Sir, I have to move that the Arrears (Ireland) Bill have precedence, on every day for which it is put down, of all other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion except the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill. I have postponed making this Motion until to-day, because when we commenced proceedings on the Prevention of Crime Bill I had no means of forecasting what would be the duration of those proceedings, or what would be the amount of pressure on the time of the House, and unless there were considerable pressure on the time of the House I did not wish to make a Motion of an innovating character. But, in the present circumstances, there is no need of any detailed justification upon making this Motion, so far as the immediate sub- 1770 ject-matter is concerned. The House is aware, from many previous declarations, that the Prevention of Crime and the Arrears Bills are both, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, absolutely necessary to be passed into law, and to be passed with such despatch as a just consideration of their provisions will allow. I do not know whether there is any disposition to contest that proposition generally; but I will not detain the House by dwelling on it. But intimation has been given, and not unreasonably, considering that we have now reached the 20th of June, that it would now be expected that the Government would give some account of their general views, as far as time permits, with regard to the further transaction of Public Business in the House; and, Sir, it is quite natural that when the Government are asking for time to push forward Business for which they are more immediately responsible, other Members of the House, who have business of their own in which they take a deep interest, should wish to be assured that the Government are not going to take advantage of the facilities that may be given to it for the purpose of giving any unfair precedence to measures, either which they have introduced or which they may intend to introduce, over Business in charge of independent Members. Of course, the House is aware that the Prevention of Crime Bill occupies, and has all along occupied, the first place in the view and intentions of the Government. As regards the intentions of the Government with respect to the Arrears Bill, I wish to say that, with the consent of the House, I should desire to pass it through Committee pro forma. The House is aware that that will in no manner diminish the privilege of any Member of discussing any portion of this measure, either on the Motion to leave the Chair or in Committee. But there are two or three changes which we wish to introduce into the Bill, and it is for the convenience of the House that changes of the kind should be embodied in the text of the Bill, rather than that a number of Amendments should be on the Paper in the name of the promoters of the Bill, possibly causing some confusion and some difficulty to other Members in giving Notice of Amendments which they may wish to propose. The Amendments which we wish to introduce into 1771 the Bill are already in type, and I believe may be distributed to-morrow morning, and the Bill committed pro forma on a future day. The Amendments we propose to introduce are substantially these. In the first place, there is an Amendment which is no alteration of the intention of the Bill. We are not quite satisfied with the definition in the Bill as it stands in regard to the particular words "accrued due," in the 1st clause, and in regard to determining the important point what rents paid may be set down as accrued in 1881. We wish to make our original intention, to which we adhere, perfectly clear. That is one change. The next point is this. As the House is aware, the clause in the Land Act of last year operated only to a very small extent, and we introduce an Amendment which is limited to this object, for the purpose of enabling a very few persons who took advantage of that clause to submit themselves to the conditions of the present Bill, which are not in all respects the same, and to go through the conditions and to take the benefit of the present Bill. I think that is a provision which will be generally approved. The third alteration touches another point of importance. It is to avoid the risk which might be if we were to place new duties in the hands of the Sub-Commissioners under the Land Act at the present moment—a risk which might interfere with the great progress they are making in the important business they have in hand. We propose, therefore, to ask the House to empower the Land Commissioners, subject to the consent of the Treasury, to appoint competent persons for the purpose of making investigations into questions of fact which the Bill contemplates as being necessary to adjudication. These matters, it will be observed, raise questions of principle; but as they do not alter the corpus of the Bill, I propose to take the course I have stated. The next Bill of which I wish to take notice is the Tax Bill. I need not go into the details. The House is aware how it stands. It is an exceedingly simple measure, as our action is extremely straitened by the circumstances of the comparative revenue and charge of the country. In order to enable us to fulfil the engagement entered into at the commencement of the Session, the Bill proposes an augmentation on the tax on carriages. I do not anticipate 1772 any discussion, nor give any opinion on this subject; but the House will see, from the manner in which these two matters are associated together, that they will have to take their choice between granting the relief and imposing the charge, or letting the matter stand for another occasion, when the Government may be enabled to deal with the projected changes in the local charges and government. The Government hope to be able to obtain a measure dealing with this question next year. These subjects I have mentioned to the House already on former occasions. I will now refer to two Bills which are likely, I know, from Notice given, to be mentioned to-day. I will anticipate the hon. Members, and, so far as I can, open the way for the hon. Gentlemen in charge of the Bills, if they may feel it necessary to say anything on the subject of them. The first is the Irish Sunday Closing Bill. I have been requested to state the intentions of the Government in regard to this Bill. I can only say, Sir, that, in our opinion, the Act ought not to be suffered to expire; but there is an important question in relation to it with regard to large towns, which are now excluded from its operation. I cannot say whether it will or will not be convenient to deal with that during the present year. If it is so, I do not know that the Government are under any obligations to charge themselves with the conduct of the Bill; if it is not dealt with as to that important but secondary question—in that case it will be our duty to insert it in the General Continuance Act of the year. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) has intimated that he will ask what facilities we can give, or whether we are prepared to give any facilities, for the further consideration of the Agricultural Holdings Bill, which deals with a subject in which he and many others take a great interest. Sir, when we are compelled to make sacrifices, some of them absolute and some of them contingent, of measures which seemed likely to be realized this Session, and measures of our own, and oven measures announced in the Speech from the Throne, the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that I cannot enter into any engagement with him on this subject at the present time. When the two Irish Bills are disposed of [A laugh]— must say that experience 1773 causes me great anxiety that the House should make up its mind with despatch upon these two Irish Bills, for the sake of the best interests of Ireland; and I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite should be tempted to smile in connection with such a subject—when these two Bills are disposed of our command of the time of the House will have ceased, and private Members will then re-enter into possession of such rights as they usually enjoy at that period of the year. What I am going to say, Sir, I shall say not without some hesitation. I am by no means sure that the hon. Member will take advantage of it, or be inclined to take advantage of it; but I do feel great anxiety, and the Government feel great anxiety, that some progress should be made, if possible, in the business of satisfactorily legislating with regard to agricultural holdings on this side of St. George's Channel. There are several Bills before the House. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland), behind me, has a Bill upon this subject. There is, I believe, a third Bill of another hon. Member —the Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard). I do not know what view may be taken exactly on the merits of these Bills; but it may be that as to some of these Bills, or all of these Bills—I cannot say which, nor is it the business of the Government, as a Government, to charge itself with any judgment upon the merits of those Bills at the present moment—but it may be that, by favour, the House might be disposed to give to several of these Bills a second reading without the necessity of a debate at that stage. Well, Sir, what we think is this. If it were the pleasure of those in charge of any of those Bills, or of all of them—I do not interfere with any such arrangement, or give any particular opinion about it—but if it were the pleasure of the House to allow the privilege of a second reading, either without discussion or without any ample discussion, and if it were then the pleasure of the Gentlemen in charge of the Bills to move to refer them to Committees chosen pro hac vice, without committing them to the general judgment of the House in the manner indicated in the Rules laid upon the Table with respect to Procedure, the Government will make no objection. They have no intention of forcing that course upon hon. Members. 1774 They only wish to say that they will place no impediment to that course in case those in charge of other Bills, or the House generally, think that any good can be gained by the adoption of such a mode of action. We only propose this as a matter for consideration. There is one other point. There are two Bills relating to Scotland which I wish to mention. One is on the subject of Scotch entail. It has not yet reached this House, but it is likely to arrive here; and I believe it represents, so far as I have yet been informed, a very great unanimity of Scottish feeling on the subject. I hope, if that is so, if the Bill should arrive here from the House of Lords, we certainly should be anxious that it should be passed. There is another Bill relating to endowments in Scotland, to which also many Scotch Members attach great value. I cannot say that it will be in our power to appropriate the time of the House for that measure, which is a Government Bill. But if Scotch Members think that any suggestion such as I have made with respect to the Bills of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland) can be made available in that matter, that is a question of which we by no means intend to prevent the discussion. But further than that we do not go. It would not be fair to do so. The appointment of large Committees for practically dealing with certain Bills is part of our own plan in relation to Procedure, and we do not desire, by indirect means, to obtain the sanction of the House to that plan. Well, Sir, these are all the Bills which I should mention at the present moment. But there is still an exception. There is the question of the amendment of the Land Act. That comprises several important questions. I do not know that I can enumerate them all from recollection. There is the question of leases, with regard to which certain recommendations have been submitted to the Government by the Land Commissioners. There is the question relating to the labourers, with respect to which also certain recommendations have been submitted; and, thirdly, there are the Purchase Clauses. I can announce no intention, no positive intention, upon the part of the Government; I can only give assurances that we will endeavour to make up our minds, at what we think the proper time, when 1775 we approach the close of the discussion of the two Bills now before the House. But, Sir, I have made a serious mistake in passing over an important measure, or rather three measures, which I think I ought to have mentioned to the House. It was in my anxiety to get at the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire that I overlooked them. The first is the Bill dealing with Corrupt Practices. That has made considerable progress, and it is the intention of the Government to persevere with it. It would involve great loss and waste of the time of the House if we entertained any intention not to send that Bill on to the other House with a view to its passing into law. There are two other Bills on important subjects—one relating to certain boroughs, the total or partial disfranchisement of which is provided for; the other is a Bill relating to the amendment and continuance of the Ballot Act. With respect to these two subjects, I cannot, at the present moment, announce any final decision. Our proceedings must depend upon the progress of Business. I, therefore, distinguish between them and the Corrupt Practices Bill, upon which our mind is certainly made up, as to our duty in persevering with them. With respect to these, it will be our duty to take further time before we arrive at a conclusion. There are two other subjects, one the amendment of the Land Act, of which I have sufficiently disposed for the present purpose; the other is the important question of Procedure. At the present moment I have no positive announcement to make excepting this—that the Government remain more than ever convinced that a satisfactory and thorough settlement of the question of Procedure may, in one sense, be said to transcend every other measure of importance—in this sense, that upon it depends the efficiency as well as the dignity of the great legislative instrument by which the Business of the Empire is mainly carried on—namely, the British House of Commons. With the evils of the present system we shall deem it our duty to deal if any legitimate method be open to us. We shall deem it our duty not to remit the settlement of this question of Procedure to another Session of Parliament in the coming year. We desire that when Parliament meets for its annual Session in February next, or about its usual time, whatever precisely that time may be, it 1776 shall not have about its neck the terrible embarrassment brought about by the present state of its Rules and Orders, but shall be enabled to set about with something like its old energy and dignity to the transaction of its Business. At the present moment, I do not go further; but with respect to those matters on which I have not spoken definitely, when we obtain some farther daylight, with respect to the two Bills now before the House, I shall be desirous, and it will be quite right and just, to give the House some further information.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill have precedence, on every day for which it is set down, of all other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, except the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker, as far as relates to the particular measure to which this Motion points, I think that the right hon. Gentleman has undoubtedly, from his point of view, stated the case very fairly. But I think we ought to take care, before we assent to the proposal he makes, to enter these two caveats. In the first place, it must not be assumed that by giving assent to the proposal that we should lay aside all other Business for the purpose of proceeding with this Bill with regard to arrears that we are giving assent to the scope and merits of the Bill. I am quite aware of the inconvenience that arises from keeping this burning question open any longer than can be avoided; and I am, on that ground, not unprepared to agree to the proposal for the rapid discussion of that Bill, subject to one or two reservations. But I think it ought to be clearly understood that we do not thereby abandon the objection which many of us feel to this Bill, and that we shall not refrain from criticizing, and even, if necessary, opposing it. Besides that general observation, I wish to put a particular question to the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to certain information which I think the House ought to be in possession of before we proceed to the discussion of that Bill. There were two questions put last week—one by myself, the other by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith).
It was an omission on my part. I should have men- 1777 tioned that. The first Paper relating to the sufficiency of the Church Surplus Fund, and the finding of the money, is actually in type, and, I hope, will be in the Vote Office this afternoon and circulated to-morrow. The second Paper is also all but ready, and will be in the hands of Members, I hope, to-morrow or the next day.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
That is satisfactory so far as it goes. We shall have time, no doubt, to examine that. "With regard to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Bill should go into Committee pro formâ, that undoubtedly will be convenient, and we shall have no objection to make. Then we have had from the Prime Minister, besides, a statement with regard to the general condition of Business and the prospects of the year. I must say, from one or two points of view, I feel disappointed by the statement which has just been made; and while I quite agree that it is of importance that we should not lose any time that can be avoided in proceeding with these Irish Bills, I do think there are other questions which ought to be borne in mind, and about which far too little has been said. With regard to the Budget Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was one of the measures that would be proceeded with. We knew that; but what we want to know is, when it will be proceeded with? Is it intended that the Budget Bill is to stand over until after the two Irish Bills have been disposed of? I cannot help thinking that that would lead to some financial inconvenience. I do not know how the financial arrangements of the country would stand, with leaving a Bill of that sort over to the end of the financial year. Whether it has been considered or not, we ought to be told when the Bill is likely to be taken, or whether we are to wait for the indefinite period pointed out by the description that it will be not only after the Arrears Bill, but after the Prevention of Crime Bill has been concluded. I rather infer from what was said by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Carriage Tax that the proposal is likely to be withdrawn. If so, that would answer the question which otherwise I should put; but if it were persevered with, we must remember that it will be an additional tax, imposed for the purpose of giving 1778 certain relief, and we shall require to be informed how that relief is given, and take care that at the end of the Session we have not been putting on a burden without giving any relief. If I am correct in reading between the lines of what the Prime Minister has said, and in inferring that the Carriage Tax is likely to be withdrawn, we shall not be put in that particular position. But it seems to me that in the minds of all who feel strongly on the question of local burdens, some dissatisfaction will arise that the question of the Road Tax should not have been dealt with after all; and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt) may, perhaps, feel that he has a word or two to say upon this subject at the proper time. There is another point on which we have been told nothing, and that is, what are we to do about Committee of Supply? Now, undoubtedly, the Business of Ireland is extremely important, but the Business of Supply is, perhaps, the primary duty of the House of Commons; and we have had this year uncommonly few opportunities of proceeding with Supply, which, consequently, is in a very backward state. I have no accurate account of the precise state of the Votes; but my impression is that only one Vote has been taken for the Navy, eight for the Army, and I think the Education Vote has been taken, but not the whole of it, and some two or three Votes of comparatively little importance have been taken in the first class of the Civil Service Estimates. That on the 20th of June is by no means large progress, and there are certain matters in regard to these Estimates which demand our examination. We on this side of the House have been reproached for our extravagance, and we want to have an opportunity of seeing some of that economy practised which was so loudly preached, that we may have an opportunity of profiting by the lesson. We have not been told anything with regard to the other Bills of Her Majesty's Government. There has been a very clean sweep of a considerable number of measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech. With regard to those which have been proceeded with, undoubtedly I express the general feeling on this side of the House when I say that we are glad to hear that the Government do not intend 1779 to drop the Corrupt Practices Bill. A great deal of time has been spent on it, it is a very important Bill, and we are glad it is to he proceeded with. I am not sure that it will not be found possible to deal with one or two other Bills which have made progress, either in the hands of the Government, or in those of private Members. The Agricultural Bills, to which reference has been made, are, doubtless, important Bills. I speak especially of the Agricultural Bills which have been mentioned by the Prime Minister, and which I think of great importance. I will also venture to refer to another Bill, which is in the hands of a private Member opposite, and which was to have been one of the Government measures. I mean the Bankruptcy Bill, which has made some progress. I suppose this Bill will be proceeded with. These are the matters upon which we must accept such a statement as the Government can make. Subject to the question which I have asked as to when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to proceed with the Budget Bill, and also to what I have said of the importance of taking Supply, I should have no further observations to make upon the necessary measures which are likely to be before us. But I must say one word on the subject of the Rules of the House. It seems to me that the Government are taking a course with regard to the Procedure Rules which is not likely to facilitate the real Business of the House. It seems to me that a great deal of time has been consumed in the present Session—I will not use the word"wasted"—by a not very well advised attempt to pass those Rules. I cannot but think that much wiser stops might have been taken. A great deal of irritation might have been avoided, and practical improvements made in the Rules of Procedure, if the Government could have persuaded themselves to take the matter up in a different way. I am quite aware that when the Government have got into a contest with a certain part of the House, and feel themselves supported by a majority behind them, it is difficult to stop in a course on which they have entered and to strike out a new one. But so much time has elapsed, circumstances have so much changed in many particulars, that I cannot but think that the Government may yet be disposed to take counsel in this matter, and to consider 1780 whether they cannot make these proposals in a form more likely to be acceptable to the general feeling of the House and more efficient to the purposes in view. Whether we deal with it in this Session, that is in the usual Session, or in the manner hinted at by the Junior Lord of the Treasury (Mr. P. W. Duff), and rather ingeniously hinted at by the First Lord of the Treasury when ho said that the Government would not be willing to remit this question to another Session—which was rather significant of its being dealt with in the coming autumn—I can only say we must wait. But I think the last proposal is one which will be extremely unpopular, and I greatly doubt whether it will tend to the satisfactory settlement of the question. Well, there is still a subject which has not been alluded to by the Prime Minister, upon which I should like to say a word or two, and I would introduce it by the observation that a great many complaints have been made, and the country at large has been a good deal surprised in consequence of the large and increasing number of Questions continually put in this House. No doubt the number of questions is large. But it is to be borne in mind that one cause is the fewness of opportunities for discussing questions of importance in consequence of the absorption of the time of the House by the Government taking possession of private Members' days, and also of the length of time expended in discussing Government measures. I only mention that in passing, in order to say that I think the Government, in considering the time which remains at their disposal, have forgotten that it will be important before long that we should have the means of discussing a portion of their foreign policy. There has been no disposition—on the contrary, there has been the direct opposite of a disposition—on the part of this side of the House to embarrass or annoy the Government in the policy they are pursuing. But do not let the Government deceive themselves in consequence of that. Do not let them think there is any indifference on our part. It is a subject which it will be necessary for us to discuss, and before very long we shall have to call upon the Government to state when it will be possible to give information which will enable us to discuss it. It will be quite impossible 1781 to make a reckoning as to the close of the Session without taking into account the necessity of that. I do not know that I need say anything more on these points at the present moment. I think, as far as the proposal goes, that the Government might have left it till later. But we have no reason to object to the particular proposal to do for the Bill in its remaining stages what we did at its second reading. We gave it precedence on its second reading, as we gave precedence to the Prevention of Crime Bill. We think the same course may be followed with regard to the Arrears Bill, with the understanding that we do not waive any objections or abandon any intentions we may have of criticizing or even opposing it.
said, if any right hon. Gentleman or hon. Gentleman opposite wished to put questions on any of the subjects he had mentioned, perhaps it would be more convenient that they should be asked now, so that he might deal with them all at once.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that the Motion was that the Arrears of Kent Bill should have precedence on every day on which it was set down. The effect of that would be to enable the Government to take other Business on Government nights, and the Arrears of Rent Bill on Wednesdays and on the Morning Sittings of Tuesday and Friday. No doubt, it was the intention of the Government to take the Arrears of Rent Bill from day to day; but, as he said, the Motion would enable them simply to appropriate the days of private Members. He presumed that, with the necessary intervention of Supply, it was intended that the Bill should be continued from day to day.
§ MR. ONSLOW
inquired of the Speaker whether, if he put a question to the Prime Minister, to suit the right hon. Gentleman's convenience, he could afterwards speak on the general policy of the Government?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, if the hon. Gentleman addressed the House now, he could hot afterwards make another speech.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
asked whether the Government would endeavour to proceed with the Prevention of Floods Bill on an early day?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the Prime Minister had spoken of the former efficiency of the House of Commons, and he rejoiced that he had done so, for they 1782 had been Members of the same Party from 1843 to 1846. As an old Member, he desired to remark that the delay and obstruction which had been witnessed of late would have been quite impossible in former Parliaments. The House had no right to throw upon its Leader the responsibility for its own inefficiency. There seemed a change in the present House from the temper and disposition of former Houses. There was more individuality, and less independence among Members generally. The Rules of the House were the same as they were in 1843 and in 1846. The House had forgotten its corporate duty. Supposing that the House needed new Rules, as had, indeed, been admitted, he (Mr. Newdegate) could only say that the House was already very late in adopting them. The habit of putting questions had grown into an abuse. This practice frittered away the responsibility of Ministers, while it proved the inability of the House to exact their responsibility. As an old Member, he would appeal to the House to vindicate the transaction of its Business from the stigma now resting upon it.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he hoped that the Settled Land Bill of Lord Cairns, which had passed the House of Lords, and, after a second reading in the Commons, had been referred to a Select Committee, and which had been regarded most favourably in all quarters, would receive, at all events, the favourable attention of the Government this Session. It affected the interests of a large number of people.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he felt grateful to the Prime Minister for his sympathetic tone with regard to a Bill in which he felt interested. The right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion with regard to Bills relating to agriculture, without binding himself to a suggestion which, he thought, it was his duty to notice. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that those Bills should be referred to something like a Grand Committee. There were three of them, and one that stood in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland) contained so much which he individally approved that he did not think there would be any objection to referring it in connection with one which stood in his own name to a Select Committee; but the Bill of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard) con- 1783 tained principles to which he was so entirely opposed, that he must guard himself at once against being supposed to be willing to have anything to do with it. As to the kind of Committee alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, he felt precluded from expressing any opinion, or, at all events, a favourable one; he could not predict whether its proceedings would be likely to facilitate the progress of a measure. For this Session, at any rate, he should like to see the two Bills referred to a Select Committee. As to the Rules of Procedure, there was no monopoly on either side of a desire to see some effective change made in them. He would suggest the substitution of what he would describe as an individual clÔture for the general and sweeping clÔture proposed by the Prime Minister's Resolution—a solution of the difficulty which he believed would find more favour than the right hon. Gentleman imagined. As to the present Motion, it was hardly fair to ask them to assent to it before they had seen the Amendments proposed to be made in the Arrears Bill; it was possible they might influence Members in considering the Motion, particularly if, like himself, their views were hostile to the measure. But why was the Motion made at the present time? It seemed premature until they approached somewhat nearer the completion of the Committee on the Crime Bill, especially as it was understood there was no intention of taking any other Business until the Bill was through Committee. The Motion might very well have been postponed at least a few days longer. He hoped it would not be agreed to, unless they had a distinct assurance that no further attempt would be made to carry the Procedure Resolutions in their present shape during the present Session.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
asked the Prime Minister whether he would arrange that the Committee on the Arrears Bill should take precedence of the Report on the Prevention of Crime Bill? He also wished to direct his particular attention to the extreme importance of endeavouring to do something this Session for the agricultural labourers of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman might have noticed that he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had had a Motion on the Paper dealing with this subject, and that, as it had occupied the second place on the Orders of the Day for this evening, he ought to have fairly 1784 counted upon the subject being discussed to-night had it not been cut off by the urgency given to the Crime Bill. He should do his best during the remainder of the Session to obtain a chance of bringing the subject before the House; but he sought to impress upon the Prime Minister the great necessity of the Government taking the matter up, so that it might be dealt with in an effective way this Session. It ought to be clearly under-stood whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to take up the Arrears Bill on any night on which the Government were unable to proceed further with the Crime Bill. He also thought that fair opportunity should be given to the Opposition to discuss the increasing financial expenditure of the Government.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he hoped the Government would not accede to the request of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) to send two Bills only to a Select Committee, and leave out that of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), which he believed the farmers of England would very much prefer to the other measures. Let that Bill be examined and considered along with the others, and it would be found to compare most favourably in the best interests of agriculture. The very fact of the hon. Member condemning it proved that there was some good in it. He hoped the Prime Minister would do justice to the farmers, and if Bills were to be committed to a Grand Committee, then the three should be dealt with on equal terms.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he desired to ask the Prime Minister whether he had the slightest intention of putting down the Arrears Bill and taking it on any night before the disposal of the Crime Bill? On one previous occasion the Arrears Bill was placed at the head of the Orders before Supply on a Friday, obviously, ho presumed, with the intention of that Bill being taken, if possible, before Supply. He feared the reason why the right hon. Gentleman was making this Motion just now was that he might have an opportunity of proceeding with the Arrears Bill, perhaps at a very late hour of the evening, after he had been unable to proceed any further with the Crime Bill that night. Such a course would be extremely inconvenient. With regard to the Budget Bill, the right hon. Gentleman must not suppose that by 1785 giving up the increase of taxation, as he proposed to do, he would dispose of a question in which many hon. Members felt a deep interest. They thought it was high time that the question of the management of finance by Her Majesty's Government should be fully discussed. No question influenced more the decision of the constituencies at the last General Election than the attack made by those who were at present in power upon the financial arrangements of those who were now in Opposition. They ought to understand that a full opportunity would be given to discuss, not only the actual proposals made by the Government in this year's Budget, but also the whole scale of expenditure in this year's Budget, with a view of ascertaining how it was that the expenditure of the Government was on a much larger scale than the expenditure which they so much denounced when they were in Opposition.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, the Prevention of Floods Bill raised a matter which the present condition of the country made one of considerable urgency and importance; and he hoped the Prime Minister would not entirely exclude the further consideration of that Bill from the programme of Her Majesty's Government.
said, he thought the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), gave expression to a very natural curiosity, which must be felt in many parts of the House, as to why the Government made this particular proposal at this particular time. It was quite obvious that there was no necessity for it. The Motion, if carried, could not possibly be operative at all for a week, or even 10 days. Why, then, should the Government have come down on this particular afternoon to ask the House to assent to this apparently useless proposal? He thought the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had indicated what possibly might be the reason of this; and he should be very glad if he could feel quite certain that they were not on the trace of some fresh compact between Her Majesty's Government and those Members representing Irish constituencies, who had hitherto so persistently and with such apparent zeal opposed the Prevention of Crime Bill. Would the Government, in 1786 answer to the appeal of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, assure the House that they were not going to act on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Longford, and to take the Committee on the Arrears Bill before the Report on the Prevention of Crime Bill, so that while they were trying to coerce the Irish Members to pass the Prevention of Crime Bill, by holding the Arrears Bill before them, they might, perhaps, try to coerce other hon. Members to pass the Arrears Bill, in order that the Crime Prevention Bill might afterwards follow? Whatever might be the intentions of the Government, there was no doubt that the introduction of the Arrears Bill operated in Ireland as a "no rent" manifesto, which was far more effectual for its purpose than the previous "no rent" manifesto that was issued. Moreover, it was more dangerous to the Irish people, because, while the authors of the earlier "no rent" manifesto were confined in prison, the authors of the second "no rent" manifesto were Her Majesty's Government sitting on the Treasury Bench. It might be that the hopes of hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies had been somewhat blunted, and that the Motion made to-day was a kind of refresher to show them that the Government were in earnest, and meant to carry out what some people believed to be the bargain made in the great "Kilmainham Treaty." He would be no party to a proceeding of this kind, and he hoped there were some Members on that side of the House who would support him in dividing the House against the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman had made. It was his intention to oppose the Arrears Bill most resolutely at every step, because he believed it was a measure which would be unjust to the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, and mischievous and pauperizing to the Irish people. He promised the right hon. Gentleman that when the Bill was brought forward for discussion he would give it a most relentless opposition. If hon. Members were prepared to oppose a Bill of this kind, they had a right to refuse to give the Government facilities for passing it. By voting for the Resolution they would be making themselves a party to the refresher which was thrown out in order to catch the votes of Members from Ireland. In his opinion, those who were 1787 opposed to the Arrears Bill ought to vote against the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that, as the Government intended to commit the Arrears Bill pro formâ, he wished to direct attention to a matter which, he thought, was germane to that measure. The Land Act of last Session, according to the construction placed on it, permitted the judicial rent to date from the day of the application of the tenant in all cases where the tenant made his application on the occasion of the first sitting of the Court. About 40,000 or 60,000 made application at that time, and, consequently, they were placed in a very advantageous position as compared with those who made application afterwards. He would ask Her Majesty's Government to consider whether they could not see their way to make all arrears of rent which did not now come within the provisions of this Bill to be computed on the basis of the decision of the Court, where the tenant had made an application to have a fair rent fixed— that was to say, if a tenant was paying £15a-year rent, and his judicial rent was fixed at £10, he should be entitled to claim a rebate of £5. In that way the tenants who had not yet made an application to the Court would be encouraged to enter the Land Court, and their landlords would be encouraged to make those settlements out of Court which were so desirable, if the Act were to succeed in its object. He was afraid he had not conveyed his meaning very clearly, but perhaps the Prime Minister would understand it.
I will first of all notice the last suggestion which has been made to me. The suggestion is that, on the committal pro formâ of the Arrears Bill, the Government should introduce a provision which would have the effect of applying the reduction of rent which may be made by the Court to the arrears of rent. I am bound to say, without at present entering into the merits of the proposal, that, as far as I have ever viewed the question of committal pro formâ, my opinion, and, I think, the practice of the House is, that the changes introduced are introduced for the mechanical convenience—if I may use the phrase—of all parties, and that they are generally understood to be changes in furtherance of the principles 1788 of a Bill, but not changes introducing new principles of importance. Therefore, such a subject could not be entertained in connection with a committal pro formâ. Even if the proposal of the hon. Member was fit to be introduced—and I am bound to say I do not think it is—I cannot, therefore, see my way to a discussion of it in the House. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), I quite agree with him that the Arrears Bill is a measure of such importance that it ought to be taken at the commencement of the evening, as is the usual practice. With respect to the precedence between the Prevention of Crime Bill and the Arrears Bill, I have to remind the House of what I ventured to say on more than one occasion— namely, that the Crime Bill takes precedence of the Arrears Bill, but that the convenience, and even the necessity of the case, requires that there shall be intervals at certain stages in the prosecution of the Crime Bill, and these intervals I should wish to turn to account for the purpose of forwarding the Arrears Bill. With regard to the question why this proposal is made to-day, it should be recollected that it was made to-day after a Notice of several days. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) professes to know exactly how long the Committee on the Crime Prevention Bill will last; but I have not so much foresight as the hon. and learned Gentleman, and it is our duty to be prepared for any acceleration of the proceedings that might take place. We may have clauses less thorny and difficult than those with which we have been dealing, which may enable the House to dispose of the Bill sooner than at present appears probable. With regard to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), I do not intend to interfere in any way, on the part of the Government, as to the Bills he has mentioned; but I wish to leave the matter entirely to the free consideration of those concerned. With regard to the Settled Land Bill, of course the Government can say nothing positive, except that they would endeavour to give the same fair play and fair consideration, when the question arises, to that Bill which they have given upon former occasions. With regard to the question by the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith), the 1789 right ton. Gentleman is perfectly right in his views. It is necessary for us to reserve the power of proceeding with other Business, because of the necessity which may arise for Supply, or in case it should be found necessary to proceed with the Tax Bill; but unquestionably we have no intention of interpolating any Government Business, unless it may be a matter of necessity, to the prejudice of the Prevention of Crime Bill in the first instance, and the Arrears Bill in the second. With regard to the Bill for the Prevention of Floods, we shall be very glad if opportunities can be found for proceeding with it; but it is not possible at present to make any positive announcement respecting it. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) asked when we should proceed with the Budget? That is not an unnatural question. "We have not had, as yet, any intimation from the Department of positive inconvenience arising from the delay. I must say the delay is open to objection. It is the regular practice that the Budget Bill should come forward a short time after the Budget, and it is a practice which we have only been parties to interrupting because of the extreme necessity of other Business. As it is, the Budget Bill will come forward, should it be practically necessary, whenever we find the necessity arise; and if the necessity does not arise, it will come forward when we have proceeded with the Crime Bill and the Arrears Bill to such a point as to make it not inconvenient to the House to take it; and the same with respect to Supply. No very long time will elapse before it will be necessary to make an application on the subject of Supply.
The first necessity will not be a Vote on Account, but for one of the great Services, and we could not ask the House to go at large into the fields of Supply and Miscellaneous Services without causing a very great interruption and delay in these Irish measures; and that, I think, would be even a greater evil than the postponement of Supply, which I quite admit to be a serious evil. With reference to the subject of Procedure, various suggestions and recommendations have been made. But I think it is better that I 1790 should reserve myself in regard to the subject until further progress has been made towards the termination of discussion upon the two Irish Bills. But in one matter I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote), that the time we have already spent on the subject of Procedure ought not to be thrown away, unless it be an absolute necessity; and I think I have already said that nothing but absolute necessity will prevent us going forward during the present year—and I hope during the present Session—with the subject of Procedure. Beyond that I cannot enter into it in detail at the present moment, but must wait until circumstances are more matured.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, there was one point that had scarcely been cleared up, and that was, what were the relative positions to be occupied hereafter by the two Bills—the Prevention of Crime Bill and the Arrears Bill? The Prime Minister had spoken of availing himself of the interstices that might occur in the Prevention of Crime Bill, in order to deal with the question of arrears. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was his intention to keep back the Prevention of Crime Bill for any purpose one moment longer than was absolutely required for taking its various stages in regular form? For instance, when that Bill had passed through Committee, would a discussion take place upon the Arrears Bill only until the reprint of the Prevention of Crime Bill had been placed in the hands of hon. Members?
The progress of the Prevention of Crime Bill will only be delayed when it is for the convenience of the House.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that the announcement made last night by the Chief Secretary for Ireland had caused the passing of the Prevention of Crime Bill to be a matter of more importance than the convenience of the House of Commons, for he had stated that if the Bill was discussed at great length, and thereby delayed, it was impossible to say what might not happen before it became law. According to the statements of those representing the Irish Department of the Government, the importance of passing the Prevention of Crime Bill far transcended the convenience of the House of Commons. That being the case, did the right hon. Gentleman in- 1791 tend to delay that Bill by a single moment?
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he thought it only right to indicate to the right hon. Gentleman that if he was under the impression that the Arrears Bill was one involving mere detail he was entirely mistaken. He (Mr. J. Lowther) thought he spoke the sentiments of the large majority of the Conservative Party, when he said he believed that the Arrears Bill was offering a direct premium on fraud and an official recognition of dishonesty. The right hon. Gentleman, on a previous occasion, had taken him to task for using language outside the House which he was not prepared to use in it; but, without reproducing his or any other speeches, he would merely say that it was within the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman that the Arrears Bill had been described as part and parcel of a compact, treaty, or arrangement, and as partaking of the character of infamy. He believed it had been so described in the House of Commons—not by him, but with the general approval of the Conservative Members. With feelings so strong as many hon. Members entertained with regard to that Bill, it was not consistent with their duty not to make the most emphatic protests against the principles upon which it was based. He confessed he had heard the speech made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland with great regret. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of evictions and outrages in the same breath. He had spoken of simultaneous Returns of the evictions and outrages that had taken place, and he had, moreover, spoken of the cruelty of evictions. With the exception of two expressions of opinion which were historical, he had never heard any expression of opinion more calculated to cause serious evils in Ireland. The Chief Secretary had coupled the legitimate exercise of legal rights—rights which were legal at the present moment—in the same breath with breaches of the law, and even with terrible murders. The two expressions of opinion antecedent to that of the right hon. Gentleman were the well-known declaration of Lord Clarendon, in which eviction and felony were coupled in the same sentence, and the other expression of opinion was that which the Prime Minister, 1792 to some extent, apparently modified the other night.
The right hon. Gentleman said I apparently modified an expression of opinion in regard to evictions, and I said "Never."
§ Mr. J. LOWTHER
What he (Mr. J. Lowther) said was that the right hon. Gentleman modified an expression of opinion with which he had been credited with regard to the opinion, as he termed it, that the people of Ireland might form in regard to evictions.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
begged to submit to the correction. The right hon. Gentleman had, however, given a correction of that which ho characterized as an erroneous impression that prevailed in the public mind respecting a well-known passage in one of his celebrated speeches. Passing that by, he would just emphasize this point—that a Representative of the Government having coupled evictions and outrages in the same breath, it became a matter for the House to consider how far they were entitled to allow measures dealing with those two subjects to be simultaneously dealt with without entering their most emphatic protest. The Chief Secretary had also drawn a distinction between two different classes of evictions—namely, those of tenants who could and would not pay, and those who were actually unable to pay. Was he to understand the right hon. Gentleman to hold that there was an act of cruelty and hardship on the part of the landlord involved in parting with a tenant who was hopelessly insolvent? He rather gathered, from an expression which fell from the Chief Secretary the other day, that the right hon. Gentleman considered it an act of cruelty for a landlord to evict from his estate a tenant who was hopelessly insolvent, and who had no prospect of ever being able to pay— that it was a hardship to evict a tenant who was absolutely incapable of carrying on his occupation as a farmer. Now, against any such idea he must utter his emphatic protest. In his judgment, if a tenant was not merely suffering from temporary adversity, but from hopeless 1793 insolvency, and was unable to pay his creditors in general, and his landlord in particular—if his landlord saw that there was no reasonable prospect of the tenant regaining his solvency, and pursuing agriculture with advantage to himself and to the community, then the landlord was thoroughly justified, and, in fact, it was his bounden duty, to part with that tenant.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
rose to Order, and asked the Speaker whether the right hon. Gentleman was justified, on the Motion then before the House, in discussing the details of the Arrears Bill?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question immediately before the House is simply a proposal for giving precedence in certain circumstances to a particular Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman is bound to confine himself to that Question.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he meant to do that, and the Speaker would no doubt have called him to Order had he failed to do so. He had consistently throughout his observations avoided entering in any shape or form into the details of the Arrears Bill. He had merely pointed out to the House matters for consideration at the present stage of their discussion. He hoped that the Government would be prepared to give them an assurance that not a moment would unnecessarily be lost in the prosecution of the Prevention of Crime Bill—that was to say, that if the discussion on the Arrears Bill, which must of necessity be one of some duration, should not be brought to a termination before the Prevention of Crime Bill was ready for another stage, the Government would proceed with all despatch with that important measure, which stood first for their consideration. In conclusion, he would only say that as the Arrears Bill involved the proposal that the honest and industrious tenant farmers of England, and the struggling taxpayers of the United Kingdom at large, who had honourably endeavoured to meet their legal obligations during a period of great hardship, should pay the rent of the disloyal and seditious persons who had, during exceptionally favourable seasons, deliberately withheld their rent, which they were able to pay if they were solvent men, the Government must expect a full and ample discussion of so novel and so serious a proposal.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he was in rather an awkward position, for the right hon. Gentleman had made one or two remarks about himself which he was afraid of answering, or referring to, without being out of Order. He hoped, however, he might be allowed to protest against the deductions of the right hon. Gentleman from a simple sentence of his the other day. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had coupled two very different and incongruous things— the exercise of the landlord's legal rights with breaches of law and actual murder, and he called that an expression of opinion on his part. Whence did it all come? Because he had said that in addition to a daily return of outrages the Government proposed to have a daily return of evictions. He had simply intended to justify the labour and expense of a daily return by a precedent; and no Member who heard him could have thought that he in any way coupled the two ideas. Then the right hon. Member asked whether he inferred any cruelty from the landlord parting with the tenant who was hopelessly insolvent? [Mr. J. LOWTHER: Hardship.] Well, he would call it hardship — whether he inferred hardship on the part of the landlord who turned out a tenant who was hopelessly insolvent. No; he inferred no such thing. What he did say was that if, as in the cases which their officers reported, the rent of the holding was far too high; if the tenant had gone through several very bad seasons, and from no fault of his own could not pay the rent; then, at the time when there had passed through both Houses of Parliament a Land Act which was the Constitutional and received method of pacifying Ireland by fixing a fair rent, and when a Bill was on the Table for the purpose of enabling a tenant to pay his arrears, the landlord who put the tenant out of the power of getting the advantage of these two measures sadly hampered the Executive in Ireland, and did something in spirit, if not illegally, to defeat the intentions of the Legislature.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, it was the duty of the Tory Party to vote against the Motion, because they did not really know what the Arrears Bill was at the present time. To put himself in Order, and to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of answering one or two questions he 1795 was about to put, he should, if necessary, conclude with a Motion. He wished to learn from the Prime Minister whether proper opportunities would be given for bringing forward important questions connected with the affairs of Egypt and of India. If the programme of the Government were carried out, he feared that they could not have a discussion on the Indian Budget much be-fore the beginning of September. He asked whether the Prime Minister intended to pass the Rules of Procedure or the Corrupt Practices Bill first? The Corrupt Practices Bill could not be duly considered by the House if it were put off till the end of August, when there would probably be few Members present. Again, were they to rattle through the Estimates this year in the same way as they did last year? The Arrears Bill was an iniquitous measure, and one to which hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House should endeavour to offer a strenuous and persistent opposition. He did not believe that the country at heart cared two straws about the clôture Resolutions. It was easy for the right hon. Gentlemen to get some Liberal meeting now and then to pass a resolution urging the House to deal with them; but the inconvenience of an Autumn Session would far outweigh any facilities which the passing of the Resolutions would afford. Complaints had been made by the Government of the way in which the practice of questioning Ministers had increased. That increase, however, was solely due to the reticence of the Government, particularly of the Prime Minister and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and if the Government would cease to give evasive replies they would find the number of Questions at once diminish. He wished to know whether it would be possible to take a discussion of the affairs of Egypt, if necessary, between the passing of the Prevention of Crime Bill and the Arrears Bill, a discussion from which they ought not to be precluded? He should be glad also to hear from the Government when the Indian Budget was to be looked for, and whether another Vote was to be taken on account, making the almost unprecedented number of three Votes on Account that Session?
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he thought the House had received another illustra- 1796 tion of the sort of leadership exercised by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) over the Conservative Party. He did not think ho would be far wrong in stating that, for this occasion at least, the right hon. Baronet had been formally deposed on the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), seconded, with his usual rollicking political incompetence, by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther). He was afraid that the spirit which had been displayed by the light horse of the Conservative Party on this occasion was only too sure an indication of the treatment which the Arrears Bill would receive in "another place," when it would come more particularly under the purview of a Conservative statesman who, in many respects, was not altogether dissimilar from the political temperament of the ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had protested before, and of course he would protest again, against the deplorable action of the Government in introducing a Coercion Bill, destined, as he believed it to be, to strangle most of the benefits which might otherwise arise from their remedial legislation; but at present he merely wished to observe that in the observations which had fallen from the lips of the Premier they had not heard the slightest indication of any intention of discussing the Colonial and Indian policy of the Government. He ventured to say that the policy which had handed over to John Dunn a nation on whom they had unjustly made war, which had permitted the deplorable scandals in the Pacific, whereby the British flag was made a veritable black flag of piracy, and which refused to listen to the wrongs of 250,000,000 tortured human beings in India, was worthy the attention of Parliament. He could assure the House that the grievances of the Indian people were becoming matters of comment in the Native Press of India, and even in the Press of Egypt; and the Government were bound to give facilities for discussing them as a part of the Business of this Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he had been speaking to that portion of the Business of the House which concerned the people of India. He was not aware that he 1797 was more out of Order than the Prime Minister, who introduced several subjects connected with their Business, but omitted some of the most important. Would the Government give any opportunity for condemning the default in bringing to justice the murderers of Bengal prisoners, and the flogging of starving prisoners?
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he did not intend to travel so far a-field as the hon. Member who had just sat down; but he wished to express his entire concurrence with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). No reason existed why special facilities should be given to the Government for passing the Arrears Bill through the House. They on that side of the House were not only opposed to the principle of the Bill, but they regarded it as a measure which was tainted in its origin; and they knew it to be the first-fruit of that transaction which in that House they must not call a treaty, but which was described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford as a negotiation. He (Mr. Raikes) rose more particularly for the purpose of asking the House whether it was not possible to obtain from the Government some more satisfactory and definite forecast as to what was in the mind of Her Majesty's Ministers with regard to the other Business of the Session? They had heard something that day about the cloture Resolutions. He rather objected to that form of nomenclature, because there was only one Resolution which was directly aimed at the cloture. The other Resolutions affected the Business of the House; and he was sure that many hon. Members on both sides would have been in favour of many of them were it not that they were tied by the neck to one objectionable Resolution which excited the hostility of the House. At a proper time hon. Members on that side would have been perfectly willing to have considered and passed a great many of them, and the Government might now have been using them to facilitate the discussion of the Prevention of Crime Bill then before them. He wished the Government would enter into some definite engagement as to when these proposals would be brought on. Something dark had been thrown out by the youngest Member of Her Majesty's Government, and 1798 something still darker had been suggested by the Prime Minister with regard to an Autumn Session. He did not himself object to an Autumn Sitting; certainly, it was preferable to forcing the Resolutions upon a thin House in the third or fourth week in August. He hoped that some assurance would be given by the Government that, if they contemplated the resumption of the consideration of the Procedure Rules this Session, they intended to avoid the public scandal of thrusting those Rules down the throat of the House at a period of the Session when it would be impossible for them to be more than hastily and imperfectly considered. He wished to say a word with regard to the state of Supply. In general there was circulated among the Members of that House a little, but a very useful paper, which showed the state of Supply; but this year, perhaps for economical reasons, the Government had not circulated what would be most likely nearly a blank sheet. He had understood that when the Government asked for the last Vote on Account they had intimated that they would not ask for another without urgent necessity. The fact was that, both as regarded home affairs and our foreign policy, our Government had reached the ne plus ultra of absurdity. It appeared to him that Ministers lived in a fool's paradise, and were engaged in balancing the two halves of their Irish policy, considering it to be of the greatest importance which of those two halves was to be proceeded with first, while every other consideration of either home or foreign affairs was put aside. Instead of either English or Scotch legislation being proceeded with, the House met every evening to witness a fight—which, after all, might be merely a sham one— between the Government and their Irish allies. He was glad that the Irish Sunday Closing Bill was to be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, because the House would be saved from a very tedious discussion on the subject. It had been suggested that the Agricultural Holdings Bills, the Scotch Entail Bill, and the Scotch Endowment Bill should be referred to Grand Committees. It would, however, be necessary to discuss carefully the constitution of any Grand Committee, not only on general grounds, but also because otherwise a claim would be put forward that 1799 all Irish. Business should be referred to a Grand Committee which would consist almost entirely of Irish Members, which, would be a most dangerous proceeding-. With regard to the Corrupt Practices Bill, there was a general desire on both sides of the House to see that measure passed into law during the present Session. The only objection that he had to take to the action of the Government with regard to that Bill was that they were putting the cart before the horse. He hoped that it was not too late for them to proceed with their Bill for disfranchising the corrupt boroughs before they dealt with corrupt practices. Before they framed fresh laws dealing with corrupt practices, they ought to know what punishment was to be meted out to those who had violated the present law. It was certainly a very cruel thing that the persons and the boroughs implicated should be hung up Session after Session without their knowing whether the Government was in earnest in dealing with them, or whether the House was not to be made a laughing-stock, as far as its professions of purity were concerned. If the Government were determined to have an Autumn Session, let them toll the House so straightforwardly; but do not let these Rules of Procedure be considered at a late period of the present Session.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, he was bound to condemn the tone of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) and the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) with reference to the Arrears Bill. Before the release of the Members imprisoned in Kilmainham a requisition, numerously signed by Members on both sides of the House, was presented to the Prime Minister, urging him to deal with the question of arrears; and, under those circumstances, to reiterate, in the tone adopted by the two Members referred to, a charge, which had over and over again been denied, that the action of the Prime Minister was calculated to foster discontent in the minds of the poor farmers of Ireland who awaited the Arrears Bill, and to remove from them the confidence they had in the Government, was unwise. Instead of the Arrears Bill operating as a "no rent" manifesto, as the hon. and learned Member for Chatham stated, it was an "all rent" manifesto, because, 1800 immediately that it was introduced, many landlords thought proper to proceed against their tenants for the purpose of recovering all the arrears due to them before the Bill became law. He had in his possession bundles of writs which had been served on poor tenants, and when ho looked at the particulars of them he thought it was outrageous that they should be served at all. He had one in which a tenant owed three years' rent. Last year he sold his last cow and thereby paid a year's rent, but was unable to pay more; and yet it was sought to pass judgment on this man, and deprive him of the benefit of the Arrears Bill. He warned the Government that if the Crime Bill was allowed to be put into operation in Ireland unaccompanied by the Arrears Bill, or, at all events, by a prospect of its speedy passing, much, crime would be the result. He urged the Prime Minister to deal, if possible, this year with the pressing questions of the date from which judicial rents were to take effect. At present, hundreds and thousands of tenants were unable to get their claims heard. In all their cases, if the Government did not step in, the judicial rent would only date from the gale day succeeding the decision of the Court.
MR. E. N. FOWLER
said, he thought it would be admitted that the Arrears Bill was one of the first importance, and that, as such a short debate took place on the second reading, some time ought to be given for its discussion prior to going into Committee. It seemed to him that it was a Bill which proposed to tax the people of this country to pay rents which dishonest tenants in Ireland had failed to pay. An opportunity ought to be given to those who were opposed to it to discuss its principle. He hoped, as regarded the Indian Budget, that it would be brought forward earlier than it was last year. As regarded the Corrupt Practices and the Disfranchisement Bills, they would like some more information. Ho thought it very desirable that the latter Bill should be pushed forward. It was a Bill more urgently required for the punishment of offenders, and involving much less detail, than the former. In order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to reply, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. R. N. Fowler.)
I think the hon. Gentleman will see that it is absolutely beyond my power to give any undertaking with regard to the Disfranchisement Bill. With regard to the question of the Indian Budget, it is a matter on which no opinion can be pronounced in the present state of things. When the necessity has arisen for the consideration of the question it must be regarded in connection with the convenience of the great body of the House; but it will be impossible to give beforehand any engagement as to the position in which it should stand, and its precedence over every other Bill. As regarded an Autumn Session, that was a matter on which they could not then pronounce any opinion. But then, Sir, I have been asked whether it was intended that the Corrupt Practices Bill should take precedence of the Resolutions on Procedure, or whether the Resolutions on Procedure should take precedence of the Corrupt Practices Bill. Sir, I thought it would be quite distinctly understood that the Corrupt Practices Bill was a measure which we were resolved, so far as it depends upon us, to push forward; while with regard to the Resolutions on Procedure, I have said that the mode of dealing with them must stand for further and future consideration, stating at the same time, in the most positive terms at our command, that they would come within the compass of the present year, so as not to go into the next Session. In our opinion, that subject should be thoroughly and effectually dealt with. With regard to the Vote on Account, I cannot understand the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman. No sort of engagement was given that no further Vote should be asked for. Why, Sir, no person in his senses could give such an engagement, and no such engagement could be given. It is quite evident that the question of the Votes must depend on the demands of the various descriptions of Business at the time before the House of Commons; and what I want to point out is, that every unnecessary debate, and every unnecessary speech, however it may profess to aim at the removal of obstruction, and the bringing forward of this question, is in point of fact a prac- 1802 tical contribution to enhancing the difficulties of the position in which we stand, and though each of these speeches may be small in themselves, it is the multiplication of them out of which the whole gigantic difficulty arises.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he would not be doing justice to his own convictions if he did not repeat an observation which, on all occasions similar to this, he had annually made since he had the honour of a seat in that House. The Prime Minister was in the same position to-day that every Leader of the House had been in during his observation for the past eight years. He had had to come down at a certain period of the Session, and to acknowledge, in tones of patriotic humiliation, that Parliament was utterly inefficient for the discharge of its great duties, and from all quarters of the House that statement had received support. But what he (Mr. O'Connor Power) marvelled at was the care with which men of all shades of English opinion in that House evaded the one great question which lay at the root of Parliamentary difficulties. The expectation held out to them in relation to certain methods of forwarding the legislation of the country had always been doomed to disappointment. The Government felt that the one thing necessary for restoring the efficiency of Parliament was to pass in their entirety the Rules of Procedure which some months ago were laid on the Table of the House. He ventured to say, and he did not think his prediction would be falsified, that even if these Rules were adopted in their entirety, the Prime Minister would come towards the close of the Session of 1883, and go through the same operation that every Leader of the House of Commons had to go through since the passing of the Reform Bill—namely, to announce the withdrawal of important legislative measures, because Parliament was powerless to deal with them in a manner satisfactory to the country. It was certainly an unpleasant prospect that after the long days they had sat considering public questions, the alternative should be held out to them of sitting into the month of September to discuss Rules of Procedure of doubtful expediency, or of adjourning in the middle of August, and coming back in the middle of October to pass Rules to restore the efficiency of Par- 1803 liament, or, in other words, to subject themselves to the operation of that coercion which so many of them had been willing to impose on the people of Ireland, in the vain hope of making themselves more efficient for the transaction of Public Business. They would simply put the House into a strait jacket, and then expect its movements to be more rapid, and the result of its proceedings to be more satisfactory. For the eighth year ho rose in his place as an Irish Member to say that their difficulties in that House, that the obstruction of important legislative Business which the people of England were calling for, that their difficulties in Ireland, which were now striking at the very foundation of society in the country and threatening the stability of public order, were all referable to the one great cause, and that was that the English House of Commons persisted in managing the domestic affairs of the Irish people, although the experience of 82 years protested with all the voice of impartial history that such a practice was likely to be attended with no appreciable success as far as Ireland was concerned, while it must inflict upon the people of England a continuance of the many difficulties which they had hitherto experienced in carrying out this impossible task. He had intended to put one or two Questions to the Prime Minister with reference to the Land Act; but, as the process of interrogation had been carried so far already, he could only expect fragmentary answers, with which he should not feel satisfied. Ho intended, however, to interrogate the right hon. Gentleman, on an early day, with reference to the definition of a town park under the Land Act.
said, that many of the numerous speeches of which the Prime Minister complained as delaying progress were due to the extraordinary course which had been followed by the Government. Not a single measure mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session had been pursued with anything like a determination to carry it out to a successful issue. The proposal to take precedence for the Arrears Bill, and thus shut out all the rights of private Members, was one as to which they ought to have more full explanation from the Government. As the course proposed was quite unprecedented, ho wished 1804 to ask one or two questions — First, whether the Government really meant to carry out their threat and not leave the clôture to another year; secondly, whether a Bill might not be discussed in Committee after having been considered by a Grand Committee—that was the view which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister took of the matter, he believed—and, thirdly, whether the Government would really restore the rights of private Members when these two Bills were passed?
§ MR. J. HOWARD
said, he regretted that he was not in his place when the Prime Minister threw out a suggestion that the Agricultural Holdings Bills should be referred to a Committee, and he was surprised to learn that the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) did not fall in with the suggestion. It was impossible that any private Member could deal with this great question satisfactorily without a Select Committee. Looking to the diversity of opinion which prevailed both out-of-doors and in that House upon the question, ho thought such a Committee would do great good in guiding public opinion on the matter, and for himself he cordially accepted the suggestion.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, the hon. Member misunderstood him; all that he had said was that he wished to guard himself against being supposed to have anything to do with the Bill of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire. He hoped his observations would not be misunderstood as to the Prime Minister's suggestion. All ho intended to convey was that, in his opinion, a Committee of the kind suggested by the Prime Minister—namely, a Grand Committee—would probably not substantially facilitate the progress of the measures.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that, at the present time, Public Business was in a most unsatisfactory condition. In his opinion, the Indian Budget would be taken this Session later than ever. With regard to the Arrears Bill, he was surprised at the Prime Minister's proposal; it was a weak and unworthy surrender to Obstruction. He also protested against the Prime Minister bringing forward the clôture Resolution at any period of the Session. He thought that "Philip had become sober," and that a good many of the right hon. Gentleman's friends had also become sobered. Most noxious creatures 1805 had their stings in their tails; but these Resolutions had their sting in their head. He had a personal interest in the matter, for he had been included by the Secretary of State for India among the four upon the proscribed list.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he did not wish his previous observations to be misunderstood. The reason why he had not accepted the Prime Minister's suggestion was that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to refer the Bill to a Grand Committee, which he did not think would be of any real benefit. Though anxious to give consideration to the proposal of the Government as regarded the Arrears Bill, he felt bound, until he knew how far the Amendment would affect it, to oppose the measure. If his hon. Friend pressed his Motion to a division he would support it.
asked whether the hon. Member was at liberty to address the House, having seconded the Motion for Adjournment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Several hon. Members rose together to second the Motion, and I did not accept the hon. Member for Birkenhead as seconding the Motion.
MR. MAC IVER
said, the difficulty about late hours of the House, which were so injurious to the health of hon. Members, might be obviated if the House would adopt some other mode of taking the Votes.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is the adjournment of the debate on the Motion for the giving of precedence to the Arrears Bill.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, the Irish Members were anxious to expedite the proceedings in reference to the Bills before the House as much as possible; and, although they were more anxious for the passage of the Arrears Bill, they certainly were not willing to sell their rights and privileges for £500,000, as they would be doing if they assented to hasten the passage of the Prevention of 1806 Crime Bill. Short of doing this, they would be prepared to do their utmost to facilitate the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided: — Ayes 253; Noes 97: Majority 156. —(Div. List, No. 158.)
§ Ordered, That the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill have precedence, on every day for which it is set down, of all other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, except the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill.