HC Deb 25 February 1896 vol 37 cc1088-90
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, N.E., Clitheroe)

I am very reluctant, but I am sure the House will permit me to trouble it for a moment or two with a personal statement. Hon. Members may recollect that in the course of his speech yesterday, the hon. Member for Lynn Regis, in one of those characteristic sallies with which he amuses the House, having said that it was not true that any reductions were effected in Committee, of Supply, added that— he himself obtained from the late Secretary to the Admiralty—and only by threatening to reduce his salary—a promise of the abolition of the Jamaica Dockyard, though it came to nothing, because the right hon. Gentleman did not keep his promise. I do not think either the House or myself is always inclined to take the hon. Gentleman very seriously. Still, such a charge made in the House of Commons, with regard to anyone who has held an official position, is a serious matter. I therefore thought it my duty at once to rise in my place and say that "no such promise had been broken, because no such promise had ever been made." The hon. Gentleman then rejoined that his memory was better than mine, and reiterated his statement, and rashly allowed himself to be betrayed into a repetition of the historic wager of a guinea that he was right. I have since refreshed my memory upon the subject, and also communicated with the hon. Gentleman, and sent him a reference to Hansard, which I hope has convinced him that all the statements he made were entirely unfounded. First of all, the Debate in question did not arise upon the Vote for my salary; it was raised by the hon. Gentleman on the shipbuilding Vote. Secondly, I made him no promise. I was not authorised to make any promise, and no promise was made that any dockyard should be abolished. Thirdly, of course, as no such promise was made, no promise was broken. In asking the hon. Gentleman whether he was wrong in his statement, perhaps I may also remind him that his historic accuracy is not perfect. He referred to what he called the "great precedent" of the year 1746 [cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Order!"] as the time when the incident with reference to Sir Robert Walpole was reported to have taken place. In 1746 Sir Robert Walpole was not a Minister, was not a Member of this House, and was not alive. [Loud laughter.] The incident took place in 1741. [Renewed laughter.] I beg to ask the hon. Member whether he has refreshed his memory, and whether he is now able to make any statement?


I may perhaps be allowed to say that I entirely agree with the estimate which the right hon. Gentleman has put before the House of the relative importance to be attached to him and to myself. [A laugh] Consequently I shall not enter into the minute details of this matter which he has thought it worth his while to follow up. With regard to the wager, I would remind him that he had not the presence of mind to utter the sacramental word "Done" [laughter], which, as he well knows from his experience, alone ratifies a wager. [Laughter.] I have refreshed my memory with regard to this question of the Jamaica Dockyard, and I am constrained to admit that I approached to the verge of, if I did not actually touch, inaccuracy. [Laughter] What occurred was this. But first let me dispose of the suggestion that any influence I had with the right hon Gentleman, or any answer I obtained from him, was not due to my having threatened to reduce his salary. [Laughter.] Why, I was always threatening to reduce his salary [laughter], and, in spite of his assertion, I am constrained to believe that any indulgence he showed to me was due to the continual threat of his having no salary to reduce, the continual possibility of his being deprived of the means of maintenance. ["Oh!"] On the 29th of August, 1893, I called attention to the dockyard at Jamaica and pointed out that "it was a worm-eaten and moss-grown abuse"—[laughter]—I am quoting from Hansard—and said it cost £12,000 a year. Whereupon the right hon. Gentleman said that "Admiral Hopkins"—who was then Commander-in-Chief on the North American and West Indies Station— had recommended that Port Royal should not be continued as a dockyard, and that a local committee was to report on the proposal. I frankly admit that when a right hon. Gentleman of the admitted importance, of the self-asserted importance [cries of "Oh!"], of the late Secretary to the Admiralty—[renewed cries of "Oh!"]—yes, he compared himself with me [laughter, and a Voice, "Well done, Tommy"]—I quite admit that when he told me this I did think that, inasmuch as the Admiral on the station, who knew all about it and was the only authority, had recommended that the dockyard should not be continued, and that a Committee was appointed, I understood that to be a promise that the dockyard was going to be abolished. [Ironical laughter.] Certainly I did so understand it. But, as I have said, I have refreshed my memory from the report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, corrected by himself [laughter], and I do admit I did approach to the verge of inaccuracy if I did not touch it. [Laughter.] I only regret that the right. hon Gentleman did not yesterday avail himself of the means within his grasp of securing the payment of a guinea from me. [Laughter.]