HC Deb 01 May 1891 vol 352 cc1927-30

On the Motion for Adjournment,

(12.13.) MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)

I ask the indulgence of the House while I reply to a statement made in my absence at the opening of the proceedings this afternoon. Immediately on arriving at the House I was handed a letter by the doorkeeper, in which the hon. Member for North Meath requested my attendance during Question time, as he intended to make certain references to me. I inquired of the doorkeeper when the letter was handed in, and found that it was given to the doorkeeper during Question time. That is scarcely giving the notice to which I think I was entitled, seeing that I was to be drawn into a personal controversy with another hon. Member. The hon. Member for North Meath, in his statement to the House, challenged directly the correctness of a charge made against him; he declared to be absolutely incorrect and misleading the report of his words, and also asserted that what he said was said privately. I challenge both those assertions. The conversation was not private, and the statement that was repeated was in substance and in essence, if not verbally, correct. There was no seal of secrecy whatever on the conversation, and that this was so is shown by the fact that the hon. Member now admits that he did not say anything to imply that the words he was speaking were private, or carried with them any injunction to or suggestion of secrecy. Secondly, these words, which are alleged to be private, were used in the presence of another Member of this House—namely, the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division, who will corroborate me in this particular as to the words not having been spoken privately, that they were unsolicited, and were uttered in friendly controversy. Thirdly, I have to say that the words were spoken in a discussion as to the hon. Member's political action, and as to what ought to? be my action at the present time. The conversation took place in the Dining Room in what I may call comparative publicity, and no suggestion was made that it was under the seal of privacy or secrecy. Surely no man need be ashamed of reasons which lead him to identify himself with a particular Party. The words were used by the hon. Member as an argument to induce me to break off a connection I have formed with political friends. The hon. Member has given an explanation of what he said. The words he used were— You would cut off your right hand rather than be identified with a Party which is sup. ported by men like the Irish priests. Those are the very words used. I frankly admit that the hon. Member did not say he referred to the whole body of the priests—on the other hand, he did not limit his words to a section. He spoke of the priests as priests. There is no desire to amplify the scope of the hon. Member's remarks. I think, judging from the hon. Member's explanation of what he said, i.e., that if hon. Members realised the nature and extent of the connection between this House and the priests they would not be so ready to identify themselves with hon. Members who rely on that connection— that he still continues to hold the same view although he does not express it with such graphic terms as when conversing with me personally. I have no desire to accentuate any division between Members of this House. I hope the House will not think 1 have unduly trespassed on its attention in thus attempting to justify myself, but I thought it necessary to reply to the statements of the hon. Member that the conversation was inaccurately repeated, and that it was private. It has been accurately repeated, and was not private.

(12.17.) MR. MAHONY

(Meath, N.): I do not intend to trouble the House at any length. I agree with the hon. Member that I did not ask him to regard the conversation as private. All I did to-night was to express surprise that any conversation taking place in the dining- room or in any other portion of the House where hon. Members meet one another socially should be published in the newspapers. As regards the difference of recollection between the hon. Member and myself, I do not desire to enter into a dispute with the hon. Member. I am absolutely certain in my own mind that I gave the substance of what I actually said. The hon. Member says the version I have given this evening is identical in meaning with the report in the Press. For myself I see a very great difference. He does not; I am perfectly content that his version shall go before the House and the public and that the matter shall rest where it is. The House had a statement from the hon. Member for the Spalding Division, and it has has had my own statement.

(12.19.) DR. TANNER >(Cork Co., Mid)

I fell rather ashamed that an Irish Protestant Member should have been guilty of such conduct of the hon. Gentleman.


I should like to know whether I am expected to give corroboration—the corroboration of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland, who is now in his place.


This is most interesting; I hope that, as the hon. Member for North Meath has laid down a canon that everything said in this House is to be held sacred, that rule will be applied not only in this House, but in other houses, and also in hovels and castles. I suppose Hawarden is a castle, and we may expect that statements made there and elsewhere will in future be considered to have been made under the seal of secrecy, and will be respected accordingly, especially when those statements are made—not casually, but by one man as a Statesman and the depository of public confidence to another man who occupies a representative position. The horror which the hon. Member has expressed at finding his conversations here reported reflects great credit upon him, and I hope the hon. Member will take the earliest opportunity of communicating the shock he has felt to his distinguished leader the Member for Cork.

House adjourned at twenty minutes after Twelve o'clock, till Monday next.