§ MAJOR NOLAN
, in rising to ask leave to introduce a Bill to suspend evictions in Ireland, said, the object of the Bill was to suspend evictions until the passing of the Land Bill. The date fixed upon was the 1st of October, and he proposed to prevent ejectment processes being carried into execution until the Laud Bill became law. The measure 565 which he submitted to the House was a very moderate one, and it would only apply to those who paid up six months' rent within 14 days of the passing of the Act. He did not intend to make a speech. He only wanted to state what the Bill was, and he would merely say that a very extraordinary thing had been done in blocking this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by asking leave to introduce the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to Suspend Evictions in Ireland for a limited period, on payment of six months' rent."—(Major Nolan.)
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he did not intend to oppose the hon. and gallant Member; but it appeared to him extraordinary that a Bill of this kind should be brought in while the Land Bill was going through, without the Government taking any part in the discussion. The proposed Bill affected the whole of the interests of landlords in Ireland; and yet the Government were allowing it to pass sub silentio. In order that the Government might express some opinion upon the Bill satisfactorily, he would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)
§ MR. HEALY
thought the course taken by the hon. Gentleman an extraordinary one, for he asked the Government to express an opinion upon a Bill which had not been printed. He was glad, however, that the hon. Gentleman had taken that course, for it showed that the Tory Party wanted to see the present state of things carried to a pass which it was likely to arrive at. The Bill was a very moderate one; but the Tory Party, who expressed great interest in the welfare of Ireland, now proposed to adjourn the debate. If they were anxious to improve the state of affairs in Ireland they should allow the Bill to be introduced.
§ MR. LITTON
hoped the Motion would be withdrawn, observing that it was because there was a Land Bill before the House that this Bill was necessary. It was merely a measure for tiding over a short period, and he hoped it would be brought in.
§ MR. T. COLLINS
trusted his hon. Friend would not persist, and mentioned that the Rule of the House used to be that unless a Bill had been thrown out in a previous Session, its introduction was allowed in order that the country might be informed of the nature of the proposals submitted. If a Bill had been before the House Session after Session, and the House had refused, by large majorities, to pass it, then the House exercised a wise discretion in not allowing it to be brought in; but when a Bill was introduced for the first time it was unfair not to allow it to be printed. In "another place," he believed that would be done as a matter of course. When the Bill had been printed the House would probably see no more of it.
said, he did not think the House would be generally of opinion that it was the duty of the Government to charge themselves with the conduct of this matter in such a sense as to exclude any other Member from undertaking it. So far as the Government were concerned, he was distinctly of opinion that unless the urgency were of a higher order, and the remedy were of the clearest character, it would be most unwise for the Government, during the arduous discussion of the Land Bill, to charge themselves with another collateral measure; and he was sure the measure would be more dispassionately considered when proceeding from the hon. and gallant Member than if it were proposed by the Government, when it would assume much more the character of a Party matter. As to the vote to be given, the Government had not yet considered the course they would take; but he hoped no resistance would be given to the introduction of the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member not only spoke with the authority of an Irish Member, but with the countenance of a large number of the Irish Members. The House would not be committing itself to final approval, but simply to the view that there was nothing in the Bill to exclude it from the ordinary procedure. That the Bill was entitled to deliberate and careful consideration he did not doubt. He was not prepared to give a final opinion upon it; but it was evident that it aimed at meeting a great difficulty, and also that the hon. and gallant Member had framed it with studious care in order not 567 to provoke unnecessary opposition. That being the case, he hoped the House would concur in the view that the hon. and gallant Member ought to be allowed to introduce the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he thought that after the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would do well to withdraw his Motion. It was desirable that the House should see what the hon. and gallant Member proposed on this subject.
§ LORD ELCHO
observed, that Bills were not always allowed to be brought in and printed; on the contrary, he had known many divisions to be taken on the proposal to introduce a Bill, and so to economize the time of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) appeared to have no idea what the Bill proposed; but he should have thought, from what took place last year and from what was on the Notice Paper, there could be no doubt as to the character of the Bill. It was a Bill to suspend evictions. The Bill of last year was brought in to meet cases of real distress, and after the hon. and gallant Member (Major Nolan) proposed a clause in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill to suspend evictions, the Government themselves brought in a Bill with that object, and all the row that occurred last year about disturbance and evictions resulted from that. The same game was being played now. The Prime Minister had not said one word against the Bill; on the contrary, arguing from what he had said, he would rather favour it. Therefore, nothing would surprise him (Lord Elcho) less than that the Government should find it right to take up the Bill themselves.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
regarded it as a happy omen that no Irish Members, although there were some of strong Conservative opinions, and some landlords, had opposed the introduction of the Bill; and he did not despair of seeing the war between the landlords and the tenants of Ireland ended. If this Bill did not pass he should like to see the Irish landed gentry agreeing to some similar measure by which, while the Government Bill was passing, tenants should be secure, so that the discussion of the Bill might not be accompanied by harrowing scenes in Ireland. Fighting to the last moment for justice 568 to the Irish tenants, he would urge his countrymen to reach out their hands to meet any compromise of an equitable character from the landlords.
agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins) as to the old custom; but he thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had done good service in moving the adjournment of the debate, because the title of the Bill was of an exceptional character and conveyed imputations of such a nature that the Government ought to refuse the Bill. It implied that evictions were on the increase, by the injustice of the landlords. He believed that they were not increasing, and the imputation was a gross calumny on the landlords. The hon. Gentleman was therefore quite justified in his Motion.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
reminded the Prime Minister of the doctrine laid down by himself at the beginning of the Session of 1869. A Bill was introduced by Lord Bury to relieve Members who accepted Office under the Crown from having to seek re-election, and the right hon. Gentleman laid down the principle that when there was any doubt about a Bill, when it involved any details, it was proper to permit its introduction; but that when there was no question of details, when the object of the Bill was perfectly obvious, then it was Constitutional to oppose its introduction. [Mr. GLADSTONE assented.] He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman assented to the accuracy of his recollection of the doctrine he then laid down.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
also agreed that a first reading was in ordinary cases given to a Bill as a matter of courtesy; but there were exceptions to that rule, and this he took to be one of the exceptions which clearly came within the definition laid down by the Prime Minister. When it was clear from the title that the object of a Bill was to overturn the rights of certain members of the community, then it was quite open to the House to oppose its introduction. That was the case with this Bill, which assumed that evictions were being carried on in Ireland unfairly. Either the landlords were evicting according to the law, or they were not; but this Bill proposed to alter the law in favour of the tenants at a time when 569 there was a Bill before the House dealing with the whole subject. He, therefore, hoped the hon. Member for Portsmouth would not withdraw his Motion.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he had not intended to oppose the Bill itself, and, in deference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith), who was the father of the 12 o'clock Rule, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Collins), he begged to withdraw his Motion. ["No, no!"]
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 26; Noes 148: Majority 122.—(Div. List, No. 250.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Major NOLAN, Mr. PATRICK MARTIN, Mr. HEALY, Mr. MITCHELL HENRY, Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN, Dr. KINNEAR, Mr. SEXTON, Mr. MOORE, Mr. BIGGAR, and Mr. LITTON.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 188.]