§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
rose to move the following Resolutions:—(1.) That, whenever any Member shall have been named by the Speaker, or by the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, as disregarding the authority of the Chair, or abusing the Rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise, then, if the offence has been committed in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a Motion being made, no amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed, 'That such Member be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of that day's sitting;' and, if the offence has been committed in a Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall, on a Motion being made, put the same question in a similar way, and if the Motion is carried shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the Committee and report the circumstance to the 1451 House; and the Speaker shall thereupon put the same question, without amendment, adjournment, or debate, as if the offence had been committed in the House itself. If any Member be suspended three times in one Session, under this Order, his suspension on the third occasion shall continue for one week, and until a Motion has been made, upon which it shall be decided, at one sitting, by the House, whether the suspension shall then cease, or for what longer period it shall continue; and, on the occasion of such Motion, the Member may, if he desires it, be heard in his place. (2.) That this be a Standing Order of the House.The right hon. Gentleman said: In moving the Resolutions which I have placed on the Paper, it will be my object to detain the House for as short a period as I can. I will also endeavour, as far as possible, to avoid anything of an irritating or contentious character. I apprehend it will be generally admitted that no Assembly in the world can conduct its business unless it has Rules for the conduct of business and observes those Rules; and the larger the Assembly, the more miscellaneous the character of the views of those who compose it, and the greater and the more various the amount of the business it has to transact, the more important is it that it should have, and observe, a fixed set of Rules for its proceedings. Now Rules, of course, imply some restriction on the liberty of those who take part in debate. But I venture to say that there is no Assembly in the world which, in proportion to its size and the multiplicity and importance of the subjects with which it has to deal, has so few restrictions placed upon the freedom of discussion as this House of Commons. I will not detain the House by attempting to enlarge on the magnitude of the task which it has to discharge. We know perfectly well that it has, in the first place, the important duty of voting the Supplies and criticizing the Estimates which are presented by the Government. We know also that it has, in addition, a large amount of legislation, both public and private, to conduct. It is also one of the greatest duties and privileges of this House to discuss everything that comes under the description of a grievance; and under this description we now find that almost every matter that interests the people of this country, or any section of them, may be, and usually is, brought forward. Moreover, the House of Commons holds the proud position in the eyes of the world of taking the lead 1452 in the discussion of questions affecting matters far beyond the limits even of the British Empire. Considering, then, the importance of this work, and how very keen are the interests which different Members take in different portions of the business, and remembering how necessarily limited our time for discussion is, it is absolutely impossible that we could do anything like justice to ourselves or to the task imposed upon us unless we observe, both in their spirit and in their letter, those Rules laid down for our guidance. Now, I would point out that this House has peculiar modes of working, and is jealous, and justly jealous, to a great degree for the maintenance of its accustomed procedure. It is the habit of this House to act, as much as possible, as a whole. There is a jealousy on the part of the House—and, I think, a very reasonable and laudable jealousy—of allowing the functions which it should itself discharge, as a whole, to be handed over to Select Committees of its own body, or any authority external to itself. We do, indeed, appoint Select Committees to inquire into numerous questions; but these Committees have no authority of their own. They simply collect information and make representations, which have afterwards to be considered and revised, and which are very freely dealt with by the House as a whole. There are some few portions of our duties which we are prepared to assign to the action of portions of our House. There are certain questions which are referred, especially in matters of private legislation, to Committees upstairs, whose decision and conclusions we usually agree to accept. There are other matters—as, for instance, the examination of the public accounts—which we refer to Standing Committees. And so with regard to Petitions and other matters, we do refer some portions of our Business to small bodies of our own Members; but, on the whole, we desire to transact the larger part of our own Business by the action of the House itself. Well, as we do not recognize the functions of any authorities external to this House, so even in the House itself we have peculiar relations with him who is called upon to preside over our debates, and to keep order in our proceedings. It is most important that we should bear in mind what is the true relation of the House to the distinguished person who 1453 occupies our Chair. The Speaker, as you, Sir, have yourself reminded us, and as your Predecessors on various previous occasions have done, is not the master, but the servant of the House. The Speaker acts as the interpreter, not as the lawmaker, but as the interpreter of the Rules regulating the Business of the House. As such he is authorized to expound the Rules and the Orders which the House has agreed to. Now, it would be altogether a departure from our principles if we were to erect the Speaker into an authority who had any authority separate and external to the House. On the other hand, it is essential to the proper conduct of the Business of this House that we should recognize and respect the position of the Speaker; that we should bear in mind the very great difficulties and responsibilities of his high office; and that we should be determined loyally to support him, not only in word, but in deed and in truth. Unless we are prepared to give that loyal support to the Speaker, I see no possibility of the proper conduct of the Business of this House. I might refer—but I really think it is quite unnecessary for me to do so—to the great increase which has of late years taken place in the Business of this House. On this subject some curious statistics were quoted some years ago by a noble Lord who is now no longer a Member of this House, but who has gone to "another place." I am referring, of course, to an interesting speech which Lord Sudeley made when he was a Member of this House, and which showed the increasing numbers of those who take part in our debates. Although the great competition among hon. Members to obtain a hearing, and to bring forward Business in which they are specially interested, must necessarily increase our embarrassments in getting through the mass of work which we have to discharge, still I am quite sure that every Member of this House will only rejoice that more and more of its Members should take a real interest in its Business, provided that in so doing they exercise that regard for the progress of Business generally, and that they also exercise that amount of respect for the feelings of others, and that amount of forbearance which, in an Assembly holding the high character that the House of Commons has always 1454 held, we have every right to expect from all its Members. In addition to the amount of Business which has grown upon us, we have to notice also that there have been of late some Rules introduced for the purpose of sparing hon. Members from too great sacrifices in point of the time they have to spend in the House. Rules have been introduced which are meant to prevent the overstraining of our physical powers, and there are other Rules to insure, as far as we can do it, something like certainty as to the time at which Business is to be brought before us. We find, when these Rules are introduced, that there are difficulties which arise from the Rules themselves. The Rule, for instance, which says that no new Business which is opposed shall be taken after half-past 12 o'clock at night is a Rule which, as hon. Members are aware, introduces a good deal of difficulty and embarrassment in the conduct of Business. What, then, is the position in which we stand, and what are the dangers against which we have to guard? The great danger we have to guard against is this—that the House may find itself blocked in the course of its proceedings, and may find itself unable to carry through in a satisfactory and creditable manner the Business which falls upon it. If it should once become imminent, and appear to the country that this House has become incapable of transacting the Business which it is called upon to discharge, the consequences would be of the most serious character. If the House of Commons once loses character—if it once loses caste—I need not ask you what must necessarily be the effect on the Constitution of the country. I need not ask you to consider what amount of irregular action outside this House would take place if it were found that the House was incapable of doing the nation's work. I need not point out to you that even with regard to the function which the House exercises, or ought to exercise, in the general control of the policy and the Business of the country, its hands would be weakened, and more and more unfitted to exercise any control which would be of any value, Moreover, if the House acquired the character of being incapable of the conduct of Business, and if it were understood that time was deliberately and 1455 fruitlessly wasted in this House, the best men—those whom we are proud to attract to sit within our walls and to take part in our proceedings—would instinctively shrink from joining such an Assembly, and the character of the House would greatly deteriorate. This House has had a proud history for many centuries; it has withstood many assaults of one kind or another, and it has withstood them triumphantly. I believe that such is its natural strength, and that so deep are its roots in the affection and confidence of the people, that it would successfully withstand many more assaults of a more violent character still than those which it has had to encounter. But of all the fates which could await such an Assembly as this, the worst would be to gradually sink into contempt; and of all deaths by which it could die, the worst would be that of dying because it came to be despised by the people of this country. Now, Sir, what are the remedies for the evils which undoubtedly to some extent exist, and which threaten to become more serious. We cannot help seeing that for the last three or four years there has been a growing disposition in this House to waste time, and to obstruct Business. I do not wish to go into matters which are familiar to everyone who has sat through the last few Sessions. I do not wish to rouse up old controversies: but I appeal to the memory and conscience of everyone here present to say whether I am not strictly within the truth when I assert that, during the last three or four years, there has been growing up among us a system of Obstruction, which, if it is unchecked, and if it is allowed to gather head, must be destructive to the character and the existence of Parliament. Then, I ask—"What are the remedies which must be considered for this state of things?" They are of different characters. We are told by some that the duties which are thrown upon Parliament are so large and so multitudinous that it is impossible for one House to discharge them; and that we ought, therefore, to endeavour to diminish the work we have to do by handing over a portion of it to other bodies. ["Hear, hear!"] A cheer comes from the part of the House in which that doctrine is put forward in its most extreme form. [Mr. O'DONNELL: No.] As far as we 1456 at present know, the most extreme form of it would be a separation of the Business of the three Kingdoms, and the apportionment of it among Parliaments representing different portions of the United Kingdom. I do not suppose that the House will entertain for a moment that remedy. There are other modes, of course, which may be suggested for diminishing the work which falls on the House as a whole. One has been the appointment of Grand Committees, and the reference of Business which is now done in the whole House to Committees of a very large and peculiar character. Another system which has found favour, and which, I believe, admits of considerable development, is an extension of the system known as that of Provisional Orders, by which a good deal of Business is usefully transacted outside the House, and arrangements are made and embodied in Provisional Orders which are afterwards submitted to the consideration and sanction of the whole House. These are matters which deserve consideration; and I have no doubt that in course of time they will be carefully examined and considered. But I do not think that is the direction in which we shall do best at the present time to look for our remedy. If the evils I have adverted to are not in some way dealt with and checked, we shall find that any diminution of the extent of our work will be altogether illusory and will lead to disappointment. Then, there is another class of remedies suggested. It is said that we ought to change the Rules. It is said that the Rules, though they may have been adequate in times past, are no longer adequate; and that we ought to restrict, in various ways, the freedom of debate and the rights of minorities. Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what others may think; but, for my own part, I say it would be a matter of the deepest pain to me to have to take part in any restriction, and that certainly I should decidedly refuse to take part in any unnecessary restriction, upon the freedom of debate and the rights of minorities. I know very well that you cannot allow that freedom, and that you cannot protect those rights, without the risk of considerable interference and frequent collisions between different classes of Members, and without, to a certain extent, an expenditure of time, which, 1457 by cynics and hostile critics, may be regarded as a waste of time. I do not, however, regard such struggles, if they are fairly and honestly conducted, as a waste of time. I believe one great merit of the conduct of Business in this country is in our opposition to measures so long as they are still merely submitted for consideration, followed by our acquiescence in them when they have become the law of the land; and that this happy feature in the legislation of this country is due to the great freedom given to those who wish to discuss such measures when brought forward. I believe it would be a great misfortune, in the end, if we were in any way unnecessarily to restrict freedom of debate or the rights of minorities. I do not know that we have arrived at a perfect set of Rules yet; and I have no doubt that there are matters upon which we may have new Rules, and we may from time to time propose new Rules, and discuss and consider them. But if we think that by such Rules we are to prevent Obstruction altogether, I am quite certain that we are reckoning in the dark. There is only one alteration of our Rules which would be of a character that really could prevent Obstruction, and that is one for which we have no English name, but which is known to us all under the name of theclôture.If we were certain that Business could be got through in a certain time, we know that it would be possible to make a Rule to that effect. But that is a method on which I venture to think that this House will pause very long before they adopt it. It is wholly at variance with the traditions of the British House of Commons. Well, there is one thing more we have to consider, and that is this—suppose that, instead of diminishing the extent of our work, and instead of attempting to change our Rules with a view to prevent Obstruction, we were to make one honest effort to see whether we cannot get through the work which we have before us according to the Rules which we have to work by—that we will steadfastly and sternly maintain order, and insist upon the observance of those Rules, both in their letter and in their spirit. There can be no other way—I know of no other way—than that of supporting and strengthening the hands of our Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees. Well, Sir, the Resolution 1458 which I have the honour to propose is a Resolution which is intended to strengthen the hands of Mr. Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees. I desire the House to bear in mind that we must not bring the Chair into a false position; that we must not throw upon Mr. Speaker duties which he ought not to be called upon to discharge; that we must not try to escape from duties which lie upon the House itself. Now, we have witnessed not unfrequently, and especially of late years, that when any Member is straining the Rules of the House, is running up to the extreme limit of the Rules, or even going beyond the limit, he is liable to be called to Order, and he is called to Order. Mr. Speaker informs him that he is transgressing the Rules of the House; and in former times I think that it was the general practice that any Member to whom such intimation was given took the reproof which was contained in those warnings, and abstained from proceeding in a course which he was told by the highest authority was one which would lead him beyond proper bounds. But we have, Sir, occasionally been obliged to witness a very different and humiliating spectacle. We have seen the decision of Mr. Speaker, instead of being cheerfully accepted, accepted, indeed, for a moment in words, but immediately set aside by some slight alteration of phraseology, by some method which occurs to a Member who does not desire, honestly and faithfully, to submit himself to the ruling of the Chair: and the position in which you, Sir, and in which the Chairman of Committees has not unfrequently been placed, has been a position which must have caused the greatest pain and the greatest sorrow to those who have seen what has been taking place. We respect and entirely appreciate the firmness and impartiality with which you and the Chairman of Committees have always applied the Rules and Orders of the House. But we have felt that, when your simple word was not held to be sufficient law, a difficulty arose as to what could be done in order to enforce it. Now, the object which I have in bringing forward the Resolution to-night, is to place our proceedings on such a footing that your decision shall at once obtain respect, and that respect shall be given to it by action on the part of the House itself. The proposal which I have 1459 to make is that whenever any Member—I will not read the whole of the Resolution, because part of it applies to proceedings in Committees of the "Whole House—shall have been named by the Speaker as abusing the Rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the Business of the House or otherwise, the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question, on a Motion being made, no Amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed—That such Member he suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of that day's sitting.I have observed, from what I have heard from some Members, and from Amendments which have been placed on the Paper by others, that there is some misunderstanding even now as to the course that is to be taken if this Resolution should be passed. The occasion is to arise when any Member shall have been named by Mr. Speaker as disregarding his authority—that is to say, the initiative, in a certain sense, is the initiative of Mr. Speaker. We know perfectly well that Mr. Speaker does interfere, from time to time, by calling a Member to Order. It does not follow that there is no initiative on the part of the House, because it is the constant habit of Members to get up and appeal to Mr. Speaker whether a Member is or is not in Order. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), for instance, has given Notice that he will propose an Amendment by which any Member may draw the attention of the Chair to misconduct on the part of a Member; but he is only describing that which, under this Resolution, would be equally in the power of any Member to do when proceedings were going on which he thought were disorderly—namely, to rise and appeal to Mr. Speaker. But I would observe this as a distinction—that, according to the form which I propose, Mr. Speaker has the power to bring a Member to Order by a clear warning, and to express to him his opinion upon the subject before he proceeds to the strong measure of naming him, and thereby allowing the Motion to be put for his suspension; whereas, under the proposal of the hon. Member for Plymouth, there would be power in a Member at any moment to make that Motion, and he would only be prevented 1460 from doing that by Mr. Speaker stating that the interruption was frivolous, and refusing to put the Motion. Now, I think if a Motion is made, and Mr. Speaker is to exercise his judgment whether it ought or ought not to be put, that would place Mr. Speaker in a position of great embarrassment, in which we ought not to put him. On the other hand, Mr. Speaker has the absolute power of naming a Member—a power which it is well known he has had occasion to exercise—a power which has been so great, that the mere naming of a Member has been sufficient to bring him to an acknowledgment of his error and to induce him to submit himself to the House. When we consider that this is a power which Mr. Speaker always had, and that we propose only to take further steps as it has failed to produce this effect, I think we are proceeding entirely within the lines of the constitution of the House. Well, that being so, Mr. Speaker having named an hon. Member, it becomes the duty of some Member in the House to move that the Member so named be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of the Sitting; and Mr. Speaker, as a matter of course, will put that Motion without Amendment, adjournment, or debate. It is obvious that if Amendment, adjournment, or debate were allowed, it would be but the beginning of a wrangle; and, considering that the strong step of naming a Member would not be taken until he had had every opportunity of putting himself right, I apprehend that no injustice would be done. The hon. Member for Plymouth proposes another thing which I do not agree with. He says that when this Motion is made it shall not be carried except by a majority of two-thirds. I think that is a very awkward Rule to lay down. It would be an entirely new practice in this House. We know of no such thing in this House as majorities of two-thirds. I should be exceeding sorry to see the introduction of such a principle as that in our proceedings, of which we at present know nothing. Well, I will not further discuss these distinctions; but I will proceed to explain that when a Motion shall have been so made and carried, the Member will be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of that day's Sitting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. 1461 Knatchbull-Hugessen) objects to suspension from the service of the House; he prefers that the Member should be put to silence. I would only observe that in 1878 a Select Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, was appointed to consider the whole of this question. Their Resolution was carried by a single vote; but still it was carried, and the Resolution of that Committee forms the basis of the Resolution which I now propose to the House. Then, that having been done, the Member will be suspended from the service of the House—that is, not merely put to silence, but prevented from voting as well as speaking during that day's Sitting. If he offends a second time the same thing will take place; but if he offends a third time his suspension will be for one week in any circumstances; his suspension may continue further if the House should so decide. The Member having been suspended from the service of the House, it will be for the House, on a subsequent occasion, to determine for what length of time that, suspension shall continue. It will be observed that in proposing this course of proceeding we have endeavoured to retain, as far as possible, two safeguards for the freedom of debate—in the first place, by getting the judgment of those actually present as to the nature and extent of the obstruction offered to the Business of the House; and, in the second place, by deferring the visitation of any grave punishment upon an offending Member until the question can be considered in a full House after due Notice. In attempting to deal with the subject of Obstruction we lie between two great difficulties. If we do not proceed at the moment, it may be difficult to determine afterwards in what manner we can bring the conduct of a Member before the House; because the House would not be seized of the point in dispute, and could not take cognizance of what had occurred on the previous Sitting, the words he used not having been taken down, and the proceedings not being made manifest to the House in any way. In order, therefore, to avoid any difference of opinion arising on the point, it is important that the House should proceed to immediate judgment as it were, on the spot, in the presence of those who had witnessed the commission of the offence and were ac- 1462 quainted with the surrounding circumstances. But, on the other hand, to allow a small and thin House, which might probably be all that witnessed the actual Obstruction, to put a serious punishment on one of its Members would be a serious matter, and ought not to be done without great consideration. A debate on the subject might lead to a great deal of heat; and it would be rather a strong course to adopt to give the majority in a House, consisting of a fifth, or a sixth, or, perhaps, of a tenth of its full complement of Members, the power of suspending a Member from his service for a considerable length of time. Were we to confer such a power upon the majority in a thin House, we should place ourselves in a false position both as regards justice to our Members and the constitution of the Empire. Therefore, I think we should be acting wisely in leaving it to what has been happily termed the instinct of the House to determine at the moment whether a Member has been guilty of Obstruction, leaving it to a subsequent occasion for the House to decide, in a deliberate and judicial spirit, upon the punishment that should be inflicted upon him. I am anxious that the House should arrive at a determination with regard to the Government proposal with as little delay as possible; but, at the same time, I hope that no determination with respect to it will be arrived at without the most careful deliberation. I will not say anything at the present moment in support of the proposition that the terms of the first Resolution should be incorporated in the Standing Orders of the House further than this—that I earnestly press upon the House the consideration that Obstruction is an evil which has grown up in a large measure during the life of the present Parliament, and that this House has had the opportunity—the melancholy opportunity—of witnessing its growth and its threatening character; and therefore it would be a sad record for us if we were to allow this Parliament to come to an end without taking effectual steps to guard against the future growth of this evil. We are now, happily, in a sufficiently calm condition to enable us to deal with this subject deliberately. There has been no exciting agitation with regard to it of late, and we are able to look upon it in a judicial and 1463 temperate spirit. This, therefore, is the very time in which we may conveniently consider the question and attempt to provide an efficient antidote for the evil, and so leave as a legacy to the Parliament which may succeed us not only the evil but its remedy. Although it may be said that the records of this Parliament may be very unsatisfactory as regards the progress of Business, on the other hand, if we take such steps as will put an end to Obstruction, we shall deserve the good opinion of the country if we succeed in erecting a barrier against the further progress of an evil which threatens the very existence of the House as a deliberative Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution which he had placed upon the Paper.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, whenever any Member shall have been named by the Speaker, or by the Chairman, of a Committee of the whole House, as disregarding the authority of the Chair, or abusing the Rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or otherwise, then, if the offence has been committed in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a Motion being made, no amendment, adjournment, or debate being allowed, 'That such Member be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of that day's sitting;' and, if the offence has been committed in a Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall, on a Motion being made, put the same question in a similar way, and if the Motion is carried shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the Committee and report the circumstance to the House; and the Speaker shall thereupon put the same question, without amendment, adjournment, or debate, as if the offence had been committed in the House itself. If any Member be suspended three times in one Session, under this Order, his suspension on the third occasion shall continue for one week, and until a Motion has been made, upon which it shall be decided, at one sitting, by the House, whether the suspension shall then cease, or for what longer period it shall continue; and, on the occasion of such Motion, the Member may, if he desires it, be heard in his place."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, there is much in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in which I shall not consider it necessary to follow him. The concluding portion of his observations was chiefly devoted to an examination of some of the details of his proposal, and to criticizing the various Amendments relating to it, of which Notice has been given. I think that it will be desirable that we 1464 should, in the first place, confine ourselves to endeavouring to come to some general understanding as to the possibility of adopting some proposal that will be effectual in dealing with the evil sought to be put an end to, leaving the consideration of the details of the Government proposals, and of the Amendments proposed in reference to them, until they more properly come before us. Looking at the first portion of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, it is almost unnecessary for me to say that I entirely agree that nothing can be more important, or more worthy of consideration, than the maintenance of that character as a deliberative and legislative Assembly which this House has always preserved. There cannot be for a moment a difference of opinion as to the national nature of the misfortune which would result were the character of the House of Commons to be lowered in the eyes of the nation. The only question as to which there may be some difference of opinion in certain quarters of the House will be as to whether anything which has taken place during the existence of the present Parliament has tended to lower its character; and, if so, to what proceedings the deterioration has been owing, and what is the nature of the remedy which can be best applied to meet the circumstances of the case? I desire to take the earliest opportunity of indicating the course which it is my intention—and, as far as I am able to judge, it is the intention of hon. Members who sit near me—to take in reference to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I intend—and I think they intend—to give a general support to the Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I give a most cordial support to what I think is the principle of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I take that principle to be this—that in his opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, it is necessary to strengthen and to make more available the powers which the House undoubtedly possesses of enforcing order, and of controlling the conduct of its Members in the course of the transaction of its own Business. That I take to be the principle embodied in the Government Resolution, and to that principle I give my most cordial support. How far I am able to support the details of the Resolution I shall endeavour, in as few words as possible, to 1465 make clear to the House. In taking the course I have indicated, I should almost feel myself justified in throwing the whole responsibility of dealing with the matter upon the Government. It is the Government who are charged with guiding the course of Business, and of directing and controlling it in the House. It is the Government who are principally responsible for the conduct of that Business; and I need not say that any proposal of this kind which Her Majesty's Ministers, on their responsibility, think it necessary to make ought to be received by the whole House, and especially by the Opposition, with the greatest deference and attention. When the Government state that, in their opinion, some of the Rules and practices of this House have been proved to be inadequate, and that greater power must be intrusted to the House itself or to its highest authority, the House would be almost justified in accepting that declaration as conclusive, and in throwing the whole responsibility of dealing with the question upon the Government. I do not wish—I do not think it would be fair—to throw upon the Government the whole of that responsibility; and I am prepared to admit that, from what I nave seen of the conduct and progress of Business in this House during the past few years, I have arrived at substantially the same conclusion as the Chancellor of the Exchequer: and I am of opinion that, whether the proposal now made does, or does not, embody the right principle to be adopted in altering the Rules of the House, it is necessary that either in the House itself, or in its highest authority, Mr. Speaker, should be placed some greater power than already exists for regulating and controlling the conduct of Members whom the House has been unable, hitherto, adequately to control. I am of opinion that the course which the Government has now taken is the right course. They have come forward on their own responsibility and have made proposals by which, I infer, they mean to stand. I acknowledge it was with some surprise I was given to understand a few days ago that, instead of taking this course, Her Majesty's Government intended to give a general support to a Motion of which Notice had been given by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). 1466 I was astonished to learn that there was a probability, or even a possibility, of this being the course of the Government; because I thought it showed an inadequate opinion, in the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers, of the gravity and importance of the circumstances with which the House was to be asked to deal. As to the proposals which have now been submitted, I must submit, while supporting them generally, that, in my opinion, they are open to very considerable objection—and it would not have been possible to frame any proposals of the kind which should not be open to some objection—and that some of the objections to which they are open might have been avoided. I shall endeavour, in a spirit both friendly and fair, to point out those objections, and to suggest how they might have been avoided and may be amended. The suggestions and criticisms which I shall offer will be offered for the benefit of Her Majesty's Government and of the House, and will not be proposed by me as alternative Motions. If they do not commend themselves to the approval of the Government or of the majority of the House, I can only say that I will do my best to support the Resolutions as they have been put upon the Paper, and will assist them in any way that may be in my power to try the experiment—for it must, after all, be somewhat in the nature of an experiment—which they are inviting the House to make. Sir, there is another remark which I here wish to make. It seems to me that the course which the Government have taken in this case has been, to a certain extent, a novel one. It has, as far I am aware, been usual in questions affecting the procedure or discipline of the House, or the privileges and conduct of its Members, for the Government not to act, as in other matters, entirely upon their own responsibility, but to take into their counsels the chief officers of the House, and also, generally, the Leaders of the opposite Party. Let the House understand, however, that I am not making the slightest complaint of the departure of the Government on the present occasion from what I believe to have been the ordinary rule and practice. I do not know what has induced the Government to take the course to which I am referring; but I wish to say that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had any reason to suppose 1467 that he would receive less assistance and support from the Opposition in relation to a question of this kind than former Leaders of the House have received from former Oppositions, I most deeply regret that anything should have occurred to give rise to such a supposition. I most emphatically protest that if such a supposition exists in the minds of Members of the Government it is only a supposition; and I must entirely repudiate the idea that anything we have done could legitimately have given rise to such a supposition. We on this side of the House and on this Bench have, from the very commencement of the proceedings which have rendered these proposals necessary, continually urged the Government to take measures for supporting the dignity of the House, and preserving its efficiency as a deliberative and legislative Assembly. In my opinion, the Liberal Party are, if possible, more interested than any others in the preservation of the legislative efficiency of Parliament. We are the Party which is more deeply impressed than any other with the importance of, from time to time, undertaking very large and important legislative measures; it is we who, more frequently than the other side, think it necessary to bring forward very considerable and wide legislative changes; and, surely, it would be a most suicidal policy for such a Party to place in the hands of those who are opposed to all legislation the weapons which would enable them to reduce the legislative power of the House. As I have said, I do not complain of the conduct of the Government on this occasion; on the contrary, I am of opinion, personally, that the course which has been taken is one with which there is every occasion for us to be satisfied, because, in the first place, it enables us—and, indeed, it makes it our duty—to criticize freely the proposals of the Government; and, in the second, it will relieve us from the great responsibility of failure, if, unfortunately, the proposals should fail; while, if our suggestions are not accepted, and the results prove inadequate, we shall have no responsibility on that ground either. Sir, in considering these Resolutions, the House should bear in mind the nature of the proceedings in past years which have rendered them necessary. There is no necessity to impute motives to any Members of 1468 the House. There is no necessity to look for any ulterior object in the proceedings which have been complained of; but I regret, on the grounds set forth in my last sentence, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not thought it necessary to lay before the House, in a manner more detailed than that which he has adopted, some account of the nature of the proceedings of which complaint is made—["No, no!"]—and against the recurrence of which these proposals are directed. I observe that my observation has called forth some expressions of dissent from the opposite side; and I will, therefore, point out with what object and in what spirit the observation was made. We have a general idea of the kind and nature of the interruption to which the proceedings of the House have been subjected; but there does not exist in detail an authoritative account of the nature of such proceedings; and however impressed we may be in regard to them—however perfectly acquainted we may be with their character—it is impossible that the public out-of-doors can have an equal acquaintance, and it is also impossible that the future Houses of Parliament should have the same general idea of their nature. Therefore, it would have been desirable if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid before us some plain statement of the proceedings which have rendered the Resolutions of the Government necessary. But I suppose it may be said, in a general sense, that what is complained of is, that frequently during the last three or four Sessions, both in matters of legislation and in the consideration of the Estimates, there have been undue delay and undue discussion, and that the Business of the House has been further impeded by there being frequently raised unnecessary subjects of discussion, by which the time of the House has been still further wasted. This, in general terms, is what is understood by Obstruction, and in reference to it the House should remember the steps which have been already taken in order to deal with it. In the Session of 1877—the first in which this became a general subject of remark—the House, on the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, passed the following Resolution:—That when a Member, after being declared out of Order, shall be pronounced by Mr. 1469 Speaker or by the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, to he disregarding the authority of the Chair, the debate shall be at once suspended; and on a Motion being made in the House that the Member be not heard during the remainder of the debate or the sitting of the Committee, such Motion, after the Member complained of has been heard in explanation, shall be put without further debate.That Resolution, I believe, was only put in force on one occasion, and the victim was the late Mr. Whalley. He somewhat inadvertently became a victim; and having, on a subsequent occasion, explained himself to the House, the censure of the House was withdrawn. On another occasion it was attempted to put it in force against the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell); but in that case it was found inoperative, and no further proceedings were taken. The Resolution was only a Sessional Resolution. It dropped at the end of the Session, and no attempt has since been made to revive it. Now, Sir, some Members of the House may be surprised, perhaps, when I remind them that that was actually the only attempt ever made to deal with the question of Obstruction. In the next Session conduct of the same character was continued—at all events, the same complaints were made as before. In that Session a Committee was appointed to consider the question of the conduct of the Public Business, and it was not the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they should entirely devote themselves to the subject of Obstruction, and, in fact, during the earlier part of their deliberation they never considered the subject at all; but towards the close of their sittings, the circumstances of the House induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose to extend the Inquiry, and the Committee did take into consideration the subject of Obstruction, and examined certain witnesses in reference to it and the undue delay which was caused in their proceedings, and they passed a Resolution and made a Report on the subject. That Report was laid before the House; but no action was taken upon it during that Session. In the next Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer placed upon the Paper certain proposals based upon the recommendations of the Committee, and among them was one dealing with the question of Obstruction. There was considerable delay in the passing of the first Resolution; and although the second, and 1470 the other Resolutions, including that which dealt with Obstruction, remained on the Paper for some time in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it never was moved, and the House was not invited to take any measure whatever for the purpose of dealing with this question. Therefore, Sir, during the Sessions of 1877, 1878, and 1879, when, according to universal agreement, we have been suffering under this inconvenience, no action whatever was taken either by the Government or by any Member to invite the attention of the House to it. I can well under stand that, under these circumstances, the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) may argue with considerable force that, after the House has endured so much and so long without thinking it necessary to take any action in the matter, it is somewhat unreason able that in the last Session of the Parliament, when nothing I may say of pronounced Obstruction has taken place——["Oh!"] Well, I am only taking the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman invited us to consider the subject when we were calm, and when our attention was not taken up by proceedings of an obstructive character during the present Session; and there fore it may be argued with some force, that is not reasonable, under these circumstances, in the last Session of the Parliament, to ask us to deal with this subject when it was not brought forward in previous Sessions, when the subject was more prominent, and when the House suffered much more inconvenience from it, but when nothing was done. I do not know what argument the hon. Member may put forward; but I think he may found a very plausible argument on that fact. But, Sir, I do not agree with that view of the case; and for myself I think, if the House has any reason to complain, it has reason to complain that action in the matter has been delayed too long, rather than that it should be taken now. For my part, I attach the greatest importance to what may be the effect upon a future Parliament of the continuance of this practice of Obstruction if no step whatever is taken by the present in reference to it. Evils such as those which are now complained of have, in my opinion, a very strong tendency to grow; and there is every reason to 1471 apprehend that a future Parliament may-suffer the same or even aggravated grievances; and it would be very unfair if it could be pointed out that this Parliament suffered during half its existence those grievances and did not make one single attempt to redress them. I have now, Sir, to examine very shortly the Resolution itself. The House will observe that the assumption on which it proceeds is that the evil that is complained of, that inconvenience and delay which have been caused by the action of a few Members of the House, may be cured by proceedings of a personal character directed against one or two or, at any rate, a very small number of Members—that what is rongw may be cured by proceedings of a personal and partly penal character. The Resolution deals substantially with two questions, and I must say I think it would be better if it had been divided into two-parts. The first proposal is one which provides a similar proceeding to that which was before adopted to enable the House to relieve itself during the progress of debate from undue obstruction or delay in a summary manner. The second part proposes a proceeding of a more penal character, and provides for the more permanent punishment of a Member who has come under the operation of the first part of the Resolution; and I think that these proposals could have been very conveniently separated, and more conveniently considered in the shape of two Resolutions. With respect to the principle of the first part of the Resolution, it has my most warm support. It is, in substance, as has been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Resolution which was agreed to by a majority of the Committee of 1878. I think it is open to consideration whether, in the opinion of the House, the machinery proposed by Her Majesty's Government is that which is calculated to be most efficient. Any hon. Member who has read the evidence of Mr. Speaker before the Committee will have observed that the Speaker was in favour rather of placing the whole initiative in himself, or in the Chairman of Ways and Means, than of leaving it in the hands of the House. But in the Resolution now before us, the House will observe that when the Speaker has named a Member the matter is left to be decided by the majority of the House. 1472 Now, it appears to me that it is questionable whether there is any advantage whatever to be obtained from the proposed action of the House itself. The Government are of opinion, contrary to that entertained by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, that that is a power too great to be placed in the hands of any one individual, supported by the majority of, perhaps, an excited House; but they have very properly provided that the proceeding shall not come into operation at all until the initiative has been taken by the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means, who shall name a Member as guilty of wilful Obstruction. Where, then, is the necessity for bringing in the action of the House at all? When the Speaker has named a Member as guilty of Obstruction, and the matter is placed under the consideration of the House, it will not merely be the conduct of the Member which will be brought under review, but the conduct of the Speaker also. It would not be possible for the House to refuse to assent to the Motion without, in effect, passing a Vote of Censure upon the Speaker. I cannot but think that something of dignity is taken away from the character of the proceeding by requesting a vote of the majority of the House, and not leaving it nominally, as well as practically, in the hands of the Speaker himself. I may be told that this proposal is the recommendation of the Committee, and that I was a party to it; but, in reply, I am bound to state that the recommendation of the Government is not precisely that of the Committee, and that they have left out a very important part of that recommendation. The Committee recommended that before a vote should be taken the Member whose conduct was inculpated should be allowed to explain for a period not exceeding 10 minutes. Well, I am not by any means clear that that is a very wise proceeding; but, at all events, it was intended to give the particular Member alocus pœnitentiœ.It might be, on the one hand, that the conduct of the Member would be shown to have been such as to justify the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means in having named him for wilful Obstruction or other offence. On the other hand, the explanation of the Member might be in the nature of a submission to the House. He might throw himself upon the generosity of the 1473 House, and express his intention no longer to offend against the Rules of the House. Under these circumstances, it would have been open to the House, without passing a Vote of Censure upon the Speaker, to take the side of mercy, and decide that after the explanation they would refrain from inflicting a penalty. But in the case of a Motion without explanation the House has no option but to express its opinion upon it, and that, too, when necessarily a large number of hon. Members who were called upon to pronounce sentence could not be cognizant of the offence; because the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means was the only person who could possibly, from the necessity of the case, be cognizant of all that had taken place; and if it is the intention of the Government to strengthen their hands, I think that it could be more effectually done by placing the necessary power in their hands, and not by delegating it to the majority of the House. Well, Sir, the second part of the Resolution appears to me to be open to very considerably greater objection. It contemplates a procedure of a penal character. I am quite of opinion that some proceeding of that kind is necessary. I do not think it could be tolerated that any Member or Members should from day to day render himself or themselves liable to the proceeding provided by the first part of the Resolution, and yet continue the next day and the next to repeat the offence without being in some way punished. I think after a certain number of times it is necessary that the displeasure of the House should be manifested against a Member in some permanent manner. How that is to be done is a question of a very difficult character, and it is one which is not satisfactorily solved by the proposals of the Government. The suggestion that the suspension after these offences should be continued for one week appears to me a great deal too slight. That a Member, in spite of warning—for I contemplate that this procedure will never take place until ample warning is given by the Speaker—should during one Session be guilty three times of conduct of such a character that the Speaker would be forced to name him and submit his conduct to the judgment of the House—that conduct of that kind should only be visited by suspension for one week appears to be 1474 a penalty much too slight. I am quite aware that it is proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the penalty may be extended after discussion in the House, and, in fact, would be permanent unless removed by a vote of the House; but what I wish to point out is that in punishing the offender the House is invited to punish itself much more severely. At the expiration of one week it is competent for any friend—any political friend—of the suspended Member to bring forward his case before the House. It will be competent for any friend to move that the suspension be removed; and, as I understand that such a question would be a question of Privilege, it would be one that the House would be bound at the expiration of a week to take up and discuss. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes that it should be discussed in a single Sitting. Now, that is a detail that I do not wish to take up the time of the House in discussing at the present moment; but I wish to observe that this is an innovation—an entire innovation, perfectly unknown to our proceedings. What is one Sitting of the House? It is not necessarily confined to a single day. It is possible that this procedure may be prolonged over one, two, or more days, without the possibility of adjourning, however grave the case might be. That, however, is a matter of detail, which I do not wish to discuss now; but what I do wish to point out is that this procedure provides for the time of the House being taken up and wasted by the conduct of a Member, and that time will be further taken up during a Sitting, or a part of a Sitting, at the expiration of one week after the offence has been committed. Now, it seems to me the punishment must be self-acting, and if self-acting the penal consequences must be self-acting. The punishment must be more severe than proposed; or else, if it is thought necessary that some inquiry should be made into the circumstances and the punishment made proportionate to the offence, then the House must obtain some assistance to meet the case, and to avoid the waste of time involved in the discussing of the case at the end of a week. A suggestion was made some time ago, before this subject of Obstruction came up for discussion, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). He proposed that at the commencement 1475 of each Session a Committee of Order should be appointed. The object of that Committee was not to deal with the question of Obstruction, because, as I have said, Obstruction was not then heard of. The proposal was, as well as I recollect, that this Committee should assist the Speaker in the consideration of questions of Order and Privilege. The idea has also been taken up by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), and he proposes that the conduct of Members who have subjected themselves to warning from the Chair should come under the consideration of a Committee of this kind. I must say that it does seem to me that if the penalty cannot be made self-acting and more severe it would be very desirable that the intervention of some such body should be brought into play, and that the conduct of a Member who has more than once offended should, as a matter of course, come under the consideration of such a Committee as this, and that the Committee should make a Report to the House and advise as to the course to be taken. At all events, it seems to me we must hit on some plan less cumbrous and irksome to the House itself, less productive of waste of time than the proposal of the Government, which will necessarily involve the loss of a considerable portion of the time of the Session on debates on the conduct of Members. I will not dwell upon the details of the proposals any further; but, before I sit down, I cannot help expressing a doubt which I feel in my mind as to the efficiency of any proceedings of this character at all. I am very well aware of the prevailing feeling of the House, to which expression has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Obstruction is best dealt with by proceedings of a personal character of this nature, and it is unnecessary to consider any more general alteration of our Rules of debate. But I think the House ought not to be too easily led away by any Motion of this kind. These proceedings cannot, in my opinion, be of a merely personal character. However much we may wish to give them that character, they must, to a certain extent, modify the liberty, the freedom of action hitherto enjoyed by minorities, and especially by very small minorities; and, however much we may desire to avoid it, we cannot shut our 1476 eyes to the fact that by proceedings of this kind—necessary as I think they are—we shall, to some degree, restrict the freedom of action hitherto enjoyed by small minorities; and the effect of Rules of this description will be greatest, not on those who wish to defy and delay the House, but on those who have the greatest respect for its authority. I think it is impossible not to see that after these Rules have been passed the conduct of a small minority will, to a certain extent, be restricted; and that Members who feel the greatest respect for the authority of the House will be very apt to be visited before they go near straining the Forms of the House in what they consider legitimate opposition to a measure to which they strongly object. I am not arguing against proceedings of this kind. I am pointing out that no measure of this kind can be purely personal in its operation, but that it must exercise a considerable effect on the conduct of small minorities in the House. Well, then, the question is, if it has become necessary to restrict, to some extent, the freedom of debate and the liberty of action of small minorities, whether it may not be worth while to go a little further and do something which certainly will be more effective, and which will not really be in practice more oppressive or invidious than the present proposal. Every other Assembly has had to consider this problem, and every other Assembly has adopted the power, after a certain time, to put a stop to debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to this question, and he said that the House would hesitate long before it adopted any such measure. I quite agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that you cannot at all defend the adoption of theclôturein this House; but when considering this question the House will do well to remember that this is a proceeding to which in time you will be forced to come, and that it is a proceeding which would undoubtedly be efficient for the purpose for which it would be intended. I think the consciousness that we have this power in reserve ought to enable us to discuss this question with much calmness and consideration. If the majority should be of opinion that the evils and inconveniences under which the House has suffered for the past three or four years can be met 1477 by measures of a personal and penal character, such as now proposed, I am perfectly willing to give to those proposals a fair trial, and to assist Her Majesty's Government and the House to the utmost of my power to put them into a practical and workmanlike shape. But at the same time, as I have said, I cannot help thinking that there is much probability that no measure of this kind will be permanently or completely successful. We ought to bear in mind that we have in reserve a simpler and more effectual means of proceeding. At all events, let us not adopt any hasty or ill-conceived measures—measures which might, if adopted without sufficient consideration, become oppressive, or might lead the House into a series of personal debates and great waste of time. I am, sorry to have detained the House so long; but my observations have not been made in a spirit of factious opposition, but in order to point out some objections which might be urged against the proposals of the Government, and rather to increase their practical efficiency than to oppose the Motion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that as the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) had made reference to the Motion which he (Mr. Newdegate) had placed on the Paper, it was due to the House that he should explain the reasons for his having taken upon himself the office of pioneer in dealing with this question. Although the House appointed a Committee on the state of Public Business in 1878, which had received evidence and reported, the Report scarcely alluded to the new Parliamentary offence "Obstruction." It appeared as though no one was prepared to submit a proposal to the House respecting it. He had, moreover, received information that, so far from the course of Obstruction which had been adopted being abandoned, it was likely to be renewed in the present Session. Indeed, he might say that already there had been some indications of an intention to renew that course of Obstruction; and he was afraid that there was nothing in the circumstances of the House to justify the hope that, if nothing were done, Business would be more facilitated in the present than in the past three Sessions. He was happy to believe, however, that the House had come to the conclusion that some measure was absolutely neces- 1478 sary. The question now before the House was, what measures should be adopted, and he rejoiced most sincerely that the Leader of the House had found it to be consistent with his duty to make a proposal to the House. He rejoiced still more at finding that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition agreed with the Leader of the House. It would be a total departure on the part of the noble Lord from the traditions of the Party of Progress; it would be a total departure from the history of his own family; it would be a total departure from the precedents set by those who had preceded him in the Leadership of the Liberal Party, if the noble Lord failed to support the Leader of the House in providing for the due despatch of the Business of the House. Having sat with the noble Lord on the Committee of 1878, he had never for one moment suspected the noble Lord of failing to pursue the traditions of his house, and of the Party which he led in that House. Allusion had been made to the difficulties which had induced the House to appoint that Committee; and he thought it was as well that some Member of the House should, as shortly as possible, describe the nature of those difficulties. They were, indeed, pretty generally known throughout the country. At the same time, that which was not generally known was that these difficulties had been created during the last three Sessions by a number of hon. Members who, as far as he had been able to analyze the subject, had never exceeded 18; he might, indeed, say that the great difficulties which had arrested the progress of the House of Commons in conducting the legislation which was necessary for the United Kingdom and the government of Her Majesty's Empire had really been created by a number of Members who did not exceed 10 or 11. Now, those were facts which ought to be stated in that House, or their proceedings might be misconstrued out-of-doors. He had taken the part of pioneer in the matter, and having done so, he wished to recall to the House the fact that, being now one of its senior Members, from first to last he had ever defended the rights of minorities. The rights reserved to individual Members of the House, and the rights reserved to the minorities of the House, formed its proud distinctions, and made the House of Commons 1479 superior to every Legislative Assembly in the world. In the preservation of the rights of its individual Members, and in the preservation of the rights of its minorities, was to be found the distinction of the House of Commons as superior in its deliberate capacity to any Assembly that had not acted upon or had departed from its Rules. Let the House remember this—the Legislative Assembly of France, the Congress of the United States of America, and the Parliaments of our Colonies had founded their order of proceedings originally on the model of this House; but he was sorry to say that the Legislature of the United States had departed from that wholesome form of procedure, so likewise had the Legislative Assembly of France; and if we might judge from what occurred in their debates—and he wished to speak of those great Assemblies respectfully—their order and conduct were far inferior to that which prevailed in this great prototype of deliberative Assemblies—the House of Commons. He felt that it was a bold attempt on the part of any private Member to take upon himself the duty of a pioneer in a matter of that sort; but he had weighed the responsibility he had incurred, and, for some time, he had had reason to believe that the Leader of the House approved of the principle of the proposal which stood on the Notice Paper in his name. But although he was happy to find that the principle of his proposal was to some extent embodied in that of the right hon. Gentleman, there were distinct and grave differences between the two proposals. He was not in the least surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should claim his proper position, and propose a Resolution not merely as the organ of the Government, but in his capacity of Leader of the House, with the view of restoring the Order which had been broken, and of correcting the new abuse, which he (Mr. Newdegate) was sorry to say had of late years grown up. With these few words of apology to the House, he would venture to read an opinion which, though it might not find audible utterance in that House, was an opinion upon recent proceedings in the House of Commons, which, coming as it did from the author ofThe Practice of Parliament,must command, not only in the House, but out of it, a weight that could attach to the opinions of very 1480 few Members of the House. In his recent edition of this work, published at the end of 1879, Sir Thomas Erskine May thus wrote—The Rules of Parliament are designed to afford every legitimate opportunity of discussion, to insure reasonable delays in the passing of important measures, and to guard the rights of minorities. In the observance of these Rules, both Houses have displayed a generous regard for the liberty of individual Members and of political Parties; freedom of debate has been respected with rare patience and self-denial. Nowhere have the principles of liberty and toleration been more conspicuously illustrated than within the walls of Parliament. On some memorable occasions the power of a majority has been withstood by a resolute minority supported by public opinion. But, of late, these salutary Rules have been strained and perverted, in the House of Commons, for purposes of obstruction. Such a course, if persisted in, would frustrate the power and authority of Parliament, and secure the domination of a small minority, condemned by the deliberate judgment of the House and of the country. That it is unparliamentary and opposed to the principles of orderly government is manifest, and on the 25th day of July, 1877, it was declared by the Speaker that any Member wilfully and persistently obstructing Public Business without just and reasonable cause, is guilty of a contempt of the House, and would be liable to such punishment, whether by censure, by suspension from the service of the House, or by commitment, as the House may adjudge,The occasion was not light which elicited that declaration from the Chair; and he would, as briefly as he could, recall to the attention of the House some of the occurrences of 1877. He wished particularly to call attention to the effect produced upon public opinion by this system of Obstruction.The Timesnewspaper published aRegister of Events.In that Register the leading occurrences in this House are recorded; and the following events appeared with reference to the Session of 1877:—Monday, July 2—House of Commons.—Debate on Army Estimates. Irish obstruction by five members; seventeen divisions. House Bat till seven in the morning.Thursday, July 5.—Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Bill Debates. Scene with the Irish Obstructionists and Mr. Whalley.Tuesday, July 24.—Debate on the South Africa Bill. Obstruction by Mr. Parnell.Wednesday, July 25.—Committee on the South Africa Bill. Scene with the Irish Members. Mr. Parnell ordered to withdraw from the House.Friday, July 27.—Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to prevent obstruction adopted.Monday, July 30.—Committee on South Africa Bill. Scene with the Irish Members, Messrs. O'Donnell and Biggar.1481Tuesday, July 31.—Committee on South Africa Bill. Obstruction by Irish. Members. Sitting of the House through the night.Wednesday, August 1.—South Africa Bill. Obstruction by the Irish Members. Sitting of the House from four o'clock on Tuesday to six o'clock on Wednesday (twenty-six hours).Thursday, August 9.—Mr. Whalley suspended from debate by the new Rule.That short abstract showed, he thought, that public opinion had not been kept totally ignorant of the circumstances in which the House had been placed. In the following Session, 1878, the Committee on Public Business was appointed; and he was not at all prepared to impugn the statement of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition with respect to what occurred in that Committee. He (Mr. Newdegate) had been mainly instrumental in furnishing the House with a list of the small minorities by which the Business of the House had been impeded. The Committee were pleased to adopt the calculation which he had presented, and ordered them to be examined by the officers of the House, by whom they were found correct; but, strange to say—and for this he could not account—the Committee declined to give the totals to the House. With the permission of the House, then, he would now, for the first time, read these totals, to illustrate the fact to which he alluded. The following was an analysis of the published Division Lists of the House, in which the minorities did not exceed 21:—During the Session 1876, there were 40 such divisions. In 1877 there were 101 such divisions. In 1878, to April 16, there were 29 such divisions—making a total of 170 divisions, in the minorities shown by which the under-mentioned Members took part:—Of 170 divisions in which the minority was under 21, the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) was in 121; the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) was in 111; the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) in 107; the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman) in 75; the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) in 73; the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) in 65; the hon. Member for Waterford City (Mr. R. Power) in 56. But the analysis went further. There were divisions in which the minorities had not exceeded 11 Members—in the Session 1876 there were 20 such divisions; in 1877, 69 such divisions; 1482 and in 1878, to April 16, 8 such divisions. Of these 97 divisions the hon. Member for Meath was in 80; the hon. and gallant Member for Galway in 69; the hon. Member for Cavan in 57; the hon. Member for Dungarvan in 48; the hon. Member for Mayo in 48; the hon. Member for Waterford City in 46; the other hon. and gallant Member for Waterford in 26. He had produced those figures in order to show the House how small had been the band which had practised this form of Obstruction. The Committee of 1878 having been appointed, there ensued a change of tactics on the part of those Members who were thus endangering the privileges of minorities in that House by the extent to which they had abused these privileges. He now came to another period, when he could show the House that it had suffered from the abuse of the privileges of individual Members. The same hon. Members to whom he had alluded thenceforth adopted another form of abuse and annoyance. He came to the period of what he would call thecacoethes loquendi.Taking the last Session, 1879, he had ascertained from the Index toHansard's Debatesthat the hon. Member for Meath addressed the House 500 times; the hon. and gallant Member for Galway, 369 times; the hon. Member for Dungarvan, 284 times; the hon. Member for Mayo, 135 times. It was highly important that the public and the constituencies should know that, if the House had been obliged to adopt penal legislation for the purpose of enforcing respect for its Forms, it was on account of the persistent misconduct—for he could not otherwise describe it—of a small knot of hon. Members who never numbered more than a dozen and a-half. It was important that the country should not misunderstand what had occurred in that House. That which had occurred during the last three Sessions was more discreditable to the House than anything within his experience of the 35 years that he had occupied a seat in the House. As an old and attached Member of the House, no man would be more ready to assert the rights and privileges of individual Members, and of minorities in the House; but he could not sanction these extreme abuses of their Forms and Rules. Never having been in office during his 35 years of service in the House, but proud and content to be 1483 simply a private and independent Member of the House, he would be the last to make its Rules unduly penal, and would resist any attack upon the rights and privileges of individual Members and minorities. He had seen, however, the very existence of other Legislative Assemblies endangered by excess; and he plainly saw that the excesses practised by a persistent, though small, minority in this House were endangering the rights and privileges of individual Members of the House, and the rights and privileges of minorities. The deliberative character of the House was in danger if nothing was done to prevent these abuses, and nothing need be done that was inconsistent with the principles of the existing Rules and Orders of the House; but, if nothing were done, it was inevitable that they should come to the adoption of theclôture,which, wherever it had been adopted, had failed to restrain the excesses of debate, for, in 1848, M. Guizot, in giving evidence before a Committee with reference to theclôturein the French Assembly, said that it was ineffectual to restrain the excesses of debate, and that debates on the same subject had, in the French Assembly, lasted for more than a fortnight. But that system operated to prevent the almost conversational mode of procedure by which, especially in Committees of the Whole House, the deliberative character of the House of Commons had been so vindicated as to raise it in that respect high above the position occupied by any other deliberative Assembly in the world. He should not much longer detain the House; but he thought it important that the facts to which he had alluded should be brought to its notice; and as they were about to return to their constituents, that they should—that the constituencies also should—know the reason of their action; and that, far from intending to impair or lessen the freedom of debate, or to change the character of the House of Commons, if they were forced to measures of this kind now before the House, it was not with a view to the supersession of the deliberative character of the House, not with a view to limit its functions or lower its dignity, but with the view of preserving those great characteristics which had raised it so high above every other representative and Constitutional 1484 Assembly in existence that they acted. Having thus placed before the House the circumstances which had induced him to assume the office of pioneer in the matter, he wished to say that, in some respects, he did not cordially approve of the Resolutions which had been proposed by the Leader of the House. The proud distinction of the House had hitherto been that, except by courtesy, the Members of that House were all equal. Another distinction of the House had hitherto been—which had operated as a guarantee for its being fit to occupy the high position it had attained in securing the liberties and the social order of the great centre of the British Empire—was that the House of Commons had hitherto, by its own power, by the public spirited co-operation of its Members, secured not only the decency, but the expedition and the efficiency of its own proceedings. It was thus that the House had become the great exemplar of self-government—of a self-government so conducted that, while it insured political and social order, guarded the foundations of freedom. That had been the proud function of the House of Commons; and he thought, as must be obvious from the proposal which he had ventured to place on the Notice Book, which had been remarked upon by the Leader of the Opposition, that it appeared to him that the Resolutions proposed by the Government unnecessarily invoked the authority of the Speaker. Hitherto, he had seldom known a Speaker compelled to "name" a Member. The meaning of that proceeding, according to his (Mr. Newdegate's) apprehension, was this—that in addressing a Member of the House, not as a Member for a certain constituency, but by his own individual name, the Speaker expressed an opinion that that Member so named had, by his conduct, forfeited his right to be considered a Member of the House. That was the inference which, from some study of the proceedings of the House, he believed to be the true interpretation of what was meant by the Speaker's naming a Member; but he must say that, when the only consequence of naming a Member was to be suspension from service, in the first instance, for one Sitting of the House only—it might be for an hour or less—he did not think that the penalty was 1485 adequate to the offence of persistent obstruction. He remembered the Resolution which was carried at the instance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of the Session of 1877. It was a very charitable modification of the then existing Rules, and in the result it was found utterly futile and quite useless for the intended purpose. The consequence of the adoption and failure of that Resolution was the appointment of the Committee of 1878 to seek for, and, if possible, to recommend some more effectual disciplinary proposal; but when the recommendations of that Committee came before the House, they were so multifarious, and so totally deficient in remedies for the evil of Obstruction, that only one of these Resolutions was adopted, by the House; the first, which gave the Government the advantage of having Monday for their Business. The only Resolution of the Committee of 1878 which purported to deal with Obstruction was carried by the casting vote of its author—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Chairman—and was never till now proposed to the House. It was not to the credit of the House to adopt measures so inefficient that they only led to an aggravation of the offence. It should not be forgotten that the Resolution of 1877 was adopted on the 27th of July, and that on the night of the 31st of July and the morning of August 1st, 1877, they had had the melancholy spectacle of the majority of the House trying, during 26 consecutive hours, to wear out a small minority by mere exhibition of physical force. Could anything have been more miserable? On that occasion, he bore his part with the majority. Except for one hour only he was present during the entire 26 hours. But when he afterwards reflected upon what the House had been doing he came to the conclusion that, with all their labour, while they risked the health of the Speaker, of the Chairman of Committees, and of the officers of the House, the course they had adopted was not worthy of the House. When he was told that they would be driven to theclôture,or something equivalent to it, in order that the House might duly exercise its functions, he did not believe it. In a great emergency he had seen the power of supending the Standing Orders brought into use. On one occa- 1486 sion he saw an Attorney General come down to the House and notice the presence of Strangers, who were then ordered to withdraw. He had given notice of a Bill, but he had not brought it in. The Attorney General then told the House that he had found a defect in the Acts by which parts of the dioceses of this country had been re-distributed, and that that defect would invalidate the title to a vast amount of property, since testamentary jurisdiction was then vested in the Diocesan Courts, and that unless the House passed an Act in a single day thousands of innocent persons might be beggared, and the greatest confusion prevail throughout the country. That Attorney General was Sir John, afterwards Chief Justice, Jervis; he added that the House of Lords were sitting ready to take up the Bill. In two hours and three-quarters after the suspension of the Standing Orders, an Act was thus passed through both Houses, and became law by the Royal Assent being given to it the same evening. He trusted, then, that should such abuses as those of the 31st of July and the 1st of August, 1877, be again attempted, that hon. Members would never again be dragged through such a scene as occurred in 1877, but that, should the occasion require it, the Leader of the House would move the adjournment of the debate, and give Notice that on the next day he would call upon the House to suspend the Standing Orders. With that suspension, every restraint upon the power of the majority would vanish. Thus, they had all the power of theclôtureat their command, and more than that of theclôture,to remedy any abuse or meet any emergency. And as the suspension of the Standing Orders must be a totally exceptional proceeding, for the adoption of which the House must be conscious of the absolute necessity—thus, in the case of Obstruction, such exceptional necessity must be proved before there could be any interference with the rights and privileges of individual Members, or of minorities, or anything done which would be injurious to the deliberative character of the House. In conclusion, he felt that, having acted as pioneer on this subject, and so incurred a great responsibility, he was under an obligation, as an individual Member of the House, to state the facts which had 1487 induced him to undertake that responsibility.
§ MR. DILLWYN,
who had given Notice of an Amendment, said, he was anxious to address the House early in the debate, because he was misunderstood and misrepresented in the Press with regard to the course which he intended to take. He objected to the second Resolution; but never for a moment did he intend to oppose the Resolution before the House. He thought it better, however, not to convert any Resolution on this subject into a Standing Order; and he hoped he should be able to offer reasons for that opinion which might be satisfactory to the Government and the House. He desired, like the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), to act in a friendly, not a hostile, spirit to the Resolution they were then discussing. He agreed with a great deal of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs. He concurred with the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs in thinking it inexpedient that the whole House should determine in each case what constituted a Breach of Order. Such questions were, in his (Mr. Dillwyn's) opinion, too delicate to be dealt with in that manner, and were always matters of extreme difficulty. In all the instances of Obstruction—and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate)had rather confused Obstruction with Breach of Order—the issue had been between the majority and the minority; and, therefore, in every case referred to the decision of the whole House, the majority had to decide in its own favour. As the noble Lord had said, if such cases were submitted to the decision of the whole House, the greater part of the House would be called in, and would not be cognizant of what had taken place. This consideration made him in favour of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), according to which a Committee of Order would be appointed at the beginning of each Session. That course, he thought, would be by far the most satisfactory that could be adopted. It had so happened that of late years obstruction had always come from his own side of the House, because they had been in a minority; but his (Mr. Dillwyn's) early 1488 lessons in obstruction had been received from hon. Members on the opposite Benches. He was not an adept in the art; but what instruction he had had was given by hon. Members now on the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire's retrospect ought to have gone further back, and should have traced the origin of Obstruction. He (Mr. Dillwyn) would mention the details of one case. On June 17, 1870, a Clerical Disabilities Bill was before the House. The first division that was taken showed 99 for the Bill and 47 against it, several Members of the present Government voting in the minority. A contest then ensued on Motions for adjournment, during which 10 divisions were taken, till the small, or rather the large, hours of the morning. In the first eight divisions the numbers ranged from 66 to 74 against 24 to 30, and in that small minority he found the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Cross), the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther), who was always an able Obstructionist, the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Winn), and the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Raikes). In the ninth division the numbers were 66 to 21, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had abandoned the contest. The tenth and last division showed the same figures; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had by that time become very much dissatisfied with the manner in which the obstruction had been conducted, and, therefore, left his Friends, to vote with the majority. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, however, to the last, voted with the minority. He merely cited this case injustice to hon. Members on that side of the House, and to show that they had not been the authors or the first practisers of Obstruction. With regard to theclôture,he trusted that there was no sort of possibility of its being adopted, and that any such proposal would meet with the most determined opposition. The propositions of the Government were, on the whole, not very objectionable, and might be amended. He believed he could say, on behalf of many hon. Members on that side of the House who had never been guilty of wilful and 1489 persistent obstruction, that their disinclination to accept interference with the procedure of the House led them to view with regret the necessity of some such Resolutions as those now proposed. They had feared that the privileges of private Members and the rights of minorities might be impaired; but now that the authorities of the House had taken up the question they would give them all the assistance in their power. They were always anxious to repress any Breach of Order; and although it was true that sometimes they supported several of their Irish Friends below the Gangway when, perhaps, their proceedings were not very orderly, yet that was, if he might say so without offence, when they considered those Friends were unduly attacked and unduly bullied by hon. Gentlemen on the other side.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, that as one of the hon. Members who had several Amendments upon the Paper he wished to call attention to some of the amenities of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the House was governed by a fixed set of Rules, and yet, in the same breath, had proposed to alter them to the detriment of the Party with which he (Mr. Finigan) had the honour to be connected. However, though that was the object of the right hon. Gentleman, he cordially supported the principles enunciated by him; but he must say for himself and them that they had never been guilty of wilful Obstruction. The Party to which he belonged had a very great duty to perform—namely, to remedy the mode in which Irish legislation was conducted.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member (Mr. Finigan) had given Notice of an Amendment to the Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he (Mr. Speaker) might, therefore, remind the hon. Member that if he spoke at that time he would be precluded by the Rules of the House from moving his Amendment at a later period of the debate. If the hon. Gentleman desired to speak now, the House was willing to hear him; but if he did so, he would, as he (Mr. Speaker) had said, lose his right to speak later on.
§ MR. FINIGAN
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his correction, and said that, in that case, he should prefer to 1490 address the House in moving his Amendment.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY,
who had given Notice of an Amendment to the effect—That it would be inexpedient to attempt to introduce new Rules for the conduct of Business at a time so near to the end of the present Parliament,said, that he had taken that course entirely on his own responsibility, and not as a Member of any Party. At the request of many Members of his own Party, he had forborne from pressing the Amendment, it being their opinion that there ought not to be any opposition to the Resolutions which might seem to have the effect of delaying their passage, and having heard the reasons of the Government for proposing them he had yielded to the opinion of the Members of his Party and had withdrawn his Amendment. Still, he must say that, if he represented not an Irish but an English constituency, he should feel bound to oppose these Resolutions at such a time in the life of the Parliament as the present. He saw, however, no reason why their adoption should be made the subject of a struggle for life or death. He confessed that there was about them one satisfactory condition—they did not strike at the privileges of a minority. Had they done so, he should certainly have felt bound to offer them the strongest and most persistent opposition. There was that to be said in their favour, that they struck not at a minority, however small, but at the individual Member. But, notwithstanding that, he objected to them for more than one reason. They were not in themselves very important Resolutions, and he did not believe they would produce any serious or considerable change in the manner of carrying on the Business of the House of Commons. They interfered, however, with the relations of the House and the Speaker, with those of a Member and his constituency, and with those of one Parliamentary Party and another, and, indeed, he should hardly have thought it possible to introduce into so small a compass so many alterations in the relations which 1491 had hitherto subsisted between the Speaker and the House. If carried out with great stringency, and under a Speaker less impartial than the present Speaker, it was possible to conceive that they might introduce serious, and even fundamental, alterations in the Parliamentary system. For the first time, the House had a system of penal clauses to be applied to Members of Parliament. For the first time, the Speaker had the right given him to become the moving power for the punishment of Members of that House. The Resolutions made the Speaker something more than the mouthpiece, they made him the President of that Assembly. They gave him an initiative. Circumstances might arise which should render even such a change desirable. But it was not desirable at the close of a Parliament, when the authority of the House was weakened by the prospect of early extinction. It was a serious change to make for the first time in Parliamentary history, that a Motion might be made which was not to be discussed, and over which, from beginning to end, all right of debate was taken away. He had heard no argument as yet which showed that a condition of things had arrived which rendered such a course necessary; and if it had it could not be satisfactory to make the change during the closing days of a Parliament. It was said that a man had the right to make a will. That was undoubtedly so, although they were living at a time when it was rather sought to restrict the power of the "dead hand." But the dying man must be the owner of that over which he exercised the disposing power. Here the analogy failed. The present House was not an owner in that sense. It was, finally, a most serious innovation that a Member of that House might be suspended, not for a week, but rather for an indefinite period, from the exercise of his functions; might, for the first time, be degraded to a lower rank than his Colleagues, and held there until a majority of the House should intervene to restore him. He should like a much greater time to have been given to the consideration of such changes. It was, moreover, strange that the especial reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be that there was no cause just now to 1492 complain of Obstruction; that they were in a calm and temperate mood. Then arose the question as to whether the new Rules were to be a Standing Order of the House. Into the minute bearings of the question he would not go for the present. They would be discussed hereafter; but he could hardly believe that the Government would refuse to yield to the Amendment that was proposed upon that matter. Admitting that it might be reasonable enough to adopt these Resolutions for the current Session, the next Parliament should surely be left the power to judge for itself how best to conduct its affairs. Although the Resolutions would introduce a great many serious changes into our Parliamentary system, he did not think they were accompanied by any very great hope that they would necessarily be successful in the object which was the excuse for their presentation. If there really existed in the House, as was stated, an organized and determined system for the Obstruction of Public Business, the Resolutions, when passed, would not in the slightest degree interfere with the worst operations of such a system. In fact, if there were that determination amongst Members of the House, the Resolutions would rather afford them opportunity than deny them occasion. Anyone could see that when the Estimates were being considered in Committee a determined Obstruction of Business could be carried on, in spite of the Resolutions, in a way that no Government could venture fairly to describe as deliberate Obstruction. It would be almost impossible to say what really was the motive of an hon. Member who insisted on submitting to the critical judgment of the House every item in the Estimates. The adoption of such a course was advocated by Joseph Hume, and recommended to every Member. It was clear that a Member might, with perfect good faith, insist upon examining every clause in a Bill in Committee, and suggesting Amendments in almost every line. Was it not easy to imagine a heated majority, impatient of any delay, insisting on treating a Member who was only performing his duty as one guilty of wilful obstruction? Such conduct on the part of a majority might be naturally expected in times of great political excitement. It should be borne in mind that there were two 1493 kinds of Obstruction. The first was that kind of Obstruction in accordance with which a minority, when driven to bay, made use of every available Rule of the House in order to delay the passing of a very obnoxious measure. This kind of Obstruction had been resorted to by every Party and almost every eminent statesman, and surely no Member of the House would like to see it rendered impossible. Among others, Lord Palmerston was an advocate of this form of Obstruction, for on one occasion, writing to a friend, he pointed out that in certain cases Liberal Members might divide on every possible question; debate a clause, line by line; in his own words—Might so obstruct the passing of a measure that a whole Session would not suffice to allow it to come into operation.They had heard much in praise of the constitution of the Imperial Parliament as contrasted with the Legislatures of other countries; and he knew of no peculiarity by which the House was raised above all other Parliaments so honourable and distinguished as the power which was given to the smallest minority to interpose a barrier between the passing of an obnoxious measure and the will of an overbearing majority. It would probably be said that the kind of Obstruction which he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had described was not that which it was intended to abolish, which it would be said was Obstruction amounting to interference with the whole Business of the House. They had heard lately of a number of hon. Members of that House, whose set purpose was supposed to be to bring Parliamentary institutions into contempt. He might say that he had never chanced to meet that Party, nor, indeed, had he ever met a single individual who acknowledged that he desired to bring Parliamentary institutions into contempt. But he did not know by what means they could more effectually bring Parliamentary institutions into contempt than by furnishing a majority with the power of arbitrarily extinguishing the voice of a minority. The rights which minorities had hitherto enjoyed had ever been the admiration of foreign statesmen, who trusted that their Legislatures, taking example from our own, might some day adopt our practice in this respect. They had heard a great deal of the controversies that had led to these 1494 Resolutions. Well, he should like to ask whether in these disputes the fault had not as often been on the side of the Treasury Bench as on that of individual Members of the House? He remembered, on one occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moving that an hon. Member's words be taken down on the ground that he had infringed the Rules of the House. But what had the hon. Member said? He had expressed a strong objection to a measure before the House, and declared that it would be his duty to thwart the Government in the passing of that measure. Surely, in doing that, the hon. Member was within his right. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion confounded the measures of the Government with the Business of the House. But reflection came before the morning, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer found that he was wrong, and that the hon. Member was strictly right. That had been the case in many instances, and one could understand that a minority thus continually irritated might sometimes have gone beyond the lines of conduct which they had laid down for themselves, and that too much heat on the one side might have engendered too much heat on the other. If history noticed the Parliamentary difficulties of the last few years, he thought they would be ascribed much more to the impatience, the mistakes, and the confusion of the Government than to any endeavour at obstruction on the part of the private Members. He did not believe, for his own part, that if any great measure had been before the House which roused the sympathy and feelings of the country, there would have been any obstruction calling for action on the part of the Government. There seemed at one time to be an intention on the part of the Government to trifle away the time of the House, especially when measures were concerned which deeply interested the heart and the conscience of a small but earnest minority of Irish Representatives. It must be allowed that it was somewhat hard to see legislation of great and vital importance to Ireland delayed day after day or denied altogether, when every now and then on some poor point of Order the Chancellor of the Exchequer was throwing his whole soul into an endeavour to bring the whole power of Parliament to bear on three or four Members 1495 whose conduct might be inconvenient to the majority. There was a political cause which threw a minority in the House into something like antagonism not only with the Government and the majority, but with public opinion out-of-doors; and that public opinion had been exercised in a manner which had a most injurious influence on the conduct of the Business of the House. When the question of Home Rule was first brought up, leading statesmen on both sides at once declared that it must never be conceded; while the Press of London, with some honourable exceptions, urged that not only must Home Rule not be granted, but that its advocates must not be allowed a hearing on the subject, and must be bluntly told that no arguments which might be brought forward in its favour could change the settled opinion of the House. English interests were to be the only thing considered, and statesmen were told in the current phrase that they must put their foot down and tell the miserable Irish Party that it should never have the concession it demanded. Had he been in the House at the time he should not have been much impressed by such language, knowing the value of what Mill called the eternal politicalnon possumus.He was well aware that all reforms had, in the first instance, been invariably met by clamour of that kind. But it was not difficult to understand that some Irish Members took it seriously and supposed that it represented the set opinion of the Parliament and the people of England; and such Members, having a certain degree of bitterness thus engendered in their minds, might then have felt it to be their duty, not to obstruct general Business, but to use the Forms of the House in such a way as to convince the majority that their arguments must at least be heard. He doubted whether an English minority in anything like similar circumstances would not have been as resolute. But such collisions between majority and minority were exceptional and did not last long, and they gave no excuse for a sudden resolve to change the system of the House. He believed he was speaking as much in the interest of England as in that of Ireland when he urged the House to be careful how it passed such Resolutions as those now 1496 proposed. The changes of political Parties wore often sudden, and the majority of yesterday became, it knew not how, the minority of to-day. It was easy enough to imagine a not distant future when a Conservative minority might have to struggle for something it held dear against an overwhelming and dominant Liberal majority, and on such an occasion the Members of the minority might think there had been too much haste shown in altering the ancient practice of Parliament. He deeply regretted that the Government had not seen their way to trust a little more to the growing good feeling and temper of Parties, and that they had suddenly, on a mere hint from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, proposed these changes which, however striking and remarkable in themselves, might possibly have no effect whatever in curing the special evils which they were intended to abolish.
§ MR. SYNAN
remarked, that in the 15 years during which he had occupied a seat in that House he had never once violated its Rules nor insulted its traditions. Nevertheless, he rose to protest against the Resolution now under consideration, for that was all that remained for him to do, since his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had not moved his Amendment. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, who had substantially supported the Resolution, while criticizing it, had shown to his (Mr. Synan's) mind a very great, perhaps a noble simplicity of character, in protesting to the House and to the country that he could not arrive at any explanation why the Resolutions were now brought forward after a lapse of two years. He (Mr. Synan) presumed that the noble Marquess's object was to elicit an explanation from the Treasury Bench; but the man must be very short-sighted indeed who could not find in what had lately happened an explanation as to the time and the object for which the Resolutions were introduced. What was the history of the case? In the Session of 1877 the Chancellor of the Exchequer passed a Resolution analogous in every respect to the first part of the Resolution before the House, and he omitted altogether the latter and more stringent part. The right hon. Gentleman then promised, on the part of the Government, to consider 1497 the matter during the Recess, and deal with it in the Session of 1878. But what did he do? He obtained a Select Committee, who adopted a Resolution analogous in terms to the first paragraph of the present Motion. But the right hon. Gentleman did not act upon it. In 1879 he placed a Resolution on the Table of the House, and did not act on it. Now why was that? He must suppose that the right hon. Gentleman did not consider that there was a necessity for it. Might he ask, then, what necessity had arisen since the commencement of the present Session? He knew that the Ministerial organs had published to the country that a necessity had arisen, and had denounced a small Party in the House as Irreconcilables, who endeavoured to prevent and obstruct the progress of Business; but he (Mr. Synan), defied any man in the House to show that any Irish Member had, during the present Session, violated any of the Rules of the House either in substance or spirit. Yet the Ministerial organs denounced them. Did they not know what that was for? Why, Liverpool was the first case in point. There a Liberal candidate took a harmless pledge which bound him more or less to the Obstructive Party. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) wrote a letter in explanation, and rather in his support, and that letter was seized upon by his opponents for the purpose of connecting the Liberal Party and its Leaders with what was called the Obstructive Party, and of raising an election cry throughout the country. What occurred in the other House of Parliament? The Prime Minister of the country denounced this so-called Obstructive Party as a Party who were attempting to dismember the Empire, and who were disloyal to the Queen. Those words had been used for an electioneering purpose, and that was the purpose for which this Resolution had been brought forward. It was to show the English people, or rather the stupid English electors, that the Government was obliged at the eleventh hour to pass this Resolution, in order to uphold the dignity of the House of Commons, and to save the privileges of its Members from the assaults and obstruction of what their supporters called "a despicable lot of Irish Members." That was the secret; but the noble Marquess was too delicate to mention it. The Whigs 1498 were once dished, and the present proceeding of the Government, which emanated from the same head, was intended to dish the Liberals. He (Mr. Synan) was not very anxious to throw a shield over the Liberals, for they had been so frightened that they had all gone away. They were afraid to open their mouths, or even to be seen in the company of the Home Rulers. They were afraid that if they were found voting against this Resolution the people of England would identify them with the Irish Party, and that it would endanger their future election. In his opinion, honesty in politics, as in morals, was the best policy; and he would much prefer to see a high-minded Party who would raise its voice in defence of the Privileges and traditions of the House, and against a Resolution which was an innovation upon both, and which, in fact, was a Parliamentary revolution. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had kept an almanack of the proceedings of the House so far as they related to the obstructive Irish Members. Had they been present during his speech they would consider it complimentary. They had more divisions, spoke oftener, and were more active than any other 20 or 30 or 100 Members. That was the argument of the hon. Member, and he (Mr. Synan) was satisfied that his obstructive Friends would use that argument in Ireland to show that they were the men who wore entitled to the confidence of the Irish people. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten that when his Party was in a minority its Members practised obstruction pretty extensively. Did he remember the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill, and, later still, the Army Bill? In regard to both these measures, gross obstruction was practised by a Conservative minority, and several of those who then led the obstruction had been rewarded with seats on the Treasury Bench. Why was not a Resolution brought forward then to put clown the obstruction? Was it because the minority in the one case was English, and in the other it was Irish? Was that the distinction? Were they to adopt the words of Shakespeare, and say—That in the captain is but a choleric wordWhich in the soldier is rank blasphemy.He urged that the House, in virtue of its own common law, had the inherent 1499 power which the Resolution gave, and said he objected to it as a departure from the ancient ways of the Constitution, and a derogation from the privileges of Members. No one would refuse to sustain the judgment of the Speaker when called upon to give it; but if a hard-and-fast Resolution like that before them were put on the Records of the House against the express wishes, will, and judgment of several Members, it would meet with considerable and persistent opposition. With regard to the form of the Resolution, he objected to it most strongly, for while it embodied in some respects the terms proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1877, it omitted that portion which gave alocus penitentiæto the accused Members. It was only fair that such Members should have at least 10 minutes allowed them for the purpose of explaining themselves, or of withdrawing the observations which were considered to constitute a Breach of Order. A case in point had occurred only the other day, when an hon. Member was accused of Breach of Privilege. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved his Resolution before that occasion, the House would, doubtless, have deemed such a proceeding to be an insult of the Privileges of the House. But, instead of that summary mode of dealing with the hon. Member, a different course was adopted. Three days' grace, alocus penitentiæwas given to the hon. Member, who came down to the House, and, in his calmer moments, having considered what he had done, he gave a full explanation of the case, and withdrew the language which had given offence. The same opportunity should be given in the case now under consideration. If the Member was named by the Speaker, that Member ought to have time, in order that he might purge the offence, and the Business of the House should be allowed to go on in a calm way, instead of a course of action being adopted by the Government which would arouse the violent opposition of those hon. Gentlemen who sympathized with the accused Member. Another part of the proposal against which he indignantly protested was that which would give to the House or to the Speaker the power, not only to silence a Member or Members, but to prevent him from voting. If a Member misbehaved, let him be silenced if the 1500 House so willed it; but to deprive him of his vote was for the time being to disfranchise the constituency which returned him. Furthermore, he, for one, strongly condemned the 2nd Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What right had the Government within two months of a Dissolution and on the very eve of a General Election to make the 1st Resolution a Standing Order? The Government knew that he (Mr. Synan) and his hon. Friends were not going to obstruct them. They were going to argue against the Government; but they meant to go to a division on every occasion on which they thought the Government were wrong, and that was almost always. If the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) moved his Amendment, it was to be hoped that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) and other Members below the Gangway, and also hon. Members above it, would support that proposal, for he thought the general opinion of the House, on the Opposition side at any rate, was against making the 1st Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a Standing Order. Let their constituencies express their opinions at the General Election, and then, if the present Government got a majority, they might make the attempt to make this a Standing Order; but in the last Session of a Parliament he appealed to the House to protect its Privileges by resisting the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for making this a Standing Order. He entertained a great respect for the historic traditions of the House; but he had a greater respect for its dignity and for the great stand it had made, especially against tyrant majorities, and therefore appealed to hon. Members to maintain that dignity by refusing to assent to the 2nd Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD,
in rising to move, as an Amendment—That during a Debate, whether in the House or in Committee, any Member may draw the attention of the Chair to misconduct on the part of a Member who, in addressing the House, may persistently endeavour to prevent the Progress of Business, by rising in his place and taking Notice that the Member for——is wilfully ob structing the Business of this House. Where upon (unless in the judgment of the Chair the interruption is frivolous and unfounded, in which case he shall call on the Member in pos session of the House to proceed), Mr. Speaker (or the Chairman) shall forthwith put the Question 'That——be not further heard,' which 1501 Question shall be decided without Amendment or debate; but the Motion shall not be carried by a majority of less than two-thirds if a Division is called. Any Member so put to silence shall stand suspended from the service of the House for one week. Any Member put to silence twice in the same Session shall stand suspended from the service of the House for one calendar month, and for such further period until he shall have submitted himself to the House, and given assurance that he will not so offend again,said, he objected to the claim which had been made for his Party by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that they alone in the House were in favour of constructive legislation. There were on the Conservative side of the House a large number of Members in whom the desire for such legislation was just as strong, and who shared equally with Members of the Opposition the regret at the barren result of the last three years. Reference had been made on the other side to obstructive tactics which it was said had been at one time pursued by hon. Gentlemen who now sat on the Conservative Benches; but such references were by no means analogous to the instances of obstruction which the House had lately witnessed. Take, for example, the action of a small minority on the question of affairs in South Africa. Hon. Members, who had no more connection with South Africa than they had with the moon, had, nevertheless, protracted discussions on the subject to such an extent as to render it very difficult to pass the measure considered necessary by the Government. The evil of Obstruction was one which the House must deal with. The only question was as to the remedies; and, for himself, he believed it would be better to deal with the acts of hon. Members collectively than with the hon. Members themselves individually. There was one thing worse than obstruction, and that was any attempt on the part of the Government to deal with the difficulty which would fail in its effect. Holding that view, he regarded the Resolutions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as weak and futile, so far as checking the evil of which the majority of the House complained was concerned. With regard to the 2nd Resolution, he thought that there was great force in the suggestion of the noble Lord opposite, that it might have the effect of exposing the Speaker to the danger of differing from the House. The Chancellor of the Ex- 1502 chequer said of the Amendment he (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) was about to submit to the House that the proposal contained in it to protect Members against the tyranny of it might be a very small majority—namely, that a majority of two-thirds in a division should be required to carry penal consequences—was a thoroughly novel proposal. Well, the Resolutions were entirely novel too. The state of things they were meant to deal with was novel; and when, under the proposal of the Government, a majority of I might be the means of inflicting penal consequences, they had, he submitted, a right to provide some mode of protecting Members against the tyranny of a small majority. Again, the proposal of the Resolutions as to proceeding in Committee was cumbrous. The Chairman was to name a Member, then he was to report to the Speaker, who was to do as the Chairman had done. Why, instead of this round-about proceeding, should not the Chairman be invested with the same power as the Speaker was to have? Another proposal would lead to great delay—namely, that at the end of a Member's week's suspension there should be a Motion and debate. He could conceive no better mode of having time wasted than that. He did not think, therefore, that the Resolutions dealt effectively with the question. It was one which should be dealt with effectively. If it was not, he believed that public opinion out-of-doors would be so strong that much more stringent measures would have to be adopted. The Resolutions he considered to be weak, and for that reason he would move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, it was in no hostile spirit that his hon. Friend (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) had moved the Amendment, and it was in no hostile spirit that he (Mr. Hanbury) rose to second it. There was a general feeling of gladness in the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had brought forward his Resolutions. He only regretted the general unanimity that appeared to prevail in favour of them, for he regarded with suspicion the great welcome which had been given to the Resolutions from below the Opposition Gangway, and he was afraid that the remedy suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if applied, would be found to be inefficient. At the same time, there was a general 1503 feeling that if this important question was to be dealt with at all it ought to be dealt with in a strong and permanent manner. He feared that if those Resolutions were found to be weak they would have to be set aside in favour of stronger Resolutions, and nothing could be more dangerous than the re-opening of such a question. What they ought to do was to deal with the matter once and for all. It was impossible to deny that a great deal was gained under the Resolutions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the least thing gained was that the House would be able to deal with obstruction without any long debate. But at what price was that advantage gained? If they passed the Resolutions they sacrificed a great deal. The House had power now to deal with those offences by inflicting a much greater punishment than was provided by the Resolutions, so that they actually weakened the power of the House; and if he understood the meaning of the words "or otherwise" in the Resolutions the punishment provided by them would extend to even the most heinous offences. If a speaker endeavoured to pull the Speaker out of the Chair, he would have to repeat the offence a third time before he could be suspended even for a week. If it was intended that the Resolutions should not extend to all Parliamentary offences, the effect of the words "or otherwise" should be considered. Now, what were they about to do? They should remember that obstruction was the greatest possible offence of which a Member could be guilty. It fouled the well of liberty at its very source in that House, and yet it was to be visited with the mildest possible punishment. The Resolutions, were, in fact, a compromise. For punishment without debate the Government gave up the greater penalty which could now be inflicted. For the first offence a Member was to be suspended during the Sitting; but as obstruction was usually practised late at night that punishment would be little more than nominal. The offence might be repeated three times before there could be suspension for a week, and then a debate was to be held, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer evidently feared would last a whole night, for he provided that it should be closed in one Sitting. His hon. Friend's Amendment 1504 provided for an apology or submission on the part of the offending Member, and he could not but think that that would be the best guarantee against a repetition of the offence. Again, it provided for a majority of two-thirds, and that, no doubt, was a new system; but, in dealing with these offences, it was well to secure some remedy for a minority. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) said it was unfair to punish the constituents for the offence of the Member. He did not take that view, for it was assumed that the constituencies should send fit and proper persons to represent them in that House, and if they did not do so they ought to be punished. They were dealing with a great Parliamentary offence, and the remedy they applied should be a strong and a permanent one.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "during a Debate, whether in the House or in Committee, any Member may draw the attention of the Chair to misconduct on the part of a Member who in addressing the House may per sistently endeavour to prevent the Progress of Business, by rising in his place and taking Notice that the Member for is wilfully obstructing the Business of this House.
Whereupon (unless in the judgment of the Chair the interruption is frivolous and un founded, in which case he shall call on the Member in possession of the House to proceed), Mr. Speaker (or the Chairman) shall forthwith put the Question 'That be not further heard,' which Question shall be decided without amendment or debate, but the Motion shall not be carried by a majority of less than two-thirds if a Division is called.
Any Member so put to silence shall stand suspended from the service of the House for one week.
Any Member put to silence twice in the same Session shall stand suspended from the service of the House for one calendar month, and for such further period until he shall have submitted himself to the House and given assurance that he will not so offend again,"—[Mr. Sampson Lloyd,)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'whenever' stand part of the Question."
* MR. SULLIVAN
Mr. Speaker, there can be no disputing the elementary proposition that obstruction to the free exercise of its functions is an offence against which every Legislative Body has a right to defend itself; and in so far as the present proposals of the Chan- 1505 cellor of the Exchequer may be found to contain suggestions tending to facilitate Public Business without limiting fair freedom of debate, I, for one, hold myself free to give them my support. Apart even from the question of the lawfulness or propriety of obstruction, I have never believed in its efficacy. I talk of real obstruction. On the only occasion on which I saw conduct in this House which seemed to me to be fairly open to that designation, I expressed my dissent from it, not merely openly on this floor, but publicly in the Irish Press. But, as I have said, I speak of real obstruction—that is, obstruction to the action of this House, not incidental resistance to debatable proposals or proceedings in this House. The distinction is wide and clear, is grave and serious; and I appeal to the House not to confuse things so essentially different, and not to be impelled by clamour and passion out-of-doors into proceedings which, intended against obstruction, may have the effect and result of interfering with the rightful and legitimate resistance of a minority to Bills of which they honestly disapprove. What is obstruction? Can hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us? They will not avow what they really mean by this proceeding of to-night; but it has been avowed for them by their representative journals out-of-doors; this debate is all an electioneering move. ["No, no!"] No! Why, it has been avowed inThe Standard,and the plot it seems was this—that if the Liberal Party could be manœuvred into' opposing these Resolutions—as it was fondly hoped they might be—and if the Home Rulers at the same time could be provoked into dilatory resistance, Parliament was to be dissolved in a week or two, and Ministers were to go to the country on the cry of "Obstruction," hoping to come back with a thundering majority against an alleged iniquitous combination between Liberalism and Obstruction. But already this cunningly-devised scheme seems to have fallen through. Neither the Liberals nor the Home Rulers have been kind enough to walk into the trap. On the contrary, we are all of one mind as to the propriety of punishing or preventing obstruction; only some of us want to be told what it is you mean to put down under that name. Disguise it as you may, you mean by "obstruction" any 1506 resistance to a measure which you yourselves approve. It is the old story about orthodoxy. "Orthodoxy means my doxy, and heterodoxy means anybody else's doxy." I shall prove this. I shall prove that you are calling out "obstruction" against a mere difference of opinion with you—a legitimate difference of opinion—upon the merits of particular measures. Has there been any obstruction this Session? ["Yes, yes!"] Then I challenge any hon. Member who says "Yes," to take the records of our proceedings in his hand and point to a single division or other course of action to justify that assertion. There has been discussion on the Irish Belief Bill, and just because hon. Gentlemen opposite consider that whatever the Government proposes is right and perfect, they coolly conclude that such a Bill ought to run through in a canter; and we, who know better on such subjects, we whose country and whose money and whose people's lives are at stake in the matter, because we do not sink to the servile function of merely registering the decrees of the Cabinet, find our efforts to improve the Bill, and to examine and expose its shortcomings, set down as "obstruction" by Ministerial voters within this House, and Ministerial orators and writers outside of it. And just contemplate the justification and vindication of our conduct which is supplied in the improvements, the publicly admitted improvements, we have thereby forced into the Bill. Yet although these have been our labours, these our motives, these our achievements, and although not a single instance of un-Parliamentary or unfair procedure can be laid to our charge this Session, there has not a day elapsed since the 3rd of February that we have not been howled at as "obstructing." Day by day Irish Members have been scandalously traduced; day by day the vilest language is used in the London Press to defame them, and to lash into fury against them the passions of the land, yet no Chancellor of the Exchequer rises in his place as Leader of the Commons to protect us by "Privilege," as he readily would do were we Members of his own Party. But "obstruction," forsooth; let us look into this matter a little. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us it began "two or three years ago." We shall see as to 1507 that. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) said in previous times there might have been some little symptoms of such a practice, but that it was only on one occasion, or in reference to some one particular Bill. Bless his innocent soul! He little knows the record of hon. Gentlemen sitting near him; he little knows what a tale the Journals of this House, now in my hands, can unfold. I shall let him know when obstruction—real, genuine, undisguised obstruction—began; and I will let him know who began it. And as I read out these details, let us now and again cast a glance at the Treasury Bench, and see if any of the facts we now behold there can be identified with the Obstructionists whose doings I am about to narrate. Of course, Mr. Speaker, we in this House know very well, though it may not be so clear out-of-doors, that the most familiar and undisguised form of obstructing any Business of the House is to set a-going a series of alternate Motions, "that this Debate be now adjourned," and "that the House do now adjourn." If we are sitting in Committee of the Whole House, the plan is to make the obstructive Motions alternate between "reporting Progress," and "that the Chairman leave the Chair." It was the use of these tactics—which, indeed, they used to any serious extent only on two occasions, and even then not without some Parliamentary justification—that first brought the hon. Members for Meath and Cavan (Mr. Parnell and Mr. Biggar) into notoriety as so-called "Obstructionists." Now, then, let me ask your attention to the volume in my hand. It is the official record of your Business and your Divisions in the Sessions of 1870 and 1871. In order to spare time, I take only these two years, and barely three or four scenes from the Obstructionist campaigns therein recorded. On the 17th of June, 1870, the Clerical Disabilities Bill was before this House. Pair debate, ordinary discussion, we do not mind; but after debate had been pursued, the play began, and up jumped Mr. Assheton Cross and moved "that this Debate be now adjourned." This was "opening the ball;" no less than 10 alternate Motions of obstruction following "hot foot" one after the other, far far into the night. Who composed the obstructive band? Just listen, and 1508 say, where and oh where are these Gentlemen now! "Viscount Sandon; next comes a right hon. Gentleman whose name begins with L, and who now officially adorns Dublin Castle; then come Mr. Assheton Cross, Mr. W. H. Smith, Sir William Hart Dyke, Mr. Rowland Winn, Mr. Cecil Raikes, Hon. G. J. Noel, Sir Matthew White Ridley, Colonel C. Lindsay, Mr. J. G. Talbot." Well, they were voted down by an overwhelming majority; but, all undaunted, they went at the work before them. Barely had the Speaker announced the numbers, when Mr. Guest moved "this House do now adjourn." Pound through the Lobbies they go once more, and again before one could draw his breath, the next Motion by Mr. Pell, "that this Debate be now adjourned," carried on the game. But, Sir, who moved the next? Hearken to the name; it is one to be found unfailingly in every one of the worst of these Obstructionist proceedings—"Mr. Cecil Raikes," our Chairman of Committees at the present day, the identical Gentleman whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night proposes to endow with judicial powers for the repression of Obstructionists! Well, Mr. Raikes's Motion was voted down too, and here is how the fight was waged. Mr. Hodgson moves the House adjourn; Mr. Heygate "Debate," Mr. Starkie "House," Mr. Rowland Winn "Debate," Colonel C. Lindsay "House." By this time, Sir, it was broad daylight; the birds were chirping on the trees; and accordingly Mr. Pinch—appropriate name—moves the debate be now adjourned. This, too, being defeated, the heroic few took a final division on the clause originally before the House—Mr. Raikes, faithful to the last, being Teller for the Obstructionists—and then they went home. I have given the House the names of those Gentlemen; and again I ask, where are they now? Sandon, Raikes, Winn, Cross, Dyke, Smith, Lowther, Noel, Lindsay—ah, where indeed, but on the Treasury Bench! In truth, Mr. Speaker, as I shall show before I sit down, it is the men who qualified by the most signal service in the work of obstruction who have been rewarded with Office in the present Government. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) should note the fact, there may be a brilliant future before him, if he but persevere in follow- 1509 ing the example thus held out to him. Let me own, however, that there is one name I miss from most of these Obstructionist Divisions. I look in the alphabetical list, letter N, and find it so very seldom there that it is a marvel to me how they ever made the owner of it Chancellor of the Exchequer, he did so little in the way of obstruction to win his spurs. He did something, however. What I have read to the House was pretty fair for one night; but it was, by comparison, only a little innocent skirmish, a sort of preliminary canter. On the 14th of July following—there were minor displays in the interval—the Education Bill was before the House. There had been in the evening four debates and four heavy divisions, and then commenced, a scene or series of scenes throughout an all-night Sitting. The man put up to move the first of the obstructive Motions was—whom would the House suppose?—Sir James D. Elphinstone! A greater problem than the discovery of the North-West Passage, or the Livingstone task in Mid-Africa, is solved to-night! Any man might have vainly offered a prize of £1,000 for a successful guess at why that estimable Gentleman was put on the Treasury Bench; but now we know it—he was an Obstructionist. He was followed into the division by every Member of the present Government who then had a seat in this House, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer included, and one whose name we assuredly have heard before—here it is—"Mr. Benjamin Disraeli." Let the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Finigan) take courage. He may be Prime Minister yet. The next was by way of a Motion against the ballot in Board elections, moved by—how shall I tell the story?—Lord John Manners! Now, Mr. Speaker, if there is one man on the Treasury Bench whom it would grieve us to find practising as an Obstructionist, that one is the amiable noble Lord the Postmaster General. Only fancy the poet Peer, who pleaded for "our old nobility," acting as precursor and preceptor to Messrs. Biggar and Parnell. I will briefly recite from the volume in my hand the record of that memorable night's obstruction, and the names of the Movers of Motions. Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson—we had not him before; but, as he is now in the Treasury, he was sure to have been in the work then 1510 —moved that the secret ballot be open to all ratepayers; a playful proposition which admirably varied the night's performance. Then came all these alternate Motions—"Progress," Mr. Guest; "Chair," Mr. Vance; "Progress," Mr. Lowther; "Chair," Mr. Seymour; "Progress," Mr. Cartwright; "Chair," Mr. Cubitt; "Progress," Sir Percy Burrell; and so on, trotting round the Division Lobbies till a quarter past 5 o'clock in the morning! I cast my eye over the list of those who, resisting this protracted attempt, sat out the night; and I find these—"Gladstone, Brand, Forster, Hartington, Mundella, Lawson, Playfair"—in all, 245 against 21. Amongst those anti-Obstructionists, who stood the battle to the very end, we notice one man, who perhaps little thought that night that the suffrages of this House would elevate him to the well-won and worthily occupied eminence of President of this Assembly, and "First Commoner of England," Of this, at all events, we may be sure—that as he paced the Lobbies all that dreary night, and marked the dauntless persistence of the dividers, he little could have believed that he would live to listen to the reckless and implacable Obstructionists of those times moving penal Resolutions, and making mock-virtuous denunciations against obstruction and Obstructionists. Why did not the cry arise at that time for repressive Resolutions? Why did not England resound with objurgations of obstruction? Why was no one concerned for "the progress of Public Business," "the dignity of our Parliamentary institutions," and all the rest of it? Why did the majority of that day take no steps to stop such conduct? I will tell you—because it was felt that, as between Liberal and Tory, the minority of to-day may be the majority of to-morrow, and the power to take reprisals was kept in mind. But no such fear curbs you in striking at us Irish Members. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, you dare not do this against an English Liberal minority that may possibly be a majority to pay you back next year; but we Irishmen can never be a majority of this Assembly; we are weak; it is safe to strike at us, and so you strike to-night. Well, Sir, the instances of obstruction I have quoted were from only one Session. It might be thought that when hon. and right hon. Obstructionists went off to shoot the birds on the 12th of 1511 August, and when they had had five or six months to reflect over matters a little, they would come back to a new Session the next year in a better frame of mind. Not a bit of it. Obstruction was still their watchword, and they valiantly stood to their guns. Take the second month of the next Session, that of 1871; the eve of St. Patrick's day, auspicious occasion—the Army Purchase Bill. After plenty of debate, the midnight hour brought the time for the accustomed practice, and forthwith it began. Division No. 20, Colonel North, "adjourn Debate;" No. 21, Mr. Fowler, "House;" No. 22, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach—Colonial Office in view—"Debate;" No. 23, Sir John D. Hay, "House;" No. 24—whom have we here? memories of Chevy Chase!—"Earl Percy of Northumberland," "Debate;" No. 25, Lord Garlies, "House." In the very last of these divisions I find these names amongst the handful of Obstructionists: Beach, Cross, Bourke, Cavendish Bentinck—ah, now, there ought to be an apology to that right hon. and learned Gentleman from the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who once said it was for his ornamental qualities our Prime Minister made him Judge Advocate General. No, it was for his obstructive capacities. Then come Dyke, Elcho, Lord George Hamilton (winning his way, you see, to the India Office), Noel, Lindsay, Lowther—of course, Lowther—Wheelhouse, Mowbray (not yet placed), and Raikes—the eternal Eaikes—he is in every division of them; not a scene of obstruction would be complete without him. Ireland was there too, represented by my eloquent Friend the hon. and learned Tory Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket). Let us speed on to a few weeks later. The flowers of May brought no compunction to the untiring band. Here they are at it again as fresh as ever; same Bill, Sir, 8th of May, 1871. This, I believe, was the night which is known in history as "the Colonels' night." The debate had proceeded with one legitimate division up to midnight, and then the old familiar performance was turned on—Division No. 63, Colonel Arbuthnot, "That this Debate be now adjourned;" No. 64, Colonel Jervis, "I move the House do now adjourn;" No. 65, Colonel Knox, "Debate;" No. 66, Colonel Corbet, 1512 "House;" No. 67, Sir William Bagge, "Debate." On this occasion, for some reason or another, the lead, as far as moving the obstructive Motions, was left in the hands of "the Colonels;" but let no one suppose the embryo Cabinet Ministers held back from their accustomed game. No, no; here they are on the record before me—Sandon, Manners, Pakington, Hart Dyke, Cecil, Ridley, Elcho, Raikes, Hay, Lopes, (two of them, Sir), Noel, Hamilton—five Hamiltons, no less—the faithful Lowther, and the venerable Taylor. Now, Sir, it would occupy too much of our time, and imitate too closely the tactics I am referring to, were I to linger on these reminiscences of virtuous Conservatism in Opposition, so I shall quote no more. But let it be clearly understood I have merely taken three or four scenes out of a five years' campaign that began with 1869, and, up to 1874, doggedly fought every effort of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich to effect reform for Ireland, for England, or for Scotland. It was not opposition to one particular measure. It was not a momentary burst of temper on a solitary evening. No. It went, as I have shown, from month to month and from year to year. A factious though futile endeavour by waste of time to delay what they could not hinder, a vain attempt to retard the inevitable march of liberty and reform. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; I charge it as the worst feature in the worst scenes of this obstruction, that it was put into operation confessedly in the narrow interests of a class, a caste, or a clique, as opposed to the wide interests of the nation. The next consideration to which I invite attention is this—that the men who, then a mere fraction of the representation of their own country, thus set themselves to the purposes of dead-lock and chaos in this House, were no obscure and undisciplined conscripts, but the foremost men, the official Leaders and Chiefs, of the Conservative Party. Mark the names. They are the Cabinet Ministers of to-day. With these facts before me, with these records in my hand, how am I to regard the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this House and out of it during the past five or six weeks? How can I abstain from characterizing as ineffable hyprocrisy their now noisy clamour and affected horror of obstruction! Did ever men in the 1513 high position of Ministers of the Grown descend to so ignoble a resort of Party warfare as the electioneering artifice of which this debate is but a part, and which had its commencement in a recent Lancashire election? ["No, no!"] I say yes, yes. A noble Lord who sits yonder on the Treasury Bench this moment—himself, as you have heard, a well-trained and habituated Obstructionist—has barely returned from Liverpool, where, Cabinet Minister as he is, he spent days and nights inveighing against Liberal sympathies with Ireland as unpatriotic collusion with Obstruction. Of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in those days as in these, seems to have been too moderate for his Party, I speak as I feel with sincere respect; but I have nought but scorn and loathing for those miserable creatures of faction, who in the Press and on the platform are just now striving to lash up a fury of passion and prejudice against my country, its cause, and its people; who, in their eagerness to crush political rivals, do not hesitate to denounce as false to Crown and country the man who reaches out a friendly hand to a people much wronged and long oppressed. I am not entitled to offer counsel to those who lead the Liberal Party. I am not in their ranks; the co-operation and support they receive from men like me is independently given, and given cheerfully and heartily, from allegiance to principle, not allegiance to Party. But if I might offer them a word of advice, it would be to evade the political snare that is set for them in all this business, and baffle the adroit scheme which was to find a good cry for the General. Election in Liberal opposition and Home Rule Obstruction to these Resolutions. As for my own countrymen, my Colleagues and Friends who sit around me, I adjure them to be wary and wise on this occasion; to be circumspect, temperate, and prudent; lest they afford a pretext to those whose aim is to put enmity and misunderstanding between them and the English people. ["Oh! oh!"] Yes, Sir; it is just because kindly sympathies and generous feelings for Ireland are daily making way amongst the people of England—just because the desire to investigate and to understand our case, and the determination to do us justice, are being avowed by broad-minded and justice-loving Englishmen in steadily 1514 increasing numbers—that alarm has seized upon a certain class of politicians who feel the hour of judgment is at hand for them. This is the secret of the anti-Irish crusade out-of-doors. This is the design of the present debate. Let us by prudence and good feeling baffle it here to-night. Let us trust with confidence to the intelligence of the country. It will know what answer to make when asked to endow those Gentlemen with a new lease of power, so that, forsooth, the Obstructionists of 1870 may put down the Obstructionists of 1879.
who had given Notice, as an Amendment to Mr. Newdegate's Motion, to move the following Eesolutions:—(1.) A Motion may be made, 'That any Member then speaking be no longer heard,' but no speech shall be made in support of or against such Motion; (2) the Speaker or the Chairman of the Committee may put such Question if he think fit, and the Division shall thereon be taken without Amendment or Debate, but it shall not be affirmed if there are forty Members opposed to it; (3) if the Motion be affirmed, the Member speaking is silenced and suspended from taking further part in the proceedings of the House, and such suspension shall continue until the House has further considered it; (4) such a Motion shall not be made more than once during any speech of a Member; (5) a Motion for relieving the Member from suspension, or for declaring any other judgments of the House, may be proposed before the commencement of Public Business at the next sitting of the House. These Resolutions to be added to the Standing Orders of the House,said, as the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had not included him among those who, by obstruction, had taken what he said was the only sure road to a seat on the Treasury Bench, it was the less necessary that he should follow him through the long list he had quoted. He should have thought that the test of obstruction was not to be found in the number of divisions taken by the alleged Obstructionists, but in the purpose and object for which obstruction was practised. However that might be, in his opinion the time had now arrived when it was necessary, in the public interest, that some alteration should be made in the Rules and Regulations by which they had hitherto conducted Public Business. If he were to express an opinion on the subject, he would echo the sentiments of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that they had already delayed a great deal too 1515 long. He had heard with pleasure the speech of his noble Friend so far as it intimated that he would give his support to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his efforts to deal with Obstruction. But he understood his noble Friend to complain, or, at all events, express surprise, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not explained in detail the character of the obstruction against which his proposals were directed. Surely the noble Lord, his Friends on the Benches opposite, and every hon. Member of that House, must know what the character of that obstruction was. If the noble Lord did not, then he was the only Member of the House wanting in that information, and it would lead him (Mr. Chaplin) to think that the noble Lord was passing a good deal of his time asleep on that Bench, and in happy unconsciousness of all that was going on around him. There might be something more, however, in the regret which the noble Lord expressed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not taken him into his confidence before proposing his Resolutions. Speaking as an independent Member of that House, who had watched all that had been going on, he was not aware of that evident desire and determination on the part of the noble Lord and his Friends to assist the Leader of the House which would have encouraged him to make any advances. It was possible, of course, that the noble Lord and his Friends were burning with desire to support measures for suppressing Obstruction; but, if that were so, they were singularly successful in concealing their ardent wishes. It was certainly not the desire of all the noble Lord's Friends; for, on one occasion not long ago, during the occurrence of one of those scenes too familiar to the House, a most distinguished Member of the late Administration, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), counselled a little patience to hon. Members on both sides at a moment when they were smarting severely under the infliction. Why, the patience of Job must almost have been exhausted; and he (Mr. Chaplin took the liberty of expressing at the time an opinion, which he still held, that, so far from the House being wanting in patience, its forbearance under such provocation, if it did not command the admiration, had long been 1516 the wonder and amazement of the world For his own part, he rejoiced sincerely that there was at last some evidence of the determination of the House to deal earnestly with the matter, for he was convinced that their forbearance would be mistaken for weakness and incapacity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out that evening that in every Assembly like the House of Commons some rules were absolutely necessary for the discharge of its Business, and the Rules of that Assembly had up to a recent period been found perfectly adequate to the purpose. Unhappily, no one could say that that was the case at the present moment. But why was it that Rules which were insufficient to-day had been found perfectly adequate up to a recent date? It was not because obstruction was formerly more difficult. On the contrary, there were always the same facilities for obstruction. It never required any commanding intellect, or any original mind, to read extracts from a Blue Book or Act of Parliament by the hour, or to place a block of Amendments on the Order Book. It was no new discovery that two, three, or five Members, if they pleased, could not bring the whole Business of the House to a stand. All that was wanted was a total absence of self-respect, and a stolid indifference to Public Business. These two qualities given, and were there any Members at any time so insignificant, or so generally incapable, that they could not, with the greatest ease, if they chose, bring the whole Business of the House and the country to a standstill? But if the Rules of the House were adequate in past days it was only because they applied to men who always were most anxious to observe, not only the letter, but the spirit, of the Rules—men of whom Lord Palmerston once said in the House—"At all events, we are all gentlemen here." He was not sure how far Lord Palmerston would feel justified in repeating those words, if he were still among them. But this, at least, he did know—that the Rules, if kept to the letter, had been over and over again broken in spirit, and that they were now wholly inadequate. The consequence was that they had seen, day after day, week after week, and year after year, proceedings which could, have no other effect than to bring that House into dis- 1517 credit and disrepute out-of-doors. If that were so—and, unhappily, it could not be denied—it was a state of things which they could not allow to continue, if that House wished to retain the position which hitherto it occupied in the estimation of the country. When they saw that the unanimous sentiment and feeling of the House had been so constantly and persistently outraged, he felt that sooner or later they must have some new machinery by which the House itself, on these deplorable occasions, would be able instantly to compel obedience to the dictates of good feeling and good taste. How was that to be done? Whatever step they should ultimately decide on, one thing at least was certain—it must be effectual and it must be prompt in its operation.Frappez vite et frappez fortmust be their motto and the principle on which they must act. He would, however, do nothing to curtail the legitimate rights of a minority, prevent freedom of speech, or give uncontrolled power to a mere Party majority. There was Obstruction and Obstruction, and that was the answer to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Louth. There was Obstruction which might be used for an ulterior purpose, such a purpose as was avowed by one of the most able and eloquent of all the eloquent Members who hailed from the other side of the Irish Channel. He would give the House the hon. Member's own words. They were these—I am here as a Member of a Party that has been sent into this House to carry a great object.That was the Party, he presumed, of which the noble Lord and his Friends were so eager to gain the support and adhesion on a celebrated occasion not long ago. The hon. Member went on thus—I may say it is nothing less than to win the legislative independence of a nation. And if the Irish Members are in earnest in carrying forward that great mission, there are no pains or penalties which can be inflicted which they will not be prepared to encounter rather than allow themselves to be fettered in the discharge of their public duty.That, at all events, was an honest and frank avowal, and as such he could feel some sympathy with it. At the same time, he was bound to express the opinion that if ever they found themselves to be 1518 confronted with Obstruction like that, then there was only one course for that House to pursue, and that was to crush it, and to crush it without a moment's hesitation. But there was another kind of Obstruction, to which the hon. and learned Member for Louth alluded—an obstruction made to legislation which the minority really believed to be mischievous not only to those whom they represented, but to the whole country, and against that kind of obstruction he had not one word to say. But they must remember, in attempting to provide a weapon for instantly checking obstruction, they must be most careful to provide effectual safeguards against passion and the oppression of the minority. That made it all the more difficult to deal with obstruction in a manner at once satisfactory and effectual. He thought, however, that the task might be accomplished in one of two ways—they might leave the initiative to the Speaker, and throw all the responsibility upon him; or they might give it to the House. In the one case, no further safeguard was required; in the other, it would be necessary to provide safeguards, and there were great but not insuperable obstacles to be overcome if they attempted to provide them. For his own part, he should prefer to see the initiative vested in the House itself. He would not enter into details; but would content himself by saying that if it appeared to be the general opinion of the House—and he presumed from what had passed that evening that it would be so—that the initiative should rest with the Speaker, then he would give his hearty support to the proposal of his right hon. Friend. He trusted sincerely that there would be no long delay before the Resolution was added to the Standing Orders of the House. Every day during which they allowed Obstruction to continue lessened their position and influence in the country. It was impossible to over-estimate the importance of maintaining their position; for if ever a day were to come when the House of Commons should fall into anything like permanent discredit or disrepute in the opinion of the nation, it would not be only their own reputations and characters that would suffer, but the very existence of representative government, the Constitution of the country, and the liberties of the people would be at stake.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Chaplin) had observed that he was not one of those who had qualified for the Treasury Bench as an author of obstruction. [Mr. CHAPLIN: I said the hon. and learned Member for Louth had not included me in the list.] He believed that the hon. and learned Member for Louth had not included the hon. Member in his remark, because he had not been in a position so to have qualified, as he had never had the advantage of sitting in Opposition. If the hon. Member had been in the House in 1870——[Mr. CHAPLIN explained that he was in the House before the Conservative Government came into power.] In that case, he was entirely mistaken. [Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Members opposite who cheered seemed to think it was something extraordinary for a Gentleman to acknowledge a mistake, as if they themselves were never in the habit of doing so. However, the hon. Member had had an opportunity of qualifying, but had not availed himself of it. At any rate, he had inserted into his speech a very judicious saving clause, which would enable him on a future occasion to conduct his opposition as he thought proper. Now, he (Sir William Harcourt) did not all object to what the hon. Member had said, except with regard to one or two points on which he had rather misunderstood the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. The hon. Member had said that his noble Friend had objected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not stated to the House the exact character of the obstruction that had been carried on. That, however, was not the tenor of the remarks of the noble Lord, who had not said that he was not aware of obstruction, but that he thought it desirable, when the House was taking unusual measures, that some statement of the character of the obstruction in question should go forth to the public as an explanation of the course adopted. The hon. Member had likewise remarked that he had not observed that the noble Lord supported measures to put down obstruction; but his noble Friend had, in fact, been a Member of the Select Committee, and had supported by his vote all the propositions upon which the present proposal of the Government was founded. If he might refer to the matter, he recollected 1520 that on the memorable night through which the House sat till the evening of the next day, he had more than once invited the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take more vigorous measures for resisting obstruction, so that it was unfair and ungenerous to say that there was any indisposition on that side of the House to support the Government in any measures necessary for the conduct of Business. He did not wish, however, to enter into any controversial topics, but preferred, if he might be allowed, to do so in plain English, rather than in the questionable French of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, to offer a few suggestions. He agreed with his noble Friend that their attitude towards the Resolutions of the Government should be one of the most friendly criticism and that it was their duty not to embarrass, but to support the Government in the course they might adopt. He would, therefore, endeavour to urge on their attention the argument addressed to them earlier in the evening by his noble Friend on the subject of taking the vote of the House to confirm the decision of the Speaker. He would call the attention of the House to the fact that when the matter was discussed in the Select Committee the Speaker had very strongly expressed his own view that the decision had better be the decision of the Speaker, and of the Speaker alone. On page 141 of the Report on Public Business, the Speaker had said—Speaking for myself personally, I should be glad that the vote of the House should be taken, because thereby the responsibility of the Speaker would be in some measure lightened; but I am so confident that the Speaker or Chairman would not put any Resolution of the kind without the full support of the House that I do not think such a vote necessary.Was the vote of the House to be an appeal against the Speaker, or was it to be a confirmation of the decision of the Speaker? He ventured to think it would answer neither of these purposes. As far as an appeal against the Speaker was concerned, how could it operate? It was an appeal from a man who seen the whole transaction; who had formed, an impartial opinion, upon it, who had given judgment upon it, to a body of men a great portion of whom had not witnessed the transaction, who knew nothing about it. He did not understand that the person who made the Motion was to give an account of the 1521 views of the Speaker. He supposed the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the man who would ordinarily make a Motion in support of the Speaker. Well, even Chancellors of the Exchequer had frailties of human nature, and they sometimes went to dinner. Suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer was absent for a short time? These transactions might have been going on during his absence. Many of the persons appealed to might not have been present while these transactions were going on; they would hear no debate, and they would give a vote which was to be an appeal against the Speaker. That appeared to him to be unreasonable. Well, was the vote to be a vote in confirmation of the Speaker? If they were to confirm the Speaker, what would be the value of a vote given by persons who were not present when the transactions were going on? It seemed to him, whether they regarded the matter as an appeal against the Speaker or in confirmation of the Speaker, in either case it did not answer the purpose. Well, if that was so, the thing was a farce. For his part, he thought they might safely trust to the judgment of a man in the impartial situation of the Speaker, who was the only man who could have a full knowledge of everything that occurred, and who would give his decision in the light of public responsibility. To call upon the House to vote would be to place everybody in a false position. It would place the Speaker in a false position, because it would subject his ruling to an appeal to Members of the House. It would place the House in a false position, because it would call upon the House to decide upon things on which it had not full and adequate knowledge. It would place the country in a false position, because it would make the country suppose that judgment was given by the House on a matter as to which it had material for giving judgment. Beyond that, he feared it would give a sort of flavour of injustice to the thing, if the House was allowed to give a vote by a majority summoned on the instant on a matter which everybody might feel they had not had an opportunity of examining. He thought that everybody—the country at large—would be much more satisfied with the judgment of the Speaker upon the question than they could be with a vote of the House. He thought they would have 1522 far higher security if they left the matter to the judgment of the Speaker, and if suspension followed from a Standing Order as a consequence of the Speaker naming a Member of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that that would be contrary to all precedent. So it would be, to a great degree; but they were trying to find an extraordinary remedy for an extraordinary evil. Therefore, if they departed, to a certain degree, from former precedent, he did not think they would be going very far wrong. But he did not think that in point of principle they would be departing from former precedent, because if they made it a Standing Order that the consequence of the Speaker's naming a Member should be his suspension for the night, his suspension would not be the sentence of the Speaker, but of the Standing Order. Another point with which he agreed with the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) was that the machinery for calling on the Chairman of Committees was very cumbrous. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had referred in a good-humoured way to the present Chairman of Committees. The hon. and learned Member was perfectly entitled to make the good-humoured remarks which had fallen from him; but he (Sir William Harcourt) was sure he was expressing the opinion of the great body of the House when he said how admirably and with what great ability and impartiality that hon. Gentleman discharged the duties of his Office. It seemed to him that it would be invidious to make a distinction in the machinery of the Rule between the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, when the latter was occupying the Chair in the absence of the Speaker. With reference to that part of the Resolution which provided that if a Member be suspended three times in one Sitting his suspension on the third occasion should continue for a week, it was a mere trifling with the thing, and he thought it extraordinarily week. That a man should be suspended on the first occasion was a measure which could not be carried into effect without several warnings, and it was thought that in such a way as that the gravity of his offence would be ascertained. He did not think it wise that the first repetition of the offence should be allowed. He was not quite certain 1523 whether the law continued to be what it used to be; but the old doctrine of the Common Law of England was that a dog should be allowed one bite, and should not be punished unless it was known that he was dangerous to the human race. But the Scotch law punished the dog for his first bite, and held that a man ought to know the character of his dog. But he had never heard of any law which allowed a man to have two bites for his dog. But that seemed the principle on which the Resolution of the Government was framed. The aggravated penalty ought to come into force at once, for it was perfectly clear that the next time a man offended it should be considered a grave fault upon which a penalty should be inflicted. All he could say was, speaking for himself alone, that there ought to be no hostility between one and another on the question. Every man ought to be allowed to throw in his contribution. The Resolutions would place the Speaker in a position of great responsibility, and he should have been better pleased if the Government had brought forward a Resolution that if the Speaker, exercising his judgment with great caution and under a sense of heavy responsibility, named a Member of the House, then by the operation of the Standing Order, without any vote at all, the Member would stand suspended for the Sitting; and if the Speaker, of course still warning the man more gravely a second time, named him a second time, then by the force of the Standing Order, at once the aggravated penalty should apply. If Indeed, he should not have the slightest hesitation in voting the Member be suspended for the whole Session. At all events, the penalty should be put into the Standing Order. He did not care to make two bites at a cherry, But he did not like the action of the House to be carried out by a votead hoc;it was always an excited vote, and nothing like a feeling against any individual should be allowed to be mixed up with the decision. The action of the House was best brought into operation by the Standing Order, and the decision must be ultimately left to the Speaker. He agreed with his noble Friend that there was no wish to embarrass the Government. He merely offered these suggestions for the consideration of the Government, who might consider whether they 1524 were worthy of acceptance or not. If they could improve the Resolution, well and good; if not, he would not force Amendments on the Government which they might resist, and which they might think fatal to the Resolution.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, it would not be necessary for him to do more than reply to a few of the criticisms which had been urged early in the debate. He was glad to find in the opening sentences of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) a general and cordial support of the Resolution of the Government. It was not necessary for the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) to make any excuse for the remarks he had offered. There had evidently been a desire on the part of almost every hon. Member who had spoken that some result should be arrived at by which greater security for the dignity of the debates of the House should be obtained, which had been, unfortunately, so much impaired during the last three or four years. He came now to the main objection to the Resolutions taken by the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who were both of opinion that the decision of the Speaker should be final, and that the sentence of the House should not be called in to ratify or to rebut that decision. It seemed to him (Lord John Manners) that an entire misconception prevailed upon this point. There was no intention whatever on the part of the Government, by the subsequent action of the House, either to ratify or to repudiate the action of the Speaker. His action would be distinct, separate, and conclusive in itself. The Speaker would inflict upon the offending Member what, in old days, and, indeed, up to the present time, had always been considered a very severe punishment indeed—he would name the Member, and having so named him his part of the transaction would be complete, and it would then rest with the House to say whether, following upon that punishment, it would of its own Motion inflict a further punishment, and suspend the offending Member for the whole of the Sitting. This course would impart still greater solemnity to the censure of the Speaker upon the conduct of the Member, and would in no way derogate from the dignity of the Chair. It appeared to the 1525 Government that, in such cases as they contemplated, it would be expedient and advisable to vindicate, without hesitation, the order and dignity of the House; and by the plan proposed, first of all enabling the Speaker summarily to name the Member, and, secondly, giving the House the opportunity of inflicting the further punishment of suspension during the whole of the current Sitting, every element of authority would be brought to bear on the side of order. The noble Lord, and some hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House, objected to the proposal that after the Chairman of Committees and the Committee itself should have decided that the offence had been committed, the Chairman should be ordered to report the matter to the House, and that the second decision should be taken by the House. The reason for that was obvious. It had been thought wise by the Government to propose that the punishment should consist, not merely of putting the Member to silence, but of suspending him during the whole of the Sitting, whether the House was in Committee or not, and it was obvious that in many cases the offences would be committed early in the evening when the House was in Committee. The punishment, however, was to last during the whole of the Sitting; and, therefore, the Government had thought it only right that the House should be asked to co-operate with the Committee in silencing the Member for the whole of the night. This part of the Resolution the hon. and learned Gentleman and the noble Lord considered lamentably weak. But they had heard from other speakers that the proposal was too harsh. It was extremely difficult to satisfy even a large proportion of hon. Members; and the Government believed that the comparatively mild punishment proposed in the second part of the Resolution was more likely to be operative than if some very severe sentence, such as had been indicated by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, were to be incorporated in the Resolution. The hon. and learned Member went so far as to propose that, without referring the matter to the House, suspension for the remainder of the Session should be the result of a second offence on the part of a Member. His (Lord John Manners') own feeling was that so very heavy a penalty would have a great tendency to 1526 defeat itself. It would very seldom, if ever, be put into operation; and they would have upon their Journals a Resolution which, while appearing to be of a severely repressive character, would be very inoperative in action. The Government had, therefore, thought it wiser to propose so moderate a Resolution that even the Gentlemen who might have been expected violently to oppose it had manifested during the debate no intention of taking any extreme steps. At the same time, if the House should be of opinion that three times were too many to allow for the same offence, and that two offences on the part of a Member should constitute sufficient indication of an obstructive intention, and be followed up by punishment, he did not know that the Government would oppose the alteration suggested. The noble Lord had hinted that some more stringent provision might hereafter be found necessary. There was the suggestion of a Committee of Order, to which offending Members might be relegated; but it occurred to him (Lord John Manners) that the objection of the noble Lord to the Resolution proposed by the Government—namely, that it would have a tendency to put on one side the authority of the Chair—applied with far greater force to the suggestion of a Committee of Order, because virtually, so far as these offences were concerned, the Committee of Order, if he rightly understood the noble Lord, would mean the Speaker in Commission. He thought he might even go further, and say that it would be not only the Speaker, but the Speaker and the House put into Commission on a question of Order. That, he thought, was sufficient to condemn the suggestion. The noble Lord had also thrown out the suggestion that the only effective way of dealing with Obstruction would be to resort to the foreign system of what was known as theclôture.That was, however, a very serious suggestion, and one which would, he feared, be found to militate very much against the rights of minorities. He would further beg leave to observe that the temper of the House in relation to the question before it seemed to be only a mild reflex of the temper of the country, and that the observations of every speaker who had taken part in the discussion who had expressed the opinion that the Resolutions of the Government erred on the 1527 side of leniency had been received with applause, and that was a consideration which he hoped would have weight with those whom it most concerned. In his opinion, however, it was the duty of the Government, in proposing Resolutions on such a subject, not to go to the full extent of the feeling of the House at the moment, but rather to propose a remedy which they believed would result in vindicating successfully the dignity of the House, and in maintaining its legitimate influence and power, but which, at the same time, did not go one inch beyond the absolute necessity of the case. A question of the sort, no doubt, must present itself naturally to different minds under different aspects; but he would entreat the House not to allow itself to be carried away to too great a stringency in endeavouring to deal with this mischief, but to try the proposal which was made in this Resolution. Contrary to the opinion which had been expressed by several Members in this debate, the Government felt that, although the House might not have many more weeks or months to exist, it was still the duty of this Parliament to make a Standing Order of this Resolution. It was this Parliament which had experienced the evil; it was this Parliament which had carefully studied the means of meeting it. It was their duty to make an effort to maintain its dignity in the conduct of its Business, and in what they had now done they had taken the steps which they deemed to be best calculated to effect that object, and to put an end to a mischief which the present Parliament had the best means of knowing how to appreciate.
§ MR. FAWCETT
desired to say a few words on the subject, as he thought it desirable that the Government should receive support from all parts of the House. He had no right to speak for anyone but himself; but he should give to the Government, in the course they were now taking, his hearty support. He regarded the Resolution with respect rather to its principle than to its details; and why he proposed to give his cordial support to the Government in this matter was because it seemed to him that the principle upon which the Resolution was based was thoroughly sound, and deserved the support of the House. If Obstruction was to be dealt 1528 with, it must be dealt with in one of two ways. It might be dealt with by altering the Rules of the House, and if that were done it seemed to him that the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were unanswerable—that in punishing the action of one Member the whole House would be virtually punished, and its privileges and rights interfered with. The Government had, he thought, done wisely in proceeding on an entirely different tack, and in seeking to punish the individual Member who was found to be guilty of Obstruction instead of altering the Rules of the House. He was aware that an opinion had been expressed, in the course of the discussion, that the Resolution did not go far enough, and was not adequate to the occasion. It would be easy to elicit a cheer by proposing some more drastic measure; but he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown a most wise discretion if, in his taking action on the first occasion, the chief charge that could be brought against his proposals was that they were inadequate. The House of Commons never showed itself to so much advantage as when it refused to be influenced in its action by panic; and if experience should prove that the Resolution was inadequate, it would be far better then to increase its stringency, than, in the first instance, to propose a Resolution which was so stringent that it could not be carried out, and therefore would have to be subsequently relaxed. He felt bound to say that he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, representing the Government, had shown any undue alacrity in dealing with this subject. Certainly, the way in which Obstruction had been dealt with during the last two or three Sessions had not conduced to the dignity and reputation of the House. Three years ago the House was in a panic, and he (Mr. Fawcett), along with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), incurred reproach for objecting to what was then done, when the House sat all night with a determination to punish Obstruction by passing some 20 Bills through their various stages. That attempt at a remedy was a ridiculous farce, for it punished the innocent rather than the guilty, while legislation was carried on hurriedly, which ought to have been the subject of careful consideration. 1529 The way in which Obstruction had been met since did not conduce to the reputation of the House of Commons. He did not know, moreover, whether it was by accident or not; but certainly what was done with regard to the Irish Intermediate Education Bill, and last year with regard to Irish University Education, bore the interpretation that, to obtain money for particular purposes, hon. Members had only to obstruct the Business of the House. He believed he was expressing the opinion of many Members when he said he hoped that in future Obstruction would be met with more firmness and in a different spirit. He referred to these matters, not in order to revive past and forgotten controversies, but to show how very much better was the action now proposed by the Government, because the cardinal spirit of the Resolution was that if anyone offended against the Rules of the House the offender should be punished, and not the innocent. Therefore it was that he gave it his cordial support. Both sides of the House had, perhaps, shown too much readiness to make political capital out of this matter at the expense of their opponents; but the spirit which had been shown that evening augured well for the future, and the country would know that, whatever might be the Party differences which prevailed, there was no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives in their firm determination to do all in their power to preserve the legislative efficiency of the House, and to do all they could, if the Government gave them the requisite assistance, to maintain the dignity and reputation of Parliament, which all alike cherished.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, as it seemed to be a welcome part of that discussion that that Motion should receive support from all corners of the House, he hoped it would not be deemed an unwelcome exhibition of feeling on his part if he also contributed his slight meed of approbation to the proposition. As a Member of that Irish Party, not a single Member of which had ever been named by the Chair, it was entirely from the point of view of a disinterested spectator that he ventured to criticize the propositions of the Government. It certainly seemed strange that the Government only now brought forward any measure proposing to deal with the evil 1530 described in such harrowing terms, and it was still more strange, because in the present Session the Government had given them nothing whatever to obstruct. It was not now necessary to impose delay for the purpose of duly considering the wrongs of the Transvaal, or for the purpose of obtaining due consideration for the British soldier subject to the ignominy of the lash. The only considerable measure proposed by the Government was the Criminal Code Bill; and the hon. and learned Members for Taunton (Sir Henry James) and Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had undertaken to dispose of that measure to the thorough satisfaction of the Liberal Party. But while he entirely approved of the principle of the Motion, he regarded the whole of these proceedings as a mere flash in the pan, designed to dazzle the eyes of the Parliamentary electorate. He supported the principle of this Motion, because, so far as there was any good in it, it was merely a repetition of the common law, so to speak, of the House, which declared wilful obstruction to be a most grave contempt of the House, and for punishing which the House possessed the most abundant and complete means. This Resolution, therefore, was but a limitation of the Speaker's authority, and but a truncated edition of the existing Common Law. Two observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer conclusively demonstrated the utter absence of any foundation for the special complaint alleged as justification for this Motion. He said, first, that during the last few Sessions the pressure of Public Business and the difficulty of getting any kind of legislation through the House had vastly increased. He admitted, also, that there was a vast increase in the Business transacted, and that a great number of Members took part in its transaction. In the face of these two admissions, was it conceivable for a single instant that any mere tightening of the Rules of Order, or limitation of unreasonable loquaciousness on the part of any hon. Members, any mere trimming, lopping, or pruning of the oratorical flourishes of this Member or that, would really avail to bring the Imperial Legislature, as it was now called, to a level with this unnatural mass of Business? These admissions proved that the Legislature was getting more and more clumsy—necessarily getting more and 1531 more clumsy—in the discharge of its functions. That being so, it was mere child's play to occupy time with propositions to limit the talkativeness of this or that Member. Parliament was obstructed, because it was trying to do 50 times more than it could possibly perform with any efficiency. The regulation of debate could not in any way compensate for the inefficiency necessarily caused by the attempt to despatch Business, which Parliament had neither the time nor the opportunity nor the capacity to perform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministerial supporters had lamented the deterioration of Parliament in the estimation of the country. He ventured to think, on the contrary, that at no time had it stood higher in general estimation than at present. Neither with the Parliaments of Walpole, nor of Pitt, could the present Parliament be for a moment compared. If hon. Members spoke of unfit and improper persons being now and then returned, they lived, at any rate, in the time of pure elections. Historians could not say of this House, as scores of historians had said of former Houses, that it was venal, and that the votes of Members had a market at the Treasury, just as there was a market for fat cattle at Smithfield. Such expressions could only be looked upon as part of the ornament, and not of the substance, of debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would be impossible to entertain for an instant the idea of taking away from Parliament any portion of its Business. He would only reply that there were already in this country a large number of subordinate legislatures in the different municipalities whose decisions were perfectly final in regard to the business intrusted to their care. An extension of that principle could not be regarded as the extreme measure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it, so long as all Imperial concerns were still dealt with by the Imperial Parliament. He ventured to predict that before long it would be absolutely necessary to delegate to some subordinate body or bodies a very considerable portion of the Business at present transacted by the House; and until that was done, whether it was called Home Rule, or Local Self Government, or anything else, the present glut of Business, misnamed Obstruction, would not be removed. He most decidedly and 1532 strongly protested against the insinuation that the authority of the Chair had been disregarded of late. If it had been so, instant punishment would have fallen on the offender. Even in one or two cases where hastiness of expression, heat of debate, or something else had betrayed Members into a breach of Rules or into an apparent disrespect of the Chair, an offence which had been by no means confined to that part of the House, very ample apologies had always been tendered, and none were more frank and ready in tendering that reparation than Irish Members. In fact, the chief reason why he supported this Motion was that it maintained the authority of the Chair, without which minorities would be constantly exposed to continual plots of their opponents. Without the authority of the Chair, however honest his motives, no Member could escape from being interfered with by a mere majority. In anything he might say with regard to the Speaker, of course he must be understood to refer to the Office in general, and not to the present occupant of the Chair personally. Nowhere, he was sure, was a warmer respect felt for the Speaker than among the Members with whom he was in the habit of acting. As he had said, in the case of wilful obstruction, everything necessary—the law, the custom, and the procedure—was at hand ready to be exercised at any moment. This Motion provided that when a Member was named by the Speaker a Motion might be made suspending that Member from the service of the House. Was this proposed appeal from the judgment of the Speaker to the House a reality or a sham? If a sham, like all other shams, it partook of the nature of a falsehood. If it was a reality, then, after the Speaker had declared a Member guilty of wilful obstruction, the House could say that he was not guilty, and so would pass a censure on the Speaker. On the other hand, if Members, when appealed to, felt themselves bound to support the ruling merely because the Speaker had ruled it, what could be more unreal, absurd, and ludicrous? In the Amendments he had put on the Paper he had endeavoured to formulate two alternatives. He preferred to maintain, as far as possible, what he conceived to be the existing Order of the House, and to leave to the 1533 Speaker the very largest share in the maintenance of Order. Nay, more; if there was any special reason for dealing with any special evil, he should wish the Speaker to take upon himself the responsibility of naming the Member guilty of obstruction; and the very fact of that declaration should be sufficient justification for at once inflicting on the offending Member the punishment of suspension. To pretend that this Motion supported the authority of the Speaker was doubly unsatisfactory, for it weakened his authority really, while it did not provide a single safeguard for a Member whose conduct was called in question. They knew the fact that the conduct denounced in Ministerial journals, which suppressed the reports upon which they based their charges of obstruction, occurred during the transaction of Business in very thin Houses. The magnificent array of Ministerial supporters, who had come down in such numbers and with such an exhibition of zeal to support the authority of the Chair, was usually conspicuous by its absence during the dull and dry discussions of ordinary Business. In fact, so great was the reluctance of the Ministerial majority to have anything to do with the dull and prosaic details of legislation, that a special club had been built for them, and a special system of signals arranged, so that these ardent Members could be tinkle-tinkled in to give their valuable votes in divisions after the discussion of questions from which they had been careful to abstain. These men would form the court and tribunal to try appeals from the decision of the Speaker on questions of obstruction. A Member would be named, the bell would ring in St. Stephen's Club as well as in other places, and where previously there were 10 or 15 or 20 Members discussing Business there would be 40 or 50 hastening through the underground passage, especially constructed for their convenience, ready to vote without a moment's enlightenment on the subject. It would not be very difficult to imagine how that vote would be given. He himself, if some Member of the Conservative Party were named, would be very strongly tempted, as Members of that Party would invariably be tempted, to give his support to the authority of the Speaker; because, in 99 cases out of 100, the Speaker would be in the right. If Members 1534 did not vote in that blind manner, they would vote on information derived from some Member on their own side, and most probably from a Whip. Nothing, therefore, could be more fallacious, absurd, unreal, or fundamentally untrue, than the appeal thus proposed to be given by this Motion. The Speaker, having accepted Office, had undertaken the duty of maintaining Order in that House, and if, consequently, he was called upon to name a Member, he must perform that painful duty; but when he had done that it was idle to suppose that either the dignity of the Chair would be vindicated or Order maintained by appealing from that decision to a scratch House gathered from the dining-room, smoking room, and St. Stephen's Club. It would be an appeal not only to an uninformed and ignorant House, utterly unacquainted with what had taken place, but it would also be an appeal to a Ministerial majority. That was a most important consideration. The Speaker impartially kept both sides in Order; but was it imaginable or conceivable that a Ministerial majority, whether Liberal or Conservative, would be an impartial tribunal to which to appeal? It was the especial duty of the Whips to see that there was always a Ministerial majority about when Government Business was under discussion or was expected to come on, and they must also have a sufficient number of trusty followers ready to make a House, in case the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), for instance, proposed a count. The essential point was that in nine cases out of ten the House that would be called upon to decide the appeal would be a Ministerial House, while it was equally certain that in nine cases out of ten the Member accused obstructing Business would not belong to the Ministerial Party. Thus the appeal would be not only to an uninformed House, but to one which was naturally prejudiced against the obnoxious Member. He need not further point out the absurdity of such a proposal; common sense condemned it. Again, could it be doubted that if the South African Bill, Prisons' Bill, the County Boards Bill, and the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill, had been Liberal measures, the Conservative Party would never have raised this outcry? During the passing of the Irish Church Bill and the Army Purchase Bill there 1535 had been Conservative obstruction, and it was then from the Liberal Party that the outcry of obstruction came; at present, however, the outcry came from the Conservatives, because they formed the Ministerial Party. It was to such judges, who were perfectly certain beforehand to be partial, that the Government proposed to intrust the appeal from the decision of Mr. Speaker, and to ask for a decision as to the suspension of an Opposition Member. In his opinion, so far as there was any appeal from the authority of Mr. Speaker, the appeal proposed by the Government Motion was a bad one. He should do all in his power to prevent an appeal from the Speaker's authority; and if he saw any possibility of preventing that injudicious and absurd step being taken—a step equally calculated, to lower the respect in which the Chair ought to be held, and the respect in which the decision of the House ought to be held—he should do all he could to provide against having this tribunal—a mere tribunal composed of thehabituésof St. Stephen's Club—to vote on a question with which they were entirely unacquainted. He hoped hon. Members opposite would admit that he had endeavoured to make his remarks strictly germane to the question in hand, and he would only detain the House for a few moments longer. Whilst supporting this proposal of the Government, and whilst opposing the Amendments which had been brought forward, he might state that he was not there, for a single instant, to assert that obstruction was always objectionable, nor was he there to deny that he had obstructed certain measures. He was there to assert, on the contrary, that he had obstructed on three or four occasions most deliberately. He was proud of what he had done in that respect, and in similar cases he would do the same with the full permission of the Chair. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had referred to the South African Bill. It was perfectly true—and he had made the declaration both in and out of the House—that when he saw that it was impossible to procure any reform in the South African Bill he had done all in his power to kill it by obstruction, or to thoroughly damage it thereby in the opinion of the country. He had made his opposition to that Bill solely upon 1536 its merits, because it was bad. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) had stated that the opposition to that measure had been conducted by a body of Members who had no more connection with, and took no more interest in, South Africa than if South Africa was in the moon. This, however, was not the case, for during the whole progress of that Bill he (Mr. O'Donnell) had been in close connection with the representatives of the Transvaal Republic. He could place before hon. Members a letter of thanks from the Attorney General of the Transvaal Republic for the opposition which he had given to the measure; and he could also place before them letters of thanks upon the same subject from the President of the Transvaal Commission in Holland, the venerable Professor of International Law at the University, who had been in constant correspondence with himself, and he believed also with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), during the whole of the debates upon South African affairs. Again, he could also place hon. Members in a position to read his letters toThe Timesupon the South African Bill, by which they would that see every single event which he had stated would take place had taken place as a consequence of that South African legislation. He ventured to remind hon. Members that he had not entered the House of Commons as a novice in public affairs, and he had been obliged, on one or two occasions, to refer to his profession as journalist. Before he had entered that House he had been in the habit for some years of writing on public affairs; and with all respect for the honour conferred upon him by his election as a Member of that House, he did not hesitate to say that there were among the journalists in the Gallery some dozen men, the opinion of any one of whom he would prefer to that of a hundred Members of Parliament. Speaking personally, there was one honour which no Ministerial diatribes could deprive him of, and that was that for many years past he had been an humble member of a body which was certainly equal to a large number of Members of that House in knowledge of public affairs both at home and abroad. There were comparatively few journalists in the House at that time; but he was perfectly sure that, with the extension of 1537 the suffrage and the cheapening of the means of getting into Parliament, the House would be hereafter distinguished—as in the case of foreign Assemblies—by those who were the cream and the flower of intellect in the country—the journalists of Great Britain. He had deliberately obstructed the flogging clauses of the Army Discipline Bill; while the other day—and he hoped that this would be the only opportunity of obstruction afforded by the Government during the present Session—he had obstructed the Irish Relief Bill, because Her Majesty's Government had apparently intended to make it a measure of disfranchisement. They imported into that Bill all the disfranchising effects of relief under the ordinary Poor Law system; and when the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) proposed to fill up that gap with a new clause, Her Majesty's Government refused to give any pledge that the clause would be accepted. On that occasion not only he (Mr. O'Donnell), but the hon. Members for Galway and Louth, besides a large number of other Members of Parliament, with malice aforethought, and without a single particle of remorse, but, on the contrary, with a perfect confidence that they were only doing their duty to their countrymen, and that they would receive the thanks both of the English and Irish people for their obstruction on that occasion, deliberately obstructed that Bill. They had informed the Chief Secretary for Ireland and his distinguished Colleagues that the Bill should not go forward until the principle contained in the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had been agreed to. The Government had refused; but after they had slept upon it they came down on Friday night and swallowed the clause of the hon. Member, just as if they had never contemplated anything else but falling in with the wishes of the Irish Obstructionists. He stated, deliberately, that not only had he obstructed two Government measures, but that he was prepared in case of necessity to obstruct measures of the same kind in future. It was, however, perfectly untrue that he had ever obstructed the Business of the House. Let the Government bring in good Bills and they would meet with no obstruction from his part. Let them bring in a Bill for raising Ireland to the same political rights as those enjoyed in 1538 England; let them do justice both to Ireland and to England, and there would be no obstruction from him. Otherwise, notwithstanding the Motions before the House, and in the face of there-furbishing of these arms and armour, he assured the Government that there would be just as much Obstruction in the future as there had been in the past. He thanked the House warmly for giving him so attentive a hearing on both sides, and trusted that he had not exceeded the bounds of legitimate explanation in defining his position with regard to this question of Obstruction.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, there had been a general concurrence of approbation with regard to the proposed measures on both sides of the House; but from that approbation he ventured heartily to dissent. He came from a large constituency in the West of Ireland, and could not help considering that he and the rest of the Irish Members were present in the House of Commons, so far as domestic legislation was concerned, under protest. He and his Colleagues had voted for a Parliament in Dublin, and were ready to vote for it again. In the position in which Irish Members were placed, there were necessarily many points upon which they were obliged to differ from other Members of the House, with whom they must sometimes occasionally come into collision, and, unfortunately, not only in matters of opinion, but also with the opinion of the people of England. When a collision occurred it was, no doubt, a great inconvenience. He would have preferred that any change which it might be necessary to make should have been in the direction of changing the Rules, and not in the direction of making penal measures against individuals. If a rule were made, for instance, that a Member could only speak once a week or once a fortnight, it would not so much matter, because the Irish Members could then take their share in the debates; but not being assimilated to the rest, there was greater danger of a large number of Members being brought against them than there was of the same thing happening to English Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Nothing could be more disastrous to the whole body of Members and to the country behind them than that there should exist the power of punishing any single Member. There 1539 was more danger to hon. Members and to the country in striking at the Leader of a Party than under any other circumstances. Some strong speeches had been made that evening in support of those measures which had been proposed by hon. Members since the introduction of the very mild Resolution on the part of the Government. But he desired to point out that if they continued to proceed at the same rate the freedom of Parliament would be very much lessened. On the other hand, they might punish three or four Members who had the audacity to obstruct bad measures; but this state of things would not last for ever as against Ireland, and it was the Conservatives who would, in the long run, suffer by the institution of these penal measures. Some day, perhaps in the next 10 or 15 years, if they continued to go on as they were proceeding on that occasion, he thought that some of the Conservative Leaders would rue the Rules that might be passed that evening. He knew that it was perfectly useless to attempt to stop the progress of these measures; but he knew also that they would, to a great extent, destroy the freedom of Parliament at any rate for Irish Members. As he strongly disapproved of the measures of the Government he should decidedly oppose them.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Shaw.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, if the debate is to be adjourned I hope it will be on the understanding that we are to proceed with it this day. We might, at all events, come to a decision to-night upon the principle contained in this Resolution, which, I think, has met with general acquiescence; the discussion of details may probably occupy some time, and I cannot, of course, think of asking the House to proceed with them at so late an hour. But if we come to a division upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), I should be glad if that were taken to-night, or otherwise if the hon. Member would withdraw his Amendment. What I should propose would be, in any case, that the debate should stand on the Order Book for this day, and I should propose to give Notice that I will move at 4 o'clock to suspend the usual Order for taking Supply on 1540 Friday, and the Motions in relation to other Business. There are Resolutions which would probably occupy the greater part of, if not the whole day. Considering the importance of the discussion I think it will be more satisfactory that we should proceed without delay. I wish to take this opportunity of referring to one or two remarks made at the beginning of the evening by the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington), that I have not on this occasion done that which it has been usual to do upon questions of Order—namely, that I have not conferred either with the authorities of the House or with the Leader of the Opposition before placing this Notice on the Paper. That is perfectly true; it was not in my power to do so for several reasons, with which it is not necessary to trouble the House. This, however, is no new matter, as the noble Lord is aware; and within the last few days I have had communications both with the noble Lord and with yourself, Mr. Speaker, with reference to the Motion, of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). I can only say, Sir, that there was no intention on my part to show any want of respect or any want of frankness either to yourself or to the noble Lord. It was impossible for me to communicate personally with either before I placed this Resolution on the Paper, and I thought it would be more satisfactory that it should come in upon the responsibility of the Government being aware of the general views of yourself and the Opposition, than that I should deal with it as has been suggested by the noble Lord.
§ MR. HANBURY,
in the absence, and with the authority, of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), begged leave to withdraw the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, his impression was that it was almost without precedent that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should appeal to hon. Members to withdraw the Motions which they had on the Paper, and it was very awkward to set up any fresh precedent with respect to Supply on Friday nights.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that there was a Motion before the House, and that the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Hanbury) desired on behalf of the hon. Member for Ply- 1541 mouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) to withdraw the Amendment of that hon. Member. He reminded the hon. Member for North Staffordshire that this could not be done until the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) had withdrawn his Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Question put, andagreed to.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock.