§ MR. A. MOORE
, in rising to draw attention to the present disgraceful state of the management in Belfast Workhouse, where it had been alleged immorality and drunkenness had existed to an alarming extent; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Local Government Board should take prompt measures to restore public confidence in the management of Belfast Workhouse;wished to say, at the outset, that he had no personal object in bringing forward this matter. He had no personal connection with the town of Belfast, and was unacquainted with the Guardians of the Union; but he rose to draw attention to the circumstance of these irregularities and abuses on public grounds. For the last 18 months the Press had been constantly appealing to public opinion, to the Local Government Board, and, in default of any interference on their part, to this House. The Press had been unanimous in that course; all shades of politics had combined in asking for some remedy and some interference on the part of the Executive Government. His attention was first drawn to the state of Belfast Workhouse by a letter written by Mr. Hamilton, a Tory Justice of the Peace—or, rather, he should say that his attention was first called by some words Mr. Hamilton used on the bench. That Justice of the Peace openly stated that Belfast Workhouse was a nest of drunkenness, immorality, and vice. He was taken to task for that statement, and he at once endeavoured to substan- 999 tiate the charges he had made. He visited the house, and subsequently wrote several letters to the Press. Writing on the 29th February, he stated that it had been sworn before him by a female inmate of the workhouse that she had been 19 years in the workhouse and that, after her husband's death, she had given birth to four children without leaving the institution. The letter went on to say—I found in the nursery 79 women and 107 children; but 50 of the women were married, and 50 or 60 of the children were illegitimate and born in the house. Hero we have facts which reveal a most distressing state of things. No one can deny that it is exceedingly wrong-that young girls should grow up in the company of women such as these. They never came upon such wickedness as in Belfast Workhouse.But in spite of these charges, which were brought forward by a gentleman of position, no cognizance was taken of them by the Local Government Board. This occurred in February, and immediately afterwards a letter was written to the Press by the Roman Catholic chaplain of the workhouse, who was called upon by the Local Government Board to substantiate his statements. However, when it came to the point, although he had made serious statements, he could not substantiate them. He was a young man, and perhaps in peculiar circumstances, and although his statements were founded on truth, some feeling of delicacy prevented him from coming forward; but, although he did not substantiate them, it did not follow that they were not well-founded. A few days afterwards a meeting of Guardians was held, at which attention was drawn to the existing state of Poor Law administration, and the opinion expressed that there was a great deal of immorality in connection with the Belfast Workhouse. An inquiry, he found, had been instituted, and a high official in the workhouse had been dismissed for immorality. In April, 1879, he found a subordinate official, but in a position of responsibility, dismissed for the same reason; and he came across the remarkable fact that the Union officials were armed with latch-keys, so that they could travel through the whole house. On the 14th of April the matron complained to the Board that the pauper men had access to the women's quarters; and, practically, there was no division of sexes in the house. There was a reso- 1000 lution of the Board condemning the practice, but the matter rested there. They deplored the existence of the pass keys and let the matter drop. The real gist of the discursive quotations he had made was that the women in Belfast Union Workhouse became mothers without going out of the house. That was difficult to prove; but he considered he could substantiate three cases. The difficulty of proving the case was, that these women who lived on the public went out and came in as they pleased, and there was no means of limiting this freedom. One woman, he saw, left the house 59 times, and another, who had gone out 39 times, had four illegitimate children. One woman had been in the house from 1872 to 1876 without going out, and in 1875 she had a child. Another woman had a child born in the house in 1874 who had been about 13 months in the house. In 1878 a third woman had a child who had been in the house for a considerable time. Again, he had evidence of the existence of a considerable amount of drunkenness among the paupers in the workhouse. If they read the proceedings of the Board they would find that at the Local Government Board inspection it was sworn by the assistant matron that she and the matron were up all night attending women who were drunk. The matron thought it was the milkman who brought the spirits into the house, while the assistant matron thought they must have a private still somewhere. On the 14th of June it was sworn by the laundress that the matron herself was seen sitting on the floor between three drunken paupers. From the evidence he was satisfied that the matron was given to drink, and she should have been dismissed. When the heads of the Institution gave themselves to drink they could not expect the paupers to be in a very good state. The paupers seemed to obtain spirits on a regular system. Two paupers took their discharge, and on the following day they made their presence known outside the walls by a given signal. The paupers inside then threw over some of the property of the Union which was sold, and they then returned to the house with the drink. On one occasion two women were caught by the police in the act of receiving goods thrown over the wall in this way; but although the master had given the information, the parties inside were al- 1001 lowed to escape. Those outside pleaded guilty, and got six months. On another occasion the property of the Union was found in a house adjoining the workhouse, but it was impossible to obtain a conviction. The indiscriminate association was one of the most painful phases of the subject. Children up to six years were condemned to listen to the curses of the women, and were subjected to their contaminating influence, and afterwards they were handed over to the workhouse teacher to see what he could do for them. When the girls came to the age of 15, they were thrust into the women's room, and again subjected to all the evil influences. Much the same thing occurred on the male side of the house; the same difficulties awaited the boys, and nothing was done to teach them a trade or teach them to maintain themselves. Then the old men who came to seek shelter and rest in their declining years, through the abominable mismanagement were subject to a tyranny that was positively repulsive, on the part of the younger men in the same room. He had the names of 10 of the old men who said that they were habitually and grossly insulted. They were afraid to go singly, as they were knocked about and often driven to defend themselves with knives. One of these old men positively asserted that on the 9th or 10th of December he was attacked by three young men and and robbed of the little money he had in his possession, and he could get no redress. The Local Government Board had sent down a young Inspector; but, instead of laying the knife to the sore, he had lapsed in his Report into an essay on sanitation. Dr. M. Lake had reported on the 2nd of June, 1880, that the sanitary state of the house was not altogether satisfactory, and that from January to June, 82 infants had died in the infant nursery. Further, he went on to say that there was very great overcrowding in the hospital and dormitories. This Inspector had not been the first to call attention to this overcrowding, as in March, 1879, the Local Government Board reported that there was excessive overcrowding, and he wondered that some epidemic fever did not break out. It had also been shown that the separation and nursery wards were in a filthy state. In October, 1879, three girls were charged before the magistrates with insubordination, and their excuse was 1002 that they were unable to undress owing to the filth and vermin on their beds. This was brought up at a Guardians' meeting, and a deputation was sent to the workhouse along with an Inspector of the Local Government Board. They found the beds in a most filthy state, and the nurse was dismissed, but the matron was only admonished. These were very unpleasant matters, but it was necessary to let light in upon them. His charge was that the Union had been mal-ad-ministered. Each board day brought some fresh charge of insubordination against the paupers, but the paupers could not always be wrong. Paupers had been found lying outside the gates of the union on a frosty night in conse-. quence of some absurd regulation on the part of the board. Again, it was found that there was a deficiency in the quantity of stock, and inferior articles had been received. The muster roll had been shown to be entirely wrong. On one occasion 100 paupers were on the roll who were not in the house, and 32 were in the house who were not on the roll, so that the ratepayers were paying for about 70 who were not in the house. He did not think the master was wholly to blame, but 195 folios of manuscript charges had been drawn up against him. He (Mr. A. Moore) had moved for a Return of these charges, but the Chief Secretary had refused. No doubt, he did so with some good object; but, by so doing, the right hon. Gentleman had taken a certain responsibility upon himself. This he was glad of, as, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman would do what was right. Had these charges been pre-sented to the House, the result would be to show that one of the principal culprits was the Local Government Board. Looking at the list of the Belfast Guardians, the names of Members of the House would be found upon it, but he supposed they were disgusted and did not attend. It was a great pity their names were there when they did not attend, as it gave a false confidence to the public. The Guardians at their meeting indulged in the most indecent levity; and at a recent meeting one Guardian had even the impertinence to propose a resolution—"That the ratepayers should not read the proceedings of the Board." He was moving this Amendment in the interests of the poor of Ireland and in the interests of the 1003 ratepayers of Ireland, and he believed the words he spoke would find an echo throughout that country. The town of Belfast was one of the most rising and most enterprising commercial communities in the United Kingdom. It was the centre of the linen trade, and from it went forth the finest Atlantic ocean steamers, and it was monstrous to suppose that a body of men could not be found in that town not only capable of conducting the affairs of the Belfast Union, but even the affairs of the Empire. He trusted that he would receive some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that prompt measures would be taken, and that a full and searching inquiry would be made.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Local Government Board should take prompt measures to restore public confidence in the management of Belfast Workhouse,"—(Mr. Moore,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. FINIGAN
, in supporting the Amendment, said, that he had listened with great sorrow to the very serious charges—serious, but unhappily so well founded, as appeared both from statistics and from well known facts—brought against the Belfast Workhouse by the hon. Member for Clonmel(Mr. A. Moore). It was a very sad thing. The Local Government Board of Ireland and the Government generally of Ireland—he did not in saying this include the Chief Secretary—were much to blame. It did appear that in Ireland the Government official authorities gave very little attention to public opinion, and that arose from the fact that they were not, as the authorities in this country were, amenable to public opinion. Meetings might be got up and the views of those who spoke might be expressed in the newspapers, but very little attention was given to them by the Government officials, because they were not amenable to public opinion. He trusted that the Chief Secretary would compel the permanent officials in Ireland to do their duty in the letter and in the spirit of the law. It appeared that this workhouse 1004 was a pesthouse—a refuge for travelling criminals and for those who had spent their lives in all sorts of misdeeds; and this was a disgrace not only to Belfast, but to the Local Government Board of Ireland. He hoped the Chief Secretary would issue some instructions which would render a repetition of such immorality and disgrace an impossibility in time to come.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
observed that the speech made by his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment contained certain very grave charges against the Belfast Workhouse, and those charges, having been made, must be sifted to the bottom. They were very strong charges indeed. He was sorry that, as there were members of the Belfast Board of Guardians who were also Members of this House, they were not here to defend the Board of which they were members. He did not at all blame his hon. Friend for bringing forward the question at this time of the Session, because it was his only opportunity; but he could not but think that those hon. Members who were members of the Board of Guardians would have been here if they had been aware of the charges that would be made. Almost all these charges were new to him. They related to matters that occurred before he acceded to office. He knew, indeed, that there had been considerable Correspondence between the Local Government Board of Ireland and the Belfast Board of Guardians with regard to the master, and he had heard also of a charge against the matron, but as to most of the charges made to-day, he now heard of them for the first time. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Finigan) had stated that the blame rested mainly with the Local Government Board. Now, the blame mainly rested, first with the Belfast Board of Guardians, and secondly with the Belfast ratepayers who elected those guardians. The Board of Guardians was a popular body, and it was in the power of the ratepayers to visit on the guardians the penalty for their shortcomings. Considering the size, the wealth, and the civilization of Belfast, he could not conceive but that if these charges were true, the members of the Board would not be members very long. Undoubtedly the Local Government Board had a duty to perform. They had only to inquire into such charges as 1005 these, and to find out whether they were true or not, and then, as far as they could, to put things right. But they had not the absolute power to put thing right unless they resorted to the very strong act of dissolving the Board of Guardians and appointing a vice Board of Guardians in their places. He did not say that because Belfast was a large town, if there was no other course open, the Local Government Board would not be justified in dissolving the Board of Guardians—in fact, it would be their duty to take that course; but they would have to have the case very clearly made out. They would have to have it made out that nothing else could be done, and they would consider, not merely the importance of the locality, but to some extent the cause of local self-government as compared with central administration. He was one of those who looked forward with more hope to the extension of local and municipal government both in town and country in Ireland than he did to almost anything else in doing good for Ireland, and he should be sorry to be obliged to dispense with an institution that ought to be so well managed as the Belfast Board of Guardians. He did not think his hon. Friend would expect him to say more than that, but as he had thought fit to make such charges it was a matter of course that they could not rest there. They must be thoroughly sifted, and to the best of his ability he would take care that they were sifted.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
trusted that the Chief Secretary's inquiry would not be limited to the Belfast Workhouse. He would then find that the whole system of Poor Law administration in Ireland was radically bad, and that in every branch of the administration there were shortcomings that would not be allowed to exist for a single Session in England. He had resolved to take up the subject and to bring it piecemeal before the House. He had a Resolution on the Order Book for next Session in reference to the dietary scale in a single workhouse in the County Kerry, and his object was to show that the dietary scale was inadequate to maintain normal existence without impairment to health. The diet consisted almost exclusively of Indian meal, and a mixture once a week of what by a euphemism was called "soup," which consisted of an ounce of fat to a pint of water. The 1006 tea issued to the sick inmates consisted of one-eighth of an ounce of tea to a pint of water. Infants under three years of age were allowed half-a-pint of milk in the morning and half-a-pint at dinner, which he believed was at about 12 o'clock, and until the following morning the unfortunate children were absolutely without food. These were some of the points with regard to the dietary scale which he remembered; but at the present moment he could not remember the amount of food allowed to the able-bodied member, but he would incline to think it was the worst in the whole scale. It was deplorable the amount of food allowed to these creatures who were not altogether in a state of idleness; it was not much more than half that which had been found by scientific statisticians to be absolutely necessary to maintain human life in an ordinary state of health. But an inquiry was necessary, not only into the dietary, but into every branch of the Poor Law administration. He himself saw in a workhouse some months ago a number of children in a large room where lunatic women and children were. Then, again, the question of the stores required looking into. With regard to the education of pauper children, such a state of things existed in Ireland as would not be allowed to endure for a single Session in England. These were points which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would find well worthy of his attention. One other great evil was that in many unions two-thirds of the entire amount of the rates was spent in salaries and the payment of the staff, and only a very small modicum went to the relief of the poor.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that as grievance preceded Supply it was prudent to remark that there had been no redress of the grievances of the Irish people this Session. He would refer to one measure which the Government had introduced which had been received with great joy in Ireland. That was the Borough Franchise Bill. The Government introduced that Bill and for a long time kept it before the public; but upon the first challenge they threw it over- 1007 board. The only other measure upon the programme was the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, the fate of which in "another place" they all remembered. When the fate of that Bill was decided the Government ought to have reinstated the Borough Franchise Bill and proceeded with it, and in neglecting to do so they had shown a disregard of popular feeling in Ireland, and a disregard of justice. They had been looking for some proof that the Government if they were unable to pass any remedial measure, would, at any rate, do something to conciliate Irish popular fooling. The Government were invited on the Constabulary Vote to consent to the reasonable demand that if the Irish people were to be shot down with bullets or buckshot, they might be so shot by men who were recognized as soldiers and not by the police. The Irishmen asked that the police should be disarmed, and that the action of the police should be confined to police duties proper, and they asked that if a military force was to be introduced, it might be a force in ordinary military costume, and recognized as a military force, and that the force which was supposed to be a police force should be assimilated to the police force in England. But the Government had refused to make even that small concession, and the consequence was that during this long Session they had seen week after week devoted to the consideration of Bills relating to hares and rabbits, and to employers' liability, and such matters which were of secondary importance, while measures concerning the vital interests of the people of Ireland had been treated by the Government with very scant courtesy. Under these circumstances he could not abstain from protesting, as he thought all Irish Members were called on to do, and he, therefore moved the rejection of the Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
said, if he had the power on the present occasion he would prevent the granting of any money whatever to Her Majesty's Government. As the present measure was introduced for the appropriation of moneys, he was entitled to point out to the Government, on this last opportunity, that it was clearly the duty of the Irish Members to use their very best efforts to prevent the Government from obtaining any of this money. It seemed to him and other 1008 hon. Members around him that they had a right to urge that the Government had not done anything at all for Ireland up to the present time. The reason why they had not done so had nothing to do with the question before them. He came over from Ireland for the purpose of legislating for his country, and, although he had used his most earnest efforts for that end, he had been prevented from carrying our his intention. He, therefore, felt it was his duty, on this last opportunity, to protest against the action of the Government, and of this fiasco in the affairs of Ireland.
§ MR. FINIGAN
entirely agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon.) He (Mr. Finigan) spoke as one loyal to the Constitution, and to Her Majesty who was at its head; but he spoke also as one who was thoroughly disloyal to the spirit of the Constitution as carried out in Ireland. He spoke as one thoroughly opposed to the system of misgovernment in Ireland; and finally he spoke as one determined to oppose, by every means within his power, the present unjust and tyrannous system of government in Ireland. Although Ireland had taken a great part in building up the Empire, both by sea and land, and although Irish blood had flown in order to build up the majesty and greatness of the Empire—for it was a great and a noble Empire—yet to Ireland had not been. given the slightest consideration, nor had there been meted out to his country that measure of justice which it had so long called for but in vain. The part played by the other House of Parliament in the government of Ireland was as foul, as wrong, and as unjust as ever was played by any despot in Russia. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
, interposing, said, he must ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the Bill before the House.
§ MR. FINIGAN
expressed his anxiety to abide by the Speaker's ruling, but submitted that inasmuch as they were called upon by the Bill to appropriate a considerable sum of money for the other House of Parliament, he would be in Order in directing attention to the fact that it had not done its duty towards the Constitution. He found that there was a large sum of money— £2,500 a-year—voted to the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords. 1009 What did he do towards governing Ireland as she ought to be governed— namely, according to the spirit of the Constitution? The spirit of the Constitution, so far as England was concerned, was that it perfectly reflected the opinions of the people, and the wishes of that Assembly freely elected by the people. Well, that House had passed two great measures from an English point of view.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that the measures which had been passed by the House did not constitute a subject relevant to the Appropriation Bill, and he must call upon the hon. Member to confine himself strictly to the Bill before the House.
§ MR. FINIGAN
, continuing, remarked that there were several items in this Bill which he might enlarge upon at great length, and which required to be dismissed in view of the want of sympathy which existed in "another place" with the House, and which had been exemplified recently by a reckless disregard of the House, and the opinions which it represented. But he would content himself with saying that he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County, and expressing a hope that when next year the Appropriation Bill was brought forward they would have no cause to oppose it, but some real and just ground for giving it their united support.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that in view of the action taken in "another place" in regard to a certain Bill, he wished to suggest to the Government that they might take a course on the Appropriation Bill which would have the effect of showing what the feelings and sympathies of the Government really were in regard to the administration of affairs in Ireland, and also of showing that the Government did not intend to allow the proceedings of that House in regard to Ireland to be set at nought, and made the subject of ridicule. He wished to suggest to the Government that they had two courses open to them. He thought it would be possible to prove that these courses were open to them by precedents of long standing. The Government could agree to tack the 8th clause of the Bill in question on to the Appropriation Bill, and limit the operation of that clause to two years; or they could introduce a new Bill, consisting of the 8th clause, 1010 for a similar period of duration. There were several direct precedents as to the first course, as was evidenced by a Re-solution of the House of Lords, passed on the 9th December, 1702, and referred to by Sir Erskine May in his work. On that date it was ordered and declared by the Lords that the annexation of any clause to a Bill of aid or supply was unparliamentary and tended to the destruction of the Constitution. There was a Resolution passed by the Lords in reference to special Acts from the Commons in the paragraph he had described, and referring to the precedents which he desired the Government to consider. He found also that in 1872 a conference took place between the two Houses in reference to the clause introduced by the Commons in a Money Bill creating an incapacity in the Commissioners or Assessors of the Excise to sit in Parliament. Against this action the Lords protested; but at the conference which was held they gave way, and they passed the Bill with these clauses in it. On that occasion the Commons successfully vindicated their right to attach to a Money Bill a matter which was foreign to the subject matter of the Bill in question. Now, with reference to the second course, it was open to the Government to introduce a new Bill consisting of the 8th clause, and limiting the duration of the Bill, say to two years. He found that he had a precedent upon that in 1827, when Mr. Canning re-introduced a Bill with reference to the duties on foreign corn which had been seriously modified by the Lords. He re-introduced it and limited its duration for two years, and it was passed by the Commons and subsequently passed by the Lords. There was a further course for a precedent of of a different kind. In 1874 a Bill, consisting of two clauses, came to the Committee stage, and was saved from the interference of the Lords by an Instruction being given to the Committee to deal with the clauses on the Appropriation Bill being considered, so that the Appropriation Bill was tacked to the other Bill. The two courses which he recommended to Her Majesty's Government were the two which he had mentioned—namely, that they should either tack the 8th clause to the Bill, or they should introduce a fresh Bill, and move to suspend the Standing Orders, in order to carry it at one sitting; but if consent 1011 were given that was not necessary. He thought they were fairly entitled to ask the Government to show their bona fides. He wished to point out what had been the course of attempted legislation with regard to Ireland, that every Bill sent up from the House of Commons making any real change in the law had been ignominiously rejected by the House of Lords upon the second reading. That happened with regard to the Limitation of Costs Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Errington).
§ MR. SPEAKER
, interposing, said, the observations of the hon. Member up to the present time appeared to have some relevancy to the Bill before the House, but he was now diverging into matter which really had no relevancy to it.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he had referred to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Longford, because he had been informed that on several occasions opportunities had been taken on the stages of the Appropriation Bill to call the attention of the House to the course of legislation during the Session, and consequently he supposed himself in Order in referring to that measure. However, it was not absolutely necessary for him in order to argue his point to refer to matters patent, and in the mind of hon. Members, and which constituted a ground for the application he made to the Government and to the House—namely, that the Government should mark their sense of passing events, and of the determination in the future to carry out the authority of the House of Commons by that legitimate action which he had pointed out, based upon precedents of unimpeachable authority, and securing that the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill might come before Her Majesty for Her good will and pleasure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, with regard to the Motion and the speech of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) and other speeches of hon. Members who think it is their duty to take the very unusual course on the Appropriation Bill to make a protest against the government of Ireland—of course, it lies with them to take that course if they think it necessary to do so; but they cannot expect me to enter at the present time into a general argument in defence of our present system of government in Ireland; nor do I imagine that the hon. Member for Ennis 1012 (Mr. Finigan) would ask me to discuss the Vote which has been already proposed and agreed to by the House. The hon. Member for Queen's County was hardly quite fair to either the House or the Government. He seemed to have the impression, and his words gave the impression, that Irish affairs have not occupied much attention of this House this Session. Well, notoriously that is not the fact. Irish affairs—
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I do not think I said that. What I said was, that we had no substantial proof of the determination of the Government to do justice to Ireland.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I think that the Government sacrificed the time of the House and gave up their own time, and certainly very much endangered the passage of other measures, in order to give a very large number of nights to Irish Bills. That was the proof that the Government did what they could in the matter, and that the House was willing to give up a great deal of time to the discussion of Irish Bills. The hon. Member further said that only one Bill was mentioned in the Queen's Speech. There were two Bills mentioned. One was with regard to Relief, and the other with regard to the Borough Franchise. The first measure certainly took up a great deal of time, and that time was thought by the Irish Members necessary. As regards the Borough Franchise Bill, the hon. Member says it was not upon the defeat of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill that the Government should have proposed its withdrawal. Well, the time that the Compensation Bill was likely to take was plainly a great deal of the time of the House, and it was generally admitted that it would hardly be reasonable to press the Franchise Bill on this Session, and the Order was discharged several days before the Compensation Bill was dealt with in "another place." However, we now come to the practical question put by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The hon. Member, I suppose, alluded to something that had happened to-day, and he asked the Government what course we proposed to take? Well, the Government and, I do not doubt, the House, are very sorry that the Bills that have been passed by this House have been rejected by the House of Lords; but when the hon. Member asks me whether we will take 1013 either of two courses which he suggests, we have to consider the circumstances of this particular case. Now, he suggests that we might tack this Bill on to the Bill which we are now considering. That would be a very strong step to take indeed. He has referred to Sir Erskine May's book on the subject; but evidently the opinion of that great authority is that this is a very questionable course to be adopted, and, if at all adopted, only to be adopted in the most extreme cases. Then the hon. Member says why not take up part of the Bill and pass it very quickly and send it up to "another place" to be considered. Well, it is not in the power of the Government to pass anything very quickly.
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me; what I said was, that the Government might ask the House to do so.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Well, but as to the Government asking the House to do so at any time, and especially at this time, we must consider the reasonable probability of all parties in the House responding to it. Hon. Members know that the moment the Government asked anything of this kind it would not be assented to by all parts of the House. Well, then comes the question, is this an extreme case? Now, I do not think, upon the merits of the Bill, upon the urgency of the Bill, it can be considered an extreme case. It is a Bill for the Registration of Voters in Ireland. That is a very important matter, and I am very sorry that, in "another place" the Irish Bill of this year should have been treated as the English Bill of 1873 was treated. The first Bill passed by this House was rejected by the House of Lords, and it was finally passed very much in the same form, and not long afterwards. What I am empowered to say on behalf of the Government is this, that we think this registration question ought to be settled, and settled in the manner indicated by the Bill which has met with disaster today, and that we shall put the matter in a way much more likely to succeed next year than it has been put this. This year it was brought forward by a private Member—though by a Member of great experience. It was only adopted by the Government very recently indeed, and we trust that next year it will not be sent up to the Lords at this very late period. 1014 We hope to send it up next year so early that there will be no excuse in "another place," as has been given in this instance, that it was too late to be considered; and, in like manner, I shall be most happy to confer with my hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Errington), and to see whether we cannot get the very useful measure which he proposed in shape for consideration. As to what has been done in "another place," I do not think we can say that this is a Bill of that urgency that would warrant us in entering at this moment into a long contest, or even a sharp contest, with the House of Lords. No one regrets more the action they have taken than I do; but I think the way in which we must treat it is to submit to their consideration next Session the same measure which they have treated in rather a summary fashion.
§ MR. MELDON
differed from the Chief Secretary in thinking that the measure was one of great urgency. They must take into consideration both the mode in which the Bill was rejected and the fact that every Bill in which the Irish Party were interested, in which the Irish people were interested, was—he would not say thrown out in "another place"—-but was ignominously rejected there. What would be and must be the necessary result of the action that had taken place? It would be that during the Recess and during next Session the agitation in Ireland would be intensified ten times over. What occurred to-day? There was not a noble Lord to be found in the House of Lords to give up his time for one instant to discuss the principle of the measure. The only person discussing the measure was a salaried Official, who was paid for his services, and who moved the rejection of the measure on account of the late period of the Session. The measure which had been rejected was one affecting that House only, and it certainly was the greatest strain which he had ever known the Upper House to put on Parliamentary practices to have thrown out a Bill of that description. Under these circumstances, he hoped the Government would see their way to the adoption of either of the two courses suggested.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in announcing the policy of the Government in reference to 1015 what had taken place in "another place," had said that, considering the character of the measure, it was not urgently necessary to take any steps in order to resist the conclusion which had been arrived at. That meant that, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill was not a very important one. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: No, I did not say not important; I said it was not urgent.] Well, he was very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was sensible of the importance of the measure; but the argument he (Mr. O'Connor Power) was endeavouring to advance was that a measure which had been before the House at an earlier period in the Session, both important and urgent, had been treated in the same way. The treatment of the Government was the same as on the present occasion, so that, whether it was a great or a small measure, urgent or not urgent, they had proof that the Government intended to adopt the same policy—namely, a policy of surrender. If his hon. Friend went to a Division he should vote with him; but he should recommend and, in fact, should move the adjournment of the debate—he trusted with the concurrence of his hon. Friend—because he thought if they were to take a Division now upon the Main Question, they would place a large body of Members who must sympathise with them at a decided disadvantage. He, therefore, moved that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. O' Connor Power.)
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOB IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
would not at that late period of the Session, and also late hour of the Sitting, prolong the discussion by offering any lengthened observations. He simply wished to remind the House that the Bill, though a very important one, would not, according to its provisions, have come into operation until the 1st of January, 1881. It would not affect the coming revisions, and therefore was not urgent, as there would be sufficient time in the ensuing Session to pass a measure which would enable Parliament to settle the difficulty before the registrations in 1881.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, if they allowed the Government to take this stage of 1016 the Appropriation Bill in deference to the wishes of their Friends, the Liberal Party, who had done so much for the Irish Members, it would be on the understanding that they would be at liberty to move the addition of the proposed clauses on the Committee stages of the Bill.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he certainly must reprobate, just as much as his hon. Friend, the action taken with regard to the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill in "another place," but, at the same time, he must say that he thought it only showed what the effect of unworthy compromises and of secret understandings was. The Bill, as amended in the House of Commons, deprived many persons of the advantages of representation. That was caused by the omission of the 15th clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out to the hon. Member that he was discussing a Bill which was not before the House.
§ MR. CALLAN
said he did not regret the fate the Bill had met in the House of Lords, because he hoped now that the Government would introduce next Session a more comprehensive measure. He certainly regretted that the 15th clause had been omitted.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must again point out to the hon. Member that he was out of Order in discussing a Bill not before the House.
§ MR. CALLAN
hoped that the Government would bring in a Bill next Session, and pass it, not with undue haste, but with fair speed, so that it might come into operation in 1881.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 91: Majority 76.—(Div. List, No. 162.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.