3 March 1890
LABOUCHERE WILL AGAIN HAVE THE FLOOR ON FRIDAY
LABOUCHERE WILL AGAIN HAVE THE FLOOR ON FRIDAY
London, March 2.
Under the revised rules last adopted by the House of Commons, Labouchere, who was suspended for a week on account of his reflection upon Salisbury's veracity, will be entitled at the expiration of his expulsion to resume the speech in which he was interrupted. Those who know "Labby" best are confident he will continue his remarks in the same style he was pursuing when he incurred the censure of the majority. Whether he will again be suspended will depend upon the way the country receives the news of the present punishment. The affair has given the press an opportunity to discuss the Somerset scandal from anew point of view, and to make some very ugly thrusts at the government for failing to prosecute the guilty party. If this sentiment proves very widespread, the Government may think best not to curb Labouchere again but to let him have his say out and drop the matter as speedily as possible. It is pretty generally believed that Labouchere's accusation of the premier was premeditated and that he adopted a violent course with the intention of provoking some action which should call public attention in a striking way to the debate. After Labouchere had retired from the House last night a member whose seat is near his had the inquisitiveness to collect the torn fragments of pieces of paper which the former had held in his hands during the debate. The paper was found to contain a name, which was quickly whispered through the House and the lobbies as that of a high personage whom Labouchere had doubtless intended to accuse before he should have completed his speech. There is great curiosity to see whether this name will come out when Labouchere resumes his address. If it does, it will be one of the greatest sensations ever known in Parliament. No newspaper has dared, of course, to drop a hint as to the identity of the person in question, the strictness of the English libel laws making such publication suicidal. Labouchere, in speaking of last night's events, insists that he was not out of order at any time and he declares his intention to call for a reversal of the Speaker's ruling. It is expected Salisbury will return to London in order to explain his course in regard to the failure to push the prosecution of the persons suspected of complicity in the scandals.
Labouchere in his speech alleged that the case presented an official attempt to defeat the course of justice, and therefore he had moved the reduction of credits related to the administration of justice. He detailed the facts of the Cleveland street club scandal and contended that the sentence of nine months' imprisonment for Veck was of itself a scandal, because of the inadequacy of the punishment to the offence committed. The treasury officials, having full knowledge of the whole affair, had refrained from prosecuting Newlove and Veck until Sir Stevenson Blackwood, secretary to the post office, gad insisted upon taking action against his own subordinates, postal employees involved. Then, finding themselves compelled to prosecute these two men, the treasury officials determined to prevent the exposure from going any further, and tried to hush it all up. When hammond fled the police proposed to secure his extradition from Belgium, where they had him watched. Both the chief of police and the secretary to the post office urged the Government to obtain his extradition. There was no legal difficulty in the way. The extradition could have been readily obtained, but the Marquis of Salisbury, through a treasury official, wrote declaring that he could not ask for the extradition. The Marquis of Salisbury certainly knew that the treaty with Belgium covered the offence alleged against Hammond. Why, then, could he not ask for his extradition? Hammond discovered that he was watched in Belgium, and, informed of his danger there, hurried away and went to America; and in all this, as to information and otherwise, he was assisted through Mr. Newton, the solicitor of Lord Arthur Somerset. The object of the government was obviously to hunt Hammond beyond the range of extradition, that being regarded as the best plan for preventing the making of revelations affecting certain personages. When Munroe, chief of police, reported to the treasury the evidence in the hands of the police regarding Lord Arthur Somerset and others, the treasury ordered the police to desist from watching the case and Somerset obtained at the Horse Guards four months' leave of absence to enable him to quit the country. But he did not quit the country. He appeared at the funeral of his grandmother, the dowager duchess of Beaufort. Lieut. Gen. Sir Dighton Probyn, a prominent member of the household of the Prince of Wales, informed Lord Salisbury of this. Lord Salisbury stated that a warrant to take him into custody would be issued; but he caused this decision to become known to Lord Arthur Somerset's commanding officer, through whom this information was conveyed to Somerset. Thereupon Somerset fled. Lord Arthur Somerset was not only allowed to resign his commission and leave the army as an honorable officer, but at this moment he is still a magistrate for two counties. Moreover, he did not hide himself. He went to Paris openly and asked for an official place at the court of the sultan. Two men are now in prison for their part in these scandalous occurrences. But they are poor and obscure men; their highly placed confederate is unmolested. The government took care that the warrant for his apprehension should not be issued till he was out of the country. Mr. Labouchere said his charge was plain enough. It was that the Marquis of Salisbury and others criminally conspired to defeat the ends of justice. Therefore he asked that the committee inquire into his allegations. He trusted that the government, whatever their defense, would not put up a lawyer with a brief in his hand to defend them by special pleading and evasive chicanery. Mr. Labouchere then withdrew his motion.
Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney General, said he believed the House would agree with him that there was not a shadow of foundation for these disgraceful charges. It was absurd to suppose that the Marquis of Salisbury or the treasury could have any interest to retard the prosecution in this case. The procedure, in fact, took the usual course. When the evidence was all in it was first collated with a view to the case against Lord Arthur Somerset. The opinion of the Lord Chancellor was then taken upon it, and this opinion was that the evidence was insufficient to justify a prosecution. Subsequently additional evidence was obtained, and this rendered the issue of a warrant advisable; but he had authority to state that Sir Dighton Probyn, after his interview with the Marquis of Salisbury on this subject, neither saw nor communicated with Lord Arthur Somerset, either directly or indirectly. Neither had the Marquis of Salisbury any knowledge of the movements of Lord Arthur Somerset to avoid the service of the warrant. The story told by Mr. Labouchere that the Marquis of Salisbury had inform Sir Dighton Probyn that a warrant was about to be issued was mere gossip.
Mr. Labouchere, interrupting, here offered to write the name of his informant on a slip of paper and put the slip of paper into the hand of Sir Richard Webster, leaving to Sir Richard the choice of disclosing or not the name to the House.
Sir Richard Webster said Mr. Labouchere could adopt what course he chose. He himself had direct authority to contradict the allegation that the Marquis of Salisbury had spoken to anyone regarding the issue of the warrant.
Mr. Labouchere said he could not accept Sir Richard Webster's assurances, nor did he believe the Marquis of Salisbury, whose denials were obviously untrue. The chairman here intervened and requested the gentleman to withdraw the words calling to question the veracity of the Premier. Mr. Labouchere declined to withdraw the words, and the Speaker named him for suspension and called upon the House to adjudge upon the conduct of the member. Upon division, the suspension was carried 177 to 96.
After Labouchere's suspension T.P. O'Connor, continuing the debate, said he knew the name that Mr. Labouchere had offered to give to Sir Richard Webster, and it is one that carried conviction as to the correctness of the statements that had been made. Mr. Smith called upon Mr. O'Connor to give the name in the interests of justice. Mr.O'Connor declined upon the ground that the name had been imparted to him in confidence.
Mr. Hall, member for Cambridge, declared that Lord Arthur Somerset was prepared to quit London before his interview with Sir Dighton Probyn.
The Marquis of Salisbury admitted that Sir Dighton Probyn had previously advised Lord Arthur Somerset to clear his character, but denied any other communication. Other members having demanded a committee of inquiry, Mr. Smith, on behalf of the Government, declined to allow persons against whom there was no evidence to be pilloried and gibbeted, and perhaps ruined for life. Mr. Labouchere's amendment was then rejected 206 to 66.