§ MAJOR ANSON
, referring to certain complaints he had made about a fortnight ago against the Manufacturing Departments in the War Office, said that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in replying on that occasion, had stated that his charges were vague and indefinite, whereas, on the contrary, they were specific and even minute in their details. The right hon. Gentleman had further stated that he had received no Notice of the charges he had brought against those Departments; but when the right hon. Gentleman was about to bring forward the Army Estimates in April last he informed him that he had a 1255 Motion on the Paper dealing with those Departments, against which he had very serious charges to bring. He had, however, postponed bringing forward these charges until the officers of those Departments had had time to investigate them. He had then written a letter to the War Department, containing the charges he had referred to, and he held in his hand the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to that communication. It was impossible, after such a communication, it could be said that he had not given fair Notice of the charges he was about to make. It was no pleasure to him to make charges against a public Department, and he did so simply from a sense of duty. It was unnecessary for the right hon. Gentleman to have got up the other evening and spoken of the injured feelings of distinguished officers to whom his charges did not in any respect apply. The right hon. Gentleman, in another part of his speech assumed that he (Major Anson) had been posted up in those charges by some outsider. He had undoubtedly gone to Major Palliser for information; but, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman was equally inspired by the Royal Gun Factories. Major Palliser bad a right to have his case heard in that House, seeing that he was a most distinguished man, and that his inventions had saved the country many hundreds of thousands of pounds. He should conclude by moving for a Committee.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Committee of Five Members be appointed by the Committee of Selection to inquire into the following allegations:—That in 1864 the Royal Gun Factories, on being applied to by the Ordnance Select Committee for Estimates for cheaper 9-inch guns than those that were being made at that time, sent in erroneous comparative Estimates, on the strength of which the Ordnance Select Committee decided in favour of the gun proposed by the Royal Gun Factories; that a sample 9-inch gun was then made by the Royal Gun Factories, the details of the cost of which, on being compared with the details of the cost of similar guns manufactured two years afterwards, show great and apparently inexplicable discrepancies; and that like errors have been made by the Royal Gun Factories with regard to the comparative cost of new wrought-iron and converted guns, thereby entailing a heavy and unnecessary expense upon the country,"—(Major Anson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."1256
CAPTAIN VIVIAN moved an Amendment to add the words—
That Sir John Pakington and Major Anson be added to the Committee, for the purpose of examining witnesses, and taking part in the proceedings, but without the power of voting.
He said that he was convinced that his hon. Friend would not have brought forward this matter unless he had been thoroughly convinced of the truth of what he had stated; and it would be very unfair if his hon. Friend, and also the right hon. Baronet, had not the means of cross-examining the witnesses who would appear before the Committee. If the Inquiry were entered upon at all it should be fully and fairly carried out.
seconded the Amendment, of which he heartily approved, considering that it was for the interest of the Royal Gun Factories themselves that this investigation should take place, with a view to the removal of the suspicion which, no doubt, at present existed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
ruled that the original Motion of the hon. and gallant Member (Major Anson) must be carried before the addition could be put to the House.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he regretted the aggrieved tone assumed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Anson), because there was already I enough of unpleasantness connected with the subject to make it advisable that in the House at least it should be approached as calmly and deliberately as possible. His hon. and gallant Friend commenced his speech by a complaint which had already been answered by the statement of fact that he had given no Notice of his intention to bring charges against the officers of the Gun Factory. He (Sir John Pakington) was sorry to say he could not retract a word he had uttered in that respect. The proof of Notice now was, that the hon. and gallant Member had some communication with him (Sir John Pakington) in April last, in which he intimated that he had a series of charges to bring against this Department; but the hon. and gallant Member must forgive him if he did not at that time bear in mind a communication made to him in last April. Then he referred to a letter and an answer; but the letter was not directed to him, but to Major Palliser. He thought that a letter written with his (Sir John Pakington's) authority, in April last, to Major Palliser, could hardly be considered a notice of the speech that the hon. and gallant Member was going to 1257 make in July. On Monday week his hon. and gallant Friend made a very important Motion consisting of three parts, every one of which deserved serious consideration, but the Notice of Motion contained: no intimation of the serious charges adverted to by him in April, nor that he was going to make those charges a portion of his speech in July; and therefore he (Sir John Pakington) adhered to the statement that he had no warning that the hon. and gallant Member was going to advert to the subject. The details of those accusations were exceedingly difficult to follow; but there was no doubt that the speech conveyed serious accusations, not only against the acts done in the Gun Factory, but against the motives of the officers, and the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) said that the charges were so serious that they were bound in fairness to make them the subject of inquiry. Considering what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, he had certainly expected some definite Notice would have been given; indeed, without wishing to introduce any asperity into the discussion, he was bound to say he had reason to complain of the course his hon. and gallant Friend took. The Notice had first appeared last Wednesday for the following Friday; but its terms were very vague, and his hon. and gallant Friend failed to persevere with it. On Monday, a week after the accusations had been made, another Notice appeared on the Paper; but his hon. and gallant Friend did not persevere with that, and a third Notice stood on the Paper for Tuesday last; again, notwithstanding he was present to meet the charge, his hon. and gallant Friend did not appear. Thus, after no less than three distinct Notices of Motion had passed by, the House was on Thursday called on to consider the accusation made last Monday week. Respecting the substance of the Motion he had no objection to offer; he was quite ready to assent to the appointment of the Committee in whatever shape might appear best to the House. He could not, however, refrain from reminding the House that the terms of the Motion did not touch the gravest point of the accusations made on Monday week; he trusted those allegations would be considered by a Committee, and he felt very confident the officers concerned would be able to give a satisfactory answer to every one of them. The gallant officers concerned now stated that those imputa- 1258 tions could be explained in the fullest and most satisfactory manner. What they complained of was the imputation of unworthy motives. His hon. and gallant Friend imputed motives which they considered to be most dishonourable. One of their imputations was understood to be that when the gentlemen referred to found there was a desire to employ the trade they immediately altered their prices. There was another allegation which had reference to a particular gun; but he observed that this allegation was not included in the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend. His Motion did not touch it, and he hoped he was not going too far when he said that in his opinion his hon. and gallant Friend must allow him to consider those parts of his allegations which were not included in his Motion as practically and intentionally withdrawn. The feelings of honourable men were very much hurt at those imputations. His noble Friend the Member for the East Riding (Lord Hotham), to whom all in that House were so much indebted, thought there was an objection to having the proposed Committee nominated by the Committee of Selection. That being so, he felt it right to inform the House that the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Anson) was in no way responsible for that mode of nomination. He himself must take that responsibility; and his reason for suggesting that the Committee of Selection should nominate ill this case was his strong feeling that as the Inquiry was to be in the nature of a judicial one, there should be no room for the slightest suspicion that there was anything like party or bias in the Committee. However, in respect to the manner in which the Committee should be named, he was in the hands of the House. With respect to the addition to the Committee proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), he must, for himself, beg to decline to be put on the Committee. In the first place, his numerous engagements s would interfere with his serving on the Committee; and, in the next place, he should prefer not to do so in consequence of his impressions on the subject itself. Then, he thought, it would be difficult for him to find any Member of that House to conduct the case on the other side who had gone so fully into the subject and was in possession of so many of the details as the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield. That duty might be discharged by Colonel 1259 Campbell; but as that gallant officer was not a Member of the House, he did not know whether he would be competent to propose Colonel Campbell as one of the Committee. His own opinion was that five Members of that House, carefully and impartially selected, would be quite competent to give a satisfactory decision in the case.
§ LORD HOTHAM
begged to be understood as not wishing to offer the slightest Opposition to the proposed inquiry when he expressed a hope that the Committee would not be nominated in the way proposed by the hon. and gallant Member (Major Anson). When the Committee of Selection had to nominate a Committee, it was their duly to find Members free from any connection with the subject to be investigated. It might so happen, therefore, that the Members appointed were entirely ignorant of the subject; but it must be their own fault if they remained long so, because, on entering the Committee-room, they found themselves confronted by numerous counsel whose duty it was to bring forward the facts on both sides. But in the case of the Inquiry, as proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield it would be quite different. If five Gentlemen entirely unconnected with and knowing nothing of the subject were selected there would be no counsel or no agents to bring the matter before them. The hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) proposed an attempt to remedy that inconvenience by moving that two Gentlemen should be appointed—one to represent one side and the other to represent the other side—who should take part in all the proceedings, but abstain from voting. From his own experience in other cases, he was of opinion that a Committee formed in that way was a Committee of the worst possible kind for investigating a matter requiring examination. He thought that no Member should be placed on a Committee to take part in its proceedings, and at the same time to be relieved from the responsibility of voting. The proposed Committee was to investigate a subject of great public importance, and he could not see why it should not be selected by the House in the usual manner In this way a Committee might be selected to conduct the Inquiry fairly and impartially. Necessarily the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield would be nominated on one side, and he could not but think that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War 1260 would be able to name a Member to whom such information might he supplied from the War Office as would enable him to see justice done. He begged to add that he thought a Committee of seven would be quite large enough, and that the sittings of the Committee ought to be continuous pending the Inquiry.
§ LORD ELCHO
, on the part of the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield, who could not speak again, explained that the hon. and gallant Member had waited for a day or two in order to see whether the Inquiry would be proposed by the Secretary of State for War. The hon. and gallant Member having made the charges thought the investigation ought to be originated by the War Department. As regarded the imputation of motives, the hon. and gallant Member entirely eschewed the accuracy of the view taken by the right hon. Baronet of what he had said; but he was content to leave the question of motives to be decided by the Committee. His hon. and gallant Friend had brought no charges against any individual, but only generally against the system, and he was quite prepared to have his allegations thus tested before a Committee. As regarded the trial of this question he (Lord Elcho) confessed that the course suggested by his noble Friend opposite (Lord Hotham) appeared to be the right one.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
expressed his readiness to act upon the suggestion which had been thrown out by the noble Lord (Lord Hotham).
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Another Amendment proposed,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Committee of Seven Members be appointed to inquire into the following allegations:—That in 1864 the Royal Gun Factories, on being applied to by the Ordnance Select Committee for Estimates for cheaper 9-inch guns than those that were being made at that time, sent in erroneous comparative Estimates, on the strength of which the Ordnance Select Committee decided in favour of the gun proposed by the Royal Gun Factories; that a sample 9-inch gun was then made by the Royal Gun Factories, the details of the cost of which, on being compared with the details of the cost of similar guns manufactured two years afterwards, show great and apparently inexplicable discrepancies; and that like errors have been made by the Royal Gun Factories with regard to the comparative cost of new wrought-iron and converted guns, thereby entailing a heavy and unnecessary expense upon the country: "—(Major Anson.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
Main Question, as amended, put, andagreed to.
Ordered, That a Committee of Seven Members be appointed to inquire into the following allegations:—That in 1864 the Royal Gun Factories, on being applied to by the Ordnance Select Committee for Estimates for cheaper 9-inch guns than those that were being made at that time, sent in erroneous comparative Estimates, on the strength of which the Ordnance Select Committee decided in favour of the gun proposed by the Royal Gun Factories; that a sample 9-inch gun was then made by the Royal Gun Factories, the details of the cost of which, on being compared with the details of the cost of similar guns manufactured two years afterwards, show great and apparently inexplicable discrepancies; and that like errors have been made by the Royal Gun Factories with regard to the comparative cost of new wrought-iron and converted guns, thereby entailing a heavy and unnecessary expense upon the country.—(Major Anson.)
And, on July 18, Select Committee nominated as follows:—Major ANSON, Mr. BAGGALLAY, Mr. HOWES, Mr. SCOURFIELD, Mr. SAMUDA, Mr. BAZLEY, and Mr. LAIRD:—Three to be the quorum.
§ Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."