HC Deb 16 February 1893 vol 8 cc1587-608

I beg to ask the noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh a question of which I have given him private notice —namely, whether he is correctly reported as having said at a banquet on Tuesday last that— They knew well from the internal difficulties of the Irish Party that they (the Irish Members) could no longer be paid by Irish money. Therefore they were being paid, undoubtedly, being paid, by the Party organisation and the Party now in power. Therefore the position Mr. Gladstone was in was that he was undertaking this constitutional change, relying on a majority of 40 paid mercenaries. I would ask the noble Lord if he is correctly reported as having stated this; and, if so, whether he will kindly state the reasons on which the assertion is based?


In reply to the hon. Baronet, I have to say that the report from which he has quoted is substantially accurate. As the hon. Gentleman will see, if he examines the words I used, I carefully abstained from expressing anything in the nature of either blame or criticism on the Party to which he belongs. If the fact is doubted, I have only to quote the words I actually used. These are the words with which I prefaced my re-marks— It has been a matter of public knowledge that for the last ten years a large proportion of the Irish Members could not attend at Westminster unless they received a salary. I do not think that is any reflection on the Irish Members. They receive a salary for purposes which their constituents approve, and for doing work which their constituents expect them to do. He asks me on what ground I made the assertion to which he refers, and which is contained in the words he quoted. They are as follows:—It is generally admitted that money is no longer forthcoming from Irish or American sources, and the inference that seems, therefore, to be irresistible is that it is derived from English sources. I am quite ready to admit that I went too far in stating that it undoubtedly came from the Gladstonian Party Funds, but I certainly thought myself justified in believing that it came either from those funds or from funds devoted generally to the furtherance of the interests of the English Home Rule Party. But if the hon. Member is in a position to say that that statement has no foundation in fact, I need not say that I am prepared to withdraw it, and to express my regret. Let me repeat that I intended to reflect nothing upon those who are supposed to receive the money, but simply to point out the very peculiar Parliamentary position now occupied by the Government.


I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the statement of the noble Lord was that the Irish Members "were being paid, undoubtedly being paid," by the Party or-ganisation and by the Party now in power. The noble Lord has put in circulation what is an absolute falsehood, a total and absolute falsehood, a mere invention, and I think the House is entitled to know, in the first place, from the noble Lord whether he invented the statement himself, or whether he adopted it at the instance of any other person, and. if so, at whose instance, and on what grounds. Now, Sir, I would ask you, having regard to the gross and scandalous character of the allegation, whether the noble Lord or any other Member of the House is entitled either to invent or to adopt such statements imputing to a body of Members of this House that they hold a relation to the Government of this country incompatible with the independent discharge of their duties, and whether, on being brought to task in this House, the noble Lord is entitled to make a subjunctive or contingent apology, and, having wantonly set afloat a falsehood, whether he is entitled to call for a contradiction, or whether, being himself destitute of any grounds by which to justify his statement, his apology should not be instant and absolute.


The words made use of were not made in this House, and, therefore, my jurisdiction does not come directly in. The House is very chary of noticing expressions used out of the House, and bringing them up for discussion in this House. The hon. Baronet asked me if the purport of what he has said might be embodied in a question, and, in accordance with the invariable rule, I told him not, but, as it was a personal question anal involved a quasi kind of Privilege, he was entitled to ask for a personal explanation. The allegation has been made and somewhat modified by the noble Lord, and has been repudiated and altogether discountenanced by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. I think, therefore, so far as I am concerned, the matter should rest there. I cannot call upon any hon. Member to apologise for anything he has said out of the House. There is only one expression which I should wish had not been used either in this House or out or it, and that is the word "mercenary."


Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to admit that that word was an—unfortunate and wrong word to use unfortunate because, as I have said, my intention was to reflect upon the Government and not upon the Irish Members, and the use of that word might be fairly open to the criticism that it also reflected on the Irish Members. Therefore, I frankly express my regret for having used that word. As regards what I said before, I have nothing to add to it. If a contradiction is made I withdraw it absolutely.

MR. D. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)

It has been made.


The noble Lord having now, in a most niggardly and ungracious manner, but yet in a manner the sense of which is complete, given his explanation, it entitles me to submit to the House that he made a false statement. I might call it by a shorter name if I liked. The House is now seised of the fact. [Cries of "Order!"] I am not out of Order. We mean to have this out. I say that, as the House is now seised of the fact that a wanton calumny against a body of Members has been set afloat, I must call the instant attention of yourself and the House to the use which has been made of that calumny in The Times to-day. In the course of an article on the payment of Members, The Times, amidst a number of other offensive and calumnious statements, indulges in the following, acting upon the evidence of a witness, the value of whose evidence the House is able to estimate. It says— Lord Wolmer, whose position as Liberal Unionist Whip has given him peculiar opportunities of becoming acquainted with the facts of the Parliamentary situation, made the statements, which are contained in the speech of the noble Lord. And The Times goes on to say— It is notorious that since the Parnellite split there has been no American money forthcoming for the subsistence of these stipendiary patriots. This (referring to the cheers of the hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, and pointing towards them) is the Party of gentlemen. There is not a peasant in Ireland who would not be ashamed of your conduct. And," The Times proceeds, "as these must live somehow, they arc, so Lord Wolmer declared, 'undoubtedly being paid by the Party organisation and by the Party now in power.…We have no difficulty in accepting Lord Wolmer's assurance that one-half of the Party to whom Mr. Gladstone proudly points as speaking in the name of Ireland are in receipt of a stipend, drawn either train an English Party fund or front the private liberality of rich English partisans. Now, Mr. Speaker, I submit that, since the foundation of this House of Commons many centuries hack, it has never been held tolerable that anyone, either a Member of this House, or an editor, or any other person in this country, should be allowed to impute, even to one Member of this House, that, even in regard to any solitary act in the discharge of his functions, the discharge of his duty had been connected with the receipt of money. Now, Sir, the charge made by the principal newspaper in the country against the main body of the Representatives of Ireland is that, not with regard to any solitary function, but with regard to the whole discharge of their duty here as Representatives of others, they are in the pay of the Government of the country. It is as false a statement as ever was made. Neither to the Government of this country nor to any rich English partisan has any Member of this Party ever been indebted for one penny, or ever will be.

Viscount WOLMER rose—


I have not the least intention of giving way. The noble Lord can speak when I have done. I submit to you very respectfully—we are poor men. We have striven to do our duty here. Whatever help we may require we shall seek from our own countrymen, and certainly if that help should not be sufficient we should never seek it anywhere else. We mean to discharge our duty here, and to do it to the end. I submit respectfully that, if writings of this kind in the Press of this country are to be permitted in regard to the Representatives of another country who are discharging their Party duties here, the discharge of these duties will become impossible. I, therefore, beg to move that the leading article in The Times of this date is a gross and scandalous breach of the privileges of this House.


I hope the matter will not go further. There is no mala fides imputed in the words that have been read. Discourteous they may be, but there is no mala fides imputed to an hon. Member of this House in the discharge of his ditties in this House, and I cannot say that there is a question of Privilege raised. I hope that after the noble Lord has withdrawn the word I thought improper, and which if used in this House would be unparliamentary, the matter will be allowed to rest there. We have now the assurance from at least two hon. Members representing constituencies in Ireland that the statement made is totally devoid of foundation. I think the House may rest upon the assurances those hon. Gentlemen have given, and in the interests of the House, solely in the interest of this House, I do implore hon. Members not to let the matter go any further.


I respectfully submit that the question of Privilege is one for the House, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether mala. fides is not imputed in the description of a body of Members of this House as a body of "paid mercenaries"?


I. only wish to say for myself that after what the hon. Member has said I apologise to the Irish Party.


I respectfully say that the Editor of The Times should apologise at the Bar. I respectfully submit that I am within my right, and that the question rests ultimately with the decision of the House whether or not a Breach of Privilege has been committed, and I respectfully move that the leading article in The Times of this morning is a gross and scandalous breach of the privileges of this House.

The Clerk at the Table then read extracts from the article as follows:— It is notorious that, since the Parnellite split, there has been no American money forth-coming for the subsistence of these stipendiary patriots, and, as these must live somehow, they are, so Lord Wolmer declared, 'undoubtedly being paid by the party organization and by the party now in power.' We have no difficulty, therefore, in accepting Lord Wolmer's assurance that one-half at least of the party to whom Mr. Gladstone proudly points as speaking in the name of Ireland are in receipt of a stipend drawn either from an English party fund or from the private liberality of rich English partisans. For a century at least the House of Commons has never been even suspected of corruption. Are we prepared to run the risk of losing this priceless advantage for the sake of enabling the Gladstonian party to keep a band of 'paid mercenaries' in steady attendance at Westminster without depleting the 'war chest' of the party, which is conscious that, at no distant date, it will have to face another appeal to the constituencies?

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the passages in the 'Times' article complained of constitute a gross breach of the privileges of this House."—(Mr. Sexton.)

MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)

I have great pleasure in seconding that.


I am never forward, Sir, in promoting movements its the House for severe notice being taken of what is said of persons or proceedings in this House by persons outside it, but the question has been distinctly raised whether this article is or is not a Breach of the Privileges of the House. I have, first of all, to say that I am very glad the noble Lord has extricated himself from at least one-half of this charge. As I understand him, the other portion of it falls upon a Government composed of persons with whom he was once associated. He says his desire was that the brunt—I do not think he used that expression, but he implied it—that the brunt of the great weight and severity of words of that kind coming from him, the whole of the tremendous weight which attaches to his unfounded assertion, shell fall upon us. I am not so sensitive—it is perhaps owing to being hardened in these matters—to that charge, but I think the noble Lord would have consulted well for his own character if he had withdrawn it altogether when he has been compelled to admit that there is no ground for it whatever. His own character is a matter entirely for his own consideration, and into that sacred precinct I shall not trespass. I shall leave the whole subject contentedly in his hands. So far as this article is concerned—I am aware that your powers of hearing are more acute, happily, than mine—when I heard the extract from the article first read by the hon. Gentleman opposite, with a feeling which I think did him honour—a gentleman whose pecuniary integrity I may say boldly, in my judgment, requires no more defence or vindication than the pecuniary integrity of any other gentleman in the House —when I first heard the extract, I was doubtful whether there reached my ear anything which constituted a gross Breach of Privilege, because, however offensive the word "mercenary" may be, yet after all a mercenary need not necessarily be corrupt. I know not, Sir, what your case may be, but on hearing the article read at the Table I do gather from it that it contains a most distinct charge of corruption—a charge of the reintroduction of corruption into this House, after it has been happily cleared from it during 100 years, through the medium of the Irish Members. I was quite unaware, I need not say, that this matter was likely to be brought forward, but unquestionably, if I am asked whether a charge of corruption against a body of Members of this House constitutes a Breach of Privilege, I am afraid it is not possible for me to give any answer but one, and that one in the affirmative.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

I certainly thought, Sir, that after the observations which you made from the Chair, and even in the absence of the observations you made from the Chair, it would have been the duty of the Leader of the House to give us some guidance in circumstances which all of us must admit to be of some difficulty and delicacy. There are two questions which always arise when the conduct of the Press is brought under the notice of this House. There is, first, the technical question as to whether there has or has not been a Breach of the Privileges of the House. There is, secondly, the question of policy as to whether it is desirable for the dignity and the order of the House that we should enter into one of those conflicts with the Press out of which, so far as I know, this House has never come with any augmentation of credit to itself. On the seeond of these points we have waited for the guidance of the Leader of the House, and we have waited, I regret to say, in vain. Let me say one word on the first point—the technical question of whether there has been a Breach of Privilege or not. Now, Sir, I have personally, from accident with which the House is well acquainted, been brought for many years into the most direct personal collision, so to speak, with Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway; but I certainly and emphatically express my firm conviction —a conviction from which I have never wavered even in the heat of the hottest controversies—that not a single one of these Gentlemen was ever bribed or corrupted for the work which he did in this House, or that he took the part which he thought it his duty to take from any motives other than those which he believed to be for the benefit of his country. I may say, also, as I have touched upon personal questions, that if we are to be so very sensitive about the criticisms of the Press upon the character and honour of our Members, I will guarantee to come down to this House with an armful of copies of United Ireland, every one of which contains imputations against Members of this House who were at one time in Office, and far more grave than those which the hon. Gentleman has extracted from The Times article. But it appears to me that, while any insinuation of corrupt or mercenary motives on the part of Members from Ireland is absolutely without foundation, and ought never to have been hinted at or suggested, if anybody will read the article carefully and accurately he will see—I may say I never saw the article or heard of it until I came into the House—that the intention of the writer in The Times was this—that if there was, as they assert, a paid Party in this House, there was a danger, through that very fact, of the reintroduction of those corruptions which were an unhappy blot on our Parliamentary history. That is a clear question of the fair inference of the words. I am not defending—it is not my business to defend or attack—the particular statements made by The Times; I have no concern one way or the other with it; but I do ask the House, before they enter into one of those indecorous conflicts with the Press, at all events to be careful they are not putting a construction on the words which the words do not necessarily bear, and to consider whether, if the tight is to go on, they will not find themselves ultimately in the wrong. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has had the advantage I have not had—namely, of looking at the paper—I put it to him whether an interpretation, at all events—I do not say the only interpretation—which can be put on The Times article is not this—that the result of there being a paid Party in this House might be ultimately, at some time unspecified, to lower the financial integrity of the House and to re-introduce corruption; and whether, if the article is capable of that interpretation, we should not only be unwise, but we should be mad, to enter into one of those contests with the Press of which there have been too many in our Parliamentary history, and which I do implore the Government not to encourage. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that the counsel I venture respectfully to give to the House is not given with any Party feeling or any Party prejudice, but simply with a view to the dignity of our proceedings.


I wish to ask, on a point of order, whether, if the articles in The Times imputing certain motives to hon. Members below the Gangway are to be read, I should be in order in asking that certain articles and speeches made in Ireland imputing the fact that the hon. Member for Waterford and his following have been bribed and paid by the Tory Party—would it be in order to move that they also be read?


No articles or speeches are before the House except this particular article in The Times newspaper. I should say that when I made the observation in reply to the hon. Member for North Kerry he had not then mentioned the word "corruption." He mentioned the words "paid mercenaries," and those were the words which I asked the noble Lord to withdraw. He has withdrawn them, and the House will bear me out that the hon. Member for North Kerry in his speech had not given any indication of a charge of corruption. I must leave that matter in the hands of the House.


The right hon. Gentleman opposite has appealed to me. I confess that I do not know whether he expects that, after the Leader of the House has stated his opinion that this is a gross Breach of the Privileges of the House, I should express a different view. Well, then, I do not hold any different opinion. My right hon. Friend put the matter distinctly, as you, Sir, have also pointed out. The whole venom and virus of this matter lies in the imputation of personal corruption to a large number of Members of this House. These are the words— For a century at least the House of Commons has never been suspected of corruption. And then follows this sentence— Are we prepared to run the risk of losing this priceless advantage"— that is, the advantage of having the House pure and clear from corruption— for the sake of enabling the Gladstonian Party to keep a band of 'paid mercenaries' in steady attendance at Westminster? Now, is there any man of ordinary intelligence who can read those sentences in any other signification than that the Irish Members are corrupt, and are paid for voting in a particular way in this House? No man of common sense can read them otherwise. However averse we may be to enter upon a question of this kind—and for my part I am always very reluctant to do anything of the kind—I hope it will not be regarded as a Party contest when we are about to consider the great question of the Irish Government—and we shall at least take care that it shall not be introduced to this House by vile calumnies of this character, discrediting a whole body of men whom a great number of Members of this House desire and insist should remain at Westminster and be our Colleagues and our equals here. Ought we not to begin this discussion, if we are to begin it with any sense of fairness and decency, by repudiating by the unanimous voice of the House such foul, such false, such calumnious imputations? I do venture to submit to this House that, whatever we may do afterwards, we should take this opportunity in the form in which it offers to us—of saying, one and all, whatever Party we may belong to, that we do not believe charges of this character, and that we are not prepared thus to treat the Members from Ireland, who are in a difficult position, and who we all know are not rich men, but who, I believe, are independent and honourable men, and that we do not accept statements of this nature in the House of Commons. I hope in the name of the House of Commons, which after all is an assembly of gentlemen, we shall concur with one voice and declare that we reject and repudiate these statements.


On a point of Order, may I ask that the Clerk at the Table should read the whole of the paragraph on which this allusion is based, because it appears to me that it has nothing whatever to do with the supposed imaginary payment of hon. Members at the present time, but has to do with a consequence The Times foresees of the payment of Members by law?

At the request of Mr. Speaker the Chief Clerk read the paragraph referred to as follows:— This deliberate judgment of the greatest of the philosophical Radicals, the Gamaliel at whose feet Mr. Morley and Mr. Bryce have sat, may not startle some of our modern politicians who know well that, what Mill denounced some five and-thirty-years ago, they are doing themselves every day,-not merely as individuals, but as the framers of Newcastle programmes and the like. When, however, it is clear that new dangers are added to those which Mill foresaw, when it is evident that the adventurer who secures his precarious £300 a year by flattering the multitude will find himself with straightened means in a luxurious society, and at the same tine with power to accommodate or to inconvenience powerful interests capable of holding out temptations like those brought to bear in France by the financiers connected with the Panama Canal, can we doubt what the result will be? For a century, at least, the House of Commons has never been even suspected of corruption. Are we prepared to run the risk of losing this priceless advantage for the sake of enabling the Gladstonian Party to keep a band of paid mercenaries' in steady attendance at Westminster without depleting the 'war chest' of the Party. which is conscious that, at no distant date, it will have to face another appeal to the constituencies? The arrangement, no doubt, would be convenient both to the Gladstonians and to their Irish allies, but we are sure it will not enhance either the immediate popularity or the historical reputation of the Ministry that is ill-advised enough to bring it forward in Parliament.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)

said, the Leader of the Opposition had said that the attacks in The Times did not concern him, but he should say tint any unfounded attack on a Member of this House did concern him as Leader of a Party. There was one special reason why the House should take action in this matter. This newspaper had been engaged for the past seven or eight years in a conspiracy to defame the Representatives of Ireland, and they knew that three or four years ago it lent itself in the most audacious and deliberate manner to a system of forgery in order to prove charges against them which if proved would have led, perhaps, to expulsion from the House. It was high time, in his opinion, that a stop was put to such proceedings and to such a method of warfare. The present article was but a continuation of the articles written against the late Mr. Parnell and his Colleagues, and for that reason alone they should press the matter to an issue.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

The Leader of the House told us When the passage was read by the Clerk that he could not say "No" to the proposition that a gross Breach of the Privileges of the House had been committed. I confess, on hearing the passage read, that I felt with the right hon. Gentleman that it was impossible to say "No" to the proposition. But, if I understand the position a right, the clerk read two passages separated by some sentences, and the second passage, which was not read by the hon. Member for North Kerry, was distinct from the passage he did read, and was not connected in argument with it. Therefore, on the first blush, the words of the three passages were read as one, and, under a possible misapprehension of their meaning, this course of procedure may involve us in considerable difficulty. Supposing that this question is put and affirmed by the House, you must then move that the editor, or printer, or publisher of the newspaper should appear at the Bar.


No; not necessarily.


My right hon. Friend says "No," but he ought to, not as a matter of strict Parliamentary necessity, but as a matter of common sense and justice, require that if you are going to pass the proposition that certain passages amount to a gross Breach of Privilege, you should not pass a condemnation upon the person who committed that breach without giving him an opportunity of explaining his meaning, and defending or apologising. As a matter of equity you ought to follow up the first step by the second. If that argument were offered, I do not know at present what conclusion we should arrive at, for we have not got before us, in black and white, what the words of the argument are. I never read or saw the article until it was brought under the notice of the House by the hon. Member for North Kerry. I may add that my own feeling towards these methods of warfare is one of profound abhorrence. It is impossible to express adequate disgust at those kinds of attacks, from whatever quarter they may come. I regret very much that anyone should have been led into the impropriety of making a suggestion which has naturally been amplified into the consequences now before the House. But if the proposition before us is affirmed, we must, as a matter of justice, have the responsible person here to hear what he has to say, and I think we shall enter into a position which may possibly not be very creditable or end very satisfactorily for us. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that since the Leader of the House had said that he must answer "Yes," he himself would not venture to differ.


I did not say that. What I said was that I could not be expected to do so.


Well, I do not wish to say anything rude. I Withdraw and apologise at once. The right hon. Gentleman said he could not be expected to differ from the Leader of the House. But I remember a former occasion on which a Breach of Privilege occurred when a Motion was made that the conduct of the Daily News newspaper constituted a Breach of Privilege, and when a Motion was made to bring the responsible person to the Bar it was felt that we were in a very awkward position on account of the first step. Some one the next day suggested a course to the then Leader of the House, Mr. Disraeli, that of moving the Previous Question, and he said he would have done it but it had not occurred to him. That seems to me to be the right course to pursue at this juncture, for the convenience of the House and having regard to the results which will attach to the House hereafter. We are pretty well agreed in our sentiments towards these imputations, but whether the gross imputations that constitute a Breach of Privilege have been made is a debate able fact. I have not had the advantage of reading this article, but it is admitted that the disputable part—the part that you had not heard, Mr. Speaker, when you expressed the opinion—is a part of the article much lower down, disconnected from the former, not following upon it, and that the dread or suggestion that, corruption might hereafter be brought against the House was not brought against hon. Gentlemen opposite in their position as Members, but with regard to the general question of the payment of Members. I submit that the course most convenient to the House, and which in the end will be found best calculated to preserve its honour, is not to enter into this kind of warfare by taking official notice of attacks made outside the House. One does not know at all where there is to be an end if we once begin. An hon. Member behind me has again and again been charged with being the paid agent of the Irish landlords, but he has disregarded the imputation, as he was entitled to do. Hon. Members opposite are aware that the feeling of the House is entirely in their favour with regard to the present imputation, and I think, therefore, that they may join me in the suggestion that the matter should be dropped, not by saying "No" to the Motion, but by moving the Previous Question.


Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to move an Amendment?


No, Sir; I did not move an Amendment.

MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

rose from a seat under the gallery, and wits received with cries of "Order!"


Order, order! of the hon. Gentleman wishes to address the House he must come within the precincts of the House.


coining to the Bar, said he had to apologise for his mistake. On a point of Order he wished to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman had moved any Amendment to the Motion. He understood from what the right hon. Gentleman laid just said that two passages of the article were in question, and not one. Might he inquire what was the Motion before the House?


The three paragraphs are before the House, and no Amendment has them moved with regard to them.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I desire to point out that there cannot be the smallest doubt in the mind of any hon. Gentleman who will read this article through as to the clear intention of the writer, in the different passages throughout the article, to charge corruption on the Irish Party.

But if there be any doubt at all I would point to a passage which has not yet been read, and which runs as follows:— If this be so "—that is. if the statement of the made Lord be true—" what shall we say of the attempt to carry by means of a majority thus constituted and supported"—call anything be more direct than that?—" a measure of vast constitutional change—an attempt made, moreover, on the part of a statesman"—mark this, for it settles the question, and makes the charge more pointed and foul—"who has denounced, in an almost frenzied strain, the iniquity of Pitt and Castlereagh in buying up Irish borough-mongers and placemen at the time of the Union? I want to know, if that be not a gross and shameful Breach of the Privileges of this House, what is? It refers not to the general action of persons outside the House, but specifically to a Bill under the consideration of the House, and it challenges the Government, first of all, with imitating the conduct of Pitt and Castlereagh, the statesmen whom the Leader of the Government is charged with denouncing; and the article charges us directly with imitating the conduct of the infamous men whom Pitt and Castlereagh purchased. The only excuse which the Leader of the Opposition put forward—and it is a very lame and mean excuse for neglecting a duty which is his as much as it is the duty of the Leader of the House, to defend the honour of the Members of this House, when it is foully and calumniously attacked—the only reason he gives for shirking his duty is this—that he could come down to the House with armfuls of extracts from United Ireland and other Irish papers. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman could find many extracts charging him with misconduct in his administration in Ireland, but I question whether out, of the files of United Ireland or any other newspaper he could extract a charge of doing any act in this House from corrupt pecuniary motives. I have never seen such a charge; and even if he could come down and rake up any such charge from Irish newspapers I hold that the two cases are separate and apart. What is the ground on which we claim at the hands of our Colleagues protection against this newspaper, The Times? This is not an isolated case. It is done in pursuance of one of the most infamous conspiracies carried on by a great and powerful journal, which. does not circulate at a distance from this place, but which influences the atmosphere of our deliberations—a cowardly, base, and unscrupulous conspiracy—a, conspiracy which for 10 years this newspaper has carried on by the most unscrupulous and ruthless means to drive us out of public life, and to make it impossible for us to do our duty. This paper has pursued us with calumny and false charges, and has returned to them again and again when they have proved to be false. They tried perjury against us, they accused us of a murderous conspiracy, and they have spent, I should think, £200,000 in constructing a vast conspiracy based upon calumny and forgery, which, had it been successful—as it might have been, because we are open to the reproach of being poor men —would have driven us not only out of this House, but out of the country, if not into gaol. That has been defeated and exposed, and now, in collusion with the noble Lord—they were formerly collusion with Pigott—they have recourse to a base charge of corruption as regards our duty in this House. I tell the noble Viscount that there is not a man sitting round me who, if his action in the House be examined in its minutest particulars, will be afraid to set it beside any other hon. Gentleman, whether titled or commoner, who sits in this House. Is this newspaper to be allowed to go on with this base and abominable war of calumny and falsehood against the Irish Members, or shall we get the protection which, as honourable men, I think we are entitled to from our colleagues in this House.

*MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid.)

I only wish to say a few words, which may, perhaps, tend to smooth rather than aggravate this difficulty. I do not believe these charges against my political opponents in Ireland, and I wish to dissociate myself from such accusations. But is it wise for the House to pursue this matter? Where is it to stop? It is within the knowledge of every Member in the House that these hon. Members have themselves, in their speeches and journals, deliberately charged the Tory Party with having the Paruellites in their pay. I have distinct and definite confirmation of this statement in my- hands. What does The Star of to day say? The Star directly and deliberately makes a charge of corruption against a Member of the House. [Cries of "Order!"]


Order, order! Whether another paper has made such a statement is not the question now before the House, The question is, Whether the words read to the House do in themelves constitute a breach of privilege? The hon. and learned Member may argue, as a question of policy, that it is not wise that the House should decide that they do constitute a breach of privilege.


I bow, Mr. Speaker, to your decision, but I desire to argue that it is not wise for the House to proceed in this particular matter. As an Irish Member—and I say it sincerely—I regret that these charges have been made, and I do not believe them. But I submit that, in support of my argument, I may be permitted to read the counter-charge made by the newspaper to which I have referred.


The rule is very strict in these cases. The House has to decide on the passages read. Any extract from the columns of any other newspaper would not be admissible.


Then, Sir, I shall take the advice of my friends as to whether I shall not make a Motion on the subject afterwards.

ME. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)

I do not desire to detain the House for more than a moment; and still less do I desire to add to the heat of this discussion. I have only risen for the purpose of begging the House not to allow the special pleading of any of its Members, however distinguished, to turn it aside from its manifest duty to. itself as well as to us. The accusation made against Irish Members is a peculiarly cruel one by reason of the fact that those Members are in the main poor men. They are men who would not have been able during these last 10 or 12 years to attend this House to represent the views of their countrymen unless by the generosity and the confidence of their countrymen they had been provided with the means of doing so. The knowledge of that fact imposes upon the House a very serious duty to defend us in cases of this kind. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) and my hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken, have alluded to the fact that during the unfortunate internecine struggle that has been going on in Ireland accusations of a somewhat similar character have been not altogether unheard of. I regret to say such is the case. As far as I am concerned, I have recognised that those accusations directed against myself and some others have proceeded, for the most part, from what I may call thoughtless speakers, but they have also proceeded from men who ought to have known better—men who are near me now, and who ought to be ashamed of themselves. But I agree with the late Chairman of Committees that political weapons of this kind are weapons which should be despised and resented by every honourable man; and, for my part, I have never during all the excitement in Ireland descended to the use of such weapons. The fact that they have been used will never prevent me, no matter how I may smart under such accusations, especially when made by my own countrymen, from joining with any of my countrymen in resenting similar accusations when made against them. Therefore it is that I have seconded this Motion; and speaking, not in any sectional or Party sense, but as a Nationalist Representative, as a Member of a body composed of poor men, whose honour is as dear to them as the honour or the noblest Lord in this House, I ask the House, having regard to its own duty and the duty it owes us, not to be led into any side issue—not to content itself with the expressions of regret here and there from individual Members, but to place on record in the most formal way its opinion that an accusation of corrupt motives such as this must always be regarded as a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

In listening to the two passages which were read from the Table I confess it did seem to me to be somewhat doubtful whether a Breach of the Privileges of this House had, in fact, been committed, but when I listened to the passage that was subsequently read by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) all doubt vanished from my mind. If now that passage is added to the other passages, and forms part of the subject-matter with which we have to deal, then I must say for myself that if the majority of this House consider it desirable to proceed with this Motion, I cannot resist it, and must vote with them. Whether they should proceed with the Motion is a matter partly of sentiment and partly of policy. On the question of sentiment it is possible that opinions may differ. It is true, as has been said, that charges at least as grave and as unfounded of interested motives have been made against, I believe, every prominent in the House at one time or another, and most or us have thought those charges worthy only of contemptuous indifference. I should have thought that the Irish Members might have taken the same view of the situation. They have heard from all sides of the House to-day expressions of sympathy with them, and an absolute repudiation of the charges made against them. Under these circumstances, I cannot see what more they are to get by having it formally entered on the Journals of this House that the incriminated article is a Breach of its Privileges. That, however, is a matter for them to consider, and it is one upon which differences of opinion may exist. Then comes the question of policy—the question of the dignity of this House, and of the effect upon its future proceedings of any step we may now take. It cannot be that if we are now to take notice of an article like this we shall not be called upon to take notice of many other articles of a similar character, and it seems to me that the business of the Government may be interfered with by such a course, and that under these circumstances it might be possible for the Government, taking into consideration the strong opinion of the House, as it has been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, as well as by the Prime Minister, not to proceed further ill the matter to-night. If my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House takes a different view, I for one have no doubt the dignity of the House is safe in his hands.


It may be for the convenience of the House if I say that in the event of the adoption of this Motion I shall not ask the House to call upon the editor and publisher to appear at the Bar until The Times has had an opportunity of taking cognisance of the vote of the House.


The Question is that those passages do constitute a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House.


My Motion was that the whole article was a Breach of Privilege.


Only the passages read at the Table can be dealt with.


May I ask that the passage which was read by the hon. Member for East Mayo he read at the Table?


I asked the Clerk at the Table to read that passage. I ask you now, Sir, whether that cannot be done?


An addition can be made to the passages which have been read.

The Clerk at the Table then read the following additional passage:— If this be so, what shall we say of the attempt to carry by means of a majority thus constituted and supported a measure of vast constitutional change—an attempt made moreover, on the part of a Statesman who has denounced, in an almost frenzied strain, the iniquity of Pitt and Castlereagh in buying up Irish borough-mongers and placemen at the time of the Union? What shall we say further of the project of coolly shifting this charge—for which, probably, wealthy Gladstonians decline to be 'bled' any longer—on to the broad and patient back of the British taxpaying public?

"Previous Question" moved.—(Mr. Bartley.)


The Previous Question having been moved, I am bound to put it. The House will note the form in which I put it. The Question is, that the Question be not now put.

Question proposed "That the Question be not now put."


I would rather suggest to my hon. Friend that he should not press his Motion to a Division. We have ventured to point out to the House that the course upon which they are now embarking may lead them further than they think in bringing in newspapers other than The Times. We have also pointed out that a Motion of this kind, not followed by any other Motion, may possibly make this House appear rather absurd. These warnings we have clearly given, and I think we have done our duty. We should all unite in repudiating any imputations upon hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, however lunch we may differ as to the particular policy the Government are now recommending. That being so, I think all we are called upon to do has been done, and the Government must take their own line and abide by it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the passages in The Times article complained of constitute a gross breach of the Privileges of this House.—(Mr. Sexton.)