§ MR. G. H. MOORE
Before you leave the chair, Sir, I wish to put a question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland with respect to an explanation which I understand that he made in the House when I was not present. I understand that, in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), he apologised to the House for not having spoken yesterday on my Tenants' Compensation Bill, alleging that his silence arose from a mistake, and stating that if the hon. Gentleman would next Wednesday move that my Bill should be committed that day six months the Government would support the Motion. No one has more reason to regret the silence of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) than myself, because as he voted for the second reading of the Bill, and therefore virtually for its committal, he must, had he addressed the House, have spoken in its favour. As he has explained his negative speech, he will perhaps also explain his positive vote, and tell us whether that likewise arose from a mistake. This is a question which concerns not only the credit of the Government, but also the personal character of a Member of this House, and it is therefore necessary that we should have an explanation upon the subject. I wish to know 1024 From the right hon. Gentleman whether, in case the Government should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, he intends to vote against my Bill, and if so, why?
§ MR. HORSMAN
Nothing can be more easy or, to those who know anything of the circumstances under which the hon. Gentleman brought forward this question, more satisfactory than the explanation which I am able to give. The hon. Gentleman made a speech yesterday, in which he especially desired that the House would put out of sight the particular provisions of his Bill. He stated yesterday, although not so fully as he has stated in Ireland, what are the real objects of that Bill. I happen to know the circumstances under which the hon. Gentleman took charge of the Bill, and the conditions which he made with those who requested him to do so. The facts were these. On the 29th of January there was to be a great meeting of the Tenant League in Dublin, in order that they might consider the Bill which was to be brought forward in the present Session. When the day arrived, although Parliament was about to meet, the League had no Bill. The council explained that this was a cause of considerable embarrassment to the gentlemen assembled; and they, therefore, proposed that, as they were in this dilemma, no Bill being ready for the hon. Member for Mayo. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken.] I have in my hand a Report of the proceedings of the meeting to which I refer. This meeting commenced with the presentation by the council of a report of their proceedings, and of the condition of the League. They stated to the members then assembled, that the energetic action of the League, as they expressed it, was at a standstill for want of funds. They stated that the League was bankrupt; in particular that there was a sum of £6 which the League was unable to pay, but which six members of the League had come forward very handsomely and very unanimously, not to pay, but to bind themselves in writing to be liable to the creditors for it. They also stated that there was a further sum of £23 which was due, £5 of it to one member of the council who had advanced the money, and the remaining £18 to two newspapers for advertisements for two years. This sum, they said, fortunately, was not pressing. The gentlemen deferred their claims and consequently the "energetic action" of the 1025 League was restored. Having got over the first difficulty about funds, they then came to the next. There had been a want of funds; there was then a want of members. They said that although the meetings of the League had, in accordance with the instructions of the meeting in October, been so arranged that parties from the country who might be in town could conveniently attend them, very few such persons had in fact attended. Being then in want of funds and in want of members, the League assembled on the 29th of January, and the council then said with regard to the Bill:—The council have not been able to carry into effect the instructions issued by the last general meeting to have a tenant-right Bill prepared and revised by a competent lawyer, and ready for the consideration of this meeting.The fact was, that the Tenant League had in the plenitude of their power ordered that a Bill should be prepared by a competent lawyer; but there was a preliminary process to be gone through; before the competent lawyer would undertake the task—which was exceedingly embarrassing to an association—six of the most substantial members of which had been obliged to guarantee a debt of £6. The consequence was, they had no Bill prepared, and the council went on to say:—Your committee have, therefore, to state, that owing to this cause the Bill has not been considered in council; and finding that the opening of the Session is at hand they venture to suggest that the better, if not the only practicable, course now open for you, is the placing of Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill in the hands of two Members of Parliament:who they afterwards desired should be the hon. Members for Mayo (Mr. Moore) and Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire). It was therefore; as I stated in the outset, that there was no Bill prepared, and they were compelled to adopt that of Mr. S. Crawford, which was placed in the hon. Gentleman's hands. I have stated that they were short of funds, lacked members, and had no Bill; at last they have found a Bill—but are they agreed among themselves? Last year the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (MR. Serjeant Shee) was the mouthpiece of the association upon this great question. This year he declined that honour. At the very meeting to which I have referred a letter was read from the hon. and learned Gentleman, in which he says:—I am of opinion that any Member of Parliament who acting, or professing to act, on the part 1026 of the Irish tenantry, should, as things now stand, present any Bill to the House of Commons, but the one presented by me during the last Session, would do irreparable mischief to the tenant-right cause.The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny having declined to take charge of this Bill, the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) was deputed to do so. What were the conditions upon which he undertook it? They were conditions which make it perfectly ridiculous for him to say that he intended the House to go into Committee upon the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
the right hon. Gentleman is getting rather irregular. The question is that I leave the chair; and it is not regular to discuss the provisions of a Bill which is not before the House.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I shall be careful, Sir, not to transgress the rule. I do not wish to refer to the provisions of the Bill, but to the views entertained by the hon. Gentleman when he undertook to bring the measure before the House. His words were to the effect that he would be fostering a complete delusion if he allowed those who had done him the honour to place the Bill in his hands to go away with the belief that there was any hope of carrying it, or any other Bill worth anything to the people of Ireland. ["Order, order!"] I will not pursue this matter further, but simply observe that I ground the vote which I gave yesterday on the hon. Members's own statement. That Bill, word for word, and letter for letter. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
Nothing can be more irregular than for discussions to arise, on the question of going into Supply, as to the conduct of an hon. Member in regard to a measure that stands on the order paper fixed for a future day, and is not then before the House.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I of course bow, Sir, to your decision. I will only say, that the hon. Gentleman having asked me for an explanation, and I having frankly acknowledged that, acting for the Government, I made a mistake in not offering the statement which I should have offered, but that I was prevented by a surprise, I felt bound to give an answer; but, as this discussion is declared to be irregular, I am ready when the Bill goes into Committee fully to vindicate the Course that I took yesterday, and to show that it is quite in accordance with the one which the Government was prepared to adopt.
§ Motion agreed to.