§ Order read, for the attendance of Mr. John William Maclure, a Member of this House, and of Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Is it your pleasure that these gentlemen be called in? I have to ask, first, whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stretford Division of South East Lancashire is in his place?
§ Mr. JOHN WILLIAM MACLURE
rose in his place at the Front Bench below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House amidst cries of "Order, order!" bowed to the Chair, and remained standing.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! Will the Serjeant-at-Arms see that Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and. Mr. John Conacher do appear at the Bar.
The Bar being then drawn, the Serjeant-at-Arms escorted thereto the three gentlemen named, who made their obeisance to the Chair.
§ *(5.24.) MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! Mr. John William Maclure, you have been ordered to attend in your place, and you, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher, have been summoned to appear at the Bar of this House in consequence of a Special Report made by a Committee of this House. That Committee was appointed to inquire into the hours of labour of railway servants, and in the course of their in- 884 quiry it came to their knowledge that allegations were made that certain persons had been reduced or dismissed from the service of the Company in consequence of the evidence they had given before the Committee. The other cases were dismissed by the Committee, after inquiry, as being unfounded; but in the case of one person, John Hood, the Committee found that he was dismissed by the Company mainly in consequence of charges arising out of the evidence given by him before the Committee. You, Mr. John Conacher, laid the evidence (so the Committee have found) before the Directors of the Company, and you, the Directors of the Company who are now present (so the Committee have found), when John Hood asked for a re-hearing of the case, called him to account, and you censured him for the evidence which he gave before the Committee, in a manner calculated to deter other railway servants from giving evidence before a Committee of this House. I believe it is the wish of the House to hear anything that any of you may now say in answer to these findings of the Committee.
§ (5.25.) MR. JOHN WILLIAM MACLURE (Lancashire, S.E., Stretford)
Mr. Speaker, Sir, on behalf of my friends as well as myself, I wish to say that you were good enough on Tuesday, in answer to the hon. Member for West Newington (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke), to say that the House would like to hear us in order that we might advance anything in excuse or mitigation of the action which is charged against us by the Select Committee. I am reading your own words, Mr. Speaker. Availing myself of the indulgence of the House, I beg to state that in taking the course referred to we acted entirely in what we believed to be the discharge of our duties as Trustees of the Company and for the general interests of the public. We had certainly not at any time the slightest intention of deterring any railway servants from giving evidence before your Committee, and should we, by the course we adopted, have unintentionally infringed any Rules or Privileges of this House, we ask this honourable House to accept the fullest expression of our unqualified 885 regret. I may say, in addition to that, that I very much regret that I had not the privilege of giving my evidence before the Committee myself. I had applied to give my evidence, and I hope the House will accept our apology: it is tendered to the House in the fullest manner.
§ (5.26.) Mr. JAMES FREDERICK BUCKLEY: Mr. Speaker, I beg to say that I fully concur in what has fallen from my colleague the hon. Member for the Stretford Division of South East Lancashire. I thank you.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
Mr. Speaker, is it competent for me to ask one question before these gentlemen withdraw—a question which, if necessary, may be put to them by you from the Chair—whether they would be disposed to re-instate the man whom they dismissed?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That is quite outside the present subject which the House has to consider. You will now, gentlemen, withdraw from the Bar.
The gentlemen at the Bar then withdrew. Mr. Maclure also left the House.
§ *(5.27.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
In the observations I shall address to the House I shall endeavour to confine myself within what appear to me to be the necessary limits of the matter which has come before us to-day. It is undoubtedly an important question of the breach of the Privileges of this House, and I am sure the House will approach it in a spirit of judicial gravity; not desiring to deal vindictively with those who have offended against its Privileges; but determined, on the other hand, to maintain the Privileges 886 which are essential not only in the interests of this House, but in the interests of the whole community. Now, Sir, the pith of the Report of the Committee is to be found, as you have stated to the House, in two sentences of the same paragraph. These sentences differ widely in their purport. The first sentence is as follows:—That John Hood was dismissed from the service of the Cambrian Railway Company mainly in consequence of charges arising out of the evidence given by him before the Select Committee on the Hours of Labour of Railway Servants.Sir, I believe it has been amply established by a succession of long-continued precedents that any molestation, threats, or legal proceedings against any witness examined before this House, or before any Committee of this House, in consequence of the evidence given by him, is a distinct breach of our Privileges; and I need hardly say that the dismissal of a servant must necessarily be included in the term "molestation." But I wish to call the attention of the House to a matter which is not solely a verbal difference. I have said it is an undoubted breach of the Privileges of this House that a witness should be injured in consequence of his evidence. But the Committee have not reported that this has occurred. The Committee have reported that this man was dismissed, not in consequence of his evidence, but mainly in consequence of charges arising out of the evidence given by him; and any hon. Member who looks carefully through the proceedings of the Committee and through the evidence that has been reported to the House will see that this is not a verbal difference alone. I would speak on this subject with great diffidence. There are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House far better qualified than I am to express a view as to what is or what is not a breach of Privilege. But I would venture to express some doubt whether the action of this House in this matter could safely be founded on the dismissal of a witness in consequence of charges arising out of his evidence. The point is one which materially affects this matter. The hon. Member for Stretford and the 887 persons who have just appeared at the Bar have stated to this House that, in dismissing John Hood, they acted, in their belief, as trustees for their shareholders, and in the interest of the public. Now, Sir, a great deal of evidence, as the House is aware, was given before the Committee by the Chairman and by the Manager of the Company in support of the proposition that Hood's dismissal was necessary in the interests of the Company and of the public, because inquiries which were made as the result of his evidence had disclosed conduct on his part which proved him to be an unworthy servant. Perhaps I may say in passing, as Chairman of the Committee, that if we had understood that the hon. Member for Stretford really desired to have been examined, we should certainly have given him the opportunity. However, much evidence, as I have said, was given on that point. Now, the Committee considered that it was their duty to report to the House what had occurred in this matter with respect to the dismissal of this person, but they did not conceive it to be their duty to decide whether that dismissal could be excused or justified by any argument such as was addressed to them in evidence, and as has just now been addressed to the House; but they did make this very significant addition to their Report. They said they had notDeemed it to be part of their duty to express any opinion as to how far the conduct of the said John Hood, and the irregularities disclosed by his evidence, as well as the character of his evidence, were calculated properly to forfeit the confidence of the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company.Now, that pointedly called the attention of this House, as judges of this case, to this aspect of the question. I do not propose to ask the House to decide whether or not John Hood was a trustworthy servant of the Cambrian Railway Company. I will not, unless I am forced, express any opinion of my own upon that point, but this I will venture to say—that it is my strong belief that, in dismissing John Hood, the Directors of the Cambrian Company honestly and bonâ fide believed that he was not a 888 trustworthy servant of the Company. Sir, if this House is to censure the Directors of a railway for dismissing a servant in the responsible position of a station master, who, in their opinion, is not a trustworthy servant, in my humble judgment, this House would be simply assuming the responsibility for the conduct of the affairs of that railway. Now I turn, Sir, to the second part, and in my view by far the most important part, of the Report of the Select Committee. The Select Committee reported, in the second place, that the persons who have appeared at the Bar, and the hon. Member for Stretford, called John Hood to account and censured him for the evidence he gave before the Committee in a manner calculated to deter other railway servants from giving evidence before the Committee. Sir, there can be no question that this is a distinct breach of the Privileges of this House. The fact is undoubted, and I would submit that the question for the House to decide with regard to it is really only how it should be dealt with. Now, let me allude to what has been said to the House by the hon. Member for Stretford on his own behalf and on behalf of the persons who have appeared at the Bar. I think it will not be denied that they have made the fullest and most ample apology for what they have done that could have been made by any persons placed in such circumstances. What have they said? They have, in the first place, disclaimed any intention to deter any railway servant from giving any evidence before the Committee. Well, Sir, I should like to add that as a matter of fact no railway servant will be so deterred, for this simple reason, that the Committee consider that they have sufficient evidence of this kind—("Oh!")—before them upon which to base their Report, and do not intend to call any further evidence either from the Railway Companies or their employees on the main question referred to them; and further, Sir, after the way in which that observation has been met, I think it is only just that I, as Chairman of the Committee, should say that the Railway Companies generally ought not to be included in any condemnation that may be passed on the 889 action of the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company. More than 30 railway servants last year were called before this Committee. The great majority of them gave evidence directly contrary to the opinions and feelings of the Directors and Managers of the Railways on which they were employed. Scores of railway servants very properly gave information to the secretaries of their societies as to the long hours they work, and other matters connected with their employment. All these matters were given in evidence by the secretaries of those societies, and were subsequently sifted and replied to by the Directors or Managers of the different Railway Companies. Yet, Sir, in only four out of all these cases has there been the slightest allegation of any improper action on the part of Railway Directors or Managers towards the servants who have given evidence before this Committee, and in only one case—that of John Hood—has any improper action been proved. I do not say this as bearing on this particular case, but I think it right to give that testimony with regard to the conduct of the Railway Companies generally. Now, what have the hon. Member for Stretford and the persons who have appeared at the Bar added to the disclaimer I have already quoted? They have expressed their unqualified regret for having unintentionally infringed any of the Rules or Privileges of this House. I repeat, Sir, that I do not think that a more complete apology could be offered to this House. But, Sir, I am not suggesting to the House that on the ground of this disclaimer or on the ground of this apology the breach of our Privileges which has been committed should be passed over without further notice. I do feel that we are bound, and especially in a case of this kind, to maintain this important Privilege for the benefit of the country. And why do I say especially in a case of this kind? The evidence in this particular inquiry, Sir, is closed; but it may be the pioneer of many similar inquiries into the relations between employers and employed in other great industries of the country; and it is obviously essential to the proper conduct of any such 890 inquiries that those who are employed should be satisfied that the rights and Privileges of this House will be maintained with respect to any evidence they may give. Therefore, Sir, it appears to me that while, for the reasons I have ventured to place before the House, this is not a case for punishment, yet it is a case requiring the notice of the House in such a way as shall be a warning for the future; and, therefore, Sir, I conclude by proposing; the Resolution which I will now read.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, while recognising that Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher have disclaimed any intention to deter any railway servant from giving evidence before its Committee, and have expressed their unqualified regret for having unintentionally infringed any of its Rules and Privileges, is of opinion that the said Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House, in their action towards John Hood, and that they be called in and admonished by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege that they have committed."—(Sir Michael Hicks Beach.)
§ (5.43.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I wish to move an Amendment. I think the House has heard, and that the country will read, with profound dissatisfaction the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered, and that both will universally condemn the Motion with which his speech was concluded. What, Mr. Speaker, are the facts of the case? The right hon. Gentleman said that the hon. Member for Stretford and his colleagues have made a full and ample apology. I listened with great care and attention to what the hon. Member for Stretford said, and although I do not wish to say anything unkind of the hon. Gentleman, I must say that in my opinion his speech, instead of being one of regret, was an aggravation of the offence which has been committed. ("Oh, oh!") Hon. Members should hear me before pronouncing judgment. What did the speech of the Directors amount to? It amounted to this—that they committed the offence, that they mean to persevere in the offence, and that they 891 intend to maintain the punishment which they have inflicted upon this man because of his evidence and the talk about the charges arising out of it—that while they intend to maintain the punishment of this man, they hope to escape from their own punishment by the contemptible lip service of an apology in words. The right hon. Gentleman has told us what the Directors have said. We want to know what they are going to do. Now the right hon. Gentleman showed the necessity of preserving the Privilege of the House in such a matter as this, but he should have gone a good deal further. What is this House but a Grand Court of Appeal to the nation to which every afflicted man in the country should have the right of full and unrestrained appeal? And how can that full and unrestrained right of appeal be secured if every person gives his evidence with the halter of dismissal about his neck? The right hon. Gentleman has disclaimed any intention on the part of the Directors to interfere with the Privileges of the House; but it is to acts that we must look and not to words. A disclaimer on their part, and a perseverance in the offence is a mere empty insult to this House. It is clear that the hon. Member for Stretford and his fellow Directors have no intention to re-instate this man. The right hon. Gentleman says that workmen must be protected in giving evidence before Committees of this House. What protection are they going to get? The successors and colleagues of John Hood are reminded that if they give evidence the Directors will get a mere verbal condemnation and remonstrance from this House; but that John Hood will be left to starve. So that the whole point comes to this: that if the Directors get a formal and academic condemnation from this House they are at liberty to dismiss any man who gives evidence before any Committee of this House. Now, I think the House has heard the right hon. Gentleman's statement with dissatisfaction, and I propose to add words to the original Resolution.
At the end of the Question, to add the words "and this House will not deem that the said Directors and Manager of the Cambrian
Railway have purged their contempt until they have re-instated John Hood in the position which he occupied before giving his evidence before this House, or otherwise compensated him."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (5.52.) MR. W. S. B. MCLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
I desire to move the substitution of the word "censure" for "admonish" in the original Motion, and if it is possible I think it should come before the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool.
§ *(5.54.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has laid before the House is one which, if the House were to pass it unanimously, would at any rate vindicate the dignity of the House, and would clearly express its opinion with regard to these transactions; but, if the House will allow me, I will say a few words, with great respect, as to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed that Resolution. I say with great respect, because the Committee has been presided over by the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest industry, with the greatest courtesy, and with the greatest fairness. I am bound, however, to say that I do not think the speech in which he introduced this Motion was adequate to the occasion—I am speaking now entirely of the matter, because the right hon. Gentleman's speeches are always in every way adequate both in manner and ability. Right hon. and hon. Members who listened to that speech would almost wonder why they were to pronounce a censure upon the Directors. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman insisted very much on the first part of the Resolution—with regard to the dismissal of Mr. Hood from causes arising out of the evidence, and I differ from him in the conclusions which he drew. I also think that he did not insist enough on the last part—as to the censure which was directed against Mr. John Hood by the Directors. I will detain the House for only a short time by stating the plain story of the case from the outset. The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct in saying 893 that the Cambrian Railway stands in a very different position to any other railway, and that the Cambrian Directors are in a different position to that of any other Railway Directors in the Kingdom; but most serious and gross revelations came to light with regard to the conduct of the Cambrian Railway Company in arranging the business hours of their men; and I would inform hon. Members, without making wearisome quotations from the evidence, that it was proved that for years several of their men had worked 36 hours at a stretch in the arduous business of signalling. That was not all——
§ MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to ask you whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in anticipating the Report of the Committee as to the hours of labour, which they were not able to present?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is in Order, so far as it bears on the case, in calling attention to anything that was placed before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly in Order in referring to it up to the day on which this gentleman was dismissed from his service.
§ MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I rise again, to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in anticipating the decision of the Committee with regard to the question of the hours of labour in the case of the Cambrian or any other railway?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman would not be in Order in anticipating the ultimate decision of the Committee as to the question of the hours of labour. That is not the Question before the House.
§ * SIR G. TREVELYAN
I shall confine myself strictly to matters which have already been reported to the House. Among other servants who were offered work was a young man of the name of Humphreys, and one of the gentlemen who was lately at the Bar of this House, Mr. Conacher, admits that Humphreys was worked regularly from 5.50 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Now this is of the essence of the whole question. These extreme 894 hours were brought to the notice of the Committee by a person of the name of Bather. This person is charged by the Directors with being hostile to them for certain reasons of his own; and the point I now wish to put before the House is that it was on account of this man's action, or supposed connection with Mr. Hood, that the gentleman in the position of Chairman of the Company got a feeling about him which he could not suppress when giving evidence before the Committee, and I believe it was one of the main reasons which led to his dismissal. Now I will read to the House an extract from the evidence of Mr. Buckley, the Chairman of the Company himself. The Chairman of the Committee asked Mr. Buckley (page 65)—'Did you dismiss Mr. Hood solely on account of the pay-sheet matter, coupled with other matters of which you have told the Committee?'—'Yes, coupled with another matter, to which I do not desire to attach too much importance. It was not at all to be expected from a trusted servant of the Company. This man is not in the position of an ordinary servant or workman. He is an agent who has to take charge of and regulate the discipline amongst a number of men at his station. Therefore we looked upon him as our agent, and as being a person of trust. Now, I do not think that this letter which I have in my hand should have been written by a man in whom we put implicit confidence; for this reason—that it showed that he had neglected to report to his Directors the advances which had been made to him by a man named Bather, who gave evidence here, and who was notoriously an enemy of the Directors, because they had refused to give him a free pass over their line.'Mr. Hood received a letter from Mr. Bather asking him about Humphreys, that is the young man who worked from 5.50 in the morning until 10 o'clock at night. Mr. Hood does not forward that letter, as he ought to have done, to his superiors; he says, "I threw it away, as I did not want to have anything to do with the matter." There is the letter, and I will read it to the House.June 3, 1891.—Memorandum from Montgomery Station to J. Conacher, Esq., Euston Hotel, London. James Humphreys, late porter, Ellesmere. I return the statement to you with my remarks. Mr. Bather wrote to me a note asking me to give him information about the accident, but I did not reply to it, neither have I spoken to him about it. I threw the note away, as I did not want to have anything to do with the matter. I have thought the 895 matter very carefully over and tried my best to remember in order to give as correct information as I could to enable you to meet the case.Now, Sir, what does all this come to? Here are hours of labour of the most remarkable sort worked by railway men in the employment of a certain Company. The Committee which the House of Commons appointed to inquire into the long hours of railway servants would not have heard of the long hours worked upon this railway but for the fact that Mr. Bather, who lives on the spot, got up the case. I do not enter upon the question as to whether he had any quarrel with the Company, but we all know that we should not have known of these long hours being worked if Mr. Bather had not got up the case of these men and got several of them to give evidence. That is what Mr. Bather's enmity to the Company consists of. For my own part I am not sure it was enmity, for the Directors say that if they had only known that these long hours were being worked they would have put a stop to them, and I think, therefore, that Mr. Bather was not in this matter an enemy of the Company. Then you have a poor stationmaster, earning £70 a year, a man who by education is hardly above a working man, and because this man gets a letter from Bather and does not at once send it to his superiors, in the eyes of the Chairman of the Company he is disloyal, and it is alleged as a grave reason for dismissing him. Now, Sir, I say if this House wishes its Committees to arrive at any important evidence with regard to anything that concerns the working man it can only arrive at it by the evidence of the people who are concerned, and I say it will not be any disloyalty for a man to come forward and say he was employed for 30 hours on a stretch; and still less is it disloyalty for a man receiving a letter and being asked to assist in throwing light on this question and not at once sending it to his employers. That was the animus with which the Chairman of the Company was prepared to proceed against Mr. Hood. But, Sir, I want the House of Commons for one moment—for I do not believe the House is fully aware of it—to see what 896 Hood's evidence was. Mr. Conacher, the Manager, came up and gave evidence before the Committee on the Hours of Railway Servants; he gave evidence on various matters, and in the course of this evidence he made some by-the-way or incidental statements; and one of these statements was that Mr. Hood had not been punished for signing a memorial asking that a porter might not be dismissed. Afterwards he repeated this statement, and still later on he appears to have somewhat gone back from it. But there it was in black and white before the Committee. Mr. Hood was one of those men—you may say he was vain, you may say he was sensitive—but he felt very much indeed that a statement which he thought derogatory to him should be in black and white before the House, so he asked to be allowed to come up and to give evidence. He simply came up and contradicted the statement which Mr. Conacher made about him, and stated one or two things to which I will refer before sitting down. But so little did the Committee think his evidence of any importance that it may be fairly said he was not cross-examined at all. He was allowed to go away after making his statement, and the Committee gave little or no thought to his evidence. That was not the case with Mr. Conacher and the Directors. On the day before Hood went up to give evidence, which Mr. Conacher knew would be of a personal character about himself, and the quarrel between this powerful and leading servant who had the ear of the Directors and this roadside stationmaster—when, I say, Mr. Conacher knew that Hood was going up to give evidence before a House of Commons Committee, what did Mr. Conacher do? He wrote to a neighbouring Railway Company in order to get up a case of neglect of duty against Mr. Hood, a case of which, up to that time, they had taken very little notice, and a case which already was two years old. Mr. Hood left the Committee, he went back to his employment, and I venture to say there was not a Member of the Committee who gave his evidence another thought. We regarded him simply as an uneducated man who had been irritated about 897 certain things said about him, and we only felt that we gave up time we could ill-afford to waste in order to allow him to contradict them. It was otherwise with the Directors and Mr. Conacher. The Directors and Mr. Conacher not many days afterwards dismissed Mr. Hood. They dismissed him arbitrarily and summarily, and without giving him any reason whatever. I wish to leave certain topics for other hon. Gentlemen to deal with, but that is the question, as far as the actual dismissal was concerned, that I wish to insist on. Now I come to the very grave question of the censure. Mr. Hood applied to the Directors to be allowed to state his case, and the Directors had a meeting on the 30th September and gave him a hearing at Crewe. The gentlemen who were there present were those whom the House saw at the Bar—the hon. Member for Stretford, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Conacher. I would like to ask whether hon. Members have read an account of that interview. All I can say is that they will find that it is a most characteristic, a most interesting, and in some respects a most amusing proceeding; but it is a proceeding of which the very gravest notice ought to be taken by this House; and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman insisted sufficiently upon what passed. Now, Sir, on page 36 of the Special Report particulars will be found. This man, half-educated, a man little above the status of a porter or an engine driver, is called into the presence of four gentlemen who had been, if they were not then, his employers, and there he stood among them, and what was the course of the procedure? Did they tell him why he was dismissed? No, they did not even tell him that. All they said was that he must explain and justify his evidence. He began to justify his evidence as such a man would do, giving an opening to them of which they were not slow to take advantage. Now, Sir, let hon. Members put themselves in that room and consider the sort of things said to this man by his employers; let them remember that they were talking so loudly and volubly that the shorthand writer said sometimes three or four of them were 898 talking at one time. The Chairman said to Hood—It appears that the whole object you had was to screen the porter Humphreys, who was said to have been 44 hours on duty, to represent that the sleepers on the permanent way were rotten, and to explain the accident as due to the defective state of the permanent way.Another one of the Directors at the bottom of page 38 says—Do you believe Stokes, and have you told the Committee a lie or unwittingly said what was untrue.On the next page one of the Directors said—It is to screen Mr. Hood himself from a gross neglect of duty, and he had better say frankly that the replies to the Select Committee, giving the thing in the way which he did, were false?This is the style in which these men were talking. There was not a word of kindness towards Hood, not a word said to put him at his ease. They all sat round saying these things in a manner that would have confused and disconcerted any one who had the best of cases. But, Sir, out of this meeting what was the result? There were three charges brought against Hood by the Directors in the course of his evidence, and on two of these charges I do not hesitate to say they laid themselves open to the censure of this House. These charges were nothing less than mere abuse on account of the course he took before the Committee. The first I will take was a mare's nest. It was a ridiculous charge that Hood had applied to the Clerk of our Committee for his railway fare home. There was no charge that he wanted to get two railway fares, or wanted more than his share of public or railway money; but the charge was that by making this application he wished to give our Committee the idea that he was not allowed to give evidence and would not get his fare from the Company. That was brought against him as a serious charge by the Directors. They said—"You went to the Committee Clerk to get money there by trying to show you could not get the money from Mr. Conacher." I need hardly say to the House that that produced no effect whatever on the minds of the 899 Committee. The next charge of the Directors made against this man was that he had said that on the occasion of a certain accident the sleepers on the line were rotten, and that the permanent way was defective. But it came out, from the evidence of Mr. Conacher himself, that at the time the accident took place this man had said these very words to Conacher himself. The idea was in his mind four years before the accident. When he came before the Committee the idea recurred to him; he said it quite incidentally, and there was little notice taken of it by any Member of the Committee. If you are to have witnesses dismissed for giving incidentally their views of a transaction four years before, which has nothing to do with these gross charges brought against the Cambrian Railway Company, you will never get working men to give evidence at all. Respecting the third charge, and the serious one, it came out in the course of time that Hood had confessed to charging night duty for one man, when, according to Conacher and the Directors, another man had been likewise doing the work. There is great confusion on this point, but one thing is clear, that Hood did not know this third man, Stokes, who was alleged by the Directors to have done the work that night, to have been in the station at all. What he did say was that Humphreys was working 44 hours on a stretch, and that he did allow a certain man, one Robinson, to stay up with him, that he returned this other man as the person who had done the work, whereas he was merely a companion of the other man. Now, Sir, I say here you have a serious charge against Mr. Hood. Here is a Company in which—and if hon. Gentlemen choose I will read Mr. Conacher's answers to my questions—men have been kept working 36 hours on end year after year, and the fact kept from the knowledge of the Manager and the Directors. That could only be done by a wholesale system of deception on the part of the stationmasters and the men below them. It is certain that a very loose method of making reports must have existed when such matters could go on without discovery at head- 900 quarters. Yet, at the end of all these years, the Directors fix the blame on this one unfortunate man who has come to give evidence, and they place at his door the blame for this system of concealment, which has been going on for at least five or six years. I say, first of all, that while the Committee were right in saying that this man was dismissed mainly for charges arising out of his evidence, those charges were trumpery, and he ought not to have been dismissed for them. There were probably other grave reasons for this course, and perhaps the gravest of all was that, in the words of the Chairman, Hood was an enemy of the Company; but, quite apart from his dismissal, Hood was censured and bullied by the Directors in a manner that, to say the least of it, was most unfortunate, and treated in a way that will in future deter any man liable to such treatment from giving evidence before a Parliamentary Committee, or giving evidence about his position at all. However, Sir, I must say, on different grounds from those given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Committee, I should consider that the dignity of this House would be vindicated by the Resolution which he has moved, and all the more because I do not believe in using our power of imprisonment vindictively. I do not think in the long run it would conduce to the dignity of the House to do so. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman should not remain, and will not remain, unanswered; but I am afraid that the unanimity and gravity of the animadversion of the House on the conduct of the Directors has been sorely spoiled by the line which, in his speech to-night, the right hon. Gentleman has taken.
§ *(5.24.) MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
I think, Sir, that in the interests of Hood it would have been better if the Motion made by the Chairman of the Committee had been accepted by the House rather than that we should be obliged to go into the evidence to ascertain whether the Directors of the Company were or were not justified, from causes arising out of the evidence, in dismissing Hood. I think, Sir, on that point it is an admitted principle that if a servant conducts himself in a way which is inconsistent with the 901 faithful discharge of his duty, his misconduct justifies his immediate dismissal. It is sufficient, in the eye of the law, if it is conduct which is prejudicial or is likely to be prejudicial to the interests or the reputation of the master, and the master would be justified, not only if he discovered it at the time but if he did not discover it until afterwards, in dismissing that servant. The right hon. Gentleman who last spoke alluded to the hours of labour on the Cambrian Railway as disclosed by the witness Bather. It was evidence which I must admit startled every Member of the Committee, and I was one who demanded a full inquiry. We were successful in getting many witnesses, including many servants of the Cambrian Railway, and it did not take long to see that the hours they were working some time ago were excessive. But that was before this Committee of Inquiry was appointed, and every single individual servant deposed to the fact that now he was perfectly satisfied with his hours of labour. I am surprised that a right hon. Gentleman in the position of the Member for Bridgeton, whose words and expressions ought to have weight in this House and in the country, should mislead the House as he has done. Not one servant only, but every servant of the Railway Company who was called before the Committee was asked by myself and by others as to whether he was satisfied now with his hours of labour, and in every case the answer was that he was perfectly satisfied. A more healthy and satisfactory type of servants I do not think any Committee ever saw during their long inquiry. Now, Sir, let us apply the principle of justification to the Railway Company in dismissing its servant. It arose in this way. After the evidence of Mr. Bather, Mr. Conacher was called, and somewhat qualified Bather's evidence; then Mr. Hood came before the Committee and repeated what had been deposed to by Mr. Bather, that Humphreys had been working for 44 hours on a stretch at a certain station on a given day. I think that was in November, 1887, and immediately preceded an accident at the station where he was a servant. Now, Sir, in consequence of the reiteration of Mr. 902 Bather's evidence by Mr. Hood, it became necessary for the officials of the Company to look into the pass books and the memoranda as to what took place immediately before the accident, and the inquiry disclosed this—that instead of Humphreys having served for 44 hours, as Hood and Bather asserted, he had not served more than half that time. There was an entry in the pay sheet to the effect that on the Saturday night and the Friday night immediately preceding the accident—the nights upon which it was said Humphreys worked 44 hours—a man named Robinson served one night and Humphreys the other. The pay sheet initialled in Hood's own handwriting showed that Humphreys and Robinson had both received pay in respect of those nights. When Hood's attention was called to this he raised the excuse — now raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division — that as Humphreys was working those long hours he thought he should have the company of another servant, and therefore Robinson was allowed to be with him. That was not true. It was proved to the satisfaction of the majority of the Committee — the minority can deny it if they like—that the name Robinson was not in the handwriting of Robinson, but had been signed by a man named Stokes. It was discovered also upon testimony satisfactory to the majority of the Committee that this man had drawn his money, in respect of his services, from the stationmaster. If that is true, here you have the undoubted fact that it was not true that Humphreys was working 44 hours, but that his duties were shared by somebody else, that the stationmaster Hood permitted Stokes to sign Robinson's name, permitted some person to draw the money, and permitted Stokes also to practically draw money from another source. I ask any disinterested and impartial person to put himself in a position of trust, to put himself in the position of a Director of a Railway Company, a trustee for shareholders in the Railway Company, and ask himself if he would be acting fairly and honestly to the community by allowing a man who wilfully and deliberately falsified 903 his pay-sheet to remain in the service of the Company. I will go one step further. We had statements before the Committee which I submit to impartial men would, if true, be evidence of an offence within the Criminal Law.
§ * MR. MILVAIN
I think no one will doubt, if the Directors of the Railway Company honestly believed he had been guilty of falsifying that pay-sheet they were perfectly justified, whatever the evidence he gave before the Committee may have been, in dismissing him from the service of the Railway Company. But there was another question, and it was that this is calculated to prejudice the Railway Company in the eyes of the public apparently without any provocation. Hood the stationmaster deposed to the Committee that this accident in 1887 was caused not by the negligence of Humphreys, but in consequence of the permanent way being in a rotten condition. Well, that was rather an astounding statement to make. But the cause of that accident had been inquired into by Colonel Rich, an Inspector of the Board of Trade. Colonel Rich inspected the permanent way, and his Report was not that the permanent way was in a rotten condition, but that the accident was brought about in consequence of the negligence of Humphreys. There are some persons in the Committee who believed, and who believe still, that the permanent way was in a rotten condition. But the evidence of Hood was only corroborated by a man who admitted in his statement before Colonel Rich that he deliberately said what was untrue.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask whether the hon. Gentleman is entitled to go into all these facts? If so, we shall have a week's debate. I ask that question more especially, seeing it has been said by the Committee, in their Report to the House—Your Committee have not deemed it to be part of their duty to express any opinion as to how far the conduct of the paid John Hood and the irregularities disclosed by his evidence, 904 as well as the character of the evidence, were calculated properly to forfeit the confidence of the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is entirely a matter for the discretion of this House. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it may be inconvenient to travel into all the details, but it is not for me to indicate the direction in which the discretion of any hon. Member may be limited in discussing the Special Report and the evidence contained in it.
§ * MR. MILVAIN
The right hon. Gentleman was not in his place when the right hon. Gentleman his, colleague raised the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan) has placed this issue before the House, and that renders it necessary for somebody, who I hope is acquainted with the evidence laid before the Committee, to refute the misleading statements of the right hon. Gentleman. I have only one question more to deal with, and that is upon a matter which was calculated to prejudice the Railway Company in the minds of the Committee. This man went to the Committee clerk and asked for his railway money to be refunded. There could be no harm in a witness going to the Committee clerk and getting his money refunded; but the thing that was calculated to prejudice the Railway Company in the eyes of the public was this: that at the time he went to the clerk and asked for his money to be refunded, he had in his pocket a letter from the Directors of the Railway Company telling him to take a ticket, and promising to refund the money to him. I cannot help repeating what I said before, that I think it is a great pity that this issue has been raised, because I think it will be perfectly apparent to the House that it is not to the interests of Hood that the question should have been raised. And I think there were some hon. Members who took exception to the expressions made use of the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Committee (Sir Michael Hicks Beach) when he spoke of there being two parties upon the Committee, or two sides to the Committee. I think it will be perfectly apparent to this House that there are 905 two sides to this Committee, and that Mr. Buckley, Chairman of the Cambrian Railway Company, was justified in his opening statement when he said—That he wished that certain persons might be asked to give their evidence, because it was a very serious charge to make against the Company, because we are not in the position that those are in at this moment who seem to be attacking the Company, of having well-briefed gentlemen to assist them.I have served upon that Committee since the Committee sat, and I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to form an impartial judgment on the evidence given before the Committee. It is true I am a young Parliamentary hand, but it does seem strange that hon. Members of the Committee, put there for the purpose of acting as a jury and delivering their verdict in accordance with the evidence, should be day by day consulting with the secretaries and servants of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.
§ * MR. MILVAIN
I presume we may consult with other Members of the Committee on our right hand and on our left. I am unaware that I ever deserved the accusation which is hurled against me from the other side of the House by a man who has never been upon the Committee, and who does not know what has taken place before it. In my opinion, it is a scandalous state of affairs that a Member of the Committee should be sitting there and receiving instruction from day to day and act as nothing but a partisan.
§ *(6.40.) MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down that we should approach this question and take our seats on the Committee with unbiased and uncoloured minds. But, unfortunately, there are no Trades Union secretaries on that Committee to consult. I think the hon. Member has implied in his remarks — and rather passionate they were—that he consulted with those who sat on his right and left. I think I am the nearest approach to a Trades Union secretary on that Committee, and, therefore, if anybody was consulted it would be myself. But I am not connected with the railway ser- 906 vants, and, therefore, I am not afraid of anyone asking questions of me. But if hon. Members have watched the course of the hon. Member's (Mr. Milvain's) address they will have come to the conclusion that his mind is very much coloured and very much biased. I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member said, and I have failed to find a single remark that dealt with the Directors of the Company; but I have found that throughout the whole of his discourse he has tried to rake up every item that he could against Hood, but not one single sentence in the whole of his speech in any way refers to the Directors, or sets forth that they had done wrong. The Directors of this Company have been before the House, and they have made an apology. If the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) had been accepted, I should not have risen in my place to say anything in the course of this Debate. If it had been considered that Mr. Hood was unfairly dealt with, and that there were other reasons besides incompetence which made the Directors discharge him; and if the Directors were willing to re-instate him or give him some compensation, I should not have said anything. But I do think it is quite necessary that the other side of this question should be heard. I have read an old parable of a man who made an apology for his sins, and asked for mercy when his creditor took him by the throat, but who, when he left the presence of that creditor, was as harsh in his conduct as ever he had been, and demanded from his debtor the uttermost farthing. I can understand the apology made by the Directors if they can get out of the difficulty in that way. But I speak as a working man, and as feeling what no other gentleman in this House can feel, because I have been in the position of Hood, and have had my daily bread taken away by the action of the men who employed me. And, speaking on behalf of a working man as a working man, I believe this man has been discharged from his duty substantially and entirely because he said before the Committee that which he believed to be true. The hon. Member for Durham said the long hours on the Cam- 907 brian Railway were ancient history. I have in my hand an outline of the evidence given by two of the witnesses of this railway. One of them is Albert Thomas, who has only been in the employment of the Company one year. He deposed that—He had been on duty 36 to 40 hours at a stretch. During the whole of those periods of 36 to 40 hours' stretches he had no authority to leave the box, and he would have been neglecting his duty if he had done so.He likewise said that—He had been in the same box for a stretch of 40 hours.I think that entirely shows that the long hours which have been worked upon this railway are not a matter of ancient history, but have been in existence within the past four or five years. There are two questions which lead me to the conclusion that Hood has been discharged mainly on account of his appearance before the Committee. These two questions are—first, the great words of praise that this man has received from Mr. Conacher and the Company generally. I hold in my hand one or two references which have been made to Mr. Hood in times gone by by Mr. Conacher. This man has been in the service of the Company above 20 years. He has served them from a boy until he has become of middle age and his strength is waning. In 1881 he applied for a situation of a higher grade, and Mr. Conacher wrote the following letter:—Dear Sir,—Mr. Hood informs me that he is a candidate for the post of relieving officer in your district, and I beg to state that he has been in the service of this Company for about 20 years, for about 14 years of which he was, as you are aware, stationmaster at Ellesmere, and I am of opinion that his qualifications are such as to befit him for the position he seeks.—J. Conacher.There are other references one might quote made by Mr. Conacher as to the ability and qualifications of Hood. But it might be stated to the House that on the day before Hood appeared before the Committee to give his evidence he was one of ten men who received prizes from the Company for keeping his station in such a quiet and orderly manner. Surely a man who kept his station in such a manner as to call forth praise, and who won the third prize out of ten, is entitled to 908 better treatment than he has received. In connection with this prize, Hood says that from the year 1884 he had received prizes every year for the way and manner in which he kept his station, and he had received more prizes for that object than any other stationmaster on the line. Another question leads me to the conclusion that this man has been ill-treated, and that he was high in the estimation of the Company. Let us look at the wages he received. He received £80 a year as stationmaster, and in addition his house rent free and garden which, according to his own calculation, amounted to somewhere near £15 a year, thus making his income £95 a year. If I were speaking of other Railway Companies I should not offer to say that £80 a year was a very high sum for a stationmaster, but I would like to read to the House a quotation from the evidence of Mr. Conacher as to his value of labour and the wages that should be paid. In answer to a question put to him he says—That the current wages in any district for labour are 13s. or 14s. a week, and that, therefore, that was a proper sum to pay railway servants.Now, if that be so, any man receiving £80 a year, with £15 as the value of a house, would naturally be held in very high esteem by the Company, and consequently if he received this sum up to the time he gave evidence, it was a proof that the Company considered him a proper servant. I am sure there is no hon. Gentleman in this House who would like to be dealt with in the way and manner in which this man was dealt with a day or two after he gave his evidence before the Committee. He was on the platform when a clerk came to him with a letter and told him that he was done at a minute's notice. The letter was as follows:—
§ "Secretary and General Manager's Office,
§ "Oswestry, 10th August, 1891.
§ "I am instructed by the Directors to inform you that this Company have no further use for your services, and, on your handing over the keys and all property of the Company, the bearer, Mr. Robert Jones, will pay you a month's wages in lieu of the usual notice, and will take charge of your station from to-day. The house must be vacated on the 10th proximo.
§ J. Conacher.
§ "To Mr. Hood, Montgomery."909
Having regard to the fact that Mr. Conacher in various letters had commended Hood, and that he was paid a high salary and received prizes for keeping his station so well, we can come to no other conclusion than that this man was discharged because he gave evidence before the Committee. It has been stated that we should act with justice to the community. I look upon this man, or any other witness before a Royal Commission or Parliamentary Committee, or a Court of Justice, as a servant of the State for the time being, who has a perfect right to be guarded and cared for. If any Board of Directors, or anyone else, interfere with that man in the discharge of his duty to the State, they have a perfect right to answer to the State for that. I would like the House to realise the position of this man for a moment; to put themselves into the position of this man; to take the position of a working man whose daily bread has been swept away by the action of a Board of Directors. He says—
I went into the office and was paid a month's wages in advance, and handed up my keys to the relief clerk, who could give me no reason for my dismissal; and, as I knew of no reason myself, I need hardly tell you that the blow was a terrible one to me to be so harshly treated after so many years of faithful service.
§ Here is a man who has given the best of his life to the Railway Company, and whatever energy and skill he possessed. He has grown old, and because he speaks the truth as a man ought to do, because he divulges that which is a question of safety or danger to the public, he is discharged from the employment in which he has served so faithfully and honourably. I am no lawyer, but I understand crimes are classed as injury to persons and injury to property. I venture to say these Directors have injured this man on both accounts; they have destroyed his character that he has built up for himself in the neighbourhood in which he lives; they have injured him in the most vital property that a working man can have. He has worked himself into that position from the lowest level of railway service to what is a very high level, yet these gentlemen, these Directors, 910 get this poor fellow into their Boardroom and they harass him and hound him. I have seen the picture of a stag at bay with the hounds snarling all round him, and I am using no extravagant figure when I say I consider that this man was in that position. He has had taken from him the prospect of his daily bread, the prospects of his family, the results of life-long labour. And I would ask this House to say, if it can do nothing else, that these Directors should now compensate him in the only way in which it can be done.
§ (6.55.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has made a pathetic and striking appeal to the House to apply the remedy which he appears to think we have it in our power to apply to an act of injustice. And I think that the discussion which we have heard must have impressed many minds with the belief that we are involved in a question of some difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, speaking with the double authority of the Chairman of the Committee and a Member of the Cabinet, representing his colleagues on a question which touches the honour and dignity of the House, has made a proposition to the House, and my duty is to ask myself whether there is any sufficient reason for my dissenting from that proposition, or whether it is in my power to suggest, in lieu of the course he proposes to take, some course obviously more advisable. Well, certainly we have had a great diversity of opinion expressed. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has given an animated vindication of the conduct of the Directors. The prevailing tone of the speeches, and, perhaps, the prevailing sentiment of the House, are to the effect that there has been some harshness in the course which has been pursued. Such at least—it may be an incorrect inference—but, such is the inference I should draw from the speeches which have been delivered. Then we have a diversity of course presented to us by the Amendment which has been proposed by another hon. Member. I understood the hon. Member who spoke last to support that Amendment; 911 and, though I will not criticise minutely the language of the Amendment, it is quite obvious to me that the Amendment is to the effect that the House desires and seeks to promote the reinstatement in office of a servant of a Railway Company whom the authorised heads of that Company have rightly or wrongly considered it their duty to dismiss.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
To reinstate or compensate. I am not sure that I am in a position to discuss that separate alternative. It would, I think, be a very novel, and, I am afraid, in some respects a questionable method of proceeding for this House to come to a decision which it has no power to enforce, that one individual should compensate some other individual to whom it thinks injustice has been done. Then, Sir, in respect to re-instatement, it is quite obvious that in any case where this House might be inclined to advise, and especially if it were inclined to force, the re-instatement in office of a person dismissed from it by competent authorities, this House would incur an indefinite, but a very serious responsibility from the consequences which might follow, or might be supposed to follow — even, perhaps, if unjustly supposed to follow—from that re-instatement. Then, Sir, I think the House must feel that, speaking broadly of proposals of this kind, we place ourselves in very considerable difficulty if we widen the issue beyond that which has been raised for us by the Committee. This Committee was presumably in possession of our confidence, and nothing has been said in this Debate which leads me to suppose that the House has seen cause to withdraw that confidence. I admit there may have been in the evidence facts or language which might have led the House on some broad grounds to believe the Committee had gone astray; but I wish to represent to the House that in the absence of such broad grounds we may perhaps be wiser to continue that confidence in the Committee which we testified by its appointment, and which they would appear to deserve by a lengthened and laborious investigation, and consequently to see what it is that 912 the Committee recommend us to do, and whether we can really make a practical improvement on that recommendation. Sir, there are two things about which I imagine unanimity prevails—they have not been questioned in any of the speeches delivered tonight. One of them is that it is our absolute duty, under all conditions and in all circumstances, to maintain the perfect freedom of speech for witnesses before our Committees, and the second is that it is a duty no less sacred to vindicate in a just and equitable, but in a firm and decided manner the Privileges of the House. Well, Sir, I observe that the Committee have abstained, although there was a division of opinion in the Committee on the subject, the Committee—that is to say, the majority of the Committee—have abstained from re-trying the question between the House and Mr. Hood. I am not prepared, for one, to depart from the course taken by the Committee. I do not say that arguments may not be made to an opposite effect; but, in my opinion, if we attempt to try the case between the Company and Mr. Hood on its merits we shall embark on a task of great difficulty, and one not to be satisfactorily disposed of in a debate of one, two, or three nights in this House. The Committee, as I think wisely, addressed the attention of the House to that which primarily concerns our duty in the matter—namely, the dangerous effect of the conduct of the Directors upon the freedom of speech of witnesses before our Committees, and upon their probable disposition in consequence to speak freely or otherwise when called upon to give their evidence. That being the case, the right hon. Gentleman has proposed a Motion which undoubtedly goes past the question of the relative merits of the Directors and Mr. Hood, in the case unhappily raised between them, and the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself strictly by his Motion to maintaining the Privileges of the House, and at the same time securing freedom of speech before our Committees. The right hon. Gentleman has laid stress on the fact that apology has been made by the hon. Member of this House—whom I believe no one 913 would ever dream of accusing of intentional wrong to anyone—and those who have been associated with him in this matter. I have looked to that apology, and I think, on the one hand, it is typically genuine, and on the other it is sufficient. The course of this House, as long as I can recollect it, has been in individual cases of Privilege and in cases of Privilege generally — however highly the doctrine of Privilege may have been stated by high authorities on certain occasions—whenever it has come to the application of the doctrine of privilege, the instinctive effort and disposition of the House and the uniform practice of the House has been to endeavour to unite mildness with firmness. Well, Sir, wrong has been done in this case, and apology has been made for that wrong—not as regards the injury done to the individual; that is not the question put before us by the Committee, and it is not a question which could be satisfactorily disposed of by any such discussion as this—but apology has been made for the wrong done to a public principle and to the public interest, with regard to the examination of witnesses before our Committees. Upon that the right hon. Gentleman has proposed that, notwithstanding that apology, the persons who have, unhappily and unwittingly, no doubt, committed this wrong should be admonished from the Chair. Some are of opinion that the language of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion ought to be strengthened. Sir, I do not concur in that opinion. The House of Commons on all occasions generously and largely accepts every apology which it believes to be sincere, and that is not only a generous course—it is a wise and prudent course. This House has quite enough to do in the discharge of its public duties, and it is wisdom as well as liberality to avoid as far as possible all collateral controversies. The right hon. Gentleman opposite proposes that these gentlemen be admonished. There is a stronger code of proceeding which is sometimes adopted—namely, that persons who have offended the House should be reprimanded. I recollect hearing a reprimand delivered from the Chair to one of the most distinguished Members of the House—namely, 914 Mr. O'Connell. But there were two distinguishing circumstances to be observed in that case. First, that the offence committed by Mr. O'Connell—for I must so describe it, as it was so found by the House—the offence was a very serious one; it was a charge, I think, of perjury, or something very near it, against a sworn Committee of this House; and the second was that Mr. O'Connell had declined to apologise for what he had done. Under those circumstances a reprimand was, I think, administered to Mr. O'Connell. But, as a general rule, it will be found laid down in the work of Sir Erskine May that the House has two methods of proceeding—one of them is to admonish, and the other is to reprimand, but that the course of reprimanding is not adopted unless in cases so grave in their character that, as a general rule, the offenders are in custody in the House at the time when the House determines to take that severe course. No one will say there is here before us a set of circumstances in which we could dream of placing these gentlemen in custody. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is acting strictly in accordance with Parliamentary precedent in asking the House to cause to be admonished the gentlemen who are now before us in the actual circumstances of the case; because I think we hold—not only do I speak of precedent, but I speak also of principle—that in the more lenient view which the House adopts in these matters apology in ordinary cases purges the offence. The offence is against the House; and if we accept the apology—and I do not see how we can do otherwise than receive it in this case—the offence against the House ceases to exist so far as this matter is concerned. But there was a public evil apprehended, and, therefore, it is quite right that we should not rest satisfied with mere apology, and against that public evil the admonition which is to be delivered from the Chair, if this Motion be adopted, appears to afford full and sufficient remedy. I must say I have the conviction that those who have unhappily violated in this instance the Privileges of this House will be the very last persons likely to fall into similar error or inadvertence here- 915 after that the course of proceeding is sufficient, and that we should limit ourselves to that which is sufficient; and whatever we may feel, whatever we may think with regard to the hardship which one individual may have suffered, we should not undertake a process even for remedying what may appear to be such hardship unless we are convinced that it is in our power to carry that process to a successful issue. On these grounds I must confess I do not think the House could act more wisely than by adopting the recommendation now made to us by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Government—a recommendation which I must say I think is fully in the spirit of the Report of the Committee as it stands, and which is, therefore, placing the proceedings of the House in this matter upon a footing on which they will receive the approval of the country.
§ (7.15.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I hope hon. Members opposite have not deluded themselves into the belief that they have heard the last of this question; we shall yet ask them to hear some unpleasant truths. It requires no small courage to differ from the views expressed by so great an authority as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian; but with all due respect to him I am afraid he has missed one very important point in the question—namely, that those men, who just now came to the Bar with such a lame apology to the House, have not been asked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to tender any kind of apology, to make any atonement to Mr. Hood for the injury done to him. There are two proposals before the House—one that of the right hon. Gentleman, which brought the culprits to the Bar with that miserable apology, and the Amendment which calls on the three gentlemen to make some kind of compensation to Mr. Hood or to re-instate him. I regret that the Amendment is accompanied by any request for the re-instatement of a man who has given 24 years of honest service. It has taken 24 years to discover that this unfortunate man was not a trustworthy servant; a man whom they had the day before rewarded for his skill, good conduct, and diligence in keeping his 916 station in good order. They have not only been guilty of abominable cruelty to this man, but are telling something which is very nearly akin to falsehood by putting on record the contemptible plea that they have discovered at last that he is an untrustworthy servant. I trust the Amendment will be pressed to a Division, though I think it would find more support without the request for re-instatement. If he were re-instated what would prevent his dismissal in two or three weeks' time? There is another course which I think the House might have taken. It might have imposed on these men a heavy pecuniary penalty, which is the only way to make them feel the displeasure of the House at the conduct of which they have been guilty. You told me, however, Sir, that I could not move to add to the Resolution words calling on these gentlemen to pay a fine of £1,000 each, to be handed over to Mr. Hood as some compensation for the wrong done to him. I shall vote for the Amendment, my only regret being that it is not of a more severe nature, and I hope we shall support that Amendment as heartily and numerously as we can to testify the indignation of a considerable minority at the dismissal of a public servant after 24 years' honest labour because he had the courage of his convictions and told truths which were unpalatable to the Directors of the Cambrian Company.
§ (7.23.) MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
The hon. Member for Durham said that there were two parties in the Committee; it seems to me that there are two parties in the House—one of which looks on this as a mere breach of Parliamentary Privilege, and the other that which looks upon it as an important question of the bread having been taken out of a man's mouth and his means of subsistence taken away after many years of faithful service. Not being an old Member of the House, I approach with diffidence the question of the breach of Privilege, but I congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on the specious nature of the arguments he laid before the House. It seemed to me he was endeavouring to touch the coil which is usually set in motion to prevent further interference with those 917 great monopolists, the Railway Companies. He led us to understand that it was not in the power of Parliament to have Hood re-instated; that Parliament could not interfere between the rich Directors of a vast monopoly and one of their poor servants. The speech of the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) was full of sentiment—he proposed something and concluded nothing. In what position as Members of this House are we to pose before the bar of public opinion in this matter? A mere perfunctory apology such as that given will not satisfy the great body of the working public of this country. What profit is such an apology to a man like Hood who has lost his employment? As to his re-instatement, I think that would be absolutely illusory, for it would be impossible for any man to fulfil his duties under such circumstances in a way to continue in the employment of the Company for a fortnight after he was taken back. I hope the House will rise superior to this miserable question of mere breach of the Privileges of this House, and will see, as I think they do see, that gross injustice is being done to a helpless man by a rich and powerful Corporation. (Laughter). It is a matter of no importance to me whether this is a rich company or a company of straw—whether their rolling stock is rotten or their permanent way in bad condition; what I am anxious to know is whether the House is going to rise superior to the insinuations, first started by the President of the Board of Trade, and ably supported by right hon. Gentlemen on this side, as to the impossibility of dealing with this question as proposed by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). A scandalous act of injustice has been committed, and even if the particular Committee has ceased to sit, other Committees will have to inquire into analogous questions, and there is a feeling abroad testified to by the refusal of the Miners' Federation to give evidence before the Royal Commission on Labour, and if we refuse to do justice to this man we shall upset the feeling of confidence which ought to exist in the mind of the working classes in the honour, 918 fair dealing, and secrecy of the proceedings before Committees of this House, and the result will be that all future Committees to inquire into the question of hours of labour and analogous questions will be futile and illusory, and we shall not be able to get evidence to enable us to judge the opinion of the working classes, owing to the fear, carefully instilled into the House, of the danger of further interfering with private concerns by the action of the House. An hon. Member near me says that if only five or six Members go into the Lobby we ought to have the courage of our opinions, so that people outside may know that we are not hand and glove with the great Railway Companies and other swindling concerns—(Cries of "Order!")—well, and other enterprises, in their attempts to oppress their employees. I hope the presence of the working class Representatives will be a standing menace to Railway Directors and others, and I trust the House will not attach too much importance to the mere question of Privilege, which, after all, is a small matter. I hope the House will support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division; for if we do nothing but vindicate our own dignity the opinion in which we are held by people outside is likely to suffer.
§ *(7.32.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
The President of the Board of Trade, in making his statement, remarked that in the Report of the Committee there were two passages which presented more than a merely verbal difference; but he omitted to say that it was only by his own casting vote that the Committee decided to insert the words "dismissed in consequence of charges arising out of his evidence," instead of the words which I suggested—namely, that Mr. Hood was dismissed "in consequence of the evidence given before your Committee." It was only because of the accidental absence of one or two Members of the Committee and because of the casting vote of the right hon. Gentleman that the milder form of words found a place in the Report. I venture to say that it would have been fairer to the House if the right 919 hon. Gentleman had intimated that this was not a unanimous Report, and that we were practically evenly divided on this most essential issue. The hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Milvain) has thrown down a challenge to me, and has asserted that there were on this Committee well-briefed gentlemen who argued the case for the employees. I am not ashamed of the part I have borne in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses before the Committee. I am not ashamed of having taken up the case of the railway servants, and of having done my best to prove from the witnesses the contentions for which I and other gentlemen on the Committee have been struggling. And I think such a challenge comes with a very bad grace from the one gentleman on the other side who in his examination and cross-examination of witnesses has employed a procedure only known in the Criminal Courts of this country. The hon. and learned Member for Durham has tried to introduce invidious matter against Mr. Hood by referring to this question of the pay-sheet, but he has forgotten to tell the House what I elicited from the Chairman of the Company on this subject. After pressing Mr. Buckley for 20 minutes or half-an-hour I secured from him an admission that Mr. Hood, when he was dismissed from the Company's service, received back his guarantee money, which was an acknowledgment that his accounts with the Company were clear and honest. I think it is only right, after the invidious and persecuting spirit in which the hon. Member has placed this part of the subject before the House, that I should state this fact. In my opinion, this man was dismissed solely and entirely because of the spirit in which the Chairman acted from the first. In replying to me he said on three or four different occasions that he thought it was disloyalty to the Company on the part of this official that he should take any part as the friend or spokesman of the workmen under his control, and that it was not the duty of this man to take part in any agitation which had for its object the improvement of the condition of those who were working 920 under him, and that it was his duty to take the part of his employers, the Company. The only reason that he was dismissed was because he took the part of those humbler men, and because he took part in an agitation to relieve those poor men from the cruelty of long and protracted hours. The hon. and learned Member for Durham has actually stated that the men were now quite content with their hours, but his argument is entirely worthless, because he knows very well, and so does every Member of the Committee, that this scandal of long hours was only swept away in October or November of the year before last, after the agitation had begun. Mr. Conacher came before us and stated that he had not known of these enormous hours worked by the servants of the Railway Company, and that he was only informed of it at the last moment. That statement seems incredible on the face of it. I am not here, however, to charge Mr. Conacher with falsehood—though I must express my opinion that much of his evidence bears that character—but it was only after the agitation had brought to the knowledge of the world the disgraceful hours worked upon this railway that those hours were shortened. There were only two occasions on which this man was complained about or punished, and in both cases when he had been taking the part of the men. The first occasion was when he thought that one of the porters under him had been unjustly dismissed from his employment, and he, in company with a number of people in the town, signed a memorial for the man's re-instatement. On that occasion Mr. Hood was suspended, and eventually was removed to a smaller station. The second occasion is the present, when he has been dismissed from his employment and deprived of his livelihood. I consider the treatment of this man is a disgrace and a scandal. I say that this man has been hunted down by the Chairman and the Manager of this line, and driven out of his position because he dared to speak on behalf of the workmen under him, and I say that is an offence which calls for far more stringent measures than are proposed by the President of the 921 Board of Trade. I should not have shrunk from moving a Resolution which would have committed Mr. Buckley and Mr. Conacher—for I consider the offence of the Member for the Stretford Division and of the other gentleman is a smaller one—to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. I trust, however, that the decision of the House may prove a salutary warning not only to these gentlemen but to other employers of labour.
§ *(7.45.) MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
I suppose everyone will agree that the Motion of the President of the Board of Trade would carry greater weight provided it was accepted by the unanimous vote of the House. But it is evident that in its present form it will not be unanimously supported by the House. I have risen, therefore, for the purpose of making a suggestion to the First Lord of the Treasury, which I think will enable us to accept unanimously the Resolution proposed by the President of the Board of Trade. I would suggest that this Debate should be adjourned, in order to give the Directors of the Cambrian Railway an opportunity of considering the question of compensating Mr. Hood. Unless some such course is adopted, it is idle to think that, by a Motion like this, you will create confidence in the minds of the working people who are compelled to give evidence before Select Committees. The idea that gentlemen of wealth may condone an offence against the Privileges of this House by a mere apology, however sincere, will do no good. There is great force in the words: "He takes my life who takes from me the means by which I live," and this is practically what has been done in the case of John Hood. And unless some compensation is given to Hood for the injustice and hardship that has been done to him, it is idle to think that such a Resolution as that proposed by the President of the Board of Trade will establish confidence in the minds of workmen when they are in future requested to give evidence before Committees of this House. I therefore make the suggestion that I have put forward in order that the Directors of the Cambrian Company may have an opportunity of considering the point. 922 I understand the matter has already been brought under the notice of the Directors, and, in order that we may not foreclose these negotiations, I move the Adjournment of the Debate with the object I have stated. I quite agree that we cannot insist on the question of re-instatement. The man's life, if he were re-instated, would be a misery to him, and it would be better for him, and better for the Directors, that they should part company, and part company for ever. The only way in which that can be done satisfactorily is by some form of compensation being offered to him for the loss of his employment, and his consequent suffering, both in body and mind, through the action of the Directors. I move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Fenwick.)
§ (7.50.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hope the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment will not press it to a Division. I think he will feel that if we were to adjourn the Debate for the reason he has given we should be practically expressing an opinion as to the merits of the controversy between the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company and Mr. Hood. We should, in other words, be dealing with that part of the subject which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian very properly reminded us we shall probably have to deal with. The whole speech of the hon. Gentleman is based upon the opinion, which I have not the least doubt he most sincerely entertains, that Mr. Hood has been a wronged man in all respects, that he was a man in whom the Directors had every reason to have confidence, and that their dismissal of him was a harsh exercise of arbitrary power. Whether he be right or wrong, he must know very well that a large number of persons who have the very best means of forming a judgment are of a directly opposite opinion. I do not, of course, say whether that opinion is right or wrong; but in a case in which those who have heard the evidence have 923 come to an exactly opposite opinion from that entertained by the hon. Member, it is surely rash that this House, not having heard the evidence, should express an opinion on the point. The hon. Gentleman, I gather, holds the view that the Directors of the Cambrian Company are wealthy people having at their backs large funds, and have, therefore, been dealt with by this House in a more lenient fashion than would Hood or his friends had they committed a breach of our Privileges. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will see that that view is not sustainable, and if I am to express an opinion on that point, I think it does not induce the House to lean in the direction of any gentleman who breaks its Privileges that they happen to belong to the relatively small class of employers rather than to the large class of employed. I believe all parties in the House desire to act with absolute impartiality, and will not allow their minds to be influenced by the fact that this breach of Privilege has been committed in connection with a very burning controversy between employers and employed; and if they will put themselves in that impartial condition of mind, they will feel with hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite that probably the course we are pursuing is most conducive to the dignity of the House. In any case, I think it would be quite impossible for us to assent to the Motion which would hold suspended over the heads of those who have been heard at the Bar our final decision as to the course to be adopted. For that reason, and also because I think it is dangerous for us to embark on a discussion and commit ourselves to a decision on the merits of the case between the one side or the other, I again beg to press upon the hon. Member to consider the advisability of withdrawing his Motion, and allowing us to proceed to a decision.
§ (7.55.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
The difficulty I feel about the remarks of my hon. Friend is not exactly of the character which has just been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I have no difficulty in forming my own opinion of the nature of this transaction. I have read this evidence, and 924 I have not the smallest doubt whatever that those Directors dismissed this man on account of the evidence he gave before the Committee. The mere fact that Mr. Conacher, before he gave any evidence at all, applied to the London and North-Western Railway Company to get up a case against him was enough for me. Consequently, I am prepared to condemn these Directors for the course they have taken both with reference to this man and with reference to the House of Commons. But I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that to-night and in this place, important as it is to vindicate justice towards any individual, it is far more important that we should maintain the character, the dignity, and the authority of the House of Commons. If we are going to adjourn this Debate, what are we going to adjourn it for? To enter into negotiations with the Cambrian Directors? That seems to me to be the reason suggested, that we should find out what the Directors would do. That does not seem to me to be a course that would become us on this occasion. Some Gentlemen in the course of this Debate have talked about fines. There was a time, more than 200 years ago, when the House of Commons endeavoured to pursue that course. It has never endeavoured to pursue it since, and it would be a very unwise power for the House of Commons to exercise. The House of Commons never appears to advantage when it exceeds its jurisdiction, especially in cases of Privilege. I can remember in my youth the mess the House of Commons got into in the case of Stockdale and Hansard, when we measured swords with our printers and with the Courts of Law. Strongly as I have expressed my opinion of the behaviour of the Directors in the matter, the objection I feel to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division is, "How are you to carry it into effect?" The Amendment says that the Directors will not have purged their contempt until they have re-instated Hood, or otherwise compensated him. You cannot compel them to re-instate him. You have no legal authority or power to do it. You cannot compel them to compensate him. You have no jurisdiction 925 nor any machinery by which you can carry that out. You cannot with advantage to the House take a course of this character. I think the knowledge of what has been their action in this case and the force of public opinion will not be lost upon the Directors of the Cambrian Railway, and I hope and believe—nay, I am convinced—that these forces will do justice to this man Hood for the treatment he has received. But it is not on account of the natural and just feeling of indignation which this treatment has inspired that we ought to allow ourselves to commit the House of Commons to a course of conduct which may not redound to its advantage or its dignity. And glad as I should be myself, holding the opinion that I entertain as to the treatment this man has received from the hands of these Directors, to take any course which should give him the redress which he is entitled to, I cannot follow on any lines which I think would place the House of Commons in a false position. I have been looking myself into the precedents in this case; and there is a case which resembles it, I think, very much in character. It took place in 1842. There was a man of the name of Ash-worth, and he was charged before this House with an attempt to influence a witness under examination. It is not exactly the same thing, but it is of a cognate character. He was summoned to the Bar of this House, and he apologised for his conduct; and the Motion then made was—That Ashworth, having expressed his contrition for his offence, he be called to the Bar and admonished by Mr. Speaker, and discharged from further attendance on this House.That was the course taken in that case, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will excuse me for saying that he would have very much strengthened his Resolution if he had not introduced into his speech language which looked to me a great deal too much like apologising for the conduct of the Directors. I think that has tended very much to weaken his Resolution, and to put a greater difficulty in the way of the House adopting it. I hope he will excuse me for saying, with great respect, that I think he was in error in 926 the conduct of his case. But we have got to look at the substance of the thing. What else can the House of Commons do except what has been proposed? That is the practical question which we have got to put to ourselves. You cannot compel the re-in-statement of this man; you cannot compel compensation. It is true you can send these men to prison. (Cheers.) All I can say is, I cannot advise the House of Commons to take that course. You may in the heat of discussion and in a moment of indignation take a course of that kind; but the House of Commons never took a course of that kind that it has not upon reflection had occasion to regret it. I do not think it would be a wise course, and I do not think it would ultimately be a dignified course. You have called these men before you; you have compelled them to admit their error. (Cries of "No!") Well, I must say that I think the admission might have been made in a franker manner. But I am now considering what course I think it would be wise for us to take to-night. They have, at all events, expressed their regret for the violation of the Privileges of the House, and upon that it seems to me that an admonition and a rebuke to them for the conduct they have pursued is a course which the former practice of this House indicates as that which is becoming to its dignity. Mr. Speaker, I am one of those who believe that the effect of the language which you, Sir, will address to them will in itself bring about that regret for the wrong that has been done which I believe every man in this House desires to see manifested.
§ *(8.5.) MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I think the House will see at once that the case cited by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) is not on all-fours with the case now before the House. In the particular case cited by the right hon. Gentleman there was a temporary injury done; and there it ended. What is happening in this case is that an injury is proceeding; and they have not attempted to purge themselves from that injury which is now proceeding. The apology tendered 927 to this House is an absolutely empty apology, for the Directors are now doing and continuing the wrong of which we complain. I speak on this subject, not as many hon. Members on that side of the House, who seem to regard it as a trifling thing and to jeer at it; I speak as one who has suffered from this kind of thing myself. It has been my lot to have been starved out of London, and to have had my home sold over my head twice. That has been done by employers of labour, and therefore I can well understand how it is that a great deal of feeling has been evoked in the case of the man Hood. But I say that the apology that has been tendered is adding insult to injury. What has been done here to-night? An attempt has been made to injure this man in his name and character, beyond the injury which has been already inflicted upon him by discharging him from his position, so that he would not be able to get any other employment in any Railway Company of the United Kingdom. I say, Sir, it is an insult to this House to ask this House to pass unanimously the empty apology that has been tendered, whilst no reparation whatever is made to the man who has been injured, and will be injured as long as he lives, and his wife and family with him. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be shocked that some hon. Members on this side of the House suggested the alternative of the prison. Why, it is a fitting alternative for men who have endeavoured to starve a man and his wife and family for giving evidence, as he was entitled to have done, before a Committee of this House. And yet you tell us that you are vindicating the honour and privileges of this House, whilst you give ample opportunity for such-like Corporations and such-like Companies to inflict a like injury again the next time they happen to come upon another man employed by a railway, or employed in a mine, or employed in a workshop in the United Kingdom, who might give evidence. I am not able to speak with regard to the particular form in which sufficient compensation should be made; but it seems to me that my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Fenwick) has made a suggestion that might 928 be accepted by the House—to leave it to the Cambrian Railway Company and the hon. Gentleman who is a Member of this House, and the other Directors of the Company, to make some compensation to this man for the injury that has been done. But unless they are prepared to make this reparation for the injury they have done, well, then, I say that I, for one, should go with a light heart into the Lobby to vote for the imprisonment of men—(laughter)—yes; hon. Gentlemen may laugh—of men who will set at naught the Privileges of this House, and who will set at naught the poverty and suffering of the witnesses who give evidence before a Committee of this House.
§ (8.10.) MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
I am afraid the labours of our Committee have not been very useful. We sat for five or six days. We had all these gentlemen before us. We had Hood before us and many others for many hours of the same day. We found—(Cries of "Question, question!")
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that the Question before the House is the Question of the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE
Having submitted our Report to the House, it does seem strange—(Cries of "Order Order!")
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Member to take notice of what I have said, that the Debate is on the Adjournment, and he has had recourse to his former argument.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE
I was about to say that, having finished our labours and having submitted our Report to the House, it does seem strange that this House should be required again to debate a matter which was so fully raised before us, and which has been so fully investigated by the Committee specially appointed for the purpose.
Dr. TANNER, Mr. MORTON,
and other hon. Members rose to speak, but none of them was invited to continue the discussion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 221.—(Div. List, No. 71.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *(8.58.) MR. MCLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
I am disposed to regret that this case of John Hood was not dealt with at an earlier period, because I think it is a question which should have been kept within limits that would have enabled the House to have come to a very speedy decision with regard to it. I do not intend to follow the example of some of my colleagues on the Committee in going into the evidence which was laid before them, except on one very important point. I think it would have been infinitely better if the question before the House had been confined to the point to which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade endeavoured to confine it. Granting that a breach of Privilege has been committed, it would be necessary to decide what punishment should be meted out to the four gentlemen who were called before the House to account for their conduct, and I entirely concur in the view that this House is not fully competent to decide upon the general merits of the very complicated questions as between Mr. Hood and the Directors of the Cambrian Railway. Therefore, it is somewhat idle to occupy a great amount of time in going into the other parts of the question. The question is a serious one, both as regards Hood and as regards working men generally who may come and give evidence before any Committee of this House. In Oswestry, to which I recently paid a visit, Hood is well known, and though everybody there does not sympathise with him it is felt in the strongest degree that he was dismissed for giving evidence. It has spread something like terrorism among the employees all along the Cambrian line. If Hood had not given evidence he would not have been dismissed, and it is, therefore, idle for the Directors to say that he was dismissed because of his irregularities. The irregularities were three or four years old; they were of a trivial nature; and, considering that they would not have been discovered if Hood had not given 930 evidence, his dismissal is one of the meanest of things. The serious part of the matter is the effect it may have on employers and workmen throughout the country; and certainly if employers find that Parliament treats a matter of this kind lightly, many of them will be encouraged to attempt to control the expressions of opinion of their workmen. There is far too great a tendency among employers to assume the control of a workman's actions and opinions after his day's work is done. I have seen plenty of it in my own constituency, where men have suffered, and even been dismissed, because of their political opinions, and the House will remember the Crewe intimidation cases that were so much talked of two or three years ago. We have now the opportunity to strike a blow against this intimidation, to show to employers everywhere what this House thinks of their interference with the free speech of their workmen. For this supreme reason, therefore, it is desirable that Parliament should take the strictest and most severe view of a transaction of this kind, so that freedom of speech may be preserved. Now, Sir, did the Cambrian Railway Directors commit the offence which is charged against them, and was the effect such as to deter other witnesses from giving evidence? It was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that, as the Committee had resolved to take no more evidence, it was, therefore, untrue to say that witnesses had been deterred from coming forward. Technically, the right hon. Gentleman may be correct, but in substance he is certainly not so; and we were assured by Mr. Harford, whose evidence was not rebutted, that witnesses would be deterred. I am a Member of this Committee, and I am a Member of the Committee that is inquiring into the question of shop hours. Both Committees are pursuing precisely the same line in calling both employer and employed; and as the character of the two Committees is the same, it is obvious that if the shopkeepers find that this House is going to treat lightly the case of those who injure any person for giving evidence they in their turn might be emboldened to act in the same way. Many gentlemen would 931 not object to the excitement and notoriety arising from their appearance at the Bar of the House, and possibly the three gentlemen who have appeared at the Bar of the House to-day will be the heroes of their respective domestic circles; they will not regard it as an injury, but rather as a joke. We do not desire that the matter should be so treated; we regard it as a very grave and serious thing; and we should let it be known that severe punishment will follow any intimidation of our witnesses. The Directors have dismissed Hood because of the evidence he gave, and done it in such a clumsy way that we could bring them to account for it; but if they had done it more astutely, and if this Committee had not happened to be sitting, we should have heard nothing of this matter. We want to take some precautions which, if I may say so, will strike terror into the minds of those who might wish to act similarly. I am sure the Resolution of the President of the Board of Trade will not have that effect. There can be no doubt that, in addition to the dismissal of Hood, he was directly censured. I will only read two or three sentences from the report of the meeting at Crewe which was called to nominally re-consider the case—On Mr. Hood being called in, the Chairman, addressing him, said:—The Directors believed, when they came to their recent decision relating to yourself, that they had before them all the facts of the case to enable them to come to a judgment. Of course they had all the correspondence, but in consequence of the letters you have written to me the Board have thought it desirable to give you an opportunity of making any statement you may wish to do. You must understand that your dismissal was not because you gave evidence before the Select Committee; you were summoned to give evidence; but you must address yourself to the question of the justification of the statements you made there. We do not object to your giving evidence, but you must justify what you said.Therefore, while the Directors did not take objection to evidence being given, they did object to the nature of the evidence that was given. That is perfectly clear from the remarks of the hon. Member for Stretford, who did not only question Hood, but bullied him. The hon. Member said at the meeting referred to, following a statement by 932 the Chairman to Hood that he had screened Humphreys—No; it is to screen Mr. Hood himself from a gross neglect of duty, and he had better say frankly that the replies to the Select Committee, giving the thing in the way in which he did, were false.I say it is a monstrous thing for any Director of a Company, having dismissed a workman, and having met to consider whether he should be reinstated, to break out and bully him, and to tell him he had better confess at once that the evidence he gave was false. There is no evidence that Hood said anything but what he believed to be true. Although that meeting at Crewe was ostensibly called for the purpose of considering the re-instatement of Hood, there never was the slightest intention to re-instate him. They simply desired to find out something further incriminating him. Now, Sir, I think the action of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, in moving the Amendment now before the House, was premature and unfortunate. I rose at the same time as the hon. Member, and my object was to move the substitution of the word "censure" or "reprimand" for the word "admonish." As the Resolution stands it is not, in my opinion, sufficiently strong. There are three degrees of punishment which are open to the House. The weakest of all is to admonish, the next is to reprimand, the third is imprisonment. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has chosen the weakest of the three. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said that reprimand was only resorted to when an apology was refused; but I consider that the apology which was made to the House to-night was of so trumpery a character as to be practically worthless. I am therefore quite prepared, though we cannot now insert the word "reprimand," to vote for a more severe punishment than is proposed. I do not think these gentlemen would be too severely dealt with if they were committed by the House to custody for a week or a fortnight, because they were dealing with persons in a subordinate position to them; and it is the duty of the House to protect freedom of speech, and the free expression of opinion, especially 933 before Parliamentary Committees. With regard to the part of the Amendment which has been so unfortunately moved, I feel that it is impossible, for various reasons, that Hood can be re-instated; and if he were re-instated he might be dismissed in a fortnight on some other charge. But I am strongly of opinion that we ought to make an effort to obtain some pecuniary compensation for him. Although there is no precedent for such a course, there is no reason why we should not create one. I am inclined to think this is the first case of an employer dismissing a workman for giving evidence before a Committee of this House; and if it is at all possible for us to do so, the House is bound, in justice to Hood, to take the course which I suggest. I believe it is possible, and that we should decline to consider the offence purged till compensation is given. We can imprison the Directors till the end of the Session unless meantime they compensate Hood; and that is the course which in the interest of right of free speech and free evidence we ought to take. I presume the Amendment will be put as a whole; and while I will vote for it if it is pressed to a Division, I wish at the same time to make it clearly understood that I am in favour of trying to obtain pecuniary compensation for Hood, and that I disapprove of that part of the Amendment which relates to Hood's re-instatement.
§ (9.23.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I feel it my duty to join in the strong expression of opinion made by many hon. Members as to the inadequacy of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to meet the case before the House. I do so upon the broad general ground that it is essentially necessary not only to effectively protect a working man in speaking out boldly and truly, especially in connection with Select Committees of this House, but also to produce a wholesome effect generally between employers and employed, and to show that we will do our utmost to protect working men against the tyranny sometimes exercised against them by their employers. Now, Sir, the chief reason why I take such a strong view about the matter is that I know from experience that it is always possible for 934 an employer, by the most insidious and roundabout methods, to punish an employee who, by giving evidence or otherwise, has brought himself into disfavour. A case of this kind directly affects us because affecting the Privileges of this honourable House. There are other cases, which touch us quite as much, where intimidation and the most insidious and roundabout influence is indirectly used by employers to influence and intimidate workmen as to their votes at Parliamentary elections. I have unfortunately myself had experience of such cases, and these make me think it is all the more incumbent upon us to declare in the strongest manner possible our strong reprobation of those who make such attempts against the liberty of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade made a lame and halting apology in defence of the conduct of the Directors. He laid great stress not on the strong points in the Special Report—that the Directors had summoned this man and censured him for what he said before the Committee—but he laid the greatest stress on the point that Hood was not dismissed for what he said before the Committee, but for other charges arising out of that evidence. It afterwards transpired from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton that these charges arose from the action of the manager Conacher, who, the day before Hood was coming up to give evidence before the Committee, wrote to the authorities of another railway asking them to rake up some offences that were several years old and that that Company had charged against Hood. That shows the insidious and indirect methods adopted by some to shield themselves and to do injury to others. I consider that those expressions of these gentlemen, so far from being an ample and full apology were an emphasising of their original offence, were an additional insult to this House, if it be an insult at all to commit a breach of the Privileges of this House, that they should stand up one after another and declare that what they had done they had done with the best motives in the execution of their duty, thereby implying that they 935 would do it again if occasion arose. And they had no word of regret to express for the injustice they had committed and the grossly unfair way in which they had got rid of their employee for doing his simple duty. The case is even worse than that, because the hon. Member for Stretford Division said no word implying that they regretted what had been done by them to their servant. And when it came to their champion in the course of the Debate, the hon. Member for Durham City, to speak in their defence, he proceeded to do so in the most unfair and most partial and biased speech. In that speech he went far beyond what was in any sense required; he proceeded, in a long tirade against Hood, to blacken his character. The Directors having deprived the man of his position, their champion gets up in the House and, so far from expressing the least regret, proceeds in a long tirade against the man, in order to prove that he was a thief and a scoundrel, or something worse. I think that is a very great shame. Unfortunately it is not open to us to move any further Amendment; but if opportunity had offered I would have been glad to move that this man Hood, the ex-stationmaster, who has been vilified by a Member of this House, should be summoned to give his own account of the matter at the Bar of the House. We have heard his accusers, and he has been outside perhaps wronged for life without the possibility of saying anything except at second-hand by hon. Members who may be willing to espouse his cause in this House. The hon. Member and his colleagues stand up with brazen effrontery; they have no word of regret or repentance to express, and then through their friends in this House they proceed to vilify the victim of their tyrannical conduct. What we have to do is, if possible, to protect labouring men who may be summoned before Royal Commissions or Select Committees of the House from fear of the consequences of their bold and truthful demeanour before these Commissions or Committees. I was astonished at the puerile argument to which the right hon. Gentleman lent himself when he asked us to accept, as a sound argument, that no 936 harm would be done because this Committee had decided that no further witnesses were necessary, and, therefore, no further witness could be deterred from giving evidence in the future. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are many other Commissions and Committees, such as the Commission on Labour and the Committee on Mining Royalties, and he knows perfectly well that the effect of action such as the Directors of this Company pursued if not summarily dealt with by some action of this House will reach far into the future. And it is for the purpose of protecting those who may be concerned in giving truthful evidence on behalf of the oppressed and down-trodden of this country, and on behalf of those men who are concerned in any particular inquiry, that we demand that the strongest steps should be taken compatible with the dignity of this House, and compatible with the exercise of the undoubted authority which this House possesses. I believe it is possible for this House to proceed not only by way of admonition, but also by way of reprimand, and if the House thought that was not a severe enough course it would be possible to proceed by way of fine or actual imprisonment. That course of action has not been adopted for some considerable period, but I feel certain if it could be adopted it would be the most salutary course which could be taken by us on this occasion. As to the hon. Member for Stretford and his colleagues, I do not do them injustice when I say they will not feel the admonition which may be passed upon them. But I hope they will feel that it reflects no credit upon them. But what we want to see is what the effect will be upon the labouring classes who are most directly interested in this matter, and whose interests we have to protect for the future. And I am quite sure this will be the general feeling amongst men who may be required on future occasions to give evidence, that if nothing more is done by this House to mark the condemnation of the Members of this House of the action of those Directors, the men outside will say, "What does the House of Commons care for the suffering 937 caused by the oppression and tyranny exercised by our employers over us; we are marked men whenever we give evidence in our own interest which is against the interest of the employers, and we will not risk the lives and happiness of ourselves and families by subjecting ourselves to any danger or risks in giving evidence in the future." If instead of merely admonishing these gentlemen we were to take a further step and censure them, or inflict a pecuniary fine, that would restore confidence in those whose confidence in our proceedings has been so rudely shaken. That is the course I should like to see adopted. I think it would be a better course than the very feeble attempt that the right hon. Gentleman is making to sustain the Privileges of this House by the Motion he has made. And I think it would be a better and more salutary course to censure those gentlemen even than to hand them over to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, to be imprisoned in the Clock Tower, or Newgate, or Holloway. If you did that they would become the same as prisoners under the Coercion Act in Ireland, and I would not be surprised if after a short incarceration in the Clock Tower they were received with open arms and processions, and banquets were organised in their behalf. I am not in favour of the extreme penalty of sending these gentlemen to prison, but I do think the infliction of a pecuniary fine would have all the beneficial effect which we can obtain. In default of that action we can only vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, which is to the effect that the Directors should show their contrition for the offence of which they have been guilty by compensating the victim of their somewhat high-handed and arbitrary proceedings. The point has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian that we cannot enforce a decision of that kind. I am very sorry if it be the case that we cannot enforce a decision of that kind should it be arrived at by the House; and I am quite certain that that would be, next after the infliction of a fine, the best course we could adopt, because, if we compelled those Directors to 938 show their regret for what they have done by giving some compensation for the wrong they have subjected this man to, and for the way in which he has been attacked and vilified in this House, that would mark our sense of the enormity of the offence. I should like them to be summoned to the Bar for a moment, and told that either they must compensate this man whom they so grossly wronged, or receive from the House a very much stronger condemnation of their conduct. Such compensation might be very fairly combined with the suggestion of a fine, because, if they were summoned to the Bar and informed that they would be fined in the absence of giving some compensation to this man, they would be willing, rather than pay a heavy fine, to give some compensation commensurate to the injury which has been inflicted. I am quite sure a gross wrong will be done to the poorer classes of our fellow-citizens unless we show our determination to protect against such insidious acts of tyranny those who are dependent on others who have in their hands the power to wrong them.
(9.50.) MR. JAMESELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
It is quite certain to my mind that if there had not been a Committee to inquire into the hours of labour of railway servants this man would have remained a respected stationmaster in the service of the Company. He has been deprived by the act of this Board of Directors of something like £90, and what we ought to do is to leave it to the authorities to settle what this man ought to receive for the loss of £90 a year after 20 years' service. And if we cannot exact the money from the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company, let us pay it—let the Treasury vote a sum of money to this man. It is our duty to put this man in the same position that he was in before. If this man had been a man in high position there would be no question at all on the part of the Government or of this House about making compensation for any loss which he has sustained in consequence of the evidence he has given. But, as he is a poor man, a weak and defenceless man, we ought to stand up for him far more than for a man of position.
§ *(9.52.) MR. SOMERVELL () (Ayr, &c.
So far as the Motion which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade goes, it appears to me that it is really as far as the House can be expected to go. But I do not base my support of that Resolution on the remarks with which the right hon. Gentleman accompanied it. Those remarks appeared to me to be to a certain extent biased, and, so far as I am personally concerned, my bias goes exactly in the opposite direction. But when a question which concerns the Privilege or honour of the House is at stake, one is bound to look to a great extent to the advice tendered by the oldest and most experienced gentleman who sits on the Front Opposition Bench. And it is because of the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the Opposition supported that Motion that I intend to vote for it. That speech was delivered with admirable tact. There was not the slightest bias in favour of one party or another; but it was delivered with the object of showing what the power of the House was, and how far it was possible for the House to go. I have every sympathy with the Amendment which has been moved, and I must say I do think that the man Hood has been very badly treated indeed. But it has been forcibly pointed out by two right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench that any Amendment the House might adopt would be futile because it has not the means of carrying it out, and I feel I cannot see my way to support any Motion the House could not enforce. I may also be allowed to allude to the silence of the President of the Board of Trade. We have heard a speech from an hon. and learned Member—injudicious and ill-considered and teeming with inaccuracies, and one of those inaccuracies was that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had on Tuesday stated that there were two sides on the Committee. I heard that speech, and I read it in the Times. What I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say was that there were two sides—the Directors of the Railway Companies and the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants—who wished to place their views before the Committee. 940 When a question of this kind is discussed the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade might have got up to correct the inaccuracy which the hon. and learned Member below the Gangway (Mr. Milvain) put into his mouth. This question is also one accompanied by some difficulty, because all the gentlemen who are summoned to the Bar are placed in the same position. I feel great hesitation as between the action of Mr. Conacher and the action of the Directors. In considering how this question ever got before the House at all we have to consider how it is that Hood got into the witness-box. It was owing to Mr. Conacher having stated in the witness-box that Hood was suspended and fined a fortnight's pay in consequence of the accident at Ellesmere, where he was stationmaster. In a subsequent portion of his evidence Conacher contradicted that statement. Hood saw this statement in the local papers, a statement gravely affecting his position, but the correction was not reported; he wrote a perfectly proper letter to the Manager, in which he gave the names of the papers and the dates of the issues, stated what was contained in them, and asked for leave to correct the misstatement before the Committee and in the papers. Conacher took no notice of his applications to give evidence, and refused him permission to correct the statement, whereas if he had said, "This report in the local papers contains statements which are incorrect, I have corrected those statements in the Committee, and I will be very happy if the correction is given to the local papers"—if that had been done you would never have heard anything about the case at all. But the next issue of another local paper came out; again there was the misstatement and no correction. Hood wrote to the Manager and received no reply at all. Hood then came up to the Committee and gave his evidence, and on the day following the Manager, who refused permission to write to the paper to correct the former inaccuracy, wrote to that very paper and said—With reference to the statement made yesterday by John Hood before the Select Committee on Railway Servants (Hours of Labour), I shall feel obliged if you will allow me to say I adhere to every word I said with reference to him.941 It thus appears that not only was Hood not allowed to write to the paper and correct a statement which the Manager knew to be perfectly untrue; but the Manager wrote to the paper and confirmed that untrue statement. That appears to me to show bias on the part of the Manager. There is also the fact that he wrote on the very day Hood went to London to give evidence to the London and North-Western Railway to get proof of a miserable charge about the carriage of a hamper Hood sent to his son. These actions are clear and conclusive proof that the statement that Hood made that he was a marked man was perfectly true. I could give you instance after instance to show that Mr. Conacher deliberately endeavoured to give the Committee a false impression as to what occurred. I will only give one instance. Mr. Hood stated that he had certain duty forced upon him and his clerks. Mr. Conacher before the Committee said:—It is not true that the duty was forced upon Hood and his clerks; he offered to do it voluntarily,and in support of the statement he produced a telegram from Hood offering to do the duty. I asked Mr. Conacher if that was the first communication that took place between him and Hood on the subject, and he answered "Yes." But he had in his possession at the time, and he produced, a letter which showed that he had first ordered one of Hood's clerks to go and do the duty at this station, and when that man proved to be incompetent he ordered another clerk to go, and it was only then that Hood offered to assist. So far from the duty having been voluntarily undertaken by Hood and his clerks, they were on two separate occasions ordered to do this duty. That was not acting fairly and honestly by the Committee. It was endeavouring to give a false impression of the statement made. It was endeavouring to convey the impression to the Committee that neither Hood nor his clerks had been ordered to do this duty, but that the whole thing emanated from Mr. Hood as a voluntary act. We see from the evidence of the Chairman that the 942 whole of this matter was brought before the Board on the initiation of Mr. Conacher, and that they came to a decision in ten or fifteen minutes upon a statement by Mr. Conacher. I maintain that the man who has really occasioned this breach of Privilege is Mr. Conacher, and Mr. Conacher alone, and it is only right that he should be dealt with in a more severe manner than the others. As a Member of the Committee, and having examined most of the witnesses at some length, I have thought it right to point out to the House one or two facts which I think exonerate the Directors and the hon. Member for Stretford from anything more than carelessness in taking the representations of their Manager, and not looking into the matter themselves. I have endeavoured to show to the House that the Manager was not acting in a fair and just way; that he was influenced by vindictive feelings towards his subordinate; that he trumped-up every little matter to prejudice the man; and that it was owing to the action of Mr. Conacher that Hood ever gave evidence, was then dismissed, and that the matter ever came before the Committee at all.
§ (10.7.) MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
Anyone who has taken the trouble to read through the evidence can have come to no other conclusion than that the hon. and learned Member who has just addressed the House rendered yeoman service on the Committee. From first to last he had the courage to tackle these men, and it is in the main owing to his indefatigable exertions that these men have been brought to book at the Bar of this House. I sympathise with the position in which the hon. and learned Member finds himself, because he says he is going to vote in accordance with the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I find myself in precisely the same position, but the only difference between us is that while he is going to vote for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, I intend to take an entirely opposite course. I am sure there was no one who listened to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade who did not feel that it was a 943 speech in palliation and in extenuation of the Directors of the Company. We have heard the apology read by an hon. Member of this House, and I do not join in the general eulogium passed on that hon. Member for one reason alone. I do not want it to go to the outside world that we are treating a Member of this House in a different way to that in which we would be disposed to treat persons who are not Members of this House. We heard the apology read by the hon. Member. The Chairman of the Company added not a word to the apology. The Manager of the Company stood mum at the Bar of the House. We heard from Mr. Buckley that he wished to join his voice to the apologetic voice of the hon. Member for Stretford. A Committee of this House have found that these men have taken a course which is likely to deter working men from coming forward to give evidence. These men, in making their apology, have asserted that they had no such intention, and that has been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. But when the President of the Board of Trade came to deal with his case he proceeded, as far as he possibly could, to make a speech in defence of the men who had pleaded guilty at the Bar of the House. It is true, when the right hon. Gentleman came to deal with certain counts of the indictment, that he pronounced it to be a very serious matter, but again we had extenuation and assurances that this was an evil that had been wrought by want of thought more than by want of heart. I entirely disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. His speech has been, to my mind, so eminently unsatisfactory that I cannot vote for the Motion. We have had an Amendment moved, but we are told it is an Amendment to which no practical effect can be given by this House. I accept the Amendment for this reason, that it deals with this offence in the spirit in which it ought to be dealt with. It recognises the enormity of the offence, and there is no such recognition in the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. Is not this a matter that ought to be 944 looked upon seriously? I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that if we are to distinguish between these persons, it is to the Manager that we ought to ascribe the greatest amount of blame. But they stand charged together; they are dealt with on the same terms by the Report of the Committee. What was their conduct? How was it that this man Hood was called on to give evidence at all? We find that certain things are laid to his charge which never have been laid to his charge before. Inaccurate statements are made by the hon. and learned Member for the City of Durham, who made an attack on Mr. Hood. I do not understand that the hon. and learned Member, when he was face to face with Mr. Hood in the Committee Room, made any criminal charge against him. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend whether, on reflection, he would not come to this conclusion, that if he thinks a criminal charge should be made against this man it would not be fair to make it to his face, instead of behind his back?
§ MR. MILVAIN
It was made to his face when he came before the Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company, and was asked to justify his evidence.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
I beg to differ from the hon. and learned Member. I have read the evidence very carefully. I was not dealing with what any of the Directors had the courage to do. I was referring to what my hon. and learned Friend himself had done, and I want to know where he took upon himself the responsibility of making a criminal charge against Hood? Do not let him put it upon men who stand at the Bar of the House; they have enough to answer for. Let the hon. and learned Member point out to me any portion of the evidence in which he had the courage, when he was face to face with this man, to make a charge of criminality against him. Were the Directors prepared to make such a charge? If they were, let them bring it. Hood is prepared to meet any such charge, and I hope for the sake of his pocket the Directors will follow the advice, for whether we compensate him in this House or not, if 945 anyone is foolish enough to initiate criminal proceedings against Hood he will be amply recompensed in heavy damages for malicious prosecution. Let us consider the conduct of these persons at the Bar. In 1889 there was a dispute about a hamper and 1s. 7d., and somewhat strong language was used in the correspondence between Hood and other officials connected with the railway. On the 16th July Mr. Hood was going to give evidence before the impartial and learned Gentlemen on the other side of the House. On the 15th July Mr. Conacher writes to Mr. Birtwhistle about the hamper and the 1s. 7d. which happened in 1889—Please send me all the papers relating to the hamper.That was before he knew or heard one tittle of the evidence of Hood. Hood had written to Conacher asking leave to give evidence, and he made other requests. The other matters are dealt with, but there is discreet silence in the answer with regard to the permission asked to give evidence. Hood comes and gives his evidence, and on the 7th August he is dismissed. On the 30th September he is brought before the Court of Appeal. I think from what I have seen of this Court of Appeal that the hon. Member for the Stretford Division of Lancashire must have acquired his judicial experience on the Continent, because the way he addressed the prisoner reminds me very much of the accounts one sees of judicial proceedings in France. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow who told us how this opportunity for justification was in reality merely an opportunity for repeated accusations and interruptions. Remember this when dealing with the men at the Bar, whether this is a case for palliation or extenuation. Hood is brought before his accusers, but precious little opportunity does he get for explanation. No, Sir, the hon. Member for the Stretford Division, when Hood is brought before the Directors, does not accuse him of gross neglect of duty; but, in effect, he is told that he had better say the replies 946 to the Select Committee given in the way he did were false, which meant that if Hood went down on his knees, before this almighty Board of Directors, apologised, and withdrew the statements, they would pardon him. Is that the way Committees of the House are to be treated? Is that the way we are to have working men coerced by the people to whom they look for their daily bread? If this is to be a precedent for the conduct of masters over the men they employ, then you may give up your Labour Commission and every other inquiry where working men are concerned, for you close every avenue through which truth can be ascertained. Then when you get this gentleman before the Committee the question arises, Why has this man been dismissed? If we are to judge of the bona fides of these gentlemen, let me recommend hon. Members to look at the process of toothdrawing which has to be resorted to in the Committee to ascertain from Mr. Conacher, or Mr. Buckley the Chairman, why this man had been dismissed at all. Conacher is the first witness. He deprecates the suggestion that Hood was dismissed because of his evidence. "I cannot tell you," he says, "I had nothing to do with it. It is the Directors. It is Mr. Buckley. Wait till he comes." When Mr. Buckley comes, then he fences for column after column with the somewhat astute examination of some Members of the Committee. Let me read you the cross-examination, not by a hostile Member, but by the Chairman of the Committee, who was endeavouring to ascertain how it came about that this man was dismissed. The House must hear this and judge of the guilt of these men. If this was a mere mistake then treat the Directors with leniency, but if it was a flagrant case, do not let us be afraid to deal with these men. This is the cross-examination of Mr. Buckley who Conacher told the Committee would be able to say how it came about that Hood was dismissed.I want (said the Chairman) to ask you some questions about the first meeting at which Mr. Hood was dismissed. Who brought the case before you?—The case was brought before us, of course, by our Manager in the 947 first instance, by Mr. Conacher. He brought all these cases before us with very great reservation. I recollect his reluctance to say very much about it. He said—'Some cases here require your attention, and I wish you to deal with them as you think fit, quite independently of me.'—What did he bring before you in reference to Mr. Hood?—I think there was this case of Thomas on that occasion, and this case of Mr. Hood, cases of men who had certainly been connected with giving evidence here. But what did he bring before you with reference to Mr. Hood?—Of course, I knew beforehand what was going to come up before the Board. Mr. Conacher always acted to a certain extent under my instructions in matters which were to be brought forward or left out at the Boards, if they were not ready for discussion, and in this case of Mr. Hood's the matter was brought before the Board, and it was brought before the Board after considering not only the evidence but the antecedents of Mr. Hood.—But what was brought before the Board?—The question of Mr. Hood's conduct.—In what way?—In relation to the Company, and the question primarily of his fitness and trustworthiness for an office such as that of agent for a station of the Company.—But what had Mr. Hood done which necessitated the raising of that question?—Mr. Hood had acted in a manner which we thought, at all events, was not trustworthy towards his employers.—In what way?—I will say in what way. First of all, sending us in what we then discovered for the first time (it was discovered about that time) to be a false pay sheet. This was only discovered after Mr. Hood had given his evidence here.And so it was that this man fenced, rather than taking the position which the Directors are now anxious to make us believe they honestly took, now that they throw themselves upon our mercy, and ask us, although they have done this, to let them off as easily as possible. Let me return to my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Milvain) who made an attack upon Hood, which I hope by this time he regrets. The hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, but I hope, on reflection, he will regret. Let me put this to my hon. and learned Friend. He says that the evidence of Hood was inaccurate, and he has charged him with making false statements, knowing them to be false. Was Mr. Hood the only man who made mistakes in his evidence? Conacher, whom my hon. and learned Friend is anxious to champion, made some very serious mistakes. First of all, he stated it was not true that Hood had been suspended for signing a memorial in favour of Humphreys. It was a serious thing to suspend a man for a 948 fortnight because he attached his name to a memorial in aid of a fellow-workman. I can well understand Conacher not wishing the Committee to believe that he had done such a thing. Conacher forgot that he recommended the Directors to dismiss this man. It is put in a question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, in which, when addressing Buckley, he pointed out that Conacher, although he denied that he recommended this dismissal, afterwards, on being asked at the meeting whether Hood ought to be kept in the Company's service, said he told the Directors he ought not. I do not accuse Conacher of perjury because of this. It is a mistake, and that is all that can be alleged against Hood. That there may have been some inaccuracies in his evidence may be true, but that he has been guilty of fraud or lacking in bona fides I challenge any hon. Member who reads this book (the Special Report of the Select Committee on Railway Servants Hours of Labour) to pronounce an adverse opinion. The hon. Member for Camborne said he wished Hood was here to answer this charge. The hon. Member said it was admitted that Hood could not come here to meet the charge. I think it is only fair to Hood that the attention of the House should be called to a letter written by him, and which will be found in the Appendix 3. It is included in the Report. I think the concluding words of that letter should, in justice to this man, be read and recorded in this Debate. After dealing with the question of pension, he says—This is a cruel and unjust charge, and I can only say that never in all my life have I made out a false pay sheet.I have pointed out what I consider the great element in the case against these Directors. I find no adequate expression of opinion by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench below me, and, much as I regret it, I am not able to take their advice.
§ (10.32.) SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
Having sat patiently through nearly the whole of the long inquiries on this Committee, I desire to make a few observations on the present 949 position of the case. I regret that I have not that clearness of position which the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division, the hon. Member for York, and the hon. Member for Durham appear to have. I gave thanks during that Committee that it had never been my lot to sit under such a Chairman as that of the Cambrian Railway Company. The hon. Member for York and the hon. Member for Durham—whose ability to digest evidence I would not for one moment deny—have formed very different opinions, and I wish I could form as strong an opinion as either of them. I had all the documents through my hands, and more confused management, more unjustifiable working, and a more confused Board I think it impossible to conceive. That confusion is rendered greater, if possible, by the numerous lucid speeches made on the evidence in the case. It seems to me, after a careful study of Sir Erskine May's book, that there are two special precedents which ought to actuate us in looking at this question. One dates back to 1728, when Sir William Rich, a prisoner in the Fleet, was brought before a Committee of this House, sitting on Gaols, in order to give evidence. He was taken back to the Fleet, and the Governor, Mr. Pembridge, loaded him with leg-irons and handcuffs, and he endured great hardship and suffering. The House came to the conclusion that that was a breach of Privilege, and Mr. Pembridge was ordered into custody on the 28th of the month, and on the 8th of the following month I find an order that he was to be brought before the Committee on Gaols as often as that Committee might desire. I can find in the Journals no order for his discharge, and for all I know he may be in the Clock Tower now. The other case is more modern, but also dates back to the last century. There the House declared it was a grievous and heinous offence against the Privileges of the House to call to account or censure a witness who had given evidence before a Committee of this House. It appears to me that these Directors have been guilty of breach of Privilege in both respects. Their conduct toward stationmaster Hood in examining him in that rough- 950 and-ready, and, as it has been described, bullying manner, was calculated, no doubt, quite as much as by leg-irons and handcuffs, to prevent other railway servants giving evidence before the Committee. The other offence of which they were guilty was no doubt during that interview when they censured him for the evidence he gave. If I were asked to say Hood would not have been properly discharged for the irregularities if he had not given the evidence, I should say he was deserving of discharge, but I do not think I should go so far as to say I would have discharged him myself. This is one of the cases where leniency and discipline would have been carried out by moving him to some other place where he might have worked out for himself a rather better character than he seemed to bear in connection with the station mentioned. I very much doubt his character, but for the consideration of the question before the House we may assume that it was a perfect character. We have all come to the conclusion that there is a grave breach of the Privileges of the House, and the question is, how are we going to act in order to vindicate the position of the House, and to enable other witnesses to come before Committees without being in danger of losing their situations, or being in any way bullied by any Board of Directors? If we take the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it seems to many of my hon. Friends that we do not express ourselves strongly enough, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division has added words which the hon. Member for York says he can accept. It is very difficult for me to accept those words. There is an old proverb in Yorkshire which says, "It is no use showing your teeth unless you are prepared to bite." We cannot ask the Directors to re-instate the man. Then are we going to fine them? The right hon. Member for Midlothian says you cannot fine them. Are you going to lock them up? That is logical, and had better be moved by those who so desire to amend the Resolution. That logically follows the precedent of Mr. Pembridge. In the meantime. I do hope the House will 951 come to some such conclusion on this question, whether we accept the Resolution of the President of the Board of Trade, or whether we amend it, as is logical and practical, on this occasion. The proposal to exact compensation when we have no power to do anything of the kind seems to me to be below the dignity of this House, and the other alternative, that the stationmaster should be re-instated, no one evidently desires to support. If these Directors had compensated this man, we should have had very little to say, but they have very unwisely stuck to the line of action they at first took; but I am not prepared to support the Amendment, and I have, therefore, no alternative but to support the Motion of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ (10.41.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
If I am in Order, of which I am not certain, I should like to move an Amendment to the Amendment. I wish to move to leave out all the words after "that," up to and including "otherwise," so that the Amendment would read—And declines to regard the Directors as having purged their contempt until they have compensated," &c.The object is to leave out the suggestion that the man should be re-instated, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether I should be in Order?
§ MR. PICTON
Then I shall be very glad to move this further Amendment. We have two propositions before us. The first is that of the President of the Board of Trade, which is to the effect that these gentlemen shall be brought up and admonished by you, Mr. Speaker, and I am quite sure that any admonition you may address to these gentlemen will make a very profound impression on them. But I cannot help thinking that you, as the voice of the House, will necessarily be influenced in your admonition by the apparent feeling of the House; and it strikes me that if the Resolution is left simply as it has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman, it will not sufficiently express the sense entertained by a very large, important, and representative portion of this House, that a very grave 952 wrong has been committed in tampering with a witness who came up before a Committee of this House. I cannot too deeply regret that ancient usage compels us to speak so much of the Privileges of this House. It is not the Privileges of the House we are dealing with so much to-night as with the rights of the people of this country. In old times undoubtedly the Privilege of this House was a kind of abstraction representing the rights of the commonalty of this country to have justice done to them notwithstanding the preponderance of powers that were very formidable in those times, but are not so formidable now. But those times are gone, and the phrase "the Privilege of this House" has a somewhat invidious meaning, that it has taken upon itself some special rights that are not allowed to other subjects of the Queen. What we really mean is that this House stands as the guardian of the people of this country; and if we are to have gentlemen who have committed a grave offence against the people coming up to this House and being allowed, after making an apology such as we have heard this evening, to go otherwise scatheless away, I want to know what security the poor man will have hereafter that he can give his testimony before a Committee of this House without suffering for it? This man Hood has lost his situation. He has obtained another one. I am told that he has taken the position of agent to a Liberal Unionist organisation. (Laughter.) I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) joins in the cheer at the promotion of Mr. Hood. At any rate it is clear that Gentlemen on this side of the House, and in this quarter of it especially (below the Gangway), have no prejudice in the matter. We are judging the case quite impartially and regardless of any Party consideration, and I only wish that all Party considerations could be entirely eliminated from the issue. Clearly our only object is that witnesses in future, coming before Committees of this House, should feel that their positions will be safeguarded by this House. But how can that be the case if a record like this, which has come to us in a 953 Special Report of the Committee, goes forth to the world with no stronger comment than is afforded by the Resolution of the President of the Board of Trade? We find in the evidence with respect to the meeting at Crewe between the Directors of the Cambrian Railway and Mr. Hood this question—The Chairman: Are there any other points you wish to make statements upon, Mr. Hood?I wish hon. Members would give attention to what I consider the most pathetic reply—I can only say I very much regret going before the Committee. (He means the Committee of this House.) But I feel the matter deeply, and I hope the Directors will not dismiss me.Is that the position in which a man should be placed who has given honest testimony according to the best of his ability before a Committee of this House? He is reduced to say before these men—I can only say I now very much regret going before this Committee.Is this House prepared quietly to hear that said by witnesses coming before the Committees of this House? Are they only to throw themselves upon the mercy of the men they have offended by coming before the Parliament of their country? I think this would not only be lowering the position of this House, but it would be an injury to the people of this country suffering under grievances which can only be redressed by those people coming before this House, perhaps to the offence of their employers. If he had moved that the gentlemen who came to the Bar should be reprimanded by you, I should have thought it would be more adequate, because it would be a censure upon them; it would be realised by all their countrymen, and they themselves would have felt it more deeply. But I confess myself it is much less an offence against this House than against the rights of Englishmen through this House. Much less offences have been visited in times past by imprisonment. I am not in favour of coercion in this country or in Ireland, and, therefore, I desire to avoid imprisonment as much as possible; but I wish that the 954 Resolution proposed had been more adequate. I do not agree with the idea of endeavouring to re-instate Mr. Hood, because I think it would be a very uncomfortable position for him to occupy. But I would suggest that we should not recognise the repentance of these gentlemen as adequate unless they compensate in some way Mr. Hood for wrong that has been done him. I therefore beg to move an Amendment to that effect.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out from the words "they have," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "compensated John Hood."—(Mr. Picton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ (10.53.) MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
As a Member of the Committee I may be, perhaps, allowed to say a few words. The question is one of considerable difficulty, as most of the speakers on this side acknowledged; and I agree most humbly and deferentially with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian subject to one condition: that the Motion proposed by the President of the Board of Trade might have been adequate. But there is one point which I must call the attention of the House to: I must express my regret, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division expressed his regret, that the speech in which that Motion was introduced was in my view so entirely apologetic for these men that have been brought before the House that if this Resolution is to be passed upon that Preamble these men might pass from the House with a feather in their caps rather than with any feeling that they have incurred the censure of this House. That, in my opinion, is the origin of the discussion which I think many of us have rather felt to be too long. I think we should have come to a unanimous conclusion if the Chairman of the Committee had not introduced his Motion in what, to my great and sincere regret, I must describe as a very one-sided speech; because I entirely and warmly concur 955 with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division when he said that the right hon. Gentleman presided over this Committee, whose Sittings have now extended over two Sessions, with the utmost fairness and impartiality. And that increases my regret, which I cannot conceal, that I did not think his speech was calculated to bring the House to a unanimous conclusion, because it is obvious he might have anticipated what has happened on account of this man being dismissed from his employment for giving evidence before a Committee of this House was likely to arise as it has arisen, and that it was likely to arouse, as it has aroused, a very strong feeling on these Benches. It is not necessary to say that the man was a perfect character; because many men in his position would not stand the test if subjected to strict examination. Now that the question has been forced upon the House, I feel it my duty to say that the man was most thoroughly ill-used. He was ill-used by these Directors. If the man's dismissal is absolutely justifiable it may be that no breach of Privilege of the House has been committed at all, because that is a thing which would not deter other witnesses from giving evidence before a Committee of this House. But from the turn this discussion has taken I have no hesitation in saying that these Directors behaved most shamefully towards him. They resolved to crush him; they took a spite against him; they raked up everything they could against him. At the same time, I quite feel that it is a very unwise and doubtful policy on our part to enter upon any course which the House has not full power to carry out. Except for that reason, I should have been very willing to assent to the proposal made by the Chairman of the Committee and accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party. I think the proposal has been tenderly treated on both sides of the House. That is unfortunate. I think it is calculated to produce a wrong impression on the public of the view we take of the case; and accordingly, if the hon. Member for Leicester goes to a Division, I shall 956 feel bound, with some reluctance, to follow him into the Lobby in support of his Motion.
(10.57.) MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
An hon. Member has asked if Mr. Hood, having got employment as an election agent for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, could be said to have received compensation? That might be so, except for the fact that the General Election is not very far off; and, under these circumstances, the post of Liberal Unionist agent can hardly be considered permanent compensation. But I am sure many hon. Members on the other side of the House feel just as keenly as we do on this side of the House that this poor man ought to have compensation from someone or other. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for York City suggested that if the Directors of the Cambrian Railway would only take the advice of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Durham they would bring a criminal charge against this man, and that Mr. Hood might then have his compensation in the form of an action for malicious prosecution. I want to point out another way, which I think an almost infallible way, for securing Mr. Hood adequate compensation for the loss of his situation. I am glad to see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Durham in his place. He takes advantage of his position in this House to say that, from his knowledge of the evidence, a criminal charge might have been brought against Mr. Hood. He knows what the position is; he is a lawyer, and he knows that for what he says in this House he is covered by Privilege of Parliament, and Mr. Hood cannot make him responsible. The hon. and learned Member for Durham should repeat out of the House what he has said in the House to-night against Hood, and then Hood would be able to obtain compensation in the shape of damages for slander. The hon. Member should have the courage of his convictions, and not shelter himself under his privileges as a Member of Parliament, and then he would give the poor man a chance of obtaining a remedy.
§ MR. MILVAIN
I would point out to the hon. Member that Hood has a remedy, for he can bring an action for wrongful dismissal.
(11.3.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
I will intervene for only a short time in this Debate. As a Member of the Committee, I think I ought to say something with regard to this matter. I have come to the conclusion that this poor man Hood was dismissed simply because of the evidence he gave before the Committee with reference to the hours of labour on the Cambrian Railway. The hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Milvain) has shown himself to-night in his true colours. He seems to have been holding a brief against this unfortunate man. The hon. and learned Gentleman should have the courage of his convictions, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Philipps) says, and not shelter himself under his Parliamentary privileges. I hope that he will repeat outside the House what he has said inside these walls against Hood, and that Hood in proceeding against him will not employ counsel, but act in his own behalf. Let us now come to the evidence. The Directors said to this man Hood—You must understand that your dismissal is not due to your giving evidence before the Select Committee. You were summoned to give evidence, and you must now address yourself to the question of justification of the charges you have made.These gentlemen, therefore, constituted themselves a Court of Appeal—a sort of Punch and Judy Star Chamber—with regard to the evidence which was given before a Committee of this House. If this kind of thing is to continue Parliamentary Privilege and evidence given before the Committees of this House will be of no value at all. I always considered that when a witness went into the witness chair in the Committee Room upstairs he was absolutely protected; and I hope that the House will vindicate its Privileges in this matter. If this goes on it will be impossible to say that there is not one law for the rich and another for the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has stated with his usual knowledge and accuracy that we cannot compel the 958 Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company to compensate this man Hood. That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman and every lawyer knows very well that it is possible to make arrangements whereby compensation can be given. In former days Privilege was a very trustworthy weapon, but I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House whether it is at all valuable in the circumstances of the present case. Certain gentlemen come forward and make a miserable kind of an apology in which they justify their conduct, saying they were acting as they did in the public service. How can that in any way atone for their behaviour? The hon. Member for Stretford showed by his attitude and gestures that he is determined to persevere in the course of action he has adopted towards this man. Then up started the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and proposed a Resolution which fitted in with the apology in a very extraordinary manner. It almost seemed as if the Resolution and the apology must have been constructed at one and the same time. Is it likely that in vindicating the Privileges of this House we should allow it to be treated in this way? Judging from the apology and from the Resolution, the apology and the Resolution were constructed together—they bear a remarkable family likeness. There has been no atonement on the part of these men, no repentance; they vindicate their conduct. They have been convicted of intimidating witnesses; they have deprived Hood of his means of livelihood; and, that being so, I say that the Privileges of this House have not been vindicated. I shall certainly vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ (11.14.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not rise to continue the Debate. I rise simply to appeal to the House to come to a decision on the question. I am sure that every hon. Member, whether he agrees with the Resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend, or whether he agrees with the Amendment, must feel that every view of this subject has been adequately discussed. If the Resolution of my right hon. Friend is carried 959 it will be the duty of Mr. Speaker to admonish these gentlemen who were called to the Bar this afternoon; and I think it will be only proper that the proceedings of the House on this question should be concluded this evening in time to allow Mr. Speaker an opportunity of carrying this duty out.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I do not believe there is any hon. Member in this House who believes—and I doubt whether there is any hon. Member who is capable of believing—that Hood would have been dismissed from his office if there had not been this inquiry and this Committee, and I will not enter into any metaphysical inquiry as to the state of the mind of the Directors; but one thing is obvious beyond the possibility of doubt, that Hood was dismissed because he gave evidence. Now, in what position does the House stand? It is admitted by the Directors that they committed an offence against Parliamentary law. I go further, and I say that they have pleaded guilty to a social crime. I know of no crime which a rich man can commit which is more grievous, more serious, more anti-social, more baneful in its consequences, than depriving a working man, without just reason, of his means of livelihood. That is the crime to which these men have pleaded guilty. Well, Sir, I ask this question: What is to be the punishment which they ought to undergo? By immemorial usage, this House has the power to send these men to prison. Why, I ask, should they not be sent to prison? There is only one reason, and only one advanced, and that is that they are wealthy gentlemen, eminently respectable, and that it is not to be supposed that they would voluntarily and intentionally commit such an offence. But, Sir, they have committed an offence, and they have given no compensation or equivalent. I quite admit, if the Directors had come forward in this House and not only apologised in words, but apologised in deeds and satisfied this House that Hood had been compensated for the injustice and injury done to him, then I should have agreed to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of 960 Trade. But they have made no compensation—they have made no restitution. I believe that in the Roman Catholic Church, before absolution is granted, they require the sinner to make restitution; they have not made restitution, and everybody must see that the whole proceedings of this House, if they do not end in the imprisonment of these Directors, will be an absolute farce, an idle ceremony, an insult to the working classes, and a menace to the Privileges of this House. I regret more than I can express the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. He allowed his generous feelings to run away with him, and looked too much to the position of the Directors, who on other accounts might deserve our sympathy, and too little to the position of the man who had been dismissed. What was the gist of the right hon. Gentleman's speech? It was—"I am very sorry for Hood, but we cannot do anything to help him." Well, the House of Commons is sorry, but it refuses to take the sword out of the scabbard. Why cannot the House of Commons give redress to Hood? Because the House of Commons being a House of rich men will not; they cannot because they will not. Do not let hon. Members opposite deceive themselves: the working classes of this country are intelligent enough to see through this hollow sham, and are sufficiently manly in their disposition to resent keenly and bitterly the insult which has been put upon them.
§ (11.25.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
(speaking seated): May I ask you, Sir, if, before you put the Main Question, it will be in Order to move an Amendment which I had intended to move in reference to imprisonment?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
No, that would not be in Order; the House will proceed to a decision on the Main Question.
§ (11.26.) The House divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 186.—(Div. List, No. 72.)961
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 189.—(Div. List, No. 73.)
Mr. A. J. BALFOUR claimed, "That the Question on the Amendment be now put."
Question put accordingly, "That the words 'and this House will not deem that the said Directors and Manager of the Cambrian Railway have purged their contempt until they have re-instated John Hood in the position which he occupied before giving his evidence before this House, or otherwise compensated him,' be added at the end of the Main Question.
§ (11.53.) The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 274.—(Div. List, No. 74.)
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR claimed, "That the Main Question be now put."
§ MR. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
(speaking seated): May I ask you, Sir, whether the Main Question can now be put without a previous Motion being carried?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The Motion for putting the Question being carried applies to the Questions put from the Chair. This Question with the others has been put from the Chair.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Does it follow that the Question is put on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Main Question put accordingly. (Loud cries of "No.")
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! With regard to the expression just used, I refrain from naming the hon. Gentleman who used it, because on an occasion such as this I do not wish to take any strong measures. I hope the House will behave to the end in a judicial spirit.
§ (12.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 349; Noes 70.—(Div. List, No. 75.)
That this House, while recognising that Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James
Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher, have disclaimed any intention to deter any railway servant from giving evidence before its Committee, and have expressed their unqualified regret for having unintentionally infringed any of its Rules and Privileges, is of opinion that the said Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House in their action towards John Hood, and that they be called in and admonished by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege that they have committed.
§ Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher were accordingly called in, and Mr. Maclure standing in his place, and Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher, standing at the Bar, were admonished as followeth by
Directors of the Cambrian Railway Company: the House has had under its consideration the case which has been presented to it, and I am now directed to inform you of the Resolution at which it has arrived. I will read to you the words of that Resolution:—'This House, while recognising that Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher have disclaimed any intention to deter any railway servant from giving evidence before its Committee, and have expressed their unqualified regret for having unintentionally infringed any of its Rules and Privileges, is of opinion that the said Mr. John William Maclure, Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. John Conacher, have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House in their action towards John Hood, and that they be called in and admonished by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege that they have committed.'
It now becomes my duty, as the mouthpiece of the House, and as the interpreter of its wishes, to state to you what is the opinion of the House upon your conduct. It is quite true that you have made an apology to the House for the undoubted breach of its Privileges. I need hardly tell you that a mere apology does not always cover the extent and surface of an offence; but the House has taken a lenient view in that respect of your conduct and has expressed in its Resolution its willingness to accept your apology. But that is not
all. The House has directed me to admonish you for a grave breach of the Privileges of this House. I would have you know,—each and all of you gentlemen,—that though the Privileges of this House are not to be put into operation upon any light or trivial occasion, and though the intervals are long between the periods when appeals are made to those Privileges, yet a Privilege of this House is no unreal, shadowy, or unsubstantial thing; it is what the House clings to, and what it is determined to maintain. The breach of Privilege which you have committed is, that you have by your conduct intimidated a witness before this House; that your conduct towards him is calculated to deter witnesses in giving evidence before this House or its Committees. So dear is that especial Privilege to this House, that I must remind you that at the commencement of every Session, and therefore at the commencement of this Session, on the very first day of its meeting, two Resolutions were passed by this House, in one of which it declared, 'That if it shall appear that any person hath given false evidence in any case before this House, or any Committee thereof, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.' The second of those Resolutions expresses the determination of the House, 'That if it shall appear that any person hath been tampering with any witness in respect of his evidence to be given to this House or any Committee thereof, or' (and this is the point to which I would especially direct your attention) 'directly or indirectly hath endeavoured to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence, the same is declared to be a high crime and misdemeanour, and this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.' Those are Resolutions which are fresh in the memory of this House, and which I am surprised that those gentlemen whom I now see before me at the Bar should have so lightly infringed. It is a very grave and serious offence that you have committed. The House in its judgment and, I should add, in its mercy has decided that I should admonish you. I do most seriously admonish you, and I warn you that any repetition of this offence, for it is an offence, will be visited by this House with its very severe rebuke, reproval and punishment. A great principle has been infringed, the principle that evidence given before this House shall be free and unrestrained. I warn you against repeating an offence of this character. The offence is a very serious one, for it is no less an offence than trying, however unadvisedly it may be in certain cases, to deter witnesses from giving
evidence before a Committee of this House, and thus to disturb and taint the very sources of truth. I believe I act, as I wish to act, as the interpreter of the feelings of this House when I seriously admonish you, and express the hope that your example will serve as a deterrent to others, and that it will also act as a warning to yourselves never again to presume to commit the like offence against the character, the dignity, and the purity of this House.
§ Then Mr. James Frederick Buckley, Mr. William Bailey Hawkins, and Mr. James Conacher were ordered to withdraw, and they withdrew accordingly.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I now beg to move—That the admonition delivered by Mr. Speaker be entered upon the Journals of this House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes; and I hope the House will allow the remarks which it was my duty to deliver to be entered on the Journals of the House.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the admonition delivered by Mr. Speaker be entered upon the Journals of this House.