§ *(4.25.) MR. BARTON (Armagh, Mid.) (who wore the Court Dress of an Irish Queen's Counsel, but without wig and gown)
I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. In submitting the Motion, I cannot pretend to have any doubt as to the manner in which it will be received by those who claim to have achieved a Party majority at the recent General Election. We know that the Motion will not he received by the Opposition in the usual terms of formal compliment; on the contrary, it is to be met, as we have been made aware, by an Amendment to be proposed by two of the most distinguished and respected of hon. Members opposite, embodying a Vote of Censure on the Government, and a demand for their immediate dismissal from Office. I do not in the least complain of the proposed action of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, I venture to think, will find Her Majesty's Government ready to meet the attack and to await the judgment of the House. I shall still less 83 complain if they take the opportunity, as, I assume, they are prepared to do, of explaining to the House those benefits which the Party opposite are prepared to confer upon the country if placed in power. I think I may, under these exceptional circumstances, claim the special indulgence of the House while for a very brief period I stand between the House and the development of that attack, to which all Members look forward with such curiosity and interest. I cannot, under the circumstances, avoid all controversial matters, but it will be my duty, as Mover of the Address to Her Majesty, to observe the due limits of moderation, and to have regard to the general sentiments of the House. It has been said in some quarters that Her Majesty's Government ought immediately on the close of the General Election to have tendered their resignation without waiting for Debate and Division. It is not for me, though I approve of it, to justify the course Her Majesty's Ministers have taken, and I do not presume to do so; but I cannot help connecting with this suggestion reliable rumours which reach us through the same channel which suggest that while we on this side of the House approach this discussion with calmness and confidence there is not in other quarters that eagerness to develop and prolong discussion which we might expect from a triumphant majority. Such a strange and unusual situation requires explanation, and if I may venture without exceeding the limits of my task to offer an explanation, I think it is this—that there is in the breast of every hon. Member a still small voice which tells him, whether he likes it or not, that the result of the General Election is ineffective for any great legislative change, that it cannot have any permanent results, and that its mandate, if mandate there is, is confused and indistinct. Surely, then, it is fortunate that this Debate gives an opportunity to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which should be eagerly and fully availed of by them, to clear up this confusion, to interpret the mandate, and before the House and the country to defend and justify their interpretation. In spite of the threatened attack upon the 84 Government, which, we are informed, is about to open, it is fortunate that there are some subjects referring to which in the discharge of my present duty it is a great satisfaction to me to know that I shall carry with me the unanimous concurrence of all Members in the House. For it must be matter of general congratulation that Her Majesty's relations with foreign Powers continue to be of a friendly character, and that satisfaction is not diminished when we remember that this state of affairs is the sequel and continuation of a long period of repose, during which Her Majesty's subjects have, to an almost unexampled degree, enjoyed the priceless blessings of peace. I think it will not be denied that the great Naval and Military Services are at this moment in a state of order and efficiency, which has not for many years, if it has ever, been surpassed or even equalled. I think also I may say for every Member of the House that we rejoice in the continuance of honourable and happy relations between this country and the Colonies, and the strengthening of the ties which bind them to the Mother Country. I cannot expect so large a measure of assent when I suggest that the other great Departments of the State are in an eminently satisfactory condition. I may, however, rely on the fact that there has been a singular lack of serious or detailed criticism of those Departments by the responsible Leaders of the Opposition, even in the stress and excitement of the General Election. No—it was not so much upon criticism of what present Ministers had performed that their opponents relied, as upon boundless promises of those still better things which they, as expectant successors, were prepared to carry out. I am precluded, by the conditions of the peculiar position in which I am speaking, from any analysis or comparison of those wonderful predictions. But I may, perhaps, remembering the multiplicity and variety of the promises that have been made by hon. Members opposite, be permitted to say that those sanguine prophets will be indeed fortunate if, at the end of the term of Office which they anticipate, be it short or long, they can point to a record equally successful, to the same freedom 85 from criticism and the same absence of disappointment on the score of broken pledges and promises which, as one of their humble supporters, I claim on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. But while I cannot enter upon this discussion, I can at least appeal to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment as to the opinion, which they are so well qualified to form, as to the prospect of the realisation of all or any of those promises, on the strength of which so many victories were won. I appeal to the Seconder of the Amendment (Mr. Burt), who enjoys so large a measure of the respect and attention of this House, for Ins views on this subject. I remember that last Session, as a new Member, I had the pleasure of listening to his most clear and candid speech on the Eight Hours Bill for Miners, and that I gave my vote in unison with his arguments, which, resting on the principle of the protection of minorities, were to me unanswerable. I trust, therefore, that he will pardon me if I appeal to him with reference to those matters, which are regarded with an almost feverish interest by those classes which he so well and worthily represents, to tell the House what are the measures, for the sake of the speedy settlement of which he proposes to turn out Her Majesty's Government. I trust I may appeal, too, in a similar spirit to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) who will move the Amendment with reference to a subject which to me and my constituents is a matter of the deepest interest. The hon. and learned Member has often asked for light as to the leading principles and features which are to be embodied and reconciled in that Home Rule measure, for which some, though not all of our opponents, propose the foremost place. If that light has been vouchsafed to him, may we not ask him to "lighten our darkness"? And if his prayer has not been answered, may we not appeal to him to join with us in asking those, who must have these matters clearly in their minds, to disclose even now, at the eleventh hour, to Parliament and to the country those matters which so deeply concern the interests of the Empire? It is very easy to laugh at 86 such requests as these, but I do ask, in all seriousness, whether it is for the benefit of Great Britain and Ireland that the many months of the Recess that must elapse before Parliament reassembles should, for the purpose of this great argument, be wasted on hypothetical and, therefore, barren discussion? I feel that I must not pursue this subject further; but I may, at least, point out that even from a numerical point of view the lessons of this Election are not all on the side of the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. I hope it is a matter upon which the Government may be fairly congratulated by all Members of this House that after its six years of administration it has received renewed expressions of confidence from the majority of the electors of Great Britain. While I should be the last to admit that an Irishman has less right to the value of his vote than any Englishman or Scotchman, I do say that the circumstance that Great Britain has declared its confidence in Her Majesty's Government has a serious bearing upon this Motion and Amendment; because it has been suggested—not from this side of the House, but front quarters closely associated with the Opposition—that the fact to which I have alluded throws a serious difficulty in the way of any effective legislation upon this great question. I feel sure I may be permitted, as it will not be a question of controversy, to quote a few words from a periodical, a new and successful periodical, which is conducted by one of the most distinguished Members of this House, and of whom I may be permitted to say, as a fellow-countryman, that he is one of the most picturesque writers among our leading journalists of to-day. In the Sunday Sun, on the 4th May, the writer, after contrasting the probability of a majority of a hundred with the possibility of a majority of thirty, used the following words, which I am inclined to adopt:—A majority of thirty would mean that the people of Great Britain were against Home Rule, and it is ridiculous to suppose that we can carry a measure against which the British majority is declared.Lest it might be thought that I am mentioning a matter upon which there has been any serious disagreement, I 87 may, perhaps, be permitted to quote from the Independent, the organ of the extreme section of the Irish Nationalist Party after the Election, on 18th July, this singular sentence—He (the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition) has no more power to pass a measure granting Home Rule to Ireland than he has of establishing waterworks in the moon.For my own part, I cannot on this occasion do more than call attention to the fact that the great majority of the electors of Great Britain have declared against any measure of Home Rule whatever; that the minority in Ireland have also declared against it with renewed and increased emphasis at those great and representative Conventions lately held in Belfast and in Dublin—Conventions composed of all classes and creeds in Ireland, and Conventions which have, as I believe, left a deep impression on the minds and consciences of men of all Parties throughout the three Kingdoms. I am prevented from entering more fully into a subject of such tremendous interest to myself and to those whom I represent; but I may surely say this—that whatever attempts were at first made to ridicule or minimise the importance of those solemn protests, their sincerity and reality have received practical woof and confirmation from the increased Unionist majority at the elections which followed so closely upon them, and which at once changed the balance of the representation of Ulster on the Home Rule question. The Home Rile question, if it is to defeat this Motion, therefore stands thus—the majority of the voters of Great Britain have declared against the introduction of any such Bill; a powerful and of determined minority of the voters in Ireland have declared that they will never submit to a Home Rule Parliament, if one be attempted; and we have these additional declarations from leading organs of both sections of the Nationalist Party that under the existing circumstances it is practically impossible to carry any such proposals through Parliament. I may say one more word with reference to Ireland, and I feel that what I say in this connection will meet with universal acceptance. 88 It is that we all rejoice at the social tranquillity and absence of crime which now prevail in that country. Upon the causes which have produced that I may not argue in my present position, although I hold my own opinion on that subject strongly and confidently. I may, however, give expression to the hope, though for myself it is hoping against hope, that whatever change of Government or of policy there may be, no principles or policy will be introduced which can in any degree, however remote, lead to the renewal of social strife or disorder in Ireland. There is one topic I will conclude with, and in this respect I have no fear of exciting Party feeling. I am sure that every Member of the House, whatever change of Party there may be, will desire that those useful influences, which are at work in Ireland as the result of the legislation of the present Government, should be permitted to continue and be further developed. I refer especially to the Education Bill, which I trust will open to the humblest classes of Ireland that career for which their natural gifts so eminently fit them. I refer also to the Land Purchase Act, which, in the opinion of many of us, tends, by increasing the number of occupying owners of land, to widen the basis of property and order, to remove the ancient motives to agrarian crime, and to encourage thrift and industry among the people. And last, but not least, I refer to those efforts, which I can claim have been successful, to develop the backward and afflicted parts of the country, and to bring them into easier and closer communication with the centres of commerce and of wealth. In this I feel sure everyone will agree with me. I sincerely thank the House for the forbearance with which it has listened to me. I feel that hon. Members will at least credit me with this—that I have exercised self-restraint, and have endeavoured to submit the question with due regard for the traditions of the House. And I feel sure that everyone will join with me in the hope that no change of policy will allow those influences to which I have referred, to cease, but, on the contrary, that they may meet their fulfilment and bear their fruit in the increased 89 prosperity and happiness of the people of Ireland. I beg to move, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth—
'MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.'"—(Mr. Barton.)
§ *(4.45.) MR. WILLIAM H. CROSS(who wore a Court dress) (Liverpool, West Derby)
I hope, on one ground at all events, that I may claim the indulgence of the House, rising, as I do, to second the Motion so ably made by my hon. and learned Friend. My claim is that in past Sessions of this House I have rarely intruded in the Debates; therefore I am, at all events, free from the reproach of having wasted the time of the House. Another reason is that, in seconding this Motion, I am confronted by one or two difficulties. The first is that tradition binds me to avoid controversial matter, and this at a time when the air is full of controversy, when we are fresh from a hotly-contested Election, when we are entering upon a bitter Party fight, and when we are looking forward in the next Session to a contest such as even the most experienced veteran in this House may not remember in his whole career. My second difficulty is this: Since I was invited to perform this duty a dismal thought has occurred to me. Recalling the names of my hon. Friends who in past years have discharged this duty, I remember the names of Mr. Milvain, Mr. Hermon-Hodge, Mr. Forrest Fulton, and Sir John Colomb. All these Gentlemen, who were, I believe, deservedly most popular in the House, are absent to-day. The thought that has occurred to me is this—that if these men, so popular and able, could not resist the fate that awaited them at the Election we have just passed through, surely the omen is unhappy for my learned Friend and myself. But on our behalf, 90 I say, may the gods avert the omen! On one ground, however, we may take courage, and it is this. My hon. and learned Friend represents that extraordinary accession of strength to the Unionist ranks in Ireland, that growing feeling which seems to have been the most striking feature of the whole Election; and I, for my own part, claim to be the Representative of a great mercantile and industrial community; and I do claim, on behalf of Liverpool, that her voice in the last Election was given with a decision and an emphasis second only to that wonderful demonstration the City of Birmingham has given. Therefore, so long as political issues remain as at present, my hon. and learned Friend and I take courage, and we hope that the omen may pass from us. If I may turn for one moment to the terms of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, there is one paragraph which, at least, we shall all receive, on both sides of the House, with the most hearty welcome. I mean that which states that Parliament should not be asked to sit for the transaction of business this Session. I believe we are only here for a limited purpose, and that it is the unanimous wish of all Parties in the House that we should bring this present Session to a close, and arm ourselves during the Vacation for the great fight that is now before us. From that I pass to the third and concluding paragraph of the Speech, and we, at least, on this side of the House, will welcome that emphatic expression which sets, as it were, the official seal of Her Majesty's approval on the policy which our Government has initiated and adopted during the past six years, and which we, as their supporters, have enabled them to carry out. While endeavouring to avoid controversial matters, I cannot pass over this paragraph without referring to one or two points in which I think the legislation of the Government has emphatically been such as will meet with the approval even of its most determined opponents on the other side. There are, in my opinion, four measures which stand out in the Government record as measures of first-class importance. I would place first that Act which was passed in 1888, and which laid the foundation of the 91 policy of County Government in England and Wales. Here, again, we all regret that the author of the measure is not among us to-day. I express the unanimous feeling of this side when I express that regret, and I am sure his absence is personally regretted on the other side. What adds an even more bitter pang to the defeat of Mr. Ritchie is that he, who is the father of the London County Council, received the blow at the hand of a London constituency, one of his own children. I hope he will be again among us before long, but whether he is or not, his great work will survive, and he will have the proud distinction of being the author of that Act which has worked so smoothly, and worked a great Constitutional change in county government with so little friction, and with the assent of all classes of the community. I might mention also another leading point of the Government action—the re-construction of our Navy, and no one will object to our paying an increased premium on our increased trade. Then we can all recognise the skill and success with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer effected the conversion of the National Debt. Lastly, I will mention the grant of free education to all the children in our National schools. There were those on this side who doubted the expediency of that, but there is no Member who failed to recognise the fair spirit which animated the Bill, the care taken to avoid injury to any of the interests concerned in the Bill, and the financial skill which enabled us to take that burden on our shoulders without raising a penny more of taxation. We are prepared to go on, as we are invited to do in the Speech, in the path of useful social legislation; but unfortunately there is more than one way before us, and when we come to decide which is the path of useful social legislation the controversy begins, the distinction of Parties is before us. On the other side we are told there must first of all be radical changes in the Constitution before anything can be done—that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is to be split into two or more Parliaments—that there must be an alteration of the franchise, and that Members must 92 be paid for their services. On the other hand, there are some who think that Home Rule must come first, and who will give no quarter on that subject. On this side we take a totally different view. We do not propose any Constitutional change. We propose to take the weapons that we find ready to our hands, and make such good use of them as we have done in the past. We are prepared to go on in Ireland with the great scheme of local self-government which is before us. I think we might at once make some progress with the reform of the Poor Law, and it might be done without any opposition from either side. Further, we might attempt some scheme of national insurance, and amend the Employers Liability Act, so as to give the working men greater security, and yet to be perfectly just to the employers. We shall have the question of labour before us when the Commissions on Railway Hours and Labour report to us. I hope those Reports will contain some recommendations for the peaceful settlement of labour disputes which will put an end to the costly warfare of strikes. I am conscious that the Commissions must report much sooner than is expected, or this Parliament must last longer than is expected if they are to be dealt with by the present Parliament. These are a few of the items in our programme which I point to as useful social legislation. That is the path I should be prepared to follow if we remained in Office, but I am afraid there is no prospect of that. We frankly recognise that the Queen's Speech is not on this occasion a practical programme Speech. I recognise that the electors have voted for a change, and the Government are prepared to accept cheerfully the verdict. I think I may say that they can look back on their record with pride, and if any Government can claim a record of useful and beneficent legislation it is the Government at whose last hours we have now arrived. There are sonic cases when the beaten party has, perhaps, more reason to be pleased at the result of the strife than the so-called victors. If I had to write the epitaph of the Government I should say it had performed its promises, and had not promised what it knew it could 93 not perform. I recognise at once that the motive power of this Session must come from the other side, and we on this side have only a languid curiosity as to who is to strike the fatal blow, and what is the weapon he is going to use. We are told in the newspapers that the blow is to be struck by the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). That hon. and learned Member is distinguished by ability and eloquence, but his special characteristic during the past few years has been a thirst for knowledge, a spirit of inquiry, an anxiety as to details. If we can get any indication from the selection of that hon. and learned Gentleman, I think I can interpret it. If it had been the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) who had been chosen we should have known that Home Rule was relegated to a second, third, or even fourth place in the programme. Had either Leader of the Irish Parties been selected we should have known that it was in the foreground, and should have known something of the nature of the Home Rule about to be proposed. If it had been the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Maden) we should have known accurately the character of the Home Rule Bill. We should have known that gas, water, and electricity were the leading features of it. The hon. and learned Member for East Fife has been selected. I believe that spirit of desire for knowledge still animates him, and I hope it will continue to do so. I believe his thirst for knowledge is shared by this side and by nearly all on that side, not even excluding the Front Opposition Bench. I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman good luck and a prosperous end to his inquiries. May he receive his answer to-day, and may it be such as will enlighten the constituencies as to what is about to happen. I thank the House for so courteously hearing me, and, in conclusion, second the Motion for an Address to the Crown in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c." [See page 89.]
§ *(5.5.) MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I rise, Sir, to move an Amendment to the proposed Address—namely, 94 to add at the end the following words:—That we feel it, however, to be our duty humbly to submit to Your Majesty that it is essential that Your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the Country, and respectfully to represent to Your Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Your Majesty.I trust that I may, without undue presumption, venture to offer a word of congratulation to both the hon. Gentlemen who have just sat down on the skill and courage with which they have comported themselves in a novel and difficult situation. The Speech from the Throne on ordinary occasions provides the Mover and Seconder of the Address with a large variety of topics, and the Address itself is in the nature of a grace before meat, in which this House expresses in anticipation its gratitude for the legislative bounty of Her Majesty's Government. On the present occasion the cupboard is bare, and to these hon. Gentlemen has been entrusted the embarrassing task of formulating the thanks of the House for a perfectly empty table. I think they felt, as we all feel, that that, after all, is not the real business for which we are assembled here to-day. As my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down, in the course of his obituary notices, pointed out, we are met to take part in the obsequies of a dead majority. Both the hon. Gentlemen came to bury Cæsar, and we need not grudge them the licence of eulogy—of which my hon and learned Friend has taken full advantage—and which is always permitted in an epitaph. My hon. and learned Friend has been good enough to seek to wring my withers in reference to some appeals I once made for further information as to some of the main provisions of the Home Rule scheme. Whether or not those appeals of mine were wise and well-founded, and whether or not and to what extent they have been responded to by those to whom they were addressed, are topics I fear of limited interest, with which, however, at the proper time and place, I shall be perfectly ready to deal. But I decline to be drawn into a discussion of them on the present occasion, for the simple and sufficient reason that they have no 95 more to do with the question whether Her Majesty's present Advisers have lost the confidence of the country than have the speculations of astronomers as to the composition of the planet Mars. The Amendment brings us face to face with the practical aspect of the situation. We think it would be a futile proceeding if at the beginning of the first Session of a new Parliament we were to approach the Throne, as the Government wish us to do, with a barren formula of unmeaning gratitude. I propose to relieve them from that position by adding at the end of the Address words which, at any rate, will give it significance and adequacy. My Amendment consists of two propositions—One of them is an expression of opinion; the other an assertion of fact. As a matter of opinion, it asks the House to say that in its judgment Her Majesty's Government ought to possess the confidence of this House and the country. As a matter of fact, it alleges that Her Majesty's present Advisers possess the confidence neither of the one nor the other. Now, Sir, the first proposition, I am certain, will not be seriously traversed in the course of this debate, because it is a Constitutional commonplace which all Parties in the State are prepared to accept. If, therefore, this Amendment is to be controverted and opposed, it must be upon the ground that it is not true to assert that, in point of fact, the present Government have lost the confidence of the House of Commons and of the country. No other topic is relevant to the issue which the Amendment raises. Now, what are the facts? They are very plain, and beyond the region of controversy. Six years ago the Party now in power obtained a majority at the polls and in this House. Thereby it was recognised as having received a mandate to govern Ireland, and to govern Great Britain also, upon what were called Unionist principles. The years passed and they had to go back to the country for a renewal of their trust. Never in our political history was a proceeding more deliberately planned or more carefully carried out. They selected the tribunal; they drew the issue; they fixed even the day upon which their trial was to take place. An adverse verdict was given. The 96 majority of 1886 is gone. The mandate which you then received has been revoked by the same power that gave it. That being so, what cause can be shown why this House should not, as its first act, perform the duty freshly imposed upon it by the constituencies, and record and render effective the considered judgment of the country? In asking the House to take that step we are following with literal strictness the precedent set by the Conservative Party in 1841, and followed by the Liberal Party in 1859. I will venture to trouble the House with a few words from the speech made in 1859 by Mr. Disraeli, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and spokesman of the Government of that day, on a Motion similar to that which I am now asking the House to accept, and which was then introduced by the present Duke of Devonshire—It is of the highest importance," Mr. Disraeli said, "to the public interests that this question should be immediately decided, and I hope the House will be enabled to divide on it to-night—that was the first night of the debate—and thus settle at this momentous crisis which Party indeed possesses the confidence of Parliament. The decision," he went on to say, "ought not to be delayed for four-and-twenty hours.That was the course which was then recommended; and if that was the principle of action laid down by such high authority in 1859, I confess I cannot see why there should be that anxiety, indications of which have been already manifested in the speeches of the two hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address, not to come to an immediate decision upon the only issue which this Amendment raises, and which the country wants to have decided, but to drag the debate out over a wide field of irrelevant matter—matter which may become relevant when you have performed the preliminary process of entrusting responsibility as well as power to those who now sit on this side of the House, but which at this stage of the proceedings has nothing whatever to do with the issue raised in this Debater Now, Sir, what I want to know, and what I am 97 curious to learn is, upon what grounds—(Laughter)—if hon. Gentlemen will wait for a moment they will perceive that my curiosity is both legitimate and relevant—I am curious to learn upon what grounds they are going to allege that the verdict which the country has given at the polls ought not to be given effect to without delay by this House? I have searched, and searched in vain, for any intelligible proposition on which the argument upon the other side can be framed; but, so far as I have been able to find out anything in the matter, I judge that the validity of that verdict is to be impeached first of all by reference to the composition of the majority, and next by reference to the means through which it is suggested that that majority was obtained. As to the composition of the majority, what is the argument? It has been, I think, indicated in vague and general terms by my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Address. What is said, as I understand, is this—"True it is that you have an apparent numerical majority both at the polls and in the House of Commons; but when the composition of that majority comes to be analysed, you will find that if you subtract from it one of its constituent elements—namely, the votes of the Members for Ireland—the majority ceases to be a majority at all."
§ *Mr. ASQUITH
It seems that I have anticipated the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The proposition, therefore, as I understand it, is this—that although you have obtained a majority of the electors of the United Kingdom against the continuance in office and against the policy of the Government of the day, yet, if upon analysis you can prove that that majority would not exist if you were to take away from it the votes of a single member of the United Kingdom, the majority has no title to speak for the whole; and the House of Commons and Parliament is entitled to disregard and ignore it. If I am incorrect in attributing that argument to the hon. and gallant Gentleman or any Member of what is called the Unionist Party, it accords, at any rate, 98 with the words of so high an authority as the First Lord of the Treasury himself. I will venture to recall the right hon. Gentleman's attention to some remarkable words which he used in a speech at Glossop on the 14th July, when the result of the elections could be forecast with almost absolute accuracy. The right hon. Gentleman said—The House of Lords, with the people of this country behind it"—"this country" means, as the context shows, England—is certainly in a position to see carried out Mr. Gladstone's own principles—namely, that each nationality should manage its own affairs as it likes, and if he"—that is if my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian—should attempt to tyrannise, by means of the Irish brigade, over the declared will of the English constituencies, the House of Lords will have the duty imposed upon it, and will certainly have the courage to see that Mr. Gladstone's own principles are adequately carried out, so far as England and Scotland arc concerned.What does the right hon. Gentleman mean? It is not disputed, as I have said, that we have a majority of the whole of the electors of the United Kingdom. It is not disputed that in three of the four component parts of the United Kingdom—namely, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—we have a majority also. But, says the right hon. Gentleman, in effect, "Not with standing that majority of yours, I am entitled, speaking in the name of the people of England who have cast their votes the other way, to claim to ignore and override the opinion of the mass of the people of the United Kingdom, or even, if need be, to summon to my aid that pliable instrument which the Constitution has placed at my disposal, for the purpose of making the will of the English minority prevail." I protest in the name of sound Constitutional principle against this disintegrating and anarchical doctrine. I protest in the name of the unity of this still United Kingdom against this fantastic development of an abstract Separatist logic. So long as we have an Imperial Parliament, and so long as in that Imperial Parliament, as I trust and believe will always be the case, every part of the United Kingdom is represented, so long the Government 99 and the policy of the Government must be determined by the vote of the majority. Yes, by the vote of the majority; and by the vote of the majority I mean a majority of the whole. Under the right hon. Gentleman's theory England is to have all the advantages of the most extreme form of Home Rule without any of the counterbalancing checks and safeguards of Imperial control. If it is true to say that the majority depends on the Irish vote, it is equally true to say that it depends upon the Scotch and Welsh vote. If you subtract from the total majority the votes contributed by Scotland and Wales we are in a minority. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to apply his principle to that extent? May I paraphrase his language and say—"If he"—that is if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian—"should attempt to tyrannise by means of the Scotch and Welsh brigade over the declared will of the English constituencies, the House of Lords will have the duty imposed upon it, and will certainly have the courage to see that Mr. Gladstone's own principles are adequately carried out?" If not, why not? If your doctrine is good that the majority can be analysed into a majority contributed by Ireland, surely it must be equally good when it is analysed into a majority contributed by Scotland and Wales. I go further, and say it must be equally good when it can be analysed into a majority contributed by England. But the matter does not rest there. What is the real state of the case? At the General Election which has just taken place it is in Ireland, and in Ireland alone, that the Unionist Party have won seats. They have actually added five seats to their Irish representation. The majority at the time of the Dissolution was sixty-six. Having gained five seats, which count ten votes on a Division, the majority would, other things remaining the same, have risen to seventy-six. What has become of the majority of seventy-six? How has it been got rid of? Who has digged its grave? The answer is, the people of Great Britain. If the matter had rested with Ireland, English and Scotch and Welsh opinion remaining as it was, instead of your majority having disappeared it 100 would positively have been increased by ten. There has been a transfer of fifty-two seats in England, four seats in Scotland, and two seats in Wales. In other words, in Great Britain there has been a shifting from one side to the other of no less than fifty-eight seats. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that Her Majesty's present Government find themselves in a minority. I venture, then, before I leave this part of the subject—summing up what I have said—to assert these three propositions: I say, in the first place, it is no more true to say of the present majority that it is contributed by Irish votes, than to say it is contributed by Scotch and Welsh votes; I say, in the second place, that the dominating factor in the whole situation is the shifting of English and Scotch opinion; and I say, in the third place, upon the principles of true Unionism, which hon. Members opposite profess, but which they seem very slow in crucial cases to put in practice, when you are considering upon what lines the government and the policy of the Kingdom as a whole should be conducted, you are bound to look to the majority of the whole of the electorate and to nothing else. I now pass from that, to say one or two words, and they shall be very brief, upon the other argument, the only other argument, so far as I am aware, by which it is sought to impeach the authority of the verdict of the country. It is said that the verdict has been obtained by illegitimate means. Well, we are all familiar with the ingenuity of disappointed politicians in the art of explaining away majorities. It reminds one of another figure one often meets with in a different walk of life. I mean the figure of the defeated litigant. When the verdict has gone against him, he goes about whining amongst his friends, complaining that the witnesses gave false evidence, that the jury were packed, that the advocate upon the other side made the most shocking appeals to passion and prejudice; and he forgets that which in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred is the only real explanation of what happened, that he had a bad case, and was beaten upon the merits. Well, it is said that there were several issues in the Election, and 101 that the opinion of different constituencies was determined by reference to different considerations. That is true in greater or less degree of all elections, but I assert that never in our Constitutional experience has there been a case where there was a large and general issue more plainly defined by both Parties in the State, and never was there a case in which the meaning of the verdict of the country as it has been recorded was more free from ambiguity or from possible mistake. That proposition does not, apparently, commend itself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I therefore state the ground upon which I put it forward. I allege—and I speak subject to contradiction—that in every election address of every Unionist candidate, in every speech upon every Unionist platform, the issue submitted to the electors of the country was this—that the experiment of governing Ireland on Unionist principles had been proved to be a conspicuous and fruitful success. Is that denied? Was not that the ground on which every apologist and advocate of the Government, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) on this side of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on the other side, down to the humblest Member of the rank and file, appealed for the confidence of the electors? I am not going to argue the merits of that policy. Causa finita est; Roma locuta est. But I think it most relevant to recall the House to the point that, at any rate, the experiment was tried for a length of time, and under conditions which make it impossible for you to allege that the country did not thoroughly understand and appreciate it. The verdict of the country was directly invoked upon it, and it is not for you now to say that that verdict, under those circumstances, does not mean what it professed to mean. I say that the experiment was tried under the most favourable conditions. For six years you have practically had a free hand from the Imperial Parliament. Those Members who sit on this side of the House will acknowledge that in the then Chief Secretary, and now the First Lord of the Treasury, Her Majesty's 102 Government was fortunate in finding the very instrument they required. We thought his policy was a bad one, a barren one, and a hopeless one; but we recognise that they had in hire a man who, by his tenacity of purpose and mastery of Parliamentary arts, did everything for that policy which statesmanship could do. The right hon. Gentleman was supported as no Minister has ever been supported in this House. He could always rely upon the unswerving loyalty of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in certain quarters of this side of the House upon a perverted fidelity, which, I venture to think, is rare even in the annals of political apostacy. At the most critical moment, too, in the right hon. Gentleman's policy, when he was on the eve of imminent and certain failure, he was rescued by the great catastrophe, which for a moment split the Irish Party, and for a few short months staggered and almost paralyzed the energies of the Nationalist movement. Never, Sir, has an experiment in government been tried with such a concurrence of accidental and deliberate conditions in its favour. That is the policy which was put before the country for approval or disapproval. The electors voted with their eyes open, with their minds formed, with their judgment unclouded, and what has been the result? In England, Scotland, and Wales you have lost, as compared with 1886, no less than eighty-two seats; in Ireland you have won five seats—three of them by superhuman efforts, painfully, laboriously, and with difficulty, in the Province of Ulster—while of the remaining two, one was made a present to you by Nationalist divisions in the City of Dublin, and the other is a suburban constituency of Dublin in which Conservatism is a natural and growing force. But, Sir, outside the Province of Ulster, and outside the City and suburbs of Dublin, where can you show in the whole length and breadth of Ireland a freely elected Representative of the Irish people who is prepared to approve of your policy? The representation of Ireland remains substantially what it was. In the three great Provinces of Ireland where we have been told for months and for years that the people had been emancipated by the 103 right hon. Gentleman from the thraldom of agitators and Leagues, and were burning with the desire to show their gratitude to their benefactor and deliverer, in the whole of those Provinces, outside the City and County of Dublin, you have not been able to return a single Unionist Member to this Horse. Even in the very districts which the right hon. Gentleman has drenched with a golden shower of British beneficence—in Galway, in Sligo, and in Donegal—his nominees have cut the most sorry figure. I say, therefore, there can be no doubt, whether you look to Ireland, or to the change of opinion in Great Britain, that the constituencies of the United Kingdom have declared against your Irish policy. There is another aspect of the verdict of the country which it is impossible to ignore. It has condemned the Unionist policy in Ireland on the ground of failure and impotence; it has equally condemned Unionist legislation in Great Britain on the ground of imposture and pretence. The burden of the appeal made by Unionist candidates in Great Britain was always the same—"Who gave you free education? Who created the County Councils? Who passed the laws for Allotments and Small Holdings?" They did not know—they did not suspect—that the people of this country were shrewd enough to perceive that every one of those measures has two common characteristics. There is not one of them which was supported—there is hardly one that was not opposed—by the great bulk of the Unionist Party six years ago. There is not one of them which has not been carried into law in an incomplete and emasculated form. Sir, the Tory Party during the last six years has been engaged in abandoning the great historic position and compromising the traditions which, so long as they were maintained intact, always gave it a certain hold, not only over the respect of opponents, but over a, great mass of deeply-rooted sentiment in the British nation. You have given up that position—you have gone in for a course of peddling and huckstering in what you call progressive legislation. You have done so in order that you might keep step with a small but dwindling band of deserters from the 104 Liberal camp, an accidental and ephemeral combination, which was born the day before yesterday, which will be forgotten the day after to-morrow. Sir, in 1886, ninety-four Dissentient Liberals voted against the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill. The same Party has come back from the polls to-day with a total numerical strength of forty-seven. If six years have sufficed to reduce a body of ninety-four to a body of forty-seven, it is not a very difficult sum in political arithmetic to calculate with some degree of accuracy the date of the ultimate extinction of the species. In deference to this transient and precarious alliance, the Tory Party have gone in for a course of legislative experiments which were too liberal for their own consciences, but not liberal enough for the people of Great Britain. The result is to be seen in the General Election. Surely it ought to open their eyes. To angle in other people's waters for votes and yet not to catch them, to poach through the whole of Parliament and in the end to take nothing, but to be taken yourselves, to palter with principle, to betray your pledges, to be false to your past, and then to find that the wages of ignominy is a minority, that is to be guilty of one of those blunders which in politics are worse than a crime. Depend upon it, the people of this country, if they want Liberal legislation, will go to the Party which believes in it, which is not afraid of it, which will give it in a complete and effective form. During these six years there has been in the sphere not of legislation but of opinion, a development and a ripening which has been almost beyond precedent. If we compare the state of things now with the state of things at the General Election of 1886 we are conscious in every direction of the stirrings of a new life. New wants, new aspirations, new ideals have forced themselves into being, and are winning their way to the front. They cannot be put down by repression; neither can they be put off by evasion and compromise. If this Parliament is to perform the great tasks which the country has imposed upon it, the Crown must be served by Ministers whom the people can trust. 105 They have commissioned us to declare that from Her Majesty's present Advisers they have withdrawn their confidence. It now rests with this House to execute the judgment which the nation has pronounced. I beg to move to add at the end of the proposed Address the following words:—That we feel it, however, to be our duty humbly to submit to Your Majesty that it is essential that Your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the Country, and respectfully to represent to Your Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Your Majesty.
§ *(5.46.) MR. T. BURT (Morpeth)
I feel, Sir, that something almost in the nature of an apology is due from me for claiming the attention of the House so early in the new Parliament. I need not say to those who have been Members of the House of Commons for many years past that it has not been my habit to needlessly obtrude myself upon it. I am not an orator, as is my hon. and learned Friend who has just concluded his powerful speech. I am not even a talker. The occasions are few when I would not rather be silent than speak. I always speak with reluctance, and I feel on this occasion more than usual embarrassment and difficulty—not, Sir, that I have not full confidence in the justice and reasonableness of the Amendment that I have risen to second, but because it is exceedingly difficult to speak upon that Amendment without uttering something that is not commonplace and self-evident. I never could talk against time—I always have to imagine that there is some reality in the discussion in which I am engaged. By our Constitution and by usage it is essential that the Government should have the support of the country and the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House of Commons, and the present Government has not that confidence and that support. I do not think it is necessary for me to make an attack on the present Government. If the Government consisted of Members who possessed all the talents and graces; if it was the best Government that ever existed in this country, it yet lacks one thing, and that is vital—it has not a majority at its back. 106 Obsequies have been mentioned, and epitaphs. Well, Sir, there is a Latin maxim which I will not venture to quote, but which is generally rendered—"say nothing but what is good of the dead." Scholars, I am told, differ as to whether the rendering should not be—"Unless you can say something good of the dead, say nothing." Well, that narrows the theme, and the Speech from the Throne is not at all pregnant with suggestion. Well, Sir, I could say some good things of the present Government, but I do not think it is necessary; they will say those good things for themselves no doubt, and as my hon. and learned Friend has suggested—"We come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him." I have been endeavouring, as I generally do when I happen to find my friends in a somewhat questionable position, to seek the best motives I can to account for their situation. Certainly I do not believe that the present Government adhere to Office for any vulgar or sordid consideration—indeed, I believe they are influenced by patriotic motives—and the conclusion to which I have come is that it is their keenness, their passionate fervour as reformers and in favour of advanced legislation, that makes them inclined to stick to the Treasury Bench. The Government have, introduced measures good so far as they go, but, as my hon. and learned Friend says, incomplete. I do not agree with those of my friends who say it is entirely immaterial who passes these measures if they only are carried. I have long held the opinion—and it has been confirmed by experience and observation—that it is of vital moment that Bills should be prepared and carried only by those who believe in them. That, I think, is high morality, and it certainly results in more genuine, real, honest, and complete legislation. We have lately had an appeal to the country, and we know what the result of that appeal is. There were many questions before the electors, but there was one question that dwarfed and dominated every other—the question of Home Rule or self-government for Ireland. I may have a word or two to say on that subject before I conclude, but this was not the only question before the electors. 107 There were many questions of social reform and questions relating to the industrial condition of the people which received a great deal of attention. I do not want to hold the present Government responsible, any more than we as a Party on this side should be held responsible, for all the election leaflets distributed during the recent contests, but strong claims were put forward on behalf of the present Government as being in a special and an eminent degree the friends of labour and of the working classes. Now I can speak with some feeling on that subject, because I received from time to time during the progress of the elections letters and telegrams stating that Tory candidates here and there quoted me as having declared that the present Conservative Government had been the truest friends of the miners and of working men. Knowing that I had time on my hands friends said, "Come along and help us. Come and contradict these statements, and help us to win the seat." Well, I knew that I had more than once committed some little indiscretions. I knew I had said a good word or two in support of the present Government. I knew I had made friendly reference to the Mines Regulation Act, but I had never used exactly the words attributed to me. Considering how seldom it is that Party politicians speak well of each other, and how seldom the Conservative Government have given me the opportunity of saying a friendly word for them, I thought it exceedingly hard that when I should say a word or two in this direction my words should be distorted. Now, what I did say in regard to the Mines Regulation Act passed by the present Government was that it was one of the best measures in the interest of miners that had ever been passed in the House of Commons. But each successive measure is, and should be, better than its predecessor. I said, too, that the present Home Secretary had taken great interest in the subject, and had given a great deal of attention to the construction of the Bill, and that he had endeavoured as far as he possibly could to make it effective in the direction of safety to the miners. But, Sir, I went on to point out that the Mines 108 Regulation Bill was not a Party measure, and that, as it was introduced by the present Government, it was line for line and word for word the Bill introduced by Mr. Childers, but which he was unable to pass on account of the defeat of the Liberal Government. I said, further, that all the important Amendments had been moved by the direct Representatives of the miners in the House of Commons by Members on this side of the House, that all of these had received the support of the Liberal Party, that, on the other hand, some of the Amendments moved, to which we attached importance, had been defeated by the Government, that the Bill with all its advantages was less complete, less perfect, than it would have been, on account of the refusal of the Government to accept some of our Amendments, and by the introduction of Amendments elsewhere, where the Government have a great deal more power than we possess. I find, too, that they claim to have passed a great number of other measures. There was the raising of the age for half-time children in factories, which was claimed as having been passed by the Government, and there was also the insertion of the fair wages clause in Government contracts. Now, as a matter of fact, the former of these, and indeed both of them, emanated from this side of the House, and on the raising of the age of half-timers the Government resisted and were defeated. The hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Address referred to the Employers' Liability Amendment Bill, and to the desire of the present Government to pass that Bill. I must say that they have not shown any extraordinary anxiety to pass that measure. For five Sessions that Bill has been mentioned in the Queen's Speech. No real honest attempt on the part of the Government has been made to pass it. The Second Reading was carried on one occasion; still, there was no effort to carry it through Committee. I have no doubt we shall be told it was because of the opposition of Mr. Broadhurst, myself, and other Members who represent the workmen; but there were many measures that we opposed which yet were carried by the Government, and therefore our opposition to that 109 Bill is a very insufficient reason for them to give. They have had a majority at their back not at all wanting in docility and obedience, and if they had been thoroughly in earnest and desired to pass their own measure, they were certainly in a position to carry it in any form they liked. There is also the amendment of the Conspiracy Law which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee brought before the House of Commons. This is an amendment to which trade unionists and the workmen of the country attach very great importance. The proposal was an exceedingly simple one. It was to enact that no combination should be in itself criminal unless the object it sought to accomplish was criminal, and it aimed at a better definition of the word intimidation. That Bill was defeated by the Government, and when in the present year the subject was brought forward as a Motion, it was objected to again, and an Amendment was carried to the effect that a Bill rather than a Resolution should have been presented to the House. The hon. and learned Member who moved the reply made a friendly appeal to me to state my opinion as to what are the questions which I thought the Government which succeeds the present Government would pass in the interests of labour and of the working classes. The Bills I have mentioned are some of the measures that I believe they will pass, and there are, no doubt, other matters of a very important kind—great social questions—the regulation of the drink traffic, for instance, a matter on which public opinion is very far in advance of House of Commons opinion in the direction of further limiting facilities for the sale of intoxicating drink. There are also great social evils in the country at the present time which must be remedied. We boast sometimes that we live in the richest country in the world, and then we hear people saying that the rich are becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. I do not believe that that is so, but I rejoice to think that we are becoming less patient and tolerant of the extraordinary and unjust inequalities that exist between different classes of the community. Pro- 110 bably legislation cannot do much to remedy them. We remember Goldsmith said—How small of all that human hearts endure That part which laws and kings can cause or cure.But, however small the part may be that laws can cure, I think it is the duty of the Legislature to do what it can to grapple with these evils. With regard to the wealth of the country, I am not in favour of the doctrine of ransom, but I do think that those who derive large incomes from what we may call the natural resources of the country, which they had nothing to do either in creating or in improving, should contribute much more largely than they do at the present time to the taxation and to the rates of the country for the improvements that are so much needed. The hon. and learned Gentleman also invited my attention to the question of the hours of labour. On that subject I have repeatedly declared my views. I am strongly in favour of the shortest possible hours of labour. I have grave doubts as to the wisdom of Parliament interfering to limit the hours of adult men. At the same time, I would, as one of those who have doubts with regard to Parliamentary interference, appeal even to those who think with me on this and on other questions, not to be too pedantic, to recognise the fact that we may have to adopt new precedents, and that we may not be able to adhere absolutely to the old lines. I would also appeal to those who take an opposite view not to be unduly rash, to be considerate, to be thoughtful, remembering that they are dealing with very delicate, very intricate, and very complicated questions, and that a false step may be a fatal step. I am in favour of the utmost possible discussion upon these questions, and I think we ought to discuss them deliberately, calmly, and thoroughly. I am sure that in this House they always will be discussed temperately and fairly, and I hope that in the country also they will be discussed with calmness and thoroughness. With regard to the question of Home Rule, I would only say that, although prominent, it was not the only question at the recent Election. The decision of the country, 111 it seems to me, was a very emphatic one, and I think our fellow-subjects in Ireland are to be congratulated on the victory that has been won. Its opponents have done their best and their worst for six years to defeat Home Rule, and now, instead of being victors, they are the defeated party. They call us Separatists; they claim to be Unionists themselves. I am prepared to allow them to select their own designations. We are the true Unionists. We believe in a Union founded not on rifles and bayonets, but on goodwill and affection, and confidence between mean and man and between nation and nation, and the time, Sir, has come when in this democratic country a Union on other foundation cannot continue to exist.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,—That we feel it, however, to be our duty humbly to submit to Your Majesty that it is essential that Your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the Country, and respectfully to represent to Your Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Your Majesty."—(Mr. Asquith.)Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *(6.11.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
In one respect the opening of this Parliament, which, thanks to the defeat of the Home Rule Bill in 1886, once more meets in the full possession of all its traditional powers again to discharge its responsibilities to all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland—in one respect I think we have had an auspicious opening, for a general feeling of good humour and courtesy has prevailed. May that be an omen that, in the fierce struggles which no doubt this Parliament will see in the course of its existence, we may continue to meet with the same courtesy which has been displayed in the opening speeches. The hon. Member for East Fife has been anxious to limit within the narrowest bounds the course of the Debate, but he has not even been able to prevail so far as to induce the Seconder of his Motion to conform with his impossible demand, and we have had the advantage of 112 hearing the hon. Member for Morpeth make some important declarations with regard to topics in which he and his constituents are interested. I venture to believe that in the course of this Debate we shall find that it will not be possible to observe that conspiracy of silence with which we were threatened in the Press by hon. Gentlemen opposite a short time ago. It would be most unnatural if the Leaders opposite were to think that the morale of their new recruits would be sustained if they were put under heavy fire without any permission to reply, and I think we shall see that this Debate will not lack animation before its close. There is another suggestion that I would make to hon. Members opposite. When we assemble in February a large number of them will probably be muzzled for some time, and I think, therefore, it would be both interesting to us, and it would be interesting to the country at large, that they should take this very proper opportunity of showing the general lines on which they intend to oppose the Party to which we here belong.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby cheers that sentiment ironically, but we may, perhaps, in the course of this Debate hear some inconvenient remarks by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), and we shall see whether the right hon. Gentleman will be able again to retire during the dinner hour, or whether he will be compelled to listen to the appeals which, perhaps, once more may be addressed to him. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) suggested that it was a most unnatural proceeding that we should not on this occasion be satisfied with a few hours' debate, and he seemed to think that when as great issues are to be debated as were ever submitted to any Parliament a few hours should suffice, and he quoted the instance of 1859 as a precedent. He rested his doctrine on the declaration by Mr. Disraeli that a decision should be given on that very night. But the hon. Member for East Fife did not continue the quotation and tell us the full force and meaning 113 of the appeal by the right hon. Gentleman. It was because at that moment there were foreign complications. War had just broken out, and it was all-important that it should be immediately decided who should be responsible for its conduct. And that is the solitary authority which the hon. Gentleman quotes for the proceeding which he so vaguely recommends. But, I would ask him, was the recommendation followed by the Liberal Party at that date? No, they debated the question for three nights. I make the hon. Gentleman a present of his precedent with the only further remark that, notwithstanding that it was in 1859 in the highest degree important that the decision should be rapidly arrived at, it was thought that the matter could not he disposed of in less than three days. But now the hon. Member suggests Roma locuta est, and there is nothing further to be said. We have not heard much from the right hon. Gentleman—because he wished to observe such very narrow limits with regard to Home Rule, and as to how far his ravenous curiosity had, or had not, been satisfied. But he could not maintain his own rule that the question of whether we possessed the confidence or not of the country was the only matter to be decided, and towards the close of his speech he ventured to touch upon several of the topics which he considered ought to occupy the legislative attention of the next Government. There is another point in connection with this matter upon which I wish to say something. There are Members in this House who count in the majority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and who have stated distinctly during the course of the Election that they do not, by any vote against the Government, intend to announce their confidence in our opponents, and that constitutes a special characteristic of the present case. The hon. Member for East Fife does not seem prepared to admit that there is any distinction between the case where a majority is homogeneous and where the majority is composed of different parts and different sections. Can we believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, when he comes into power, will be able 114 to secure at once the adhesion of the independent section of the Irish Party? I would ask him whether he will be able to secure the entire adhesion of the Labour Party? I am not sure whether in this Debate we shall hear some of the new Representatives of the Labour Party, whether the Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns) will be good enough to address us, or whether the Member for West Ham (Mr. Keir Hardie) will repeat in this place the declarations he has made elsewhere? There is another hon. Member whom we shall be delighted to hear if he will take part in this Debate, an hon. Member whom we shall all welcome within the precincts of this House, the hon. Member who sits now for South Longford (Mr. Blake), but who comes to us from over the water, and brings to this House the ripe experience and the eloquence by which he was distinguished in the Canadian Parliament. Whatever opinions he may hold I am sure that we are all glad to welcome him here. We feel a little jealous of the Eighty Club that the hon. Member honoured them with the first exposition of his views on Home Rule. But possibly he may see fit, in the course of this Debate, to give us the second chapter of his exposition, and he will possibly be able to show us whether the Canadian analogy, on which he was so strong, holds with regard to the fiscal policy which is to be imposed on Ireland, and whether the great success of the autonomy given to the Colony in the case of Canada would have been equally attained if Canada had not had its full fiscal liberty. The hon. Member seems to think that we must not discuss Home Rule in this Debate, but that it is simply a question of confidence in the Government. But we wish to know something with regard to the proposed Home Rule, and I doubt not that we shall hear something more of it during the course of this Debate. The hon. Member (Mr. Blake) spoke of the great difficulties that existed while the two Provinces of Canada, the one Protestant and the other Catholic, were united in a Legislative Union; and perhaps in the course of this Debate he will enlighten us as to how to draw a parallel with that case and with Ulster and the rest of Ireland united under one Parliament. I 115 think I have pointed out that there are several other interesting questions which may crop up; but the hon. Member for East Fife does not challenge us generally upon our policy; he only wishes to lay it down that we do not possess the confidence of the country. I may have a remark to make before I sit down with reference to the hon. Member's statement as to the composition of that majority. But before I pass to that point, the hon. Gentleman said that Home Rule had been the one paramount question which had been submitted to the constituencies during the Election, and he pointed to the election addresses in proof of that statement. I have waded through a vast number of electoral addresses, a large number of those of hon. Members opposite, and I deny entirely that Home Rule was given the most important place in those addresses. It had a place in nearly all of them; but it had a very subordinate place in a large number. The hon. Member says it was the main question which was submitted to the electors. I should like to know whether the supporters of the London Programme say it was the main question submitted to their constituencies? I wonder whether it was the broom that was to sweep away in London all the Unionists into a corner? Was that broom the broom of Home Rule or the broom of the London Programme? I leave the Radical Members for London to give an answer to that question. In Wales, I believe, Disestablishment counted for more than Home Rule; and as for the rural voters, I wonder whether hon. Members opposite really believe that the rural voter was mainly induced to give his vote for the Radicals in consequence of their language with regard to the noble aspirations of Ireland for autonomy or for justice to an oppressed people. I suspect that if they were to tell us the truth, it was the Mephistophelian whisper about the dear loaf which counted for more than all their oratory about Ireland. The hon. Member did not confine himself to saying that the Irish Home Rule Bill, or that Home Rule for Ireland, was the main question submitted to the constituencies. He said that the legislation of the 116 Government had been submitted to them as a test for judging the Government, and that we had been condemned on that test. Were we condemned on that test, or were we condemned on our Irish action? That is a point which it is very important to know. With regard to the future, hon. Members seem to think that they have nothing to do except to evict us from these Benches. What a view to take of it. They have nothing to do but to evict us, careless as to who is to be put into our places. (Opposition Cheers.) Hon. Members cheer too soon. The point I wanted to make is this. It is not the only important issue whether we should leave this Bench—it is far more important to know what is to be the policy—what are to be the views of the men who follow us. Is it simply a match between two cricket elevens, the main object being to get the other side out? Is it on that level that hon. Members below the gangway wish to leave the matter? We have a higher question to deal with than that. The real question is not only who are to take Office, but what their policy is to be. I wonder whether the Member for East Fife knows what the policy is to be with regard to Home Rule, which he says is the question which was submitted to the constituencies, but which we deny was submitted?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman says our policy. I am speaking of the special policy which we believe you intend, if you come in, to substitute for ours. What is that policy?
§ MR. ASQUITH
If he will allow me, the statement I made is not the statement which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to me. The statement I made was this: You submitted to the country your Irish policy, and the country condemned that policy.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Our policy condemned! The policy of the Government as regards Home Rule was not condemned, and he has no proof whatever that it was condemned. The majority has been achieved, as I have been attempting to show, not by the language of Home Rule, but it has been gained by 117 other language and other promises. The hon. Member rose too late. Home Rule was not the issue submitted in the chief degree to the constituencies; but even if it was so submitted the challenge was not accepted by hon. Members opposite, who tried to go off on other issues which have diminished the Unionist majority. The hon. Member for Fife said, at Leeds, in January, 1890—If they" (the Party opposite) "went to the country with a vague formula, calling it Home Rule or local self-government, or whatever they pleased, and obtained a majority on behalf of that formula, what would be the position when they went back to Westminster and introduced a Bill The wisest and best scheme it might be, but the Opposition would tell them at once that was not the issue upon which the country had voted. 'You have,' they would say, 'no mandate for the introduction of that measure, and we are justified in obstructing it or mutilating it and forcing the Government to take it back to the constituencies.' And what was the Government to say to some of their own followers, who would say. Our electors sent us to support Home Rule, but this is not the kind of thing they intended us to support, and we shall go into a cave; or, as the Radical Unionists did in 1886, vote with the Opposition.Is the hon. Member for East Fife going into a cave? I wonder if he will help the Opposition by voting with us. The right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) said that when he addressed his electors he would give the outlines of his scheme. He did not state the outlines; he restated the conditions of the problem; but was silent as to what solution he would give to that problem. Thus we stand in this position: that the issue—and we have the evidence of the hon. and learned Gentleman to confirm it—of Home Rule has not been before the country; and we, when in Opposition, shall be justified not only by the facts of the case, but by his authority, in treating that measure as if no mandate had been given. But the hon. Gentleman did not confine himself to Home Rule; he attacked the general policy which the Government had pursued, and scorned the measures we have passed as peddling and emasculated. He said we had emasculated those measures. He ran them down, and treated them in a very different spirit to that shown by the hon. Member who seconded the 118 Amendment (Mr. Burt), who gave more justice and credit to the Government, both for the intention and effect of the legislation it had passed. There is this difference between the Government which came into power in 1886 and that which preceded it: that we, at all events, have been able to pass those measures of which the hon. Gentleman himself, though he runs them down, cannot but say are large and satisfactory to the country. Our opponents, however, were unable to pass them. Why? Because they were always thinking of the, machinery, while we were thinking of the work to be clone. I commend that point to the country, as the one which will distinguish the two Parties in the future as in the past. Whenever they speak of their social measures, they say they must first democratise some institution or other before they can undertake them. In every case it is the same. They cannot undertake to deal with the Poor Law without first abolishing plural voting. They want to take the machinery to pieces before proceeding with the work. We believe that we are competent to deal with those questions of labour to which the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) alluded, and whether we are in Office or out of Office we shall set ourselves to study them. We have studied those questions, and have passed a number of laws which, in your snore temperate moments, you admit are well worthy of the Statute Book, and I repeat that whether in Office or out of Office we shall continue to study those problems which we know are closely- connected with the rising needs of the country. The hon. Member spoke of the composition of the majority. He objected to the view that if we should be defeated by a majority we should be entitled to say that it was a majority which was caused by the Irish vote. We do not complain of the verdict of the country; we do not question the propriety of bowing at once to the verdict of the country, including the Irish vote, but we do note, and we cannot do otherwise, that we have a majority in Great Britain. It is of the greatest importance, from this point of view, that on the question of Home Rule there are two parties—Great Britain on the one side and Ireland on the other. The majority 119 of the Representatives of Ireland, of Ireland itself, have pronounced in favour of repeal of the Union—have pronounced in favour of something which goes much further than repeal of the Union, but the majority of the Representatives of Great Britain have taken the other course; they have emphatically endorsed the view that separation between the Legislature of England, Scotland, and Ireland should not take place, and if effect is given to the Home Rule Bill it will be by the majority of Irish votes coercing the majority in Great Britain. That cannot be denied, and it is a most important element in this controversy. Let me point to another feature in this case. If now we are defeated with the assistance of the Irish votes, it is because Ireland is as fully represented in this House and is as much a part of this Legislature as England, Scotland, or Wales, or any part of the United Kingdom. But supposing you had passed Home Rule and retained, as you propose, the Irish Members in this Parliament, what then would be the position when you had to deal with a Vote of Confidence turning on the administration of the Imperial Parliament? You will have this position. The Irish Members are to be retained; that seems to be laid down. They are to be concerned in the domestic legislation of the Irish people, but also in the domestic legislation of Great Britain, although they have not the same interest as England and Scotland in that legislation. The majority in England and Scotland might be satisfied with their domestic legislation, but the Irish contingent is to have power then, as now, to upset the Government which deals with it. Is that a tolerable position, or one which can be maintained? Let me point out to the Members opposite that they owe us some gratitude—although I have my doubts as to whether they feel it—they owe us some gratitude that the catastrophe which would shock the loyal, the patriotic, and the Unionist sentiments of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife has not happened. I appeal to the hon. and learned Member, who has told us he desires the retention of the Members for Ireland in this House, The hon. Mem- 120 ber for South Longford (Mr. Blake), who comes from Canada, laid down the other day that it would have been not only a mistake of a temporary character, but a matter of dangerous tendency, if the Irish Members had not been retained in Westminster. Who has prevented their exclusion? It is due to the Unionist Party. But for the Unionist Party those Benches would no longer be adorned by the Irish Members; but for the Unionist Party our Saxon Debates would be heavy and unrelieved by flashes of that Celtic vivacity, with which we, in past Parliaments, have become familiar. Ought you not to be grateful to us for this service? I think the Nonconformists ought also to be grateful to us for what we have been able to do. But for us the late Mr. Parnell would have been installed as Prime Minister of Ireland, and would have been totally independent of British public opinion. Those who are called Anti-Parnellites would have been Parnellites still, and the Nonconformist conscience would have been utterly powerless to effect any change. ("Oh, oh!") Yes, but it is so. You cannot deny it. But whatever the majority be to which I have alluded, they are satisfied, and glad that they will eject us from these Benches. Home Rule is the question which will have to be debated and dealt with next Session. You, the Irish Members, will compel right hon. Gentlemen, whether they will or not, to go on with, to go forward with, their Home Rule scheme. We shall not sit any longer on these Benches on the Speaker's right hand, but w a shall continue the struggle when we sit on his left, there as here. The hon. and learned Member for East Fife spoke of a victory. A victory is not a final triumph, and a defeat is not the dispersion of our forces. We know what the function and the duty and the place of the Unionist Party will be in the coming Parliament. We shall have to be the rampart against which the march "through rapine to disintegration" will have to be made. We see fresh battalions mustering for the march, and the statesman who denounced that ill-omened march is now going to place himself, sword in hand, at their head. "The march through 121 rapine!" It is an ugly word, but it is the right hon. Gentleman's, not mine. The "Plan of Campaign" is, after all, but another form of the "No Rent Manifesto." I do not know that it makes much difference whether the rent is withheld altogether or whether it is paid into the wrong hands. The right hon. Gentleman is a great discoverer of euphemistic synonyms, and as he has called boycotting "exclusive dealing," so perhaps he may re-christen "rapine" by a prettier word. But the facts remain the same, though phrases and names may change. Hon. Members from Ireland have not recanted their agrarian past. They stick to what they have said with regard to the agrarian movement. They leave the recantation to the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters. They do not recant. But to what goal is this "march through rapine" to be? To "disintegration" said the right hon. Gentleman. That word "disintegration" was not a mere rhetorical expression or exclamation on the part of the right hon. Gentleman; it had been long in his mind. He had asked before whether any sensible or rational being at this time of day would suppose that we should make ourselves ridiculous in the sight of mankind by disintegrating the great and capital institutions of the country, and by crippling our power for bestowing benefits through legislation on the country to which we belong. Powerful words of the right hon. Gentleman. They sum up the Unionist cause. We are not going to disintegrate the great and capital institutions of the country for the purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the face of mankind. We are not going to cripple our power of doing good through legislation to the country to which we belong. I earnestly trust that as during six years the Unionist Party has succeeded in avoiding that crime, and that ridiculous attitude, so we shall succeed in this Parliament which has assembled to-day; and that it will be written in the annals of the country by future historians, when many of us have passed away, that to the Unionist Party it was due, under Providence, that Parliament after Parliament may meet once more in this, our Palace of Westminster, not crippled in its power 122 of doing good through legislation, but in the undiminished enjoyment of all its traditional functions, and bearing and discharging its responsibilities in full measure for the prosperity, and the happiness, and the honour, and the good fame of Great Britain and of Ireland alike.
§ *(6.49.) MR. JUSTIN McCARTHY (Longford, N.)
I have heard with some disappointment the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for the "fighting politician" was not in his usual fighting trim. A great part of the speech was made up of invitations offered to several Members of the House to take part in the Debate, and perhaps I ought not to speak, for among those invitations my name was not included, I have followed the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Goschen's) speech very closely, but I cannot find from first to last any explanation of the performance through which we are passing to-night. He did not tell us anything as to why this Debate should proceed, nor did he state the purpose the Government have in holding their seats to the very last. At one time I thought he was going to explain that they really had yet some wise and beneficent legislation which they would openly display to our gaze if we only gave them time. At first I thought that he was going to make some bid for a renewal of Office; but I heard no promise of legislation, nor any reason why they should hold as they do their present places in this House. Even during the right hon. Gentleman's speech there occurred to me a story I heard long ago as to a famous highwayman. After a long career of evil-doing this highwayman was captured. His only weapon, a favourite blunderbuss, was taken away from him, and he was about to be carried off to prison, when he made one last appeal to his captors. He asked that he might be allowed to fire one shot even with blank cartridge from the old blunderbuss. It appears to me that that is about the kind of performance Her Majesty's Ministers desire to go through during the next night or two. The right hon. Gentleman was very strong and severe in his analysis of the majority; he was very careful to discriminate between the Irish vote and the English vote. But the Irish vote before this time has 123 put a Government into possession of Office; before this time it has put a Tory Government into Office. Did we hear any decomposing of the majority at that time? Did the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues express any scruples about the Irish vote when that vote put them into power? Oh, no! The Irish vote was then welcome. It was a vote of the most charming character, and those who gave it were the best of patriots, because they put the right hon. Gentleman and his friends into power. The late Lord Palmerston, at a crisis in his foreign policy, was charged with having first supported a rebellion in China, and then with having suppressed it. To that charge he replied—Well, if we lifted them up at first and put them down afterwards, that, at all events, shows our perfect impartiality.We propose to show the same sort of impartiality on this occasion. We can say that it was our vote that put the Tory Government into power, and we are proud to be able to know that our vote will do something to put them out of power and out of pain. We, at all events, are clear in our condemnation of the Tory Government. What was their policy? All through their years of Office, despite their unrivalled chances and support, their policy may be summed up in one phrase—the policy of Coercion. What else did they do? They passed in an imperfect way some measures whose origin does not belong to them; but their only original policy was that of perpetual coercion. We know that some of them, at least, have professed sympathy with Home Rule, but now no words are too strong in condemnation and denunciation of any possible principle of Home Rule. Let me say that I, as an Irish Member, am more concerned in questions affecting my own country than in others, and that the mission of my friends and myself in this House is to secure the carrying of certain measures for Ireland. I say frankly that years ago I should not have cared in the least if the Tories had been the means of carrying a great measure of Home Rule for Ireland. We should have welcomed it from any set of Ministers; but we have lost faith in the possibility of a Party such as yours, 124 depending as it does for power on certain offices in Birmingham, to give us an acceptable measure of Home Rule. But I do say that I want to be certain, so far as I possibly can be, with regard to the future. I want to be well assured—and I hope before long that I shall be well assured—as to what is to be done with regard to those questions by the Party which is now destined to succeed you in Office. For instance, take that measure for which we struggle—a measure of Home Rule. I suppose that when a Home Rule Bill is being brought in, the Home Rule Bill will be explained. If, when that Bill is brought in, it does not prove acceptable to the Irish people, there will be an end to that Home Rule Bill. Most assuredly the Irish people and those who represent them will accept no Home Rule measure from any Ministry which is not acceptable to Ireland. But suppose that measure is brought in and is acceptable, I want to be assured of this—that the measure will be pressed forward with as much energy and as much force as the incoming Government can wield. If the measure should, as it may, be thrown out by the House of Lords, I want to be assured that the energy of the Liberal Party will be as much pledged as ever to go on with that measure, to lose no reasonable chance of pressing it forward, and to keep it thus in the front of Liberal legislation until it is passed triumphantly into law. I think that is not an unreasonable demand to make on behalf of my friends before this House goes to a Division upon the present question. Then there is another subject of most vital importance and interest to the Irish Party, and that is the Land Question and the question of the evicted tenants—those tenants of whom so many are now homeless, and would have been helpless but for the aid given to them by that Party to which I belong. I want to know whether it is not possible and right that some inquiry should he made during the coming months into the condition of these evicted tenants, and the result of the investigation, in one form or another, submitted to Parliament during the coming Session? Then, again, we have the question of Coercion—the perpetual Coercion Act 125 introduced by the present Government. I should also like to ask whether it is not possible to suspend the application of that most odious measure until its final removal from the Statute Book? We should like to have some encouraging assurance on that subject. Then the whole question of administration is one of intense importance in Ireland. During the period intervening between this time and the carrying of a Home Rule Bill we should like to see, and we maintain we should see, the administration carried out in that spirit which is itself a justification and vindication of the principle of Home Rule. In this country the expression of public opinion has everything to do with administration. In our country, under a Tory Government, it has little or nothing to do with it. We think we may fairly claim from a Liberal Government, when they come into Office, and from the Liberal Party, that in the administration of Ireland some due and proper account should be taken of popular opinion and popular feeling. There is another question of great interest to the Irish people. There are some men still confined in prison of whom I should like to say a few words. One of these men those who understand his case believe to have been unjustly condemned. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself was so impressed by the case of Egan that he promised some inquiry into the whole conditions of the case. Either he never made that inquiry, or, so far as I know, there has been no result. And then, as regards the other men imprisoned, I think we might fairly say that although some of the crimes they committed were entirely abominable beyond the palliation of any national or Christian man, yet many were committed under conditions of fearful excitement and despair, and in some cases it is believed that police temptation led to crime. At all events, it is thought that as so long a time has passed, and as a better state of things has come about, the opinion has arisen that the time has come when there might be something of kindly effort to shorten the punishment or to mitigate its pain. These are questions regarding which I shall be glad to have satis- 126 factory answers from the Liberal statesmen and from the Liberal Party. I do not care to prolong this Debate. If any counsel of mine would have been accepted by the First Lord of the Treasury, I would have advised him to act towards his colleagues as a French statesman did some thirty years ago. A great crisis, something like the present, had arisen, and the French statesman did not care to prolong a futile formality. So he called together his colleagues, and said: "Gentlemen, I have the honour and the regret to inform you that the country is sick of us all." I think it would have been wise and dignified if the right hon. Gentleman had frankly informed his colleagues, instead of leaving to us the task of forcing on them the information, that the country is sick of them all.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
It has been usual in this House for hon. Gentlemen to address it alternately from the right hand side and then from the left. I think most of those who have listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. McCarthy) who has just sat down will agree with me that it would be far more interesting were his speech followed by another speech from the same side of the House. It is impossible for anyone who supports the present Government to give any categorical answer to the categorical questions which he has addressed not to those who sit upon these Benches, but to those who occupy the Benches opposite. We have been curious, and we have looked to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) as the personification of curiosity, expectant and unappeased. We had hoped this afternoon that he would have pressed his question and at last obtained some light upon the dark problems with which we are now face to face. But this mantle has fallen upon another's shoulders, and we welcome in the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down one even more worthy to bring us the light for which during the last six long years we have prayed. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has also, I think, done much to demolish the case of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife, who told us that such 127 curiosity as has been indulged in by the hon. Gentleman who preceded him was wholly irrelevant, and that the only question before the House was whether Her Majesty's Ministers enjoyed the confidence of the House and of the country. And he declared that the first proposition of his Motion, namely, that Her Majesty's Ministers should enjoy the confidence of the House and of the country, was of so much importance that we had only to glance upon it, together with this proposition—namely, that Her Majesty's Ministers did not enjoy that confidence—in order to support him. Sir, it is because I am convinced that the Government should enjoy not only the confidence of this House but of the country also, that I pause to investigate the second proposition contained in his Motion. That sets forth on the face of it that Her Majesty's Ministers have forfeited the confidence of this House and of the country. But, Sir, it is not in our power, so to speak, to isolate the deeds or misdeeds of this Government, and review them either with complacency or regret. There are only two alternatives before us, and when there are only two alternatives, if you reject one you must accept the other. Since Party system of Government has prevailed in this country, it is impossible for us, even if we think Lord Salisbury's Administration has fallen short of ideal success, to pass a Vote of Want of Confidence in Lord Salisbury without passing a Vote of Confidence in the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has pressed home questions which we hope to hear answered to-morrow, or on Thursday. Our task is a difficult one. It consists in analysing the result of the General Election, and to see whether we can truly be said to carry out the mandate we have received if we put the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) into power. Now, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) seemed to think that this was a very easy matter indeed, and that it was in the knowledge of us all that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian commanded the confidence of the country. But what information 128 have we had? After Thursday night we shall know whether he commands the confidence of this House; but beyond the fact that the lists of Members who have been returned to this House, which have appeared in the daily papers—beyond the fact that in those lists a "G" has been appended to a large number of names, and that that symbol is supposed to indicate that the constituents who returned such Members are in favour of the experiment of Home Rule, we have no knowledge whatever that the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian would command the confidence of the country. That majority of Gentlemen whose names have appeared in the Press with either a "G." or a "G.L." appended depend—and this cannot be denied—largely upon hon. Gentlemen returned from Ireland, and largely upon hon. Gentlemen who, whether they called themselves Labour candidates or not, have been returned to this House by the Labour vote—candidates who have been returned to this House by the industrial population of this country, which now demands that the attention of Parliament shall be turned to their affairs. Moreover, Sir, I ask whether it can be said that right hon. Gentlemen opposite who claim a majority enjoy the confidence of the country? Can they be said to have originated either of the policies supported by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland or supported by those who appear here to speak for the interest of labour? I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian claims to have long had hidden within his breast the secret wherein, by some such compromise as he proposes, lay the ultimate solution of the Irish question; but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) will lay claim to the like priority of invention. I think his conversion was due to a sudden cause, and I think the same remark applies to the bulk of those who support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. If that is so they cannot claim to have originated or created the policy of Home Rule. The same applies to the demands now made by the industrial 129 classes of this country. With some of those demands we have endeavoured to deal during the last few years, but they were never, so far as I know, embodied in the Authorised Programme of the Liberal Party. On the contrary, they were flouted and set on one side and branded as belonging to the "Unauthorised Programme," and it is impossible for right hon. Gentlemen who will accept Office if this Vote is carried, to pretend that they originated the policy of Home Rule for Ireland, or that they originated any of the demands put forward by the constituents who have returned a very great number of English Members to this House. And if they have not originated them; if they are only proselytes—although we may admire the zeal which is often credited to proselytes—we can hardly condemn their new allies if they look upon them, not with confidence, but with some suspicion and distrust. I think, Sir, it will not be hard to show that the two great contingents of the army upon which they rely for success, so far from being recruited from electors who have confidence in the policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, are recruited from electors who during the last three weeks, at every public meeting, have shown the greatest suspicion and distrust. Let us consider whether we have any evidence that the Irish electors who have sent Members here to support a policy of Home Rule have confidence in right hon. Gentlemen opposite? Is it a proof of confidence that now, after six years, the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) has had to ask some ten or fifteen questions and tremble for the answer which will be vouchsafed? Is it a proof of confidence that the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), a gentleman whom we all respect, and who is not given to the use of extravagant language—is it a proof of confidence in right hon. Gentlemen opposite that he has declared in public that the Irishman who trusts English Ministers is unfit for public life? We can hardly suppose that hon. Gentlemen coming from Ireland do not consider themselves fully qualified to sit in the places they occupy. But if they to consider themselves so qualified, then, according to the hon. Member for East Donegal, every one of 130 them is imbued with the deepest and profoundest mistrust of the right hon. Member for Midlothian and all his lieutenants upon the question of Home Rule. The same may be said with regard to those hon. Members who look to the industrial classes for support. I read in a pamphlet published some time ago in the interest of the Labour Party that the Liberal programme at the next Election would not be the Newcastle Programme, but only just as much as Mr. Gladstone could be forced to promise explicitly to carry out by the working classes threatening to vote against him. What a touching picture of confidence! How strange it is that there are these evidences of distrust in the very Members who are returned to give a majority to the right hon. Gentleman opposite! An attempt is being made to seize upon the great power and authority of those men who originated these policies in order to lend emphasis to and to back the movements which right hon. Gentlemen have condemned in the past, and movements which they now view not unmixed with thinly veiled alarm. I think the stingiest-hearted Tory may be allowed to condole with those who have been in the past leaders of a Progressive Party. They are now to be the formal and pacific instruments of policies which they view without enthusiasm—the Mace and Great Seal, so to speak, to acts they do not in their hearts believe to be for the benefit of their country. Their case is only comparable to that of the King of Uganda, who, as we understand from the Press, is alternately the coveted prize and the captured trophy of the Protestant or Roman Catholic section in his country. So the task before us is by no means so easy as the hon. Member for East Fife would lead us to believe. We are asked to focus two divergent views in the United Kingdom into a concise Motion which will command the assent of this House. And these views, Sir, have been very divergent. I admit that with faltering accents the country has revoked the commission given to the Unionist Government, but it has, I maintain, with also unmistakable emphasis rejected and repudiated the policy to which the right hon.
131 Gentleman opposite has been pledged. I think this will hardly be disputed so far as it relates to the great towns and centres of industry in Great Britain. In Ireland the same feeling may also be traced. There there are two great cities, each the centre of large industries—the Cities of Belfast and of Dublin. The City of Belfast has declared with a unanimous voice against any attempt to carry Home Rule—against all possible forms of that policy, and the City of Dublin has partly declared against any form of that policy, and partly against the special brand of that article which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian is prepared to supply. If I wish to seek for further evidence I could find it in the journals which share the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. During the distressful days—the anxious days—of the last General Election—Sir, it is in the moment of dire extremity the truth will out—it was when the issue was just trembling in the balance, and when the rule of three, in which some right hon. Gentlemen opposite took so much delight, pointed to a dead heat as the result of the conflict—it was then the Pall Mall Gazette published a leading article pointing out that their victories had been one where they put forward a Progressive programme. Yes, Sir, but you cannot push—as the Pall Mall Gazette had it—a programme into a foremost place without dislodging the programme winch already stands there, and it is because in those places they supplanted and dislodged the orthodox Liberal programme that in London and other places we suffered a falling-off, and are, therefore, not in a majority in the whole of the United Kingdom. In these places, the defection of which has put the Unionist Party in a minority, the orthodox programme of Home Rule for Ireland, and Disestablishment for Scotland and Wales, has been displaced, and for it has been substituted promises that the needs of the industrial classes will receive the attention of the Imperial Parliament. But, Sir, what a light does this throw upon the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, for he asks us nothing more nor less than within three weeks of this verdict to reverse 132 it in the House of Commons. The country has pronounced in most unmistakable terms that it insists upon Parliament turning its attention to practical legislation. Yet we are asked now, in the face of that, to return to power right hon. Gentlemen pledged to defer the attention of Parliament altogether from such affairs, and occupy the whole of its time with questions which will interest Irishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen, but which will be absolutely indifferent to the working classes of England. I can quite understand that my remarks will not be palatable to hon. Gentlemen who represent Irish constituencies, or Scotch constituencies, or Welsh constituencies—but they are not addressed to them. They have had explicit orders. And a large majority of English Members have had orders equally explicit in the contrary sense. But a far larger majority than that, pledged specifically to support the Unionist Government during the last Election, has been returned to Parliament with a direct mandate from the people that the attention of Parliament shall be turned to their affairs, and the question before this House is not the simple one the hon. and learned Member supposes. It is not whether we are to get rid of Ministers who have fallen short of ideal success, but whether we are to get rid of English affairs altogether. The question is not merely whether we are to get out of the frying-pan, but whether we are to get into the fire. We are confronted with a grave danger—the danger of seeing all the pledges we have given to our constituents broken through no fault of our own. We are confronted with the danger of seeing the beneficent legislation referred to in the last paragraph of the Queen's Speech suspended sine die to a period when these impossible problems shall have been solved. I challenge any hon. Member sitting upon either side of the House, who have been addressing industrial audiences during the last few weeks, to say whether their hearts' desire is not set upon securing immediate attention in the Imperial Parliament to those questions which affect their happiness and life. No one can take up that challenge; yet we are asked by the hon. and learned Gentle- 133 man who has made this Motion to betray our trust and to go off in pursuit of some will-o'-the-wisp which will only lead us into endless trouble. This policy of Home Rule, even if we had never heard of it before, is one which we may judge of as being impossible by the list of questions which have been addressed tins afternoon to the Leader of the Opposition, by the Leader of the strongest wing of the Irish Party. We know that this policy is one which must take years to go through, even if it could possibly be passed into law, and that, if attempted, it would prevent the consideration of matters which are far dearer to the masses of the people than Home Rule. And yet we cannot hope that these considerations will have any weight with right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is impossible to deny that they have given pledges to consider and to deal with that question. It is idle to pretend that these pledges will not be exacted, since the majority depends not upon the English vote, but upon the Irish vote. Many of us, I believe, are not fully aware of the enormous difficulties which necessarily attend the policy of Home Rule. As has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the lines of the Home Rule policy have never been announced. We have never been vouchsafed sufficient knowledge of the conditions which it is the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian to fulfil if he can. We know that he has made one attempt to fulfil the five great conditions which necessarily attach to the question, and that that attempt signally failed. I venture to say that if another attempt be made to do so failure must again be the result, and yet the House is asked, at the sacrifice of good solid work which the country requires and demands, to give all its energies to a question which will not be, and cannot be, satisfactorily settled so as to satisfy Irish aspirations. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian has said that he has found hon. Gentlemen from Ireland of a disposition to interpret everything in the best sense; but such complacency and such good nature on their part is, perhaps, explicable by the 134 fact that they only received his last Bill pro tanto, reserving to themselves the right of reconsidering their position at any time. It is not at all surprising, therefore, to find in the Irish Members this complacent disposition to interpret everything in the best possible sense, for they know that afterwards they can turn back from their word and extort even further concessions. That may be a policy in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but it strikes many on this side of the House as a conundrum of the kind with which schoolboys seek to mystify one another, and that admits of no solution. And yet it is to waste our time upon tins riddle which no man can read that we are asked to postpone altogether such legislation as this Government has passed into law, and such legislation as the Unionist Party would proceed with were it so fortunate as again to secure the confidence of the country, for they have had pledges from their Leaders, as distinct as the pledges from the Leaders of the hon. Gentlemen opposite have been ambiguous, that this Party, if again returned to power, would pursue a course of practical reform and domestic legislation for the benefit of the industrial classes in Great Britain. Finding that the task of Home Rule was a difficult one, hon. Gentlemen opposite have been forced back upon the old expedient of the Liberal Party in distress, and announce their intention to pass a new Reform Bill. The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) has made an attack upon the Tory Party, and has said that the country is anxious to see the Liberals in Office, because they understand and can pass Liberal measures. But to what record can he point to justify such a statement? Where can he find a record of any legislation by the Liberal Party in the interests of the industrial classes of this country to compare with the long list of Statutes which have been placed by the Tory Government on the Statute Book as the law of this land? The question of Reform is one which is generally supposed to give our opponents an advantage over us. They point to their record in Reform. I have never been able to find, at any rate during the last 135 twenty-five years, any clear evidence that we have grudged political power to the industrial and labouring classes of England. I am aware that that opinion is not shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who tell us that it is they, and not we, who have shown unbounded confidence in the working classes of England. I am aware that some votes may have been won during the last General Election by the cry of "One man one vote," but the English working classes are beginning to see that without re-distribution that would not be fair or satisfactory.
§ (7.45.) MR. A. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment did not forget to charge the Liberal Unionists, who are supporters of the present Government, with being deserters from the Liberal camp. While our opponents are attacking us, they do not attack us upon the ground that it is either wrong or foolish on our part to have convictions that Home Rule would be disastrous to Ireland and injurious to Great Britain. The attack which they constantly make upon us is that, holding those views which they know we hold, we give effect to these views, and are not deterred from doing so by any obligations of Party loyalty. If they are justified in charging us with want of Party allegiance under the circumstances, then it must follow that they themselves through Party loyalty would support Home Rule even if they believed it to be disastrous. If that is so—if their views of Party loyalty are of such a character, then we have no guarantee that they themselves are sincere in believing in Home Rule, or that they do not share our views as to its disastrous character. It seems to me that one of the great evils of the Home Rule policy which we are asked on this occasion to support is that it would lead to our United Kingdom for the first time using the forces of the United Kingdom to put down those who resist laws which the people of the United Kingdom had never sanctioned; because, whatever discussion has taken place upon this controversy upon one side or the other, it has always been taken for granted that the measures which a Home Rule Parliament would 136 pass would be different from the measures which the Imperial Parliament would sanction. Amongst the various arguments which were used during the recent Election few arguments struck me as being more startling with regard to the disadvantages under which the Irish people laboured at the hands of the Imperial Parliament than the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that the Irish people are oppressed by unequal laws devised to place them under their landlords. That is a very striking indictment against the landlords of Ireland, and a very striking indictment against the motives which led to the passing of these Land Laws. That indictment becomes the more striking when we remember that the author of these laws was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian himself, and that if any man was responsible for the Land Laws of Ireland, for the whole outline of their policy, it was the right hon. Gentleman himself, who not only charges these landlords as being bad, but attacks the motives for passing these laws by stating that they were designed to place the Irish people under their landlords. I do trust that whatever the effect of this discussion may be, it may elicit from our opponents further information as to the policy which they intend to pursue, and that it may be no longer possible for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and his friends to maintain that policy of silence and secrecy which is alien to all the best traditions of his own Party and all other Parties in this House.
*(7.50.) CAPTAIN H. S. NAYLORLEYLAND (Colchester)
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith), in the course of the speech in which he moved the Amendment, quoted the words of Mr. Disraeli in 1859. He said Mr. Disraeli advocated that the Amendment then moved was of such importance that the Debate upon it ought to be terminated in one evening. If the hon. Member for East Fife had taken the trouble to still further prosecute his historical studies he might have found out what was the sequel in that case. The Amendment was carried, and then the Government which followed brought in and passed a Reform 137 Bill in 1863 and were then turned out of power. I do not know whether the hon. Member for East Fife will take that as an omen; if so, I conclude next year the Home Rule Bill will be brought forward and the same result will follow as in the case I have mentioned. The present Government has been stigmatised as a Government of Coercion; but I imagine a good deal depends upon what you call Coercion. Some people might call Coercion the force which induces people to give deference to an equitable law. Others might call Coercion the pressure administered not by judicial officers, but by ecclesiastical domination which leads tenants not to put their rent into the hands of the landlords to whom it is due, but into the coffers of the Plan of Campaign. Then, again, if the present Government, can be called a Coercion Government I should like to ask the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) whether he calls the Government which held the reins of power from the year 1880 to 1885 a Government of non-Coercion? It would be interesting to know his opinion upon that Government. Of course, the laudable desire of hon. Members opposite to give effect to certain pledges and promises and to carry out a certain policy and a certain programme must not be confounded with a desire to eject the present Government from Office. What they desire is that their pledges and promises given during the late Election shall be given effect to. But what are their pledges and what are their promises? What is their policy? I imagine here we are in a singularly fortunate position. We know what our policy is—do hon. Members opposite know what their policy is? If so, why do they not tell us? Why do not the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment and those who have spoken in support of it say that to effect certain things they have been returned to this Assembly, and that in the absence of any signs of the Government of the day intending to proceed with them they move a Vote of Want of Confidence on the understanding that if it is carried they would immediately proceed with them? Why do not hon. Members oppo- 138 site take up that position? That is a position which everyone could understand. Is it because of their inability to support the programme as adumbrated by certain gentlemen at Newcastle, or that they wish to include in it certain of the requirements of their own constituents? I think before we are asked to support such an Amendment as this we ought to be satisfied by certain pledges given by hon. Members on the opposite side that there is sufficient unanimity among them to pass any programme into law supposing they hold the reins of power and become the Government of the day. To obtain that unanimity it is absolutely necessary that the programme of the hon. Members opposite as a whole should be endorsed by every individual Member, and conversely that the programme of every individual Member should be endorsed by the Party as a whole. Now, do all the hon. Members opposite endorse the programme, for instance, of the hon. Member for West Ham? That programme includes adult suffrage, eight hours a day, open-air concerts, and baths and washhouses. Does every hon. Member who intends to support this Motion also pledge himself to provide us with free dramatic performances; does he also promise us that our ablutions in the future are to be carried out at the public expense? If not, I conclude the hon. Member for West Ham will not support this Motion. I am perfectly prepared to admit that the hon. Member for West Ham would be welcome on these Benches. At this dull season of the year an hon. Member, who is going to provide us with open-air concerts, with a morning bath and an evening wash, would be welcomed as a great acquisition; but it appears to me, in moving this Motion of Want of Confidence, hon. Members opposite ought to have assigned some reason for having done so. One of three reasons appears to be perfectly logical and reasonable. Hon. Members might have coupled with it a trenchant criticism of the programme of the present Government for the future. They might have coupled with it a condemnation of the performances of the Government in the past. They 139 might have produced an alternative programme, and said, if voted for, they would pass that programme into law at once. But neither one or other of these things has been done. If they had produced an alternative programme, I do not think it would have been just or fair to have asked hon. Members to have given us details of any Home Rule Bill. I do not think we ought to ask them to forecast the speeches which, perhaps, they may have to make on future occasions, but I think we have a right to have certain broad details and particular principles given us which would enable the Irish Members to determine whether such a Bill goes far enough for them, and which would enable English Members to determine whether it goes too far. Such principles might be mentioned as whether fiscal duties and fiscal barriers are going to be set up between Ireland and the United Kingdom, or between the manufacturer and the producer. We might be told whether religion is going to be protected by law, whether the basis of representation is going to be changed, or whether hon. Members are going to be returned to a new Irish Parliament in precisely the same way and on the same basis as now: whether it is going to involve the retention or the exclusion of the Irish Members from Westminster, and in what proportion they are going to come, and on what basis they are going to be elected. I think this is due to us, and it is only just that we should be told certain broad principles of the Bill which is going to be introduced. Furthermore, I consider we ought to be told the nature of some of the other measures which are to be introduced, and not only the nature but the order of their production. We have hon. Members in this House who represent all classes of the community whom I am rejoiced to see here. Some of those Members represent the interests of labour. Now, it would be most interesting to know whether in the future any measure is going to be introduced which will deal with that subject? Other Members represent certain portions of the community such as Wales. It would be interesting on their behalf to know whether a Bill is to be introduced for Welsh Disestablishment? Then there 140 is registration reform and re-distribution—are Bills to be introduced on these questions? All these subjects are subjects on which I submit we have a right to be informed, and a right to ask for an alternative policy to be produced. There is only one Bill which, as I understand, hon. Members opposite are thoroughly pledged to bring in at once. With regard to that, I can promise them that hon. Members on this side of the House are pledged when it is introduced to give it their most strenuous opposition. I mean the repeal of the Septennial Act. Well, hon. Members opposite might have assigned as a reason for introducing this Motion a criticism of the performances of the Government in the past; but I must point out that that criticism would only have been on two lines. Either they must have claimed for themselves that they could do what we were unable to do, or else they must prove that the basis of our legislation as a whole is entirely wrong. If that was the situation, then it would be necessary for hon. Members, if they carried this Motion, to repeal all that we have done. Are hon. Members prepared to repeal the Free Education Act? Are they prepared to repeal the Allotments Act? Are they prepared to say no more ships are to be added to the Navy? Another ground which might have been taken is that they might have criticised the performances of the Unionist programme of the future. I understand that the present Government does not intend to legislate for any one class or any one portion of the Empire, but for the future, as they have done in the past, to deal with every portion of the community. There is one great argument which the hon. Member for East Fife used in moving this Amendment, and that was that a precedent existed for doing it. I do not know whether it is the rule and the canon of this House that everything is to be done by precedent. If so, I take it we shall generally find ourselves doing only that which has been already done before. I will point out that it appears to me to be absolutely necessary to the point at issue to find out whether the precedent to be followed is good or bad. I take it we 141 do not propose to follow bad precedents. Take, for instance, a judicial precedent. In a case where an appeal is given the decision depends entirely and absolutely upon the question of whether the original decision was good or bad. Therefore, I think this is absolutely vital to the contention of the hon. Member for East Fife. The hon. Member ought, no doubt, to have demonstrated that the surrounding circumstances of the case are the same now as they were in 1859, but they are not the same now as they were in 1859. I would remind the hon. Member for East Fife of the saying of a great writer that "great men create precedents and little men follow them." I have only got a few words to say in conclusion ("Go on.") With regard to the merits or demerits of the present Government we do bear on ourselves at this time the stamp and impress of our constituencies. More so now than a Parliament which has sat for several years. Therefore I submit that it is more our duty now than at any other time to carry out any pledges or promises or programme which we have laid before our constituents at the last Election. Therefore I say it is the duty of us all, whether we represent the Labour interest or Wales or the Irish interests, it is our duty to obtain a pledge from the Mover of this Amendment before it is carried that all those things which we are particularly interested in shall be passed into law at once, and that they shall have priority over everything else. I say, in the absence of any pledge of that kind, I am afraid I shall feel constrained to oppose this Amendment. To produce an Amendment and ask us to vote for it on the ground that if it is carried something is going to be introduced of which we have not yet been told, and then to say that a precedent exists for doing that—that to my mind is not a weighty precedent which ought to be followed. Finally I say before we are "off" with the present Government we ought to satisfy ourselves most conclusively what are the intentions and what is the programme of the new.
(8.45.) MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
I felt compelled, Sir, to take part in this Debate lest it should perish from inanition.
142 Man after man has risen on the side of the Government to support the views of the Government, but not one word has been said on this side of the House since the first speeches. Who would think this is the first night of a new Parliament, and who would think that a great revolution has taken place in the country since we were, last here? That 340 Gentlemen have been returned to this House burning with legislative zeal, and not one of them is here to take part in this discussion, or to say a word in defence of his opinions. The present state of things reflects great credit on the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Arnold Morley) and the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks). They have got their men under very good control already, and I shall be curious to see whether they are able to retain that control over the Members of their Party during the cooling Session. A little while ago it was a taunt thrown at the Tories, in view of the long lines of Gentlemen who sat silent, never uttering a word, but to be depended on when the Division came, that they had a splendid array of brute votes. It is by votes of that class that the Member for Midlothian is now supported, and it will be interesting to see how long the rank and file will display that absolute obedience and touching confidence that they have shown to-night. We have heard from the Member for East Fife as little as possible in support of his Motion; he committed himself to nothing in defence of it. There is an old scholastic problem as to how many millions of angels could dance on the point of a needle, and while he was speaking, the problem that presented itself to my mind was, flow many Members for East Fife could dance on this Amendment without committing themselves to any single definite principle. We have not been accustomed to such surprising unanimity or such touching obedience. Where are the voices which took up so much of our time in the last Parliament? Where is the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Morton) and the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Seymour Keay), who were always ready to take up as much time of the House as their own Party would 143 allow them? This policy of secrecy, which is to be maintained on this side of the House, is not the old tradition of the Liberal Party. It has not been in the past the policy of the Member for Midlothian. It was not the policy he pursued in the matter of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. He brought forward his broad views in the form of a Resolution and submitted them to the House, so that at the Election which followed he might be able to ask the confidence of the country for his policy. In bringing forward these Resolutions the right hon. Gentleman, it is true, said it would not become him, either then or at any subsequent stage of the Debate, to make himself responsible for all the complicated details of the plan which would, in the end, have to give effect to his purpose. But he added—At the same time I should not be justified in endeavouring to shelter myself under the freedom of a Member of the Opposition from distinctly indicating to the Government, the House, and to the country the general basis and conditions of the measure which I wish to suggest.The right hon. Gentleman and his friends, have not, in the present instance, done anything of the kind. They have stated certain of the surrounding conditions, but they have not stated with any clearness or precision what all the country has a right to know—namely, the principles on which they propose to act in connection with this Bill, which was the mainstay of their whole policy in going to the country. They ought to have done so before the General Election, but they did not. I maintain, however, that it is now their duty to take the country into their confidence and trust the people, especially as "trust in the people" is their favourite maxim which they are never tired of flaunting in their opponents' faces. Let them trust the people themselves. I know that nothing I can say will draw the right hon. Gentleman any further than he is inclined to go; but there are hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who are especially interested in this question, and who, I hope, will draw from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian that which we, as mere Representatives of the people at large, have signally failed in doing.
144 Now, Sir, I should like to say a few words upon the composition of the majority of this present House of Commons, which was one of the points of the hon. Member for East Fife. He said, with perfect truth, that you cannot for the purposes of a Division in this House analyse the exact composition of the majority, and he said that he protested against any such proceeding in the name of the community of this still United Kingdom. It is not to us that that protest should be addressed. He should address it to his own Leader, because there is no man who has laid such stress upon that point as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in the course of speeches both here and during his recent campaign. He was then continually bringing before the Scotch people the grievance and injustice they suffered by having the wishes of a Scotch majority overridden by an English majority in the House of Commons. It is not we that have laid stress upon that argument. We are content to accept the country as a United Kingdom, and we desire nothing more than to continue the country as such. It is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and his supporters who are seeking to split up the country into constituent elements. It is you, the Opposition, who have hitherto laid stress upon this argument, and now I want to know whether you are going to throw overboard all those arguments which you used when in Opposition, and forget them now that the Unionists in England have a great majority, while in this House at large you are able by the help of Irish and Scotch and Welsh votes to override that majority? In a speech at Dalkeith on the 5th July the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said—My point is that the present Government have carried further than any Government, however Tory, the principle of putting down Scottish opinion by English votes. I propound to you, after the great Irish subject as a main fundamental matter, that you have to decide at this Election whether you will or not be parties to the continuance of this system.That is to say, the question after Home Rule is whether the Scotch people are to stand having the wishes of their 145 majority overridden by a Unionist majority in the House at large. Now the case is a converse one. The opinion of the majority of the Scottish people is now the same, it is to be presumed, as the opinion of this House of Commons at large. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to carry out his own proposition? Is he prepared to say that English opinion shall never be overridden on English matters by the opinion of this House of Commons? In this country we Unionists have a very large majority indeed, both of electors and Members. I take the figures from a hostile source—the Pall Mall Gazette special—in regard to the House. In England the Unionists received 1,823,000 votes, while the Gladstonians received only 1,708,000. We had a majority of more than 100,000 votes in England alone. If you take Great Britain the Unionists had 2,112,000 votes, and the Gladstonians 2,098,000 votes, a majority of 14,000 on the whole of the electors of Great Britain. In England and Wales we Unionists have 270 Members as against only 225, a majority of forty-five, or, if you make Wales separate—as hon. Gentlemen from the Principality would desire—our majority comes out at seventy-three. Taking Great Britain as a whole, England, Scotland, and Wales, our majority is eighteen. Of course, Sir, the victory is not ours— it is useless to dispute that. But there are victories and victories. There are victories which, if repeated, would be fatal only to those who, for the moment, appear to have them, and in this fight I should like to know who it is that have come back with the best spirits and the greatest confidence? It seems to me it is not those Gentlemen who expect shortly to cross the floor. Is it I Home Rule that has won this Election? It is in those portions of the country where the question of Home Rule has been predominant that the Unionists have gained. In Ireland we know what has happened. In the South of Scotland the gain on the Unionist side has been something most marked and most general. It has been in those portions of the country where Home Rule has been relegated to the background, and where 146 miscellaneous questions have been pushed to the front, that your gains have occurred. ("No, no!") I cannot go through the whole of the elections; but I will take one part of the country which I know best—the middle of Scotland. There you had Home Rule put well forward on all sides, and what happened there? Everywhere there was a most marked decrease of the majorities that were against us in previous years. Take, as an illustration, the Lothians and Berwickshire. There, in 1885, the whole country was absolutely and unquestionably Liberal. The majorities were enormous in every constituency. In the County of Berwick the majority was more than 2,500; in Midlothian 4,600; in Haddingtonshire 1,500, and in Linlithgow 2,200. The majority in these four constituencies alone was just upon eleven thousand. In 1886 there was a marked falling-off in those majorities. In Midlothian there was no contest. In Berwickshire the majority had fallen from 2,500 to 1,600; in Haddingtonshire from 1,500 to 950; and in Linlithgow from 2,200 to a little over seven hundred. How is it now? Do these constituencies show any tendency to go back to "as in 1885"—the motto to which Gladstonians attributed so much importance, and from which in the last Parliament they derived so munch happiness and consolation? No, they have gone on falling. In Berwickshire you have had a further falling-off in the majority of 750; in Haddingtonshire the majority has fallen to under 300; in Linlithgow to under 200; and, most striking of all, in Midlothian you have had the majority reduced from something like 5,000 to a mere 690. In these counties, the centre of which is represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whose great influence must be taken into account—in these counties you have had a falling-off of the majorities by which the Gladstonians were returned from close on eleven thousand to well under two thousand. Does that look as if your cause is growing, and as if the principles of Home Rule are popular in Scotland? These are not isolated or single constituencies. Take the con- 147 stituency of the hon. Member for East Fife. In 1885 he was returned by a majority of two thousand, and in 1886 by one of 374 only. During the six years that have elapsed since then you have had a most eloquent gentleman in possession of that constituency. You know how loyal Scotch constituencies are, and how great are the odds in favour of the sitting Member. Yet, notwithstanding these things, the 1886 majority of 374 has shrunk to 294. East Aberdeenshire is another striking example. In 1885 the majority was 3,300, which, in 1886, was reduced to 2,400, and now in 1892 it is only 1,600. The tide has not ceased to flow. It is flowing, and will continue to flow in the same direction, as you will see in the next General Election, which cannot be far off. Take one more case, that of Lanarkshire. There you have six constituencies, and in every one of them the same tendency is to be seen. We have won a seat in one case, and in the other cases the Unionist majorities have increased, or the Gladstonian majorities have markedly diminished. Now that is the tendency of things in Scotland. You depended upon sweeping the country and believed that Home Rule was irresistible. What is it that you can alone depend upon to maintain even your present ground? It is not Home Rule. It is in spite of Home Rule that, in those parts of the country I have mentioned, you have come out as well as you have. Here you have had the recent developments in Ireland making themselves felt most strongly and pronouncedly. In particular you have had the great Belfast Convention, producing enormous results in men's minds—results shown in the diminution of majorities, and results that would have been far more overwhelming if you had not had one single name to rely upon—one single name that has been more to you in those constituencies than any number of speeches in favour of Home Rule, and that is the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. That is what you had to depend upon. If that name were gone you would see a different state of things in Scotland. At present you have nothing more to depend upon than loyalty to a man and to a Leader—feelings which the 148 Scotch have always shown to be characteristic of them as a people throughout their whole history. Why is it that we find all these changes? We have heard some talk of Peers and squires, but they have had nothing to do with these matters. It has not been in the constituencies where they have any predominance that the change has been most marked. The change has been in the great cities. Look at Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Glasgow ten years ago, before these questions arose, five out of six of the business men were Liberals without question. You cannot now find one in ten of these men who hold to the recent change in principle of the Gladstonian Party. They are Unionists, and it is in the influence of these men that the strength of the Liberal Unionist Party lies. There is another question which has had a great deal to do with this change in the majorities, and that is the question of Disestablishment. I shall be curious to see what is the attitude of the Member for Midlothian and of many Scotch Members in regard to this question. I shall be curious to see whether they are as keen supporters of Disestablishment as they have been in the past. We know that the right hon. Gentleman has himself attributed the falling-off in his majority to this very question, and I think it is absolutely certain that if it were not for personal loyalty to the right hon. Gentleman, and if an ordinary Scotch Member had contested the constituency, Midlothian would not now be represented by a supporter of Home Rule. What does the Party that reckons on coming into power propose to do when it gets there? Is it to be social work, or is it to be once more political work? The Member for the Dumfries Burghs has been talking to the Eighty Club about amended registration and one man one vote. Are these what you intend to deal with, or is it Home Rule? Do you intend to deal with the great social questions upon which so much stress has been laid during the Election, or do you intend to deal with a Constitutional question? You make no pretence that reforms are not undertaken simply to strengthen your own Party. You hold certain views with regard to the franchise which you 149 think will do you good, and it is that reason, and not any general ground which has been the basis of every former Reform Bill, that you desire to act. You do not seek to enfranchise; you seek to disfranchise. You want to deal with the question of one man one vote, without dealing with that infinitely more important question of bringing one uniform level the rights of all the different electors in the different constituencies of the country. You make no pretence that that is not necessary, but you say that one is expedient and is likely to help you to gain a larger majority in the next Election, and the other question is one by which you may suffer. You make no distinction in favour of anyone except the illiterates. These are not the lines which will satisfy the desires of the electors, and all that we can hope is that the Government which we are told is to come in will have time to disappoint and disgust the constituencies. You wish to treat this Debate as a game of cricket; to declare your innings closed and to go no further. The old principle of the Liberal Party is "trust the people." You have added a corollary to that, and I do not complain of your logic. You say—"But we are the people, and, therefore, it is unnecessary that we should show our hands in any way; that we should make any sort of declaration as to what is our policy or what are our principles." These are not the lines on which the country will be prepared to accept you. These are not the lines on which a great Party expressing the desires and the will of a majority of the nation can safely rest or continue its career.
§ (9.20.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that we have now reached a crisis in our country's history, perhaps, more important, more fraught with consequences, than any crisis of the present century. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Partick (Mr. Parker Smith) into the details he has given. I am very little concerned about details. I accept that a majority of the United Kingdom have declared for the Opposition. Hitherto, 150 when we have been taunted with our resistance to Home Rule we have had Ireland thrown in our faces and been told that, as there was a majority in Ireland in favour of Home Rule, therefore we must grant Home Rule. But we have declined to recognise any section of the Kingdom, and have claimed to take the opinion of the United Kingdom as a whole. But the Gladstonian Party have now forsaken their demand that a majority of a section shall have their way, and now they fall back, because they would be in a minority without it, on the majority of the Kingdom as a whole. The hon. Member for East Fife described the present Unionist Party as an accidental combination. That means to say that a section of the Liberal Party have joined the Unionist Party for a purpose. There is nothing exceptiona! about that, and I would retort by asking him about the Front Opposition Bench—who have they joined? What accidental combination do we see on that Bench at the present time? The speech of the hon. Member was a very able one, but it was disfigured by his having gone out of his way to cast petulant slurs on the Liberal Unionist Party, revealing his own mind, which was not quite comfortable after the severe shaking he had in Scotland during the General Election. But we are not quite that ill-starred abortion of a Party which, following the steps of our Leader, he has endeavoured to make us out. I venture to say that as a Party we never had greater hopes than at the present time, especially so far as Scotland is concerned. The hon. Member says the Election has been a victory. I choose rather to call it a skirmish, which has had this good effect—we have placed our opponents in a position in which they will have to declare themselves and reveal their policy, which hitherto they have carefully abstained from doing. They have yet to learn the full strength of the Unionist feeling in this country. They learned it in 1886, and the reason they are not feeling it now so much is because six years have elapsed and there are numbers of electors who think the danger is gone by. But let us see this 1893 Bill, and I venture to 151 say that the Unionist feeling will be as great or greater, especially in Scotland, in 1893 as it was in 1886. The hon. Member for Morpeth was called to curse us, but rather remained to bless. It has been said that Bills should only be prepared and carried by those who believed in them, but that is a departure from the old democratic principle of measures not men, and, coming from the lips of a Labour Representative seems to indicate that the Labour Party is being dragged at the tail of partisanship. The Member for East Fife described the legislation which the Unionist Government had carried through as a huckstering, false, and peddling imposture. Let us examine that. Take the Miners Act, to which the Member for Morpeth especially referred. It had been praised in set terms by the hon. Member himself, by the hon. Memder for Rhondda (Mr. Abraham), and by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Pickard), and I ask could any higher testimony be possible? Does that answer to the description of the Member for East Fife of imposture? Again, the Member for Morpeth, speaking at the annual meeting of the Northumbrian miners, said that the first year's operation of that Act had resulted in less sacrifice of human life than in any previous year in the history of the industry. I appeal to the Labour Members to say whether there can be any more worthy object of legislation than that of saving human life? What the hon. Member said was thatWhereas there was formerly a life lost for every 245 men employed, since the passing of that Act there was only one life lost in 602.What does that mean? It means that where five lives were sacrificed that Act had reduced the number to two. Is that meddling or peddling legislation? No one can say so. Let us look also at the rural policy of the Unionist Government. This Government has passed an Allotments Act—the first Government that ever did it, but not the first Government that solemnly promised to do so and then broke their promises. They have passed a Small Holdings Act, which for the first time introduced an element of hope into the lives of the rural labourers, and offered 152 them the prospect of a career which they have never had before. Was that meddling and peddling legislation? I am aware of the deliberate manner in which that legislation has been misrepresented. These Acts may be incomplete; what Acts of Parliament are not? But these Acts have put hundreds of thousands of persons in possession of holdings. The Allotments Acts before 1881 were lauded to the skies by hon. Members sitting round me, but as soon as they were improved by the Acts of the Unionist Government they were everything that was bad. But, however few or many of the labouring population have secured land through the Unionist legislation, there is not a man in Great Britain who has got an acre through Gladstonian legislation. Let us see what the imposture of the Factory Acts legislation is. I will give the testimony of the one best able to speak on the point. Mr. Birtwhistle, Secretary to the Textile Factory Workers, said—I can scarcely do justice to the Act without going further into details than I have time for at present. It is of the utmost importance to factory workers.And he went on to point out that it would largely increase the earnings of winders, and other branches. Is that imposture? I think if the Labour Party is wise it will adopt the old democratic principle, "measures not men." There is another feature of this factory legislation. Taking the workers in Blackburn, before the Act was passed, in 1890, twenty-five out of every 100 who died were between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five—that is all young people, and we can see what a sacrifice that is. The ordinary mortality now between those ages among cotton-spinners is eight out of every 100, and among outdoor labourers five out of every 100. By the testimony of those who are entitled to speak that Act goes as far as human foresight and arrangements can go to put an end to this great mortality, and, at the same time, to increase the earnings to the enormous extent mentioned by Mr. Birtwhistle. Is that legislative imposture? And I put the question specially to the Labour Members. I 153 think their silence admits that it is not. If the Labour Party is to do any good it must not be bound hand and foot to any political Party, and must not be hoodwinked by men on the Opposition Benches who, with one or two exceptions, wish to God that Home Rule had been buried in the midst of the sea. I would like to give the House an instance or two more. Take our seamen—and I will quote Mr. Plimsoll, whose authority nobody will dispute. He said—Speaking in the interests of those who man our Merchant Navy, and that of their wives and children, I strongly advise all to vote for candidates whose election would help to retain Her Majesty's present Ministers in Office. I am equally sure, if the present Government is retained, we may confidently expect such further reforms as can be shown to be necessary and reasonable, as well as loyal and faithful administration of Acts already passed.He goes on to say that he is not aware that the Leader of the Opposition has ever uttered a word or raised a finger to help seamen, and that he was sick of knocking at the door of the Gladstonian Party for help. On the other hand, he said they had had the sympathy and active help of the Conservatives. Having said he was certain of future legislation in the same direction, he concluded—To secure these objects, we, who think sailors' lives are of more importance than Party politics, must work with a will in support of those who will help to keep the present Government in power.Are sailors' lives of more importance than Party politics. If they are, will not the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. J. H. Wilson) take the course suggested by Mr. Plimsoll? The hon. Member for East Fife spoke about free education, and added that it was always upheld by the Gladstonian Party or Liberal Party—the Repeal Party as it is now. The hon. Member must think we are absolutely ignorant of all political history. As a matter of fact, no Liberal Party ever included free education either in its Queen's Speech or its programme. Is it not ridiculous, with these facts before us, for the Gladstonian candidates, as they have done, to claim it as their own? Free education is the gift of the 154 Unionist Party. I wish the Liberal Party had given it. Let us go on to another piece of imposture. There is the Local Government Act, which has conferred the rights of citizenship on the great mass of the country voters. Is that apiece of imposture? The right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) said that it was one of the greatest measures of modern times, and that it was the first portion of a mighty work and the foundation of a great edifice. Does the right hon. Gentleman call that a piece of imposture? Then why does he not say so? As to the statement that those should carry out a policy who believe in it, let me remind the House that the so-called Liberal Party—Liberal no longer—is the Repeal Party, with one policy swallowing up every other, the repeal of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. I might keep the House all night with instances of "imposture." There is the Merchandise Marks Act, which has given work to thousands in the manufacturing districts; the Margarine Act; there is taxation remitted, rates reduced. Then for six years they have kept this country out of war, instead of spending twenty millions sterling on miserable little wars. They have instead devoted the money to giving free education and the reduction of taxation. They have also appointed Commissions on the Hours of Railway Servants and on Labour. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. John Burns) a few weeks ago said that those Commissions had already caused the companies to reduce the hours and increase the wages, and went on to say that by that means a substantial victory had been gained. The hon. Member calls these things benefits, and puts them above mere Party triumph. At any rate, there, again, I leave that to be settled by the hon. Member for Battersea. I pass over what has been done for Ireland. I might refer to the tranquillity of the country; I might refer to the prosperity of the country; I might refer to the charges of the Judges. The Government has done good for all who believe that law and order are the first necessities of civilisation. I heard the questions which 155 were put by the hon. Member for Longford—questions to which, no doubt, by some little arrangement he knows all about the answers, from the curious manner in which they were put. The Irish Party know what they are about. I could wish that the English Labour Party knew what they are about. If I were a Home Ruler in the sense in which the Irish Party are Home Rulers I should say—"If anybody is to be sold, let it he the English and not the Irish." One or other will be sold. We have asked for information. The hon. Member for East Fife wanted to know, you know, for ever so long, but not a word came. Are they afraid to tell us? Is it a silence of shame or a silence of ignorance—one or the other? But the pleasant and valuable part of the present position is that the time is very close when they must show their hand. Now, looking for a minute or two, if the House will bear with me, at the programme—the unfulfilled programme—of the present Government, I may say there are District Councils and parochial reform. (Laughter.) Yes; in seine of the villages I have been through I have seen large placards with "Vote for Cobb and Parish Councils" on them, and "Vote for Cobb and No Workhouse." (Laughter.) Well, but then the hon. Member for Rugby and his friends are not going to use these votes for the purpose of carrying Parish Councils and parochial reform, but to turn out the men who have got the job in hand in order to put in others who are going to carry no District Councils, no parochial reform but Home Rule. Wait till next January—ay, wait till Friday next—when you will see these Gentlemen voting against the Party who has this work in hand, and voting to put a Party in power who are pledged up to the eyes to deal with something quite different. Then the Government have the Employers' Liability Bill in hand. (Laughter.) Yes; and there again you laugh. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary introduced an Employers' Liability Bill. My hon. Friend says "it is a sham"; it is a better one than was introduced by the Gladstonian Government in 1886; it is a far better one. It was 156 based on the Report of a Select Committee, the majority of whom were not Conservative, but so-called Liberals—I mean men who call themselves Liberals, but whom the old Liberals do not call so. One of the pleasant incidents of this Debate is to see that even the hon. Member for Northampton seems to be shackled—shall I say by the golden chains of office—and rendered dumb. I would suggest to right hon. Gentlemen that they should make the hon. Member Secretary to the Treasury in the new Government, so that he may bring in the Estimates, including the Royal grants, and such like. But what I was about to mention about this Employers' Liability Bill is that the late Mr. Bradlaugh spoke in the highest terms of that Bill. He said he knew it was difficult for the Government to pass any measure of the kind, but he could promise them his support and the gratitude of the working classes if they passed the Bill. It was stated in that Debate that it was posted from Party motives, that the Government might not have the credit of passing it. Labour again was sacrificed to Party. If we are able to show that the legislation proposed was better than that which was proposed by the Gladstonians when they got into power in 1886, why is that legislation to he called an imposture and to be stopped? It is said that it did not deal with the doctrine of common employment. Neither did the other Bill, and it did not profess to do it. But this Bill reduces it down to the vanishing point, which the old Bill in 1886 did not attempt to do. Then there are other matters which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade referred to in his speech at Bristol, a speech that did good to the heart of every man who values legislation for the benefit it is going to confer on the people. He told them of a scheme for cottage reform in our rural districts. Well, that would have been carried, no doubt. All this progressive legislation, which I deny is of the character of imposture, will be stopped for Home Rule, and by whom? By Members who have been returned on the advocacy of these very things, 157 Every man who votes to displace the Government that has got these things in hand votes for the indefinite postponement of them and for the sake of putting Home Rule in their place. I do not think it can be disputed that when next January comes if Home Rule be passed there will be a Dissolution. ("No!") Oh, yes, especially if a certain number of the Irish Members are to have their own Parliament and come to legislate for us there must be a Dissolution—there must be a Dissolution. But suppose it is not carried, will there be a Dissolution? I think there will be two parties to that. The fact is the Irish Members are our masters. They say if these right hon. Gentlemen do not do exactly as we want them we will turn them out in twenty-four hours. Let me quote again the hon. Member—I forget where he sits for. He said the best way to get Home Rule was to knock out one Government after another, and show the English people that until Home Rule was granted ducks and drakes would be made of their Constitution; and if necessary they would be running a General Election every six months. I ask the English County Members where is their Newcastle Programme now, on the strength of which they have obtained votes and have seats in this House? He went on to say that their policy was to accept what was good from either Whig or Tory, and to carry out that policy they might be found voting one night with one Party and another night with another Party, and in that way they might go on whining much benefit and reform for Ireland. Perfectly right. But what has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) to say to that? He is one of the few who believe in Home Rule; the others, most of them, arc worshippers in a temple in which they are not believers. They have got their idol, but it is of the nature of idolatry for the idolators never to examine their idol. But the idol is not only being examined, but being put under a microscope. I will give right hon. Gentlemen six months before all these things are found out. Votes for the reform of Parish Councils will be seen to mean Home Rule; votes ob- 158 tained for the Newcastle programme will all be found out to mean Home Rule, and "Once bitten, twice shy." Men, I believe, will not stumble over the same stone twice if they know it. Then I should like to ask finally what this Home Rule is? I have seen in the villages I have been through again "Vote for so and so, for Home Rule for Ireland and for the villages." Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle accept the village style as the style of Home Rule he means? Perhaps he will tell us before this Debate is over. Has he consulted his masters; and if he has consulted them has he consulted those who have got their seats on gas and water? The old saying about a man being "between the Devil and the deep sea" was surely never exemplified more strongly than in the case of the right hon. Gentleman. The Irish Members, at all events, have never deceived us. I have never denied that the debt should be paid; and nobody rejoices more than I do that during the past ten years some of the debt has been paid. The Irish Members have never attempted to deceive us. The hon. Member for Waterford the other day said this—and I want the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who so often laughs at me, to express assent or dissent, or to give some evidence that he takes an interest in this question, as I know he does—It is our ultimatum, our irreducible minimum on this question, the Trish Parliament must be absolutely suprememark the adjective—absolutely supreme, free from interference or control in the management of the affairs of Ireland.I heartily agree with that. If you are to have a Parliament at all, there is nothing between a tribute-paying province and perfect freedom. Then the hon. Member for a Division of Liverpool—I forget which Division, the Scotland Yard Division—(laughter).—I am afraid my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Buxton) revealed his inmost thoughts when he attached an Irish Member to Scotland Yard. He was unknowingly candid, and in my simplicity misled me. But the House 159 knows who I mean. That hon. Member said—Every Irishman would indignantly reject, as part of Home Rule, the right of the English Parliament to revise or to reverse Bills passed by an Irish Parliament.(Cheers.) Oh, yes, perfectly right—And if Mr. Gladstone proposed such, he would be disentitled to the name of statesman.Very well, what do my hon. Friends of the gas and water persuasion think of that; what do my hon. Friends, who have got seats on declaring that Home Rule meant the same thing as Parish Councils think of that? Had not they better put their house in order in time to go down and face the same audiences with the hard reality of a Bill, that makes good these utmost demands, asked for by the men who have the right to make them, and without whom the Government could not exist for twenty-four hours? I think the situation is a serious one for some Members who have obtained votes on false pretences. I could quote a variety of statements by hon. Gentlemen, but I will quote only one Member, the Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who spoke the other day—As to the talk of these men about Home Rule being suspended altogether and put in the background by the Liberal Party, the Irish Party have not only the assurance that separates the man of honour from the unprincipled scoundrel"—(that is putting things very clearly)—"but the Irish people have the best of all possible guarantees against Liberal treachery, because we could, and we would, within twenty-four hours, put the Liberal traitors out of Office. This new Parliament must have Home Rule as its first object and as its supreme object. Mr. Gladstone proclaims that just as emphatically and as passionately as we do.(Cheers.) Yes, it is quite true; but it is not the kind of Home Rule my hon. Friends the English county and other Members advocate—Home Rule in gas and water, for their constituents will want a little information—
§ An hon. MEMBER: Not in Lancashire.
§ MR. COLLINGS
Lancashire? In Lancashire the great bulk of Gladstonian Members whose majorities are under five hundred sit by the Irish vote. They are not English Repro- 160 sentatives. ("Yes.") I repeat, those Gladstonians who had small majorities in Lancashire sit here by the Irish vote. That explains why some hon. Members must go any length, not, indeed, to meet what their English constituents want, but what the Irish electors want, and very rightly, as they put them into power. That will be an element in future elections, provided that the new Government does not carry out this bond to the letter. Not a man of them will come back here unless he votes exactly as hon. Members below the Gangway order him to do. But again, what about the English and Scotch county Members, who do not at all understand it in that light? Let me conclude this quotation. ("Hear!") Oh! I dare say it is not the pleasantest reading in the world for some hon. Members, but it is the fact nevertheless.Mr. Gladstone proclaims that just as emphatically and as passionately as we do. If there was any attempt to shunt Home Rule or to drive it into the background, there would follow the expulsion from Office of the Ministry that would attempt it. I candidly speak for myself as one individual; but upon that point there is no possibility of difference among Irish Nationalists.There, again, the Irish Members are candid. They have never swerved from what they have wanted, and no English or Scotch Member, whenever anything so extreme is brought forward, can charge a single Irishman with having spoken a doubtful word in any of his utterances. Now that is a very nice position, a position promising a good deal of space for repentance, and, perhaps, promising a great deal of pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), whose speeches I have carefully read. They are able speeches, but if they mean anything in their definition of Home Rule they mean only a modest piece of local government. I think, too, the Wolverhampton people understand them in that sense. I would ask right hon. Gentlemen on the Bench before me which is right? Are the Irish Members right, or are the other Members who take a more moderate view of Home Rule? In other words, which are they going to throw over—the Irish or the English?
161 They will have to make their choice; cannot they do it now? I rely upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) to say which, because he has convictions on the subject, and I hope he will enlighten us. Now, I remember when I was in the West of England reading a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), at Plymouth, only a week or two before he executed the great right-about face. It is astounding with what agility and completeness the change was made from anti-Home Rule to Home Rule. The speech was made in September, 1885, and the change, I think, was made in February or March, 1886—not a very long time in which to turn everything round about. The right hon. Gentleman then said—But, gentlemen, there has been a still more serious question than boycotting raised in Ireland, because since the declaration of Mr. Parnell there can be no doubt what is the policy"—and remember that policy has never changed—'which he and his Party have adopted. It is the policy of absolute separation of the two countries.That was the opinion then of the right hon. Gentleman.Now, how has that declaration been met? Two speakers eminently entitled to represent the Liberal Party—Lord Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain—have spoken upon this subject, and they have spoken in a manner worthy of their position and worthy of the Party they represent.In the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and all the more humble Liberal Unionists like myself—("Hear!")—yes, I do not pretend to be anything else—were accused of political apostacy. Let me ask the hon. Member for East Fife which of the two right hon. Gentlemen is the apostate now? We are a long-suffering people, but we can turn sometimes. We never needlessly make an attack, but we can resist one. In September, 1885, a few months before he completely turns round, the right hon. Member for Derby speaks in language that could not be stronger in condemnation of and in opposition to 162 Home Rule, and yet it is my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham who is accused of political apostacy. I do not think the House or the country will have any difficulty in deciding, if there be political apostacy, who is the apostate. I apologise to the House for the time I have spoken, but I am anxious, as we all are, to hear from the right hon. Member for Derby what he will have, because he has said what he will not have. He will not have Fenian Home Rule. I am inclined to think that my Irish Friends will, and if they will, the right hon. Gentleman must. He may talk about political apostates. I read a short time ago a memoir of Dr. Johnson. He had a friend, an actor, remarkable for the variety of characters he could assume, and he relates that one night, going behind the scenes, he met this great man and asked him, "Well, Tom, and what art thou to-night?" I think we may address that question to the right hon. Gentleman. It is germane to the great crisis in our country's history. What art thou tonight? Is it Fenian Home Rule that you are seeking the confidence of the country upon, or are you not allowed to say what it is you are about to undertake Office to carry out? There never was in all the history of this country—I believe never even in times of corruption or of difficulty—such a period of humiliation for a great historic Party. We Liberal Unionists have a right to speak warmly on this subject. In 1885 the Liberal Party was placed in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in a high state of efficiency. It had taken ages to build it up to become what it was then called, a great instrument for good. It was placed in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, not as his property, but in trust to carry out the measures for which it was created. What has he done with it? He destroyed it in 1886, and since then he and his colleagues have been dragging it in the dirt. That is the fact about the so-called Liberal Party; and I, for one, would rather, as we have done, join the other section of the Unionist Party. (Cheers.) Oh, if it is a comfort, be assured that we were 163 never so united as now. We only needed the present position to make the Union prominent again, because the position of 1886 has become a little dim—("Hear!")—aye, but when it will be renewed in 1893 and become fresh again it will inspire not only the Unionist Party, but, I believe, the electorate of Great Britain to show that the verdict that has just been given is regarded by them as only the first round in this great Constitutional fight. The hon. Member for East Fife indulged in prophecies as to what would be the result. I indulge in none; but if he thinks he is going to come out of the fight as he says, then his experience may fail him, for the subject may no longer be concealed or misrepresented. The same great considerations which led us—and we think led us rightly and worthily—to unite to settle the question in a direction contrary to that in which it was brought forward, will be present in redoubled force in 1893; and if I were to prophesy, I would say that something like the result we had in 1886 will happen again. I have been led to speak at this length from a feeling of gladness that we have at last come to close quarters on this great question. I see the hon. and learned Member for East Fife is now present. I have raised many questions in his absence, and I would only now recommend him to treat with the various gentlemen to whom I have referred him to settle who is right-he or they. I mean the Labour Party. I am inclined to take their opinions, made so completely and unreservedly, on labour questions, before the academic opinions of the hon. and learned Member. One thing in conclusion I would say to him. When he again speaks of the Liberal Unionist Party I think he will do better justice to himself, his speech, and his position if he confines himself to arguments, and not seek to use harsh terms of accusation, if not abuse, which, if they do anything, reveal a somewhat unsettled habit of mind as to the position of that "ill-starred abortion" to which he referred.
§ (10.30.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I desire to seize the very earliest opportunity of briefly explain- 164 ing to the House the reasons which actuate me in the vote which I am about to give on this question. I will start by saying at once that I intend to cast my vote in favour of the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). My reasons for taking this course are twofold. First of all, it seems to me to be the plain duty of every Irish Nationalist Representative in this House to vote in favour of turning the present Government out of Office. The present Government has been for over six years in power, and the government of Ireland during that period has been based upon principles diametrically opposed to those which are dear to the hearts of all Irish Nationalists. It has been based on the idea that Ireland is simply a province of Great Britain, whereas we claim, on the other hand, that Ireland is a nation and that it has the rights of a nation. It has been based on an insolent assumption that the Irish are an inferior race—that they are unfit as Hottentots for the exercise and the enjoyment of free institutions, whereas we believe that we are the equals of Englishmen, judged by every test which goes to make up a nation. The Irish government of the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury, based as it has been upon these principles, was carried out for six years by violence, cruelty, and, as we believe, by fraud. The Constitution, at any rate, has been in Ireland permanently suspended. The right of trial by jury has been permanently abrogated; the right of freedom of speech has been invaded; and, from the Lord Lieutenant down to the humblest police officer in the remotest country districts, the rule of the right hon. Gentleman has been characterised by an unconstitutional violence, by a wanton disregard of the most cherished aspirations of the people, and by an almost incredible ignorance, as it seems to us, of the most elementary questions in this Irish problem. But now, after six years which to the mass of the Irish people have been six long and weary years of waiting, the day of judgment for this system of government has come; and, for my own part, I 165 apprehend it is the first duty of every Irish Nationalist in this House to assist in driving this Government from Office, regardless altogether of the question as to whether we are likely to fare any better at all at the hands of those who may succeed them. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, if the case simply stood thus, I would still feel it my duty to vote in favour of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife. But the case does not stand thus. The Government of the right hon. Gentleman is a Government which is pledged in a most solemn way in direct opposition to our claim for national self-government. The Party, however, which is opposed to them is a Party which is pledged to the principle of conceding self-government to our country; and for my part—and I hope that this statement of mine will be borne in mind when I come to other portions of my speech, I sincerely hope that the speediest and the freeest possible opportunity will be given to the Party on this side of the House to redeem the pledges which they have given to the Irish people. Now, Sir, I desire to examine for a moment what I understand those pledges to have been. The pledges of the Liberal Party to Ireland have been two-fold. First of all, I understand they are pledged in the most solemn manner to the statement that Ireland blocks the way—that not merely the consideration and discussion, but the effective settlement of the Irish National Question, must be the first work of Parliament, and that until that settlement is brought about those great English questions which are crying for reform must, by the very necessity of the case, remain in abeyance. And, secondly, I understand that the Liberal Party is pledged to the condition that the Irish National Question shall be so settled that, by satisfying the well-known aspirations of the Irish people, it will be finally, once for all, disposed of. On these two points, notwithstanding the specific character of the pledges which from time to time have been given by the leading Members of the Liberal Party, there exists—and there is no use disguising the fact—among certain large sections of the Irish people at this moment, the very gravest 166 anxieties and uncertainties; and, for my part, I feel that I should not be doing my duty if I did not do my best to utilise this Debate in order to dissipate these doubts and anxieties. As to the question that Ireland blocks the way, the most explicit statements and pledges have been made by the Leaders of the Liberal Party. On the 21st June, 1886, speaking in Edinburgh, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said—I think you understand why it is that my anxiety to deal with English, Scotch, and Welsh questions induces me to insist so pertinaciously upon the Irish question. I will endeavour to illustrate what I think is our position. It may be briefly stated in one word, describing the position of those who attend parties in London, or perhaps in Edinburgh, and who want to get away, but who find that their carriage cannot get to the door. Ireland blocks the way. Supposing you are in a railway train. Its diversified, momentary population are all anxious, for one reason or another, to reach their destinations; one to transact an important matter of business, one to visit a sick relative, one to welcome a child from distant lands, and with some trial of your patience and some temptation to irritation you find that the train has come to a standstill. Immediately every window of the train is filled with the protrusion of a large portion of the person of a passenger, and if they can get sight of a guard they ask angrily, "Why do you stop the train?" The guard points along the line and shows that the rails are occupied by a set of stones, placed there, probably, by some mischievous persons. I am sorry to say that innumerable persons are responsible by their neglect, or by their misdeeds, for having placed the Irish difficulty in the way of the nation. But you understand the first duty is to get the rails clear, and when you have got the rails clear the train will go on and you will reach your destination.Now it is as well to remark that it is not the Irish people who made the claim that Ireland blocks the way. They would certainly have been justified in making it, although many English Members may say it was an extravagant claim. At any rate, it was not made by the Irish people; it was made for Ireland, and the pledge was given by the Leader of the Liberal Party, who said that English, Scotch, and Welsh reforms could not be dealt with until the question of Home Rule had not merely been considered, not merely discussed, and voted upon on a First and Second Reading of a Bill, but passed into law, and until the block was thus 167 removed out of the way. The same pledge was made afterwards, in, perhaps, even more explicit language, by the right hon. Gentleman at Liverpool on the 28th June of the same year, when he said—Do not conceal it from yourselves. I will exhibit it in a more amusing point of view, if I can, though the matter is a serious one. Ireland is the mistress of the situation. Ireland is mounted on the back of England, as the old man in the Arabian Nights was mounted on the back of Sinbad the Sailor. Do you recollect that incident? I will read the passage. Sinbad is upon one of his islands. He sees a venerable-looking old man, and invites him to get on his back. The old man mounts accordingly. He takes him wherever he wishes to go. But, at last, he begins to wish that the old gentleman would dismount. I said to him "Dismount." He made the demand, a very modest one, "Dismount at thy leisure," 'but he would not get off my hack, and wound his legs round my neck. I was affrighted and would have cast him off, but he clung to me and gripped my neck with his legs till I was well-nigh choked. The world grew black in my sight, and I fell senseless to the ground, like one dead!' Sinbad is the Parliament of England. The old man is Ireland, who we, by our foolish initiative, have almost compelled to place herself upon our backs; and she rides you, and she will ride you, until, listening to her reasonable demands, you shall consent to some arrangement that justice and policy alike say are right. So much for the appeal to prudence. I want to see that Parliament go to work, and I know it cannot go to work effectively. Let it struggle as it will, the legs are gripping the neck; it is well-nigh throttled; the world grows black in its sight, and virtually it falls to the ground; and at the end of each Session some beggarly account is presented to the world of the good it has not been able to do and the laws it has been incompetent to make.Now, nothing can be more explicit than that speech of the right hon. Gentleman. From June, 1886, down to about a year ago, that was the acknowledged and unquestioned policy of the whole Liberal Party. Up to that time no voice was raised in England, either in the Press or on the platform, to question for one moment the contention that the Home Rule Question should be settled, and finally settled, before it could be deemed possible to deal with those questions now comprised in what is known as the Newcastle programme. Upon that policy we worked for six years in support of the Liberal Party. We helped them on the platforms of England, and assisted them in winning 168 many of their bye-elections in this country. I am entitled, therefore, to ask whether that is the policy of the Liberal Party to-day? I am disappointed not to hear an encouraging cheer from the Liberal Benches. Surely we are entitled to some information on this question. We are not responsible for doubts having been raised about it. I must say candidly that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, so far as his personal utterances go, is not responsible either; but the Liberal Party has been speaking through many mouths, and through the columns of the leading Liberal papers in different parts of the country, and doubts have been raised as to whether the Liberal policy is the same as it was in June, 1886. I repeat that those doubts have not been raised by the Irish Members, but by utterances which have come from leading Members of the Liberal Party. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) speaks, we are told, with the authority of a considerable number of Liberal Members, arid on the 21st July of this year, after enumerating a number of measures which in his opinion ought to be passed, including a Parish Councils Bill, a Legislative Reform Bill, a Payment of Members Bill, and a Local Option Bill, he said—When we have carried these Bills, then we can bring in our Home Rule Bill.I quote that for the purpose of emphasizing my statement that doubts as to change of policy have arisen, not without reason, from statements made by leading Members of the Liberal Party themselves. Therefore, our position in this matter is not an unreasonable one. We admit that, concurrently with Home Rule, it may be possible to deal with certain English questions; but that is a very different thing from postponing the introduction of the Bill until a programme of legislation has been carried out which, I venture to say, will take four or five years of a hard-working Parliament. We do not object to dealing, concurrently with Home Rule, with certain English questions, but they must be such questions as will assist in the carrying of Home Rule, and such 169 questions as will not impede or delay its progress or divert public attention from it; and we cannot support any English measure which may excite acute political interest or become a primary subject of national agitation so as to relegate Home Rule, in the minds of the people, to a secondary place. Nor, on other grounds, could we con sistently support, before Home Rule is passed into law, a measure which in any way will lead to a redistribution of political power in these islands by which the political power of Ireland would, in the slightest degree, be impaired. We demand from the Liberal Party the fulfilment of the pledge given in 1886—namely, that Home Rule should be the first Bill introduced as soon as Parliament meets for effective business; that it should be pushed on through all its stages; that it should be sent, on an early day, to the House of Lords, and, if rejected there, that it should not be dropped or hung up in favour of any other portion of the Newcastle programme. I pass on now to the second pledge which I assert the Liberal Party made to the people of Ireland, and which is, perhaps, more important than the first. It is that the Home Rule measure should be a measure satisfactory to the National aspirations of the Irish people. On this question I regret that we have been left in ignorance. I do not know whether many Members of the House have read the most able and interesting pamphlet issued a few months ago by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, entitled A New Constitution for Ireland. In that pamphlet Sir Charles said he regretted that there was no public discussion going on amongst the Irish people as to the measure of Home Rule that would satisfy them. It has been said that the people most concerned, the people of Ireland, must have an opportunity, of publicly discussing the various schemes which may be proposed. This necessary discussion has not only been discouraged, it has been actually choked off in Ireland. During the last six years there has practically been no discussion in Ireland, except such as we have raised recently as to the kind of Home Rule which will be satisfactory to the 170 national aspirations. We know what the Bill of 1886 was; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has informed the country that it is dead, and the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) declared, not very long ago, for the first time, that the scheme of 1886 was to be changed, in this respect at any rate—that the Irish Members, or some Irish Members, were to be retained at Westminster. We take the view that this retention of the Irish Members is a fundamental change in the scheme of 1886; that it is such a fundamental change as to affect the whole scheme, and until we know how far it is proposed to allow the presence of the Irish Members to affect the other provisions of the Bill, it is utterly impossible for us to discuss this question at all. Therefore we say we are in absolute ignorance with respect to the scheme that is to be proposed, and apparently we may continue in ignorance until a cut-and-dried proposal is brought down to that Table, and then we shall be, as in 1886, in a position of most terrible difficulty— the difficulty of being forced either to accept this cut-and-dried scheme in all its main features, as it is proposed, or else to take the enormous responsibility of rejecting it and driving the Government of the day from power. For our part, we asked for some information of the main features of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman at a time when we believed that the production of this information would be of use to the cause of Home Rule and of the Liberal Party; that was before the Elections took place. Our demand was refused, and it seems now that we are to have Parliament prorogued until January or February next, and, so far as the discussion of Home Rule is concerned, these months are to be wasted, and we are to be left in ignorance of what is proposed for us. Of course the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to withhold information until he places his Bill upon that Table, but when he takes that course he places upon us the imperative duty of again making it perfectly clear to the House, to the right hon. Gentleman, to the 171 Liberal Party, and to everybody concerned what is the very least that Irishmen will accept as a final settlement of their national claims. Last Session I quoted from a declaration on this question on the 25th January, 1891, by the late Mr. Parnell. Mr. Parnell said—There can be no mistake about it, we want a Parliament with full power to manage the affairs of Ireland, and with no English veto, whether on the appointment of your leader or the laws you shall make. A veto a that kind would break down and destroy your Parliament before it had been two years in existence. There must he no veto, other than the Constitutional veto of the Crown, as it is exercised by the Crown on the Imperial Parliament.That is a definition which holds good to this day. I assert that no Nationalist in Ireland, or in this House or elsewhere, will venture to say that the Irish National claims will be satisfied by a scheme one whit less extreme than that which is shadowed forth in the quotation I have read. We do not believe in a policy of instalment in this National question. We believe this concession of Home Rule will be regarded by many Englishmen in the nature of an experiment. It will be judged by its success, and if we have not full, free, and unfettered control of Irish affairs our government by that Parliament will be a failure. And if it is a failure that Parliament will be taken from us again, and, perhaps, for a hundred years the chance of getting self-government will have gone. Therefore, we cannot accept a policy of instalment. In two or three words let me say what I understand to be the meaning and (the definition of Home Rule given by Mr. Parnell. It seems to me that the main question—because it dominates all others—is, how can the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament be sustained consistently with the concession of a free and unfettered control of Irish affairs to an Irish Legislature? The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), in the course of the discussion on the Home Rule Bill in 1886, made allusion to this question of the supremacy of Parliament, in which he said that the omnipotence of Parliament was 172 proved by the fact that there was nothing above it or behind it, but one Parliament could not bind its successor. One Parliament might pass an Act, but it could be revised or repealed by the following Parliament. For the purpose of my argument, I admit, from a strictly Constitutional point of view, that is an admirable exposition of the law on the question of the supremacy of Parliament. The rights of Parliament after the concession of an Irish Legislature would, no doubt, in theory remain intact. They would remain dormant so far as Irish affairs were concerned, but a Party compact would have been entered into between this Parliament and the people of Ireland to the effect that these powers and rights should remain in future dormant so long as the Irish Parliament exists. Such a compact would not, I admit, in strict theory of law bind successive Parliaments; but the hon. Member for Aberdeen, in the same speech, said that such a compact would become and must be permanent, because it would constitute a moral obligation on Parliament not to act contrary to the Statute. It comes to this, therefore: that what we ask is that in this Home Rule scheme there shall be a specific undertaking—a clause specifically undertaking—that while the Irish Parliament continued in existence the powers of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland should never be used. In point of actual fact, the Imperial Parliament would retain its power to take away our Legislature, but we should require a formal compact with Ireland to the effect that while that Legislature lasted it should have a free and unfettered control of Irish affairs. It is no answer to say that the Irish Parliament might pass Statutes in excess of its powers. That is a case to be dealt with by that tribunal which will have to be granted in Ireland, as it has been granted in every country where a Constitution has been granted. What we object to is not the retention of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in the sense that the Imperial Parliament can take away the Irish Legislature, but we do object to the retention of the right of revision, of amendment, review, and repeal of specific 173 Acts of the Irish Parliament acting within its proper limits. I saw the other day an interesting speech on this very point in reference to the Constitution of Canada; and we might ask, if no such provisions as I have mentioned exists in connection with the Canadian Legislature, why ask for such protection for Ireland? The answer is perfectly simple. Under the Bill of 1886, the Members were not going to sit at Westminster, and in the Canadian Constitution Canadian Members do not sit at Westminster. The power of interfering in Canadian affairs is absolutely a dead letter, because there is no temptation to the Imperial Parliament to bother itself with Canadian affairs, about which it understands very little, and with which it would be incompetent to deal. But if Irish Members are sitting here, there will be a daily and hourly temptation to induce you to put into force this power, unless you specifically undertake by Parliamentary compact to suspend that power while our Parliament exists. I am convinced that on this point the right hon. Member for Midlothian is not very far divided from us, because on dealing with the Home Rule Bill in 1886 he said the Parliament he wanted to give Ireland was a practically independent body, independent in the discharge of its statutory functions; and, speaking later in the same year, he said that the Parliament would have a real, practical independent management of its own affairs. I must also refer to the question of the veto. Mr. Parnell demanded that the veto of the Crown should be exercised as it is exercised in Imperial affairs. That is that the veto of the Crown should he exercised in accordance with the usage of the Constitution, which prescribes that it shall be used only in accordance with the advice of the Ministers of the day. What we mean is that the veto shall be used under the advice of the Irish Ministers of the day. During the discussion immediately before the Election, Mr. Oscar Browning, who, I suppose, speaks with some authority on this Constitutional question, repeatedly said that the only veto that the Liberal Party or that he would agree to would be the veto to be exercised on Irish 174 affairs of the Viceroy on the advice of the English Ministers of the Crown. That would make the Home Rule Bill a sham and a farce. It would be re-enacting, in another form, the old Poynings Law, against which the Irish Parliament so long struggled. It would be impossible for the Irish Legislature to pass any single Act on Irish affairs within the scope of its functions if it had to receive the sanction of British Ministers responsible to the majority of the British Parliament. Irish Ministers would be powerless, and Irish legislative efforts would be beneath contempt. I do not believe that was the intention of he Bill of 1886. I have endeavoured to inform myself by reading a series of essays on the subject by Lord Thring, who I believe was the draftsman of the Government, and drafted the Home Rule Bill, and he laid it down that the veto should be exercised on the advice of Irish, and not of English, Ministers. Further than that, the hon. and learned Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), speaking in this House in 1886, said, with regard to the veto being exercised by the Lord Lieutenant, it was to be exercised Constitutionally by the Lord Lieutenant on the advice of the Irish Ministers. We claim, therefore, that in purely Irish affairs we shall have full and supreme control. We, of course, shall be always subject to the supremacy of this Parliament, which at any time can come in and take our Constitution; but we shall not be subjected at any time to interference or amendment or revision of particular Acts. And we claim that the right of veto shall be exercised on the advice of the Irish Ministers, and that the Irish Parliament shall have power to deal with the question of land, with the police, and with the appointment of the magistrates. There is one portion of the Home Rule scheme which, when we come to discuss it in this House, will probably prove the crux of the whole business. I mean the financial portion of it. But it would be manifestly absurd for me, on an occasion such as this, to enter into that. All I will say is that the financial portion of the scheme of 1886 was never accepted by the late Mr. Parnell, who 175 always made a reservation to the effect that he would endeavour in Committee to deal with and amend it. Further than that, I believe the experience of the last six years has convinced many men that the financial arrangements proposed in the Bill of 1886 were unjust to Ireland, and would probably, if passed into law, have resulted in the bankruptcy of the country before many years had elapsed. But, Mr. Speaker, I desire now to pass to another question. I deeply regret that there has been no statement made on the points I have mentioned, and I sincerely hope before the Debate ends we shall have not vague but specific and clear assuran3es as to these matters. I also regret that there seems to be an idea abroad that Parliament is to be prorogued until January or February next. I could understand a claim made by right hon. Gentlemen on the ground that they desire still further time for consulting with Irishmen and amongst themselves as to the details of the Home Rule Bill, but there is another question altogether which could be dealt with effectually in a Winter Session, and which is of so urgent a character that, for my part, I cannot understand how right hon. Gentlemen who are going to be responsible for the administration of the law in Ireland can allow it to remain in abeyance till the beginning of next year. Mr. Speaker there are now—and I state it on the authority of gentlemen who speak with some weight on these matters—there are now in Ireland about 5,000 evicted tenants and their families. I am told that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy), whose speech I was unfortunate enough to miss, made a suggestion that the time between now and January or February could be well occupied by instituting an inquiry into the case of the evicted tenants. Now, it seems to me, very little inquiry is needed. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, and the whole of the Liberal Party in this House, voted in favour of the Bill of last Session introduced by my friend Mr. O'Kelly, the late Member for North Roscommon, which proposed to give the Land Commission 176 power to compel landlords to sell to the old tenants farms from which they had been evicted at a price to be fixed by the Land Commission, and it gave power to the Land Commission to take the class called "planters"—there are not very many of them I am happy to say—by the back of the neck and put them out and the old tenants in. (Laughter.) Well, I do not sympathise with that laugh. That Bill was drafted by myself and some of my friends here. It was introduced by my friend Mr. O'Kelly, and supported by every Irish Member sitting for a Nationalist constituency, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and the whole of the Liberal Party. And, for my own part, I do not see what need there is for a period extending from August until January or February for an inquiry into this matter. Surely the facts are sufficiently well known. Surely the right hon. Gentleman and the other Members of the Liberal Party who voted in favour of that Bill knew what they were doing and meant what their walking into the Lobby conveyed to the Irish people. Their supporters in Ireland had been prodigal with promises that as soon as the Liberal Party returned to power these poor people would be restored to their homes. Means have been found for doing so by my friend Mr. O'Kelly which have commended themselves to the wisdom of the Leaders of the Liberal Party, and, I ask, why not assemble. Parliament in November and pass that Bill into law, and thus save Ireland and those tenants, and respectfully, I would say, save yourselves, from the situation you will be face to face with when you go to Ireland and have to explain to these tenants, who possibly may be starving, that they must wait till next January or February before you can do anything—that the months must be taken up by an inquiry, although you yourselves admitted last year that we had devised a plan you considered wise and just, and which should be carried into law. I would, therefore, earnestly impress upon the Liberal Party and their Leaders the desirability of summoning an Autumn Session of Parliament—it need not be a very long one—to pass into law a 177 Bill which will enable those tenants to be put back into their homes before the winter sets in in Ireland. Now there is just one other question on which I have to touch. It is the question of amnesty to the prisoners who are suffering under sentence of penal servitude. All the eighteen men in prison to whom I allude were convicted of Fenianism under the Treason Felony Act which you passed in order to imprison John Mitchel in the year 1848, and therefore they are omen who conic within the category of political prisoners. The House will remember the steps which have been taken on this question already. The movement in favour of their release was started in Ireland by Mr. Parnell. The first mention of the question of amnesty in this House was when, acting on the advice and under the guidance of Mr. Parnell, I believe the Session before last, I moved a Motion here in favour of their release. I am sorry to say that Motion did not lead to any very great results. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary opposed a firm and obdurate front to our appeals, and I regret to say he was seconded and supported by the late Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). I then appealed to the Home Secretary for permission to investigate the legal aspects of these cases, and to visit those prisoners; and with a fairness—I had almost said a generosity—which certainly I will be the last to deny, the right hon. Gentleman gave me time after time facilities for visiting privately the principal of these prisoners in Portland Gaol, and I satisfied myself of certain aspects of the case, and last Session I again moved a Motion praying that there might be an investigation of some of these cases; and the result of the second Debate initiated by me was that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary admitted that in the case of one of those men, James Egan, there was a well-marked distinction, and that it was a case which might fairly come up for reconsideration and review at an early date. But, Mr. Speaker, the months have gone by and James Egan is still in Portland Prison. Is it too much to expect that the right 178 hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, before he leaves Office, will do at least one gracious act which would be remembered; is it too much to expect that in the case of this man, where it is practically admitted that the facts are such that he should be released—under these circumstances, is it too much to expect that the Home Secretary will boldly grapple with this case and release him? But whether he does or not, in this, as in everything else, we have been taught to look to his successors, and, for my own part, I cannot sit down without making a formal and definite appeal to them now. They are in Opposition at present, I know. But the very moment they take Office it will be the business of myself and of my hon. Friends to urge upon them the desirability of having a prompt and thorough investigation into the cases of these men with a view to their release. And more than that, we will press upon them that, apart altogether from the irregularity of the convictions and the unsoundness of the nature of the evidence on which they were convicted, we strongly hold the opinion that they who are pledged to the great policy of reconciliation in Ireland—who are pledged to the policy that is to heal all old sores and bury many fathoms deep bitter memories of strife between the two countries, that they ought to accompany any measure to carry out that policy with a measure of forgiveness to those men who, however much they may have, erred were animated by a patriotic desire to serve their country. Mr. Speaker, this Debate should not close without allusion being made by both the Front Benches to this question. I appeal to the Government, while in Office, to release Egan. I appeal to the Government going into power to deal generously with this question. All I have to say to them is this: I have raised these points because I believe it is for the advantage, not only of the Liberal Party, but for the advantage of this country, as well as of Ireland, that there should be no longer any doubt or anxiety or uncertainty upon these questions. I said at the commencement that I, for my part, desire a perfectly free chance should be given to Liberal statesmen to fulfil 179 their promises to Ireland. But, at the same time, there is no use for the Liberal Party to be living in a fool's paradise. We Irish Members, Mr. Speaker, by our votes are going to place the Liberal Party in power; but unless the Liberal Party stand by their pledge that Ireland blocks the way—unless the Liberal Party stand by their pledge to propose a full and satisfactory Home Rule Bill—unless the Liberal Party stand by their pledge to take an early opportunity to deal in a spirit of broad-mindedness and generosity with the case of these prisoners, they must know that they cannot count on the continued support of Ireland. On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian devotes his genius to this Irish problem, and insists upon his Party formally adhering to their pledges to Ireland, he will be taking a course which, in my humble judgment, will not merely redound to his own eternal honour, but which will redound also to the credit of the Liberal Party, to the honour of England, to the purity of her laws, and to the stability of her Empire.
§ (11.25.) VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
If the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down has done nothing else, Mr. Speaker, it has, to a certain extent, answered the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife, after a preliminary reference to epitaphs—a study which I recommend him to keep up, as lie may require some in a not far distant period—turned to the demand of the Proposer and Seconder of the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, and said that the information which they demanded had nothing whatever to do with the subject-matter now before us. But, I think, no one could have listened to the speech either of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) or of the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) without feeling that at least those hon. Members did not see there was no occasion for information. What is the position that has 180 been taken up by the Gladstonians in the constituencies? They have demanded the suffrages of the electors on all grounds—the ground of general policy and the ground of Home Rule. About their general policy which they had no hope of carrying into law, they have been profuse in detail and lavish in promise. Many of them have gone to the extent—following the lead of the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan)—of promising the atmosphere of a new heaven and a new earth. But as regards Home Rule, the watchword of the Party, from their Leader downwards, has been secrecy and concealment. They have pretended to trust the people of this country. They have said "We alone trust the people," and yet not one single item has a single Gladstonian told the electors as to what the Home Rule Bill is to be. I defy anyone to say that the Leader of the Gladstonian Party has taken the country into his confidence. There are individuals here and there who acted differently, and I do not wish to misrepresent them. But judging the Party by their spokesman, I defy contradiction when I say that while crying aloud to heaven and earth as the only man who trusts the people he has carefully concealed from them the whole of his political policy. Now what position do you find yourselves in? You have the demand of the hon. Member for North Longford (Kr. Justin McCarthy) for precedence for Home Rule. He demands information about the evicted tenants, and he has made demands also with respect to the Crimes Act and Irish Administration. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) not only endorses what he says, but endorses it in language more powerful than has ever before been heard in this House on the same subject. What has he demanded? He says that the Imperial Parliament, which was to be supreme, is not to have the power to deal with a single act of the Irish Parliament. Has any Irish Member, whether he be a Clerical or a Parnellite, expressed his dissent from that proposition? Not one. Has a single Gladstonian Member from England or Scotland expressed his 181 assent to that proposition? What materials for a homogeneous Party! An absolutely unanimous demand is put forward for an Irish Parliament whose acts shall not be vetoed—is there a single Scotch or English Home Ruler who put in his address or said to his constituents that he will vote for a Bill of that kind? Is there a single gentleman sitting near me who put in his address the statement that the acts of an Irish Parliament cannot and ought not to be vetoed by the Imperial Parliament? He has endeavoured to persuade the electors to vote for him as a Home Ruler because he is in favour of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament; and here on the first day of the new Parliament he is face to face with this position that, whether he likes it or not, the day will come when all the promises he and his Party have made will have to be presented for payment, and the paymasters are those who will demand their presentation at the right moment. It is a position from which you have no escape. Either you have a majority or you have not. If you keep your majority you can only keep it by voting for that which every one of you pledged himself not to do. ("No.") Has any hon. Member pledged himself to a Home Rule which means the granting of an Irish Parliament beyond the control of the Imperial Parliament in regard to its acts? Not one. And yet you have the whole of the Irish Members here unitedly demanding that as their only and sole condition. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith), in the latter portion of his speech, protested against and denounced what he called the disintegrating doctrines of those who are putting forward the English vote as against the Irish vote. I should entirely agree with his protest in so far as it affected any ordinary measure before the country. But I ask the House to consider very carefully what it is which the hon. Member for East Fife now asks and is supported in his demand by those who agree with him. He says that, although England by an overwhelming majority, and Great Britain by a less majority, has pronounced against Home Rule, yet Home 182 Rule ought to be passed. Now, how was the Act of Union carried?
§ An hon. MEMBER: By bribery.
It was carried by a great deal of bribery, which, I am sorry to say, was the common weapon in Parliamentary warfare both in England and in Ireland at that time; but it was passed with the assent of the only two bodies entitled to give their assent on behalf of Ireland and of Great Britain. It was passed with the assent of the Irish Parliament and of the British Parliament. The proposal now is that Home Rule should be passed with the assent of the Irish nation only. ("Oh!") Is it denied that the English nation are against Home Rule? Not only is it proposed to undo, without the consent of one of the contracting parties, that which was done by the official representatives of the two contracting parties at the time, but, after repealing the Union and passing Home Rule against the wish of the English people, it is calmly proposed by the hon. Member for East Fife to leave here in this Parliament Irish Members to continue to outvote and to control English public opinion. I appeal to the House whether I have overstated the case?
§ An hon. MEMBER: The Irish Members are not to control English affairs.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
That is not the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian or of the Members who support him. It is not the position of any hon. Member near me. It is not the position of any of the Gladstonian Press—the Daily News, the Pall Mall Gazette, the Leeds Mercury, or of any other of the Gladstonian papers. One and all of these now say that the Irish Members are to remain here to share in the full functions of a Member of Parliament. ("No!" and "Yes!") The mere fact that on one side of me I hear "No" and on the other side "Yes" is an additional and distinct proof of the perfect homogeneousness of this Party. I do not think I am wrong in saying that it 183 is absolutely preposterous to give Ireland Home Rule in the sense Irish Members demand, and to leave Irish Members here to rule England, Scotland, and Wales. It is a proposition which I do not believe any Member of Parliament, whatever his politics may be, will dare to face his constituents with as a supporter of, and it is quite certain the Unionist Party will be false to its first trust and duty if it did not resist any such proposal with every Parliamentary form and with the whole energy in its power. I have only one thing more to say. The hon. Member for East Fife was kind enough, in the concluding portion of his speech, to cheer himself with some scornful remarks about the dwindling numbers of the Liberal Unionist Party. He said—I believe with strict mathematical accuracy—that in 1886 we were ninety-four, and that at the present moment we have been returned as forty-seven; and he also said that it required no great skill in arithmetic to predict how long it would be before that forty-seven disappeared. Now the only complaint I have to make against that statement is that it was not quite full enough. I should like to add to it what the Liberal Unionist Party has done in the period in question. Six years ago the majority that followed Mr. Gladstone, added to the Irish Members, was 160, at the present moment the majority in Mr. Gladstone's favour is forty. Therefore it has taken the Liberal Unionist Party six years, at a loss of forty-seven seats, to reduce the right hon. Member's majority from 160 to forty. I shall be quite content if, at the end of another six years, the majority is again reduced at the same proportions. It would give a good Unionist majority of eighty. When that is done the work of the Liberal Unionist Party is done, and 184 there will be no further need for its continuance. The Liberal Unionist Party came into existence to do certain work. They have done half of it, and they intend to do the rest. But the reason why the Liberal Unionist Party are not so very dear to some of my hon. Friends around me is because they have been very much stronger than my friends around me expected, for not only have they held together in this House and when threatened with extinction come back to the number of forty-seven, but they have, by their influence in the constituencies, turned a majority of 160 into one of a bare and homogeneous forty. It is thought by some ardent Home Rulers that this victory marks the end of their labours and is the triumph of their work. It is only the beginning of the contest for us. It is the first time since 1886 we have been able to come face to face with the men we oppose on this question with all the conscientious strength of our natures. We are in earnest in this matter, and you will find us so. I venture to predict that not in this Parliament alone but in future Parliaments will the Liberal Unionists be there to do the work they have to do until that work is done. The advantage we have over you is this—that whereas you are not united we are united; whereas you do not really know your minds we have made up ours, and whereas you are prepared to compromise we never will.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Leveson Gower.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock.