HC Deb 24 May 1894 vol 24 cc1192-7
MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I do not wish to intrude upon the House a personal matter, and I am tenfold more reluctant after the touching statement of the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade. But honour to every man is dear. Charges are made against every man—some great and small. My name has been trumpeted abroad, together with that of another hon. Member, in connection with what is called a "broken pair." Newspaper paragraphs on such a matter one gets accustomed to; I feel that newspaper men are perfectly entitled to make criticisms, and one does not complain. But my hon. Friend behind me, the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mildmay)— whose name has been associated with mine in this affair—went down to his constituency the other day and made a speech. Someone there appears to have accused him of breaking a pair, and he seems to have been defending himself; but in defending himself he attacked me. The statement of an hon. Member of this House, when he impugns a brother Member's character, is, after all, a rather serious matter. My hon. Friend said— Unfortunately, Mr. Storey applied to Mr. Anstruther, the Liberal Unionist Whip, for a pair. Mr. Anstruther offered him Mr. Austen Chamberlain as a pair, and Mr. Storey accepted the pair and left the House. The next day Mr. Storey telegraphed to Mr. Anstruther to say that he had seen in the newspapers that Mr. Austen Chamberlain had been injured, and he intended to break his pair. Mr. Anstruther protested strongly against such an unprecedented action. And then the hon. Member for Totnes added— It appeared to him that the man who was entitled to blame was Mr. Storey, who deliberately broke his pair. It is no part of my business to make any attack upon the hon. Member. I am perfectly sure of this—that if he voted on the Thursday evening, from all I know of him, he felt that he was honourably entitled to do so. But I think I have— and I hope he will agree with me—a right to complain a little that, without ever notifying me, or without being personally cognisant of one of the facts, he went down to his constituency, and in defending himself accused me as the person who was guilty of dishonourable conduct. I wish to tell the hon. Member and the House that the statement that I accepted the pair and left the House is not founded on fact; the statement that the next day I telegraphed to the hon. Member for St. Andrews is not the fact; the statement that the next day the hon. Member for St. Andrews remonstrated with me is not the fact; and that the statement that I broke the pair is, I think, utterly outside the fact. I was in the Lobby on Monday, May 7, asking everybody for a pair. The hon. Member for St. Andrews said, "If you want a pair, I can give you one." I inquired, "Who is he? Do not give me a dead one." He replied, "Mr. Austen Chamberlain." I said, "That's all right." But, being old-fashioned, I added, "Can he come?" The answer was, "Well, he wants to come; he is only at home." I said, "All right." I went into the smoke-room; I took up a paper, and I read there that the hon. Member (Mr. A. Chamberlain), to the regret of all of us, had been gored by a bull. I felt that, if the hon. Member for St. Andrews knew that fact, I would not be bound by the pair; but, if he did not know it, I should feel myself bound by the pair. I immediately came back to the House—indeed I did not leave it until 12 o'clock. I sought the hon. Member for St. Andrews; and when at last I found him I continued the conversation. Turning round to him, I said, "Did you know when you paired me with Mr. Austen Chamberlain that he had been gored by a bull?" He replied, "No; I knew he had met with a slight accident, but had not the particulars." I said, "But you did not even tell me that. Understand now, I am not bound by that pair"; and I added, "and I do not think you treated me quite fairly." That was on the Monday, and the voting was to be on the Thursday. I, therefore, gave ample opportunity to the hon. Member to get another pair. But that is not all. When I said that, the hon. Member made no remark within my hearing. On the Tuesday I went north, where I was bound to be. I did not receive, either in person or by letter, from the hon. Member for St. Andrews, or from anybody on his behalf, any remonstrance or any suggestion that I was to be bound by the pair. I returned to the House on Thursday night. While I stood at the Bar, the hon. Member for St. Andrews passed me, and, turning to me, he said—and this was the first communication I had with him from the moment I had spoken to him on the Monday—"Are you going to vote"? Upon which I replied, I fear rather sharply, "Why do you ask? Why not"? He made no reply, and walked into the House. When the Division bell was rung, I walked into the Lobby and voted. Up to that moment I did not know that the hon. Member for Totnes was paired, nor had I from anyone the slightest intimation that I was bound on the Thursday to a pair which I had repudiated on the Monday.

MR. MILDMAY (Devon, Totnes)

I am very glad that this question has arisen, because it affords me an opportunity of defending my position. For some considerable time before the Division on the Budget, one of the Government Whips offered me a pair in the week beginning Monday, the 7th of May. Before I accepted that pair, I stipulated that if I was able to be in London in the latter part of the week I should be at liberty to transfer that pair to some other Unionist Member. That stipulation the Government Whip accepted. Before I left the House on Monday, the 7th, I explained to the hon. Member for St. Andrews the circumstance under which I had made the pair. On the following day, Tuesday, I wrote to him to say that, as I could be in the House in the latter half of the week, he was at liberty to transfer my pair to some other Unionist Member. On the following day, Wednesday, I got an intimation from him to the effect that I should be required to vote in the Division, as my pair had been transferred to the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. J. A. Chamberlain). I came up to the House, like the hon. Member for Sunderland, on the Thursday evening, and on learning that the Government Whips objected to my voting, I, before going into the Lobby, ascertained, on the authority of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, that so far from being incapacitated the hon. Member for East Worcestershire was prepared to come up to town and to record his vote had he not been informed that he was paired. After consideration it appeared to me to be distinctly my duty to record my vote. I thank the hon. Member (Mr. Storey) for the courtesy with which he has alluded to this matter, so far as I am myself concerned, and I, of course, accept his correction that his protest was made on the same evening as that on which he was asked to pair, and not on the next day. I acknowledge that I was wrong in that detail, though I do not think that is material. I understand, however, that the hon. Gentleman objects to the terms in which I alluded to his repudiation of the pair. I acknowledge, as he says, that I was not in the House during the greater part of the week, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Anstruther) will speak directly on that point. But I can assure the hon. Member for Sunderland that, however much we may have questioned his action, I feel convinced that in pursuing that action he was impelled by a desire to do his duty to his constituents. The hon. Member has been in the House longer than I have, and his reputation for integrity and honesty of purpose cannot be questioned. I can, further, assure him that if any words I have used have caused him pain I am sincerely sorry. On the other hand, I hope that he will remember that I had been accused by the leading organ of the Government in London of deliberate, dishonourable conduct. That accusation had been disseminated throughout my constituency, and I think the House will agree with me when I say that there is little wonder that, in the face of such an accusation, I repudiated with considerable warmth a charge under which, I think, no Member of this House would be inclined to sit quiet.

MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, &c.)

I am very reluctant to obtrude myself upon the House; but as reference has been made to me, I think it is only courteous that I should say a word or two upon the subject in question. As regards the two hon. Members who have spoken, I think the explanations they have given must be perfectly satisfactory, and I need not say anything further with regard to them. But with reference to the version which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) has given of what passed between us on Monday evening, I may say —and my recollection on the subject is, I think, as clear as his seems to be—that when the hon. Member came to me in the Lobby I told him everything I knew with regard to the slight accident that had occurred to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. J. A. Chamberlain), and it is in my recollection—although I am quite certain that he will not bear me out—that I said to him, "I don't know whether you will think that good enough." I do not think frankness could have gone further—and I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman, after this explanation on my part, will acquit me of any intention to deceive him or to misrepresent the facts of the case. I will only say, on behalf of us who undertake these somewhat delicate operations for the different Parties in this House, that it is a practice not for the convenience of the House, nor for our convenience, that these matters should be brought before the House. When personal questions between Members arise, it is, no doubt, their duty to make explanations in the House in order to set aside any reflections that may have been cast upon them; but as far as slight discrepancies between us are concerned, I do feel strongly that those are matters which should not he brought under the cognizance of the House, as the House can take no official notice of them, and the operation, therefore, becomes futile. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acquit me of any intention to misrepresent the facts of the case. MR. DANE (Fermanagh, N.): Affecting this delicate question, perhaps the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Chamberlain) will give us the nationality of the bull referred to.

[The subject then dropped.]

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