§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If he will state to the House what further steps Her Majesty's Government propose to take with a view to the early settlement of the question of Sunday Closing in Ireland?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I should be very happy to state anything that I was able to do, but I am not able to say that Her Majesty's Government can see their way to make any further proposal. If, consistently with attention to other Business, they are able to get the Bill discussed, and if it should come on for further discussion, they will, of course, be ready to take part in it. My right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has given Notice of the Amendments which he will propose in Committee. Beyond that I do not think there is anything more to be said at present.
said, he wished to make some observations with reference to the Answer which had been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. Member for Londonderry, and he would conclude with a Motion. He wished to complain of the action of the Government upon the Irish Sunday 1183 Closing Bill, and to put it very strongly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far he would consider it fair to throw upon the hon. Member the responsibility of further conducting the measure through the House. The Government had taken away from the supporters of the measure the position which they were in in April last of pushing the Bill through the House. The Government having on the 12th of February, by sending the Bill before a Select Committee, assumed the responsibility of its further conduct, they had no right now to throw back at the end of the Session that responsibility on his hon. Friend, or to extricate themselves from that responsibility. He felt justified in complaining that the Government sent the Bill before a Select Committee at a time when it was perfectly well known that, unless the Government took upon themselves the responsibility of the Bill, it must be defeated. He would prefer to assume that the Government had acted in good faith on that occasion; but, were he not prevented by the Forms of the House from referring to anything which passed in a debate during the present Session, he might cite the words of the Chief Secretary to show—and he virtually gave the supporters of the Bill a solemn pledge— that if they took that course the prospects of the Bill would not suffer in regard to its passage through the House. He (the Chief Secretary for Ireland) desired to obtain information from public officials in certain towns as to the practicability of carrying out the provisions of the Bill. If he had no intention of changing his own mind upon the Report of the evidence of the Committee, he had no need to take from February until May for such a purpose; but when the Chief Secretary found that the Committee reported in favour of the Bill, then he took up the position he had assumed before the Committee was appointed at all, and showed that, as an official, he did not care a jot for the Report of the Committee, and that they had just lost so many months upstairs. Now, he (Mr. Sullivan) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having regard to the decision of that House, and to the large majorities by which the Bill was carried —having regard to the fact that he had virtually, according to all Parliamentary procedure, taken the Bill out of the bands of its promoters, he asked, in the 1184 face of the House, how he could thrust this Bill on his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, and allow it to be strangled by a party so small—he did not mean with reference to the measure of their language—so small numerically, he repeated, as to be almost lost sight of in the general concurrence of opinion on this Bill. The Government either meant this Bill well or they did not. If the Government wished to settle this question, which had become a source of grievous agitation in Ireland, they could do so. If they did not, let them declare that they have been overpowered by their 13 Friends among the Irish Members. Then he could understand their position. If those 13 Members had defeated Her Majesty's Ministers, it was not for him to quarrel with that. He should not object to hon. Members taking any course they deemed best in the interests of their country. He had his own strong opinion upon many questions, and he should be the last to quarrel because hon. Members differed from him. "What he did say was—Let the Government tell them frankly that they had been conquered, or let them say that secretly they felt that 13 Members had been doing their work. He feared the Treasury Bench rejoiced and were glad that they had these 13 Members to save them from the odious work of strangling the Bill, and that the 13 had been playing the game of the Government by rescuing them from a most embarrassing position, having men sitting behind them whose consciences revolted from pursuing such a course. As far as the fortunes of the measure were concerned—he would not then touch its merits—it was the case of the Sibylline leaves. Last year the Government offered to accept the Bill, omitting from its operation all towns whose populations exceeded 10,000; but an hon. Member (Mr. Callan) talked out the measure, and it was defeated. This year the Government only proposed to exempt five large cities, but the Committee overruled that point. Next year public opinion would demand that a much smaller concession in the shape of exemption should be made to the opponents of the Bill; so that the Irish minority below the Gangway would find that by the talking-out process they had gained nothing but a little time. But the Government bad much to gain or 1185 lose as regarded their character before the country. This was no Party question or political issue. A great moral issue was involved. He asked, had the Government acted frankly, honourably, and in good faith in sending the Bill upstairs so early as the month of February to waste the best part of the Session, and then at the end of the year saying to his hon. Friend that he must take the chances of a struggle with other Business to pursue the conduct of the Bill? The hon. Member concluded by moving the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. Sullivan.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hope I shall not be transgressing the Rules or going against the feeling of the House if I point out that the Motion for Adjournment at this moment, and for such a purpose as that intended by the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved it, is highly inconvenient. It is a practice which the House should be rather jealous of sanctioning, except in cases of necessity. With regard to the complaint involved in the Question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I cannot at all admit that there is any real justification for the charge which he has openly brought, and for the charge which—if I may use the word inoffensively—he insinuated against us. He, in the first place, charged us with having wasted a great deal of time which should have been, and might have been, made use of by the promoters of the Bill in carrying forward the measure; and he put a question to us in a manner which justifies me in saying that it amounts to an insinuation that we may have been in some sort of complicity or private arrangement with the Gentlemen who oppose this Bill. [Mr. SULLIVAN dissented.] The hon. and learned Member disavows any such intention. I am glad that he has done so. I do not think it would have been consistent with his character to make any such charge; but the language which he used impresses one with the idea that he wishes to know whether or not we were in some sort of private collusion with the opponents of the Bill, which is hardly a charge that ought to be brought against Her Majesty's Government. 1186 With regard to this Bill, I must entirely deny the position which the hon. and learned Member endeavours to take up. It is perfectly true, as he has said, that the Bill was introduced early in the Session; and he went on to observe that the Government virtually took it out of the hands of the promoters when they sent it to a Select Committee, the consequence of which was that a great deal of valuable time had been lost, while if the Bill had been left in the hands of the promoters it would during that time have made considerable progress. He alleges, therefore, that the Government had assumed some sort of responsibility with respect to the Bill which justified him in calling on them to take it up as a Government measure. Now, that is not, as I understand the matter, what took place. When the second reading of the Bill was proposed, the Government did all it could to afford a fair chance of full and free discussion. The promoters themselves could only have brought on the Bill in the first instance on a Wednesday. Had it been met then with the sort of opposition it has more recently encountered, it was highly improbable that they could have carried the second reading against that opposition. And, moreover, the course the Government would have taken in the matter would have been a different course from that which they took, unless the Bill had been sent up to a Select Committee. If the question remained as it stood on the second reading, and no Select Committee had been proposed, the Government would have felt themselves bound to have obtained a much larger discussion than that which took place both then and possibly at future stages of the Bill. What was done was this:—The Bill, at the suggestion of the Government, was read a second time, and advantage was given to the promoters of the Bill by getting it through that important stage. It was then sent to a Select Committee. Therefore the proceedings of the Representatives of the Government were open and bonâ fide, and were not calculated to delay the Bill. They endeavoured in the course of the Inquiry to elicit such opinions as would guide themselves and others; and if a long time was spent in discussion before Committee, perhaps the hon. and learned Member may be himself held responsible for it, for he 1187 put a great many questions to the witnesses who were examined, which he was perfectly right and justified in doing, considering the great importance of the question. But if these questions were necessary, it showed that there was in no degree any needless waste of time, or anything but fair and bonâ fide discussion. Assuming that all these inquiries were necessary, what happened then? The Bill came down here, and without some kind of assistance from the Government it could hardly have been brought on with any hope of being passed this Session. The Government being appealed to, said they would be ready to do what they reasonably could to bring on the Bill for discussion. In concert with the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), one day was given for the discussion, and, afterwards, by an arrangement of the Government Business, another day was given for the same purpose. It is true both days were Morning Sittings; but the promoters of the Bill could only have commanded Wednesdays, and if it had been intended to meet the Bill with very long discussions they would have been in no better position than they now stand. As it is, they have secured a fair discussion. There has been a full inquiry; the whole case has been very elaborately laid before the House, and the Government are prepared, when the discussion of the Bill is renewed, to proceed on the same lines as I have indicated just now—namely, to support the Amendments of which Notice has been given. Our conduct has been perfectly straightforward, and I do not think there is any ground for complaint against us. The hon. and learned Member says there are only 13 Irish Members opposed to the Bill. I do not know how that may be. The Bill has been discussed at two Morning Sittings. On the first occasion 12 Members spoke, all of whom were Irish except the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), three speaking for and nine against the Bill; and on the second occasion 11 Irish Members spoke, five for the Bill and six against it. I do not doubt that a large majority of the Irish Members support the Bill; but measures of this sort are fair subjects for discussion, and we could hardly venture to get up and say that hon. Members who felt strongly on the subject had not a right 1188 to do what they had done in Opposition to the measure. I should myself prefer that we had less of those long speeches and less of discussion that prevents decisions; but, under the circumstances, I do not know that there is any special reason for complaint against the Members who have taken the part they have done. I will not accept any such responsibility as the hon. and learned Member would throw upon us, and I do not think we are liable to any censure for the course we have taken.
§ MR. MELDON
quite agreed that it was a most exceptional course to move the adjournment of the House. He thought he could satisfy the House as to the causes which had led to the "dead-lock" at which they had now arrived. He thought the Government had fallen into error in not taking up the Bill. It was a measure called for by the almost unanimous voice of Ireland. ["No, no! "] Well, that was a question which he was not now disposed to discuss. The question was one on which they had 13 Irish Members voting one way and the entire of the other Irish Members present voting the other. They had the entire Irish Press in favour of the Bill. He held that the Bill was required by the almost unanimous voice of Ireland. He thought that the charge against the Government of having given, while they professed a support, only a half - hearted support to the Bill was true. The Government had left the question in the hands of a private Member; and were it not for the opposition of the Government the measure would have been carried last Session. This year they referred it to a Select Committee on one point only, the exemption of five large towns; and, that having been decided againt the Chief Secretary by the Select Committee, he had now given Notice of Amendments, the object of which was to reverse the decision of the Select Committee. He (Mr. Meldon) held that the supporters of the Bill had a right to complain of the conduct of the Government in not facilitating the progress of the Bill. The supporters of the Bill asked for a day for the discussion of it; but the Government, instead of giving them an ordinary Evening Sitting, chose a day Sitting, when they knew that the Bill could be talked out. On those grounds he maintained that the Government was responsible, and in 1189 a matter on which there was such strong feeling the Government were to blame, and they should have given the advocates of the measure precedence over all other Members. ["Oh, oh!"] He said yes, for the measure was of more importance than any they would carry this Session.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is not convenient that opportunities of this kind should be taken or made for discussing questions of this nature, especially as the time is not far distant when a more legitimate opportunity will arise for discussing the conduct of the Government in regard to the legislation of the whole Session. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government are not open to the imputations that have been cast on them by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan). I do not think the hon. and learned Member can justly accuse them of having been the sole cause of the failure of this Bill. Every Member must be perfectly aware that a Bill promoted by a private Member, if it meets with any opposition at all, has very little chance of success. Every Member must be aware that a Bill opposed in the manner in which this Bill has been, although by a very small minority, has absolutely and chance of success; and it is not just, therefore, to say that the Government have interfered with the success of the Bill. But I hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have informed the House that the Government, if they did not take up the measure this Session, would be prepared to deal with the subject next year. The position which they occupy with regard to this measure is extremely anomalous. They did not give to the Bill the support they would give by making it a Government measure. At the same time, they did notoppose the Bill. They had voted for the second reading, and they had given a sort of qualified support to the Bill by devoting some portion of the Government time to it; and if this sort of thing is to be continued next Session exactly the same result would follow. The time of the House would be wasted, and great discontent would ensue, by allowing an important subject, in which the people of Ireland feel so deep an interest, to be treated in that manner. 1190 If the Government do not give a more hearty support to the Bill than they have already given it, they must be perfectly aware that they are inviting that kind of opposition which would prevent the passing of the measure. At the same time, they do not appear to have the courage to say that the Bill is one of which they disapprove, and which ought not be passed, and they leave it an open question and in a most unsatisfactory position. I hope that before the end of the Session the Government will be prepared to say that next Session either they will give the Bill hearty official support, or that they will be prepared to deal with the matter themselves.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he rose to say he thought it would be extremely unwise for Government to give any pledge with regard to another Session; for this he could say of his own knowledge—that a very extraordinary change of opinion had taken place not only in that House, among Irish Members, but in the country itself; and that many of those Irish Members who voted for the second reading of this Bill this Session would be found, if a similar vote were brought forward again, to vote against it. He was perfectly disinterested in that question. Indeed, if he had had a strong feeling on the subject at all, it would be that his constituents, as a whole, were in favour of the Bill; but after hearing the evidence that was given before the Select Committee, he declared that he was prepared to vote, even in defiance of his constituents, against the Bill as it stood. He was sure that if the feeling of the people of Ireland could be ascertained it would be found to be not in favour of the Bill. He believed that in Ireland the general desire would be for a shortening of the hours on Sunday, and also on Saturday, and that the houses should not be bound to close entirely. He believed that in the next Session of Parliament it would be seen that scarcely a single parish in Ireland would send up a Petition in favour of entire closing on Sundays. Having said that, he wished to relieve himself from the imputation of any inconsistency in his action in reference to this matter He was totally opposed to entire Sunday closing, and his conduct in reference to the Bill had been in perfect consistence with his holding that opinion.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
observed that actions spoke louder than words, and if the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) believed that Irish opinion was such as he had represented it to be, he wished to know—he wanted to know—how it was that he did not allow the House to go to a division when the Bill was last under consideration? The opponents of the Bill were repeatedly challenged to go to a division, but they preferred talking the Bill out. Perhaps he might here be allowed to say a word or two on the Question of Adjournment. ["Oh!"] He knew it was not a popular Question; and he was glad, indeed, to hear the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition say just now that he intended endeavouring to obtain a day on which the conduct of the Government during the present Session might be taken into consideration. When that day came the course they had pursued on this Bill would hold a very prominent place in the discussion. He did not know that the noble Marquess would be able to get a day, but he hoped they would be able to have that discussion. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had had something to do with the Bill in discussions upon it in its earlier stages; and he was partly concerned, also, in bringing the House into its present position in reference to it. The House would remember that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a proposition to the House on the subject, it was that he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) should give up the day which by the chances of the ballot he had got for another Bill. The House would remember that he was suspicious, and that he did not like the right hon. Gentleman's offer. He deemed him to have given a promise that he would take up the Bill, and that the Government would take care that it should be carried through the House. He must say, however, that the right hon. Gentleman did not absolutely say either that the Government would take up the Bill or that it would not. The right hon. Baronet, however, promised to give up Tuesday morning, in addition to the Wednesday which he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had given up; but having done that, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in saying he had given the hon Member for Londonderry (Mr. E. Smyth) a day. And there lay the whole point. He had only given him half-a-day, and this 1192 was the weak point of the whole arrangement; for the 13 opponents of the Bill knew very well that if a Morning Sitting were given they could talk out the Bill; whereas, if a whole working day were given for the discussion, they knew from past experience that the Sitting might be prolonged until 7 in the morning. He could refer to the words, too, of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the same occasion. He said he was as earnest in the support of the Bill as the hon. Member for Londonderry himself; that he had no wish whatever to delay the progress of the Bill; and that he had every reason to be assured that the inquiry by the Committee might be completed before Easter.
§ MR. J. R. YORKE
rose to Order. I wish to know, Sir, whether the hon. Gentleman is in order in alluding to a debate which has taken place this Session?
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he begged pardon of the House for having transgressed the Rules. He knew, however, the words which the right hon. Gentleman used; and, if the division on that occasion were referred to, it would be found there were only five Irish Members, five English brewers, and 15 miscellaneous English Members. ["No !"] If necessary, he could prove his words. The Amendment proposed to be made in the Bill was that certain exemptions should be provided for in it. That was a matter for the Committee, and yet 13 Irish Members would not allow the question to be discussed, nor the Government to be placed in a position to bring forward the Amendment they proposed to introduce into the Bill. It appeared to him that such a course was worthy of the name of obstruction. They had heard several times of three or four Irish Members opposing more than 100 successfully; but it was only a question of degree, for they saw these 13 Members resisting 200. He said that the House and the Government were not in a dignified position on this question. They had allowed themselves to be deluded; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave in to such tactics, all he could say of him was, that in that House he would 1193 be the principal supporter of faction, and the patron of obstruction.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he ventured for the second time to express an opinion on this question. He had been told he was an advocate of obstruction when, for the space of 20 minutes, he occupied the time of the House with the remarks he had to make on this subject; and he said that if such a speech was to be so called, there was an end of representative government. Was he to be charged with obstruction by an hon. Baronet who every year spun the same yarn over and over again, varied as it was by being sometimes less and sometimes more amusing? He had often heard his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle described as a "funny fellow," though he should not have ventured to speak of him so but that he believed the term was applied to his hon. Friend the Member for Tralee (the O'Donoghue); but he thought the funniest thing the hon. Member for Carlise had ever done was to taunt one or two Irish Members who, on a subject of the deepest practical interest in Ireland, ventured to speak upon it for a quarter of an hour, when they did so for the first time after having, as he had done, occupied a seat in that House for 25 years, while the hon. Baronet treated the House every year to an hour and a half's disquisition on a cognate subject. He rose, moreover, for the purpose of making an observation, which he thought was of some importance. Since the discussion on Tuesday last reports of the proceedings in that House had reached his own part of the country. He was an independent Member, and was neither a Member of the late nor present Government. Nor was he a Press Member, and therefore he was unrepresented as to the statements he had made. He had nevertheless been called to account lately by certain persons in his county who were connected with a local Vehmgericht called a Sunday Closing Association, and asked to explain some passages in a speech which, with the most powerful microscope he had been able to procure in London, he could not discover that he had ever made. The fact was, that if you were not connected with some great Party, or did not possess much greater eloquence than he could pretend to, you got no report in the London journals. They found advertisements more profit- 1194 able. In the Irish journals, if you did not perform the kotow to particular gentlemen who were known as the London correspondents of the Irish papers—a thing he should never think of doing—your speech was unreported. In these circumstances, he had better explain the speech that was unreported, because that was the shortest way of replying to his constituents.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he accepted the right hon. Gentleman's ruling, but wished to say he had done nothing whatever tending to prevent a division being taken on the Bill under consideration. To such an assertion he desired to give an emphatic contradiction. He wanted to ask the Government, however, to undertake to bring in a Bill reducing the hours of sale on Saturday night, and imposing restrictions as regarded Sunday. If the Government would bring in such a Bill next Session he ventured to think it would command general support in the House and in the country, though it might not satisfy the Vehmgericht and those who held Sabbatarian opinions, and that it would pass through Parliament without being delayed by having to go through the ordeal of an inquiry by a Select Committee. Such a Bill, too, would accomplish what was necessary without injuring the interests of humble people in various parts of the country.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he was not surprised at the heat exhibited by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), or at the bitterness exhibited by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), on that question. He had heard of the phrase "dying on the floor of the House," but he believed this was the first time the charge had been brought against a number of hon. Members that they had set to themselves the task of "choking the voice of their country on the floor of that House." The voice of the country was shown by the Petitions in favour of the Bill. There were 150,000 Petitions in favour of it, and 40,000 against it. Subsequently the proportion was 49,000 to 23,000, or two to one. The hon. and learned Member, in a speech made in order to shake the evidence given before the Committee, said—
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he would not quote; but the hon. and learned Member at Exeter Hall had said the Bill was only opposed by "the 11 of all Ireland." He (Mr. Callan) remembered a happy historical occasion when there was another "11 of all Ireland," and when the hon. and learned Member described him as the "sublimated quintessence of a brick." There were 59 Home Rulers in the House: was the hon. and learned Member sure that all of them were in favour of the Bill? Were the Members not Home Rulers in its favour? How many of the Irish Conservative Members were in its favour? The hon. and learned Member, addressing a small meeting of his constituents, said—"I am not in favour—
§ MR. CALLAN
merely wished to say that the hon. and learned Member had avowed he was not in favour of State compulsion apart from local action. He would suggest to the hon. and learned Member for Louth, the hon. Barone't the Member for Carlisle, and their satellites, during the Recess to take the advice of the Apostle Paul to Timothy—"Drink no more water, but take a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and for thine often infirmities."
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
said, it was not his intention to prolong the discussion upon the question. He was very glad it had taken place for two reasons. It had, in the first place, defined the position which the Government had taken up on the Bill. They had fallen back in the position they held a year and a-half ago. In the second place, he was glad because it had enabled the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) to make a suggestion on the subject which entirely accorded with his own wishes and desires. If the Government had announced that they were prepared to deal with this question, not in the sense of that Bill, but on their own responsibility, he should certainly not, on his own responsibility, have pursued the matter any further. But they had receded from the position they took up at the commencement of the Session. The Bill had, in fact, been thrown back two years, and he must begin the fight again. He would have 1196 to take the opinion of the House, not on the Bill, but against the Government. It was therefore his intention, if a day for that purpose could be found in the remainder of this Session, to test this opinion by submitting a Motion on the subject. If he could not bring it on this Session, then he gave Notice that he would at the very earliest moment next Session move—That the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government with reference to the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill is such as to warrant the expectation that Her Majesty's Government will, in the public interest, adopt early and effective means for bringing about a settlement of the question involved in this measure.He made that announcement in order that hon. Members might be aware of the course he intended to take, and he trusted that whenever he was enabled to bring forward that Motion it would receive the unanimous support of the House.
remarked that several Motions for the adjournment of the House had been made this Session by the supporters of this Bill. If it was intended by the Motion of which the hon. Member had just given Notice to force the Government into passing this measure, he hoped the Government would do nothing of the kind. It was said at Exeter Hall that its only opponents were "the 11 of all Ireland;" but hon. Members should recollect that 18 Irish Members had already spoken against the Bill, and it must be remembered that the Bill affected not only the electors, but the non-electors as well. Their interests and opinions ought, in a matter like this, to be considered as well as those of electors, who it must not be assumed were all of one way of thinking. The contrary was the fact. Besides this, it was a question which never was brought before the country at the time of the General Election; and it was a fact that since the Bill was introduced a very large number of Irish Members who were formerly against the Bill had now been forced to support it against their own convictions.
MR. MAC CARTHY
rose to Order. Was the hon. Member justified in stating that hon. Members acted in opposition to their own convictions?
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he could give proofs of the fact. When the 1197 second reading was about to be brought on, a meeting was called by a Committee of nine or 10 Members opposed to the Bill to consult as to the best means of opposing it. As soon as our Circular was issued a counter-Circular was sent to all the newspapers in Ireland, and to officials and leading public men, advising them to put pressure on their Representatives, and make them withdraw their opposition to the measure. These were sent to the leading men and supporters of the Members both in counties and in boroughs. Well-paid officials set the telegraph at work, and the result of this combined and organized pressure was what he had stated. He held in his hand a telegram from an hon. Member — ["Name!"] — he did not intend to name any hon. Member— who wrote—If I vote against the Bill I risk the loss of my most powerful supporters at the next Election. I am very sorry, hut I must vote for the Bill against my own convictions.That was a proof of the truth of his statement. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) fully believed that some of these Irish Members would lose their seats at the next Election. For himself, he did not depend upon a mere chance majority of 20 or 30 votes. He stood there as the Representative of more than one-half of the whole of his constituency. He was also the Representative of the people, and as such he opposed the proposal that Ireland should be dealt with in this way.
§ MR. LAW
contended that they were entitled to ask for some exposition of the policy of the Government. The question of Sunday closing had been on two occasions inquired into by a Committee of the House, and, in his opinion, no further information was wanted. Hon. Members could not but admit that there was a considerable amount of feeling in favour of this Bill on both sides of the House; and he thought it was exceedingly desirable that the appeal of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition should be acceded to by the Government. If the appeal should be rejected, he would be glad if the Government would tell the House what course they would take next Session, and whether they would then be prepared to pass a Sunday Closing Bill for Ireland or not?
MR. M. T. BASS
hoped, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had expressed his surprise at brewers voting against this Bill, the House would pardon him for saying a few words, although he might seem to have some prejudice on the subject. He had frequent and continuous correspondence with Ireland, which convinced him that the state of feeling there on this question had been entirely misapprehended. ["No, no!"] Well, he believed that to be the fact. He thought it would be most imprudent for the Government at this moment to support the Bill. Let them wait till next Session, and then they would hear what the real opinion of the people of Ireland was on this subject, and if they wanted prohibition, let them have it. He believed the opinion of Ireland to be entirely the other way.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, if this debate was prolonged they must think that bold statements made great opponents of the Bill. Last Session a similar statement was made as to, the opinion of the people of Ireland, and they found that that statement was immediately followed up by a meeting of publicans in Dublin and £2,000 subscribed for the purpose of fostering an expression of the people of Ireland on this subject. They had seen what the result had been. Because three or four hon. Members who had previously supported this measure were said to be prepared to vote against it in future for some reasons which they did not explain, the House was asked to believe that the opinion of Ireland had changed on this matter. He had no doubt that this question must stand over till another Session. They would then be able to judge of the value of the statements that the opinion not only of Irish Members, but of the Irish people had changed on the subject. As to the conduct of the Government in the matter, he had only to say they paid no regard whatever to the wishes or feelings of the Conservative Members from Ireland. He was quite aware of the fact that those Members were not, as a rule, a very united body; but on this particular subject they happened to be a very united body. With the exception of the official Members of the Conservative Party, he thought he might say they were almost unanimously in favour of this Bill. He believed that in that re- 1199 spect they represented not only the Conservative portion of the constituencies in the North of Ireland especially, but also the combined respectable opinion of the whole of Ireland. [Laughter.] It was very easy for hon. Members to laugh, but he was perfectly prepared to abide by his statement, and he did not believe that another £2,000 subscribed by the publicans would in any way affect the ultimate success of the Bill. The conduct of the Government on this subject had been such as to cause the greatest dissatisfaction and sorrow to their supporters in Ireland, who regarded their action as one of shilly-shallying which they did not understand.
§ MR. MURPHY
remarked that he had never known a Bill at its commencement receive so much encouragement from the Government as had been accorded to this, for at the beginning of the Session they allowed the postponement of two Bills so that this Bill might be read a second time. He reminded the House that this question of Sunday closing was not raised by the people of Ireland, and that it was abundantly proved by the evidence given before the Select Committee that they did not require it. He complained that the inquiry which had taken place was a fragmentary inquiry, and that it should have been limited to five towns, and not to the whole of Ireland. He had received many communications since the first day's debate from gentlemen who wrote that they were astonished at the evidence which had been produced before the House, and that they would not any longer support the Bill. It had been, however, a most providential fact that the Committee sat, for he would tell the House that between this and the next Session evidence would be forthcoming from the bone and sinew of Ireland; for men who were not voters, and who could not therefore influence the action of their Members, would come forward in their thousands to protest against it. The Government had deliberately gone out of their way on three different occasions to support the promoters of this Bill; but he thought that when next Session arrived it would be sufficient time for them to declare an expression of their opinion on the subject. But if the Government thought this question of such great importance as had been alleged, then let them make further 1200 inquiry and bring in a Bill dealing with it. He would ask any hon. Member if the late discussion on the Bill was a perfunctory one. Facts and figures never used before were adduced, new arguments were employed, and a new view of the case presented. There was no intention to waste the time of the House by unnecessary eloquence. It had been asserted that this measure had received the unanimous approval of the Irish people; but it was a remarkable fact, as indicating the feeling of the Irish people upon the subject, that since the first day's debate not a single Petition had been presented from the working classes, and not a single public meeting had been held in its favour. The truth was that the whole agitation on this subject had been got up by parties utterly unconnected with the great bulk of the people, and the effect of such a measure would be to deprive the working men of their just rights.
explained that the reason why the majority of the speakers on this Bill had opposed it was that those who were in favour of it were not anxious to assist them in talking it out.
thought that the opinion of the Irish people had not been fairly represented on this subject. While there had been great enthusiasm and excitement on the part of the promoters of this Bill, no motion whatever had been made by the great body of the people in favour of the measure. The policy which had always been pursued by the Imperial Parliament had led the Irish people to believe that it would give them not what they desired, but what it thought was good for them; and, consequently, the idea never entered their heads that Parliament would give them that to which it and Her Majesty's present Government especially were opposed. He hoped, therefore, that time would be allowed to the Irish people to speak their minds on this question.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
hoped that after the Government had given one opportunity of discussing this Bill they would not place another day at the disposal of the promoters. Every opportunity had been given, and everything that could be wished for had been done, for those dismal Sabbatarians.
§ MR. T. DICKSON
said, no change of feeling on the part of the people of Ireland had taken place. Every Session the feeling of the people of Ireland was more and more in favour of the Bill.
§ Question put, and negatived.