§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Naas.)
§ MR. OSBORNE
, in seconding the Motion, said, he would resume the appeal (where he had left off) to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—whose knowledge of Ireland and, it was only fair to add, whose good intentions towards that country no one was more ready to admit than he (Mr. Osborne) was—whether the right hon. Gentleman thought that so important a question as this confessedly was should now be proceeded with on its second reading—whether it should be brought on at the fag end of the Financial Statement introducing the Budget, and which, with the discussion upon it, lasted for a period unexampled by its brevity in that House. In reference to that fact he must compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon the succinctness and completeness of his speech—a speech which he thought would stand as a good model for all Chancellors of the Exchequer. He 1160 believed that within the recollection of the House there had never before been a Budget introduced, which, with the discussion arising from it, terminated at a quarter before nine o'clock. Whether that be a fact or not, he thought that hon. Gentlemen generally must confess that few measures involved such important consequences to Ireland as the present Bill, and deserved more attention in that House. He was sure that the Government attached so much importance to that Bill that they would not wish it to be brought on at a time and under circumstances when it was impossible it could receive due consideration. Intimately connected as he was with Ireland he thought that such a Bill was entitled from its importance to stand first on the paper as the great question for debate. The second reading of the Bill brought in last Session was placed first on the paper, and had an entire evening appropriated to itself. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), who was to take a prominent part in the discussion on this subject, had left the House under the impression that the discussion on the Budget would last beyond the time fixed for entering upon the consideration of this measure. The Leader of the Opposition—not the hon. Member for Roscommon (Colonel French)—had also left the House. [Here Colonel FRENCH made an observation which did not reach the gallery]. He (Mr. Osborne) was obliged to the hon. Gentleman below him for his running commentary, but he was then referring to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was sure that the House generally would be of opinion it was desirable that the Leaders on both sides of the House should be present when a question of this importance was called on for discussion. In all fairness he submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas) whether it would not be better to name a night for the second reading, when it would stand first on the paper, and assume that importance to which the question involved was fully entitled—namely, an early day after Easter. If the measure were then brought under discussion the result would be a partial and unsatisfactory debate, resulting at length in an adjournment. He would not enter into the details of this Bill; but ventured to remark that it was not one that would settle the question at issue. And if it were now proceeded with there would, of course, be a great deal of speaking 1161 against time, and the result would, at all events, be unsatisfactory. The question was one of such importance that it ought not to stand second even to the Budget—indeed, to his mind it was quite equal in importance to any Budget. He therefore urged the Government to postpone its consideration, and to give an early day after Easter for a full discussion upon it.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Candlish.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us is quite correct in crediting me with fully understanding and appreciating the importance of this question. Out of the many measures introduced to that House, some of which I am glad to say we have passed, none in my mind are superior in importance and interest to this Bill. It is a measure in which I take a great personal interest, and one which I think deserves our best consideration. It is not our fault that this important business has been delayed to this moment. The pressure of public business has been very great, and circumstances of an exigent character during the first few weeks of the Session required the presence of my noble Friend in the sister island. It was therefore no wish on our part to delay the progress of this measure. On the contrary, Her Majesty's Government felt an anxious desire that the Bill, when matured by the suggestions and assistance of hon. Members on both sides of the House, should pass into a law. Whatever may be the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne) in regard to this measure, I am profoundly impressed with the conviction that it contains a substance which may lead to beneficial results in Ireland. At the same time, I am perfectly well aware of the disadvantage of entering into a subject of this importance in a House which is not very full; but this is a circumstance arising from what may be called a Parliamentary Casualty. It is really very difficult for us to fix another day for the second reading, in the face of the large amount of business before us. At the same time, I should be happy if hon. Gentlemen opposite will consent to meet us on the 29th instant, being the first day when the House re-assembles after the Easter recess. But, generally speaking, when we fix the first day after the recess for Irish Bills, the Gentlemen from Ireland are not then to be found in 1162 their places. If, however, the hon. Representatives of Ireland will endeavour to be present here on the 29th instant, or the Monday on which the House re-assembles, I shall be happy to meet them then for the consideration of this question. Indeed, I think that there ought to be an exertion made on both sides to be then present, when I hope that the subject will be treated by all parties with that respect and attention which its interest and importance demand.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
expressed his regret at being supposed by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne) to have interfered with the observations he was then making. He for one, however, disagreed with the opinions expressed by that hon. Gentleman in respect to the suggested postponement of this Bill. It was announced, apparently with the approbation of the Irish Members, that his noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland would bring on the Bill that evening if the previous business on the paper were disposed of before nine o'clock. He (Colonel French) was prepared to give the measure the fullest consideration.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he should not have thought that any Irish Member would have proposed or suggested that a Bill of so much importance should be read a second time without discussion. The Bill must be fully discussed, and he saw no objection to the discussion being then proceeded with until twelve, when the debate could be adjourned until the 29th.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he was surprised that the Government had declined to proceed with the Bill, the understanding being that it should not be taken after ten o'clock. No doubt it was a very disagreeable subject, both for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary—the measure being in direct contradiction to that introduced by the noble Lord last Session. He had no desire to say anything disagreeable to any Member of the House; but if it was more agreeable to adjourn the discussion than to proceed with it, he would accede to it.
said, that the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Sandford) were uncalled for. The Government had no desire to press on the 1163 Bill against the wishes of hon. Members. There had only been one evening since the Bill was read a first time that the discussion could have come on, and at that time he and the Law Advisers of the Crown were compelled to be absent. The observation, therefore, of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon was unjustifiable. It was the earnest wish of the Government to proceed with the Bill, and take the opinion of the House upon it as early as possible. He thought there was great force in the objection to what was called fragmentary discussions, and he was of opinion that very little time was gained by adjourned debates—and besides that, they were very inconvenient. By adjourning the second reading until the 29th, and then taking it the first thing that evening, he hoped they would be able to get through the discussion that night. The Government did not shrink from any discussion of the measure.
said, he had always believed that Her Majesty's Government were sincerely anxious to press forward this Bill in the hope that it would settle the question. There was a great deal in the Bill that was good, and well worthy of the support of the House; and his reason for supporting the adjournment was that many Irish Members who wished to take part in the discussion had left the House under the impression that the Bill would not come on that night, and it would be impossible that they could have a full and adequate discussion that evening.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he believed the Government had been anxious to take the discussion on these Bills at an earlier period. Events had, however, occurred which had prevented the Law Officers of the Crown and the noble Lord (Lord Naas) from being in their places, and it was therefore impossible to go on with the Bills. A partial debate on this subject would give the impression that the House was trifling with it, and although it would be rather inconvenient to Irish Members to bring them back on the 29th, he would make no objection to the postponement to that day. It might be impossible, in consequence of the Reform debates, to obtain another night, and he would take care to be in his place on the 29th to move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday 29th April.