Motion made, and Question proposed,
That there be laid before this House Copies of a Statement made to Mr. Cuffe, Assistant Solicitor to the Treasury, by Mr. Joseph Nolan, M.P., on the 11th day of January, 1888, with reference to the case of Regina v. Harkins and Callan:
And, of a Transcript of the Shorthand Writer's Notes of the Evidence given by Mr. Joseph Nolan, M.P., at the trial of the case of Regina v. Harkins and Callan at the Central Criminal Court."—(Mr. Stuart-Wortley.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Sir, I beg in the first place, to call your attention in regard to this Motion, to the fact that the Rule of the House, which provides that the name of an hon. Member shall appear in connection with the constituency which he represents, has been infringed. That, I understand, has been the practice laid down from the Chair on previous occasions; and I think, Sir, if that ruling is to be adhered to in one case and not in another, it would be extremely desirable that we should know that that is to be the practice henceforward. However, perhaps we shall have some detailed or precise Rule upon that point, so that we may exactly know how we stand. With regard to the other matter, I am surprised that the noble Viscount (Viscount Ebrington), who, I understand, is in his place, who gave notice of this Motion, never said anything in support of it. I understand that the noble Viscount was the Chairman of the Committee that sat, 1217 and made some foolish recommendations with regard to the Strangers' Gallery. Well, the noble Viscount put down the Motion, apparently at the instigation of Her Majesty's Government some two or three months ago. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster) dissented.] Well, I will develop my reasons presently. The noble Viscount, as a Liberal Unionist and supporter of the Government, put down the Motion in conjunction with some Gentlemen on the Government Bench. I observe that the Home Secretary is apparently uneasy. At any rate, the noble Viscount put it down in conjunction with Her Majesty's Government, as I submit. When the Committee met, its exact investigations were defined; but instead of their being devoted to the general question which was understood to be the original ground upon which the Committee was formed—the exclusion of Strangers—the Committee devoted itself to one object—namely, to besmirch the character of an individual Member of this House. I am sorry to see that when, on another occasion, the Attorney General had a full opportunity of cross-examining in the course of a trial where an oath was administered, and where he would have all the latitude afforded him at the Old Bailey, he passed over any question which could have affected the character of this hon. Gentleman, and instead of that the Government granted a Committee, for which the Home Secretary could apparently snatch a moment of his time from looking after Trafalgar Square and devote himself to the unusual duty of acting as a Member of this Committee, and the Home Secretary gave his great assistance, both as a statesman and a lawyer and as a Home Secretary, to the Committee, and the noble Viscount, in the endeavour by some means, if possible, to carry out the object I have stated, and, from what I can gather, the noble Viscount puts down the Motion which can only have one other object—that is, to assist The Times in the forthcoming libel trial. The Attorney General is the Gentleman whose services were offered to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) by the First Lord of the Treasury, so that the Attorney General might conduct a libel action for him acting on behalf of the Government against 1218 The Times. We detect the bona fides of Her Majesty's Government with regard to this very important question, when we find the first Law Officer of the Crown, who was proffered to us as our shield and buckler on the occasion of the action in respect of the forged letter, now leading counsel for The Times. We find the noble Viscount acting in collusion with the Government and with the Attorney General, who is also acting as leading counsel for The Times, in getting out matters for which a full opportunity was afforded to the Attorney General when he had my hon. Friend the Member for North Louth (Mr. J. Nolan) upon the table at the Old Bailey, and he had not then any desire for cross-examination with reference to these matters. I denounce this attempt as one of the basest manŔuvres to which a responsible Government ever descended. The position is this. You deny to prisoners in Ireland under the inquisitorial clauses of the Crimes Act, the opportunity of getting a sworn deposition, and you now propose to produce, for the first time, a Home Office document, that has been a secret document regarding matters contained in it which has hitherto been supposed to be in confidence between the Home Office and those who supplied them with the information; and I say that that is conniving at a well-regulated breach of official etiquette, and it is a surrender of the confidence of the Home Office in order to assist a Party manŔuvre. Where is the noble Viscount who moved the Motion? Sir, you have proposed the Motion from the Chair, and I ask where is the noble Viscount? It seems to me that in addition to having granted this Return this Motion must have been made for the Treasury Bench, because I cannot assume that you would propose the Motion from the Chair——
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having given the House the information, and I take it that the Under Secretary of State to the Home Office was about getting on his legs in order to make that open confession which is so good for the soul. 1219 Therefore, when the First Lord of the Treasury a few moments ago shook his head and said that he had not connived at it, he was throwing over his Colleague then. That he had not connived at the granting of this Return or the granting of a Select Committee, but that—I will not say his understrapper, because that would be an un-Parliamentary expression—but a minor official, a very minor official, takes it upon himself. I believe the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) is a Member of the Bar and a Colleague of the hon. and learned Attorney General, and for anything I know, perhaps like the ex-Judge Advocate General, also counsel for The Times, and he takes it upon himself to grant this Return and to surrender what has hitherto been supposed to be a secret matter—namely, the confidences which any person is willing to give in the interests of justice to the Treasury and the Home Office. I always understood that a statement to a solicitor was privileged under the circumstances, and especially a statement made to the Representative of a high Minister of State with regard to a matter affecting the Queen and her Crown and dignity; and yet this Gentleman, representing the Home Office, of course without the consent of the First Lord of the Treasury, and equally, I assume, without the consent of the hero of Trafalgar Square, his senior Colleague—he takes it upon himself to issue a proclamation to the noble Viscount granting the Return. It would have passed through without a word in the turmoil of the moment after the excitement of an opposed Division had it not been summarily stopped by me. I would say to the Government, if they want to give these Returns, let them put them down frankly themselves. If the Under Secretary of State wants to give the statement of what is called Mr. Joseph Nolan, M.P., let them present it as a Crown document, but let them not usurp the name of the noble Viscount. Let them attempt to fight without the Liberal Unionist crutch. Let them not attempt by any side wind of this kind to throw dirty water on a Member of the House. If, however, that occupation be congenial to any of them, let it be frankly performed, and let the garden hose from the main tank—I will not say of Downing Street, but shall say of the Central Criminal 1220 Court—be turned on by themselves. I would say that a matter of this kind requires to be disposed of by some better explanation than that conveyed to the House by the Jove-like nod of the Under Secretary of State to the Home Office. Perhaps we shall have from him, or from the leading counsel of The Times on the Treasury Bench, some further explanation with regard to this important question. I think I have discharged a function of a useful character in exposing what I conclude to be the true intention and objects of this Motion. I do not know what Mr. Joseph Nolan, M.P. may have said to Mr. Cuffe, the Assistant Solicitor to the Treasury, or what the same Gentleman may have said anywhere else; but what we do want to know is this—that the stratagems available in the hands of the Government which are placed at the hand of the leading journal supporting their policy should be fired and fused by those who are chiefly concerned in the policy of defamation against the Irish Members. Let those Gentlemen in their places in the House of Commons get on their legs and stand to their guns. The noble Viscount in whose name the Motion stands has appropriately gone out. I congratulate him upon that performance much more than upon his allowing himself to be made a bonnet for the Government, to use the memorable expression of the late Sir Stafford Northcote. Apparently, to some extent, he has withdrawn, and perhaps now some Representative of the Treasury Bench will give us some better explanation of this matter than we have yet been vouchsafed.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART-WORTLEY) (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, that what was done in the present instance had been customary since he had been in the House—namely, that when a Return was asked for by an hon. Member, with the assent of the Government, the Motion in his absence was made by a Member of the Government. So far as the documents in question were concerned his Office was purely Ministerial. The first of these documents was one the authenticity of which was disputed, and the authenticity of which it was thought desirable to prove, and the other was the accord of a matter of notoriety which 1221 was given in evidence before one of the tribunals of the country. That was the substance of the Return, and if the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy) wished to oppose it, no doubt the Forms of the House would enable him to do so; but all he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) could say was that it was a matter of ordinary practice to move for Returns in this way.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
said, he should like to add a few words to the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State upon a matter of which the hon. Gentleman personally knew nothing, but which had been in his (Mr. Matthews's) knowledge as he had been a Member of the Committee to which reference had been made. He was bound to say that he had seldom witnessed the ingenuity and imagination of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) exercised with more effect, and more to the astonishment of the House, than on the present occasion. What took place on the Committee was this; when on the last day it sat certain evidence was given by a certain witness. That witness, amongst other things, touched upon a statement of an hon. Gentleman written for the Government as a brief for the Solicitor to the Treasury, but he did not produce that original, and the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) called upon him to produce that original. The witness had not got it with him, only possessing a copy, whereupon the right hon. Member for West Cavan objected, with perfect propriety, that the copy should not be accepted, and that the original should be produced. The Committee decided not to wait for the original then and there, but asked the witness to read the copy and to produce the original later on. The witness complied, but unfortunately that was the last day on which the Committee sat. All the Members dispersed, the Report was settled, and he (Mr. Matthews) himself had left before the close of the proceedings. A technical difficulty in the way of the production of the document read by the witness then arose, for the Clerk to the Committee could not obtain it and put it in the evidence, neither could the Committee, as it no longer sat as a body, 1222 The noble Viscount (Viscount Ebrington), who was responsible for the proceedings of the Committee—inasmuch as he had been its Chairman—suggested how this little difficulty could be got over, and how the very proper objection of the hon. Member for West Cavan could be met. He suggested how the original in place of the copy could be put in evidence—how the verification of the copy could be effected. He was not quite sure whether the suggestion came from the noble Viscount, or was primarily his (Mr. Matthews's) own. It was that the original should be moved for, so that the House could see whether the copy placed before the Committee in evidence was correct or not. That was the whole of this story of which the hon. and learned Member for North Longford had made so much. The whole of his tremendous charge against the Government vanished into thin air. This Motion was simply a means to enable the hon. Member for West Cavan and his Friends to do that which, owing to the dispersion of the Committee and the closing of its period of sitting, could no longer be done regularly, either by the Members of the Committee, or the Committee Clerk. The evidence was at an end. The Committee had decided to read the copy, and not to wait for the production of the original, then and there finishing their task before the original could be produced. If the Motion for the production of the original was now agreed to, everyone would be able to compare it with the copy, and to see whether or not the copy was accurate. The other document, the Armstrong paper, was precisely in the same position. The witness before the Committee stated his recollection of certain evidence which he had heard. He (Mr. Matthews) was not sure whether the objection to the admission of that statement in evidence before the Committee was taken by the hon. Member for West Cavan; but, at any rate, some Member of the Committee objected, declaring that they ought to have the shorthand notes of the evidence in question, which would be a fuller, more complete, and more satisfactory account of the evidence given by the witness at the Central Criminal Court. It was impossible, however, to bring their shorthand notes before the Committee, as this was the 1223 last day of its sitting; therefore, this Motion was made in order that the House might see whether there was anything in the notes which would qualify or alter the statement made before the Committee, which hon. Members would see printed in the evidence. The wonderful discovery which the hon. and learned Member for North Longford had made therefore vanished into thin air. He failed to see what the matter could have to do with the Attorney General, or anyone else in the world. All that was about to be done was to furnish those interested in the proceedings of the Committee with the originals in place of the copies of the evidence given before the Committee.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
also rose, and was called upon by Mr. Speaker. He begged to apologize to the House for not having been in his place to move for this Return when it was moved for by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Mr. Stuart-Wortley). He was sorry that the matter had caused so much excitement, but the explanation of the whole thing was very simple. Copies of the paper in question had been submitted to the Committee, of which he (Viscount Ebrington) had been Chairman, by a witness. One of them was objected to by an hon. Gentleman, a Member of the Committee, as only being an office copy in the possession of a subordinate, and not being a certified copy of the original. The Committee, however, decided to accept them, and they were put in for what they were worth—and he had given a verbal assurance to the hon. Member who had raised the objection that he would take steps to get the copies verified. The Committee, however, did not meet again, so that it was not possible to get the originals put in. The originals were not, therefore, produced; and, under the circumstances, he had thought that the best course would be to move that these originals should be laid upon the Table of the House, in order that the House might be able to have the documents verified on Ministerial responsibility rather than on the responsibility of a subor- 1224 dinate. That was the whole history of the matter. He was sorry he had not been in his place to explain the matter at the time the Motion was made; but he thought the hon. and learned Member who had initiated this debate would probably be satisfied with this explanation.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, he should not have intervened but for two direct deliberate charges made against him in a most unwarrantable manner by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). The hon. and learned Gentleman had first stated that the Motion before the House had been made with his (Sir Richard Webster's) knowledge—collusively in relation to some proceedings with which he (Sir Richard Webster) was connected. Of course, he could not say whether the hon. and learned Member for North Longford would accept his word or not; but there were many in that House who would. He could only assure the House that he had not the slightest knowledge, direct or indirect, that this Return had ever been asked for, had ever been moved for, or that the Motion in any form was to come before the House on this or any other occasion. He was in absolute ignorance, either that the papers were required, or that the Motion was going to be made. So much for the allegation that these papers were moved for in collusion with one who was said to be the counsel for The Times. The other charge made against him he was surprised to hear proceeding from a member of the Bar whom he could scarcely think wholly ignorant of the proceedings which had taken place. The hon, and learned Gentleman had said that he (Sir Richard Webster) was willing that this Return should be moved for, having, when he had had an opportunity of cross-examining the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Nolan) at the Central Criminal Court, deliberately elected not to do so.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
There was not a particle of foundation for such a suggestion. He would not use any discourteous expression. At the Central Criminal Court it was necessary to prove that a dynamiter named Melville—against whom a war- 1225 rant was out—had been to the House of Commons in company with one of the prisoners—either Callan or Harkins. To prove that this man had come to the House the hon. Member for Louth was called as a witness for the prosecution—was called as a witness for the Crown—was called by him (Sir Richard Webster), and examined by him. He had simply asked the hon. Member a question as to a matter of fact, as to Melville having been the name of the man introduced to him. The order for admission into the House was produced with Melville's name on it; and the hon. Member for Louth admitted that the name of the introducing Member was in his handwriting. Now, the hon. and learned Member for North Longford was a member of the Bar, and was perfectly well aware that no one calling a witness to prove a fact could cross-examine him at all. There was no opportunity to cross-examine the hon. Member; and he (Sir Richard Webster) had simply put a question to him which was answered. On the hon. Member for Louth stating that he had signed the order his evidence was at an end. He (Sir Richard Webster) had called him to prove a fact which he had thought it necessary to prove. The House, therefore, would judge as to how much truth there was in the charges brought by the hon. and learned Member for Longford against himself or the Government.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, he rose to say two or three words on this subject, because he had been a Member of the Committee to which so much reference had been made. He must frankly own that when he saw the Notice of Motion on the Paper to-day that he was as much surprised as he had ever been in the House, because it seemed to be a revival of about as unfortunate a course of conduct as ever was pursued in a Parliamentary Committee—a course of conduct which was, as he thought, with the general consent of the Committee, desisted from. This was a Return now moved for in cold blood, some three or four weeks after the Committee had brought in its Report. The Return, as it appeared on the Paper of the House, evidently cast serious imputations upon a Member of the House. Such a Return 1226 would never be placed upon the Paper of the House unless some serious use was going to be made of it. Now, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Under Secretary of State for the Home Office said that these two documents were accurate and authentic documents, of which copies were laid before the Committee. That was not the case. The first of them—the brief which, he supposed, was a statement made by the Assistant Solicitor to the Treasury—was at a late stage of the proceedings laid before the Committee; but by that time the Committee was conducting its business in a much more reasonable manner than it had been doing earlier, as he would explain to the House; and a legal objection—because by that time they had begun to regard themselves as to a certain extent under legal responsibility—was taken that the original, and not a copy, should be brought forward. The original could not be produced, and, consequently, the copy was not laid before the Committee. The copy was never before the Committee, and, in spite of what had just been said, was not printed in the Blue Book. If it were produced now, in response to the present appeal, it would be the first time it had ever been before the House of Commons or a section of the House of Commons. And now let him say a word why, under the circumstances, even if the copy had been laid before the Committee, he should not vote for this Motion—indeed, should vote against it. The Committee, to which so much reference had been made, appeared to have been assembled for a double purpose. One purpose—and a most legitimate purpose—was in order to discover whether the regulations for admitting Strangers were so defective that dangerous Strangers might be admitted; and secondly—and this was likewise a most legitimate purpose—in order to discover whether there was any method of allotting the seats in the Gallery which Mr. Speaker could approve and which the majority of the House would agree to, and which would be more convenient to hon. Members than the method of admitting Strangers lately in practice. But on the top of these two most proper objects there was engrafted a third, which was to bring a charge against a Member of this House. [An hon. Member; Monstrous thing!] He heard an 1227 hon. Member say "Monstrous thing!" Well, he would explain to him what he thought a monstrous thing. What was the charge which it was sought to bring against a Member of the House?—but he would not say whether it was a true one or a false one. ["Hear, hear!" from the Government Benches.] No; he did not say whether it was a true one or a false one—that had nothing to do with his argument. It was a charge of knowingly admitting into the Gallery of that House men who were prepared to commit a crime—to commit a murderous outrage upon this House. If an hon. Member had been guilty of that, he would have been guilty of high treason, he supposed. He would have brought himself within the compass of an Act by which he could have received 21 years' penal servitude; and did any hon. Member—an hon. Member had called it a "monstrous thing"—did any hon. Member think that Parliament was the proper place to try anyone on such a charge, whether a Member or not, and whether it was true or not? He was obliged to be rather frank with the House in one point—namely, that on the first of these important days he was absent in the North of England, and did not sit upon the Committee. When he got back, he found that a good deal of evidence bad been given before the Committee which ought not to have been given; and the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. J. Nolan), whose conduct was in question, had not heard the evidence, though it was admitted that he was invited to be present when it would be given, so that he might come forward to make the best reply he could. But after that evidence had been given he came forward and made the best reply he could, not to that evidence, but to the questions which were put to him by Members who had heard that evidence. The next day he (Sir George Trevelyan) was present. His method of cross-examination was carried to a still further point. It actually came to this—that Members of the Committee questioned this hon. Member as to the topics on which he had been discussing at a private interview which he had had with one of these inculpated persons; and when it came to that point, he (Sir George Trevelyan), as hon. Members who looked at the Book would find, moved that the room should be cleared, 1228 and that they should discuss the course that they were then taking. He persuaded the Committee that they were in the wrong in allowing that method of cross-examination to be pursued; and it was not a breach of confidence to say that the Home Secretary—he did not say that the right hon. Gentleman admitted that they had been in the wrong up to that point; but the Home Secretary thought that they could not go any further in that direction, and so that method of cross-examination came to an end. It had been during that course of examination, which was, as it were, condemned and disowned by the Committee, that allusion had been made to this statement made to the Assistant Solicitor to the Treasury which they now asked should be brought before the House of Commons. He did not think it ought to have been brought before the Committee, and he did not think it ought now to be brought before the House of Commons. He did not find it in the Book.
said, the Question to which the noble Lord wished him to turn was as follows:—With reference to this statement made to the Treasury Solicitor, which you, wish to put in, will you read it?"—"It is as follows:—'No doubt, the statement I made to an officer last summer was correct, if I said it at the time. It does not, however, recall the circumstances to me, and I can add nothing to it; I might recognize the man; I do not know Mr. Stock's writing, nor do I know in whose writing the entry is in the Speaker's Register. I cannot recall the circumstances of the visit, nor do I know what name the other man gave. I repeat that I do not know what name the other man gave. I do not remember having had any letter of introduction from anyone coming from America. I should give people tickets on their own representation of themselves. I do not recollect the circumstances at all, at present.—(Signed) JOSEPH NOLAN.Then, in that case, he (Sir George Trevelyan) fell back upon what he said earlier, and that was that this Notice of Motion of the noble Lord was the sanction of one of the most improper proceedings that ever took place in a Committee. On that ground, if on no other, he should vote against the Motion. He considered that the only business of the Committee was to ask the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. J. Nolan) what the circumstances were 1229 under which he introduced these gentlemen, and to take his statement of the case. That was only what was necessary for the purpose for which the Committee was appointed, which was to see whether or not improper characters could be introduced into the House under the existing circumstances. The hon. Member for Louth made a perfectly consistent and, he (Sir George Trevelyan) believed, a perfectly true statement. In all the cross-examination which ensued, that statement was not shaken in any particular, and he absolutely refused to vote for this Motion, and thereby sanction a course of conduct which he thought was wrong in itself, a course of conduct pursued very far, and which threw a slight upon the hon. Member for North Louth which he was quite certain was undeserved.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKET) (Dublin University)
said, that as he was one of the Members of the Committee, perhaps the House would indulge him for a few moments while he stated what, in his view, were the real circumstances of this case. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir George Trevelyan) had very severely condemned the proceedings of the Committee, and had taken upon himself to impugn the motives with which that Committee was asked for, and with which the examination of the witnesses appearing before that Committee was conducted. As far as he (Mr. Plunket) was concerned, he was not present, any more than the right hon. Gentleman, on the first day that the hon. Member for North Louth was cross-examined. He might say, also, that he had not refreshed his memory as to the exact details of the proceedings of the Committee, because he had not observed that that Notice was on the Paper at all. As to what really happened on the first day when the hon. Member for North Louth was called before the Committee, he (Mr. Plunket) could only judge from the evidence as printed. One of the police authorities (Mr. Munro), to whom to a great extent was entrusted the protection of the House, came before the Committee and gave certain evidence. The main feature of that evidence was, that one of the difficulties he had in securing the protection of the House was that dangerous characters obtained admission to the House 1230 on orders given by the hon. Member, and as he (Mr. Plunket) recollected, in support of that statement, the proceedings which had been made public in the trial of the dynamitards were brought before the Committee. The hon. Member for North Louth, receiving notice that that kind of examination was likely to be entered upon, appeared before the Committee and gave such evidence as he desired on the subject. On a subsequent day, when he (Mr. Plunket) was present, the examination on the subject was resumed, and at one stage of the proceedings the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), who, up to that time, had not taken the smallest exception to anything that had been stated or done by the Committee——
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he knew that the right hon. Gentleman was not there on the first day; but he said that on the second day the right hon. Gentleman took no exception up to a certain time. As soon as the right hon. Gentleman took exception to the course of the proceedings the room was cleared, and the Committee deliberated upon the objection of the right hon. Gentleman, and, in accordance with his opinion, the line of examination which was being observed was not pressed further. He maintained that, under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in the attack he had made on the proceedings of the Committee. The whole of the proceedings of the Committee, both before and after the room was cleared, were perfectly harmonious. The right hon. Gentleman now said he would not support the Motion, because he considered that it was a most unfair endeavour to renew and revive proceedings which had been dropped. The House might think it was right or not that the Return should be granted. So far as he was concerned, he was not aware that it was going to be asked for. He was bound to say, however, that the attack just made on the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division was wholly groundless and unwarrantable, an d that the statement by the noble Viscount (Viscount Ebrington) was a perfectly right and fair statement, 1231 and in accordance with the promise he gave at the time, that he would take steps, as far as possible, to confirm, by the production of the original document, the evidence which the Committee were obliged to take at second hand. The Motion, as he understood, was for a copy of a document which was given in evidence before the Committee.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, that the Chairman asked Mr. Munro as to these documents—For what purpose do you wish to put them in?The reply was—Because I said there was some doubt about the handwriting.In answer to Question 567, he said—We were in some doubt, because, when Mr. Nolan was examined by the Treasury Solicitor, he said it was not like his handwriting, but he seemed to admit that it might be at the trial, and we thought it right to have as much inquiry upon that point as possible.And in answer to the Chairman's Question, 659—He was quoting the statement which you made on the subject to the police?Mr. Nolan said—I simply said that I could not swear to the writing as being mine, but that it had a general resemblance. It is more with reference to my own statement, in which I said that we had not a doubt about it, that I wished to put in the statement before the Treasury Solicitor.This was a reason why this evidence was given. Mr. Nolan said to the witness, "Is that the original?" Mr. Nolan—being the person objecting to that way of giving evidence, asked—" Is that the original?" The witness replied, "This is a copy," whereupon Mr. Nolan said—We had better have the original, and have it put in by the Treasury Solicitor.That was the very document which, if this Motion were granted, would necessarily be placed before the House, because if the House said a copy of the original was to be printed, of course the original would have to be forthcoming. He did not know whether the hon. Member who interrupted him suggested that the authorities would give some false copy. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No!] Then he did not see the force of the objection. It was only fair to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. J. Nolan) himself that what 1232 he had said should be judged by the original.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, it was quite plain there had been a good deal of misconception on both sides of the House in this matter due to the unfortunate incident that the noble Viscount (Viscount Ebrington) was not able to be present to explain the reason why this Return was moved for. Had the noble Lord been present a good deal of the heat arising out of this misconception would, no doubt, have been prevented. As he understood the noble Lord, the object of the Return was merely to verify certain documents which were put in before the Committee. These documents would give no new information, according to the noble Lord's statement. It was a remarkable fact that in their Report the Committee took no notice of the fact to which this Return referred, and consequently they did not regard it as a material part of their inquiry. Let them see whether it would be wise or advantageous to make this formal Return. The Return was asked for to supplement, as he understood, defective evidence or documents before the Committee. He did not think it was a convenient precedent to set in any case that when a Committee had reported and concluded its transactions they should set to work by independent Motion to introduce something which should be supplementary to the Business which had been closed. But that was not all. How was the situation improved? A responsible officer, as he understood—namely, Mr. Munro—produced a copy of a document, and the objection—a good legal objection—was taken that they should see the original. But they did not improve the matter by moving for another copy.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
said, the right hon. Gentleman would, perhaps, excuse him for interrupting him. He had a further reason for moving for the Return; for the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. J. Nolan), in conversation afterwards, gave him to understand—he spoke to him in the presence of the hon. Member for South Fermanagh (Mr. H. Campbell), who would correct him if he was wrong—that upon the original document there was more writing than appeared on the copy put in by Mr. Munro. He (Viscount Ebrington) had had to leave town the 1233 next morning to do duty with the Yeomanry, and he was away from London until a very few days before the House adjourned for the Whitsuntide Holidays, and that was the reason why he did not take action earlier.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he hoped the noble Lord would understand that he meant no reflection on him for the course which had been taken. All that he was doing was considering whether it was wise for the House of Commons to grant the Return which had been moved for. He was trying to state the reasons quite apart from the circumstances of this particular case why this Return should not be granted. Though he perfectly admitted the noble Lord had made this Motion, as he believed, for the advantage of the hon. Member for Louth, he did not think it was a wise thing that this Return should be made. This was a Motion to lay on the Table of the House a copy of the brief supplied to the Solicitor to the Treasury. If he (Sir William Harcourt) had been on the Committee, he should have said that such a document ought never to have——
It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that this was a matter of great importance, and he wished to know whether, as the Orders of the Day had not been entered upon, and it was now past 12 o'clock, he would be in Order in moving that the House do now adjourn for the purpose of making some observations by way of supplement to what had taken place? This was a matter of vital importance not only to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth himself, but to his Colleagues, who wished that there should be the amplest and fullest inquiry. They were most anxious that everything affecting this matter should be sifted to the very bottom; and what he submitted was that the Government should either re-open this Committee, which evidently had done its business in a most unfortunate and unusual manner——
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member will not be in Order in making the Motion. I am now about to proceed with the Orders of the Day.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that perhaps he might have the indulgence of the 1234 House for one moment. This was a matter affecting the personal honour of a Member of the House, who was charged with one of the most infamous crimes that an hon. Member could be charged with. Besides that, the honour of a Party consisting of nearly one-eighth of the House was affected, and therefore the House could scarcely deny him (Mr. T. M. Healy) the opportunity of making a few personal observations.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the debate has gone on until midnight, and therefore stands, ipso facto, adjourned.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that when the Secretary to the Treasury moved formally "That the House do adjourn," he should claim leave to revert to this matter.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
said, that what he meant to convey was, that at the conclusion of this day's Business, and when the Motion was made "That the House do now adjourn," he should respectfully claim leave, with the Speaker's permission, to revert to the present matter.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That would not be in Order. The debate is adjourned by the Rules of the House, and remarks as to that Motion would anticipate the discussion on the subject which might arise when the debate is resumed.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.