HC Deb 07 March 1895 vol 31 cc569-72
MR. R. B. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)

I wish, Sir, to call attention to a personal matter, and to offer a word of personal explanation. In the Debate which arose on Tuesday night on the subject of the Supplementary Vote for legal expenses in connection with the extradition of Jabez Spencer Balfour, the hon. Member for Haggerston said: There was a strong feeling prevailing out of doors that there was a want of desire on the part of many hon. Members that Jabez Balfour should return to this country. The hon. Member was pressed by the Attorney General to put that charge—which was a very grave and serious one—into more definite form, and he then stated that— The general impression out of doors was that money had been found by the Debenture Corporation. The hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Broad) and myself are directors of the Debenture Corporation, and it is against us that the charge is made. I wish to ask the indulgence of the House to deny most emphatically that it is in the least degree material to me, or to the hon. Member for South Derbyshire, or to the Debenture Corporation, or, as far as I know, to any one connected with it, whether Jabez Balfour comes back to this country or not. We have no interest whatever in the matter, and are absolutely unconcerned. I think the House will agree with me that a charge of this kind ought not lightly to be brought, and ought not to be brought without some shadow of proof such as I cannot possibly imagine to exist. All I have to say is, to give a most emphatic denial, in the most public way possible, to the statement, because it has been taken up by several newspapers, and The Times itself has put it forward as an absolute statement of fact by the hon. Member for Haggerston.

MR. W. H. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

I have to thank the hon. Member for giving me notice that he intended to raise this question this afternoon. Until yesterday I had not the slightest idea that the hon. Member was directly or indirectly connected with the Debenture Corporation, so that what I stated on the occasion to which he has referred could not have had the slightest reference to him. I was acquainted with the fact that the hon. Member for South Derbyshire was connected with the Debenture Corporation, but the observations which I made the night before last had not the least personal reference to him any more than to the hon. Member for Worcestershire. I never heard it even rumoured that either of the hon. Members had had any specific charge made against them. Before I say anything more in the matter, I should like, if the forms of the House will permit me, to ask a question of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire. There appeared in The Westminster Gazette last night an account headed— Debenture Corporation and Jubez—Mr. Cremer's Statement—An Authoritative and Official Denial. I wish to ask the hon. Member for South Derbyshire whether the statement attributed to him by the interviewer of The Westminster Gazette in that account is accurate?

MR. H. E. BROAD (Derbyshire, S.)

The statement is perfectly correct.


Then I think no explanation is needed from me. The hon. Member admitted to the interviewer that those rumours to which I have referred did exist, and were largely prevalent. He stated that since the departure of Jabez Balfour from this country the directors of the Debenture Corporation had considerably changed, and that one of the new directors, Mr. Hugh Smith, of the Bank of England—a gentleman of the most perfect honour and integrity—had thought it his duty, before he took part in the official transactions of the Corporation, to put a series of questions, concerning the nature and character of the rumours to which I referred the other night, to the old directors. The admission of the hon. Member that this took place is a justification of my statement that such rumours prevailed out of doors. I made no specific charge against the hon. Member. I made no specific charge against any man or any body of men. I simply spoke of a belief that largely prevailed out of doors; and said I thought that it was time these rumours should either be proved or confuted. I think that the hon. Members ought to thank me for having afforded them the opportunity of publicly making their denial. Perhaps I may be permitted to ask one other question before I sit down. It is, whether the two hon. Members can, on behalf of the Debenture Corporation, say whether that company would be willing to have a committee or a commission appointed to inquire into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the whole of these transactions. [Cries of "Order."] As yet, no information is forthcoming as to where these thousands of pounds——


Order, order. Having elicited from the hon. Member for Derbyshire (Mr. Broad) that there is no truth in the rumour referred to, the hon. Member is hardly justified in putting these further questions. I think the statement of the hon. Member for Derbyshire should satisfy all the requirements of the case.