HC Deb 28 February 1893 vol 9 cc565-7

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether his attention has been called to a letter signed Frank S. Russell, which appeared in The Times of 14th February containing a grave charge against the Chairman of the Scottish Fishery Board; whether he is aware that this charge was explicitly made in leading articles in The Scotsman newspaper of 16th and 20th December, 1892, and has never been contradicted by that gentleman; and whether it is intended to take proceedings against the publishers of The Scotsman, or Colonel Russell, or both, for promulgating a defamatory libel against a public official; or in any other way to establish the falsehood of the charges publicly made against his good faith?


My attention was attracted by the charge made against the Chairman of the Fishery Board in a letter signed Frank S. Russell. That charge consisted in the allegation that at a meeting of the Fishery Board the Chairman had supported a certain view with regard to a question before the Board relating to trawling in the Moray Firth. Mr. Russell made his allegation on the authority of a member of the Board. The Fishery Board, like all other similarly constituted administrative bodies, holds its meetings in private, and all that passes there is confidential except the ultimate decision at which the Board arrive. For a member of the Fishery Board to bring before the public what he states to have passed at the Board with the object of casting on a colleague a reflection, whether that colleague is the Chairman or not, is neither more or less in accordance with the rules observed in public business and public life than if a member of the Board of Admiralty was to give his version of what passed in the confidence and privacy of the Board-room in order to attack a colleague. The allegation which Mr. Esslemont has denied—a denial which, as far as I am concerned, is absolutely conclusive—should never have been made; and that is all I have to say about it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last paragraph of the question?


In my opinion it ought not to have been put. The hon. Member has been connected with the Treasury, and knows the rules, customs, and proprieties attending the transaction of Public Business.

MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a searching inquiry as to how this matter came out?

MR.DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &C.)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Frank Russell referred to in the question is the Russell whom Mr. Esslemont severely defeated at the last General Election?


I have reason to believe that it is.