HC Deb 23 May 1882 vol 269 cc1408-19

said, he wished to put a Question of some interest to the Prime Minister in reference to a Motion which he (Mr. Chaplin) had put upon the Paper—" That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Thursday." He was very far from being insensible to the important consideration which the right hon. Gentleman had urged in favour of taking the very unusual course of putting down Government Business for to-morrow, which he need scarcely remind the House was Derby Day. What he wanted to know and what he felt sure there was a deep interest on the part of the House to ascertain was, that it was not to be taken as an annual precedent, and whether it was to be understood that in future the Government would not put down Government Business for Derby Day? On a distinct assurance of the right hon. Gentleman to that effect, he would not be disposed to proceed with the Motion he had put upon the Paper. He hoped such an assurance would be given.


, in reply, said, there was no intention whatever of creating any precedent, by the course the Government proposed to take to-morrow, which could possibly interfere with the discretion which the House had been accustomed to exercise with regard to the disposal of that particular day. That, he hoped, would be satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman. And now he thought he might proceed to move the Motion of which he had given Notice with regard to the course of Business. He was very desirous not to vary at all from any engagement he had made with the House with regard to the course of Public Business. He stated yesterday that it was his intention that day to ask that the several stages of the Prevention of Crime Bill should have precedence on each day—that it should be put down until the House should otherwise order. He also stated that it was not his intention to make any such Motion with regard to the Arrears of Rent Bill at that time, because it appeared to him to be a simple measure that did not call for a Motion of that kind. Late in the evening, when it was announced that the Government would ask the House to proceed with the Arrears of Rent Bill that day, it became necessary to alter the Notice of Motion in order to give it precedence, otherwise the Prevention of Crime Bill would take precedence by force of the Resolution. But, owing to a mistake of his, the alteration was made wider than was intended, and in order to bring it into exact correspondence with what he stated yesterday, he would move to insert certain words. The Motion would then be to the effect that the several stages of the Bills he had referred to would have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, from day to day, until the House should otherwise order.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the several stages of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill and the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of the Arrears of Kent (Ireland) Bill, have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, from day to day, until the House shall otherwise order."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, he felt bound to protest most urgently against the Prime Minister's proposal. For some few days past he (Mr. Dillon) had listened to reiterated statements, which to some extent seemed to be accepted on all sides, that a connection of some nature existed between the Prevention of Crime Bill and the Arrears of Rent Bill. It had, in fact, been stated on high authority that they formed parts of one and the same policy, of one and the same whole, and could not be divided; but he (Mr. Dillon) thought no further time should be lost in stating that the Representatives of Ireland—at least those who sat on those (the Opposition) Benches—could not acquiesce in any such declaration of policy. The Prevention of Crime Bill, as a Bill, must stand on its own merits; and if the Head of Her Majesty's Government was under the impression that Irish Members were going to sell the liberties of the Irish people and con- sent to the passage of a fresh Coercion Act in return for such a measure as the Arrears of Rent Bill, the sooner that impression was cleared away the better. The Arrears of Rent Bill might be for the benefit of the tenants; but, whether it was a benefit or not, whether it was just or unjust, it was a measure which must also stand entirely on its own merits, and it had nothing whatever to do with the passage of another Bill, or the Prevention of Crime Bill. With regard to the Prevention of Crime Bill, it was right that he should state at that time, that whatever use they might hope to obtain for the Irish tenants from the Arrears of Rent Bill—and he believed that they might have got a great deal of use if the Government had dropped the policy of coercion—the Prevention of Crime Bill would, in his opinion, entirely rob them of all the promised good to the Irish people which they had expected from the Arrears of Rent Bill. Therefore, he wished it to be distinctly understood that, in the minds of Irish Members, there could be no connection whatever between the two Bills on their side. It was their duty to protest, by the most emphatic means in their power, against a Motion which took up the entire time of the House, to the postponement of a very valuable and useful piece of legislation, for the benefit of a Bill which was neither useful nor necessary, but which was calculated to destroy any effort made for the benefit of the Irish peasantry, and to do what the House had been already warned by a leading Member of the Tory Benches (Lord George Hamilton) it would do—to land them on the threshold of another social struggle in Ireland.


said, he entirely acquiesced in what had fallen from the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon). So far as he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) and his hon. Friends were concerned, he felt bound to say that they were not disposed for one moment to entertain the idea that they were making an exchange between the Arrears of Rent Bill and the Coercion Bill—that because they were getting a Bill they believed to be fair and just, they were going to submit to the passing of a measure which they believed to be highly unfair, unwise, and unjust. The Prime Minister had spoken of the two Bills; but he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) observed that the terms they had used had not placed them upon an equality, as the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take the successive stages of the Prevention of Crime Bill one after the other, whereas he only yielded one stage in favour of the Arrears of Rent Bill; therefore, the two measures were not based upon equal terms, but coercive was given the advantage over remedial legislation. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had no hesitation in saying that he was quite resolved to oppose in every legitimate way the passing of the repressive legislation, which he believed would not be to their advantage, but greatly to their disadvantage, tending, as it was, rather to promote and stimulate crime than to repress it.


said, that as it was perfectly legitimate for hon. Members to prefer one Bill before the other, he would like to know whether the two measures were to go hand-in-hand together; and whether, as soon as the Prevention of Crime Bill was passed, the Prime Minister intended with all due speed to pass the Arrears of Rent Bill through the subsequent stages; and, should that spirit of obstruction, which they had noticed on the previous night, be again manifested, whether the Prime Minister had it in contemplation to make a similar Motion with regard to the subsequent stages of the Arrears of Rent Bill as he had made with regard to the other?


said, he could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was not his intention to entrap any person who was favourable to the Arrears of Rent Bill into a support of the other Bill, any more than it was his intention to entrap those favourable to the Prevention of Crime Bill into supporting the Arrears of Rent Bill. The two Bills were absolutely distinct, and hon. Members could support or oppose both, or support one and oppose the other. All he said was that in the Ministerial mind they were part of one and the same policy. The effect of the Motion he had now made was simply to give precedence on every day upon which it might be set down to the Prevention of Crime Bill over every other Order of the Day, and it gave the like precedence to the adjourned debate upon the second reading of the Arrears of Rent Bill. But no similar precedence was given to the Arrears of Rent Bill beyond the debate on the second reading. He would not describe the contingency sketched by his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in the same terms as his hon. Friend had used. His hon. Friend, as he said last night, was "a peace-maker by profession." But he (Mr. Gladstone) would say that should there be developed in the course of the Arrears of Rent Bill a considerable number of points requiring discussion, or should it appear that many debates would be required, so that if any serious difficulty arose about the time occupied in passing the Bill, it would then be his duty to ask the House to give the Arrears of Rent Bill the same kind of precedence as he was now asking for the Crime Bill.


said, the Irish Members could not consent to the Prevention of Crime Bill having precedence over the remedial measure; and he would therefore propose, as an Amendment, the omission from the Prime Minister's Motion of the words "the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill," and thus restricting its operation to the Arrears of Rent Bill, and placing it in its proper position by giving it precedence. He wished to know whether the Government intended to push on the third reading of the Prevention of Crime Bill before any other stage of the Arrears of Rent Bill than the second reading was taken? If so, that was a point on which there would be considerable difference of opinion. The Tories would oppose the Arrears of Rent Bill to the best of their ability. They made a very skilful point last night when they contended that the tenant's interest in a farm should be considered a portion of his assets, and should be sold out before any loan or gift was granted him by the State, and they drew from the Prime Minister the reply that it was a matter of consideration in Committee. Of course, that might be used as an admission of the justice of the suggestion, although he believed the Prime Minister had no intention whatever of making the admission. But they knew what pressure could be put upon a Government, especially when a strong Party amongst their own supporters helped them to yield. They knew what happened to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. The Government, with the best intention, brought in a certain Bill and then modified it. The same thing occurred with the Land Bill. If "Parnell's Clause" had been passed, there would have been no necessity for this Arrears of Rent Bill. Therefore, he wanted a definite understanding from the Government on this occasion, and to give them an opportunity he moved his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "the several stages of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill and."—(Mr. Healy.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


, in reply to the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), said, that the question put by him had been previously answered by the statement he (Mr. Gladstone) made on a former day. The hon. Member asked if all the subsequent stages of the Prevention of Crime Bill were to be taken before any proposal was made with regard to the Arrears of Rent Bill? His (Mr. Gladstone's) answer was that so soon as the Arrears of Kent Bill was brought in, it was stated that there might be necessary intervals in the progress of the Prevention of Crime Bill, and that the Government would be anxious to turn those to good account for the Arrears of Rent Bill. It might be convenient, for instance, to have an interval of two or three days, for the purpose of reprinting the Bill with Amendments after going through Committee, and that interval might be utilized for the purpose of pushing on the Arrears Bill. Any opportunity that presented itself, without hindering the progress of the Prevention of Crime Bill, would be turned to account in forwarding the Arrears of Rent Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 228; Noes 31: Majority 197.—(Div. List, No. 95.)


said, he wished to remind the House that the Prime Minister had expressed his intention of carrying through the Arrears of Rent Bill in the interstices of the time occupied by the Prevention of Crime Bill. The fact, however, was, and he (Sir George Campbell) regretted to say so, that by the Resolution in its present form, that Bill would have no prece- dence at all after the present stage. It would be much more simple and fair if the terms of the original Motion were adhered to, and the Resolution was made to read that each of the two Bills throughout their stages should have precedence; and he would therefore move to leave out the words "adjourned debate on second reading of," in order that precedence might be given to both Bills.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Adjourned Debate on Second Reading of the."—(Sir George Campbell.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


considered that both Bills should be placed on the same footing of urgency. He should, therefore, support the Motion with great pleasure, seeing that it would only be a proper concession to those who were asked to offer no unnecessary obstruction to a measure which would seriously interfere with the liberties of their country. The country would be satisfied if it were shown that the same degree of urgency was intended for the Arrears of Rent Bill as for the Coercion Bill, and it would only be fair to the Irish Members that equal facilities should be given for the passage of a Bill that they believed would go a long way towards restoring peace to Ireland. Experience showed that after they passed Coercion Bills they had little or no guarantee that remedial measures would go through with speed and without being impaired. What had to be made apparent to the Irish Members now was that they could obtain reasonable legislation by reasonable appeals to Parliament, and without having recourse to obstruction. If the arrears legislation preceded by a few weeks the passage of the repressive measures the effect might be very desirable.


hoped that his hon. Friends would not press the Motion to a division. He would point out the position in which they placed the Government. He had promised last night, and he had confirmed the promise to-day, that they would not ask the House at present to give precedence to the Arrears of Rent Bill. Now, his hon. Friends said that they hoped he would ask the House at that moment, directly in the teeth of his word, to do that very thing. And why did they take that course? He had distinctly intimated to the House on every occasion, that should it appear that the passage of the Arrears of Rent Bill led to complex debate, he would propose to make that Bill urgent; but not unless it was necessary. But now that Motion was made to insist that, in defiance of his word, he should make that Bill urgent, whether it was necessary to do so or not.


said, he was not aware that the Prime Minister had given a pledge of that kind; but, after that, he had no other course than to ask leave to withdraw his Motion.


Sir, I may remind the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that the proceedings of last night indicated that there will be some kind of difficulty in the passage of the Arrears of Rent Bill. The opposition then offered to the Bill was of a very unusual kind, and indicated strong intentions on the part of the minority in this House to oppose that Bill, and to endeavour to alter and thwart it in every possible way. Under those circumstances, I think we are entitled to ask the Prime Minister to attach, by accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) the same importance to one member of the living body as to the other. We do not, of course, desire to interfere with the order of Government Business; but we do think that the Government are entitled to ask and to obtain from the House as many facilities for the passage of their remedial measures as they have obtained for their coercive measures. They have, however, unfortunately, imitated their mistake of last Session, in making coercive precede remedial legislation; but I trust, now that they have the power to do so, that they will obtain some guarantees from the Opposition, controlled by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), that this Arrears of Rent Bill will receive fair play at their hands, and that, as they are now asking for the passage of the Coercion Bill, they will afford facilities for the passing of the Arrears of Rent Bill. This is all the more important, because, as I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman the Premier, the period of redemption is going by in the case of numbers of evicted tenants, and they are being placed without the operation of the law, and, as a consequence, they will be left to their own resources or to whatever other resources may be brought into play on their behalf. I confess I think such a situation would be deplorable, and ought to be very much deprecated and avoided. I have been endeavouring during the last few days to obtain an extension of the period of redemption for evicted tenants; but owing to the enormous block in the Superior Court of the Land Commission, which has power to deal with such applications, it has been found up to the present moment impossible; therefore it happens that the vast number of tenants who, since May, 1880—the period when the present Government assumed Office—have seen all their legal rights depart month by month, is being daily augmented. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider, under these circumstances, whether he would not give some hope to those poor people by showing, as is now in his power to show, that he attaches equal importance to the Arrears of Rent Bill as he does to the Coercion Bill.


said, he would point out to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) that the House was now engaged in a Morning Sitting, and that they would have to rise at a fixed hour. An adjournment had been proposed at an early hour that morning to enable them to complete the discussion on the Arrears of Rent Bill; and it was perfectly possible, if they went to work in a business-like way, that they might conclude the debate before the House rose that afternoon at 7 o'clock. But if they entered upon irregular discussions on matters of the kind now before them, there was no saying how that might be. He could assure hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, though, possibly, they might not believe him, that on his side of the House there was no intention to place any unnecessary obstruction in the way of the Arrears of Rent Bill; and if it became fairly necessary to make alterations in the order of Public Business, in order to give more opportunities for its discussion, there would be no objection to that course. What hon. Gentlemen on his side had demanded was, that when they had entered on the discussion it should be allowed to be a full and a fair one. He hoped that time would not be wasted by irregular discussion.


said, that, in his opinion, so far as it had gone, the discussion which was now going on was a perfectly regular and legitimate one. It would be extraordinary if the Irish Members allowed the Motion of the Premier to pass without challenge. His proposal was nothing more nor less than this—that the House should have free and exclusive scope to coercive legislation of an unexampled kind. The proposed Coercion Bill was the most horrible epitome of blundering despotism ever presented to Parliament, and they were asked to give precedence to it because the Prime Minister found that it suited his convenience to submit to the political dictation of his opponents. They could not, therefore, be expected to acquiesce in the arrangement of procedure then proposed, seeing that as much time as possible should be allowed to pass so that the House might approach the Coercion Bill with the greatest coolness and judgment. That Bill had been admittedly introduced because of the heated state of public opinion in England caused by the horrible occurrence in Phœnix Park, and that was a good reason why time should be taken to allow that heated feeling to subside. The object of the Arrears of Rent Bill was to put a stop to evictions; and he would beg to point out to hon. Gentlemen sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House that any delay in passing it was not likely to promote the speedy payment of rents. He would, therefore, support the Amendment. So far as he was personally concerned, he should offer the Prime Minister's proposal all the opposition in his power.


again repeated his offer to withdraw the Amendment.


No, no!

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 35: Majority 215.—(Div. List, No. 96.)

Main Question proposed.


I was under the impression, Mr. Speaker, that we were taking a division against the Main Question, which was put before the last division was taken; and, under these circumstances, I desire to accept the division which was taken on this Amendment as the definite judgment of the House upon the present Motion. I do not desire to waste the time of the House by taking a further division upon the Main Question; but I must solemnly protest against the course which the Government have adopted in not affording the same facilities for the passage of the Arrears of Rent Bill that they intend to afford for the passage of the Coercion Bill


Sir, I quite appreciate the statesmanlike spirit in which the Leader of the Irish Party (Mr. Parnell) has expressed his opinion upon the question before us; but, at the same time, speaking as an individual Irish Representative, and in no way desiring to be understood as slack in my support of the Leader of the Irish Party, I feel that upon this Motion I, for one, must challenge a division. I cannot take it on my conscience to allow a Motion to pass which proposes merely to give precedence to the adjourned debate on the Arrears of Rent Bill, which, when it passes this House, will be entirely at the mercy of the enemies of Ireland in "another place;" while, at the same time, it proposes to give absolute precedence to every stage of the most atrocious Coercion Bill ever passed for Ireland. I do not wish, in the slightest degree, to question the statesmanlike character of the opinion of the Leader of the Irish Party; but, statesmanlike or not, I hate the action of the British Government, and I will take every means in my power to oppose this Coercion Act, aye, and to make England sorry for it.


The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was, as he says, under a misapprehension. He understood that the last division was being taken on the Main Question. But we, who were under no such apprehension, are, of course, not swayed by the same reasons. Therefore, I agree with the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) in challenging the decision of the House again, and shall vote against the Government on the Main Question.


Sir, although not a very warm admirer of the Arrears of Rent Bill, I hope the Government will in some way re-consider the course they have adopted. Ever since the Bill was announced to the House the difficulties between landlord and tenant in Ireland have increased ten times over, and it is most unfair and most unjust to both parties to leave them in the state of uncertainty they are in at present. A landlord told me very lately that, up to the time of the announcement of the present Bill, he had been receiving his rents, but that immediately afterwards he could get nothing. As I said, I do not admire the Bill myself, but I think it is a necessity to enable Her Majesty's Government to carry on the government of Ireland. When such a Bill has been once promised, it is due, as a matter of justice to both classes, that the Bill should be passed without a moment's delay.


Sir, whilst willing to accept the last division as evidencing the sense of the House in this matter, I must, at the same time, protest most strongly against the course which has been adopted by the Government. The numerous evictions which are taking place in Ireland are the principal causes of crime in that country, and, therefore, if the object of the Government is to put an end to crime, I think they are acting inconsistently in delaying a measure of this kind. At the same time, I should prefer taking the assurance of the Prime Minister that he will do all he can to forward the Bill.


Sir, if the Government desire to pass an Arrears of Rent Bill for Ireland, I think the only way to secure the passage of such a measure is to give it precedence. If precedence is given to the Coercion Bill, what guarantee have we that we shall have an Arrears of Rent Act at all? The fate of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill awaits the Arrears of Rent Bill in "another place;" and I would impress upon the Prime Minister that if he desires to insure its passage, the only way he could do it is by giving it precedence over the Coercion Bill.

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 254; Noes 15: Majority 239.—(Div. List, No. 97.)

Ordered, That the several stages of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Bill and the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, from day to day, until the House shall otherwise order.