§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, What arrangement he proposes to make to enable Irish Members who have been appointed to serve on Committees to attend the Morning Sittings on the Irish Church Bill?
Sir, I believe the Private Bill Committees meet at eleven o'clock. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, at twelve.] Then I should recommend them to meet at eleven. Of course I am aware of the inconvenience which arises from the Morning Sittings to Gentlemen who are engaged on Committees; but I am not aware that it has ever been found practicable to meet that inconvenience by any decision of the House applicable to any particular set of Members. Such a remedy would be, I fear, worse than the disease.
I have now to make the formal 1976 Motion which is necessary in order to open the way of the House to have Morning Sittings at such times and under such circumstances as may seem to be requisite. My object is to have the power and to be in a condition to ask the House to sit on Tuesdays, and, if necessary, on Fridays, in order to give ample time for the discussion of the Irish Church Bill, and to make progress with that Bill, which, as the House knows, it is desirable to send to the House of Lords at an early period. I will take this opportunity of saying a few words on the course of business this evening. I observe that the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) does not intend to bring forward his Motion. Another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bentinck) who had given notice of a Motion for this evening, does not appear in the House, and I am sure we must all regret the cause of his absence. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Charley) has given notice of his intention to call attention to a case ("Lavelle v. Proud-foot") which has occurred in Ireland, and to put certain questions to me. But I have to say on this subject that my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General for, Ireland is not yet cognizant of the circumstances, and. it will not therefore be in our power to discuss the matter this evening. I now come to the Notice of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), and I am able to make a statement to him which will probably induce him to come to the conclusion that it will be well to postpone any discussion on Irish affairs to-night. The intention of the hon. Member is perhaps referable to two causes—the answer made by my right hon. Friend to the Question put by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) last night in relation to certain outrages which have unhappily occurred in Ireland, accompanied with the destruction of life, under a system of intimidation. On that subject I have to say that the Government are in communication with the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in order to determine whether it is in their power—and being in their power, it would be their duty—to propose any measures that are likely to strengthen the operation of the law for the repression and prevention of outrage. In the meantime, it would be quite impossible for the Government to 1977 enter upon the discussion of this subject until we have an opportunity of bringing these communications to a close. I may add, that the Government will be able to announce its intentions respecting this matter in a few clays, and give the House an opportunity of passing judgment upon the decision come to. The other circumstance which has naturally attracted the attention and stirred the feeling of the House is a telegraphic report, which appeared yesterday, of certain declarations purporting to have been made by the head of the direct municipal body of the second city of Ireland—I mean the Mayor of Cork. I need scarcely say those expressions at once attracted the attention of the Government, and the best means at our command have been adopted to arrive at the true state of the facts. The meeting at which the expressions are stated to have been used was not, in the ordinary sense, I believe, a public meeting, but was attended by a somewhat limited number of persons. I am not, however, in a position to say at the present time whether the words were actually used or not. If these words were used—a matter which I hope we shall be able to clear up in a few days—we shall be in a position immediately to announce our intention in regard to the measures we may think fit to adopt in consequence. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see that it will not be in our power to enter into a discussion upon this question until we, in conjunction with the Irish Government, have had an opportunity of considering the questions he proposes to bring forward; and that he will, consequently, postpone his Motion for tonight. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that, unless the House should otherwise order, whenever it should meet at two o'clock it would proceed with the business usually taken at four; that if the business be not sooner disposed of, the House would suspend its sittings at seven o'clock; and at ten minutes before seven no opposed business should be proceeded with; and that when such business had not been disposed of at seven o'clock, the House would resume its sittings at nine o'clock, when the Orders of the Day not disposed of at the Morning Sitting, and any Motion under discussion at ten minutes to seven o'clock, should be set down in the Order Book after the other Orders of the Day.
§ MR. CHARLEY
said, he would consent to postpone his Motion till Tuesday next, and he hoped the Attorney General for Ireland would be prepared by that day.
said, he could not, in the absence of his right hon. Friend, name a day for the bringing forward of his Question respecting the case of "Lavelle v. Proudfoot."
said, the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman bore with peculiar hardship on him. He had the first Notice of Motion for Tuesday next. The subject he proposed to deal with was an important one, and he had been requested by the shipping interest to take it up; but it was quite clear that if the House sat from two to seven on such a grave and important question as the Irish Church, it could not be expected that more than a few Members would meet again at nine. He had no intention to proceed against the wishes of the House; but he thought the Government might have made a much fairer proposition if they had taken Tuesday altogether to themselves, and have given some future Government night to independent Members who wished to bring forward their Motions.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would consider the appeal that had been made to him. He (Mr. Newdegate) had served with the hon. Member for Cambridge University on the Committee of Public Business, and he was deeply impressed with the warnings that were given by Lord Eversley and the late Sir James Graham, who were called as witnesses, that the one thing which the House ought to avoid was uncertainty as to the business it had to consider. Now, these Resolutions did not refer especially to the Irish Church Bill or to any particular measure, but they made on the whole proceedings of the House for the appointed time. He admitted that the change in the habits of society and of this House might render some change advisable as a permanent arrangement, but let it be understood that it was permanent; because then, if the House willed it, Members of the House would have the opportunity of suggesting, as was their duty and privilege, subjects for consideration to the Government; which would not be unless the order of their proceed- 1979 ings was established. He spoke with some knowledge on this subject, as he had at one time been engaged in securing the attendance of one side of the House, and he knew that if there was no certainty it would be impossible for Members to do their duty. He must say that no sufficient reason had been adduced why the House should hold these exceptional sittings while they had not yet arrived at the month of May. But he would not urge that objection. He prayed the House to consider that if they contemplated any alteration in the hour of meeting, of adjournment, or of the close of their sittings, it would be well to consider the question in the light of a permanent arrangement.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, I think there should be a distinct understanding that the commencement of Morning Sittings much earlier than usual should not be drawn into a precedent—that the sittings are simply for the purpose of facilitating the progress of the Irish Church Bill, and that they are not to become the rule. Because, if Morning Sittings are to be commenced in May, very few Members will have an opportunity of bringing forward their Motions and. attending to the business of their constituents. The Question my right hon. Friend (Mr. Headlam) had upon the Paper is one of considerable importance to constituencies connected with the shipping interest, whose business it would be to keep a House, but although it is true the representatives of those constituencies will be to blame if they do not, I think their convenience should be consulted. But my main point is, that it should be clearly understood that Morning Sittings before "Whitsuntide are peculiar to this occasion, and for this purpose only.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
, on behalf of those who represented large constituencies, submitted that it was impossible for them to attend the debate in the House during the Morning Sitting, to attend any Committee they might be nominated for, and transact the other business a large constituency entailed if the course proposed for Monday were carried out. He would suggest that the sittings of Committees should be suspended for the next week.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, the First Minister of the Crown has stated that it would be for the public convenience 1980 if the Question as to the state of Ireland should be postponed for a few days until the Government had turned its attention to the subject. Now really, if this was not the fourth or fifth time the Government has asked for the postponement of Questions for the same reason, the excuse would not hold good to-night, because the Question proposed by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) is of very great importance. I presume there can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the reports of the Mayor of Cork's speech in The Times and the Dublin papers; and it can matter very little if the remarks were addressed to a small meeting as the right hon. Gentleman has said.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
The right hon. Gentleman said just now that, after all, the remarks of the Mayor of Cork were made to a small meeting—["No, no!"]—to a private meeting then, and not in his capacity as Mayor of Cork. Now I say that is of no consequence, and I ask whether the Government have or have not received within the last few hours a notification that the remarks of the Mayor of Cork, as appearing in The Times and Dublin papers, accurately convey what he intended to say and did say to those whom he addressed, whether their numbers were few or many?
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he had to state in reply to the right hon. Baronet that the Government were not, at the present time, more fully informed upon the subject to which he referred than were other hon. Members, their information being derived, in common with theirs, from the reports in the newspapers. The Government had, however, lost no time, directly the matter came within their cognizance, in calling for accurate information. He wrote yesterday to the resident magistrates in Cork, desiring them to supply him with accurate information upon the subject, and, if necessary, to test the truth of the newspaper reports, and to supply the Government with an accurate and, if possible, an authoritative report of the language made use of by the Mayor of Cork upon the occasion in question. That information he expected to receive to-morrow or the following day at the furthest. The following telegram had just been placed in his hands by an hon. 1981 Member. It came from a highly respectable resident in Cork:—Pending legal investigation on the part of the Government, the Municipal Council think it better to take no steps in the matter of the mayor. The feeling of the Council is entirely against the Mayor.No telegram of the nature mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman had been received by the Government.
§ MR. SPEAKER
intimated that there was no question before the House which would entitle hon. Members to discuss any Irish question. The sole question before the House was whether or not the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the suspension of the Orders of the Day, for the purpose of enabling the House to hold Morning Sittings, should be agreed to.
said, that, in order to prevent any misunderstanding, he wished to state that the right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Bouverie) had rightly understood the intention with which this proposal had been made on the part of the Government. It would be too early in the Session, looking to the state of business in the Committees, for Morning Sittings to be held as a matter of course. It would be a matter for subsequent consideration when they should revert to them. In reply to the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) opposite, he apprehended that it was within the power of the Committees themselves to determine whether or not their sittings should be suspended during the week?
Motion agreed to.
Resolved, That, unless the House shall otherwise order, whenever the House shall meet at Two o'clock, the House will proceed with Private Business, Petitions, Motions for unopposed Returns, and leave of absence to Members, giving Notices of Motions, Questions to Ministers, and; such Orders of the Day as shall have been appointed for the Morning Sitting.
Resolved, That on such days, if the business be not sooner disposed of, the House will suspend its sitting at Seven o'clock; and at Ten minutes before Seven o'clock, unless the House shall otherwise order, Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the Debate on any business then under discussion, or the Chairman shall report Progress, as the case may be, and no opposed business shall then fee proceeded with.
Resolved, That when such business has not been disposed of at Seven o'clock, unless the House shall otherwise order, Mr. Speaker (or the Chairman, in case the House shall be in Committee) do leave the Chair, and the House will resume its
sitting at Nine o'clock, when the Orders of the Day not disposed of at the Morning Sitting, and any Motion which was under discussion at Ten minutes to Seven o'clock, shall be set down in the Order Book after the other Orders of the Day.
Resolved, That whenever the House shall be in Committee at Seven o'clock, the Chairman do report Progress when the House resumes its sitting.—(Mr. Gladstone.)