§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
I wish, Sir, to put a Question to the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Hanbury), of which I have given him private Notice. I am sure that it must be his own opinion, and I am sure it must also be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, that, at a time when the Congress is sitting, the Motion of which the hon. Member has given Notice would be very inopportune. I, therefore ask him, Whether it is not his intention to withdraw it?
§ MR. HANBURY
Sir, I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has asked me this Question, because I wish to state frankly to the House the course I intend to take. It is quite clear that a Motion of this kind is one that ought to be pressed forward for discussion at the earliest opportunity; and, at the same time, it is one that ought not only to be discussed, but ought also to be put to the fair test of a division and a vote. But, even now, this Notice stands only ninth on the Paper, and I have had no opportunity of bringing it forward; and I, as yet, fear that to-night, and even on Thursday, I may be again prevented. I am as anxious as I ever was to discuss the issue which I have chosen to raise by it. ["Oh, oh!"] It is usual in this House to believe the word of an hon. Member. I repeat, that I am still as anxious as I ever was to raise that question; but, at the same time, I cannot be blind to the fact that my wish is not supported by the Government, and that a large number of hon. Members are opposed to it on this side of the House. It is felt—and felt, I must admit, with some justice—that a time like this, when an European Congress has just commenced its sittings, is, perhaps, the worst 1617 time possible for carrying on a discussion of this kind, in which very large in questions affecting both our foreign and our Indian policy will be raised. Even since I gave Notice of my Motion I may remind the House that an Amendment has been put down on the Paper by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), which shows the very wide, and it may be even the mischievous, issues that may be raised. Sorry as I am to withdraw a Motion of this kind—because I feel the act is liable to misrepresentation, and feeling that it is no light thing to bring such a complaint against such a speaker, at the same time I do not think I should be justified, in the face of the feeling against this Motion which has been growing, and which has certainly grown largely since it was received with cheers by this House. I should not be justified in proceeding with a Motion of this description, which might not only exaggerate differences at home, but would do that which I earnestly wish to avoid—namely, the spreading in India of a knowledge of the very language to which the Motion refers, and which I am anxious to condemn. Even, with all these reasons, I should not feel justified in withdrawing a Motion of this kind, involving a very grave complaint against a very important Member of this House; but I would ask the House to remember, that in the very terms of my Notice of that complaint, I have produced the evidence on which I rest the charge. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
intimated to the hon. Member that he must keep within the limits of an answer to the Question which had been put to him. He was not entitled to enter on a discussion as to the merits of the Motion.
§ MR. HANBURY
I do not wish to go beyond the fair limits of debate, and will only further say that, with the permission of the House, I will be glad to withdraw my Motion.
I wish, Sir, to take my stand on an appeal to the indulgence of the House, and to avoid making one of these Motions for the adjournment of the House, which are certainly inconvenient on account of their interfering with the course of Public Business. But the circumstances of this case are peculiar. A transaction, entirely unknown to me until I heard it 1618 a few minutes ago in common with other hon. Gentlemen in this House, has passed between the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) and the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I think that the House may feel that they are entitled to know from me whether I challenge the resolution of the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Motion of which he gave Notice; or, if I acquiesce in that resolution, why I acquiesce in it, seeing that the hon. Gentleman has made an appeal to the House for their permission to do that which, so far as I am aware, he was entitled to do without any permission whatever. I believe that as he was master enough to give this Notice, and to use what I presume he would call his discretion in giving it, so he is likewise master enough to withdraw it. But it is difficult for me to listen in silence to the statement of the hon. and gallant Baronet that he thinks I myself must feel that the Motion ought to be withdrawn, because the Congress is sitting, and to the statement of the hon. Gentleman, who says that he feels it would be inconvenient and injurious that this Motion should be discussed, and that he likewise finds that it is opposed to the general sense of the House. No doubt, Sir, there are strong reasons why the hon. Gentleman should not proceed with the Motion, which I think the hon. Gentleman might have taken into his view at an earlier period. The hon. Gentleman gave his Notice deliberately, and, as I am informed—for I was absent, and I was not made aware by him that any Notice was about to be given—as I am informed, and as he states, it was given amid cheers, which he calls the cheers of the House, and which I am told certainly were the rather animated cheers of a portion of this House, who appeared to have sympathized with, and to have joined their counsels with these of the hon. Gentleman, and from their collective wisdom to have produced this Notice. Now, it appears to me that no such Notice ought to be given unless in circumstances in which it can be persevered with. As long as it is a mere Notice, it is not within the jurisdiction of anyone except the person who gives it. I except, of course, these peculiar circumstances in which you, Sir, as the organ of the House, see ground for objecting to the retention of a Notice on the 1619 Notice Paper; and I cannot too strongly state that I feel how wisely, Sir, you have acted in taking no such objection in the present case. The Notice, then, stood on the Notice Paper; and, in my opinion, such a Notice, which is virtually a Notice for the expulsion of a Member of this House, not in form but virtually—and which can have no other possible result—such a Notice, I say, ought not to be given except with the firmest intention to persevere with it. The argument that it is difficult to find a night, and that it cannot come on on Monday, and probably cannot come on on Thursday, is an argument which, if it has any force at all, must have been fully in the view of the hon. Member at the time when he gave his Notice. Sir, I do not consider myself to be very greatly concerned in the Notice. It appears to me to be very much more, indeed, a matter between the hon. Member and the House than it is between him and me. If the hon. Member had made his Motion, the House would then have had jurisdiction over it, and the House would have had the power of considering whether, in respect to this proceeding of the hon. Member, it should take a course similar to that which was taken almost with unanimity on a very similar proceeding 40 years ago. But, Sir, he does not make that Motion, and I do not intend to challenge him to make that Motion. It is for the House to consider whether he should be challenged to do so. I, for my part, do not intend to challenge him to make it, and on this ground alone—that I think the general arguments in favour of going forward with a Motion of this kind are of a strength which cannot be overstated. But I own that after the description which it has pleased the hon. Gentleman to give of the article in which I have striven to do my duty as a loyal subject of the Crown—after that description has been attached to that article—I am by no means assured that a discussion upon the question would be for the public interest, I do not mean with reference to the Congress or anything that is going on in Europe. But I so far concur with the feeling which has, perhaps, prompted others, that, on the whole, I believe it might be best for the public interests connected with the topics to which the article was addressed, that if, in the circumstances of the case, the hon. Gentleman 1620 chooses not to persevere with his Notice, I should not assume the responsibility of challenging him to go on. In. the circumstances, I do not intend to exercise any such right of challenge. I am in the hands of the House to move the adjournment or not. I do not mean to say more. I would have said less, but for what fell from the hon. Member, and the hon. and gallant Baronet who put this Question. I have no desire myself to prolong the discussion on the matter, and unless a wish be expressed for the adjournment of the House, I shall not move it.