HC Deb 06 April 1905 vol 144 cc647-9
MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if the conditions under which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover appointed Sir Antony MacDonnell as Permanent Under-Secretary still exist, or has he now any special powers other than those of an ordinary civil servant.


Sir Antony MacDonnell holds office as Under-Secretary in the same way as other permanent heads of Departments hold their offices, with this exception, that before he accepted office he received an explicit assurance that he would be treated with complete confidence, be consulted on matters of policy and administration, and be allowed administrative freedom of action, subject, of course, to the approval and control of the Chief Secretary. This, so far as my experience goes, has always been the case between my chief permanent officials and myself, and I hope always will be so.


I desire an Answer to this definite Question—Whether the special conditions under which Sir Antony MacDonnell received his appointment have been withdrawn or do they still exist?


I have done my best to give a perfectly frank, and, I believe, explicit Answer to the Question. It is extremely difficult to answer a question of this kind across the floor of the House, when so much depends on the interpretation of the conditions between a permanent official and his chief. I have endeavoured to give what I believe to be an explicit and accurate description of the relations between Sir Antony MacDonnell and myself, and I have added that the relations are similar, in my opinion, to those that always exist between me and my permanent officials.


Have the conditions under which Sir Antony MacDonnell was appointed by the late Chief Secretary been withdrawn or do they still exist under the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman? That is the Question to which I want an Answer.


There have been a good many attempts to describe the exact relations between the Undersecretary and his chief, and I think it has been in those descriptions, and in consequence of them, that misunderstandings have arisen. I believe the Answer I have given is an exact description of the relations between Sir Antony MacDonnell and myself, and I fail to see that there is anything further for me to examine into, or that there is any other Answer that could by any possibility be given to the House.

Mr. SLOAN, Mr. WILLIAM MOORE, (Antrim, N.) and Mr. GRETTON (Derbyshire, S.) rose to put further Questions.


The right hon. Gentleman has stated that he has given the only Answer he can possibly give, and if hon. Members think there is any matter which has not already been answered, they can put down a further Question. The present time is not appropriated for argument, but for Questions and Answers. The Answer to the Question on the Paper has been given. It may or may not be satisfactory, but that is not the point, and it cannot be converted into an argument.


May I ask whether, as the right hon. Gentleman says it is a matter of personal interpretation, his interpretations of the late Chief Secretary's letters are binding on himself?