§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [12th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Vance.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, that as many of the Irish Members had left the House, he begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Captain Nolan.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he did not see why the debate should be again adjourned. The Bill was brought forward for the first time yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) in a short and moderate speech, and to all appearance there was a great desire, on the part of hon. Members from Ireland who sat opposite, for a division on the Main Question. He had himself risen at 25 minutes to 6 o'clock, and had endeavoured, as far as he could in five minutes, to state his reasons for opposing the measure; but it had been talked out by one of the hon. and learned Gentleman's own supporters. And now the House was asked to assent to an adjournment, because many of those who advocated the Bill were absent. That he did not regard as a fair mode of dealing with the question.
§ MR. BUTT
thought, on the contrary, the interest of Ireland in the matter would not be fairly dealt with if the Motion for Adjournment were not acceded to. Over 1,000 voters—he had heard the number put at 2,000—had been disfranchised in the City of Dublin alone, because the same facilities were not given for placing men on the register as those which existed in England.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
believed the Bill was a most insidious measure, being a new Reform Bill in disguise. In the borough which he represented (Enniskillen) there was no grievance felt from the existing state of the law. He hoped the House would not consent to an adjournment of the Bill, but would throw it out by a large majority.
remarked that it was all very well for the noble Lord opposite to say what he did, when perhaps he owed his seat to the fact that a large number of people who ought to be his constituents were deprived of the franchise. What a terrible scare to that House, which sat under a Conservative Reform Bill, and to men like the noble Lord opposite to hear of another Reform Bill! This was essentially an instance of unequal law for Ireland. She would not be deceived by such proceedings as the present, but would declare in the presence of all Europe—he saw the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 629 (Colonel Taylor) laughing. It was the only argument that he ever contributed to their debates; perhaps, because it was the kind he was best fitted to contribute. ["Oh!" and "Order!"] If he had said anything unworthy of the most friendly feeling—if his observation was more impolite than the hon. and gallant Member's laughter, he withdrew it. He urged that the clauses of the Bill were copied from the English list, and it was not asking too much to postpone the measure for a fortnight.
§ SIR PERCY WYNDHAM
condemned the Bill. Ireland had hitherto been remarkably free from bribery and corruption at elections; but this Bill would put it into the hands of any one to agree to pay a man's rates in order to give him the franchise, which it would lower, while tending at the same time to corrupt practices.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
differed from the hon. Member who had just spoken in his views with regard to the effect of this Bill. The hon. Member had said it would have the effect of lowering the franchise; but the franchise would surely remain at £4 in Ireland, whether this Bill passed or not. The question was whether those who were enfranchised by Act of Parliament were to be disenfranchised by overseers? He regarded this Bill simply as the application to Ireland of a system that had been applied to England. If it were an insidious attempt to lower the franchise the House would know how to deal with it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 127: Majority 75. Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Henry Havelock.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he hoped the Government would not persevere in trying to force the hon. and learned Member for Limerick to proceed with this Bill. The course which the Government were taking in trying to force the hon. and learned Member to proceed was most unfair. It was an unprecedented course.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he would not have thought of asking the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) to proceed with the debate, had not the hon. and learned Member himself proposed to do so. [MR. BUTT: "NO!"] The hon. and learned Member for Limerick proposed to go on with the debate, and then the hon and gallant Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) moved its adjournment.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not treated the hon. and learned Member for Limerick and the people of Ireland well in the course he had taken in reference to this question. What the Irish Members asked was that a measure which had been adopted in England should be extended to their own country. To shovel such a demand as was made out of the House by a peremptory vote of this kind was both unjust and impolitic. He should therefore vote for the adjournment in order to secure a full discussion of the subject.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman was not aware of the unprecedented circumstance which had occurred on the previous day, when his right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) endeavoured to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite by giving them an opportunity for going to a division on this Bill. It was important that good faith should be kept; yet no division was taken, and the hon. and learned Member for Limerick to-night moved the resumption of the debate.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
supposed that his eyes must have been deceived when he saw the hon. and learned Gentleman take off his hat. Instead of desiring to crush the discussion, the Government had merely been acceding to the wishes of Irish Members that this matter should be brought to an issue at once. If hon. Members used the Forms of the House to obstruct the progress of Business, they would do so at the risk of the reputation they enjoyed in the House and in the country, even though their tactics were approved by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford. In conclusion, he might state there certainly had 631 been no attempt this Session to stifle any Irish question which had been brought forward.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he had understood that if he had proposed to adjourn the debate till Thursday the Bill would have been opposed, and exactly the same course would have been taken as had been adopted on the present occasion. Believing that if he himself moved the adjournment, he should be deprived of the opportunity of speaking on the Bill, he asked his hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Nolan) to move the adjournment in his stead. The present debate had been forced on from the other side. He had no indirect object in view. The occupiers in Ireland could only gain the franchise by claiming to be rated, and paying the rates the same as in England before the recent alteration. It was not fair to press this Bill on in the absence of any Irish Members who had left, under the impression that it would not be taken that night. He believed that if the Prime Minister had been in his place the debate would have been adjourned an hour ago.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, the debate ought to be adjourned, and that it was unprecedented to pursue such a course as that proposed by the Government, especially in the absence of many hon. Members who had left for Ireland. He did not think from the number of Orders which preceded it on the Paper that any one could fairly have expected that the Bill would be reached that night.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there had evidently been, through fault or through accident, misunderstandings on the subject. If the Motion for the Adjournment of the House were withdrawn, he hoped the next Business on the Paper would be proceeded with.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday next.