§ MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can state the grounds upon which the Admiralty informed the House, on 24th June and 9th July, 1901, † that a letter from the noble Lord the Member for Woolwich,† Sec (4) Debates, xcv., 1200; xcvi., 1349.614 published in a London newspaper, was a private communication not intended for publication: whether, before making this statement, the Admiralty had made inquiries of the writer, the recipient, or the publisher of the letter; and whether he can now add anything to the replies he made upon the above-mentioned occasions.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER,) Belfast, W.
On the 9th July last I made the statement referred to with regard to the letter in question because I had received a written assurance from the gentleman to whom the letter was addressed that he was responsible for its publication. From this statement the Admiralty felt justified in assuming that the writer was not responsible. I have nothing further to add to the reply that I made on the dates referred to.
§ * LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Woolwich)
If I may, by the indulgence of the House, be allowed to say so, I think this Question requires a little bit more explanation, because it affects my own character as a Member of this House, and because it is due to the service which I have the honour to represent to place the facts rather more fairly before the House. The fact of the matter is that I did write a letter. I ought not to have written this letter-under the regulations; there is no doubt in the world I ought not to have written it, therefore I was responsible to the constituted authorities. The constituted authorities never wrote to me to ask me if I had written that letter; if they had I should have told the truth, and I should have very respectfully submitted to any reprimand or punishment they thought I ought to have. When I came home the other day there were some insinuations that another gentleman was responsible for this letter, that he had published a private letter which I had written. I was then on half-pay, and I immediately took steps to show that I alone was responsible for the letter. If I had written to the authorities before, and while I was on full pay, I think I should have done something very insubordinate. I committed an error against the regulations; it was said I 615 should have written home and told the authorities I had written the letter, and that I was responsible. I conceived I ought not to do anything of the sort unless the authorities asked me. There was nothing in my letter which was not of public notoriety. With regard to the strength of the fleet, there was nothing in the letter that I gained in any way through my official position. May I beg leave to say that crimes are of different characters? If a man breaks his leave by one hour it is a very different crime from that of a man who hits his officer with a cutlass. I hope the matter will now cease; the whole question is in the hands of the constituted authorities, and I am prepared to receive with respectful submission any punishment they may choose to award me for not having complied with the printed regulations.