HC Deb 28 March 1899 vol 69 cc655-6
MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middles-borough)

I will not detain the House very long, but there is one personal matter to which I wish to refer. The President of the Board of Trade in the debate upon the Estimates last Tuesday made a statement to the effect that I had made statements which were untrue and grossly exaggerated. I think a statement like that from the right honourable Gentleman without any proof ought to be challenged, because I am not aware of having ever made in this House a statement which was untrue, nor am I aware of ever having made a statement which was exaggerated in connection with any correspondence which I have had with the right honourable Gentleman and his Department. None of my letters have been challenged by him, and I invite the right honourable Gentleman, and I am entitled to ask him if I have, as he stated, made statements which are untrue or exaggerated, to point them out. It is his duty to point out what those statements are. I am entitled to ask that a Government Department should do its duty. I think the Department of the right honourable Gentleman is not doing its duty, and he need not lose his temper over the matter because I am pressing him to do that which I think he is perfectly entitled to do under the powers he has at his command. When the Estimates are brought before this House it is only right that an honourable Member of this House should be able to challenge the Estimates of any particular Department which he thinks is not doing its duty. I did no more than that, but instead of getting a courteous retort from the right honourable Gentleman I got nothing but abuse, and I invite him now to say what were the untrue and exaggerated statements that I made, because I can promise the right honourable Gentleman that so long as he delays putting the law in force I shall continue to press him. I say to my mind it is a scandal that a Government Department has to take three weeks or more to find out what is the true position of the law with regard to the accommodation to be allowed for men on board ship. I have been able to obtain that information from a legal gentleman in 24 hours, but this Department has taken weeks. In August last year I was promised definitely that the matter should be enquired into, and that, it should be put right. Now 12 months have gone by, and so far as I can ascertain nothing whatever has been done, and I resent and bitterly complain of the treatment which I have received.