HC Deb 28 May 1878 vol 240 cc836-41

I wish to make a few remarks on what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, and to do so in Order I will move the adjournment of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he would have to take a Morning Sitting on Friday. He was not, perhaps, aware, when he stated that, that the Irish Members, as represented by the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), have a Motion on that day, to which they attach the greatest importance—perhaps more importance than to any other matter that they have brought forward this Session—namely, University Education. It is perfectly useless our coming here if we do not have an opportunity of debating this question. I should very much prefer to take a Morning Sitting on Saturday, and I should be willing to give up my whole holidays rather than give up the ordinary Sitting on Friday. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not persist in his intention, for if he does it will be my duty to oppose it. If any other day were taken, I should be happy to assist the Government.


in seconding the Motion, said: The Motion which stands in my name for Friday is one in which the greatest interest is taken in Ireland, and it is important that the discussion should take place on that day. I do not wish in any way to threaten the Government, and I hope no language of that character may be used; but if they persevere in the intention that has been expressed, I am afraid it will not expedite Public Business. I would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that as this Motion is one in which so much interest is felt, and the importance of which the Government has admitted, whether it would be fair to take away from private Members the time which is usually theirs? We do not ask the Government to give us any time which the Government usually have; we merely ask that, on a question of this importance, they should not take away the time of private Members.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Major Nolan.)


I can assure the House and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that nothing is further from my thought or that of the Government than to stand in the way of the discussion of the important Motion of which he has given Notice, and I hope it may be possible for us to take a fair discussion on the subject on Friday. But I must point out to them, and to other hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in this question, that really the fault that we are obliged to have recourse to this step will not lie with the Government. The House is perfectly well aware that it is essentially necessary for the Business of the country that we should go on with our Votes in Supply. They are perfectly well aware that the Government laid aside and postponed many measures of considerable importance, which they were now anxious to proceed with, for no other purpose than to give an opportunity for proceeding with Supply. They know that we took a Vote on account before the Recess, when we pledged ourselves, as far as we could, that we would not ask for another Vote of Credit, and to prevent our going to that necessity we have been proceeding with Supply night after night. But I am bound to say that we have come to the point that we shall be obliged to come for another Vote on account. Whether that be so or not, it is within the knowledge of all the Members of this House that the mode in which the Estimates have been opposed and questions raised upon them, renders it absolutely impossible for us to conduct the Business of the House satisfactorily. As matters stand all I can say is that if we make proper progress in Supply on Thursday I should not think of proposing a Morning Sitting on Friday. But it is in anticipation of our being in the same position as we have been several times recently that I have been obliged to give the intimation.


I suppose the right hon. Gentleman refers to the Motion which came on first on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair. But I would refer the Government to the fact that if any hon. Members have discussed the Estimates at greater length than is altogether according to the wishes of the Government that is a matter for which the hon. Members themselves are responsible. It has not been the intention of the Irish Members generally to obstruct the Estimates, and I, for my part, should object to the sins of particular individuals being visited on the whole Irish people. The Irish Members, however, have a right to discuss every Estimate that comes before the House. They have on a former occasion entreated the Government to take into consideration various important questions, especially relating to education—University Education and the Queen's Colleges. Year after year we have appealed to the Government to consider these subjects without result. We have brought forward Bills to remedy these grievances, but ever since the present Government has been in power we have not succeeded in passing a single measure of benefit to Ireland. It is, therefore, out of the question to suppose that Irish Members will consent to forego the bringing forward this Motion with respect to University Education, which Motion ought, indeed, to be brought forward by the Government itself, which has almost pledged itself to consider the matter. But every responsibility relating to Irish measures the Government have shirked. I have not joined in the discussions that have been raised recently; but it will be very unfortunate if the Chancellor of the Exchequer assumes the tone that he will endeavour to visit the sins of certain individuals whom he thinks have offended on the whole body of the Irish people. My hon. and gallant Colleague made a proposition which shows bonâ fide our intention in proposing to give up Saturday for a Morning Sitting. I believe we should all prefer to give up Saturday for a Morning Sitting rather than have this important discussion interfered with. The House would not desire anyone to hold out the semblance of a threat to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope he will take these remarks in good part, and understand that they only indicate the great importance we attach to this discussion, which ought naturally to come on on Friday.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer is anxious to have a Morning Sitting on Friday, which would mean postponing the discussion of the University Bill. I wish to note to the House that I have on the Notice Paper, before going into Committee of Supply, for Friday, a Motion on the subject of Irish Intermediate Education, and that will probably occupy three or four hours. There is one way in which the matter could be settled, and that is that the Minister who represents Ireland would, in half-an-hour, state on the first reading what he means to do with regard to what has been promised for four years on the subject of Intermediate Education.


I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken a somewhat unfortunate method of expediting Supply. Unless he makes as much progress as he deems sufficient—I do not know how much that is—in the Irish Estimates to-morrow night, he says he will be compelled to take away from the Irish Members a portion of their evening in order to further the progress of those Estimates. In making that proposal, he is holding out to us the same sort of bargain he held out last year in regard to the discussion of the Queen's College Estimates. Last year he made a bargain with the Irish Members, that if they refrained from discussing those Estimates, he would give them a day for discussing the University Bill, and the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) accepted the compromise, and we got a day for the discussion, and much good it did us. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us now, in effect, if we refrain from discussing the Irish Estimates on Thursday night, he will allow us to have what belongs to us—namely, our evening on Friday to discuss the matter of University Education. I think that is a distinctly immoral proposition, and I, for one, do not in the slightest degree accept it. I refuse to refrain from advancing my views on the Irish Estimates in order to enable the hon. Member for Roscommon to retain that which he is justly entitled to, and I shall enter into no such compromise or bargain; but I tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he will not go into Supply if he takes a Morning Sitting on Friday. If, on the other hand, he takes a conciliatory course towards the Irish Members, and gives them that which is their due—namely, this Friday evening which they have obtained by the chances of ballot—I believe such a course will do far more to facilitate the object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in obtaining Supply than any of those which I have heard him hold out to-night. I must really tell the right hon. Gentleman that the part of Henry VIII. does not at all become him. We read in English history that that King, when he wanted money for any purpose, used to stride about the House and say—"I will have your money or else I will have your heads." The Chancellor of the Exchequer has adopted a somewhat similar course, the only difference being that he strides into the House and says—"I will have your money or I will have your day." That is the threat which he holds out to the Irish Members, and is a threat to which they ought not to submit.


I must also make a protest, and that is against the lecture to which the House has just listened. Hon. Members on both sides are, I am sure, prepared to bear testimony to the courteous and conciliatory manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavours, on all occasions, and under the greatest difficulties, to conduct the Public Business. I hope, therefore, that he will not submit to the dictation which is attempted to be practised by a few of our number day after day. I impute no motives; but I believe the House perfectly well understands what is the object of those hon. Gentlemen who have recently discussed the Estimates in a manner so unprecedented. I trust that if, in future, the Public Business is obstructed, hon. Members on both sides of the House will rally round the Chancellor of the Exchequer and support him.


We have heard a very nice lecture, in cool style, from the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin); but I really do think if he would perform his duty to his constituents, he would be in his place and attend to the discussion of the Estimates, and see that the public money was properly disposed of. I have not been very long in this House, but I have some little experience of the manner in which Business is conducted, and I believe that fair limits have not been exceeded in the discussion of the Estimates. I raised a discussion the other night—


I must point out that the hon. Member is out of Order in referring to a former debate in this House.


I want to point out the mode in which a division was taken.


The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to discuss a Vote already taken.


I have this day received a letter from a correspondent in Scotland, pointing out a particular Scotch Vote, which, he says, was thoroughly unreasonable.

LORD FRANCIS HERVEY rose to Order. The hon. Gentleman was disregarding the ruling of the Speaker.


The hon. Gentleman is not entitled, under cover of a communication, to advert to a Vote passed in this House.


I contend that the time occupied in discussing the Estimates has not been wasted. As to the question of Irish University Education, it is a subject upon which the Irish people take a great interest, and it should, therefore, be fairly discussed. It is a question which cannot be shelved, and will not be shelved; and I do not think we have a right to go on our knees and beg as a particular favour for what belongs to us. This proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a sample of the way in which the Business is conducted by the Government. The Government get up discussions upon collateral issues, and, instead of occupying the time with legitimate Business, it is wasted. This is the universal experience of the way in which the time of the House is wasted.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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