§ MR. FAWCETT
To place myself in Order, Sir, in the remarks I am about to make, I shall conclude with a Motion. I can assure you, Sir, in all sincerity, that there is no one in this House who can more regret than I do that any act of mine should tend to interfere with the course of Public Business. But I think, if hon. Members will listen to a very brief statement of what has recently occurred, they will think I am amply justified in pursuing my present course. The promoters of the University Tests (Dublin) Bill are not in the slightest degree responsible for the present position of affairs. Up to Friday last that Bill occupied in every respect identically the same position as any other measure introduced 1814 by a private Member. We had no claim for exceptional treatment, and we could not, with the slightest show of reason, have pressed the Members of the Government to give us a night for its consideration. We must have taken our chance with other Members. We should, no doubt, have done our best to press it forward, and if we had not succeeded in pressing it on, reluctant though we should have been to drop the Bill, there would have been no other course open to us but quietly to have submitted to our fate. But suddenly the whole aspect of affairs was changed; and I venture to say the Government—without any warning to the promoters of this Bill or Notice to this House—have adopted a course which is happily without precedent in the political annals of this country. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, I think I shall be able to prove before I have concluded, that it is without precedent. Let me briefly narrate what has taken place. Last year I introduced the same Bill which is now before the House. It came on for discussion late in the Session, and, in opposing it on the plea that the period was too late for its consideration, what did the Government say? They said—"If this Bill had been introduced, not at the end, but at the beginning of the Session, it would have been our duty"—mark these words—"to introduce a measure of our own, or else to support the Bill." Well, this Session arrived. No measure of the Government was forthcoming. No allusion to the question was made in the Queen's Seech. We again introduced the Bill; and now we are told that we are trespassing upon the legitimate legislative province of the Government. We are not doing that. What are we doing? After what they stated last year we are not intruding, we are simply acting in strict accordance to their own injunctions. We introduced this Bill on the earliest possible day we could obtain, we fixed its second reading for the first day we could get. And when the day for the second reading arrived, I thought that the goal for which I had been striving for five years had at length been reached; I thought at length the Government could not escape from a clear and specific declaration of their views on the subject. But, inexhaustible as are their resources of evading a clear and distinct issue on this question, what did they do? They did this—and now you 1815 will see I am amply justified in saying that their course is without precedent—they supported the second reading of the Bill, but with this reservation—which was not mentioned at the time,—that half, or the greater part, of the Bill was so entirely objectionable in their eyes that they would not seek to amend it; that they would not seek to introduce new clauses; that if it was pressed they would treat it as a Vote of Want of Confidence. Where is there a precedent for such a course of procedure? If this is to be a precedent, what will it come to? If the Government is to vote for the second reading of a Bill and then turn round and say—"We will do all we can to impede your going into Committee upon the Bill. Before you can discuss a single clause we will throw upon you the responsibility of a Ministerial crisis; and if you press the Bill on in the sense in which the House passed the second reading, we will resign." If this is to be brought into a precedent, what will henceforth take place? The second reading of a Bill cannot be regarded as the most important vote which has been taken on a Bill; but it must be looked upon simply as a hollow pretext—an unmeaning sham. I am fully aware that the Government, in supporting the second reading of the Bill, said that they objected to certain clauses. But that is no uncommon thing to do, and I venture to assert that never before did any Government or any party in this House support the second reading of a Bill, and then turn round and say—"If you won't take half of it away we regard it as so objectionable that we shall treat it as a Vote of Want of Confidence." Now, the Prime Minister and every Member of the Government, and every Member of fairness in this House, must be perfectly well aware that it was absolutely impossible for us to accept the alternative which was presented to us; and for this simple reason—the Government proposed that we should split the Bill into two. I stated distinctly before the division was taken on the second reading—["Order, Chair!"]—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am very unwilling to interrupt any hon. Member of this House, and especially the hon. Member for Brighton; but it is my duty to advise him that he is now travelling beyond the point allowed by the Rules of the House, inasmuch as he is discussing 1816 the merits of a Bill which stands as one of the Orders of the Day in the Order Book of the House.
§ MR. FAWCETT
Mr. Speaker, I will most carefully try to obey your ruling. I do not want in the least degree to discuss the principle of this Bill, or to compare it with any other. My object is simply to recur to the course of procedure which has been suggested to us by the Government, and I think after a few sentences you will see I am not out of Order. What did the Government ask us to do? They said—"Cut your Bill in two, and drop one portion." My simple answer is that it is absolutely impossible for us to do so. Suppose I had cut it in two, I should have exposed myself to the reproaches of hon. Members, who might have come forward and complained that I had broken faith with them, because I only proposed to press forward a part of what I had obtained their assent to on the second reading. It was absolutely imperative, therefore, before doing so that we should receive a release from the House. I went to the hon. Gentleman to whom communications are usually made, on Friday, and said—"I do not wish to do anything in the least degree to obstruct the Government; I shall simply treat this Instruction as a question of procedure, and shall speak for only two or three minutes upon it; but I consider that I am bound in honour to give the House an opportunity of stating whether they wish the Bill to go on, as a whole, or to be divided. If the House say they wish to go on with it as a whole, I consider myself bound in honour to persevere with it in that form. If, on the other hand, they should say they wish to have it divided in two, I shall consider I have received the release of the House, and I will then endeavour to follow the injunction of the House." No one can say that was other than behaving in a conciliatory manner towards the Government. But the strongest point of the whole case I shall now come to, and it is one which has induced me to take the unusual course of moving the adjournment of the House. It seems to me that the course of proceeding taken by the Government is absolutely fatal to the privileges of private Members, for if it is to be used as a precedent, it destroys for once and for ever all chance of their legislating upon any subject. In what position are we 1817 placed by the conduct of the Government? If they had not treated this measure as one implying a Vote of Want of Confidence in their proceedings, we should have had a fair chance of bringing on the Bill. For as the second reading had been carried by an overwhelming majority, we could fairly have appealed to the House to assist us in getting the Bill into Committee, even as late as half-past 11 or 12 o'clock at night. We should, therefore, have had some chance, however small, of getting the Bill through. But what I wish to maintain—and I rest the whole point of my case upon this—is, that the Government have effectually destroyed every vestige of a chance of our getting the Bill into Committee. I can show that my statement is correct for three reasons. In the first place, it would have been perfectly legitimate and in accordance with the usages of this House, if a Bill of a private Member did not involve a Ministerial crisis, to bring it on at half-past 11 or 12 o'clock; and there is no chance of my being able to get on the Bill sooner. When, however, that Bill is stated by the Government to involve the fate of their Administration, would it not at once strike everyone as perfectly preposterous to begin a debate involving a Ministerial crisis at that hour, when the debate would be instantly adjourned, the Government saying they would not give a day for its continuance? My second point is equally strong. Before this measure was treated as one affecting the fate of the Administration, the great bulk of hon. Members on each side of the House were anxious to press it on. This was shown on the division for the second reading; and hon. Members having Motions would have assisted us by postponing them. But now every hon. Member who does not wish to see a Ministerial crisis says that instead of being anxious to press the Bill forward, he is anxious to do all in his power to prevent it coining on. We have, therefore, not one chance out of ten which we had. My third point is, that before the Government treated proceeding with this Bill as a question involving confidence, they knew as well as I that three-fourths of the hon. Members who sit on this (the Ministerial) side of the House were strongly in favour of the Bill. There was only one English legal Liberal Member, and not a single 1818 Scotch Member, who voted against it; but on Monday night, after that threat was issued, hon. Member after hon. Member came to importune me to give way. I am divulging no private correspondence; what had occurred was notorious. That was the intention of the move. Hon. Member after hon. Member came to me and said—"We concur entirely in your Dublin University Bill; we agree with every clause of it. There are few measures we would rather see passed; but when it comes to a question of turning out a Government, can you expect us to prefer Dublin University to a Liberal Government?" And Dublin University must go to—I will not describe where. I am not going to be unreasonable. I do not think I have been. I recognize as fully as any man can do the right of the Government to treat whatever question it pleases as one involving a Vote of Confidence upon their Administration. It is for them to decide what implies confidence and what does not; but what I venture to assert is this—and I believe the sympathy of the country will be with me when I say that if they raise an issue of confidence upon a particular measure, they are pursuing a line of policy which, to say the least, is not characterized by courage or by fairness, if they refuse to give those against whom that issue of confidence is raised, an opportunity of trying it. The Government virtually prevents us coming on with our Bill; they interpose in our way what amounts to a Ministerial crisis, and then having entirely altered the character of our position, absolutely refuse to give us an opportunity of discussing the measure. If there is one thing the English people appreciate more than another, it is that of fighting in a fair and open way. I venture to assert that if the Government persist in refusing to accept our challenge, the verdict of the common sense English people will be that they are dismayed and abashed. Why do they shrink from this contest? They have enormous odds on their side. We cannot bring to bear a threat of resignation; we cannot bring to bear a threat of dissolution. But this is only the coping-stone of what has been going on for many years. When the English nation reviews what has taken place upon this question during the last five years, it is not difficult to anticipate their judgment. For five years I have 1819 been trying to obtain a decision upon this question. Twice my proposals have been talked out. Twice they have been counted out. Twice they have been got rid of by threats of Ministerial resignation. ["No, no!"] It is perfectly true; and numberless as have been the speeches from the Treasury Bench—I do not wish to make any charge—but it is absolutely impossible to extract from them anything like a clear declaration as to the meaning of Ministers upon this subject. What, then, will the nation conclude from all this? That the Government in using these tactics to prevent discussion—for that is what it amounts to—do so either because they have no policy to avow, or because they are afraid to let the great bulk of the nation know what that policy is. I am asked—"Why don't you postpone the measure until next year? You are impatient; let the Government legislate upon the question." What security have we for that? Are they not already sufficiently deeply pledged in legislative promises? Have they not already undertaken to legislate upon five times more subjects than they can possibly undertake? How many questions has the Secretary of State for the Home Department under consideration? No one is more fully prepared than I am to commend the marvellous industry of the Prime Minister; but he must admit that after the division taken last week upon the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), the whole question of local taxation and local government must be taken up next Session by the Government. That was the meaning of the Vote as I understood it; and although I voted against the Motion, I must admit the subject presses for solution. Now, you cannot introduce a greater or more comprehensive measure than one such as that Motion pointed to. A great authority in this House—the late Mr. Cobden—said it was almost impossible for a Government to pass more than one great measure in a Session. And when we are asked to postpone our Bill, cannot we get instructive warning from the past? What happened three years since? I hope the House will allow me to give this instance, which is an exactly parallel case. When the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had failed to press forward his Intestacy Bill for three years, and then 1820 was nearly on the point of carrying it, he, in a fatal moment, gave it up to the Government? Where is that Bill? Echo answers—"Where?" Do you expect to find it? You might as well look for grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles. Suppose we, in the same confiding spirit, give up this question to the Government. What security shall we have that it will be dealt with? Perhaps years would elapse before we had the slightest chance of passing a measure upon the subject. Now, apologizing for having detained the House so long, I shall, in conclusion, endeavour to clear myself from one charge almost of a personal character. It has been said that I am guilty of presumption in attempting to legislate upon the great and difficult subject of Irish University education. Happily, I can clear myself effectually from that charge without the slightest egotism. If hon. Members opposite were asked who are the two hon. Members among them most capable of dealing with the subject of Irish education, in whose favour would their verdict be given? I venture to say the two Members representing the University. If, turning to this side of the House, the Liberal Members were appealed to and asked to name the man who from his University experience, from his great ability, from his position in this House, from his representing a University constituency is best qualified to deal with the subject of University education, should we not all in a candid moment say it was my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair)? Therefore, I leave myself out of the question, and I say—"Don't look on it as my Bill; look on it as the Bill of those two hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House and of that hon. Member on the Liberal benches who are best fitted to deal with the subject." And if we have introduced a Bill which, before that threat of resignation, obtained an almost unanimous support in this House, why are we to be deprived of all chance of legislating? Is not the Government already sufficiently involved in legislative promises which it has small chances of redeeming? Why are we not to have the same chance as other Members—and we ask no more—in passing this Bill in which we all take so much interest? I am anxious to state that I shall adopt the course which I believe will be 1821 the most convenient to the House. I am going to make a proposal to the Government. It was made yesterday, and I think hon. Members will see after this debate is concluded that it might be accepted. I can only say that no one would be more pleased than myself if it had been accepted. If it had, I should not have had to trespass now on the House. I am ready to go on with the Bill to-morrow or the next day; but if the Government, object I do not want unduly to press them. If they will promise to give me a day, so that if we get into Committee we may have a reasonable chance of passing the Bill, the promoters of the measure would be perfectly satisfied; and we should be perfectly satisfied if the Government gave us a day before the middle of June. That does not seem a very unreasonable proposal. But what I do object to is this—that the Prime Minister yesterday—I have no doubt unintentionally—gave us an answer which leaves us in a worse dilemma than ever. We do not know whether the Government is going to give us a day or not. We do not know, therefore, whether to try to bring it on upon a private Members' night, or to rely on the promise of the Government. I am inclined to think that the promise of the Prime Minister is worse than useless. ["Oh!"] I would be the last man in the House to think of saying that the Prime Minister would not fulfil any promise that he made; but he candidly and particularly warned me against taking his promise to imply the possibility of the Government giving an early day. What conclusion am I to draw from that? If there be little or no probability of our getting an early day, what should we find if we rely on this promise of the Government? We may find that we have for the consideration of this measure the fag-end of a Morning Sitting in the dog-days, and that we are placed in the same position as we were last year, the Government again using against us the argument that it is absurd to go on with the Bill so late in the Session. In conclusion, I will say that for five years we have endeavoured to persevere with this question. We have fought it through many vicissitudes; it has suffered many reverses; it has seen many misfortunes. We have at last advanced to a position which we shall not willingly surrender. 1822 I can only say that what I have done in the past I shall do in the future. I feel that the object we have in view in proposing this measure is to secure the great cause of intellectual freedom, of liberal learning, and of high culture. Whatever may be the result—whether it involves a Ministerial resignation or not—I think the issues we are striving for are of infinitely greater moment than any mere temporary or party triumph; and I give this pledge to the House—that I and the promoters of the Bill will continue to do all we can to press this question on for solution, and if possible, to extract from the Government a definite, distinct, and intelligible enunciation of their views. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the House do now adjourn.
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
I rise to second the Motion for adjournment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton. I think the House will acquit me of doing so in a factious spirit of opposition to the Government. So far as lay within the scope of my abilities, I have given a loyal and general support to the Government ever since I have had the honour of having a seat in this House. But I think they have placed themselves so clearly in the wrong in their treatment of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend, and for which I am also responsible as a Parliamentary godfather, that I think he is quite justified in drawing the attention of the House to it as a conduct which directly invades the right of private Members to aid in the legislation of the country. No one disputes for a moment the right of the Government to give active opposition to any measures which they deem to be bad. If they had mustered their forces and sawn our Bill asunder on the Motion of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, we could not have made a murmur of complaint, though we would lave regretted the capital operation to which a Bill had been subjected that lad received so marked a sanction from he House at its second reading. But that is not the manner in which our efforts at private legislation have been treated. Three years ago my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton desired to abolish religious tests and disabilities in Ireland, and although these had been abolished in Scotland and England, he was taunted with the incompleteness of 1823 his Resolutions, and the Ministry then rejected them by an issue which was practically equivalent to a Vote of Want of Confidence. He then called to his counsel Members interested in University reform, and gave to a Bill the breadth and completeness which were thought sufficient to meet the objections brought forward by the Government against the more limited aims. He was then met by the Prime Minister, who said that it was now the month of August, and legislation was impossible; but had it been the month of February the duty of the Government would have been clear, either to accept it or bring in a Bill in lieu of it. Well, this Session my hon. Friend takes the very first day available to him, and the House adopts the Bill by a larger majority. The duty of the Government though clear last year, is no longercear this year; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland is instructed to saw off and retain for the Government that very fragment which they rejected in 1870. But this petty operation is made astoundingly important. The whole nation is invited to be a party to a Ministerial crisis. Newspayers in the confidence of the Government make the Liberal party of the country quiver with emotion, and tell us that the days of Liberalism are at an end. The Ministerial confidants muster parties into their places, and we suddenly find our little Bill, which we thought was a humble star of the sixth magnitude, blazing up into a fierce sun which was scorching friends and foes alike. The whole thing looked to myself one of those absurd panics which are based on empty and unsubstantial apprehensions, but the Prime Minister yesterday accepts the whole responsibility for it. He told us that our Bill was so vastly important as to results, that if the House accepted it his Ministry could no longer remain in power. That was a turn of the Government screw that can only be made very rarely and carefully, without a Ministerial machine breaking to pieces. Why was it necessary to turn the screw in this ease? Because the Prime Minister tells us that the Bill involved one of three pledges in regard to Ireland upon which he came into power. We all recollect the famous piece of rhetoric by which the Irish Church, the Irish Land, and Irish Education were made the three branches of the Upas tree which exhales death to all within its range. That unhappy 1824 tree is bearing fruit bitter to the Ministry. The fact is, that the higher education in Ireland, as displayed in Trinity College, never was a branch of the tree which exhaled foul vapours of political and religious discord over that distracted country.
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
I at once, Sir, accept your ruling, though, as I was simply replying to the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman for his course of action, I believed that I was within the Rules of the House. What, then, was the justification for singling out the promoters of this Bill as the enemies of a Liberal Administration? Here were two private Members on this side of the House, far away from the effulgence of the Treasury Bench, sitting in obscure regions below the gangway, quietly seeking to promote Liberal legislation in a spirit which the Government knows as well as we do that the country approves, and we are, without a note of warning, knocked down by the sledgehammer blow of a Ministerial crisis. If such a system is to be made a precedent, independent legislation is impossible. Suppose that on the 8th May the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) is confronted with this mode of proceeding. My hon. Friend has the audacity to introduce his Permissive Bill in the very front of the Government Licensing Bill. Is he to be met with another Ministerial crisis; or is my hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) who actually has a Licensing Bill of his own? If not, why not? Just because Government feels that the spirit of their party is with them in one case and not in the other. I do not say, if the Prime Minister is convinced that the policy of a Private Bill is utterly foreign to the policy of his Government, that he is not justified in staking the existence of his Government upon it; but I do say that in such case he is bound to give a full explanation to the country why he has taken such an extreme view, and I think it would be at least common charity to give its promoters an opportunity of telling the country why they assume the heavy responsibility of differing from a Government with which some of them at least are in common accord. To delay 1825 to the end of the Session a Bill upon which we are told depends the existence of the Ministry, as the Prime Minister practically proposes, is simply for Government to repeat the act which it taunted us last Session with committing, by bringing it on at an impracticable time for legislation. That may suit the policy of the Government; but it cannot be voluntarily adopted by the promoters of the Bill. Whatever may be thought or said in the heat of a factitious excitement such as has now been raised, my own convictions are, that everyone connected with the promotion of the Bill, whether they sit on this or on the other side of the House, or whether they belong to the only ancient educational institution in Ireland, have been animated by the single desire to throw open the benefits of a University famous in its traditions—and which has produced a Berkeley, a Grattan, and a Burke among Protestants, and a Moore and a Shiel among Catholics—to all classes, wholly irrespective of religious beliefs, and in a way which will bring together, by the friendly ties of a united education, men whose varying creeds have a tendency to keep apart. I am bound to say thus much for the honesty of every promoter of this measure, and I deeply regret that the exigencies of parties have induced a Ministry to crush, by the heaviest power of a Government, an attempt at private legislation, which had nothing of party in its origin, and nothing but liberalism in its ends.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ MR. BOUVERIE
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government is going to make any statement with reference to the speeches that we have just heard from the two hon. Members; but, as I wish to put an important question to him, I trust the House will permit me to interpose in order to put that question before the right hon. Gentleman rises. I think that my hon. Friends and the House have great reason to complain of the course which has been taken in this matter by Her Majesty's Government. It appears to me that course has involved the House in what I may call an "unexampled mess." I am not aware that there has ever before been an occasion 1826 in which a Ministry, having announced that it will regard the passage or the defeat of a particular measure in this House as a Vote of Want of Confidence, has deferred the discussion upon that measure to an indefinite and an uncertain day. It appears to me that the course which has been taken by Her Majesty's Government in this matter is alike unprecedented and unjustifiable. Let me recall to the memory of the House what has occurred during the past week. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), after his Bill had undergone various vicissitudes, had it down for Committee for last Tuesday evening, with the prospect of the Order being reached. My hon. Friend, as the House is well aware, had reason to believe that his measure would receive considerable support from hon. Members not only on that but also on this side of the House, and he had a well-founded belief that with such assistance he should be in a position successfully to carry his Bill through Committee. On Thursday my noble Friend the Chief Secretary of State for Ireland (the Marquess of Hartington) put a Notice on the Paper that it should be an Instruction to the Committee upon the Bill that they should divide the Bill into two parts. Now, what occurred last week? Three divisions were taken in this House last week, upon each of which the Government was in a minority. In the first place, there was the division on Monday in Committee on the Ballot Bill; next there was that on Tuesday, on the Motion of the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) on local taxation, when the Government were left in a minority of 100—on which occasion many Members voted for the Motion, not because they liked it, but because they disapproved of the indications which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty as to what he had intended to do on the subject last year; and, thirdly, there was the division on Thursday, when the result was unexampled in the history of Parliament—a Government which had already been defeated on a question, and which had asked the House to reconsider its decision, being again defeated on the same point by a still larger majority. But why am I mentioning these things to the House? I have no difficulty whatever in telling the House 1827 frankly and fully why I am doing so—it is because these decisions show that the confidence of the House in Her Majesty's Government has been rudely shaken. The general reliance of the House upon the judgment, the sagacity, the prudence, and the caution of Her Majesty's Government has been rudely shaken. And how were these decisions followed up by the Government? Why, on Monday morning, in one of the newspapers of this City, there appeared a paragraph, or rather an article, the like of which, I venture to say, never appeared in any newspaper before. If the House will allow me to do so, I will read the material parts of it. ["Order!"] I can assure hon. Members that the article in question is germane to the question. Before I sit down I shall endeavour to show why I read it, and why I found upon it the Question I am going to put to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. It appeared in The Daily News, and is as follows:—It is our duty to convey to our readers, and to the Liberal party at large, the important announcement that before the present week has reached its close, Mr. Gladstone's Administration will possibly have been dissolved; that a Conservative Ministry will be preparing to enter upon what may prove to be a long term of office; and that the country will be awaiting a General Election in the late summer or early autumn months. The likelihood of a defeat of the Government on Mr. Fawcett's Dublin University Bill is sufficiently strong to have been taken into grave consideration by Her Majesty's Confidential Advisers in the Cabinet on Saturday.That is, Her Majesty's "Confidential Advisers," who are sworn to keep the counsels of the Queen. The article goes on to say—Mr. Gladstone has publicly intimated his readiness to accept those clauses of the measure which abolish religious tests; and has offered to support the Bill if Mr. Fawcett will separate from them the constructive provisions which reconstitute the governing body of the University of Dublin. This suggestion the Member for Brighton has not felt able to accept. Accordingly, the Marquess of Hartington will move a Resolution embodying it as an Instruction on going into Committee on the Bill. The fate of Lord Hartington's Resolution will, as we think we may positively assert, determine the fate of the Government. Ministers will take its rejection as a distinct Vote of Want of Confidence, and will tender to Her Majesty the resignation of their offices, leaving it to their successors either to administer affairs with the present House of Commons, or to dissolve Parliament and appeal to the country.1828 The House will observe that this article contains two announcements—first, an announcement that it is the intention of the Government to make the question of the Bill of the hon. Member a question of confidence in themselves; and, secondly, an announcement that it is their intention to resign if the vote of this House shall be against them. I understand from some remarks which have fallen from hon. Members below the gangway that it will be said the statements contained in this article are the mere speculations of some unauthorized newspaper writer, for which the Government are not answerable, and for which they ought not to be called upon to answer. But what did the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) say yesterday? The right hon. Gentleman said, as appears from the following report of his speech in The Times of to-day:—What may have been stated during the last few days is in perfect conformity with what was stated in this House on former occasions, in particular by myself in April, 1870. What may have been said, and quite truly, is this: that a negative put by the House upon the Motion of my noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland would, in our judgment, fairly considered, imply that the House was prepared to accept my hon. Friend's Bill as a settlement of a great and important question connected with the Dublin University upon its present general basis, not only as to the Test clauses, but also the reconstructive clauses of the Bill; and in our view the adoption of that Bill would place us in a condition in which it would become totally impossible for us to ask the House with consistency to enable us by legislation to redeem the pledges we had given to the country when we took office at the end of 1868; and if we were placed in that condition, power being taken out of our hands with regard to that subject, we could not with credit to ourselves or satisfaction to the House and the country continue responsible for the conduct of public affairs.I am not responsible, Sir, for the enormous involution or for the language of that paragraph. Generally, when a man has got a plain meaning to convey, he can manage to say it in plainer language than that. The construction I put upon that paragraph is that it contains an admission of the truth, or, at all events, a ratification, by the right hon. Gentleman of the statement in the newspaper to which I have called attention. I am confirmed in that opinion by the following extract from the same paper of to-day, which shows that it was incorrect to suppose that what I have read was a mere anonymous newspaper paragraph;— 1829It was, perhaps, expected by some of those present that Mr. Gladstone was about to throw some doubt over, or involve in some manner of qualification, the statement which we were authorized to make on Monday.In another sentence of the same paper it is said—"He confirmed, as was inevitable, every word of our announcement." The point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is an important one, and it has not been referred to by the two hon. Members who have just spoken. I wish to know if this is the fashion in which the House of Commons is to be treated by the Government when the latter are pleased to make an announcement of their intentions? Are Members of the House of Commons and the country generally to learn for the first time from the columns of a daily newspaper, however respectable, that Her Majesty's Government are going to resign if they are defeated upon a particular question? It appears to me, I confess, that the invariable practice that has hitherto been pursued in these matters is not only right, but that it is the only one which is consistent with respect to Parliament, and, if I may say so, with deference, even to Her Majesty herself. We all know what has been the custom pursued by the right hon. Gentleman hitherto in these matters, because we have had incidentally a good many of these Parliamentary crises and threatened resignations in case measures were passed or were not passed. Why, in the course of the debate upon the measure itself the right hon. Gentleman has intimated—which is the right way of doing it—that he should consider a vote, at the conclusion of that debate, in discord with his own opinion and that of the Government, as a question of confidence upon which they would resign. And though it is true that Ministers have on other occasions communicated to their supporters what course they meant to take with reference to a particular measure, and have indicated that they meant to make that a question upon which they should stand or fall, this has only been done in confidential communication with the body of their supporters in a private room; and I defy any Member of this House to discover a single instance in which there has been an announcement made of this character in the columns of a daily newspaper. I do not know whether the House agrees with 1830 me; but I will say such a mode of proceeding is essentially and inherently a wrong course, and is part of a system—I was going to use a strong word, and, perhaps, I had better not—["Go on!"]—well, I was going to say—I do not attribute it to my right hon. Friend personally, because, however we may differ on many things, he is himself the soul of honour and truth—what he thinks truth; but I say there has been about many of these things a system of manœuvring, which, you may depend on it, is repellent to the best feelings of English gentlemen, and does not add to the confidence in Government in the House, and out of the House. I rose to put this Question—By whose authority was the article to which I have referred inserted in the newspaper; was it by the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, or with his knowledge and consent; and if not by his authority, by what Member of the Government was it inserted in the paper? That is the Question to which the House of Commons with respect to its own dignity ought to have an answer.
Mr. Speaker, the House will not be surprised when I say that with the feelings which we entertain, and which I have endeavoured heretofore to express, concerning forwarding important Public Business on the Paper, I shall not voluntarily do anything in the remarks I am called on to make which will imply departure from a defensive position, or will tend to widen the field of this debate. I will not follow my hon. Friends who made and seconded the Motion—particularly the Seconder of the Motion (Dr. Lyon Playfair), who made what I must call singularly inaccurate recitals—I will not reply to the criticism of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) on the conduct and proceedings of the Government. In dealing with the speech of my right hon. Friend I will confine myself to answering the Question he has put, and which he is quite entitled to put to mo. At the same time, I think my right hon. Friend was rather severe in his criticism on the unfortunate peculiarity of my style; however just the castigation, it was cruel and crushing—coming with the weight of my right hon. Friend's literary judgment upon my natural infirmity, which, in a long Parliamentary life of 40 years, I have in vain endeavoured to correct. 1831 Whether involved or not, I will try to be intelligible upon the present occasion. Following my right hon. Friend in what I thought his somewhat exulting review of the miscarriage and misconduct of the Government, I will endeavour as well as I can—perhaps very imperfectly—to concentrate into distinct and definite charges the speeches which have been made, and to meet these charges with what I think sufficient and appropriate replies. I understand the charges made against us by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), by his Seconder, the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair), and by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie)—not by all of them, but by one or other of them, without making any personal distinction—I understand the charges to have been as follows:—First, we have failed to legislate on the subject of Irish University Education; secondly, we have obstinately and contumaciously refused to declare our policy and our plan before we proceed to legislate; thirdly, we have made a threat of resignation, and by that threat of resignation have reduced the flourishing Bill of my hon. Friend to a state of inanition bordering on extinction; fourthly, that we have done this by surprise—that we reserved on the second reading of the Bill and suppressed the statement of our objections, and that we have conveyed through newspapers to the House of Commons the first knowledge of the view we took on the question; fifth, and lastly, that we declined to give a day for the discussion of this Bill—a course which my right hon. Friend has termed unprecedented, and which the hon. Member for Brighton says shows we are "dismayed and abashed." Now, first, we have not legislated on Irish University Education—that is the sole charge I admit is proved, and I go farther, and say I deeply regret it; but before this unquestionable statement is converted into a crushing accusation—an article of impeachment—I will appeal to the justice and candour of the House, and I leave every Gentleman who sits in it to ask himself the question whether our failure to legislate upon Irish University Education has been owing to a general indisposition upon our part to face the discharge of public duty, or whether it has not been owing to the overwhelming and incessant duties and obligations 1832 with respect to other questions which for three years we have endeavoured to the best of our power to discharge. The hon. Member for Brighton, with a strange inconsistency—I put the charge no higher than inconsistency in argument—seemed absolutely in one and the same breath to invoke condemnation on our heads for having failed to settle the question of Irish University Education, while setting forth, at the same time, the multitude of other calls upon the attention of the Government and the House—heavy calls, which he declares, from their number and magnitude, it is totally impossible for them in a short period to meet. We have invited Parliament to give nearly two Sessions of its precious time—in 1869 and 1870—to the discussion of Irish affairs. By that course we threw English, and Scotch, and general legislation into arrear, and now, knowing, as I venture to say my hon. Friend does not know, the difficulty and complexity of University legislation, we have not thought it fit, either last year or in the present year, to make another large demand, such as we could with difficulty limit or define, upon the time of the House, for the purpose of settling this question, weighted as we were by the more urgent demands which we considered it our imperative duty to make. The next charge is that we have not declared our policy before we legislate, but that we have exhibited extraordinary obstinacy in this matter, exposing ourselves to the taunts of the hon. Gentleman about our cowardice, about our secret plans and schemes, and about our multiform crimes and offences, which I will not attempt to exhibit one by one. I admit again the fact that we have declined to state our policy before we legislate, and in that refusal—with the permission, and, I hope, with the approval of the House—we will steadily persevere. That is not the only question on which endeavours were made to draw from us a declaration of our views and plans before endeavouring to carry them into effect. In 1869, while we were engaged in the anxious endeavour to legislate on the Irish Church, we were asked in both Houses to declare our policy with regard to the Irish Land question. Authorities, and great authorities, did not scruple to tell us that if there was robbery in Ireland, if there was agrarian crime, if there was murder in Ireland during the 1833 coming autumn and winter, we should be responsible for the commission of these crimes, because they were all due to our contumacious refusal to declare the principles on which we meant to legislate on the Irish Land question. We stood fire on that occasion, and mean to stand fire again. Whatever may be the batteries discharged against us by my two hon. Friends, we are not going to ruin and destroy the schemes that it may be our duty to submit to Parliament by their premature disclosure. We will produce them, but we will ourselves choose the time for producing them, and we will not be content to take the moment which may be preferred either by the hon. Member for Brighton or by the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh. We take that course, Sir, not from any motive of self-restraint or self-love, or adherence to etiquette or practice, but because we know that it is essential to the sound and fair dealing with questions of this kind, advanced on the responsibility of a Government, that these premature exhibitions should not be made, but that the plans should be produced when Government is ready to be responsible for them, and to justify the responsibility of submitting them to the practical judgment of Parliament. Well, the third charge is, that we have brought about this disastrous change in the prospects of my hon. Friend by a threat of resignation. Now, Sir, I do not at all conceal from my hon. Friend or from the House that I am very sensible, as all persons who have ever been responsible for the conduct of public affairs must be sensible, that on this matter there is a real difficulty—a difficulty not to be solved, so far as I know, by any rigid and definite formula). When there is coming on for discussion a legislative measure which the Government regards as having a vital influence on its policy—and the same holds good in many cases with respect to Motions made by Members in this House—if the Government makes no intimation with respect to the effects of that measure—either to its friends, or to Parliament, or to the public, the Government is justly accused of having taken Parliament by surprise. If, on the other hand, the Government, before the question, whatever it may be, comes under distinct and practical consideration, makes known that it considers a particular vote or 1834 course with reference to the question to be incompatible with its continuing responsible for public affairs, then it is invariably open to the charge of having attempted to influence Parliament by the use of a menace. It is not for me to say that I know of any method by which these objections, proceeding from opposite quarters, can be effectually met. But what I can say, and what I think I will presently show, is this—that there never was an instance in which we had ever less difficulty in regard to the matter than we have in the case now brought before us. Here the point of the charge consists not merely in the fact that we have endeavoured to influence the fate of the Dublin University Bill by intimating that, in the event of the rejection of the Motion of my noble Friend near me (the Marquess of Hartington), we should be unable to continue to hold the reins of power; but it has been likewise stated, in a variety of forms, that we have done this by surprise. The hon. Member for Brighton declares that on the second reading of the Bill we did not intimate our objection to his measure.
§ MR. FAWCETT
No, no; I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I stated distinctly that he objected to certain clauses; but that from the nature of his remarks, it was impossible to conclude that he would treat the acceptance of them as a Vote of Want of Confidence.
I beg to observe that the objection taken was not to certain clauses of the Bill; it was to the whole Bill, with the exception of the provisions that relate to tests; it was to the main portion of the Bill; and I stated distinctly to the hon. Member and to the House, not merely that we were opponents of these clauses, but that it was impossible for us to acquiesce in their passing. Is this a new matter? Where is the memory of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton? In the last part of his speech he forgot the first part of his speech, for in the first part of his speech he charged us with developing by surprise, and for the first time, the threat of resignation in connection with this Bill; and when in the latter part of his speech he came to that complacent review which he instituted of his own course during the last five years, and of the many mishaps which he has met with in his patriotic labours, as he described 1835 the fate of his measure, he said—"Twice it has been defeated by threats of resignation." And there is the answer from the mouth of my hon. Friend himself to the statement, that it is now for the first time that we have conveyed to the world that it was impossible for us to remain honourably in charge of public affairs, if the House of Commons were to settle the question of University Education in Ireland in a manner incompatible with the pledges which we gave to the country at the time we took office. In saying thus much, I have answered in part, and I will now answer more specifically, the Question put to me by my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bouverie). He complains that the intimation was given for the first time through a newspaper (The Daily News) on Monday morning that the Dublin University Bill was a Bill which would involve the fate of the Government. My main answer is this—that it was not then given for the first time; that it had been declared in the place most appropriate for such a declaration; that I had myself, on the part of the Government, distinctly and unequivocally declared it on the first occasion when we were called upon by my hon. Friend—in the midst of our struggles on the Irish Land Bill. ["Oh, oh!"] My hon. Friend then thought it fair and just to call upon us to grapple with Dublin University Education; and upon that occasion I declared to him—as he has himself borne witness—that it was a question which would involve the existence of the Government. Those who recollect the vote of the House upon that occasion will, I am sure, bear me out in the statement I make. I perceive an expression of astonishment, if not a sneer, at a phrase which has just fallen from me incidentally—"in the midst of our struggles on the Irish Land Bill." I suppose the hon. Members who gave that expression estimate very lightly the labour of passing a measure like the Irish Land Bill. I do not want to enter further into the discussion of that question; but I am not prepared to withdraw the expression I used. My right hon. Friend had read extracts from an article in the newspaper, and he has asked whether that article was authorized by me, whether it was authorized by any Member of the Government; and, if so, by whom? Sir, that article was not authorized 1836 by me; I am not aware that it was authorized by any Member of the Government; I am not aware that that article was seen by any Member of the Government. I had no direct communication with anyone connected with the Press in relation to this matter. I had no indirect communication with anyone relating to the Press in the sense of any message passing from me to any person connected with the Press. But this is a fact, which I stated yesterday, and which I state again. I made no secret of our retaining those very impressions and convictions with regard to the subject of higher education in Ireland, which in my place at this box I declared in April, 1870; and those friends to whom I mentioned freely the fact of our retaining these convictions were placed by me under no limitation whatever. I will venture to say this. Since the time when this question came under review if I had chanced to meet with any gentleman connected with the Press, I should have made no more reserve in conversation with him than I made in conversation with any other friend; and when the right hon. Gentleman reads that article, and appears to ask me whether I recognise the expressions it contains, I say, on the contrary, I prefer to fall back upon that intolerably long and involved sentence which I delivered yesterday, and which he has quoted in his critical remarks to-day. That is my declaration and profession; that is a frank and ingenuous account of the language I have held on this subject, and by which I wish to be bound, and I still remain under this extraordinary perversity of judgment. Bad as may be my method of expressing myself, I am disposed to adhere to my language in cases of this kind rather than to adopt the language he has quoted. I hope I have given my right hon. Friend a frank reply on that subject. ["Oh!"] I shall be glad to supply anything that may be wanting. I have only one more point on which to touch. The hon. Member for Brighton complains that we will not give him a day for the discussion of his Bill, and he says he wishes to be reasonable. First of all he eulogizes the hon. and learned Members for the University of Edinburgh and the University of Dublin; and really, all things considered, it is not so very surprising that we, as a Liberal Government, are not at once 1837 charmed and inveigled by the names of the two hon. and learned Members who represent the University of Dublin. I have great respect for the character and talents of those two hon. and learned Gentlemen; but neither to them, nor to the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh, are we prepared to make over the responsibility of the Government. It is not a question of their superior qualification to deal with this matter on which the hon. Member for Brighton so warmly descants; but it is this—we have bound ourselves by certain obligations, contracted in the face of day, and in every form of public declaration to the country, and we cannot shuffle off these obligations by placing them on the shoulders of others. My hon. Friend says he will be reasonable with us, and he will make a proposal, which is, that I shall name for him a day. I am to name a day when his Bill is to come on, and it is to be a day which is to give a reasonable chance of its passing in the present Session. I am bound to say it appears to me my hon. Friend has paid no attention to the contents of his own Bill. Incompetent as he may think me, I have had some experience in University legislation; I had charge of the Oxford University Bill of 1854, which was the basis and model for the Cambridge Bill of 1856. We have always endeavoured to impress on my hon. Friend—but, up to the present time, with a total want of success—that this business of University legislation, quite apart from politics, is a matter of extreme complexity in detail; and that complexity in detail, which occupied us, if I recollect rightly, something like 20 nights in Committee on the Oxford University Bill, is rather increased than diminished in the case of Dublin, from the peculiar circumstances of that University, where the arrangements, property, government, and discipline of the University and the College are lodged in one and the same body. Under these circumstances, what a modest demand it is the hon. Gentleman makes to the Government! Only name me a day when I may have a reasonable prospect of passing my Bill into law! The objections of the majority of the Irish Members are not to be thought of for a moment. If they raise a debate, and that debate lasts four or five hours, he says—"I will meet them by proclaiming to the 1838 country that I have been talked out." My hon. Friend has the boldness to proclaim to Parliament, as a grievance and a wrong, that last year, when his Bill came on for a second reading on a Wednesday, the debate on this important and complex question occupied some four or five hours; and because it was made the subject of this discussion, he proclaims to the country that he is the victim of a conspiracy to talk out his measure. Let us consider the moderation of my hon. Friend's request. He asks me to give him that which I have not got myself. Have I a reasonable prospect of passing through, during the Session, all the Bills that the Government themselves have introduced? Is it not a matter of constant pressure upon us? I do not complain of it; but are we not constantly being asked on what day we will proceed with the Scotch Education Bill, the Public Health Bill, the Licensing and other Bills? And then, at a time when I am absolutely disabled from naming any day whatever for any one of the great cardinal measures which the Government pledged itself to in the Speech from the Throne, my hon. Friend demands that I shall name a day for Committee upon his Bill, and in making that demand accompanies it with a glowing eulogy upon himself for his reasonableness in making it. I have made to him the very best offer I could. As far as the policy of his Bill is concerned, I think there will be a considerable amount of public advantage in taking the definitive judgment of the House, because I agree with him that there is a great deal of uncertainty and underground play in this matter. Therefore I have told him that as soon as those measures which we are bound to consider as of primary importance are out of our bands, with reference to the great bulk of the labour and of any risk connected with them, I shall be most happy; and I confidently hope, within the working portion of the Session, to give him an opportunity of bringing forward that question. This, I think, is as fair an offer as I can make. [A laugh.] I think the hon. Gentleman who laughs at me is not, perhaps, so much accustomed to take the measure of Public Business and of the time it requires in this House as, unhappily, I have been. I do not think it is in my power to go further. Some minor charges have been brought against us; but there 1839 is only one of them which I am disposed to admit. It has been said that in the year 1870 I objected to a Bill for the removal of tests in the University of Dublin, and that this year I have agreed to it. That is quite true; but why have we agreed to it this year? We have done so from two motives—first of all, because we felt so much regret at being unable to deal with the whole question ourselves, and so much respect for the labours of my hon. Friends who bring in this Bill that we were willing, if possible, to strain a point in order to settle the question. Consequently, we agreed to the severance of the measure into two portions; but if my hon. Friend asked me the question, I have no doubt I could reply to him that if only it were in our power to deal with the entire subject at once that would be by far the best mode of proceeding. I have tried to go over the charges brought against me by my hon. Friend. If he thinks fit to put them in any other shape, we shall be ready to meet them; but I contend that our course from first to last has been dictated by a love of honour, an adherence to sound policy, and a thorough conformity with Parliamentary usage.
§ DR. BALL
I cannot allow this debate to close without making some observations on the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I shall not complain of his refusal to place the consideration of the Dublin University Bill in priority to those measures which he himself has introduced into this House. Nor do I complain of his having put down, in the name of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, an Amendment dividing the Bill into two. My complaint is that a Bill which has nothing whatever to do with party politics has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the means of consolidating his divided party, and has been taken out of the region of calm consideration, and removed into the heated atmosphere of party politics. There never was introduced into this House a Bill which had less of party character about it, or one in regard to which party leaders and persons connected with party had been less consulted. The Bill was framed last year by two Professors in Universities and by the heads of the Dublin University—academical people dealing with an academical subject for academical purposes. Whose names are on the 1840 back of the Bill? There are those two Professors, both Members for Universities, my noble Friend the Member for Enniskillen (Viscount Crichton), who is known for the moderation of his views, and the name of my hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Plunket) is there, because he has in a remarkably conspicuous manner devoted himself to the furtherance of united education in Ireland. My name is not on the Bill, nor is the name of any person on this bench or of any political leader to be found there, simply because it was desired to keep the Bill out of the atmosphere of politics. The two Liberals were chosen in order that no man who was not wilfully determined to mistake and misunderstand could believe that the Bill was brought forward from any party considerations. What is the character of the Bill? It is a limited Bill for a limited purpose. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that the introduction of this Bill takes out of the hands of the Government the management of the great Irish Education Question. Now, I utterly deny that. The Bill is introduced to abolish tests, and superadded to that is a provision altering the governing body to a certain extent, and giving it an elective character. The provisions of the Bill were such as calm and reasonable persons might consider without any of the vehemence which had been imported into the discussion of the question. The intention of the framers of the Bill was primarily to carry the repeal of the tests, and next, to improve the governing body. I do not complain that the noble Marquess the Chief Secretary for Ireland has put on the Paper Notice of an Instruction dividing the Bill. What I object to is this—Amendments were put down indicative of the opinions of individuals. One of those Amendments proposed to alter the number of the members of the governing body, and another was placed on the Paper by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Heron), a Gentleman distinguished in his profession and also by his collegiate career, who is of opinion that a second college, not exclusively Roman Catholic, might be engrafted on the University of Dublin.
§ MR. RYLANDS
rose to Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, he thought, was addressing himself to matters 1841 which could not with propriety be discussed on the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he had already intimated that the provisions of the Bill could not he discussed on the Question of Adjournment now before the House.
§ DR. BALL
I say that this threat of treating the matter as one of Want of Confidence was never made until the Government were brought face to face with the Amendments which would have developed their policy. The threat was intended to stifle discussion among their own followers. When threats of resignation or dissolution are introduced upon a private Member's Bill, I say that the state of the House itself cannot be very sound. The right hon. Gentleman says the Government are not going to disclose their principles or their policy until they produce a Bill; but if he holds that view, why did he write the letter which appears in to-day's newspapers to the Nonconformists of Bradford? In that letter the right hon. Gentleman declares his policy for the first time. I decline to ask to have this Bill brought on now; I decline to enter upon a discussion of its merits. I am not going to submit it to an irresponsible Dictator and an obedient majority. I shall keep back the discussion for better times; and, in the meantime, I shall appeal to that public opinion which, in England no less than in Ireland, is sweeping away a Government that retains office without dignity or self-respect.
§ MR. MORRISON
said, that the Prime Minister had taunted his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) with having forgotten the warning he had received in 1870 as to the intentions of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that then he had made the question one of confidence; but the Motion to which he referred was simply one for the abolition of tests in Trinity College; whereas the present Bill had a double object, not only the abolition of tests, but the establishment of a new constitution for the University. In 1870 the abolition of tests was treated as a question of confidence, and the warning, if it had any application, must apply to that question. Now, however, the right hon. Gentleman was willing to accept the abolition of tests, and referred the threat of no confidence to an entirely different subject. He would ask, therefore, 1842 how the warning of 1870 could be held as applying to the present occasion? The right hon. Gentleman attacked his hon. Friend for asking for an early day; but there was nothing unreasonable in the application. He greatly regretted the decision of the Government in refusing; for, let it be remembered that his hon. Friend was not asking to interfere with the Ballot Bill, or the Scotch Education measure, but merely asking for a day before the 15th June, and that day the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would not pledge himself to give. If the House was at present in a position of embarrassment it was the fault of the Government. He regretted the state of things very much, because he thought it would have a bad effect on their position in the eyes of the country if it were thought that Government had the slightest hesitation in discussing the Bill. Under any circumstances, it could hardly have come on on Tuesday evening. There were three Notices of Motions, which were sure to keep them until half-past 12, and there was the case of Mr. Tribe, and one or two other remanets. He had never expected that the Bill would come on, and he thought that the Minister had unnecessarily propounded a very dangerous principle. The right hon. Gentleman had laid down the principle that if a private Member attempted to legislate upon any subject on which the Government was pledged to legislate, such an attempt amounted to a want of confidence in the Government. Such a principle would interfere with the privileges of private Members, and would often prevent progress in legislation. Let the House think over all the great measures of recent years, except the Irish Church and Land Bills, and they would find that in every case the real work of fighting for the principle of those measures had been done by private Members, and that legislation had been attempted again and again by private Members long after the Government of the day had promised to deal with the subject. The question of University reform in Ireland was not brought forward by his hon. Friend in any spirit of hostility to this Government. It was brought forward in 1867, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power. It was brought forward again in 1868, and was then felt by hon. Gentlemen opposite 1843 a very embarrassing question. In 1869 it was brought forward when the Liberal party were in power, yet it was not treated as a vote of confidence. In 1870 the governing body of Trinity College concurred in a measure of re form, and there appeared a prospect of passing it. For the first time it was treated as a question of confidence. In 1871 the subject was talked out; in 1872 it was again treated as a want of confidence. As a plain man, he was unable to understand the principle on which the Government had acted in treating the question this year as one of confidence and in another year discussing it on its merits. The Prime Minister had told them that if he gave way to the hon. Member for Brighton, he should be establishing an evil precedent; but he (Mr. Morrison) thought the evil precedent was the one which had just been set by the Government. He hoped that the present would be the last time they would see such a method of stifling discussion adopted, especially as regarded the principle of a Bill. The Government had put the party in a great difficulty by making the question one of confidence. If the right hon. Gentleman had said nothing of confidence, it would have been extremely unlikely the Bill could come on for weeks, as every week left its own remanets. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would reconsider their answer, as every one on both sides of the House must feel that it was not expedient for the public interests that there should be a grave political crisis whilst our relations with America were in so delicate a state. Within a few days that cause of embarrassment would be disposed of in one way or another. He would sit down, hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his answer, as he felt certain, from what he knew of the feeling out-of-doors, that the best thing they could possibly do would be to face this question as soon as they could, and get over it without delay.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, that the scene which they had witnessed that night might be described in the language of dramatists as "a mighty pretty quarrel as it stands." He had no wish to interfere with the neutrality which had been observed on his side of the House. He thought his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) was somewhat unreasonable 1844 when he complained of the First Minister for not having conveyed his answer yesterday in curt and unambiguous language. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) laid very great stress upon the enormous labour he had undergone in passing the Irish Land Bill; but he did not say whether those labours were added to by any feeling of compunction. But he (Mr. Bentinck) wished chiefly to express his satisfaction that the complaints he had so often made as to the difficulties encountered by private Members were at last inspiring some interest. For years he had struggled against determined attempts to circumscribe the privileges of private Members, and he was glad to see that some hon. Gentlemen were now beginning to find out the inconveniences of that arrangement. If private Members did not defend their rights and insist on being placed in the position they used to occupy, their time in this House would be utterly wasted, and they might tell their constituents that they were of no use here.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he could not concur with the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) that the Government would change its course of proceeding here. A Return had been just published which would fill the country with awe and alarm, for it showed that while this House was spending valuable time in discussing comparatively unimportant measures, neglecting such Bills as the Mines Regulation Bill, 10,666 miners had lost their lives through accident during the last 10 years. After the last Session of Parliament, the House was severely criticized for not taking up practical measures. There were now a great many practical measures before the House, and their constituents and the country would blame hon. Members if they were thus to spend their time in useless discussions on matters of less importance.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he would yield to no man in his desire to remove all religious disabilities from University education; but he never recollected a more barefaced and mischievous attempt to force the hand of the Government and obstruct the Business of the House than that which was now made by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). More than that, it was in the highest degree illogical. Could 1845 anything be more illogical than that the Government should be asked to postpone for 20 nights or more legislation which they believed to be useful, in order to make way for legislation which they held to be mischievous? He maintained that the hon. Member had as good a chance of forwarding his Bill as any other private Member, if not a better one. He (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had also got a Bill in hand, and he considered its passing as important as that of the hon. Member for Brighton; but he wondered what would be said if he were to go to his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government and say—"I insist that you give me a night for my Bill; if you refuse, I shall treat it as a question of Want of Confidence, and will move the adjournment of the House." He would tell the House the reason for the alliance between hon. Members opposite and the hon. Member for Brighton; or, at all events, what would be its result. The result of this Motion would be simply to obstruct the Ballot Bill, and that was the cause of this unnatural, this unholy—he had almost said this incestuous—alliance. If this Motion came from the other side of the House—from the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck), for instance—it would be intelligible; but he could not understand what was the object of his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton. He would ask his hon. Friend to pause for a moment and put this question to himself—what sort of a settlement of the University question would be got from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), or of the Ballot Bill from the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy)? But if his hon. Friend was anxious to find a refuge in the bosom of the Conservative party, if he was tired of playing the part of a political Ishmael whose hand was against every man and every man's hand against him, let him, with the courage which he undoubtedly possessed, cross the floor of the House, and exchange for the rank of a Leader of the Opposition, the far more ignoble position of a catspaw.
§ MR. FAWCETT
rose—["Order! Order!"]—and said, he believed he should not be out of Order in acquainting the House with what he intended to do. The House had indulged him so much already that he would not make 1846 more than one or two brief remarks. ["Order!"]
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the House would naturally think that he ought to make some slight allusion to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Osborne Morgan), whose example, however, he would not imitate in the use of strong language.
§ MR. OSBORNE
rose to Order. He had the greatest respect for the hon. Professor who was just now addressing the House; but he must ask the Speaker whether it was competent for any hon. Member—Professor or otherwise—to address the House again after having moved the adjournment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, according to the practice of the House it is competent for an hon. Member who has moved the adjournment of the House, as an original Motion, to reply. He had already stated that the hon. Member for Brighton was in possession of the House, and he was entitled to proceed with his observations.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he was only going to say a word or two in reply to the personal attack which the House would expect him to notice. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh and himself had been such intimate friends for so many years that he would try to avoid, under the excitement of the moment, saying one word which he might afterwards regret. He was quite sure when his hon. and learned Friend read next morning the many strong things which he had said about him and the motives which he had attributed to him he would regret it. [Mr. OSBORNE MORGAN said, he had no intention of attributing unworthy motives to the hon. Gentleman.] He (Mr. Fawcett) would, of course, accept the explanation offered; but his hon. and learned Friend had made use of a very extraordinary expression, for he said that between some hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House and himself (Mr. Fawcett) there was an incestuous intercourse. He wanted his hon. and learned Friend to ponder for a moment, and ask himself what was the elegant phraseology in which he described the intercourse between the Government and the Members of the Opposition two years ago. 1847 ["Question!"] He was going now to explain distinctly to the House what he intended to do. The Prime Minister had not correctly explained the request which he and his Friends had made. He would state that request again, because they would repeat it. They never had the slightest idea of asking for a Government night until the Government had met the measure he had in hand by raising the excitement of a Ministerial crisis about it. He would, during the next week, do his very utmost to bring the question on again; but as the Government had not to-night given him a distinct answer as to whether they would give a Government night or not—["Question!"] The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) was very fond of crying "Question!" but the House would naturally like to be informed on the subject. As he felt that the Government had completely spoilt his chance by this Vote of Confidence, he should do his best next week as a private Member to press the Bill forward, and after consulting with his hon. Friends, if the Government still persisted, he would take an opportunity of again urging them on the subject.
§ Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.