§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
in moving—That, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motion upon Tuesday, Government Orders having priority, and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesday,said: Sir, I do not think it can be necessary, after the statement I made a few nights ago, to explain the grounds on which we make this proposal. The House is aware that there is a considerable amount of Business which still remains unfinished, and with regard to much of which it would be very incon- 1669 venient to the public that it should not be carried through, and that it should not be completed whilst there is still a fair attendance of hon. Members in this House. I do not know that it is necessary to compare precisely year by year the particular dates when these proposals have been made to the House. There have been occasions when—two years ago, I think—Tuesdays were given to the Government as early as the 11th of July, and Wednesdays as early as the 21st of July. In 1875 Tuesdays and Wednesdays were given on the 27th of July; and last year not until the 7th of August. Therefore, one year is not altogether to be taken as a standard for comparison with another. But I hope that the proposal I have to submit to the House is one which will be acknowledged to be made for the general convenience, and that it is one which will be accepted by the House. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motion upon Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesday."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. MONK,
in moving an Amendment to omit the latter part of the Motion that gave priority to Government Orders on Wednesdays, said, no doubt the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman were unanswerable from a Government point of view; but, on the other hand, he must remind the House that the practice of taking Wednesdays was an innovation on the part of the present Government, and an interference with the rights of private Members which the latter ought to resist. During the preceding Parliament, when the Predecessors of the present Government were in Office, on no occasion, he believed, did the Government ask for Wednesdays in July, except in 1868 when the Prorogation took place in July. On the two occasions mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman when the Government moved for Wednesdays in July, the right hon. Gentleman stated the reasons why he asked for them, and why they were granted in 1874; while the Prime Minister moved that on Wednesday, the 15th of July, the Orders of the Day should be 1670 postponed until after the Order for the second reading of the Public Worship Regulation Bill. That was considered a Bill of primary importance, and the Prime Minister stated at the time that he had no wish to interfere with the privileges of private Members, and that he made the Motion in consequence of the Bill having been introduced by a private Member, the Recorder for the City of London. In the year 1875 the Government asked the House to give Wednesday, the 28th of July, for Government Business, and the House did so, in order to proceed with the Agricultural Holdings Bill; but in that year the Estimates were much in arrear. No sufficient reason had been advanced for the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman, nor was it justified by any special circumstance, as it was sought to be on the former occasions referred to. Wednesday was the only day on which private Members had the least chance of having their Bills considered, and it was hard that they should be deprived of that, their sole opportunity of submitting them to the House. That was the case with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and others. A private Member obtained his place by Ballot, and his lot might fall on a Wednesday in July. Why was he to be deprived of his privilege? It was by no means unimportant that the principle of a Bill should be discussed at the fag end of the Session, and a division taken upon its merits. The Government had no doubt met with obstruction in the course of the present Session, to which, however, he had been no party; and it was not right that, because of that obstruction, all private Members should lose their rights and privileges. He begged to move, as an Amendment, the omission of all the words of the Motion after the word "priority," in line 4.
§ MR. MELDON,
in seconding the Amendment, said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that no special and exceptional cause having been shown for the Motion, it was not right to deprive private Members of their only opportunity of bringing forward the Motions for which—as in his own case—they had obtained days with considerable difficulty. He trusted that the Motion would not take 1671 effect, at least so far as next Tuesday and Wednesday were concerned. He had looked through the records, and he found that the earliest day on which it was proposed to deprive private Members of their privileges was on the 27th of July. He must enter his protest against the course that the Government were going to adopt, for they had a whole list of measures which it was utterly impossible for the Government to carry. A Select Committee had just began its operations with a Bill of over 200 clauses, which there was not the slightest idea of passing, and he protested that it was wrong to interfere with the rights of private Members in this way. It would be better to decide not to proceed with these measures at all.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out all the words after the word "priority," in line 3, to the end of the Question.—(Mr. Monk.)
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he sympathized with his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, whose Congè d'elire Bill was about to receive its congè d'elire by the adoption of the Resolution. But he must explain that he was himself in a similar position, and was in even a worse plight, as his hon. Friend had had an opportunity of pushing his speech down to oppose the Bill, while he had been cut short by the Wednesday practice. He should, however, support the Motion. The matter was very clear, and he was almost sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given dates which convinced nobody. They knew how much profit they gained from the speeches of the hon. Member for Gloucester; but they had to choose between that profit and getting out of town at a reasonable time. He should vote for the getting out of town.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might more properly have asked the House for Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rest of the Session, if he had previously announced all the Bills which he intended to proceed with. On the Notice Paper of that day there were 35 Government Orders. It could not be the intention of the Government to proceed with all these Government Orders, and have them finished during the rest 1672 of the Session. The House, as he had said, therefore might reasonably expect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before asking for the Tuesdays and Wednesdays, would have announced his intention as to the Bills he intended to drop. The present deplorable state of Public Business was very much due to the apparent want of business-like aptitude, or conception, which had been evinced by Her Majesty's Government in the conduct of Business that Session. There were on the Paper that day no fewer than 17 Government Orders of the Day which had passed their second reading. There were a great many of the Government Orders of the Day which were not on the list which also had passed the second reading; and it was because Her Majesty's Government had insisted upon taking second readings of Bills that they never intended or hoped to pass that that deplorable state of Business arose. The time had been wasted in taking the second reading of these 17 Bills, when it might have been profitably occupied in pressing to completion certain useful measures for England, Scotland, and Ireland. Therefore he charged Her Majesty's Government with a very considerable amount of blame for the deplorable state of Public Business. If he turned to the question of Irish Business, he found that the neglect of Irish Business by the Government was most remarkable during that Session, with the exception of the Judicature Bill, which was not required or wanted by the people, and which was in no sense pressing. The Government had given exactly three-quarters of an hour of Government time to Irish measures; and, perhaps, he might include the Sunday Closing question, which was, however, more in the nature of a compromise than anything else. Then, Bills which were really required, and which it was important that Ireland should have, had been entirely neglected. For instance, the Irish Prisons Bill and the Scotch Prisons Bill had not been passed, and that would inflict a great injustice both on Irish and Scotch ratepayers. The Government had promised that the English, Irish, and Scotch Prisons Bills should pass pari passû, but they had entirely ignored the Irish and Scotch Prisons Bills. Then, there was the question of intermediate education in Ireland—a matter of the greatest importance, in which 1673 England had inflicted more than the usual amount of injustice to Ireland; it had not been taken up at all, although the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland promised at the commencement of the Session to deal finally with it. They were put off with vague promises with reference to these and other Irish questions of vital importance. As to what the Government would do in future Sessions, if they got time to do it, from his experience and observations of the events of that Session he had been compelled to come to the conclusion that the House was utterly and entirely incapable of legislating for Ireland; and that if the House desired to legislate equally and justly for the Three Kingdoms, that it was utterly unable to do so, because it had not time to do so. He thought that Her Majesty's Government, instead of devoting their energies to depriving hon. Members of Tuesdays and Wednesdays at this period of the Session, had far better turn their attention to some measure as to legislating successfully, for certainly they could not expect the Irish people to go on much longer submitting to an entire deprivation of legislation. It was also very possible that by making alterations in some of the Rules of the House—for instance, by preventing hon. Members from speaking for more than half-an-hour or so, or more than a certain number of times, and by diminishing the time-honoured privileges of minorities— it was possible that a small amount of more Business might be done in the future Sessions than had been done that Session. At the same time, he did not think that such results would be commensurate with the sacrifice of private Members, and after those Members had given up all their privileges, and been subjected to restriction and coercion, it would still be found that no good had been done. Therefore, he would advise Her Majesty's Government to direct their attention to the problem, whether it would not better for them to consider the question of self-government for the Three Kingdoms, whether they called it by the name of local self-government, or national self-government?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the question of local self-government was not under 1674 notice, and therefore he must call on the hon. Member for Meath to confine himself to the question before the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he certainly did not desire to go into the question of Home Rule, or the government of the Three Kingdoms, but merely wished to say with regard to the breaking up of the legislative functions of that House, that was a matter which would have to be considered, and that the distributing of these functions among smaller bodies was a question worthy of their attention, instead of endeavouring by futile means to meet the difficulties in which they found themselves — difficulties which would be very much increased next Session.
§ MR. WHALLEY
objected strongly to the proposal of the Government. Undoubtedly the course adopted in the management of Public Business, brought to a crisis by the present Government, did tend to promote the relieving of the House from a burden which it could not well discharge. It was a deliberate attempt to "burke" the Business of the House, and to frustrate the freedom of speech during the Session. The Session would be remarkable for having wasted its time in passing measures which were not asked for by any important section of the community, and for the House curtailing the privileges of minorities in various ways by hon. Members rising to Order and by count-outs. Then, the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees had a veto, and would not allow hon. Members to go on if, in their view, they were not speaking to the point; but with his own limited ability, in some cases he found it absolutely impossible to adapt his statements and arguments in accordance with the views of any other person whatsoever. Her Majesty's Government also had by all means, direct and indirect, endeavoured to prevent independent Members obtaining full and fair discussion of questions which they deemed it necessary to bring forward. He, for instance, had on three occasions brought forward the question of The Priest in Absolution, and on each occasion he had been counted-out. He thought such a course was unworthy of an Assembly that prided itself on being the first in the world, and composed only of Gentlemen of honour, truth, candour, and sincerity. If he had again to go through the same ordeal, without 1675 even the poor reward of a fair discussion of questions which he brought forward, he should either throw up his seat or hold it in abeyance, rather than act as a sort of screen behind which the Government could carry on the Business of the country in an irregular manner. He did hope the House would concede something to the remarks of the hon. Member for Meath.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, he had listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), and it did not appear to him that he had successfully met the arguments brought forward by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk). The hon. Member had referred to one Bill, but there was another Bill in which he was interested; three times it had passed the second reading, but the hon. Member never succeeded in getting it further. He did not consider there were sufficient reasons for the course the Government had taken. It would be better if the Government would abandon those of their Bills which were in a backward state, instead of asking private Members to give up their rights. If the hon. Member for Gloucester went to a division he would support him.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he believed he was the Member who had most right to complain of the Government, as his Bill for extending the jurisdiction of County Courts was the First Order of the Day on Wednesday, and under ordinary circumstances, but for the Resolution before the House, he would certainly have obtained a hearing. The Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), respecting the dismissal by the Irish Church Commissioners of their solicitor, would have come on to-morrow night at an Evening Sitting, and might have been counted out; and the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), being behind his own on Wednesday, had little chance of being heard. He realized the situation, and saw there was no alternative but to accept the inevitable. He had taken a great deal of trouble about the Bill under his charge, and he thought he could have made a statement that would have shown a distinct grievance, and pointed out a practical means for its solution. He had been extremely unfortunate that Session, as four or five measures in which he was 1676 specially interested had either been withdrawn, or had obtained such a bad place in the Ballot that there was no opportunity of their being heard. The House would see, therefore, that it was reasonable for him to regret the loss of the chance that Wednesday offered him for putting before the country propositions which he was bold enough to think were worthy of consideration. That, however, was simply the personal aspect of the question. The thing that concerned him was, that the Bill he had introduced had received the sanction and the warm support of several influential commercial bodies, and he was more anxious in respect to the disappointment they would feel than he was for himself. He could understand the position of affairs in the House, when persons outside could not fully appreciate the difficulties that beset the course of legislation in that Assembly. It had been customary in all legal reforms to hand them over to the direction of Gentlemen connected with the law. They had the technical knowledge for such discussion, but they were apt to view reforms from a narrow and professional aspect. He was desirous of placing before Parliament a scheme of law reform from the standpoint of a commercial man and a trader. He hoped, however, that, although disappointed this year, he would next Session be more fortunate. The hon. Members who had preceded him had blamed the Ministry exclusively for the position of Public Business. This was scarcely fair. The House was as much to blame as the Government, and the system even more so. All Governments were necessarily and largely trammelled by the forms of the Legislature. He knew of no question pressing more for settlement than the mode of transacting national Business. Hon. Members did not seem sufficiently to realize the fact that the work of the House and its character had changed, and was changing. The machinery they had at their command, on the other hand, was stationary. A few years ago the work of Parliament was practically limited to three things—the mode of levying and expending the national Revenue, the regulation of our intercourse with foreign countries, and the occasional discussion of great Constitutional questions. Now, the sphere of legislation had been widened, and it extended over a vastly more comprehen- 1677 sive area. Legislation now descended into all the ramifications of commercial, of social, and even of domestic life. They had covered the country with a whole army of Inspectors, they had taken under their supervision—if not under their direction—the business of shipping, of mining, and of ordinary manufacturing. They had opened out the great work of sanitary control and arrangement, and a comparatively new but still complicated educational machinery. All this was the work of the last 30 or 40 years. These new laws necessarily begot new Departments of the Public Service and enlarged administrative labours. He believed he would be understating the fact when he said that the work of the administrative Departments of the State had quadrupled within this last quarter-of-a-century. Increased administrative work meant increased legislative work. That of itself accounted for the augmentation in the number and character of the measures that every Session came before the House. In addition to that, they had more speaking than they formerly had. It was customary 20 years ago for 80 or 90 Members of the House to speak in a Session. Now, between 300 and 400 out of the 656 took more or less part in the debates. He did not know whether their increased loquacity had produced an increase of wisdom, but certainly it occupied a larger measure of their attention. While they had more talk, they had no more time at their disposal. The House could not really sit more than six months in the year. Hon. Members required time to attend to their private affairs. They could not always live in London. They stood in need, too, of some relaxation, and it was necessary for the Ministry to have the Recess for the preparation of their measures. The facts, therefore, were these —That they had more work, more talk, and no more time. Parliament was a few years ago a large aristocratic debating society. It was now a huge vestry or town council. Its regulations and rules were drawn for a different Assembly from what it now was. They should recognize these facts, and attempt to alter their mode of procedure to meet them. He was only a young Member of the House, and he did not presume to advise in such a delicate question; but it struck him that a good 1678 deal of the labour that was thrown on Parliament might be relegated to other bodies in the country, and that the work might be distributed or subdivided. He was opposed to any interference with the rights and privileges of minorities, or with the ordinary rules of debate. They had been the growth of centuries, and they contained the condensed and combined wisdom of many Parliaments. It would be dangerous in the interests of liberty to interfere with them; but he still thought that, while retaining them, the labours of the Legislature might be lessened by such a re-division as he had suggested. That was scarcely, perhaps, the time for an elaborate consideration of the question. It would come up on another occasion, and any lengthened discussion at that moment would only be augmenting the evil they were all complaining of. He contented himself, there-lore, with saying that while he regretted that the state of Public Business rendered it necessary, yet as no alternative was offered, he felt bound, after this protest, to acquiesce in the proposition of the Leader of the House.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thanked the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) for the spirit in which he had addressed the House; and he might say that that was not the first time in the course of his Parliamentary career that the House had seen reason to feel that the presence of the hon. Member was a decided acquisition, and a great advantage to it. He must also acknowledge the great forbearance both the hon. Member and the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) with others had shown, and the assistance which they had rendered in carrying on the Business of the House under difficulties; and they had frequently, as on the present occasion, given way in a manner which showed their desire to meet the convenience of the House. He could assure the hon. Members for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) and for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) that it was with great regret the Government had felt themselves compelled to make the proposition which was now under discussion; but there was a good deal of important Business which still remained to be done, and which they were afraid could not be properly transacted if that proposition were not adopted. For instance, the hon. Member for the 1679 Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had given Notice of his intention to raise a discussion on the Army Warrant question, which was one of much importance; and there were the South African Bill, the Irish and Scotch Prisons Bills, the County Courts Bill, and one or two other measures which were pressing for decision, and which he believed the Government might get through if assisted by the kindness and business-like powers of hon. Members of that House. It was not from any desire to put aside Business which had been brought forward by private Members, as they were called, that this proposal had been made; but from the real conviction that there was no other way of getting through the public Business which still remained to be transacted. He hoped, under these circumstances, that the hon. Member for Gloucester would not put the House to the trouble of dividing.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he would consent to the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman, although he did not see any solid reason was given for bringing it forward at that time of the year. It would be better, as a way out of the difficulty arising from the press of Business, that Bills should be taken up each Session at the stage in which they had been dropped in the previous Session.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he had not been moved by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he had expressed his regret at being obliged to interfere with the convenience of private Members, for these expressions were becoming a stereotyped form of the House. Every year the Leader of the House uttered the same expressions of regret for the sacrifices hon. Members had to make in losing their Bills and all the result of their matured deliberation. [Interruption.] He must protest against the continued conversation carried on in a loud tone; and he would suggest that the conversationalists would suit their own convenience and that of hon. Members who took an interest in the Business of the House by retiring to the Smoking Boom, or some other place 1680 where the noise of their conversation would not—by disconcerting a novice like himself—put him to the trouble of unnecessary repetition in his remarks. On looking over the list of Bills put down for Wednesday, he was surprised at the proposition made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such a Bill as the Ancient Monuments Bill, he should have thought, would have received some consideration at the hands of a traditional and historical Party. With all the respect the Chancellor of the Exchequer professed for the rights of private Members, and the weight of public opinion, he was surprised that a Bill which had been brought forward again and again, and which was supported by the cultivated opinion of the country, should be so summarily dismissed. Then, again, a Government anxious to get credit for philanthropy should give consideration to a Bill dealing with the education of our helpless fellow subjects—the deaf, blind, and mute. The Government might have given more facility for these measures than for that upon which they seemed to have set their heart, the confirmation of an act of public perfidy—the annexation of an independent Republic in South Africa. This demand upon Wednesdays was part of that general neglect and studied depreciation with which the Bills of private Members were treated; and this neglect reached its maximum when Irish private Members were concerned. For his own part, he would have been delighted to afford facilities for the discussion of measures brought in by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), if more attention had been paid to the proposals made by the real Chief Secretary for Ireland (the hon. and learned Member for Limerick). But the Government, anxious for the progress of Business, had contributed to the rejection of every Irish measure brought in which embodied the requirements and satisfied the wishes of the Irish people. The hon. Member was proceeding to discuss some of these Bills when—
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he would not enter into the merits of the Bills; but he condemned the Government for sacrificing several useful Bills in favour of 1681 such a scandalous measure as the South African Bill. ["Order, order!"]
rose to Order. Was the hon. Member in Order in referring to the Bill as a "scandalous measure?"
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already informed the hon. Member that he is not entitled to discuss the merits of the Bills, and I must request him to confine his remarks to the question before the House.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
resumed, amid continued interruption, and said, he would not refer to the Bill again; but if when the Bill came on for discussion, he used stronger expressions, he would be prepared to justify them. He should be always happy to meet the convenience of Her Majesty's Government, if the Government would enter into some sort of engagement to meet the convenience of hon. Members on that side of the House, but he did not believe in being called upon to indulge in this system of unreciprocated beneficence. Year after year the Government spoke smoothly, and were most prolific of promises, but it was the "same old game" year after year, and all business except that of the Government was sacrificed. There was more and more a tendency to make that House a mere registration machine of the foregone conclusions of the Government. He asked what guarantee had they that there would be any improvement; and that next Session the right hon. Gentleman—unless he was translated to a higher place—would not come down again to the House and ask it to assist the Government out of their perennial scrape? There was not the slightest indication of any intention to amend. The Government were fairly responsible for wasting the time of the House. Night after night the dinner hours were spent in what was called keeping the ball rolling—a proceeding all very well in the good old times when the House of Commons was said to be the best club in London ["Question!"], but that was a reputation that would scarcely suffice for a great legislative Assembly of the present, for they had come to another time of day when the House of Commons must not only be the best club in London, but must seek to be the best office and workshop in London—
§ MR. C. B. DENISON
rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. Gentleman was confining himself, in ac- 1682 cordance with the previous ruling from the Chair, to the question before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I cannot say that the hon. Member is out of Order; but I certainly think he is trying very severely the forbearance of the House.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he thought some of his expressions had been misunderstood. He was merely endeavouring to show that the Government were not entitled to forbearance, particularly as they had given no promise that there would be the slightest amendment in their conduct for the future, or that they would cease to inflict on the House useless and irritating discussions. It would be easy to give instances in which Members of the Government had used expressions calculated to wound in the deepest sense the most sacred convictions of Members of the House. He would say no more; but for his own part, he should deem it to be his duty to continue to subject these measures to as calm, as independent, and as deliberate criticism as if hon. Members were not in a hurry to repair to the shooting grounds throughout the country.
Sir, I think the scene just presented to the House is one of the most painful, and I may say, degrading, to its character that I ever witnessed, while the modest and self-constituted champion of private Members who has just sat down made the remarks we have just listened to. I do not rise to appeal to the feelings of the hon. Member, or of those who act with him; but I think I am entitled to say that as you, Sir, have appealed to his forbearance without effect, the scene we have just witnessed shows how stubborn and insensible he and others have been to the feeling by which, generally speaking, hon. Gentlemen in this House are governed.
§ MR. PARNELL
I rise to Order, Sir. [Cries of "Spoke!"] I wish to know, whether the hon. Member who has just spoken is entitled to say that we have exhibited an utter absence and shown an utter insensibility to the feelings of Gentlemen? I have to call upon the hon. Member to withdraw the words, which he should not have dared to have used either to me or to any hon. Member of the House of Commons.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire by any expression 1683 of which he made use intended to imply that any hon. Member of this House was not actuated by the feelings of a Gentleman that expression should be withdrawn. I did not, however, gather that such was his meaning.
Sir, the words I used or intended to use were those, that we have repeated instances of—[Cries of " Withdraw" and" Order!"]—perhaps hon. Members will allow me to state to the House what words I did use, and then it will be for the House to say whether they are in accordance with the language prevalent amongst Gentlemen in the House or not. The words, Sir, I used, or intended to use on this occasion, were—"We have repeated instances of the stubborn insensibility of certain hon. Members of that side of the House, and the sentiments by which Gentlemen in this House have hitherto been almost invariably actuated." [Loud cheers.] I believe, Sir, that I am right in saying that the House thoroughly endorsed that opinion. Sir, the course which has been adopted has been one of something more than obstruction. It has been a course of attempted dictation to this House. Sir, the patience of this House is great, and its long suffering is well known; but I will venture, Sir, having been in this House some little time longer than the hon. Member for Dungarvan, to give him some warning as to the feeling likely to be engendered in the course of any hon. Member of the House who attempts to bully the House of Commons. In that event, the House of Commons knows how to protect itself against being bullied.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire is in possession of the House, and entitled to continue his speech until he has concluded it. If, at its conclusion, the hon. Member for Dungarvan thinks he has been misrepresented no doubt the House will listen to any explanation.
I was only going to say, Sir, that those hon. Gentlemen may rest assured, if they persist in a course which outrages the general sentiment and feelings of this House that ere long swift retribution will await them, and they will regret what they have done.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
Mr. Speaker, I am sure it will be impossible 1684 for me, in view of the frequency with which I have felt it my duty to act with hon. Members who have been subjected to the censure of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), to remain silent. Now, I quite concur in your statement that the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) severely tested the forbearance of this House; but that arose from the fact that the majority of this House entertain opinions in regard to our country that are in direct conflict with the opinions entertained by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and if he has tested the forbearance of the House of Commons, I wish to tell the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire that the Party of which he boasts himself to be a Member has for centuries tested the forbearance of the Irish nation, more particularly within the last four Sessions of the present Parliament, and the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, prominent amongst the number, has used his power in this House for the purpose of thwarting and disregarding the wishes of the Irish nation. When private Members are called upon at a certain stage in the Session to withdraw measures, or to concede days for the convenience of the Government, it appears to me very fit proper action to call attention to these important facts. We are told we are sent here by the majority of the electors and non-electors of Ireland, and that we have proposed measures which are in conflict with gentlemanly feeling, and that for that reason we have not succeeded in gaining the magnificent approval of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire. This discussion has given rise to very important considerations not touched upon by the hon. Member, to which I shall now refer. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), whose opinion receives great consideration in this House, suggested that during the Recess, in view of the inconvenience which arises at this time, the Government should consider the propriety of fixing a Rule whereby Bills might be taken up at the stage at which they were dropped in the preceding Session. I wish to point out that the adoption of such a Rule would be attended with very great inconvenience. Cases have occurred in which the second reading of a Bill has been carried without correct information, and it would be a mistake to 1685 proceed with, legislation on the assumption that the vote of the House in the previous Session was the result of ample consideration. We are asked now, by the Motion before the House, to sacrifice the Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and if that is done, without an emphatic protest, we shall witness the same thing year after year. At the beginning of the Session important measures are announced in the Queen's Speech, and at the close of the Session the Government are obliged to acknowledge their inability to pass them. The Obstructive Party will be made the scapegoat this Session, but some other Party may be made the scapegoat another time. They had lately seen that the right hon. Member for Greenwich, and those who agreed with him on Eastern affairs, were stigmatized as an unscrupulous and unpatriotic faction, therefore the Government would see that they could not make a few Irish Members the scapegoat for the inefficiency of the system if they took no steps to substitute one more efficient.
I will rise, Sir, as an Irish Member, to repudiate the attempt made by the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. O'Connor Power), and the hon. Member for Meath, and a few hon. Members below the Gangway, to speak on the part of the Irish people. Certainly, with every word that fell from the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) I cordially concur. But what I have particularly to refer to is this—the adroit attempt by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken to lead the House and the country to believe that his conduct and the conduct of a little party of Irish Members meets only with the disapproval of English Members on both sides of the House. Sir, their conduct has been repudiated by the mass of the Irish Party, and I wish to point out that that conduct has been reprobated, I may say denounced, by one who has been recognized as the Leader of the Irish people, the hon. and learned Member for Limerick.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
who said: I would earnestly request the House to consider for a moment what the position is. Do let us come to a decision on the question at once. There really has been language 1686 held in the course of the last half-hour which I think all persons on consideration will feel is language which is not becoming the dignity of the House of Commons, and I do trust that we shall be allowed to proceed to a decision on the Motion which has been submitted to the consideration of the House in a manner which is consistent with ordinary habits of Members of Parliament, and that we shall endeavour to decide upon the question, which, after all, is submitted not for the convenience, as supposed, of the Government, but for the general convenience of the House.
§ MR. GRAY
I merely rise to say that it is with a feeling of pain and humiliation I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Tralee (the O'Donoghue). I felt humiliated as a Member of this House, and as an Irishman, that any hon. Member of this House should have been found to stand up in his place and endorse the language of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). You have decided, Sir, that the hon. Member for Dungarvan was within his right in taking the course he did. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire may be an admirable judge of what becomes a Gentleman; but I submit that you are the judge of what becomes a Member of this House. I am not disposed to yield to the judgment of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, either as to what becomes a Gentleman, or an hon. Member of this House. I deny that the hon. Member for Tralee, in endorsing the language of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, represents any Party or person either in or out of the House but himself; and I hold that the language and conduct of any hon. Member on this side of the House to-day bears favourable comparison with the hon. Member that of for Mid-Lincolnshire.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member for Dungarvan thinks he has been misrepresented by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire he is entitled to make a personal explanation. He is not entitled to make a second speech on the question before the House.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said he was willing to put the best construction on the language of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and that he 1687 did not feel called upon either to make any explanation, or to demand one.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that although he felt strongly on Irish questions, he had studiously avoided voting with what was called the Obstructive Party in that House, and that he wholly disapproved the policy they had pursued on Friday, Saturday, and that day. He felt, how ever, that he would be humiliated if he did not rise to express his reprobation of the language of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) — language which the Forms of the House did not permit him to stigmatize properly. As the junior Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray) had said, the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire might consider himself a fit judge of what was gentlemanly conduct; but with all due respect to him, he (Mr. Callan) must say, although he had hitherto always looked upon the hon. Gentleman as a manly and courageous man, he could not hereafter lay claim to manliness, straightforwardness, or courage. The hon. Member should ere this have withdrawn— ["Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that it is not proper to impute want of straightforwardness or courage to any hon. Member.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he would impute neither courage, nor its reverse to the hon. Member. He would not offer any opinion at all. But the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire had charged a Party there with conduct unbecoming Gentlemen, and he should be called upon to withdraw.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must tell the hon. Member that if the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire had used the language which he imputes to him, it would have been my duty to have interposed at the time, and, having been appealed to, I did interpose.
It may save the hon. Member some trouble if I say that I did not use the language attributed to me.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he was very glad to learn that the hon. Member did not; but he did make use of language to which the attention of the Chair was not directed, and which, in his (Mr. Callan's) opinion, was unbecoming a Member of that House. He used the word "bully." Well, it seemed to him that the hon. Member's manner towards hon. Members on that side of the House 1688 partook far more of the character of bullying than either that of the hon. Members for Meath or Dungarvan.
§ The Question, "That the said Amendment be withdrawn" being challenged,
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 386; Noes 15: Majority 371.—(Div. List, No. 244.)
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 321; Noes 13: Majority 308.—(Div. List, No. 245.)
§ Resolved, That, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motion upon Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesday.