HC Deb 28 April 1870 vol 200 cc2025-33

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [8th April], "That the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be nominated by the Committee of Selection:"—(Mr. Newdegate:)—And which Amendment was, To leave out from the words "That the" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Order for the appointment of the Select Committee on Conventual and Monastic Institutions be discharged,"—(Mr. Cogan,) —instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be Left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


moved the adjournment of the debate.


said, that as he was not aware that the Chairman or any other Member of the Committee of Selection was present in the House, with the exception of himself, he wished to enter a protest against the nomination by that Committee of the Committee moved for by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. At the same time, he admitted that the Committee of Selection were bound to acquiesce in any order the House might think fit to make. It had, however, generally been the custom that when any hon. Member applied for a Select Committee, the responsibility of nominating that Committee rested upon him, and he hoped the ordinary rule would not be departed from in the present instance. The Committee of Selection would do their best to act in accordance with the decision of the House, and there he should leave the matter.


wished to state why he deemed it his duty to press his Motion on the present occasion. Before he placed the Notice on the Votes, he consulted Members of the Government and other hon. Gentlemen, because, in 1854, the House was defeated in its intention to inquire into matters analogous to those specified in its Order of the 29th of March last by the use of its own forms, and in consequence of the delay caused by moving adjournments. The House had already pronounced its intention to inquire into conventual and monastic institutions by its Order of the 29th of March, and as the purport of that Order had been misunderstood, he would read it. It was as follows:— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence, character, and increase of Conventual and Monastic Institutions or Societies in Great Britain, and into the terms upon which income, property, and estates belonging to such Institutions or Societies, or to members thereof, are respectively received, held, or possessed. He regretted extremely to find that the intention of the majority of the House was threatened with defeat by the minority, who, he understood, intended to use the forms of the House on the present occasion for that purpose. Of that intention he was informed before he gave his Notice, and he thought it was his duty to frame his Motion, so that the intention of the majority of the House should, if possible, be carried out. This was one of the principal reasons which induced him to move that the Committee be nominated by the Committee of Selection. He felt bound, by the respect he entertained for the House, to guard against any repetition of the tactics resorted to in 1854, when the system of debating upon the name of each Member proposed by the nominator—and this in the most invidious manner—had been resorted to for the purposes of annoyance and delay. There had been a great deal of misunderstanding with respect to the intention of the Order of the 29th of March. By some persons it was represented that the House of Commons was about to send down Inspectors—God knows how appointed—to investigate the condition of each inmate of every convent and monastery in the country. A Notice was proposed to that effect last Session by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther); but he (Mr. Newdegate) immediately placed on the Paper an Amendment to the effect of the Order now adopted by the House, with a view of guarding against the danger of rashly proposing an invasion of these institutions without previous inquiry. He had seen with regret a declaration of the Roman Catholic laity, which proceeded on the assumption that the House was about to commit some monstrous outrage on some of Her Majesty's subjects. Considering the education and position of the persons who had signed the declaration, he was astonished that they should address, not to this House, but to the public, an expression of such a total want of confidence in the discretion, the character, and the intentions of the House as was manifested in that document. He must say there was an appearance of something like arrogance in the tone in which this declaration was couched. For instance, the third paragraph commenced with the words—"We resent" the action of the House of Commons. The fourth paragraph began with "We repudiate;" the fifth with "We denounce," and the sixth with these words— Lastly, we declare that this proposed inquiry will prove the beginning of a period of religious strife. And they went on to say— It must and will be regarded as a declaration of war against the Catholics of the United Kingdom, and a renewal of the old bad days of persecution and of penal laws. He denied that the majority, who voted for the Committee, intended anything worthy of reproach, conveyed by the document he had read, and he lamented that any body of his fellow-countrymen should have been tempted to express opinions so disrespectful to the House of Commons. The Roman Catholic ladies had expressed themselves in terms of distrust which he should have thought their knowledge of Members of that House would have forbidden; evidence, however, had been given in the mode of procedure he had adopted, that there should be no want of care and consideration in the nomination of the Committee; he had advisedly resolved to secure the nomination of the Committee through the recognized organ of the House—its Standing Committee of Selection—in order that the House should not be liable to any imputation of precipitation or unfairness in the composition of the Select Committee which had been ordered. He could not forget that, during the Recess, he had been the object of continual libel. He had submitted the publication of one of the grossest of these libels to competent counsel, who had come to the conclusion that a gross breach of the privileges of the House had been committed in his person. He did not, however, propose to ask the House to notice the matter, otherwise than by appointing the Committee it had ordered, partly, he believed, on the faith of the statements which had been controverted in these libels; he urged the Hovse to carry out a decision highly appreciated by hundreds of thousands of the people of England. It was no Irish question, but an English and Scotch question, and he demanded that the decision of the House be immediately acted on in the name of those who had en- trusted him with their Petitions, and in the name of his constituency, no mean portion of the community.


said, he did not propose to discuss the point whether the method of nomination chosen by the hon. Member was the best; but he wished to correct an expression calculated to mislead the House when the hon. Member stated that he had chosen this mode of investigation after consultation with the Government. That the hon. Member had stated his intentions to himself and other Members of the Government was not improbable; but to the statement that anything like a consultation had occurred he entirely objected. He, however, wished to address himself to the question of Adjournment. This was the second time this important question had been brought before the House; on the first occasion it was brought forward at half-past 1 in the morning, and the debate was continued until about half-past 3. On the present occasion the question was brought forward at about 2, and it was now nearly half-past.


observed, that it was brought forward at half-past 8 on the first occasion.


replied that he was strictly accurate in his statement; he did not refer to the Motion for the appointment of a Committee, but to the question of nominating the Committee; and he complained that it was unreasonable to bring forward such a question at 2 o'clock in the morning, when he himself had been in the House for 14 hours, and most hon. Members had been there for 10. The greatest interest was felt in the subject throughout the country; it was impossible to discuss it with moderation, as such a question should be discussed, when what little strength remained to them partook rather of feverish excitement than of vigour necessary for the calm and effective discussion of so important a subject. At the same time he was anxious, on the part of the Government, to show every desire for a fair consideration of the question. He therefore proposed that the debate should be now adjourned, and that the question should be put down on the Paper for Monday, to come on after the debate on the Irish Land Bill. [Laughter.] Hon. Members seemed amused at that proposal; but on what ground could they object to resume a debate at 12 o'clock upon which they had not hesitated to enter at 2? The Government had little time at its disposal for dealing with questions which he ventured to think were of greater importance even than this, and in making the proposal he believed the Government would be deemed to have shown a conciliatory spirit.


said, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Newde-gate) would accept the proposal of the light hon. Gentleman.


said, that a proposal to take up the matter at 12 on Monday night was hardly showing proper consideration to the importance of the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman would say 11 o'clock, the proposition would be more reasonable.


said, the Government could hardly be aware of the great interest felt throughout the country upon the subject; and when its representatives talked of feverishness setting in at 2 o'clock, he would ask whether similar symptoms were not apparent at 12. It was extremely desirable that the religious excitement likely to grow with delay should be put an end to by a prompt decision. His impression was that the Government was beginning to dally with the question. The question should be discussed calmly and quietly; and he entreated the Government not to play with the question, for the feeling upon the subject was becoming a serious element in the case.


said, the Home Secretary was much mistaken in assuming that the House was disposed to debate the original question at all. The question now before the House was, whether the Committee should be nominated by the hon. Member or by the Committee of Selection? Although the original question had been fully debated and decided upon, it was again and again brought forward upon this Motion.


denied that the House had deliberately decided the original question, and said that in arriving at the decision in favour of an inquiry it was caught in a trap. There was a great wish, on the part of Roman Catholic Members, to debate the question fully, and expose the motives which actuated the Mover for inquiry.


remarked that the Government appeared to be trifling with the question. He and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire were ready to accede to any reasonable request, but they objected to the subject being delayed. There was no religious feeling in the matter, and he hoped the Government would name a reasonable hour for the resumption of the debate.


said, that the House should be prepared to come to a vote on the Main Question at once.


said, that a feeling had grown up in the country on this subject which, for the sake of peace, the sooner it was allayed the better. Language such as he never recollected to have heard or read, had been used towards that House on this occasion. He never before heard it said that a Committee of that House would insult persons in conducting an inquiry of any nature. He had never seen anything that would warrant such an assertion. He hoped the Government would sacrifice an hour, and let the House come to a decision without further adjournment. The longer this question was hung up the greater difficulty there would be in allaying the spirit that had been aroused by the language that had been used. It was very easy to rouse that feeling, but it was not so easy to allay it.


said, he hoped there would be a clear understanding that, if the debate was adjourned a Division should be come to on Monday night without any further factious opposition.


declined to be a party to any such arrangement.


said, the feeling that had been raised in the country on this question was attributable to hon. Members opposite. It could be immediately allayed by withdrawing the Motion.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Pease.)

The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 173: Majority 45.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


moved the adjournment of the House.


seconded the Motion.


strongly urged that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman might be proceeded with on Monday at a reasonable hour, considering the importance of the question.


said, he thought the Irish Land Bill a more important subject than this, and hoped that no time would be taken from the former for the latter.


assured the Government that there would be a better prospect of Progress with the Irish Land Bill if they came to a reasonable arrangement for this debate.


said, he had offered an hour, which would admit of a satisfactory discussion, on Monday night. Without fixing the hour now, the Government would be willing to facilitate the discussion as far as possible.


inferred, from the remarks of the Home Secretary, that the Government meant to do what they liked, because they had a sufficient majority at their back. Irritation was arising, and the Government ought to do all in their power to put an end to the excitement.


said, he wished to treat the Government with respect; but he must remind the Home Secretary that the demand for further discussion came from his own side of the House. His proposal was not for a measure but for an inquiry. There had been no excitement till the Roman Catholics themselves got it up. He asked the Government to name 11 o'clock on Monday night for the resumption of the debate.


said, he thought that, in the absence of the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary had done everything to facilitate the discussion of the question. He hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would accept the right hon. Gentleman's offer.


wished to know whether the majority of the House were to be defeated by the minority, aided by the Government? He hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate) would not accept the offer of the Government.


said, if the Prime Minister were not present, he might have been. The Easter Vacation he had spent with his constituency, who believed that the resistance offered to a fair inquiry was inspired by fear of the consequences. The other side, by carrying the Irish Church Bill, had raised a Frankenstein they would not easily lay.


said, the last remark made it appear that this Motion was pushed as an act of vengeance for what was done last year. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward that Motion, and who must feel that this was a matter of the deepest interest to millions of his fellow-countrymen, to say whether he did not think that every Roman Catholic in that House ought to have the opportunity of expressing his opinion upon the proposal for the appointment of a Committee.


appealed to the Government to give way.


charged the Government with suppressing the discussion of this question out-of-doors.


appealed to the Home Secretary, on the part of the Government, to give ample time for discussion on Monday night, and not to countenance Motions for Adjournment, but to secure a Division on the Main Question on Monday. He would also appeal to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire to withdraw the Motion for Adjournment.


said, of course, when the Government were going out of their way to afford time for the discussion of this question, they could not encourage Motions for Adjournment, but would do their best to secure a decision on the Main Question on Monday night.


, on that understanding, consented to the adjournment of the debate, and gave notice that he would move that the debate should be resumed at half-past 11 o'clock on Monday night.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn,"—(Mr. Herbert,)—put, and negatived.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate arising.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.