§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [24th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.1348
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he should ask the House to allow him to occupy it a few minutes, while he stated the course which hon. Members from Ireland wished to take with regard to the Bill. It would be in the recollection of the House that the debate was adjourned when the matter was under consideration on a previous occasion, in order that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland might consult his Colleagues as to the course he should take. The result of that consultation was that the right hon. Gentleman gave Notice of a certain new clause to the Government Belief of Distress Bill, with the view of meeting the objections of the Irish Members. Irish Members thought that it was of the utmost importance that some grant should be given—if they pleased—to the Poor Law Boards in Ireland, for the purpose of enabling them to meet quickly any pressing emergency which might arise. In their opinion, the advance of money at 1 per cent to the Poor Law Boards would not be sufficient to enable those bodies to adopt a quick and speedy action for the relief of distress. In other words, they considered that the power of granting out-door relief given by the Act of last Session would not be of use unless some means were adopted to enable Boards to take speedy action. They thought that if a grant of £200,000 were given out of the Church Surplus to the Poor Law Boards—that was, to the Poor Law machinery of the Government—there would be a desire on the part of those Boards to put into operation the Act of last Session, and they would at once commence to distribute out-door relief, and would co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in putting the machinery of the Act into operation. What was the position of these Unions? Many of them were practically bankrupt. They had exhibited the greatest repugnance to borrowing money from the Government, and they would continue to exhibit that repugnance so long as no further means were provided for them.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member had spoken on the second reading of the Bill, and was now proceeding to enter into the course that had been taken since the last debate.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he did not wish to trouble the House at any length; 1349 but was only exercising his right to reply to the observations which had been made on the second reading. He would merely say, in conclusion, that it was of the utmost importance that the machinery for the distribution of out-door relief should be set to work at once; therefore, they advocated the grant, in order to insure the speedy action of the Poor Law Guardians.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he proposed to proceed with the Motion for the second reading, unless some proposition were made by the Government.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was afraid he should be under the necessity of moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. What the Government proposed to do was to grant favourable terms to the Guardians in the distressed districts for obtaining money. He believed that that course would meet the necessities of the case.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that he rose to Order. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not already spoken upon the second reading of the Bill?
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Dodds.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that he was obliged to the hon. Member (Mr. Callan) for pointing out that he was out of Order, though he was now, however, at liberty to speak on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds). He might say that he was convinced that the Inspectors of the Local Government Board took care that out-door relief was given in cases where it was needful, and particularly where the prevalence of fever made it necessary. In other Unions they found that the Guardians were responding to the necessity for giving out-door relief in a way that was very gratifying. He believed that they would be stimulated in their efforts by the Government offering them loans upon easier terms than heretofore. He must express the hope 1350 that they should not be asked to continue the discussion on the Bill that evening. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) had asked the Government to assent to the proposal to give public money to private Committees for the purpose of distribution in the distressed districts. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) thought that at that period, when only a month or three weeks intervened before the harvest, there was no necessity for taking such a course. The present means were amply sufficient; but if the harvest proved a bad one, then it would be necessary for the Government to take steps of the nature suggested.
§ MR. GRAY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that it would be impossible for the Government to assent to a proposal to intrust public money to private Committees of the character stated. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said, that the hon. Member was mistaken.] The only reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland for not assenting to the proposal of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was that he preferred the Poor Law machinery, which he considered more desirable. There could be no question as to giving money in the manner proposed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, for the late Government had given a large sum of money to be dealt with in the manner proposed by the Bill. The Government of Canada granted a large sum of money towards the relief of distress in Ireland, and intrusted it to the late Colonial Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who had been the Chief Secretary for Ireland. After full consideration it was decided by the right hon. Gentleman that the best means of distributing the money, in accordance with the intentions of the donors, was to intrust it to Committees, consisting of the three great charitable organizations of Dublin. He (Mr. Gray) was under the impression that it had been stated in public that in 1847 a similar proposal was made by Government that £200,000 should be given as a grant, in aid of the private Committees relieving the distress, and that the money was to be spent by them. He was sorry that the Government had decided against the proposal of his hon. Friend, for it was throwing a serious reflection against the various charitable 1351 societies which had hitherto distributed relief in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman must be convinced that every effort made by the Government to relieve distress, by means of the Poor Law organization alone, would fail. In the first place, it would fail because many of the small farmers would rather starve than apply to the Poor Law Boards at all. They would have to make up their minds to permitting relief to be distributed by private Committees, and there was no good in discussing the question in a political or an economical point of view, so long as it was clear that the small farmers would rather suffer the greatest extremities than receive relief at the hands of the Government officials. Moreover, there was a difficulty on account of the disinclination of the Poor Law Boards to avail themselves of the powers given to them. There was a very violent prejudice on the part of many of the Poor Law Guardians in any shape. That did not apply so much in cases where the poor rate was very high; but instances were within his knowledge where the poor rate was as low as 10d. in the pound, and yet where the Guardians entirely refused to grant out-door relief. If that state of things were allowed to continue, all the mischief would be done before it was possible to remedy it. The Mansion House Fund had gone down to about £8,000, and in another fortnight it would be exhausted. Then what could the Poor Law system do? He was convinced the Government were not making sufficient provision. They had already been obliged to supersede two or three Poor Law Boards by paid Commissioners; but where were the men to be got to administer the others? He thought the proposal was the most immediate that could be adopted, and certainly speed was of the essence of this question. It was certain that unless the Government adopted some speedy method outside the Poor Law system there would be starvation within a week or two. They knew that if the Chief Secretary for Ireland could, by a stroke of the pen, relieve the distress in Ireland, he would do so; but he could not attend to all the details throughout the country in which he (Mr. Gray) believed the whole of the machinery existing at present was inadequate. He deeply regretted that the proposal had been thrown aside. 1352 He did not say that it might not be capable of improvement; but, unless immediate grants were given through some other organization which could act without too much red tape, they would not be able effectually to cope with the distress. He asked attention to the suggestion which had been made, which was, that in view of the distress, and in view of the large burdens which must of necessity be cast upon the ratepayers, that the Government would consider the propriety of postponing for the next 12 months the payment under the Seeds Act. This would do more to relieve the distress than any other proposal except the free grant of public money, because it would relieve the Boards of Guardians of burdens which had been intolerable. This money was not repayable to the Board of Public Works before August, 1881; but the tenant to whom the money was advanced must pay it back immediately after the harvest. It had been said that if there was a good harvest there was no debt which could be more legitimately demanded than that for the seed which had produced that harvest. That was perfectly true; and although he had put a Notice on the Paper for the remission of the debt, finding that public opinion in Ireland would not support him in that proposal, he intended to remove it from the Paper. There was among the small farmers in Ireland a strong conviction that it would be impossible to pay this debt, together with the enormous liabilities which had accumulated upon them, during the year. It had been said that the sum advanced was so small it could easily be paid if the harvest were good. But if it were good, there would be some serious debts of other kinds for the farmers to meet. They were already overwhelmed with debts. The first condition of receiving this seed must have been that they were in such a distressed state that they could not, either by credit or by means of other resources, obtain money to stock their land. They were, therefore, in a bankrupt condition when the seed was received; since which they had been living on charity, or upon such credit as they could obtain. They not only owed their rent, in most eases, but were steeped in debt to the local shopkeepers, and there were three or four creditors watching every small farmer to pounce 1353 upon him, if the harvest was a successful one. Therefore, it would be impossible to meet the dmands that would be made upon them after the harvest; and no greater relief could be given than if they failed, for fail they must, to meet their obligations, than by postponing the seed debt for 12 months. If it was thought fit, let interest be exacted, even at 3½ per cent. But he was convinced, further, that if the debt were postponed it would be a great benefit to the Treasury in a financial sense, because the debt would be able to be gathered with much greater facility. He trusted the Government would not discard his proposal without taking it into full consideration. He spoke with some authority upon this subject, because he had acted as Chairman of a large Company which had to consider the best mode of relieving the distressed small farmers. In his opinion, nothing better could be done, with the exception of a free grant of public money, to relieve the distress. He was also convinced that some such suggestion as that of the hon. Member for Cork City should be considered—that was to say, an immediate grant to be administered by some other method than by the Poor Law system, in order to prevent the distress which must come within the next four or five weeks, unless something were done.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, though objections might be made to the manner in which it was proposed to distribute the grant to be made under the provisions of the Bill, it occurred to him the Government ought to concede the main principle of the measure. It was admitted that severe distress existed, and was likely to increase, in Ireland, and that the charitable associations which had heretofore relieved destitution and warded off the approaches of famine were now without funds. Under those circumstances, he thought it was not unreasonable that they should obtain a grant in aid of that distress from funds belonging of right to the Irish people. It had rightly been pointed out by the hon. Member for Carlow that the example of the Canadian Parliament was one which it was fitting that this country should follow. It did not redound to the credit of England that alleviation for the distress in Ireland should have been obtained from the charity of America and funds granted by a Colonial 1354 Parliament, and that now the Government should refuse not merely to give any aid as proposed, but that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should listen in silence to the suggestions which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow County (Mr. Gray). He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not force the Irish Members to divide upon the Bill. He thought it would be viewed as a most unfortunate thing in Ireland if they were driven to take a division upon a Bill of that character. Let him (Mr. Martin) remind the Government that in introducing a Bill of the exceptional character of that which gave the distressed tenant compensation in case he was evicted for non-payment of rent out of the pocket of the Irish landlord, they admitted the prevailing distress was of a character not to be encountered or overcome by ordinary rules. If it was right to transfer thus the burdens from one class to another class, under the state of circumstances which existed in Ireland, it was surely reasonable that the State should contribute towards this exceptional distress occasioned by the visitation of Providence. The postponement of the payment of the instalments, under the Seeds Supply Act, would not be a very serious tax on Imperial resources, and would be of very great assistance in many localities. Even in many of those Unions not scheduled under the Act for the Relief of Distress, the poor rates had been not less than 4s. in the pound during the past year. The distress throughout Ireland was, unfortunately, not confined to Galway, Mayo, or Donegal.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he believed it would be a substantial benefit to the tenants and small farmers in Ireland if the payment for the seeds were deferred for 12 months, and was glad that the discussion which had taken place upon the Bill had afforded the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) the opportunity of making such a good suggestion. There had been four relief funds in Dublin; but his own county, where there had been a great amount of distress, had not received a penny from any one of those funds. It would be setting an evil precedent to hand over the sum of £200,000 to such bodies, notwithstanding they had every confidence in the administration of the charitable funds by the Mansion House Committee. They 1355 had in Ireland a Poor Law system which was perfect as regards its organization, and could, no doubt, administer the grant; but when it was proposed to hand over the sum of £200,000 to public bodies of another kind, he must remind the House that there was the Land League in Dublin, dishonestly and fraudulently allocating money which was intended for the relief of Irish distress to political purposes at the last General Election. This body had also refused to allow an audit of its accounts; and it was to them that some hon. Members had the effrontery to place a Bill on the Table of the House, asking that the distribution of £200,000 should be in part intrusted. He charged them with having dishonestly and fraudulently allocated sums of money raised and intended for the relief of the poor of Ireland to political purposes. He had heard in the evidence on a Petition trial in Ireland that money had been promised by the Land League to the farmers provided they voted in a certain way.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must say I fail to see any connection between the observations of the hon. Member and the subject of the Bill before the House.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he was speaking of one of those societies whom he charged with being unworthy to receive any grant, as having fraudulently allocated to political purposes sums received from America for the relief of Irish distress. He was correct in saying that in Roscommon and the Louth County members of the Land League promised free grants of seed, provided that certain political objects were accomplished at the Election. He undertook to prove the assertions he had made, and for that reason called upon the Government to scout from that House the proposal to intrust the distribution of £200,000 to bodies against whom such charges were made, and who had refused to allow an audit of their accounts. He believed the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland would give great satisfaction to the ratepayers of Ireland, and trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would make the payment for the seeds deferred.
said, he hoped the hon. Member would agree to release the House after 11 hours continuous sitting. The discussion which had taken place was really the same as would come on next Saturday, and the particular 1356 point involved could be much better considered then than at present. In default of any other proposal he would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, they were in this position. They thought it absolutely necessary that there should be some grant in aid of the distress in Ireland, and they were perfectly willing to allow the Government to choose the machinery to administer the fund. They had expressed their preference for bodies which had already successfully administered money in Ireland up to the present time; but if the Government desired to administer the money through the Poor Law machinery they were willing to agree to that arrangement. But the difficulty in regard to the Bill of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was that it was complicated with so many collateral questions, that it was utterly impossible to say when the particular part of the Bill connected with the present subject would be reached. They knew that the time of the Government was exceedingly limited; but they knew also that there was a great emergency in Ireland which required immediate action. The Government had presented a Bill of cumbrous size for the purpose of repairing the errors of their Predecessors. If he (Mr. Parnell) agreed to the adjournment of the debate he did not know when his Bill could come on; while the Notice on the Paper that it be read a second time that day three months would remain. If the Government would allow him to put his Bill down for Saturday, the proposal might be made the subject of consideration in the meantime, and perhaps some satisfactory arrangement might be arrived at. He asked the Government to consider their position. A grave responsibility had been cast upon them by their constituents to do all they could for them. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was making a grave miscalculation in relying on the Poor Law machinery, and that he might find himself in the midst of a state of affairs which he had not contemplated.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, some weeks ago he had expressed his strong conviction that there ought to be use made by Government of the existing organiza- 1357 tions for relief in Ireland, and had pointed out that the reports of individuals had covered that country with a network of relief Committees, and that it was not wise of the Government to shut their eyes to that organization. All that he had heard since upon the matter had only confirmed him in his opinion that what might be called the official machinery for the relief of distress in Ireland was inadequate for the purpose. He could not see any moral or absolute reason why the grants of public money should not be distributed by an organization individually initiated and spontaneously offered. He did not believe that the millions of money raised for the relief of distress in India could have reached their destination so well, but for the manner in which the officials of the Government cordially co-operated with individual effort. He had had representations made to him on the subject of the difficulty of getting Boards of Guardians to grant relief; and he trusted the Government would not allow it to be thought that they had made up their minds upon the subject. In a few weeks it would be too late to supplement the official machinery and establish a supplementary system of relief out of loans and out of the rates and taxes. There must be a free grant, and there ought to be use made of the organization of individual effort which had already worked so well, and which, under Government supervision, would, no doubt, work better.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, under the circumstances, he thought it better to be weary than that the people of Ireland should starve. The people in his part of the country had complained that the time of the House had been wasted in debates upon the Bradlaugh question, while there had been little or no attention paid to the question of distress in Ireland. There was no necessity to quarrel about the machinery for the administration of the fund, for the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) had said he was quite willing the Government should choose its own machinery. He had a letter from a magistrate and grand juror in the county of Galway, who said there was great distress in his neighbourhood, and there were also 10 families affected by fever. That magistrate, who would have to pay a good deal to the rates, pointed out that 1358 the Poor Law Guardians had not done their duty. Some machinery ought, therefore, to be adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland of another kind. He thought it would be well to take a division, if there were no reasonable probability of bringing the Bill forward on Saturday. He hoped, however, that the Prime Minister would agree to that.
§ MR. DALY
said, that he did not wish' to detain the House at that hour of the morning; but he thought it necessary to call attention to two or three facts in connection with the manner in which out-door relief was distributed by private Committees. He doubted very much whether any machinery could be found which would effect the purpose in view better than the charitable organizations now existing in the distressed districts of Ireland. In the first place, they had had such experience with regard to the distressed districts that they could not be imposed upon. Persons concerned in the administration of the charitable funds were usually clergymen, resident doctors in the district, and other persons intimately acquainted with the wants of the locality; and the information they possessed as to those actually needing relief was much greater than could be acquired by other persons. These gentlemen, moreover, had been engaged in the work of distribution for a long period. Under these circumstances, he could not but consider that in the distribution of any relief they could not do better than intrust it to the hands of the same persons who had hitherto administered the charitable funds in Ireland.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he understood the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) to state that if this debate were adjourned it could not be taken at any hour on another evening now that the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) had moved to reject the Bill. At the same time, it seemed to him that the inconvenience of having a discussion then was so very great, that he would suggest that the hon. Member for Stockton should withdraw his Amendment that the Bill should be read a second time that day three months, in order that the Bill might be brought on at any period of the evening on another occasion. He would, therefore, ask the hon. Member for Stockton to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was very sorry not to be able to meet the wishes of hon. Members from Ireland; but he was quite sure it was perfectly possible for the Government to meet distress through the Poor Law machinery without the grant. At the present time, the Poor Law Guardians were giving out-door relief in some cases, and where they did not respond to the appeal to give relief loans were offered to them. He did not see what difference it would make, whether they were giving a grant, or whether they offered loans for two years. He could not advise to assent to the plan proposed, for it would be an acknowledgment of the utter failure of the Poor Law to meet an emergency. If this course which had been suggested were adopted it would complete the abolition of the Poor Law. If the hon. Member desired to take the sense of the House upon his proposal he had better take it that evening, and the Motion for adjournment had better be withdrawn.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that he should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether or not it was proved that the Poor Law in Ireland had broken down. It was within his knowledge that many families who were in the most distressed condition had the greatest possible repugnance to make known their distress to the Government officials. But for the action of the relief Committees, numberless families throughout Ireland would have been dead by the present time. Again, in the county which he had the honour to represent, which was a scheduled county, there were cases of persons suffering the extremity of famine and not applying for relief. Some unfortunate persons who had received potatoes under the Relief Act had been compelled to dig up again the seed which had been planted, for the purpose of sustaining life. No doubt, it was against the law; but Guardians could not find it in their hearts to prosecute those unfortunate persons. He could understand the objection of the Government to the distribution of public funds through private Committees, and he would suggest that some kind of compromise on the subject be adopted. Why should the Government not allow half the money to be distributed by the Poor Law Guardians and half the money through the 1360 relief Committees? In that way they would insure the £200,000 which the hon. Member for the City of Cork desired should be granted being properly expended.
§ MR. METGE
said, that if they could obtain a pledge from the Government to adopt the moderate proposal of the hon. Member for the City of Cork they would be happy to take the course suggested by the Government. He believed that the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland told them he was going to bring forward was simply one for the relief of the landlords of Ireland. He did not believe that it would meet the distress amongst the poor. When the Government came forward with a Relief Bill for Ireland of the nature of that introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in his (Mr. Metge's) opinion, it was the duty of Irishmen to sit there till that time to-morrow, if necessary, in order to obtain a proper measure. Were they to consent to the proposal of the Government they would be altogether renouncing their proper responsibility. It was the clear duty of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland to insure proper legislation for her interests, no matter what inconvenience to themselves.
§ MR. LITTON
said, he denied that it was the right of any hon. Member on the opposite Benches to sit there from that time until the same hour the next day for the purpose of repeating the same arguments over and over again. The proposition of the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) had been met by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) that the Bill be read a third time that day three months. It was only by that means that this discussion could be brought to an end. Hon. Member after hon. Member had risen in his place on the opposite side and had repeated the same arguments. He denied that it was the right of any hon. Member to treat the House in that way. The Bill of the hon. Member for Cork City asked that £200,000 might be handed over to private societies to distribute to the poor of Ireland; and if that principle were adopted, the Govern-might as well hand over to those societies the government of Ireland altogether. It would be impossible for any Government to carry on the Public 1361 Business of Ireland, if they were so to abdicate their functions, and to hand them over to any private individual or private society. It would be a direct abdication of their functions to hand over a large sum of money like this to private distribution. He had personally every confidence in some of the societies which had been concerned in the relief of the distressed. He had no doubt that the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) had done a deal of good; but there were other Committees in which he had not a like confidence. He believed there was in the minds of a great many hon. Members of that House a considerable want of confidence in some of those Committees; but it was not a question whether they were or were not worthy of confidence. A question of principle was involved, and the only way to bring the matter to a conclusion was to persevere in the Amendment that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, it was hardly fair to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) to argue that he had asked for this money to be handed over to voluntary societies. He had expressed his perfect willingness to permit this money to be distributed by means of the Poor Law machinery. After that concession, it became illogical to represent as his argument that this money should be handed over to voluntary societies. What they asked was that public money should be given to the Local Government Board for distribution in such Unions as required a grant instead of a loan. With respect to that proposition, there was good reason for considering it was absolutely necessary. On all sides they had an expression of opinion from Irish Members, including that of the Conservative Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), that something of the nature of a grant was necessary. The only hon. Members who had not concurred in that opinion were the Liberal Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), and the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan). [Mr. CALLAN said, that he made no objection to the grant.] He (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) was glad to hear that there was an absolute consensus of opinion amongst the Irish Members on this point, with the exception of the Liberal Member 1362 for Tyrone. Great objections were made to public money being handed to voluntary societies; but the hon. Member for Cork City was willing to withdraw that part of his proposal, and to consent to its being handed, over to the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board required something more than they had hitherto had. It was necessary to put in their hands a certain sum of money, in order that they might encourage Poor Law Guardians to give out-door relief. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) should take power for the Local Government Board to have a certain sum of money for distribution among such Unions as might be selected. Let the principle of the grant be grafted on the Relief Bill of the Government, and a great deal would then have been done to meet the objections of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. They did not want to disturb the ordinary Poor Law machinery of the country, and were quite willing to allow the grant to be distributed by the Local Government Board. They knew the way in which Boards of Guardians in Ireland acted. It was well known in Ireland that the prospect of having to repay the principal of the large sums of money that might be lent to them to distribute out-of-doors had hitherto prevented the Boards of Guardians from giving outdoor relief to any extent. To obviate that objection on the part of the Guardians the present Bill had been introduced. The great principle for which they contended was that a grant should be made to the Guardians, and they would be quite satisfied if that were engrafted upon the Government measure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that perhaps the House would allow him to state that no limit would be imposed upon the expenditure of the Local Government Board in the event of any emergency short of £1,500,000. The suggestion that the money should be given to the relief Committees now seemed to have been dropped; and the sole question, therefore, was between the loan and the grant. Surely, that might be perfectly well discussed upon the Government Bill on Saturday, and it was unnecessary to occupy the House longer on the present occasion. He must not, however, be understood as in any way assenting to the proposal made, for he 1363 would rather stop there till any time than have a compromise of that kind extorted from him.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that he fully agreed with the observations that had been made, that they ought to sit there till that time to-morrow, if by doing so they should contribute to the relief of their distressed countrymen in Ireland. It did not seem to him, however, that there was anything in the proposals of the Government hostile to the principle for which they were contending. Therefore, he should ask his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork to allow the matter to come to a harmonious conclusion. Neither his great respect for the present Government, nor their great majority, nor the distinguished character of the Minister who led it, would induce him to deviate one inch from what he considered to be the proper course to be taken. But he could not regard the Government as hostile to their views. It seemed to him that they were pursuing the same object as themselves, and that it was only a question of machinery. He thought the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the question should be discussed on Saturday, was a reasonable one.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) that the debate might be now adjourned. But it should be remembered that he had proposed that plan at the beginning, although he feared he had been misunderstood by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had proposed that the right hon. Gentleman should adopt the principle of a grant reserving to himself the right of administration by the Poor Law Board, and it was only at that moment that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had pointed out how it could be done.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, without any wish to take up the time of the House, or put any obstacle in the way of the Government, he desired to state that he understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forstor) not to object to the adjournment of the debate until Saturday.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he had stated that the questions raised that evening could be raised upon the Bill on Saturday next. He was surprised that the hon. Member (Mr. Biggar) had not understood that.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, who, he confessed, was not very lucid in his statement. He did not see why, although the Government had arranged not to put down any other Business on the Paper for Saturday, they should be precluded from putting down this Bill for the same day. Of course, if the whole Sitting were occupied with the Government Bill, there would be no opportunity of discussing the Irish Bill. It was simply a matter of convenience for all parties, and he raised the question as indicating a way out of the difficulty. He desired to make reference to the statement of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) with regard to the Irish Land League. The hon. Gentleman had brought some very dark charges against that body, and had gone into detail, alleging, at the same time, that in one of the national Committees some irresponsible parties had led persons to believe that they would get grants of potatoes if they voted in a particular way.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The observations of the hon. Member have clearly nothing to do with the subject before the House.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, there was not the slightest foundation for the statement of the hon. Member for Louth. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) had said that the same arguments had, over and over again, been advanced with regard to this Bill, and upon that point he would remark that the hon. Member had succeeded in repeating himself several times in the course of the debate.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to see the block Motion taken off the Paper for Saturday, and would move that the Bill be read a second time on that day.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be adjourned till Saturday."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he would put it to the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) that there had not been a question raised that night that could not be raised upon the debate on the Bill next Saturday. The hon. Member seemed to admit that himself, and he (Mr. Forster) wondered that he had not seen it from the beginning. The 1365 Government were under an engagement not to take any Business on Saturday, except the Government Bill; therefore, he could not understand why there should be an attempt made to bring on the present Bill on that day. He repeated there was no question which had been raised that evening which could not be brought up next Saturday on the Government Bill.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he would appeal to his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) to take into consideration the point raised. He was afraid there was no chance of the Government Bill getting through on Saturday. They were, therefore, merely wasting time on a matter of form, because the Bill could not be reached on Saturday. If he thought otherwise, he should support his hon. Friend; but his advice was to concentrate their minds upon the Government measure, and endeavour to convert the proposed loan into a grant.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he did not wish, in the smallest degree, to criticize, at that moment, the merits of the Government Bill; but merely wanted to point out that the portion of the Government Bill in competition, so to speak, with that of the hon. Member (Mr. Parnell), was at a stage of the Bill which was not likely to be reached on Saturday. He suggested, as a way out of the difficulty, that the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) should withdraw his Amendment against the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The observations of the hon. Member (Mr. Biggar) are quite beside the Question before the House, which is simply as to the day when the second reading of this Bill can be taken.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said it was so difficult to get on with the Bill of a private Member, when it was stopped by a Government Motion, that it would be well if they had an opportunity of discussing the measure on Friday night.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 62: Majority 40.—(Div. List, No. 36.)
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.
§ House adjourned at Four o'clock in the morning.