MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether any communication, written or oral, direct or indirect, has reached the Patronage Secretary from the Member for Rochester, conveying his intention or desire to vacate his seat; and whether the Government will take any, and what, action in the matter to relieve the Rochester Division from practical disfranchisement?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand
The hon. Gentleman asks me whether communications have passed between my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for Rochester with regard to his seat. I venture, with great respect to the House, to say that it would be most improper and unusual to ask that private communications unconnected with the discharge of his official duties which may pass between my hon. Friend or anyone holding his position on either side of the House, should be communicated to the House. I have reason to believe that the hon. Member for Rochester, who has been absent from the House during the present Session, has been disabled by severe and protracted illness, and steps will be taken to ascertain whether there is any reasonable hope that he will be able to return to the House or whether he wishes to vacate his seat.
MR. J. ELLIS
Is the First Lord of the Treasury in a position to assure the House that the only reason why the hon. Member for Rochester is absent from this House is illness?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I think that the question is hardly one which the hon. Member is justified in putting. I have no personal knowledge of the circumstances whatever.