§ MR. SHAW
asked the Prime Minister, Whether he intended to persevere with the Emigration Clause of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, or whether it would be postponed?
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he might, perhaps, ask the right hon. Gentleman, If his attention had been called to a meeting lately held in the city of Kilkenny, at which a resolution was unanimously adopted strongly condemning the Emigration Clause in the Land Law (Ireland) Bill; and, would he consent to postpone the clause until the sense of Ireland could be taken with regard to it?
I do not think, Sir, that there would be any advantage in my stating at this moment the exact sum which we may think ourselves justified in proposing for the purpose referred to. If, however, we are pressed, we shall be prepared to do so; but I think the matter had better be allowed to stand over till the proper time. With respect to the meeting at Kilkenny, my attention has not been called to it, nor, with all possible respect to that ancient city and its beautiful site, could I regard a meeting there as a conclusive demonstration of the sentiments of the Irish people. With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), no doubt it has reference to, and is entirely justified by, the element of uncertainty which I myself introduced into the debate in respect of the clause. I said, in the course of a previous debate, that we should look with great interest and anxiety for a pretty free manifestation of the sentiments of the Representatives of Ireland on the subject. I consider that we have now obtained that information in an adequate degree; and inasmuch as it was the only point to which I adverted as remaining in order to bring full conviction to our minds, 863 my reply is that, undoubtedly, I have derived, and my Colleagues have derived, from the protracted discussion upon this clause a strong conviction that the opinion of the large majority of the Irish Representatives is favourable to the clause. We will, therefore, while paying all due respect to any Amendments which may be suggested in the language of the clause, both adhere to it, and endeavour to procure its acceptance by the Committee at the earliest possible moment.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that, in reference to the statement just made by the Prime Minister upon the Emigration Clause, that by the discussions on the clause he had ascertained that a large majority of Irish Members were in favour of the clause, he would wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was aware the Chairman of Committees, in the exercise of his discretion, had persistently, up to the present moment, ruled out of Order any general discussion on the clause? He (Mr. Parnell) had himself been anxious to express his opinion as to the merits of the clause as a whole, but had been prevented. What he now wished to ask the Prime Minister was, whether, if a division should be taken as to the merits of the clause as a whole, and if in the division a majority of the Irish Members present should vote against the clause, he would be prepared to reconsider before the Report the expediency of persisting in the proposal? Inasmuch as no general discussion on the clause had yet taken place, he thought the judgment which the right hon. Gentleman had formed as to the direction of Irish opinion was, to say the least, premature.
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers this Question, I should like to ask whether he has been informed by his Colleagues of what took place while he was absent from the House yesterday—namely, that the Chairman of Committees distinctly ruled speeches made in support of the clause to be in Order, and any speeches made in opposition to the clause to be out of Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the House the great irregularity of this discussion. It is being attempted to review the course taken in Committee of this House on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill. The House is now supposed to be engaged in asking Questions, and to de- 864 bate the proceedings of the Committee would be altogether out of Order.
§ MR. PARNELL
I would ask, Sir, as a point of Order, whether the course taken by the Prime Minister, in stating that the opinion of the majority of Irish Members was in favour of the clause, was not a distinct imitation of the attempt you have just deprecated, to review the course of the proceedings in Committee on this clause?
It is perhaps due from me to the House that I should make an apology in this matter. I was certainly of opinion that, considering the nature of the case, and considering that a declaration of my own had tended to throw some uncertainty over debates which are prolonged and protracted, a single word from me, not arguing anything, but simply stating that the Government had now arrived at a conviction which they had not arrived at before, it might be for the convenience of the House. That was the whole aim and substance of what I stated. To enter into the reasons of that conviction and the means by which we had arrived at that state of mind would be entirely beyond an indulgence the House might be disposed to grant me, even if you, Sir, would tolerate it from the Chair. Therefore, I must ask the hon. Member to wait until we get into Committee for any further explanations.
§ MR. PARNELL
again asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, if the division on the Emigration Clause should show a majority of Irish Members against it, he would reconsider the question of retaining the clause before the Report?
Sir, this is a Question which the hon. Gentleman would be perfectly justified in putting, if such a case ever arose; but I must say that it is quite impossible for me to give the hon. Member an answer now as to what we would do in a contingency which we have ceased to anticipate.
§ MR. CALLAN
asked whether it was competent to discuss the merits of a clause before the Amendments were moved?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is putting to me a Question which should more properly be put to the Chairman.
In reply to Sir JOSEPH M'KENNA,
said, it was never intended to interfere with the free choice 865 of the emigrant to proceed to any part of the world he might wish.