§ THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH rose "to call attention to the misleading statements recently made by the Home Secretary in reference to the comparative work of the Church and the Calvinistic Methodists in Cardiff."
The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, in calling attention to statements about the Church in Wales recently made by the Home Secretary I at the outset disclaim any desire to discuss the merits or demerits of the particular measure which gave rise to these statements. My purpose is to deal with simple matters of fact, for proof of which there is official authority open to all which no one can dispute. On May 16, in concluding the debate on the Second Reading of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, the Home Secretary made the following statements—
Who does the slum work in the cities of wales? I will take the City of Cardiff and I will ask you to compare the work of the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement with the work of the Church of England. And when you are dealing with Wales and ask Who is to minister to the poor?' you have to conjure up to your mind not the work of the Church of England but the work of the Free Churches. The Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement in Cardiff alone has no less than twenty-two halls. What are the corresponding figures for the whole of the Church of England throughout Cardiff? There are but thirteen churches of the Church of England in Cardiff, and to anybody who knows Cardiff the whole of the work of the Church of England in Cardiff is not comparable to the work done by one Free Church alone, the Calvinistic Methodist.
Upon this passage let me observe that slum work and work for the poor represent a test of work which the Church welcomes. Cardiff is the greatest city in Wales, and
nowhere could this searching test be applied on so large and conclusive a scale.
§ I now come to the facts. In the one great slum district of Cardiff the Church has the Parish Church of St. Mary's, the Mission Church of St. Michael's, large day and Sunday schools, three clergy residing in the very centre of the slum district, and five Sisters of Mercy living and working there. The Calvinistic Movement, with which Mr. McKenna compared the Church, does not touch this district and has not got one single hall or mission place in the district. Moreover, the number of Church communicants and of Sunday school scholars in this district is at least three times as large as that of all the Nonconformist bodies put together. There is no comparison between the Church and the Calvinistic Methodist work in this district because the Methodists have nothing to offer in comparison. Again, Mr. McKenna stated that the Calvinistic Methodists have twenty-two halls in Cardiff. I called his attention to the fact that all the Methodist chapels and halls added together do not number twenty-two. In justification of his statement he frankly admitted that he obtained the figure twenty-two by counting the various adjoining rooms in these buildings as separate halls, and thus the nine halls which the official record of the Methodists themselves claims were increased to twenty-two. According to this computation a church with a choir vestry and a clergy vestry would be counted as three churches, or a Church mission building with three rooms would be counted as three mission chapels.
§ I now come to the last statement of Mr. McKenna, that there are but thirteen churches of the Church of England in Cardiff, and that the whole of the work of the Church of England in Cardiff is not comparable to the work done by one Free Church alone, the Calvinistic Methodist. I take the last assertion as to the comparison of the Church and the Methodists in Cardiff. The total number of the Church communicants in Cardiff returned to the Royal Commission was 9,354, and the total number of the communicants of the Calvinistic Methodists in Cardiff was 3,484. Mr. McKenna seems to think not only that a half, but a third, is more than the whole.
§ Finally, I come to Mr. McKenna's most amazing statement, that there are but thirteen churches of the Church of England 197 in Cardiff. Mr. McKenna has omitted all the churches in Cardiff and given only the thirteen mission rooms. There are twenty-five churches in Cardiff as returned to the Royal Commission. And here let me make one point clear. I have not raised questions of controversy but questions of fact. The present Government issued a Royal Commission to report upon the work of the Church and the Nonconformists in Wales. Every fact and figure which I have given to-day can be substantiated from the Reports of that Royal Commission. Mr. McKenna cannot urge in his defence the extenuating circumstance that a busy Minister cannot be expected to make minute local inquiries. He had the evidence at hand before him in the Official Reports of the Royal Commission, and therefore there is no reasonable excuse which can be urged for these disastrous blunders.
§ But the matter does not stop there. Mr. McKenna's attention has been called to these grievous mistakes. The evidence which he does not attempt to deny has been put before him again and again. How has he met this serious position? Instead of answering straightforwardly in another place, he first attempted to shield himself by putting up somebody else to speak, and then, after receiving a rebuke probably as severe as any ever given to a Minister of the Crown, he made no apology for his misstatements hut endeavoured, in the fete words which lie, was compelled to say, to avoid the real points at issue. It is an unpleasant task to call attention to these things, but beyond and above the controversy of the moment we have a right to claim from His Majesty's Ministers a high standard of honour, and it is because I believe that this House is jealous and vigilant in maintaining that standard of honour in our public men that I felt it to be my duty to bring this matter before your Lordships' House.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I have to ask for some indulgence in this matter, because it was only when the House was rising last night that I was made aware that the right rev. Prelate intended calling attention to this subject in your Lordships' House to-day. I at once put myself in communication with him and asked him to be so kind as to give me the date of the Home Secretary's statement which he describes as misleading. The right rev. Prelate gave me the date—namely, May 16. I further asked him whether in the circum- 198 stances he could see his way to postpone this discussion. I pointed out that this was in the nature of a personal controversy between the Home Secretary and the right rev. Prelate and not a question connected with the administration of the Home Office, and that therefore it was desirable that I should have an opportunity of conferring with the Home Secretary on the matter. I informed the right rev. Prelate that owing to public business which the Home Secretary has to undertake to-day, which is even more important than attending to the Motion before the House, it was impossible for me to confer with my right hon. friend on the matter. The right rev. Prelate, however, was unable to agree to a postponement. Having made that explanation I will do my best to answer the statement made to-day, but in the circumstances I hope the House will excuse me if I cannot give a complete reply.
The right rev. Prelate said, first of all, that the Home Secretary made a misleading statement in his speech in the. House of Commons on May 16 as to the comparative work of the Church of England and the Calvinistic Methodists in Cardiff. As I understand, the Home Secretary was not dealing with the whole comparative work of the Church of England and the Methodists in Cardiff. He was rather making a statement upon the question of the comparative work of these two religious bodies in the slum areas of Cardiff, the comparison being purely one as regards slum work. The Home Secretary introduced the question with the following words—The question has been asked in die course of this debate, `If the Church is disestablished who will minister to the poor?' Words convey meanings to us according to our antecedent impressions and associations, and in this House immediately that question is put to an audience consisting almost entirely of English and Scottish Members, the picture is conjured up of some Church of England missionary going down to the slums of our great cities teaching and winning the poor over to the Christian faith. Is that a picture of what happens in Wales? Who does the slum work in the cities of Wales?That paragraph surely makes quite clear what was in the mind of the Home Secretary at the time. He was not dealing with the ordinary work of the two Churches, but with their purely missionary work.
Further on the Home Secretary gave statistics of the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement, whose first object, 199 he said, was "to reach non-church and non-chapel goers," showing that he was referring to a particular class of the population and not to the population of Cardiff as a whole. He gave the number of halls belonging to the Movement and their accommodation. Then he asked, What are the corresponding figures for the Church of England? and lie gave the number of their mission rooms, which, by inadvertence, he described as "churches." The fact cannot be doubted that he was dealing with purely mission work in the slums and among the poor. The point has been taken that there are not twenty-two mission balls belonging to the Forward Movement in Cardiff. There may or may not be twenty-two separate buildings, but there are twenty-two halls which can he used and are used simultaneously for this work; and I must say it does not seem to me a matter of very great importance whether these twenty-two halls are each under a separate roof or not as long as they serve the same purpose of getting the people in in order that they may hear the gospel.
In stating that the Forward Movement had twenty-two halls Mr. McKenna took the figure from the Appendices to the Report of the Welsh Church. Commission, Vol. I, Part II, page 167. He took into account the schoolrooms adjoining the halls, because it was explained in evidence before the Commission that these schoolrooms were used for religious services simultaneously with the halls themselves. It is not the case that the Home Secretary took into account all the classrooms attached. The following footnote is appended to the Table in the Report of the Royal Commission which he made use of: "Classrooms are attached to these halls which we have not taken into consideration." The result, then, briefly is as follows. The Home Secretary gave the figures for the purely missionary halls and schools of the Calvinistic Methodists, but never referred to any of their chapels. He then gave the "corresponding" figures for the mission rooms of the Church of England, which he took from Vol. V of the Evidence of the Welsh Church Commission, page 39. That number is thirteen. He did not give, and he never intended to give, the figures for the ordinary churches of the Church of England in Cardiff, as that figure would be utterly irrelevant for the purposes of his argument.
200 Then the right rev. Prelate referred to the number of communicants of the Church of England and the Calvinistic Methodists. That, again, is not a question that applies to mission work in slum areas, and it was not the question which the Home Secretary went into. Therefore we can dismiss that from our minds. Then the right rev. Prelate seemed to think that as regards the slum area in Cardiff, which is known as Tiger Bay, the Nonconformists were doing very little if anything at all. I am informed that in the parish of St. Mary's there are four Nonconformist chapels, and that there are also in that area two sailors' rests which are run by Nonconformists, each of these rests having a salaried Nonconformist missioner. Again, the superintendent of one of these homes is a Presbyterian.
I hope the House will understand that in replying to the right rev. Prelate I have been placed in some difficulty owing to the Question having been sprung upon me and the right rev. Prelate not seeing his way to postpone it, though I must say he very graciously gave me all the details he could on the matter. I have now given to the House all the information I have at my disposal. It was impossible for the Home Secretary to deal with this matter himself owing to the short notice and to the fact that he had to leave London on public business at an early hour this morning.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I think the House has listened with much sympathy to the noble Lord in the difficult task which he has had to perform, because when a colleague commits himself to a statement of the kind to which the Home Secretary committed himself the task of defending him cannot be described as simple or easy. But do not in your sympathy with the noble Lord who has just spoken forget that the whole object of the Home Secretary in his observations was to point out that the Church of England in Cardiff was doing less work than one single Nonconformist body. That was the whole point of his observations, and therefore I do not think that your Lordships can agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken, that the right rev. Prelate had no need to introduce the comparative figures, as given before the Royal Commission, of the communicants of the Church of England in Cardiff and the communicants of the Calvinistic Methodists. 201 I think those figures require more explanation than has yet been given to them if we are to be led to suppose that the work of the Church of England in Cardiff is of less volume and less effect than the work of that great religious body the Calvinistic Methodists alone.
What is the explanation which the noble Lord has asked this House to accept? He tells us that the Home Secretary had in his mind the slum or mission work alone, and it was due to the fact that that alone was in his mind that he omitted to mention all the churches of the Church of England which exist in Cardiff. I will ask your Lordships to listen to the words actually used by the Home Secretary presently, and then you will be able to judge whether that explanation is really adequate and whether Mr. McKenna's words are really capable of that interpretation. First of all, I would ask you to recollect the figures which the noble Lord has just given about the halls at the disposal of the Calvinistic Methodists in Cardiff for mission work. He has read from the records of the Royal Commission that there are twenty-two such halls. He has been careful to explain that all of those halls are not buildings exclusively devoted to this object, but that some of them are halls available for other purposes but available also for these purposes when the Calvinistic Methodists wish so to use them. We are very glad that the number of halls at the disposal of the Calvinistic Methodists should be so large; but there is a distinction, when you are comparing the work of two great religious bodies, between halls which have been purchased or erected for this exclusive religious purpose and halls which can only be occasionally retained for assisting that object. It is clear that the occasional use of a hall for this purpose is not as strong an evidence of the permanent character and strength of the work of a religious body as the existence of a building which has been erected for this purpose exclusively and devoted to no other. Therefore, while giving the Calvinistic Methodists every credit for the existence of these buildings and for the use they put other buildings occasionally to, it is of interest to remember that all these buildings are not exclusively devoted to this purpose. Yet, when it came to the comparison all these buildings were put to the credit of the Calvinistic Methodists. The Church of England was credited with 202 only the thirteen mission halls, all of them, I understand, exclusively devoted to this purpose, and the Home Secretary entirely forgot to mention the twenty-five churches. But why are churches not centres of mission work? Every permanent church or chapel, whether it belongs to the Church of England or to another religious body, is a centre of religious work and not less entitled to be considered in making this comparison than a smaller or humbler building erected in a particularly poor quarter.
Now let us consider how far Mr. McKenna's words can possibly bear the interpretation which the noble Lord has put upon them. Mr. McKenna said—What are the corresponding figures for the whole of the Church of England throughout Cardiff?Not one word about mission work. Not one word about slums, but the "corresponding figures for the whole of the Church of England throughout Cardiff." Now, my Lords, I say with confidence that if the English language means anything at all those words mean that there was not a building connected with the Church of England unaccounted for in the Home Secretary's statement. I maintain also that it cannot possibly be said that he was thinking only of the slum districts. Otherwise how could he use the words "corresponding figures for the whole of the Church of England throughout Cardiff" And then he went on to say—There are but thirteen churches of the Church of England in Cardiff.We know that a hard-worked Minister does sometimes deviate into inaccuracy when dealing with statistics. I do not think that any inaccuracy really would be pardonable when it is the inaccuracy of a Minister in charge of one of the principal Government measures on a subject which he knows that on one side or the other the whole of his fellow-countrymen feel very strongly. Has there ever been another case where a Minister, having made such a gross misstatement, having been so utterly unfair to his opponents, so utterly unfair to a religious body which is on its trial and which is the subject of a measure which it believes conscientiously proposes to perpetrate upon it a great wrong—has there ever been a case in which a Minister of the Crown, having made such a misstatement, has not had the courage or the good faith to confess it?
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I do not think the statement of my right hon. friend the Home Secretary really deserves the hard language which the noble Earl opposite has applied to it. In a question of this kind there are, of course, always facts and inferences, and we all admit that the inferences which may be drawn from certain facts may be different on both sides of the House. It ought to be easy to arrive at the actual facts, and I do not see why we should not do so this evening. What was it that my right hon. friend said? He was dealing with the very poor in Cardiff, and not, as the noble Earl suggests, with the whole of the work of the Church of England. He was dealing with the work of the Church of England and of the Calvinistic Methodists among the very poor in Cardiff, and he proceeded to compare like with like. He did not take the churches of both bodies, or, as the noble Earl would wish me to say, the churches of the Church of England and the Nonconformist chapels. He did not compare those with one another. What he did was to compare the number of mission halls of the one with the number of mission halls of the other. There is no suggestion that in the comparison which he made he added the churches or chapels to either side. He was merely comparing the mission halls which deal with a certain class of the poor, and these mission halls on both sides deal with the same class. Those were the facts with which my right hon. friend was dealing.
We have already had quoted to us the figures from the Blue-book, about which I do not think there is any dispute. My information about the use of these halls is different from that of the noble Earl opposite. The Calvinistic Methodist mission halls and schoolrooms are exclusively and permanently used, for religious purposes, if two services can go on at the same time in different rooms in the same building I think it is a fair method of calculation to speak of them as two meeting places. My right hon. friend put the Calvinistic Methodist halls in Cardiff alone at twenty-two, without adding the chapels, and then compared with that the figures of the Church of England. It is perfectly impossible for the noble Earl to deduce from the words used an extended meaning which was not attached to them at the time in the House of Commons, 204 and certainly not at any time by the speaker himself. My right hon. friend was dealing specially with the work of the mission halls among the very poor, and having excluded in one case the chapels he proceeded to exclude in the other case the churches, and he gave the figure of thirteen mission halls. I do not think there is any doubt as to the actual figures, although there has been some criticism as to the enumeration of two rooms in one building as two separate halls. Except from that point of view I do not think that on the actual figures there is any serious controversy between us, and I venture to say that if any one of your Lordships reads the whole passage and does not take a single sentence, as the noble Earl did, away from its context, it will be impossible for him to say that in the statement made my right hon. friend was not substantially correct.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I do not intervene in this debate with a view of dwelling upon the detailed statistics put forward by Mr. McKenna, not, I think, as was inadvertently stated by the noble Lord who speaks for the Government, on the Motion for the adjournment of the House but in the great debate on the Bill itself. The point of the matter seems to me to rest, not upon some mistake in statistics, but upon the much broader fact that while we expect accuracy from every member of either House of Parliament when he is speaking on an important subject, we have especially a right to expect it when the Minister in charge of a great Bill is deliberately setting before the House and the country a general summary of the situation and of the Government's case, making for example in this instance a careful comparison between the work of the Church and the work of Nonconformity. We say that in such a case he is peculiarly bound to be, in the large sense of the word, accurate in the figures which he puts forward. I am a bad statistician and a bad hand at remembering detailed figures in the course of a debate, and I should make the greatest possible excuse even for a Minister of the Crown if inadvertently some statements were made which proved on investigation to be unsupported by fact. But I venture to say without hesitation that if any one will read quietly and without bias of any kind the statement made by the Home Secretary 205 in support of the great proposition which he was giving to the country and will follow the comparison he drew between the Church and Nonconformity in the great city of Cardiff, and will then give attention to what was afterwards said about the mistake the right hon. gentleman had made in the figures, he will see that the Home Secretary had only one possible course left open to him. When a Minister of the Crown had made such a serious mistake as Mr. McKenna had inadvertently made, he would naturally be expected to acknowledge it, and in that case every one would have understood and condoned what had happened. Instead of following that course, when the real figures had been presented to him three or four times by successive writers and speakers, the right hon. gentleman uttered a single sentence or so in the House of Commons and then wrote to the newspapers to say that he had already refuted the figures put forward by those who criticised him. My Lords, there is no such refutation on record. The Home Secretary's memory may have deceived him, but we have not had any refutation to our challenge. I deeply deplore the fact that in a matter of this kind when a Minister in charge of a great measure has inadvertently been led into making a misstatement which was at once made much of by his supporters as an important statement of fact he could not, when it was shown that he had been mistaken, have stood up and acknowledged that he had been misled. That, and that alone, is what I personally take exception to. If the Home Secretary had acknowledged his mistake I would have been ready to make the greatest possible allowance for an over-worked man labouring under the difficulty of a very hard case to prove; but in the circumstances I find it impossible to make any such excuse for the continuous silence with which the demonstration that his figures were altogether erroneous has been met.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, we are about to have a discussion in this House as to the manner in which the business of His Majesty's Government is distributed among the occupants of the Front Bench opposite. I think we shall have to suggest to them that one Minister should be told off specially for the purpose of explaining away the utterances of his colleagues. Last night we listened to the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, with much 206 ingenuity putting various glosses upon an extremely inconsistent statement made by his Under-Secretary elsewhere; and tonight we have had two Ministers bestowing equal ingenuity upon explaining away the statement recently made by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons. I hope the two noble Lords will excuse me if I tell them that I never listened to more unconvincing explanations. We all felt a sympathy with the noble Lord who spoke first, and we took note of his plea that he had not had very long notice of his discussion and had been consequently a little pressed for time. But may I venture ay that if lie had had six months to prepare his case he could not have made a better defence than he made this evening, because there was no defence to make. The noble Earl opposite renewed the attempt to convince us that the Home Secretary when he made his speech in the House of Commons was instituting a comparison between mission halls and mission halls. That theory is absolutely inconsistent with the plain language of the Home Secretary himself. The Home Secretary was drawing a picture of the state of things in Cardiff. He did not confine himself to the slum area. He was dealing with what he described as "the whole work of the. Church of England throughout Cardiff" without any limitation whatever, and in the picture that he drew he light-heartedly included the chapels on one side and left out the churches on the other. It is very easy to argue if you are permitted to halve your opponents' figures and to double your own, and that is really the mathematical basis on which the contention of His Majesty's Government is founded.
But, my Lords, I do not know that I should have intervened had it not been for my desire to point out to your Lordships that what we are discussing this evening is not merely a personal question. So far as the personal question is concerned, the Minister undoubtedly fell into a very serious error; but, as the most rev. Primate said a moment ago, every one would have been ready to condone the error if it had been frankly admitted and apologised for. But what I think is to be borne in mind is that the whole of these arguments, based, as we have shown, on such a slight foundation, are part of a deliberate policy to belittle the work of the Church of England in Wales and to exalt in comparison with it the work done by the Nonconformist 207 denominations. In endeavouring to establish that disadvantage noble Lords opposite and their friends spare no pains to show that the Church of England neglects her opportunities in Wales, that she is outstripped by other denominations, that she is out of touch with the people of the country, and that her teachings are imposed upon reluctant people. It is in order to establish those propositions that all these statistics, so inaccurate, so recklessly collected, are put before the public; and I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to the right rev. Prelate for the courage with which he has taken this sample of the arguments used by the other side and exhibited in the full light of day the absolute untrustworthiness of the statements which have been made use of. To my mind, the result of the examination which the Home Secretary's statements have undergone has been to throw very grave doubt indeed upon the statistical basis of the whole of the case upon which it is proposed to deprive the Church of England in Wales of her present position there, and to rob her of her slender resources.
My Lords, I do not know that it is very advantageous to debate a matter that will come before us in a more serious way in the autumn, or to discuss the construction which noble Lords opposite and the right rev. Prelate choose to put upon the substantial meaning of the speech of the Home Secretary. The question that was raised by Mr. McKenna was not that of the whole work of the Church of England. Lord Selborne said that Mr. McKenna's object was to show that the Church of England was doing less work in Cardiff than one Nonconformist church. Mr. McKenna's observations, it is quite clear, dealt with one particular section of the work of the various Christian bodies—namely, that section of their work which is addressed to the specially poor and to those who stand out of all religious organisations. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition complained of Mr. McKenna's figures being grossly inaccurate. I contend that though Mr. McKenna made the slip in his speech, which he corrected long before this debate, of using the word "churches" when he was speaking of "mission halls," the whole of the previous part of his speech showed that he was speaking of those places which appeal to persons outside the regular frequenters of the church.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
The noble Lord is arguing as if these halls were treated as halls in the Blue-book. They are classified in the official return of the Nonconformists themselves as "chapels." That is our point, that while including all the chapels of the Nonconformists Mr. McKenna excluded all the churches of the Church of England.
The Church of England statistics, after enumerating their churches, enumerate their thirteen mission halls. These Mr. McKenna inadvertently called "churches," but he corrected himself afterwards and said he meant mission halls. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition complained that Mr. McKenna had added together the chapels and the mission halls in order to get his number. I turn to Vol. VI of the Royal Commission's Report containing the figures handed in by the Calvinistic Methodists of Cardiff. There you have set out the chapels and the schoolrooms, and very often the schoolroom adjoins the chapel, but sometimes the schoolroom is separate. The seating is totalled up separately in the tables; the schoolroom is different from the chapel, and the statistics are put separately. If you add together the chapels and the schoolrooms of the Calvinistic Methodists you get a considerably larger figure than the twenty-two which Mr. McKenna quoted. There is no mistake about it that the mission rooms or schoolrooms of the Calvinistic Methodists are distinct from the chapels, which are enumerated in a separate column and quite apart. Whether in Tiger Bay the Church of England with its two mission rooms is getting hold of the low class of people better than the Nonconformists I do not know, and I do not very much care. When we come ultimately to seriously discuss this question of the Established Church in Wales we are not going to be side-tracked into the question of any single parish in a particular city. Whatever noble Lords who have no sympathy with Mr. McKenna or with the policy- which the Government advocate may say on the matter, I submit that, barring the little slip to which I have referred, the substance of what Mr. McKenna said is confirmed by the facts in the Blue-book. Because he inadvertently spoke for a moment of churches when he meant to speak of mission halls, you must not put upon him an allegation which he never made.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has exhibited remarkable courage in the few words which he has addressed to the House. He says it is unfair to judge Mr. McKenna except upon the broad contents and meaning of his speech. It is precisely on account of the broad effect of his speech that we blame Mr. McKenna. Any one who is conversant with the facts knows that the statements of Mr. McKenna are not true. No one who has read the debate in the other House can doubt that the object of Mr. McKenna was, by the statement he made, to make it appear, at all events in this particular instance, that the work of the Church of England was less than that of one of the Nonconformist bodies. I have no sort of desire to belittle the Nonconformist bodies, but on an important question of this sort, which involves the gravest issues, we have a right to expect that a Cabinet Minister when he makes a statement of that sort should make a true statement; and when we have proved to him that he has done nothing of the sort, and that he has made a mistake, and a mistake in regard to an important matter touching very grave issues, his primary and first duty is to acknowledge it. That is what Mr. McKenna has not done, and that is what everyone who knows anything about this matter blames him for and blames him severely.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I rise to point out the somewhat unsatisfactory position in which the House is placed in dealing with this subject. Very short notice was given of this debate. The right rev. Prelate only put down the Motion yesterday, and as Mr. McKenna, whose conduct is in question, is away on public business it has been impossible to communicate with him. The right rev. Prelate may be quite right in wishing to bring this matter as quickly as possible before public attention, but he must also accept the disadvantage of the position that he is condemning a man who is not here to answer for himself and who has had no opportunity of saying what defence he would desire to make against the imputations that are brought against him. I think it would have been much more satisfactory to hear what the person accused had to say for himself than to bring this Motion forward to-day on the supposed ground of urgency. I have had considerable experience in these matters, 210 and I have learned enough not to come to a conclusion until I have heard the other side. For all I know there may be a great deal to be said for the other side. We have not had an opportunity of hearing what Mr. McKenna has to say for himself. In the peculiar circumstances t think it would have been better if the discussion could have been adjourned for a few days until we were in possession of the views of the chief person whose character is impugned.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
I shall be delighted to move the adjourn-meat of the debate if the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack wishes it. May I say that every statement I made to-day in your Lordships' House I made in The Times as far back as May 23. It is the 25th of June to-day, and I should have thought that Mr. McKenna would have had plenty of Opportunity in the meantime to prepare an answer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope the Government will take note of what the right rev. Prelate has said. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has great duties to perform which occupy the whole of his time, and he has not had an opportunity of watching what has really passed in this matter. These allegations have not been made now for the first time. These figures have been quoted against the right hon. gentleman over and over again. The Lord Chancellor urged that his right hon. friend might have a great deal to say in reply to these charges. If so, he has shown a wonderful amount of coyness, to put it no stronger than that, in coining to the point. He has been given an opportunity, not merely in The Times but in the House of Commons. He seemed to be very reluctant to get up in the House of Commons to reply. A private Member was allowed to intervene between the right hon. gentleman in defence of his own credit before the country, and then there were only a few minutes left under the operation of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons in which the Home Secretary could defend his credit and reputation; and so reluctant was he to answer the question that he, a Minister of the Crown defending his own words, was actually reproved by the Speaker for having been reluctant to rise. I am sure the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack did not know all this. He did 211 not know that his colleague had been exposed to a mortification such as hardly any living Minister has had to undergo. All that the right rev. Prelate and his friends, having failed to get any reply from the Home Secretary, could do was to raise the matter in your Lordships' House in the most formal manner. The Home Secretary has ample opportunity of replying to his critics. He can do it upon any day he likes. Why should he not do it? I should like to say to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that when a Minister makes a statement which he cannot substantiate and will not withdraw it, the discredit does not fall only upon him; it falls, of course in a minor degree but to a certain extent, also upon his colleagues in the Government. I cannot think, after what has been said in 212 your Lordships' House and the line which the noble and learned Viscount has most properly taken, that the Home Secretary will fail to take an opportunity of giving a full answer to the statements which have been made. If he has been led into inaccuracies he will have abundant opportunity of saying so, and that will be the end of this matter. But if not, I think hardly any Minister within my recollection has been placed in such an invidious position as he will be placed in, and I think some of the discredit does fall upon the noble and learned Viscount and his other colleagues.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.