§ THE FIRST LORD or THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
, in rising to move the following Resolution:—That, at Ten o'clock p.m. on Friday, the 17th day of June, if the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill be not previously reported from the Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair. He shall next proceed and successively put forthwith the Questions, That any Clause then under consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill, stand part of the Bill, unless Progress be moved as hereinafter provided. After the Clauses are disposed of he shall forthwith report the Bill, as amended, to the House. From and after the passing of this Order, no Motion, That the Chairman do leave the Chair, or do report Progress, shall be allowed unless moved by one of 1595 the Members in charge of the Bill, and the Question on such Motion shall be put forthwith. If Progress be reported on the 17th June, the Chairman shall put this Order in force in any subsequent sitting of the Committee,said: Sir, in submitting the Motion which stands in my name, I wish to be most distinctly understood that I desire to avoid any reference to any topic which can by any means create irritation or annoyance to hon. Gentlemen who have a perfect right to differ from me and from the Government in the view which they take of their duty under the circumstances in which the House is placed. But I desire to place before the House the course which the Government feel to be absolutely essential in the interests of the honour and dignity of Parliament and the duties which are imposed upon the Members of the House of Commons. Sir, I have undertaken this task with the greatest possible reluctance. There is no one in this House who is more unwilling than I am to place any restraint whatever upon the exercise of the liberty of speech, of the right of debate, and the full Privilege of the Members of the House of Commons. Since I have had the honour of being a Member of this House, I have always deprecated any attempt whatever to restrain those liberties and rights of debate. It has only been when the necessity has been absolutely imperative and irresistible that I have concurred in, or that I have proposed measures which have placed any restraint whatever upon Members of the House of Commons. We had hoped that it would be possible to avoid the course which Her Majesty's Government now feel it necessary—which Her Majesty's Government now feel it their duty—to ask the House of Commons to adopt. We had hoped that the counsel that has been offered by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench would have been accepted by hon. Gentlemen who, conscientiously no doubt, have opposed the measure which the Government thought it their duty to propose to the House of Commons. We had hoped that reflection and consideration would have induced hon. Gentlemen to accept the suggestion that points of principle and points of importance might receive the consideration of the Committee of this House, and that mere matters of detail—mere matters which, in the judgment of those who have op- 1596 posed them at least, have appeared to be of absolutely trivial importance—might be passed over, and might be allowed to receive only that very limited consideration which their importance deserves; but I am sure that anyone who has sat in this House during the last week must have felt that there was no longer any hope that those wise counsels offered from the Front Opposition Bench would be accepted and acted upon by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Then, Sir, it becomes our duty, from our point of view, to offer to the House the counsel which we now offer, and to make the proposal which we now make. The period of the Session alone is sufficient to justify, in my humble judgment, the course which the Government are now about to take. We have arrived at the fourth month of the Session and we have practically done nothing except to consider the measure now before the House. Some Votes in supply have been passed, some comparatively unimportant measures have received the consideration of the House in that period, but the whole course of legislation has been stopped other than that which has been proposed in the measure now before the House. The consideration of Votes in Supply has not been given as is usually the case, and the privileges of Members, the rights of Private Members, have been entirely suspended during that period of the Session. These are matters which it is impossible for the Government to ignore, and it is impossible for the Government to be otherwise than deeply concerned at the paralysis of Parliamentary Business, which certainly does not reflect credit upon the House of Commons. I hope it may be understood that I am endeavouring as far as I can to avoid anything like an irritating remark. I am merely stating what appears to be, from my point of view, the facts of the case, and putting them plainly and in an honest and straightforward way before the House, without any desire whatever to enlarge upon them in a manner which hon. Members may suppose is intended to give a colour to them. We arrived, yesterday, Sir, at the 35th day of the consideration of this measure which is now before the House. Thirty-five Parliamentary days—some of them protracted beyond all former experience—have been passed in the consideration of this measure. I have no doubt that hon. 1597 Gentlemen opposite will say that only too little time has been given to the consideration of a measure which they dislike, to which they are opposed on principle, and which they regard as tyrannical and unnecessary. That may be the case from their point of view; but the majority of the House and the Government of the day have also their duty to discharge. They have thought it their duty to propose to Parliament a measure which they believe to be necessary for the restoration of law and order—for the preservation of law and order in Ireland. That is their belief, and as a Government and as a majority they are bound to press it forward to the utmost of their ability, with due consideration for the rights of the minority, with due consideration for the authority of Parliament, with due consideration for the traditions of Parliament, and, above all, with the greatest possible consideration for those glorious traditions of liberty and freedom which belong to an institution of which, hitherto, Englishmen have been proud. But, Sir, if it is the duty from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government to press forward this measure; if it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to care also for the transaction of the Business of the country in this House, it is undoubtedly their duty, when they find that they are faced by a condition of circumstances absolutely unparalleled in the history of Parliament, to place the case before Parliament itself and to demand from Parliament that relief—not for themselves, but for the House of Commons itself and for the Business of the country, and those trusts which are confided to the House of Commons—I say, Sir, it is their duty to demand from Parliament that relief which they believe to be essential and absolutely necessary. I have no doubt that I shall be told that there is no exact precedent for the course I am about to take. I am aware that there is no exact precedent. The precedents of 1881 and 1882 are analogous, but they are not exact. In 1881, late at night—in fact, it was the last Business of the House—a Notice was given that at 3 o'clock the next day a Motion would be made that the Bill itself should be reported to the House. On this occasion we have adopted a different course. The circumstances are not precisely the same. A much longer period has elapsed since 1598 the measure which is now before the House was introduced—a very much longer period. We are four months later in the Session than was the case in the instance to which I have referred. We have laboured on through 35 days of Parliamentary endurance with this measure. We have laboured on, and now it becomes our duty to consider what course shall be taken. We think it right to ask, Sir, that the House shall now—having six Parliamentary days between this and Friday, the 17th of June—order that on the 17th. of June, allowing the whole of the interval for the consideration in Committee of the measure before the House, that the Bill shall be then reported to the House. I daresay I shall be told that the course I recommend is one which may seriously interfere with the privileges and the duties of hon. Members who object to this measure. We have to consider how the Business of Parliament is to be carried on. We have to consider the relative importance of the Business of Parliament, and we leave it to hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in the Bill to adopt the advice given to them by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to object to any question of principle to which they may reasonably object in the course of the next five days, which, I humbly venture to think, will afford ample time for the consideration and decision of principle, if not more than ample time, and then to acquiesce in the course the Government think it their duty to propose. What. Sir, is the alternative open to Her Majesty's Government? The alternative, we are told, is that of capitulation—that the majority in this House, and, as we believe, the majority in the country, should yield their sense of obligation, their sense of responsibility, their sense of and duty to the obstruction of the minority in this House. [Home Rule cries of "Order!"] I appeal to you, Sir, if I am out of Order in any way. It is for the Speaker, I apprehend, to call me to Order.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury is entitled to impute a Parliamentary offence, which obstruction has been repeatedly declared to be, to a minority of this House, and that without making any attempt whatever to substantiate the charge?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The term "obstruction" has been repeatedly used in this House without the Chair calling the Members using it to Order.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Mr. Speaker, I regret if I have occasioned the hon. Member for Cork any sense of pain by the charge which I have thought it my right to prefer against a minority in this House. I find that 35 days have been occupied by the consideration of this measure, and that 15 days in Committee have been employed in discussing Amendments, many of which must be admitted to be merely trivial; but I am sure, if I refer again to the fact that 15 days in Committee have been consumed in discussions, many of which must be pronounced to be purely trivial, then I think that the language which I used was fully justified. As I said, it is impossible for a majority of this House and for the Government, sustained by the great majority, I believe, of the people of this country, to yield to the obstruction of a minority in this House, especially when a portion of that minority refuses absolutely to follow the advice which has been tendered to it even by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) himself. The power is placed in the hands of the majority, and power involves responsibility and duty. It is our duty to see that the administration of this country, the conduct of Business in the House of Commons, the interests which are confided to the charge of the Government and the House of Commons, are not paralyzed by the action of those to whom we desire to give full liberty consistently with the traditions of the House of Commons itself, but who have no right to tyrannize over the great majority of the House. We have been patient and enduring, The resolve which we are obliged to take must prevail. There is an alternative which is open to the Members of the House of Commons, and that alternative is to displace the Government of the country, if they can, by an adverse vote of the House of Commons itself. They can, if they think right, appeal to the public out of doors, but while we are sustained by a majority in the House of Commons and by public opinion, we must carry on the Business of the country to the best of our ability, and according to our sense of public duty and right. Sir, it is im- 1600 possible to deny that our recent proceedings have been really a farce and a travesty of Parliamentary discussion. The right of speech which exists is always subject to loyalty to Parliament and to the institution itself. It is subject to the duties to be discharged by Parliament; and we ask hon. Gentlemen, as was asked by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) five years ago, what would become of Parliament if only a few hon. Members chose to exercise their privileges according to their own excessive views of their right to do so? How would it be possible for any Business of any kind to be transacted, and how long would Parliament continue to possess the confidence of the country, and be worthy to merit the belief which has prevailed in past generations of its capacity to deal with the vast interests committed to its care? The period through which we have passed has been a period of pain, of embarrassment, and discredit, and of strain to Members them sevles. What has been the result? The result has been to bring about ridicule, and disgrace, and contempt of the institution of Parliament itself. It may not be an objection on the part of some hon. Gentlemen that that result has been obtained by their exertions, but we should be wanting in our duty if we failed to take notice of it, and if we did not endeavour to remedy the evil. The public interest demands a present effort. It is not an individual question, it is not a question either for Her Majesty's Government itself, it is not one for hon. Gentlemen who sit in the House night after night till 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning—but it is a question for the House of Commons and for Parliament and for the institution whose honour and whose dignity we are bound to endeavour to preserve. The hon. Member for Cork objects to my use of the word "obstruction." Perhaps I may be allowed to quote a remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1881. The right hon. Gentleman then remarked that obstruction might be so pitted against Business that no Business could be done. We know that it may be so. Is that the aim and object of hon. Gentlemen? Is that their purpose and resolve? The interval which we propose for the further consideration of this measure is, 1601 in our judgment, adequate and sufficient for any discussion which can, under the circumstances, be deemed necessary. We aim at restoring the efficiency and capacity of the House of Commons itself in the discharge of its duties, and at preventing the degradation and destruction of the authority of Parliament; and of vindicating the honour and ability of Parliament itself to discharge the duties which are entrusted to it. I now venture, without further preface, to move the Resolution which is placed in your hands.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, at Ten o'clock p.m. on Friday the 17th day of June, if the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill he not previously reported from the Committee of the Whole House, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair. He shall next proceed and successively put forthwith the Questions, That any Clause then under consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill, stand part of the Bill, unless Progress he moved as hereinafter provided. After the Clauses are disposed of he shall forthwith report the Bill, as amended, to the House.
From and after the passing of this Order, no Motion, That the Chairman do leave the Chair, or do report Progress, shall he allowed unless moved by one of the Members in charge of the Bill, and the Question on such Motion shall he put forthwith.
If Progress be reported on the 17th June, the Chairman shall put this Order in force in any subsequent sitting of the Committee."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I was glad, Sir, to hear the right hon. Gentleman began his speech by the assurance that he intended studiously to abstain from what may be called polemical remarks. That was not his phrase, but I think it conveys the meaning which he conveyed to the House. I was glad of it, if for no other reason, for this reason—that that, I think, is the course most conducive to the purpose he has in view—namely, expediting the progress of this Bill and shortening the debate by the particular Motion now before the House. Now, the right hon. Gentleman honestly, I think, persevered in a good portion of his speech in a tone which fully corresponded with that initiatory remark. I cannot say I think he was equally fortunate or equally consistent in some of the closing remarks of his speech. It was quite right that the right hon. Gentleman, believing it, as no doubt he does, 1602 should say that he was acting in conformity with the sense not only of a majority of the House, but of a large majority of the country. But surely it was not quite necessary for him, if he was thinking of keeping this debate within very limited bounds, to repeat that three or four times in a quarter of an hour. I was still more, I own, affected by regret at another observation twice repeated by the right hon. Gentleman. I will not say a word, after what has fallen from the Chair on the subject of the right of any Member of the House to charge a Party in the House with a Parliamentary offence—a distinct offence against the Rules of Parliament—namely, obstruction. But I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will agree with me that to charge such an offence against the minority in the House is not the way to induce that minority to abstain from a liberal use of its privilege of speech on that particular question which is submitted to its notice. However, Sir, in what I have to say I will certainly not endeavour to widen the field of this debate, but I will confine myself strictly to what I think is the most practical view of the matter before us. In the first place, I am bound to express my concurrence—though I was not in the House at the time when my right hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) made it—in the application made by him for a longer notice of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman has sustained himself on this point by referring to a Notice given by myself, I believe in the year 1881, of an intention to make what may be called an expediting Motion on the following day. Yes, Sir, but that was after a very important preliminary Motion which had been made, which introduced an entirely new and exceptional state of things—namely, a preliminary Motion that the state of Public Business was urgent; and after the House had declared that the state of Public Business was urgent, then with the Notice of a single Sitting I did announce the intention of the Government to make a demand in some degree analogous to this. But the right hon. Gentleman will observe that it is a totally different matter to make that allowance of a few hours after a declaration by the House of Commons itself 1603 of Urgency for Public Business, and to make it when no such declaration has been made. I think my right hon. Friend was entirely justified in making his application, and I am sorry it did not meet with a happier reception on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Now, Sir, this Motion involves a great number of details, but I do not mean to enter into any controversial consideration of them. Still, I will venture on one observation, simply because I have no intention to follow it up by any appeal to the judgment of the House in defiance of the Government, but I wish rather to tender it as a friendly suggestion. I cannot help observing the introduction—I am sorry to ask the particular attention of the First Lord of the Treasury—who was conferring with some of his Colleagues—though I know that these communications are very necessary in all circumstances, and not less in these particular circumstances. I refer now, Sir, to the second of the three paragraphs in the Motion. That, as far as I am aware, is an absolute and unmitigated novelty. It is an innovation which I view with extreme jealousy, and I am very much afraid of its being used hereafter as a precedent for some further invasion of the Rules of the House. If I were not under the conscientious belief that the Motion for introducing the present paragraph is totally unnecessary—the motive is to prevent that waste of time which is not infrequent in the recollection of most of us—I should not occupy the time of the House. But surely the security against this in the present instance is perfect, because if those of whom it is apprehended they will move to report Progress waste time in that way, they will limit still further the already limited space which the House will concede to them for substantial and solid Amendments. I hope the Government are ready to consider whether there is any necessity for that second paragraph, assuming for the moment the general purpose of the Resolution is to be accepted by the House. This Resolution is one, no doubt, that might be held to justify a long review of the state of affairs, and of the arrangement of Business during the Session. I have no intention of using the present occasion for such a purpose. I think it right to reserve that title which every Member 1604 possesses to make such a review, possibly on a future day, but, in my opinion, it is a subject which the House and the country ought well to understand, and which is fruitful of many reflections. But, undoubtedly, to enter upon it now would be the very last thing which I would wish to do—namely, to retard the progress of the Bill in Committee. There are two things in point of fact in which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that it is most important to get forward with the present Bill, and for this reason, if for no other, we should have a proper opportunity within the limits of an ordinary Session to consider some matters of great weight which will have to be submitted to us in connection with the Irish Land Bill. The consideration of these matters postponed to a very late period of the Session, would, I think, be in the nature of a public calamity. Nor can I hesitate to subscribe to what the right hon. Gentleman has said with regard to the present state of the business considered as a whole. The state of the proceedings of the House in respect of Supply, even if it turned on that point alone, is in itself a scandal. The whole condition of Public Business, the entire paralysis of Parliament—the rate of progress of the present Bill, I think the right hon. Gentleman said, had given rise to very strong feelings in the country. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman did not speak of displeasure and even of contempt. But, undoubtedly, it has created widespread and extreme dissatisfaction. Here I am afraid that whatever concord I have with the right hon. Gentleman is exhausted. As to the position with which we stand I agree, I think that the country is dissatisfied, and think it has a right to be dissatisfied. When the right hon. Gentleman and I speak of the country I am not sure that we quits mean the same thing. When I speak of the country I mean either those who are neutral in politics or those who are opposed to the Irish policy of the Government. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the country he speaks in the names of those who are friendly to the Irish policy of the Government, who he thinks are entitled to a great deal of consideration in the present state of things, which I cannot admit they do possess. I am bound to say, in my opinion, it is the conduct of 1605 the Government that has brought about this state of things. That would be a matter of consideration in detail hereafter, but I will say in four lines why I think it is the conduct of the Government. In the first place, it is that they have been pursuing a false and evil policy of coercion without the justification which, as I shall show on another occasion in detail, has been pleaded at the time of former demands. Then they have, in my opinion, disregarded all the usages and traditions of Parliament in the conduct of Business. They have, worst of all, under the name of a Crimes Bill, introduced a Bill which is against combination, apart from crime; and finally they have made arrangements for carrying forward and working the Bill totally without precedent in my experience, and which, in my opinion, have been most unfortunate with regard to its progress. ["Hear, hear!"] I thank right hon. Gentlemen opposite for having sufficient patience to hear me in delivering these obnoxious sentences, but I will give them the best reward I can in not saying one word on the present occasion in justification of any one of them. Looking at the wide scope and reach of the principles involved in this Bill, especially considered as a permanent alteration of the Criminal Code in Ireland, I am at a loss to know, looking at a great number of days occupied in the discussion, how the right hon. Gentleman can attribute, in the main, that number of days to what he calls obstruction. The right hon. Gentleman said there have been 35 days so occupied. Well, I think we had 58 days on the Irish Land Bill without the continuous possession of the time of the House. I think we had 24 days in Committee on the Crimes Bill in 1882, when the House was divided not as it is now, as between a considerable majority and a not inconsiderable minority; but when it was divided between the whole mass of the House on one side, and some 30 or 40 Gentlemen on the other. We felt that of these 24 days the bulk was consumed in obstructive proceedings. In my opinion, so far as I may venture to pronounce either from what I have heard in the House, or what I have learnt from others, it is most unjust and not less absurd than unjust to ascribe to obstruction any large portion of the time consumed. I will not now enter upon the question whe- 1606 ther the Government is to be blamed or praised for introducing a new and permanent criminal code for Ireland. I am only saying that when such a thing is done you must reckon with it as a certainty, and accept it as a thing just in itself that long and minute discussion upon such a measure will take place. I do not deny that there may be frivolous discussions, and I will not be tempted to refer to my experience of frivolous discussion. I think I could quote instances without difficulty as to matters of controversy which would render it extremely hard for Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench to press this Motion. Sir, I do not deny that there is a state of Public Business which is extremely grave, and, in my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman when he leaves that groundwork of the present state of Public Business for the purpose of going into charges of obstruction abandons a strong ground for the sake of a weak one. With the exception of the limited obstruction which always will occur in debate on a great Bill hotly contested, I doubt whether one, two, or three days have been consumed in this way. The main thing lies in the nature of the measure and the arrangements made by the Government for carrying it forward. That being so, the right hon. Gentleman confronts us in this way. He says—"Look at the period of the Session, look at the labours we have undergone." Neither of these statements will I contest for one moment. The period of the Session is advanced; the labours we have undergone have been most severe. I have ventured to point out what it appears to me would be the reasonable mode of expediting the Bill. But I have not been fortunate enough to obtain any countenance at all from Her Majesty's Government; on the contrary, many suggestions I have made have been described by the right hon. Gentleman as giving way to tyranny of the minority. [Mr. W. H. SMITH: No, no.] I should not have found fault with him if it had been. In my opinion there is a rational mode of expediting this Bill—which I admit to be an object of great public importance—that is, to take such measures as these:—To make the Bill temporary instead of permanent; to strike out of the Bill what touches combination apart from crime; and to give 1607 the Irish tenant and cottier population the same protection in respect of their land strikes which you give to the English artizan in respect of his labour strikes. But we knew that the right hon. Gentleman opposite gives no countenance or encouragement whatever to that method of procedure. He says that the large majority of the House is against it. I con not deny it. He thinks the vast majority of the country is against it, and that is an opinion which, of course, he is perfectly entitled to entertain. Therefore, our mode of expedition is thrown out altogether. The right hon. Gentleman proposes his mode. I am bound to say that in those circumstances I know there is a point at which the action of the minority, and especially anything like the collective action of the minority, against the will of the majority becomes itself open to the charge of obstruction. I cannot be surprised at the judgment or opinion of any Gentleman on this Bench, or this side of the House, who may say—"This is another violence added to a long series of violences, and we will not let it pass without debate." I am not prepared to advise the minority as a body, and I am not prepared myself personally to relieve Her Majesty's Government of any of the responsibility attaching to this Bill. Let them make what they can of the undoubted state of the facts—the confusion, perplexity, stoppage of business, and dissatisfaction, if not indignation, of the country. The only course which I can properly take is to assert that we have from this Bench steadily, and without regard to the reproach of obstruction—but, as I think, with absolute innocence of any intention or action in that sense—we have steadily resisted, and in the time allowed by the right hon. Gentleman shall continue to resist, the most objectionable portions of this Bill. With respect to the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot deny that he has a great deal to urge in its support from his point of view; but his point of view is one which he has made for himself, and for that point of view, and the resulting proposal, he will not think it unfair in me to say that he and his Colleagues must bear the absolute and entire responsibility. The proceedings of this Session, more than those of any other Session I can remember, sum themselves 1608 up under one great head, which is capable of being considered and discussed both by Parliament and the country. I think it would be idle—it might even with some plausibility be called factious—to dwell upon details when principles of such breadth are in view; but I cannot find fault with Gentleman who think it right to record their protest against this further abridgment of Parliamentary liberty. For my own part, however, having only one remedy to propose, and that remedy having been rejected by the majority of the House, I do not wish to create fresh difficulty on the present occasion by offering to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman an opposition which cannot be effectual, for the many occasions on which the majority of this House has recorded its opinion has left me no doubt as to the course they will now take under the circumstances.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Sir, I desire to make a preliminary remark before moving the Amendment, which I intend to propose later on, to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. It is a word of warning to minorities in this House that this Resolution, coming, as it does, so soon after the exhaustive discussion upon the Closure Rule just recently passed by this House, and aiming, as it does, against one of the safeguards which was introduced into that Rule—namely, the action and the veto of the Chair, as the result of the judgment of all sides of the House that some such safeguard was necessary, will undoubtedly lead to the adoption by the House hereafter of some permanent Closure Rule framed on the lines of the present Resolution, to deprive the House of the safeguards to minorities which the present Closure Rule supplies. Just as the original Closure Rule adopted in 1882 was made easy by the Urgency Resolution of 1881, so the adoption of a more stringent Closure Rule than the present one will be made easy by this Resolution now before the House, if it be adopted. I cannot imagine the fatuity which possesses hon. Gentlemen opposite in rushing blindfold into the pit to which the right hon. Gentleman their Leader is conducting them. I fear it is a case of the blind leading the blind—of incapacity leading the incapable. But however that may be, this is not the proper 1609 time to discuss a Resolution aimed at the safeguard—the protection of the Chair, which was deliberately thrown over minorities when we were considering the first Closure Rule lately before the House. The Chair during the discussions in Committee on this Bill has repeatedly felt called upon to check the headlong speed and impetuosity of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman over and over again asked the House to cloture Resolutions and Amendments, and he has been vetoed in the request by the Chairman, in virtue of the power and trust which were vested in him by the first Closure Resolution for the protection of minorities and the freedom of debate. Now, Sir, it is to prevent that action of the Chair, it is to destroy that action, it is to cut away the safeguard, the power, the right of the Chair to protect minorities, that the right hon. Gentleman now asks the House to adopt this Resolution. There is no safeguard of any kind in this Resolution. Parliamentary discussion, under the circumstances of this Resolution, will become a mockery, and if it be adopted it will, in my judgment, constitute a grave reflection upon the past action of the Chair, which it repeatedly exercised in protecting minorities and the freedom of debate, and in rebuking the intemperate zeal of the Leader of the House. Sir, we have heard nothing at all from the Government about the rights of minorities, or the freedom of debate. They have permitted all that to go by the board, and there will be but a pretence of debate in the future. The right hon. Gentleman talked about obstruction. The right hon. Gentleman I believe to be his own obstructer. I have no notion or belief that the right hon. Gentleman really desires to advance the Business of the nation. How can the Business of the nation be advanced under household suffrage, by a Tory Party leaning upon a broken-reed crutch? Progress in the Business of the nation we ardently desire. Obstruction was defined by a late Chairman of Committees, the present Postmaster General, as "obstruction of all Business." What Business have we opposed? We have opposed a measure of the most iniquitous character—one single measure; a measure designed to deprive the Irish people permanently of all power of right to agitate for changes in 1610 the laws and for redress of grievances; a measure which is admitted to be designed for that purpose, and not for the detection of crime; a measure which will make agitation for the redress of grievances impossible—utterly impossible; and a measure which is intended to do these things for ever and for ever. Yet we are told that we are obstructing the general Business of the nation, when the fact is, we have lifted neither hand, voice, nor pen against any single measure except this one measure. We invite, we urgently entreat the Government—we have done so over and over again—to go to the Business of the nation, to proceed to the Business of the nation. If they will not undertake to prevent the horrors of Glenbeigh and the infamies of Bodyke—let them protect their own English and Welsh working men. Let them do something, even suppose it does make coal a shilling in the ton dearer, let them do something to prevent those terrible explosions in the depths of the coal mines in this country. That would be a part of the Business of the nation, in which we would cordially help and assist. Let them do some of the many other things which the nation understands and expects the Tory Government to do, and which the nation certainly were assured at the last General Election that this House would have done. But this cry of obstruction is not a real and genuine cry. It is not raised by men who have in their hearts a desire to advance the public interests of the nation, and to expedite the progress of reform. It is raised by a Party who, at all times in the history of Parliamentary Government, have been studying how they could best impede and prevent the progress of legislation—a Party who, when in a position and when in power, have recourse to every subterfuge and every dodge for the purpose of whittling away the time and diverting the attention of the country from the subject of the redress of grievances. No, Sir, let us go to the Business of the nation, and it will be found we are not the real obstructers, and that the ob-structors sit upon the opposite Bench. No, Sir; we ask but for our right to debate the measure—to discuss the details of this measure of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. But the right hon. Gentleman is not yet the autocrat or dictator of the House 1611 of Commons; and so long as we can prevent him from occupying that position, we shall endeavour to do so. The right hon. Gentleman has not shown that judgment in the conduct of the Business of the House, that desire to give fair play, that desire to carry out his pledged word in. the discussions on the first Resolution of cloture, to induce us to surrender ourselves, and the rights of our country, bound hand and foot, to his tender mercies. I have no desire to obstruct public Business—I have no desire even to obstruct this miserable, this wretched Bill; and I assert that the real obstructers are the Party who have always been the obstructers of progress, who have brought forward this Coercion Bill at a time when Ireland is more free from crime than she has ever been, at a time when the measure was least wanting, for the purpose—for the absolute purpose—of occupying the time of the House of Commons, and of diverting the attention of the country from its more legitimate aims and objects; and it is for this also that this cry of obstruction has been got up against the Irish Members, and this cry of destruction against the Irish people. I propose to move, as an Amendment to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, to leave out all the words after the word "that," in order to add the following words:—Inasmuch as the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill is designed to deprive the Irish people permanently of their constitutional rights, this House declines to sanction the proposal of Her Majesty's Government to deprive the Chair during the discussions in Committee on the said Bill of the power which, since the opening of these discussions the Chair has felt called upon repeatedly to exercise, in opposition to Her Majesty's Government, for the protection of freedom of debate in this House, and the maintenance of the rights of minorities.I expressed the opinion formerly, during the discussion of the first Procedure Rules, that the time that would be gained by the adoption of that Rule would not make up for the loss of time in discussing it. I ask the Government, if the views which are embodied in this present Resolution are their views as to the rights of Irish Members in opposing and discussing the Coercion Bill directed against Ireland, why did they not come forward with this proposition at the beginning of the Session? They would 1612 have saved all the time which they have occupied in the discussion of the first Procedure Rule—a Rule which they now admit to be useless, because the Chairman of Committees will not allow them to use it in the way they would wish; they would have saved all that time, and they would have passed this Resolution probably sooner than the Closure Rule which is now being found to be useless. Why did they delay not only over the first Closure Resolution, but also over all the subsequent proceedings which the right hon. Gentleman erroneously told the House lasted 35 days? It would have saved all those days if so much time had not been taken up with those proceedings. Why did he not go to work then—35 working days ago—where he is going to work now? Surely neither he nor the Government could have supposed that a measure of this kind, designed permanently to set up Criminal Law of an exceptional character in Ireland, could be passed in a few days. Surely he could not have supposed that it would have taken less time than the Land Law (Ireland) Bill of 1881, which took 58 days altogether and 33 nights in Committee before it got through its different stages. Surely, if a measure for the amelioration of Ireland took so long a time as that to pass, a measure for the coercion of Ireland was entitled to an equal length of time for discussion. And why are we to be accused of obstruction when less than 30 days have been spent over this Coer-Bill as compared with 58 days which were spent by the Tory Opposition of 1881 over the Land Law Bill of that year? Why, Sir, does not the House remember that the Bill for the Amendment of the Criminal Law in England and Ireland—which was brought forward by the late Liberal Government, in 1885 I think it was—was sent before a Grand Committee, and took the whole Session to discuss before that Grand Committee; and not only so, but before the discussion was more than one-third concluded—I myself was a Member of that Grand Committee, and admired and aided the exertions of the then Tory Opposition—I will not say to prevent the Bill from passing, but to amend it properly before the Bill passed—but before the Bill was one-third over the Government of the day had to abandon it, because even before a Grand Com- 1613 mittee, with the whole of the Session at their disposal, there was not time to finish more than one-third of the measure—the amendment of the Criminal Law. Now, Sir, if that was the case with regard to a Bill for the amendment of the Criminal Law, and not directed against any political agitation, or against any political agitators, as this Bill is directed, but for the ordinary Amendments, many of which were most excellent, of the Criminal Law of the three Kingdoms, how can it be said that we have exceeded the limits of our rights—that we have exceeded the limits of moderation in the debate which has taken some 28 or 29 days altogether on the different stages of the present measure? Why, Sir, even the worm will turn, and it would be impossible to suppose or expect that the Irish Members would have submitted to such a measure as this without at least taking up time as they have so far as the measure has got. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman compared his course with the course taken by the late Government, and asks us to believe that his is the more moderate course. What was the case of the course taken by the late Government when they adopted the Rules of Urgency? The Resolution under which the Rules of Urgency were subsequently drafted by the Speaker was first proposed in the House on the 2nd of February, 1831—a whole month after the commencement of the Session, when, if my memory serves me right, a whole fortnight had been taken up in the discussion on the first reading of a Bill only a single clause long—a Bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the provisions of which were mere child's play compared with the present Bill, and which was only to last for 18 months. Now, Sir, a whole fortnight had been taken up on the discussion of the first reading of this Bill, a lengthened Sitting of 48 hours had taken place, and Mr. Speaker Brand had intervened by saying that a small minority had abused the forms of the House, and that it was necessary that it should be checked, and he put an end to the debate on the first reading. Well, then the Government proposed their Resolution of Urgency. Their Resolution of Urgency did not, as the present Resolution proposes to do—it did not frame a rule under which the Chairman is obliged to act, whether 1614 he likes or not—whether he thinks it just or not—but it gave power to the Speaker to frame rules under which, after a certain period, it might be possible for a Minister of the Crown to move a Resolution providing that all Amendments then on the Paper should be put to a Division without further discussion; but the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman goes a great deal further than that. His Resolution provides that there shall be no Division whatever upon any Amendment after a certain day that he mentions—a week from the present time. It was on the 2nd of February that the Resolution of Urgency was first adopted. It was not until the 21st of February, or three weeks afterwards, that this Resolution of Urgency was first put in force—in other words, the very small Opposition of that day was allowed to contest the second reading, and the Committee stage of the Coercion Bill, for three weeks before the power which the Resolution placed in the hands of the Chair was exercised; and it was not until the 24th of February, three days later, that it was put in force for a second time; and, finally, it was not until the 9th of March that it was exercised for a third time, But the right hon, Gentleman proposes, after an interval of only a week, to make a fell swoop on all the Amendments on the Paper, no matter how substantial they may be, no matter how strongly opposed the Chairman of Committees and the Speaker may be to the exercise of his authority. The matter is taken from out the range of the power of the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, and we are entirely left to the tender mercies of the autocrat of the Treasury Bench, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord. Now, Sir, I think I have shown that the right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to compare his course of action as regards moderation with the action which was taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on a previous occasion. On the contrary, he proposes nakedly to deprive a minority—now a very considerable minority—in the House, of all their rights and power of moving Amendments against this Bill, whether or not the Speaker and Chairman of Committees agree—and, practically, set 1615 up the most brazen and barefaced tyranny which has ever been attempted in this House since the King entered it for the purpose of seeking out and expelling the Members. But even the Resolution of Urgency was fenced about by a variety of safeguards. The then Leader of the Tory Party (Lord Iddesleigh) as the price of his assent to the Resolution, insisted that there should be a majority of three to one, and that the House should consist of at least 300 Members before it could be enforced. But all these safeguards have been swept away. We now see a Tory Government which, above all, is supposed to be the guardian angel of minorities, the protector of their rights, headed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Government in this House, rushing forward in hot haste—in such haste that he could not even give us the usual decent 24 hours' Notice required by the usages of the House for the terms of his Resolution, to sweep aside all the safeguards which his own Party had insisted upon at a time of very much greater trial, at a time of far greater provocation than the present time. Now, Sir, I have shown that the circumstances of this Bill are such as to claim from this House greater patience than it would exercise on that or any other Bill. It is an attack—admittedly an attack—upon the rights of Constitutional agiation in Ireland. The Government were offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that if they would confine the Bill to the repression of crime, and strike out from it those clauses which attack the right of combination and of Constitutional agitation, ho, for one, would take no further part as Leader of the Liberal Party in opposing the further progress of the measure. Well, they refused to accept that, and they have gone forward now, relying upon their own strength to trample on the rights of minorities, and carry the Bill by the enactment of a Resolution of the most arbitrary and extraordinary character which has ever been proposed. I have shown already that it is an attack upon the Chairman of Committees. Any power which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Government can claim and can put in force under this Resolution can be put in force under the present closure, unless the Chairman of Committees forbids 1616 it; and the Chairman of Committees is only entitled to forbid it if he considers he is compelled to use the veto out of regard for the rights of the minority. Consequently, the Government, by endeavouring to set aside the Rule, admit that they are proceeding in this matter regardless of the rights of the minority. In conclusion, all I say is this—If this Resolution be passed—if Ireland is to be trampled upon and the rights of minorities destroyed and despised, because it is a mere question of coercing Ireland—you will find some of these days that the rights of minorities in questions concerning England and in which hon. Members opposite may feel deeply concerned, will be trampled upon and despised when there are more vital questions concerning the interests of the Kingdom involved than those who force this upon the House have any thought of at the present time. I beg, Sir, in conclusion, to move the Amendment which I read out a while ago, a copy of which I have handed in at the Table.
To leave out from the first word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "inasmuch as the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill is designed to deprive the Irish people permanently of their constitutional rights, this House declines to sanction the proposal of Her Majesty's Government, to deprive the Chair, during the discussions in Committee on the said Bill, of the power which, since the opening of these discussions, the Chair has felt called upon repeatedly to exercise, in opposition to Her Majesty's Government, for the protection of freedom of debate in this House, and the maintenance of the rights of minorities."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH rose—when——
§ MR. PARNELL
Mr. Speaker, cannot the Question be put in such a way as to permit of other Amendments being moved subsequently to the one I have moved?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has moved the Amendment in that form—to leave out all the words [after the word "that."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I beg to point out that if that course be taken no subsequent Amendment can be moved. I would ask you, Sir, whether the Question could not be put in such a form as would not preclude the consideration of other Amendments?
§ MR. SPEAKER
That course could only be followed when there were other 1617 Amendments on the Paper; but I will put it in that way, for the convenience of the House, if the House so desires, so that other Amendments may not be excluded.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Especially, Sir, as there could be no Amendment on the Paper, as Notice of the Resolution was only given this morning.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
There is one very important feature in this Motion which differs from any other I have seen—namely, that, assuming that when the date for concluding the Committee stage arrive, there were Amendments and even new Clauses on the Paper, which the Government themselves approve of, and are willing to accept, they cannot be put, because the wording of the Resolution is—That any Clause then under consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I will put the words down to the word "Chair," in line 5. The Question is, that the words "That, at Ten o'clock p.m., on Friday the 17th day of June, if the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill be not previously reported from the Committee of the Whole House, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair," stand part of the Question.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Scotland, Liverpool)
Will you allow me to state, Sir, that I intend to propose an Amendment which will begin in the second line, after the words "Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill," by inserting the words "and other Bills before the House." I should be glad, Sir, if you could see your way to so put the Question as to allow that Amendment to be moved.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That would not be in Order. The Amendment handed in by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) traverses the principle of the Motion, and if I put the words, as I have stated them, down to the word "Chair," I shall exercise, if possible, the right of hon. Members to introduce other Amendments.
§ MR. PARNELL
I would respectfully observe, Sir, that the question of the date at which this Resolution is to come into force is one of the most 1618 important questions raised in the whole Resolution.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the hon. Member's Amendment itself excludes that question. It is quite contrary to the usual practice to allow the hon. Gentleman first to move an Amendment, and then to move another traversing the same ground.
§ MR. PARNELL
I did not suggest, Sir, that I was going to move another Amendment, and, as a matter of fact, I do not intend to move another. I merely pointed out that the question of the date is one of the most important questions involved in the whole Resolution. I would beg to remind you, Sir, that before moving my Amendment, I asked my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) to ascertain at the Table whether the rights of the Movers of other Amendments which might be handed in subsequently would be saved in the usual way—that is to say, if I were to propose to leave out merely the word "at," the second word in the Motion, and I was informed that the rights of other Members would be saved. I blame myself, Sir, for not having approached you personally in the matter; but I did not desire to trouble you personally, and I therefore asked my hon. and learned Friend to go to the Table and make the inquiry. I have followed the precedents, and I find that the Amendment could not have been put on the Paper—if it had been possible to put it on the Paper at all—in any other way than the way in which I have moved it. It is always by the action of the Chair, and by the action of the Chair alone, that the rights of other Members who have Amendments on the Paper are subsequently saved. The Chair puts an Amendment such as I have moved by moving to leave out any one of the words at the commencement of the Resolution. It was a physical impossibility for Amendments to be on the Paper to-day, as we only heard at 2 o'clock this morning what the words of the Resolution were to be. I would pray you, Sir, to protect the right of the minority in the usual way to move Amendments by putting my Amendment in the way you have put similar Amendments and Resolutions is past times.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman was informed by the Clerk at the Table that if other Amendments were put in as the hon. Gentleman's Amendment was put in, then I, in the discharge of my duty, should preserve the rights of the hon. Members who intended to move them. But the hon. Gentleman has moved Ms Amendment in such a way as to exclude the whole of the words of the Resolution. The hon. Member might withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I venture to hope that an arrangement may be made under which any legitimate Amendment shall be considered by the House. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared temporarily to withdraw his Amendment, if that be necessary, in order that other hon. Members may have the opportunity of moving the Amendments they desire to bring forward.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to state that as soon as practically possible, after I had seen the terms of the Resolution of the First Lord of the Treasury, I considered what Amendments I thought it open to, and I drafted certain Amendments with the intention of putting them in as soon as opportunity was afforded. I have not had the opportunity of placing them on the Paper, and I have not had time to hand them in at the Table. Under these circumstances, I ask you, Sir, to protect my rights as an individual Member. The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork; (Mr. Parnell) goes to the root of the principle of the Resolution. I propose to move to change the date from the 17th of June to the 24th. Now, Sir, I must ask you to enable me to do so by putting the Question in such a manner as will not shut out that Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It appears to be for the convenience of the House, under the special circumstances of the case, that I should only put the words down to "10 o'clock p.m." I do not think, however, that it ought to be regarded as a precedent. The Question is, that the words down to "10 o'clock p.m." stand part of the Question.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'at Ten o'clock p.m.' stand part of the Question."1620
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I do not think that it would be respectful on my part towards the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment if I did not say a few words in answer to his arguments. In doing that I shall refrain from commenting upon the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who has merely exercised his legitimate right in reviewing the course which Her Majesty's Government have taken in reference to this matter. I must, however, refer to the assertion of the hon. Member for Cork, that in bringing forward this Motion Her Majesty's Government intended to make an attack upon the power of the Chairman of Committees. The hon. Member is entirely mistaken upon that point. The closure has been put in force 16 times. Once the Chairman of Committees has declined to put the Question on a point of Order; and there were two occasions on which he thought it was his duty not to accept the Motion for immediately putting the Question, that the remainder of the clause under discussion should be added to the Bill, when the remaining Amendments to such clause appeared to Her Majesty's Government to be of a trifling character. The Chairman of Committees on both occasions remarked that there were two or three Amendments standing on the Paper before we reached the particular point of the clause to which I have referred which deserved a certain amount of consideration. After the disposal of those Amendments, in which about an hour or an hour and a-half was consumed, the closure up to the particular point to which I have referred was accepted by the Committee without a Division, and the clauses themselves were passed without Divisions. The object which we had in view was entirely met by the course that the Chairman thought it his duty to pursue, and I have no complaint to make of any difference of opinion between the Chairman and myself. On the second occasion, in an almost precisely similar way, we were involved in the discussion of a number of minor points in which we could not make any substantial progress. I moved that the words down to a certain point should stand part of the Bill, and the Chairman very properly remarked that there were two or three provisions worthy of consideration, and so far as he could see the rest of the Amendments 1621 were of a trivial character, and when the important Amendments were disposed of the closure was accepted. On another occasion the Chairman put the Question that the words—that certain words—should stand part of the clause, and the hon. Member for Cork rose and pointed out that, according to the distinct words of the Rule, the condition had not been entirely fulfilled which entitled the closure to be moved. The Chairman then held that I was not in Order in making the Motion; but it was only when the Chairman had had his attention called to the very difficult construction of the Rules, that he thought I was not perfectly in Order in making the Motion I did. Even in the cases where the Chairman had refused my Motion, the object I had in view has been attained. I have no complaint to make of the Chairman, and there is no difference of opinion between the Chairman and myself. I have only referred to the subject in order that any misapprehension which the hon. Member cannot desire to labour under should be removed, so far as I am concerned. The hon. Member charges the Government with being themselves the cause of obstruction. I do think, Sir, that that opinion can only be held by the hon. Member if he takes a very perverted view of the responsibilities and duties which belong to a Government. The duty and responsibility of the Government, from my point of view, are to proceed with any measures they believe to be necessary in the interest of the community at large. It is reasonable that the hon. Member should take an opposite view of what those measures should be. We say that we believe those measures to be of primary importance; he is of a different opinion, and those who agree with him think that they are discharging their duty by preventing the progress of this Bill, and thereby preventing the consideration of other measures by the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian admitted that the condition of Public Business at the present moment is a grave scandal. He admitted that there were questions which deserved and required consideration in this House; and although he probably coincided in the opinion of the hon. Member for Cork as to the incapacity of Her Majesty's Government to do justice to the measures required in the interests of the 1622 country, yet he admitted that the condition of Supply and the Business of the country generally warranted the course the Government propose to take with reference to the discussion of this Bill. With reference to the observation that we ought to have taken this course on the first day we entered into the discussion of this Bill, instead of waiting till the 35th day, I may say that the Government thought it their duty to permit the minority to have an ample opportunity of discussing a measure which affects them and their people. But, now, after more than ample opportunity has been afforded for discussion, we think that it is now time to vindicate the authority of Parliament and its reputation in the country, and we accordingly ask the House to make provision for some portion of its time and strength being given to questions which affect the general interest and well-being of the nation.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said that he rose for the purpose of saying a few word a in support of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). He looked upon the Amendment as a Vote of Confidence in the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the proposition brought forward by the First Lord of the Treasury as a Vote of No Confidence. After entrusting the Chairman of Ways and Means with a veto, it was a most extraordinary thing to come and try to take away from him the option of permitting the closure, because he supposed it had not been exercised in the way the majority of the House liked. One of two things must be the case—either the Chairman of Ways and Means was fair or he was unfair. Those who supported the Motion declared that he was unfair. On that side of the House they were satisfied with him. What they said was—''You have got this power of closure; why do you not exercise it and bring it forward to put down the frivolous discussion the right hon. Gentleman talks about?" After a great expenditure of time, the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to bring forward a Motion to stop all discussion after 10 p.m. next Friday, and he supposed he would carry it, as he carried everything. He did not, however, think the Liberals would suffer much if the Motion were carried. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of 1623 the country being with him; how did the right hon. Gentleman know that? He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had as good a right to express his opinion about the country as the First Lord of the Treasury had; and his opinion was that the democracy of this country, who were now fortunately enfranchised, would never permanently consent to tyrannize over and oppress the democracy of another country; they would never make Ireland another Poland; they would never see the destruction of the liberty of the Press, or of the right of public meeting. If they were in favour of making Ireland a perpetual Poland, then he said they were a miserable democracy. If they were, then they deserved to have the same measures they were now applying to Ireland applied to themselves, and he hoped that a Tory Government would pluck up courage to apply the same measures to this country. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was right in his views as to the opinion of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had had several messages from the country. Had he not during the last few months heard from Burnley, from Ilkeston, and from St. Austell? [Loud Ministerial cheers.] He admired the Tory Party, though he had never seen hon. Gentlemen so pleased at being beaten before. They had, also, heard from Liverpool, and he wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had been present that he might have reminded him of it. He considered, therefore, he was justified in saying that the Government occupied their present position by no valid title whatever, and that he and his Friends were entitled to do all that they could to get an appeal to the country to see whether it supported Her Majesty's Government or not. The Government had only three supporters; one was an argumentative support, and the other two were physical. The first was that all the Irish Members were assassins and murderers, and consequently it was of the utmost importance that they should be retained in the House. That was the great argument in the Tory papers. Then the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that they were all obstructives on that side of the House, and spent all their time in blocking Business and preventing a vast number of most valuable Bills, such as no one had ever 1624 heard of before from a Tory Government being brought forward. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that the country believed that? How many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House declared at the last General Election in their addresses that they were entering Parliament to promote coercion? The third support of the Government was their crutches, the Liberal Unionists, whom he looked upon as worse than any Tories they had had during the present generation. He had, however, the comfort of knowing that their day was short. They dared not appeal to the country, any more than the First Lord of the Treasury dared, notwithstanding his brave words about the country being with him. Whatever might come of this Motion there was one bright spot, and that was that if the House were compelled to forge a weapon to be used by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in promoting tyranny and oppression, that weapon would remain as precedent; and in the days that were to come, and that were certain to come sooner or later—sooner, he hoped, rather than later—they on the Opposition Bench would apply that weapon to a far nobler purpose. [Ministerial laughter.] Yes, for a purpose which Tories always had laughed at and always had despised—namely, the purpose of promoting measures of freedom and progress.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that this Motion would be a precedent by which, without any declaration of urgency, by mere notice from one day to another and by a bare majority, without any intervention from the Chair, a debate might be closed. The right hon. Gentleman said there had been obstruction to this measure; but hon. Gentlemen opposite never hesitated to offer the most strenuous opposition to measures which they thought too advanced or described as revolutionary, and thought it no obstruction to do so. Even in the present he had personal experience of opposition, to a measure supported by a majority of the House, offered by a minority sitting opposite, and which had been characterized as obstructive from the Conservative Benches. He submitted that much of the responsibility for the delay in connection with the Bill before the House rested with the Government, for in many cases they had made concessions at the 1625 end of a debate when they might very well have made them at the beginning. He did not suppose that there would be any chance whatever of defeating this Resolution, but he wished to put upon record the protest of the Radicals, with whom he worked, and to record the precedent a justification for moving similar Resolutions when their time came.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said he thought the Government ought to recognize the way in which they themselves had brought about the position in which they now stood. In the Land Act of 1881 the Tory Party occupied four nights debating one single line, and that the first line. The Tory Party, and principally the present Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), spent four nights in discussing the first line of the first clause of the Land Act, although that first clause of the Bill dealt simply with the question of free sale, which existed in Ulster always and which existed in other parts of Ireland. Then, after that, they occupied nine nights in debating the clause. What was their position now? It was said that wear is one and very dry debates had taken place on the Bill, He did not deny it for one moment; but surely if they took the Bill and stuffed it and choked it with all kinds of obnoxious provisions, they made it necessary to take up time in discussing it. Nothing was easier than for the Government to get up a cry of obstruction against the Irish Members. The Government had in London in the newspapers the materials for getting up an artificial cry of obstruction, and though that House was supposed to be the highest Court of the Realm, and an international issue was at stake, Ireland v. England, there was contempt of Court with regard to the proceedings of that House on the part of those who were appointed to write on the subject. The Representatives of the people could be abused, attacked, and defamed, their speeches were misreported, and their conduct twisted and distorted, whereas if he had an action for twopence halfpenny in Westminster or the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand against the right hon. Gentleman opposite for goods sold and delivered, and any newspaper in the kingdom ventured to com- 1626 ment on that case while under discussion, he could have that newspaper up for contempt of Court. Yet those newspapers in dealing with that highest Court of the Realm and in dealing with litigants—international litigants who came before that House pleading their cause before the people of England—every newspaper in the Kingdom thought itself at liberty, upon matters which very few of them understood, to discuss in the most partizan point of view this cry of obstruction, which was a purely artificial cry, and which could be got up at any moment by the Ministerialists in their newspapers in London. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury talked about making sacrifices. It was easy to make sacrifices at £5,000 a-year, but they had to make them at that side of the House, and not sit silent as the right hon. Gentleman. They had got to point out the mischiefs and evils of the country, and spend their time not in the enjoyment of profits and emoluments, but in the interests of their country; and then because they did it the representatives of the capitalist and of the landlord party said they were actuated by some malignant motive. For himself, he had never believed in obstruction as a policy, and he did not believe in it now. He never could see any object in interrupting the Business of the House, because what good did it do? There was no good whatever, in his judgment, in engaging in a policy of obstruction, and the only good purpose to be served in carrying on a debate was that of informing the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, if that was not a wholly impossible task, and teaching the public outside. As for delaying the Bill, for his part he did not attach any value to such delay. Whether the Bill was to come into operation on the 1st of July or the 1st of August, he did not think it mattered in the least. The opponents of the measure had moved Amendments to it, and he had been specially attacked by the papers for doing so; and the Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Colonel King-Harman), who had been appointed to his Office because of his antagonism to the Irish Members, described them as "the scum of the swill tub of Ireland." That was the gentle way the Under Secretary had of describing his own countrymen; and in a 1627 speech which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made he stated that he (Mr. T. M. Healy) made more speeches than anybody else, and that, therefore, he and some others were guilty of obstruction. He would remind the House that while two or three, or four, or five of the Irish Members had spoken, all the others remained silent, allowing their Colleagues to speak for them. Would it be a reasonable thing if anybody said of the First Lord of the Treasury that he made more speeches than anybody else? The right hon. Gentleman would reply that he had to do it; and in the same way, if certain Members had been put forward by other Members, that was the action of a party of 86, and not of an individual Member. He was speaking and taking up a position for 86 others, and he was justified in making a series of speeches which, if he were only making from his own individval point of view, he would be entirely unjustified in making; so that no argument could be drawn from the position taken up by the First Lord of the Tresury, who said if every Member of the House made 100 speeches they could never get on. That was perfectly true, but if individuals on certain clauses had moved Amendments which had the support of an entire Party, that was a sufficient justification of those Members who had moved the Amendments and made speeches. But then there was another additional obstruction in the House which the right hon. Gentleman must see was in the nature of things inevitable. How could they avoid obstruction in a House composed of 670 Members? They must have obstruction in a Legislature which comprised so many Members, and which should not be composed of more than 200 or 300 Members. What had been the course of the Government in regard to the management of affairs in that House? When the 1st clause of the Bill was under discussion they were met with considerable fairness by the Government, and what followed? Why the 36 lines of the clause were expanded to 113, and then the Government, seeing they were justifying their opponents by accepting their Amendments and wore giving reasons and grounds for saying the draftsmanship of the Bill was as bad as their policy, refused to make any concessions to fair arguments addressed 1628 from that side of the House. That was a moat unfair and disengenuous way of meeting the Members from Ireland, because undoubtedly the matters put forward by them were entitled to consideration. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, like the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, seemed to be able to make only one speech. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord had made one great speech, which was to move that the Question be now put, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had made another. Amendments were moved, and then the right hon. Gentleman got up and said—"I see nothing in the Amendment which in any way makes our Bill clearer or better," and without one single reason in justification of his proposal the right hon. Gentleman sat down. Intellectual barrenness of that kind in rejecting or opposing Amendments only led to friction and unpleasantness, and he thought it would have been much better for the Government to have let the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary remain away somewhere while the Bill was under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman could have been studying Irish questions at the Irish Office, and have left the defence of the Bill in the hands of the Law Officers of the Crown, who were able to reply to the arguments put forward. It was one of the forms of insult the Government offered to the House that that they should leave the entire conduct of the Bill in the hands of a Gentleman like the Chief Secretary, who absolutely failed to meet any argument, when they had a Gentleman like the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), who was perfectly able and willing to meet them in discussion. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) never saw more lamentable ignorance on any subject than that displayed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, whose conduct had been one of the causes of the delay that had taken place. That Rule, as he understood it, was a practical repeal of their great provision which enabled the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington to swallow the principle of the cloture, and it was a practical justification of the position taken up by the 1629 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). Those right hon. Gentlemen said the simple system of clôture was the only real one for the working of the Business of the House; but the Government insisted on the putting into the Rule that the veto of the Chair should not be withheld, and after one much almost from the passing of that Resolution they were actually moving a Vote of Censure on the Chairman of Ways and Means, because he had shown fair play in the conduct of the debate. The Chairman had given them fair play, and this would be remembered by Irish Members after the present strife had passed away. No doubt the very fact that the Government had not been enabled to induce the right hon. Gentleman to grant them the clause without adequate discussion was a proof that the Amendments which had been moved were not of a trivial character. With regard to the entire of the 2nd clause he (Mr. T. M. Healy) did not move a single Amendment, leaving it entirely to the English and Scotch Members. He would not have complained of the Government attempting to put down the system of Boycotting if the Government had introduced some safeguards, such as that of appeal to a proper tribunal. The Government, by their present action, had given a signal proof that they considered the Amendments on the Paper of a substantial character; and that being so, they might well be content to allow that Bill to pass, subject to their protest.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he wished it to be put on record that the bringing forward of this Motion was a further advance in the doctrine of closure, and a great advance it was. The Government, when the question of Procedure was under discussion, laid great stress on the authority of the Chair as a regulating and restraining influence upon the closure. The present proposal was, however, an admission that they were entirely wrong, and it was a complete justification of the course which his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone] and himself had taken. What was the difficulty of the Government in this case He thought that 1630 they had said that every Amendment to their Bill was frivolous and unnecessary, and they had resisted every Amendment. If they had had the power in their own hands they would have used the closure, and the Committee on the Bill would have been over long ago. But they had set up an independent Judge, who on several occasions said that, in his opinion, some of these Amendments were most reasonable, and ought to be discussed. It was because the Chairman of Committees said that that the Government had come forward with the present Resolution. If the Chairman of Committees was of opinion that these six days would be sufficient to discuss all reasonable Amendments, all they need have done would be to apply for the closure. But they were afraid that the Chairman would say that the Amendments which they called frivolous were substantial Amendments which ought to be discussed. Consequently this new Resolution was proposed, in order to get rid of the impartial judgment of the Chairman of Committees. He had always predicted that the moment the majority found in the Chair any objections to their proposals for closure they would never tolerate that impartial judgment of which they formerly spoke so much, and that when such an obstacle was put in their way they would sweep it out of their path. They had drawn their clause in such a form that if there were Amendments which they thought ought to be in the Bill, they had taken good care to prevent their being put. Surely that was a closure as complete as anything that could be desired. He had never himself been an enemy of the closure. He had been consistent on that subject, having always been in favour of the closure pure and simple. The supporters of the present Government protested against a tyrannical majority until they themselves became one. They talked now of obstruction. Why, they took 20 days to discuss the single proposal of the closure some years ago. Perhaps the Government thought there would always be a Tory Party in Office, always supported by Liberal Unionists. That was like some foolish people who when they had got a fine day thought it would never rain. But changes came over the political atmosphere. The day might come—he 1631 ventured to say it would come—in which there would be a Liberal Government supported by a democratic majority. Then they should not be sorry to remember the lengths to which, for purposes of coercion, the Tory Party would carry the principle of closure. It was the tendency of these things to develop themselves. Conversion was rapid and complete. Look at Gentlemen opposite. They would never consent to the closure except with a three-fourths majority. Where were they now? They would never consent to the closure without every kind of safeguard. All their safeguards were now swept away. They must have the impartial judgment of the Chair, and the moment they were checked by the impartial judgment of the Chair, they closured the Chair, and they put the extinguisher on the Chairman of Committees. That was the process of conversion. In the days of Urgency in 1882 this very Rule could not be carried except by a majority of 3 to 1, but now the Tory Government had set an example that they could do this thing by a majority of l. He would paint a picture which he was sure would edify the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He suggested to him a possible future when there might be a Liberal Administration numbering, say, 340, and there might be a Conservative Party of 330. There might be some great Constitutional measure—perhaps Home Rule—and there might be a Minister standing at the Table and saying—"I shall introduce to-morrow a Home Rule Bill, and I shall accompany it by a declaration that the third reading shall be taken this day fortnight; the subject has been discussed for many years; the Amendments you have put down to the measure are frivolous; your resistance to it is obstructive; you are standing in the way of a great reform; you are opposing the Business of the nation; it is our duty as a majority to assert the rights of the nation, and to see that the Home Rule Bill is carried in a fortnight." That might happen. And then they should have a glorious example! If anybody lived to see that day he might learn by heart the noble speeches they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that night. A Liberal Government might introduce a Bill for the Disestablishment of the 1632 Church, and they might reasonably say—"All that can be said for and against this Bill has been said already, and we shall take the third reading of it this day week." That was to be the sort of progress they were likely to make in the democratic transaction of the Business of that House. This was really what the Conservative Party and the Conservative Government in their insane passion for coercion were doing for themselves. A Greek sage said that no man could be called happy until he was dead, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought not to think himself happy in seeing how the closure had worked until the time of his political decease. He thought it right when this proposal, which was in absolute contradiction of everything the Tory Party had ever said or done, was made, to notice their complete conversion to the principle of closure for which the Liberals had contended, and the inevitable consequences to which in the future this proposal may lead.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said: "When the cat's away the mice will play." The tone in which his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) had addressed the House was very different from that of his Leader. The light hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), at all events, remembered the duty of the House to proceed with its Business—to clear the road for other legislation. But the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken did nothing but taunt those who sat on the Government Benches with their conversion to the closure. The right hon. Gentleman was a great authority on the question of conversion. But by what process had it been brought about that this Resolution had been proposed. The right hon. Gentleman threatened those who sat on the Government Benches with what would happen when he was able to bring the democratic forces of the country with him. They had been engaged 35 days upon this measure, and in those proceedings to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded. No doubt, it was a most grave and serious thing when the Government was brought to the necessity of proposing so unusual and unprecedented a Resolution, and it was regretted by every Member 1633 of the House. But it seemed to be looked upon with, triumph by the advocates of the closure on the opposite Bench, because they said that it proved that they were right with regard to the closure. That was not the principle of those who sat on that side of the House, nor of the majority of those who sat behind the right hon. Gentleman. If he were to poll his followers he would see that there were two-thirds who regretted that it was necessary to propose this Resolution. The country, however, sympathized with the Government, and looked upon their proceedings as absolutely necessary; and the country would know with whom lay the responsibility for the necessity of that action. Just as the Government would not propose a Resolution of that kind unless they knew that the moment had arrived when public opinion would justify their action, so they felt convinced that in the future, when the time came for his right hon. Friend to command his democratic forces, that they would not be able to abuse the closure in the manner which he had described in the comic sketches with which he had just favoured the House. His right hon. Friend had amused the House, as he always did. But he would not delude the country, which he was seldom able to do. His right hon. Friend was naturally in good spirits, because he was aware that he would soon be relieved of watching this Bill, and supporting Amendments which he knew not to be worthy of attention. He made due allowance for the comic sketches indulged in by his right hon. Friend, and no one would be terrified by the picture he had drawn of the closure being used to put down legitimate discussion, and to promote legislation of the kind he referred to. The Government disliked the necessity of proposing so drastic a measure as this. His right hon. Friend had said that the Chairman had not applied the closure enough to satisfy the Government, and that the Government had treated every Amendment as frivolous. It was absurd of the right hon. Gentleman to make such a charge against the Government, for there were many occasions on which they had admitted the justice of prolonged discussion upon important clauses, and there had been no attempt to cut it short. His right hon. Friend said that the course now adopted was a proof that closure with the check of the Chair was a failure. But it was 1634 not necessary for an Amendment to be frivolous in order to take up time; and if the House were to follow the precedent of the proceedings in Committee upon this Bill, and the multiplication of Amendments were to go on, they would never get any legislation at all. The Leader of the Irish Party, and the Lieutenants of the Party opposite, had been unable to induce their followers to moderate the length of their Amendments and speeches, which were not necessarily frivolous, but which threatened to go on ad infinitum. If Her Majesty's Opposition were determined to put Amendments ad infinitum, they would block all legislation in that House. Such a course had been applied in the case of this Bill, and it had rendered necessary the proposal before the House. He (Mr. Goschen) had risen to protest against the contention that in taking their present course the Government had set a precedent which would justify proceedings such as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested. The Government felt that the moment had come when it was absolutely necessary to pass such Bills as the Coal Mines Regulation Bill—to which the hoc. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had referred—and the other legislation which the Government felt bound to undertake; and it was of far more importance to get one of those measures passed than to have discussion on Amendments which, if not absolutely frivolous, were trivial, and could not be put in competition with legislation of that important character.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he was not at all surprised at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) that the Members of the Party to which he belonged had brought forward this proposal with regret and humiliation. It was very easy to see the feelings with which the Tory Party regarded this proposal. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had been an observer in the House for a great many years, and he should say that he never saw the Tory Party in such profound depths of despondency as when the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) was making his proposal, and he should confess that the right hon. Gentleman gave cause to his followers to be despondent I owing to the nature of his speech in 1635 matter or manner, for a more weak or shuffling speech he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had never heard in favour of such a momentous and important proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that the Business of the House was paralyzed, and yet he was prepared to maintain against all odds the competency of the House to deal with all matters affecting every country in the Empire. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the directions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had been ignored by their followers was entirely inaccurate. The hon. Member for Cork came down to the House on Tuesday and backed up the very sensible advice given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that they should concentrate their attention on a certain number of Amendments and drop other Amendments which they did not regard as of equal substance and importance. And what happened? There were about 60 Amendments that night on the Paper, and his hon. Friends who were sponsors for these Amendments drew their pens through three-fourths of them. Even the discussion on Wednesday over the preamble in the 4th clause was carried on in a reasonable spirit, and was concluded without the application of the closure. In face of that fact he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was making too large a presumption on the gullability of his supporters in the country when he said that the advice of the right hon. Member for Derby and the hon. Member for Cork had been rejected by their followers. He was not surprised at the sensitiveness with which the right hon. Gentlemen the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer received the allusion made to their action towards the Chairman of Committees. It would not be good taste to praise any more than blame the decision of any Presiding Officer of the House; but he should say that, by his conduct in. connection with the Closure Motions that had been proposed from time to time by the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chairman of Committees had greatly increased the respect and confidence of every section of the House, and also his reputation for impartiality, 1636 strength, and dignity in the Chair. The Chairman of Committees more than once found it necessary to accept the proposals of the First Lord of the Treasury for curtailing debates and rejecting Amendments placed by Members of the Irish Party on the Paper; yet there was not a single one of the Irish Party who blamed the Chairman for so doing, or who did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was acting honestly in what he believed to be his duty in the matter. The hon. Gentleman had on several occasions thought it right to refuse to accede to the demand of the First Lord of the Treasury. This had displeased the Treasury Bench. A Chairman that was good enough for the Irish Party was not good enough for the Tory Party, and it was impossible not to help feeling that the present Motion was the direct consequence of the discovery which the Government had made that they had in the Chair an independent and not a servile President. That was his charge, and he made it plain and unmistakable. The difference between the Clôture rule now proposed by the Government and the Clôture Rule already in existence was that by the former the Chairman of Committees was deprived of all the power which he possessed under the latter Rule of protecting substantial Amendments from the clôture. the Government lived, as it were, from hand to mouth. They did not know in the morning what they wore going to propose in the evening. They opened the Session with the declaration that the intervention of the Chair in connection with the application of the clôture was absolutely necessary, and that such intervention afforded a complete safeguard for the protection of minorities. That declaration was made but a few weeks ago; yet the Government already wished to get rid of the very safeguard which formed an integral part of their original proposal. Those right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench who talked about obstruction ought to bear in mind the history of some of the most prominent Members of the Tory Party. Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had gained such political eminence as he enjoyed by acting as an arch-obstructor, and the Predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had brought the art of 1637 obstruction up to a pitch of development never reached previously. When, therefore, the Government charged opponents with obstruction, he was reminded of the pot calling the kettle black. The Government had no precedent for their action; but they had established a precedent which would have the most important consequences—a Home Rule Bill would be proposed a great deal sooner than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) ventured to say that if an appeal were now made to the country, a Home Rule Bill would be introduced in six weeks' time. It might be, when that Bill was introduced, and when the Lords of the Treasury were opposing it—as they had opposed the Land Bill of 1881—that it would be necessary to have a precedent from a Conservative Government for gagging inconvenient opposition.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
said, he could not look at the Treasury Bench without thinking of the words of a song of the good old days gone away. It appeared a farce to him to hear the Government denouncing obstruction, having regard to the fact that there were sitting on the Treasury Bench more than one hon. Gentleman who had mainly gained distinction by obstruction. He was one of those who had learned the art of obstruction from the Treasury Bench. When the Clôture Rules were introduced by the Liberal Government, he assisted the present Members of the Treasury Bench, in obstructing these Rules night after night, and one of his most able instructors and allies was the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). It was from that right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues that he learned obstruction—it was in their company he proceeded in his bad habits. The present cry of obstruction was got up by the Government as a veil in which to hide their real policy. The closure enabled the Government to wipe out frivolous Amendments, and that ought to be sufficient for all legitimate purposes. But it appeared that the Government were dissatisfied with the action of the Chairman in protecting the rights of minorities and securing discussion for really important Amendments. For his own part, he did not care whether the Motion was passed or not—the further 1638 the Government went the better for the Opposition—the more the Tory Party endeavoured to put down freedom of discussion in the House, the worse it would be for them in time to come, and looking forward to the period when the Tory Party would be in Opposition, he, for one, hailed with delight the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol. E.)
said, the Tory Party were never satisfied except when they wore endeavouring to rob the people, and especially the people of Ireland, of their liberty. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) should have thought it necessary to tell the House he moved this Resolution with peculiar feelings of distaste. If he had not said so the House would never have found it out. He hoped the House and the country would take note that the Tories revelled in taking away the liberties, not only of the country, but of that House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was never tired of telling of the traditions of that House; but what was the value of those traditions unless they secured freedom of debate? He should have despised the Members for Ireland if they had not withstood the infringement on their liberties made by this Bill. They would have been unworthy of their position had they not done so. He was surprised to hoar the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) affecting that right to speak on behalf of the democracy. The right hon. Gentleman had no right to speak on behalf of the democracy, considering that his whole life had been spent in opposing those in whose name he now professed to speak. The right hon. Gentleman could not, in fact, obtain the support of any popular constituency, but had to obtain a seat for St. George's, Hanover Square. Speaking after 40 years' intercourse with the people of this country, he (Mr. Handel Cossham) ventured to say that they had made Tip their minds against this Coercion Bill, and that they would not be slow to express that opinion as soon as they could get an opportunity. The first day the people of England were appealed to would be the last of the present Government. He did not believe that the 1639 Liberal Unionists had any idea, when they joined the present Government, what lengths they would have to go, or how fast they would go down hill. Indeed, he never heard of anything like the pace at which the Government were now going down hill since the day when the herd of swine rushed down the hill into the sea. The Conservative Members had, in this matter of coercion for Ireland, belied their hustings' pledges. He could point out 100 men on the Conservative side who had obtained the support of the electors at the last Election by promising1 to vote against coercion for Ireland. What had changed their policy? It could not be the prevalence of crime in that country, for the amount of crime there was less than at the time of the last Dissolution. There would be an end of this thing ere long. The Coercion Bill was kept up simply to obstruct other measures, and when remedial measures came on for discussion, the Government combination would go to pieces. Not all the Liberal Unionists would be satisfied without some remedial legislation, or would be satisfied with the political sham that the Coercion Bill is. The Government might get this Motion passed by the votes of those who would not listen to discussion; but they could never carry out the Bill in the face of Irish representation and the reports of a Free Press. They must expel the Irish Members and suppress the reports of the Press before they could hope to carry out the Bill. Meantime, they wasted the time of the House, and insulted the country by keeping on the coercion controversy from day to day. What the country required was, to use the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian's (Mr. Gladstone's) words, measures that would make it easier for the people to live, strengthening the desire to do right, repressing the tendency to do wrong. The Bill would not prevent, it would create crime, and was so intended. It would aid the class of oppressors——
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, he begged to apologize. He was only referring to the Bill by way of illustration. The result of passing this Motion would disappoint the expectations of the Government, and teach the country that no more incompetent Government than the 1640 present ever attempted to conduct the affairs of a great nation.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, he could not help noticing the scanty attendance of Members, particularly on the Ministerial side, and he thought that if a Motion were made for the adjournment of the debate it would not be unreasonable. The object of the Government was to push this matter through as hurriedly as possible; but, considering that the bulk of hon. Members were to a large extent in the dark on this matter, he thought it would be more respectful to the House and the country that the Government I should postpone this discussion, instead of pressing it forward, until the Amendments were seen in print. A more serious and drastic proposal than that of the Government had never been made in the whole of their Parliamentary history. It opened up a very promising prospect for Irish Members of Parliament especially. They were told impliedly that they would not get Home Rule, and that the Government would shut them up when they liked. The Resolution was a proposal to the effect that for the first time in the history of the British Parliament a bare majority should have the right of stifling the voice of the minority. He utterly denied that any obstruction whatever had been offered by the Irish Members to this Coercion Bill; but they were is bound in the faithful discharge of their duties to place Amendments to every clause on the Notice Paper, and to fight them out to the bitter end, no matter how displeasing it might be either to the Speaker or the occupants of the Front Ministerial Bench. The effect of the Resolution, if passed, would be to make Irish Members, if possible, more disgusted and discontented with this House than ever. Its object seemed to be to goad the Irish Members to resort to some desperate action, and so to enable the Tories to hold them up to odium before the constituencies as an un-constitutional Party. He contended that the Government in the course which they were now taking were doing away with the protection afforded by the Closure Rule, by which no Motion for the closure of debate could be put without the sanction of the Chair. To hand over the Irish Members to a majority which were composed of Members who 1641 did nothing but enjoy themselves when the Irish Members were working hard in the House was to add insult to injury. The real fact of the matter was this—that not satisfied with the majority they got, the Tory Party would be content with nothing but to see the minority sitting mute in the House. They were too much for the Tories, as the people of England saw, and they accordingly determined to gag them. If this sort of policy was to be carried out they might as well shut up the House of Commons at once, and adjourn the whole thing. Let the Members of the Tory Party enjoy themselves in their country seats all over the country, and let the First Lord of the Treasury communicate with them by telegraph from Downing Street when he wanted anything done. There was no obstruction whatever, unless the Tory Party considered discussion obstruction, or wished to hoodwink the people in the country into the belief that there was obstruction. He wished the Tories joy of their rest when they got it. They would get their coercion; but the result of the coercion would be to make the people of Ireland more dissatisfied with the clique which governed Ireland in Dublin Castle. The proposal that by a bare majority of 1 the Tory Party should have the power of closing debate was so outrageous that he thought it would produce general dissatisfaction in the country. He believed that the result of the passing of the Resolution would make them the laughing stock of the world.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he believed that the United States could not change its Constitution unless by a two-thirds majority. The Government proposed to alter the Constitution of Ireland by a bare majority, and not satisfied with doing that under the ordinary Rules of the House they wished to make a great innovation. He should support the Amendment, for he contended that the Government should be satisfied with the progress their Coercion Bill had made. No Ministry could expect to pass more than one first-class measure in a Session, and as the Coercion Bill was a measure of first-class importance, seeing that it affected the Constitution of Ireland, they ought to be content with passing that one important Bill and some other smaller measures. What the Government wished to do was 1642 to make a show of progress, and in that they were wise, because if they dealt with other questions they would not be able to secure the support of the Liberal Unionists, who, according to the right lion. Member for Birmingham, differed from them in 99 cases out of 100, while they agreed with them only on the Irish Question. Had Her Majesty's Government allowed the Bill to go on at the rate at which it was proceeding, he believed that it would have been got through its Committee stage in some seven or eight days, as the Committee had now disposed of nearly all the important points in the measure. The Government, however, had been forced by their supporters out-of-doors to do something, and in the effort to do something vigorous the Government had brought forward this Motion to deprive the Chairman of Committees of his power of vetoing their proposals for putting the closure in force. The Chairman of Committees had three or four times thought that the First Lord of the Treasury wanted to go too fast and had refused to put the closure. Nothing could be worse than for the Government to say that as the Chairman of Committees had not decided in their favour upon every occasion they would take away the power from him. That was really what the Motion meant. The Government had intimated their intention of introducing a second Coercion Bill this Session; and, in a Party point of view, the}' wore quite right, because by so doing they would retain the allegiance of their Liberal Unionist Friends, whom, beyond all doubt, they would attempt to crush out at the next General Election. If the Government would drop this Motion, and would leave out a great part of the remainder of the Bill, with the intention of re-introducing the omitted portions of the measure in the form of a new Coercion Bill next autumn, they would easily pass the Bill through its remaining stages.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
said, lie proposed to consider this question, not from a Party point of view, but speaking in the interests of the House itself, as one who had had for several years the privilege of conducting the debates in Committee, and who had knowledge of how the Rules of the House acted. He made no objection to the course which Her Majesty's Govern- 1643 ment had taken in drawing attention to the fact that the debate in Committee on this Bill had ceased to be instructive and had become obstructive: but he objected to their having made this proposal by a rude and clumsy machinery to effect a wholesale slaughter of Amendments. He thought that Her Majesty's Government were wrong in attempting to make a precedent which might become exceedingly dangerous to the rights of minorities at some future time. How did the case present itself to the House in 1881, which was the first occasion on which obstruction made its force felt? The House then determined that it would crush obstruction; but how did it proceed? It then proceeded in the most formal and careful way. It first declared that the Business of the House was urgent, and at that time nearly all the Irish Members were suspended. Nevertheless, a full debate took place, and, at the suggession of Sir Stafford North-cote, the then Leader of the Conservative Party in that House, it was resolved that debate should not be put an end to unless there was a two-thirds majority in a House of not fewer than 300 Members. That right hon. Gentleman then contended that such a proposal should never be made unless the House was practically unanimous. Urgency had been several times voted by the House in respect to the Business before it. It was voted three times in 1881, and then it was not again voted until July 4, 1882. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on the latter occasion moved that the Business should be declared urgent, and upon that Business was declared to be urgent by 3 to 1 in a House of 300 Members. The Rules with regard to urgency never became Standing Orders as a whole; some were adopted into the Rules of Debate; but this one never did become a Standing Order. On the first occasion, on the 3rd of February, 1881, Urgency was declared; but the effective Resolution putting an end to debate was not moved till the 21st, so that ample time and deliberation were given to the House. But on this occasion we are informed at midnight one night, and the Motion is made at 4 o'clock next day. The precedent that was now being set was deprived of all the safeguards and conditions for deliberation that were previously observed. The precedent now 1644 being established would permit a House of 41 Members to pass a Resolution of this kind at 24 hours' Notice. That the Resolution gave a week for the discussion formed no essential part of the precedent, for other precedents could be quoted when only a few hours' discussion were permitted. It would be a precedent for the passing of a Resolution by a majority of 1, by which the discussion on any measure, however important, could be brought to a close at once without debate or Division. They were going further even than the Resolution of the 24th of February, the 10th of March, and the 4th of July, which all made it necessary that the Amendments set down should be voted upon, so that the Government might accept some and improve their Bill; but by this Resolution all the Amendments were to be swept away, and they were to vote on the clauses without amendment. The Government were thus putting it out of its power to consider any Amendments which might be proposed. The precedent now being established would be most dangerous for any minority, and particularly for the Conservative Party. Assuming the Liberal Party were in a majority, and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) proposed a Bill for the abolition of the House of Lords, under this Resolution Notice could be given and the Bill be at once put to the vote after, perhaps, only 12 hours' discussion. Some day the Conservative Party must be in a minority, and this machinery would be used by the Party of action in a manner even more arbitrary than it was now being used. It would be far better to add to the Resolution that it must be voted by a House of 200 or 300. It was not even necessary, according to this precedent, for the Resolution to be proposed by the Leader of the House. In his opinion, and speaking in. no Party sense, the Government wore establishing a precedent of a most inconvenient and dangerous character. He did not say that seven days were not sufficient to allow for the discussion of the remaining clauses of the Bill; but he should vote against the Resolution, on the ground that, from the manner of its introduction and the absence of safeguards in it, it formed a most dangerous precedent for the future conduct of the Business of the House. No Motion for Urgency ought ever to be proposed to 1645 the House without the clearest necessity. The Government consider that 15 days' debate in Committee on a Bill affecting the liberties of the whole Irish people are excessive and justify repression. But the Conservatives occupied 22 days in Committee in opposing the abolition of flogging in the Army in 1879. They occupied 39 days of 1880 in Committee on the Irish Land Bill, and yet they deem 15 days utterly intolerable when a nation struggles against coercive legislation which curtails the liberties of the people.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, it was a matter worthy of distinct notice that notwithstanding so weighty a speech as that which they had just heard from so weighty an authority as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair), who had filled for years the distinguished Office of Chairman of Committees, no Member of the Government had risen to reply. The conduct of the Government in this matter was of a piece with their attitude for some weeks past. They sat in silence before them, using their mechanical majority from time to time to meet the arguments against the Bill. This Resolution was a consequence of the evil course which the House had adopted on previous occasions. From the day that the first Urgency Resolution was adopted the House was placed on an inclined plane, and its course had been uniformly downward. Whether they had yet reached the lowest point was a matter of opinion, though he did not think they had. Another point which would have struck anyone who considered the matter was that, startling as was the proposition, the Government had been absolutely unable to adduce a single precedent from the long history of Parliamentary procedure for the course they were now pursuing. The previous Resolutions of this kind had been passed under circumstances entirely different and with safeguards which this altogether lacked. There was no instance before of any such proposal as this for definitely bringing the discussion in Committee to a close at a certain fixed date. This proposal was entirely unprecedented in its character, and was entirely foreign and strange to the whole spirit and history of the House. It was a departure from the best traditions of the House, and it did appear 1646 that this "Mother of Parliaments," as it was fondly called, was likely to see a degradation far more serious than had yet been experienced by any legislative Assembly in the world. It was said that this proposal had become necessary because the advice and suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had not been followed. But he traversed the statement that such advice had not been followed. In a single night Clause 3 was passed in its entirety, and the fourth clause was passed after two sittings of the House, one of which was a short Wednesday sitting. The House already possessed abundant means of bringing irrelevant discussion to an end—the closure afforded an ample safeguard against undue prolixity of debate. What was the nature of the Bill to carry which this Motion had been brought in? It was not an ordinary Bill dealing with property rights or local interests—it was a Bill which affected the liberties of the subjects of one entire division of the United Kingdom, and if there was any Bill to discuss which the fullest possible liberty should be allowed to the Representatives of the people to be affected by it, it was this Bill, and yet it was in respect to a Bill of this important kind that the mouths of the people's Representatives were to be closed without any answer being given to their arguments. The Government seemed to drive the only vestige of protection left to minorities from its last resting place in the hands of the Chairman of Committees. Why not dispense with all the subsequent stages of a Bill after its introduction, and when read seed it up immediately to the House of Lords? It would be a more honest policy than the present policy of the Government. The Government took the action to remove the difficulty in the way of getting the Bill through in the only one stage in which they had any difficulty to contend with—that was to the Committee stage—because the suggestion they made for putting the Question was not always successful, and because the First Lord of the Treasury found that his own position was becoming shaken and discredited, owing to the repeated rebuffs which the Chairman of Committees in the discharge of his duty and in his 1647 capacity of guardian of the rights of minorities, had found it necessary to administer when the right hon. Gentleman attempted to closure substantial Amendments. In the case of the alterations effected in Clause 1, it was idle to say that the discussions in Committee had been obstructive. The proposal of the Government would have the effect of making the remaining proceedings in Committee a hollow mockery, and he should have been glad if it had been resolved by the opponents of the Bill to take no further part in them. The Bill would, no doubt, be passed, but it would retain the stain of irregularity. Nemesis would come sooner or later, and those who now heedlessly, thoughtlessly, and truculently throw aside the principles and traditions of an illustrious Assembly like this, would inevitably rue the consequences of their own folly.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) with great pleasure, and he was surprised that no one had risen on the Treasury Bench to reply to it. The House had become accustomed to startling novel propositions made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) in his blandest manner; but no proposition during the Session was so startling as that made this evening. The justification for this extraordinary proposal was wrapped up in the word "obstruction," which had an effect on the Government similar to the red flag on the bull. The right hon. Gentleman could hardly have remembered, the definition of that term accepted during the discussion of the Procedure Rules proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in 1882 or he would not have used the word as he had. That right hon. Gentleman defined "obstruction" as the attempt on the part of a small minority to resist the view of a Parliamentary majority otherwise than by argument. He expressly declared that reiterated pressure of argument was not obstruction. Tried by that standard the proceedings on the Crimes Bill could not fairly be described as obstruction. There was some little lack of historical knowledge in regard to proceedings in times gone by, and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was able to correct some errors into 1648 which the Leader of the House fell in referring to discussion on the Land Bill. Let each Member of the House consider the Bill as applicable to his own constituency, and he would take a different view from that held by the Government. Let him fancy, in his own constituency, this terrible engine for the suppression of free speech, the infringement of the freedom of the Press, the suppression of the right of meeting, and the suspension of liberty. Let him suppose this Bill at work suspending all rights of Constitutional agitation, and he would come to the view that Irish Members representing five-sixths of the country would have failed in their duty to their constituents if they had not offered the most strenuous opposition in their power to the passing of the measure. Considering, too, the mode in which the Bill was drafted, the manner in which it was conducted, the hours wasted through the Government failing to make concessions until the last moment after long discussion, the charge of obstruction could not fairly be applied. Hon. Members who absented themselves throughout the evening and returned at 11 o'clock or at midnight, and who failed thereby to grasp the point at issue, might consider the discussions wearisome; indeed, it was admitted that unless they followed the arguments closely the details of the Bill were wearisome; but a suspicion had gained strength in his mind that the dislike shown to a prolonged discussion had another cause, that the arguments against the Bill were more cogent than the Government were disposed to admit. He remembered that on one evening six Queen's Counsel rose one after the other and forcibly criticized a portion of the Bill, and he particularly noticed the growing sense of impatience after this fire of criticism. The Prime Minister spoke of remembering the time when a Coercion Bill introduced into the House in the morning passed at night. Possibly the Leader of the House looked back with envy on that time; but the time had happily gone by for ever when they could pass such measures with such rapidity through the House of Commons, He had said the proposition was of a startling nature, and, personally, he felt some sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman as he painfully struggled to find some precedent for his action. He fell 1649 into inaccuracies, and almost apologized for not having the details of his story more correctly. It was hardly necessary to cast about for a precedent. The Tory democracy was largely influenced by novelty. It was the very essence of its creed, which seemed saturated with a passion for novel proposals. What they had been debating that evening was but a new form of the 1st New Rule of Procedure. The Closure Rule had already become rusty and blunt in its operation, and more than once it had pierced the hand of him who tried to use it, and so it was thought necessary to forge a new weapon. He had a rooted aversion to the Closure Rule, and its operation, had already abundantly justified the prognostications of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), and was simply an inclined plane down which the House was rapidly slipping. The Leader of the House held the Motion necessary to uphold the honour and dignity of the House; but, with the honour and dignity of the House as much at heart as any on the other side, he maintained that the preservation of the dignity of the House rested upon respect for the traditions of the past and the right of freedom of speech in debate. In the year 1864 some striking words had been used in that House by a very eminent man, which he would venture to quote. Mr. Disraeli then said—What makes the House of Commons influential in contradistinction to the popular Assemblies of other countries is this—that when there is any great question of difficulty the country feels that we are solving it, not merely by the present thought and existing intelligence of the Members of the House, but that we come to its consideration fortified by precedent, and bringing to bear upon it the accumulated wisdom of the eminent men who have preceded us.The Leader of the House had upon this occasion been absolutely unable to find any precedent for the course he had adopted, and he agreed with the right hon. Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) that the most important aspect of this Motion was its relation to the procedure of the House of Commons. Nothing could be more dangerous in its effect on that Assembly than to deprive hon. Members of the opportunity of criticizing proposals made to them on the character and conduct of 1650 each other. If they smothered discussion, then they would drive all serious discussions to public platforms, and that would be very deplorable for this reason, that when Members were there face to face with each other, their language had a character of moderation which was not always found on public platforms. If discussion was driven to public platforms, they would have utterances of a very different kind. It was for this reason mainly, on account of its effect on the proceedings of that House, and its absolute defiance of all the traditions of that Assembly, that he should unhesitatingly record his vote against the proposition of the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said, as one who had taken a small part in opposing the Coercion Bill, he did not regret that the opportunity to continue that opposition had been removed in the way proposed by the First Lord of the Treasury, because it was not inappropriate that on a Bill intended to stifle the liberties of the Irish people, the Government should commence by stifling discussion in that House. The Government appeared to have come to the conclusion that they had made at least a tactical mistake in yielding to the Irish Members as they had done on the 1st clause, and were determined to ignore all Amendments on the subsequent clauses, and if that were so it was a great deal more creditable to them that they should carry the Bill in the manner provided by the Motion before the House rather than by continuing to meet the Amendments to it in an uncompromising spirit of unreasonable opposition. He had endeavoured to find a precedent for the action of the Government, and he believed he had found an historical precedent for it. One of the Kings of France, whose name he forgot, was exceedingly fond of entering into metaphysical discussions with his courtiers. The latter, however, soon found out that when the Monarch was worsted in an argument he took to kicking their shins, and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) could not compare the action of the Government on that Bill to anything more than the action of that Royal personage. The Government were unable to give any reply to the Amendments proposed, and accordingly they had discovered that device for stifling 1651 all legitimate discussion. With, respect to the charge of obstruction, he would point out how absurd were the arguments of the Tories, who themselves in the case of the Land Act and also the Crimes Act, and the Rules of the Government, occupied more time in their opposition of those measures than the Irish Members had done in the case of a Bill which was to deprive the Irish people of their liberties, and which was, moreover, a Bill which was to continue for ever. He would challenge any fair and impartial man to take the 1st clause, as amended, in his hand and, comparing it with the clause as originally introduced, to say whether the attitude of the Irish Members had not been simply justified by the results which had been attained. The proposal of the Government amounted to a virtual impeachment of the Chairman of Committees, who had acted with impartiality. It was an appeal from knowledge to ignorance—it was an appeal from the Chairman of Committees to the unreasonable ferocity of hon. Members opposite. It was a most unfair and unworthy thing, when dealing with a small minority in that House who were fighting for what they considered the cause of their country in the face of great odds, that the Government should invent this exceptional proceeding to get rid of the sanction of the Chairman of Committees which they insisted on when they were devising a Rule which might be used against themselves.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 284; Noes 167: Majority 117.—(Div. List, No. 214.)
§ Question put, "That the words 'at Ten o'clock p.m.' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 301; Noes 181: Majority 120.—(Div. List, No. 215.)
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I am afraid I shall be compelled to ask the attention of the House for some time. Although I understand certain festivities are to take place to-morrow, I am sure 1652 that even Tory Members of the House and their Friends who sit upon this side of the House will admit that I am entitled to believe that the liberties of the Irish people, which we are sent here to defend, are in our eyes at least of more value than any proceedings which may take place at Portsmouth to-morrow. I intend to end by moving an Amendment to the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith); but before I do so, I desire to make the frank admission that not only have the English people a right to be satisfied with the progress of Business in this House during the last four or five months, but that we also have a right to be satisfied with it. We have a right to be satisfied with it when we recollect the pledges and professions by which not only Gentlemen who sit opposite came into power, but by which some Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House, and sailing under certain colours, obtained the confidence of the electors. It is patent to everyone that the electors would never have thought of reposing confidence in the so-called Liberal Unionists had they at the time of the Election advocated the policy they are now advocating. When the House met in January, a vast programme of reform was laid before it, and we know what has become of that programme. The promised reforms have melted away; and now the House is asked to express its regret that the crop of coercion has not ripened sufficiently fast to suit the allies of the First Lord of the Treasury, who, as long as he clings to power, are his masters, but who, when once he and his Party are driven from, power, will become his abject slaves. I desire to refer for a very few moments to the delay which has occurred, and to the reasons which have led to that delay. There are several reasons for the delay. I do not intend to allude to the previous debates upon a Rule, which, after obtaining it by a waste of very nearly a month of the time of this House, is now declared by the First Lord of the Treasury to be practically unworkable; but, Sir, I desire to allude specifically to the length of the debates on the Crimes Bill for which the Government are now seeking to get Urgency. I may remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) that the precedents of other Coercion Bills cannot be fairly appealed to 1653 on this occasion. This Coercion Bill has been marked by several distinguishing features—not only by its permanency, which, is undoubted, but by the new crimes which it is proposed to create, and by the political character of the repression which it proposes to apply to the National League, a body which has kept the tenantry of Ireland from despair. This Coercion Bill is particularly distinguished from its predecessors by the fact that it is the product of a combination of Tories on the one hand and discredited and ruined men on the other. There is another cause which has led to the prolongation of the debates in Committee on this Bill, and it is this—that our arguments and appeals, no matter how reasonably and moderately made, have been usually addressed to empty Benches, and met by the Government with a persistent non possumus. I also wish to allude very shortly to a remarkable speech made a few days ago by the Earl of Derby, a gentleman who is no particular friend of ours. The House will recollect that in that speech the noble Lord said we are fighting for the liberties of our nation, and, therefore, he counselled that moderation on the part of the Government towards us which, I regret, they do not now seem disposed to exercise. What is our position? We are resisting the permanent degradation of Ireland. This is not a Bill which is to remain law for 18 months or two years, but it is a Bill which will permanently destroy our rights and liberties. We conceive we have, therefore, great right to discussion—that freedom of debate should be more carefully preserved to us than if this were a mere temporary measure. Under certain clauses of the Bill almost despotic power is to be vested in the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or his deputy the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Under this Bill power is to be granted to these Gentlemen to declare any person who stands on a platform and defends the cause of his constituents, to be a criminal, and to send him not only before two Resident Magistrates, but also to make him subject to the infamous Whiteboy Code of Acts, which has been nominally dropped, but which, under the 7th clause of this Bill, will undoubtedly be brought into operation. This Bill destroys the right of public 1654 meeting, and it is aimed at the destruction of combinations on the part of the tenants to defend their property and their miserable huts and cabins. Under such circumstances it seems to be our duty to protest against the high-handed course the House is now asked to adopt. Now I ask what remedy does the Government propose for this loss of time they seem so seriously to regret. They propose by this Motion to give us four and a-half days to debate the remaining clauses of the Bill. They propose to do this under a Rule which entitles the Member in charge of the Bill to move to report Progress at any hour he likes, and which does not bind that Member to bring on the Bill for discussion until Friday next, if it so pleases him. We have not got absolutely the right to four and a-half days' discussion, but to such portion of that time as the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill may choose to give us. May I also point out that in addition this Motion, if carried, would deprive us of the protection of the Chair, a protection which was forced upon us by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury himself not very long ago. Lot me draw the attention of the House to the fact that when the right hon. Gentleman insisted that the Chair should exercise its right of veto, he made that very fact an argument for obtaining closure by a bare majority, an enactment which he would never have succeeded in getting except for the veto of the Chair. I desire to glance very briefly at the conduct of the Gentlemen who now propose extreme measures, when they were defending what they considered to be an invasion of class privileges. This Bill has been under discussion in Committee for 15 days, 66 Divisions have been taken on Amendments, and Amendment after Amendment has been dropped without Division in order that the Party which is now in power should not be able to go to the country saying we have obstructed the passing of the measure. Fourteen times has the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury moved the closure, and on many occasions the closure was moved by him when we were quite ready to take a Division on the Main Question. Sir, I have calculated that, removing from the time occupied in Committee the time 1655 occupied in Divisions, we have had about 85 hours' discussion in Committee on this Bill. We have passed four very long and momentous clauses. What was the position of the Tory Party when they were in Opposition in 1882? On 72 lines of Rules and Procedure they occupied 30 days, and took 56 Divisions. On the matter of the Procedure of this House, a matter which it is always in the power of this House by a single Motion to alter, they thought it their duty to waste 30 days of the time of the House, and to take 56 Divisions. Now I ask Gentlemen on the other side of the House, before they vote for the passing of this Rule in its present form, to recollect what questions we have to discuss. Let me mention some of the more important ones. In the first place, it is proposed that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should have power to proclaim counties by the advice of the Irish Privy Council, the Irish Privy Council being a body, the extent of whose powers we ought to object to in the strongest possible manner. In the four and a-half days to be given up to us, we shall have to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this power of proclaiming counties may be exercised by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for whatever purpose he likes. We shall have to draw the attention of the Committee to the suppression of public meetings which, under the 6th and 7th clauses of the Bill, it will be in the power of the Chief Secretary to insure; we shall have to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the whole code of White-boy Acts as to public meetings and the suppression of combinations will be imported by the 7th clause into this Bill, and that the suggestion that these powers shall be subjected to the control of Parliament is the merest farce. Now, there are other clauses in the Bill equally important. I find further on in this Bill that it will deprive the Irish people of the right of bearing arms, and that it will provide for search warrants directed against whole localities. The method of constructing special juries will require the greatest and keenest discussion, having regard to the fact that you have already taken power to try Nationalists by special juries after change of venue. Furthermore, I may draw attention to the period and method of punishment prescribed by the Bill. 1656 In the small space of time allotted to us we shall have to discuss the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Carnarvon District (Mr. Swetenham), whose idea of political liberty is to be discovered by his Amendment, which prescribes that the Judge shall be entitled to award 150 strokes with a cat-o'-nine-tails to anyone convicted under the Act. Then I see that Members of the Party opposite have Amendments dealing with the constitution of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, which Amendments, I presume, will receive somewhat greater consideration than any Amendments we could propose. There are powers given to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to make rules as to the witnesses and prisoners' expenses, to make rules as to the whole course of procedure, rules which may bear most oppressively upon prisoners, and upon those who have to differ politically with the administration of the Act. Now, Sir, I do not desire to weary the House by any further observations; I think it is perfectly clear to any person in this House of independent mind that these questions could not possibly receive even a shade of discussion in the few hours—32 hours at most—which are to be awarded to us under this Motion, If Parliament is to degrade itself for the purpose of degrading the Irish people, let us at least have some time to consider the matter. I warn the First Lord of the Treasury and his Colleagues that a Bill passed by the discreditable methods now proposed cannot possibly obtain the slightest respect from any free or independent people, and I therefore propose to leave out "the 17th day of June" for the purpose of inserting "the 24th day of June," in order that we should have at least seven or eight Parliamentary days to deal with these matters of high importance, not only to us, but to the credit of Parliament, whose credit for fair play is at stake.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "17th" and insert "24th."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That '17th' stand part of the Question."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the observa- 1657 tions which have fallen from the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chance), and which have been founded principally upon the contention that the live days which will elapse between this and the 17th June are insufficient for the discussion of the remaining clauses of this Bill. That, Sir, was not the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair), who, with the great experience he brings to bear upon discussions in this House, thinks that five days are sufficient for the discussion of this Bill. And I am within the recollection of the House when I say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) expressed a view which was very similar in character although not precisely the same as that of the right hon. Gentleman. There are undoubtedly two or three questions of considerable importance to be considered by the Committee when it returns on Monday to the consideration of the Bill; but there must be a limit to the period which can be given to the consideration of these questions, however important, and having regard to the fact that these questions have been debated on the first reading of the Bill, on the second reading, and on the Motion, that you, Sir, do leave the Chair—having regard to the fact that the whole matter within the Bill has been debated over and over again, it does not seem to me that the Government are seeking too much from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway when they seek to put a limit to the discussion on these questions of five days more, especially when there must be another stage on which discussion can be taken; the stage of Report when you, Sir, will be in the Chair. I am lothe to appear to insist too strongly upon the Resolution I have submitted to the House, but after having given the fullest possible consideration to the question, after having weighed the importance of all questions which can be submitted to the House, I have come to the conclusion, with the assistance of those who are able to give an opinion on the subject, that five full days are at least ample for the consideration of any questions which can be raised upon the remaining clauses. Under these circumstances, I must oppose the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chance) has proposed.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I must say the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury does himself great injustice in not making longer speeches in the House. He always imports very great sincerity into everything he says; indeed, I feel persuaded that the right hon. Gentleman brings full conviction to bear upon any remarks he has to make. But, Sir, allow me to say that I do think the right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken in the position he assumes when he says that five full days are sufficient for the consideration of the remaining clauses of this Bill. Why are not five minutes sufficient? If her Majesty's Government take up the position that an end can be put to debate, why give us five days? They mean to accept no Amendment, and therefore, why not put the closure on at once? Why five days? That is the absurdity of their position. Why do not they take the advice of the gentlemen who write for The Times? These gentlemen have no conscience—why not take their advice? You appear to imagine that there is a sacramental period at which you can say everything is fully discussed. If you are infallible surely your infallibility might just as well prompt you to allow only two days or two minutes for the remaining clauses, as four days. Why not, like Desdemona, when she was pressing for a particular office for a gentleman with whom we are all acquainted, say on Wednesday? Once you assume that a particular time can be fixed for the conclusion of the discussion of any Bill, you forsake all the principles of debate. Now, let me point out how altogether hollow are the arguments in support of the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman. What is to prevent the gentlemen who write letters to The Times taking up the entire time to be allotted to us? Will the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) give us a written assurance that no one will speak on his side of the House? Is it not possible that Liberal Unionists will talk for the whole five days and not allow us to get a single word in? You seem to suppose a kind of truce of God; that we should assume hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House will be absolutely bound over to keep the peace during the next five days, and that we shall be allowed to romp round ourselves and absolutely exclude all 1659 Parliamentary discussion, so far as the Government supporters are concerned. If the Motion of the Government is adopted, effective debate will disappear, because the great Tory Party and the greater Liberal Unionist Party will be compelled to absolute silence. I do hope the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Courtney) will take note of the position taken up by Her Majesty's Government, and that during the next five days he will not allow one word to be uttered by any Gentleman who sits upon the Government side of the House or upon the Liberal Unionist Benches. It is to be understood, as I understand it, that the next five days are to be thought a sacred period of time, which we are to have for our own consumption. It is a healthy position to be taken up in the first Assembly of Gentlemen in Europe, the great Temple of Liberty that we hear so much, about, that the whole Government Party is to be excused from debate, and the discussion left to Irish rapperees. A healthy position for the English Government to assume in the latter part of the 19th century! I do hope we shall live to see the time when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) pungently pointed out, a Government in Office will measure out, like so many yards of tape, the opposition of some future Party to Church Disestablishment, or some other portion of the unauthorized programme, when, perhaps, those who have started that agenda—that is the mildest term I can use—will be denounced by those who are now preventing liberty of discussion. It seems to me Her Majesty's Government are taking up a very ill-advised course. I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) in his place. He was the man of all others who denounced the closure, and who only assented to it because he said he felt full confidence the veto of the Chair would be exercised to protect minorities. Now you have the first step in taking away the veto. This Motion really amounts to a Want of Confidence in the Chair. You will not allow our Amendments to be proposed with anything like adequate discussion. You take away the veto of the present Chairman of Committees, a Gentleman whom we regard with the utmost admiration. Although at times I have had occasion to differ from him, on the whole, I con- 1660 sider his conduct has been extremely fair towards us, considering we are a struggling Party. If you now admit that you can measure out like so many yards of tape the time of this House, when you come to some question of disestablishment, you may find a partizan Chairman in the Chair, and that the whole British liberties are at an end. You may have the English Land Question, the English Church Question, the Graduated Income Tax Question decided by this application of the closure. You think yourselves safe in the protection of the House of Lords; but it is just possible that at some future time you may not have a House of Lords to protect you. I ask the House to say that it is, on the whole, better that the criminal Irish—the assassins, cattle houghers, and scoundrels of Ireland—should have an additional 10 days' debate upon this Bill, rather than the fair fame of England should be tarnished by the restriction of debate. If you had not proposed this closure, if the feelings of hon. Members had not been irritated, if you had not held the sword of Damocles over our heads, as it were, it is possible that discussions in Committee might have been finished on Friday next. If we are to have the closure on Friday next, what will happen? Members will know they have until Friday, and some will insist upon considering at length one Amendment and others insist upon considering at length another Amendment. For the sake of shooting grouse on the 12th of August you will abridge the liberties of Irish Members. Is that a desirable thing? You can shoot grouse on the 19th of August, and they might be stronger on the wing by the 19th. For the sake of separating on a given day it is proposed to do a thing which will be remembered for all time. I must say that for a great and powerful nation like the English it is not worth while splitting straws with the Representatives of Ireland upon a question of this kind. I have often thought that even if with the Parliamentary Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman) you consider the Irish Members the scum of the swill tub of Ireland, it would be much wiser of you to adopt a more generous attitude towards the Irish Representatives. You cannot expect, when you mete out time to us in so rigid a manner, but that those who think they have been unjustly 1661 treated will kick against the goad. There are in this Bill matters of the greatest importance. I would ask the attention of the First Lord of the Treasury to this. For my part, I have no longer any care to talk about Amendments to this Bill, and if others are of the same way of thinking we might say to the Government—"If you have thoroughly made up your minds not to accept any Amendments from this side of the House, however reasonable they may be, let us know it at once—save us the pains and trouble of moving Amendments next week. Publish a programme as to what you are going to allow us." Here we have in this Bill a large number of the most important questions yet to consider, and yet they ask us to say, or to agree to the proposition, that a week is sufficient to dispose of these matters. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—if I may be allowed to say so—has been misled in this matter to a large extent by the Irish Office. I blame Lord Ashbourne, to a large extent, for the mischiefs that have arisen in this Bill. The Government in this House are misled by Lord Ashbourne and the Irish landlords. I see the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) laughing. When I refer to Lord Ashbourne I, of course, refer to the whole Irish landlord gang. Many Members of the Tory Party, I believe, were anxious to conciliate Ireland—I do not refer to the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, no doubt, enjoys his little position, such as it is, and will continue to do so as long as he has it; but I do not believe that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Ritchie), and men of their description, were anxious for this Bill. I believe that a number of the English Tory Party were anxious to have a fresh deal, but the Irish Office were too many for them. I say that the Irish landlords, knowing that they had the Unionists at their back, crammed into this Bill every vile form of coercion they could think of or that they could find in the pigeon-holes of Dublin Castle which may have been lying there for years. I say it is they who are responsible for obstruction and for the wasting of the time of this House. I say that it is the Irish landlord party who are re- 1662 sponsible—and one of the principal amongst them is the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), for he is an Irish landlord, or, at any rate, he very soon will be. These are the persons who try and delude the English people about the "glory of the Empire," the "maintenance of the Union," "law and order," and stuff and nonsense of that kind. They talk about these things with their tongues in their cheeks——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but I must point out to him that he is wandering from the subject before the House, which is, whether the date at which the Committee stage shall cease shall be the 17th or 24th instant.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I fully recognize, Mr. Speaker, that you have given me great latitude, and that I was, perhaps, wandering. I would only say, in finishing my remarks, recognizing the justice of your correction, that everybody who lives in Ireland well knows that there is no justification whatever for this Bill and for asking us to spend even another week in discussing the provisions of this Bill. The Government already have obtained all the powers they can possibly want. They have secured the secret inquisition; they have secured the summary jurisdiction; they have secured the special jury and the change of venue. Surely that is enough for them. Is it reasonable to ask us to continues these discussions? Let it come to an end. Speaking as one who spends his time in Ireland, whose fortunes are bound up with those of the poorest of his countrymen—for that is the class to which I belong—I declare it to be a monstrous libel on the Irish peasantry, on the part of the landlord class, to say that they are a bloodthirsty race. They are nothing of the kind. They are as kindly and well-intentioned a race as there is on earth. To say that they are cruel and bloodthirsty is an atrocious libel, and it is for that reason, to a great extent, that we have resisted this Bill in the spirit in which we have resisted it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 268; Noes 113: Majority 115.—(Div. List, No. 216.)1663
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am very sorry, Sir, to intervene; but as I understand that the Amendment about to be proposed is not material, I hope the hon. Member will not persist in it, but will allow the Question to be now put. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of proposing an Amendment to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. I am bound to say I think it would have been a great deal more courteous on the part of the right hon. Gentleman if he had waited to hear what I was going to propose before rising to make his suggestion. It appears that the practice of closure has now arrived at such a point of perfection that it is not even necessary to hear what is to be said for a proposal before closing the debate upon it. I think the right hon. Gentleman might, at least, have listened to what I was going to propose. The Amendment I propose is in line 3 of the Resolution—that the word "shall" be omitted, in order to insert in its place the words "may, if he thinks fit, having regard to the Rule of Clôture of the 18th of March, 1887." The Resolution, as it stands at the present time, makes it obligatory on the Chairman to put the Question when a Motion to that effect is made. At present under the Rule of Cloture which I propose in my Amendment shall be observed when a Motion is made "That the Question be now put "it is left to the discretion of the Chairman to say whether, in his opinion, it is proper and advisable that the Question be put. According to the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury the Chair has no option at all, but is bound to put the Question when it is proposed from the Treasury Bench. I think, Sir, that it would tend a great deal more to the proper and swift conduct of debate in this House if the closing of debate were left, as at present, to the Chair. There is nothing, to my mind, more clear than that the occupants of the Treasury Bench are, at certain times, goaded on 1664 by the cheers and the cries of their followers into moving, without due reason, that the Question be put. In that way many debates have been, and a great many debates may be, closed in an unsatisfactory manner, before the subjects have been at all exhausted. I cannot understand the new-born suspicion and distrust which this Resolution appears to show has suddenly sprung up in the mind of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the discretionary exercise of the vetoing powers of the Chair. I think that the public outside will come to the conclusion that this summary dismissal of the right of the Chairman to say when a debate shall be closed will be traced to the fact that, in the course of the discussion upon the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, the Chairman of Committees considered it his duty on several occasions to refuse the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to close the debate. It certainly is a remarkable fact that when, in March last, the Rules of Clôture were introduced, hon. Gentlemen opposite strongly supported giving to the Chair the right of giving or withholding sanction to the closing of debate, and that we find that the very Gentlemen who supported the proposal to give to the Chairman the right of vetoing closure of debate are now, in a most sudden and summary manner, without any apparent reason, going to deprive the Chair of that right. I do not think the First Lord of the Treasury has any right at all to come down and suddenly, without any Notice, ask us to withdraw that power which in March last he gave to the Chairman of Committees and to yourself. I do not see, Sir, how it can possibly tend towards a more satisfactory conduct of the Business of this House that, instead of allowing the Chairman to exercise his discretion in the closing of debate, that the power should be now vested, for the first time in the history of this House, in a bare majority of the Members of the House. I do not think that it will be denied that there are occasions when, upon both sides of the House, Party feeling and excitement runs high, and I have no doubt that if this Resolution is adopted in its entirety, and my Amendment is not accepted, that the result will be that occasions will arise when, in moments of great excitement, Her Majesty's Go- 1665 vernment will be prompted and goaded on by their followers unduly to propose the closing of an important debate, and that after that has happened, in cooler moments, when it becomes apparent that the closing of debate is unjustifiable and unwarrantable, and that the matter under discussion was not fully gone into, both the Government and Members of the House, as well as the general public outside, will be very sorry indeed that they sanctioned this Resolution taking away from the Chair the right of deciding whether the discussion has gone far enough, and vesting that right in a majority of the Members of this House. I do not think, Sir, that it is necessary to say anything more on the subject; but I may say this, in conclusion, that to my mind hon. Members who vote against my Amendment to leave still in the hands of the Chair the right of deciding when a discussion shall be closed will be, to all intents and purposes, giving expression to an amount of distrust in the discretion of the Chair which is altogether unwarrantable. All that we ask is that in moments of excitement the decision as to the closing of a debate shall rest in the discretion of the Chair instead of a crude majority of the House. That is a most reasonable proposal, and is not one which should have been met on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury by a proposal to cloture it before it was supported by argument. I think it is a reasonable and fair subject for discussion whether the closure of debate should be left to a bare majority, or whether it should be left, as it is now, to the discretion of the Chair? I sincerely hope that hon. Members will not vote against this very fair proposal.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 3, to leave out the word "shall," and insert the words "may, if he thinks fit, having regard to the Rule of Closure of the 18th March, 1887."—(Mr. William Redmond.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'shall' stand part of the Question "
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am unable to accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, and, in saying so, I am sure the House will understand that I do not in the slightest degree express any want of confidence in, or any disrespect towards, 1666 the Chairman of Committees. I nave no doubt whatever, in my own mind, that the great majority of the House are fully aware that that is a statement which hag been fully borne out, and that the Chairman himself will be prepared to endorse it. This Resolution is not based upon any precedent, and it would be altogether inconsistent with the object we have in view to accept the proposed Amendment. We are obliged to adhere to the precise form of the Resolution.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I think it will to some extent tend to shorten the proceedings if I state to the House that the Amendment I handed in, which bears some resemblance to that now before the House. I shall forego, offering whatever remarks I may have to make upon this Amendment. The Amendment I had to propose dealt with the Rules of the House and with the rights of minorities. The present Amendment, however, will afford me an opportunity of expressing my views as to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. The Amendment of the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. William Redmond) is designed with a view of preserving to the Chair that power which the former Rules of this House placed in the hands of the Chair. We have heard it stated in the course of the discussion on previous Amendments how when, in former times, previous Governments thought it necessary to take out of the hands of the House the right of unlimited discussion which it bad enjoyed up to that time—we have heard it stated how those Governments acted. I will not weary the House by repeating the statements of right hon. Gentlemen who now occupy the front Government Bench, when a few short weeks ago in proposing the new Rules of Procedure, they expressed their desire to preserve the Rules of the House and the rights of minorities. Now, Sir, according to the Rules existing up to the present moment, it is necessary to declare Urgency for any particular proposal before actually closing the debate. That Rule was embodied in the Resolution that was passed in February, 1881, and which stated in placing the power in the hands of the Chair that—The powers of the House for the regulation of its Business upon the several stages of Bills, and upon Motions and other matters shall be 1667 and remain with the Speaker, until the Speaker shall declare that the state of Public Business is no longer urgent, or until the House shall so determine upon a Motion which, after Notice given, may be made by any Member put without Amendment, Adjournment or Debate, and decided by a majority.Such was the respect in which the Rules of this House wore held, and such the respect for the liberty of speech enjoyed by Members of this House on the part of former Ministers, that they found it necessary to protect it by a special provision in the Resolution, which up to the present time has governed the debates of this House. But not only did former Ministries take good care to place the protection of liberty of speech in your hands, Sir, but they also provided that before the House should surrender its right and liberty a majority of three-fourths of the Members should be in favour of it. Now, however, we have a proposal before us which abolishes all that. Now, liberty of speech is to be abandoned by a bare majority of this House, without the protection of the Chair and without that protection that would be afforded by making it necessary that the abandonment should have the support of a majority of three-fourths of the House. Thus I find that the last vestige of protection for hon. Members in this House and for their right of liberty of speech, and the last vestige of the protection of minorities in the exercise of their liberty, will be swept away by this drastic Resolution or Rule of Procedure, moved by the First Lord of the Treasury. Now, the first time this Rule was proposed in 1881, the House had before it a state of things that does not exist at the present time. At that time there was real, downright obstruction. There was obstruction not only to one single measure such as may exist at the present time to a very limited extent, if at all, but at that time there was obstruction to every measure proposed by the Government—active obstruction by a small and efficient Party in this House. Nevertheless, so much did this former Government respect liberty of speech, that they protected it by this special Rule, and the necessity for this large majority. I will read what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when he asked the House of Commons to pass the Resolution, a portion of which I 1668 have just read. The right hon. Gentleman said—What is the meaning of the language that we hear about the liberties of speech? The liberties of speech! Liberty as to the quality of speech—Yes! Let none endeavour—unless under necessity, which we have never had, and are not likely to have, the faintest glimmer—lot none endeavour to narrow the liberal bounds that surround us in that respect. And as to quantity of speech, it must be regulated, not by the fancies of men, but by the necessities of the case, and in accordance with the discharge of the duties which we are sent here to discharge."—(3 Hansard,  91.)Such was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian when he found it necessary to propose that Resolution, or Rule of Procedure, which has governed the discussions of this House from that day to this. How about the minorities in this House? They have always, up to the present time, looked to the Chair for protection; but, for the first time in the history of this Institution, they will now find themselves unprotected by any Rule of this House—unprotected by the wisdom of the Chair, and unprotected by that confidence which minorities in this House have always reposed in the Chair. I contend that Her Majesty's Government, in their present proposition, not only do not remain still, but that they are actually performing an act of retrogression by abandoning those rights and liberties and privileges which, up to the present, minorities have enjoyed in this House. I will ask Her Majesty's Government just to hear what was said at the time of which I speak—when this former Resolution was passed—by an hon. Member of this House, one who has since passed away—namely, the late Earl of Iddesleigh, then Sir Stafford Northcote. He, at that time, took great interest in the Rules that were then proposed, and his opinion was very crucially expressed as to the right of liberty of speech and as to the privileges of the minority. He said—We must be prepared, if we are to give expression to the opinions of all classes in this country—if we are to be a Representative Body of all classes of the country and the great bulk of the nation, and of those classes who are not directly represented here, but are indirectly represented, and who look to us to plead for their interests—I say we must be prepared to insist, and should not be doing our duty if we did not insist, on retaining those things more than mere forms, which are the substance of the 1669 dignity and honour of Parliament, and which really give life and vigour to our proceedings.Further on, he said—I do feel it most important not to adopt any measure or any Rules which would place the Party for the time being in a minority at the mercy, not of the Whole House, but of the Party of the majority."—(3 Hansard,  105.)Now, Sir, that is exactly what is sought by the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. It will not only place minorities at the mercy of the Whole House, but it will place them at the mercy of the majority of any Party. Sir, I say that this is a most unprecedented and tyrannical proposition. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury stated truly in what light we would consider this proposition. He stated that, no doubt, it would be called tyrannical and oppressive. Tyrannical and oppressive it is to the last degree. In proposing this extreme Motion, the First Lord of the Treasury said he did so in accordance with public opinion. Yes, Sir; it is in accordance with manufactured public opinion—public opinion manufactured by speeches outside from Members of Her Majesty's Government, public opinion manufactured by newspapers in the interests of Her Majesty's Government. These newspapers do not scruple at misrepresentation; but they hold up the action of certain Members of this House as calculated to obstruct the Business of the nation when, in reality, those Members are only pleading in the cause of the liberties of their own country. We have been accused by the First Lord of the Treasury of paralyzing Parliament. I deny that emphatically. Take the history of the discussion upon the 1st clause of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill. What was the effect of the discussion upon that clause? Why the clause swelled from a clause of comparatively few lines into a very large and comprehensive clause. I maintain, Sir, that the discussions upon the Coercion Bill cannot by any stretch of imagination be stigmatized as obstructive discussions. The idea only exists in the fancy of the Government. But even if the discussions have been to a certain extent obstructive, there is every reason why they should be so. Why should we be anxious to pass into law rapidly a Bill which strikes 1670 at the liberties of our people? Why, at the risk of being considered obstructive, I would——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is not dealing with the specific Amendment before the House, but with the whole subject of the closure.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
I was under the impression that the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond) moved dealt with the removal from the Chair of the power of regulating the discussions.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman's Amendment is to restore to the Chairman the discretion which is taken away by the Resolution.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
I was referring to the Rule which has governed the House up to the present time and was endeavouring to draw a contrast between the effect of the proposed Rule as compared with the Rule which has governed the discussions of the House and the Committee of the House up to the present time. However, Sir, I shall not proceed further in that line. I can only express my regret that the First Lord of the Treasury found it necessary to introduce this Rule at all, and I also desire to express my regret that he should so far—I hope it will not be too strong a term to use—misrepresented the action of those Members on this side of the House who have endeavoured to amend the Crimes Bill, as to call their proceedings obstructive. I must also express my regret that the First Lord of the Treasury should have appealed to this, a free Parliament—should have appealed to a free people in the name of liberty to press the Rule he has now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman was not above using the sacred name of Liberty when he failed by fact or argument to establish a case for the passing of the Rule; he appealed to this House to pass the Rule in the name of Liberty. It is not the first time the name of Liberty has been appealed to in the cause of oppression, and this Rule is for the purpose——
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Mr. Speaker, I think I am justified in claiming to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 258; Noes 91: Majority 167.—(Div. List, No. 217.)
§ [1.10 A.M.]
§ Question put, "That the word 'shall' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided;—Ayes 255; Noes 94: Majority 161.—(Div. List, No. 218.)
§ [1.25 A.M.]
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Main Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 91: Majority 159.—(Div. List, No. 219.)
§ [1.40 A.M.]
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 93: Majority 152.—(Div. List, No. 220.)
§ [1.55 A.M.]1673
|Addison, J. E. W.||Burghley, Lord|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Caine, W. S.|
|Allsopp, hon. G.||Caldwell, J.|
|Allsopp, hon. P.||Campbell, R. F. F.|
|Ambrose, W.||Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Chaplin, right hon. H.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Charrington, S.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Coghill, D. H.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.|
|Band, J. G. A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Compton, F|
|Balfour, G. W.||Cooke, C. W. R.|
|Baring, Viscount||Corbett, A. C.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Baumann, A. A.||Cross, H. S.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Crossley, Sir S. B.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Curzon, Viscount|
|Beckett, E. W.||Curzon, hon. G. N.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. C.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Bereaford, Lord C. W.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|De la Poer||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Dimsdale, Baron R.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.|
|Bigwood, J.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Duncan, Colonel F.|
|Blundell, Col. H. B. H.||Duncombe, A.|
|Bond, G. H.||Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Edwards-Moss, T. C.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Egerton, hon. A. J. F.|
|Egerton, hon. A. de T.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Elcho, Lord|
|Brooks, Sir W. C.||Elliot, Sir G.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Elliot, hon. H. F. H.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Ellis, Sir J. W.||Isaacson, F. W.|
|Elton, C. I.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Ewing, Sir A. O.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Farquharson, H. R.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Feilden, Lieut.-Gen. R. J.||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Kenyon - Slaney, Col. W.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Kerans, F. H.|
|Finch, G. H.||Kimber, H.|
|Fisher, W. H.||King, H. S.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.||King - Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.|
|Fitz-Wygram, General Sir F. W.||Knowles, L,|
|Fletcher, Sir H.||Lafone, A.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount||Lambert, C.|
|Lawrance, J. C.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||Lees, E.|
|Fry, L.||Leighton, S.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Lethbridge, Sir R.|
|Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Gent-Davis, R.||Long, W. H.|
|Gibson, J. G.||Low, M.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Lowther, hon. W.|
|Godson, A. F.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Goldsmid, Sir J.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Maclure, J. W.|
|Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Mallock, R.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||March, Earl of|
|Gray, C. W.||Marriott, right hon. W. T.|
|Green, Sir E.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Grove, Sir T. F.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Gunter, Colonel R.||Mayne, Admiral R. C.|
|Hall, A. W.||Mildmay, F. B.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.||Milvain, T.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Mount, W. G.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Mulholland, H. L.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Muntz, P. A.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Murdoch, C. T.|
|Hastings, G. W.||Newark, Viscount|
|Heath, A. E,||Noble, W.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Norris, E. S.|
|Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Norton, R.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Parker, hon. F.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Pearce, W.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Plunket, right hon. D. R.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.|
|Hoare, S.||Plunkett, hon. J. W.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Powell, F. S.|
|Holland, rt. hon. Sir H. T.||Price, Captain G. E.|
|Puleston, J. H.|
|Holloway, G.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C|
|Holmes, rt. hon. H.||Rankin, J.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Houldsworth, W. H.||Reed, H. B.|
|Howard, J.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Hubbard, E.||Robinson, B.|
|Hulse, E. H.||Rollit, Sir A. K.|
|Round, J.||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Royden, T. B.||Vincent, C. E. H.|
|Russell, Sir G.||Watson, J.|
|Russell, T. W.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|St. Aubyn, Sir J.||Webster, R. G.|
|Sellar, A. C.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Sidebottom, T. H.||White, J. B.|
|Sinclair, W. P.||Whitley, E.|
|Smith, rt. hon. W. H.||Whitmore, C. A.|
|Spencer, J. E.||Wilson, Sir S.|
|Stanhope, rt. hon. E.||Winn, hon. R.|
|Stanley, E. J.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Stewart, M.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Talbot, J. G.||Wood, N.|
|Tapling, T. K.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Taylor, F.||Wright, H. S.|
|Temple, Sir R.||Wroughton, P.|
|Thorburn, W.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Tollemache, H. J.|
|Tomlinson, W. E. H.||TELLERS,|
|Townsend, F.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Tyler, Sir H. W.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||M'Cartan, M.|
|Acland, C. T. D.||M'Carthy, J. H.|
|Allison, R. A.||M'Donald, P.|
|Blane, A.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Bright, Jacob||M'Lagan, P.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Mayne, T.|
|Burt, T.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Byrne, G. M.||Nolan, J.|
|Campbell, H.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Carew, J. L.||O'Brien, P.|
|Chance, P. A.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Channing, F. A.||O'Connor, A.|
|Clancy, J. J.||O'Connor, J. (Kerry)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||O'Connor, J.(Tippry.)|
|Cobb, H. P.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Commins, A.||O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Connolly, L.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Conway, M.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.||Pease, A. E.|
|Cossham, H.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Crilly, D.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Deasy, J.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Dillon, J.||Power, P. J.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Power, R.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.||Quinn, T.|
|Fenwick, C.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Finucane, J.||Reynolds, W. J.|
|Foley, P. J.||Roberts, J. B.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Rowlands, J.|
|Gill, T. P.||Rowntree, J.|
|Gray, E. D.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Grey, Sir E.||Sexton, T.|
|Harrington, E.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Harrington, T. C.||Stack, J.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Stuart, J.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Sullivan, D.|
|Healy, M.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Healy, T. M.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Hooper, J.||Tuite, J.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Will, J. S.|
|Kenny, J. E.||Williams, A. J.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Williamson, J.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Lawson, H. L. W.|
|Lewis, T. P.||TELLERS.|
|Macdonald, W. A.||Biggar, J. G.|
|MacNeill, J. G. S.||Sheil, E.|
§ Ordered, That, at Ten o'clock p.m. on Friday the 17th day of June, if the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill be not previously reported from the Committee of the Whole House, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question or Questions on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair. He shall next proceed and successively put forthwith the Questions, That any Clause then under consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill, stand part of the Bill, unless Progress be moved as hereinafter provided. After the Clauses are disposed of, he shall forthwith report the Bill, as amended, to the House.
§ From and after the passing of this Order, no Motion That the Chairman do leave the Chair, or do report Progress, shall be allowed, unless moved by one of the Members in charge of the Bill, and the Question on such Motion shall be put forthwith.
§ If Progress be reported on the 17th June, the Chairman shall put this Order in force in any subsequent sitting of the Committee.