§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I rise, Sir, in accordance with a request preferred yesterday, to ask the indulgence of the House for a very brief space to refer to an incident which hap- 1095 pened while I was absent on Tuesday last. I was present in my place on Wednesday afternoon prepared to say what I now wish to say; but the Public Business extended practically to 6 o'clock, and I was unable to do so. Yesterday afternoon you, Sir, were not in the Chair at the commencement of Public Business, and I had, therefore, no opportunity of referring to the subject. Had this been merely a personal matter, I can assure the House I should not have thought it worth while to ask the House to listen to me, but it is more than a personal matter. It is a matter by which my constituents are affected, and they have a right to expect me to place before the country and before them the reasons which led me to the action upon which, I may say, the unanimous condemnation of the House was passed. But more than that, from the point of view I entertain on the subject, there is a broad general principle involved in this matter to which I have more than once referred. If I were to pass by this matter in silence I might be justly accused of wilful disrespect to this House, and it might be thought that I cared nothing for the good opinion of my colleagues in this House, and that I am wholly indifferent to the esteem in which every Member of this House would desire to be held by his colleagues. I can assure the House that that is not my opinion. I have never been intentionally disrespectful to this House. I am very far indeed from feeling any indifference to the view of my colleagues, either on one side or the other, with respect to my conduct. The letter which I wrote to a newspaper was brought before the House on Tuesday, and after strong expressions of rebuke from the Leaders of both sides of the House a silent but unanimous judgment was passed upon me without my having had an opportunity of saying one word in self-defence. I wish to say at once that it is wholly erroneous for any hon. Member to suppose that I wilfully absented myself on that occasion. The facts are these—I was unfortunately detained by an engagement outside, and did not enter the precincts of the House until 5 o'clock, when the discussion on the unfortunate letter was over. The first intimation I received that I had been the subject of any remarks whatever in this House was communicated to me by a friend of mine when I was down below 1096 upon the terrace. It was after that I came into the House, and, as I passed through the portal, I was presented with the note which the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Tritton) had left earlier in the day for me. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made the statement that I had received full notice of what was going on, and that it was clear that I did not think it incumbent on me to be present; but, as I have shown, that was utterly unfounded. I do not think it quite lies with the right hon. Gentleman to accuse me of wilfully absenting myself upon any occasion upon which my conduct was called in question, as in July, 1889, I was sent to gaol by his orders. I think, Mr. Speaker, I have some reason to complain that when this matter was brought up on Tuesday some slight opportunity was not afforded me to be present before this condemnation was passed upon me. Not a single Member throughout the proceedings suggested that it was possible that I might not have received notice, and not a single Member got up and said that it would not be fair to condemn me in my absence, and that it was necessary to ascertain whether I was behaving in a recalcitrant manner in abstaining from attending in my place. I ask that the same measure of fairness which is meted out to others should be meted out to me. Only a few moments before a question had arisen between an hon. Member and the Member for West Birmingham, and in the absence of his chief the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) got up and made a long statement in order to kill time. [Cries of "Order!" and "Question! "] I am stating my view. I think, at any rate, the same opportunity which was afforded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who read his telegram, should have been allowed me to make my statement. I am not making that statement because I complain. I am able to fight my own battles, and I have never asked anyone to strike a blow for me; but the fact that this measure of fairness was not dealt out to me renders it necessary I should take the step which I have taken this afternoon in order to show that the Representative of a Mining Division of Cornwall is not afraid to meet his accusers and judges face to face. My principal reason for 1097 bringing this matter before the House is because a broad general principle and question is at issue—namely, whether it is or is not proper for a Member to call in question, or to pass any criticism on, any ruling of the Speaker through the medium of the public Press. I think every Member of the House will agree with me when I say that we all desire to share the good opinion and esteem of the Prime Minister. [Cries of "Oh!"]
§ An hon. MEMBER: No.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I beg pardon for having forgotten that there might he one Member too graceless to desire it. [Cries of "Question! "] For my part, I have to acknowledge—and I do so with gratitude—the kind and generous words which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed on my behalf to my constituents before now; and I should be sorry indeed if, through any action or language of mine, I were to forfeit the good opinion which he has on those occasions expressed. Mr. Speaker, during the speech which you made on Tuesday, you used similar expressions, and you said that you did not think it the proper course for any hon. Member who found your conduct censurable to write to the papers, but that the proper course was to impugn your conduct in this House. As to the position which is thus outlined, I desire to say two things. In the first place, I am not capable of forgetting either what is due to the Speaker or to myself; and, in the second place, I wish to say that I do not subscribe to the doctrine which he has laid down—I confess that it is a bold thing to say—by the two greatest living authorities. I do not think that that doctrine in all its plenitude is exactly consonant with the democratic spirit of the present day. I will give two reasons. ["Question!"] I maintain that the Speaker is a public authority, a public institution, or—using the expression without any disrespect—a public servant of the people, and I do say it is outrageous that any public servant should be superior to the criticism of the public Press. In the case even of the Sovereign herself, it is not claimed that she should be free from such criticism; 1098 and I do not see how we, as Radicals, can maintain any public authority or public servant if such authority or servant is never to be criticised in the columns of the public Press on a matter affecting the welfare of the public.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
If that is so with regard to general criticism by the Press, I do not see why, when I was endeavouring to show that direct questions of general public interest are concerned, that—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
I am sure my hon. Friend will excuse me, but it is under a sense of duty that I rise to raise a question of Order. I have taken this upon myself, feeling from the circumstances of the case that the Chair was, perhaps, in some part incapacitated from acting in respect to the Order of the House as the Chair would otherwise act. Now, Sir, when my hon. Friend rose to vindicate himself against the charge of apparent disrespect to the House, which seemed to be before us on a former day, it certainly appeared to me that in performing that office he was strictly within the lines of a personal explanation. I did not think that anybody on that day intended to accuse my hon. Friend of want of courage and manliness in the maintenance of his opinions. His courage and integrity are beyond all dispute, but of course we were in this difficulty—that the hon. Member who brought forward the subject assured us that he had given notice to my hon. Friend. What now appears is that what the hon. Member called giving notice was leaving a note with the doorkeeper of this House.
§ MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
May I state exactly what happened? I was very anxious indeed to give the hon. Member for Camborne full notice. I came down at half-past 9 o'clock, and asked the Post Office official to take the note and put it with the letters of the 1099 hon. Gentleman, in order that he might be certain to get it the moment he came into the House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I made no imputation upon the hon. Gentleman; but he used words which certainly conveyed to my mind, at least, that notice had been received. So far it appears to me that my hon. Friend was within the limits of a personal explanation, and not only should I not have thought of interrupting him, but I should have heard with pleasure what he had to say if he had confined himself to that. But then he went on to a totally different question, and he stated and appeared to raise for our consideration this very important subject—namely, whether it was open to a Member of this House to question the conduct of the Speaker of this House through the columns of a public journal? I did not understand that to be the question before us on the former occasion, whether the judgment we arrived at was prudent or imprudent, desirable or undesirable. It is one thing to raise a question whether there had been an error of judgment on the part of the Speaker, but the letter of my hon. Friend went far beyond that, and, if I recollect, the hon. Gentleman imputed gross partiality, and that the Speaker had displayed obliquity of judgment produced by some mental prejudice. The House discussed the latter question, and formulated a conclusion, and that was on account of the advice given by the Chair, and I think that the method of that advice and the prudence and policy of that advice were felt universally by the House, and gave great intensity to the approval with which the address from the Chair was received. It is perfectly competent for my hon. Friend, I apprehend, to argue at the proper time and in the proper manner, if he thinks fit, that Members of this House ought to be free to canvas anywhere and in any way the conduct of the Speaker in the Chair; but I feel very strongly that no hon. Gentleman can do that in the character of a personal explanation. That is raising a principle of extreme breadth; and what I feel it my duty to put to the House is that it is a question which cannot possibly be raised under cover of a personal 1100 explanation, and that if my hon. Friend wishes to establish for himself liberty to question in the House the conduct of the Speaker in the Chair in respect of partiality that is a question which can only be raised by him in the form of a regular Motion.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for indicating the limitation of the subject with which I am permitted to deal. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have not the slightest desire to argue the matter; and I shall not refer any more to the point I was discussing. I merely advanced it in order to show what my motive was, and that it was not a personal matter. The Prime Minister practically asks me to address myself to the more particular point—namely, the placing of the matter before the House by means of a formal Resolution. I want to say one word upon that. I do not wish to do so, as I am not making any charge of partiality against the Speaker. It is well known to everybody that it is practically impossible for a private Member to raise any question of a Vote of Censure on the Speaker in the House. No doubt there is a copy of the letter I have written on the Table of the House, which can be reproduced if I am not correct; but I can tell the Prime Minister that there is not a single syllable in the letter which charged partiality against the Speaker. [Cries of "Oh! "] If I may say what was in my mind when I wrote, I will state that I considered that the Speaker had attributed to the passage of the Coercion Act of 1887 greater importance than to the passage of the Home Rule Bill. That, if a correct view on my part, was not a charge of partiality against the Speaker, but merely a suggestion of an error of judgment on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Speaking as a Member of the Radical Party, as was said by the Prime Minister the other day, the Coercion Bill destroys the Constitutional rights of a nation, and deserves more prolonged criticism than a Bill to extend and establish popular rights. The acceptance of the Closure in 1887 and its refusal on Friday morning last suggested to me that, in the view of the 1101 Speaker, the Opposition in 1887 was obstructive, while the present Opposition was not.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
I rise to a point of Order. In the interests of Public Business I ask you, Sir, whether, in making a personal explanation, my hon. Friend is not confined to explaining his personal conduct?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes; but I do not altogether choose to sit quiet under the fresh imputations of the hon. Gentleman. All I can say is that if the doctrine he has laid down is accepted by this House, I would not consent to occupy this Chair for 24 hours. Why did I make the remarks I made the other day, and why did I regard the charge of the hon. Gentleman as a gross imputation on my conduct? Because the hon. Gentleman, alone among the Members of this House, has on previous repeated occasions done exactly the same thing. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has induced me to say this; but I will not sit down under the imputation that the hon. Gentleman, in the action which he has taken against me, is performing the part of a great public duty. Under the guise of a great public duty he has repeated those charges, which are gross—[Loud cheers in which the remainder of the sentence was lost.] I recollect that in April, 1887, the hon. Gentleman, at the Westminster Palace Hotel, made charges against me of a most outrageous character; that they were taken notice of in this House; that the hon. Gentleman then apologised for them; that an hon. Member came to me in the Chair, and said he should move that what the hon. Gentleman had said was a gross Breach of the Privileges of this House, and I begged him not to do so; that another hon. Gentleman on that occasion put into my hands a notice that the hon. Member be expelled this House, and I begged him not to do so. The matter rested with an apology of the hon. Gentleman; but in 1888, on July 20, the hon. Member thought proper in this House to make use, with regard to me, of a scandalous expression. I named the hon. 1102 Gentleman, he withdrew the expression, and no further action was taken. On the next day—in the meantime he had written a letter to a public journal accusing me of gross partiality—he disclaimed the intention of accusing me of partiality; but the very terms which he then used he now repeats in this letter. The House took action on that occasion. I hope the House will excuse my personal feeling in this matter. I desire to stand well with this Assembly, and I wish, if I may be permitted to say so, to repudiate with honest indignation the charge that the hon. Member brings against me. On that occasion the House took action. The House passed two Resolutions. The first was that the letter of the hon. Member to a journal was a gross libel upon the Speaker. The second Resolution was that he be suspended, and he was suspended; and now, forsooth, under the guise of performing a great public duty, the hon. Member comes down here and charges me with a gross offence, the grossest offence that a man in my position could commit. There is no man on that (the Ministerial) Bench who could get up and say that the granting of the Closure, for not doing which the hon. Member condemns me, would not have been grossly unfair at the time he made the Motion. I have nothing more to say. I only hope the House will pardon the heat and warmth I have shown in this matter. I should be scarcely human if I had not.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think, too, under the circumstances of the case, the proper step next to take will be that which the hon. Gentleman himself invited—namely, that the letter in question should, for the refreshment of our memories, be again read to the House.
Whereupon the said letter was again read, as followeth:—
Mr. Conybeare and the Closure.
The Editor of The Daily Chronicle.
Sir,—Perhaps you will allow a 'luckless' wight to state why he courted the 'withering' asperity of Mr. Speaker by making what your reporter is pleased to consider an inopportune Motion for the Closure' at half-past three a.m. on Friday morning.
I knew perfectly well that the Speaker would refuse the Motion. Indeed, it was the talk of the Lobby that he had earlier in the
evening told our leaders it must be a two days' Debate. Whether that be so or not, we felt on our side that we could not give in to the Tory demand to postpone the carrying of the Resolution till Friday afternoon, without the justification of vis major in the shape of the Speaker's refusal to accept any Closure Motion. The moment I had elicited his emphatic refusal to Closure the Debate the conditions of the fight were altered, and even without the compromise with the Opposition Leaders we should have been relieved of all further responsibility, and could have gone home to bed with an easy conscience. I fail, therefore, to see what of inopportune there was in my Motion.
Another not insignificant advantage I gained by it, viz., that it called pointed attention, which the Speaker's curt severity only emphasized the more, to the contrast between his treatment of the Liberal majority on this occasion and his treatment of the Tory majority under the parallel circumstances of June 10, 1887. But then, of course, a Liberal Home Rule Bill is not to be compared with a Tory Coercion for ever-and-ever Bill.
I believe I moved the Closure at nearly the same hour at which it was accepted by the Speaker on the historic occasion of the 1887 precedent.—Yours obediently,
C. A. V. CONYBEARE.
Southwold, July 1.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think, under the circumstances, as I do not understand my hon. Friend to have exhibited any disposition to withdraw or apologise, my first duty is to move "that the letter which has been read is a breach of the Privileges of this House."
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the letter written by Mr. Conybeare, published in The Daily Chronicle newspaper of the 3rd July, constitutes a breach of the Privileges of this House."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
I think, Sir, that as a matter of fair play, if the hon. Member for Camborne has not concluded the statement which he intended to make he should be allowed to do so—[Cries of "Oh!" and "No, no!"]—and especially after what the Prime Minister has called the refreshment of the House by the reading of the letter.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
Perhaps, under the circumstances, I may be allowed, Sir, with great respect to say one or two words. I remember upon a 1104 memorable occasion, which I shall never forget, a serious allegation was made against the hon. Member for Mid-Cork by the hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary to the Local Government Board, and, Sir, I conceive that never was the high office which you so admirably fill better discharged than when you rose, when the House was inclined to take a severe step, and suggested that a calmer temper might be adopted, and that it was hardly becoming of the House, when an expression of regret had been made, that the subject should be pursued any further. I would suggest to my hon. Friend that the case is one in which, in view of the general feeling of the House, and without regard to what may be his abstract attitude on the particular question, that this is an occasion when the hon. Member, out of deference to the respect in which you, Sir, are held in all quarters of the House, and to the fact that we here in this quarter being in a minority—at one time a somewhat persecuted minority—have frequently been afforded the shelter of your protection, and I certainly should respectfully say to my hon. Friend, whose motives I do not impugn, and whose anxious desire for the liberties of Ireland—for which he suffered three months' imprisonment—I wish to acknowledge—I say the occasion is one when his dignity would not suffer by expressing regret. [Laughter.] Yes, however strongly he may feel in the matter, I would suggest that he should express regret, in view of the attitude and the personal pain shown by Mr. Speaker, which must have touched every one of us, showing how keenly he felt as a personal matter the language of the hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "Divide!" and "Vote!"] As a matter personal to Mr. Speaker, and in view of the pain he has shown in reference to the charges made, my hon. Friend would be advancing the cause we all have at heart if he were to express regret for the pain he has caused.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! In the circumstances, and unless he has anything to say, the hon. Member for Cam-borne will withdraw from the House.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I do not think that, under the circumstances, it would be any use for me, at the present moment, to continue the statement of my motives and intentions, which I was endeavouring to place before the House just now. I have listened with great gratitude to the suggestions made by my hon. Friends on both sides of the House. I should be contradicting what I said just now as to my desire to share and merit the good opinion of hon. Members of this House if I were not to pay very careful attention to the suggestions which have been made to me. I have endeavoured to make plain that in the course which I have adopted I was not actuated by personal feeling—certainly not by any ill-feeling—towards the Speaker. I listened, Mr. Speaker, with the same pain as other hon. Members to the expression of your own feelings in this matter. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I had not the intention—I hope my expression will be accepted as genuine and sincere—I had not the intention of inflicting pain. ["Oh!"] I had not the intention of pursuing the Speaker in a rancorous manner, and, accepting the feeling of the House and the advice 'which have been tendered to me by hon. Members who are my friends, I have no hesitation in expressing my regret to you, Mr. Speaker, that what I have done has been taken and accepted by the House and by you, Sir, in the sense in which it has. ["Oh!"] I do unreservedly state my regret to Mr. Speaker, adding that I acted in the way I did in the belief that I was maintaining a public principle. ["Oh!"] In that I certainly bow to the wishes and feelings of the House that my views as to that point were wrong. I have no hesitation in admitting that I am wrong when I am wrong. [Cries of "Apologise!"] I say, in view of the feeling of the House, in view of the importance of the position in which we are placed in this crisis, I have no desire whatever to prolong this incident, and I therefore hope, Mr. Speaker, that what I have said may be accepted by yourself and by the House. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ Mr. Conybeare thereupon withdrew from the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I merely rise to protest, in a word or two, against one expression that was used by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, which has just been repeated by the hon. Member for Camborne. I am sure the House appreciated the very graceful tribute of the hon. and learned Member for Louth to yourself; but the hon. and learned Member went on to say that he hoped the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall would express his regret at having given pain to you; and he stated that you had said that you felt pain, or had shown pain, at the attack of the hon. Member. I rise, Sir, to say that, so far as my friends and myself are concerned, we did not understand you to state that you felt pain, or to exhibit any pain. What we did understand was that you showed a natural indignation—at a gross offence. Sir, I will only say, in sitting down, that in the whole course of my experience in the House I hare never heard a lamer apology for so scandalous an offence.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Sir, I am one of those who think that almost any offence that a Member may commit—apart, of course, from dishonourable intention—against the Rules or against the authorities of this House ought to be considered as purged by frank, intelligent, and complete apology—but I am compelled to say that that is not the character of what has been said by the hon. Member. The hon. Member, I have no doubt, disclaimed all intention of doing wrong; but, Sir, the intent of the hon. Member is not the matter now before us—we have to deal with fact. Looking at that I regret to think that he has offered no reparation or extenuation that this House can possibly accept for the brief aberration from duty which he has unhappily committed; and it appears to me, I must confess, that the House ought to mark 1107 its sense of the gravity of this occurrence by the suspension of the hon. Member from his duties as a Member of the House for—I believe a fortnight is—[Cries of "The rest of the Session!" and "A week!"] I understand a week is the period.
MR. SPEAKER (interposing)
The first Question before the House is that the letter constitutes a breach of Privilege.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes; that is to be decided, and then it will be competent for the right hon. Gentleman to make any further Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The first Question I have to put to the House is—That the letter written by Mr. Conybeare, published in The Daily Chronicle newspaper of the 3rd July, constitutes a breach of the Privileges of this House.Those who are of that opinion say "Aye."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. SPEAKER assented.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Then I make my Motion, Sir. I have to move that Mr. Conybeare be suspended during one week from the service of this House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I rise, Sir, to second the Motion which has just been made by the Leader of the House. I venture respectfully to remind the House that the Question before them, as might be supposed from some words dropped in the course of the Debate, is not as to the personal feelings of the Speaker upon a matter which he may be justified in regarding as an imputation thrown out against himself. We are concerned solely as to the dignity and position of this House, and I conceive that it would not only be an insult to the Speaker, but to the House, if we were to accept as any apology for the offence an expression of regret that the Speaker has suffered pain, even if that were the fact. You, 1108 Sir, pointed out when this matter came before us the other day, that it was not respectful, in your judgment, to the House for any hon. Member who thinks your conduct censurable to write to the newspapers. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne has not only written to the newspapers on the occasion referred to, but he has repeated and emphasised the offence which he committed by communicating certain correspondence to the Press relating to the subject, and, if I may say so, by what he described as his apology just now. I do not wish to characterise that apology, or that attempt at apology. It has been done adequately and efficiently by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and it is not necessary—and, being unnecessary, it is not fitting—that I should add anything to what the right hon. Gentleman has said on the subject. I hope the House will feel that, in dealing with the hon. Gentleman in the mode proposed by the Leader of the House, we are doing the very best that can be done. I must remind the House that this is not the first or the second time upon which the hon. Gentleman has committed an offence of this kind. Upon one occasion the House will recollect that he was suspended for a week. I believe in the ordinary course of procedure it would usually be thought necessary to augment that period of suspension on the present occasion. [Cries of "No!"] I myself, however, feel that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has taken a wise course in inclining to mercy; and I am glad that he has substituted the period of a week for the longer period of a fortnight, which, perhaps, the strict equities of the case might demand. I think the House will feel that the right hon. Gentleman has adopted a wise course, and one which is best calculated to maintain the dignity of our Debates, which, Mr. Speaker, is so entirely bound up in your position.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Mr. Conybeare be suspended from the service of the House for one week."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
I appreciate the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, and I will only say this: that I desire to apologise to the House for having shown 1109 personal indignation in this matter. The offence which has been committed is not an offence against myself personally, but against the office I hold, and, through it, an offence against the House itself. I would very respectfully and diffidently suggest to the House that if the hon. Member for Camborne will come into the House and apologise—not to me personally—but apologise to me in my capacity as Speaker of this House, and will apologise through the Speaker to the House of Commons itself, I say in that case I should respectfully suggest that the House of Commons should accept that apology, and that the Motion be withdrawn.
§ MR. SEXTON
I humbly agree, Sir, with all that you have said. I would suggest that a short interval should now be allowed. [Cries of "Order!" and "No!"] Are hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway more zealous for order than Mr. Speaker? I am only asking that a reasonable interval should be allowed, so that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne may have notice of what has transpired conveyed to him before we come to a decision on the punitive Motion.
§ Mr. STOREY (Sunderland) rose and left the House.
§ After an interval of some five minutes' duration,
§ SIR J. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
Although it seemed to me an unreasonable request on the part of the hon. Member for North Kerry that an interval should be allowed, that interval has already been given by the permission of the House; and as the hon. Member has not appeared, I think we should proceed to a Division upon the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. STOREY here re-entered the House, and was followed by Mr. CONYBEARE.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
(reading from a written statement):— 1110I desire to express my unqualified regret for the publication of any expressions reflecting on Mr. Speaker. I withdraw them.The statement was received with loud cries of "Oh!" "Divide!" "Withdraw!" and "Speak up!"
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Motion is that Mr. Conybeare be suspended from the service of the House for one week. Is it the pleasure of the House that the Motion be withdrawn? [Cries of "Yes!" and "No!"]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE [Cries of "Divide!"]
If I heard the hon. Member aright he has now expressed his unqualified regret—
§ Several hon. MEMBERS: Only for publication.
§ Another hon. MEMBER: Not at the act [Cries of "Divide!"]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (having had the paper from which Mr. Conybeare had read handed to him)
The hon. Member has expressed his unqualified regret for the publication—[Cries of "Publication!"]—"for the publication of expressions reflecting on the Speaker. I withdraw them." [Cries of "Oh!"] It appears to me that this unqualified regret having been expressed, I should be in favour of the House accepting that apology, and I now ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot conceal from myself that had I been responsible for the conduct of the Business of the House or for giving advice to the House in this matter I should have been inclined, although I fully appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's motive, to dissent from the advice he has just given us. We have endeavoured to wring slowly and painfully from the reluctant mouth of the hon. Member for Camborne something in the nature of an adequate apology for an offence which is 1111 not his first offence of the kind, and, therefore, I confess I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has given the advice that he has just given us. But, at the same time, I am strongly of opinion that in all these matters the House should act together—unanimously. I also recognise that the matter and circumstances of the words, leaving out of account the actual phraseology—may with a little goodwill be interpreted into a full retractation and apology. Under these circumstances, I would earnestly deprecate any division, and I should hope—whether the Leader of the House be well or ill-advised in the course that he has taken—a course which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, no doubt, with an earnest desire to maintain the dignity of this House, that we shall follow the line indicated by the right hon. Gentleman and allow the Motion to be withdrawn.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.