§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I desire to make a personal statement in reference to a matter which has occurred since the adjournment of the House, In February, 1886, there was a debate in the House on the conduct of some persons in Trafalgar Square in connection with the re-organization of the Metropolitan Police Force. On that occasion I am reported to have said that if an inquiry were granted I would undertake to prove that during the six weeks preceding the date of the meeting in Trafalgar Square large sums of money, far exceeding the legitimate allowance for expenses incurred by a meeting of that kind, were supplied to a Mr. S. Peters by leading Conservative Members of both Houses of Parliament; that part of the money was paid by cheque; that some of the cheques reached the hands of the bankers through beerhouse keepers, at whose shops some of the money was spent. I was recently called as a witness, in connection with 49 the prosecution of the hon. Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Cunninghame Graham) and Mr. John Burns. In the course of cross-examination by counsel for the Crown I was asked as to meetings in Trafalgar Square in February, 1886. I answered that I had no personal knowledge of these meetings, not having been present at them. The counsel for the Crown, who held a paper in his hand, said—"Do you mean that you know nothing about them?" I replied—I know something about them, and I stated in my place in Parliament that I am prepared to trace cheques from leading Conservative Members in connection with Fair Trade and unemployed meetings that culminated in a riot in Trafalgar Square.I further stated that one of the cheques which I was prepared to trace was a cheque of the Marquess of Salisbury's. Mr. Poland, who was counsel for the Crown, interrupted me, and said I should not speak of things which I did not know. I replied that before I made this statement I had seen some of the cheques. Since then a letter has appeared in The Times, purporting to have been written by R. T. Gunton, by the direction of the Marquess of Salisbury. The letter is addressed to a person named Kelly, and is as follows:—Hatfield House, Hatfield, "December 5, 1887,Sir,—I am directed by the Marquess of Salisbury to say that he is much obliged to you for your letter of the 1st instant, with reference to the untrue statement in respect to his alleged support of meetings held in Trafalgar Square, sworn to by Mr. Bradlaugh at Bow Street. I am to say in reply that the Marquess of Salisbury agrees with you in thinking that the statement amounts to wilful perjury; but he believes it would not be punishable as such, as it is not relevant to the issue which was before the magistrate. He has already contradicted the statement publicly, and does not think it requires any further notice.I am, your very obedient servant,R. T. GUNTON.On the previous Saturday a letter of mine, addressed to the Marquess of Salisbury, had appeared in The Times, in which I repeated what I have already stated to the House. I added—This statement I adhere to, and I am ready, directly Parliament meets, as I stated that I was ready when an inquiry was spoken about in the House in the spring of 1886—if the Government will grant a Select Committee, with power to call for persons, books, and papers, 50 and on which I may sit to call and examine witnesses—to trace several cheques signed by loading Members of the Conservative Party, including one signed by the Marquess of Salisbury, some of which were payable to S. Peters, all of which, I believe, passed through the hands of S. Peters, and which were used in connection with the so-called Fair Trade meetings of the unemployed, which preceded the riotous meetings in Trafalgar Square.I also wrote to the Marquess of Salisbury, asking his Lordship whether he, on the part of the Government, would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee? I received this reply, also signed "R. T. Gunton"—Hatfield House, Hatfield.December 10, 1887.Sir,—I am directed by the Marquess of Salisbury to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th instant.In reply, I am to say that in respect to a purely personal matter the Marquess of Salisbury cannot venture to anticipate the decision to which the House of Commons may come on any Motion which is made before it.Now, Sir, I desire to say that I have taken great pains, irrespective of this very strong denial, to feel sure of what I can say; and I state that I adhere to every word that I stated, first in this House, and afterwards at the Bow Street Police Court, and which has been described as "wilful perjury." I now appeal to the Leader of this House, and ask whether the Government will signify its consent to the appointment of such a Committee? I gave the right hon. Gentleman Notice that I intended to make this appeal. I do not think I ought to rest under the imputation of wilful perjury from the Prime Minister in relation to a matter which I stated in Parliament. I can find no becoming terms by which I may properly describe this imputation other than by asking that I may have the means of showing whose is the falsehood.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The hon. Member communicated with me only this morning. I have not had time to communicate with the Marquess of Salisbury in reference to this matter. The hon. Member will, therefore, understand that I am quite unable to give an answer; but if he will repeat his Question on Monday I will give him an answer then.