HC Deb 25 July 1907 vol 179 cc154-8

I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture for Ireland whether he is now prepared to fulfil the pledge he gave to the Leader of the Opposition the other night to product) the entire correspondence which passed between the hon. Member for North Armagh and Mr. Commissioner Bailey.


Yes. The House will remember that I gave a pledge that I would communicate with Mr. Bailey, and I gave an assurance that the correspondence should be produced at once. I have communicated with Mr. Bailey, and it appears that four letters have passed between Mr. Moore and himself. He says that he kept no copy of his letters to Mr. Moore, who, so far as Mr. Bailey is concerned, is at full liberty to produce them. I desire to ask the hon. Member if he accepts the copy of the letter published in an evening paper to-night, because if that is so, I shall be able to read the correspondence in a consecutive manner.

MR. MOORE (Armagh. N.)

I will read the original myself, which I telegraphed for and have in my hand. It is marked "Private"— and the House will bear that in mind when they consider that the answer to that letter was made use of in this House:— University Club, Dublin, March, 1907. Dear Moore,— I see that as a supplemental question you asked the other day whether the delay in land purchase was due to the 'continual absence of Mr. Commissioner Bailey.' That was not the Question I asked. [Loud cries of "Order!"]


The hon. Member purports to read the letter. I think he had better read it without comment. If any opportunity arises for comment it should be made later.


I shall ask for permission when I have read the letter to make a personal explanation. [The hon. Member then proceeded with the reading of the letter]— I do not know, of course, what was your object, but it may interest you to know that for the last year I attended more days in the office than either of my colleagues, and that as a fact I did not take much more than half the vacation to which I was entitled. You will thus see that you have been strangely misinformed, and I can only surmise that another of my colleagues was intended. Faithfully yours, W. F. Bailey. I will read the reply to that.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (interrupting)

On a point of order, would it not be better that I should read the correspondence consecutively?


I think one Member should read it all. As the matter refers to the hon. Member on my left (Mr. Moore), I think he should read the letters.


I have not the original of the letter which the Vice-President read, but he can check my letter as I read. I wrote in reply to Mr. Bailey— I refrain from making any comment—

"Ulster Club, Belfast,

19th March.

DEAR BAILEY—You were appointed by a Unionist Government to see fair play between Wrench and Finucane, and you have sold the pass on every occasion. The first thing my colleagues and I will do when we come back, which will not be far off, is to press for an inquiry into the working of your Department. You can destroy your evidence now, and show this to whom you please.

Yours truly,

W. Moore."

The reply which I received from Mr. Bailey was as follows— Mr. Bailey desires to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Moore's letter of the 19th inst. and, inasmuch as it contains grave statements of a threatening and unfounded character, he will take an early opportunity of bringing the matter under notice in the proper quarter.

I wrote in reply to that— Mr Moore hopes that when Mr. Bailey publishes the correspondence he will make it, clear that Mr. Moore's reply was directed to a disloyal attack by Mr. Bailey on one of his colleagues in his letter to Mr. Moore. This is all that was omitted from Mr. Moore's reply. Having read the correspondence, I now ask leave to make a personal explanation in regard to the charges made against me when one of the letters was selected by the Member for South Tyrone, and used in conjunction—I am not suggesting the the hon. Member was not within his rights — and, after previous arrangement—




I am prepared to accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman, but he stated the contents from his place in the House before the Member for South Tyrone read it.


I saw it months ago.


If the hon. Gentleman saw it months ago, it points at once to what MR. Bailey considered the proper quarter. Is a Government official to have his defence made in this House by the hon. Member for Waterford? I asked my Question in the House, when, I think, Mr. Bailey was sitting under the gallery there— I will not pledge myself, but he was there the day before and the day after—because, on no fewer than three occasions coming through the Lobby, I had seen the impartial Estates Commissioner from Ireland in close conference with the Irish Members. I do not say it was not perfectly legitimate— I did not stoop to inquire into their business— but I thought it undesirable in anyone to whom such large administrative powers were confided, and so I asked the Question. I ventured to ask from my own observation what I think was a perfectly legitimate supplementary Question as to whether or not the delay was occasioned by the continued presence away from his office of Mr. Bailey in London. The Question was ruled out of Order, and the next thing I heard was that Mr. Bailey had taken upon himself to challenge my right to ask any Question about his conduct by writing this letter. I should have ignored. that— I have no particular pride in these matters—


You never had.

MR. MOORE (continuing)

But I shall ask any Question which I consider it my duty to ask if it is in order.


Ask for the Wyndham letters.


I thought when Mr. Bailey went out of his way to say he was not guilty, but that one of his colleagues was— when he knew that that colleague was a personal friend of my own— the name is, of course, Mr. Wrench— when I found his idea as a Government official of loyalty to his own colleague was to say in his letter that I had been misinformed, and that he surmised which he did not, — that another of his colleagues was intended, whoever that colleague might be, I thought it was not loyal of Mr. Bailey to make that suggestion. I felt that it was a grossly disloyal act on the part of Mr. Bailey, especially as he had marked his letter "Private,'' so that I could not send it to the man attacked. I wrote the same evening I got his letter. I may have written with too much heat, but I did it oil' my own bat and I will take all responsibility and all blame for it. There is nobody else to be blamed, and if there is any punishment to be attached to it I will endure it willingly. All I want to say is that it was my own motion whether it was right or wrong, and it is in no sense a Party matter. Feeling that Mr. Bailey had been guilty of breach of loyalty towards his own colleagues by making this attack, I thought I had a right to say what I did. I may have been imprudent in putting it a bit too strong, but when I am told here what I have been told in this House, that I threatened Mr. Bailey with being deprived of his office, and with penalties in future, I can only say that a reference to the letter will show that I made a statement which any Member is entitled to make from these benches with respect to a Department of which he distrusts the management, and, that is to say, that as soon as he can procure a proper inquiry into the working of that Department he will do so. That is all I said. Anyone who reads the correspondence will see, however much they may differ from its sentiments, possibly from its tone, that at least it is a personal matter between two men; and I do not think it was in keeping with the traditions of this House, or the etiquette of this House, that in order not to benefit Mr. Bailey, but because he thought he could do me an injury, the hon. Member for South Tyrone produced one letter from the correspondence, which was provoked originally by Mr. Bailey himself. As Mr. Bailey had marked his letter "Private," I was anxious he should not say I had prevented him showing my letter, so I said he could show it to whom he pleased. I did not contemplate the House of Commons, but I do not complain. So far as Mr. Bailey is concerned I cannot say I left myself any right to object to the entire correspondence being produced. But I hold that hon. Members should not hold me up, as I have been held up, as a person who has abused his position in Parliament to bring improper pressure to bear upon an Estates Commissioner. I simply wrote and told Mr. Bailey what I thought of the working of his Department, and my hope that at the earliest possible opportunity a satisfactory Court of Inquiry would be appointed to investigate the working of it. That is an object which a great many people in Ireland desire. I hope I have not troubled the House too long.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL rose.


No debate is possible. If the hon. Gentleman has any personal statement to make he is of course at liberty to make it.


I wish to make a personal explanation. The hon. Member has implied there was collusion between myself and the hon. Member for Waterford. There is no foundation for that suggestion.


On that matter—


The House has heard the explanation of the hon. Member.