HC Deb 01 August 1922 vol 157 cc1285-8

Order read for Attendance of Mr. Horatio Bottomley.


I have received a letter from Mr. Bottomley, which I will read to the House.

Letter read, as followeth

"To the Right Hon.


House of Commons.


"I have been acquainted with the invitation to attend in my place on Tuesday, when I gather that a Motion will be made for my expulsion from the House. It was my earnest desire to avail myself of this opportunity of placing before my fellow-Members certain aspects of recent events, in the hope that they might have been induced to modify any adverse view which they had formed, and were justified in forming, having regard to what has happened, to place me in my present position. But I regret that I am unable to leave the hospital, and, in these circumstances, I crave leave, Sir, through you, to place a short statement before the House.

"I desire first of all, Sir, to express my deep sorrow at having brought this slur upon the House of Commons, which I can honestly say I have loved, as I have loved my country and my King. To be a Member of it was the dream of my youth and the joy of my manhood; and to my dying day it will be an ever-abiding grief that I have in any way been the cause of sullying its fair name.

"But if the truth were known, Sir, as some day it may be, I believe the House, in its generosity, would grant me not only its forgiveness, but also its sympathy. It would be futile at this stage, and possibly irregular, to reopen the sordid proceedings with which the public have been nauseated, and which have kept me on the rack for the past. year. A Jury has found me guilty, as, indeed, is not surprising after the strong direction of the learned Judge who tried the case; and the Court of Appeal has not seen its way to uphold certain objections, taken on the advice of eminent Counsel, and having nothing to do with the merits of the case, to the conduct of the trial; whilst the learned Attorney-General, in his discretion, has declined to issue his fiat, without which an appeal to the House of Lords is impossible, despite the fact that the application for such fiat was supported by one of the greatest lawyers at the Bar to-day. And so, Sir, the matter rests there, and I do not see how the House, in the circumstances, can be asked to depart from its usual practice in such cases.

"But, Sir, that fact does not debar me, while still a Member, from giving my solemn assurance, in the name of everyone and everything which I cherish and hold dear on earth, and on my soul and honour, that, whatever irregularities there may have been, and however unorthodox may have been my methods, in the conduct of concerns carried on, more or less, in contravention of ancient laws (but with the most patriotic motives, yielding the Government large sums when money was sorely needed), I have not been guilty of any conscious fraud. Sir, I have always endeavoured to respect the amenities of the House, and I would rather my tongue were torn out by the roots than tell it a lie, nor am I a canting religionist. But there is one word I never take in vain, and I ask leave to quote the concluding sentence of my evidence at the trial— I swear before God,' I said, that I have never attempted to make a penny out of the clubs, and I swear before God that I have never done so.' Sir, those solem. words, after two months' solitary confinement in a prison cell for 23 out of every 24 hours, and much searching of spirit, I repeat to-day. The truth of them will be put to the test, the searching test, in proceedings now pending in the Court of Bankruptcy, to which I have been driven mainly owing to financial sacrifices I have made for the benefit of the very concerns I am said to have robbed.

"But, Sir, it is all my own fault, and I bear nobody any My only regret is that I am no longer free to assist in clearing up the confusion and chaos which have arisen, and to do something to relieve any cases of hardship which may remain, but the number and extent of which have been greatly exaggerated. Still, if I live through my sentence, and am fortunate enough to retain my strength and mental faculties, that work will be my first care.

"In the meantime, I must submit to the cruel fate which has overtaken me, and of which to-day's action of the House is by far the most painful part. To me, Sir, expulsion from the House of Commons is a punishment greater and more enduring than any sentence which a Court of Law could decree. It is the very refinement, the apotheosis of torture, and, added to the strain and suffering of prison life, equals any torment any man has ever been called upon to endure. But, Sir, as I have said, I have but myself to blame, and all I can do is to ask hon. Members to judge of me as they knew me. Then perhaps some of them may give a kindly thought to an old colleague, who never played them false, and endeavoured to act up to the best traditions of the House.

"And now, Sir, it only remains for me to thank you and all the officials of the House for the courtesy and kindness I always received during my 12 years of membership; and, reiterating with all the solemnity which would be possible if they were the last words ever to pass my lips, that, entirely due to my own fault, I am the victim of an appalling error of justice, I beg, through you, Sir, to bid the House a respectful and an affectionate farewell.

"Your obedient Servant,

"(Signed) HORATIO 13orromEy." 29th July, 1922."

Ordered, "That the letter of Mr. Justice Salter of the 29th May last. to Mr. Speaker be now read."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]

The Clerk of the House (Sir T. LONSDALE WEBSTER) read the letter, as followeth:

"Central Criminal Court,

"City of London, E.C.4. "29th May, 1922."

"To the Right Honourable the Speaker

of the House of Commons.


"I have to inform you that Horatio Bottomley, a Member of the House of

Commons, was convicted before me at this Court to-day of misdemeanour, and was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude.

"I am, Sir,

"Your obedient Servant,


Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)

I beg to move, "That Mr. Bottomley be expelled this House."

I suppose that no more painful duty can fall to the Leader of the House for the time being than to make such a Motion in relation to a Member of this House. It would be infinitely more painful to me if I thought that the House would expect me to traverse the ground covered by the letter which has been read from the Chair, to comment on any of the pleas put forward by the hon. Member, or to point out any of the inaccuracies of fact into which he has fallen. I conceive that this House would never desire to question, in respect of one of its Members, that which it upholds as regards all other citizens—the sanctity of the administration of justice by our public Courts of Law. And that the only possible ground on which it. could interfere in a case of this kind would be if it appeared to the House that the privileges of the House, and the duties of a Member to and in the House, were in some way affected by the judgment. Not conceiving that the present is a case of that. kind, I confine myself, as I hope the House will allow me to do, simply to moving the Motion which I have made.

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

I only rise to say one or two words. I was waiting for the Leader of the House, not merely to say that he moved this Motion, and that it was a painful duty to him, but that he at least did it with regret. This man, whom we are now proposing to expel, has never spoken two words to me of which I know. He probably was a greater stranger to me than to any other Member of this House. Yet for some reason or other, remembering the remarkable position which he occupied in the country, I cannot allow him to be expelled without at least expressing n v personal regret at the necessity.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, "That. Mr. Horatio Bottomley be expelled this House."