent to the declaration of the House upon the question of Privilege? Do you think you will entrap my hon. Friend into an elaborate defence of himself until you take the publisher of The Times by the throat and bring him to the Bar of this House. I speak in your presence, Sir, and subject to your correction; but I speak with great confidence, and I say that the question of Privilege is not concerned with the sufficiency of the reply to be made to this attack. The essence of Privilege lies in the nature 719 of the charge, without reference to the reply. You have no right either to call on my hon. Friend to make his reply or to ask for delay in reference to his reply because, by the mere fact of your allowing this Motion to be made, you have given an indication of your opinion. Judging from former precedents set by yourself and other Speakers, you would not have allowed the Motion to be made unless you conceived that a question of Privilege had arisen. The House has to that extent obtained your direction. Now, the simple question raised by the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim is attempted to be evaded by the Queen's First Minister in this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House of Commons, the chief custodian of the collective honour of this Chamber, by a Gentleman who is not ashamed to allow his secretary to write letters to Primrose Leagues.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Motion before the House is the adjournment of the debate, and the hon. Member is now introducing irrelevant and extraneous matter.
§ MR. SEXTON
I maintain that it would have been far more decent on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury if he had abstained from intervening in the debate an obstructive and evasive Motion. I contend, Sir, that the Breach of Privilege is complete, and I challenge any hon. Member, or any hon. and learned Member, to say, especially in view of your recent ruling, that any newspaper is entitled to say of a Member of this House that he has been guilty of wilful and deliberate falsehood. My hon. Friend has replied to The Times, and we are ready to reply to The Times. The House will know what to think of this game of moral assassination which is now being played in this country, when I toll hon. Members that for two days I have been waiting under a subpoena to be called in a criminal case, but the parties went to a jury without daring to call me. I wish they had called me, and placed me upon the table, because I think that if that had been done even the hon. Baronet would not have had the hardihood to make the Motion he has made to-day. We have in various ways endeavoured to bring our opponents and calumniators to book. 720 We have hitherto failed to do so in this House, and we have good reason for believing that there is no effectual justice to be obtained outside the House. Now, Sir, a Member of this House, who is a supporter of the Government, has thrown down the challenge—we have heard a good deal lately about challenges that have been thrown down and have not been taken up—and now, Sir, we take up his challenge. What will the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) do? What will the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) do? What will be done in this Motion by this Party in the House of Commons, who have in various ingenious and indirect forms of language, in an attempt to fasten this fault upon us, challenged us to take up the gage? Will they assist us to take up the gage which has been thrown down? The Government have a majority here. They can carry the Motion that this article of The Times is a Breach of Privilege. If they carry that Motion, the further result of which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) seems to think would be indefinite and uncertain, the printer and publisher of The Times would be called upon to appear at the Bar and make a statement to the House, and if he refused to make it, or if that statement were unsatisfactory, this House would be bound in defence of its Member to order an inquiry into the matter. That, Sir, is the step we desire. Will the gentlemen of England—at least, those who have a spark of manhood or chivalry in them—assembled in this House, determine now whether any longer a Party of Irishmen, who have laboured painfully and arduously for many years for the advancement of the liberties of their countrymen, are to sit here isolated at the mercy of every ruffian who calls himself the editor of a newspaper. We ask you as gentlemen, as public men, as men united by the common tie of humanity, to let a Committee of this House be formed; let any Committee be formed which fairly represents the Parties in this House; let it be a Committee on which the Government have a majority; but, at any rate, let a Committee of this House be formed where we shall not be defeated by the jugglery of a Sheriff or the criminality of jurors, and then let The Times 721 or any other newspaper bring along its battalions of forgers and of liars. We should soon bring this miserable jugglery to an end, and expose the wretched extremity of a Party which, finding that it can no longer, on a basis of fair play, maintain itself before the people, has resorted to the devices of the garotter and the Thug. Only give us a tribunal of this House, and humble as we are—helpless as we are here—and powerful as are our opponents—unscrupulous as they are, we shall prove, Sir, that for no greater crime than that we have stood up as honest men. and as men who claim to have some courage in defence of the political rights and liberties of our people, we have been pursued by a system of moral assassination, the most shameful, and the most unscrupulous the world has ever known.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I sympathize with the desire which has been expressed by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), who has just sat down, to meet this charge without further delay, making allowance for the natural warmth which has been displayed. I altogether fail to see what they have to complain of. The hon. Member for West Belfast says that it does not matter in the least what this article contains, and that the name itself —"Parnellism and Crime"—is sufficient to constitute a reason for prosecuting this debate without any adjournment. But I must remind the hon. Member that this is not the first article that has appeared, and which has been described as "Parnellism and Crime." These articles have been published now for many days; and during that time hon. Members opposite have thought it unnecessary to take any notice of them. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] At any rate, no action has been taken upon them, and I confess I do not understand why it is so absolutely necessary to proceed with this debate now, without an adjournment for a single day. Now, Sir, we are asked to decide whether certain statements in The Times newspaper constitute a Breach of the Privileges of this House; and it seems to me that in so grave and serious a matter as that it is only reasonable and right that the House of Commons should arrive at a calm, judicial, and deliberate action. If we are to come to such a decision in this case, it is absolutely necessary that we 722 should all have a complete understanding and knowledge of the statements complained of. I happen to be in the same position as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh, dear no!] Perhaps I may be allowed to state my view without interruption on a matter which I regard as most serious. I am in the same position as the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney), and of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), both of whom appear to have had no Notice that it was intended to bring the question before the House. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford says that he had never seen this article.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Speaking for myself, and I believe for many other hon. Members of this House, I may say that I, for one, have had no sufficient opportunity of studying these articles, and I have no adequate knowledge of what they contain. I was unable to hear what it was that was read by the Chief Clerk at the Table. That being so, how is it possible for the House to arrive at a conclusion upon this subject when the majority of hon. Members at this moment do not know what the articles contain? Under these circumstances, I think, Sir, that it is absolutely necessary that the debate should be adjourned.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I, Sir, intend to vote against the adjournment of this debate, and I desire respectfully to submit to the House my reasons for that vote. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Chaplin) has asked what disadvantage it can be to hon. Members on this side of the House to have an adjournment? Well, I will tell him, speaking only for the Radical Members, and not for the Irish Members, for none of whom I have any right to speak, the objection urged to the adjournment is that outside this House these matters are repeated at nearly every meeting as reasons for carrying a Bill now before the House, which I regard as one of monstrous stringency, and I do not desire in any way to co-operate with anyone in securing such delay as will aid in the circulation of unfair charges. What is the question we are 723 asked to discuss? The question is, Is the statement submitted by the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) a Breach of Privilege? And if his translation of that statement is correct, no more distinct Breach of Privilege could be submitted. His translation, and I took down his words carefully, was that the article in The Times charged the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) with wilful and deliberate falsehood in a statement which he had made to this House. If that be not a Breach of Privilege, nothing can be. I understood the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) to suggest that there was a discrepancy between the language read by the hon. Baronet and the interpretation he placed upon it; but knowing the legal acute-ness of the hon. Baronet, and knowing that in a grave matter of this kind he must have carefully considered every word, I feel sure that the hon. Baronet, when he made himself the guardian of somebody else's honour, as well as constituting himself for to-day the guardian of the honour of this House, took pains not to give one shade of interpretation to the statement graver than it deserved. But the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is that this House ought to be very careful how it gets into a quarrel with the Press.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I am always unlucky in understanding the noble Lord. We sometimes seem to attach different meanings to the same words. I understood the noble Lord to say that, at any rate, whatever might be the judgment of the House as to this particular article, the one reason why the House should not deal with it was that it only had the power of imprisonment. I have not had the long experience in Parliament which the noble Lord has had, but I have had occasion more than once to examine the Records of the House, and I can refer him from memory to cases in which the House has done more than put into prison those whom it has declared to have been guilty of a Breach of Privilege. That, however, is entirely an outside question, and I only deal with it in order to remind the noble Lord that his memory is not always accurate upon matters of this kind. 724 What attack upon a Member is to be regarded as a Breach of Privilege if an attack like this is not? What is the excuse for the adjournment of the debate? The truth of the question is another matter, to be dealt with in another way and at another time. There can be no excuse for saying that this debate has been raised from this side of the House for the obstruction of any measure that is before the House; but it has been raised by a favoured supporter of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). I cannot imagine that he would have been so disloyal to the Party to which he belongs as to raise it without some consultation with, or communication to, the chief of that Party whom he is anxious to serve. The question having been raised, I venture to appeal to every English Radical—and I have no right to appeal to any others—to give us their votes against the adjournment, as a declaration to the world outside, that they will be no parties to putting into the hands of speakers at Conservative meetings weapons which, even if real, ought not to be used in order to expedite a Bill which is directed against the liberties of a nation, and which will be used for no other purpose.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I do not desire to criticize the course which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has taken in suggesting the adjournment of this debate. Certainly, the ground upon which he based that suggestion was that he thought that the hon. Member for East Mayo might require time to consider the matter. But that evidently is not the case. The hon. Member for East Mayo and his Friends have demanded that this matter should be considered and determined at once. Well, Sir, in the time that I have sat in this House I have heard a good many cases of Breach of Privilege brought before the House, but, generally speaking, the House of Commons has very wisely decided not to encourage Motions of that kind. It is perfectly plain that Motions of that kind might be multiplied to any extent. There are hundreds of papers in this country which write almost every day things which almost everyone of us, if he chose, might treat as a Breach of Privilege. I may say that I, myself, when I read them very frequently, find 725 myself libelled, and if I chose I might treat it as a Breach of Privilege. But, Sir, there is a peculiarity in this case which I never recollect happening in any other. It has generally been left to the hon. Member himself or his Friends to determine how far he thinks observations of that character worthy of his notice or not. I think that every man who is a wise man takes no notice of that sort of attack, and depends upon his own character for his defence. But we have here—made as a Party Motion —a Motion by an hon. Member who cannot even make the plausible pretext that he does it in defence of the person who is attacked, but who uses the Motion, instead of defending the individual or the House, as a means of personal attack upon another hon. Member. That is an unparalleled situation with regard to a Motion of Privilege. It comes forward and it is presented to the House, though ostensibly as a Motion against The Times, in reality as a Motion in favour of The Times. It is brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) as an accusation against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). It is using a question of Breach of Privilege, under the shallow pretence of vindicating the hon. Member for East Mayo, and of vindicating the character of the House, for the sake of making what is really and substantially an attack upon the honour of the hon. Member for East Mayo across the Table of this House. Everybody knows that this is the real character of the transaction. It is a charge of falsehood advanced by the hon. Member for North Antrim, under cover of The Times newspaper, against another hon. Member of this House. It is so brought forward as stated in the letter which the hon. Member for East Mayo has read. The hon. Member for North Antrim says—The Times newspaper says that you have deliberately stated in the House of Commons that which is false; T advance that authority, and call upon you to meet it.[Cries of "No, no!"] I think that it will appeal to the candid judgment both of this House and of people outside the House whether that is the true character of the transaction. Therefore, Sir, we are in the presence of something different altogether from a question of Breach of Privilege. It is a charge—a 726 scarcely veiled charge of falsehood advanced by one Member of the House against another, and the Member against whom the charge is brought—on behalf of himself and his friends—demands instant redress. I cannot understand how the House can hesitate for a moment with regard to this demand. If they had said that this charge required time to meet it, everybody in this House would have granted the delay. But they do not demand that delay; they demand that the House shall, in some form or another, give redress, either against The Times, which has been used as a stalking horse in this case, or against the hon. Member who has used that stalking horse in this House. One consequence of the course that has been taken will be that when any hon. Member of this House has a hostile feeling against another, he will read every paragraph concerning him in any newspaper, and call upon you, Sir, to deal with it as a question of Privilege. It will be the institution of a new form of obstruction; the time of the House will be taken up every night by having to consider comments in every London or Provincial newspaper upon the conduct of some hon. Member, and whether they constitute a Breach of Privilege. This matter is brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim, one of the principal Irish supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and we must deal with it as it arises. We all know the manner in which Irish Members have been treated upon this question—how they have been taunted with their unwillingness to meet these charges. These charges have been publicly advanced on the responsibility of a Member of this House, and then when they ask to be allowed to meet them they are refused a decision of the House upon the question. Do you doubt that, according to Parliamentary precedent, to say that a Member of this House has either deliberately stated that which is untrue, or recklessly forbore to know whether it was untrue or not, I do not care what form the charge may take—does anyone doubt that, according to the strict form of Parliamentary precedent, that is a Breach of Privilege? That being so, and considering the circumstances, I quite admit the difficulty in which Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite are 727 placed; but that is due to their own supporters. The House has nothing to do with that. The position we have got to deal with is this. We have a charge of great gravity and great magnitude advanced in this House, and we have a demand made by the Gentlemen implicated in it that instant measures should be taken to meet those charges. I do not see how we can refuse that demand. Therefore, I do not complain of the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury originally suggested the adjournment; but as it is quite plain that the ground on which he was induced to make it has not been borne out by the attitude and language of the hon. Member for East Mayo, I hope that, in the circumstances, he will not press this Motion, but will allow the House to come to a decision.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
Mr. Speaker, I have no wish at all to find fault with the observations of the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), except upon one point, to which I shall refer in a moment; but there were two statements made below the Gangway opposite which I must be allowed to deal with, and to deal with in the most emphatic manner. One hon. Member said that this Motion has been made with the connivance of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), or some other Member of Her Majesty's Government. Another hon. Member in the same quarter said that this Motion would not have been made without consultation with Her Majesty's Government. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury stated distinctly, not half an hour ago, that until he came down to this House he had no notice of it, and he also stated that until then he had no idea that it was going to be made. I think that, under those circumstances, it is going a little too far to suggest that the Motion was made with the connivance of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury. It is, I think, at all events, probable, that if any intimation had been given that such a Motion was to be made such communication in the ordinary way would have been made to myself. All I can say is that until I came down to the House, and heard the hon. Baronet actually making his statement, I had 728 not the slightest idea of it; and I believe I may gay that there was no single Member of the Government who ever connived at, or was consulted upon, this question. I trust that that denial will be sufficiently explicit. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had no intention of doubting the word of my right hon. Friend. If there was a misunderstanding under which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury moved the adjournment, it was one in which I also shared with regard to the wish of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I understood him to say that he had not read The Times article, and that he himself was not unfavourable to some delay. We thought, I dare say wrongly, that the hon. Member for East Mayo was not fully aware of the charges which had been made against him, and that it would suit his convenience to have the matter deferred.
§ MR. DILLON
As the hon. and learned Member has not stated what I actually said, I think I ought to repeat what I did say. I said, Sir, that I wanted from you information as to the course of Procedure in matters of this kind. What I had in my mind was this, that the House would decide whether the publisher of The Times would be brought up at the Bar or not, and that I ought to reserve my statement until such time as he was brought to the Bar.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I thought he had indicated that he had not read the article. Of course, I at once accept his statement, but the point I was coming to is this, and it is one which I wish the House to consider. Hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to be under a misapprehension; they appear to think that if the printer or publisher was brought to the Bar that he could enter into a justification of the charges that have appeared in The Times, and could prove the truth of what has been written. But he can do nothing of the kind. If the House decides that it is a Breach of Privilege, it decides it in the absence of the printer. The printer or publisher may then be brought to the Bar. The matter may then be considered, and perhaps punishment inflicted on him; but no statement as to the truth of the charges is permissible from him. Therefore, although I can appreciate the desire of the hon. Mem- 729 ber for East Mayo to disprove and meet with emphatic and specific denial the charges that have been made against him, yet I must point out that that cannot be done with the printer at the Bar.
§ MR. DILLON
What I really wanted was information. I was under the impression that there would be a debate upon the question whether the printer should be punished or not, and I wanted to know whether there would be a suitable time to enter at length into the nature of these charges.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am speaking now of what the position of the printer would be—the alleged libeller. The hon. Member for East Mayo has spoken of him as a cowardly liar, and I do not wonder at it; because the charges are very grave and serious. It is quite plain that the printer at the Bar would have no opportunity of proving whether the charges that have been made are true. The adjournment of this debate will, at any rate, not alter the position of the House with regard to the question, and if the hon. Member for East Mayo desires at once to make a statement, or later on, I do not suppose that the House would put any obstacles in the way of his so doing. The House must remember that this question of Privilege is an exceedingly difficult one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says that there is no doubt that this is a case of Privilege. I cannot say so. I cannot give an opinion so rapidly as he, or in so off-handed a way. I do not think that this is by any means a clear ease. I think it is a case that ought to be very carefully considered before the House decides upon it; and I ask the House to remember that it has been over and over again laid down that a question of Privilege is so delicate a matter that it ought never to be approached without deliberation. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo desires to make a statement now, I think he ought to be allowed to do so; but the question whether the printer should be summoned to the Bar ought not, I think, to be decided without extreme deliberation and care, so as to see that no mistake is made. On behalf of the Government, I disclaim the least intention or desire to postpone this question for Party motives, or for the reasons suggested by the hon. and 730 learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). Whether we were under a misapprehension or not the Motion for adjournment was made as the best way of dealing with the matter, and the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means, as well as those of the right hon. Member for Derby, show that they were under the same impression. The issue before the House being whether the House should determine the matter now or two or three days hence, I think that, subject to the right of the hon. Member for East Mayo to make an explanation now if he desires, the House would act more wisely if it resolved to proceed with calmness and deliberation, and accede to the Motion for the adjournment.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
I should have thought there was only one person who ought to be consulted with regard to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. There appears to have been some uncertainty as to the observations addressed to the House, in the first instance, by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), but that uncertainty has now been removed, and I am surprised that the Motion for adjournment is still persisted in. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has pointed out that the course proposed by the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) would not really give the hon. Member for East Mayo an opportunity for meeting the charges in The Times as he wishes to do; but the Motion has been made by a supporter of the Government—the chosen Friend and ally of the Government —and it was received with favour on the opposite side of the House. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well I did not notice any marks of dissent; but do not suppose that, for a single moment, I am desirous of throwing any doubt on any statement which has been made by my hon. and learned Friend. The hon. Baronet who made the Motion has recently been promoted by his Party, and there is indeed some regret that he was not promoted even to a higher sphere, which might have removed the Government from the unpleasant position in which he has placed them now. No doubt the matter cannot be disposed of to-night; but the hon. Member for East Mayo has the right to 731 at once defend himself against the charges brought against him, and, at any rate, advance that defence one stage tonight. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury for this Motion was based on a misunderstanding of the observations that were made by the hon. Member for East Mayo; but, notwithstanding that this ground has now been removed, my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has attempted to justify it on other grounds. We have heard from the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Courtney), and from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), that there is a doubt whether there is a question of Privilege involved in this matter at all. [Mr. COURTNEY dissented.] Then I withdraw that remark, as far as it applies to the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means, but I certainly misunderstood the effect of the observation he made. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington certainly expressed a doubt whether this is a question of Privilege or not, and I think it very strange that these doubts should only have arisen after it was found that the hon. Member for East Mayo was anxious to take up the challenge which was thrown down.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Will my hon. and learned Friend pardon me. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury distinctly said, in reference to the Motion, that it was doubtful as to whether this was a question of Privilege at all.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman express that doubt. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I trust that hon. Members opposite believe, at any rate, that I am speaking honestly. I say that I certainly did not hear the right hon. Gentleman say so. If I had done so I should not have included him in the observation I made just now. I should have said—and I do not think it would be an unfair observation to make—that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving the adjournment of the debate, was, in fact, asking for time, because he was not quite sure that the action of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim had not placed the Government in an uncomfortable position. As I have said, if I had heard the observation—referred to by my hon. and learned 732 Friend—made by the right hon. Gentleman I certainly should not have included him, and I wish to assure him that it was not a wilful act on my part. Perhaps I may be allowed to conclude the few observations I venture to make by appealing to the House whether, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo has said, that, so far as the House is concerned, he begs the House to advance his defence by one step, at least, to-night—I appeal to the House whether, under those circumstances, it is desirable to insist upon the adjournment of the debate? We have heard a great deal lately about challenges having been thrown down. A challenge has been thrown down to-night—a challenge which, I understand, is aimed at the hon. Member for East Mayo. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE: No.] I do not say that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) threw the challenge down. I was not addressing the hon. and learned Solicitor General. I was referring to the cheers with which the Motion of the hon. Baronet was received. I may have been mistaken even in this. At any rate, I will go so far as to say that no one ventured to rise on that side of the House to find fault with the Motion of the hon. Baronet. Under these circumstances, I ask the House to reject the Motion for adjournment, and to give the hon. Member for East Mayo an opportunity of meeting the charges which have been made against him at the earliest possible moment.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Londonderry)
Mr. Speaker, I hope the House will not consent to allow a day or an hour to pass without declaring this matter a Breach of Privilege, and allowing inquiry to be instantly made. We have been told over and over again that we do not court inquiry. Even to-night, as an instance of the looseness of the accusations which have been made against us, I may call attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman opposite said that, although charges have been levelled against us again and again, we have never sought any opportunity of refuting them. Now, Mr. Speaker, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has stated in his speech, he has himself, on more than one occasion, endeavoured to obtain a chance in this House of raising the whole of this subject as a question of Privilege, 733 but he has failed. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has endeavoured to limit what the House can do when a man is brought to the Bar of this House charged with a Broach of Privilege. I think that much more can be done than the lion, and learned Gentlemen seems to think. The man accused can be heard in his own defence at the Bar of the House, he can be heard by counsel by the permission of the House; he can bring up every statement, and sustain any charge he has alleged, in his own defence, and elaborately substantiate the whole of his case if he thinks fit, against the person he has accused, and then when he has withdrawn from the Bar, it is competent for the House to go into the whole question. I, therefore, take it that the course which the House is now asked to pursue will give the fullest chance of sifting these charges to the bottom. I was glad to hear one statement made by the Attorney General—namely, that the Government have not connived at this singular proceeding on the part of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis). I was glad, also, to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman declare it as his opinion—and it is my opinion too—that when a hon. Member of this House declares that certain statements which have been made against him are untrue, his disclaimer ought to be believed. The Attorney General said, in the course of his speech, that we cannot consider this subject now, because many Members have not read the particular article in question; and he added, the moment after, that this article is only one of a series of articles, all written with the same purpose, and form part of a combined charge. But if that be so, surely we do not want to read the whole of these two columns of print in order to know that a Breach of Privilege has been committed. We know that in this article an hon. Member of this House is accused of downright falsehood, uttered in his place in this House; and, surely, if there is any Breach of Privilege at all, that is a Breach of Privilege of the most gross and scandalous nature. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is anxious that there shall be no undue encroachment on the time of the House. There was a season in the career of the noble Lord when he 734 was not so anxious about saving the time of House. The noble Lord said that if we admit that this was a question of Privilege, we should be inundated with similar cases in the future. As if this case does not altogether stand by itself; as if, at any former time, the same series of charges have been made, day after day, against Members of this House. I trust that a time may never come in the history of this honourable House when such charges shall again be made, and when the same attempt shall be made by the Government to prevent their being brought to an issue. Now, Sir, I confess that I am not fond of bringing newspaper writers and publishers to the Bar of this House, nor am I fond of appealing to the judgment of the House in defence of my own character, or the personal character of my Friends. If this were merely a personal question, and if it concerned only the men abused and their personal friends, I would say to my Friends, "Let it pass; let us take no notice of it; let us trust to time for the vindication of our character, and to the fair future judgment of this House." For myself, I may say that after a tolerable long and not obscure, not, perhaps, altogether undistinguished career in literature here among you, I find myself charged, day after day, with being the patron and hirer of murderers. Yet, did I stand alone, I should take no action; and if anyone were to ask me if I was guilty of these crimes, I should refuse to give him any manner of answer whatever —I should refuse to reply to the charge knowing that better men than myself have been maligned and slandered. But it is no longer a personal question. These calumnies are being used for a Party purpose to aid the passing of a most odious Bill, and, if possible, to stem the rising tide of English opinion in favour of the legislative independence of Ireland. These are the purposes for which these accusations are made in the newspapers; and the First Lord of the Treasury, who drives, I am told, a roaring trade in this literature of the pest house, does not think it wrong or beneath his dignity to stand up in this House to endeavour, by an evasive Motion, to prevent us from vindicating our characters and our cause at the earliest possible moment. We court inquiry. We not only court inquiry, but we insist upon it. We say 735 that this House has no right to allow these charges to be made day after day against a number of its Members, and not to endeavour to interfere, in order that justice may be done. We appeal to any tribunal in this House—to any Committee of English Gentlemen whatever. I say for myself, that I should be willing to go before a Committee composed of Members of this House most bitterly opposed to me in political opinion; believing them to be English Gentlemen, I should submit our case to them cheerfully and fearlessly. Then I say that the Government have no right to press this evasive Motion to-night, and to take away from us the earliest opportunity, even although the Motion proceeds from so strange a source. Let the Government put all small arguments and sophistry aside. We at last have got a chance that an inquiry may be held; and we demand that it shall be held by the House itself. I hope there is no man of honour in this House who will go into the Lobby in support of the Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
When the hon. and learned Attorney General got up, he told us that the Motion for adjournment was made by the First Lord of the Treasury under a misunderstanding. That misunderstanding having been cleared up, I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not go on to say that the Motion, having been made under a misunderstanding, would be withdrawn. The Government, however, determined to persist in it. The right hon. Gentleman based his whole argument in favour of adjournment on the statement that the publisher of The Times could not speak at the Bar in his own defence. Surely, that could only be an argument against the original Motion, and not an argument for adjournment, because a discussion carried on day after day will not alter the fact that the publisher of The Times, when called to the Bar, could not speak in his own defence.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
As a matter of fact, he might. There have been similar cases before. There happens to be an hon. Member of this House who chanced to be in a similar position—the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reid). 736 The hon. Member was once brought up to the Bar, and the Speaker asked the hon. Member what he had to say; and the hon. Member, I believe, had a good deal to say in his defence. Then, in the last Parliament but one, my hon. Friend and Colleague in the representation of Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) was called before the Bar two or three times, and he was asked each time, whether he had anything to say; and, with the consent of the House, was permitted to speak. Of course, if the Attorney General means that the publisher of The Times could not appear at the Bar with a whole train of witnesses, that is possible, I cannot contradict him. But are we to understand that the conduct of hon. Members opposite has been all swagger? They have persistently told us, over and over again, that some action ought to be taken by hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House with reference to the accusation of The Times; but when tho3e hon. Members express their readiness to answer the challenge, the Party opposite say—"Oh, no; it cannot be allowed, because the publisher of The Times cannot come here with a large number of witnesses." Where were those witnesses when the case which took place yesterday and to-day was heard in the Royal Courts of Justice? After all his swagger, the defendant in that action could not produce one single witness in support of his charges; and an intelligent English jury have awarded the plaint if £500. Another point of the Attorney General was an objection to the course proposed on this side of the House, that a Division should be taken at once. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that when a Breach of Privilege is alleged in this House, the matter is never decided on the spot. I have here a case proving the contrary. Mr. Mitchell Henry in May, 1881, alleged that a letter written by Mr. Patrick Egan, and published in The Freeman's Journal, was a Breach of Privilege, and then and there the letter was decided to be a Breach of Privilege. The right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplain) and several other hon. Members on the other side of the House say that they do not exactly know what is the character of the article to which attention has been drawn, and that they want time for the purpose of reading it. I will quote 737 three lines from the article which constitute by themselves a gross Breach of Privilege. These are the lines which I wish to read—''We have examined an elaborate explanation made by one of the most respected of Mr. Parnell's lieutenants from his place in Parliament, and we have shown that it is a tissue of gross and palpable falsehoods.We need not go any further. If that is not a Breach of Privilege, I really cannot conceive what will amount to an offence of that kind. It is very clear why the First Lord of the Treasury, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire, and several Unionist Gentlemen have tried to put off the issue that has been raised. It is because they do not know what the case of The Times is; they want to gain time to consult the editor of The Times. If we put it off until Thursday, they will go hot-handed to their ally to ask him whether he will allow his publisher to come to the Bar, and whether he really has a case which will bear investigation in this House. If the editor of The Times answers their question in the affirmative, they will return to this House quite ready to vote for inquiry; but if he replies in the negative they will vote against it, for they cannot afford to run counter to his wishes. We are not the subservient followers of The Times. I do not suppose that anyone of us in this part of the House cares one brass farthing what The Times says. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Nor what Truth says. An hon. MEMBER: Or The Daily News.] Yes; we do care what The Daily News says. But we do not care what The Times says, except, as Mr. Cobden once said, that we are glad when we are opposed by The Times, because that is the first step towards carrying a measure. We all regard the present course as a course of shirk and evasion on the part of the Government, and I am perfectly convinced that the country will regard it in the same light.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
As I have been repeatedly referred to in the course of the debate, I think, for my own sake, I am entitled to ask the House to listen to me for a few minutes. It ought to be known generally by all younger Members that no Notice of this Motion 738 could have been given according to the Rules of the House. If I had not taken the course which I took, but had left the matter over until to-morrow or Thursday, it would have been too late to deal with it as a matter of Privilege. It was absolutely necessary to act to-day or not at all. I wrote first to the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who has chosen to put an interpretation on my letter to which I will only say that it is directly opposed to its proper interpretation. I thought I was doing a fair and gentlemanly thing in giving him ample notice of the course which I intended to pursue, and in giving him, if he desired it, the opportunity of mentioning the matter himself. In the next place, there have been a variety of suggestions made by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) with his usual recklessness—["Order, order!"]—that this Motion was brought forward by me in connivance with the Government.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I never said anything of the kind. I never suggested for a moment, after the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) said that he knew nothing about it, that he did know anything about it. On the contrary, I said particularly that we had no reason to complain of the course which the Government took.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It was I who said it, and I apologize for it, and withdraw the remark. I had seen the private secretary of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) leave his seat, and sit behind the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) when he was making his Motion, until he had concluded, and he afterwards returned to his seat behind the First Lord, as if he was prompting him.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
What I first did, Sir, was to write to yourself. I took care that the letter should be delivered early in the day; but, by some misfortune in your household, it did not get delivered until you were in the Chair. The next thing I did was to inform the First Lord of the Treasury that I intended to bring on this Motion without consulting anyone. From first to last I acted in the matter as I intended to act, thoroughly independently of any Member of the Government. I know these Motions are always inconvenient to those who sit on the Front Bench; and just because I knew there 739 would be an effort and a desire on the part of those in authority not to have this question brought forward, and because I thought it essential to the interests of the country and the dignity of this House and of those who desire to see law and order established in Ireland, I acted, from first to last, with perfect independence, and on my own deliberate judgment I have made this Motion, and those who know my character will not think I am going to run away from it.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
I have not the slightest intention of screening myself under the Motion for Adjournment. I am quite prepared to let it take its usual and regular and legitimate course, and I shall not flinch for one moment from making the next ordinary consequential Motion. Now, what has happened since? I am delighted to hear the reiterated promises from that side of the House, that if the editor or publisher of The Times is made to stand before that Bar, they are anxious and greedy for an opportunity of proving their defence. I am delighted to hear it. It is the first symptom of any desire on their part to take up the challenge. ["No, no!"] Inasmuch as I made this Motion on my own authority, so far as the House will allow it, I shall pursue it on my own authority, and I shall give my vote against the adjournment, and not flinch for a moment from the position which I have taken up. The hon. Member for East Mayo has departed from his original position, and he is now anxious to have the matter investigated. I shall be no party to stand between him and a full inquiry. I have nothing more to say; but I deny emphatically that when I introduced this matter I made any charge of my own against the hon. Member for East Mayo. Rightly or wrongly, I took the view that it would be disgraceful to this House if these charges of wilful and deliberate untruth and wilful misrepresentation did not meet with condemnation and punishment on one side or the other. Although it may be unpleasant to have such a matter introduced, I believe it was essential that it should be disposed of, and I shall not flinch from following it to its legitimate conclusion.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I think the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) has exercised a wise discretion in stating that if this matter goes to a Division he will vote against the adjournment; but I still hope there need be no Division. I was greatly disappointed when the hon. and learned Attorney General rose and sat down without announcing to the House that, in the circumstances and the development which the question had received since the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Government were prepared to withdraw the Motion. My right hon. Friend near me (Sir William Harcourt), without making any charge against the right hon. Gentleman or the Government, endeavoured to urge that appeal, and I wish, further, to press that appeal on the Government. But if that appeal is made in vain, I must, for one, put in a negative to the Motion for Adjournment. I make no complaint whatever of the conduct of the First Lord of the Treasury. I think many Members shared his impression —although it was an erroneous impression—that the hon. Member for East Mayo had signified his desire, more or less, that further time would not be disagree-able to him, although he made no request upon the subject. But since the right hon. Gentleman spoke that impression has been altogether removed, and the hon. Member for East Mayo and his Friends have protested against the adjournment. The hon. Gentleman has made a protest against the adjournment, and he has been joined in that protest by the Mover of the Motion. The main part of the Attorney General's speech was an argument not against the immediate proceedings, but against the whole proceedings of the House in these matters. He said you will call the individual to the Bar, that individual will have no opportunity of making any adequate defence, and the House itself also will be limited in its methods of procedure. Every word used by the Attorney General on this subject is an argument, as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) said, on the Main Question, and not on the adjournment. It was an argument against proceeding in the matter at all. It was a speech which ought to be made on Thursday next, if the adjournment is carried, and not on the Motion for Ad- 741 journment. The Attorney General did not confine himself to that. I think he read a passage from Sir Erskine May.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is not an authority on Parliamentary Procedure like that of Sir Erskine May; but I admit that it is entitled to every attention. The time for proceeding with care and deliberation is, when you have developed matter to consider. I am sure the hon. and learned Attorney General will not deny that the general Rule of the House is, when a Motion is made respecting a Broach of Privilege, to proceed with it and decide it at once. If there are doubts in the case as to its being a Breach of Privilege, let us consider what these doubts are, because the First Lord of the Treasury seemed to have a doubt in his own mind on the subject. There can be no doubt at all about this. Even those who may not have read the whole of the article know that we have here an article against a Member of Parliament containing a charge of wilful and deliberate falsehood in the discharge of his duty as a Member for the purpose of deceiving the House. I am never anxious to touch upon a question of Privilege; but if there be such a thing as a Broach of Privilege at all, surely a charge of wilful and deliberate falsehood committed in the performance of Parliamentary duties constitutes a Breach of Privilege. If there are any doubts on the subject, how are we to clear them up between now and Thursday? The question is one which needs only to be stated, and that view is unquestionably supported by the regular course of the House on these occasions, which, subject to a few exceptions, has been to come to an immediate decision, although in cases where it was supposed that an apology was likely to be made, or upon other special grounds, delay has been sometimes granted. The necessity for an inquiry arises only on the subsequent stages. The Attorney General seems to think that the mode of proceeding is necessarily limited to some statement by the printer at the Bar, who would not be a competent person to explain and defend the statements of a leading article. But that is not so. Not only will it be iu his power to make such 742 defence as he can, but I am not certain —though I will not enter on the question, for it is not a material point—I am not certain that the House is tied up, if it should think fit in the exercise of its discretion, to afford to such person the assistance of counsel. And that is not all. The hon. and learned Attorney General has overlooked a much more material fact which is distinctly referred to in the statement of Sir Erskine May. Sir Erskine May says—On his appearance at the Bar he is examined and dealt with according as the explanations of his conduct are satisfactory or otherwise, or as the contrition expressed by him for his offence conciliates the displeasure of the House.That is not the termination of the proceedings. Sir Erskine May goes on to state—If there he any special circumstances arising out of a complaint of a Breach of Privilege it is usual to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into them, and the House suspends its judgment until their Report has been presented.I submit to the Government, with great respect, on that supposition, that the whole contention of the Attorney General as to the unsatisfactory nature of the process disappears. Either in this House, at the Bar of the House, or in a Select Committee, there is, and will be, full power of examining the whole matter. So much for the substance of the proceeding. On the question of delay I have but one word to say. I feel the embarrassment of a case of this kind, which is entirely unusual in character and circumstances. It is the first case which I recollect in which a Motion has been made for taking notice of a Breach of Privilege by a Member who makes the Motion—and this, I think, will not be denied, and I do not wish to make any imputation beyond that—by a Member who makes the Motion in a sense hostile to the person against whom the Breach of Privilege has been committed. There is no doubt about that. the circumstance of the hon. Member for East Mayo and his Friends in this House being placed in a peculiar position gives them a very peculiar right of appeal to this House. Their position would have been one thing, had they taken notice of this Motion; it is another thing when the Motion itself is a challenge to every one of them; because the hon. Member for 743 East Mayo, although he is made the subject of the severest charges, is, at the same time, described as one of the most respected of Mr. Parnell's "lieutenants," so that those who sit around him are not allowed to escape. Under these circumstances, an appeal has been made by those who are termed the Irish Party, no doubt with some warmth, and no doubt with the introduction of topics which are not entirely within our immediate purview; such accusations—and systematically the subjects of such accusations—are entitled to speak with warmth, or at any rate, must be excused when they do speak with warmth. I have no such excuse, and I hope I have made my appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in a way which can give him no cause to complain. It appears to me that the development of the case since he spoke amply warrants his withdrawal of the Motion, and I trust he will withdraw it. Before this Assembly, as an Assembly of English Gentlemen, on behalf of the parties who are accused of the basest and vilest offence that can be committed by Members of Parliament against the House of Commons, and who call for an immediate trial, I say that it is impossible to resist their appeal.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
Mr. Speaker, of course it is with great diffidence that I venture to address the House on a matter of this kind after the right hon. Gentleman, who has had so long an experience of the conduct and Business of the House; but I do notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's speech, ask the House to consider whether he has not himself stated ample reasons for having an adjournment, in order that the question, the gravity of which he pointed out, may receive some further consideration? There is not the smallest desire on this Bench, or on this side of the House, to refuse hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite the fullest opportunity in the House of meeting the damaging accusations which have been made against them. I do not think there is anyone on this side of the House who has not listened with some sympathy to some of the expressions, at all events, which have been used by Members below the Gangway on that side of the House. This Motion did not proceed from the Government, 744 nor was it brought before the House by any supporter of theirs in concert with the Government. The question is, whether the House shall at once proceed to say that it is a Breach of Privilege, or whether the discussion shall take place on Thursday next? If this had been a technical or an unimportant question, the Government would have been glad to get rid of it, instead of resuming it on another night. But it is a question of the greatest possible seriousness. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney) has pointed out that, although it is usual for the House to deal with those matters promptly, yet in this case the House is called upon to deal with it when hon. Members have not an accurate knowledge of what they are dealing with. The Motion for Adjournment was made upon an understanding that it was the desire of the hon. Member for East Mayo. That has since turned out to be erroneous; but is that fact a justification for withdrawing the Motion for Adjournment? The House is dealing with an important question of law, and cannot be governed either by the desire of the hon. Member or the desire of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim. There is one matter which has never been referred to in the course of this discussion. The statement in The Times which has been read, and upon which this Motion is founded, purports to be an answer to something which was stated in the House by the hon. Member for East Mayo. In the House of Commons the hon. Member said a statement which had appeared in The Times was a false statement. The Times repeats the statement, and retorts the charge of falsehood. That is suggested to be a Breach of the Privileges of this House. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought this was a question to be dealt with at once. I think, however, there is very grave doubt, indeed, whether this is a Breach of the Privileges of the House; and it is most important that those who are called upon on the other side of the House to assist the judgment of the House in deciding so grave a question as this should have time to consider, and to prepare themselves to discuss this very important matter. The Rules with regard to Privilege in this House have been much altered and limited as compared with what they 745 were formerly, and it is a most serious thing for the House to take upon itself to declare that, whenever a Member denies the truth of a statement in a newspaper, if that paper re-asserts its statement, any Member may bring it before the House as a matter which affects its Privileges. There is another reason which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the House for dealing hastily with the matter. It has been pointed out that, according to the ordinary course of proceedings in this matter, the printer of The Times would be brought to the Bar of the House, not to enter into the question whether his statement was true or not—because the House would have already decided that, whether it was true or not, the making of that statement was a Breach of Privilege —but he would be brought to the Bar to receive the sentence for the offence which the House had already adjudged him to have committed. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) spoke of the case where a Member of the late Government was brought to the Bar in consequence of a letter or a pamphlet he had written with regard to the naval administration. I remember the circumstances of that case well; for that was the first time I was within these walls, though I witnessed the scene from another part of the House from that in which I am now. No justification was made on that occasion. The hon. Gentleman—now the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed)—stood at the Bar and apologized humbly to the House for his offence, and then withdrew, in order that the House might pronounce its judgment. But, that being the case, the right hon. Gentleman has made another suggestion as to the further action of the House in this matter. He has suggested that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the matter. That suggestion makes the matter still more serious, and still more deserving of deliberation.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I know it is a later stage. I can read Sir Erskine May's book as well as the right hon. Gentleman. I had the page before me as he read the passage. His suggestion is in answer to the statement of my hon. and learned Friend the At- 746 torney General, who pointed out that the appearance of the printer of The Times at the Bar of the House would be an appearance to receive sentence, and not to contest the facts in question. In answer to that the right hon. Gentleman says—"You can appoint a Committee." ["Hear, hear!" from the Irish Members.] A Committee of the House of Commons to consider this matter would be as inadequate a tribunal in its powers, in its results and action, and in the conduct of its proceedings, as could be possibly appointed to examine a charge of this gravity; and I venture to submit that it would be, in my opinion, a serious error in judgment on the part of the House to look forward to any such discussion on a question with which other tribunals are far more competent to deal than the House of Commons, and which are always open. I wish to point out that those considerations with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt are considerations which show the great gravity of the matter with which the House is dealing now, and which I, therefore, submit make it only reasonable that an adjournment should take place for a day or two, in order that we may recur to that question which must at some time be discussed fully—namely, the question whether, in fact, there has been a Breach of the Privileges of the House.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
Sir, I regret very much that I have not heard the whole of this debate; but I have heard a good deal of it, and enough, I think, to justify me in asking leave to address to the House a few sentences—and they shall be very few—on this subject. The gist of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down is this—that if a newspaper attacks an hon. Member of this House, and that hon. Member denies the charges made against him, and says they are false, and if then the newspaper, in a further article, retorts the charge of falsehood, it is in the option of the newspaper to choose the Court, and this House will, prim. facie, believe the word of the newspaper, and disregard the word of its own Member. Now, just consider for a moment how this thing has been brought about. I am quite aware of the danger and inconvenience of bringing these questions of Privilege forward. I do not want 747 to see editors of newspapers or their printers called to the Bar of this House; but this is a case which must be judged of in connection with its surrounding circumstances. An ordinary charge of falsehood on the part of a newspaper I think we might very well ignore; but what are the surrounding circumstances of the case? I never remember, I never read, more dreadful accusations, repeated! over and over again, brought into this House more than once, dwelt upon by some of the most respected and honoured Members who sit on these Benches, as if they were accusations which had a basis of truth in them, and which must be met. These are circumstances which render the case a peculiar one, and which justify us in acting upon charges made by a newspaper which we could afford, in other cases, to disregard. But one word more. Consider how this case has been brought forward in point of time. The Times newspaper said that it was in possession of this information, I think, for many months. That information was carefully suppressed until the right time and the right moment to launch it. Then, over and over again, those hon. Members who sit below the Gangway—the Representatives of Ireland—wore challenged to place themselves before an English jury. They have not done so, and the charges were repeated again. And I say, now that you have selected the Court, you were not satisfied with the charges being made, and with reiterating; them on every public platform. You treated them as true, because they were not met before a jury in England; and at last you have brought them into this Court. You have appealed unto Cæsar, and unto Caesar you should go. Have you omitted to do anything—have the opponents of hon. Members from Ireland omitted any single step—which could give those hon. Members something like an extra claim on the honour of this House? You have assumed the truth of the charges; you have not forborne to repeat them, and to point out that they have not been answered. They offer you an opportunity now upon the spot, and without delay. I trust, Sir, that both the Party sitting here and the Party sitting opposite will act in this matter as I believe every single Member of them would do if the case were submitted to him alone.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. T. D. SULLIVAN) (Dublin, College Green)
Sir, as my name has been mentioned in the article in The Times which has been the subject of the present discussion, I wish to say that I join heartily and cordially in the challenge which has been thrown down by my hon. Colleagues to the editor and publisher of that paper to come before this tribunal, and make good their charges against us. I am amazed, Sir, to find that any hesitancy whatever is shown on the other side of the House in accepting the challenge that we now make to them. I should have thought that they would have closed immediately with any offer of that kind. All their pretences must be false and fraudulent, if they do not accept readily and heartily the proffer which we make to them to bring this question before a tribunal the honour of which stands beyond impeachment. I say that it is very well to challenge Irish Members to test this question in a Court of Law. There is not a man here who does not know that the findings of a Court of Law are not always what they ought to be—that they are not always consonant with the merits or the truth of the case. We all know that jurors are liable to be influenced by clever statements, by inflammatory addresses, and by false representations; but we are willing to meet these charges before a higher and better tribunal, as I trust it will always be regarded, the tribunal of a Committee of this House itself. Will these charges rest, forsooth, on the high authority of The Times newspaper? And if hon. Gentlemen opposite believe a tithe of these accusations against hon. Members who sit upon these Benches, I ask them should they not be eager to seize the first opportunity of dissociating themselves from the Gentlemen who represent Ireland in this House, and who sit on these Benches? I am astonished to find this appeal urged for delay, and I wonder whether this appeal for delay is not merely an electioneering trick, as I am much inclined to think it is, or whether it arises from a fear to have the accusations tried before so high and impartial a tribunal as I believe a Committee of this House would be. As one of those persons whose names are mixed up in this article in The Times, and who are 749 branded to some extent by these accusations, I want to express my readiness to do anything I can to bring these charges to an immediate and a satisfactory trial. And I will only say, in conclusion, that whatever murderers, or assassins, or rebels there may be in Ireland, a very large share of the responsibility rests on The Times newspaper itself. I can toll the House that the favourite maxims and quotations of the assassins and dynamiters are drawn from the articles of The Times, and from certain writings of Mr. James Anthony Froude. I know that when O'Donovan Rossa wishes to make a strong case for his doctrines and opinions, he has recourse to the articles which have appeared in The Times newspaper. I know of my own knowledge that not only incitements to rebellion, but apologies for assassination, have from time to time appeared in The Times, and I will produce them at the proper time, if necessary, before the House of Commons. I will only repeat that I cordially join in the challenge thrown down by my hon. Colleagues, and I claim that these charges shall be brought to as speed' and immediate a trial as they can be before a Committee of this House.
§ SIR HENRY TYLER (Great Yarmouth)
I hope, Sir, that the Motion for Adjournment will be withdrawn. I believe that Motion was made, in the first instance), inadvertently, in con-sequence of a misapprehension as to a part of the statement of the hon. Member for East Mayo, and I believe that if it had not been for that misapprehension the Motion would never have been made. But as it has been made I think it should now be withdrawn. I do so because those are charges which are not now made for the first time, but which have been made for weeks, and even for months, and which have only now culminated in the article which has been produced to this House. These charges have to be sifted - the matter has somehow to be fought out, and in consequence of the Motion of the hon. Member for North Antrim the opportunity has at length arrived for dealing with them. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have not sought this opportunity, and they have not, as many Members on this side think, been sufficiently active in seeking other opportunities; but, as this opportunity has 750 been afforded, I think it ought to be embraced at once, and I see no reason for delaying the matter. It is just as simple as that two and two make four. An hon. Member of this House has been accused over and over again, and especially in the article now before us, of stating falsehood in debate in his place in this House, and of wilfully stating falsehoods. If that be not a Breach of Privilege, I cannot conceive how there can be such a tiling as a Breach of Privilege at all. Therefore, I shall not support the Motion for Adjournment, but shall vote at once for this being held to be a Breach of Privilege.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 174: Majority 39.753
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Corbett, J.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Courtney, L. H.|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Baden-Powell, G. S.||Cross, H. S.|
|Baggallay, E.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A.,J.|
|Balfour, G. W.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Barnes, A.||Dixon, G.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Dixon-Hartland, F. D.|
|Hartley, G. C. T.||Dorington, Sir J. E.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Duncombe, A.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Beresford, Lord C. W.||Edwards-Moss, T. C.|
|de la Poor||Elcho, Lord|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Elliot, hon. A. R. D.|
|Elton, C. I.|
|Bigwood, J.||Ewart, W.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|B1undell, Colonel H. B. H.||Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.|
|Fellowes, W. H.|
|Bond, G. H.||Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.|
|Boord, T. W.||Finch, G. H.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.||Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.|
|Bristowe, T. L.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Finlay, R. B.|
|Fisher, W. H.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Brown, A. H.||Fitz William, hon. W. J.W.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.||Forwood, A. B.|
|Chamberlain, R.||Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Chaplin, right hon. H.||Eraser, General C. C.|
|Charrington, S.||Fry, L.|
|Churchill, rt. hn. Lord R. H. S.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon C.W. A. N..|
|Coddington, W.||Gibson, J. G.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Godson, A. F.|
|Compton, F.||Goldsworthy, Major-|
|Cooke, C. W. R.||General W. T.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Mallock, R.|
|Goschen, rt. hn. G. J.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R|
|Gray, C. W.|
|Greenall, Sir G.||Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.|
|Greene, E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Mayne, Admiral E. C.|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Mildmay, P. B.|
|Gunter, Colonel E.||More, E. J.|
|Hall, A. W.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hall, C.||Morrison, W.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Mowbray, rt. hn. Sir J.E.|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.||Muntz, P. A.|
|Hamilton, right hon.||Murdoch, C. T.|
|Lord G. F.||Noble, W.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Norris, E. S.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Hanbury, E. W.||Norton, E.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Paget, Sir E. II.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Pearce, W.|
|Heath, A. E.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Penton, Captain P. T.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Pitt-Lewis, G.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Plunket, rt. hn. P.E.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W||Puleston, J. H.|
|Quitter, W. C.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||Ritchie, rt. hn. C.T.|
|Hingley, B.||Robertson, J. P. B.|
|Hoare, S.||Robinson, B.|
|Holland, right hon.||Ross, A. H.|
|Sir H. T.||Round, J.|
|Holloway, G.||Russell, Sir G.|
|Holmes, rt. hon. H.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Sellar, A. C.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Selwin-Ibbetson, rt. hon. Sir H. J.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.|
|Hunt, F. S.||Selwyn, Captain C. W.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Isaacson, F. W.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Jackson, W. L.||Smith, right hon. W. H.|
|Jarvis, A. W.|
|Jennings, L. J.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Johnston, W.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Kelly, J. E.||Swetenham, E.|
|Kennaway, Sir J. H.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Kenrick, W.||Temple, Sir E.|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col.W.||Theobald, J.|
|Kimber, H.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|King, H. S.||Townsend, F.|
|King - Harman, right||Verdin, R.|
|hon. Colonel E. R.||Vernon, hon. G. E.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, H. T.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Webster, Sir E. E.|
|Lafone, A.||Webster, E. G.|
|Laurie, Colonel R. P.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Lawrence, W. F.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Lea, T.||White, J. B.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Whitley, E.|
|Legh, T. W.||Wiggin, H.|
|Lethbridge, Sir R.||Wilson, Sir S.|
|Lewisham, right hon.||Wodehouse, E. E.|
|Long, W. H.||Wood, N.|
|Low, M.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Wright, H. S.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.||Wroughton, P.|
|Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.||Yerburgh, It. A.|
|Young, C. E. B.|
|Maclean, F. W.|
|M'Calmont, Captain J.||TELLERS.|
|M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Malcolm, Col. J. W.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||James, hon. W. H.|
|James, C. H.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Joicey, J.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Jordan, J.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Kennedy, E. J.|
|Barran, J.||Kenny, C. S.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Kenny, M. J.|
|Blake, J. A.||Labouchere, H.|
|Blake, T.||Lalor, E.|
|Blane, A.||Lawson, H. L. W.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Leahy, J.|
|Bright, W. L.||Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.|
|Cameron, C.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Campbell, H.||Lockwood, F.|
|Carew, J. L.||Macdonald, W. A.|
|Chance, P. A.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Channing, F. A.||MacNeill, J. G. S.|
|Childers, right hon. H. C. E.||M'Cartan, M.|
|Clancy, J. J.||M'Carthy, J. H.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||M'Donald, P.|
|Cobb, H. P.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Commins, A.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Connolly, L.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Conway, M.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.||Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Corbet, W. J.||Marum, E. M.|
|Cossham, H.||Maskelyne, M. H. N.|
|Cox, J. E.||Story-Mason, S.|
|Cozens-Hardy, H. H.|
|Craig, J.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Craven, J.||Montagu, S.|
|Crawford, W.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Cremer, W. R.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Crossley, E.||Mundella, right hon. A. J.|
|Dodds, J.||Murphy, W.M.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Newnes, G.|
|Esslemont, P.||Nolan, J.|
|Farquharson, Dr. E.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Fenwick, C.||O'Brien, P.|
|Ferguson, E. C. Munro-||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Finucane, J.||O'Connor, A.|
|Flower, C.||O'Connor, J. (Kerry)|
|Flynn, J. C.||O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)|
|Foley, P. J.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Forster, Sir C.||O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Forster, Sir W. B.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Fowler, rt. hon. H. H.||O'Hea, P.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Parker, C. S.|
|Gill, H. J.||Pickard, B.|
|Gill, T. P.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Picton, J. A.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Grove, Sir T. F.||Playfair, rt. hon. Sir L.|
|Haldane, R. B.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||Plowden, Sir W. C.|
|Powell, W.R. H.|
|Harrington, E.||Power, P. J.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Power, E.|
|Hayne, C. Scale-||Price, T. P.|
|Healy, M.||Priestley, B.|
|Healy. T. M.||Pugh, D.|
|Holden, I.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Hooper, J.||Quinn, T.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Illingworth, A.||Reid, R. T.|
|Jacoby, J. A.||Roberts, J.|
|Roberts, J. B.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Robinson, T.||Summers, W.|
|Rowlands, J.||Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Rowlands, W. B.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Rowntree, J.||Thomas, A.|
|Russell, Sir C.||Tuite, J.|
|Russell, E. R.||Tyler, Sir H. W.|
|Russell, T. W.||Wallace, R.|
|Sexton, T.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Shaw, T.||Wayman, T.|
|Sheehan, J. D.||Whitbread, S.|
|Sheehy, D.||Will, J. S.|
|Sheil, E.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Sinclair, W. P.||Wilson, I.|
|Smith, S.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Stack, J.||Woodall, W.|
|Stanhope, hon. P. J.||Wright, O.|
|Stansfeld, right hon. J.|
|Stepney - Cowell, Sir A. K.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E|
|Stuart, J.||Morley, A.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be adjourned till Thursday."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that this matter be set down for to-morrow. I think the Government will be ready to admit, after the Division the House has just taken—considering that the number on one side was 174, and the number on the Government's side 213, and that the House has defeated the immediate discussion of the question by only a very slight majority—that there is a great and substantial body of opinion in favour of immediately proceeding with this matter. I think the Government will admit that, after the small majority the Division has given them, we have a right to demand at their hands that the discussion shall proceed to-morrow. I beg to make a Motion to that effect; and I ask you, Sir, what will be circulated in the Papers to-morrow? Certain passages from The Times article were read by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis). Another extract was read by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). As the article in The Times, from beginning to end, contains foul and libellous charges, and as passages cannot be specified and advantageously separated from each other, I think we have a right to claim at the hands of the House that the whole of the article should be circulated with the Papers tomorrow.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The ordinary course of procedure is that I should officially direct that only that portion of the article which was read at the Table of the House should be put upon the Votes. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) heard it read; but a certain portion of the article was read by the Clerk at the Table. It is competent for the hon. Gentleman to move that the whole of the article be printed in the Votes.
§ MR. SEXTON
I move, Sir, that the whole of the article be read now, so that it can be printed and circulated to Members.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "Thursday," and insert the word "To-morrow."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Thursday' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I fully recognize that right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have to demand that this question should be reconsidered and disposed of by the House as speedily as possible; but I am unable to admit that in the Division just taken the majority for the adjournment was of so minute a character as to require that the question should be taken up instantly. In moving the adjournment of the debate, my object was to give the House an opportunity of weighing and considering the statements put before it. I confess I was also moved by the statement which was put before it, in the first instance, by the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon); and I was also influenced by the fact that those who sit on both sides of me are in doubt as to whether a Breach of Privilege has really been committed. In so grave a matter affecting hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, affecting the Privileges of this House, affecting the practice of this House, I think we ought not to act precipitately, or do anything without due and proper consideration. The hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) has moved that the matter be considered to-morrow. If I could receive any assurance that the matter would be disposed of tomorrow, and not talked out, there would be a disposition on the part of the Government to accede to the views of 755 the hon. Member. Considering the gravity of the question, I hope the House will consent to the adjournment to Thursday, the day to which a Motion of this character would, under ordinary circumstances, be deferred. At the same time, I wish it to be understood that I am not opposing the Motion for Wednesday upon any light ground. I am anxious that a decision should be taken as soon as possible.
MR. JOHN MOELEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I should like to remark that the right lion. Gentleman has rather changed his ground. When the right hon. Gentleman moved the adjournment of the debate, we all understood, and it has been repeated in the course of the discussion that his motive—[Mr. W. H. SMITH: One of them.] I did not understand there was more than one motive—namely, to give the hon. Member for East Mayo (Air. Dillon) an opportunity for preparing his answer. I do not want to labour that point, I simply mention it in passing. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says that the Motion that this is a Breach of Privilege may be talked out to-morrow. Why, Sir, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have shown they are not at all shy in using the instrument they possess for closing debate. [Mr. W. H. SMITH dissented.] the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, as if he would reproach me for making an unjust charge. Why, then, did you ask for urgency for Procedure? It was to arm yourselves with a particular instrument, and, as I say, you have on two occasions in the course of the discussion on the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill shown that you are not shy in using it. I cannot understand, when you have taken up so much of the time of the House, and put aside so much of the other Business of the House in order to arm yourselves with this weapon, you now take up a position which implies that five or six hours' debate on this topic will not be sufficient to sift it to the bottom. We have not the least desire —hon. Members below the Gangway have not the least desire—to postpone the discussion, or to prolong it. On the contrary, it was you, to-night, who were for prolonging it. Why, what else has this Division been about? Sir, there is no kind of reason for supposing that if the question comes on to-morrow, it will not be finished to-morrow. I shall certainly 756 support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton).
§ MR. DILLON
I think I am entitled to make a strong appeal to the Government that they should bring this question to an issue as soon as possible. My position is perfectly clear in the matter. I wish this House to come to a decision on the question whether a Breach of Privilege has been committed or not before I make any statement at all. I wish to know whether the editor of Tim Times is to be brought to the Bar or not? I am anxious the House should order the editor of The Times to appear at the Bar. Sir, I think I am entitled, from the peculiar position in which I have been placed, to make an almost irresistible appeal to the Government not to postpone or delay the decision on this matter. It is monstrous to hold that there can be any difficulty in arriving at a decision on the question. The truth or falsehood of the charges made by The Times is not anything to the point at issue. The question is a simple one, which has been over and over again decided immediately it was raised in this House; and to argue that when, tomorrow, every Member of this House will have delivered to him with the Votes the charges complained of, he cannot, before he comes down to the House; make up his mind whether a Breach of Privilege has been committed or not, is to my mind the grossest absurdity. Therefore, I think an act of the greatest injustice and unfairness to me personally, and to those around me, would be committed if a decision on the question were postponed. To my mind, the discussion to-morrow ought to be concluded within an hour. I intend to contribute no speech to the debate, and I do not thick my Colleagues will speak at any length. The issue is simple, and we shall invite the House to come to a decision as soon as possible. I desire to remind the House that the debate tonight was not on the question whether a Breach of Privilege had been committed, but on the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. Had it been on the question of Breach of Privilege, so far as my Friends or myself go, you might have settled it in an hour. This is all I have to say on the question. With all the earnestness I can command, I appeal to the Government, as a matter of fairness, as a duty they owe to the humblest 757 Member of this House, that they will allow no delay to intervene, beyond what is necessary consequent upon the Division we have just taken, between now and the settlement of the one question whether a Breach of Privilege has been committed or not. When that question is settled, I shall allow them to fix whatever day they like upon which the editor of The Times shall appear at the Bar. They may suit their own convenience in the matter; and it may be one, two, three, or four days hence I shall be prepared to meet him whenever he comes. The question is whether he is ready to moot us, or whether he is not? I say that any further attempt to postpone the settlement of the question will be treated by us—and I think there is manliness enough still left in England to treat it—as a cowardly and base attempt to avoid the issue on the part of the men who have played a cowardly part in pursuing with horrible slanders men who, you must remember, are not in their own country, men who are not amongst friends, and who are taken at a sore and terrible disadvantage in dealing with a great organ like The Times. I only ask you, Sir, to inform us in what way the question that the whole of the article, and not simply the parts read at the Table, should be circulated in the Votes to-morrow, can be best raised?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The best course will be for an hon. Gentleman to move, when the debate is resumed, that the whole of the article be laid on the Table
§ MR. DILLON
I beg to point out to you, Sir, that that will deprive hon. Members of the opportunity of reading the whole of the article to-morrow in their Papers, to which I attach great importance.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I can only deal with the parts of the article read. I cannot direct to be put upon the Votes anything more than the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) handed to the Clerk to be read.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I rise at once to respond to the strong appeal which has been made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dillon). I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), to distinctly give their assurance 758 that the debate on the Main Question, if taken to-morrow, will be settled without delay. My desire is to give the House only sufficient time to form an accurate opinion on the facts of the case. I have no wish whatever to stand between the hon. Gentleman and his wish to obtain the judgment of the House upon the question which has been raised; and therefore, on the distinct understanding which I take it has been conveyed, I will consent to the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow instead of till Thursday. It is hardly necessary for me to refer to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne as to the closure. I am sure he would hardly suggest that I should enforce the closure on a question of Privilege, when the character and reputation of hon. Members below the Gangway are concerned.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Perhaps the best course would be to say, in reply to the appeal of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), that I will take it upon my own authority to have the whole article referred to by the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) printed and circulated with the Votes.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Mr. Speaker, it is as well there should be no misunderstanding as to the proceedings to-morrow. We do not understand that we are to come down to-morrow at 12 o'clock, in order that the Government should oppose the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis); we do not understand that the Government mean to come down to the House and ask us to go to a Division at once. What we understand is, that the Government mean to make some proposition to-morrow. We certainly cannot agree to any course like this, that the Government should come down to-morrow and say—"We have scrutinized the article referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim; we cannot see anything in it in the nature of a Breach of Privilege; we oppose the Motion; and we will compel you, in virtue of the pledges you gave last night, to take an instant Division." I will consent to no such course as that. I should like to know exactly what the Government means; because, after all, the pledges of the Members of the Government and of their supporters have to be strictly scrutinized when we know that the hon. Baronet the 759 Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) said, in the most distinct manner, he was going to oppose the Motion for Adjournment, and then abstained from voting altogether. I invite the Government to let us know now what they mean. Let us not patch up an arrangement tonight which will result in further misunderstanding to-morrow. I shall be no party whatsoever to coming down here at 12 o'clock to-morrow to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) say that he cannot agree to the Motion, and then to our being compelled to take a Division there and then. I beg to remind the Government that to-night supporters of the Government are to pass a Resolution demanding from us an inquiry into this subject. I see that the following Motion is to be moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), and seconded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Loughborough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle)—That in the opinion of this meeting the grave charges of complicity with crime, and of association with those who advocate the use of dynamite and assassination which have been publicly brought against leading Members of the Parnellite Party, and supported by unrefuted evidence, require from that Party and from their Radical allies definite and public disproof.That Motion is to be made to-night, at a great meeting to be held in support of the Government in St. James's Hall, with a Member of the Government—Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett—in the Chair. Under these circumstances, to ask us to come down to-morrow—if that be the understanding—and simply hear the decision of the Government, is, to say the least, unreasonable. We ask that this Motion should be gone into fully to-morrow. It is not extraordinary to ask that this matter should be properly and fully gone into, and at once. Seeing that 85 or 86 Members of the House are affected, what does it matter whether an hour or two hours of the time of the House be taken up with a grave question that involves the honour of so large a body of Members of the House, involves almost the question of the passing of the Bill now before the House, and the question, later on, of the legislative independence of our country? I ask the Government, under all these circumstances, to let us know exactly what it is they mean by saying we shall not amplify debate to- 760 morrow. If the Government agree to the Motion, I shall not open my mouth to-morrow, and I do not suppose that any of my hon. Friends will; we will sit as silent as statues. I certainly do think we are entitled to have a clear explanation from the Government as to their intentions.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can only speak again with the indulgence of the House. I thought I was distinct, clear, and candid in what I said just now. I said that I and my hon. and learned Friends around me had our doubts as to whether or not these statements constitute a Breach of the Privileges of this House. I made no disguise of what we thought; but no doubt it will be my duty, when I come down to the House to-morrow, to state the distinct opinion of the Government upon that question; and when I invite hon. Gentlemen to come to an early decision on the question, I certainly do not request them to take the opinion of the Government without question or controversy. I am acting in good faith with them, and I believe they are acting in good faith with me; I will, so far as I am able to do so, afford them every facility to obtain it. All we ask is that the House will not continue the discussion after Wednesday.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman says. He does not ask for an undertaking that the proposal of the Government shall not be debated, but that every effort shall be fairly made to close the debate before 6 o'clock, when a Division shall be taken. Of course, one cannot but foresee that if the Government were to oppose the Motion there would be a long debate. What my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) wished to convey was that, on this side of the House, there is no desire to prolong the debate, if the disposition of the Government is to support the Motion. It is quite plain, because then we should all be in accord. Of course, hon. Members below the Gangway are placed in a very difficult and unfair position. Even their accuser has left the House. [An hon. MEMBER: He did not vote.] After his declaration that he never ran away from a Motion he has now left the House. That is the manner in which these grave accusations against men are 761 dealt with; and surely this is a reason in itself why this question should come to instant decision. I think that the House will agree that this discussion should be taken on Wednesday, and not on Thursday.
MR. ILLINGWOBTH (Bradford, W.)
I think the House will be well advised if it refuses to have its hands tied as to the course of the debate to-morrow. If it be a question of Privilege that is to be raised, surely the House of Commons ought to take its own time within which it will debate the question, and settle it in a manner that will be satisfactory to the majority of the Members of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) seemed to be horrified at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) that the closure might be used to-morrow; but the right hon. Gentleman is oven anticipating the closure, because he wants to make terms before to-morrow comes, and before the House of Commons knows what the position of the Government upon this question is, that the House will not, under any possible circumstances, carry the discussion of the subject over to-morrow. If the Government like to take up a position which will be satisfactory to the House at large, it is evident the debate cannot occupy any great length of time; but if they shrink from affording hon. Gentlemen from Ireland ample opportunity of discussion, I, for my part, should feel justified, upon the statement of the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith), that this is one of the gravest questions which can possibly be raised, in assisting hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in carrying the debate over till Thursday. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that it would be altogether premature to determine now at what time the debate should close to-morrow.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the word 'Tomorrow' be inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Ordered, That the Debate be adjourned till To-morrow.