§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Sir, I have given Notice of my intention to move the adjournment of the Orders preceding that of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill. But, Sir, as you have been good enough to inform me that I have not put down my Notice of Motion in a manner exactly in accordance with the Forms of the House, 425 I hope hon. Members will allow me to make a short statement in moving the Adjournment of the House. I have never moved the Adjournment of the House before, and I hope never to move it again, in similar circumstances. I should have no other opportunity of explaining what has occurred; but I feel that I ought to apologize to the House for doing anything to prolong the most dreary, weary, dismal, doleful, and dispiriting Session that I have ever known. I must also apologize to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for coming in his way, and I certainly should not have done it at any other time, or in any other circumstances. If the Education Bill is so important, we surely should remember that the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (MR. Smyth) is also an Education Bill; and being so, I think it ought to have the support of the Representatives of the brewery trade in this House, from whom we have had three Motions in favour of religious education. I wish seriously to say that I do not think the Government have acted—I will use as mild a word as I can—quite justifiably in regard to the Bill of my hon. Friend. I do not think they have acted quite fairly to the House, to Ireland, or to their own Party. Now, let us look at the history of my hon. Friend's Bill. ["Oh, oh!"] It will not take long to tell. This Parliament is not a very old one, and I shall not go further back. The Resolution, founded on the Motion brought in in 1874, and in favour of which the Irish vote was 4 to 1, was defeated by a course not creditable to the opponents of the measure. I am not blaming the Government very strongly for opposing the Resolution then, because they had just then come into office on the appeal to the country; and the instructions the country gave them were that they were to promote the sale of intoxicating drinks in every possible way. ["Oh!"] If these were not the instructions why did they do it? We could not expect that in 1874 the Government would try to put a stop to the sale of drink in Ireland when they were promoting it in England. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Baronet that he is not at liberty, under cover of a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, to discuss the merits of a Bill which is on the Orders of the House.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
May I ask whether I am empowered to allude to the conduct of the Government with respect to the Bill, keeping in my remarks clear of the merits of the measure?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet would be quite in Order in asking the Government to give him a day for the discussion of the Bill which is in charge of the hon. Member for Londonderry; but to discuss the merits of the Bill upon the present occasion would be quite out of Order.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
In that case I will merely discuss the conduct of the Government in reference to the Bill. In 1875 a scene occurred when my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry brought in a Bill which must be fresh in the recollection of hon. Members. There was a majority expected in favour of the Bill; but a short time before the hour for adjournment the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (MR. Wheelhouse) rose, and amid loud cries of anguish from all sides of the House, said it was too late then to proceed further with a measure of such importance, and moved the Adjournment of the House. I say he did that with the connivance of Her Majesty's Government. I have heard it stated in the North, where the hon. and learned Member came from, that there was an intention to make him a Baronet by way of reward for his service. More than that, I have been told, under no seal of secrecy, that when the Prime Minister called together his Supporters shortly after to discuss the political situation of the day, he made the strongest appeal to them to assist him in getting rid of the Bill of the hon. Member for Londonderry. That appeal was successful. This year my hon. Friend obtained a majority of 57 in favour of his Resolution, comprising 5 to 1 of the Irish Members and 10 to 1 of the Scotch. Upwards of 40 Tory Members preferred their principles and the good of their country to Party ties, and I honour them for it. A remarkable event happened on that occasion. Three Gentlemen officially connected with the Government, and representing Irish constituencies, walked out of the House without voting—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who represents the county of Dublin (Colonel Taylor), the hon. and learned Solicitor General for 427 Ireland, who sits for Dublin University, and the noble Lord who represents Enniskillen (Viscount Crichton). We know what the noble Lord said when he went down to his constituents. He said that no personal considerations should be allowed to stand in the way of duty, and that his joining the Government might give him an opportunity of serving his countrymen. "For instance," he added, "there was the Sunday Closing Bill, and in regard to that subject he would be able to bring public opinion before the Government in an authoritative manner." That is what was said by one of the most respected officials of the Government. It has been said that in the last debate Cork was against the Bill; but there has been an election in Cork since that time, and the result has been the return of a Tory Member, whose first speech was in favour of the measure. If a Resolution on an English question was supported by 5 to 1 of the English Members, would a day, would an hour have been lost before the Government brought in a Bill to give effect to that Resolution? Especially if public opinion had been in favour of it, as you know it is in Ireland—["No!"]—where it is as near unanimity as anything can be in Ireland. What is the use of crying, "No," when the facts are before us? It is not only the magistrates and the clergy, but even the publicans are in favour of it, and this is a fact that should carry weight with hon. Gentleman opposite. Although there was such a great majority, however, the Government would give no facilities for getting on with the Bill. The Prime Minister gave the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (MR. Butt) facilities for the discussion of his Land Bill, which was not supported by anything like the unanimity in favour of this Bill, and I cannot understand why the same facilities should not be given to this Bill. My hon. Friend, however, got a day in spite of them, and he got it on a day when there were three Motions before his. Those Motions were by a Home Ruler, an English Liberal, and a Scotch Tory, and they all made way for my hon. Friend. No one dared to divide against the Bill on the second reading, and the consequence of a speech then made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland was that the Government was complimented by a distinguished speaker on their entire good faith in removing this 428 matter from the stage of Parliamentary discussion and putting an end to contention. In spite of all that complimenting, a fortnight elapsed before they could extract from the Chief Secretary the Amendments he was to propose in the Bill. It was like drawing teeth to get them out of him. I have the fear of you in my eye, Sir, and so will not discuss those Amendments; but, whether they are good or bad, the Government should have seen that an opportunity was given for discussing them. But after the Prime Minister gave the promoters of the Bill a Wednesday's sitting, the Chairman of Ways and Means brought on a discussion, which lasted an hour and a-half, on a Resolution which was subsequently withdrawn, and which prevented that full discussion of the Bill which was anticipated. The Mover said that it was not his purpose to prevent the discussion of the Bill, which was no doubt very true. I put it to the Government if it is really too late to save this Bill from the Massacre of the Innocents, and I am sure there is not a more innocent Bill in the whole lot. In any case, be it understood that it is not the machinations of the hon. Member for Dundalk (MR. Callan), and his little band of heroes who count out and talk out on every possible occasion, but the action of the Government to which the defeat of the Bill is due. It has been argued that the Session is too far advanced to get the Bill through; but it should not be forgotten that last year at this very time they were engaged in discussing a very important Bill—the Merchant Shipping Bill. That Bill was read a second time on the 30th of July, and a third time on the 6th of August, and was subsequently passed by the House of Lords. The Prime Minister, it is true, attributed the passing of that Bill to a dramatic incident; but it was not so important as this Bill, because a distinguished Member of the Government—the Judge Advocate General—was down in the country lately, and spoke about it as rather a miserable affair which would only affect some 700,000 persons. There is plenty of time to pass the measure, to which the Government has given its assent on the principle through an Amendment that has been proposed. Let us proceed with the debate, and come to a decision on a question which has secured an amount 429 of unusual unanimity in Ireland. We have been told that we can do nothing, as the Session is too far advanced. It is quite possible to get this Bill through yet if anybody is in earnest about it. In the case of the Merchant Shipping Bill, to which I have referred, I think it is a folly that the Government will not carry a Bill through this House unless some one stands on one leg and shakes his fist at the Prime Minister. There is time. Do not talk to me about the House of Lords not passing it. I know as much about the House of Lords as anybody else, and I do not think that any House of Lords could nail its colours to the mast and say that it is desirable to make Irishmen drunk on Sundays. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter, and give us some little assistance. It may be true, or it may be not, that the Government do not mean to offend English publicans. I have told you before that Irish publicans do not care much about it. I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that he has not said a single word that could commit him to the publicans. He might throw them over to-morrow, and he would be quite consistent. I hope he will. With one word he could carry the Bill now. ["No, no!"] Yes, he has plenty of time to put it down and the same evening to get it through. But I say that if he refuses this almost unanimous, this earnest, this constitutional demand from the Irish people, he is the greatest upholder of Home Rule that is to be found, and he will perpetuate Irish dissatisfaction and discontent. I think the House is entitled to have more facilities given to it for carrying the Bill. If the Government persists in the dead weight of opposition, my hon. Friend has no chance; but I would appeal to the Government, even now at the eleventh hour, to give this House an opportunity of maintaining its own decisions, and, at the same time, do an act of justice which is demanded by the almost unanimous voice of the Irish people. I beg to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
I cannot help feeling, Sir, that the exhaustion of the 430 Session is to some degree evidenced by the remarks of the hon. Baronet, as they lacked that vivacity which has so often amused us; but what has struck me as remarkable in his speech is that I could not gather from it what his complaint really is. The hon. Baronet regrets that a Bill in which he is deeply interested has not passed, and that is a regret with regard to other measures that I can share with him. But that justifies the remarks the hon. Baronet has made. Now, without going into any long story as to the history of the Bill to which he refers, let us look at its course during the present Session. There was a division called for in a very full House upon a Resolution which was to be the foundation of the Bill. The Government opposed the Resolution, and were defeated by a considerable majority in a full House. Well, what was the course we took? I do not think 24 hours elapsed—certainly a very short time did—before we communicated with the promoters of the Bill, and stated that we should look upon that majority in favour of the Resolution as equivalent to a vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill. Is that conduct of which anyone can complain, or make the foundation of a charge against the Government that they have been extending to this Bill an unfair opposition? Well, that being the case, the hon. Baronet proceeds with his complaint, and says that my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was a fortnight in preparing his Amendments. I am not aware that a fortnight is a long time to take in a work of the kind when you are attempting to reconcile the passing oaf Bill, the principle of which you have opposed, with circumstances which you think may be attended with inconvenience and injury to the public. After the lapse of a fortnight, then, the Amendments were laid on the Table, and the time arrived at which the fate of the Bill might have been decided, and, had the Amendments been accepted, the stage of the Bill would have been passed. Who refused to accept the Amendments? Why, the promoters of the Bill. ["No!"] No, then I have been entirely misinformed as to what occurred yesterday. If the promoters of the Bill accepted the Amendments, I believe it was unknown to us. Then we hear it said this Bill is one that has been supported unanimously by the Irish Mem- 431 bers. [An hon. Member: Almost.] Almost! Almost is a very ambiguous word. I must look to facts in attempting to guide the House in the management of their Business. What are the facts of yesterday? There was a debate on this Bill. A great many Irish Members spoke. Ten Irish Members spoke, and they all spoke against the Bill. What evidence was that of almost unanimity on both sides? We can only draw from that circumstance that this Bill, which might have been passed if the Amendments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had been accepted, was, in fact, defeated by the continuous speaking of Irish Members on both sides of the House. It has been said that hon. Gentlemen who opposed the Bill spoke against time, and that may be true; but, if it is true, why did not hon. Members who desired that the Bill should pass denounce the practice, or answer the arguments adduced, instead of remaining perfectly silent during the whole debate. All we know is that the whole morning was taken up by Irish Members speaking, and speaking against the Bill. The hon. Baronet has complained that the Chairman of Ways and Means wasted a considerable portion of the Sitting before this Bill was reached by speaking on another question. With regard to that matter, I can only say that the hon. Gentleman, as an independent officer of the House over whom I have no control, spoke in the fulfilment of a most important duty. He rose to move Resolutions founded on the Report of what is rarely heard of, a united Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. That certainly was a duty which he was called upon to fulfil, but what did the Government do even under those circumstances? Why, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary absolutely rose and prevented discussion. Instead of inviting discussion, instead of occupying the greater part of the morning, which he might have done, on a matter which all must acknowledge was of grave interest, my right hon. Friend absolutely suppressed discussion to give a fair opportunity to Irish Members to advance this measure in which they are so deeply interested, and of which all the English public know is that 10 Irish Members each, one after another, opposed it. However mortifying, therefore, the result of the 432 discussion may have been to the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, I think the House and the country will agree with me when I say that he has no shadow of a claim to object to the conduct of the Government on the occasion. It must be the memory of some previous mortification in connection with a congenial subject that has induced the hon. Baronet to charge upon an innocent Administration a desire to impede the progress of the Bill which had been introduced by the hon. Member for Londonderry. I trust, under these circumstances, that the House will not assent to the Motion, but will proceed with the Business on the Paper.
§ MR. R. SMYTH
I do not, Sir, rise under any feeling of mortification, such as has been curiously ascribed to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfred Lawson), nor do I intend to utter any words of complaint. A complaining man is usually taken to be a beaten man, and I do not acknowledge myself to be in that condition at all, having in my mind the experiences of the present Session. There was at least one statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government which came upon me with considerable surprise, to the effect that, after the carrying of the Resolution on the 12th of May, the Government did not allow 24 hours to pass until the promoters were made acquainted with their intention to accept the decision of the House as equivalent to a vote on the second reading of the Bill. Now, all I can say is that no such communication ever reached me. On the evening before the second reading of the Bill there were vague rumours through the Lobby that the Government did not intend to oppose the second reading; but until the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland rose in his place to announce the intention of the Government, I had no idea whatever, founded on authentic information, what these intentions were. I think it extraordinary that a message should have been sent to those hon. Members whom the right hon. Gentleman has designated the promoters of the Bill, and that this message failed to reach me who had mainly the charge of the measure. If I may be allowed to allude to the events of yesterday, I shall do so in no spirit of bitterness, or of complaint at all. I beg to 433 assure the House that when, we pressed forward the consideration of the Bill, we had no other motive or expectation than the bringing about a moderately satisfactory settlement this year. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland and my hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (MR. Maurice Brooks), who moved the Amendment, know, and they knew yesterday, that if we had got into Committee I was prepared to make a statement which might have facilitated the progress of the measure. So anxious were the friends of the Bill to get into Committee, that we agreed among ourselves to observe a strict silence, in order that there might be no excuse for wasting time in the discussion of a principle which had been so thoroughly considered in a previous debate; and so strictly was that covenant observed that out of the 61 Irish Members who voted or paired for the principle of the Bill not one man opened his lips yesterday. The whole of the speaking was confined to the 11, or a portion of the 11 Irish Members who voted against it, reinforced by some two or three neutrals, whose opinions appear to be as yet unformed and of a somewhat flabby character. I deny in the most emphatic manner that we had any purpose before our mind except a settlement of the question—and such a settlement as, preserving our own consistency and liberty of future action, would have taken into account any reasonable wishes of the Government. That was perfectly well known to the right hon. Baronet opposite; but I suppose it was not considered necessary to communicate it to the head of the Government. If I may express an opinion which I profoundly entertain, I will say that the waste of time which occurred at the commencement of the Sitting yesterday contributed largely to bring us into that condition of dead-lock in which we are now unhappily placed. I do not for one moment intend to convey to the House that the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means was in concert or had any understanding with the hon. Member for Dundalk, but the fact is, that to all appearance, the expenditure of time was deliberately wasteful, for the Chairman of Ways and Means said at the opening of his speech that the conversation upon his Resolutions was not likely to come to any definite issue. ["Order!"]
§ MR. R. SMYTH
Well, then, that which occurred yesterday at the commencement of the Sitting, unwittingly on the part of the hon. Gentleman, afforded substantial aid and comfort to the hon. Member for Dundalk to fight this Bill, not by argument, but by the hands of the clock. And now what is to be done? If we made no declaration yesterday with reference to the Amendments of the Government, the reasons of that silence on our part are perfectly obvious. We had no certainty as to the issue of the measure this Session. It might not pass after all, and I may as well candidly say, that if the war is to be carried on in Ireland throughout the Recess, it will be a much simpler thing for the people of Ireland to continue it on the old lines, and not in any way embarrassed by premature compromises. But I think the time has come when the Ministry, as such, ought to take this subject earnestly in hand. I suppose I have done all that can reasonably be expected of a private Member. I am perfectly well aware, as every hon. Gentleman in this House is aware, that no Bill vigorously opposed can be carried by a private Member without the co-operation of the Government. But if it is still the opinion of the Government that this question, which has now become one of undoubted importance, should be left in private hands, all that remains for me is to move that the Order for going into Committee be discharged for the present, and to give Notice that at the earliest moment next Session I shall ask leave to introduce the Bill exactly as it stands, and I will make my appeal once more to the judgment of the House of Commons.
§ MR. RAIKES
The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), by what was no doubt a slip of the tongue, has imputed to me purposes which it is not customary in Parliament for one Member to impute to other Members. I feel sure, from what I know of the hon. Baronet, that on reflection he will be the first to regret that he should have imputed to any Member purposes which he would have resented if they had been imputed to himself. I do not care to defend myself against any insinuations thrown out by the hon. Member for Londonderry (MR. R. Smyth). His natural feeling of disappointment 435 at the loss of his Bill may be held an entire excuse for anything he may care to say about me; but I feel it only right to this House, of which I am an officer, and to the Government, of which I am not a Member, to say that the course I took yesterday—certainly a deliberate course on my part—was taken in concert with nobody, without any communication passing between me and the Government, or between me and the hon. Member who opposed the Bill. That course was taken by me simply because yesterday appeared to me to be the best occasion I could take during the few remaining days of the Session for the discussion of a matter which I regarded as one of great public importance. The hon. Members who have objected to the course I took know very well—or if they do not I hope there are few Members of the House who do not know—that I have carefully studied to avoid any imputation of being a partizan ever since I have had the honour of having a seat at this Table; and it has been simply as the mouthpiece, as the very humble mouthpiece, of a very important body—the joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, dealing with a question of very great importance—that I ventured to trouble the House yesterday. I may have been right or I may have been wrong in thinking that the conduct of the Private Business of this House is of more importance than the Bill of the hon. Member for Londonderry. I tell him, however, plainly and frankly that I think it infinitely more important. The Private Business of this House is a matter that affects millions of property; it affects the interests of great municipalities and of large populations, and it is of the highest importance, in my opinion, that the business should be conducted in a proper and becoming manner; and I venture to think a question touching upon that was more important than the prospects of a moribund Bill at the end of a moribund Session. I freely excuse the observations made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. I have too high an admiration for his public character to think that he could have willingly intended to wound me or to impute tome anything unworthy; but in the course I have marked out for myself as an officer of this House, I am not going to be 436 deterred by any criticism from any individual Member, or by any fear of displeasing any one, no matter on what side of the House he may sit, from performing the duty that I think devolves upon me.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, that he had been from the first a cordial supporter of the Bill for closing public-houses in Ireland on Sundays, as it appeared to represent the almost unanimous wishes and sentiments of the people of Ireland; but, at the same time, he could not help giving his equally cordial testimony, having sat through the whole of the debate on the Wednesday in question, from 12 o'clock till the Bill was talked out at a quarter to 6 p.m., to the straightforward, honourable and manly conduct of the Government in regard to the Bill. When the Government found the strong feeling in its favour which existed on both sides of the House, and had listened to the representations on its behalf from all parts of Ireland, they had abstained from all further opposition, though the Chief Secretary had on more than one occasion expressed his own sentiments objecting to it. The Bill had therefore passed its second reading without any division, and the Prime Minister had even gone so far as to fix a day for going into Committee upon it, which actually was the Wednesday in question: nay, more, the right hon. Gentleman when appealing to the House a few days previously to have the two remaining Wednesdays during the Session surrendered to the Government for Public Business, when he found that there was an earnest desire that the hon. Member for Londonderry's (MR. R. Smyth's) Bill should go into Committee and undergo consideration, at the same time, as the new clauses proposed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he at once most courteously withdrew the request he had made. It was not fair, now, to taunt the Government with interposing any obstacle in the way of the further progress of the Bill, for they had really done all in their power to expedite its progress, and even during the protracted discussion on Wednesday the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland had earnestly appealed to the Irish Members to allow the Bill (it being then 3 o'clock in the afternoon) to go into Committee and allow the clauses to be considered. The 437 fact was that the Government were not at all to blame, but it wag the determined hostility of certain Irish Members which barred all attempts at progress. He had waited himself for an opportunity to say a few words in favour of the Bill, and to deprecate further delay; but the hon. Member for Dundalk (MR. Callan) had got possession of the House at half-past 4 p.m., and what did he do? He did not mate a speech, but he actually continued reading extracts from Irish newspapers till the clock pointed to a quarter to 6, and the Bill was thus talked out after a tedious and protracted discussion of several hours, during which they had not advanced a single inch. He (Sir Eardley Wilmot) could not help saying that after the large majority by which the Motion of the hon. Member for the County of Derry had been originally carried early in the Session, and after the second reading of the Bill, afterwards introduced, without a division being challenged by those hon. Members for Ireland who opposed it, the conduct of the hon. Member for Dundalk was most unwarrantable. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that on reflection the hon. and learned Baronet would see that he was applying motives to the conduct of an hon. Member of that House which were not admissible.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I am sorry for having made an imputation on the hon. Member for Chester (MR. Raikes) which was not well founded. I thought he was acting in concert with the Government; but I was wrong in making that statement, and I withdraw it and apologize for having made it. The hon. Member for Chester acted on his own responsibility, and said he did not make his Motion, with any intention of delaying the Bill. My own impression is that it did delay the Bill. With the permission of the House I beg to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.