§ Order for the attendance of the Editor and Publisher of the Globe Newspaper [15th August] read.
§ Mr. GEORGE ELLIOT ARMSTRONG, the Editor, and Mr. WILLIAM THOMAS MADGE, the Publisher, of the Globe newspaper, were called in and examined, in relation to the Article complained of.1190
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have to inform you that yesterday there were brought under the notice of the House some passages in an article in the Globe of Wednesday last, and that after due consideration the House came to the resolution that such passages were a gross breach of the privileges of this House, and an order was made for your attendance at the Bar. I have to ask you, Mr. Armstrong, and afterwards you, Mr. Madge, whether you have anything to offer to the House by way of explanation or excuse for your offence.
Sir, in obedience to your direction I appear at the Bar of this honourable House, and, in deference to your decision. I beg to express my regret for the appearance of the article which appeared in the Globe of Wednesday last, and to apologise to this House.
Sir, I can only associate myself with the observations of Mr. Armstrong and apologise to the House of Commons for my share in the publication of the article in question.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Unless the House has other directions to give, I suggest that the persons at the Bar should now retire until the House has considered the matter. Let them retire.
§ [Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Madge then withdrew.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I conceive that after what has occurred the proper course the House should now adopt, following precedent in this matter, is to pass a resolution that Mr. Speaker do censure the editor and publisher of the Globe newspaper for the breach of the privileges of this House which they have committed and for which they have apologised, and I therefore beg to move:—"That this House, while recognising that Mr. George Elliot Armstrong, the Editor, and Mr. William Thomas Madge, the Publisher, of the Globe newspaper, have disclaimed any intention of imputing corrupt motives to any Members of Parliament "—[Cries from Nationalist Members: "No, no, they have not said so."] Perhaps I 1191 I should alter the form of the motion and say "have apologised to this House for the breach of the privileges of this House of which they have been guilty, is of opinion that the said George Elliot Armstrong and William Thomas Madge have committed a breach of the privileges of this House by the publication of an article in the Globe newspaper of the 14th instant headed 'Irish Rowdies,' and that they be called in and reprimanded by Mr. Speaker for the breach of privilege they have committed."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, while recognising that Mr. George Elliot Armstrong, the Editor, and Mr. William Thomas Madge, the Publisher, have apologised and expressed their regret for the article impugned, is of opinion that Mr. George Elliot Armstrong and Mr. William Thomas Madge have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House in the publication of the article in the Globe newspaper of the 14th instant headed 'Irish Rowdies,' and that they be called in and reprimanded by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege which they have committed."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I think what has occurred and the necessity the First Lord of the Treasury has had to revise and alter the terms of the motion he has now moved shows conclusively that something further will be required by the House of Commons. I can assure the House that I had no idea that there would be any necessity for me to intervene at all this afternoon. I fully expected that an apology and a withdrawal would be made on the part of the gentlemen who were called to the bar; and I can assure the House that I am exceedingly pained that I have again to touch this matter at all. But, Sir, it must be evident to the fairness of the House of Commons that something more must be done in the matter. The First Lord of the Treasury clearly had the same view of what would occur that I had myself, for he framed his motion on the supposition that these gentlemen, having been adjudged by the House guilty of a gross breach of its privileges, would come forward and withdraw the offensive statements they have made 1192 They have not done so, and the First Lord of the Treasury has felt himself constrained to alter the terms of the motion he came down to the House ready to move. I confess I regret that the task I am now fulfilling was not undertaken by the Leader of the House himself. I think, if he will allow me respectfully to say so, that when these gentlemen did not at the bar of the House fulfil what evidently was his idea of the necessities of the case, according to the terms of his own motion, it was his duty to have taken some action which would have compelled the complete withdrawal and disclaimer by these gentlemen. Under these circumstances I must leave the House of Commons to decide for itself what further action should be taken. For my part I must be allowed to express the opinion that, if these gentlemen are not compelled to come to the bar and specifically withdraw the statements which they made affecting the honour of certain Members of this House, I for one would regard the whole of these proceedings as little better than a mockery, and, indeed, something almost amounting to insult to Members on these benches. As I have said, it is painful to me to refer to the matter again. I put this view before the House of Commons, and I leave it so. I will not move any amendment to the motion of the First Lord of the Treasury. If the House of Commons, having unanimously decided that this was a gross breach of privilege, and having unanimously called on these gentlemen to come to the bar, is satisfied with the bald apology which was given, and is satisfied with the refusal of these gentlemen to withdraw their statements, then I say the shame and the dishonour will rest on the House of Commons.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think that if the hon. Gentleman took objection to the kind of words used by the persons at the bar, the proper time to have made objection would have been while they were there, in order that they might then and there be cross-examined as to whether they had gone far enough to satisfy the House. What these gentlemen have done was to express their regret and to apologise. I infer from that that they withdraw.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is no change in the substance of the resolution. My view still is that when anybody apologises and expresses regret for something he has said or done, that does carry with it by implication, by inevitable implication, the withdrawal of the charge. But if there be any doubt on that point, the proper way is to order them to come back, and that will settle the question.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I must say that I have never heard, and I should think very few people in this House have ever heard, a more meagre and inadequate apology for a grave offence against the dignity of this House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the persons at the bar expressed their regret.
§ MR. ASQUITH
And apologised. At any rate, I think it has always been the practice of the House, and it should be the practice of the House, to demand in a case of this kind not only an apology but a withdrawal, and a withdrawal as explicit as the apology itself. I think the House would do well to accede to the suggestion the right hon. Gentleman has made, and to have these persons summoned back to the bar in order clearly to understand whether they do or do not withdraw the imputation.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think they made a most meagre apology. They said, Mr. Speaker, that in deference to your opinion they apologised. Since Midshipman Easy apologised to the bo'sun, there has never been a worse apology given.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Is it the pleasure of the House that Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Madge be summoned again to the bar? Then let them be brought in.
§ Ordered, That Mr. GEORGE ELLIOT ARMSTRONG and Mr. WILLIAM THOMAS MADGE be again called in.1194
§ And they were again called in, and were addressed by Mr. SPEAKER as followeth:—
§ I have to inform you that this House is not satisfied with the terms of your statement or apology, and finds them not sufficiently explicit; and desires to be informed categorically whether or no you, both of you, disclaim the charges made in the article in question, and entirely withdraw them.
Sir, I regret very much indeed the interpretation which this honourable House has placed upon the article which appeared in the Globe of Wednesday last, and, if I may be allowed to do so, I repeat the explanation, or rather I adhere to the explanation, given in our article of yesterday, and that explanation is tantamount to a withdrawal. I also, in order to make the point absolutely clear, do withdraw that statement, and I do so while expressing great regret that the House should have placed that interpretation upon my words.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I may point out to you both that the House considered yesterday the article in yesterday's issue of the Globe to which you have referred, and came to the conclusion that that was not a satisfactory or correct explanation of the article of Wednesday; and the opinion of the House was that the article of Wednesday's issue did contain a distinct charge of corruption against Members of this House, and that was the meaning of the statement in the resolution of which I have informed you that you had committed a high breach of the privileges of this House. Therefore, without reference to anything that may have appeared in Thursday's issue of the Globe, I must ask you to state now at the bar of this House categorically whether you do or do not withdraw the imputation which the House has decided was contained in the article of Wednesday.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
There must be no quibbling over words, and no trifling with the House. You must say whether you do withdraw it categorically, in the sense I have stated, or you must decline.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Do you accept the interpretation I have put to you, and do you withdraw that statement?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Does any hon. Member wish to say anything further before they withdraw from the bar, or to suggest any question that I should put? Then they may withdraw.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I need not make the motion again, but I should prefer, if the House desires it, without unnecessary formalities, to move the motion in the form in which I originally drafted it.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Resolved nemine contradicente, That this House, while recognising that Mr. George Elliot Armstrong, the Editor, and Mr. William Thomas, Madge the Publisher, have disclaimed any intention of imputing corrupt motives to any Members of Parliament, and have withdrawn every such charge, is of opinion that the said Mr. George Elliot Armstrong and Mr. William Thomas Madge have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House in the publication of the article in the Globe newspaper of the 14th instant, headed "Irish Rowdies," and that they be called in and reprimanded by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege which they have committed.—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)1196
§ The said Mr. GEORGE ELLIOT ARMSTRONG and Mr. WILLIAM THOMAS MADGE were again called in and reprimanded by Mr. SPEAKER, as followeth:—
§ The House, having considered the disclaimer and withdrawal which it has heard from you, has come to this resolution:—"That this House, while recognising that Mr. George Elliot Armstrong, the Editor, and Mr. William Thomas Madge, the publisher, have disclaimed any intention of imputing corrupt motives to any Members of Parliament, and have withdrawn every such charge, is of opinion that the said Mr. George Elliot Armstrong and Mr. William Thomas Madge have committed a breach of the Privileges of this House in the publication of the article in the Globe newspaper of the 14th instant, headed ' Irish Rowdies,' and that they be called in and reprimanded by Mr. Speaker for the breach of Privilege which they have committed."
§ In accordance with that resolution, it is my duty to convey to you the judgment and censure of the House; and in so doing I must remind you that the dearest treasure of this House is its reputation for the pure and unspotted discharge of its legislative duties, and it deeply resents any imputation whatever made upon that reputation. It is especially sensitive to any imputation or accusation of that kind made against Members of Private Bill Committees, who in the discharge of their duties, which they perform so admirably and so justly, have to deal continually with very large pecuniary interests and to exercise judicial functions in dealing with them. Such an accusation you have made against Members of this House. You have not attempted to justify it, nor have you given any satisfactory excuse or explanation of it, but you have done all that was left for you to do, that is, you have unreservedly disclaimed any intention of committing a breach of the Privileges of this House, and you have withdrawn any charges you have made. Under those circumstances the House does not purpose to proceed further against you, except to reprimand you for your conduct, and 1197 accordingly in the name of the House I do reprimand you for your action and offence.
§ Then they were directed to withdraw.
§ Ordered, That the Reprimand delivered by Mr. Speaker be entered upon the Journals of this House.—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)