§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [8th August], "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.)
And which Amendment was,
At the end of the Question to add the words, "That we feel it, however, to be our humble duty 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 again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Debate resumed.333
§ On Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.) rising to address the House,
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said: I rise to Order, Sir. I desire to ask your ruling on a point of Order, as to whether the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) has not—by the proceedings of Tuesday night—lost his right to speak in this Debate, and I will refer you to what occurred in this House only last year. On 26th May, I myself, at a Morning Sitting at 6.44 of the clock, moved the Adjournment of the Debate in these words—I beg to move the Adjournment of the Debate, as it is impossible, in the short time at our disposal, to consider all the questions we desire to raise.That took about half a minute, Sir. That was at 6.44, and at 6.50, after you had refused to accept the Motion to put the Closure, the Debate was talked out exactly as it was last Tuesday. On the next day the House met, 28th May, the Debate was resumed. I considered that I had lost my right to resume the Debate; but as the second speaker I commenced to make a speech, not thinking that I had entirely forfeited the right to speak in the Debate, but you interrupted me in these words—Mr. SPEAKER: The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak. I see he has already spoken on the Main Question.Mr. MORTON: I only moved the Adjournment.Mr. SPEAKER: That is speaking on the Main Question.I, of course, have no desire whatever to stop the right hon. Gentleman, but as a very humble Member of this House, and there being probably other occasions on which I shall desire to speak, I want fully to preserve my right against all comers.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to bring that precedent before the House, but I think there must be some misconception. The hon. Gentleman made a speech—it is true it was a short one—and subsequently the Closure was moved, which I declined to accept, and the Debate, not on the Main Question, as the hon. Gentleman put it, but on the Adjournment, was resumed. Subsequently the hon. 334 Gentleman did not rise in the House to resume the Debate, as he would have had a right to do; but he spoke afterwards in the course of the Debate. I think misconception must have arisen in consequence of the Closure having been moved on the Main Question and not on the Adjournment, and also owing to the fact that the hon. Gentleman did not rise at once to claim his privilege of resuming the Debate. If any misconception has taken place, it is too late to offer any apology to the hon. Gentleman for what occurred in the year 1891. The facts of the case are these—If an hon. Member moves the Adjournment and that Adjournment is not agreed to, he is held to have spoken on the Main Question when it is resumed; but when he moves the Adjournment of the Debate and that question is agreed to he is in possession of the House, and he may either resume the Debate immediately, or subsequently in the course of the Debate he is entitled to speak. I do not think there is any necessity for saying anything further. On Tuesday the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) moved the Adjournment of the Debate, and that was not accepted, but no Division took place against it. The House agreed to the Adjournment, and the right hon. Gentleman is in possession of the House. If it were otherwise no Debate could be resumed, because if any Gentleman moved the Adjournment of the Debate and anybody objected, without a Division, according to the theory now proposed, it would be impossible for the Debate to be resumed. But the hon. Gentleman was entitled to place the question before the House, and I hope I have stated fairly all the facts of the case.
After the incident which has taken place I feel I ought to begin by tendering my thanks to the noble Lord the Member for Barnsley (Earl Compton). It will be within the recollection of the House that on Monday night, at a quarter to twelve o'clock, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Leveson-Gower), on behalf of the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), moved the Adjournment of the Debate. On 335 Tuesday night, following that precedent and in accordance with what I certainly believed was a general understanding, I at the same hour moved the Adjournment of the Debate. Thereupon the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy) got up and objected. I have noticed, Sir, that whenever it is desired to exhibit personal discourtesy towards any man, or any woman, the hon. and learned Gentleman always presents himself to accomplish it. If the Division had been taken, and if the objection to the Motion for Adjournment had been carried, we are now told by Mr. Speaker that I should have lost my right to take part in the Debate. No doubt that was what my noble Friend the Member for Barnsley foresaw.
§ EARL COMPTON (York, W. R., Barnsley)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I wish to explain at once, in order that there may be no misunderstanding, that I did not speak up to twelve o'clock with the intention of depriving him of the right to speak to-day. I was unaware of the Rule which we have just heard from the Chair; I was only rising to protest against having a three days' Debate instead of two.
That is just what I was saying. I was just remarking that owing to the happy and friendly conduct of my noble Friend the device of the hon. and learned Member for North Louth was not successful, because my noble Friend talked out the Motion, and accordingly I am able to speak. I will venture to express the hope that after the Division which will take place to-day, and after right hon. Gentlemen who sit around me have obtained the object of their desires—from which, no doubt, I can humbly confess that the Party to which I belong has been the means of excluding them from the last six years—I say I hope that when they have obtained their desires they will themselves feel that the system of petty slights and of injurious language towards the Members of the Liberal Unionist Party should be finally abandoned. Sir, we have come back to the House a Party forty-eight strong, and I am told that in a short time we shall add another to 336 our number. Sir, I would ask whether in the history of third Parties, who are always placed in a difficult position, there is any case in which such a Party has come back after a second General Election forty-nine strong to this House? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) talked about our dwindling numbers. Well, Sir, I am not certain that dwindling numbers are any greater proof of dwindling influence than are dwindling majorities, whether in East Fife or elsewhere. But, Sir, our influence in the country is not measured by our numbers in this House, and there is, I believe, a very simple test by which you can measure it. In 1885 there was a square fight in the country between the Conservatives and Liberals, and on that occasion the Conservatives came back to the House 249 strong. They had, however, at that time the support of the Irish vote in British constituencies. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has stated that that is worth forty seats. I think he exaggerates, as usual. Let us take it as worth twenty seats, then the number due to the Conservative strength alone was 229, and to-day the number of Unionists in this House is 315. The difference of eighty-six seats, counting 172 votes on a Division, is the measure of the influence of the Liberal Unionist Party, and in these days of political combination I would venture to point out that the addition of 172 would make the majority of the Opposition 212; and even if on a great Division, under these circumstances, they were to lose the support of the Irish vote they would still be in a majority of fifty-two. I only use these figures to point out to my hon. Friends that, after all, in spite of all they have done, we remain a certain political force, and I would say, with all respect to my hon. and learned Friend behind me, that I do not think he will lessen our influence in the country one bit by calling us either political apostates, or an ill-starred abortion. Now, Sir, my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) said on Tuesday that this Debate was in his opinion most singular in the records of the House. 337 Sir, I agree with him, although I am afraid that we should differ a little when we came to describe what each of us believed to be the greatest of its singularities. My right hon. Friend says that the issue between the Unionists and the Home Rule Party has been decided by the country, and I agree with him. He says that from that verdict there is no appeal, and I agree with him. And then he goes on to say that under these circumstances it is irrelevant—I think he almost said it was impertinent—for us to do anything more than expel the Government from Office, without any curiosity whatever as to what was to follow it, as to the Government of the future which, with something more than his usual felicity, my right hon. Friend described as a "nebular hypothesis." But my right hon. Friend is not altogether consistent, because in a later part of his speech he admitted that a Debate of this kind would not he altogether retrospective. He said it was natural that there should be some desire to have light thrown upon the future, for his part he was not even surprised at the application of pressure, and then he proceeded to give answers in writing to questions which were put to him by the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy). Well, now, Sir, I appeal to my right hon. Friend, is not that rather hard measure? Here are 315 Unionists, and we may not ask a single question; here are seventy-one Nationalist Irishmen, and they may ask five questions and get a civil answer. Sir, I have been studying the characteristics of nebulous bodies, and I find that now-a-days, by the employment of powerful telescopes and the latest inventions, these bodies are forced to disclose their secrets and can be resolved into their component atoms, and I have come to the conclusion that the hon. Member for North Longford must be one of the very latest and most powerful of these instruments, and I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) wishes he could borrow it. Now, Sir, I have said that I agree with my right hon. Friend as to the singularity of this Debate. I believe that the situation is absolutely unprecedented in English political history, though not, 338 perhaps, in the history of foreign countries which are also under Parliamentary Government. In France and Italy I have seen again and again that a combination of sections, very often in entire disagreement as to everything else, has accomplished the extrusion from power of the existing Government, and nobody in those countries have seemed to think it necessary to ask who was to follow. The act has been an act of destruction and condemnation, and there has been no attempt to proceed to construction or to substitution. But that is not the case in this country. Owing to the fact probably that we have not so many Parties, and that the Parties that we have are more homogeneous and clearly defined, in almost every case in which a Government has gone out of Office a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government has implied a Vote of Confidence in the Opposition—in the Party coining to take their place, and the policy which that Party represented. Is that so to-day? I say you know you can put that Government in a minority of forty; you do not know that this Government will not be in a minority of one hundred. I have said that that is the rule—I believe almost the absolute rule—in English politics, but there is an exception. In 1859 there was a combination of sections to put out of Office the then Tory Government; it consisted of the friends of Lord Palmerston, of the friends of Lord Russell, of the Peelites, and the friends, of course, of Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden, and of the Irish Party; and at the time they put the Government out of Office I believe those Parties—and I speak in the recollection of my right hon. Friend—did not know what Government was going to follow or who was going to be at the head of it; and not only that they did not know, but that they had not the ordinary means of foreseeing what we have at the present time. What happened then? When these various sections had made up their differences, and had agreed to form a Government, they carne back and met Parliament, produced their measures and their policy, asked for Supplies, took the opinion of the House of Commons, and asked its approval, and having got that they 339 were able to say that they had the confidence of the country and of the House of Commons. But how different it is to-day. To-day we are to put out that Government. The Government which comes in is immediately to prorogue Parliament, and for five, it may be for six months, this "nebular hypothesis" is going to carry on the whole administration of the country; it is going to decide its policy; it is going to exercise all the prerogatives of Government, and neither the House of Commons nor the country knows whether from the first moment of its existence it may not be in a minority. I will show that very soon. It is a strange and unexampled position, and yet right hon. Gentlemen on this side, backed and supported by hon. Gentlemen behind them, have endeavoured to stifle debate, and they are going without one word of explanation, without one word of information on important parts of their policy, to endeavour for these five or six months to carry out a policy which never has, which never could have, the approval of the majority of this country. I will just put a case to show what may be the result of this situation. What is the foreign policy of the Government of those who, to use the language of my right hon. Friend, may possibly be called upon to guide the Councils of the country? Some time ago there were speeches made by the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) and by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and rightly or wrongly these speeches were believed by many persons in this country and by a large portion of the foreign Press to point to the desirability of an immediate, or, at all events, of a very early evacuation of Egypt, and the same speeches were understood to imply, if not hostility, at all events something akin to disapproval of the policy of the Triple Alliance. Now, is that to be the policy of the future Government?
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I was under the impression that the question of the position of Italy in regard to the Triple Alliance had formed a very distinct and a very important part of one of the speeches delivered by him. But if my right hon. Friend denies it I accept his contradiction, and will deal only with the question of Egypt. Now, Sir, there is a rumour—there are plenty of rumours—that Lord Rosebery is to be Foreign Secretary. I hope it is true, because the country has confidence in the conduct of foreign policy by Lord Rosebery. But why? Because it is believed that the policy of Lord Rosebery is distinctly opposed to the policy of my right hon. Friend, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. If Lord Rosebery returns to the Foreign Office, I believe the country will have confidence in his administration. But suppose that rumour is not true? Then it is conceivable that we may wake up some morning in the course of the next five or six months and find that preparations are going on for the evacuation of Egypt, and the opinion of the House of Commons and of the country will never have been taken upon that step. I know that there is a certain opinion among some of my hon. Friends that the democracy of this country would favour that policy. I do not believe it. I do not believe that democracies—and I judge by the experience of the democracy of France, and, above all, of the United States of America—are anything but keenly sensitive to the honour and interests of the nation to which they belong, and I do not believe that the British democracy will favour a policy of scuttle; and so I say, if it should happen that this policy of evacuating Egypt should be the policy of the incoming Government, then it is my firm belief that though at the present moment the Opposition may have a majority of forty, the Government would be in an actual minority. But, Sir, the difficulty is not chiefly or entirely confined to the question of foreign policy. It is perfectly well known—it is an open secret—that on this side of the House and in the majority—I am speaking now of the British portion of the majority—there are different sections who have 341 different objects to which they attach an altogether different value. They may be all content to postpone these several objects for a greater and more dominant one, but when it comes to settling the precedence between the remainder it is not too much to say that very probably there may be differences of opinion. Have those differences been, or are they likely to be, reconciled before the present Government conies into Office? If they are, then I am perfectly prepared to admit that, so far as the Irish majority is concerned, you have a homogeneous Party. But if they are not reconciled, if they remain in the form in which the public Press has already made us acquainted with them, then I say you cannot count upon your majority for a single day. Some persons have complained—and it is not surprising under these circumstances—of what they have called the conspiracy of silence, which has been maintained. Here are all these various sections. Not one Representative of any single section has addressed the House. Well, Sir, this is an astonishing docility, but how long will it continue? I do not much wonder at the silence. There are only two things they could possibly talk about—they must talk either about the past or the future. If they talk about the past they might repeat, no doubt, the charges against the present Government which have been heard on a hundred platforms, but then they would he under the disadvantage that in this House they could be answered. Therefore, I am not surprised that they have preserved a discreet silence. But then as to the future. They might talk about the future. They might put forward, as their Irish allies have done, their desire for assurances. They know perfectly that if the assurances of any one section were granted, some other section might be displeased, and the displeasure of one section would be fatal to the hopes of all, and so again they have preserved a discreet silence. They prefer to wait for something to turn up. There are, however, two sections in the House whose taciturnity seems to me to be exceptionally strange. The first is the Welsh Members of Parliament. There are thirty-one of them, we are told by their own Resolution, who have been returned, and we know that the 342 first object of their constituents is the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Wales. They are content to postpone the realisation of their desire for a time, but they insist that it shall have the second place in the Liberal programme. Have they got any assurance to that effect? Did they hear the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford the other night when he said that though he and his friends would be willing to support the passage of British reforms, yet those reforms must not be questions which were of a nature to divert the attention of the British people or to make the Irish Question less dominant. Is there anybody who will say that a question so complex and so difficult and exciting so much interest in all classes of the community as the question of Disestablishment can be introduced into this House without diverting the attention of the whole British people? Therefore, that question is excluded by the mandate of the hon. Member for Waterford, who carries with him, in this and in other respects, the support of the other section of the Nationalist Party. Therefore, it appears to me that for Welsh Disestablishment the prospect of second place is not promising, and it is under these circumstances that I have wondered that these Representatives of the Welsh people have not thought it necessary to say something in this Debate. Well, Sir, the other section is the class of Members who profess especially to represent the cause of the Eight Hours Bill for miners. I should have thought their experience would have convinced them of the virtue of a little pressure. I do not think there is in the history of our politics—even in these times of rapid conversion—a more extraordinary instance of progress in regard to any question than that made by the right hon. Member for Midlothian between the time when he refused to receive a deputation and the time when, in the course of the election for Midlothian, he saw the representatives of the miners there and was able to give them a most satisfactory assurance that he was prepared to support the Eight Hours Bill with local option. I understand from the papers that this section of Members of 343 the House communicated with my right hon. Friend, and that they made a most modest request. Their request was that this matter of the Eight Hours Bill should have the attention which it merited in the course of the Debate, and I suppose they meant in the course of the speech of my right hon. Friend. Has it had the attention which it merits? Has it had one single word from my right hon. Friend? Has the subject been mentioned in the whole course of the Debate except by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt)—who is opposed to the Eight Hours Bill—and by myself? And yet, in the face of this putting aside of the modest request of the miners' Representatives, there is not a Representative of a miners' constituency, or a Representative of labour in this House, who is able or willing to get up and express his opinion of the situation. Well, Sir, I have heard a good deal of the Independent Labour Party. I shall believe in it when I see it. I shall not say a word about the other sections of the majority, of the Crofters' Members, of the Scotch Home Rulers, the London Metropolitan Members who favour the London programme, or even of the other Members who are the friends and supporters of the United Kingdom Alliance. I say not one word of them, because I understand that they have been in some way or another reconciled and squared, and, so far as they are concerned, my argument would be out of place. They will form part of the great homogeneous Party which is to be formed and is to be the "nebular hypothesis" of which we have heard. I have spoken only of the British part of the majority which is to defeat the Government to-night. You can, perhaps, dispose of the difficulties arising out of English, Scotch, and Welsh questions. Can you dispose of the Irish difficulty? And now I appeal to every man of sense and intelligence. Is it not entering on a fool's paradise to attempt to form a Government until, at least, you have assured yourselves that you have a sufficient agreement on the main points of the Irish Question to be able to go on with a sufficient majority? Now, Sir, is there any certainty about 344 that? I should like to ask a question. Are all the majority Home Rulers? I know they are classed as such, but we have seen in the Press that a certain section of them have been recommending that Home Rule should be postponed and that other British measures should take its place. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), I am told, has been endeavouring to persuade the Irish Members that it would be to their distinct advantage that such questions as Welsh Disestablishment, One Man One Vote, and Registration should be dealt with in the course of the next two or three Sessions, and that thereby they should obtain a leverage whereby Home Rule might be secured. The hon. Member for Northampton appears to me a good deal sobered by the visions of coming responsibility. I do not wonder at his silence; he thinks the more. He has, indeed, a difficult task. It is said that he will have high office in the "nebular hypothesis." He will then have to reconcile the interests of the Cabinet with the interests of Truth. Now, Sir, how do the Irish Members like the idea of having in the centre of this Government a hon. Member—a right hon. Member I suppose he will be then—who is determined to do his best to slip off the yoke of Home Rule in order to introduce British reforms? The hon. Member for Waterford quoted, with apparent pleasure, a speech of my right hon. Friend in which he had referred to the Irish Question as the "Old Man of the Sea." But does the hon. Member remember his Arabian Nights? Does he remember what became of that Old Man of the Sea? Sinbad made him drunk, and then Sinbad broke his head with a stone. Are they certain that this sad fate may not befall them at the hands of the hon. Member for Northampton? If the hon. Member for Northampton takes that line he will have support in the new Cabinet—he will have the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir George Trevelyan). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, I am sure, will forgive me for reminding him that he said in this House that— 345The confession that the Liberal Party was a Home Rule Party—I speak with all respect for those who think otherwise—is one to which, until every faculty I have is strained to the uttermost, and every Constitutional method,.inside and outside the House, has been exhausted, I, for one, will never consent.I should not think of doing the injustice to the right hon. Gentleman of supposing that he would be false to a pledge so complete, so emphatic, and so strong as that which I have just read to the House. Again, I ask hon. Members from Ireland how they like the prospect with two Cabinet Ministers in the citadel, both of them determined, to their utmost, to prevent the Liberal Party being a Home Rule Party from being confined to the prosecution of a Home Rule measure? But, putting that aside, and assuming that in some way or another these difficulties are got over—though I should not like to assume that they had been got over by the exclusion of the hon. Member for Northampton or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division from the next Cabinet—but assuming that they have been got over, then, I ask, what kind of Home Rulers are the majority of this House? Are they Federal Home Rulers, or Colonial Home Rulers, or Gladstonian Home Rulers, or Parnellite Home Rulers, or Gas and Water Home Rulers? Of course, it would be perfectly absurd, with the time at my disposal, that I should deal with all the questions—the important questions—which arise in connection with this subject of Home Rule, and as to which there is a difference of opinion. But I am going to beg the attention of the House to one, and one only. I am going to ask them to consider how far the majority of the House are united and agreed to such an extent as to afford the slightest justification for their taking Office and holding Office for five months without appealing to the House of Commons. I am going to ask how far they are united upon this one question. It is a question of the supremest importance, as every hon. Member, I am sure, will admit. It is a question to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian has pointed again and again, and has said in this House that when any proposal was 346 made for the better government of Ireland the first thing which it behoved the Members of the House of Commons to do was to inquire how far and in what way the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament might be preserved. Now, Sir, are the majority agreed in regard to this question of supreme importance, which was made of supreme importance at the Election? Are they agreed as to the methods by which they will secure this supremacy, and as to the kind of supremacy which they will give? Now, I assert that in regard to this question, my right hon. Friend—and not only he but every important Leader of the Liberal Party—has declared emphatically and distinctly in favour of a supremacy of the Imperial Parliament which shall be absolute, which shall be unquestioned, which shall be continuous, which shall be effective and practicable. Now, the House will see the importance of this. We have often complained—I have complained to my right hon. Friend in regard to certain parts of the Home Rule Bill. He left us in the dark, and we could not gather from his language what it was that he would propose. But I should be doing him scant justice if I did not say that in regard to this matter his language has been as plain and distinct as man can wish. Now, I inn sorry I have to delay the House by quotations which are always tedious; but I really feel that this question, lying as it does at the root of the whole of this Home Rule controversy, might be settled once for all, and that before we separate for five months we ought at least to know what will be the policy of any Government of which my right hon. Friend shall be the head, and how far that is a policy which the majority can unanimously support. Now, I have said that I think it is important to show that not only my right hon. Friend, but all the Leaders of the Party, are agreed upon this point. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), speaking only a month ago at Richmond—8th. July, 1892—said—What would be the checks upon this Parliament? First, the veto of the Crown in cases of importance or grave impolicy; secondly, the fact that as the Imperial Parliament had made this other, so it could unmake 347 or modify it; and, thirdly, the inherent right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate directly for any portion of the Queen's Empire. It was not contemplated that any of these checks should be used except in the case of dire necessity. But he wished to point out the enormous reserve force which would still remain with the Imperial Parliament.Now I want to point out that I attach great importance to this statement, because it comes from my hon. and learned Friend, who is not only an Irishman, and therefore intimately acquainted with all the details of this controversy, but who is a lawyer, and knows exactly the meaning of Constitutional legal language. But it appears from his statement that the Imperial Parliament will have, as a reserve force, in the first place, the veto of the Crown, which will be—must be—exercised by a British Minister; otherwise it would not belong to the Imperial Parliament. And, secondly, it will have the inherent concurrent right of legislation in case of dire necessity on matters committed to the Irish Parliament. Well, then I go on to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir George Trevelyan). The right hon. Gentleman says—If the Imperial Parliament does not continue Imperial I shall never care to sit in it again. By Imperial Parliament I mean, and we all mean, a Parliament which represents in equal proportions all parts of the United Kingdom. We mean a Parliament that is not only nominal or theoretical, but also real, practical, and genuine, controlling every other body and authority whatsoever—a Parliament to which every citizen may look for the safety of his life, and for the maintenance of his personal rights.Therefore I know so long as the right hon. Gentleman sits in this Parliament, every man, every Irishman, may continue to look to him for the safety of his life and the maintenance of his personal rights. Now I come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). He says, 17th April, 1891—The principle for which the Liberal Party has contended has been the right of the Irish people to manage their own affairs, always subject to the control of the Imperial Parliament.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that Mr. Parnell had once accepted that principle, but that now he re- 348 pudiated it, and that the principle for which Mr. Parnell now contended was one which the Liberal Party had never countenanced, and one which they should never support. Well, I think that hitherto it must have been perfectly clear to the House that these statements exactly fulfil the account I gave of them; that they are consistent with one another; that they all point to the same kind of supremacy, exercised in the same way Now I come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). Speaking 6th July, 1887, at Manchester, and referring to something which Lord Hartington had said, he says—But does Lord Hartington mean—I hope this may be the case—that if the Parliament at Dublin passed unjust, tyrannical, vindictive, oppressive measures, against any section of the Irish population, the Parliament of Westminster shall be free promptly, by some means or other, direct or indirect, to overrule and so forbid such a law? If this is what Lord Hartington means, there is no difference of opinion and no difference of aim. I hope we shall not interfere to prevent mere unwisdom and mere mistakes; for the mischief has come because Ireland has not had, the responsibility of her own acts. We should not interfere to prevent mere unwisdom; but we should interfere, I suppose, and I hope, to prevent injustice and wrong.Well, but coining down much later, in July, 1892, the right hon. Gentleman, referring again to this matter, said that whenever the Irish Parliament did anything that was violently wrong and violently oppressive the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament would come into force. Well, now, who is to, decide what is violently oppressive? It must be the British House of Commons. Nobody else can. Consequently this follows from what the right hon. Gentleman has said—that if in a Parliament, after Home Rule has been, granted, with the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster, if any Representative of Ulster, for instance, should think that any act of the Irish Parliament was oppressive and wrong he would be able to bring it before this House; and if he could convince this House of that fact this House would overrule it. The right hon. Gentleman does not believe that the Irish Parliament will ever do, anything violently oppressive or violently wrong. We cannot take so 349 hopeful a view of the situation when we have before us the threats which have been made again and again by those who would control an Irish Parliament, and who have said, in effect, that they will have their revenge upon their enemies by its means. If they were to try to do what they have threatened to do, then it would be a bounden and clear duty of this House to step in and to prevent, either by concurrent legislation or by the veto of the Crown, such an act of wrongful and violent oppression. Well, I have, I think, dealt with the declarations of most of the Leaders who sit on this Bench, and I have left to the last my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) who, no doubt, could control them all. What does my right hon. Friend himself say upon this subject? He was speaking at Nottingham on the 19th October, 1887. On the previous day he had referred to the matter, and said that—The Irish Parliament must be subject to the Imperial Parliament and liable"—these are the words of the right hon. Gentleman—"if need be, to be corrected by it.How can one Parliament be corrected by another without constant supervision and control? Every act, every deed, of an Irish Parliament will have to be controlled and supervised by the Imperial Parliament. But on the next day he returned again to the subject, and explained himself more fully. He said in answer to an objection which had been taken—Will not the Crown, in a system of Home Government in Ireland, be the Lord Lieutenant? Will not the appointment of the Lord Lieutenant, who must be the head of the Irish Executive, effectually afford to the British Crown, and through the British Crown to the British Ministry, and through the British Ministry to the British Parliament, the power of interfering, of which I can only say that I am certain of its sufficiency for any purpose whatever And I devoutly hope and pray it may never be used in the wantonness of tyrannical strength for the purpose of evil and mischief. But if an Irishman challenges me on that subject, and complains that this power of Parliament to decide the settlement would exist, I must own to you that my only answer would be, 'Trust in the magnanimity of the British nation and their Representatives, and rely upon it that they will not seek to defeat by unjust interference the spirit of the settlement.'Now, it appears that the British Parliament, through the British Ministers 350 and through the British Crown, is to have a power of interference which my right hon. Friend says is sufficient for any purpose whatsoever. He says it may be used for the purpose of evil and mischief; but even then the power does not cease. He can only hope that it will not be used in the tyrannical wantonness of overpowering strength; and if the Irish complain that under these circumstances their Parliament is really subject to the control of the Parliament at Westminster, my right hon. Friend says, "Trust to the magnanimity of the British nation." That was in 1887. Has my right hon. Friend altered his mind since then? I am able to say that he has not. During this last Election Mr. Oscar Browning was a candidate for East Worcester—he was referred to by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) the other night. Mr. Browning said that any Bill passed by an Irish Parliament would be subject to the veto of the Queen through the advice of Her English Ministers. The accuracy of that statement, as being the view of the Gladstonian Party, was questioned in the Press. There was a letter written to my right hon. Friend, and he replied—26th May, 1892—Thomas Harris, Esq., Birmingham,—Mr. Browning's account of the veto, it I understand it correctly, is right, and the opposite contention is absurd.The "opposite contention" was that the veto would be exercised on the advice of the Irish Ministers. Now, Mr. Speaker, I think, at all events, that I have proved what I undertook to prove as to the clearness of view with which this question of supremacy has always been dealt with, both by my right hon. Friend and by the other Leaders of the Liberal Party. It was on this view of the question that the Election was fought, and it is this view of the question that you are going to confirm by your vote to-night, if you mean that vote to imply confidence in my right hon. Friend. Now, what do the Irish Nationalist Party say to this state of things? I was going to have quoted the opinion of the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. William O'Brien), the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon), the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy), the hon. 351 Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and other hon. Members belonging to that section of the Party, to show that they had always demanded in the strongest possible terms that the Irish Parliament should be absolutely supreme in regard to the affairs committed to it. But this is unnecessary, from a correspondence which the hon. Member for Cork City had with me, and which, after, I suppose, his characteristic fashion, he sent to the Press without my permission, and without waiting for any reply which I might have wished to make to his last letter. In the correspondence there is evidence of a desire on the part of the hon. Member for Cork City to whittle away his previous declaration; and, so far as he is concerned, I think it is quite likely, if he dared, he would range himself side by side with the Party above the Gangway, and would be whipped as easily as any of them. But, fortunately, I need not trouble the House with quotations from these hon. Members, because the House heard the appeal made to them by the hon. Member for Waterford. I imagine there is no love lost between the two sections of the Irish Nationalist Party. If they could, the larger section would be glad enough to contradict the smaller; but when the hon. Member for Waterford declared what, in his opinion, was the irreducible minimum of the majority of the Irish people, and challenged those around him to get up and say that any one of them would take one whit less, they all remained silent; and until, therefore, any such contradiction of the hon. Member for Waterford is forthcoming, we must take it for granted that he did accurately represent the views of the whole Irish Nationalist Party upon this point. Now what did he say?
What was the hon. Member for Waterford's demand? It was that the supremacy 352 of the Irish Parliament in regard to Irish affairs should be absolute, and that in regard to those affairs which are committed to them there should be no interference from this country. And, above all, that there should be no English veto, and that the only veto which should be permitted was a veto upon the advice of the Irish Ministers. And he went on to say that the matters which were to be committed to the Irish Parliament are to include the land, the police, and the judiciary, which are precisely the things about which most likely a controversy would arise between the British and the Irish Parliaments. Now, do my hon. Friends behind me see why my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian passed by without the slightest allusion to the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford? If he had spoken about it, what could have he said? He could only have said—"What you ask for I refuse; what you demand you shall not have. I have declared—I am pledged by everything that can pledge an honourable man, by a declaration made so recently as May of the present year—I am pledged to refuse the demand which you make upon me." My right hon. Friend has thought it better to postpone the question. Meanwhile there will be six months of a Government which will insure the hostility of the Irish Nationalist Party if it keep faith with England. Well, Sir, I began by saying that the singularity of all this Debate is that we do not know when we have thrown this Government out whether the next Government, or whether any possible Government, can command a majority of this House. And yet we are to be prorogued and have no opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon the incoming Government. The incoming Government, if it does not settle this matter of the supremacy of Parliament with its Irish allies, and if they stick to what they said—though it may be all "nebulous hypothesis"—but if these promises are kept, the incoming Government will not be in a majority of forty, but will be in a minority of 120. Then we shall be beginning the state of things which was contemplated with so much glee by one hon. Irish Member when he said that they would knock 353 out one Government after another and would force us to take a Dissolution once in six months. Mr. Speaker, we may then have to ask the question—How is the Queen's Government to be carried on? The noble Lord the Member for the Barnsley Division (Earl Compton) told me on Tuesday night that, say what I might, they had all made up their minds—that no argument would win a vote from them. Yes; I believe that is true. I do not think, however, that it is a compliment to my hon. Friend to say that they are impervious to argument and impatient of debate. But at least, although I cannot win a vote from them, I may ask them how long is this serious state of things to continue? How long are you going to allow ducks and drakes to be made by the Irish Party of all your British legislation. Is it not a serious situation? My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, in 1885, gave a very grave and serious warning to the Liberal Party. He warned them that it would be dangerous to them, and dangerous to the Empire, if they proceeded to the consideration of this question of the government of Ireland as long as there was a Party in the House which could say to them— "Unless you do this or unless you do that we will turn you out to-morrow." Well, Sir, what has happened since that has lessened in the slightest degree the value or the weight of the advice that was then given to the Liberal Party? Why is it safe to do now what it would not have been safe to do then? The task that you have undertaken is a gigantic task—it is a herculean labour. You are not going easily to pull to pieces and to reconstruct a Constitution. Even as you are, in the last Election you failed. By an overwhelming majority the people of England are against you, and you know, if it had been possible to confine the issue to Home Rule, that the decision would have been still more against you. There are two conditions which are essential, and you know it, to the prosecution of your great design. One is that you should be absolutely agreed among yourselves. The other is that you should be able to look to, to count upon, a spirit of moderation and conciliation from your allies, pushed 354 even to the furthest conclusion. You have neither. You know that on many important questions there are serious differences among you, and you know that those whom you seek to benefit are even now professing the arrogant intention of dictating to you even the details of the measure. I say, then, it may be true that I cannot win a vote; but at least I can ask the wisest and most sensible among you—(Derisive laughter below the Gangway,—yes; to the others I do not speak, to re-consider the position. What was at all times supremely difficult has now become, in the present circumstances, impossible; and though it would be too much to ask from you, after having been for six years struggling in the fight, sufficient self-denial to resist the temptation to grasp at the fruits of victory—aye, and the semblance of power, yet you cannot conceal from yourselves that you will be unable to gratify the expectations which you have excited, and that your efforts are doomed beforehand to inevitable failure.
§ (5.35.) MR. W. G. E. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I have no doubt it may be the policy of hon. Members opposite to attempt to stifle debate, but I see so many right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, and there are probably many other hon. Members in the House, who must feel that the issues raised upon this occasion are a sufficient apology for an hon. Member in the same position as myself to intervene for a few minutes in this discussion. On Tuesday evening the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy) made a complaint as to the continuance of this Debate. I believe there are very few Members who would agree with him in that complaint. He complained of the repetition of well-worn arguments. It is entirely owing to the action of the hon. Member and of his friends that we have learned of recent years to consider the repetition of well-worn argument as one of his well-known privileges. It is a singular and significant symptom of the suspicion permeating the ranks of hon. Members opposite that the hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. William Redmond), yearning to discover some political idol on the Front Opposition Bench 355 to whom he might with confidence offer his fidelity, was obliged to be content with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). I congratulate that right hon. Gentleman on his new-found supporter, because he has already fallen under the suspicion of his own political friends. It is not very long ago that the hon. and learned Member for North-West Durham (Mr. Atherley-Jones) described him as one of those official Liberals who are completely out of touch with the rank and file of his Party; and he has also been described by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as "a political visionary." But now, I presume, the right hon. Gentleman, confident with the support so spontaneously offered to him by the hon. Member for East Clare, will feel himself in a position to regard with equal contempt the criticism of the hon. Member for North-West Durham and the gibes of the hon. Member for Northampton. But, Sir, I also presume that the political friendship which has been offered to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member for East Clare will not be the less agreeable to him on account of the aroma of Paganism with which it is impregnated, or on account of his having been described by the organ of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland as "an agent of Satan." But the hon. Member for Clare was not content with offering his friendship to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. He proceeded to offer to my hon. Friends who represent Unionist opinion in Ireland certain guarantees for the safeguarding of the civil and religious liberty of the populations they represent. I hope I may be pardoned if I venture to cast a shadow of suspicion on the value of that offer. It would have had more commercial value, to my mind, if the fate of the hon. Member's friends had been less disastrous in their recent experiences. In the late Parliament they numbered some thirty strong. They went into the General Election with full and confident hopes. They raised in Ireland the standard of independence of political action, and they attempted to prescribe to the Bishops of their Church the due limits of 356 spiritual authority and of political action? How has this action been described? I hope the House will pardon me for one moment in drawing, attention to a very remarkable extract from a leading article in the Irish Catholic of the 30th July. This paper is the recognised organ of the Irish Roman Catholic Bishops, and how does it describe the political action of the hon. Member for Clare and his friends? Speaking of a declaration made by the Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, the leading article says. this—Wisely and righteously, therefore, does Dr. Logue warn the Catholics of Ireland that false prophets have come amongst them; for never were the agents of Satan more busy than they are to-day, and never were more persistent or more strenuous efforts being made to impair the religious fervour of our people, to lessen their loyalty and obedience to the Church…The spirit of irreligion is abroad in our midst, and impious men…have set themselves to work to destroy the ancient and traditional loyalty and submission of our race to Christian principles and to the dictates of Catholic discipline.Then the article goes on to say—What has been witnessed, and what is still being witnessed, is the working out of an organised conspiracy, having for its object the inculcation of the theory, and the establishment and acceptance in Ireland of the principle, that religion shall have naught to do with politics—a conspiracy which aims at proclaiming to our prelates and clergy that their right to admonish and instruct their flocks is held only by the frail tenure of mob approval, a conspiracy which would poison the founts of public conscience and make public opinion merely the index and record of the machinations of secret societies and occult caucuses.What has been the result of the action of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) and his friends? As I have said, they were in the last Parliament thirty strong. They are only nine in this; so that the offer made by the hon. Member for East Clare is absolutely ridiculous, altogether unworthy of consideration; and I can only express a hope that the political friendship he has offered to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle has more substantial security behind it. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment to the Address (Mr. Asquith) alluded to the representation from Ireland, and he asked where, outside the Pro- 357 vince of Ulster, and outside the City of Dublin, in Ireland could the Government show a freely elected Representative prepared to support them? I admit the Government cannot do that; but I say that the Government can do something which the Front Opposition Bench cannot do. Her Majesty's Government can point to a number of freely-elected Representatives of Ireland, not confined to one Province, who come here to support them, not for one Division only, but for the whole life of this Parliament. They do so, because these Representatives are not suspicious of the policy of the Government, nor of the sincerity of the Leaders of that policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian could not do that. Neither he, nor any of his colleagues on that Bench, can point to a single Representative elected to support their peculiar views in Ireland. Every single politician professing the nebulous doctrines of pure Gladstonianism received an ignominious defeat; and the only supporters of the right hon. Gentleman are the band of mercenary politicians for whose support in every engagement in this House he must pay. I quite admit that the Unionist Members are not the only freely-elected Members from Ireland in this House. There are nine others; but the seventy who follow, I will not say the leadership, because the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) is merely the bell-wether of the flock—who have to obey the dictation of Archbishop Walsh—those seventy are nothing more or less than political pawns, whose existence in this House depends not so much on the will of the constituencies as upon the approval of their spiritual autocrats. Now, the probable exercise of ecclesiastical tyranny and dictation at the General Election was foreseen some tune ago. An old Member of this House, Mr. Patrick O'Brien, in the year 1891, declared thatto his mind the real danger that presented itself in Ireland was the fact that the priests of the country would make an unfair use of their power at the Election, and that he had no doubt that the General Election would be carried by that means; but the question which lay before him, and lay before other politicians 358 in Ireland, was the question whether the country was to be clerically governed or not, and the sooner that was to be decided the better.I desire in a few words to point out to the House how the anticipations of Mr. Patrick O'Brien have been realised, and I will read a short extract from a speech made by a defeated Parnellite candidate on the 12th July of this year. Mr. Kettle, speaking, I think, at a meeting of the Irish. National League, said this—The effect of the action taken by the Bishops and priests of Ireland during the Election rendered Home Rule in the immediate future a matter of impossibility. In his opinion"—I should like to draw the attention of hon. Members sitting on the opposite, Benches to this—it would be greatest lunacy to imagine that Protestant England would delegate for a moment the government of the country into the hands of a Clerical Party.And then he went on to speak of some of the more distinguished Members of the Party who are guided by the Council of Seven—He knew that Messrs. Davitt, John Dillon, William O'Brien, and Tim Healy were four of the most anti-clerical politicians in Ireland; and where were they now? In the position of the most degraded political hypocrites under the sun, under the feet of the clergy, working out their political ambitions through the agency of the men who two or three years ago they would not touch.The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy) said he would not be bossed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) nor by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond); but he and all his political friends are bossed not by a political Leader, but by Archbishop Walsh. If there is one thing more astonishing than another in this Debate, it is the remarkable silence that exists among hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway opposite. There are some hours yet before a Division can take place, and if they agree to send a telegram to Drumcondra Palace they might get permission to join in this Debate. I think it would throw a very strong light on the speeches made by Members both above, and below the Gangway. The opinion 359 which has been expressed by Mr. Kettle, and which I have just read, can be reproduced from almost every Division in which there was a contest in the South and West of Ireland. I think that it was in East Limerick that the chairman of a meeting which was held in support of one of the followers of the hon. Member for Waterford declared—The constitution of the political life of the country was taken out of the hands of the people by the Catholic Church, and the men who were determined to do their best on behalf of Ireland were overruled by the Church, whose nominees were carefully chosen, not for the purpose of doing justice to Ireland, but for the purpose of keeping Ireland in slavery.It would be an easy matter for me to quote from the speech of almost every defeated candidate of Nationalist views in Ireland. The hon. Member who now sits for some Division in Donegal, I forget which—nothing is more remarkable in the political career of hon. Members from Ireland than the nomadic character of their representation—if he disagrees with these quotations he has now an ample opportunity of assuring the House and the country that the charges, many of which I understand will be substantiated in Courts of Law against his Party, are untrue by disproving them. But I would draw the attention of hon. Members belonging to the English section of the Liberal Party to the fact that it is because a large number of Members were elected in Ireland by means of intimidation of the grossest character, carried on under ecclesiastical auspices, that they, who claim now to be the apostolic successors of a great Party whose cry was once "civil and religious liberty," are able to turn out the present Government to place themselves on this side of the House. I fancy that they will find before the end of this Parliament that the price which they are going to pay for this support will be a very expensive one to them. We know that that support is to be purchased. The negotiations have gone on in the face of hon. Members of this House. The seventy-one Members who follow the Leadership of the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) are going to walk into the Lobby with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian; 360 and the hon. Member for North Longford has asked for payment. He will take part of it in cash, and he is good enough to say he will take the rest in a bill for six months. What is the cash payment? It is to consist of an inquiry into the case of the evicted tenants and the release of the dynamite prisoners. But there was also a most remarkable expression of hope with regard to the administration of the government of Ireland—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian should give some assurance that the administration of Ireland will be carried on in accordance with the expression of public opinion in that country. I should like to know what interpretation the hon. Member for North Longford and his Party place upon that form of words, and what interpretation the right hon. Member for Midlothian and his colleagues, who are going to undertake the administration of Ireland, place upon that assurance which he is asked to give? What is the public opinion in Ireland under which the administration of that country is to be carried on; to what sort of expression is it to be obedient, and to what sort is it to be deaf? We know that in Ireland public opinion finds vent in many ways. Is the Plan of Campaign, and are the doctrines of those who promoted it, to find ready acceptance by those who are to be charged with the administration, during the next six months, of law and justice in Ireland? Is the future Chief Secretary to bear in mind that in every part of the country he is to allow the machinery of law to remain paralysed when it comes into conflict with the expressions of the hon. Member who represents Mayo? It is only the other day that a most remarkable expression was attributed to one Irish Member by the public Press. It is reported that he said he was looking to the time when he could wade through Protestant blood in Ireland.
MR. SWIFT MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
Who said that?
§ MR. MACARTNEY
The expression was attributed to the hon. Member for, I think, the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I shall be very glad to repeat it. I regret that the hon. Member is not in the House now. ("Oh!") But I will give the hon. Member every opportunity of denying whether or not he said so. I hope he will be able to say that what was attributed to him is a mistake; but I want to know whether that is the sort of expression of public opinion to which the hon. Member below the Gangway opposite, and the right hon. Gentleman above, believe that they will have to assimilate and to attune the administration of the country? This is a matter of the highest importance, not only to the population which I represent, and to the people of Ulster, but to the population which finds no direct representation in this House, and must trust to the efforts which we can make on their behalf. If the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian is going to give in order to purchase the support of hon. Members below the Gangway is an assurance which is to deprive the loyal population of the South and West of Ireland of that provision which they have enjoyed under the laws of this country for the last six years, then the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell this House and the country that distinctly before the Division is taken and we separate. We will dare to say that if this had been one of the issues that had been submitted to the country, and upon which, in the words of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, an unambiguous verdict of the electors had been given, the result would have been very different. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say that, if he had answered the question put to him by the hon. Member for North Longford before the General Election, he would have had behind him in the House a majority that would have enabled him to sit on this side of the House? I doubt very much whether any great portion of the United Kingdom electors would have voted in favour of the Members who will follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian this evening into the Lobby if they 362 had for one moment conceived that one of their first duties would be to give an assurance to their Irish masters below the Gangway, and that even before Parliament had time to assemble, and before they had opportunity of placing on the Table of this House their Home Rule Bill, they would be asked to upset the functions of law and order in Ireland, and practically declare through their Leader that "the game of law and order was up" in this country. I repeat that the House and the people of Ireland are entitled to a distinct assurance from the right hon. Gentleman and from his friends as to the course they intend to pursue. I observe that when it came to the question of the dynamitards, the right hon. Gentleman was careful to read from a document which he produced in this House. It would have been quite simple for him to give an answer in the negative or affirmative. The question of the release of these prisoners has been considered over and over again, and in previous debates the right hon. Gentleman distinctly stated by his own Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), that these prisoners were rightly convicted, and that they were guilty of the most heinous offence, and that he could see no reason whatever for interfering with the term to which they were sentenced. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman gave so ambiguous an answer on Tuesday night in order that the moment the Members of this House are dispersed, and the House is prorogued, he may immediately make cash payment to the hon. Member for North Longford by the release of these men, who were found guilty of one of the worst crimes that ever disgraced civilisation. The Mover of the Amendment declared that in his opinion it was not necessary to give any reasons in support of it—that reasons were irrelevant to the issue, and that the only issue really relevant was to count votes. He quoted the authority of Mr. Disraeli in 1869. There was another thing that Mr. Disraeli stated in that Debate, and which has escaped the notice of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife. Mr. Disraeli said that the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment 363 to the Address on that occasion, no doubt acting on the best advice, had really opened up all the grounds upon which such an Amendment should have been moved. But is that the case on the present occasion? The position of hon. Members opposite is this: that by hook or by crook, by placing one policy before one set and another policy before another set of constituents, they have secured a certain majority, and that the Government, without protest or without attempting to show the discordant elements of that majority, is to resign Office. I say that a public service has been done to the country by the continuance of this Debate; and, although hon. Members opposite may go into the Lobby and may secure a majority for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, they must recollect that it will have been obtained without reasons having been given, which, in the words of Mr. Disraeli, will have any moral weight in the country.
§ *(6.3.) SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
I am not surprised that an attempt should have been made to prevent my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham from taking part in this Debate; but I am surprised that the admirable speech which he delivered should have been allowed to pass without answer. No doubt, however, right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House would have found it very difficult to answer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian spoke in terms of high praise of the speech in which the Amendment was moved. The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) always speaks with eloquence and ability, but I am unable to agree that his speech left nothing to be added. During the twenty or more years that I have had the honour of a seat in the House, I have never heard so important a Resolution based on such slender grounds. My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), in seconding the Amendment, spoke as he always does, with fairness and moderation. He admitted that the present Government has done much for the working classes, and he mainly based his action, not on the past, but 364 on the future. Surely he must, however, see that the practical effect of his action will be to sacrifice or, at least, postpone indefinitely the very objects he has at heart. Since the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian the only one of his supporters who has addressed the House is the hon. Member for Central Finsbury (Mr. D. Naoroji), whom, on behalf of myself, and of many other Members, I welcome to the House. He did not, however, profess to give any reasons in support of the Amendment before the House. The object of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in deprecating any discussion was not merely the fear of what his opponents may say, but also, and perhaps almost more, the dread of what might be said by his supporters. Already there are ominous mutterings, and questions have been put which it has not been convenient to answer. The House has heard a very important speech from the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond). In this instance he told us that he spoke, not only for his own Party, but for Irish Nationalists generally. The hon. Member spoke of Ireland as if it were in a position of political inferiority, forgetting that Ireland has a larger number of Members in the House than she can fairly claim, either by population or in relation to her contribution to the Imperial Exchequer. He referred to Hottentots, but Hottentots do not send Members to Parliament. Having complained of the inferior position of Ireland, the hon. Member went on to maintain that Irish Members were masters of the situation. But, if so, what becomes of his complaint? If the Irish Members are, as they say, masters of the situation, they can secure any reasonable legislation for Ireland without a Home Rule Bill. Have they not, in fact, done so to a great extent during recent years? After the experience of the last Election, after what has been heard in the Debate, the Irish people may find that they are imposing upon themselves a heavy yoke—a yoke none the lighter because it is spiritual. It is all very well to laugh at the people of Ulster, but they will be found to be thoroughly in earnest. A Home Rule Bill then, far from settling the Irish Question, will 365 only raise it in a more difficult form. We must, however, look at the question, not merely from the Irish, but from the English point of view also. We are, indeed, too much disposed to look upon Home Rule as an Irish question. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said truly that if the partnership between England and Ireland is to be dissolved, the English are entitled to a voice as to the terms of that dissolution. The case is, however, even stronger, for not only is the present partnership to be dissolved, but a new one is to be constituted upon terms to be dictated by the Irish Nationalists. This is, therefore, not simply an Irish question—it is a vital English question. The first demand of the hon. Member for Waterford was the recognition of the Irish people as a separate nation. Yet Home Rulers complain when the term "Separatists" is applied to them. Then the hon. Member proceeded to claim for the proposed Irish Parliament "full, free, and unfettered control over Irish affairs." If Irish Members are to regulate all Irish affairs at home, and then are to come over and vote upon English and Imperial matters, they will be, in the words of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), not only their own masters in Dublin, but masters here as well. The hon. Member for Waterford compared England to Sinbad in the Oriental tale; but when the Old Man threw Sinbad own, he fell too, and his triumph was only temporary. Under the arrangement now proposed, however, we, in Great Britain, shall be at the mercy of the Irish Members, who will vote on Imperial affairs without responsibility, inasmuch as the consequences will fall wholly on Great Britain, and not on Ireland at all. Neither the hon. Member for Longford nor the hon. Member for Waterford entered into the question of finance. I wish they had done so. But they claim—and this is, I understand, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian—that the Irish Parliament shall have full control of Irish taxation and Irish Revenues—subject only to a certain fixed contribution for the service of the Debt and for naval and military ex- 366 penditure. The late Mr. Parnell attached—and I believe the Irish Members attach—much importance to this, as a means of enabling them to foster and encourage Irish industries and manufactures. They must admit, however, that the industrial communities of Ireland, like those of England and Scotland, are mainly Unionist. The hon. Member for Waterford went on to say that Mr. Parnell never assented to the sum proposed to be paid by Ireland in the Home Rule Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. But suppose he had; he could not bind his successors. The question will certainly give rise to much friction between the two Islands. It will be represented as a tribute. Not merely the amount, but the very payment of the sum at all will be questioned. One object the late Mr. Parnell had in view was to foster native industries. How did he propose to effect that? By the imposition of protective duties. I am not going to argue the question of Free Trade, but I will ask English and Scotch Members to consider whether they are prepared for the establishment of artificial barriers between the commerce of the two Islands? It seems necessarily, however, to follow that there must be a separate Customs House. The duty on Irish whisky is levied in Ireland, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian will agree that on the whisky imported into England it is really paid by the English consumer. Unless, then, it is taxed on entry, we shall pay the duty and the Irish Parliament will spend the money. With separate Customs duties, a separate system of taxation, and separate accounts, it is idle to talk of maintaining the Union. I wish to point out to English Members how unfair, how intolerable our position will be. The Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure will be fixed, and yet Irish Members will come here and vote on Imperial policy. They may involve us in war, keep a Ministry in power against the wishes of England and Scotland, in support of a policy which England and Scotland disapprove, for which England and Scotland will have to pay, and towards which they will contribute nothing. The hon. Member for Waterford de- 367 manded a Parliament empowered to deal with all Irish affairs, and an Irish Ministry responsible to that Parliament, and that the only veto should be the veto of the Crown exercised on the advice of the Irish Ministry. If this be not conceded, he said, the Home Rule Bill will be a mere sham and a farce. I noticed—and the hon. Member must have noticed—that his speech was received in dismal silence by the English Home Rule Members. And no wonder. If they do not support such a Bill as that, they will be turned out by the Irish Members, and if they do they will be turned out by their constituents. The hon. Member for Waterford also fully supported the contention of my hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), that those who vote for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife are practically shelving all useful legislation for England, and throwing over the Newcastle Programme. He said—You might, indeed, have possibly some concurrent legislation, but it must not be of a character to divert attention from Home Rule.If we look round the entire world, if we study the whole history of the human race, we shall find no case of Home Rule such as is now proposed. Austria-Hungary has been mentioned, but that is a dual Empire—each part has similar rights. In the United States each State has similar rights; in Switzerland the Cantons have similar rights. But it is now proposed to give to Ireland rights and privileges which the people of England are not to enjoy. Hon. Members from Ireland attach much importance to Home Rule. Irish and Scotch Members are combining to deprive English Members of any voice in Irish affairs, while Irish Members are still to have the right of voting on the subject. But if Irish Members feel strongly on the subject, can they wonder if Englishmen feel strongly too? I would ask Irish Members, as candid men, how they would like it if Englishmen claimed to vote on Irish affairs, but denied them any right to vote on ours? Would they themselves agree to such proposals? If they would not—and I am sure they would not—how can they, in fairness, ask Englishmen 368 to do so? To agree to such a Bill as that sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian would place England in a position of humiliating inferiority; we should then, indeed, be at the mercy of Irish Members, and, in my judgment, Englishmen and Scotchmen who support such a policy will, if they succeed, be responsible for a fatal step, from which it will be most difficult to retreat; and they will betray—unintentionally, I admit, but none the less effectually—the interests of their country.
§ (6.30.) MR. W. S. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
As the youngest Member of this House, and Member for a constituency which in 1886 returned a Unionist, but has now reversed its decision by over a thousand votes, I should like to say a few words to show why I am going to vote for the Amendment. My own case was not singular in the elections which have taken place. Of five boroughs in Staffordshire three have returned supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and in the other two the Conservative candidates have been returned by very much diminished majorities. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) asked if the Liberals were going to stop bickering now that they have got into power. I think it is the Liberal Unionists who should stop these bickerings. They are in a very humiliating position. For the last six years they have had to vote against their Liberal principles on account of Home Rule. They are in the very unfortunate position of men who are trying to serve two masters, and are distrusted by one and disliked by the other. They have been appealing to the constituencies as Liberals, and they come here and vote always on the Tory side. The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether an answer was not to be given to 315 Gentlemen who sit on the opposite Benches and to the seventy-one Members who represent the Nationalists in Ireland. It seems to me that the two Leaders of this House are in the position of two generals who lead two armies. They have under them their colonels and majors and captains who lead the rank 369 and file, and it is of the greatest importance that the general should make his officers acquainted with his plans; but it is not usual for him to reveal what he intends to do to the opposing general. Then the right hon. Gentleman tried to stir up a certain amount of strife in the Liberal ranks. I remember a speech delivered a short time ago by him, in answer to one by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, in which he used the phrase that "in vain is the net spread in the sight of the bird." I think we can answer him that the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird, and it will be in vain for him to try to stir up strife within the Liberal ranks. Then he asked what the Members who represented the miners, and who were interested in the Eight Hours Question, were going to do, and if the assurances of the right hon. Member for Midlothian had been satisfactory to them. As the Representative of a constituency which contains a large element of mining population, and as I have been elected largely on this question of Eight Hours, I feel that I can speak with confidence on that point. Even if the right hon. Member for Midlothian does not give us all we ask, do hon. Members on the opposite side give us all we ask? In the last Parliament a Bill was brought in to deal with this Eight Hours Question, and, though the Government had a majority, the Bill was lost. We are convinced that the miners cannot expect an Eight Hours Bill from the opposite Benches, and if they get it at all they will get it from the Liberal Party. We have not appealed to the country simply on a negative as to our opponents. They have objected because we have brought up other questions besides Home Rule. Is it necessary, when a great Party appeals to the electors, only to appeal on one measure? Hoping for a long innings, we mentioned other subjects, and now we trust we have entered upon our long innings, and we hope to deal with seine of those other measures which have been before the country besides the Home Rule Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to a cricket match, and asked if we wished to bowl them out. The electors, acting as the 370 umpire, have given them out already, and it now only remains for them to retire to the tent and take off the pads and gloves, and let their opponents go in. We have appealed to the country, and the country has answered us, and we are returned as Home Rulers to pass the Home Rule Bill. I should like hon. Members who sit on the other side to consider what the consequences will be if they refuse to pass that measure. They will take upon themselves a terrible responsibility, and what the outcome of their refusal may be they can only at this time form a very imperfect idea. One thing is certain. Such a refusal would stir up the old ill-feeling in Ireland which has now been put to rest. You profess to be combining against separation; you say you are fighting against disintegration and for the unity of the Empire. Does not separation arise out of friction? Ireland has been quieter through these last six years, not through any action of the present Government, but because she trusted in the promises of the Liberal Party. If the promise will do so much, what will the reality do? What was the reason why America parted from us—why the United States were for ever lost to England? Because we tried to govern them from London. Why is Canada now prosperous and contented, whereas she was before unruly? Beeause we gave her Home Rule and freedom to manage her own affairs. In the first place, we tried coercion; in the second, we tried conciliation. The first was a disgraceful failure; the latter a complete success. We are contending for unity based on trust; our opponents are contending for coercion based on some of those wild appeals to religious bigotry of which we have lately heard so much. But some of their old objections to Home Rule have been removed. A little while ago they said they could not give Home Rule to Ireland because they feared the overshadowing influence of Mr. Parnell. They said we were proposing to give the whole of the power into the hands of the uncrowned King. Now they object, because they say there is no Leader who can unite the Irish Party. It seems as if nothing would please our opponents. They formerly op- 371 posed Home Rule on the ground of the existence of crime and outrage. Now crime has ceased and outrage has diminished, they say Ireland should not have Home Rule because she is happy and contented. It really seems impossible to please our opponents. Ireland claims as her right and expects as her due what our opponents would not refuse if she were four thousand miles away. They give Home Rule to the Cape, to the further Continent of Australia, and to New Zealand; but because Ireland is our neighbour they refuse it. They will not give to a brother what they will give to a cousin. Further than this, I should like to say, as representing a constituency where the Temperance Party is very strong, I cannot trust the present Government, because I feel that their Party at the recent Election have received so much assistance from the brewer and the publican that they cannot be expected to pass any measure of temperance reform. To sum up my whole objection to the present Government, it is that they, with the best intentions, have necessarily legislated on the side of the privileged few—we want to legislate for the unprivileged many.
§ (6.41.) THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE, Plymouth)
I am glad that an independent Member has been found on the other side to relieve himself of the obligation to silence which has been imposed upon his fellows, and to give us some kind of reason why he proposes to vote against the present Government. In the speech to which we have just listened we have gladly heard some of the arguments with regard to Home Rule which have been put forward in the country in the course of the late Election. Hon. Members will not expect us on this side of the House to discuss what the provisions of the Home Rule Bill should be if it were brought forward. It will be our business, in the Session to which we look forward with much confidence as meeting in the early part of next year, to fight against the proposal for Home Rule, and to fight against it on the grounds that we have stated again and again in the House and in the constituencies. The question of the details of the Home Rule Bill is of impor- 372 tance in this Debate, for one reason and for one reason only, and that is, that until that Home Rule Bill receives some authoritative definition and explanation there is no justification for the alliance by which the present Government is to be expelled from power. It has been a matter of discussion in this Debate whether, in the, Election which has just taken place, it could seriously be said that the voice of the country has been altered on the Home Rule Question. I say that in the late Election the Home Rule Question was put to the front by us, and has kept to the front, so far as I know, persistently and perseveringly, in every constituency. It was not the case with our opponents. Amongst our opponents there were three candidates who did keep the Home Rule Question steadily in the front. One of them was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian; another was a relative of the right hon. Gentleman who sits for a Division of Leeds; and the third was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle; and by steadfastly keeping the question of Home Rule to the front in their addresses and in their speeches, they reduced their aggregate majority by ten thousand votes. Of this I am sure: that if the issues of the Election could have been limited to Home Rule we should have come back with a large majority, and there would have been no question of displacement or confidence before us. Of course, it is not possible that an Election should be kept entirely to one issue. Of course you must have local questions, class questions, and industrial questions, in different constituencies; but there has been in this century one special Election, which, perhaps, more than any other, was limited to one question, and that was the Election of 1886. In 1886 a definite scheme of Home Rule was put before the House, a scheme which had been constructed with great political capacity, and had been defended in this House by the most splendid Parliamentary rhetoric which this generation has listened to. That Election in 1886 was on the specific issue of Home Rule. We know how that ended, and I am confident that if ever that question is 373 again to be put as a single question before the constituencies of this country, the judgment of 1886 will be repeated with increased emphasis and force, and that the constituencies would make an end of any such proposition. I am not blaming hon. Members, but we know very well that other claims were put forward. It will hardly be denied that if you take the whole area of discussion, in the main the more educated constituencies were in favour of the present Government. This has not only been admitted—it was practically avowed by the right hon. Member for Midlothian in the middle of the Election, for he said that the education, the intelligence, and the political experience of the country were against him in the appeal that he had made. How was that appeal made? I have been in many constituencies while the Election was going on, and have seen the placards on the walls and seen bills handed about, I have seen the grossest misrepresentation with respect to what has taken place in Parliament, and have seen the most amazing demands, which succeeded in some cases, upon the credulity of the electors in the matter of propositions for the future. In one of the Divisions of Dorset, where the Radical candidate did not succeed, I saw Radical placards posted along all the roads—there was in those placards nothing about Ireland, except two remarkable pictures in beautiful colours, one representing an eviction, and the other giving a highly imaginative record of the incidents of Mitchelstown. One of the many bills stuck on the walls said—"If you want free land vote for Arthur Arnold," and I believe that the agricultural labourers of that constituency were steadily persuaded by the Radical candidate and his supporters that some measure could be brought into Parliament under which land could be freely given to them. In other constituencies other questions were similarly brought forward. In Torquay I saw a Land Bill drawn very much on the lines of that placard which caused so much amusement to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), putting a series of categorical questions with the answer to each, "Mr. Oscar Browning." It contained a number of questions as to who 374 gave you this and who gave you that, and in each case the answer was "Gladstone" One line read, "Who gave you free education? Gladstone," a piece of information which would have surprised no one so much as the right hon. Gentleman himself. Another handbill represented that the Unionist Government had taken thirty-five millions of money out of the taxes of this country in order to give a Land. Purchase Bill to Ireland. These misrepresentations were made all over the country, and they have produced a certain amount of political result. If these votes have been obtained on many issues and on many pretences, surely it is reasonable that before the Government gives place to those who profess to have the confidence of the country the country should have an opportunity of seeing what is the case for or against a change of Administration. A change of Administration may be a light matter to the country, but the time that has been appointed for the change involves very serious results indeed. For five or six months the country will be in the hands of those who form a new Administration without giving on the floor of this House any specific declaration as to what their policy is either at home or abroad. We saw a most singular incident this evening—an incident inconsistent with the ordinary Rules of this House. The Division was expected to-night, but an attempt was made to put an end to the Debate, which can only be accounted for by one of two reasons, the first that no one had sufficient confidence to get tip and answer the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and the second that those who have been loudest on the platforms of the country in the denunciation of the Government have not sufficient confidence now to get up and make an assault here where it can be answered. I do not know whether other independent Members will he found to follow the example that has just been set, and. give their constituents an opportunity of knowing that those who spoke so loudly on the platforms are not absolutely dumb when they are sent to the House of Commons. I venture to predict that no one who has any hope of coming into Office in the 375 next Government will express his opinions. It would be so easy to disqualify himself for being a Member of a Government whose policy he does not understand. But if our opponents will not attack the policy of the Government, those who have supported the Government in the past may take the opportunity of saying something for themselves. The history of a Government is a history of a large number of authorities in different parts dealing with the administration of the affairs of the country. How is it that at the end of six years, when the chosen spokesman gets up to attack the Government and suggest that it should be displaced, that he has not one syllable of censure on the conduct of the Government with regard to any department of the administration in which it has been engaged? How is it that when you are reassuring the country as to one danger which has occurred to many—the danger of changing the arrangements for the direction of foreign affairs—that the best thing you can say to the country is that you are going to have as Foreign Minister some one who agrees with Lord Salisbury? There has been no attack on any part of the Government's policy, and if we are not to be ejected from Office because there is any fault to be found with the administration, is it upon any claims that you have a better administration or a more hopeful policy that you are demanding the confidence of the House? The hon. Member who has just sat down said he would sum up in two sentences our relations with Ireland. He said we tried coercion and it was a dismal failure, and we have tried conciliation and it has been a great success. But when did the trial of coercion leave off and the trial of conciliation begin? Whose administration brought about the unsatisfactory state of Ireland which he does not deny And who has been in Office during these six years of peace? It is because this Government has been in power administering laws which you vainly resisted that there has been in Ireland that condition of peace of which we have a right to be proud, and as to which we sincerely hope that a change of Government may not put an end to 376 a satisfactory condition of things which has so long existed. When it was said that coercion was a dismal failure, let it be remembered that the Government which went out of Office in 1885 was at the time it went out producing some of the coercive legislation which it intended to enforce. I do not desire to go over the whole of the Home Rule controversy. There will be plenty of opportunities of doing that in the future, and I think, as a matter of Party policy, those who now sit on this side of the House will be well advised to keep the question of Home Rule steadily in the front. There are many constituencies in the country in which votes were cast for the Government who would not be able to count on that allegiance if they passed from Home Rule to other issues. I am glad, therefore, that the question of Home Rule is to be kept to the front; but with respect to other matters, I cannot but lament the prospect that the time of the House is to be wasted for some years in the discussion of an absolutely hopeless and impracticable proposal. I am not speaking of another place where political matters are dealt with. It is not in reliance upon any power outside the House of Commons that I look forward with confidence to the defeat of the Home Rule Bill. It is here in this House that it will be defeated; and although I believe that others in their places and spheres will do their duty in any crisis in this country, still it is within this House that I believe we shall prove the impracticability of the scheme upon the mere shadowing forth of which you are going to lead to the Lobby the majority of this House. But I will now turn from this question of Home Rule to others which appear to me to be of equal importance. I listened with much greater interest to the speech of the Seconder than to the Proposer of the Amendment to the Address, because the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) has for many years been very prominent indeed in the discussion of labour questions in this House. We have heard a great deal in the course of the late Election about labour questions, those affecting the condition of the industrial classes, and we were told that they would be 377 brought promptly before the consideration of the House. I believe the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Keir Hardie) proposes, as an Amendment to the Address which is to be presented to Her Most Gracious Majesty, to move to add an expression of the hope that an Autumn Session will be held in order to consider questions affecting the condition of the people. Well, that is not a very practicable suggestion of the hon. Member, as he will very soon find out if he talks with half-a-dozen Members on either side of the House. But if these condition-of-the-people questions are so important that it can be suggested Parliament should be called together in September for the purpose of discussing them, why do not the Representatives of labour discuss them to-night? Why are they silent throughout this Debate, and content to write the right hon. Gentleman for Midlothian letters which receive no answer, or, at all events, are not complied with, and why have they not the manliness to stand up in their places and insist upon labour questions being attended to as well as Irish questions? Well, Sir, the hon. Member for Morpeth alluded in his speech to several questions which brought memories to one's mind as to what the history of the Liberal Party has been with respect to labour questions. Sir, the hon. Member spoke about the Employers' Liability Act; he spoke about the Conspiracy Act, and about temperance legislation. Did it not occur to him, I wonder, when he referred to these matters, how many years ago it was when he first spoke upon them in the House of Commons, and how large an opportunity his own friends have had since then of giving effect to his wishes? Sir, the Employers' Liability Bill was first proposed from the Conservative side of the House, and carried by a Liberal Government in 1880, but in a form so incomplete and unsatisfactory that I and others in the House objected to it, and desired to improve it. Ever since 1880, the faults which we then pointed out in that Bill have been grievously felt by the working men of this country. It has caused much litigation, and at a cost which has been out of all proportion to the benefits actually received by the people for 378 whose benefit that Bill was passed. What is the history of the Employers' Liability Bill since then? From 1880 to 1885, while the hon. Member's friends sat upon these Benches, there was no attempt to improve it. When in 1888 we produced a Bill which would have improved it most substantially—when that Bill had passed through discussion in Grand Committee of the House and many improvements had been made—it was by the Party and partizan opposition of so-called Representatives of labour in this House that the whole of our work was thrown away, and the advantages which it would have given to the working classes was denied them. Sir, there was another question of which I was reminded by the speech of the hon. Member for Morpeth, because it was in connection with a Debate in which I for the first time had the honour of addressing this House—more than twelve years ago. The hon. Member seconded a Resolution in favour of Local Option, and he spoke then in favour of that temperance legislation with which he now suggests the House should at once deal. But, Sir, what has been the history of the temperance cause since 1880? It is as much one of the betrayed causes of the Liberal Party as the cause of the working men. In the latter part of 1880 a Resolution in favour of temperance legislation was passed by a large majority, but nothing was done by the Liberal Party then in power. In 1883 another Resolution was proposed by the ardent friends of temperance, insisting on the immediate action of the Government. They got plenty of kindly words from the Leaders of their own Party, but nothing was done, and the only real attempt that has been made—although twelve years have passed since the hon. Member for Morpeth made that speech—all that has been done in the direction of temperance was done by the present Government in the year 1888, when it made proposals which, if they had been accepted, would, in the course of these four years, have done more in the direction of temperance reform than has been done in the last twelve years. Now, Sir, if the question of Ireland is so full of difficulties that hon. Members opposite have felt it desirable to keep 379 silent, surely we might have heard from the Labour Representatives what they hope will be the programme of the Government with respect to industrial questions. Why is it we do not hear of a Labour Party on this side of the House? The answer is because this Party has been the Labour Party. For the past fifty years—since the year 1842, when the first Bill was brought into this House for limiting the hours of labour and the ages of the workers in dangerous occupations—from that time to this the whole course and current of industrial legislation in this country has been in the main owing to the influence and work of the Party on this side. And the challenge made elsewhere I make here—I challenge any Labour Member to point to anything done in the direction of labour legislation by the Liberal Party comparable in extent and value to that which the Tory Party are responsible for. Now, Sir, these are surely questions about which something could be said at a time when so grave an issue is being debated. Has so much been said by hon. Members opposite to the labour classes in their constituencies with regard to the advantages that will accrue to them by a change of Government—has so much been said on the platform, and can nothing be said here? Are the Labour Representatives going to be content without any assurances or promises, to wait and see what may come to pass in the next Session? If they choose to wait, they are entitled to do so; but that is not the way, as they might have seen, to get their matters attended to. I, for one, hope these labour measures will be pressed forward. There is very much indeed in connection with labour legislation upon which I and my friends here, without regard to the question of who sits on these Benches, will be most glad to assist in passing into law. But it is a little disappointing on an evening like this, when we are thinking of the experience of the past six years, and you are thinking and speaking of your prospects—it is a little disappointing that there should be absolute silence on all those great labour questions in which so many working people of this country are deeply interested. I do not desire to 380 speculate upon the Party combinations which may exist when the Recess shall be at an end, and the Government which has come in without a policy in which anyone can express confidence shall for the first time meet Parliament. Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a word upon a remark made by the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) in the course of his speech on the first evening of this Debate. He said that the Irish Party had put the present Government into power and they could turn them out, and that practically they had the Treasury Bench at their disposal. I think he speaks a little too confidently on that subject. He is not right in his history. It was not the Irish Party which turned out the Government in 1885. That Government fell because it wanted to fall. It was stated afterwards by one of the Whips of the Party opposite that on that night—the incidents of which were described so graphically by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division—there were twenty-five Members of the Liberal Party who were allowed to leave the House unpaired without remonstrance. Why was that? Why, Sir, because the Government of the day was proposing to re-enact part of the Coercion Bill which had been at existence for sometime, and because the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) from his seat below the Gangway interposed and made that action impossible. They choose to fall upon the Budget discussion instead of upon their Irish policy. And when the hon. Member for North Longford says it is in the power of Irishmen to turn out one Government and put another in its place, he must remember that there is, undoubtedly, a limit to the action of his Party. I can assure the Irish Party that they are greatly mistaken if they think that by any sort of combination in future with the Tory Party they will get a single step nearer to the establishment of a Parliament in Ireland. There never was any such proposal; there never were any relations which led up to or pointed at any such proposal, and I am satisfied there never will be. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian 381 who miscalculated when, in 1885, he made a bargain with the Irish Party which led directly to his exclusion from Office for six years. If, when the right hon. Gentleman came back to the House in November, 1885, with a body of Liberal Members numbering 335—a body which equalled in strength the Tories and the Irish Representatives put together—if the right hon. Gentleman had chosen to keep to the old lines which he had held in the previous years, he would have had as steady a support from at least one hundred Members of the Tory Party as he ever got from the most devoted of his own followers. He had the chance, but for six years he has given us the opportunity, of which I venture to say we have taken full advantage, of showing that there is no occasion for the institution of Home Rule in Ireland, that Ireland can be governed with perfect safety and advantage to herself without instituting a separate Irish Parliament, and has enabled us to put upon record an amount of work done during the same time for the people of the United Kingdom which, I believe, will justify this Government in the opinion and confidence of the people, however a manipulated majority may decide tonight.
§ (7.18.) MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
I desire to take the first opportunity to reply to a statement made by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney). To that statement my attention has been drawn by an hon. Member, and I desire, in the most unqualified and emphatic manner, to deny that there is any foundation for the statement. It never entered my head to make it. I am an independent Irish Nationalist Representative, and I trust my word will be accepted on this matter. I must ask you, Mr. Speaker, to call upon the hon. Member for South Antrim to withdraw the statement he has made against me in my absence (Cries of "What statement?") I am told that the statement was to the effect that I desired the death of all Protestants—that I looked forward to the time when I could wade in Protestant blood. I was not here. I 382 do not know whether I am quoting the exact words.
§ (7.20.) MR. MACARTNEY
I have no desire in the slightest degree to misrepresent the hon. Member, or to impute to him anything he did not say. The statement as to which I wish to have an explicit denial from him is attributed to the hon. Member by current rumour in the City of Dublin that he looked forward to the time when he "could wade in Protestant blood." If the hon. Member declares that he never made that statement and never used any form of words practically meaning the same thing, I am perfectly prepared to withdraw what I said, and apologise to the hon. Member for having made the observations I did.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! It is quite sufficient that the hon. Member says he did not use the words attributed to him. He having made that denial, the hon. Member for South Antrim apologises for having attributed the words to the hon. Member, and with that the hon. Member for Dublin should be content.
§ (7.22.) MR. J. W. BENN (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I should not have ventured to address the House but for the fact that the hon. Member who was selected by the Government to second the Address to the Throne went out of his way to hold me up to public odium as an ungrateful political son of the President of the Local Government Board. I am not here to apologise for defeating Mr. Ritchie, but I certainly join in the general wish that the right hon. Gentleman may soon again find a seat on the Benches on this side of the House. If the House will not consider me too bold, I shall be glad of a brief opportunity to answer some of the remarks which have fallen from the Solicitor General. We were told in the com- 383 mencement of his speech that only three Members of the Party to which I have the honour to belong put Home Rule in the front of their programme during the late elections, and that in each case the result was a considerably reduced majority. Now, I am very glad to draw attention to the fact that if in any case Home Rule found a secondary place in the Liberal and Radical programme throughout the country, it was certainly brought well to the front by the friends of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They plastered our walls with disfigured representations of our National Flag, and I may call the attention of the Solicitor General to the way in which his colleague, Mr. Ritchie, put the matter before my constituents.To vote against the Government," said the right hon. Gentleman, "means to vote for civil war, anarchy, and oppression in Ireland.Does that not establish the fact that the question of Home Rule has been brought well to the front in every portion of the Kingdom? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Sir John Lubbock) reminded us that the population of London is equal to that of Ireland, and I believe I shall succeed in showing that upon the question of Home Rule London has spoken with no uncertain voice. In February last the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), having hurriedly returned from slaying lions in South Africa, addressed himself to dealing with some of the Liberal lions then prowling about London. The noble Lord then said that London was "the citadel, the fortress," and, he hoped, "the impregnable fortress, of the Unionist Party;" and he begged the electors of London for the sake of the Union to vote in the County Council elections then pending against the Liberal candidates. The reply of London took this form. One hundred and eight thousand electors were prepared to defend the fortress described they the noble Lord, but one hundred and forty-eight thousand voted for the demolition of that fortress. That, I think, was a significant vote. I may be told it was merely a County Council vote, but that when questions of Imperial matters were before the electors they would 384 show their adhesion to the Unionist Party. But in 1886 the Unionist Party carried London by 36,000 votes, and in the recent elections the majority was reduced to something like 11,000 votes. I have selected fifty-two constituencies on both occasions, and I will venture to say that had the same voting facilities been given as were given in the County Council elections that majority of 11,000 would have been wiped out, and we should have found a considerable majority in London in favour of the Liberal and Radical programme. It is not too late to remind hon. Members that right hon. Gentlemen opposite feared to admit. Saturday among the possible polling days, and that in the County Council elections the principle of One Man One, Vote prevailed, whereas in the Parliamentary Elections the iniquitous system of plural voting obtained. I am perfectly sure that under other conditions we should have found London on the side of Home Rule. The First Lord of the Treasury has spoken of the desire of his Party to undertake work of social and domestic legislation, and in the light of his remarks I could not but remember my experience of them as a Member of the London County Council, and of how hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have dealt with that body in connection with social and domestic questions. No sooner was the Council created, and' when it came out the wrong colour for hon. Members opposite, than they proceeded to try to starve, and strangle the Council. When we applied for facilities to carry on our business we found that, though charged with the business of the Metropolis, we had but the' means of Little Pedlington, and we found ourselves checked and thwarted. The Council were anxious to put forward the great question of the London water supply, and we took an early opportunity of asking the House to pass a Bill with that object; but the Government rendered us no assistance; they baulked our proposal, and we were unable to carry it through. With regard to the government of water, I will now read a few words from the official Report drawn up by a Committee of the Council consisting alike of Conservative and Liberal Members— 385It is desirable that Londoners should understand the effect of the refusal of the Government to entertain the application of the Council. The delay in the appointment of a Select Committee, and the inability or unwillingness of the Committee to enter into the question of a new supply, has had the effect of postponing the whole question for a whole year at least—a loss of time which, having regard to the interests and rights and growing difficulties of new sources of water supply, is much to be regretted.That is the Report of the Committee. As a matter of fact, at the time there was this endeavour to prevent the County Council bringing water to London hon. Gentlemen were wasting the time of this House in endeavouring to subsidise those who sold beer. I am amused to hear the Solicitor General posing as a temperance reformer. What would have been the result if the Government proposals with regard to beer had been carried out? In view of the subsequent decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" there is no question that many millions of money would have been lost by the carrying out of those proposals. The proposal made to the London County Council to buy up beerhouses in London would have meant a treble purchase. Therefore we are to be congratulated that the proposals of the Government with regard to the public-houses of the country were not carried out. Then there is another matter which means many thousands to the ratepayers of London. By the Local Government Bill, upon which the Government pride themselves so much, the opportunity to deduct the sewer rate from the rent was lost to many thousands of persons who had previously had that opportunity. When we suggested a division of rates between owners and occupiers, we met with no assistance from the Government. On the other hand, they seemed to take some pleasure—at all events they took no trouble to remove an additional burden which their Local Government Bill had imposed upon the ratepayers of London. I should not have ventured upon these remarks if the First Lord of the Treasury had not posed as the champion of social and domestic legislation. I can only say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. As regards the London County Council, instead of receiving assistance, we have, from the very 386 first, been hindered in our work for London, and I am extremely glad that London has joined in this Vote of No, Confidence in the Government. Here, in the very centre of the influence of the Unionist Party, there has been no uncertain answer.
MR, E. G. VILLIERS STANLEY (Lancashire, S. E., Westhoughton)
It is with the utmost diffidence that I ask for the consideration of the House to-day—a diffidence that is only overcome by the traditional good feeling of the House towards new Members—a tradition which has now had application to, three generations of my family. There, is not a single new Member who could fail to be impressed by the ability or the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith); but if there is one thing which has more impressed us, it is that particular ability he has displayed in entirely ignoring the heart of the Amendment which he proposed. He pointed out that the Government ought to have the confidence of this House, and with that we all agree; but, at the same time, he announced that he would be able to prove that the Government which is to replace the present one would possess that confidence. I should like to know from whence it is derived—from where Her. Majesty's scratch Opposition procure an inkling of confidence. Is it from the Members of this House? I do not think the questions that have been addressed by hon. Members below the Gangway to the Leader of the House indicate any overwhelming confidence. Those questions were perfectly legitimate and honest, and ought to have-been answered. But they were not responded to, because they were very bitter pills to swallow. It is currently reported that right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Opposition Bench have the digestions of ostriches, and I should be sorry if that were not their possession, because it will be required when next they meet Parliament. In what other quarter may we look for this confidence? Is it in the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. W. E. Glad-stone's) constituency? If the right hon. Gentleman manages his own domestic affairs he may be conversant with the phrase "a month's warning." The right hon. Gentleman has had 387 many dismissals on the spot; but this time, on account of age and great intellect, his constituency was prepared to concede a month's warning—a circumstance not, however, indicative of any particularly large measure of confidence. Then, did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) find very great confidence in his constituency? I think we may safely say that it was only the unfortunate accident of there not being a second Unionist in the field that gave him the chance of listening to this Debate. Where in Ireland is confidence derived, seeing that we have been able to win five seats? It is true that the Opposition have a majority; but the time will come when they will have to prove that they possess the confidence of this House, and the occasion will be the presentation of the Home Rule Bill. One of two things they will then have to do. They will either have to disappoint their friends behind them, or they will have to disappoint their friends below the Gangway. If they disappoint the latter we know what the result will be—a Vote of Want of Confidence, for the section concerned is the tail that wags the dog. In regard to the manner of securing their majority, the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Benn) told us that we always kept Home Rule in the foreground, and my answer is that if his side had clone likewise there would have been no necessity for the prospective change of Benches. In England they have obtained votes by many methods, and in this connection I should like to ask the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) whether he thinks, if his opponent had supported the Eight Hours Bill, he would have been in his present position? Personally, I am of the same opinion as the hon. Member for Ince; but still I think he will admit that the Eight Hours proposals and not Home Rule carried, the day in the Ince Division. We have been called a beaten, captured, and conquered army. But we are not. If we were a captured army we should have to walk out without our arms and the stipulation that we fight no longer. On the contrary, we march out with all the honours of war, a compact body ready to follow our one Leader, and ready to 388 follow him anywhere. We shall cross not only prepared to hold our ground, but prepared to make counter-attacks. I prophesy it will not be long before we again recapture the seats.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Lancashire, S. W., Ince)
I feel that my intervention in this Debate is justified by the challenge which has been thrown out, first by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and afterwards by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke). And as this is the first time I have risen in this House, I feel sure, like the hon. Member who has just sat down, that I shall receive the fullest indulgence of hon. Members. I listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. In my judgment the speech with which he favoured the House to-night was about the most illogical he ever made in his life, and in the appeal he made for the votes of the various sections on this side he seemed to be illustrating the lines—Will you come into my parlour? Said the spider to the fly.I do not think his appeal will have much influence on the Labour Members, because they have already been able to judge where their true interest lies. The Solicitor General threw out the challenge, What have the Labour Members to say? I rise to answer that question. What is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to do on the subject of One Man One Vote? For there is no question on which the working man thinks more. What is his Party prepared to do in the reform of the Registration Law? I hold that every third election is lost to the Progressive Party in consequence of the unfair and unequal laws with regard to registration. Then the right hon. Gentleman and his Party voted against that vital principle, the payment of Members of Parliament. Practically, a working man cannot now get into the House of Commons, and until there is payment of Members we shall never have fair representation of the working man of this country. Is the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, prepared to support a Bill for that now? There 389 is also the question of the returning officers' fees, and these four questions are now occupying the minds of working men more than anything else. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was always, up to a recent date, recognised as being the most advanced Radical in the House. Is he Radical to-day? No; he has discarded all his pretensions for a Party, in order to keep it in power. In November, 1890, the late Mr. Bradlaugh brought a Motion before the House for the abolition of perpetual pensions at less than twenty-seven years' purchase. The right hon. Gentleman opposed that Motion and it was defeated, and yet eight-tenths of the working men of this country are in favour of their abolition. In March of this year there was a very important Motion affecting the Law of Combination brought forward, dealing with the amendment of the Law of Conspiracy. I regret to see that the right hon. Gentleman voted against that Amendment, which would have benefited the Trades Unions of this country. The right hon. Gentleman also voted against the abolition of plural voting. It is true that on the 23rd March last the right hon. Gentleman voted in favour of a Miners' Eight Hours Bill, although shortly before, in answer to a friend of mine, he had said that he could not see his way to support it. And when the right hon. Gentleman spoke in favour of the Bill he put in certain qualifications which he said would be necessary; but the mining population is keenly watching the Bill, and will not accept any Amendment which will impair the utility of the measure to workers in mines. As to the position of the Labour Members, it will be admitted by both sides that the working men of this country would be the last to be frightened, or challenged without rising to defend their policy. They are never ashamed of their policy, and no measures will satisfy them which will not materially improve their present position. The eight or nine millions of working men in this country are determined to have some of these unequal laws removed from the Statute Book and fairer ones put in their place. I thank the House for 390 so patiently listening to the remarks I have made.
§ (8.0.) MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
I must congratulate the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) on having drawn a Member of the Opposition—of the Labour Party, and caused him to break through the conspiracy of silence and give his views. Butt instead of addressing his remarks to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who will have the opportunity of attending to them, he addressed them to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain). The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bean) told us he very much desired to see Mr. Ritchie back in the House. I am sure, after the lecture he gave us, we shall all cordially join in wishing it, and I may say that, perhaps, I have given more proof than he has of the sincerity of my desire. There was one passage in the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) which secured the applause and the approval of every Member of the House, that was when he said we were discussing we know not what. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered because they were anxious to show that Her Majesty's Ministers had acted wrongly in giving the nation an opportunity of seeing by what small arguments the big battalions are supported—that they rule on the argument of force, and not on the force of argument. Doubtless the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) was all through his speech speaking strictly to his brief, but there was one occasion when he felt that he could allow himself a safe lash out at a noble, though moribund, animal, the Liberal Unionist Party. As to the ability with which he executed his task, he has secured the encomiums of right hon. Gentlemen on both sides, of the old Parliamentary hands; but speaking for the young Parliamentary hands, the new Members, who number something over two hundred, a guileless, sympathetic, and impressionable band, I say they would have been even more pleased at the performance if the hon. and learned Gentleman had been able to produce some of the external effects of believing in the arguments he was advancing, and if we had not been ex- 391 pecting every moment to hear him say, "My Lord, I am speaking according to my instructions." I could have felt it in my heart to be sorry for him when he said that the persistent questions which had troubled his breast in the past were now unnecessary and out of place if I did not feel confident that in a very few days he will receive his official reward for doing so, and if he had not had the courage to brand those hon. Gentlemen sitting round him as political apostates because they had, to their great material disadvantage, refused to follow him in the course of swallowing his convictions. I confess when he spoke of apostates I thought of Galileo, who went through a form of apostacy when he said the world did not move, and I thought that was the position in which the hon. Gentleman himself was placed. I do not see why he should have adopted this forensic attitude. He has sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and should have been able to give a Delphian response with the air of pronouncing a dogma necessary to salvation. I have not before had the opportunity of hearing the right hon. Member for Midlothian speak in this House, but I knew his powers and realised what they were.I knew he could a hair divide Between the south and south-west side.I knew he had the power to use the verb distinguo to his own advantage, and make a word have not the natural meaning it would have to our ears, but that which he wished it to have, like one whom the Spanish proverb describes, as giving nothing between two plates. But I did not realise with what enthusiasm his followers would sit down to that windy banquet—that Barmecidal feast. I know I belong to a defeated Party; I thank God I do not belong to a discredited one. I feel confidence because I re-echo the words of our Leaders, that the future is for us, and I feel confident that what the papers are fond of calling a moral victory, which we shall have this evening in the Lobbies, will soon be followed by a real one. I feel confident that that will be another moral victory, for I believe that the measure for which right hon. Gentlemen opposite have broken up their Party and 392 sacrificed their convictions will be their own undoing, and that in the net which has been laid by them their own foot will be taken. I believe that the discordant elements which are compressed into the majority by the centripetal attraction of Office will not resist the great o centrifugal force when hon. Gentlemen pass over to this side of the House; and I further believe that external as well as internal affairs will work against the future of the Government, for I feel convinced that the country at large will very shortly reverse the verdict which has been obtained in this Island by misrepresentations and in the adjoining Island by over-representations. It is on that account that I feel that what the newspapers are so fond of calling a moral victory, which we shall have in the Lobbies this evening, will soon be succeeded by a real one. I shall go to, my doom there, feeling confident that at no distant clay we shall have a joyful political resurrection.
§ *(8.47.) MR. R. L. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
I spent a good many hours during the spring and the summer in addressing meetings of my constituents in Suffolk, and I have felt it a very pleasant change to be in this House, listening, as I have done in this Debate, to the speeches of others. I have heard one speech this evening, the speech with which the Debate began, which, as a good Liberal, I feel it to be very difficult to sit down in silence under. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was, undoubtedly, an exceedingly clever speech. It was a great treat to us comparatively new Members to watch the right hon. Gentleman, and to mark the skill with which he put forth the matter he has given to us, but I confess the speech was one which moved my indignation. I felt it was a speech, if such a humble person as myself may take the liberty to say so, of neither a Liberal nor of a statesman. It was not the speech of a Liberal. The right hon. Gentleman taunted us, the Liberal Party, with the divisions that prevail amongst us. Now, it is the glory of the Liberal Party to have divisions amongst themselves. We are a Party of Progress; we represent 393 the coming measures; we go forward all of us, but we go for ward to a certain extent on different lines, and it was indeed a new thing to hear a Liberal, and one whom we once thought a distinguished Liberal, taunting the Liberal Party with the divisions that.are found in it; and I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman not only taunted us with these divisions, but deliberately and purposely endeavoured with all his might to aggravate them to our injury. It was a speech—and I call all Liberals who heard the speech to witness—deliberately intended to do all the hurt in his power to the Liberal Party. It was the speech not of a friend but of an enemy, and I only justly characterise it when I say it was the speech of the arch enemy of the Liberal Party in this country. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was not that of a statesman, for it is the duty of statesmen to show how difficulties can best be met. He made no attempt at this. He has not in the least degree contributed to the settlement of this difficulty. He has also shown the grossest inconsistency with his own past utterances. I spent some time yesterday in looking over a volume of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches on the question of Ireland. They were well worth reading, for they set forth with great clearness the wants and needs of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman declared in one of them that of all living men the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian was the fittest and most capable to undertake the settlement of the Irish Question. I cannot, therefore, understand the position which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has since taken up, neither can the Liberals of this country as a whole. If such a process were possible, I think we should be disposed to drum him out of the Liberal Party, as an unworthy soldier is drummed out of the ranks. I had the privilege of a seat in the House in the Parliament of 1885, when the question of the better government of Ireland was almost the only subject discussed. I lost my seat as a result of voting for Home Rule; but I am glad that I did 394 vote for it, for I am now more than ever convinced that we shall be doing only what is just and right in giving Ireland the largest possible measure of Home Rule. I have again returned to the House, and the majority which replaced the minority I was in at the previous election shows that my constituents have followed roe on this question, and have fully endorsed the vote I gave in 1866. I have improved my position to the extent of 1,000 votes. I come here, however, to find that the question has made no progress whatever. It is most desirable that it should now be settled, because the way is blocked to other great reforms until the Irish Question is disposed of. The fact that the Irish Nationalist Members have come back to the House in the proportion of four out of five shows that the people of Ireland are thoroughly dissatisfied still with the manner in which their country is governed. I think that their discontent is perfectly reasonable, and such as Englishmen would feel if they were governed as Ireland has been governed up to the present time. As the right hon. Member for West Birmingham stated in one of his speeches, it has been a system founded on the bayonets of 30,000 soldiers encamped permanently as in a hostile country, with a Government as centralised and as bureaucratic as that by which Russia governs Poland. This, I say, is the present condition of Ireland, and it must surely be for the general good of the whole country to remove this just cause of discontent. The right hon. Gentleman, however, failed to-night to express one word of regret that this form of government still continues. The question with which the incoming Government will have to deal is, no doubt, a very difficult one. No one denies that. But the Liberal Unionist Members seem positively to gloat over the difficulties, and to roll them as a sweet morsel under their tongues. I can understand an enemy doing that; but I cannot understand how hon. Gentlemen sitting on these Benches, and calling themselves Liberals, can do so. It would be much more patriotic in them to render the best assistance 395 they can towards the settlement of such a difficult question. Ireland must have more self-government, and if the Liberal Unionists would but loyally help the incoming Administration, she might easily obtain all the self-government which is consistent with the supremacy of the Crown and the legitimate rights of the Imperial Parliament. This difference between them and us is more a difference of degree than of principle; and I would remind them that the question will not settle itself. It will remain in the way until it is settled. The Liberal Party has not put it in the way. It has come up by reason of the past misgovernment of Ireland. Listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), I could not help calling to mind the time when the hon. Member, who then sat for Ipswich, was my representative, and, as one of the most advanced Radicals of the day, lifted up his voice against Coercion, and said that on no consideration would he vote for Coercion again. I watched him in the last Parliament. He kept that promise in the letter, but he broke it in the spirit. He did not vote for the Crimes Act, but he helped to maintain in power the Government that did pass it. The Government passed some measures during the past six years conferring boons upon the people of Ireland; but they also passed the Act which put it in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to remove certain Constitutional privileges if he saw fit to do so, and for several years past trial by jury has been taken away in certain parts of Ireland. The Liberals of England heard with shame of the imprisonment of Irishmen. The Speaker has informed us that, in the name of the Commons, he has laid claim to those ancient rights and privileges, our claim to which has been now so long fully recognised. Without disrespect, I venture to express a hope that the claim for "freedom from arrest," which was one of them, will be more effective in this Parliament than in the past. Irish Members who suffered then may rest content, however, with the knowledge that their imprisonment has advanced 396 their cause in the eyes of a, justice-loving English nation. Moral power, about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian spoke so eloquently at the close of his great speech, and to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the, House replied in the spirit of entire misunderstanding, is proving itself to, be stronger than physical power in dealing with the Irish Question. Now let me address a word to the Conservatives who sit on the opposite benches. I well remember in the Parliament of 1885 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian speaking with great weight and earnestness on this difficult Irish Question, and urging the then Government—the Conservative Government which was found in office when that Parliament met—to take it up, and to try to bring it to a settlement. He assured them that if they would do so, they would receive from him most loyal and hearty support. But they declined that offer. Now we are wrestling with the question again, and, the majority having passed over to this side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman will himself, if it please God his life is spared, undertake its settlement. As a Liberal, as an Englishman, and as a patriot, I now ask Conservatives to return to the right hon. Gentleman the offer he then made to them, and, instead of trying to increase his difficulties in dealing with this great question, to render him the best assistance in their power in his attempt to bring it to a satisfactory issue.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I should like to say a word on this Debate as a naval man, and also as the Member for a constituency which is solid for the Union and solid against separation. As a naval man I cannot give a silent vote in a Debate which is going to dismiss from Office a Government which, I say, has earned the gratitude of the country. They have done more to maintain the naval supremacy of this country than any Government since the Crimean War. Every interest you possess, whether commercial or otherwise, depends upon your naval supremacy, and if you allow your sea power to decline your prosperity 397 declines with it. There was a time when the naval power was allowed to decline. I do not say any more about that beyond that it had declined to such an extent that it was absolutely necessary that Her Majesty's Government should resort to heroic measures. The Government has carried out its legislation satisfactorily, and has averted a national calamity, and it is well that the country should be reminded of it, for the country has a short memory. For the first time in the history of the country it was necessary for the Government of the day to put into an Act of Parliament the necessary means to restore the naval supremacy which the last Government had allowed to decline. We shall be perfectly happy to go into Opposition, knowing that the Government which is coming in cannot make ducks and drakes of the Act of Parliament. They can do very little harm until that programme is complete. I hope they do not intend to do any harm; but I am perfectly certain that under the pressure of the Radical economists they would not spend anything on the Navy that they could avoid, and on the Navy your foreign policy depends. How many Members on your side referred to the foreign policy of the country in their Election addresses? None. We are grateful to think that when the change of Government takes place there will be a strong Foreign Minister who will carry out, to a large extent at least, the policy of Lord Salisbury. Already Russia and France are watching with keen interest the prospect of the change of Government, and already action has been taken by Russia in her advance on the Pamirs. As long as it was certain that there was to be no change of Government in this country there was no advance by Russia in that direction. What is the charge against the present Government? The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) used general terms, and contented himself with saying that the country voted with its eyes open. We say the country voted with its eyes closed. You endeavoured to close their eyes and throw dust in them. How was your majority of forty obtained? We say it was obtained by false pre- 398 tences and by mendacious statements. I do not charge that against individual Members, because I trust I know what, is due to the courtesy of Debate. But we charge against hon. Members that they put Home Rule in the background. The hon. Member who has spoken tonight (Mr. Allen) was not elected on the Home Rule Question.
§ MR. W. S. ALLEN
I said, Sir, that the Home Rule Question was well to the fore; but that the Eight Hours and other questions were considered.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I say that Home Rule was kept in the background. We have charged that against you for three days. We have been firing at you between wind and water, and you have answered with blank cartridge. You think you are supported by Cork dust and Irish lifebelts. The Scotch majority is a majority purely personal to, the individuality of a distinguished Leader; it was not obtained on Home Rule. The Welsh majority was not obtained on Home Rule, it was obtained on Disestablishment. In those constituencies where there are clubs, and where friction of minds brings intelligence, the majorities of the Unionist candidates were largely increased. There were many causes which led to the change in the other constituencies. In some it was love of change. They wanted to give the other people an innings. Was that an Imperial issue?. Another cause was the persistent misrepresentation which has taken place on the platforms. I saw a letter in the Standard the other day, signed by Mr. R. K. Harvey, of the Arundel Club, in which that gentleman said he attended a meeting at Hunstanton addressed by Mr. Joseph Arch, the Member for North-West Norfolk, and he heard that gentleman say, to the great indignation of the agricultural labourers who heard him, that the Conservatives, in the teeth of the Liberal Opposition, had passed a measure doing away with outdoor relief, and compelling old people to go into the workhouse. The author signed his name to the letter, and I have not yet heard that an action for libel has been commenced against him. That is the way many seats wore lost. I say the constituencies were led away 399 by rubbish like this, and by the miserable Newcastle Programme, and One Man One Vote, and Every Man a Vote. Our reply is that you will not get it. You must have One Vote and One Value for One Vote. Then Ireland would lose twenty Members and Wales would lose three and England would have twenty-three more, and then where would be your majority? I should like to say a word about the Dockyard constituencies which have gone against us. Take the case of Portsmouth. The Fleet was very properly brought to Spithead so that the men could vote, and then no arrangements were made for the men to get ashore. None of the ordinary conveniences were allowed, and the men had to row themselves ashore in a fresh northeaster and in a storm of rain. I do not say whose fault that was, but of course they voted against the Government to a man. Was that Imperialism? It had nothing whatever to do with Home Rule. The sailors would fight against it if necessary, but they did not like to have to pull themselves ashore, and so they went and voted against the Government. I am sorry for their action, and I hope it will not occur again. Well, you have to turn us out, and when that is done we shall watch with much interest when the row begins. You will have Office, but you will not have power, when the House re-assembles. Office without power! I do not envy you. Now, such is the inconsistency of our opponents that they expect this Parliament to pass a Home Rule Bill because they are in a majority of forty, and then the Lords are to accept it. In 1886, when the question was put before the country in all its details, we had a majority of 116. Why did you not abide by that verdict? Is there to be no such thing as finality in fighting great questions? Why, when you were defeated by an overwhelming majority you would not accept the position, and yet you expect us to be conquered with your miserable majority of forty. Not only will the House of Lords be within their rights, but it will be their bounden duty to reject any Home Rule Bill sent up to them passed by a miserable majority of forty Irish votes. I like your inconsistency. You expect the 400 Lords to swallow forty, and you would not swallow 116. I am weary of this eternal strife over this wretched question. Why did you not accept the verdict of the country like honest men when it was given in such unmistakable terms in 1886? You cannot get rid of it. (Laughter, and a Voice, "You have!") An hon. Member says we have got rid of it. We have not. The result would be the same on the same issue with the same details. I suppose every hon. Member will feel that there should be some safeguards against hasty and ill-considered legislation. You pretend to be the Representatives of a great Democratic Party in the country, and are you ashamed to borrow from the great democratic country across the Atlantic? Give us the safeguards that obtain in America, and you may do what you like. What are the American safeguards? There they must have a two-thirds majority before they are allowed to discuss a Motion on such a question as this, and after that they must have a two-thirds vote to carry it, and when they have carried it they have to go to every State in the Union and get the same question debated there and passed by the same majority; and then, if the people object to any such great change in the Constitution of the United States, they can claim to go to the Supreme Court. We have no safeguards of that kind, and we will ask the House of Lords to stand between us and revolution. (Laughter.) You laugh; but men who laugh are not serious politicians. I listened with deep regret to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian when indirectly he threatened the House of Lords if they should reject his Bill. Was that a statesmanlike act? How can you expect the Lords to accept the miserable majority of forty when you would not accept our majority of 116? I object to this game of see-saw, and I want to know when we are to have finality on any question. As our Leader said in his powerful speech the other evening, there are two parties to the partnership—Great Britain and Ireland. Very well, if one party desires separation, the other party must consent to it. It is all very well for the right hon. Gen- 401 tleman to make an appeal to the sentiment and honour of England, but great public affairs of nations cannot be conducted on sentimental principles, but on strictly business principles. Unless Home Rule is good for Great Britain as well as for Ireland, hon. Gentlemen have no right to demand it, and if all Ireland—if every man, woman, and child in Ireland—cried out for it, they should never have it unless it were good also for England. Scotland, and Wales. Therefore, you are only beating the air, and you will never get Home Rule while Englishmen are what they are to-day. Hon. Members opposite say they will compel England to give it them. Well, you have done your level best to make us sick of the question. I well remember landing in San Francisco after a long voyage. I was glad to get ashore—(laughter)—yes, but that was because I had nothing to do. If I had been in command I would sooner have been afloat. Well, I went to an hotel in San Francisco, and on the bill of fare presented to me was Irish stew and Land League sauce. Well, we have been living on Irish stew and Land League sauce ever since, and we are sick of it. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. W. S. Allen), in the course of his speech, pointed to Canada as having been given Home Rule, and he stated that we lost our American Colony because we refused to grant it. I am afraid my hon. Friend has not read his history, and I am sorry, too, that he cannot see the distinction between the case of giving Home Rule to Canada and to Ireland. Does he not know that Ireland is too near to allow her to get Home Rule? Does he not know that it is only sixty miles from Holy head to Kingstown, and only twelve miles from Stranraer to Larne? Ireland is too near to let her go. You Irish are charming people, with a firm government, but you are perfectly unfit for self-government. That is not my opinion alone. Sir Robert Peel said the same thing in opposing O'Connell's Motion for Repeal. He said it would reduce England to a fourth-rate Power and Ireland to a howling wilderness, and that he would sooner see separation than be a party to the Repeal of the Union. Once bit, twice shy— 402 what Ireland did in 1796 she would do in 1896 under the same circumstances. If we give Home Rule to Ireland there must be a great increase in our Naval and Military Forces. We must hold all your ports in Ireland, for they would be the base of operations for our enemies in time of war. I speak as a naval man who has studied naval questions, and I warn my countrymen of the danger. In 1796, 10,000 men sailed from France in forty-three vessels, of which seven only got back. The storms and the winds sent them to the bottom of the sea; but their want of success was not the fault of the Irish people. What happened then would happen again, and it is our duty, as a great nation, to allow nothing to be done which would interfere with our Imperial interests. Ireland may desire Home Rule, but she will not get it, because it is not good for England or Scotland. England has spoken with no uncertain voice, and by a majority of seventy-five has said, "You shall not have Home Rule," and England and Scotland and Wales together have said the same a second time by a majority of fifteen. Why do not the Irish shake hands all round and give up this demand for Home Rule? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of a union of hearts. Well, Unionists are quite willing to have a union of hearts if Irishmen will only behave themselves like good people. The right hon. Member for Midlothian, in the course of his eloquent speech, said that Parliament has passed many measures for the good of other portions of the United Kingdom because they desired it, and he asked why Parliament could not pass this measure of Home Rule. There is no parallel between the two cases. We have passed other measures because they were reforms, and we do not pass this because it is revolution. Whatever Ireland may desire in the way of reasonable reform England will be ready to grant. Many hon. Members have said that the State should buy up the Irish railways for the benefit of the country. Well, the Government has done a great deal even in this direction. They have established light railways, and showered blessings on the country in many ways. 403 The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) who moved the Amendment has admitted that golden showers have rained on Ireland, and yet the Irish people are so ungrateful that they describe the Government which has done this as the Government of tyranny and oppression. The one answers the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) has alluded to the letter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) wrote in reference to the statement of Mr. Oscar Browning as to the Imperial supremacy which is to be maintained if Home Rule is granted to Ireland. Mr. Oscar Browning, in the course of his candidature, said he was certain that under any Home Rule Bill the legislation of the Irish Parliament would be subject to the veto of the Crown on the advice of English Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman, in replying to Mr. Oscar Browning, said that that statement was quite correct. And yet we are told by the Irish Party that they will not accept anything of the sort. Now, I wish to quote another important statement made by the right hon. Gentleman since his answer to Mr. Oscar Browning in May last. I carefully copied this quotation from his speech made at Edinburgh on the 1st July. It refers to this question of the supremacy of the English Parliament, and I am afraid it will not be considered quite so satisfactory as the right hon. Gentleman's reply to Mr. Oscar Browning. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said, and hon. Members can read it in the Times in the Library—Lord Salisbury says the supremacy of Parliament will be a sham.We all say that.Is it a thing unknown to us beyond the limit of our own country? Have we not scattered over the world a number of States, Colonial in their origin, which have in more than one case swollen to national dimensions? Is it not true that every one of these is subject to the supremacy of Parliament? I want to know whether you consider that supremacy is or is not a shadow or a fiction?I say that it is a shadow, if not a fiction. The supremacy of Parliament towards our Colonies does not exist in any practical manner. 404 Speaking on the 4th June, the right hon. Gentleman said that no principle of Home Rule should be laid down for Ireland of which Scotland could not claim the benefit. I suppose the same thing might be said of gallant little Wales and England, and that means, four Parliaments, and I suppose another Parliament to govern the lot—five blessed Parliaments just to gratify the ambition of one man in the decline of his life. But we are not going to let the country drift into this mess. There may have been some excuse for an Irish Parliament in 1800; but now the means of communication have been so much improved that we can communicate with Dublin from London as easily as we can communicate across the floor of this House. It was said that the Irish Members had been imprisoned, but they were imprisoned for breaking the law, and they knew what the law was. I thought hon. Members claimed equality before the law; but I think when a Member of Parliament breaks the law he should be subjected to a double punishment. As a humble naval man I have felt it my duty to protest against this vote; and I say that when the history of this period comes to be written it will be stated that the Unionist Government did its duty in standing up for law and order, and for the interests of the Empire.
§ *(9.59.) MR. D. H. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
I am glad to see the gallant Admiral is as breezy as ever, and I thank him for the compliment he has paid my country. But what are we discussing? There is no question before the House, and we are merely holding a post mortem on the present Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there was no attack made on the present Government. That is perfectly true. We are not here to attack the Government. The Government has been attacked by the voters and condemned. We are not here to make attacks, but to execute the Government. They have been tried already by a jury of their countrymen and condemned. The Solicitor 405 General says they were not condemned on Home Rule. Very well; then they were condemned on their domestic policy. They say that they are a working man's Government, and the working men of the country have returned a majority of forty against them. Great stress has been laid on the fact that the majority is only forty, and that, therefore, it is an Irish majority; but, as Parties stand in this House, any Government that has a majority which is less than eighty must have an Irish majority. I have listened to many unprofitable Debates in this House, but never to one more unprofitable than this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of a conspiracy of silence, but I think there is a conspiracy which is worse than that, and that is a conspiracy of talk for no practical purpose. Much has been said of the composition of the majority; but what about the composition of the supporters of the Government? First, there are those that neither toil nor spin. (Laughter.) That was the term that was applied to them by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) when he talked about ransom. Now the right hon. Gentleman has turned renegade, or something else, and supports that Party. The right hon. Gentleman has excommunicated the Highlanders because they have returned Members of whose principles he does not approve, and has declared that he will do nothing for them. I do not think they will suffer much from that, and I do not recollect a single instance in which he spoke a word or lifted a finger in their behalf. But it is extraordinary for a statesman to say that because people will not vote in the way he approves he will no longer vote in favour of justice being done to them. The right hon. Gentleman has presumed to censure these people for exercising their political privileges and returning whom they chose, and that censure was accompanied by a threat to leave them to their own devices. That threat will fall harmlessly on the heads of the Highlanders, as the right hon. Gentleman has never done anything for them, and their new Representatives 406 cannot do less. I was a Home Ruler long before I had the honour of a seat in this House, and I have been one consistently since; the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind. We have had terrible threats as to the awful consequences which will follow the granting of Home Rule. But when a prophet threatens people in the future we have to look back to the predictions of the same prophet in the past on other matters. We have had the predictions of the Tory Party that every reform proposed in this House or the country would be the forerunner of the ruin of the country. The country is not ruined yet, and all these things have been carried. The only thing that makes me nervous is the saying that "A prophet hath no honour in his own country." If that is the chief mark of a prophet, I am afraid they have shown in this Election that they are without honour in their own country. But I have no fear of the consequences of granting Home Rule. I cannot imagine that Irish people are so foolish, so unwise, so unjust as to take any advantage of minorities in Ireland. There is no evidence on one side or the other on the point; it is only a matter of opinion. I am going, therefore, to record my vote in favour of a just measure of Home Rule for Ireland, but not, however, for any measure for either Ireland or Scotland which, in my humble opinion, will in any way endanger the integrity of the United Kingdom. If, after Home Rule is granted, it should unhappily happen that Ireland proves herself unworthy of that measure, the power that gave it can take it away.
§ *(10.10.) SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury)
Sir, I think everyone must feel that it is a responsible matter to take part in a Debate of such importance as this now engaging the attention of the House. Others may feel that it is still more responsible for prominent Members of this House to abstain from taking part in the Debate. I also feel that there is no defence necessary for the course that has been taken by those who, under the circum- 407 stances in which Parliament is now placed, have asked for a full and complete discussion of our political position. Criticisms have been applied to those who have treated this Debate as of great importance. It has been said that it was an unnecessary course for a Government to take to ask that this discussion should take place. It has also been said that there is no precedent for the course pursued; and, astly, there have been those who have suggested that this Debate has been unnecessarily protracted. As to the first objection, is it unreasonable that when a political Party is claiming a great triumph, and when it is asserting its right to be placed in office and in power, when it is asking that it should have the opportunity of governing this country through an Executive Authority for five or six months, unchecked by Parliament and uncontrolled by criticism, at least an opportunity should be afforded to that Party of giving information to an anxious public desirous to know how it is to be governed during those six months? It is said that there is no precedent for such a course; but what have precedents to do with the position in which we are now placed? There never has been an occasion, I believe I am right in so saying, when any Party has had placed in its hands this uncontrolled and unchecked power of government without making a declaration of its policy, and submitting that policy to the judgment of Parliament. I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), with his great experience, has there ever been such an occasion in Parliamentary history?
§ *SIR HENRY JAMES
My right hon. Friend says in 1841 there was an instance similar to this. The business of Parliament was not concluded in 1841.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman says there was always a declaration of policy; I met that by saying that in 1841 there was no such declaration.
§ *SIR HENRY JAMES
My right hon. Friend did not listen to my proposition. In 1841 the Liberal Party pursued the course the Government of the present day is pursuing. It met Parliament; it took a hostile vote and was defeated during the month of August, and in the course of that Debate, and in one that took place immediately upon Sir Robert Peel's assumption of office in September, there was a full discussion alike of the policy of the Government that was going out and of the Government that was coming in. If my right hon. Friend will refresh his memory as to what occurred in the Debates in 1841, when the Government of Lord Melbourne was defeated by a majority of ninety-one, and when Sir Robert Peel had formed his Government, he will find that during the course of those Debates there was a full and ample discussion as to what had been the past policy of Lord Melbourne's Government, and what would probably be the policy of the Conservative Party coming into Office. I repeat, that we stand here without any precedent to guide us, because the circumstances are exceptional. It is said, too, Sir, that this has been a protracted Debate. Well, we have one precedent to guide us as to what is protracted Debate when we are discussing the policy of two Parties. In 1886 Parliament met upon the 4th August, the Debate on the Address commenced on the 19th August. There were on that occasion no detailed measures in the Speech from the Throne; it was a simple statement that Parliament should be prorogued, after dealing with some few Votes in Supply, for a fitting season to consider measures tending to the good government of the country. That Debate—beginning on the 19th August—was continued till the 3rd September. Eleven days were spent on a Debate on an Address in reply to a Speech from the Throne as meagre as the one before the House; and if we now ask for a Debate of three nights in relation to circumstances far more momentous, probably, than have ever been before us previously, is 409 it worthy of those who choose for convenience or policy to take no part in this Debate to object that we, on behalf of our constituents, should do our best to obtain information from them? I will turn at once to the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). He knows I shall not subject him to a very severe criticism. I even congratulate him on being selected as the representative, the champion, of the great Liberal Party. He has been selected to occupy a position of honour; a position of distinction; I hope it is a position of promise to him. Whether he is the right man to occupy that position I very much doubt. He was placed in it under circumstances which, I think, might give rise to some observations and inquiries as to why he was asked to move this Amendment. Sir, my hon. and learned Friend, with becoming modesty, chose to say that what he had said on previous occasions, when he demanded that information should be given to the country as to the intended measure of Home Rule, was of little importance now, and that at some future time he would deal with those inquiries. But he underrates both his own importance and the importance of the inquiry he made; he underrates also the importance of the refusal to give information. And in moving his Amendment I would suggest to him it was his duty, if he did not wish to hear some charge—I will not say of political apostacy—but perhaps of inconsistency, made against him, to explain how it was that when he was addressing his constituents, he demonstrated the moral necessity, the political necessity, of giving this information, and with one hand puts it aside when he comes to this House and tells us it is perfectly unimportant whether we obtain this information or not. Something has been said in the course of this Debate as to the majority upon which my right hon. Friend will have to rely. It is suggested that that majority is not bound together by any agreement upon principle or by any concord upon policy. It is suggested that there were free hands amongst that majority who will, except for the purposes of this one Motion, take their 410 own course and act upon their own opinions. Well, I know no person better qualified for occupying that position than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife; and perhaps it may be that my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, wishing to show how catholic are his views respecting the majority on which he has to rely, selected the most conspicuous of those free hands, and secured my hon. and learned Friend to move this Amendment. I would call my hon. and learned Friend's attention to the position that he occupies now amongst the ranks of the Liberal Party. It is one of singular freedom, upon which he, at least, is to be congratulated. There was a somewhat celebrated meeting of my hon. and learned Friend's constituents, which was remarkable for another reason than that to which I am about to refer, which was held on the 7th June; and my hon. and learned Friend was subjected to some inquiry from those very discerning Scotch electors—they have a name for them in Scotland—who put questions of a very difficult character to candidates who submit themselves to the suffrages of any constituency to answer. Well, there was a certain professor there, and I suppose it was a fair contest between him and my hon. and learned Friend; and that Professor—Mr. Scott Lang—referred Mr. Asquith to a speech of his made in January, in which he stated that he did not entertain the slightest doubt that before the General Election Mr. Gladstone would declare the main features of his Home Rule scheme, in addition to those already stated. Mr. Asquith replied that he was still of the same opinion, and that if he were disappointed he would go into Parliament with a perfectly free hand.Well, the General Election has taken place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian has addressed his constituents, and no one can for one moment say that he has given any information as to his Home Rule scheme beyond that which he has stated about the difficulty in respect of Irish Members being in this House. He promised that if he returned with 411 a sufficient majority to conduct public affairs he and his colleagues would endeavour to solve the difficulty of having the Irish Members sitting in this House; but not one single explanation did he give other than that which he had previously given of his proposed scheme of Home Rule. Hence my hon. and learned Friend's disappointment. Hence he comes into Parliament as a disappointed man with a perfectly free, hand; and that is the reason, I suppose, why he has been selected to move the Amendment. Can he deny that he is within the Party lines to-night; and when are the fetters on his hands to be thrown off? When is he to become a free hand? I venture to state to the House that the moment this Home Rule scheme is proposed, the moment the information which he has asked for in vain is given, the moment it is shown that the principles he has laid down according to his views to insure the supremacy of Parliament are not accepted, he will be found the freest of hands, and his will be the hand that will stab, from behind, the Leader whom he is now supporting. I do not wish to deal at too great length with my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment, still less with his speech; but will he allow me to say that in that speech of great ability there was a display, as some of us thought, of a little bitterness of tone, which if avoided would have rendered that speech even a greater success than it was? I think there were words that my hon. and learned Friend thought right to use which I hope upon reflection he would not be disposed to employ. He spoke of the "perverted fidelity unexampled in the history of apostacy." These words he thought it right to address to the Liberal Unionist Party. I thought the unmeasured abuse that has been cast upon us during the last six years had passed away. I thought there were some who took a kindly interest in us, but that is not the view of my hon. and learned Friend. I can make no retort upon him. I cannot accuse him of being guilty of any apostacy. He has no political past with which I can deal. He did not enter into this House till 1886, and until the word had been 412 spoken by the distinguished Leader of his Party that there was to be Home Rule he was not a Home Ruler; and as the word was spoken he accepted the command and became a Home Ruler, and entered into Parliament as such. But I fear that those who do not know my hon. and learned Friend may charge him with a little too much of self-confidence—perhaps I may say of arrogance—when he charges such men with such a Liberal past as John Bright or the right hon. Member for South Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers) with being guilty of political apostacy. What does an apostate mean? Is it a man who changes his faith or opinions for gain, for office, for power? Who are the men who have done that? I will not imitate my hon. and learned Friend. I will not apply such terms to anyone; but I would ask him to consider whether it is becoming in him to use such language to such distinguished—I may add illustrious—men as the men I have mentioned—John Bright and Charles Pelham Villiers? I venture for one moment more to deal with this question of apostacy. I am anxious here, in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, to make an answer to this strong charge of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife, and to tell my right hon. Friend why it is that we, Liberal Unionists, now occupy the position we do. There were some of us who had been faithful and strong supporters of my right hon. Friend, who knew nothing of apostacy, and who thought little of anything but serving him as faithfully and loyally as we could. We had listened to what he told us. We had obeyed his teaching and wished to follow his precepts; and we knew that my right hon. Friend, shortly before the crisis that drove us into our present position, had laid down the great principle of Parliamentary action. In November, 1885, my right hon. Friend had said—Far be it from me to say that the unity of any Party is an object to be preferred to anything. But the point at which our connection should part, if the questions at issue are of vital importance, is a difficult one. I go on now urging unity to the best of my ability. But I hope that the Liberal Party will sever and split rather than sacrifice conscience and principle. There are matters which do not 413 admit of any compromise. Higher than Party motives are conscientious convictions, and when these come, then is the time to give effect to them.Does the Mover of the Amendment, I ask, charge us with having acted other than in accordance with conscientious conviction? If he does, let him say so, and make the charge publicly. If he does not, let me call in aid the wise teaching of my right hon. Friend, and let me ask him and all his supporters have we deviated from that teaching in the slightest degree, or from the principles he laid down for us. Mr. Speaker, I almost crave the pardon of the House for dealing with the position of the Liberal Unionist Party at the length I have done; but we have been subjected during the last six years to one continued attack in language more abusive far than that of my hon. and learned Friend's attack. I look in vain for the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) to-night. I have one word to say to him. For six years he has never spared us. I quite feel personally that I have no reason to think of myself or to complain of myself. He has, however, spoken of us all in language of the most abusive nature. At first his attack generally was on my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain); but when my right hon. Friend made such answer that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby must have felt that he had not always the best of the contest, why then he has lately turned his attention, since the Duke of Devonshire left this House, to him, feeling may be that, at least, he was not present here to answer him. The right hon. Gentleman has ever been as abusive to us as anyone within the area of public life could be. I do not think we have taken his attacks much to heart. We know that my right hon. Friend is one of those who generally employ strong language. He quite represents Dryden's hero—So over-violent or over-civil, Every man with him is either God or devil.'414 Some of us have always hoped that we should be ever included in the second schedule of my right hon. Friend, for to be in the first, to be the subject of his true and complete admiration, it is necessary that you should at seine time or other have preached the doctrine of assassination, or have been the associate of those who have. There is one consolation my right hon. Friend always had at the termination of his attacks. I have seen him several times display great emotion on the subject. He was apt to say—"There is a great prospect before us. The time is soon coming when all these apostates shall be swept away." I cannot make myself an equal judge with my right hon. Friend as to what the sweeping process means. But I do not think that today, as we stand here, we have been entirely swept away. There have been many Third Parties in this country, but they have never lived long. The supporters of Lord Grenville, Mr. Canning, and Sir Robert Peel—of the latter of whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian was a distinguished Member—never survived two General Elections. We Liberal Unionists have had the difficulty of asking support from those who, in 1885, were our sincere supporters, as we were, of my right hon Friend; and many of us have now received the generous confidence of those who were formerly our political opponents. We have had to appeal to men who were not only strangers to us, but against whom we fought. And as we, for one purpose and one object, left the Leadership of my right hon. Friend, so, with the same purpose and object—the maintenance of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland—our former opponents have given to us a full, complete, and generous support; and here now, with this crisis still continuing, we stand to maintain the same principles that brought us into existence—principles which, until they have been finally dealt with, we shall never cease to support. I wonder what my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has to say tonight, after anticipating that, when 415 Parliament met, as it has now met, he would have a clear field, and we should be swept away? It is inconvenient to him, for some reason, to make the slightest reference to us to-day. We have sought the encounter with him, and we ask for a renewal of the prophecy about the final deluge which should complete our destruction. As has been the case before sometimes, my right hon. Friend finds it convenient to be absent. In one of those very pleasant works of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Sir George Trevelyan)—works that are so full of all that recommends itself to the reader that some say my right hon. Friend is more happy in literature than he is even in politics, he says—How easy is the, transition from those patriots who have been bursting with heroic rage to the placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.For six years the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has been bursting with heroic rage. (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT entered the House at this stage, amid ironical cheers from the Ministerial Benches.) I know that the rage was not real. I have too great a confidence in his good disposition to believe that; and as for his heroism, I have still greater doubts about it. But now he is dumb. He is one of those—of the Whig Party—who, when they come into Office,Like bees on flowers alighting cease to hum.My right hon. Friend has grown dumb in anticipation of Office; but, instead of being a patriot bursting with rage, on this day, which he calls the day of his triumph, he puts us off and tells us that we are to postpone hearing any words from him till that day of "tranquillity and smiles" when he will sit on the Ministerial Bench. He must forgive us if we desire to share his triumph to-day and to take part with him in this discussion after the six years of abuse behind our backs. My right hon. Friend can go down to Lambeth wash-houses and White chapel slaughter-houses, and similar places, but he never has 416 made one speech in the last five years in which he has not abused the Liberal Unionist Party, and prophesied their entire extinction. Now, when we, still surviving, meet him face to face, he is "all tranquillity and smiles." The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) made a confession, at the instigation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, which I regard as a confession of a most serious character. It has been made, first of all, by an important and distinguished Member of the Liberal Party, and also by the hon. Member who has been selected to open the attack on the present Government. During past years there have been some of us who have said that the country was entitled to information upon the intended Home Rule policy of my right hon. Friend. There were some who said—like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—that we were not entitled to it. There were others who said we had obtained it; and lately, as we approached the General Election, there were many who said—"What more information can these objectionable people require than we have already given?" Threats were made that, if the Home Rule Bill that was to be framed was sent up to the House of Lords and not accepted by that Assembly, it would he a day of destruction for that House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, on Tuesday last, also used words which attracted much attention, and which will be represented by some as being of a minatory character. He said the House of Lords would never have a more serious matter to deal with in the interests of the Empire than the question of Home Rule when it should be submitted to them, and that it would never have more serious matter to deal with in their own interests also. I think there will be none, or at any rate few, amongst us who will not agree that when a great measure has been submitted for the approval or disapproval of the country, and when a deliberate opinion has been expressed by the constituencies upon that measure, the House of Lords cannot now refuse to pay attention to the deliberate expression of a democratic opinion by the 417 electorate of this country. But we know, from the positive statement of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, that this question of Home Rule, which is to be submitted to the House of Lords, and agreed to by them, has never been submitted to the country, and that the opinion of the electors has not been given upon it. It is better to deal with this matter now—the question of the responsibility and duty of the House of Lords—before the event takes place, than after it. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night that the opinion of the country had been expressed upon the policy of Home Rule which would be that of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, the right hon. Member for Derby said, "No, it was upon your policy only"; and the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, when the statement was repeated, rose in his place and said—That is not what I said. What I stated was that your policy had only been considered and condemned.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
If my right hon. Friend will allow me, I will say that what I stated was that the Irish policy of the Government was considered. I never made any limitation or qualification such as he has just stated.
§ *SIR HENRY JAMES
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that "your policy"—that is, the policy of those who support the right hon. Member for Midlothian—had been considered by the country, and my hon. and learned Friend said, "No, that is not my proposition." His statement is that the policy which is to be submitted to the House of Lords hereafter has never been submitted to the country, and we know it never has been. We also know that he who had charge of the interests of the Liberal Party in this House had to disclaim any suggestion that lie had ever said it.
§ *SIR HENRY JAMES
Now we know what is the Constitutional position that we have to deal with, and I would ask those hon. Members who say they represent democratic interests and believe in democratic institutions—is it their view that a question which affects the whole Constitution of the country should be submitted to the determination of the democracy or not? If they say it ought to be, we start from this point—that it has not been. How, then, is it to be submitted to the consideration of the constituencies? If this majority hold together, and if the Home Rule Bill pass this House, it never can be submitted to the determination of the constituencies of this country except by the action of the House of Lords in sending that Bill down to the consideration of the constituencies and asking their judgment upon it. ("No!") I perceive there is dissent from that proposition. Will anyone sitting near me, or will any of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on either side of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, answer me, where is the fault in that argument? Where is the answer? Make it. You may smile, but "tranquillity and smiles" cannot, form an answer to my argument. If you dissent from that statement, which I say is step by step correct both as a statement of fact and as a matter of deduction, then in common fairness to your Party, in common justice to the institution you are attacking, make your answer. I venture to suggest that, when we hear this boast of putting an end to the House of Lords, you will have to put an end to the House of Lords for offences more grievous than that of simply asking the opinion of the country upon a measure the very principles of which you have intentionally kept back from the constituencies, who have had no opportunity of expressing a deliberate opinion upon them; and these very constituencies will be the very first to demand that, even for the sake of your Party, their right to express such an opinion 419 shall not be ignored or taken from them. There are one or two matters only upon which I desire to say a word more. Much reference has been made to the position of Parties in this House, and it is said to be an error for anyone of us to state that my right hon. Friend's Government, when he succeeds to it, as doubtless he will, will be supported by an Irish majority. Well, we need not, I think, discuss with very minute niceness how far you can apportion parts of a majority; but this fact stands forward—that you have now no majority in support of this unknown policy, whatever it will be, in Great Britain, and it exists only in Ireland. Why, it may be asked, do we pick out this Irish majority and say that you are dependent upon it? I will not use again the trite quotation that so many have referred to; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian was the statesman who taught us that if we had not a majority from Great Britain to conduct public affairs it would be dangerous, perhaps destructive, for a Government to be controlled by what he termed an Irish majority. These were words of great sagacity when used in November, 1885. They are still more true now. They are being proved to be true at this present moment. In 1885 the Irish Nationalist Members were united. They had one head whom they obeyed and who could control them. It was supposed that they spoke with one voice—one opinion was expressed upon every proposal. But now in Ireland we have two Nationalist Parties, one pitted against the other, and it will not be the opinion of a united Nationalist Party in Ireland that we shall now have to be governed by. It will by that voice that will speak for the purpose of obtaining support in the polls of Ireland, and a voice that will be in competition with another. Can we conceive any position more humiliating to the great Liberal Party than that it occupies at this moment? (Laughter.) I repeat it—more humiliating than it occupies at this moment. It is about to bear the responsibility—and you will not deny it—of introducing a new measure that shall pull to pieces the Constitution of this country. You may tell me you may replace it, but, at any 420 rate, before you replace it you must pull that Constitution to pieces. And now let us picture the Government sitting round the Council Table when the measure will have to be considered. What will be the question that the Advisers of the Queen will then be asking each other? Will they be saying to each other, "Is this unjust—is this a right measure we are proposing?" I may assure my right hon. Friend—I hope he will not think it presumptuous of me—that we give him the fullest—I ought not to say credit—the fullest acknowledgment that he has one sincere and earnest desire, to carry this measure of Home Rule. If that be so, what will be the question that certain statesmen who sit by his side will be asking, and will they not, in their loyalty, in their adherence to their Leader, say, "What is the measure we can carry?" My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has said that no measure will be proposed that will not be acceptable to the Irish people. What, then, is the meaning of "the Irish people"?—the Party support of seventy-one Members in this House. And this great measure, which is to deal with interests so mighty as the interests alike of the Empire, of Great Britain, and of Ireland, will depend upon the Parliamentary support that can be obtained from seventy-one Members of this House. If that measure is not made acceptable to their views so as to gain their support, it never can be carried; and if that support can be obtained the measure that will be submitted will be framed so as to secure it. But it is also true, and rightly true, that at this moment the control of the Government of this country is in the hands of a higher power in Ireland. You must remember that behind the Party represented by the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) is a power which I am not going to refer to at length to-night—but the power that is now controlling the Liberal Party will be the power that returned seventy-one Irish Members to Parliament. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) said that this Government had chosen 421 the date for the General Election most suitable to its own interests, and had chosen the time when it could obtain the largest majority. (Cheers.) You cheer that. But there is a Member of your own Party who made a most remarkable prophecy. Mr. Childers said that the number of your supporters would be 355, and the number of Unionists would be 315. He added a rider to that prophecy.If," said he, "you take the Election late in the autumn we shall be fifteen worse and the Unionists will be fifteen better.So, if the General Election had been taken late in the autumn, which the Government of the day could have done, your majority would have been reduced from forty to ten, with the result that the Party led by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) would have controlled the fortunes of the present Opposition. Sir, this is a time of which the Liberal Party need not be proud. It is a time when they will in a few moments, no doubt, find from the Tellers at this Table that they have obtained a numerical majority. I can anticipate their exultant cheers when the numbers are announced. Let the triumph of to-night be theirs. There are triumphs that are worse than disasters. There are victories better unwon. This will be one of such victories; but before many months are past there will be many who will feel some regret that they have framed and fashioned their policy for the moment to obtain Office, forgetful of the great traditions of their Party. ("Oh!") Only one word more may I say as to the position that we occupy? I have said that we have had a "kindly interest" taken in us of late—since we were not swept away. It has been asked, what position are the Liberal Unionists about to take in public affairs in the future? That question is easy to answer. For six years we have stood in this path. For six years we have saved the position. So long as that is imperilled we stand by this Legislative Union. If you carry its destruction, I admit the 422 object of our very existence will depart; if you fail in carrying out your policy we shall have succeeded; and then to us will be, not the mere exultant triumph that will follow a numerical majority, but the sure and certain consciousness that we have performed our duty to the best of our ability, and that we have frustrated the plans and objects of those who we believe have neglected their duty alike to their Sovereign and to their country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. CHAPLIN, Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
Mr. Speaker: ("Divide!" "Order!" and "Harcourt!")
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I would gladly give way for the right hon. Member for Derby, whose appearance is evidently expected by this side of the House; but as the right hon. Gentleman, in the exercise of his discretion, thinks it inconsistent with his duty to encourage the continuance of the Debate, I will venture to intervene for a few moments before we go to a Division—a Division which will be of historic interest. We have now been engaged in this Debate for a good many days, and I cannot help feeling that very little remains to be said. It has never been the policy of the Tory Party, and it never will be, to take refuge in a conspiracy of ignoble silence. We think we should be wanting in courtesy and respect, both to the House and to those who have taken part in the Debate, if we were to take no further notice of the course of this discussion. I cannot share the opinion of Gentlemen on the other side that this has been a barren and useless Debate. It has served the purpose of showing prominently to the country and to every impartial person how aimless and how worthless is the policy—if, indeed, it can be dignified by that name—of our opponents. It seems to he a policy of drivel and drift. I am quite aware that a policy of drift may sometimes be useful to embarrassed statesmen; it may be 423 very convenient; but it almost invariably leads to disaster, not only to the Party which practises it, but also to the country which that Party attempts to govern. I turn to the speeches delivered in this House on Tuesday evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the Leader of the House (Mr. A. J. Balfour) for an illustration of my statement. That was, indeed, an encounter of giants, which we are not likely to see repeated in this House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) put forth all those powers and all those resources of the art of rhetoric, in which he is without a rival, to bring about the discomfiture of his opponents. He sought, with perfect fairness I admit, to damage the Leader of the Government and his Party in order that he might succeed in ejecting him from power, and occupy the position which the right hon. Gentleman fills at present. But my right hon. Friend was equal to the occasion. I may be pardoned for holding the opinion that in the reply which he delivered to the right hon. Gentleman he was the victor in argument from the beginning, though I cannot expect my opponents to agree in that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was unfortunately absent during a portion of the speech of my right hon. Friend, and I am sure I express the sentiments of many Gentlemen on both sides of the House when I say that I am glad to see that he has recovered from the indisposition which I am sure was the only reason that could have kept him away. (Interruption and cries of "Divide!") I should like to remind hon. Members below the Gangway, many of whom are new to the House, that it is by no means unusual to continue a Debate at a quarter past eleven o'clock, especially when it is a Debate upon the issues of which the fortunes of a Government and a country depend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down (Sir Henry James) referred to some remarks made in the course of this Debate by the right hon. Member for Midlothian with respect to the House of Lords. Those remarks, in my opinion, were premature and uncalled for, because they were based on the assumption that he 424 will be able to devise a Home Rule measure which is certain to pass through this House. I do not wish in any way to express disbelief in the undoubted powers of the right hon. Gentleman, especially in the direction of constructive legislation; but I am unable to share his sanguine anticipations, and I will venture to direct the attention of the House to three points in vindication of my doubt. In the first place, I will refer to the new conditions which have been imported into the future Home Rule Bill as to the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster; in the second place, I will call attention to the demands by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond); and, in the third place, I must refer to the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, which was driven home to-night by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. (Increased interruptions; loud and continued cries of "Divide!") I think it is not too much to ask the House to extend to me the courtesy of listening to me for a few moments. New conditions have been imported into the Home Rule Question by the proposal that the Irish Members shall be retained at Westminster. There are many new Members of this House who, perhaps, have not had the opportunity of listening to former declarations on this subject by the right hon. Gentleman. I have been more fortunate—I was in the House of Commons when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Home Rule Bill, and I listened to him with the closest attention; and if there was one point more than another on which he laid special emphasis, it was the absolute impossibility of retaining the Irish Members in the English Parliament, and yet grant them a Parliament of their own in Dublin. I will read some portions of the right hon. Gentleman's utterances on the subject. [Mr. Chaplin then proceeded to read a number of extracts. from speeches by Mr. Gladstone, but owing to the continual ironical cheering and cries of "Divide!" failed to make himself heard. Comparative quiet having been obtained the right hon. Gentleman resumed]: What did the right hon. Gentleman tell the people of 425 Midlothian. (Renewed uproar.) I fear some hon. Members have not recovered from the excitement of the General Election. (Loud and prolonged shouts of "Divide!" and "Order!") Even as a humble Member of the Government, I must remind hon. Members, in whatever part of the House they sit, that a great Constitutional question of this kind cannot be discussed without order and decorum. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian has asked what we are to consider the basis of the present Parliamentary system in Ireland. He said, "Is it the present division of the country into districts and the present number of its Members, or will you endeavour to re-construct that system, to re-adjust it with reference to its relations with England and Scotland, or with reference to any other consideration?" Then the right hon. Gentleman comes to the question which the whole Unionist Party have been asking him for six years, "How is it to be done?" What is the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? "They are to be dealt with by the responsible Ministers of the Crown." Of course they are, and the information is as precisely instructive and useful as if the right hon. Gentleman had informed the electors of Midlothian that the Home Rule Bill itself was to be dealt with by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. That is all we have learned during those six years, and, in the absence of further information, I am reluctantly driven to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman is doing his best to impose upon the people of the country a scheme which, if I may judge from his own words recorded in Hansard, delivered when he was Prime Minister, he knows it will be impossible to carry out. That new condition in itself, even if it stood alone, would be sufficient to place an insuperable obstacle in the way of the successful carrying out of this Bill. But it does not stand alone. I will refer for a moment to the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), one of the most important and able speeches we have had during this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had not the good fortune to hear that 426 speech, and perhaps I may be allowed to refer to some of the statements in it, in which the hon. Member dealt with pledges which have been given by the Liberal Party. The hon. Member reminded us of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) that Ireland blocked the way; that not merely the consideration and discussion, but the effective settlement of the Irish National Question must be the first work of the Liberal Party, and that until that settlement had been brought about, those great English questions crying for reform must of necessity remain in abeyance. The pledge given by the Leader of the Liberal Party, as the hon. Member for Waterford reminded us, was that English, Scotch, and Welsh reforms could not be undertaken until the question of Irish Home Rule had been discussed, voted upon, and passed into law. But how, I ask, does this square with the promises the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have so freely given to other sections of the Party on the other side of the House? You have been dangling before the electors the various items of the Newcastle Programme; but you cannot carry out the pledges given on the one side and on the other. If you are going to be true to your promises given to the Irish National Party then you must be false to your pledges on the Newcastle Programme, or if you fulfil the latter then you must play false to the friends of the hon. Member for Waterford. "Are they not written," said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, "in the chronicles of Newcastle?" Undoubtedly they are, but, unfortunately, if you are going to be true to your promises to the Irish Party, you have no chances, no possibility, of fulfilling your pledges to the electors of this country. In either case right hon. Gentlemen opposite will find themselves in a very difficult position, from which I do not see how they can extricate themselves. Again, the hon. Member for Waterford—(Interruptions)—there was a more important question dealt with by the hon. Member for Waterford to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) 427 has made reference to-night. The hon. Member pointed out as clearly as it was possible to do what the Irish Party meant by the veto upon the proceedings of an Irish Parliament. That veto, he said, was to be exercised in accordance with the advice of Irish Ministers—in accordance with their advice alone. Now I am entitled to ask this question, How does that square with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)? How can that be reconciled with the declarations of one and all of the Leaders of the Radical Party opposite? I venture to mention this without putting forward the slightest claim for myself as an authority upon Constitutional Law; but I may say it is impossible to dissociate the veto of the Crown from the advice of English Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is, or believes himself to be, a great authority on Constitutional Law. Does he deny this assertion on my part? By his silence he admits it.
§ The right hon. Gentleman's remarks being subjected to continual interruption, which rendered much of what he was saying inaudible,
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I hope the House will accord the right hon. Gentleman a patient hearing.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
This is a most serious question. It is one of the many serious questions which will have to be considered in detail by this House when the Home Rule proposition is before us; but I do not think I am premature in pointing out what appears to me to be the more salient difficulties before you, because the whole of my argument is founded on this—that at present there is neither warrant nor justification for the belief that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will be able to place on the Table of this House a measure which will have the slightest chance of passing into law. When the House of Lords is warned by men of power and 428 distinction in this Assembly in terms of veiled menace of what may unhappily await them if they venture to offer opposition to a measure of this kind, I say the House of Lords will long survive the motley crew of this assumed majority, and fearlessly discharge its Constitutional duties. (Renewed interruptions.) I state my opinion, upon which hon. Gentlemen opposite may set what value they please, and I should not be afraid to support my opinion, if this were a fitting occasion, by a sporting wager that, even if this assumed majority live to meet Parliament again—there are recorded instances where Governments have disappeared without meeting Parliament at all—it will never survive an ordinary Parliamentary Session. (Interruptions.) That may be considered a strong expression of opinion, but I have good reason for it in the fact that in the vast majority of cases this majority was obtained under false pretences. My right hon. Friend has referred to some of the amazing fables by which the support of voters has been won. Let me point out one of these fables, which during the past six years has been repeated more often by Members of the Radical Party than others, and for which a very distinguished man is responsible. It has been stated over and over again during this time that we, the Liberal Unionist and Conservative Party, have broken all the pledges we gave at the last General Election—that while we declared we were opposed to a policy Of coercion in Ire land, we, in spite of that declaration, passed one of the severest Coercion Laws that ever found a place on the Statute Book. (Interruptions.) I am not in the least surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite should believe that to be true, because the author of that fable—one of the earliest authors—was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian himself. What did the right hon. Gentleman say during the General Election of 1886? (Interruptions.) It would seem hon. Gentlemen wish to prevent me from continuing—they are afraid of these allusions. During the Election of 1886, the right hon. Gentleman made a charge against the Conservative Party of which I do not 429 doubt some Members of the present House are unaware.There are," he said, "two policies before the nation—two policies which alone have support.And speaking of the policy of the Tory Party at that time, what was the expression he used? He said—Reflect, in the name of Almighty God, in the sanctuary of your chamber, in the sanctuary of your heart and soul, reflect what it is, in this year of 1886, after nearly a century of almost continuous coercion, becoming weaker, more and more odious, and less and less effective as we go along, and repudiated now by the large majority of your Representatives—reflect what it is to propose this as an alternative to the policy of Local Government in Ireland! It is for you to consider it for yourselves, if there are Conservatives among you, to consider for yourselves what you have to do, and to consider what it is you have to answer.That was the statement of a man. (Prolonged interruptions.) It is evident that, with the voice and lung power with which Providence has endowed me, it is impossible for me to continue to make way against this discourteous treatment offered to a responsible Minister of the Crown, which is new to me and to many experienced Members of this House. I have only this much to say in conclusion. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) for his signification of disapproval of the conduct of his supporters, and I should have been still more so if it had come earlier from the right hon. Gentleman his Leader. I suppose hon. Gentlemen opposite are carried away by the exuberance of their feelings at the thought of the great triumph in reserve for them. But I am not at all sure that these feelings are shared by all the Members of the Party opposite. We are told they represent the Party of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, returned to the House of Commons in a triumphant majority as the result of a General Election. But I should not have thought from their appearance that right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Bench represented a triumphant Party. I must confess I have never seen a more dolorous expression of countenance than that pervading the Front Opposition Bench during the speech of my right hon. Friend the 430 Member for West Birmingham this afternoon. As I watched them across the Table, and when I saw there was not a single man upon that Bench with either the courage or the chivalry to get up and reply to what, after many years' experience, undoubtedly seemed to me to be the unequalled indictment brought against them by my right hon. Friend, I said to myself this is not the attitude of men who have either hope, belief, or confidence in their cause. No, Sir; it is the attitude of a Party to whom the still small voice of conscience has whispered—as at times it whispers to us all—that for the sake of Party and political gain they have betrayed the highest interests of their country, and that they are predestined and foredoomed, at no distant date, to irreparable disaster and disgrace.
§ (12.0.) Question put.
§ (12.5.) The House divided:—Ayes. 350; Noes 310.—(Div. List, No. 1.)
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, 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.
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."
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.