Mr. Speaker, it had been my intention, on the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir John Hay), and as most conformable to the liberty and practice of the House, to advert, during the debate which I believe to be impending, to several matters of importance connected with the condition of Ireland, rather than to touch them in answer to a Question, or still less to seek an opportunity of making a short explanation. In consequence, however, of the difference of the Rules in "another place," and of proceedings which I understand are likely to take place there, it has appeared to me it would be most for the convenience of the House, especially in view of the Notice standing in the name of the right hon. and gallant Baronet, that I should ask permission of the House to 1966 make a very short statement, for the purpose of giving to it, I think, in brief compass, all the information which is in my power. Sir, I do not, I may say, on this occasion intend to make any reference to changes in the Land Act, because I have already partially and generally opened the views of the Government on one of the most important points which we think it our duty to open—namely, the question of arrears, a point, I may say, of the most pressing and immediate importance; and I also stated that an early opportunity would arise for touching on another point of great importance and interest—the question of the Purchase Clauses. With regard to other matters, although they are important also, I need not say anything of them. Other opportunities will offer for dealing with them more properly. But the three questions upon which I wish to give some information to the House are, the resignation of the Viceroy, the course which the Government have taken with respect to certain persons imprisoned in Ireland—particularly and primarily the three Members of this House—and the consequence it has entailed upon us (the Government); and, lastly, the intentions we entertain, so far as time permits us at present, to declare and exhibit those intentions in respect to legislation in Ireland. The House already is aware that my noble Friend (Earl Cowper), the loss of whose services we greatly regret, has resigned the Office of Viceroy of Ireland. I was asked yesterday whether he had resigned on political or on personal grounds; and I could not adopt with accuracy, or at least without fear of misapprehension, either of those grounds, for if I had said that my noble Friend had resigned on political grounds, I should have been understood to imply that he had resigned on the ground of policy, and because he differed in view from the Government and his Colleagues on public questions. That is not so, and neither has he resigned, I may say, upon personal grounds. It was his desire to give up his Office; but that desire did not take effect without reference to other considerations, and the consideration which induced the Government to recommend to Her Majesty that my noble Friend's resignation should be accepted was the desire they felt to have the advantage of carrying on the operations of the Executive 1967 Government in Ireland, in the present critical circumstances of the country, with the highest degree of authority that could possibly be made to attach to them—namely, under the direct action and the full responsibility of a Member of Her Majesty's Government. That, I think, is all that I need say on the subject of the resignation of my noble Friend. I proceed to another subject—indeed, to two subjects, both of which are embraced by the Notice which stands on the Paper for to-night. I have to state that directions have been sent to Ireland for the release forthwith of the three Members of this House who have been imprisoned since October last, under the powers given by the Protection of Person and Property Act. The list of persons similarly imprisoned will be carefully examined further, with a view to the release, in accordance with like principles and considerations, of all persons who are not believed to be associated with the commission of crime. This measure has been taken by the Government on its own responsibility—[Laughter from the Opposition Benches]—after gathering all the information which it was in their power to extract, either through the medium of debate in this House, or by availing themselves of such communications as were tendered to them by Irish Representatives, and this without the slightest reference to their previous relations to those Irish Representatives, but simply with relation to what they believed to be the public interest. But they deemed it to be a part of their duty to ascertain, so far as might be in their power, the views and intentions of those hon. Gentlemen who are chosen to represent Ireland in this House with reference to the present position of public affairs in that country. I observed that when I said that this action was taken upon the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, there appeared to be Gentlemen in this House who thought that to be an announcement of very trivial importance. In my view, it is far otherwise. The responsibility is serious, and the responsibility is undivided. Were that release a release determined upon in concert with, or in negotiation with, others, I should not have been able to use, in the full and plenary sense of the view which I have used, the phrase that I have employed and employ again, when I say, Sir, that 1968 this is an act taken on our own responsibility alone, and done in the strict pursuance of the principles on which our policy has been founded all along—[Renewed laughter]—with reference, and with paramount reference, to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, which we believe it will promote—a belief in which I can assure hon. Gentlemen we are not likely to be shaken. And, finally, it is, as I have already said, an act done without any negotiation, promise, or engagement whatsoever. This act, Sir, has entailed upon us a lamentable consequence—namely, the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. W. E. Forster),who declines to share our responsibility in this matter, and who, in consequence, has tendered his resignation of the high Office which he has held and discharged with such unwearied diligence, and marked ability, and such unfailing patriotism. It is not for me to explain, before my right hon. Friend does so himself, the view by which he has been actuated; and he will not be in a position to explain that view until he obtains the sanction of Her Majesty to his resignation; but he hopes to be able to offer his personal explanation not later than upon Thursday next. Sir, in conjunction with this subject, I think it is right that I should advert to the legislative intentions which Her Majesty's Government entertain—in few words, but, I hope, in words which will not be found, deficient in clearness, having regard to the time at which, and the circumstances under which, they are spoken. In the first place, we do not at present contemplate asking Parliament to renew the Protection of Person and Property Act; but it is my duty to point out that no final judgment can be formed at the present date upon a question of this paramount character, with regard to which the contingency immediately embraced in it is still placed at a considerable distance. The second statement I have to make is that, so soon as the necessary Business of the House of Commons will permit, we shall ask leave to introduce a Bill to strengthen the ordinary law, and to meet difficulties such as have been experienced in the administration of justice, and in defending and securing private rights in Ireland. By the necessary Business of the House of Commons, perhaps I ought to say that I mean the 1969 Resolutions upon Procedure, which, in our view, lie at the very root and threshold of the whole performance by the House of Commons of its duty, and the transaction of Business in relation to money, with regard to which, as the House well knows, legal necessities are laid upon us. Anything, in fact, which could not fairly be called, of that exceptional character, I do not include in necessary Business. But what I meant to convey to the House is this—that of all the legislation which we have hoped and desired to undertake, and which we have engaged, as far as it is in our power, to undertake, by the Speech delivered from the Throne at the commencement of the Session, no part will be allowed to interfere with the prosecution of the purpose which I have just described—namely, to satisfy what we conceive to be the demands of the necessity with regard to future legal provision for peace and tranquillity, and the enforcement of law in Ireland. I may add that we are now engaged in considering the details of the measure; and it should be clearly understood, after what I have said, that the Business of optional legislation will not be allowed to interfere with our proceedings in this respect. I ought, perhaps, to say, after the expectation that I have expressed—the sanguine expectation, or, at any rate, the very anxious expectation, with regard to the Protection of Person and Property Act—I ought, perhaps, to make one special reservation, not in contradiction, nor even, perhaps, in limitation of what I have said. It has relation to secret societies; and should it unhappily appear to us that the peace and security of Ireland are put in jeopardy by the members of secret societies, in that case, whatever might be our view as to the Protection of Person and Property Act in general, we should think it our duty to propose, as against their members, either a continuance of the present powers, or the enactment of any other powers which we might believe to be more effectual for the securing of life and property. I have only, I think, one word more to say. In expressing the hope and expectation that we may not be called upon to ask the House to reenact the Protection of Person and Property Act, I do not intend to suggest, on the part of the Government retrospectively, any change in their view. We have no authority, 1970 more than others, to speak upon this subject, and many hon. Members in that quarter of the House (the Home Rule Benches)—perhaps some on this side of the House—may differ from us in the opinion we entertain; but we do not agree with those who hold that the Act has failed, for we think that it has served a most important purpose, in enabling us to confront a great crisis, which, without that Act, we do not see in what way we could have had adequate opportunities of meeting. That, I think, is all it is my purpose at present to say, and I hope I have clearly conveyed to the House the intentions we entertain, and I thank the House for the great and kind attention which I have received during this statement from the great body of the House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker, I am well aware that it is most irregular to address any observations to the House upon the statement we have just heard, yet I think the House will, under the circumstances, extend its indulgence to me for a very short time. The Prime Minister has, in the closing words of his very important statement, expressed his acknowledgment to the House for the patience and the manner with which it has listened to him, and I can hardly imagine that any statement could have been possibly made that would have more thoroughly have arrested the attention, the breathless attention, of hon. Members on both sides of the House. From word to word, and from passage to passage of the Prime Minister's speech we necessarily hung upon his words, absolutely ignorant of what might be coming next, and feeling that his communication had reference to one of the most important subjects that could possibly be brought before us. I must frankly say that, having listened to the statement that has just been made, I am still more surprised than I was before that that statement was not previously made, and made in a manner independently of the Motion of which Notice has been given. Surely the reasons which have led to that statement being made to-night might have been foreseen, and might have led the Government to take this into its consideration in a more direct manner than they proposed to do, but not, I admit, more frankly than they have now done. There are several parts of that statement on 1971 which it would be premature at present for anyone to offer an opinion. We require more information. We require to know the reasons upon which the Government have proceeded in some of the very important steps upon which they have decided, as they tell us, on their own responsibility. The Prime Minister seemed to wonder that there should have been any sensation in the House on his making use of the expression that the Government had taken upon themselves to release, certain hon. Members of this House, and to consider the case of certain other persons who are at present imprisoned under the Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Act, and that they had made that decision on their own responsibility. The House, I think, would have been puzzled to know upon what other shoulders to lay the responsibility. However that may be, the feeling of the House now, I think, is that we should know the grounds on which the decision was arrived at. But there was a very strange light, or rather a very important light, thrown upon the expression used by the Prime Minister by almost the next following words of the right hon. Gentleman, which were to the effect that the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, as I am sorry to say we must now call him, had refused to share that responsibility; and that circumstance, I need not say, intensifies in the most remarkable manner the importance of the step on which the Government have decided. Under any circumstances, to be told, and told without reasons given for the decision, that the Government have decided to make so vital a change, so important a change, in the policy which they have been pursuing for a considerable time, and upon which they have from time to time appealed for the support of the House, would have been startling, and would have required consideration; but when they tell us that a Minister—not only one of their Colleagues, but the special Colleague who has been responsible for the administration of the Act in Ireland, who has had the most intimate knowledge of the state of the country, and who knows not only what the state of the country has been hitherto, but what it is at the present moment—when they tell us that he declines to share that responsibility, they really present to us a condition of affairs so grave that it is 1972 quite impossible to exaggerate it. The right hon. Gentleman has said, with perfect truth, that it would but be in accordance with the usual Parliamentary practice and the proper courtesies of official life to give the right hon. Gentleman who has now resigned his Office an opportunity of stating to the House the reasons which have led him to separate himself from his Colleagues; and he has also mentioned, what is perfectly well known to all, that the right hon. Gentleman cannot make such a statement until he has obtained Her Majesty's permission, and we are promised that such statement shall be made on Thursday. At present, therefore, it would be clearly premature for us to come to any final decision or opinion with regard to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter until we have heard the promised statement on Thursday, that will then be made, and which we shall await with the greatest interest and anxiety; but even now there are one or two points upon which, in the absence of that statement, I think, perhaps, I may be allowed to make one or two remarks. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is intended not only to release the three imprisoned Members of this House, but to consider the other cases of persons who are imprisoned under the Act, and who are not associated in the commission of crime. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Not believed to be.] Well, not believed to be. I suppose that is intended to point to the distinction that is to be drawn between a number of persons who are imprisoned on charges of being reasonably suspected of murder, or inciting to murder, or other outrages, and those who are guilty of intimidation or inciting others to desist from the payment of rent. But I should like to know another point with regard to that. There are certain persons in prison on a charge of being suspected of treasonable practices, and I should like to know what category they come under? I should like to know whether that is a charge that is to be treated lightly, or is to be treated seriously? Is it to be treated like a charge of using violent language, or is it to be treated as one of a very serious character? I cannot help observing that that charge is made against two of the Members of this House who are to be liberated; and, therefore, I presume that the mere fact of being 1973 reasonably suspected of treasonable practices is not to be held as a ground for retaining those persons in prison; but I shall be glad to know whether the serious charge is to be passed over, or whether any especial notice is to be taken of persons who are so charged; because, when considering the question of law and order, we should know whether that is to be regarded as a serious charge. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the Government are proceeding on the principles which they have always proceeded. In respect to a great many matters, I have no doubt but it will strike many persons as most probable that the Government are making a very serious and extraordinary change—they are, to use an expression that has become familiar to us, swapping horses while crossing the stream in a very strange and inconvenient manner; still, I am bound to say that, to a certain extent, I do admit they are proceeding on the principles on which it seems to me they have all along proceeded. Those principles are somewhat those of a pendulum which swings sometimes to the one side and sometimes to the other. I can conceive nothing more likely to weaken the authority of the Government, in the very difficult and important task on which they have entered in dealing with the state of things in Ireland, than the impression which is likely to be conveyed that they are hesitating and uncertain in their policy—that they are pursuing a policy which, they have not themselves thought out to its ultimate issues. Even the manner in which the announcement is made to-day all tends in the same direction. They would not announce it until they had an opportunity—until some independent Member of the Opposition brings forward a proposal to serve as a convenient peg on which they might make their statement. They would not state all their proposals on the Land Act until they had an opportunity of which they could take advantage, and so forth. They are, apparently, without a policy which they have themselves sought and decided on, and which they are prepared to recommend on their own responsibility to the House. They are casting about for opportunities which are offered to them from one quarter and another. I am sorry that is the line they take, for I do not think it 1974 is to the advantage of the country. I think we ought to have some further information from the Government. I should like to impress upon the Government, and I think we ought all to press upon them, that they should lose no time in this matter, and that they should take up a decided attitude, and not allow the grass to grow under their feet. The Government, I believe, have been weakened, as I believe we have weakened ourselves, by making demonstrations, and by holding out expectations, and even using threats, and then hanging the matter up for a considerable time until the force of the thing had worn itself out. If the policy is to release not only the large number of persons who are imprisoned under the Coercion Act without any statement to justify it, but with such authority against it as their own Chief Secretary, I say they ought to come forward and make their statement as a whole, and not in piecemeal fashion, pressing it forward in the most vigorous and rapid manner, and in a manner which would give the House an opportunity of considering it fully while they have time and opportunity. Undoubtedly I make that observation with reference to the extraordinary statement of the right hon. Gentleman, when, after he told us he would take the measure to which he refers as the very first measure after those which were of a necessary character, he tells us that among these necessary measures he includes the Resolutions for altering the Procedure of the House. Of course, if that is intended to be a mode of putting pressure upon the House with regard to forcing through the Rules on Procedure, it is very clever. If it is the idea of the right hon. Gentleman that that is a Business which it is necessary to proceed with and to get through with before he can make this statement of the full intentions of the Government, I think the prospect before us is of a very unsatisfactory kind. I apologize to the House for speaking at all. I am sorry to trespass on its time; but I do feel that we require further information on this subject, and I hope that on Thursday an opportunity will be given us of very fully considering the statements which have been made. There is one question which I do not know if I have the right to ask; but which, if I am not wrong in asking it, I should be glad to 1975 be informed upon. I was struck with the statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman with reference to Lord Cowper. Lord Cowper is a Nobleman for whom everyone has the highest respect, and of whom, as a man who is patriotic and thoroughly conscientious, we should all speak with respect and admiration. But the right hon. Gentleman told us that Lord Cowper had resigned the high Office of Lord Lieutenant upon this ground—that he wished that operations in Ireland should be carried on under—
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Because he wished that the Government should have the opportunity of making—
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Well, I have no right to ask on what grounds Lord Cowper gives up his Office, unless the right hon. Gentleman volunteers some statement on the subject. I am not questioning Lord Cowper's conduct; but the point to which I am coming is this—that either Lord Cowper desired, or the Government accepted, his resignation of Office, on the ground that it was desirable they should carry on their operations in Ireland with the highest degree of authority that could be attached to them, by having them under the direct control of the Members of the Cabinet. Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had some share in the deliberations of the Cabinet. The point I wished to remark upon was this—Was Lord Cowper's resignation sent in, or accepted, before or after the resignation of the Chief Secretary for Ireland? As long as the Chief Secretary for Ireland held Office he was a man in the highest authority, holding a Cabinet Office in connection with the discharge of his duties. Are we to understand that the object of Lord Cowper's resignation was to supply the way for a Cabinet Minister, consequent upon the loss of one by the intended resignation of the Chief Secretary? [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] I should think not. Then, is it thought desirable—really I do not like to ask many questions about it; but we really ought to know whether it is thought necessary that there should be two Members of the Cabinet—is it thought necessary, for the future administration of 1976 Ireland, there should be both the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Lord Lieutenant in the Cabinet? I need not say that it is a very novel arrangement; but it is so important that we ought to have some explanation on the subject, and I should really be glad to know whether it is intended that the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Forster's) place should be filled by the appointment of some other Cabinet Minister, or whether it is intended to dispense with the Chief Secretary in the Cabinet, or dispense with the Chief Secretary altogether? These are matters that I ask about, and I should think they are matters that the House, interested as it is in the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, ought to be informed upon.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he was well aware that the Forms of the House did not permit them to discuss the important statement made by the Prime Minister; but even if those Forms had allowed discussion now, it did not appear to him that there was anything in that statement calling for immediate debate—at least, so far as the Irish Members were concerned. It appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had gone either a little too far, or not quite far enough, in the discussion. It seemed to him quite plain that if a full and satisfactory debate on the statement of the Prime Minister could not be entered upon now, it would be better to leave the question undebated altogether for the present. They had had from the Prime Minister what were merely suggestions of legislation—they had no material upon which to form any opinion. The right hon. Gentleman told them he intended to deal with the question of the arrears, and with the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act; but, as a matter of course, until they knew what his propositions were, it would be idle to anticipate and discuss them. Then, as regarded his dealings with Coercion, they only knew that, under certain conditions, he would propose certain measures. They did not know whether these measures were to be more sharp or less sharp than those now in existence. Under such circumstances, it would be vain to discuss the subject. But he would take the liberty of asking the right hon. Gentleman three questions. One was in re- 1977 ference to the resignation of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. He might say for himself and for those around him that they were not disposed to indulge in any unseemly exultation over the fall of the right hon. Gentleman; but he would like to ask the Prime Minister whether a successor had yet been nominated? He would like to ask, also, as the second question, whether the Government intended to attempt the complete re-organization of what he might call the mechanism of administration in Ireland, beginning with Dublin Castle, and going down through all the hierarchy of the magistracy and police? In the third place, he should like to ask, in reference to the announcement which had just been made of that act of mere justice, propriety, and prudence—namely, the release of the State prisoners—he should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would not extend the same release to Michael Davitt?
§ MR. SPEAKER,
interposing, said, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had made a Ministerial Statement; but, there being no Motion before the House, a debate upon that statement could hardly be allowed.
Sir, I beg to notice very briefly the questions that have been put to me by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side. I think it is part of my duty to answer the questions which have been put on behalf of a Party or section of this House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) asks me whether the date of Lord Cowper's resignation was anterior or posterior to the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). It was anterior to that resignation, and the two resignations are totally disconnected the one from the other. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, also asked whether we had any reasons to give for the release of the "suspects." Defined as it was defined in my statement, we have given the reason which, we think, is the only and the sufficient reason—namely, that, in our belief, it is conducive to the interests of law, order, and security in Ireland. When that proposition is challenged, I shall be prepared to defend it. With respect to the questions of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin 1978 M'Carthy), I may state that no Chief Secretary has yet been named as successor to my right hon. Friend. With respect to the release of Michael Davitt, that is a question totally distinct from the release of the "suspects;" and it is one which it may be right for Her Majesty's Government to consider; but it is one which they have not taken into consideration as a portion of the same subject. In respect to the total and complete re-organization of the Government of Ireland, beginning with Dublin Castle and going down to the magistrates and police, I must confess that when I heard that question put by the hon. Member I blessed the simplicity of mind which could suppose, as I have no doubt he did, in perfect good faith, that the total reorganization of the Government in Ireland is a thing that can be dealt with by the stroke of a pen, or by a particular Resolution. In my opinion, and I think I may say in the opinion of my Colleagues, there is a great deal to be done in regard to the re-organization of the Government of Ireland; and I feel that, without working in that direction and in that sense, we shall not permanently attain the object we have in view; but I cannot state the degree and the time any operation can be made in a matter so difficult and multiform, and I am sure the hon. Member will not press me upon it.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the Question which I put to him, as to whether there was to be a Chief Secretary in the Cabinet?
I will make the announcement about the Chief Secretary as soon as possible. I have made the announcement of the resignation of my right hon. Friend; but that is a very recent and extraordinary event indeed. The directions that went to Ireland on this subject only went to-day; and, of course, all I can say is, that it will be our duty, in the present situation of Irish affairs, if on no other account, to proceed with all expedition that the state of Business will allow, and to make what may be deemed to be, on the whole, the best arrangements.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
begged leave to move the adjournment of the House, in order that he might put a few questions to the Prime Minister. Substantially, the announcement of policy just made was to a certain effect, and he could well fancy 1979 how that new hope would be raised in Ireland, and the people would most appropriately sing—Sound the loud timbrel o'er Ireland's blue sea:The Land League has triumphed, the 'suspects' are free.Such information would be astounding if it came from any Government except the present Government of never-ending vacillation. The question he wished to ask was, if the "suspects" were to be released now, why were they imprisoned at all? He thought he could throw some light upon the question by referring to the authority of the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister, speaking at the Guildhall on October 14, 1881, said, in reference to the arrest of Mr. Parnell—Within these few moments I have been informed that towards the vindication of law, of order, of the rights of property, of the freedom of the land, of the first elements of political life and civilization, the first step has been taken in the arrest of the man who has made himself beyond all others prominent in the attempt to destroy the authority of the law, and to substitute what would and in being nothing more nor less than anarchical oppression exercised upon the people of Ireland.He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider this question. Had law and order, had the rights of property, was the freedom of the land, had the first elements of political life and civilization been vindicated, or had they not? Had the purpose of that arrest been fulfilled or not? Was the state of things in Ireland better or worse than when that arrest received the commendation of the right hon. Gentleman? If not, then, why were the "suspects" to be released? He did not wish to enter upon a debate now; but he pressed the Government—and after the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that there was other necessary Business standing in the way he had a right to press the Government—for an explicit and early reply to those questions. That answer could not be, and must not be, long delayed, because the Government must remember that, as must be apparent to every section of the House, their policy of to-day was an absolute condemnation of their policy in October, and their policy in October was no less an absolute condemnation of their policy of to-day. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his decision. And, really, when the right hon, Gentleman 1980 talked of other necessary Business, he (Mr. Chaplin) asked what Business could be more necessary than the preservation of life in Ireland? To talk of proceeding with those Procedure Resolutions of the Government, when such issues of life and death were at stake in Ireland, was like Nero fiddling when Rome was burning. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, before they separated that evening, would give them a distinct assurance that, on the earliest possible opportunity, that complete and absolute reversal of the whole Irish policy of the Government would be submitted, as submitted it ought to be and must be, to the judgment of the House of Commons.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr.chaplin.)
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he wished to ask the right hon. and gallant Member for the Wigton Burghs(Sir John Hay) whether, after the statement which had been made to the House by the Prime Minister that afternoon, he intended to proceed with the Motion which stood on the Paper in his name with regard to the administration of Ireland?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that, so far as he was at present advised, his intention was to proceed with the Motion at 9 o'clock, if he found a House there at the Evening Sitting willing to listen to him.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he could not share in any attempt which might be made to draw from the Government, at the present moment, a more explicit explanation than the Premier had made. The Government had had, in a very difficult crisis, to consider a subject embracing many branches, and one of extreme delicacy and importance; and he could not help declaring his personal conviction that the First Minister of the Crown, in his statement made that day, had been as explicit as could fairly be expected, considering all the circumstances of the case. It might be true, as had been said, that the present policy of the Government was one which was in condemnation of that which they pursued in October last. He was not concerned to drive the comparison home. It was enough for him if the policy which they now foreshadowed was a better policy for his country than that which they had adopted before, and he most certainly believed it was so; and, while following 1981 the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote), he left in reserve and undiscussed the various branches of the Irish Question that would presently come up for discussion and settlement, he said with all the emphasis in his power that he believed that the one act which had been specifically announced—the release of the three Members of that House who had been kept for six months in gaol—was an act well calculated, in the language of the right hon. Gentleman, to advance the interests of law and order in Ireland. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman on that subject had been received with marked demonstrations of approval in that part of the House; but it had been received with demonstrations of another kind by those whose policy in regard to Ireland was coercion alone. But the right hon. Gentleman, in his long life, and in the many and varied scenes and achievements in which he had taken part, had never spoken truer words than when he said that the release of those three hon. Gentlemen would tend to the advancement of law and order in Ireland. He (Mr. Sexton) invited the right hon. Gentleman to look forward with confidence to the future consequences of that act; he invited him to consider what would be its effect on the minds of the Irish people. He invited him to consider that every day that they detained those hon. Gentlemen in prison was a day added to the inflamed passions and deepening hatred towards the British Government which existed in the breasts of the Irish people; and he asked any man, with the mind of a statesman, what would be the effect of keeping in force such an influence? Unquestionably, the effect of that announcement—though it was a limited and partial one—which had been made that afternoon would, he believed, be immediate and salutary. And he would further say that, for his part, he believed, if the Government only courageously continued in the path in which they had taken the first step that day—if, instead of relying upon repressive laws, opposed to the sympathies of the people, they followed up the axiom long since delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, that this was an Empire which did not rest on repression, but on free opinion; if they applied that axiom to Ireland, if they advanced boldly in re- 1982 gard to the matter of arrears, in regard to the Land Question, and also in the recognition of the national claims of the Irish people, the Government would find that they had taken the first step in a policy that would crown the Ministry which had begun in disgrace with glory, and that would create ties of affection and mutual interest between nations which had been long separated in feeling.
said, he wished to ask the Prime Minister whether the Business referred to in his statement included the whole of the Resolutions, or only the 1st Resolution; and whether the Corrupt Practices Bill was one of the measures?
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
also wished to ask the Prime Minister whether the release of the three Members of the House who had been confined as "suspects" was entirely unconditional, or whether any condition had been made for the withdrawal of the "no rent circular?"
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished to warn the House of the possibility of the released Irish Members renewing their system of Obstruction to the Resolutions as to Procedure now under the consideration of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions in regard to Procedure are not now under consideration. They are appointed for consideration by-and-bye; but they are not now under consideration.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
proceeding, said, he hoped hon. Members on that side of the House would take care that they were not involved in the penal consequences of Obstruction, in which two of the hon. Members, who were to be released, rendered themselves particularly conspicuous. He trusted that they would see such a change in the manipulation of the Rules for insuring Order as would secure the House from the annoyance which compelled it to appoint the Committee of 1878. While guarding against the perpetual Obstruction of a small minority, they ought to be careful that they did not involve in the penal consequences of that Obstruction Members who had no responsibility for it.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey 1983 Vivian) had, a short time before, put a question to him (Sir John Hay) which he was unable to answer fully at the time. After consideration, however, and looking to the fact of the resignation of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, he believed it would not be occupying usefully the time of the House were he to proceed with the Motion of which he had given Notice. He thought it would be more convenient for the House to wait until the late Chief Secretary could make his statement on Thursday; and, recognizing, as he did, the integrity and honour of that right hon. Gentleman, he thought it fair to allow him to make that statement to the House, and not call attention to facts which it would be his duty otherwise to have replied to. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be convenient to the House that he did not proceed at 9 o'clock to the Notice of Motion on the Paper.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would state in what form this question would come up for consideration on Thursday? Of course, he quite agreed it would be undesirable that any debate should occur at the present time. On the announcement that the right hon. Gentleman had made, he (Mr. J. Lowther) did not care to say anything, for he had thought that was not the opportunity on which it could be done. He would only say that, altogether apart from the substance of his announcement with regard to the release of certain persons now in custody, he thought the conditions under which that release had taken place must be viewed apart from the release. He believed the general impression that would be produced throughout the country, when the two simultaneous announcements of the throwing overboard by Her Majesty's Government of one of their Colleagues, the release of these men, and of those other acts to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred were put together, would be that there had been an abdication of the Government de jure in favour of the Government de facto in Ireland. The matter would be regarded as nothing less than an ignominious surrender to the forces of disorder and crime.
Sir, certain questions have been put to me, and I think it due to these hon. Gentlemen to 1984 make an answer to them. The noble Earl the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) asks whether, when I spoke of Procedure, I spoke of one Resolution only? I spoke of a series of Resolutions. He also asked, whether the Corrupt Practices Bill is, in my view, included in the necessary legislation? I think I have already fully answered that question by saying that none of the measures to which I had referred at the commencement of the Session, and which belong to the category of optional legislation in a certain sense, however important and urgent they may be, would be allowed to interfere with the consideration of the measures of urgency relating to Ireland. I have only to confirm that answer. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) asks, whether the action of the Government upon Procedure will be more immediate in consequence of this announcement? Our action was as immediate as we could make it before this announcement, and so it will continue. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) asks me, whether this release which has been directed is an unconditional release; and I thought, Sir, I had already answered that and made it clear, when I stated that it was without any negotiation, promise, or engagement whatever. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. J. Lowther), have approached the question in a different manner, and under the name of questions they have put to me inquiries as to what and when the Government proposed to take a debate on the subject. We have stated the issue which we place before the House. We have directed this release upon our responsibility, claiming the support of no one, and the promise of no one, in regard to it. Having done that, we say that we have done it for the public interest, and especially for the interest of peace, order, and security in Ireland. I think that that is a fair challenge; and if the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite choose to take up the glove, if they choose to declare that that proceeding is an ignominious surrender, we will defend the position we have taken up. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. 1985 Sexton), we shall certainly contend that this is no new departure on our part; but that is a question infinitely unimportant, and we shall contend that instead of being an ignominious surrender of the authority of the law, it is the true, wise, and effectual way for its vindication. If the House of Commons does not think so, let it pronounce upon us the condemnation which, in its judgment, it has a perfect right to do.
§ MR. PLUNKET
Sir, I should not have troubled the House at the present time, if it were only that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has thrown down to us this challenge. The right hon. Gentleman thinks he can safely indulge in such gallant and valorous words with his great majority at his back, swelled, as it will be, for the moment, by an accession of Irish Members from below the Gangway. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Hear, hear!] The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department loudly cheers that observation—he who, amongst others around him, has spent so many moments and hours in this House, during the present Session and the last, in denouncing those very men whom they now propose to conciliate and to release from prison; but I think the Prime Minister will find by-and-bye some difficulty—not, perhaps, in bringing forward a majority to support what he has challenged us to make a question in this House, but in explaining to the country the consistency of the conduct of the Government. But I desire to ask one question of the Government—a very serious one for one who is a Representative in this House of those loyal men in Ireland whose lives and property have been so long endangered. It is a question which will not bear delay. It is not a question with regard to the "suspects" who are now to be released. They were imprisoned on very solemn grounds, that were stated to this House and the country. They were kept in prison in spite of very solemn appeals that were made to the Government by those Members who call themselves the Irish Party in the House, whose advice was not then taken; but whose advice, apparently, is now alone to be considered. And why are the "suspects" to be released now? No explanation is given. The Prime 1986 Minister is asked—"What about the charge of treason?" And no answer is given. There is one answer that might be given in the words of an old and well-known couplet—Treason ne'er prospers: what's the reason? That when it prospers, none dare call it treason.I shall say but one word upon any other topic. As regards the resignation of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the hon. Member who spoke on behalf of his Irish Colleagues (Mr. Sexton)—on behalf of those who are called the Irish Party—showed, I must say, the generosity to abstain from glorying in the triumph they have succeeded in achieving by the sacrifice of the Minister who has borne the brunt of the day in administering the Act and the policy by which the Prime Minister has admitted that he was alone able to confront—and to what extent he has confronted it we know—the tremendous crisis of affairs with which he had to deal in Ireland. But there was one admission made by the Prime Minister, in reply to the hon. Member for Sligo, which sank into my heart with feelings of the gravest alarm. He has made many sudden and wonderful statements to-day; great surprises have been urged upon us, one after another, until we can hardly say in what position we now really stand as regards those great questions; but on one subject he did exhibit, to an extreme degree, that characteristic of his speeches we have so often before seen proving dangerous to the best interests of the country, in being at once encouraging and indistinct. A question was put to him by the hon. Member who spoke for those who are now to be the main advisers of the Ministry with regard to Ireland—namely—"What are you prepared to do with regard to the re-organization of Irish Administration, beginning with Dublin Castle, and going down through the whole hierarchy of magistrates and Constabulary and other authorities in Ireland?" And what was the answer of the Prime Minister? One would have thought, knowing the dangers to life and all that is dear to the dignity of Government and the well-being of the country which had so long existed in Ireland, that on that subject, at least, there would have been no paltering and no hopes held out. For what is it that maintains law and order at this 1987 moment in Ireland? Is it not that very "hierarchy of magistrates and Constabulary" to which the hon. Member referred? I say that those magistrates and Constabulary are entitled to the strongest support of the Government in the position that they are placed. But the Prime Minister passed it off as a joke, saying, in effect—"He wondered at the simplicity of mind that could imagine that all this could be done by a stroke of the Resolution," and holding out the hope that the time would come when it would be necessary to deal with this question. But I want to know what is the present opinion of the Prime Minister, whatever may be his ultimate intentions, with regard to the so-called "Irish Administration, beginning with Dublin Castle, and going down through the whole hierarchy of magistrates and Constabulary."
§ MR. PLUNKET
My recollection is different. I distinctly heard them. The meaning of those words, "hierarchy of magistrates and police," is well known. What I want to ask now is not as to the particular manner in which the Prime Minister may by-and-bye propose to deal with the question, but in the interest of those whom I represent—my constituents—I have a right to put it to the right hon. Gentleman, that in the meantime this hierarchy—call it what you please—those who represent the powers of the Government shall remain until you have invented something that you can substitute in their place, and shall be maintained, vindicated, and justified in their efforts to maintain law and order in Ireland.
said, he rose for the purpose of asserting that the proposals of the Government would not satisfy the people of Ireland. Every movement made by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland in the administration of Irish affairs was supported by the other Members of the Cabinet, and now he was allowed to retire because his policy was disapproved. He (Mr. Macartney) had been a long time a Member of the House; and he must say he never heard an announcement that made him tremble more for his country than the announcement of the agreement into which the Prime Minister had entered with the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) as 1988 to the principle upon which Ireland was to be governed. If that was to be the principle upon which Ireland was to be governed, the sooner the Government made up their minds to provide for the departure of the loyal inhabitants of Ireland to some other portion of Her Majesty's Dominions the better. He believed that the late Chief Secretary ever acted with the best and most honest intentions; and he was sorry to see hon. Gentlemen sitting behind him join in the hue and cry against the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had been "baited "—most unmercifully he had been "baited "—a short time ago, and not one single Member on the Treasury Bench stood up and said a word in his favour. He (Mr. Macartney) had heard men in that House use words which he would not repeat. He did not wish to use an un-Parliamentary expression; but he could not help saying that it was not courageous, and that it was an un-English proceeding for a Government to allow their Colleague to be treated as the late Chief Secretary had been. The right hon. Gentleman, he believed, would carry into his retirement the respect of every right-minded man in Ireland. He meant of every right-minded man who feared God, who respected the law, who honoured the King, and who supported the Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman would carry into his retirement the respect of every right-minded man, although they did not agree with the policy of the Government which he carried out. During the time the right hon. Gentleman was in Office he (Mr. Macartney) believed he had two foes to fight, one in front and the other behind—one the rebellious people of Ireland, and the other his Radical Colleagues in the Government.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he had listened to no statement in the House of Commons for many years which had given him so much pleasure as that made by Her Majesty's Government; and he had no hesitation in saying that that announcement would do more to restore order in Ireland than a dozen Coercion Acts. He had often said that coercion might repress crime in a temporary manner; but he thought, on the other hand, it was a power that begot crime. He represented as many loyal men in Ulster as the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Macartney);and he would 1989 say that the men of Tyrone and Ulster would receive the news with the utmost satisfaction. In September last, in conjunction with the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), he waited on the Chief Secretary for Ireland, representing the loyal farmers of Ulster, to urge the release of the "suspects;" and he thought it would have been better if that advice had then been taken. If that advice had been taken, he believed the best results would have followed. He rejoiced that at last the Government were "clothed and in their right mind;" and he could say that he hoped it was the last time that ever a Liberal Government would be identified with a coercion policy in Ireland. He believed they had burnt their fingers with it that time; and he would ten times rather see the Liberals go to the other side of the House and sit in Opposition, than see them again identify themselves with coercion in Ireland. He had no fear of challenging the loyal men of Ulster, and he could only say that he could await with confidence their verdict upon the policy which Her Majesty's Government had just announced.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Sir, I think the House is drifting into a most unsatisfactory position, seeing that we are now having a debate which is no debate. We have not sufficient information before us to pronounce any opinion, and yet some hon. Members have risen and expressed their satisfaction at the announcement; while others have pronounced their disapprobation at the course which the Government proposed to pursue. But what will be the effect of the silence of those who think, like myself, that without sufficient information it is impossible that we can judge of the scheme of the Government? We have much to think over. Till yesterday it was our duty, as it was our pleasure, to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who represented, not his own policy, but the policy of the Government. Time after time it was our duty to maintain the policy pursued by the right hon. Gentleman—a policy which, so far as we are aware, may be the policy of the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment. He was in communication with the police all over Ireland, and he was in communication with the magistrates of Ireland; and the right hon. Gen- 1990 tleman has not yet had any opportunity of stating in the House the grounds upon which he thinks the release of the "suspects" is impolitic. I think, in justice to the right hon. Gentleman, we ought to restrain the expression of our opinion on the course Her Majesty's Government have thought fit to pursue. My right hon. Friend at the head of the Government has stated his reason for the adoption of that course—namely, that he believes it to be for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, a reason which will be established in debate. [Mr. GLADSTONE: When challenged.] I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will think he is challenged by the statements which will be made by his late Colleague. I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government intend the Gentleman who has been charged with the administration of Ireland in concert with his Colleagues to state his reasons against the course, and to accept them as a challenge, or to let those reasons pass in silence. For myself, I may say this—that, to my mind, the effect of the release of the "suspects" will depend, in a great measure, upon the fuller arguments which the Government may advance or sustain in defence of that course. ["No, no!"] I do not know whether hon. Members who say "No, no!" are prepared to think that, under all circumstances, and whatever explanations are given, the release of the "suspects" has been desirable. I do not think that there are many on this side of the House who would agree that the release of the "suspects" would be advantageous and expedient, if it had been a surrender prompted by the fear of the Party in Ireland to whom the "suspects" belong. I think a release upon such grounds would clearly be unsatisfactory to those who sit on this side of the House; and, to my mind, it is clear that the language that may be held with regard to the reasons for the release of the "suspects" is an element in the case which we are bound to consider and cannot overlook. We shall hope, in any case, that the anticipations of the Government may be realized, and that the course taken will, as the right hon. Gentleman hopes, tend to increase the prospects of law and order in Ireland. We know that he believes that a social revolution exists in Ireland; and it will have to be proved 1991 to us how the release of social revolutionists will increase the prospects of successful resistance to social revolution. It may be so; hut that must depend, in a great part, upon the legislation by which the release of the "suspects" is to be accompanied. Will it be thought in Ireland that this is a new departure, in the sense that there will be less security—legal security—taken for the maintenance of law and order and the protection of life and property? It will, I say, depend upon those measures what will be the effect of the release of the "suspects" I am speaking hypothetically when I say that it is possible that the release of the "suspects" will have a beneficial effect in Ireland; but it cannot have a beneficial effect on the fortunes of the Empire, unless all parts of the Empire are convinced that the Executive is strong enough to be able to govern Ireland notwithstanding such concessions. My hon. Friend below me (Mr. T. A. Dickson) has said that he hoped the Liberal Party would never again burn its fingers with a policy of coercion. But if there be in Ireland revolution, agitation, and disorder, it would be the duty of any Party, Liberal or Conservative, again to introduce a policy of coercion. The Liberal Party cannot exist if the idea is to be fostered that we are not powerful enough and not strong enough for the suppression of disorder, and for grappling with these disturbances, and that it is only by retreating, and by concession after concession, that we can govern. Sir, I have occupied the House too long, after what I have stated—that we have not the whole facts before us, and I may have been too warm; but as my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government spoke in warm language when he felt that a challenge had been thrown out to him by the other side, so I may be pardoned if in the face of events as stirring as any that for many days have happened—if in view of the fact that in the midst of the troubles in Ireland, the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman who has been charged with the maintenance of law and order in Ireland should take place, and the release of the "suspects" be announced—I may be pardoned, I hope, if I also speak with some warmth. I need not assure the House that in what I have said I am not animated by the slightest disregard for 1992 Her Majesty's Government. I think they will do me the credit of believing that it is not my motive to attack them, and that if I have spoken with feeling, it is because we are in the middle of an important crisis, when we must not mince our words. My hon. Friends around me will not, I am sure, mince theirs, when we all shall be afforded an opportunity of stating, at the proper time, our opinions upon events which must have most grave and important consequences to the country at large.
§ MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, it might be quite right of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), who had been a consistent supporter of what he would call the coercive policy of the Government, to assume a judicial frame of mind, and say he would prefer to postpone uttering a final expression of opinion upon the announcement made by the Prime Minister until further information was before the House; but, for his (Mr. Charles Russell's) own part, believing, as he and those who acted with him did, that the policy of coercion in Ireland was not an aid to law and order—was not in reality suppressive of crime, but really provocative of crime—be did not require to wait, and would not hesitate at once to express his satisfaction at the announcement that the Government did not intend to continue that policy of coercion. He agreed with the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) that the Prime Minister's statement would be hailed with satisfaction in Ireland; and he believed it would do more to render the task of governing Ireland easy to the Executive than whole regiments of soldiers and troops of Constabulary. He also cordially agreed with the senior hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) in what he had said with reference to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. He fully believed that the right hon. Gentleman went to Ireland with the best intentions, and that he spared no effort to discharge his duty according to his sense of what that duty was; but he felt bound emphatically to say that in a material part of his policy the right hon. Gentleman was acting on a mistaken view, though he was also bound to say that his policy was the policy of the Government, who had made no attempt to shelve it upon the right hon. Gentleman. He was utterly at a loss to 1993 understand what was the cause of the exceeding vehemence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket). The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M 'Carthy) asked a question of importance, he (Mr. Russell) admitted, and of significance; but what was it? It was—whether there was to be a change in what the hon. Member called the mechanism of the government of Ireland? Did the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin desire to say that the existing form of government in Ireland in its administration was satisfactory? Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say that if he was in Office he would not admit that there were grave and serious questions as to the Executive Government in Ireland? Was it not a confessed fact that there was not on the face of the world such a centralized and bureaucratic form of Government as that which existed in Ireland, and that there was no country where things were so ordered as to cast so little responsibility on the people? He (Mr. Russell) recognized as an important and necessary principle that the government of Ireland must rest mainly with the Irish people, and that before the Irish people could be expected in their utterances or their public acts to show a due sense of responsibility, they must have the power which brought with it a sense of responsibility. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made another complaint—forsooth, that the Irish Representatives had been consulted in this matter. Who were to be listened to, he (Mr. Charles Russell) would like to know, unless the Representatives of the people? Irish Members below the Gangway might not represent the opinions of his right hon. and. learned Friend (Mr. Plunket),or, indeed, what he (Mr. Charles Russell) himself in all respects wished; but those Gentlemen were, de facto, the Representatives of the great bulk of the people of Ireland. Was the government of Ireland to be carried on by the shutting of eyes and ears to facts, and to the opinions, statements, and information of the Representatives of the people? That did not seem to him to be statesmanship. There were other Irish Members besides those opposite; and he (Mr. Charles Russell) would say it was a happy augury if it was the fact that they were consulted—which he did not know. It was a happy augury if the 1994 Government were to take into consultation the Members sitting upon all sides of the House, representing all shades of opinion in Ireland—not, indeed, necessarily for the purpose of acting on the opinions of particular Members, but of gathering the sense of those who occupied the responsible position of the Representatives of the people. He believed that it would be found that the announcement of the Prime Minister, if carried out in its spirit, and in the meaning which the House had attributed to it, would work truly for the pacification of Ireland.
§ MR. GIBSON
Sir, it is not my intention at all to criticize the remarkable statement which has been made to the House this afternoon by the Prime Minister at any great length. The proper time for doing that will be when we shall have an opportunity of considering the reasons which have induced the grave announcement that has been made—that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would no longer be answerable for the peace and government of Ireland under the altered condition of affairs. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has introduced an element which will be jealously scanned—namely, how far and what Irish Members were consulted so as to arrive at an understanding upon this matter. My object in rising now is to elicit a few words from the Government which will enable loyal people in Ireland to feel some sentiment of safety. In the remarkable utterances of the Prime Minister, to which I have listened with a painful interest and close anxiety, I failed to hear one solitary word which would indicate that the Government, although they were about to make a remarkable change in their procedure, would steadily, firmly, and courageously protect the magistrates of Ireland in the discharge of their duties. I failed to hear anything in that direction even, when my right hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Plunket), in warm and generous words, drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the matter, and asked that he would support the Irish Constabulary in the discharge of their difficult duties, rendered all the more difficult in consequence of the action of the Government. I am entitled to demand from the Prime Minister, before this Sitting closes, that he will, in a few 1995 strong, plain words, indicate to the loyal classes in Ireland that they will still be supported by the efforts of the Government, that law will be preserved, that terrorism will be struggled with, and that by what has been announced to-day it is not meant that the efforts of the Government to secure the first ends of government will be weakened or abandoned.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I absolutely deny that there is any occasion for the assurance which has just been demanded from my right hon. Friend; but I rise for the purpose of saying two or three words in reply to the challenge which has been thrown out by the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen who represent the University of Dublin. The right hon. and learned Gentlemen complained that the Prime Minister, in the important statement which he has made, said nothing about the intention of the Government to support the magistrates and Constabulary in the discharge of the arduous duties which fell to their lot. Sir, why was it necessary that my right hon. Friend should make any statement upon a subject which is absolutely obvious? Who denies—who has ever doubted—that the support of the magistracy and Constabulary in the discharge of their duties is the first duty of the Government? And what is there in what fell from my right hon. Friend to-night which can make any Member of this House doubt for one moment that the Government are alive to the duty, and intend to perform it? On the contrary, my right hon. Friend has done more—he has admitted that the existing powers of the law are not, as they stand, sufficient to give to the magistrates, the Constabulary, and the authorities engaged in the preservation of peace all the power they ought to have in dealing with the question of the suppression of crime. He has announced the intention of the Government to appeal, at the very earliest opportunity, to this House to strengthen the law in these respects. Sir, can it be supposed by anyone who is not animated—I do not want to use strong language—but who is not animated by a strong Party feeling, that the Government, in coming forward and announcing their intention to strengthen the hands of the Constabulary and the magistrates in the discharge of their duty, are, 1996 in the meanwhile, going to omit the primary and Constitutional duty of giving them every support which the existing powers of the law will enable them to do? I am not going to enter into any discussion as to the policy which has been announced to the House tonight. Some hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, including, I think, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), seem to consider that a duty fell upon the Government not only to make a statement of their policy, but also to defend it. I venture to think it is not the duty of the Government to defend its policy until it is attacked. ["Oh, oh!"] I may hold an erroneous opinion in that respect, but that is the opinion I hold. Some hon. Members seem to think it is the duty of the Government first to formulate an attack upon themselves, and then to state the reasons which may be urged against their defence. I can hardly doubt that, after the gallant words which we have heard from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches this afternoon, we shall have that opportunity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) seemed to make it a matter of some complaint that we challenged him and his Party to attack and impeach our policy if they thought it worth impeachment. I cannot imagine that such an attack will be presented on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because the circumstances are such that he is no longer to be supported by hon. Members below the Gangway, who have, on previous occasions, connected themselves with the Party opposite so constantly. I do not suppose that it is only an occasion when a majority is expected, or, at all events, a large minority, that the conduct of the Government may be impeached by the Opposition. I conceive that the decision of whether a Motion of Censure is to be brought forward or not would not depend on the number of Members by which such a Motion would be supported, so much as by the justice of the cause. Therefore, I conceive that if the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues think what we have announced to-night worthy of the censure of the House and the country, they will not shrink from the obvious duty of an Opposition, and challenge our policy. I 1997 will only say further that I venture to think it is not the duty of the Government to formulate excuses which would throw any doubt on the wisdom of the course they have adopted.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that he should be sorry if the tepid speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) should go forth as representing in any manner the general feeling of Members on the Liberal side of the House. The Prime Minister had said that the course they had taken would promote law and order. He (Mr. Arnold) felt that the Prime Minister had established a new claim to their confidence by the policy he had now announced.
§ MR. SPEAKER
announced that, according to the Rules of the House, only one minute remained in which to dispose of the Question before the Chair. If it were not withdrawn a difficulty would arise.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The House suspended its Sitting at Seven of the clock.
§ The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.