§ MR. WHITBREAD
I beg to give Notice that it is my intention to call attention to the Papers on Afghanistan, and to move—That this House disapproves the conduct of Her Majesty's Government which has resulted in the War with Afghanistan.With regard to the day on which I can bring that forward, I am, of course, very much in the hands of the Government. Having given Notice of a Motion which directly challenges the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, I am, of course, anxious to bring it forward at the earliest opportunity; and I presume that Her Majesty's Government—and, indeed, both sides of the House—would desire, as is usual, that not a day should be lost in bringing it forward. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman what day he will give me for the Motion?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Undoubtedly, Sir, under ordinary circumstances it would be the desire of the Government to give the very earliest day for a Motion that is in the nature of a Vote of Censure upon the Government, a Motion brought forward 177 by an hon. Member of the standing of the hon. Member for Bedford, and with, as I have some reason to suppose, the general approval of the leading Members of the Party sitting opposite to me; but I would remind the House and the hon. Gentleman that on this occasion Parliament has been called together for the special purpose of discharging a Constitutional and statutory obligation entered into by the Government; and that in order to fulfil that obligation it will be necessary for us immediately to submit to Parliament a Vote giving the required consent of both Houses of Parliament to the course which is proposed to be taken. That being so, it would be impossible for us to set aside proceeding with the Motion of which Notice has been given by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India. It was, of course, open to the hon. Member for Bedford or for his Friends to have brought forward a Motion such as that of which he has now given Notice yesterday upon the Address; or it would, be open for him to bring forward his Motion as an Amendment to the proposal of my hon. Friend to which I have just referred. It is not for me, of course, to say what would be the most convenient or proper course for the hon. Member to take; but all I can say is, that if the question of the hon. Gentleman points to our giving up Monday and putting off the Resolution which we have already given Notice of, in order to enable his Resolution to be brought forward, I think it would be impossible for us to comply.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to give Notice that on the Resolution of the hon. Member for Bedford I will move the following addition:—And this House regrets that, in the present instance, the consent of the Nation, through its representatives, was not obtained before War was declared; and that the Government withheld from publication, until after the Declaration of War, the Papers which would have enabled a correct opinion to be formed as to its justice and necessity.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I desire to make an appeal to the Government to re-consider the decision which has just been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I am under the impression that it would be irregular for any discussion to take place at this stage of the proceedings. It 178 would possibly be more in Order if I were to postpone any appeal I have to make until after the Notices of Motions and Questions have been put.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
We shall have to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Monday.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
It becomes my duty now to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Monday.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Monday next."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I intended, if I had been enabled, to have made an appeal to the Government, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the determination of the Government, to take into consideration the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford. My hon. Friend has given Notice of a Resolution which is undoubtedly a Resolution of Censure—or, at all events, of Want of Confidence in the Government. From the, observations that I made yesterday I think it will be easily understood that I and those who act with me are prepared to support that Motion. Well, Sir, under these circumstances, I wish, as I have said, to appeal to the Government to re-consider their intention of moving on Monday the Resolution of which they have given Notice, and to give precedence to that of my hon. Friend. It occurs to me that that would be the most convenient course for two reasons. In the first place, as, I think, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has admitted, the Government would, under ordinary circumstances, be anxious to give the earliest possible opportunity for a vote involving the question of the confidence of the House in the Government. But, in the next place, there are peculiar circumstances which seem to me to render this course even more desirable. What will take place on Monday? On Monday the Under Secretary of State for India will make a statement which will not be confined to the financial question, but will open the whole case of the Government in reference to the proceedings in Afghanistan. The hon. Member will be followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), who has 179 given Notice of a Resolution which raises the question whether the cost of the war shall be borne by the Revenues of this country or by those of India. Now, the course taken by my hon. Friend precludes the possibility, even if it had been otherwise desirable, of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford moving his Resolution as an Amendment to the Resolution which will be moved by the Under Secretary of State. But I have ascertained that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney is not disposed, even if that were thought desirable, to give way in order that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford's Resolution might come on. I cannot complain of the decision at which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney has arrived, because I believe it will be the only opportunity which he will have in his power of raising the very important question which he wishes to submit to the House. What will be the result? We shall have had a general statement of the policy of the Government from the Government Bench; we shall then be invited by the hon Member for Hackney to consider a most important but still a subsidiary point; and the debate which is commenced and conducted under these circumstances cannot possibly be a very satisfactory one. We shall have on one side speeches made directed to the whole policy of the Government; and, on the other hand, we shall have speeches made directed to that subsidiary point raised by the hon. Member. Now, it strikes me it would be far more logical and convenient if we should decide, in the first instance, on the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford as to the policy, or want of policy, of the proceedings which have led to war. Having disposed of that question, we could then consider on a subsequent occasion the issue raised by the hon. Member for Hackney as to the source from which the cost should be defrayed. That certainly seems to me to be by far the most convenient course; and I cannot help thinking that if the Government will consider it they will agree with that view, and they may possibly be disposed to allow precedence to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford.
I rise to point out that the Parliamentary case does not appear to me to rest exactly as it was described by the Chancellor of the 180 Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that it was in the option of Gentlemen on this side of the House to raise the general question on the Address to Her Majesty, and that, having voluntarily foregone that opportunity, there still remained to them the question of an Amendment to the Motion of my hon. Friend opposite, who represents the Indian Department. But I think, Sir, it escaped the recollection of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we have not yet done with the Address to Her Majesty, and that it is in the option of any person either to move an Amendment on the Report of the Address, or, if it is thought fit, to move the postponement of the consideration of the Address until Monday, when it would of necessity be taken as the first Business, and when, therefore, the Opposition in this House would be enabled to give effect to their view, which I understand to be, as expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford and my noble Friend, that the general question of the conduct of the Government, and of their policy, ought to be discussed and disposed of before we come to consider the subaltern and collateral, although a most important, question, which is wholly distinct from that general question. I frankly own I do not know why Her Majesty's Government object to the proposal that has been made by my noble Friend. I cannot conceive what disadvantage they are to undergo if they should think fit to give way to it. I would also point out that the two questions not only are not the same in subject-matter, but are not the same in any degree as regards the opinions that hon. Gentlemen might be disposed to entertain. It is perfectly possible that there may be those on this side of the House who object to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but, notwithstanding, who might be disposed to support the Motion of my hon. Friend opposite on the part of the Government; and, vice versâ, it is perfectly possible that there may be those on that side of the House, or elsewhere, who may be prepared to give a strong support to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and yet who may think that, under all the circumstances of the case, it is not desirable that the cost of these hostilities should be imposed upon the burdened 181 finances of India. I would entreat Her Majesty's Government to consider that point, which appears to me to be undeniable. In truth, as I view the matter—although I can understand it arises without the slightest intention to perplex the Business of the House—the proposal of the Government that we should take the discussion on the Motion and Amendment now before the House would come to nothing more nor less than this—that, first of all, we should be compelled to debate together, and in hotch-potch, so to speak, two questions which are both of very great importance, even if not of equal importance, and which are perfectly distinct from one another; and then that, having so discussed these two questions together, we should go to a division, in which it would be absolutely impossible for anyone to know whether he was voting on the one side or the other. Now, Sir, that is a state of things in which it cannot be acceptable or desirable to Her Majesty's Government that the Business of the House should stand. I apprehend no one is desirous to interfere with the progress of the Report of the Address to-night. If we are driven to the alternative between making an attempt to discuss the policy of the Government upon the Report of the Address, where the discussion would undoubtedly be legitimate and in place, and discussing upon another occasion when it would not be legitimate nor in place, and where it would only throw the Business of the House into confusion, I know not what position my noble Friend might take; but I see nothing but inconvenience to the proceedings of the House in consequence. Then, also, I think Her Majesty's Government may do well to recollect that they are not now, as at the end of the Session, masters of all the days of the week. If it is insisted that the debate on Monday shall be the debate on the Motion of my hon. Friend opposite, and also that that Motion shall be the only occasion given us for considering the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, the consequence will be that the debate will spread over several nights, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford would, I apprehend, decline to move his Motion as an Amendment. But suppose my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, declining to move his Motion as an 182 Amendment, should think proper to avail himself of his privilege to bring forward his Motion on Tuesday, what, then, will be the position of the House? That we shall begin on Monday the debate on the question of Indian finance with a considerable admixture of the other subject; that my hon. Friend, I apprehend, will not give way on Tuesday; and his debate will then commence and be continued during Tuesday night. But then the Government will retort upon my hon. Friend the disadvantage which it has been in his power to inflict upon them, and on Thursday we should resume the debate, and so go on on the Motion about Indian finance. I hope I have not appeared to put this question in a hostile point of view; I have only argued it in the interests of the general convenience, and I hope the suggestion of my noble Friend will be entertained.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I must confess, after listening to the speech which has just been delivered, I feel very much like the picture that was exhibited to us in a comic periodical the other day, of "John Bull in a Fog." After the number of suggestions made by my right hon. Friend as to the different modes in which those who oppose Her Majesty's Government may attack us, I feel the situation is perfectly bewildering. I should have thought that there was but one possible mode in which the Motion could be brought forward, and that that mode depended upon the formal decision of the Government; but after hearing the wealth of suggestions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, and considering how many arrangements might be made by Gentlemen opposite—who have only got to arrange amongst themselves in which particular way they would like it discussed—I do not think the case is strengthened by the speech which has been made to us. But what I wish to point out is this—we have taken the unusual course of advising Her Majesty to summon Parliament at this inconvenient season for a particular object, to fulfil the statutory obligation which is laid upon us to obtain the consent of both Houses of Parliament to the application of the Indian Revenues to certain military operations. I wish to point out, in passing, that that is a very different thing from saying we are asking Parliament now to agree to charge 183 the whole of the expenses on the Indian Revenue. That is a point which has been raised in this Motion. I only point out that by the way; but at this time we are making an appeal to Parliament, asking it for the authority required by the Act. The proper time for making that proposal is the very first day of Business that we can command, and it it is proposed to make that proposal on Monday next. Well, we are told, whether that proposal should or should not be assented to, it is desired to challenge the whole policy with regard to the war itself. But that might have been challenged on the Address, and it may still be challenged on the Report of the Address; or it might be challenged by some arrangement between the different Members of the Opposition—which obviously suggests itself, but which we are told cannot take place; or, lastly, it might be arranged, after a decision had been taken upon the questions which will be raised by the Amendment and Motion, a substantive Motion should be brought forward by the hon. Member for Bedford, which would raise the general policy as to the war. But I think the proper and most convenient course is that which the Government proposes to pursue, and that is that we should be allowed, to take the opportunity which would naturally be afforded us, on moving for the statutory consent of this House to the application of the Revenues of India to those purposes, of stating our case. Our object is to explain our case, and to let such discussion arise as may be thought desirable. I really think that we are taking the most convenient course, not only for ourselves, but for the House generally. We have to consider the convenience of the House generally, especially upon such an occasion as this; and I am, therefore, very sorry that it is not in my power to comply with the request of the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, there was one point on which he wished clearly to understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Opposition had been, he would not say taunted, but it had been pointed out that they might have taken the course of moving this Amendment on the Address. Now, his noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition stated on the previous night the reasons which had induced him not to 184 take that course, expecting, no doubt, at the time, that the Government would have made no difficulty with reference to a day for this Motion. ["Oh, oh!"] His noble Friend might have been wrong—and it would now appear he was wrong—at all events, he entertained that expectation. But his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich had pointed out that the House had not yet done with the Address. The Report of the Address was still in the hands of the House; and he did not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India was prepared to state the case of the Government that night, and if not, the best course to take would be the one suggested by his right hon. Friend, and that was that upon the Report of the Address, to move that it be postponed till Monday. They should then place the Government and the Opposition really in the position which the Government considered the latter ought to have taken up in the first instance. Therefore, he should like to know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought of this—that when the Report of the Address was moved that evening a proposal for an adjournment till Monday should be agreed to, and then the Government, on the Report, would state their case, and the hon. Member for Bedford would move his Amendment. He did not see that any time would be lost. The hon. Member for Bedford's Motion would then be an Amendment on the Report, and he should like to know whether the Government would assent to this.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not quite understood the position. ["Oh!" "Order!"] That was his opinion, and he begged leave to state it. The position of affairs was this: The Opposition desired to challenge the conduct of the Government in two particulars—those raised by the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, and by his (Mr. Whitbread's) own Motion—but the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed that the Government should state the whole of the Government case on Monday; and then, after that, that the House should go into a discussion on the particular point raised by the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer really think that the case 185 of the Government could be dealt with in its entirety, having stated that the discussion would be confined to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I did not make that suggestion. I said the case of the Government would be stated on Monday, and it would be for those who opposed the Government to take what course they deemed necessary.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
reminded the House that his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, who had already given Notice to raise a particular issue, had declined to give way. He did not complain of his hon. Friend for taking that course, as the point he wished to raise was an important one; but the effect of it would be that they should have the general statement made by the Under Secretary of State for India, they should then have the particular issue raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, and, afterwards, a great many Gentlemen would reply on the whole case, while others would state their opinions of the Amendment, so that they should have a desultory debate, not dealing satisfactorily either with the particular point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, nor brought to a point where the decision of the House would be taken on the whole question. The course proposed by the Government would lead to a long and desultory debate; and when the Opposition came afterwards to raise the questions involved in his Motion, complaints would be made from the Ministerial Benches of their going over the ground again, and prolonging the Sitting at this inconvenient time of the year. It was not in his power to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer further. In the course of his experience of that House—which was not a short one—he had generally found the Government anxious to provide every facility for bringing forward Motions which challenged their policy. Often last Session and the Session before they used this sort of language—"Why don't you bring your opinions to the test of a vote? It you disapprove the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, why don't you bring a Vote of Censure?" Well, he wanted to propose a Vote of Censure. But the way in which the Government 186 proposed to deal with that matter was by postponing it. He had expressed his desire to enter the lists with the Government on the earliest possible occasion; but, of course, it was not in his power to compel the Government to accept that challenge sooner than they liked.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that he was totally unable to understand the complaint of the hon. Member for Bedford, that the Government was unwilling to meet a direct challenge. As the question presented itself to him, the complaint of the Government was that the Opposition had hesitated and declined to make a direct challenge. There had certainly been plenty of time for all the Leaders, for all who wished to be Leaders, and for all who thought themselves Leaders of the Opposition to have arranged their plans of operation. Those various classes of Leaders might have assembled together; they might have squabbled together, and then made up their differences, and agreed upon some Amendment with which they could have appeared as the great united. Party they were well known to be. It would have been both natural and easy for them to have arranged an Amendment to the Address, which in a crisis like this was the ancient and well-known course of procedure. But they were totally unprepared, and their bewilderment did not even stop here; they seemed totally to have forgotten that there was a Report on the Address. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in his character of the good angel who sat watching aloft, the super-Leader or post-Leader of his Party—which he was it was difficult to know, for he always appeared after the Leader to supply the casual deficiencies in the Leader's speech—stepped forward to refresh their memories, and his suggestion that there was a Report on the Address seemed a sudden revelation to Gentlemen opposite. But the hon. Member for Bedford was much too experienced a Member to have forgotten that there was a Report; and why he did not give Notice of his Amendment last night was the one thing which he had not explained. His solicitation amounted to a confession that the Liberal Party had out-generalled themselves in taking up a defenceless position, and had to fall back upon an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take the 187 command of their forces and lead them out of their own difficulty.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought there was one point in the present situation that ought not to be lost sight of by the House. It had been customary—and he believed the Government considered it a very convenient custom—that the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne should be assented to unanimously. But there were exceptions; and he took it for granted that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) was actuated by a desire to meet the convenience of the House by not moving an Amendment on the Address. In taking that course the noble Lord had disappointed the expectations of some of those who followed his Leadership, and who would have been glad if the question had been raised at the earliest possible moment, as an Amendment on the Address. He could also say that the noble Lord had disappointed a large number of earnest members of his own Party throughout the country, who were watching the proceedings of that House with the greatest anxiety, and they were most desirous that the first opportunity should be embraced for entering a protest against a war which they believed to be one of the most infamous ever waged. He, and those who thought with him, would, at all events, have the courage of their convictions. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. B. Hope) taunted the Liberal Party with its divisions; but they were quite prepared, out of regard for the convenience of the House, and out of respect to the noble Lord who led their Party, to keep back for a time their protest, but how were they met? in such a way that he hoped that the dilettante mode of dealing with Addresses to the Throne would be done away with. He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that while the noble Lord had not, out of courtesy, brought forward the question on the Address to the Throne the Government would cheerfully give every opportunity for its full discussion. They had found out by a mere accident that the terms of the Address were most unusual, and if it had not been altered it would have committed the whole House to an approval of the origin of the war. If that Address had not been altered they would have challenged the opinion of 188 the House. It was subsequently altered, for the express purpose of preventing the necessity for an Amendment. This was only on a piece with the conduct of the Government, who had been acting in the same manner for several months past, leading the House on by assurances in which they were afterwards disappointed. They had treated the House of Commons—or, at all events, the Liberal Party—with contempt; they had kept back information from the House—["No, no!"]—the only opportunity they would have of raising the important Constitutional question would be on such a Motion as that of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, which the Government refused to give an opportunity of discussing. They hoped to have an opportunity for discussing, not only the war, but many questions relating to the war; and if the Government did not give the House an opportunity for discussing the Vote of Censure—from which they shrank—they would use all the Forms of the House which were in their possession with the view of discussing this Resolution of the hon. Gentleman on conditions which should ensure a fair and full discussion. Even now, he hoped the Government would give his hon. Friend Monday night for his Motion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
perfectly understood the position of the Opposition, and in the circumstances of this war, the contingencies of which were so wide, it was to the credit of the Opposition that they should have been unwilling even to appear to refuse the means of carrying it on. He rejoiced that Her Majesty's Government had convened Parliament in deference to what he had always understood to be the requirements of the law with respect to the employment of Indian troops out of India. But now that Parliament was assembled, Her Majesty's Government had declined to afford an opportunity to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) to discuss a censure of their policy. ["No, no!"] That he understood to be the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had replied to the hon. Member for Bedford, the noble Lord the Member for Radnor, and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, that there were opportunities at the command of the Opposition and at the general command of the House, and they must avail themselves of some of 189 these. That was an answer which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a perfect right to make; but inferences would be drawn from it which might not be agreeable. The answer might be given from a sense of duty; but, if so, the duty devolved upon the Opposition to avail itself of the privileges they possessed as Members of the House. He trusted that what had occurred would render Her Majesty's Opposition and the great body of the House careful how they parted with their privileges.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Government have not yet favoured us with their opinion as to the course which it has been indicated from this side must be necessary—namely, that unless the Government can make a satisfactory arrangement for the discussion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford, the discussion on the Report on the Address ought to be adjourned, so that on that Report my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford may move his Amendment. I am sure the Government do not wish this discussion to close without giving us their views on that point; and I wish to know in what spirit the Government desire these debates on this most important issue to be conducted? The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. B. Hope) indicated his views of the Opposition; but I trust the public will not be misled by pleasantries of that sort. The point of the case is this—that the Opposition desire a clear and unmistakable opportunity of debating the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The Government proposal is to this effect—that the discussion of the Vote of Censure is to be mixed up in an inextricable manner with another proposal which is only subsidiary. They charge us now with an omission in not moving an Amendment on the Address. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Not "charge."] Not to the same extent in this House, perhaps; but in "another place" the charge was made in the most direct manner. To that charge we reply that the inexplicable delay in the issue of the Papers placed before us rendered it impossible to come to an adequate conclusion on the great issues involved in time to take that course. Hon. Members could not make up their minds without knowing the facts disclosed in that most important volume containing the Asian 190 Papers. If they had known how the Government acted with Russia, and what weak remonstrances they made as to the advances in Central Asia, while they were making demonstrations against Afghanistan, it might have been possible to debate the subject without perusing the Papers. But, on this side at least, we feel there is an immense responsibility involved in the case; and we did not think it possible to debate it in the manner in which the country desired until those Papers had been thoroughly mastered. That is a fair and proper statement of the matter. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition placed that argument before the House, and it was not challenged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wish now to know whether hon. Members opposite and the Government do not desire that my noble Friend should continue to act in that loyal, patriotic, and Constitutional manner in which he discharged his duties to his Party and the country; or I should like to know whether they wish this side to have recourse to what they would be the first to call factious opposition the moment it was adopted, and if they, on their part, intend to disregard traditionary forms? The traditionary form is, that on Notice of a Vote of Censure the Government immediately postpone all other Business in order to take the opinion of the House upon that issue. In the first place, by delaying the Papers they have put us in a position that a debate upon the Address would have been too early and inadequate, and now they wish to reduce us to the position that the debate must be put off and be unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer says "we must state our case." So far it is clear. What is to follow? The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) will propose a Motion on a subsidiary point, and a general discussion will take place upon it. It is perfectly clear that in that case the issues themselves which it is desired to raise cannot be satisfactorily discussed; and the country will know, if you refuse to give us this adequate discussion upon your conduct, that you are attempting to confuse our challenge with other issues. I wish to know the opinion of the Government with regard to the adjournment of the Report on the Address.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
We all regret that in debates on such, a serious question as we are going to be engaged in next week, proceedings should be begun by any heated arguments, on one side or the other, entirely on side issues. I understood from the noble Lord last night that nothing was further from his desire than that it should be the case; and when we are accused of having placed matters in an awkward position before the House, we are entitled to deny that that awkwardness originated with us. How did this matter come before us? Both Houses were called together for one special purpose. Of course, an Address had to be moved to the Crown. The natural course on such a question as this is not unknown to the noble Lord, for it was successfully applied in his case in former years, and he is therefore perfectly aware of it. It was to challenge the policy of the Government in an Amendment on the Address. The noble Lord declined to do that; and I think I am not wrong in saying that he declined to do it because he did not wish to do anything in the way of stopping Supplies absolutely necessary for the war.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman is somewhat under a misapprehension. "What I said was that, in my opinion, an Amendment to the Address might have been a proper—perhaps the most proper—way of meeting the question; but that the conduct of the Government in keeping back the Papers until almost immediately before the meeting of Parliament rendered the adoption of that course impossible.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
And, at the same time, the noble Lord said he did not want there to be a semblance of opposing Supplies. If the course now suggested were followed, that would practically be the result. It was, however, open to those who challenged the policy of the Government to move an Amendment to the Address, which, in my opinion, would have been the most proper way of proceeding; or to have given Notice of moving an Amendment on the Report, or on the Motion which my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India proposes to submit to the House on Monday next. If the hon. Member for Bedford had announced it to be his intention to bring 192 forward his Amendment on that Motion, I feel sure the hon. Member for Hackney would not have disputed his right to do so. The hon. Member for Bedford, however, has not chosen to take advantage of any of the three opportunities which were open to him. My purpose in rising was to make a suggestion that will, it seems to me, remove the difficulty, if hon. Members opposite will agree amongst themselves. Suppose the Report on the Address is taken to-day, and that on Monday the Under Secretary of State for India lays the case of the Government open on the withdrawal of the hon. Member for Hackney, no one will be injured. It is convenient that the course in both Houses should be the same. The Under Secretary of State could then be followed by the hon. Member for Bedford, and then we should go into the whole question, and it would be thoroughly discussed. If the hon. Gentleman succeeded in carrying his Amendment, the hon. Member for Hackney would, I have no doubt, be satisfied with the result; but if, on the other hand, the Amendment were to be defeated, then the Question put would be that "the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney, being a simple negative of the Resolution proposed by the Government, he would be afforded an ample opportunity of discussing the question which he desires to raise in the fullest manner. That, in my opinion, would be the simplest and best course to adopt.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he would consult the convenience of the House in reference to his Amendment; but his Amendment was a very important one, and was totally distinct from the question raised by the hon. Member for Bedford. He had reason to believe that on both sides of the House there existed considerable difference of opinion as to the manner in which the financial burdens should be apportioned. If the war was Imperial rather than Indian in its scope and its results, it would be monstrously unjust to make the people of India pay for it; if, on the other hand, it was of the contrary character, its expense should be defrayed by India. That was, in short, the point raised by his Motion, which, as the hon. Member for Bedford would see, had no relation to his own Resolution. In the few re- 193 marks he would have to make he should avoid any consideration of the purposes of the war, beyond what was necessary to show that the charge should not be borne by the people of India. The Home Secretary had suggested a course which he must be well aware would place him (Mr. Fawcett) in a position of such absurdity as to his opportunity that he could not agree to it. There would be a debate of four nights, one of the greatest debates which had taken place for a quarter of a century, and the suggestion of the Home Secretary would lead to his rising at 3 o'clock in the morning when the division on the Vote of Censure took place to propose his Amendment. He would not further discuss that impracticable suggestion; but would only add that, in common with many hon. Members on that side of the House, he would have preferred the more direct and simple course of bringing forward the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford on the Address. As, however, that had not been done, it seemed to him that the best remaining plan would be to bring it forward on the Report.
§ MR. A. MILLS
confessed that he had been so much struck by the remarks of the hon. Member for Hackney, as to the necessity for keeping the discussion on the merits of the war distinct from considerations of finance, that he could not but agree with him in hoping that the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford would be brought forward as an Amendment to the Report. He regretted that the traditional usage had not been followed; but it was necessary, at any rate, to preserve the distinction between the Motions of the hon. Members for Hackney and Bedford.
§ MR. RATHBONE
remarked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought it convenient that the plan he suggested should be adopted. He wished, however, to know to whom it was convenient, and for what reason? All the Opposition wanted was to have the question clearly and definitively debated, in the belief that the Government had a bad case; and, that being so, he could understand that it would be very convenient for them so to cloud and trouble the waters of the discussion that the country would not be able to judge between the two parties. That was a convenience they had no intention of affording.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that it would probably now be admitted on all sides that his noble Friend had been right in not proposing any Amendment to the Address on account of the short time they had had for perusing 500 pages of Blue Book; but when it had been remarked that a different course had been taken by him on another occasion, he would remind the House that that was after the General Election of 1859, when the Reform question had been discussed for months. At the present moment they were at great disadvantage, because the usual methods for discussing the policy of a war had been deliberately taken out of their hands. Take the nearest analogous case—that of the summoning of Parliament on account of the Abyssinian War. On that occasion not one, but several distinct opportunities were afforded for discussing the whole question. After the Address had been adopted the entire case of the Government was stated, on the Motion for Supply, by the Leader of the House. That was followed by a Ways and Means debate, and then by a Motion as to the charge on the Revenues of India. Some objected, in the debate in Supply, both to the action of the then Government and to that of their Predecessors; but that debate had been concluded before the specific question of the charge on India for the expenses of the war had been discussed. In the present case, however, the question was simply the lesser and more specific one raised by the difference of opinion as to what share of the military burden should be borne by India. It would seem that the Government were disposed to take advantage of the fact that no Amendment had been moved to the Address, in order to preclude the Opposition from a general debate before the comparatively less important—though still very important—subject raised by the Under Secretary of State came before the House on Monday. The Home Secretary had suggested that when his Colleague came to move a Resolution relating to the payment of the expenses of the war by India, an Amendment might be moved by the hon. Member for Bedford; and that after this matter was disposed of the hon. Member for Hackney might satisfy himself by merely voting a negative to the original Motion. But why should the hon Member for 195 Hackney so satisfy himself? He might wish to qualify that opposition by language and a Resolution very different from a bare negative. He (Mr. Childers) did not think there was any precedent for such a proposal. It had been suggested that this question should be now raised on the Report. But this could not be done to-day, for it was not possible to propose an Amendment without Notice, and no Notice could have been given until to-day. The House would agree that the first available day ought to be taken; and he thought they had bettor adjourn the Report of the Address that night, and take it on Monday. They could then thresh out the whole question of the war on the important Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford. It would be time to consider the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney after this subject had been discussed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said that, having already spoken, he had no right to say anything further except by the indulgence of the House. He thought that the convenience of the House would be consulted by accepting the proposal that had just been made. The Government had, of course, no desire in any way to preclude discussion; but he thought the proposal made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department would have given the hon. Member for Hackney every advantage that he could have obtained by any other course. Whatever course was taken, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) understood there would be a general discussion of the whole merits of the war in the first instance, and then a subsequent discussion would be raised by the hon. Member for Hackney as to how it was to be charged. According to the proposal made by his right hon. Friend, they would take the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford first, and then take another night for the other. Nobody would ever have supposed they could take up the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney at 3 o'clock in the morning. If it had come up at such an hour, it would have been allowed to stand over until the following day. The Government had no desire to force the matter forward upon the House. They would agree to the adjournment of the discussion on the Report of the Address till Monday. Before sitting down, however, 196 he must take notice of the observation of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), that the Government had intentionally kept back the Papers. That was a remark that ought not to have been made. The Government had endeavoured until the last moment to bring about an amicable settlement. It was not until the Ameer declined to send an answer to the Ultimatum that warlike measures were found necessary; and then the Government took immediate steps to prepare the Papers and lay them on the Table of the House. He assumed that if the discussion on the Report and the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford were resumed on Monday the House would be prepared to continue it de die in diem.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House, at rising, to adjourn till Monday next.