Sir, I rise to move—That on and after Wednesday next, the several stages of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions on all days when it is set down among the Orders, until the House shall otherwise determine.I think the House has been, in a considerable degree, prepared for a Motion of this kind. The House is aware that we regard the duty of pressing the Land Bill as one paramount above all others, so far as we are concerned, and that nothing that is in our choice will be allowed to interfere with its progress. However, I am bound to say I do not think that sentiment is confined to us, but, unless I am much mistaken, pervades not only what is commonly called the majority of the House, but also the minds of many who do not belong to that majority. I therefore hope there will be a general disposition to entertain favourably a Motion of this kind. Perhaps it is necessary I should say that in one point of view, and one only, I feel, at least personally, a little disappointed, and that is in the point of time. We have had 13 Sittings in Committee on the Land Bill, and we have only completed four clauses of the Bill. The Bill, no doubt, is a very complex one; but, at the same time, I have had to do with other very complex measures in this House, and have been responsible for them in the same sense and manner, and I must own that the experience of the Committee on this Bill has been, in regard to time, more discouraging than any I have had formerly to do with. Anybody who would be kind enough to refer to the proceedings of the Committee on the Irish Church Bill, on the Irish Land Bill, on the Succession Duty Bill, on the Reform Bill of 1866, and I might mention other measures, will see what I mean—I do not intend to convey anything beyond the fact, and to notice that we have been perhaps too sanguine in our expectations; but they will understand what I mean with regard to the progress of the present Bill in Com- 1491 mittee. As the matter stands the case is a serious one, for I speak on the 28th of June. But it must be borne in mind that the 28th of June in the present year corresponds with the 28th of July in any other year, because the House of Commons met one month earlier in the present year than usual. And not only so, but I do not believe it would be easy to find in the records of Parliament that in any other year the time before Easter was a time of such close application by the House. It is only fair and natural that there should be a desire to know what are the views and intentions of the Government beyond the passing of the Land Bill during the present year. I am assuming that there will be a disposition to afford additional facilities to promote the progress of the Land Bill as the consequence of approaching exhaustion on the part of the House. [Mr. WARTON: No, no!] I did not say approaching exhaustion on the part of the hon. and learned Member, for his capacities of endurance and some other faculties he possesses are really inexhaustible. My sentence would have ended to this effect—It is, perhaps, a sign of the approaching exhaustion of the House, which should not be overlooked, that on Tuesday evenings, when it is left entirely to its own spontaneous action, limited as are the opportunities of private Members, it has not shown a disposition to rally its energies for the purpose of doing Business on those occasions. So far as the Government are concerned, under ordinary circumstances, it would be a most fair demand to ask of us what other measures we propose to proceed with, in addition to the Land Bill. At the present time I cannot give a positive answer to that question in detail, and for the reason that as yet we do not feel able to form a definite expectation as to the progress in Committee of the Land Bill, and, until we are able to do so, we cannot well say what else besides the Land Bill we can do. I do not refer now to any minor measures; the House would not probably raise any questions about them; but I refer to measures of importance, such as those mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Two, or, perhaps, three, things I may venture to say. First of all, the catalogue of anything we attempt beyond the Land Bill will be a short one. 1492 Secondly, I do not look forward to the possibility, or, I may say, the propriety, of our endeavouring to carry through the House after the Land Bill any measure which is likely to be a subject of prolonged and general controversy; I think hon. Gentlemen may dismiss that idea from their minds. There are questions which do not stand quite in that category, and with respect to which we should like to see the progress we have made with the Land Bill by the beginning of next week before we give a positive engagement. There is another way in which I can indicate the disposition of the Government, and that is to refer to what we hope and contemplate as to the termination of the Session; because if we are really speaking on the 28th of July in an ordinary year, the Government would be expected to give definite and distinct information on this subject. My only difficulty now is that we are entirely dependent on the Land Bill; everything I say must, and will, I hope, be understood to be subject to the conviction we entertain of our paramount obligation not to spare ourselves nor to spare the House in begging it to make every exertion for the passing of this measure. But subject to that consideration, we shall do our very best to procure the Prorogation of the House early in August—I hope not later than the close of the first week in August—and shall not ask the House to sit longer to deal with some particular Bill. There is no Legislative Assembly in the world that makes such free and large sacrifice of the time, convenience, and health of its Members as the House of Commons; and this year the House has been called upon to make those sacrifices even in an unusual degree. We, therefore, feel it to be our duty to the House to see that no obstacle, apart from the Land Bill, so far as we can judge from the materials now before us, shall be interposed so as to interfere with the prospect I now hold out. In the course of a short time I trust to be in a position to enter more into detail; but I hope that what I have now stated may suffice generally to indicate the intentions of the Government so far as they are elements in determining the length of the Session. With regard to the question of the Transvaal Debate, my hope is that we may be able to close the Committee on the Land Bill in time to 1493 make it convenient to have that debate immediately after the close of the Committee and, therefore, before the Report. As we have been disappointed before we may be disappointed again; but if the debates in Committee should be prolonged beyond what we are led to expect, I should feel myself bound, though with great reluctance, to interrupt the proceedings in Committee before its close for the purpose of fixing a day. I do not like to name a day at the present time; I hope that I may speak with more definiteness early next week. This is all, I think, that I need say in recommending this Motion to the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, on and after Wednesday next, the several stages of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, on all days when it is set down among the Orders, until the House shall otherwise determine."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The Prime Minister, in recommending this Motion to us, has given us some general assurances which, so far as they go, are more or less satisfactory; and, in return for those assurances, he asks us to give him a very specific concession of time; and he promises that he will make the general assurances more specific when we have given him the power he asks us to confer upon him. I must call attention to the particular character of this Motion. It is not such as is sometimes made towards the close of a Session when the Government comes forward to ask that the whole time should be given up for the remainder of the Session to Government Business. When that has been done it has almost invariably been accompanied by a specific statement of the measures with which the Government intended to proceed and of the time they hoped to conclude the Session. The House is now asked to give precedence, not to Government Business generally, but to a particular Bill. No doubt, it is a Bill of great importance; but we on this side of the House cannot accept the views of the Government with regard to that Bill. We look upon the Bill as being by no means of that perfect character which its promoters think; but we do look upon it as a Bill of great importance which requires careful consideration; and we are glad to facilitate arrangements for the full and fair dis- 1494 cussion of it while the House is still able to give attention to it. Therefore, it is desirable we should support reasonable proposals for giving the opportunity of full discussion. If the proposal had been made on the same terms as the proposal that was made earlier in the Session with regard to the Protection of Life and Property Bill and the Arms Bill, I should have seen little cause to doubt the wisdom of the proposal. The former proposal was that the several stages of the Bill should have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion from day to day until the House should otherwise order, the effect being that the Bill was proceeded with to the exclusion of all other Business. Now, the Government ask us to do a very different thing. They ask us to say that certain stages of this particular Bill shall have precedence of all other Business on all days when it is put down on the Order Book. That puts the matter entirely in the hands of the Government. They may put the Bill down on the Orders of the Day upon all nights which are usually given to private Members, and they may put other Government Business of any kind down on other nights. I do not suggest that they will do anything of the kind; but it is necessary to ask what use they intend to make of the concession. We cannot help seeing that there is very much of other Business in arrear. The right hon. Gentleman said truly that, having regard to the time at which the Session opened, the 28th of June was almost equivalent to the 28th of July. I venture to say that on no 28th of July in any ordinary year has the Business of Supply been so far behind as it is now. There are 193 Votes to be got there; only 43 have been voted, and 150 remain. Not one single Vote has been touched in Classes III., IV., V., VI., and VII. of the Civil Service Estimates, nor in those for the Revenue Departments, and only a small number of Votes have been taken in the Army and Navy Estimates. We are, therefore, extremely behindhand with Supply, and we ought to have some assurance that the Government will use the time which is to be put at their command, so far as it is not required for the Land Bill, for going on with Supply rather than undertaking measures about which they have not defined their position, whether they regard them as necessary or not. Of course, there 1495 are some which are of an indispensable character; it is not difficult to name them; and the Secretary to the Treasury would in a quarter of an hour give a list of the measures which are really indispensable. There are other measures which may or may not be important or desirable, but which cannot be regarded as indispensable. We ought to be told what are the measures which the Government consider as indispensable. We ought to have an assurance that the Government will not ask the House to sit beyond some such time as that indicated for any other purpose than that of getting through the Land Bill and the measures which are no w indicated, before the House parts with its power. We ought to have an assurance, also, with regard to the Transvaal debate. While we accept the assurance we have received that it shall come on as early as possible, I should be glad if it could be made a little more precise; and we ought to have a clear and distinct statement as to the measures with which the Government intend to proceed. Let me remind the House of the exceptional character of the Session. Not only was it begun so early as the 6th of January, but the earlier part of the Session was taken up with the measures relating to Ireland. The debate on the Address lasted 11 nights. The Government had all the time, from the 25th of January to the 11th of March, when we were subjected to exceptional Rules of Urgency, and when it was over an attempt was made to get Urgency for Supply; but we could not stand that, and we did what we could to facilitate Business without resorting to that disagreeable alternative. Since then we have had nothing but the Irish Land Bill, and we have only got through four clauses. Some of the remaining clauses contain principles which are of much consequence and details which are of the greatest perplexity, and which must be debated by those who take an interest in questions connected with property with considerable fulness and care. It is not enough for the Prime Minister now to say that the Government do not intend to press forward any measure which may involve prolonged discussion. I should like to know what measures they are able to say they think it necessary to carry. We ought to know, for instance, what is to be done with the Corrupt Practices Bill. I do not express 1496 any opinion with regard to the general details of it; but I say it is a subject which demands the careful attention of Parliament when it is dealt with. Then, the Bankruptcy Bill is one of great importance. Do the Government think they will get it through in the present Session? It would greatly facilitate matters for us all if we knew what their real programme was. Then there is the Ballot Act Continuance Bill. Of course, a Continuance Act is a matter of necessity; but are we to have other provisions imported? If so, they will require a great deal of discussion. There is another measure which, no doubt, would lead to prolonged controversy—that is, the Parliamentary Oaths Bill. We wish to know whether it is intended to proceed with the Floods Bill or the Charitable Trusts Bill? There are several other measures as to which we should like definite information before we take such a very strong and really unprecedented step as the Government ask us to take. It is to give the Government power to take precedence of all other Business when they choose by putting the Irish Land Bill on the Orders of the Day, without any corresponding obligation on the part of the Government, and without any security with regard to Supply. I hope before the Motion is agreed to we may obtain a little more definite information.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, there was a good deal of fairness and justice in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. It was only reasonable that hon. Members should expect the Government to prove their sincerity with regard to the Land Bill by putting it down from day to day before giving them the power they asked. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said that he was far from regarding the Bill as being so perfect as the Government and their Supporters considered; and he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) might not think even so highly of it as the right hon. Gentleman; but still, such as it was, he should wish, if it was to do any manner of good to the Irish people, to push it on and pass it as soon as possible, and to clear Parliament of an encumbrance. He had considerable sympathy with English and Scotch Members. He thought it was somewhat trying for them to find that the whole time of the House was taken up, and every mea- 1497 sure that concerned them pushed aside, from Session to Session, by the work of Irish legislation; but English and Scotch Members would please to recollect that that, at least, was no fault of the Irish Members. They had, over and over again, urged upon the House the necessity of withdrawing from the Imperial Parliament this great mass of purely domestic Irish legislation. Then, he could not allow this opportunity to pass without reminding Her Majesty's Ministers that two months of the best part of the Session were absolutely wasted in the most useless and wanton legislation that had been tried in that House for many years. It was, again, no fault of the Irish Members that those two months were thrown away on legislation which had proved to be perfectly useless, if not, indeed, calamitous, instead of being employed in getting through the Irish Land Bill, and thus getting rid of any possible necessity for Coercion. Those two months had been wasted on legislation which had made the state of Ireland much worse than it was before. Under these circumstances, if the Government proposed to take away the last chance from private Members during the Session, it should be for the definite purpose of pushing forward this Land Bill to the end. There were many important measures that had but little chance, he feared, of coming on. There was one very important measure with regard to Ireland, and which had been mentioned in the Queen's Speech from the Throne. He meant the Bill for the establishment of County Boards. He supposed there was little chance of seeing that measure introduced this Session. He would repeat, then, that if the Government took so much time from private Members, he thought it should be for the sole purpose of bringing this Land Bill to a conclusion.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had dangled before them a bait which opened up a tempting prospect. The Land Bill was to be happily and speedily got through Committee; the catalogue of other measures was to be exceedingly short; no subject involving political controversy was to be brought before the House after the Land Bill; and the Session was to end the first week in August. This was charming, delightful; but, unfortunately, it was based on a series of assumptions. Sup- 1498 pose the Land Bill did not pass through Committee in the manner contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman, what would become of all the prospects which were held out by the Prime Minister? Before the House assented to the Motion, they ought to have something more definite from the Government. There could be no doubt the Government were making most unusual, most extreme demands on the forbearance and patience of the House. This was not only a Motion for giving precedence to the Irish Land Bill; it was in reality a Motion for giving precedence to whatever Business of their own the Government might choose to put before that of private Members for the rest of the Session. He did not want to throw the least doubt on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, but the Motion went a great deal further than the statement. He should, therefore, move an Amendment to bring the Motion into accord with the statement, and he hoped the Government would accept the Amendment. Considering the time of private Members the Government had already absorbed this Session, it was a grave question whether the private Members would not be within their rights in declining to give up more for the Irish Land Bill. Under ordinary circumstances, no doubt, the House would refuse to do so without a struggle. But the circumstances of the present time were not ordinary. He regretted deeply the desperate condition to which Ireland had been brought since the present Government unhappily came into Office. Under the circumstances, they should be disposed to meet the Government as far as they could. The right hon. Gentleman thought that in many parts of the House there was a prevalent feeling of the paramount importance of proceeding with the measure. That was not his own opinion; and outside he never recollected a measure of such importance being treated with so much apathy, which arose from doubt as to whether it would effect the permanent good that was hoped from it. Be that as it might, they were disposed to meet the Government with a fair compromise, and he therefore suggested an Amendment to carry out what was said by the right hon. Gentleman. He would move to omit from the Resolution the words "when it is down among the Orders. "That would leave 1499 the Government complete and entire precedence for the progress of the Land Bill, which they had asked the House to concede. He was not sure whether, at this period of the Session, private Members ought not to retain Fridays; but he would not himself move that. He hoped the Government would give the distinct assurance asked for by the Leader of the Opposition—that they would not prolong the Session beyond the ordinary time in order to take anything but the Land Bill and whatever else was indispensably necessary, and to attain that object he moved the omission of the words "when it is down among the Orders."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "when it is set down among the Orders."—(Mr. Chaplin.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
Sir, the demand of the hon. Member that, as far as we are concerned, we should not prolong the Session beyond the ordinary time by any Business as to which we have an option, is, I think, a perfectly fair demand, and I intended to convey the most complete acceptance of that demand by anticipation when I made my statement. I am very sorry that I did not supply a verbal comment upon the Motion, which I really thought was unnecessary. Undoubtedly, the Motion, as it stands, is open to the objection that we might propose the most arbitrary or most ridiculous selection of Business for the House upon Government days, and on private Members' days to absorb the time of the House with the Land Bill. Well, Sir, I think an answer to that objection might be found in the various pledges we have made to devote to the Land Bill every moment of time at our command. Of course, I should have thought it quite unnecessary to trouble the House with the superfluous statement that it would be our intention to continue in that course; and when asking sacrifices from Members for the purpose of enabling us to pursue it more effectually, that was in addition to what we have been already doing with the Land Bill, and not in substitution for it. However, if it is necessary for me to descend to give that assurance, I give that assurance. It was asked, at an 1500 early period of the Session, whether we meant to use Mondays and Thursdays for the forwarding of unimportant Business, and I gave an assurance that it was not, and I give what I should have thought an equally unnecessary assurance now. But the substantial point raised is that to which I ought, perhaps, to have referred—namely, the variation of the Motion from that usually made towards the end of the Session; and I think I can show to the House several reasons for the variation. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends seemed disposed to press upon us the necessity that might arise of interrupting the Committee on the Land Bill in order to take the Debate on the Transvaal. I have admitted there might be circumstances, though I hope they will not arise, under which it would be our duty to interpose a day for the Debate on the Transvaal; but I should like to know how I am to reserve a liberty to give a day for that discussion, except by the very variation objected to in the terms of the Motion? Therefore, it is a little hard that from that quarter there should come this objection to the Motion in its present shape. But it is not only the question of the Transvaal; but there might arise a necessity for proposing a Vote in Supply. We might be absolutely compelled to interrupt proceedings in the Land Bill for that purpose; and, over and above that, it is quite obvious it would be most unwise to frame the Motion in the form of an engagement to press the Land Bill from day to day; because, plainly, when we come to the close of the Land Bill, it would be a matter of absolute necessity to introduce an interval—I hope not a long one—between the Committee and the Report. That will be the time when it will be the duty of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland to redeem the pledge he has given as to the consideration of various matters not unimportant in the Bill, and Members would naturally and most justly require that there should be a short interval given for the consideration of other Amendments on what the Government might propose. I hope, therefore, the House will see that I have given the assurance which was requisite—I mean that we should not take advantage of this for the most unworthy and discreditable purpose of pressing 1501 our own measures forward on Goverment days, and using private Members' days for the Land Bill; and likewise it is a matter of absolute necessity to frame the Motion in such a way that there shall be a power to interpose other Business—either that which is deemed to be necessary and indispensable, or that which is required for the due consideration of the Land Bill itself. With regard to asking now for an exact determination of the measures which we are to go forward with, and those which we are not, it has certainly appeared to us that we have given sufficient pledges for the moment in describing our views as to the length of the Session, and in stating that we should not willingly be parties, so far as we had an option, to pressing upon the House any question that was likely to be the cause of prolonged and general controversy. Shortly, when we have got over the remaining most knotty points of the Land Bill, which I hope will be in a few days, I propose to go further. You might, undoubtedly, plant your foot down, and say you will not give the additional power until we have told you all these things in detail. Well, if that were a wise course, let the House take it. But the Motion I am now making I can truly say is not for the interests of my own convenience, or even for the convenience of the Government at large; but in consequence of a very sincere conviction that the House has suffered much and endured much in the severe labours of the present Session, and in a very earnest desire to suggest such means as appeared to us most likely to enable us to bring those measures to the earliest and most satisfactory termination. We shall not lose a moment in giving assurances in detail upon this subject; but, in the meantime, I may refer to the assurances I have already given.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he stood in a somewhat peculiar position; in fact, he stood alone on that side of the House in having supported the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, that the Rules of Urgency, which had been adopted originally for passing the Irish Coercion Act, should be continued for the passing of the Land Bill. The House had refused that proposal, and now it found itself in this position, that having refused "urgency," it had fallen 1502 under the absolute discretion of the First Minister of the Crown as to what Business it should entertain. That was the result of action of the House itself. What, he asked, had they seen in this Parliament? Why, that a section or party from Ireland had proclaimed its determination to coerce the House. The House had passed Coercion Acts for Ireland, and had otherwise returned the compliment. That, he thought, was the real explanation of what had occurred in the present Parliament. He had voted for a continuance of the Rules of Urgency, because he felt that those Members who pretended that they formed exclusively the Irish Party was aiming, and not altogether unsuccessfully, at controlling the free action of the House—in fact, that the House had to choose between coercing them or being coerced itself. He thought, therefore, that the present position of the House amply justified the difference of opinion he had entertained on the occasion to which he had referred, when he voted against the hon. Gentleman, with whom he had had for so many years the pleasure of acting. He hoped, then, the House would see that, so long as the rebellious disposition of Ireland was in so marked a manner manifested within its walls, it would be necessary that the House should adapt its action and its forms to that very unfortunate state of things. As an old and independent Member of the House, he had for years humbly endeavoured, however inefficient might have been his attempts, to maintain the honour and efficiency of the House; and he trusted that hon. Members would excuse his begging them gravely to consider the experience they had gained in this Parliament—that they would consider what measures were necessary to guard the honour and efficiency of the House of Commons from similar interruptions hereafter. He could not be accused of being actuated by factious or by interested motives in thus addressing the House; because the present Government had proposed measures to which he, personally, was decidedly adverse; but he deemed it fortunate that the Liberal Party had, while in Office, gained experience of the necessity of promptitude on the part of the House in defence of its own freedom of action against a system of obstruction, which was alien to the principles of the 1503 Liberal Party as it was destructive of what true Conservatives desired to preserve. He still felt confidence in the patriotism of hon. Members generally, and confident that, as true Englishmen, they would forgive an old and independent Member for having ventured upon this appeal, in the hope that measures would be adopted to guard the honour and efficiency of the House of Commons.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he thought the Prime Minister in his opening remarks correctly described the state of feeling in the House. Members were all anxious to be rid of the Land Bill. Those who were in favour of it wanted to see it pass into law with all possible expedition. Those who opposed it—knowing that it must pass, at least through the Commons—were desirous that it should pass speedily, so that they might reach either the Recess or more agreeable legislation at an early date. It was not his intention to offer any opposition to the Resolution; but he desired to take that opportunity, as he had taken previous opportunities, of recording his protest against the persistent and systematic encroachments that were made upon the time and privileges of independent Members. These privileges were getting small by degress, and rapidly less. There were two Parties in that House—
MR. J. COWEN
Well, there might be three or four; but these were political Parties. He was not referring to such divisions. There were only two Parliamentary Parties—the official, and the non-official. The officials, being combined and organized, were making incessant and excessive encroachments upon the domain that Parliamentary Rules, as well as of generations of usage, had assigned to private Members. ["No, no !"] Some hon. Gentlemen contested the statement. He would appeal to history, and he would justify his assertion by the recital of facts that were within the knowledge of all, or nearly all, present. The Motion the Prime Minister had submitted was a Motion usually made towards the termination of every Session. It was a proposal that was for the convenience of Members and for the advantage of 1504 the Legislature. A few days before the Prorogation, the Leader of the House generally requested that all the time should be committed to the charge of the Government for the purpose of enabling it to complete measures that had made fair progress, to get the remaining Estimates voted, and the Appropriation Bill passed. In fact, the concession was made to the Executive with a view of aiding them in winding up the Business of the Session. No one objected—no one could reasonably object—to such an arrangement. The tendency of Government—he did not speak of the present, but of past Governments as well—was stealthily and systematically to encroach upon the time of private Members, and, while lessening it to increase that at their own command. ["No, no!"] He was only stating what everyone familiar with the practices of Parliament knew to be the case. There were some Members near him who evidently did not like to hear the truth. There were no more intolerant persons in this world than illiberal Liberals. He was struck with a remark recently made by his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), when he said he was not a modern Liberal, because he loved liberty. And, certainly, the justice of that remark was borne out by the intolerance that was constantly manifested by the Members near him when anyone ventured to express an opinion which they in their wisdom could not agree with. Their censure, however, should not deter him from saying exactly what he thought, and with such force as he chose to exercise. He repeated the statement—the entire drift of the present and past Executives was to increase their own power at the expense of that of the non-official Members. In 1874,the first Session of last Parliament, the late Prime Minister asked the House to place the whole of its time at the disposal of the Government in the first week of August. This was nine or ten days before the Recess. The next year, 1875, there was a similar application; but instead of being made in August, it was made in the closing days of July. The year after it was made still a few days sooner. Every year the time absorbed by the Government was enlarged—not much, he admitted, only a day or two each Session; but still it was absorbed—with the result that towards the 1505 end of the Session of 1879 the late Government asked for the control of all the time of the House on July the 20th, instead of, as at starting, the beginning of August. The present Government bettered that application. Last Session they asked for the whole of the time of the House from July the 12th. They did more than that. Instead of concluding the Business of the House within a few days after that date, they sat on until some time in September. In other words, last Session, for all practical purposes, lasted little more than three months, and out of that period the Government had nearly the exclusive control of two months. This year matters were worse. The House met a month earlier than usual, and one of the first demands made by the Ministers was that the Government should have possession of every night. They got this in the first instance, by courtesy, to vote the Address. They next applied for a formal assignment of all the time, with a view of passing their hateful, humiliating, and demoralizing Coercion Bill. Even this, however, did not satisfy them. The progress of that odious legislation was not sufficiently rapid, and they constituted a Parliamentary despotism which they euphemistically called "Urgency." The outcome of this arrangement was that from January till Easter the Government not only had command of all the time, but during many weeks the liberty of speech was largely curtailed. Up to that time the Speaker had been the servant of the House. He had simply to give effect to Rules that the Legislature adopted. But by their scheme of "Urgency" they made the Speaker their master. He not only put the Rules in force, but he made Rules of his own, and applied them as he liked, in order to close discussion when he pleased. [Home Rule Cheers, and"No, no !"] He knew it was unpleasant to have these facts stated, but they were true; and truth was very often troublesome. When the House met after Whitsuntide the Government adopted a system of Morning Sittings. This did not ignore private Members' rights, though it certainly curtailed them. Now, little more than a fortnight after Whitsuntide, and before the end of June, the Government were applying for powers to control all the time of the House, a demand which in previous Parliaments was not made for nearly a month later; and this 1506 they did in spite of the fact that the House met nearly five weeks earlier this year than usual. The Prime Minister said he hoped the Session might terminate by the first week in August. He hoped so, too, as they were all weary, and would be glad to be away from duties which had lately become both troublesome and irritating. But he feared the Premier's predictions were not likely to be verified. It was more likely to be the end than the beginning of August before the work the Government had on hand could be completed. The Session would in all likelihood run on for eight months instead of six; and he would undertake to say that during these eight months there would not have been eight weeks, barely five in fact, wherein private Members had been at liberty to exercise the privileges that the Rules of Parliament and the customs of the Legislature accorded them. He was astonished, something more than astonished, indeed, at the strange indifference that was manifested by Gentlemen near him to this steady and insidious encroachment on unofficial Members' rights. If it went on without check the Executive would become uncontrolled masters; and anything more undesirable, anything more inconsistent with what he understood to be Liberal principles, he could not well conceive. Surely Liberal Members would not deny the advantages that had been derived from the exercise of private Members' powers. One of the brightest pages in the history of Parliament was that recording the efforts which despised private Members had made for the country, for the Legislature, and for freedom. Parliament had three functions. The first was to make the laws; the second, was to control the administration of the State, to levy and to expend the taxes; and the third, and by no means the least important function, was to act as an engine for the creation of public opinion. Whoever else decried this ancient attribute, he was certain that English Liberals ought not to do it. Some of the most brilliant achievements of the British Parliament had been won by the class of Representatives that it was now fashionable to sneer at. Was it not by the efforts of independent Members that slavery was abolished and the Slave Trade destroyed? Was it not unofficial Members who forced the question of Parliamentary Reform, 1507 of Free Trade, of factory legislation through the House? The speeches they made, the Resolutions they succeeded in passing, the information they distributed, created a state of public opinion that made possible the enactment of the laws on these subjects that they now boasted of. And yet, in spite of these achievements, these honourable and beneficial achievements, they had Liberals to-day not only consenting to the surrender of their privileges, but running in hot haste to press their surrender upon the acceptance of the Executive. He could not understand such a course of procedure. He was sure it was suicidal, and if he stood alone he would protest against it and resist it. He was not blaming the Government. It was natural for Ministers to wish to get their Business through. Every Executive was reasonably concerned for the passing of their measures. If Parliament was willing they would, no doubt, be glad to get control of all the time. The Government was, to a large extent, the victim of a system. And this Session affairs had been exceptional. Yes, he admitted that; but, unfortunately, nearly every Session now was exceptional. This one was exceptional, the last one was exceptional, and the next would be exceptional. These exceptions in time made a rule, and they would make a rule all the sooner if someone did not raise a protest against them. It must be manifest to everyone who followed the proceedings of the House that the work had got too heavy for the machinery. It was necessary to recast it; but, until this was done, better progress might be made even with the old mechanism. If a little more consideration was shown by one Party for the other, the dead-locks that they sometimes experienced would not arise. Members talked too long and too often. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood what that cheer meant; but it could have no reference to him. He was not accustomed to obtrude his observations upon the House, or to talk at unnecessary length. He had not been given to move adjournments, or obstruct either the present or the past Ministry, as some who stood near him had done. He held, notwithstanding all the old restrictions, that much more work could be got out of Parliament than was now got if moderate forbearance was shown by 1508 one Member to another and by one Party to another. But, while he admitted this and did not ignore the faults of the system, he wished also to say that the confusion into which the Business of the country had been landed this year was in no small measure due to the action of the Ministers themselves. They introduced Bills at the commencement of the Session which struck at the very foundation of popular liberty. They took from an entire section of the population of the United Kingdom the commonest privileges accorded them by the Constitution. It was not reasonable, it was not natural, that the men whose liberties were thus assailed, and amongst whose countrymen a system of arrogant and offensive despotism was set up, should quietly acquiesce in such measures. They resisted them, and his only fault with them was that they did not resist them more determinedly than they had done. The Government ought to have known, might have known, that it was impossible to pass Coercion Bills without protest and without opposition. They admitted that the law in Ireland was unjust. If, instead of passing a Bill to enforce an unjust law, they had passed a measure to amend the law, much of the opposition they had encountered this Session, and much of the delay that had taken place, would have been avoided.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he desired to contrast the sentiments to which expression had been given on opposite sides of the House. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) recommended a policy of universal coercion as the only remedy for obstruction and the turbulence of Irish Representatives, while the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. J. Cowen) consistently opposed coercion, and declared that the principles of liberty ought to be universally applied to the conduct of debates in the House and to discussions outside it. If the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne had not made similar protests in former Parliaments, perhaps there might have been some reasons for the interruption he was met with. In point of fact, however, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne had made the same protests in former Parliaments; and he, who had been a witness of the hon. Gentleman's consistency, would not withhold from 1509 him the tribute of his approbation. The Leader of the Opposition had reminded the House that he and his Friends readily conceded facilities to Her Majesty's Government for passing the Coercion Bill; and he could not help contrasting the difficulties which the right hon. Baronet had raised to the present Motion with the case and readiness with which he assented to the proposal of the Government to suppress Constitutional liberty in Ireland. As an Irish Member, he wished to give the Government facilities for carrying the Land Bill. There could be no longer any doubt that if this Resolution was passed, Her Majesty's Government would put the Land Bill in the very forefront of the Order of Business till it passed through this House. The Prime Minister himself had said so; and the right hon. Gentleman never violated any pledge he had ever made to the people of England or to the people of Ireland. [Murmurs.] He noticed that they all admired the quality of independence when it was observed in someone who was not a Member of their own Party. He accepted the consequences of that proposition, and he repeated that no leader of an Irish Parliament, conducting a measure of the greatest importance to Ireland, could exhibit greater industry, more singleness of purpose, and more love for the masses of the people than the Prime Minister had exhibited. He would now ask the permission of the House to join his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) and his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the effort which they had made to fix the attention of the House on the real root of the difficulty in connection with the block of legislation. Every Session Motions of this character had been made; and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne was right in referring to the indifference with which a large number of private Members regarded the taking by the Government of the time which constitutionally ought to belong to them. After the passing of this great measure, and of other measures which were in contemplation, the Government would still be face to face with the question of allowing all the different parts of this great Empire to manage their own local affairs.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that whatever views hon. Members on that side 1510 of the House entertained on the Land Bill, all were agreed that it was necessary to expedite its progress. But he had one point to press. They had to consider, not the convenience of the House only, but the convenience of the country. He wished to remind the Prime Minister that there were before the House several very large and important measures in which the large business communities took the greatest interest. He referred to the Alkali Bill, the Floods Bill, and the Bankruptcy Bill. Many large associations were conferring together on those Bills, and many gentlemen were preparing to come up to London to consult their Representatives with regard to them. It was, therefore, of the greatest importance that the Government should state, as early as possible, whether or not it was their intention to proceed with them this Session. He would also ask whether it was intended to take Morning Sittings under this Rule?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
asked if the night of the 22nd July would be appropriated, because he had a Motion to submit on that night with respect to the late occurrences at Tunis? The question had been debated in the French and Italian Chambers; therefore, if the night which had been selected, after two or three ballots for the discussion, was taken away, would the Government give facilities for bringing it forward as early as possible?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the Prime Minister had divided the Bills of the Session into two classes—those that were absolutely necessary, and those that were disputed and were likely to lead to much discussion. In which category did the right hon. Gentleman place the Parliamentary Oaths Bill? It was essential that the House should know the intentions of the Government regarding that Bill, as its continual re-appearance on the Order Book day after day suggested the suspicion that the Government, always exceptionally strong at the end of a Session, would ultimately endeavour to pass it through the House.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
asked what was to become of the Corrupt Practices Bill? When first introduced he thought it a measure whose principle all Parties would be anxious to support, however they might differ about details; but since then it had been publicly stated 1511 by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), an eminent Liberal electioneerer, that its object was not to promote purity of election, but to serve the interests of the Liberal Party. Hence it would be the duty of the Conservatives carefully to consider it.
said, he thought the hon. Gentlemen who had put questions with regard to two Bills would see that they justified him in making the request that they would kindly wait for the time he had suggested. If he answered with regard to one or two Bills, other Members who took an interest in other Bills would ask as to the probable fate of those; and he was not now in a condition to go through that catechism satisfactorily. However, the time would be very short when he would be able to put them in full possession of the intentions of the Governments. He was very sensible indeed of the weight of the considerations addressed to him by the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) with regard to Morning Sittings. They had not formed any intention to ask the House to discontinue them; but in that matter they would be guided by the general feeling. As regarded the question of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), he thought by the time mentioned the rule would have ceased to operate; and, at all events, he might be pretty sure that the necessities of the Government, with regard to Supply, would afford him the opportunity he desired.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he thought the answer of the right hon. Gentleman satisfactory, as far as it went, and would recommend his hon. Friend not to go to a division. They must feel there was force in the observation with regard to the particular form of the Motion, and that it enabled him to take up Business such as the Transvaal debate and Supply. The Government might, perhaps, have taken the House more fully into its confidence; but they would soon know its intentions more explicitly.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he would yield to the appeal just made to him, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR.T. COLLINS
said, that before the Amendment was withdrawn he wished to protest against the continuation of Morning Sittings. There was no excuse for them, for, although there was a gain of two hours in commencing the Busi- 1512 ness at 2 o'clock instead of 4 o'clock, that gain was neutralized by the loss of two hours—the period during which. Business was suspended between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he thought the Prime Minister had yet to earn the character given him by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). At any rate, the hon. Member's speech had enabled him again to pose in his present character of an independent Member of the Irish Party. He would remind the House that last year a promise had been given that a Franchise Bill for Ireland should be introduced, and that the Registration of Voters Bill, which had been defeated in "another place," should this year be brought in and passed as a Government measure. Neither of these promises had been kept, and this year the promise of an Irish County Government Bill was to be added to them.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Whose fault wag that?
§ MR. HEALY
said, he was sorry he had mistaken the hon. Gentleman; but the hon. Gentleman so constantly interrupted him that he had naturally thought he had heard his voice. There was also the Limitation of Costs Bill, a Bill introduced by an hon. Member sitting on the Government side of the House. This Bill was passed by the House of Commons last year, but was thrown out by the House of Lords. The pledge was, therefore, given that the Bill would be passed this Session; but it had not been carried out. The Limitation of Costs Bill and the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill were both on the Paper for to-morrow, and the right hon. Gentleman proposed to seize that day. The Prime Minister had said that the House had been engaged on the Land Bill for a considerable time and had only passed four clauses. The fact was that the House of Commons had been engaged on questions relating to what was called the "Sister Island"—it ought, perhaps, to be called the "Forster-sister island"—but during five months they had been able to pass only four clauses of a reme- 1513 dial measure, while in two months they passed what ought to be called a "Bill for imprisoning Honest Men in Ireland." If those small Bills to which he had referred were put down for a Saturday Sitting, the right hon. Gentleman would find that some of those who were said to be so exhausted were pretty lively still.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he would urge the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire to press his Amendment, which only put the promises of the Prime Minister in black and white. Memories were sometimes very treacherous, and it was always easy to construe a pledge in a way which conveyed a different idea to one mind from what it conveyed to another. The real object of the right hon. Gentleman was to make the Land Bill as little valuable to the tenant and as valuable to the landlord as possible. As to what had been said by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), it was not, he thought, surprising that the conduct of the hon. Gentleman should be looked upon with suspicion, because when they saw a Government which had acted as this Government had done praised for its conduct to Ireland, no friend of Ireland could hear that praise with anything but suspicion. He did not, he added, agree with the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) in sympathizing with English and Scotch Members, on account of their not getting Business done, seeing that these hon. Gentlemen had given themselves into the hands of the Government for the purpose of passing a Bill which was founded upon falsehood and fraud. ["Oh!"] He did not mean that the Prime Minister knew it was founded upon falsehood and fraud; but the result had proved it.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to refer to a passage in a speech made by the Chief Secretary of Ireland last year, with respect to the two Irish Bills rejected by the House of Lords. The question of their rejection was brought up on the Appropriation Bill, and it was suggested that the Registration of Voters Bill should be tacked to the Appropriation Bill, and sent back to the Lords in that shape. The Chief Secretary on that occasion pledged the Government very distinctly that they would take up, at least, the Registration Bill next Session, and endeavour to take up the Limitation of Costs Bill. That, in his opinion, 1514 amounted to a distinct pledge that the Government would use their best exertions to get those two measures passed.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, it was perfectly true that his right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Government, expressed his great regret at the miscarriage of those two Bills in the House of Lords. It was the desire of the Government then, it had been their desire since, and it was their desire now, to have forwarded those Bills and seen them passed. But if anybody would cast his recollection back to the history of the last six months, he would see that the Government could not be blamed for not bringing forward measures of secondary importance. And when the House considered how English and Scotch Business of the highest moment had been entirely put aside in order to bring forward great Irish measures—[Cries of"Oh !"] The hon. Member did not consider the Irish Land Bill a great Irish measure; but the great majority of the Irish people did. But, whatever might be the opinion formed of that measure, it occupied the whole of the Session. ["No!"and"Coercion!"] At all events, the complaint that would be made against that Parliament in that Session would not be that it had given too little time to Irish measures. Therefore, though it was perfectly true that his right hon. Friend did express his desire to bring forward those measures to which the hon. Gentleman had referred and to have them supported by the Government, everybody would see that the course which Business had taken made it impossible. He did not desire to raise any dispute at this moment; but if the Irish Business had passed more rapidly, those measures would have had an opportunity of being entertained before now. Therefore, to make a charge of breach of faith against the Government on that head was a thing which the majority of the House would not entertain.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, after what had been stated by his hon. Friends on that side, he would not have interposed were it not from a strong sense of duty. The question, which had been debated fairly enough, was that of the operation of the Resolution proposed by the Prime Minister. But the go-by had been given to a great extent to the larger question at the bottom of that discussion—namely, 1515 whether it was worth while, at that period of the Session, to forward the Land Bill in the state in which it was proposed to the House? The Prime Minister had understated the position in which the House found itself. After 13 Sittings in Committee, it was not right to say with self-congratulation that four clauses of the Bill had been passed, for two of those clauses were to re-appear on the Report, one of them in a new form, so that it would have to be discussed, and the other with a sub-section, which was practically a new clause, and requiring new discussion. The Land Bill was really three Bills in one, and he was not at all satisfied that the Government, even with the time given to them, would, be able to push the Bill in relation to labourers' holdings, and that with respect to emigration, through the House. He would suggest that the Irish Land Question would best be dealt with by adding one clause to those already agreed to, declaring that every tenancy existing at the beginning of this year or hereafter to be created should be a statutable tenancy for 15 years, subject to the conditions contained in the Act. This would relieve the House from present embarrassment and get rid of the main difficulty, which was the constitution of the Court.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he must congratulate the Home Secretary on the possession of a wonderfully convenient memory. The right hon. and learned Gentleman managed to remember what he pleased and to forget all he did not choose to remember. It was impossible for the Irish Members to relax their opposition to the Coercion Bill; and, therefore, the Government themselves were responsible for the loss of time and the sacrifice of Irish and Scotch measures which had been the consequence, and it was useless for them to attempt to shift the responsibility on to the shoulders of the Irish Members.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the declaration made by the Secretary of State for India on September 2, 1880. The noble Lord then said—I understand from what was stated yesterday that the desire of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends was to obtain some expression of opinion from the Government as to the action taken by the House of Lords in relation to a certain Bill, and to endeavour to obtain a binding pledge from the Go- 1516 vernment that they would do their best to pass the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill into law. On that subject I believe there is very little difference of opinion between the hon. Member and Her Majesty's Government."—[3 Hansard, cclvi. 1060.]The House, too, would not soon forget the language applied by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in condemnation of"the hereditary Chamber" for their rejection of the Registration Bill. The Government were, therefore, pledged to do something for that Bill, and he hoped they would still introduce such a measure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he quite admitted that the Government were pledged to support a Registration Bill and also a Limitation of Costs Bill; but, of course, Bills differed in their degree of importance, and the Land Bill necessarily took precedence of all others. At the same time, the Government would be prepared to give their support to those two measures, if the hon. Gentlemen who had charge of them would proceed with them. He did not even yet despair of seeing them carried.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That, on and after Wednesday next, the several stages of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, on all days when it is set down among the Orders, until the House shall otherwise determine.