HL Deb 12 July 1844 vol 76 cc692-6
The Duke of Richmond

said, their Lordships' Committee upon Gaming had desired him, as their Chairman, to state, in reference to what had fallen from the noble Earl opposite (Lord Radnor) the other night, that it was with their agreement and concurrence he had communicated certain evidence to an individual in another place—the Chairman of the Commons' Committee on Gaming.

The Earl of Radnor

understood the Commons' Committee had for some time ceased to exist, therefore the communication could not have been sent to that noble Lord even in his capacity as Chairmain of the Committee. He considered it most irregular and unfair, that previous to their Lordships' Committee having reported, and despite their prohibition against the evidence being published for the use of any but their Lordships, such a communication should have been made to a Member of the other House, for the purpose of promoting the opposition to a certain course proposed there, as to hearing counsel on the part of a plaintiff about to be effected by a measure before Parliament.

The Marquess of Normanby

, as a Member of the Committee which had been referred to, begged to say, that his noble Friend was quite mistaken as to the object in communicating the evidence, which had been done with the consent of the Committee. He was aware, as a Member of the Committee, that his noble Friend had done this. His noble Friend had shown him a pamphlet coming from one of the Gentlemen whose name had been so often mentioned, and in that pamphlet a complaint was made by the writer that he had not been examined before the Committee of the House of Commons; and his noble Friend had referred to him, and asked him whether it would not be fair that he should be examined before the Committee of the House of Lords, to which he (the Marquess of Normanby) at once assented. The noble Duke then, with a view of making this party's case known, with the consent of the Committee, placed this evidence in the hands of the Chairman of the Committee of the other House, and left it to his discretion as to the use of it. He knew that that Committee continued sitting up to Friday week. There was now one topic on which it was necessary for him to say a word. He must say that he could hardly believe it possible that it could have been asserted in another place — however young the Member there might be, and therefore however inexperienced in the proceedings of both Houses—he could not believe that this could have been asserted by any one, or that any such reference as this should have been made to his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington), he could hardly think it possible that these words had ever been uttered:— I say that there is presumptive proof of a conspiracy between the promoters of the Bill in this House and the Chairman of the Committee in the other place, and whoever that Chairman may be, and he may be the Duke of Richmond, I say that he has abused his position as Chairman of the Committee, and in communicating the evidence in a written state, has been guilty of an irregular proceeding. The circumstances speak for themselves. I leave it to the public to judge of them. They reflect no credit on those who have used the evidence to prevent the petitioner from being heard, nor on the Duke of Richmond, if he has communicated the evidence taken before a Committee of which he may be Chairman. He could hardly believe that any one could have stated that his noble Friend, as Chairman of one of their Lordships' Committees, had entered into a conspiracy, for that or any other object whatever. He said, that if such words were used, and by a young Member, it was to be hoped that he would become better acquainted with the usual rules which governed the Members in both Houses, that he might learn how unjust and how improper it was to make such observations; for if such words were used by any Member of the other House advisedly and with premeditation, there could not have been committed a grosser abuse of the privileges of the other House, or a greater violation of their Lordships. The hon. Gentleman in question might or might not be acquainted with the character of the noble Duke, but whether he was or not, he could not impair the respect entertained for his noble Friend. Differing as he did from his noble Friend on political subjects, he was sure he might say this, in the hearing of all their Lordships, that whatever were the political views of his noble Friend, they were always upheld, always advocated, in that manly, candid, plain, and straightforward manner, that became his character, that won for him the regard of all who knew him in public; and still more, if that were possible, of those who had the advantage of knowing him in private; for all would willingly bear this testimony, that his noble Friend could not do anything but that which was most honourable, and never could adopt any unworthy course—never could, as it had been here said, enter into a conspiracy for any purpose. He must own that he felt some indignation in referring to such an accusation, and he had a right to do so, irrespective of his noble Friend; because if such an intention had actuated his noble Friend in giving the evidence, then every Member of the Committee was likewise guilty of the interference that had been complained of; for that possibly could not have taken place, nor could the evidence have been given, without the cognizance of the Committee.

The Earl of Radnor

knew nothing of what had been said in the other House of Parliament on this subject. He only rose to state his opinion, that as the evidence had been taken before a Select Committee, and was printed only for the use of the Members of the Committee, the evidence ought not to have been communicated in the way it had been. It was, undoubtedly, a very irregular mode of proceeding.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that as his name had been mentioned he should be excused for saying a few words on this subject. In the first place, he had to observe, that it was at the desire of the Select Committee that the communication of the evidence complained of had been made, and one of the motives of the Committee in sending that evidence was, that the party complained he had not been examined before a Committee of the House of Commons, and had no means of refuting the statements that had been made against him. And who was the first person, or rather who were the first persons, that saw the evidence. The two Gentlemen who had brought forward the case in favour of the petitioner. There could not be an intention to make an unworthy use of that evidence, when the first persons to whom it was communicated were the parties who had advocated the cause of this man. Now, when he accepted the office of Chairman of their Lordships' Committee, he was well aware of the consequences to which he exposed himself—he was well aware how disagreeable it must be to many that the gross robberies and frauds which had for too long a time been permitted to continue should be inquired into—he was well aware, that as Chairman of such a Committee, and strictly discharging its duties, he should be open to the attack of men who had been living for a series of years on the plunder of the public. He did not care much for the abuse of such parties, and he certainly should not have thought it worth his while to have referred to the supposed statement made by a Member of the House of Commons. He took higher ground than that. He stood before the country on his character; for he conceived he had a right to stand and rely on that alone. He knew that when young and zealous Members first came into Parliament—possibly when it was a very extraordinary thing to themselves to get, or to find others to send them there—but when such persons found themselves for the first time in Parliament they might fall into the fault of giving too ready a credence to those who came to them with their long stories, and they might be too easily induced to conclude that the tales told to them were literal facts. When, however, a man was a certain time in Parliament, he learned how many there were ready to go to him with their cases, and to tell him things that were worthy of very little attention. The older Members of both Houses of Parliament learned at last some wisdom from experience. For himself he did not feel in the least annoyed if this Gentleman had attacked him for what he conveived to be a portion of his duty; but if his assailant should be a young Member of Parliament, he who was old, and who had been a considerable time in Parliament, would say, that no Member ought readily to impute motives to others which, if he were a Gentleman, he should never entertain himself, and by which if he could be for one moment actuated, he could not keep his character and station in society.

Lord Monteagle

, as a Member of the Committee, was willing to share the responsibility with the noble Duke, who had completely vindicated himself from any charges which might have been brought against him. He was not aware of what had taken place elsewhere, but he knew that the hon. Gentleman to whom allusion had been made was the last person in the world who would avail himself of his privileges as a Member of Parliament to cast reflections upon any man.

Lord Campbell

considered that the noble Duke had completely vindicated himself; but it was very natural that a Member of the other House should be surprised at finding that the evidence which had been taken before their Lordships' Committee had been communicated to other persons; for in the excellent work of Mr. May (of the House of Commons) it was expressly stated that was contrary to the standing Order of the House to communicate the evidence which was given before the Select Committees of that House until it should be reported. He was not aware of what had passed in the other House, and had been anticipated by the noble Lord who had preceded him in the vindication of the hon. Member to whom the noble Duke had alluded. There was not, he believed, a Member in the House of Commons who was more respected than that hon. Gentleman was by both sides of the House. He was regarded and esteemed as one of the most rising men in that House, and would eventually, he believed, become one of the most trusted representatives of the people.

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