HC Deb 13 May 1907 vol 174 cc644-6

asked leave of the House to make a statement on a personal matter. He recalled that on 19th March, speaking on the London and North-Western Railway Bill, he stated that in the past the board had not contributed 1s. to any political fund. The hon. Member for Denbigh District challenged that statement and declared that the directors had subscribed to the Free Labour Association for the purpose of agitating in favour of contracting-out of the Employers' Liability Bill. He repeated his statement, and the hon. Member for Denbigh again asserted that the company had given 25 guineas to the Free Labour Association. On 25th April, he told the House that, having made the most minute and careful inquiries, he could not find the least trace of the company ever having given, directly or indirectly, any money to this association, and he thereupon asked the hon. Member to withdraw his statement. The hon. Member replied that he bad made the most careful and exhaustive inquiries into the evidence on which his statement was based, and had come to the conclusion that the evidence as to the accuracy of the statement was overwhelming. He added that he had traced the whereabouts of John Sennett, the founder and secretary of the Free Labour Association, and that he had a sworn statement from that person, which he read to the House. It was left to the House to infer that he had made a statement which was, to put it mildly, inaccurate. The majority in that House had been invariably generous in accepting his statements, and he was anxious to prove to the House that the statement he made was not only true, but that it was not in any way misleading. He had never, up to that time heard anything of Mr. Sennett, or of Mr. Ellis, who was alleged to have paid this money to the Free Labour Association on behalf of the company. But he thought it was due to the House to know the character of the man whose sworn statement the hon. Member for Denbigh asked the House to accept in contradiction of his statement. He had been convicted six times either in his own name or in another name.

[The right hon. Gentleman gave the particulars of the convictions.]

He ventured to ask the House whether the evidence of a man of that kind ought to be put forward in contradiction of the statement he had made. He had also an affidavit of William Ellis.

[The right hon. Gentleman read the terms of the affidavit, in the course of which Mr. Ellis said—"I repudiate the statement made by John Sennett to the effect that he received £25 or any sum whatever from the London and North-Western Railway Company or from the Mutual Insurance Society of the company, or from any section of their employees. It is a deliberate falsehood on the part of Mr. Sennett to make any such statement."] In the face of those facts, he asked the hon. Member whether he did not think the House ought to believe the statement he had made on two previous occasions?

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)

said he would like to repeat what he said on the last occasion, that he had no intention whatever of reflecting on the personal accuracy or the personal honour of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He thought he had made it perfectly plain on the previous occasion that the affidavit which was handed to him by a solicitor and his inquiries were two perfectly independent matters. He had a report of Mr. Ellis's speech which appeared in the official gazette of the National Free Labour Association and in which he stated that he represented the London and North-Western Insurance Society. He had a great mass of information, such information as he believed would convince the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that his (Colonel Lockwood's) information was not correct and that his own information was correct. It was not a question of the personal accuracy of either of them. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had been supplied with certain information; he (Mr. Edwards) had been supplied with certain information. He did not know whether he should trouble the House with it in detail, but he would like to know whether there was any machinery by means of which the whole of the information could be laid before an independent Committee which might see on which side accuracy lay in this matter. Bit with regard to the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, if he had said anything which seemed to convey, by the merest suggestion, any reflection on his personal accuracy, or his personal honour, he absolutely and unhesitatingly withdrew it.