MR. O'CONNOR POWER
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If he will inform the House on what authority he has formed his belief that the persons who took part in a recent tenant right meeting at Milltown, in the county of Galway, "were not tenant farmers, and were unconnected with the neighbourhood;" and, whether he will lay upon the Table of the House, Copies of the Instructions given to Colonel Bruce, Deputy Inspector General of Constabulary, and the constabulary authorities in the west of Ireland, in reference to the land agitation going on in that part of the country, so as to enable the House to express an opinion on the subject?
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
The belief to which I gave expression, in reply to a Question put to me without Notice on Monday last, was to the effect that some of the persons who took a part at the meetings referred to were not connected with either the neighbourhood or with land. I formed that opinion from the various sources of information to which I had access. As a matter of fact, I find upon further inquiry that I might have gone a good deal further, and have said that a great proportion of the speakers at the meeting at Milltown, to which especial reference was made, were in no respect fairly representative of the tenant farmers of the district. I find, for instance, that the first resolution was moved by a clerk in a commercial house in Dublin, and seconded by a person who is stated to be a discharged schoolmaster. Another resolution was moved by a convict at large upon a ticket-of-leave, and seconded by a person who is described as the representative of a local newspaper—and so on. I find, therefore, my first impression more than confirmed. It is, however, unfortunately the case that many tenant farmers were induced to 695 attend the meeting and applaud the very objectionable sentiments uttered by the speakers, and thereby, no doubt, so far have involved the neighbourhood in responsibility for what occurred?
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
I beg pardon. I omitted to say that I am unable to lay a Copy of the instructions given to Colonel Bruce upon the Table, as such documents are always regarded as confidential. I gave the other night a fair summary of them, or, rather, I should say, the substance of the duties Colonel Bruce will have to discharge; and it would not be in the interest of the public service to go further than that.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
regretted to be reluctantly obliged to move that the House do now adjourn. ["No!"] He did so for the purpose of being enabled to state briefly that the information on which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had based his opinion on the general character of that meeting was not correct. He begged leave to contradict, in the most direct manner, the statements which had been communicated to the right hon. Gentleman, who had thus been made the channel for misrepresenting the character of that meeting. Ho would move the adjournment in order that he might put the House in possession of the exact position of affairs in regard to that matter. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by stating that the first resolution was moved by a clerk in a Dublin firm; but he did not inform the House that that resolution had nothing whatever to do with the land question. The right hon. Gentleman had carefully and studiously suppressed that important fact. ["Order!"] There were three resolutions passed at that meeting. The first resolution dealt with the question of national self-government; and it was true that it was moved and seconded by gentlemen who had no claim to be considered tenant farmers. The right hon. Gentleman then said that a subsequent resolution was moved by a man who was a convict at large under a ticket-of-leave, but whom he (Mr. O'Connor Power) would venture to describe as a man who had suffered long years of penal servitude because he had had the courage to resist inhumane English rule 696 in Ireland. Although this gentleman did not hold land himself, he was the son of a tenant farmer, and his relations and friends, very numerous in the county which he (Mr. O'Connor Power) had the honour to represent, were all connected with the land. The suggestion that that gentleman was not fitted to expound the grievances of his countrymen because he did not hold land was simply absurd. The right hon. Gentleman gave a striking misrepresentation of the position occupied by the gentleman who seconded the resolution. He said he was connected with a newspaper; but he was a very well-known tenant farmer, and, what was still more to the point, when the Committee sat upstairs to inquire into the working of the Bright Clauses, Mr. Daley, the gentleman referred to, was summoned before the Committee, and gave evidence which was regarded as very valuable and very instructive in reference to the tenure of land in Ireland. Well, there was a third resolution passed at this meeting—
[From the time when the hon. Member stated his intention to move the adjournment of the House, and it appeared probable that a debate was about to be raised, hon. Members ceased to pay attention to the hon. Member's remarks, and conversation became so general and so loud that the hon. Member could with difficulty be heard.]
§ MR. PARNELL
rose to Order. [The interruption continued.] He would be unable to state his point of Order so long as the conversation which was being kept up by hon. Members opposite was sustained. He requested that he might be enabled to address Mr. Speaker, and communicate his point of Order. He asked whether it was in Order for hon. Members on the opposite side deliberately to enter into conversation in so loud a tone as to drown the voice of a speaker who was desirous of addressing the Chair? The fact of which he spoke was patent to everybody. Even at that moment he could scarcely hear his own voice, so loud was the din and so persistent the conversation of hon. Members opposite. Such a course was tantamount to obstructing the freedom of speech; because, if hon. Members were prevented by the conversation of their fellow-Members from having their sentiments heard by the Chair, it would be impossible for 697 freedom of debate to be maintained. He, therefore, wished to know whether Mr. Speaker permitted hon. Members to address him on a subject which was perfectly in Order, and yet allowed persistent interruptions from hon. Members opposite, who were indulging in conversation openly to put an end to discussion?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Meath has risen and addressed the House on a point of Order. What has occurred is this. The hon. Member for Mayo put a Question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and received an answer. The Question was fully answered. The hon. Member for Mayo thereupon rose in his place and notified to the House that, not being satisfied with the answer, he should conclude with a Motion—and I presume that he intended to move the adjournment of the House. As the House is aware, every Member of this House has the privilege of moving the adjournment of the House at the time of Questions; but I am bound to say that if the privilege of moving the adjournment of the House when a Member is not satisfied with an answer which he receives should become a practice, that privilege will have to be restrained by the House.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he assured Mr. Speaker, as he stated at the outset, that he moved the adjournment of the House with very great reluctance, and he appealed in confirmation of that statement to his general conduct as to whether he would take such a course without just cause. ["Order! Oh, oh!"] He was only proceeding to show that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had a second time made statements in that House which carried great weight in the country, but which were unfounded. He should be wanting in his duty to his constituents and to his country, if he allowed the statements of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to pass unchallenged. He was anxious to avail himself of the present occasion— ["Order, order!"]
§ [Much disorder prevailed throughout the remainder of this discussion.]
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that, as a question of Order, he begged to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the Leader of that House, whether he did not intend to support the intimation that had just been given from the Chair?
asked, as a point of Order, whether the speech of the hon. Member who was in possession of the House could be interrupted by a Question?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It seems to me, Sir, that this House is allowing itself, at the instigation of a small number of Members, to fall into practices which are entirely destructive either to the liberties of the House or to the Order of the House. I understand that the Rules of the House have been framed with a view to their giving to Members the greatest possible latitude, and, at the same time, on the understanding—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself risen on a point of Order.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I understand that when a Member is speaking to Order he has a right to be heard upon Order, and that he ought not to be interrupted in the course of his remarks—although, of course, his remarks may be answered by anyone who wishes to answer them. I am reluctantly obliged to make some remarks in consequence of the appeal which has been made to me, and of which I am bound to take notice, and also in consequence, I must say, Sir, of the apparent disregard of your authority.
§ MR. SPEAKER
These interruptions are altogether disorderly. The right hon. Genntlemen the Chancellor of the Exchequer has risen, as I understand, to a point of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in possession of the House, and these interruptions are altogether disorderly.
§ MR. PARNELL
rose, but the cries of "Order!" and "Sit down!" were so overpowering that the hon. Member resumed his seat.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER
If any illustration were wanting of the remark which I felt it my duty to make, that illustration is afforded, Sir, by hon. Members who have sat for some time in this House disregarding—["No, no!"]—or, at all events, appearing to disregard?—your repeated rulings by rising to interrupt me when I have been ruled by you to be in Order. My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) asked me whether I was prepared or not to support the ruling which you recently laid down. [An hon. MEMBER: No ruling.] I am not aware whether my hon. Friend used the word "ruling;" but you, Sir, undoubtedly did rule a point on which you were appealed to. The ruling of Mr. Speaker is this. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No ruling.] The ruling was—that it is in Order for any Member of this House, during the time of Questions, to move the adjournment of the House. But, on the other hand, you, Sir, proceeded to say that if this privilege was taken advantage of to raise a discussion upon every occasion when any Member may be dissatisfied with the answer ho has received to a Question, it would be necessary that some stops should be taken to restrain that privilege. That I understand to be your ruling. Well—I am asked whether I propose to take any steps to support that ruling? The point is one which involves this difficulty. It must be met either by moving some new Resolution—by moving some some new Order—or by taking steps to enforce the observations of the Speaker against those who appear inclined to disregard them. I am reluctant, without absolute necessity, to propose a new Resolution—I am reluctant to propose a Resolution which would curb and limit the liberty of Members of the House generally on account of an abuse which, I hope, is confined only to a few. It may be necessary; we may be driven to it. [" Order!"] I believe I am speaking to Order. I am answering a Question. It is not, at the present 700 moment, my intention to move a new Standing Order; but I think it will be my duty to take notice of the conduct of any Gentleman who, after having his attention called to the fact that he is interrupting and delaying the Business of the House, persists in doing so, without any special object to bring to the attention of the House. It may be necessary that we should call the attention of the House to the conduct of any such Member, and to submit to the House—[Cheers.]
§ [An hon. MEMBER: Do your best.]
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I rise, Sir, to ask you a Question,—whether it is in accordance with the Rules of the House, that when an hon. Member is in possession of the House, and is addressing it in the exercise of his discretion— whether rightly or wrongly I do not say— that another hon. Gentleman should get up and address a Question, not to you, Sir, but to another hon. Member—even though the latter be so distinguished as the Leader of the House? I submit that that is entirely out of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
In answer to the Question of the hon. Gentleman, I may say that it would, no doubt, have been more in accordance with the Rules of the House, if the appeal of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had been addressed to the Chair.
If I may be allowed to say a word on the point of Order—I would state that we ought to be extremely careful that we do not allow this scene to pass into one of those displays which sometimes harm us in public estimation.
Yes, Sir. I desire to say to the House that no observations shall fall from me in the slightest degree calculated to increase any heat that may have been displayed. I should be the last in the House to interrupt. My point of Order is this—I did not wish to interrupt the Chancellor of the Exchequer by rising when he was speaking. I did it once, but not a second time; but the right hon. Gentleman rose to answer a Question—as he candidly said himself—put to him on the other side. I called out, and said, " What is the point of Order?" The Leader of the House interrupted the debate, and sat down without naming his point of 701 Order, or submitting to you any point of Order, and was, therefore, himself not in Order. My point of Order is—whether it is not the fact that the only Members of the House who have broken the Rules of the House this evening are the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman is clearly not speaking to a point of Order, but is asking me whether certain things done by individual Members were orderly.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
If hon. Gentlemen had only been willing to extend to me the rights which, during this Session, have frequently been extended from this side of the House to the other, I should by this time have finished my case, and we might have proceeded with Business. I wish to say, in answer to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that his dark reference to what the House may be called upon to do against an individual Member shall have no effect whatever in deterring me from saying what I rose to say. [Interruption.] Until the highest authority in this House commands me to be silent, I shall not be silent until I have made my speech.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to use language of menace to this House. And, if he will allow me, I must caution him against abusing further the privilege afforded by this House by moving the adjournment of the House; and I trust he will be more measured in his language.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
I shall accept the ruling of the Chair, when I get the ruling of the Chair. I shall not accept the ruling of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or that of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Yes, Sir. I beg to move, as a point of Order, that the conduct of the hon. Member for Mayo is disrespectful to the Chair—["Order!" and Cheers.]
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
I had proceeded to a certain point of my remarks with the purpose of exposing the misrepresentation which the Chief Secre- 702 tary for Ireland unconsciously made, when the hon. Member opposite rose to Order. The right hon. Gentleman's description of the object of the meeting totally misrepresented the demand put forward by the people of Ireland for a reform of the landed system in that country. If my constituents are branded before the country as Socialists and Communists, I am bound, as their Representative, to denounce the accusation as a calumny; and I should fail in my duty as a Member of this House, if I allowed that misrepresentation to pass unchallenged. The Chief Secretary has given great dissatisfaction before in answering Questions, and now he says, in reply to my Question, that he will not lay on the Table copies of the Instructions that have been given to the constabulary authorities in the county which I represent. What does all this mean? The demands for reform are made in a peaceable and orderly manner. They are rejected; and when an agitation arises, the Government are ready to put it down at the point of the bayonet. The Government inaugurate a Reign of Terror in the County of Mayo, and hope to drown the voice of the people of Ireland. The policemen sent to Mayo may drown the voice of the people of Mayo; but the voice of the people's Representatives shall be heard to accuse the Government of adopting a policy which is a direct encouragement to revolution and assassination. I say that if you reject the demand for reform, and send armed soldiers to put it down, you are encouraging assassination. The Chief Secretary, as a 'prentice politician, is sent over to try his' prentice hand on Ireland before going to another Department; but if he fancies that the people of Mayo will submit to his dictation and coercion, he has mistaken their character. And if the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who seems to be busy at this moment in framing a Coercion Code for my particular benefit, thinks he will abridge my remarks by his performance, he has mistaken me. Hon. Members have availed themselves of the liberty to move the adjournment of the House on the most trival questions affecting individuals; but when an Irish Member comes forward to protest against a Reign of Terror and Coercion, and to say that it must lead to conspiracy and assassination, then a hostile opinion is manifested. 703 I do not know that this has succeeded on any former occasion, and I doubt if it will succeed now. I should like to call the attention of the House to the first resolution moved at this meeting, for the purpose of showing the peaceable and orderly character of that resolution. It was simply a proposition to make the cultivators of the soil the owners of the soil—which is neither revolutionary nor Communistic. It has been carried out on the Continent and in the Channel Islands, and on several hundred farms in Ireland. The matter is being agitated because of the oppressive working of the land system. [Interruption.] We have been appealed to in this House to make a statement of what are called political grievances rather than to enter into a discussion on abstract principles; and it is in consequence of that that I have thought it necessary to quote in extenso the first resolution that was passed; and I shall now invite the attention of the House to the second resolution. The second resolution was moved by a tenant farmer of the parish, and it declared that in consequence of the reduced value of farming and the succession of bad seasons it would be impossible for the tenants to pay the full rents. In the course of his speech, this gentleman mentioned several instances of landlord oppression. The third resolution was simply a protest against the increase of rents in the present state of depression in Ireland. And this is what is described as Socialism! Surely, it is time that someone should protest against the way in which Ireland has been misrepresented in the English Press, and even in statements emanating from the Treasury Bench.
§ MR. BOORD
I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member is in Order? I am one of the nearest to him on this side of the House, and, from what I can hear, it appears to me that he is discussing proceedings which took place at a certain meeting in Ireland, and I ask whether he is in Order in doing so? And, further, I ask what is the Question before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already intimated that the hon. Member is not, strictly speaking, out of Order; but I also pointed out the great inconvenience, if not irregularity, of the proceedings 704 now taking place. It is obvious from the observations made by the hon. Member for Mayo that it was his deliberate purpose to raise a debate upon the answer he received to his Question addressed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
Mr. Speaker, the third Resolution—["Oh, oh!"]—spoke of the distress in Ireland, and the mover said that to his personal knowledge some of the tenants had sold their bed and bedding; and he added that if the landlords were wise in their generation they would endeavour to avert the prospective catastrophe by reducing their rents and giving some employment to their tenants. I admit that the agitation is a grave agitation. I admit that it is an agitation which the Government are bound to notice. But when the people asked for bread and the Government answered their appeal by bullets, they will be held responsible for the peace of the country. The hon. Member, having read an extract from a letter of a parish priest, and referred to the moderate tone in which the resolutions were worded, proceeded to say: I trust that the effect of the humble but sincere protest I have made here this day will be to cause the right hon. Gentleman to be more careful as to the sources whence he derives his information, and to caution him and other Members of Her Majesty's Government against inaugurating a police rule, and, at the same time, denying the House an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion on the subject by refusing to produce the Instructions which have been given. If the Instructions I have asked for had had reference to something done in Zulu-land, the refusal to produce them would have been regarded as an arbitrary proceeding, which the House would not have tolerated. Let the Government take heed of the consequences of their rejection of the demands of the Irish people. They have been forewarned of the state of the country by the demands which have been made on behalf of the people of Ireland by their representatives, who are not now going to see the people robbed of the fruits of their industry on the one hand, and then bayoneted by the police on the other. A more hateful power than that of the Conservative Government and Party has never been experienced by my country, for the way in which they propose to deal with the Land Question is to shoot the 705 people down—["Oh, oh!"]—which they regard as the Constitutional remedy for the grievances of Ireland. The hon. Member concluded by moving the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. PARNELL,
in rising to second the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo, said, he did so because that the circumstances of the people in the West of Ireland were so desperate at the present moment that they could not allow things to go any further in the direction in which they were tending without bringing the matter before the House. The Chief Secretary had admitted the distress, but said it was not his intention to take any steps to remedy it.
I rise to Order. I wish to know if the hon. Member is in Order in referring to a subject of which Notice has been given — namely, the agricultural distress in Ireland?
§ MR. PARNELL
I am referring more particularly to the mustering of the police at the present moment. The Motion of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire does not touch upon that question. He is an Englishman, and he is ignorant of what is being done in Ireland. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire rose to address the Chair upon a point of Order, and I think it is scarcely becoming on the part of the hon. Member for Meath to anticipate the decision of the Chair, and to state that the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire is ignorant. I understand the hon. Member for Meath to be addressing himself to the points raised in the answer of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I am not prepared to say he is altogether in Order in the matter, because, in my judgment, the whole of these proceedings are certainly not altogether in Order.
§ MR. PARNELL
regretted very much that what they had done that day did not commend itself to the judgment of the Chair; but what could the Members for Ireland do? Under the circumstances that had been stated it was their duty to bring this subject before the highest tribunal in the country—because if the Government persisted in assisting the Irish landlords to collect rack rents from the people at the point of the bayonet they would have murderous outrages in that district of the country—the people would be driven to desperation — and he warned them that if the Government 706 were supported in their course of oppressing these people consequences would follow that everybody must deplore. He wished he might deter the Chief Secretary from provoking a repetition of the scenes that occurred 25 years ago. He knew that Government had great power, but the people also had great power when right was on their side; and the people in Mayo and in the other counties of Ireland would stand justified in using every means of passive resistance that they could to the minions of the law, and asserting their right to live on the soil which God gave to them, where they were born, and where their children had a right to live.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. 0' Connor Tower.)
THE MARQUESS OP HARTINGTON
I trust that this debate will not be further continued. I am perfectly aware I have no right to dictate, and I am sure I have no wish to attempt to dictate, to hon. Members from Ireland; but it is open to me, as it is open to any other hon. Member, to appeal to hon. Members from Ireland, who are as interested as any of us are in the preservation of the order and regularity of our discussions, and also in the maintenance of our privileges. I am not going to deny the importance—the great importance—of the subject which has been brought forward by the hon. Members for Mayo and Meath; but I wish to point out that the more important the question the more undesirable it is that it should be brought forward and discussed without Notice, when no hon. Member knew that the discussion was coming on, and when it was impossible that it could be discussed as the importance and magnitude of the subject demands. I regret that the hon. Member for Mayo should not only have disregarded, but should have appeared also to ignore, the recommendation and advice of the Chair. I am sure that the vast majority of the Members on this side of the House, from whatever part of the country they may come, desire to support and maintain the authority of the Chair; and I am quite sure we all regret that the hon. Member has not thought it incumbent upon him to pay— as in several instances he did not pay— the slightest attention to the advice of the Chair. We are equally interested 707 in the maintenance of our privileges. The right of moving, for a sufficient cause, the adjournment of the House, and of raising a discussion upon that question, is one which, no doubt, has great advantages. But it is quite evident that that privilege, as has been pointed out from the Chair, if abused, must be restrained; and I am sure we shall all hesitate long before we sanction any abuse of our privileges which may lead to this restraint. But, however anxious we may any of us be for Order, I think it is, above all things, desirable that we should be very sure of our ground in any such procedure. I regret that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who is to a certain extent the champion of the Order of this House, should, as it seems to me, have himself been guilty of interrupting the observations of an hon. Member who had been ruled by the Speaker to be in Order, by addressing a Question to an hon. Member who, however distinguished, does not possess any greater authority than any other Member of the House. I regret that intervention, because I think it added to the heat of the discussion, and I think it was more calculated to prolong than to abridge the discussion. But, Sir, I only rose to appeal very earnestly to hon. Members not to prolong this discussion, and to abstain as far as possible from what can, under any circumstances, be described as an abuse of a privilege of the House, which it is too evident may in the end be the cause of restricting that privilege.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to say only a very few words in support of the observations which have just fallen from the noble Lord opposite. I am sure it must be the feeling of everyone, on reflection, that we ought all to use our endeavours to promote the conduct of Business in this House, and to avoid as far as possible anything in the nature of recrimination or wrangling. It is, of course, most undesirable that we should attempt to fetter in any way the rights and privileges of Members of this House, and it would be a very extreme necessity which could in any circumstances compel the House to take steps to abridge that great privilege, which has always existed, of moving the adjournment of the House for a sufficient cause. But if there is anything that will endanger the continuance of this or any other privilege, it is, 708 no doubt, any abuse of that privilege. It is very difficult to say what is the exact limit or the abuse of a privilege of this kind. We know that on this very evening it was notified by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) himself, that he might think it right to take advantage of that privilege to raise a discussion upon the question of Egypt. It is very difficult for any one Member to decide for another when a question is of sufficient importance to entitle that Member to avail himself of that privilege. On the other hand, when we see that we have every day before us the Order Book with 20 or 30 Questions upon it, and when we see that it is open to any Member upon any one of those Questions to raise a debate and carry off the House from the Business it is assembled to perform, we see that some restraint and some discretion must be observed in the use of that privilege, if we do not desire to lose it. We have a great safeguard in one of the chief institutions of this House—I mean in the authority and the advice of the Chair. It does seem to me that we have only one real safeguard against the abuse of our privileges short of taking them away, and that is in deferring to the impartiality and dignity which accompany the Chair, and listening with respect to its rulings. I think we fall very far short indeed of the respect we owe to you, Sir, and also short of wisdom in these matters, if we confine ourselves to saying that that which the Speaker does not rule to be absolutely and directly out of Order is the re-fore in Order, and may be indulged in, even though the Speaker warn the hon. Member that it is against the spirit and intention of the Rules of the House. I hope it may not be found impossible to let this matter drop at the point at which we have arrived. It would be a pity, after what has passed, that there should be any heated discussion. I think there is, and ought to be, but one desire and determination on the part of all to uphold the dignity and authority of the Chair; and that if you, Sir, at any time should feel it necessary to appeal to the House to support you in exercising that authority, you will always find, in all parts of the House, a readiness heartily to support you. I hope the House will take notice of the warning you have uttered this evening with regard to the abuse of the privileges of this House, 709 and that we shall be allowed now to proceed to other Business.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
I am sorry, Sir, with most other hon. Members of the House, at the sort of disturbance that has arisen this evening, and I think hon. Members opposite ought to learn something from a mistake I think they have made during this evening. What is the fact? An hon. Member from this side of the House put a Question, of which he had given Notice, to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman gave an answer which was not flattering to the constituents of the hon. Member — and I must observe that I think Irish Members have good reason to complain, and frequently to complain, of the manner and tone, and sometimes even of the language, of the answers of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cheers, and " No, no ! "] Hon. Gentlemen "who differ from me are, of course, entitled to their opinion. I have heard nearly all those answers during this Session, and I am only expressing the opinion at which I have arrived. The hon. Member for Mayo said the answer was very unsatisfactory, and that the statements made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland were absolutely inaccurate, and, I think, he gave them a flat denial. Now, consider his position with regard to his constituents and the statements that were made. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not say it was a case in which he was bound to move the adjournment, or even one in which the majority of the House would be likely to make as much allowance for him as I should myself; but if there be that privilege and right, it does not appear to me that he took an extraordinary course. I do not say that I should have done it myself; but I have seen the same thing done from the other side of the House at times when there was certainly no more justification than there was to-night. But when the hon. Member for Mayo rose, for the purpose of making an explanation, and said that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was absolutely inaccurate, what was he met with? Not with the slightest patience from hon. Gentlemen opposite. Immediately arose — on purpose, obviously—a hum and buzz of conversation from this end of the House and that—and the object was to drown the voice of the hon. Member for Mayo, and to make it impossible he should give 710 any answer to the statements of the Chief Secretary. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had been quiet, I believe that the hon. Member for Mayo would not have taken up the time of the House for more than five minutes with an explanation of facts which he thought desirable in the interest and for the character of his constituents; and then this matter would probably have passed, and we should have entered on the Business of the evening. I am surprised at the course adopted by so experienced a Member of the House as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire in proposing that now, on the spot, and at the instant, something should be done to put an end to this grievous irregularity which he charged on the hon. Member for Mayo. The hon. Member was in his right. If the adjournment of the House had not been moved on many other occasions during this Session, nobody would have complained; but the Motion has been made somewhat frequently of late, and, therefore, it is felt to be an inconvenience, and it may be that, if it be continued, it may absolutely become unendurable. I grant that. But the course to be taken was not upon the spot to ask the Speaker to take any stops which might shut the mouth of the hon. Member for Mayo, but to allow him to proceed; and then, if anybody thought that some steps should be taken, he could have put a Notice upon the Paper of the House, and the whole subject might have been considered by the House, or by a Committee in consultation with the Speaker. That would have been the proper course to take. But this conduct of refusing to hear in a case of this kind, when an hon. Member thinks the conduct and character of his constituents are attacked by the Chief Secretary for Ireland—this conduct which was pursued by hon. Gentlemen opposite was exactly that which led, and which necessarily led, to the unpleasantness which has occurred. ["Oh!"] I should recommend hon. Gentlemen opposite to have a little more patience. ["Hear!" and "Oh!"] The Chancellor of the Exchequer complains —no, he did not exactly complain—but he referred to the number of Questions on the Paper every evening. Well, they have grown to be very numerous, and they are very troublesome, no doubt, to right hon. Gentlemen who sit upon that Bench; but the great bulk of these 711 Questions are Questions necessitated by their own policy—[Cheers, and cries of "Order!"]—the policy of the Government—["Order!"]—I say the policy of the Government, and particularly with regard to our affairs in almost every part of the world—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that upon the Motion for the adjournment of the House a discussion on the policy of the Government will scarcely be in Order.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Sir, I admit that what you say is perfectly true. At the same time I must remind the House I was only speaking in answer to an observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The right hon. Gentleman has entirely misunderstood me on this point. I never complained of the number of the Questions that are placed on the Paper of the House.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Then I have nothing more to say. I misunderstood the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sorry that I did so. I rose merely for the purpose of asking the House to have a little more patience with an hon. Member when he is addressing the House, even if the subject of his observations be considered inconvenient and unpalatable to the House. I have known scores of times when hon. Members opposite have offended in like manner, and I could point to hon. Members having seats on the Treasury Bench who have been not the least guilty in that respect.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I cannot help thinking that it is somewhat unfortunate that, after the very temperate observations of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman opposite should have thought it necessary to make the remarks he has made. Still more do I think it unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it incumbent upon him to condemn in no measured terms the language in which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant answers the Questions which hon. Members may put to him. I do not know what has happened in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary career which would give 712 him any title to criticize the tone of other hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman has assumed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made some complaint of the number of Questions of which Notice is given for every evening; but anything more extraordinary than such a misconception I cannot conceive. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer said was that if every hon. Member who had given Notice of one of the numerous Questions that were habitually put were, in the event of the answer not being satisfactory to him, to move the adjournment of the House and to raise a debate in reference to it, it would be impossible that Public Business could be properly conducted. That was a very natural and a very harmless remark for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make. Why, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman opposite should have thought it necessary to rise and make the comments he has done passes my comprehension—unless he did so with the object of stirring up the waves which were on the point of being laid. I trust, however, that no such evil results will follow from the course which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, and that the advice given by the noble Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be followed, and that this debate will be allowed to die away without any resuscitation of angry and heated feelings.
§ MR. CALLAN
hoped the debate would not be allowed to close without an authoritative declaration from the Chair, which in future would have the effect of preventing what he must call with regret a discrediting and discreditable scene. He considered that the conduct of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer affected the rights and privileges of every Member of that House. It was laid down in Sir Erskine May's work on the Law and Practice of Parliament, that when a Member spoke to Order he should simply direct attention to the point complained of, and submit it, not to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but to the decision of the House or of the Speaker. He complained that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was censureable, because, instead of speaking to Order, he delivered a lecture to Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, which he (Mr. 7130020 Callan) considered uncalled for, but which he could not designate in the terms which he thought it deserved. The hon. Member spoke of the delay of Public Business in that House; but when had there been such a miserable waste of public time as that which occurred on Wednesday, when an entire day was wasted, and for which the Government was responsible? He hoped the Speaker would declare that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was not in Order in appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer instead of to the Chair.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE,
in reply to the observations that had been made on the course he had taken in first addressing the Speaker, and then calling the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Leader of that House, to support the intimation the Speaker had given to the hon. Member for Mayo, that he was transgressing the Rules and practice of the House by his speech on the Motion for the adjournment of the House which he had announced that he would make, said that he had acted in accordance with the principles of the cardinal Rules of that House; that the House itself was the guardian of the Order of its proceedings. This matter had been considered by more than one Committee on the Public Business of that House and by the last. In this Assembly neither the Speaker nor any of his predecessors had, or had had, the original authority. The Speaker was the exponent of the authority of the House, and it followed that the Members who were recognized as the two Leaders of that House ought to be prompt in supporting not only his decisions, but the intimations and recommendations by which he often anticipated and prevented disorder. It appeared to him, and to others, that the manner in which the hon. Member for Mayo had disregarded the Speaker's intimation was disrespectful to the Chair. He, therefore, called upon the Leader of the House to support the dignity and authority of the Chair, and the right hon. Gentleman responded, though he (Mr. Newdegate) regretted to say, without much effect. He submitted, therefore, that the course he had taken was in accordance with the cardinal Rules which guarded the regularity of their debates and proceedings. He had opposed the proposals for investing any Speaker with original authority when 714 made in the Committee of Public Business, and he thought that anyone who had observed the recent proceedings in the French Chambers must feel that the President, who was invested with original authority, was encumbered with a heavy burden, and could scarcely avoid being drawn into debate—a circumstance which must expose his conduct to imputations of partiality whenever it occurred. He was reminded by this abuse of the privilege of moving the adjournment of the House when any hon. Member was dissatisfied with the answer he had received to any Question he might have put upon the Notice Paper and then asked in the House, and then move the adjournment and launched that House into a debate, for which none but himself were prepared, of a dictum of the Predecessor of the Speaker (Lord Eversley) " that the Rules of this House are founded in common sense." What was the meaning of each hon. Member being invested with this privilege of moving the adjournment of the House? It was this—that if any answer should be given, or any circumstance should occur, or statement be made in debate of such gravity that any hon. Member was of opinion that the House should have time to deliberate before coming to a decision upon it, he was empowered to move the adjournment of the House—a Motion upon which the House would decide, if necessary, by a Division. For he (Mr. Newdegate) held that there was nothing in what had passed on that occasion that could justify the adjournment of the House. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) had, however, used strong expressions as to the treatment which his constituents had, in his opinion, met with at the hands of the Government, and the hon. Member for Meath had been almost revolutionary in the threats he had uttered. It was his (Mr. New-degate's) intention, therefore, to insist upon a Division on the question of adjournment now before the House. If those hon. Members were sincere in the substance of their speeches, and considered the expressions they had used justified by the circumstances, they were bound in honour to insist upon the Motion for adjournment; and the House would thus have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the manner in which its Business had been interrupted, 715 and, in his opinion, its time had been wasted; while the public would know who agreed with the two hon. Members in the course they had pursued.
§ MR. SHAW
hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would not carry out his threat of forcing a Division on the House, and that the disturbance might be allowed to end. He had been a silent listener to what had taken place, and his honest opinion was that the only persons who took part in this discussion who were thoroughly in Order were the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for adjournment. They were speaking within their right, and were so within the Speaker's ruling. He was sure that his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo was one of the last men in the House who would wilfully disregard the authority of the Chair. He had his hon. Friend's authority for saying that he had not the slightest intention of disregarding the Speaker's ruling; but he felt deeply upon the matter to which his Question referred, and after the manner in which the Chief Secretary answered it he felt it was of as much importance to him as that great question on which the occupants of the Front Bench were going to perform a similar operation a few minutes later. The whole thing would have been over in 20 minutes, but for the premeditated attempt to drown his hon. Friend's voice with noise. As a rule, the House did conduct its proceedings with good temper and patience. He remembered in the former Parliament there were infinitely more attempts of this kind, and he only hoped that hon. Gentlemen would follow the example of their Leaders on the Treasury Bench, who conducted their Business with good temper. Irishmen were supposed to be unruly; but he had presided for several days over an assembly of Irishmen twice as large as that in the House at present, and had no such trouble with them as the Speaker had experienced during the last couple of hours.
rose in consequence of an intimation which had come from the Chair. He had understood the Speaker to say that after the proceedings of that night it would be necessary to restrict the privileges of Members in respect of moving the adjournment of the House. ["No, no!"] The present case was, in his experience, without precedent.
continued. He could not doubt, after such an intimation from the Chair—whether the words us "would be" or "might be"—was a subject which must receive the serious consideration of the House. The natural guardians of the Order, the dignity, and the reputation Assembly were, in the first place, Mr. Speaker, and then the Leader House and the Leader of the Opposition; and he rose merely to his hope that, in consequence extraordinary and unprecedented proceedings of that evening, the Lei the House would lose no further conferring together as to some be taken to prevent their recurrence. The right hon. Member for Birmingham recommended patience. Patience, in-deed! He thought that the and long suffering of the House of Commons had been the marvel of the country and the world. The time had undoubtedly arrived when, if the House of Commons was to maintain it position in this country, something must be done to vindicate its Order and its character. He, therefore, trusted that the Leaders on both sides would together shortly on that matter, and give some assurance to the House that they intended to deal with it—because, if not, he felt satisfied that it must become the duty of independent Members sides to consider how the credit and reputation of the House were to be maintained.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
was surprised the hon. Gentleman, who was so anxious to maintain the Or dignity of the House, had not cordance with the principles fessed, taken the advice of a responsible Minister, and allowed the incident to close. Then, how a Gentleman pressed himself—and, doubtless, sin- cerely—as anxious to maintain the Order of the House, should take an opportunity of dropping a little more inflammatory oil upon the smouldering embers of this excited discussion, which was about to be extinguished, passed his comprehension. All were sensible there had been mistakes committed that night, and 717 those mistakes had not been confined to one side of the. House. The interruptions to which the hon. Member for Mayo was subjected were of a kind that if used against any hon. Member sitting opposite they would have drawn forth the strongest expressions of disapprobation. Moreover, it was evident that the answer of the Chief Secretary to his hon. Friend's Question was distinctly intended to be sarcastic and irritating. Now, it was a very dangerous thing to be sarcastic and irritating, when the question had to do with the sufferings of a whole people. Not one word had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) in reference to the condition of the people in the West of Ireland that he could not endorse. He did not wish to prolong the debate on the subject; but it was a matter for public regret that the Minister who was responsible should think more of winning the cheers of those who sat behind him than of relieving the extreme misery existing in the country with which he was officially connected. If the Leaders of the House did confer, and the result of that conference was an attempt to limit the privileges of Members, he felt sure that attempt would be resisted by Members on that side, whether English or Irish. He hoped the incident would now close, and carry with it a lesson to all. That lesson was that every hon. Member in the House was equal, and had equal privileges, and that Members must not, in their dislike to the views another might hold, attempt to prevent his voice being heard. If that attempt was made, there must be a constant repetition of scenes he, for one, deeply regretted, and for which the hon. Member for Mayo was not responsible.
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
said, that the right hon. Member for Birmingham had spoken as if those on the Ministerial side of the House were peculiarly liable to reproach for their conduct on that occasion. Now, he had listened attentively to the hon. Member for Mayo throughout, and could say that, so far from that hon. Gentleman having risen in his place and made a speech on the spur of the moment, it was evident that he had come down to the House anticipating an unfavourable reply to his Question, and furnished with a set speech committed to notes, to which he made repeated reference.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that he had the facts of the case, but had not intended to detain the House at any length.
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
It was clear that the hon. Member, anticipating an unfavourable answer to his Question, had come down prepared with his reply. Where, then, was the justice of the remark of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, that if they had only exhibited a little patience the hon. Member for Mayo would not have occupied more than five minutes of their time? Those sitting below the Gangway on the Ministerial side were not open to the reproach of want of patience in listening to the Irish Members; but when they saw a pre-determination manifested to seize an illegitimate occasion to inflict on the House a long speech on the wrongs of Ireland, it was not surprising that some impatience should be exhibited.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that, no doubt, it was an inconvenient practice to move the adjournment of the House at Question time, especially if it was pushed far; but, still, it was a practice within the Rules of the House, and it had been followed on more than one occasion by the present Prime Minister. No objection was made the other day, when the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) intimated that he might this evening take that course. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would appeal to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newde-gate) not to divide on the present occasion, which would be a simple waste of time. Although a large number of hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side might vote with that hon. Member because they wished to go on with the Business of the House, they did not share his opinion.
§ MR. SHERIDAN
said, he had rarely witnessed so much irregularity as had occurred that evening. He had no sympathy with the Motion for adjournment; but he must say that the person most out of Order was his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who addressed substantially an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make fresh Rules for conducting the Business of the House. The privileges of Members of that House had not yet 719 been secured by the favour of Ministers of the Crown.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
wished to say that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) was entirely wrong in accusing him of any intentional disrespect to the Chair. As he could not follow any advice given by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), he would ask the permission of the House to withdraw his Motion.
§ Question, "That the Motion be, by leave, withdrawn," put, and agreed to.