§ LORD AMPTHILL
had the following Notice on the Paper, a similar Motion, in identically the same terms, standing also in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, viz.:To move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into certain charges and allegations made in the public Press against a member of this House, namely, the Lord Murray of Elibank, and into all matters relating thereto; and that the said Committee be authorised to hear counsel and to examine witnesses on oath; and that the evidence taken from time to time before the said Committee be printed for the use of members of the House.The noble Lord said: Your Lordships will perceive that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to relieve me of my self-imposed responsibility. I need hardly tell your Lordships that it is as satisfactory to me as it must be to every member of this House that a matter of such great and far-reaching importance should be in the proper hands. My duty therefore—a duty which I most gladly discharge—is to refrain from moving. The Motion, however, remains on the Notice Paper, and it is for the noble Marquess to move.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, it is due to your Lordships that I should explain how it has come to pass that I stand here this evening to move this Motion instead of my noble friend behind me. We who sit on this Bench have always had it in our minds that it might be necessary to appoint a Committee of this House to investigate these matters. But in our view it was not desirable that we should take any action in that direction until after the House had heard the statement promised to us by the noble Lord, Lord Murray, who I think is not here this evening. We have heard that statement, and we have come to the conclusion that it contained nothing which should deter us from carrying out our original intention and asking your Lordships to agree to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the charges and allegations which have been made against the noble Lord. That being so, we feel that the Motion should be made upon our initiative and recommended to the House upon our responsibility, and I have accordingly, with my noble friend's consent, for which I beg to tender him my thanks, undertaken the task.
234 I shall not detain the House for many minutes in outlining the circumstances in which we consider that an investigation of this kind is urgently demanded. Your Lordships are, I am sure, all familiar with the main outline of what is commonly called the Marconi scandal. The country has been ringing with it for some months past, and all I need say about it is that I believe there never was a wilder or a more discreditable gamble upon the Stock Exchange than that which took place in connection with the issue of the American Marconi shares which were introduced to the British Stock Market. There were inordinate gains and cruel and undeserved losses. I am told that it has been calculated that within the space of two days the little knot of individuals who had particular means of knowing the inwardness of these transactions might have made a profit of something like £1,500,000. At any rate, the whole thing was so disreputable that the Committee of the Stock Exchange took the unusual course of suspending for five years the firm of jobbers who were concerned in the introduction of these shares to the market.
When it became known that Ministers of the Crown were concerned—to what extent no one knew, but still to some extent—in these speculations, a feeling of profound uneasiness developed through-out the country. I do not think any of us can recall an occasion upon which a feeling of this kind was more intense and more widespread. I am afraid these questions, involving the personal reputation of individuals, particularly when they are public men, always attract a good deal of what I think I might describe as morbid curiosity; but I am sure that in this case there was much more than that. What I think was felt by the people of this country was that these revelations had disclosed something seriously amiss with our public life, something fatal to those great traditions upon which we pride ourselves—traditions the observation of which has enabled us to maintain our own self-respect, and not only our own self-respect, but the respect of foreign countries and of our fellow-subjects beyond the seas, who have asked for nothing better than that their standards of public morality should conform to ours.
At any rate, a passionate desire to probe these matters to the utmost arose in the 235 land and resulted in the appointment of the House of Commons Committee, about which I shall have a few words to say presently. It will not surprise me if, when the noble Marquess rises to follow me, he tells me that in his view that Committee may be considered to have disposed sufficiently of the question. I venture to suggest that the mere fact that Lord Murray came here on Tuesday to make an explanatory statement to your Lordships shows that, in his opinion at any rate, the matter could not be allowed to remain where the House of Commons Committee left it. But in addition to that, I am bound to say, and I say so with no want of respect to Committees appointed by the other House of Parliament, that for a purpose of this kind I cannot conceive a more ill-suited tribunal than a House of Commons Committee set up on the ordinary lines. How are these Committees composed? They are constituted of members chosen by the Party managers from their own supporters; they are chosen in numbers which correspond to the strength of the different Parties in the House, and in this case it came to pass, in the natural order of events, that the Party opposite was represented by nine members and the Party to whom we belong by six. One of those groups evidently regarded itself as concerned with the prosecution; the other regarded itself as entirely interested in the defence; and as the inquiry proceeded the partisan complexion of the Committee became more and more apparent. For example, it is on record that at one moment information was imparted to members of the Committee and made use of by them in the course of the examination of witnesses, but withheld from the knowledge of the Committee as a whole. On all crucial points the divisions took place upon strictly Party lines.
Then came the question of the Report. The Report suggested by the minority of the Committee received short shrift. There was a Report proposed by the Chairman of the Committee which contained a passage, or perhaps one or two passages, mildly regretful in their tone, but much less condemnatory of the Ministers involved than the subsequent admissions of those Ministers themselves, and less condemnatory than the Resolution subsequently passed by the House of Commons. But that Report did not meet with the approval of the stalwarts of the 236 Committee, and they substituted for it a Report absolutely and entirely whitewashing the Ministers whose conduct was submitted to their criticism. That Report was so obviously inadequate to the circumstances of that case that when the matter came up for debate in the House of Commons His Majesty's Government did not venture to found their Resolution upon the Report of the Committee, but substituted a Resolution, in which they were obliged for decency's sake to accept the expressions of regret which had been tendered to them by the Ministers involved—regret for their conduct in the matter of these speculations and for the suppression of the facts when the matter had come before the House of Commons in the previous month of October. But, my Lords, even if the Report of the House of Commons is to be accepted in so far as it affected the two Ministers whose names were before them during the investigation, I suggest to your Lordships that so far as Lord Murray is concerned it is impossible to accept that Report as in any way sufficient or conclusive. It is true that the Committee by one bold stroke of the brush whitewashed not only the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney-General, but all the Ministers concerned in these transactions. But I suggest to the House that they were not in a position to absolve Lord Murray in regard to these transactions. Lord Murray was not before the Committee, and took no steps to appear before it.
The history of these events is remarkable. Early in their proceedings the Committee passed a Resolution intimating that they were prepared to consider all evidence, and inviting any person in possession of such evidence to communicate with the clerk of the Committee, and it was intimated by one of the noble Marquess's colleagues that members of the Government would be most ready to appear before the Committee. So much was this the case that Sir Rufus Isaacs, as he then was, when he eventually appeared as a witness before the Committee explained to them that he would gladly have appeared sooner if he had been allowed to do so, but that he did not think he was justified in pressing to be taken out of his turn. He was, if I may so put it, straining at the leash in order to get to the Committee and to be allowed to give his explanation before them. Well, my Lords, why was it that 237 Ministers were anxious to come before the Committee and give their evidence? Surely it was for this reason, that they fully realised that no explanations which they could give on the floor of the House would be sufficient to clear them from the imputations under which they were suffering.
Lord Murray, as I have said, never appeared before the House of Commons Committee. I believe it is not disputed that while the Committee were sitting he spent somewhere about two months in this country, but he never presented himself and never was called; and I noted that in the full explanation which he gave on Tuesday last he failed to state how it had happened that he had not found an opportunity of appearing before the Committee. The noble Lord, then, remains in this position, that whereas his colleagues did appear before the Committee, were examined upon oath, and submitted themselves to cross-examination, he did not appear before the Committee, has never testified on oath, and has never submitted himself to cross-examination. I do not leave out of account the fact that the noble Lord on Tuesday last made a very full apology in this House. Its sincerity must have impressed all who listened to it. We have had a good many Ministerial apologies lately. They have been of frequent occurrence, and I will pay the noble Lord the compliment of saying that I thought his apology was probably the best apology of the lot. At any rate, the noble Lord did not follow the example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and compare himself to St. Sebastian or any other saint in the calendar. But, my Lords, I do desire to point this out, that an apology and a defence are two entirely different things. An apology cannot be a defence, because an apology is an admission that there is something wrong. I suggest to the House that neither the apology of the noble Lord nor the House of Commons Report is really sufficient to justify us in abstaining from inviting him to come before a Committee of his brother Peers. I noted, by the way, that in the speech delivered by Sir Edward Grey at the close of the debate in the House of Commons—a speech conceived in very moderate and reasonable terms-he constantly referred when vindicating his colleagues, not to Lord Murray, whom he did not mention by name, but to his 238 "two right hon. friends"; and no one, I think, will read that speech without feeling that in Sir Edward Grey's view, at any rate, the House of Commons Report cannot be regarded as in any way absolving Lord Murray from the imputations that have been made.
What, then, are the facts with regard to Lord Murray? We know that he, like his colleagues, had large dealings in speculative securities; we know that he accepted, as they did, profitable information from persons who were in contractual relations with His Majesty's Government; and we know that he, like them, withheld the knowledge of this information from his colleagues and from the House of Commons, But in one respect his case differs, I think, from that of the other Ministers. Lord Murray while these events were taking place was in the position of Chief Whip in the House of Commons. He was the unhampered custodian of the Party funds, and he was also, being Party Whip, in a sense the custodian of the consciences of the Members of Parliament to whom it was his business to attend. The position of the Chief Whip is a very remarkable one. I wonder whether any of your Lordships remember a description given to us two or three years ago by a noble Lord who was Lord Murray's predecessor in the Office of Chief Whip—I mean Lord Marchamley. Lord Marchamley told us that—The Chief Whip is a very valuable piece of Party mechanism. He does what he is told. When he is instructed to go he goeth; when he is instructed to come he cometh; and when he is told that he must whip for any self-evident proposition, such as that black is white, he does so with the same alacrity and eagerness as if he believed it.A Government official who occupies that position in the House of Commons has exceptional opportunities, and it seems to me that an official who exercises powers of that kind ought to be more careful than anybody else how he involves himself in the kind of difficulties in which Lord Murray and his colleagues have found themselves involved.
But, my Lords, apart from this, there were questions closely concerning Lord Murray which certainly did not come before the Committee of the House of Commons, and which in our view certainly require further elucidation. Let me mention two or three of them. In the first place there is the whole question of the limits within 239 which Party funds can be used for speculative purposes. Is it desirable that those funds should be used for investment in companies allied to companies which are in contractual relations with the Government of the day? Then, closely connected with that, there is a very remarkable incident which has come to light—I mean the investment of a large sum from the Party funds, I think £21,000, in Railway Stocks at the time when the Coal Strike was in progress, and when His Majesty's Government were using all their endeavours to terminate it. Again, is not some explanation called for in regard to the undisputed fact that Lord Murray, upon the 17th of April, bought these American Marconi shares at £2 for himself, and the very next day bought the same description of shares for his Party at £3 5s.? Is it not desirable, also, that we should know whether, when Lord Murray obtained these shares, he obtained the whole of the shares for which he applied, or whether, like the rest of the public, he was only allotted 15 per cent. of the amount for which he had applied? I do not know that it has yet been explained why it was that these shares were not paid for at the time or in what circumstances Lord Murray authorised the purchase of 3,000 more shares on May 22 by his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Yes. Then we have also noticed a reference to some arrangement under which these Ministers apparently took part in a kind of pool under which these shares were held with an engagement that they should not sell them, or, at any rate, should not sell more than a part of them, during a certain period of time. There are besides this some large transactions involving, I believe, a total of some £70,000, which took place in connection with the Party funds about the time of the Coronation, and upon which a little more light might perhaps be desirable. I will mention one point more. It has reference to the actual ownership of the block of 500,000 Marconi shares, a part of which passed into the possession of Ministers. It appears to be beyond dispute that this block of 500,000 shares was at one time the property of the English Marconi Company. They were subsequently placed on the market in the discreditable circumstances to which I 240 referred at the beginning of my speech. But what we should like to know is, to whom did these shares really belong at the time when they were sold to the noble Marquess's colleagues? The matter is really a very serious one, and for this reason. There has been a complete failure to establish the fact that at the time of the transfer those shares had ceased to belong to the English Marconi Company, and the importance of this lies in the fact that if the shares at that moment remained the property of the English Marconi Company, then the Ministers who acquired them are at any rate under the serious suspicion of having had dealings with the English Company, which they have always endeavoured to distinguish from the Marconi Company, and with which they have always admitted they would in no circumstances have been justified in dealing. These are some, at any rate, of the points which in our view might be elucidated by a Committee of your Lordships' House.
I would like to say one word before I sit down as to the composition of the Committee. I am certainly not going at this moment to suggest to the House any hard-and-fast conclusions upon that point. But I will say one thing. I hope that the Committee which we shall appoint will at any rate be anything rather than a replica of the Committee which sat in the House of Commons. In our view it should be small in number and judicial in its temperament, and I should hope that we might be able to secure for it the assistance of one or two noble Lords with some judicial experience. I would say that nothing is further from our thoughts than that the members of this Committee should be entrusted either with the duty of prosecution or with the duty of defence. I hope that they will sit as judges, and that the persons who make these accusations will be given an opportunity of making them before the Committee, and that the persons who are accused will be given an opportunity of defending themselves such as has not yet been accorded to them. Then, my Lords, I hope that the members of the Committee will be chosen by the two sides of the House in consultation. We earnestly invite the co-operation of the noble Marquess and of the noble Lords who sit beside him. They should, in our view, be the first to welcome an inquiry of this kind, which will set at rest some of the questions which are now exercising 241 men's minds and damaging the reputation of His Majesty's Ministers. And, my Lords, I believe that the appointment of such a Committee would have immediately some valuable results. I believe that once the case is brought within the cognizance of such a Committee there will be a considerable relaxation of the tension which now prevails and an abatement of the bitter feelings which have lately been engendered. I cannot believe that the noble Marquess will raise any difficulties in the way of the setting up of a Committee of the kind for which we ask. Surely it is not too much to say that in such a case obstructive tactics would be wholly unjustifiable. And I say more, they would be disastrous to those who resorted to them. As a Party man I could ask for nothing better than that the noble Marquess and his friends should throw difficulties in the way of an inquiry such as that for which we are asking. But, we ask, as I said just now, for much more than abstention from obstruction on the part of the noble Marquess. We ask him and his colleagues to help us to get to the bottom of these matters, and in so doing to vindicate the honour of your Lordships' House.
§ Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into certain charges and allegations made in the public Press against a member of this House, namely, the Lord Murray of Elibank, and into all matters relating thereto; and that the said Committee be authorised to hear counsel and to examine witnesses on oath; and that the evidence taken from time to time before the said Committee be printed for the use of members of the House.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I can say at once that I do not propose to offer any objection of any land to the course which the noble Marquess asks the House to adopt of setting up a Committee. The noble Marquess has stated in terms of great general moderation and with his accustomed skill all the arguments which could be brought forward in favour of instituting an inquiry of this kind. Some of those arguments were also stated in different form by Lord Ampthill two days ago, when he offered some observations in not pressing his Motion at that time. But I am bound to say that I cannot profess 242 myself to be convinced that the course which the noble Marquess desires to take is one which in reality is demanded either by the dignity of this House or by the needs of the Public Service. I do not myself see that a Committee of this kind, however constituted, will in reality serve any useful purpose.
When Lord Ampthill was speaking the day before yesterday he spoke of the transactions which had actually taken place and about which there was no doubt whatever—meaning the transactions in relation to the purchase of Marconi shares. The object, I take it, of a Committee of this kind is to elicit facts, and if the facts are generally known—subject to one or two exceptions to which the noble Marquess alluded, and on which I will say a word later—if the facts are known I cannot see that it is necessary for your Lordships to act as if you were considering a railway or some other private Bill, and to constitute yourselves into the second House, as it is called, for that purpose. So far, therefore, as the great bulk of the transactions are concerned everything is known that can be known. It is open, of course, for any noble Lord or anybody else to say that the particular deductions which you wish to draw from the evidence that was given before the House of Commons Committee ought to be interpreted in a particular way. The noble Marquess has alluded to the various Reports which that evidence produced. But the mere repetition of a great body of evidence of that kind before any Committee of the House cannot, in my humble judgment, add in any way to the dignity of this House or serve any useful purpose.
It is, I think, worth noting that if my noble friend Lord Murray is in a sense to be placed on his trial before this Committee he is being subjected thereby to a process to which the Ministers in another place were not subjected. The House of Commons Committee was in no way appointed to inquire into the proceedings or the liability of members of the Government. Its reference was—To inquire into and investigate the circumstances connected with the negotiations and completion of the agreement with the Marconi Company and to report thereon; and whether the agreement is a desirable one, and should be approved.No reference was made therein, as is made in the Motion now before the House, to 243 a particular person or persons, and consequently the proceedings which your Lordships are asked to approve are not on all fours with those which occurred in another place. I think it is right, also, to remind the House, when my noble friend's explanation which he gave two days ago is compared with the statements made by Ministers in another place, that those statements were made after the inquiry had taken place and the Committee had reported; but my noble friend volunteered his statement here long before there was any question of an inquiry by your Lordships' House—there was no Motion on the Paper or any suggestion of the kind—and here, again, I would invite the attention of the House to the different position in which my noble friend is placed.
One of the arguments which the noble Marquess used was that, although the noble Lord has made his statement—and the noble Marquess was far from saying that he disbelieved any of it—yet it would somehow be a comfort and satisfaction to your Lordships that Lord Murray should repeat that statement on oath and subject to cross-examination. My noble friend freely admitted the error which he made—and I may say that I agree that it was an error—in not appearing before the Committee of the House of Commons during the autumn months when he was in England, and I have no doubt that when he is questioned on that subject he will repeat the regrets to which he gave utterance on Tuesday last. But in attempting to go at all into the various points which the noble Marquess has indicated we are, I think, at any rate in this moral difficulty, that it being generally agreed that a Committee is to be appointed by the desire of the majority of this House the matter in all its details once more becomes in a sense sub judice; and it would not, I think, be profitable to institute a debate in this House at this moment on the various points which the noble Marquess indicated as points into which inquiry might be made.
There are, however, one or two observations which I desire to make on matters on which I happen to be particularly informed. In the first place, we must not be taken as admitting the accuracy of one of the noble Marquess's statements—namely, that Ministers obtained information from persons with whom the Govern- 244 ment was in a contractual relation with regard to the subject of that contract. That we should not admit for a moment. The noble Marquess's charge, if that is the word, is, I suppose, founded on the fact that in his opinion the English Marconi Company and the American Company were much the same thing. Our contention is that they were two totally different things. Then the noble Marquess alluded to the position of the Chief Whip and his charge of the Party funds—a very large, and to many an interesting, subject, of which not very much is known to the public at large and upon which, therefore, surmise is likely to settle. It is possible, I think, to over-estimate the profound and mysterious character of the functions exercised by the Patronage Secretary, the Chief Whip. After all, he is not exactly in the position of the Cardinal Secretary at the Vatican; and although he has important functions to perform, those functions are by no means unlimited by various restrictions, to which the noble Marquess did not allude. Take, for instance, this question of the supposed purchase of Home Rails during the Coal Strife owing to the knowledge possessed, by the Patronage Secretary that the Government was somehow going to settle the strike, and that, therefore, the securities would appreciate in value. As a matter of fact, Lord Murray could have had no connection whatever with that transaction, because he was absent ill during the whole time of the Coal Strike. He was absent altogether for six weeks, and could have had no knowledge whatever of what was going on. But with regard to what I have just stated I should like to say this. I hope noble Lords do not suppose that if Lord Murray, or whoever was Chief Whip at the time, had been there, he necessarily would have had anything to do with the Government negotiations with respect to that strike. They were known to very few people. It so happens that I was one of them myself. But it would be an entire error to suppose—and if any noble Lord was in the House who had ever filled the office of Patronage Secretary he would endorse what I say—that it by any means follows that the Patronage Secretary would have the faintest idea on an occasion of that kind of what was going on. I need not labour that point, which is one on which I dare say the noble Marquess's Committee will ask some questions.
245 Another point which the noble Marquess just touched upon was that of certain transactions of a large sum at a date not long before His Majesty's Coronation, which had been supposed by some wiseacres to have some connection with that event. I have never in the past known anything at all about the Party funds, and I cannot say that I know much now. But I do know that on that particular occasion a considerable or large block of Consols were sold and reinvested in smaller amounts in various other securities. That, I believe, is the whole truth about those transactions which have caused so much excitement and in some quarters so many hopes of unearthing a scandal in connection with Party funds. On that subject I should like to ask noble Lords opposite whether they really suppose that the setting up of a Committee of this kind is going to involve a complete investigation into the manner in which the funds of the two Parties are held, the manner in which they are invested, and, possibly, even the manner in which they are expended. It is quite evident that inquiries of that kind—although single questions might be put and answered, or not answered, as the case may be, in this inquiry—it is quite evident that if you desire to plunge into an inquiry of that kind it must clearly apply equally to both sides; and if such an inquiry is to be held it does not seem to me to arise very naturally out of these particular transactions in American Marconis, which are the presumed object of these particular investigations. I hope, therefore, that the noble Marquess did not mean, in using the phrases he did about Party funds, that he desired to institute an investigation of this kind by the appointment of this particular Committee, because I am afraid we could not hold out any hope to him of supporting him in an enterprise of that kind.
I wish to make it clear that in our view the appointment of this Committee, even for a more limited purpose, will not really serve the public advantage, because we do not think that there are new facts to be elucidated or any discoveries of importance to be made. It may be assumed, I think, because as much has been said even by the most violent partisans in another place, that there is no intention of imputing charges of dishonesty or corruption either to my noble friend who is not here or to any others 246 who were mixed up in those transactions. But since the noble Marquess thinks, and his friends think, that something is to be gained by the appointment of such a Committee, as I stated at the opening of my remarks we do not desire to offer any opposition to its appointment.
On the other hand, I am not prepared, particularly as I really do not know exactly what this Committee is designed to bring out or to do, to take any direct responsibility for its appointment. I think it is clear that the noble Lords who compose it will not get much assistance from the House of Commons in conducting their inquiry. Probably that is what they expect. I presume also that the noble Marquess does not propose that what I may call a regular official representation of either side of the House should form part of the Committee. That I think I was able to gather from his general tone as to what in his opinion its composition ought to be, and so far, if there is to be a Committee, I am in agreement with the noble Marquess that it should be small in numbers, and, so far as possible, non-Party and judicially-minded in its composition. I say at once that I have not the smallest wish to deter or dissuade any noble friend of mine who is not an official member of the House from taking a seat on the Committee. But I am afraid I must ask to be excused from any direct responsibility in forming it, simply on the ground which I have stated—that is, that I do not consider that its setting up will serve any very useful purpose, and that if I was to take an active part in attempting to form the Committee I should appear to be going back from that opinion.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I do not think there is much more to be said. The only object of the Motion was to secure the appointment of an impartial body to investigate this important and far-reaching question and, unless I greatly mistake the feeling of the House, that object has already been attained. In my humble judgment therefore, further debate is both unnecessary and undesirable, and I am certainly not going to trouble the House with the speech which I came prepared to make. Nor do I think it worth while to follow the noble Marquess the Leader of the House into 247 the somewhat flimsy casuistry of his objections.
It was never part of my intention either to examine or to endeavour to substantiate the charges and allegations made against Lord Murray of Elibank or in any way, so to speak, to conduct a prosecution against him. All that I should have done in any circumstances was to point out that the charges and allegations were there, that they had been made, and that they could not be ignored by your Lordships' House. My sole concern has been for the honour of this House and for our responsibility for principle and honesty in the Public Service. If the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is unable to see that those great questions are involved, his ideas and his standards must be different from those of the majority of us, and nothing that I can say in the way of argument is likely to have any effect upon him. Circumstances have made it unavoidable that we should show ourselves alive to that responsibility—our responsibility for purity of principle in the Public Service—and if the noble Marquess does not realise that that is expected of us, all I can say is that he is completely out of touch with public opinion in this country. Your Lordships will be called upon to express an opinion when the Report of the Select Committee is before the House, when all the facts are established—and here again I cannot agree with the noble Marquess, that it is certain that all the facts are already known—when there is no shadow of doubt as to the truth or falsity of the charges and allegations. Until that time I venture to think that it would not be right that we should as a corporate body either condemn or condone transactions which unquestionably have stirred the soul of the nation, and have, alas! diminished the reputation of Great Britain in the eyes of the world.
There is only one part of the noble Marquess's argument in reply to which I should like to say a word. He stated that the contention of himself and his colleagues was that there was a great distinction between British and American Marconis. If that is the case, I should like to ask him why the Select Committee of the House of Commons for two or three months went on the assumption in all their questions to witnesses that there 248 was no difference between any Marconis, whether they were British, American, Canadian, or Spanish, and that it was only when the complicity of Ministers in this affair had been discovered that they adopted a different line and endeavoured to make out that this offspring company had nothing whatever to do with its parent? The noble Marquess tried to make another point when he said that it by no means followed—and he told your Lordships this with an air of superior wisdom—that the Chief Whip would know what the other members of the Government were doing in regard to the settlement of the Coal Strike. But I am sure it struck your Lordships that the answer would not be complete unless he also assured your Lordships that the other members of the Government did not know what the Chief Whip was doing in the matter of the investment in Home Rails.
As regards the contention that this is a chose jugée, that the House of Commons have disposed of it, all I have to say is this. Neither in this matter nor in any other matter are we bound by the opinion of the House of Commons. Like other men or bodies of men we have a right to our own opinion. This House exists for the very purpose of expressing a different opinion from that of the House of Commons—[Ministerial laughter]—you will not laugh when I have finished my sentence—a different opinion from that of the House of Commons whenever it is apparent that the elected House is not truly reflecting the wishes, the sentiments, and the ideals of the nation. It is then that we are not only expected, but bound, to express a different opinion from that of the elected House. It remains to be seen whether in this matter we ought to agree or disagree with the House of Commons, and it will be time to form a judgment on that point when we have the facts before us. Lord Murray of Elibank himself said that the Marconi affair had to be "cleaned up"—a significant expression, from which we may assume that it was regarded even by him as being a dirty business. It is sufficiently apparent that whitewashing has not proved to be the best method of cleaning. We see already that dark stains are appearing through the whitewash of the House of Commons, and those dark stains must be removed in order that the evil odour of the business may no longer stink in the nostrils of the people.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I have not risen to make a speech, but for the more prosaic purpose of putting a question to the noble Marquess who has made this Motion. All the time that I have had the pleasure of listening to the noble Marquess I do not think I ever heard him make a slip of the tongue or put a word wrong. But I hope he did so here, because he has moved for the appointment of a Select Committee "to inquire into certain charges and allegations made in the public Press against a member of this House," but he said in the course of his remarks that he hoped the Committee was going to be a quasi-judicial body, a very impartial body, which should "hear all those who had accusations to make and also hear the persons who were accused." I want to ask the noble Marquess whether that expression was merely a very unusual slip of the tongue on his part, or whether he meant it. For if it was not a slip of the tongue, then the terms of the Motion would require to be corrected.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
If the noble Lord will look at the terms of the Motion he will see that we propose that the Select Committee should inquire into certain charges and allegations made in the public Press against a member of this House—namely, the Lord Murray of Elibank—"and into all matters relating thereto." I assume that as the reference is in those terms the Committee would not consider themselves precluded from entering, to whatever extent they thought necessary, into questions affecting other persons besides Lord Murray.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to; and ordered accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.