HC Deb 21 March 1892 vol 2 cc1339-42

With reference to the Motion standing at the head of the Orders of the Day—Mr. Hastings—Motion for his expulsion—I beg to inform the House that I have received through the Home Office a letter from Mr. Hastings, which I think it my duty to read to the House. It is as follows:—

18th March, 1892.


I have had the honour to receive a report of the proceedings taken by the House consequent on a report made to them by Mr. Justice A. L. Smith.

I am desirous of respectfully representing to the House that while I thought it right to plead guilty to the indictment preferred against me, as I had undoubtedly disposed of trust property without due regard to the provisions of the will under which it came into my hands, I nevertheless did so without any intention of appropriating the money to my own use, or of wilfully defrauding any person.

I further would respectfully ask the House to take into consideration that I have, during several Sessions of the present Parliament, devoted no small amount of time and labour, I may venture to hope with some success, to the important task of presiding over the proceedings of the Police and Sanitary Regulations Bills Committee of the House.

I venture to express a hope that the House will take my humble services into its generous consideration.

I remain, Mr. Speaker,

Your most obedient Servant,


To the Right Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

Sir, I submit that the Order of the Day relating to this subject is, by the mode in which it is framed, a violation of the unbroken practice of the House. It is in these terms—Mr. Hastings—Motion for his expulsion. Now, Sir, I have looked into the Records, and I find that in all previous Orders of the Day having regard to the case of a Member, whether for a copy of the evidence or for the consideration of the evidence by the House or for the expulsion of a Member, the terms have always been placed upon the Order Paper. Therefore, Sir, I submit that, in a matter of this kind, involving not only the right of a Member but also of a constituency, the introduction of a novelty of this kind is inexpedient; and I further submit, on the grounds of convenience and practice, that until the reasons upon which the Notice of Motion for expulsion is based are placed upon the Paper, no action can be taken by the House.


Upon the point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I remind you, Sir, that I did give Notice of the full terms of my Resolution? I do not know by what accident the full terms do not appear upon the Paper.


Sufficient notice has been given and the usual course has been followed. But I may remind the hon. Gentleman that expulsion has taken place without the grounds being previously placed upon the Paper. This is not an Order of the Day, but a question of Privilege, which is fixed before the Orders of the Day, and the hon. Gentleman will recollect that I did not call upon the Clerk at the Table to read the Orders of the Day. The whole of the circumstances of this case are before the House.


May I remind you, Sir, that the terms of a Resolution of expulsion have always appeared upon the Orders of the Day?


I beg the hon. Member's pardon; that is not so.


Mr. Speaker, the letter which you, Sir, have just read from the Chair renders a painful duty even more painful than it would otherwise have been; but I apprehend it will not and ought not to modify the course which the House has always taken in questions of this kind. Therefore, Sir, without further preface, I beg to move, "That Mr. George Woodyatt Hastings be expelled this House."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. George Woodyatt Hastings be expelled this House."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Midlothian)

I should not have intervened in this matter but for a special point raised by the letter of Mr. Hastings; but I think as the right hon. Gentleman has a point which may be called one of difficulty to confront, and in respect of which some doubt may be entertained by some hon. Members, I ought to give my opinion upon it. It did, I own, appear to me, as regards the first paragraph of that letter, that it was a plea which it is hardly possible for us in any manner to take into view. The second plea, however, is a perfectly legitimate one for Mr. Hastings to submit to the judgment of the House. Yet I think the right hon. Gentleman has arrived at a right conclusion when he says that it is not possible that a plea of this kind, however much it may appeal to our feelings, can be allowed to affect the course to be taken by the House in a question of this nature. I concur, therefore, with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that the fact that Mr. Hastings has rendered special services to the House in a manner which I believe to have been useful does undoubtedly enhance the pain with which we must all enter into a transaction of this kind, and must increase the regret that we all feel that we have no option except to resort to a measure which is in itself severe, but which it is most necessary we should adopt for the sake of the Public Service and for the maintenance of the honour of this House.


I object, Sir, to the form of this Resolution. I think it is necessary for the protection of Members, under circumstances which can be easily imagined, and which may possibly arise, that in the Resolution, which is the instrument of expulsion, a clear statement of the case should be set forth. That course has been pursued in every case, with the single exception of that of Captain Verney. In the case of Mr. Sadleir, there was set forth in the Resolution a full explanation of the reasons for the expulsion. That precedent was followed in the case of Mr. De Cobain; and, Sir, I think I shall have your concurrence that in a matter involving the right of a constituency, and in the case of a Resolution that may be referred to hereafter, it is manifestly convenient that the House should state in the Resolution the grounds upon which the expulsion was made. Therefore, Sir, I beg to move that after the word "Hastings," these words be inserted— Having been convicted on his own confession of having fraudulently converted to his own use property of which he was possessed as trustee.

Amendment proposed, after the word "Hastings," to insert the words— Having been convicted on his own confession of having fraudulently converted to his own use property of which he was possessed as trustee."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(4.31.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I would point out that there was no conviction before the House in two of the cases in which action was taken. In the case of Mr. de Cobain there was no conviction, and in the case of Mr. Sadleir there was no conviction. Therefore the reasons for the expulsion had to appear in the Resolution. In the case of Captain Verney and in this case there are convictions reported to the House. It is unnecessary to add further pain to this proceeding. The House has already before it, on its Journals, the conviction which has been supplied by the learned Judge. That record will afford to anyone who may in future desire to know the circumstances of the expulsion and the reasons for it an opportunity of learning that there has been no arbitrary expulsion without reason.

Question put, and negatived.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That Mr. George Woodyatt Hastings be expelled this House.