§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
, in rising to move for Copies of the correspondence which had taken place between Mr. P. U. P. FitzGerald and the Board of Trade, and to ask the Government why Mr. FitzGerald's name had been removed from the Marine Board at Cork, said, the Local Marine Board consisted partly of the elected members, and partly of gentlemen nominated by the Government, and the meetings of the Board in question took place in the City of Cork. In 1880, Mr. FitzGerald was nominated to fill one of the Government places. He was a gentleman occupying an influential position in the county, of which he was a magistrate and a deputy lieutenant. He resided on Cork Harbour, 23 miles from the City, and had special qualifications for a seat on the Marine 834 Board, inasmuch as he took great interest in nautical matters, had passed all the examinations, and held two certificates of the Board of Trade. His appointment reflected great credit on the Government that nominated him. At that time Mr. FitzGerald could not pledge himself to attend regularly to ordinary meetings, and he was told that his duties would be mainly of a consultative character, and that he would be referred to as occasion required. Upon those conditions Mr. FitzGerald accepted the offer. The newspapers reported that he had received a handsome acknowledgment from the Secretary of the Marine Board, who paid a high tribute to Mr. FitzGerald's usefulness to the Board for the information which the Secretary had on various occasions received from him, and had stated that Mr. FitzGerald had constantly attended at the office when he had been in Cork, in order to assist in any matters that were under deliberation. The small amount of remuneration attached to the office Mr. FitzGerald had regularly handed over to the Cork Sailors' Home. One would have thought that a gentleman willing to devote himself to this work would have been one whom a prudent Government would have desired to retain. But early in the present year Mr. FitzGerald received an intimation from the Board of Trade that as he had not attended the meetings of the Board it was not contemplated to include his name among the Government nominees. That was the first intimation he had received of any dissatisfaction or any desire to remove him from a position which he had filled with advantage to the public. The noble Lord (Lord Sudeley) would have to be very explicit in his disclaimer and very careful in his utterances if he would divest the mind of the public of the belief that Mr. FitzGerald's dismissal was directly traceable to political persecution. The Marine Board was appointed by the Board of Trade. The President of the Board, of whose office he (Viscount Midletonj would speak with the utmost respect, was known to hold peculiar views. He had lately spoken of a Member of that House who had given the whole of his life to the Public Service as one "who toiled not, neither did he spin." He also lately indulged in an inflated eulogium of another Member of that House 835 who had only lately entered the House, because he took the chair at a dinner in glorification of the President of the Board of Trade. When it was known that Mr. FitzGerald was the accepted Conservative candidate for the Borough of Cambridge, people were very ready to put the interpretation on this proceeding which it was natural it should bear, and he was very anxious to give the Government an opportunity of disclaiming having been guided by any such motive. It had also transpired that on a chance vacancy occurring on the Marine Board a few months ago the President of the Board of Trade consulted Mr. Parnell as to who should be appointed. It certainly startled those who held loyally to the Crown in connection with the Government of Ireland to find that Mr. Parnell was the person consulted under these circumstances. Of course, Mr. Parnell recommended a person strongly affected to his own interests, while one who had been conspicuous for his service to the public, and who was known as a Loyalist and a Conservative, was summarily dismissed from his office without any notice that his conduct had given dissatisfaction, or one word of explanation as to the reason why he was thus sent away. He (Viscount Midleton) would be glad to know that the Government were prepared to lay on the Table the Papers bearing on this subject.
§ Moved, " That there be laid before this House, Copy of the correspondence which has taken place between Mr. R. U. P. FitzGerald, whose name has lately been removed from the Marine Board at Cork, and the Board of Trade."—(The Viscount Midleton.)
§ LORD SUDELEY
, in reply, said: I think I can give the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Midleton) a somewhat different complexion of the case he has raised. Throughout the United Kingdom there are 17 Local Marine Boards, and to each Board there are 10 members. Six of these members are appointed by the shipowners, and four by the Board of Trade. These gentlemen are appointed for two years; and if vacancies occur, either by death or by resignation, those vacancies are filled up, the Board being re-elected every three years. In this month the triennial elections will take place. Mr. P. FitzGerald was nominated by the Board of Trade to the Local Marine Board at Cork in 1878, and 836 was re-nominated in 1881. The Board of Trade, however, finding recently that a number of the gentlemen who had been appointed to the Marine Board at different places were not attending as frequently as they could have wished, considered the matter; and they thought it was quite evident that a number of those gentlemen were either unable to attend from illness, or from various other circumstances, and thought it would be wise for them to determine that unless gentlemen had attended at one-third of the meetings during the year, that they should not be nominated, unless special reasons for their absence were forthcoming. Accordingly a Circular was sent out to that effect, and was sent to 20 out of 68. Mr. FitzGerald, who, as the noble Viscount says, has done such eminent work during last year, did not attend the meetings of the Board on one single occasion, and therefore the Board of Trade naturally sent the Circular to him. It is a very simple document, in very few lines. It merely states that the Board of Trade having ascertained that——not being able to attend the meetings often during the past year, they do not propose to re-appoint him as one of their nominees to the Marine Board, as they conclude his engagements do not permit of his attendance. If, after this, any gentleman said that it was from ill-health, or other cause, he had been unable to attend, he would have been re-nominated, and that has been the course taken in the case of other gentlemen to whom Circulars were sent. But Mr. FitzGerald, on receiving the Circular, wrote to the Board of Trade, pointing out that he understood, when he received the appointment, that the office did not expect his regular attendance, provided he kept himself informed of what was being done; the fact really being that he did not attend on a single occasion. But what did he do, besides writing to the Board of Trade? He at once, within a clay or two, wrote to all the newspapers, and appealed to the Press. The noble Viscount makes out that he has been politically persecuted, and tries to show that the President of the Board of Trade, (Mr. Chamberlain) has behaved shabbily towards Mr. FitzGerald. My Lords, there is not the slightest foundation for this charge. The noble Viscount has alluded to another matter, in which he says Mr. Chamberlain asked Mr. Par- 837 nell to nominate a certain gentleman to fill a certain vacancy. Whether that is so or not is very immaterial, as it has nothing to do with this case. The decision of the Board of Trade upon the general question was come to after careful consideration; but in the particular case under discussion, the Board of Trade believed Mr. FitzGerald to be thoroughly competent to perform the duties attached to the appointment. The Circular states merely that the Board of Trade do not propose to re-nominate, as it is concluded that the nominee to whom it is addressed is too much occupied to attend the meetings of the Local Marine Board. If, however, any nominee replies that he has been prevented by illness, or other cause, from attending, and is able and willing to perform the duties attached to the appointment, the Board of Trade is quite prepared to reconsider his case.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I ask if the noble Lord has any objection to lay on the Table of this House the actual Correspondence that has taken place?
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.