HC Deb 22 March 1894 vol 22 cc870-2

I am sorry to have to ask the indulgence of the House, but I desire to make a statement partly personal to myself and partly affecting the Department which I represent in this House. There is a letter of a, very unusual character from a Member of this House (the Member for West Belfast) in The Times to-day. I have nothing to do with the first part of that letter, in which he refers to a Motion which stood in his name on the Navy Estimates for Monday and Tuesday nights. He says it was the only one passed over. I may remark that according to the Forms of the House there was only one Motion that could be put. That Motion was negatived. Hon. Members who wished to deal with other Motions duly rose in their place to catch the eye of the Deputy Speaker, but I do not know whether the hon. Member for West Belfast did so, or what measures he took to call attention to the subject. The Motion was as follows:— That, in the opinion of this House, the information given to Parliament by the Parliamentary representatives of the Admiralty with respect to naval matters is misleading and unsatisfactory, and is not calculated either to inform Parliament or to promote the welfare of the Royal Navy. The hon. Gentleman, in his letter to The Times, says this— What I desired to point out was briefly this —that without, I believe, one single exception every answer which has been given to me during the last eight months by representatives of the Admiralty has been absolutely at variance with the facts, has been calculated to mislead the House of Commons and the country with regard to important matters of fact, and has to my knowledge misled and misinformed many persons. I think that the House will agree with me that the letter is of an unusual character for any Member of this House to address to a newspaper, and I do not know how many newspapers, with respect to the representative of a Government Department in this House. I am not going to discuss the matter now. I have given notice to my hon. Friend that I intended to take notice of his letter in the House to-day. I am sorry that the notice given was necessarily brief, and that he is not in his place. I wish to say, first of all, that before I give an answer to any question in this House I always endeavour to sift the matter to the bottom and obtain the best information that I can. Of course, I am dependent on the very trustworthy officials of the Admiralty for the information that I give to the House in reply to the numerous questions put down. My hon. Friend alludes specially to an instance of a question which I answered in respect to the Royal Marine Division at Chatham. With regard to that particular instance, I had the advantage, I may inform the House, of seeing the Colonel Commandant at Chatham, and subsequently I saw the Deputy-Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines, and thoroughly satisfied myself that the facts which I gave the House were correct. I saw the Deputy-Adjutant-General of Marines again today, and I am able to stand to the answer as not having been misleading, but absolutely accurate from beginning to end. I really do not need to say more than that, except this—that I was perfectly prepared on Monday and Tuesday evenings to meet my hon. Friend on the subject of his Motion, and if he will do that which I think should be done when an imputation of this kind has been made on any Member of this House, if he will bring the matter forward in the House, I shall be prepared to meet him and substantiate the answers I have given.

SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

As a matter of indulgence, I should like to say that I am quite sure my hon. Friend did not impute to my right hon. Friend anything personal in the statement he has made as to the information being accurate. I believe he is not in London and has not received the notice forwarded as to this matter being mentioned. When he returns, I have no doubt he will be prepared to offer an explanation, which I hope will be satisfactory.


asked whether in the case of a Motion being brought forward relative to the insufficiency of the answers the right hon. Gentleman would procure an opportunity for discussion?

[No answer was given.]