§ MR. ANDERSON
Sir, in consequence of the Question of which Notice has been given to-night by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) as to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition using his influence to secure a day for the further discussion of the title of "Empress," I wish to ask the Prime Minister, Whether he will agree to delay the issuing of the Proclamation of the Royal Title till the noble Lord has had time to answer that Question?
§ MR. ANDERSON
Under the circumstances I feel bound, in order to put myself right, to move the adjournment of the House. I do not think, Sir, although it is customary to give Notice of a Question, that the Question I have just asked is one that the Prime Minister ought to have had any difficulty whatever in answering without Notice. It is not a question as to anything which he would have to investigate; but simply a question as to his own willingness to do a certain thing, which must be within his own knowledge at once. It will be in the recollection of the House that during the debates on the Royal Titles Bill, one of those few arguments that had any weight at all with the House was that this title of Empress was to give great satisfaction to the people of India. When I spoke upon this question on the third reading of the Bill I had seen one or two Indian papers, and I said, even then, that it was quite evident that was not the case. Since then a great many more Indian papers have come to hand, and it turns out now, so far as we can judge from these, that almost universally the opinion of the people of India is not in favour of the title of Empress, but is directly opposed to it, Under these cir- 1765 cumstances, Sir, for this is a sort of new revelation come to us, the House has really good ground for re-considering the decision already come to upon that Bill, and in order that the House may have an opportunity for that re-consideration the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) gave Notice of a Motion, and has endeavoured in every way within his power to get a day for its discussion. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition was told by the Prime Minister that if he had supported that Motion the Government would then feel bound to accede to it. Now, a Question has been put down for to-morrow when the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is to give us a reply whether he will use his influence to get a day for the discussion of this question; and I think it is not an unreasonable thing to ask that the Proclamation shall be delayed till after the time that the noble Lord, has considered that question and given his reply.
§ MR. DISRAELI
This shows the convenience of our Rule that Notice of Questions should be given. The hon. Gentleman in the present instance asked me whether I was prepared to advise Her Majesty not to issue a Proclamation in consequence of a Question of which Notice has been addressed by the hon. Member for Newcastle to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. I was perfectly ignorant what that Question was until I gathered its purport now from the observations of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Anderson). I never heard the Question—["Notice"]—or Notice; we do not seem to know what the question is. It must have been put at the commencement of Business and just before I entered the House. But it comes to this—whether I will announce that I will delay advising Her Majesty respecting the issue of a Proclamation legally under an Act, which I believe is now passed, in consequence of a Notice which has been given by a Member of this House to address a Question to the Leader of the Opposition to-morrow. I beg to say I certainly shall not allow myself to be induced from refraining to give that advice which I think Her Majesty ought to accept and follow.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
gave Notice that when the hon. Member for Hackney addressed the House on his Motion of censure on the Government, he should ask the right hon. Member for the Uni- 1766 versity of London the Question which he had already that evening read to the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
An observation was made by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) that he would conclude with a Motion—but he did not do so. A Question was then put to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and that Question has been answered. That Question bore upon a Notice of a Question proposed to be put to-morrow by the hon. Member for Newcastle to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. I did not at the time gather when he gave that Notice the precise drift of the Question; but I now very much doubt whether a question of that character could, consistently with the Rules of the House, be put to the noble Lord.
§ MR. FAWCETT
I should like to be in order, and I understand the hon. Member now proposes the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member commenced his observations by stating that he would move, but he made no Motion.
§ MR. FAWCETT
Then, so that I may put myself perfectly in Order, as there seems to be some doubt on the subject, I will conclude with a Motion for the adjournment of the House. It seems to me that although it is very easy on the part of the Prime Minister to represent what has been done by the hon. Member for Glasgow in a ludicrous light, the request he has made is a very reasonable one, and one which will be supported by many hon. Members on this side of the House. I am not going to make more reference than I possibly can avoid to what has taken place on previous occasions; but two Notices of Motion have been given, each of which has been interpreted by the Prime Minister as a direct Vote of Censure on the course of conduct the Government are now about to pursue. The second Motion 1767 was made as strong, precise, and distinct as it possibly could be made in order to give the Government an opportunity of defending their conduct, to which we object. The Prime Minister, adopting a course which I believe is somewhat unusual, said, apparently forgetting that private Members have again and again moved Votes of Censure in this House, that he could not facilitate the discussion on the Motion, which, as I said, he interpreted as a Vote of Censure, unless he received some countenance from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. An hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Anderson) takes what seems to me the straightforward, practical, and sensible course, and asks whether in the present state of affairs he will delay issuing the Proclamation until the Question that is to be put to-morrow to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has been answered. As the Prime Minister did not hear the terms of the Question, I may say it is to ask the noble Lord whether, considering that since the time when the Royal Titles Bill passed a third reading, information has reached this country that the statement made by the Prime Minister in justification of the Bill—namely, that it would give satisfaction to the Princes and people of India, is the reverse of accurate—a stronger word might be used—whether, under these circumstances, the noble Lord will use his influence to obtain a discussion of this question under the entirely new aspect it now assumes? It is quite possible for the First Lord of the Treasury to prevent the noble Lord from answering the Question. ["Divide!] I am quite aware that hon. Members opposite do not like this question; but it is one which we must press, and, if necessary, we will carry the Motion to a division. The First Lord of the Treasury is alarmed at his present position. ["Oh, oh!"] I say advisedly that he is afraid to meet this Vote of Censure. I now challenge him to do so. He is afraid to be pressed with it, and he wants not to give the noble Lord an opportunity of exercising that influence which he knows, if exercised, would secure a discussion on this Motion, because the First Lord of the Treasury knows that he can defeat the Notice of Motion by issuing the Proclamation to-morrow morning. Why does not the Prime Minister answer the straightforward question that has been 1768 put to him by the hon. Member for Glasgow? "Why does he not say "Yes" or "No" to a simple question? This is a question which we will use every power of the House to have considered. Will he or will he not give the House the assurance that the Proclamation shall not be issued until the noble Lord has had an opportunity for conferring with his hon. Friends upon the question? I beg to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn"—(Mr. Fawcett.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
It would certainly be more convenient that I should have had an opportunity of considering the terms of the Question of which the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) has given Notice before I made any statement upon the subject. Like the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I did not entirely catch the terms of that Question which I understand my hon. Friend proposes to put to me to-morrow; but as, in consequence of the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it appears probable that the matter may by to-morrow have passed entirely out of the control of Parliament, I think it necessary to say one or two words. I cannot altogether agree with the view taken the other day by the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of the Notice of Motion given by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). No doubt it is perfectly true that the Government themselves must be the judges of the importance which they choose to attach to a Motion involving censure on the Government; and it is obviously impossible that every Motion of censure by a private Member can be so treated by the Government as to be allowed to stand in the way of ordinary business. But, at the same time, it does seem to me that when a Motion of this description is brought forward which deals with a matter with which the House has a perfect right to deal—namely, the advice which the Ministers are going to give to Her Majesty with regard to the use that is to be made of an Act that has just passed through Parliament—it seems to me that the Government are taking a grave respon- 1769 sibility on themselves if they proceed to give advice without giving a Member of the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney an opportunity of laying before the House the views he wishes to lay before it, and without giving the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon those views. The right hon. Gentleman I understood to say would consider, at all events, the expediency of giving a day to the hon. Member if I or those who sit near me pressed him to do so. Well, Sir, the object of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle is to ascertain whether I am so prepared to press the right hon. Gentleman. I indicated the other day that I had considerable doubts whether any sufficient practical object was to be gained by again raising the question which I am afraid, as far as Parliament is concerned, has passed, or is very rapidly passing, entirely out of our control. I cannot say, from the communications which I have been able to have with hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, that I have seen any reason to alter my opinion. I have not yet had an opportunity of consulting with many whom I should wish to have consulted. The other House of Parliament, too, is not altogether to be omitted from consideration, and it is only this evening that that House re-assembles after the Recess. So far, however, as I have had communication with my Friends, I see no reason to alter the opinion that I indicated the other day; and if it is necessary that I should give an answer without further consideration, I must say that I am not prepared to take the responsibility of pressing the Government to give the hon. Member the opportunity he asks for. That is my own opinion; but I think the Government are taking a very serious responsibility in pressing this measure forward with what I cannot but regard as unnecessary haste, and not only declining to give facilities, but absolutely preventing hon. Members from obtaining the opportunity which the ordinary Forms of the House would otherwise give them of bringing forward their Motions.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker—We consider that the question which the hon. Member for Hackney wishes to raise is one on which the House has already given an opinion. We do not shrink from the responsibility of the 1770 course which we shall adopt, and we are not prepared to refrain from advising Her Majesty to issue the Proclamation which Her Majesty will be empowered to issue. But, having made that declaration, I beg to remind the House that it will be open to the House—if it wishes to change the opinion which it has declared, and wishes to censure the Government—it will, I say, be open to the House of Commons to express that censure; and I hereby undertake to say that, if the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, after considering with his Friends, and after due reflection, thinks that the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers in this respect deserves the censure of the House, I will take care to give him the earliest opportunity of expressing such an opinion.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
The right hon. Gentleman seems to seek to evade the question before the House. It is not a proposition made from this side of the House with a view of censuring the Government.
§ An hon. MEMBER: It is distinctly stated.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Not at all. It takes a Parliamentary form which comes under that description. The object of that Motion is to give the House another opportunity of considering the question before it is finally decided. Nobody on this side of the House wants to pass a Vote of Censure on the Government. Everybody knows that would be a very foolish and absurd proposition to make in the present state of the House. But what is the fact in regard to this question? It has been pressed through both Houses of Parliament with a speed and with an urgency which are extraordinary. Why, Sir, when the Bill was before this House in Committee, although there were propositions made of the most reasonable, and I believe most proper, character with a view to certain verbal alterations in the Bill, every alteration, however reasonable, was rejected, and for this purpose—everybody knows the purpose—to prevent the House having an opportunity of further discussion on the bringing up of the Report. When the Bill went to another House, what was the course taken there? Propositions for Amendments were made by the most eminent lawyers in that House. 1771 ["Order, order!"] I hope I am not out of Order. What was said by the most eminent lawyer there? ["Order!" "Chair, Chair!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he is not in Order in referring to the debates in the other House of Parliament.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
I was not about to quote the words which were said in the other House. What I was going to say is this—that measures have been taken to prevent this House having any further opportunity for discussing that Bill, which we should have had if any alteration in the Bill had been permitted to be made in the other House. Therefore, looking at the whole matter from the beginning, there can be no doubt that the question has been urged forward with a degree of—what shall I say?—compulsion on the part of the Government which is unusual with regard to any other Bill. ["No, no!] I say it is not only unusual, but it is dangerous on so delicate a question as that concerned in the Bill we are now discussing. I think, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would have been wise to have given the House another opportunity for discussing it. It would have made no difference with what is called the "mechanical majority" which he leads, for there would still have been 100 in support of his views. But whether or not the question would have had another, and on the whole a fairer discussion than it had originally, the right hon. Gentleman in the future would have stood rather better than before, because he would have given the very fullest opportunity for considering the question and deciding finally upon it. The object of the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney is merely this—to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion with regard to the addition to be given to the Queen's title. It is not for the purpose of passing a Vote of Censure on the Government, which it is quite obvious in the present state of the House it would not be in the power of this side of the House to carry.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman is rather a surprising one. He says the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney was not intended to be a Vote of Censure; but surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot have looked at 1772 the terms of the Notice. The Notice is—That this House disapproves of the advice which the Prime Minister has announced will be given to Her Majesty by Her Ministers, advising Her Majesty to assume the Title of Empress of India,and if that is not to all intents and purposes a Vote of Censure I honestly confess I do not know what is. But we are not left to draw inferences merely from the terms of the Notice itself. We draw our inferences from the circumstances attending the giving and the change of the terms of the Notice. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Government using compulsion to force the Bill through Parliament. I really do not understand that sort of allegation. The Bill was brought forward in the most solemn manner; it was read a second time after a discussion without a division; the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition himself brought forward a Motion on the occasion of the Bill going into Committee to the effect that the House, while not opposing the passing of the Bill, and while approving of Her Majesty making some addition to the style and title which belonged to the Crown, prayed Her Majesty not to take any particular title. Upon that Motion being made a full discussion took place; and the House, by a very large majority, consisting not exclusively of Members on this side of the House, but of a large majority of the House, decided against the Motion of the noble Lord. Subsequently to that the Bill passed through Committee. The various subjects which were brought forward were fairly and fully discussed, and the measure was afterwards read a third time in the usual way. We have even had it cast in our teeth as a reproach that so much time has been spent in the passing of this Bill that other measures of importance had to be laid aside. Well, the Bill went up to the other House, and there also, without going into the details of what occurred, we know that it was very fully discussed, and did not pass without much debate and a division. What, then, is our position? As soon as it was known that the Bill would pass the other House of Parliament the hon. Member for Hackney gave Notice before Easter that he would once more renew the question in this House. From the terms in which the Motion was couched it might, per- 1773 haps, bear the construction which the right hon. Gentleman has put upon it. But what happened? The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition went so far that he deliberately asked the Government if they would not appoint a day for the hon. Member to bring his Motion before the House. The Government naturally supposed that it had been adopted by the Opposition.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate, as I am sure he would like to be. I simply asked a question as to the progress of Business during the week, and I called the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that an important Motion stood upon the Paper, and inquired what was the intention of Her Majesty's Government with reference to it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I beg the noble Lord's pardon for having unintentionally—speaking entirely from memory—misrepresented what passed; but the impression which was erroneously received on this side of the House was that the noble Lord, speaking for himself and his Friends, expressed the opinion that it was a question on which the Government ought to give an opportunity for discussion, and the Government understanding, perhaps erroneously, that there was an intention to challenge their conduct in a manner so serious, endeavoured to make an arrangement which, unfortunately or fortunately I do not say, but for some reason or other, did not take effect. That was not through any laches on the part of the Government. The Government did all that lay in their power to get the Motion discussed, and the opportunity might have been availed of before Easter for a full discussion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney. Well, then, the Motion stood over until the House met after the Easter holidays, and it was still in the power of the House, if they had chosen, to take the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition whether it was a case in which it would be right to challenge the conduct of the Government, and to move what in the ordinary sense is called a Vote of Censure. That has not been done. The circumstances are fresh in the recollection of the House. The noble Lord, in what I think was a most reasonable and sensible manner, said that there would be no practical 1774 good to be got from a further discussion of the question—that it was not a matter that he and his Friends took up or pressed the discussion of; and thus we were left in the presence of the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney. Under these circumstances, my right hon. Friend stated that it was impossible for the Government to suspend the ordinary and pressing Business of the House by giving up a day to a discussion which could lead to no practical consequence, and could only be productive of painful feelings at both sides of the House. Well, having arrived at that stage, suddenly, without any Notice whatever, an hon. Member gets up and says he will tomorrow put a Question to the noble Lord which is virtually to ask him whether he will change the sentiments he expressed the other day, and we have heard the answer of the noble Lord; and now we are told that we ought ourselves to interrupt the Business of Parliament and advise Her Majesty not to exercise her Prerogative in order that the hon. Member for Hackney may bring forward his Motion of censure. I do not think that is a reasonable proposition. However desirous the Government may be not to shrink from the fullest discussion of any question affecting their character or conduct, the House will feel, I think, that a line ought to be drawn, and that the Government have taken the proper course in this matter.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had stated that after the issuing of the Proclamation the House would still have an opportunity of questioning the conduct of the Government. But what would be the use of doing so then? They were told that the Bill had not been pressed through Parliament with undue haste, and if it only referred to people in this country, that might be urged; but what time had been afforded to the House to ascertain the feelings of the Colonies in reference to it? They had been assured that a strong feeling existed in India in favour of the measure. Where was there any evidence of such feeling? Surely under such circumstances some opportunity should be given even to those who might have voted for the measure to re-consider the subject. The opinions of Englishmen in other parts of the world might then be ascertained; and he therefore appealed 1775 to the Government to enable the House to discuss the question still further.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
observed, that at the request of the Prime Minister he and other hon. Members who had Motions on the Paper agreed to give every possible facility to the hon. Member for Hackney to bring forward his Motion of censure. The right hon. Gentleman had hardly resumed his seat when, one after another, the Notices were withdrawn. But what occurred at the other side of the House? He did not know what were the political relations between the noble Marquess and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) and the hon. and gallant Member for South Durham (Major Beaumont); but this was certain, that their Motions were not withdrawn. While one hon. Member was addressing the House 30 Members were present, and while the other hon. Member rose to bring forward his Motion the only other occupants of the House, were the junior Member for Greenwich (Mr. Boord) and the humble individual who was now addressing them. However important might have been the subjects such was the condition of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had been pleased to refer to the majority at the back of the Prime Minister as a "mechanical majority." The right hon. Gentleman, as representing Birmingham, was probably a judge of mechanics; in any case, his constituents were; and he fancied the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him in thinking that the construction of such a majority showed that its inventor possessed great patience, power, and statesmanship; and that it was likely to last for many years, notwithstanding the amiable efforts made on the other side of the House to dislodge it from the position it held.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down dwelt too much on the generosity of Conservative Members in withdrawing their Notices of Motion to make way for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney; whereas the fact was their own Notices were so low down on the Paper that there was not any possibility of their being brought on. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of 1776 the Exchequer had referred to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney as a Vote of Censure upon the Government. In its present form the Motion might be so described; but it was only just to his hon. Friend to say that he had endeavoured to induce the Government to give an opportunity for discussing a proposal which, instead of censuring the Government, would have given the House an opportunity of reconsidering the whole question. It was only at the last moment, and with great regret, that his hon. Friend was compelled to alter the terms of his Motion in order to give it some kind of urgency and to force it upon the attention of the Government. The Prime Minister had declined to give facilities for the discussion of the Motion of his hon. Friend, on the ground that it had been laid before Parliament by a Gentleman whom he chose to describe as an "irresponsible Member of the House." It was certainly new to him to hear it stated that any Member of the House was an irresponsible Member, and he was at a loss to know what was the new rule under which private Members were to be treated with contempt. The right hon. Gentleman in his own Parliamentary experience must have known of Governments being turned out of office on Motions brought forward by those whom he was pleased to call irresponsible Members. His hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Roebuck), an irresponsible Member, had brought forward a Motion on which a Government had been turned out of Office. The late Mr. Joseph Hume had done the same thing; and the noble Marquess when an irresponsible Member had on a Motion of his turned out a Government of which the right hon. Gentleman himself had been a Member. All that was now asked was a short delay, and he could not see where was the urgency for the Proclamation. Besides, the House should recollect that this was a question which did not concern the people of England. By them it was regarded with disdain and disgust. It did, however, interest the people of India, and it was only now they were beginning to learn what was the opinion in respect to it, and he was sure if hon. Members opposite were only true to the principles they expressed in the Lobby the Bill would never have passed into law. ["Oh, oh!"] He repeated that it was a surprise to him 1777 that, knowing what were the real opinions of the Conservative Members of the House, they had not been more faithful to themselves, and voted against the Bill. By doing so they would have spared themselves much humiliation, and it was, therefore, in order to give them an opportunity of re-considering the subject that he thought some further opportunity should be given for discussing this question.
§ LORD ELCHO
The hon. Gentleman opposite who has just spoken has only followed the lead of the late Prime Minister when he assumed that the Members on the opposite side of the House had voted conscientiously with reference to this question, while those on this side have not. Now, Sir, the question is whether the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney is intended for a Vote of Censure or not. I can only say that when the hon. Member for Hackney was speaking I sat near to him, and although from the interruptions it was difficult to hear his remarks, I certainly understood him to say that he had specially drawn his Motion as one of censure, and therefore whatever his original intention was the Motion as framed was a Vote of Censure on the Government. The Prime Minister said that if the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition wished to move a Vote of Censure he would see that he had a day placed at his disposal for that purpose; but the noble Lord did not avail himself of the offer, and here let me say that, as an independent Member, I have viewed with the greatest possible satisfaction the course which the noble Lord has taken and the way in which he has used his great influence with reference to this question. Not one single word has been used by him in the course of these somewhat excited discussions which could have given the slightest offence to, or roused in any way the susceptibilities of, the native Princes of India, and this is more than can be said of the language of some of his right hon. Friends who sit near him. He deserves credit for the example he has set to his followers, and I regret that some other right hon. Gentlemen have not thought fit to follow it. I ask the House, is it wise that any more time should be wasted in this matter? Why should we delay the progress of Public Business in order to give the hon. Member for Hackney 1778 an opportunity of making a speech, for that is now what it all comes to?
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, he should like to put a practical question to some Member of the Government with respect to this matter. The Prime Minister had told them that even after the Proclamation had been issued it would be competent to any Member to move a Resolution condemning the Government for having advised Her Majesty to issue the Proclamation. He wished to know whether, in the event of any such Resolution being carried, it would be competent to Her Majesty to issue a second Proclamation recalling or revoking the one that had been already issued, so as to take a title that would be more in accordance with the opinion of the House?
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, that he did not wish to put the House to the trouble of dividing; but he wished to advert to what had been said by the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) that his (Mr. Fawcett's) sole object was to censure the Government, and that it was therefore that he had brought forward the Motion. The noble Lord was perfectly well aware that this was not the case. He had brought forward his original Motion after consulting with many hon. Members of great experience in the House, and he put his Motion in such a form that he thought if the Government accepted it, it would make its acceptance easy; for he never said a word about the conduct of the Government, and simply asked the House to pass an Address to Her Majesty, praying that She would be pleased not to adopt the title of Empress of India. The Motion stood in these terms on Monday last, and he only made it more distinct and more reflecting upon the Government simply because they would not give a day for the discussion of his original Motion. He put his Motion in more drastic terms simply to avail himself of almost the only chance of obtaining a discussion on a subject which, rightly or wrongly, he conscientiously believed was of the utmost importance should be discussed.
§ LORD ELCHO
wished to explain, with reference to what the hon. Member for Hackney had just said, that he referred not to the Motion as originally drawn, but to the Motion in its present form.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.