HC Deb 14 February 1882 vol 266 cc642-7

MR. GLADSTONE moved— That the Notices of Motions be postponed until after the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Motion for an Address to Her Majesty.


said, he ventured to renew the appeal which he had already made to the Prime Minister to grant him an opportunity of bringing forward the question of the persecution of the Jews before that House. The Prime Minister had stated yesterday that there were many grave matters of the deepest importance to be considered. He was sure that he was expressing the opinion of the House when he said that there could be no matter of graver importance than the life and the honour of thousands of human beings; and he confidently appealed to the Prime Minister to carry out those principles of giving help to oppressed Nationalities which he had always advocated during his distinguished career, and to give the House of Commons an opportunity of confirming the verdict of the country in favour of the oppressed, and in reprobation of the oppressor. He would venture to press the matter upon the right hon. Gentleman on another ground. It had been falsely stated in the Russian papers that this movement was a Party movement. He denied that in the strongest possible terms. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The Russian Press also said that the Prime Minister believed it to be a Party movement, and that for that reason it had not Ms full sympathy. He was sure that was false. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] If the Prime Minister refused the opportunity of bringing forward the question which he now asked, it would only confirm the Russian Press in their belief. It was not from Party motives that he brought the matter before the House, but in the interests of suffering humanity.


said, he should like to ask a few questions with regard to the course of Public Business. They had had several nights' debate, not so much upon the Address as on the Amendments; and although he acknowledged the paramount importance of the Irish Question, there were several other subjects of importance mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne which had been passed over without any comment of any kind. He should not wish to interfere with the course of Business, or to delay those important Motions which the right hon. Gentleman intended to bring forward; but as the result of these Motions might be to prevent them speaking during the course of the Session altogether, he should like, during the few moments of Parliamentary life that were left to them, to be allowed to ask a few questions on the Address with regard to the state of Turkey, and also with respect to the question of the proceedings at Rome, on which the right hon. Gentleman had just made a somewhat cloudy statement. He, therefore, would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there was any truth in the statement which he had seen that day in the organs which usually represented the opinions of the Government to the effect that the Whips of the Government, in conjunction with the Whips of the Irish Party, had determined to close the debate on the Address that night? The Whips of the Irish Party had a perfect right to make a compact with regard to their own Amendment; but he scarcely thought they were competent to make arrangements binding the whole House, especially as the only compensation which he saw in the paragraph to which he had alluded was that they were to be addressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone), the Junior Lord of the Treasury. He would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman whether hon. Members were to be allowed to make any remarks after the conclusion of the Irish portion of the debate on the other important matters that were contained in the Queen's Speech; or, if not, whether he would undertake that the Report on the Address would be brought up at such a time as would enable him to make some remarks on that occasion?


begged distinctly to say that no compact had been made between the Whips of the Irish Party and the Whips of Her Majesty's Government. He wished to ask the Prime Minister whether, if the debate on the Address were not concluded to-night, he proposed to continue it to-morrow?


said, there were some very important portions of the Speech from the Throne which referred to the Transvaal, to which he was extremely anxious to call the attention of the House. He also wished to make some inquiries with reference to certain statements in connection with the Transvaal, to the Chief Montsioa, to whom he saw some allusions in the morning papers, and to the question of bringing to justice those who had been guilty of murder during the war.


said, the great question of agricultural depression, which was very slightly mentioned in the Queen's Speech, was a question which, at this particular time, deserved from the Prime Minister and from the Government far greater consideration than had yet been shown to it. He hoped that hon. Members would have an opportunity to-night, or upon the Report, to make some remarks on that most important question.


With reference to the inquiries of the four hon. Gentlemen who have last spoken, I have to point out that these are inquiries that they are as able to answer as I am; but I will frankly and clearly give them all the information I can, so far as concerns the view and the intentions of the Government, of course premising that I must not be understood to assent in any degree, in whole or in part, to allegations such as those of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). Probably the course most convenient to the House, as far as I can judge, would be this. If the debate upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), with which we are now engaged, should close to-night, probably the most convenient course for the House, as far as I can judge, would be that we should take the Address to-night, and take the Report the first thing to-morrow, and then an opportunity would be given to those Gentlemen—to which they are perfectly entitled—of addressing the House, if they think fit, on the several subjects in which they are interested. If the debate on the Irish portion of the subject should not close to-night, I hope that it will proceed to-morrow; but I still hold that probably it would not be very convenient then to raise the questions which have been named after the Irish debate, and if that be so we propose to take the Report on the following day, and then to give the best opportunity in our power to hon. Gentlemen for offering any remarks. Now I come, with every feeling of respect and sympathy, to the appeal made to me by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry de Worms); and I assure him that I assent, in the freest and largest manner, to his proposition, that the question with regard to the sufferings of the Jews in certain portions of Russia is in no sense a Party question. As far as I know, no element of Party motive has yet been allowed to mix with it; and I trust sincerely that no such element will be introduced into it. I therefore beg the hon. Member to take in good part the observations that I shall make, and that are sustained, I am glad to think, by the very wise words of a Nobleman, who is either the very highest, or an extremely high authority in the Party to which the hon. Member belongs, who has calmly and deliberately expressed his opinion that the objects of humanity are not likely to be forwarded by debates on this matter in the Houses of Parliament. Of course, I do not wish to interfere with the discretion of the hon. Member, I do not feel that I have any right to make any appeal to him; but on this occasion he has made an appeal to me. Now, he makes an appeal to one who believes that it would be a mistake on our part, in the interest of those whom he wishes to serve, were the Government, by any act of theirs, by setting aside other Business, to create an opening for a discussion of that kind, I own that I have the greatest doubt whether any debate of the sort that could take place within these walls may not have the effect of rousing among a portion of the population of another country a further feeling of exasperation that might possibly lead to a revival of these horrible atrocities. With that feeling I think that the hon. Member will see that, although I do not presume to interefere with his discretion, I really am not in a position to give him assistance towards the attainment of an object which, in my heart and soul, as far as I am able to judge, I believe would be injurious to the cause which I know, with the purest principles of sympathy and humanity, which we all respect and which we all share, he is so desirous to serve.


pointed out that the Borough Franchise (Ireland) Bill stood first on the Paper for the next day; and asked the Prime Minister whether it was meant, by taking the Report on the Address then, that the Irish Members were to lose their opportunity of discussing the franchise?


I should be extremely sorry that the debate on the second reading of the Borough Franchise (Ireland) Bill should be set aside; but I do not suppose, from the remarks shadowed forth by several hon. Members, that the second reading will occupy any considerable time.


appealed to the Prime Minister not to continue the debate on Wednesday, as that would take away from the Irish Members the opportunity of discussing the Irish Borough Franchise Question. He asked that the Report should be taken on Thursday instead of Wednesday.


suggested that, as the arguments of Irish Members on the subject had been frequently put forward and were consequently well known, the hon. Member (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) might give an assurance that an endeavour would be made by his followers so to restrict the discussion on the Borough Franchise (Ireland) Bill as to bring it to a close within a couple of hours, after which the further debate on the Address might be taken.


said, he hoped the Government would not think all Irish Members were bound by any understanding to close the debate on the Bill prematurely.


I am afraid I am not in a position to accede to the proposal that has been made, not on the ground of my own inclination, but on the ground of the regularity of the proceedings of this House. I believe I am strictly within the limits of accuracy in saying that the custom of this House is to prosecute the debate on the Address to its conclusion; and if the debate on the Address be unusually prolonged, as it has been—I do not say improperly at all—unhappily, some Members and some subjects must suffer more or less; but it would not be within our power to take one particular Order to-morrow, and to say that that Order should take precedence, but that the debate on the Address should come before the other Orders. I am afraid, therefore, that regularity binds me to adhere to the order I have already mentioned.

Motion agreed to. Resolved, That the Notices of Motions he postponed until after the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Motion for an Address to Her Majesty.

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