§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
asked whether the Prime Minister would give facilities for the discussion of a Motion for the imposition of retaliatory duties against certain countries having protective duties?
Sir, I am unable to give a day for the discussion of the Motion of which the hon. Gentleman has given Notice. I beg now to move—That for the remainder of the Session Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority, and that Government Orders have priority on Wednesday.The only argument that is necessary for this Resolution is the statement that it is now the 1st of August, and the House met on the 6th of January. I may justly be asked what course the Government intend to take with regard to measures still pending, and which have given rise to indications that they will involve considerable discussion. I am very sorry to see that the Rivers Conservancy Bill, which has been viewed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board as a measure of importance and practical utility, is, nevertheless, a subject of controversy, and, considering the very late period of the Session, we are compelled reluctantly to abandon it. Then there is the Augmentation of Benefices Bill, with which we shall not be able to proceed. I do not know there is any other Bill, on which we are at present aware, on which there will be any general or prolonged discussion. With regard to the Notice just given by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), if I understand him right, he thinks at this period of the Session it is 374 too late for the discussion of a measure which introduces any new principle; and yet he does not think it too late to decide that instead of reducing the debt we ought to apply the money to a reduction of the duty on tea and coffee. On the point, however, which he has raised, I must ascertain what is the general feeling of the House. Viewing the pledge given by the Government to use all its available means for putting forward Supply, we are desirous to redeem that pledge in the best manner possible. We have considered the best means of putting Supply forward with despatch, and, consequently, we do not propose that the House should have Morning Sittings.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That for the remainder of the Session Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motion on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority on Wednesday."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
asked the Lord Advocate if he intended to proceed with the Entailed Estates Conversion (Scotland) Bill?
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. M'LAREN)
said, in reply, that there was no reasonable prospect of passing the measure, and, therefore, it would not be proceeded with.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that in reference to the Motion just made, and the remarks of the Prime Minister on the question of Terminable Annuities, he would like to make one or two observations. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no new principle in bringing in a Bill of this kind. Perhaps not; but they were carrying out a very important principle, which the country knew nothing about, and which there was no opportunity of discussing in any way.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member must be aware that it was irregular on the present Motion to discuss a Bill not before the House.
§ MR. MONK
said, he did not rise to say anything against the proposal of the Prime Minister, but wished to remind him that the first Order of the Day for Wednesday week was the adjourned debate on the Motion with regard to the half-past 12 o'clock Rule. That Motion had been adjourned in consequence of a misunderstanding between the two Front Benches, and he appealed to the right 375 hon. Gentleman to afford him facilities for taking the decision of the House on his Resolution.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he did not rise for the purpose of opposing the Resolution of the Prime Minister. He knew that every Member of the House would welcome the termination of a prolonged, harassing, and wearisome Session. What he was desirous of doing was to briefly call attention to the state of Business. The House usually sat 26 weeks in a year; but it had already been in Session now for 30 weeks. The Votes in Supply numbered 193. Of these 53 had been taken, and 140 had still to be got. What he wished hon. Members to realize was that in 30 weeks they had disposed of 50 Votes, and in the next few days they would be compelled to hurry through the remainder—the 140. Under any circumstances, and at any time, the Business of Supply was conducted in a very fluctuating, uncertain, and irregular manner. But it was absolutely beyond the power of Members to apply themselves with business-like assiduity to the granting of all the money at such a late period of the year, and under such circumstances as those in which they were now placed. For all practical purposes, the Government were about to get the major portion of the Revenue of the country without criticism or control. He had referred to the Records of the House, and, as far as he could make out, there was not a Session for the last quarter of a century or more where Supply had been so hopelessly in arrear. There was only one occasion when the condition approximated to what it was now, and that was in 1870. He knew hon. Gentlemen excused the authorities by saying that the present Session was exceptional. [''Hear, hear!"] He was pleased to gather from their applause that hon. Gentlemen on both side of the House, and belonging to all Parties, agreed with his statement. There was no doubt that the Session was exceptional—one of the most exceptional in the history of Parliament. But, unfortunately, as far as the voting of Supply was concerned, every Session was exceptional. All the arrangements made by Ministers, whether Liberal or Conservative, were to curtail the powers which the Representatives of the people 376 had in controlling the National Expenditure. The duties they were charged to perform wore two-fold. First, they had to make the laws of the country; second, they had to assist in the administration of its affairs, and transact the general Business of the State. In his judgment the latter duty was the more important. It was always urgent, and it should have primary consideration. At the commencement of every Session the Ministers should submit a statement of the money they required. Parliament should apply itself to inquiring into the amounts thus named; and, having given the necessary consideration, should vote them. The time loft after the business-like discharge of this function should go to making new laws or amending old ones. This was the old theory of the Constitution, and it was the soundest and the best. But they reversed that plan. They commenced the Session by making laws, and when they terminated the Session they wore still busy with the same process. Just before the close—a few days prior to the Prorogation—the Estimates, containing hundreds, or rather thousands, of items, were thrown upon the Table, and they were compelled to vote them, practically without debate. Again and again this unsatisfactory state of things had been alluded to, but there was never so gross a case as the present. He hoped that the Government next Session would endeavour to mend matters by submitting the Estimates as soon as the House met, and, notwithstanding previous refusals, agree to appoint a Committee which should have the power of calling before it the Heads of the different Departments. With such a Committee, and with such information, the work of Supply might be greatly lightened. The Report submitted by the Committee would obviate the necessity for a good deal of the detailed conversation they had in that House, and altogether it would further the Business of the country. It was not his desire to object to the Resolution of the Prime Minister, or to prolong the discussion; but he was anxious to avail himself of the opportunity to point out in what way and to what extent the first function of Parliament was year after year set aside, if not altogether overridden.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he thought the hon. Member for 377 Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had done good service in calling attention to the condition of the Votes in Supply. He rose, however, to ask whether they were to understand from the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government now intended to proceed with Supply de die in diem, and in preference to any legislative measures? He thought they were right in taking Afternoon instead of Morning Sittings. There were six principal classes of Votes in the Civil Service Estimates which they had not yet touched at all. They might also fairly now expect to receive from the Government some intimation as to the time at which they anticipated they would be in a position to close the Session. It was usual, when demands like the present were made on the time of the House, for the Government to make some communication on that subject. As to the Bills before the House, it was quite understood that there were some that it was absolutely necessary to proceed with; but there were still one or two respecting which there was some doubt as to the decision of the Government. He therefore wished to know what course was to be taken with the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Bill?
§ MR. GREGORY
asked whether a Resolution was to be moved that night in regard to Terminable Annuities?
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, that whether the Tories or Liberals were in power, the same thing always happened in regard to India. Again, the discussion on the Indian Budget was not only put off, but was not even mentioned. Surely, with a population seven times more numerous than that of the United Kingdom, and an area 12 times greater, and a Revenue approaching to that of the United Kingdom, the affairs of such a vast Empire well deserved a day for discussion. He wished, therefore, to ask the Prime Minister when he expected that the Indian Budget would come on, and whether the assistance to be given to India from the Imperial Exchequer would be given in instalments or in a lump sum?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had been requested by his right hon. Friend to answer a question put as to the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Bill. The Government were, of course, desirous to proceed with that Bill, but they felt that in the existing circumstances they were not able to make that 378 progress with measures for Scotland which they and the Scotch Members would desire. They had reason to believe that this Bill was one which the great majority of the Scotch Members wished to see passed, and, if that were so, he should think there would be no difficulty in passing it in the present Session, and the Government would certainly do all they could to facilitate that result. On the other hand, if a large number of Scotch Members were adverse to the Bill proceeding this Session, the Government would not press it on against their wish.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he regretted that the Prime Minister had not offered him an opportunity for bringing forward a subject which was far more important than the unfortunate Land Bill, about which no man in England cared a straw. It could not be denied that the question of Free Trade, Reciprocity, and retaliatory Protective duties excited a strong feeling out-of-doors.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that the Educational Endowments Bill was a measure which the majority of the Scotch Members desired to see passed into law. They approved its principle; but a great number of them were opposed to proceeding with it at this period of the Session. In their opinion—he did not say whether it was his opinion or not—the measure could not now be adequately discussed, because it would be necessary that there should be an interval between the second reading and the date fixed for the Committee, in order to give the country and the people of Scotland an opportunity of judging of the Amendments to be submitted for the consideration of the Government and the House. It was, he believed, on that ground that a large number of Scotch Members, certainly the majority of those now in London, recently presented a Memorial to the Prime Minister, asking him to forego the Bill this Session. Twenty-four Members signed the Memorial to that effect, and although the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped to take the Bill this Session he did not fix a day for it. The majority of hon. Members had been in attendance for more than seven months; and at this period of the Session they might expect to be relieved from all uncertainty as to the progress of any measure, and to have a specific day fixed for the second 379 reading, whether it ever got through any further stage or not.
said, he was sorry that the Prime Minister had not given a little more definite information. The House had been sitting from a very early period, and if only the most necessary Business were now transacted, it would be obliged to sit until a very late period. He did not know that the Scotch Members deserved to be treated any worse than any other section of the House; but he thought it was treating them very badly to keep them hanging on night after night, and refuse to say even whether the Bill was to be proceeded with or not. He approved—as a good many of the Scotch Members did—of the principle of the Bill; but they disapproved of details, and the discussion of those details would certainly occupy one good Sitting. If the Government proposed to proceed with it, by all means let them have a discussion, and the Scotch Members were quite willing to go on with it; but if it was not to be so—and he saw no prospect of its being done—the Government ought not to keep the Scotch Members dangling on, not knowing whether the Bill wag to be taken or not. The Memorial to which reference had been made stated that the Memorialists approved of the principle of the Bill, but thought it expedient that it should be left over till next Session, and the 24 Members who signed that Memorial did not at all exhaust the number of Scotch Members who were of the same opinion. There was no doubt that at a time like this, however willing the Government might be to proceed with the Bill, it was utterly impossible that they would be able to do so, and therefore they would do well to defer it at once.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
observed, that a large number of Scotch Members sat on the Ministerial side of the House, and if they could not bring influence to bear on the Government in reference to this subject, it was not likely that anything falling from him would have that effect; but if the Government really intended to press the Bill this Session, they should name a time at which they would be disposed to take it. If the Government fixed on a night on which they could report Progress in Supply at a certain hour to proceed with the second reading, it would be found that the differences of opinion existing about this measure were not great; but when, the 380 Committee stage was reached it would certainly be necessary to give an entire Sitting to it. By that means the measure might pass even at this late period of the Session; but he agreed with hon. Members opposite that the idea of still going on with the measure, without even yet fixing a day for it, was wrong. He differed from the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay), who said that it would be necessary to consult the country between the second reading and the Committee. He believed the people of Scotland had made up their minds on the subject. The thing had been before them so very long that what was now looked for was the passing of the measure, and not that it should be sent back for consideration. It might appear inconsistent to make these remarks, and yet to have signed the Memorial alluded to; but the feeling of himself and other hon. Members was that that the period of the Session which had been reached made it difficult to secure an adequate discussion of the Bill, while if the Government showed a strong wish to proceed with the measure, they would not oppose that course, but they considered in that case a time ought now to be fixed for the second reading.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he believed there was a general approval of the principle of the Bill, but various details would require considerable discussion. The Government had been informed of one or two important points on which the Scotch Members entertained very strong opinions, and with respect to which it was desirable to have the opinion of the people of Scotland; but the Government had declined to give them any satisfaction in regard to those points. One question was whether the future Governing Bodies were to be representive or not, and upon that the Government absolutely refused to give any reply. That roused the suspicions of the Scotch Members, and of a considerable number of the people of Scotland, as to what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the future Governing Bodies. If the Government had come forward frankly, and expressed their views upon that subject, the opposition to the Bill would have been very much modified. But, after what had passed, it was of very great importance that the people of Scotland should express a decided opinion as to whether they wished these Governing 381 Bodies in future to be representative, and also how far they wished the Bill to be extended. He was personally very strongly in favour of the main principle of the Bill, his only doubt being as to whether the revision went far enough.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
thought enough had been said. ["Order!"] At that time of the Session any Member who got up to withdraw a Bill deserved to be heard. He thought quite enough had been said to satisfy him that although, as he understood, all the Scotch Members were in favour of the Bill, none of them, so far as he had been able to gather, wished it to go on. That he understood to be the sentiment expressed on both sides of the House. ["No, no!"] He heard hon. Gentlemen say "No!" but perhaps they were among the 25 who signed the Memorial. After what had been said, it was evidently quite hopeless for the Government to struggle against the differences of opinion existing on the subject, and therefore he should not attempt to go on with the Bill; but, at the same time, he must express his entire dissent from the explanation given by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay).
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he regretted that the Government had been in such a hurry to withdraw the Bill without consulting the Scotch Members who did not sign the Memorial. He agreed with the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) that the Government ought to have named a day for the second reading; but he believed the provisions of the Bill were not of so wide a character as to be likely to cause any very great discussion. Moreover, the difficulty would have been a great deal removed by a frank statement of opinion on the part of the Government and the Scotch Members. At the same time, he must admit that the Government were struggling against great difficulties, and he would only hope that nothing which had now been said would act as a bar to their bringing on the Bill at a future time. The Government should bear in mind that there was at present a determined opposition on the part of Scotch Members. It was not that they loved the Bill less, but that they loved grouse-shooting more.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, he joined with his hon. Friend in the regret that the Home Secretary should be in such a hurry to abandon the Bill, when Scotch 382 Members who had served on the Commission were anxious to go on with it. He wished, however, to clear himself from all responsibility for the withdrawal of the Bill. The blame for the delay which had occurred lay with those hon. Members who persistently kept blocking Notices on the Paper against it, among whom was the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), who, although he now said he was in favour of the measure, had blocked it from the first on account of some small question which might be easily settled in Committee. Those who had been misled into signing the Memorial to the Prime Minister must also take some of the responsibility.
§ MR. T. COLLINS
said, it was unreasonable that Members should be detained in town till the third week in August in order to discuss a Scotch Bill.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he would suggest that the Ballot Act Amendment and Continuance Bill should be withdrawn for the present Session, and that a simple Continuance Bill should be introduced. As far as the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill was concerned, he would suggest that it should be divided in two parts, one having reference to the re-constitution of the Court consequent on the removal of the Master of the Rolls to the Court of Appeal, and the other dealing with the question of legal patronage. A considerable time ago it was understood that a Return of the patronage of the Judges had been ordered, but that Return had not yet been received. He supposed that the Bill had been drawn in ignorance of the amount of the patronage, and he suggested that the portion of it dealing with the question should be withdrawn. He repeated the question of his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) as to whether the Government intended to take Supply de die in diem?
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he would urge that the House should not be allowed to separate without an opportunity being given for a discussion on the manner in which the law was at present administered in Ireland. In that country Constitutional Law was suspended, and the Government were every day making arrests of the most arbitrary and unwarranted character on the mere suspicion of any of their officials. If the Government had any necessity or excuse for that system, they ought to 383 justify themselves before the House and before the world; but so far they had made no attempt to do so. The recent policy of the Government and the recent arrests by their officials had not been brought directly under the consideration of the House, and he could not think that any sincere Member of the Liberal Party would like the House to separate without some statement from a Member of the Government as to all those arrests, and without some explanation which would show that the Government were sensible that after all there was a Constitution, although it had been suspended in Ireland, and that they were bound to offer some justification of their extraordinary conduct. It was a question which ought to be fully discussed, and he hoped the Government would give them an opportunity. The House of Commons had never been fairly informed as to the powers which the Government had taken under the Coercion Acts, nor had they properly understood the explanations given on behalf of the Government. The explanations had been inconsistent with each other, and inconsistent also with the policy which the Government had pursued. At the outset the Chief Secretary said the sole object was to relieve Ireland from the oppression of "village tyrants" and "midnight marauders;" but a very few days afterwards the Home Secretary gave an explanation which was quite different.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
rose to Order, and asked whether it was competent on the Motion of the Prime Minister to review a discussion which had already taken place?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I consider that the hon. Member is transgressing the Rules of Order by the course he is now taking. The Question before the House is simply in reference to the course of Business. Upon that he is quite entitled to express a wish that the policy of the Government in Ireland may be reviewed at a proper time; but to enter into details is clearly out of Order.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he was simply asking the Government to give the House an assurance that he should have an opportunity of discussing these matters. He was urging the great necessity for obtaining information as to, and, if possible, some justification for, the conduct of the Government. Surely, it would be most unreasonable 384 and wrong that the House should separate without any such information or explanation.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he should not proceed with his Motion with reference to Tripoli in consequence of the issue by the Government of Papers on the subject.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
, in reply to the question of the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross), said, that the first part of the Judicature Bill dealt with the transference of the Master of the Rolls to the Court of Appeal. It was very necessary that that should be passed this Session. The second part of the Bill was designed to vest with the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor the legal patronage formerly exercised by the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and the Lord Chief Baron. That question, though not so pressing, was one of great importance; but it would not be unduly put forward for discussion if some interim arrangement could be made for dealing with it. The difficulty was that unless the subject were dealt with the patronage must either be left in abeyance or remain with the Lord Chief Justice.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was satisfied with the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
thought the Bill before the House for dealing with Education in Scotland was, in many respects, a very good Bill.
remarked, that it was impossible that the Government could fix a night for bringing on the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Bill. With regard to Supply, it would be the duty of the Government to ask the House to apply the whole of the valuable time left to pressing it forward—at least, during the principal hours of the night. There was no intention at present to ask the House to recur to Morning Sittings. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) would have ample opportunities for bringing forward the subject he had referred to before the end of the Session, seeing that the Appropriation Bill could not possibly be passed until the matter had been discussed. With regard to the Ballot Bill, it would be withdrawn, and a simple Continuance Bill would be substituted for it. With regard to the Indian Subvention, he had 385 nothing to add to what had been said before in reference to it—namely, that India would be put under an obligation to repay the £2,000,000 advanced, and that the remainder of the subvention would be made in a certain number of annual instalments. With regard to the New Annuities, a Bill relating to them would be introduced to-morrow night, and time would be given for its consideration. He could not name a day for the Indian Budget till he saw what progress had been made with other Business. With regard to the question of the right hon. Gentleman as to when the Prorogation might be expected to take place, he wished to point out that Votes of considerable importance in Supply still remained to be discussed, and it was impossible at the present moment to forecast the exact number of days that the discussion in reference to them would occupy. Months ago he had stated that there was a probablility that the Prorogation would take place next week; but what had since occurred had not encouraged him to form too sanguine an estimate of the speed with which Public Business might be disposed of. In the course of a few days, however, he hoped to be able to give a more definite reply on the subject to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
inquired at what hour the Bill for the Regulation of the Forces would be brought on?
§ MR. CHILDERS
Late this evening; perhaps about 12 o'clock. It is absolutely necessary that the Bill shall be passed speedily.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he certainly was very much surprised to hear the reply of the Prime Minister to the very temperate request of his hon. Friend the Member for the County of Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy)—namely, that he would be able to hold out some hope that the Government would afford Irish Members facilities for the purpose of discussing the wholesale arrests that have been made in Ireland. It was not as if they had pressed the Government unduly in reference to this question, and not as if they had refrained from giving them every facility with regard to the passing of the Land Bill, and not as if they had made use unduly of any of the Forms of the House for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain the ear of Par- 386 liament for the purpose of condemning the acts of the Irish Executive. It was not under these circumstances that his hon. Friend had pressed the Government for some reasonable facilities to put this matter before the House. Their conduct with regard to the Government had been to facilitate Government Business in every possible way. Since the Coercion Acts left this House until the present time, he himself had incurred considerable blame from many persons in Ireland, because they had considered he had allowed the captive to rest in his prison cell unnoticed and uncared for; and speaking for himself, and, he believed, for the majority of the Irish Members of that House, he protested that the Irish Members could no longer allow this neglect, for it was nothing more, to continue in regard to these suffering and helpless men. If they had neglected the case of the prisoners of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, it was because they wished to give the Government every chance of passing remedial legislation for Ireland, and because they desired it might not be in the power of anybody to say, from any side of the House, that they wished to prevent Her Majesty's Government from having a full trial in regard to their attempts to remedy Irish grievances; but now, when all that was passed, when nothing remained but the obtaining of sundry Votes in Supply, when the Government had expressly given up their other contemplated legislation, he said that they were entitled to ask that Her Majesty's Government should give them an opportunity of bringing forward the case of these men, who nobly sacrificed, many of them, their business and their social prosperity, in order to do what in them lay to help the cause of the Irish tenant. His hon. Friend had asked that some reasonable time might be given for the purpose of laying the case of these "suspects" before this House, and he had been told that on the Appropriation Bill he would have an opportunity. Well, he did not know whether the Prime Minister really expected them to wait till the Appropriation Bill, and give up all the time—namely, Tuesdays and Wednesdays—which would be at the disposal of private Members to any measures he proposed to bring before the House. But because they had been neglectful 387 of the personal liberty and freedom of the "suspects" in Ireland during the months that had rolled by since the introduction of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, because they had refrained from pressing these questions, that was no reason that now, when these matters had disappeared, there was longer any excuse for them or for the Government to withhold the light of day from their doings in Ireland. Then he submitted that they were entitled to press this matter on Her Majesty's Government; that they were entitled to use the Forms of the House and assert the right, perhaps, of a majority of that House—certainly of a majority of the Irish nation—to justice, truth, and fairness in the doings of the Irish Executive. He, for his part, should not shrink from using all the Forms of the House to prevent the Government from appropriating these days, and thereby preventing them from any possible chance of laying this case before the House. It might be contended that the Government had followed precedents in regard to their doings in this matter; that they had not applied to Parliament at any unusually early period for these days; and to the fullest extent he admitted that, testing this matter by the calendar, the Government had not come to Parliament at any unusually early period. But testing the matter by the unexampled occurrences of this year, looking to the fact that at a very early period of the Session the Government obtained all the days—both the days of private Members and also those days which nominally belonged to the Government, but actually belonged to private Members—he alluded to Fridays—except Supply stood the First Order of the Day—looking to that fact, that all the days of private Members were placed at the disposal of the Government at a very early period of the Session for the purpose of passing Coercion, and looking at the fact that in the interval between the passing of the Coercion Act and the introduction of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill no attempt was made by the Irish Members or by the great bulk of private Members to press their grievances before Parliament or impede or incommode the Government in any way, and that immediately after that interval was over the Government again annexed all the days of the House for the purpose of proceeding with the Land Law (Ireland) 388 Bill—he saw that the attempt of the Government to annex Tuesdays and Wednesdays now practically meant the extinguishing of the total rights of private Members in the time of the House. Now, they were really getting into a way of looking to the Government as a sort of Deux et machinâ of the House of Commons, and, indeed, the Prime Minister appeared to be invested with the amount of regard for those who witnessed it, which was applied to the attributes of ancient Jove. Private Members, from occupying a position, when very much of the legislation was shaped in the various Motions and Bills brought forward by them, were now descending to this stage that, practically speaking, no opportunity whatever was to be afforded to them for the purpose of signifying to the House those matters in reference to which their constituents had sent them to this House. In other countries they found the Ministry of the day were not even allowed a place in the Representative Assembly. In the Legislature of the United States no Cabinet Minister had a place in the House; and formerly in this House it was the custom to regard the Government of the day as the Representative of the Crown, and not necessarily the Representatives of the entire popular opinion of the country. But now they were losing all regard for these matters. That House was composed of the Representatives of three distinct Nationalities, not to speak of a fourth. Yet they saw day by day all individual opinion, all private judgment and action merge in the ipse dixit of the Prime Minister. Now, they could not allow the fate of the Irish prisoners to remain unconsidered. Daily for the last three or four months he had been in receipt of dozens and scores of letters from these prison cells, which the Government must very well know, as they had opened them. These captives cried to them and asked them whether they were going to leave the men who had won the Land Bill? He said they ought not to leave those men, and they ought to urge upon the Irish Chief Secretary the duty of informing the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he would be very sorry to go beyond the Question, and he wished to confine himself within 389 proper limits. The Prime Minister had moved that during the remainder of the Session Government Business should have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; and he (Mr. Parnell) had endeavoured to point out that it was the imperative duty of Irish Members to bring the question of these "suspects" and the evidence on which they had been arrested before the House. These men had been arrested without a charge, almost without an accusation. The Government had repeatedly refused to give any replies to Questions which Irish Members had put with respect to them. It was absolutely necessary for the fair fame of many honourable men in Ireland that Irish Members should not allow the Government to continue to libel those men. The Government had arrested the hon. Member for Tipperary; they had arrested a trusted priest. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must caution the hon. Member that he is transgressing the Rules of Debate. The Question before the House is of a very limited character, and the hon. Member is not entitled to bring on the question of the imprisoned "suspects."
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he understood that the Question before the House was a Motion by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that for the remainder of the Session the Orders of the Day should have precedence of Notices of Motion, and that Government Orders should have priority; and he had endeavoured to point out that if that Motion were acceded to Irish Members would practically be deprived of an opportunity of bringing the case of the imprisoned "suspects" before the House. He had desired to show that the character of these "suspects" was in danger—["Order, order!"]—that he might urge with additional force the right that Irish Members had to demand from the Government facilities for rescuing these men from the unworthy libel that had been cast upon them. He would not presume to continue his observations if the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair ruled that he was out of Order in saying that a good priest and a good Irishman—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already ruled the hon. Member out of Order, and I am surprised that he should continue to make such observatious after my ruling.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that Irish Members would appear to have lost sympathy for the "suspects" if they did not bring their case before the House. [Cries of "Order!"] The Ministry of the day, of course, always gained the sympathies of the powers that be in that House; but if they might not bring the cause of their imprisoned countrymen before the House, he would boldly say that all liberty and regard of private right was lost to that Assembly, and that the Minister of the day had transferred himself from a Constitutional Minister into a tyrant—[Cries of "Order!" and "Name him!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have repeatedly cautioned the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and notwithstanding these repeated cautions he has held language utterly un-Parliamentary and improper; and I hereby name Mr. Parnell as having disregarded the authority of the Chair.
§ MR. PARNELL
rose and said: I will not wait for the farce of a division. I will leave you and your House, and the public will see that there is no longer freedom of discussion left to the Irish Members.
Sir, I was about to move, when you rose from the Chair, that the words of the hon. Member be taken down. I must say I never in the course of my whole experience ever heard such words addressed to you—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. HEALY
I rise to Order. [Cries of "Order!"] I rise to Order. The Standing Order on which the Prime Minister is about to act prescribes that he shall make his Motion without speech or debate; and I understand that on previous Motions of this kind the Prime Minister went very speedily to his duty.
I thank the hon. Member for Wexford for reminding me that I ought not to have made a speech. I move that Mr. Parnell, having been named, be suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the Sitting.
Motion made, and Question put,
That Mr. Parnell be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of this day's sitting."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 14: Majority 117.—(Div. List, No. 346.)
Question again proposed,
That for the remainder of the Session Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority, and that Government Orders have priority on Wednesday.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that it was perhaps regrettable that the Representatives of Ireland had only been able to intervene in this discussion at a late period; but this was due to the time that had been consumed by the Scotch Members. He thought that in asking the House to assent to this Motion the Government might have given the House more explicit information as to their intentions on several points. He had not been able to gather what the Government intended to do with regard to the Indian Budget, or to the discussion of Indian affairs generally. If the Liberal Party sat on that side of the House and such incidents were brought forward as wholesale murder in Indian gaols—for the charges on that matter amounted to nothing less—the Liberal Party would be in a ferment of generous indignation on the subject. He did not belong to the Liberal Party, and he hoped that Heaven might spare him from that final fall; but he thought that the Government should give the House the opportunity of discussing the affairs of the people of India, who, like the Irish people, were deprived of every form of Constitutional liberty. When the Prime Minister was in Opposition he had taken from his hands a Motion on the enslavement of thought and opinion in India by the Vernacular Press Act. That was two years ago; but nothing had since then been done in the matter.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that the question of the Vernacular Press of India is not now before the House.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he would only express a hope that the Prime Minister would give them an opportunity of discussing that important question. They ought also to have the opportunity of discussing the new University Scheme in Ireland—a scheme which promised well under the late Government, but which, according to recent rumours, did not promise well under the present Government. They were likewise entitled to receive an assurance from the 392 Government that distinct facilities would be afforded for the investigation of the very serious charges of maladministration and oppression made against the Irish Executive. The Government had challenged Irish Members to bring forward a Vote of Censure in regard to alleged cases of tyranny and wrong, and they would meet them. But although they indulged in those valorous challenges, they proposed to take away all the time available to private Members, thereby preventing them from bringing forward any such Votes of Censure. The conduct of the Government was such as to lead the people of Ireland to believe that they shrank, in violation of their pledges and in violation of every principle of Constitutional liberty, from a review of their conduct, and that they desired to see the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) anywhere rather than in the House, exposing their policy and holding them up to the indignation of the Irish people. Owing to the course taken by the Government, the Irish Members could only avail themselves of discussions in Supply, during which, no doubt, many unclean spots in Irish administration could be exposed, but where the full discussion to which they were entitled could not be secured.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that as his right hon. Friend had already spoken, he might state with regard to the inquiry as to the Indian Budget that it was the expectation of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India to bring it forward as soon as they had disposed of or had made sufficient progress with Supply. With respect to the Irish University, the House would have two opportunities of considering that question—when the Bill now pending in the House of Lords reached that House, and again when the Vote in Supply was moved relating to it. With regard to the chief accusation of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell)—namely, that the Government avoided investigation into the conduct of the Irish Government, he had to remind the House that no Notice of a Vote of Censure had been given, and, therefore, the Government did not avoid such Motion. But if it was desired to review the conduct of the Irish Government, or to take a Vote of Censure, there could be no better opportunity of doing so than that mentioned by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government—namely, 393 that which would be afforded by the Appropriation Bill. Not only was it impossible for a Government to avoid having their conduct reviewed, but it was impossible for them to avoid any Amendment to the Bill, which would be a distinct Vote of Censure. There could be no better opportunity for such a purpose or one more in accordance with Constitutional precedent, for it had been made available by Mr. Disraeli and Lord Palmerston to enable them to review the policy of the Government of the day. Nothing could be more consistent with the gravity of the subject and with the feeling of a section of the House than that the opportunity he suggested should be taken to move a Vote of Censure; but till it was, the Government had very serious duties to perform.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had nothing to complain of in the speech which had just been delivered; but he must remind the hon. Member for Dungarvan that a misspent Session could not be recovered during its last few weeks. He asked independent Members, was it possible, would it be decent that another Session should be so misspent? When the hon. Member asked the Government for facilities, he could not forget that the hon. Member had acted with a Party which had deliberately delayed the Business of the House during the Session. To their conduct was it attributable that independent Members had been obliged to resign one after another the opportunities reserved to them by the Constitution for the expression of independent opinion. From first to last the Irish Party had monopolized the Session by their misconduct. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
It struck me that the observations generally of the hon. Gentleman are not within the subject of the Motion before the House?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he would confine himself strictly to the Motion, which involved the resignation on the part of private Members of their proper opportunities of bringing independent questions before the House. He did not say that the Motion was untimely or unprecedented, but its effect would be that, with very few exceptional occasions, independent Members would be 394 deprived of their Constitutional privileges. The blame did not lie with the Government—it lay elsewhere; but he deprecated the fact that the House of Commons should be Session after Session incapacitated as a Representative Body, as it had been that Session, from transacting the Business of the country. There was no remedy for that state of things save a revision of their Rules. He claimed for the Leader of the House that he should apply himself to such revision, with a view to secure a fair distribution of opportunities for independent Members to express the feelings and opinions of Great Britain with reference to measures before the House. If the Government did not take the matter up, he hoped that the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) and other independent Members would.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
observed, that whatever differences of opinion existed among them they were all, he believed, anxious to get into Committee of Supply. He therefore hoped hon. Members would withdraw the Motions down on going into Committee of Supply, and allow them to proceed to Supply. He trusted also the Government would consider that the unanimous desire of the Press of England was that the Newspapers (Law of Libel) Bill, which had been blocked by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) should pass.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, the hon. Member for Northampton had a Motion down in Committee of Supply, and it appeared to him that he simply asked him to withdraw his Motion on going into Committee so that he might bring his on.
§ MR. LEAMY
complained that the Government had not promised to give to Irish Members the opportunity which was asked by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy). The condition of Ireland was quite as worthy of having a day given by the Government for its consideration as was the Ministerial policy in the Transvaal. He considered the hon. Member for Longford was quite justified in the request he had made to the Prime Minister, and that had it been acceded to the House would have been much nearer Committee of Supply than it was likely to be for some time. The reason why the Irish Members had not yet put a Vote of 395 Censure on the Paper was because the Land Bill stopped the way. When they brought forward any of the arrests that had been made they were taunted with obstructing the Land Bill. Now that the Bill was passed could not the Government give them one day on which to bring this subject forward? If they had not an opportunity of discussing the conduct and policy of the Government, they did not know how many arrests would be made during the Recess.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he was surprised at the supineness of the Scotch Members in permitting Bills in which they were much interested to be unceremoniously withdrawn. He held that the suggestion that Members with grievances had full opportunity of bringing them forward on the Appropriation Bill was worthless; and on the Constitutional maxim, that "the redress of grievances must precede Supply," he hoped his hon. Friends would not fail to urge upon the House and the Government their views on matters which they deemed to demand Parliamentary attention. The Estimates were, in fact, a series of pegs on which hon. Members could hang any Questions or Notices they liked, and it was perfectly impossible that discussions on them could be avoided. The opportunities which the Estimates afforded had, however, been much curtailed by the Government getting large Votes on Account. This was a practice which could not be too much condemned. He hoped his Colleagues would avail themselves of the opportunities which Supply still afforded to bring forward the grievances—and there were a great many—from which Ireland still suffered. The Prime Minister must see that the appeal of the hon. Member for Longford was a very reasonable one; and as the Forms of the House would preclude the right hon. Gentleman from speaking again, in order to give him a fresh opportunity of addressing the House he begged to conclude by moving that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. BIGGAR
seconded the Motion. He said, he thought that there was every necessity for this Motion. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire had made a reference to Irish Members.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought the hon. Member spoke more particularly with regard to the Irish Members. He (Mr. Biggar) certainly 396 repelled the idea that English Members who might or might not be thoroughly ignorant of the question in hand were at liberty to lecture Irish Members as to how they should behave and how the Irish people should be governed. The Irish Members stood in that House with equal rights with the English Members, and they had determination enough to insist on being heard on behalf of the causes they had to advocate. As to Supply, the Irish Members would vindicate their right to criticize the Estimates. He suggested that Business might proceed more satisfactorily if English and Scotch Members would make fewer speeches when Irish questions came up for discussion, and would be more influenced by those who understood the subjects. In the early part of the Session Bills were introduced which were of great interest because opposed by Irish Members, but the greater part of the discussion was taken up by English and Scotch Members.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not keeping to the Question before the House. He is wandering far wide of it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that being so, he would confine himself to the Bills under the consideration of the House. There were Bills in which both the English and Scotch Members were interested, and, consequently, the Irish Members also felt an interest in these Votes, seeing the large number of Irishmen in England and Scotland affected by them. Some English and Scotch Members might think that Irish Members had no right to take part in the discussion of English and Scotch Votes in Supply; but he held quite the contrary opinion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not keeping to the Question at all, and if he does not keep very close to the Question I shall be called upon to regard him as wilfully and persistently disregarding the authority of the Chair. MR. BIGGAR thought that perhaps enough had been said on the question, and he would simply conclude by seconding the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 12: Majority 99.—(Div. List, No. 347.)
Resolved, That for the remainder of the Session Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority on "Wednesday.