HC Deb 04 July 1907 vol 177 cc872-4
MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney - General whether he is aware that Mr. C. J. Stewart, whom it is proposed to appoint Public Trustee, has for several years past been chairman of a brewery company, which under his direction has been in financial difficulty, and that when previously occupying the position of Senior Official Receiver in companies' winding-up he was reprimanded by Mr. Justice Hawkins for displaying animus and bias in the discharge of his duties; and whether he will state what are the special qualifications possessed by Mr. Stewart for discharging the duties incidental to the new office of Public Trustee.

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir John Walton, Leeds. S.)

I have to inform the hon. Member that I have no connection whatever with this appointment; but I have communicated with the Lord Chancellor and obtained the necessary materials to give him an Answer. It is the fact that Mr. Stewart has for some years been the chairman of a brewery company, but there is, I understand, no ground for the statement that any financial difficulty which it may have experienced was during his direction. It is true that Mr. Justice Hawkins, in the course of the Hansard prosecution, used language to the effect mentioned in the Question; but I am informed that the Lord Chancellor and the President of the Board of Trade at the time, and the learned Judge in charge of the winding-up of companies, were all satisfied with Mr. Stewart's conduct in that case. With regard to Mr. Stewart's qualifications, I have already stated them, and I need only add that I understand he filled the high offices to which I referred with the entire satisfaction of those by whom he was employed and to whom he was responsible. The Lord Chancellor informs me that ho selected Mr. Stewart, after careful and prolonged consideration of many names, as the candidate distinctly best fitted by character and experience for the difficult work of inaugurating the office of Public Trustee.


asked the hon. and learned Gentleman whether it was the fact that under Mr. Stewart's direction of this brewery company there had been not only a formal reduction of its capital of £1,500,000, but a shrinkage in market value of £2,000,000; whether the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, in the course of the trial "Regina v. Isaacs," did not charge Mr. Stewart with deliberately suppressing an important document with a view to obtaining a verdict; and, generally, whether he did not think that there was a wider field of choice available to the Government for the post of Public Trustee than an unsuccessful brewery director.


With regard to the first part of the Question, I understand the financial difficulty experienced by this company was before Mr. Stewart was invited to undertake the office of chairman, and that since he undertook that position the services he rendered had been satisfactory to the shareholders. For what I said as one of the counsel for the defence in the Hansard Union case I do not think I am responsible in my position as Attorney - General. With regard to the other portion of the Answer, I have no more to do with the appointment than the hon. Gentleman.


asked Mr. Speaker whether it was in accordance with etiquette that a Member of the Bar should be interrogated in that House with reference to statements which he had made in the Courts.


He is not obliged to answer.


asked the hon. and learned Gentleman whether the office of Public Trustee had yet been created, and whether it was not necessary for the Lord Chancellor, under Section 14 of the Public Trustee Act, to formulate a rule which must lie on the Table of that House before the Trustee could be appointed.


said that notice must be given of that Question.


I shall have much pleasure in doing so; and I also desire to give notice that on the Estimates and on every possible occasion I will call attention to this scandalous job.