HC Deb 02 November 1882 vol 274 cc674-753

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [20th February], as amended, That when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of Ways and Means in a Committee of the whole House, during any Debate, that the subject has been adequately discussed, and that it is the evident sense of the House, or of the Committee, that the Question be now put, he may so inform the House or the Committee; and, if a Motion be made 'That the Question be now put,' Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, shall forthwith put such Question; and, if the same be decided in the affirmative, the Question under discussion shall be put forthwith: Provided that the Question, 'That the Question be now put,' shall not be decided in the affirmative, if a Division be taken, unless it shall appear to have been supported by more than two hundred Members, or unless, it shall appear to have been opposed by less than forty Members and supported by more than one hundred Members."—(Mr. Gladstone.)

And which Amendment was, In line 8, after the word "taken," to insert the words "unless it shall appear to have been supported by two-thirds of those present, and." —(Mr. Gibson.)

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

Debate resumed.


said, he thought the speech of his noble Friend who sat near him (Lord Randolph Churchill), which was delivered yesterday afternoon, deserved notice from them, not only on account of its intrinsic ability, but also because it was not in accord with the opinions of hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side. The speech of his noble Friend was well received by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), who followed him, for not only did the right hon. Gentleman follow the arguments of his noble Friend, but he used his very phrases; and when they found this portentous coalition between a discontented Whig and an independent Tory for the purpose of supporting the Government, he thought their objections ought to be carefully considered. The first argument of his noble Friend was that the Amendment would introduce an artificial majority, and that they, as Conservatives, ought not to support it, as that was in accordance with the traditions of the House. In that matter the Prime Minister and his noble Friend were in accord; but he would beg to point out that on the same ground they ought to modify the Rule as it then stood, because it introduced a majority of five-sixths, and that was just as much an artificial majority as two-thirds. His noble Friend had pointed out how by a majority of 1 the greatest changes, such as the change of the English Monarchy into an English Republic, might be introduced into the Constitution. His noble Friend, however, forgot that when our forefathers permitted a majority of to decide such important matters such a thing as clôture was unknown, and there was no limit to free discussion, everything being thoroughly thrashed out in argument. Therefore, the reason that it had never been found necessary to introduce government by a two-thirds' majority before was because they never before lived under a Liberal Government who were anxious to put a stop to free speech. The next argument which his noble Friend had used was one calculated to appeal with much force to that side of the House; because he pointed out that the Rule of a two-thirds' majority would be much more useful to a Liberal than to a Conservative Government, inasmuch as when a Conservative Government were in Office the Radicals below the Gangway were likely to support the Irish Party. Now, he (Mr. Balfour) did not support liberty of speech in that House from a Party point of view. He granted that a two-thirds' majority might be more useful to the Liberals than to the Conservatives; but those who believed in liberty, or defended liberty, would not defend it less because it was going to be abused. No doubt liberty of speech was abused, and it would be abused in the future; but they were not the less anxious that it should be preserved. His noble Friend had proceeded to observe that the Rule of the two-thirds' majority would merely be used by agreement between both the Front Benches to oppress the Irish minority. It was not his business to defend the Front Benches—at least those above the Gangway. His noble Friend had drawn a dreadful picture of what would be the result of stopping Irish Obstruction in the House, and had said that if they did not have Irish Obstruction there they would have rebellion in Ireland. In his opinion, however, there would be less danger of the oppression of Irish Members under a two-thirds' Rule than under that of a bare majority, for it would be but seldom that the two Front Benches could be brought to an agreement to close a discussion, except where there was an almost unanimous feeling in the House that it had proceeded far enough. The last argument of his noble Friend was that the safeguard of the two-thirds' Rule would be washed away under the pressure of a powerful Radical Minister. He, however, preferred the most slender protection to none at all. In his opinion, however, it would not be an easy matter for a Radical Minister to get rid of such a safeguard, because he would then have boldly to announce to the country that his object was not to put down merely illegitimate Obstruction, but legitimate opposition. The Government had obtained the support of the country in this matter because it was generally believed that their real object was to put down Obstruction, and they would lose largely if it were once clearly understood that their main object was to put down legitimate opposition. The Government had also obtained a great advantage from the interpretation which had been placed on the words "the evident sense of the House," which was supposed out-of-doors to mean the expression of an opinion by the great majority sitting in every part of the House. As had been pointed out, it might happen that closure might be pronounced by a very small majority, so that the Speaker's opinion as to the "general sense of the House" might be shown to be wrong precisely at the moment it was carried into effect. A more extraordinary state of things could not be imagined. The Government had evidently felt the difficulty of the position. It now appeared that what they meant by the "general sense of the House" was the general sense of the Ministerial majority. They held that Radical Ministers ought to be able to pass Radical Bills with the precise degree of rapidity agreeable to them. Now, such a policy was based upon an entirely erroneous assumption. That House was not to be judged, like a mine, by the quantity of its output. It was not a machine of which a Minister turned the handle, and of which an important section could, at the Ministerial will, be thrown out of gear. On the Government theory of the matter, why should they not go a step further and do away with all Standing Orders, and bring matters to the simplicity of Ministers explaining the provisions of a Bill, and then requiring the House to carry it without a division? He saw no reason, if the Government proposals were agreed to, why the Standing Orders should prevent a majority carrying any measure without the arguments on both sides being heard, though it was the very object of Standing Orders to secure perfect freedom of debate. The noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Pitzmaurice) had said that the Conservative Party, in conjuring up the chimeras of an imperious Minister, a subservient majority, and a partizan Speaker were indulging in dreams which could never be realized, and were believing in a state of things which could only come about by a miracle. If an imperious Minister and a subservient majority could only be produced by a miracle, two-thirds of that miracle had already been produced; and he failed altogether to see how the remaining third was to remain unfulfilled if the theory of the Prime Minister was to be accepted. The Prime Minister laid it down as an axiom that the tendency of a majority was to promote, and the tendency of a minority to retard Government. Clearly, therefore, the object of the New Rule was to give Ministers their own way. Now how, in such circumstances, could the Speaker fail to become a partizan? It would be his business to put the Rule in force for the purpose of aiding the Government; he would seek to promote the views of the majority against, it might be, a Constitutional minority. The Prime Minister declared that closure by a two-thirds' majority would be a deterioration of Procedure—that he would rather be without it. If so, why did he a few months ago profess his willingness to accept it? That House was the growth of centuries; it was a machine which had been tested under all kinds of circumstances. The request which the Opposition now made was extremely moderate, for all they asked was that the Ministry should approach this question with caution, and without rashness—that they should begin, not with revolution , but with reform. He asked the Prime Minister to go back to his letter of May, and if they were to have the clôture let them have it by slow degrees. Let them err rather in the spirit of caution than in the spirit of rashness, for the Prime Minister, if he found a moderate clôture was not sufficient, he, or his Successors, could come down to the House and ask for the cloture by a bare majority. Until that necessity was apparent this Resolution was tampering in a most reckless manner with the Constitution, and was revolutionizing it in a Session.


denied that there was any conspiracy of silence on the Government side of the House, where hon. Members had refrained from speaking because they were anxious that the Session should not last too long. As most of the hon. Gentlemen who had risen on his side had been official, ex-official, or Whig, he desired to express the view of the Democracy on the subject. Though they intended to vote with the Prime Minister, they were not entirely agreed as to what the consequence of the Resolution would be. If the result was what the Prime Minister anticipated—that it would never be put in force against a Constitutional Opposition, he would not take the trouble to come down to the House to vote for it.


said, it would never be put in force against an Opposition when they were fulfilling their Constitutional duty.


accepted the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. First, however, he wished to make a remark upon the speech of the hon. Member opposite which the House had just heard. That speech seemed to him to be a fair sample of what their de- bates might come to if closure were not adopted. They had a Conservative Party and also a "Fourth Party;" and now there was a split in the Fourth Party, consisting of four, because an eminent Member of that Party had made a speech to prove that his Chief was wrong. But the speech of the hon. Member was really an argument for clôture. He said that hon. Gentlemen did not attack the liberty of the Press, and, therefore, it was monstrous to attack liberty of speech. But in the ease of the Press clôture was not needed, because a newspaper was limited by its size, and if it exceeded in any particular direction it would not be bought. The hon. Gentleman said that when the Re-solution was first brought forward, what he understood to be meant by the "evident sense of the House" was the sense of both sides. He did not know how the hon. Gentleman arrived at that conclusion, as it was not consistent with the terms of the Resolution. If the Speaker were of opinion that the question had been adequately discussed, and if a majority, not by organized but spontaneous clamour and out of the fulness of their hearts cried "Divide!" while Gentlemen on the other side were silent, it would be the duty of the Speaker to put the Question to the House. That was the necessary outcome of the Resolution. No hon. Gentleman on the other side could get up without referring to the letter of the Prime Minister. He was surprised at that, because, if hon. Gentlemen took the trouble to think calmly over the matter, they would see that there was no stronger argument in favour of clôture than that letter. The Prime Minister brought forward his Resolutions, and hon. Gentlemen opposite were exhaustive upon the 1st. The Prime Minister proposed clôture by a simple majority—he had the Business of the Session before him, and he was obliged to submit to this exhaustive opposition. It was rather naïve, therefore, of hon. Gentlemen when, owing to them, there was an Autumn Session, to expect that the right hon. Gentleman would not revert to his first proposal. He would recommend hon. Gentlemen opposite, the next time they were offered anything by a Liberal Government, to take it at once. He was far from blaming the Conservatives for being in favour of a three-fourths' rather than a simple majority, because if they were not they would cease to be Conservatives. The Conservative was a natural Obstructionist. For centuries the Conservatives had obstructed. They said—"We are satisfied; we want no reforms; we want to be left as we are." And when a Liberal Minister brought in a number of measures, they said—"Let us talk a great deal on the first, and we may prevent the fourth or fifth from passing." He was reading a few days ago about the Locrians, who had a clôture which would recommend itself to hon. Gentlemen opposite. When anyone among the Locrians came forward with a proposal, a rope was tied around his neck, and if he did not get a seconder he was hanged. The Prime Minister had said that this Rule would not be used for Party purposes. He did not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant. He hoped it would be used by the Party to carry out the principles which the Party professed. The principles which the Liberals professed were that they ought to have speedy legislation upon a very considerable number of subjects. If, then, they found the Opposition too exhaustive, their principles would oblige them to cry "Divide!" and to do their best to show the Speaker that it was the "evident sense of the House" that the country wanted a particular Bill to be passed and some other Bill to be proceeded with. Using the clôture, therefore, for Party purposes on all occasions would be their primary duty. The Democratic creed was that there ought to be very frequent elections—say, once every three years; that certain measures ought to be submitted to the people at those elections; that there should be a plébiscite with regard to them; and that if the people made up their minds that they should pass, the Ministry representing the majority, having received an imperative mandate to carry them through, discussion was, therefore, useless. [Laughter.] Discussion would have taken place before. [Renewed laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed; but could they point to one case in which the people, having made up their minds to a reform, and having carried that reform by a majority in the constituencies, had changed their minds inconsequence of any discussion in the House? Therefore, he was right in saying that discus- sion upon those measures on which the people had made up their minds was pure waste of time. He looked forward—perhaps not just yet—to the Radical Democratic Millennium, when they would pass numerous measures in this simple and efficient manner. The Prime Minister had cited 39 burning questions needing immediate legislation. He could easily add 100 to them; but if they did not act upon this democratic view, how soon would not 39 but nine measures pass into law? The distinction which he drew was this—that when a Minister came forward with some measure upon which the country had made up its mind, discussion was waste of time, and the Minister had only to carry it out. But there were other measures brought forward by a small minority below the Gangway upon which the country had not made up its mind—he had himself tried to bring forward measures upon which the country required enlightenment, and upon such some discussion was useful. The country wanted to know what was to be said for and against them. But upon questions which had been thrashed out in magazines and newspapers and on public platforms the country had already made up its mind, and upon these he would give Gentlemen opposite a fair half-hour to state their views. By this means he was inclined to think the Liberal Party would in a short time put the country in harmony with what he termed "the spirit of the age." It had been asserted by some hon. Members that lengthy discussions were useful. He could not subscribe to that belief. At one time the reported discussions of the House were read by the public. Now, however, they were not read. Five or six years ago, when an important debate took place, the newspapers printed a larger number of copies than on ordinary occasions in order to meet the demand for the Parliamentary information. But since discussions had been marked by so much prolixity, it had been found by newspaper managers that it was not necessary to print extra copies, there being no demand to justify such a step. The fact was, that readers of newspapers did not want to read their speeches. They were quite satisfied with reading the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and of a few other eminent men. There were not, he believed, 5,000 persons in the country who had taken the trouble to read through the speeches that had been delivered in the debates of the last two or three days. When Members laid the flattering unction to their souls that they were instructing and enlightening the people they were making a grievous error; because, in reality, the people declined altogether to be enlightened by them. It was to be regretted that clôture had been found necessary; but then they had only a choice of two evils. The question for the House to decide was whether they would place a certain limit on superfluous, and therefore unnecessary discussion, or put an end to practical legislation, which was the primary object the constituencies had at heart and desired to be carried out. There was another reason why he was in favour of the bare majority. The House could be divided into Brahmins and Pariahs, the former being the Leaders of the two great Parties in the State, and the latter those who sat below the Gangway. In many things the interests of the Brahmins on both sides of the House were nearly identical; and it was his belief that the Brahmins on the two Front Benches would always find some good reason or other to unite in putting down anything approaching to opposition on the part of Members below the Gangway. The Conservatives would always agree to the imposition of the clôture by a two-thirds' majority, on the understanding that they might never be subjected to it themselves. Their idea was—"Let the clôture be applied to the Irish, to the Radicals, and to Fourth Parties; but let it never be applied to ourselves. We must oppose it, of course, and talk a good deal about freedom of speech; but we shall, nevertheless, take a very favourable view of this clôture if it is carried in the form which will negative the possibility of its ever being applied to our Party." That those were the views of the Conservatives was shown by the regret which they manifested at not having accepted the offer made by the Prime Minister in May. It was all very well to talk of freedom of speech; but the real question was whether they were to limit speech or to put an end to legislation. He believed that the people considered that the primary object of that House was legislation. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had said that if the people were consulted on the question under discussion, they would be found in favour of the two-thirds' majority, because they understood that it was only to be used against minorities; but he (Mr. Labouchere) maintained that the country understood that this Rule was intended, not only to put an end to Obstruction on the part of small minorities, but to Obstruction on the part of all minorities; and they hoped that it would be passed, because they believed that instead of the wasteful and aimless discussions that went on in that House they should have sound and good legislation upon many questions upon which it was urgently demanded.


, referring to the speech which had just been delivered, said, "Magna est veritas et prevalebit." They knew now what were the true motives that caused the Democratic Party to support the Ministerial Resolutions. He proposed to explain the reasons why he should vote for the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. The speech which the House had heard from the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) was an amusing and able speech; but it was, he thought, only the expression of an isolated opinion. Anyone who had examined very closely the arguments of the noble Lord, must have been driven to the conclusion that he had rather wilfully argued the question on its lowest grounds. The question was not whether this or that Party should fail or succeed in carrying Party measures. If the constituencies of the country returned a Liberal Parliament, the Conservative Party had no right whatever to find fault with the Government for passing Liberal measures, provided they were fully and fairly discussed. Nor did he think that the Prime Minister had ever himself complained of such discussion during the course of these debates. But a very different character had been given to the subject by the frank utterances of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere); and they now knew that Radical Members would be quite willing to limit the time for reply by the minority to half-an-hour, and to carry the programme of the constituencies through Parliament with as great rapidity as possible. He (Colonel Stanley) objected to the clôture altogether, and therefore he supported anything which would lessen its restricted provisions. It had become clearer and clearer that the clôture must mean a power exercised by the mere will of the majority acting under cover of the Speaker or Chairman. He wished to show that the safeguards were inefficient and unreliable; that the position of the Speaker or Chairman would be almost untenable; and that the Rules would be operative far beyond the scope of Obstruction, properly so called. Enough had been said to show that there was a real feeling on both sides of the House that the impartiality of Speaker and Chairman might be imperilled. The Prime Minister, after defending the impartiality of the Speaker, touched very delicately upon the position of the Chairman, and entered into no details to show that the Chairman's impartiality would, in future, be above suspicion. He thought it would be a real peril if for one moment the impartiality of the occupant of the Chair should ever become the subject of suspicion. It was plain, from the utterances of the Prime Minister, that, as far as he knew, there was no reason why the Chairman of Committees should not continue to be a Party man, liable to be reminded by his Party of the fact. Fairly enough the Chairman might be told—"The power to enforce the clôture has been conferred upon you, and you must use it." The steps leading to such a result might be slow, but the process would be sure; and, therefore, few things could tend more to lower the position of future Chairmen than the proposal which the Government had made. He could give further reasons why the position of the Speaker or the Chairman seemed to him untenable; but he would endeavour to show why the other safeguards failed, and why the sole protection upon which they must ultimately rely was the Speaker's or the Chairman's view of what was adequate discussion. The expression "evident sense of the House" was very like that of "fair rent." Everyone agreed with the principle; but it was impossible to define the expression. The evident sense of the Speaker must depend upon what came under his eye. But it might be that the evident sense of the Speaker was in one direction, and that of the House, as evidenced by a division, in an- other. How was the Speaker's view of the "evident sense" of the House to be formed? It was not to be expected that either the Speaker or the Chairman would know by intuition how Parties were distributed. Either the evident sense of the Speaker was to be framed on what passed before him, and he was not to have any assistance, or, on the other hand, if it were to be fatal to his authority to be mistaken, then he must obtain information as to the respective state of Parties, either directly or indirectly, from the Government Whips. In times past, perfectly legitimate communications as to the Business of the House had passed between the Government and the Chair. Such understandings had very much profited the House; but they were now told that the Speaker was to be cut off from all communication with the Front Benches, and to be left to his own unassisted judgment. But that was not the sole difficulty in which the Chair would be placed. The Home Secretary had said that no Speaker of any common sense would put the Question at the dinner hour. The "evident sense of the House" might, however, be clearly evidenced at the dinner hour; and yet, according to the Home Secretary, the Speaker was not only not to be guided by it, but was positively to disregard it. If he was not to believe his own eyes, it was difficult to understand the position in which he would be placed. How could he refuse to put the Question? What comments would be made, both in Parliamentary circles and the Press, at his conduct under these difficult circumstances! No doubt, a vast improvement had been made in the Resolution by the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). Now they fell back upon adequacy. The Speaker was not to move until convinced that the subject had been adequately discussed. But that was only matter of opinion, for no one could define adequacy. It was only the Speaker's or the Chairman's opinion. Let them imagine the comments that would be made if the clôture were carried in a thin House because the Speaker regarded the "evident sense" of the House. New arguments must be brought forward in. all directions which it could be truly said might have been rightly and legitimately used if the Speaker or the Chairman had not applied the clôture. He maintained that the Speaker and the Chairman were placed in a most invidious position; that the safeguards had proved to be none at all, or very slight; and that, with the sole protection of "adequacy," which was an unassignable property, the entire responsibility was cast upon the Speaker or the Chairman. As to the statement that the Rule was not aimed against mere opposition, but against Obstruction, that might have been the original intention; but it had been made distinctly clear during the course of the debate that, though the Prime Minister might not mean that the clôture should be used for the suppression of debate, that was not the view entertained by some of his Colleagues on the Front Bench; and that it was meant by advanced Liberals to go much further was made very clear by the frank speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). Nothing was more clear than the utterances of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India. In his ominous speech in the earlier part of the debate, the noble Marquess said that if they discussed a large number of subjects at great length, they could not discuss other subjects at all, and, therefore, the Rule really tended to freedom of debate. The President of the Board of Trade had expressed himself to the same effect; and it was clear that on the minds of some Members of the Government there was a line between legitimate discussion and Obstruction which would be included within the Rule as to clôture. The noble Marquess clearly indicated certain Motions which the House did not care to listen to, and intimated that he would apply the clôture to them if it were adopted. There was another form in which the clôture might be exceedingly valuable. A Minister with an unpopular Vote might cultivate the acquaintance of some unpopular Member, and ask him to rise at a convenient time and prolong the discussion, with wearisome reiteration, until at last the House would support the clôture, and the unpopular Vote would be passed quietly without further trouble. The noble Marquess had said—and the hon. Member for Northampton had repeated—that there was a large amount of Business which Parliament desired to press for- ward without delay. They quite admitted the necessity of many of those measures, but thought that the pressure of Public Business might be relieved, to a certain extent, by better arrangements; and he was of opinion that very much could be done by arrangement without recourse to the clôture. Many pressing measures, no doubt, cropped up from time to time; but it was impossible to carry everything; some legislation must be postponed. He believed that one bad season was more injurious to the country than any amount of arrears of legislation. The present subject was so mixed up with that of the general Business of the House that it was almost impossible to keep them entirely apart. He supported the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, because it assigned a fairer proportion for the minority, and one which ought to commend itself for many reasons to the sense of the House. He supported it on another rough-and-ready ground—namely, that it would reduce the difficulties of the Speaker. There were many Amendments on the Paper—no lees than four—proceeding from various quarters of the House, with the object of fixing the same proportion. The right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had asked why two-thirds—why not any other proportion? He admitted there was no exact figure or line of finality; but he thought that two-thirds was a proportion to be well recommended. As to the charge that this Amendment would draw the two Front Benches too close together, and bring the Opposition to a position of responsibility which some thought they ought not to assume, he thought it would possess a great advantage if it introduced the weight of a responsible Opposition. There might have been those who, out of Office, had thrown such responsibility away; but those were comparatively few, and the bulk of the Opposition in this House had loyally rallied to the side of the Government when, in their opinion, the general interests of the country demanded that they should do so; and that was a position which he hoped to see continued. Then, the Prime Minister had said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) was inconsistent, because in 1877 he had made a speech condemna- tory of a two-thirds' majority. But that was in an entirely different matter. The object was to mitigate the restrictive provisions to be enforced against Members of this House in a matter different to that which was now the subject of debate. The Prime Minister asked what would be the result if the House adopted the principle of an artificial majority? But his hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Balfour), whose able speech they had all listened to with much pleasure, had shown that this Resolution adopted an artificial majority as great as that which the right hon. Gentleman denounced. The right hon. Gentleman said that safeguards would disappear, and that the only remaining safeguard would be the limit of two-thirds. But why should not the Prime Minister say, in future, that this limitation should be swept away down to the bare majority? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) said the Opposition could not forget the Prime Minister's letter of May last, and that they were always whimpering over their bargain. Certainly it was hard to forget such letters as that referred to. But the hon. Gentleman did not seem to understand the position, which was that both Parties were now free. As to the letter, what they said was that the Prime Minister had either said too little or too much. If the present proposal was good in May, why should it be denounced in October or November? Again, the Prime Minister used the extraordinary argument that the two-thirds' majority would not in many cases show the "evident sense of the House," because Members would not like to vote against one of their number with whom it might be they usually acted. That was a reason why the right hon. Gentleman should follow the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) that vote should be taken by ballot. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the two-thirds' majority was an innovation; but the real innovation was the clôture. The Prime Minister said further that the Amendment would be less favourable to small minorities than the Government proposals. The fact was, however, that they did not propose to touch the Government proposals, and there was no reason whatever why they might not still be carried into effect. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) had said this was a dyke which they were trying to erect to stem the flood by which they were to be swept away, and that this was a very frail defence. He admitted that this, if relied on alone, would prove a very slender defence indeed; but, at any rate, it was better to have a frail defence than no defence at all. He confessed he did not share the fears that were entertained by some hon. Members on this side of the House. He did not believe that the constituencies wished that there should be only one Party. If any attempt were made to crush all political opponents out of existence, depend upon it the country would not tolerate it for a moment. The Opposition were bound, to the best of their power, to resist any measures which might tend in that direction; and if they were to go to the country on this question he was sure the Opposition would have the support of the constituencies. What he mostly feared was the danger of a reaction. When a change of Parties took place—as would undoubtedly happen sooner or later—a feeling would, be found to exist amongst those who were at present in the minority that they had not received fair play, and legislation would be introduced of a reactionary character to undo that which was now being forced upon them by a majority. At present legislation was fairly fought out, and when fairly fought out was fairly accepted. It was to be feared that those conditions might be reversed. The case was argued as if legislation was everything and discussion nothing, and views were presented to the House of a very varied character. The hon. Member for Northampton had very frankly said, in supporting that measure, that he thought the primary duty of his Party would be to use it for Party purposes, and that discussion should be stopped. He confessed that he was one of those who did not believe that either the duty of the House or of the constituencies would admit of such a view of the situation. It would be a very wide departure from Parliamentary traditions if hon. Members were to come to the House with an imperious mandate from their constituents, and if the real business of legislation was to be done out-of-doors by plébiscite, and that hon. Members were only to come to the House to register the decisions arrived at elsewhere. That would be a great and an essential alteration in the character of the House of Commons; and, fearing these Government measures might tend in the direction of such a change, he was determined, as far as possible, to oppose, or, at all events, to restrict them. It was in the House of Commons that grievances were stated and brought to light, and that great principles were affirmed. Both of those functions had not always been performed by the majority. In many instances they had been exercised by the Party which had only a few Representatives in Parliament. He could not help having great fears that if not now, yet in the not very remote future, a change would come over the spirit of Parliament, and that those Rules would be used, not in the way they understood by the Prime Minister, but in the spirit in which they were supported by the hon. Member for Northampton. Freedom of speech was everything, the Prime Minister said, and no one for a moment doubted that he believed it; they only wished that, in that matter, he would act as he felt. It was sometimes said to be a strange thing that the Conservative Party should be those who were now standing up for liberty of speech. If it fell to the Conservative Party alone to vindicate the freedom of speech the fault was not theirs. It was the fault of those who brought in the clôture. They believed that they were the legitimate successors of those who had stood up in that House for freedom of speech. They were not satisfied even with the half-hour which the hon. Member for Northampton and the Democracy of the future might be graciously pleased to afford them. They believed they were doing their duty in endeavouring to maintain the right of representation, which they advocated for the whole world, the spirit of fair play, which had always been a characteristic of Englishmen, and that freedom of speech which hitherto it had been the honour of the House to uphold. For those reasons, and believing that the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend was sound, he should give it his best and most unqualified support.


said, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had addressed the House seemed surprised that the clôture was wanted by the Government in order to pass certain measures. That was the chief ground on which he (Mr. Jesse Collings) intended to vote for it, and he trusted that object would be plainly avowed from the Government Bench, so that when the power was used hon. Members on both sides would not be able to say that there had been any breach of agreement. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had said it was only intended to put down Obstruction; he trusted that would not be its only use. The country was tired of the endless speeches and continual repetition by which the progress of all the National Business was delayed from year to year. But if hon. Members opposite so disliked the idea of the clôture, why did not they object to the clôture that was at that time being practised by means of an agreement between the two Front Benches, without reference to private Members, that the debate should finish on Friday? It was time that the Radical Party—or, rather, the Radical Members, for they were not yet a Party—should organize themselves into a Party to resent such a proceeding, which seemed very much like dictation. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had compared the House of Commons to a machine, and so it would be dangerous to meddle with it. But if the machine did not answer the purpose for which it was required that machine ought to be altered so that it did. He had also denied that the House of Commons was to be judged like a mine by its output; but, in his opinion, the output was a very important matter. If the Government would only decide to bring forward a moderate programme at the commencement of the Session, and sit until they had finished it, they would find the rapidity of their progress in the month of August wonderful. After all, it was a very disinterested thing for private Members to advocate the clôture, because it might possibly be put in force against them. If debates were compressed, as he hoped they would be under the clôture, private Members would probably have less opportunities of beinng heard, as precedence would still be given to the occupants of the Front Benches, and to other prominent Members of the House. He, however, declined to be represented by hon. Members above the Gangway, and it would be a great misfortune if Radical private Members were to be crowded out of the debates. To avert this evil he recommended less speaking from the Front Benches on both sides of the House. The exceptional privileges of those not on the Front Benches ought to be done away with, and right hon. Gentlemen, and others with "prefixes," ought to stand on the same footing as the younger Members of the House. The former, possibly, had views which were worn out, while the latter had a more recent mandate from the constituencies. The right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition had said that if it once became clear to the country that the House was incapable of transacting its Business the consequences would be of the most serious character, and the House would perish by the worst of deaths—the contempt of the nation. He thought that the House was approaching that state. All Governments came in with definite objects, and the present Government had exceeded all others in the number and importance of the measures it had foreshadowed at the beginning of the Session, though effect had been given to hardly any of its promises. Unless the Rule were passed—and it was the only one for which he much cared—Parliament would be completely discredited. The arguments that had been used against the clôture were weak and inconclusive. The Opposition professed to desire full discussion; but that was precisely what no measures ever received, and the Estimates in particular were never adequately debated. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke) had frankly opposed the Resolution on the ground that it would enable the Government to pass their measures. But that meant only that the minority, defeated in the country, should take its revenge by defeating the work of the majority by the aid of the Forms of the House; and he could place on that utterance of the hon. and learned Gentleman no other construction than this—that the will of the country, as expressed at the Elections, should not be carried into effect. Having some insight into the mind of the constituencies on this subject, he desired that the Government should be thanked for the firmness they had shown. The Prime Minister's speech the other even- ing had been a relief to the country. If he had given way by consenting to accept a two-thirds' majority, a feeling of discouragement would have taken hold of the country; the Government would have been weakened by adopting a vacillating and a compromising policy; and the country would have settled down into the belief that Parliament was, after all, going to waste its time, and there was to be little or no useful legislation. As it was, the speech of the Prime Minister was read in the light of a guarantee on the part of the Government that the promises they had given would be redeemed as soon as possible by practical legislation.


said, he had listened to the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), and it had explained to him, in some degree, the difficulties with which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had to contend. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman, in his Mid Lothian speeches, had enunciated a very extensive programme, and the hon. Member for Ipswich, who was at the head of a powerful organization, seemed inclined to prove himself a severe creditor. The hon. Member's speech was a Party speech, if ever he heard one, and on a subject on which it was to be hoped Party feeling would not govern in the House. The House had heard a most able speech from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). Did that right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal violate public liberty? He proposed that the debates of the House should not be controlled by a majority of 1, but only by a majority of two-thirds. He (Mr. Newdegate) asked the hon. Member for Ipswich, if he was so blind a vindicator of small majorities, that he would not consent to the assurance, which the Amendment would give him, if it was positively the "evident sense of the House" which demanded the clôture? Was that the hon. Member's version of public opinion? The history of the world taught them that ultra-democracy ended in despotism; and he (Mr. Newdegate) revolted against this legislative machine, the House of Commons, being dominated by a small majority. He could appreciate the difficulty in which the present Speaker and his Successors would be placed when they had to declare the "evident sense of the House" in favour of the clôture, when that depended upon a majority of 1, or perhaps 2 or 3. He had served with the present Speaker as a Party organizer on opposite sides of the House, and he was always proud to remember the connection into which it brought him with the Speaker. He (Mr. Newdegate) had watched with him which way the majority would go, and he knew the difficulty of that speculation. But now the Speaker was to have no aid in coming to a decision as to the "sense of the House." The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government promised the House that the Speaker should have no aid in his judgment. He promised the House that the Speaker should not be approached. The demand for a judgment from the Speaker, sitting unaided in the Chair, was an attempt to declare him infallible as to the general "sense of the House," when it was to be so doubtful that it must be expressed by something far less than two-thirds on a vote, and would render the position of the Speaker and his Successors most difficult. He (Mr. Newdegate) shrank from the unfairness of imposing upon the Speaker a task which might expose him to the imputation of attempting to set aside the "evident sense of the House," when that sense might be only intimated by a majority of 1. He would acknowledge that there had been great discontent in the country on account of the sluggish action of the House of Commons. He was one of the first who moved in the matter, for, in 1875, he began agitating, and he had been agitating ever, since, to persuade the House in some degree to correct its Procedure, in order to accelerate its action. He was not, therefore, one of the sloths who was liable to the reproach of doing nothing whilst the House of Commons was in danger of being paralyzed. He held that some measure was necessary after the rebellion of the Irish faction on the 2nd and 3rd of February, 1881, when the authority of the Speaker was defied, and when the Speaker had to step forth as the guardian of the honour of the House after a Sitting of 41 hours. That was an instance of the grossest Obstruction. He thought the Government greatly to blame that they did not sooner pass effectual measures for relieving the House of the great stigma which had rested upon it, ever since the difficulty of preserving its own order and dignity had been consummated upon the occasion to which he referred. After that began the difficulty of dealing with the cacoethes loquendi; but that was a minor evil. A Resolution was brought forward by the Prime Minister on the 3rd of February, 1881— Resolved, That, if upon Notice given a Motion be made by a Minister of the Crown that the state of Public Business is urgent, upon which Motion such Minister shall declare in his place that any Bill, Motion, or other Question then before the House is urgent, and that it is of importance to the public interest that the same should be proceeded with without delay, the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question, no Debate, Amendment, or Adjournment being allowed; and if, on the voices being given he shall without doubt perceive that the Noes have it, his decision shall not be challenged, but, if otherwise, a Division may be forthwith taken, and if the Question be resolved in the affirmative by a majority of not less than three to one, in a House of not less than 300 Members, the powers of the House for the Regulation of its Business upon the several stages of Bills, and upon Motions and all other matters, shall be and remain with the Speaker, for the purpose of proceeding with such Bill, Motion, or other Question, until the Speaker shall declare that the state of Public Business is no longer urgent, or until the House shall so determine, upon a Motion which, after Notice given, may be made by any Member, put without Amendment, Adjournment, or Debate, and decided by a majority. When the author of that Resolution was asked by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that there should be a two-thirds' majority for the termination of a debate, he proclaimed that he could not be a party to any fictitious majority, and would consent to nothing else than closure of debate by a majority of 1. He (Mr. Newdegate) could not help thinking, if the right hon. Gentleman carried the Resolution in the form he had proposed, it would be acting, not in the interest or for the future efficiency of the House of Commons. There was an old saying, "That second thoughts are best." The second thoughts of the right hon. Gentleman were embodied in the Resolution he had laid before the House. The right hon. Gentleman originally proposed a bare majority; he then proposed a majority of two-thirds, and he (Mr. Newdegate) feared, that under the pressure of the hon. Member for Ipswich and others, he had departed from his second and better thoughts. On the 3rd of February, 1881, Obstruction assumed the form of rebellion in the House, and the right hon. Gentleman had postponed dealing with it until the 9th Resolution, which he (Mr. Newdegate) would not then touch upon, but in the principle of which he fully agreed. Let the House remember that it was a minor evil with which they were now dealing. It was the evil of the cacoethes loquendi, which was very disagreeable to the House. In the earlier Parliaments in which he had the honour of serving, the public feeling was the best and the real corrective, and he regarded these measures as a very inefficient substitute for what ought to be the action of the public opinion of the House within its own walls. The adoption of the clôture would check the revival of that public opinion, and disgrace that great Assembly by showing that its public opinion had become too feeble for its self-coutrol. He hoped the House would forgive him as an old Member for those few words; but ho was pained by another expression the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister used, in excusing himself for not having proceeded earlier with the evil of Obstruction in the form of rebellion on the part of 36 of its Members in 1881, on the ground that there was important Business to be got through first. What could be more important than the regulation of the action of this great legislative machine? And yet the Prime Minister avowed he wanted to get amendment of Procedure out of the way! The Prime Minister reminded him of some engine-driver, who saw his steam escaping, or the boiler leaking, and would not stop the engine, but seemed to think keeping his time and reaching the end of his journey was of more importance than any care of a rattle-trap piece of iron. That was the impression the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman made upon his mind. But was the order of Procedure a matter to be lightly dealt with? Were the Forms of the House of Commons matters to be lightly dealt with? Were they not the fruits of centuries of experience? They had not lately proved defective from need for re-adaptation; but he asked whether they had not hitherto been the means of combining in a public Assembly securities for the most mature deliberation combined with the promptest action? He had seen, when there was occasion for promptitude, the House suspend its Standing Orders and pass an Act through all its stages in three hours, and he had seen the House of Lords suspend its Standing Orders and pass the same Act in two and a-half hours, making five and a-half hours expended before a Bill became law. Did the hon. Member for Ipswich need greater promptitude than that? The hon. Member, in the course of his speech, had disagreed with the unwritten rule, that those who had long experience in the House and in legislation should have precedence in debates. What sort of order would there be if the prescription of the hon. Member for Ipswich were applied? How would the proceedings be conducted, when the Minister of the Crown would not be called before the last new Member sworn at the Table? The hon. Member for Ipswich seemed never to have seriously contemplated the state of confusion in which the House would be placed if the customs of the House were recklessly changed. The system of the clôture was alien to, and in direct contravention of, the securities for the freedom of debate, or for deliberate action in legislation. He might be told that it prevailed under the name of the "Previous Question" in the Houses of Assembly of the United States. But, he asked, had the United States escaped from internal wars? Had the practice of abruptly closing their debates insured the peace of that country? It was notorious that this practice in the United States produced a dreadful war, from which they seemed lately to have recovered. The result of the use of this power of closing the debate in the United States had been to produce discontent. He hoped that the House would act upon the second thoughts of its Leader, and not be betrayed or misled in this matter.


observed that, after the brilliant political battle which they witnessed on Tuesday evening, and in which the Prime Minister achieved, as usual, he thought, a signal victory, very few fragments of solid argument had been left to future speakers, and he did not understand why a division was not taken that night. He would have been content to maintain entire silence; but representing a Scottish constituency, and as only one Scottish Member, he thought, on that side of the House had ventured to speak or had been able to catch the Speaker's eye, he desired to say that, as far as he understood the feeling of Scotland, these Rules, and the 1st Rule in particular, were urgently demanded from one corner of the country to the other. He desired only to say a few words in opposition to the arguments that had been used on the other side of the House in support of the Amendment. These arguments, he thought, had been presented to them chiefly on three somewhat portentous considerations. In the first place, the dread and horror of partizan Speakers had been held up to them, and they had been warned that danger and evils would come upon the House that they were now altogether ignorant of, and would derange all their Business, and upset their legislative action. That was the language of sheer apprehension; but history told them that vague and uncertain apprehension was the very life and breath of Toryism. If they spoke of extending the suffrage, apprehensions were crowded upon them from all quarters of Toryism. If they spoke of removing the tax on bread, the country, they were told, was filled with alarm; and if they spoke of doing away with entail, or still further extending the suffrage, again they had dread and apprehension. He was inclined to make very little of this dread of partizan Speakers. The second portentous consideration very much forced upon their attention was the character and position of the Chairman of Committees; but then when it was sought to derogate from his position and Office, singular to say the Office and position of Speaker were lauded in almost fulsome eulogy. Then they had been told of tyrannical majorities and Ministers who were to use for Party purposes the powers granted under this and other Rules. But what the supporters of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had not put before them was the case of a Conservative minority bitterly opposed to useful legislation—bitterly opposed to that legislation which the country demanded which, by much waste of time and words, set itself against the determination of the majority of the House and the people of the country. Now, yield this two-thirds' majority, and the Ministry, backed as it was by a large majority, might just abdicate their functions. He was convinced that, in order to carry out useful legislation, it was essential that this Rule, as it stood, should be carried in its entirety.


said, the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) showed much natural glee over the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). And so he well might, for that most amusing speech was about the only pleasure by which the House had been enlivened amid the laborious efforts of Gentlemen opposite to demonstrate the undemonstrable. But it seemed to him (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) that the intrinsic weight and propriety of his right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment might encourage them upon this side to make light of the right hon. Gentleman's glee, and of the speech by which the noble Lord gave him cause for it. They could afford to dismiss the inquiry to what extent the Conservative Party could count upon the habitual support of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. Such an inquiry was not of much more concern to them than the question whether or no the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was entitled to speak on behalf of the whole of the moderate Members of his Party. That noble Lord's speculation on the conduct of The Fortnightly Review had no more relevance to the subject of their present debate than had the strangely fortuitous resemblance between the language in which The Fortnightly Review urged that the lead of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) should not be followed, and that in which the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock urged that this Amendment should not be accepted. The noble Lord's attack on the Amendment was founded on two principal considerations. These were—the novelty of the idea of proportional majorities, and the danger of tyrannizing over small minorities. As to the first, those who were importing the clôture from abroad must not complain if they imported also from abroad some of the artificial safeguards by which its operation was mitigated. But the noble Lord objected to any importations of the cloture; and he was, there- fore, free to confine his arguments to demonstrating the want of English precedent for the adoption of proportional majorities. Entirely forgetting, or affecting entirely to forget, the adoption of that principle, with scarcely a murmur, in the case of the Urgency Rules, the noble Lord was not afraid to venture into illustrations from English political life outside the doors of this House. Anxious to show that the principle of decision by bare majorities was universal in English politics, the noble Lord actually had the face to tell the House that in all their largest constituencies Representatives were sent to this House by the bare majority of voters; and he cited in support of that audacious proposition the City of London, the boroughs of Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Leeds; all of them, as it happened, constituencies in which the Minority Clauses of the last Reform Act had made it impossible for a bare majority of the electors to deprive the minority of all share in the representation. So much, then, for the noble Lord's illustration of the dearth of English examples of proportional majorities. But it was in support of his other argument that the noble Lord waxed most eloquently prophetic. He said, in effect—"Require a two-thirds' majority, and you will perpetuate the dangerous and unwholesome spectacle of the oppressing of small Irish minorities by a combination of English Parties." Now, he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) wanted to be told what it was that, under a system of proportional majorities, could be done to a small Irish minority by a combination of English Parties, which could not be done more swiftly, more easily, and more frequently by the bare majority vote of either one of the great English Parties? How could it be said that a Liberal majority was more free to apply the closure under circumstances where it required the consent of the Conservative minority before it could do so? Were they to be told that a Liberal majority was less likely to trample upon Irish national feelings, when it could do so at its own sweet will, and without the consent of a Conservative minority? Surely that which could not be done without the consent of others was more difficult than that which could. And it was, surely, no unreasonable thing to presume that what was more difficult to do would be done less often. How, then, could it be said that, under a system requiring majorities of 2 to 1, the closing power would be applied as against the Home Rule Party more often, and not less often, than where a bare majority could do it? This was a question which not the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), nor the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), nor the right hon. Member for Ripon, nor the Prime Minister himself, had condescended to give anything distantly resembling an answer. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock feared from this Amendment the repeal of the Union. He foresaw "bloody explosions," and other horrors, which terrified his democratic imagination and gave exercise to his transcendent powers of metaphor. If he really feared these, let him join them in voting for the Amendment, as a security inferior only to voting against the Resolution as a whole. In one respect, certainly, he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) was disposed to agree with the noble Lord. He warned them that they had little hope of being supported hereafter by the Liberal Party if their votes should ever become necessary for the purpose of giving a two-thirds' majority to a Conservative Government. They had many warnings as to this, besides the noble Lord's own. And he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) submitted that their support of this Amendment should on that account be regarded as the more disinterested. What other warnings had they? The Prime Minister had been careful not to admit that "persistent reiteration of argument" was Obstruction. He would not say more than that it was "not necessarily Obstruction." The Prime Minister had carried to a fine art the practice of wrapping up in the most apparently unqualified declarations the greatest amount of qualifying matter. He (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) believed that in every sentiment that the right hon. Gentleman had uttered about Obstruction they would find some adverb or some dependent clause which reserved the way to exceptions which were hereafter to eat up the Rule. Need they ask whose would be the exceptional Obstruction for which a justification was thus provided beforehand? But that was not all. The Prime Minister had further laid it down as a probability, and had thereby hinted that it might be a legitimate Parlia- mentary practice, that Leaders of Parties should abstain from giving any vote that might tend to condemn or restrain the obstructive tactics of their independent followers. Of course, that hint would be taken by the Liberal Leaders of the future. Again, let not hon. Members forget the Prime Minister's magazine article about Obstruction. Nor let them forget the mysterious and somewhat obscure language in which, on February 20 last, he described the kind of Obstruction which was legitimate. Bearing all these in mind, he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) was much inclined to agree with the noble Lord as to what would probably happen. If ever a Conservative Government should come to require the help of the Liberal Party to give them a two-thirds' majority, he believed with him that that help would be refused excepting only in the few cases in which its refusal would be so discreditable as to be politically unprofitable and unsafe. The Government claimed for their Resolution as it stood—firstly, that it insured that debates should be closed only by the act of the House itself, and not by the act of a Government; and, secondly, that it cut away all semblance of a connection between the Speaker and any political Party. In his humble opinion, it was by the Amendment, and by the Amendment only, that these good results could be secured. The vote of a bare majority expressed only the will of a Party. To require a two-thirds' majority was by no means requiring too much if they wished the vote to reflect something more than the will of a Party. Let them not forget that they once saw this year a majority of two to one in a purely Party division. Clearly, then, two-thirds was not too much. By associating the Speaker with the action of a bare majority they would be inevitably, and, as Her Majesty's Government truly said, most unfortunately, associating the Speaker in the public mind with the Party that composed that majority and the Government that led that Party. He had ventured before to express his belief that the conspicuous stability of their legislative results was due and was mainly due to the fact that under their present Rules the minority had not only been heard but had been able to give effect to some of its wishes. It was on those terms that the minority was willing to accept reforms and to abstain from intriguing to revoke them. Such was his view of the advantages of giving the fullest recognition to the rights of minorities. He valued those advantages not less than he deprecated the error of giving to the acts of the Legislature and of the Speaker the appearance of the acts of a political Party. And he found in both those considerations what appeared to his humble judgment to be convincing reasons for supporting the Amendment.


said, he thought the little quarrel between the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) and the Members of the Conservative Party was one that might be left to be settled among themselves. The speech of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had brought home to his mind this fact—that the inevitable had already attacked the Fourth Party, and it was now in the position of having Leaders that did not lead and Followers that did not follow. He would like to look at the question as to how it would affect the House irrespective of the fortunes of any political Party, for he took it they were bound in a question of this kind, which affected the character and honour of the House of Commons, to consider it irrespective of Party gains and losses. The Resolution of the Government conceded the principle of proportional majority in a House of certain limits; in fact, in a House composed of one-half of its normal numbor—that was, in a House of 300 Members—the Resolution conceded the principle that the majority should be one of two-thirds, for in a House of 300 it would require a vote of 200 to out-vote a vote of 100. The Amendment raised this question, Why should you not extend this principle to a House of 400, 500, or 600? And that was the case which they who were arguing on that side of the House in support of the Government had got to meet. His answer was this—that in a House consisting of one-half of its normal number, in a House of 300, a majority of two-thirds was still within the four corners of a majority of the House, and the principle of the majority deciding all questions would not be violated. Let them take a House consisting of 658 Members. One-third of that number would be 220. Now, the proposition of the Amendment was this —that a minority of 220 Members should practically control the whole Business of the House of Commons. ["No, no!"] Well, if a majority of two-thirds was necessary in a full House, they would practically be giving a veto to the one-third; and, as the Prime Minister said the other day, that would be destroying the clôture altogether. If the Resolution were needed simply for the purpose of putting down Obstruction, he was quite willing to concede that there was no harm in keeping the power in the hands of a large minority. If it was simply to deal with the rebellous action of a small minority, he would have no argument to use against the principle of a two-thirds' majority; but he made no secret of it that it was not for that reason that he voted for the Resolution. He believed, that so far as putting down Obstruction was concerned, a great many of the other Rules would do it, and do it far better. But had hon. Gentlemen opposite forgotten the argument used many months ago by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India? He said that the House had only a limited quantity of time at disposal and an unlimited quantity of Business to do. Who was to settle how the House was to appropriate its own time? Was the House to settle it, or were individual Members? His (Mr. H. H. Fowler's) reason for supporting this Rule was in order to enable the House to regulate the appropriation of its own time to its Business. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always spoke in favour of free speech; but had they defined it? Did it mean the unlimited right of every Member to speak upon every subject at any length? That was the logical definition of free speech. If once they admitted that the House was to control that absolute right the principle of the clôture was conceded. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler), the other night, contemplated the possibility of the Government bringing in a Bill next Session to reform the Corporation. He described the speeches that would be made, and said that the debate would probably be brought to a conclusion before every one of the Metropolitan Members had had the opportunity of stating his opinion. That was exactly where he joined issue with him. Every one of them had not the right to be heard in such a case. The Corporation had, of course, the right to have its case stated, but not stated 20 times over. They had been told that if they accepted the two-thirds' majority they might rely on the support of the minority in exceptional cases and in times of emergency. He was not so sure about that. They had heard a great deal about a tyrannical Ministry and an unscrupulous majority; but he was not sure that they should never have a tyrannical Opposition and an unscrupulous minority. He did not suppose that so long as the Front Opposition Bench was occupied by the now Leaders they would depart from the Forms and Practices of the House, or that they would be in their opposition other than exceedingly fair and moderate to their opponents in the mode of carrying on Public Business. But suppose in these days of revolts and rebellions that there should be a rebellion on the other side, and that some political Arabi should raise the standard of Tory Democracy and rally round him, say, a couple of hundred votes, what use would he make of his power? The noble Lord opposite told them in plain language that he would give resistance to these Resolutions by all the Forms of the House. That was the euphemistic way of threatening wilful, persistent Obstruction. Here-echoed the words yesterday afternoon. If he had control of the Opposition, would he consider it his duty to fight his opponents in the way the Leaders of the Opposition did? Now, in the course of the debate there had been a challenge thrown out to give an instance of opposition carried to Obstruction by the Party opposite against a measure introduced from the Liberal side. He would take up that challenge and instance a form of Obstruction perhaps as deadly and as unfair as the Forms of the House admitted of, and he would take the instance from the present Parliament. In 1880 there was a question brought forward in which a large number of Members took the deepest interest, and in which a large section of the people of this country took the deepest interest, and upon which a majority of the House had pledged themselves in black and white to vote in a certain direction. What happened when this question came on? The hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) brought on a very simple Motion to evoke an expression of opinion from the House as to improving the mode of the transfer of land, and a debate ensued; everything that could be said was said. One of the Law Officers of the Crown stated the course which the Government proposed, and when he sat down the hon. Member opposite said he was perfectly satisfied, and he asked leave to withdraw his Motion. And then what happened? On the question that leave be given to withdraw the Motion a debate was kept up hour after hour by men whom he would venture to say, with all respect to their great acquirements and great experience, were not authorities on the question of the settlement of real property and the transfer of land, but they were avowed opponents to the next Motion, which related to marriages with a deceased wife's sister, and they watched the clock—as the Covenanters in Old Mortality watched the clock reach the time when they could perpetrate the crime they contemplated—so hour after hour did the Opposition watch the clock with the object of preventing the measure they disliked from coming on. That was wilful, persistent Obstruction. This Session the same comedy had been repeated. Again an evening was arranged for the question to be brought forward; there had been a strong expression of public opinion, and there was a crowded House, and then the question of "Lunatics" was raised. That ran the ordinary course of debate; then the Government stated their views, and then again the debate was kept up for no purpose but that of consuming time and preventing the next debate coming on. Talk of free speech! Was that not gagging the House of Commons by an unscrupulous and tyrannical minority? Now, it was this sort of thing he wanted to put an end to, and by what he called the fair rights of the majority. Why should not the majority, be it Liberal or Conservative, carry out the policy it was sent to the House to support? As he took it, the great majority in this Parliament were sent with two purposes—to remove the late Government from Office and to carry out a large amount of Liberal legislation. Well, the late Government recognized the evident sense of the House and the evident sense of the country, and without waiting for any formal vote left Office. And it was to be remarked they would not have been opposed by a two-thirds' majority. If the present Prime Minister, then lead- ing the Opposition, had at the Table moved a Vote of Want of Confidence, he could not have carried his Motion by a two-thirds' majority, although the country had expressed its feeling more distinctly than on any other occasion. Why, then, being returned to power, should the Liberal Party not carry the measures which it was elected to pass? Why should not the majority put the clôture in force to stop frivolous discussions of frivolous measures, and on which discussion was kept up to prevent real measures which the country desired, and which a majority of the House was prepared to carry? He might point out that the Constitutional Opposition had an ample safeguard against any unfair proceeding, and it had not been mentioned hitherto. It was a well-understood custom of the House, and he supposed the Prime Minister, with his 50 years' experience, would confirm this; it was the custom that in any great debate, or a full-dress debate as it might be called, the Leader of the Opposition was either the last to speak or the last but one. Now, put this case. The Government, say, wish to close a debate on a Tuesday, and the Leader of the Opposition thought it ought to go over until Friday, and the Leader of the Opposition refused to speak. The Government and their majority might stop debate when the recognized Representative of the Constitutional Party had not spoken; and if they were so inconceivably foolish as to do such a thing, there was "another place," quite undisturbed by the Birmingham Caucus or even Mid Lothian Speeches, where they would give short shrift to a measure received under such circumstances. Would they lose the opportunity of posing as the defenders of free speech? Would not the sentiment "Thank God we have a House of Lords" be loudly expressed at banquets throughout the country because the House of Lords had thrown out a measure which the Commons had passed in the teeth of a Constitutional minority prevented from speaking by means of the clôture? The idea of gagging legitimate opposition was one of the wildest of chimeras. [An hon. MEMBER: How is it in France?] They were in England; not in France. They had what France had not; they had a Constitutional freedom growing with their growth and strengthening with their strength, and between this country and France there was a chasm which nothing could bridge over. As to the particular point under discussion, let it be remembered that there had not, since the first Reform Bill, ever been a Government that held a majority of two-thirds. And every great measure had been opposed at first by two-thirds, and had never been carried by a majority of two-thirds. He declined to argue on the hypothesis that the Speakers of the future would be either rogues or fools. He did not believe in the coming degradation of the House of Commons; but he thought the House would get better as it got older, or, at all events, it was not a great amount of optimism to express an opinion that it would continue to be as good as it was. But if the House became the degraded Jacobin Club that was anticipated, did hon. Members opposite think that they could resist the wave of Democracy by means of this two-thirds' majority Rule? Why, in such a case, such a Rule would be swept away in a single night. For his part, he did not believe that this tide of Democracy was about to flow over us, but that, on the contrary, the House of Commons would remain what it had ever been—the guardian of the liberties of the people of this country. He believed that when this debate was terminated it would be admitted that the Liberal Party were as loyal to the traditions of that House as the Conservatives were, and that their only desire was to see the House resume its old place and exercise its old power.


said, that he had been a little disappointed with the speech to which they had just listened, as he had hoped to have heard from the hon. Member who sat below the Gangway opposite an explicit statement of his views upon the utterances of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). The language of the hon. Member for Northampton could not fail to give rise to grave reflections to every Member of that House, and the Ministers who heard it were evidently much disconcerted by the frank admissions of their very frank and candid Friend. According to the hon. Member for Northampton, the Radical Millennium, under the influence of the clôture, was rapidly approaching, and he disclosed a great variety of opinions, which, under differ- ent circumstances, he would have thought it rather more prudent and discreet to withhold. The hon. Gentleman had initiated the House into the mysteries of the Democratic creed, and a very pretty creed it was. Under the clôture they were to have triennial elections, at which all important questions were to be submitted to the electors, who were forthwith to give an imperative mandate to the Ministry of the day, who were to carry them into effect without the superfluous necessity of any discussion whatever in that House. Discussion was thus, they were told, to become useless, and freedom of speech as extinct as the Dodo. The hon. Gentleman stated that he would allow half-an-hour to the Opposition for the discussion of measures which had never before been considered, and that was part of a programme which they had been seriously told required the earliest attention of Parliament. He always admired the candour of the hon. Member, who never beat about the bush; but what he (Mr. Chaplin) wanted to know was, how far the views of the hon. Member for Northampton were shared by those who sat behind and around him below the Gangway? The question was one of vast importance to the House, for experience taught them that the doctrines of the Radicals of to-day inevitably became the policy of the Liberal Leaders to-morrow. So far as the present Administration was concerned, they were all aware that it was not the dog which wagged the tail, but the tail which wagged the dog. If there were any hon. Members in that part of the House who disagreed with the startling doctrines which, had been that night propounded by the hon. Member for Northampton, it was their bounden duty to rise and disavow them. The hon. Member who had just sat down said that in prearranging the close of a debate, as had been done that night, the two great Parties in the House had conceded the principle of the clôture. So they had. That principle had been conceded for many years; but it was the principle of individual clôture which had been conceded, and not the principle of arbitrary and general clôture such as the Prime Minister was endeavouring to force upon the House. In the debate which had taken place he had been struck by one thing more than anything else, and that was the total absence of any valid argu- ment against the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend. There had been plenty in its favour, even from its opponents, and, indeed, from the Prime Minister himself. On the first occasion, he said that he granted that if it were solely a question of a very small minority, a majority of three-fourths was more effective than a bare majority of 1. That was exactly the case of the Opposition. It was clear that there was only a limited section of the House in conflict with the majority; and, that being so, he could not conceive why the Government should resist the principle of the proportionate majority, which, on the showing of the Prime Minister himself, was infinitely more effective than a majority of 1. But, said the right hon. Gentleman, what security was there against a debate being unduly prolonged? He would say the same security as at present—that unwritten Rule to which the Prime Minister had so often alluded, and to which the majority of Members still paid deference. The infinitesimal minority could be dealt with by other means. Then came what, after all, was the Prime Minister's main objection to the Amendment—namely, that it handed over the rights of the majority to the minority. Eights of the majority! What did this mean? There was no distinction between the rights of the majority and the rights of the minority in that House. The rights and privileges of the House were common to all Parties—to minorities as well as majorities—to the humblest as well as to the most distinguished Member; and he protested against any attempt to bring into contumely and disrepute some of the noblest and best traditions of Parliamentary life. But how did the Prime Minister illustrate his position? By the most extraordinary argument he (Mr. Chaplin) had ever heard. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Sometimes, unfortunately, there is more than one minority in this House, and, under the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it would be possible for the larger minority in the matter of clôture to overrule the majority and the small minority combined." In other words, the Government, uniting some day with the Home Rule Party, in. virtue, perhaps, of another Kilmainham Treaty, would be unable to silence the Tory minority, and a very monstrous and intolerable state of things that would be, said the right hon. Gentleman. It was precisely because the Tory Party saw the possibility of such a danger that they united to support the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend. [Cries of "No, no!"] United—he forgot. He had forgotten his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill), and the speech which he had delivered, and he was glad he had been reminded of it, for he had heard the speech with great interest and great amusement; and though he did not share the estimate formed of it by an hon. Friend near him, he must say that it was full of mischief, and ability, and fun, and humour. But the whole gist of the speech might be described and the argument disposed of in a sentence. What the noble Lord said was that the two-thirds' majority would afford no permanent protection to the minority, because if two or three times the clôture were rejected under it the two-thirds' majority would disappear altogether; and, on the other hand, it would cripple a Tory Government anxious to pass legislation. The noble Lord failed apparently to see that if the two-thirds were be swept away they would only be forced back on the bare majority. He was afraid that it was useless to try to argue with his noble Friend, or to endeavour to get him to support the Amendment; but it might be some consolation to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford North-cote) to know that he might look for the support—the erratic support—of his noble Friend on the ultimate decision of this question. The Opposition might be defeated to-night—he believed they would. But why? Because dark rumours were already in circulation in the Lobby—that the Kilmainham Treaty was to be literally fulfilled, and that they would Bee to-night, in the division about to be taken, a new and ill-omened combination between the Government, on the one hand, and the Irish National Party on the other, for the suppression of the Constitutional minority in the House of Commons. But he might remind the Government that the question was not settled yet; and they might rest assured that, with the assistance, as they hoped, of lovers of freedom and liberty in every quarter of the House, and of every man who was determined to maintain the best and noblest traditions of the British House of Commons, the Tory Opposition would enter with vigour and energy on the struggle against clôture with a bare Party majority of 1.


said, that he had the disagreeable duty to perform of stating his objections to a course which had received the sanction of the great body of those Gentlemen who sat around him. It was no slight aggravation of that difficulty to follow so closely the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who spoke so ably a short time ago. But, as one of the older Members of that House, he might be pardoned for entertaining a very strong wish at this period, when the old era of Procedure was about to close, and a new era to come in, to state as succinctly and as strongly as he could the reasons which actuated him in the course he was about to take. He would endeavour to make his meaning as clear as possible by stating, in a few words, what he conceived to be the nature of the problem which they were called upon to solve. That problem, as he understood it, was this. Admitting for the sake of argument—and he, for one, admitted it, not only for the sake of argument, but in all sincerity and earnestness—the necessity of clôture, the problem was how to reconcile its enforcement with that consideration for the rights of minorities which, either directly or indirectly, was, he was sure, entertained by every Member of that House. Two modes had been proposed in connection with that Resolution for protecting those rights. The one was that adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and the other was that proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson); and the question for the House to determine was which of these two methods was the more reasonable and just. The method proposed by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin recognized the rights of minorities, and protected them by requiring a proportional majority when enforcing the clôture. The proposal of the Government began by disavowing the rights of minorities. ["No, no!"] He would prove that in a few moments. Departing from that harsh and unreasonable conclusion presented in its naked form, it adopted an artificial quorum, for which no special or valid reason had been or could be given for preventing that majority from obtaining its legitimate ends. What was the speech of the Prime Minister in February last?—because upon that speech his (Mr. Walter's) objections to the plan embodied in the Government Resolution were mainly founded. The Prime Minister, in the course of that speech, laid down this doctrine as an article of faith to be received by every Member of that House at the peril of his political salvation, that there was but one sound principle—that the majority of the House should prevail. And the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say— God forbid that we should see so vast an innovation introduced into the practice of this House, applicable to our ordinary procedure, as would be a Rule of the House under which the voice of the majority was not to prevail over that of the minority."—[3 Hansard, cclxvi. 1146.] That was the doctrine which found acceptance with a great number of the Members of the House, probably the majority. But how did the Prime Minister illustrate that doctrine? He brought forward a number of test cases to prove its value and importance. He informed the House truly that the Reform Bill was carried by a majority of 1; that the Education Bill under the Privy Council was carried by a similar majority; that the Melbourne Ministry was turned out by a majority of 1, and that a Ministry of which he himself was the head experienced the same fate. Who denied it when applied to main questions? Did the Prime Minister suppose that it ever entered into the mind of any human being of the defeated Party in the division on the Reform Bill that he was injured, or that his Party were injured, by being the victims of a division in which a bare majority prevailed? Were their rights as Members of that House affected? They knew perfectly well that there never had been, or could be, a question about the sufficiency of a bare majority on any of the main questions that might be brought before the House. But did that doctrine hold good when applied to the relation of Members to each other as regarded debate? He held distinctly and firmly that it did not. He held that the theory of the Prime Minister upon which his proposal rested was an unsound theory—namely, that the relations to each other of Members of that House as Members of Parliament were the same as existed between opposite sides of the House. Would anyone maintain for a moment—though, indeed, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) maintained it distinctly that evening—but would anyone else maintain that 300 Members of that House had a right to say to 299—"We are a majority; you hold your tongues and go about your business; we will shut your mouths; what rights have you against us?" Such a doctrine would be scouted and repudiated by the strongest advocate of this measure. But now, how did the supporters of the Prime Minister propose to meet this difficulty? They repudiated the doctrine of the two-thirds' majority, and then the Prime Minister proceeded incontinently to construct, by the most arbitrary process possible, an artificial quorum which differed from the normal quorum of 40—a quorum of 200. But, as had been pointed out over and over again, the creation of that quorum had this defect—that in a House of 300 Members a division could be carried against the minority only by a majority of 2 to 1, while in a House of 400 Members a majority of 1 was sufficient. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton thought he had a sufficient answer to that, when he said that it was perfectly true that in a House of 300 Members a proportionate majority of 2 to 1 might be obtained; but that was only half the House. But the House of Commons was as much a House, and was as competent to transact any Business whatever, if only 300 Members chose to come together, as 600. And then they were told a great deal about the necessity of protecting small minorities, but that great minorities could always take care of themselves. Now, he would put this point, which had not been mentioned before. He remembered reading a very remarkable sermon by one of the profoundest minds that ever flourished in the Church of England, the late Regius Professor of Divinity—the Prime Minister would probably remember it—on "Our Duty to Equals," in which it was clearly laid down that our duty to equals was a much more difficult matter than our duty to inferiors. The duty of a majority to a small minority was somewhat of a condescending character, and appealed to their consideration. But the fact was that a large minority really required consideration a great deal more. It should be remembered that the mea- sure of the stringency of the clôture was not to be found in the number of persons composing the majority who exercised it, but rather in the number composing the minority against whom it was employed. There was one admission he would make. He, for one, most distinctly admitted that it was the inherent right of every Legislative Assembly whatever to devise means for bringing its debates to a close; and, therefore, he did not object to the clôture in principle. It was a question of degree, a question of adjustment, a question of consideration for the rights of others, those others being the minority—it was a question of Procedure. What he contended was that in a case of ordinary Procedure, for which this Resolution was framed, the principle of a proportionate majority was the right one. But he should be met by this answer—"Assuming your proposition, you will still leave it in the power of the minority to carry on the debate to an interminable length." That was an objection which had to be met. The Rules for ordinary Procedure tried to meet the wants of the House of Commons in time of peace, when questions were being debated as they should be debated among gentlemen, not with a view to Obstruction or improper delay, but with a view to information which would be to the general advantage of the whole body. He believed that a Rule requiring a two-thirds' majority would amply suffice for such occasions. But supposing that a proposal for the clôture had been rejected by a two-thirds' majority, and supposing that, after two or three nights' debate, the Speaker were to come to the conclusion that the debate was then being prolonged for purposes of wilful Obstruction, he should be ready, without hesitation, to give the Speaker absolutely the power of bringing the discussion to a close without the intervention of the House. Indeed, he would far rather see the power to impose the clôture vested in the Speaker himself, to be applied mero motu, the Speaker being such a person as the Prime Minister had described, combining all the virtues characteristic of an English gentleman of high position with twice the patience of Job himself—he would rather see the power of the clôture intrusted to him altogether, without any appeal to the House, which must too often involve an appeal to Party feeling, than see it exercised under the conditions laid down by the Government. It was remarkable that the Prime Minister the other night, after expatiating with great force and eloquence on the protection afforded to minorities by the lofty position of the Speaker, and showing how damaging to that Officer's character any abuse of the contemplated power would be, should have selected, as an illustration of his meaning, the very case which appeared to him (Mr. Walter), as well as to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), to be a most glaring instance of the abuse of the power. The Prime Minister said he thought it would be most monstrous that the clôture should be prevented from taking effect by the action of the Constitutional Opposition against the majority composed of all one side of the House and of a small fraction of the Members sitting upon the other side. As he (Mr. Walter) had said, he could not conceive a worse case of the abuse of the clôture than such an application of it as was contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman in that instance. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton said that retaliation might be resorted to by the Opposition, and that, if they were unfairly treated, the Leaders sitting on the Front Opposition Bench might easily give the signal to the light troops of the Party to continue making speeches ad infinitum. Well, he, for one, did not wish to see the Opposition pushed to such extremities and induced to adopt retaliatory measures of that kind, for the consequence would be that the character and dignity of the House would be fatally injured. Supposing some sort of clôture to be necessary, he would much rather see a light weapon constructed, which would be handy and useful, and might be used as often as need be, than a great unwieldy gun, which the officer in charge would be afraid to fire lest it should burst. The Prime Minister had spoken in feeling terms of his connection with that House as being more in the past than in the future, and he was about to bequeath this Rule as a legacy to his successors. He (Mr. Walter) feared it was a dangerous legacy, and he declined to accept his share of it; for he believed if the New Rule were carried out not in the spirit intended by the Prime Minister himself, but in the spirit in which many Members would be disposed to enforce it, Parliamentary life in this country would become more and more difficult to maintain, and the position of independent Members, above all others, would become intolerable.


I listened with the same pleasure everyone else did to the oratory of the Prime Minister. I heard him disclaim the notion that the clôture was ever to be imposed by the Treasury Bench in stirring periods, and I was afterwards edified by hearing him demolish this Constitutional proposition in impassioned language. He told us the majority would be fools if they did not make use of their power. Well, if it so happened, therefore, that a considerable number of Members were in the Library, the Tea Room, or other places, when the Speaker was deciding upon the evident sense of the House, then, if the Division Bell were answered by one more supporter of the Government than of the Opposition, we should be landed in the homely old doctrine of "might makes right," and we should perceive that brute force was available for the Government when their arguments were expended. I suppose all serious politicians are agreed upon the necessity of forwarding the Business of the House; the only difference is as to the method of doing it. All are agreed, that whatever goes beyond the mark is mischievous. The only difference is where the line shall be drawn. If we could look at this matter without Party prejudice, I think an agreement would not be difficult. We were one moment so near that point of agreement that it seems matter for regret that point was ever receded from. A proposition was made by the Prime Minister which appeared, even to some of his own followers, to go beyond the mark. An Amendment was proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin which satisfied objections, and which was accepted by the Prime Minister. This shows that he had no objection to the principle of the Amendment. I have asked myself with wonder ever since why it was receded from. Certainly not because the Opposition had given reason to the Prime Minister to suppose it would be necessary for him to crush them, to destroy them, to pulverize them before Obstruction could be scotched. The right hon. Gentleman, with his long ex- perience, knows the necessity for, and he knows the usefulness of, an Opposition. He knows perfectly well that where the honour of the House is concerned, where Imperial interests are concerned, the Opposition is not one whit behind the Government in its jealousy to maintain them. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that two-thirds of the House can always be relied upon to support any Minister in withstanding wilful Obstruction. If the right hon. Gentleman did not know it, he would never have agreed to the two-thirds' Amendment, from which he is now receding. It is fruitless to question motives; but perhaps I may be allowed to point out, though I am surprised it should be necessary to do so in the face of a great Liberal Minister, that the best way of managing men is by themselves. It is a dangerous thing for any man to make himself responsible for order unless the country is in a state of siege. "The Republic, it is me—as for order, I will be responsible for it," were the words of the Third Napoleon, and grievously did that Third Napoleon answer it. How was it the great Arnold made Rugby that model school of management? Was it by saying—"Rugby, it is me—I will answer for its order?" Par otherwise; his motto was—"Rugby for the boys and the boys for Rugby." And so, to carry my comparison to the highest point, if the Prime Minister says—"The House of Commons, it is me—I will answer for its order;" vast as is his experience, lofty as is the order of his intellect, he will be the first to acknowledge that there is something still vaster, that there is something yet more lofty, and that is the spirit of the English House of Commons. I would say to the Prime Minister— Learn, then, to lead us, you may guide us still, Incline our hearts, but not control our will; Force will inflame where fear cannot appal, And kindness soothes where rigour saddens all.


said, he must congratulate the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) upon his recent courageous manifestation of the truth, which they had all suspected for some time—namely, that he was, after all, a Radical in disguise. He also felt bound to compliment the noble Lord upon the robustness with which he had trodden, almost trampled, upon the fossil official-ism of the Front Opposition Bench. Before proceeding any further, and speaking for himself as an humble unit of the Radical Party, he (Mr. Russell) wished to state that his reasons for supporting the Prime Minister's Resolutions were widely different from those by which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had declared himself to be influenced. It was not the intention of the Radical Party, as the hon. Member appeared to imply, to do away with all discussion—such a suggestion seemed farcical—but their desire was that all the measures in which they were interested should be fully, fairly, and equally discussed. They did not wish to be overwhelmed with floods of intolerable eloquence on one or two uninteresting measures, to the exclusion of others in which they were vitally concerned. The Liberal Party accepted the proposal for a closing power not with enthusiasm—for who could be enthusiastic in favour of a discipline so irksome?—but with a calm conviction that it was required by the necessity of the case; and the question they had to consider was what remedy the exigency of the case demanded. Clôture by a two-thirds' majority seemed to him to be open to two real and opposite dangers. It would either create a tyranny, or it would be wholly futile. In the first place, if a Ministry desired to pass certain measures or to put down a certain form of Obstruction, and were supported in that by the Opposition, there would arise a tendency to deal harshly with small minorities, and the result of that would be that unpopular opinion would be crushed and put down. In the case of such a conjunction, there would be short shrift for those whose enemies regarded them as the apostles of ideas, and were regarded by others as the advocates of crotchets, and Irish Members must see that the two-thirds' majority was aimed with the utmost possible nicety to meet their particular requirements. In practice, the two-thirds' majority would exercise the most grievous tyranny over the smallest minorities and individual opinion; but the real danger, he believed, and that which formed the second objection, would be this—that where a Ministry desired to put down flagrant Obstruction, they could not be certain of the support of the Opposition, who, in many instances, themselves might take advantage of the embarrassments of the Administration. Granting the Leaders of the Opposition would co-operate with the Goverment to put the clôture in force, then the full significance of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock would become apparent. As sure as his official Leaders determined to support the Government in this enter-prize of repression, so surely would the noble Lord take an independent line. The troubles in the Soudan had their analogy in the troubles of the Tory Party. The False Prophet had come from Woodstock and raised the standard of revolt, and declared that he, and not the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), was the true Leader of the Faithful. ["Oh, oh!"] What gave that a grave significance was that, as far as they could judge from what they had seen and read, a certain section of the Conservative Party was inclined to consider the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock the Leader of the Faithful, and to follow him rather than the right hon. Baronet. For his part, he (Mr. Russell) was not ashamed to say that his object in voting for the Resolution was not merely to crush the outrages of Obstruction, but, in large measure, to facilitate, and, if possible, also to secure the passage of those great measures to which the Liberal Party were so deeply pledged, and for the carrying of which they had been sent to the House of Commons; and, for these reasons, he would consent to no proposition by which a Rule for closing a debate would be at one time a tyranny and at another utterly futile. In some constituencies a deep feeling of dissatisfaction prevailed at the long delay that had occurred between the promise of certain measures and its fulfilment. Circumstances had arisen which had retarded the progress of measures—such as those with respect to corrupt practices, local government, and the extension of the franchise—in which the country was deeply interested; and it was their object to bring them within the range of fair debate, and, without stifling any expression of opinion, to pass the will of the majority into law. He, for one, therefore, would be no party to an arrangement such as that proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), that would sacrifice all the results of their Party cohesion and solid discipline to the feeble Leadership and distracted counsels of Her Majesty's Opposition.


Mr. Speaker, I wish to explain, in a few words, the course which I, and the hon. Members who act with me, propose to take this evening, and also our reasons for taking that course. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. George Russell) that clôture in any form will facilitate legislation. If you even succeed in passing one or two measures more quickly by the action of the clôture than you might otherwise have done, this gain will be effected at a certain loss to yourselves in another direction. It is bound, I think, to increase the friction of Parties in the House of Commons to a very remarkable extent; and I think, also, it will increase the desire and the tendency in "another place" to throw out Bills which have been passed apparently by the agency of the clôture. So far, then, from facilitating legislation, I think that the clôture will do nothing except crush and check the liberties of the House of Commons. But as regards the particular issue which it is for us to decide to-night, I can have no hesitation whatever, and I never had any hesitation whatever, as to what I ought to do as between clôture by a two-thirds or any proportionate majority, and clôture by a simple majority of the House. I wish to say, in passing, that I agree thoroughly with the spirit, and most of the sentiments, of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), as expressed in that most admirable and able speech of his the other night. I think that he showed an example of true wisdom to some of those who have been much longer in the House of Commons than he has been, and who, by their age and experience, might have been supposed to have taken the course which the noble Lord pointed out. But I have not the slightest hesitation in expressing my belief that the clôture, by a two-thirds' majority, such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Gibson) asks us to support in voting for his Amendment, would be simply a clôture which would be fatal to the rights and liberties of the Irish Party. It would have a tendency to bring the two Front Benches together, and I have always noticed that, in proportion to the approximation of those two Front Benches, so we have been trampled upon and kicked out of the House. It may, perhaps, have appeared to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) to have been a light thing when, a year ago, he agreed to clôture the Irish Party on condition that a two-thirds' or three-fourths' vote of the House should sanction it. But when I heard that the Front Opposition Bench had agreed to our immolation I knew they had also agreed to their own; for, as between the question of a two-thirds and a simple majority, there cannot possibly be any reason why the House should very long insist upon that distinction, as must be evident to everybody who carefully looks into the future. And it ought to have been evident to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit above him, that it must necessarily follow, some day or other, when they sacrifice our rights and the rights and liberties of the people we represent without compunction, theirs would come also. No, Sir; I cannot support the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin; and, looking at the point in all its bearings, and although many of us, undoubtedly—perhaps all of us—feel it a disagreeable thing, and one to which we decidedly object, to go into the Lobby with a Government which is associated with such atrocious Acts of coercion in Ireland, yet, looking to the future of our Party—the Members for Ireland—we have come to the conclusion that we ought to do our best to defeat the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin by voting on this occasion against his Amendment. We believe that in taking that course we, at least, shall secure that whatever may be meted out to us in the future shall also be meted out to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Party who are responsible for this coercion of the House of Commons by their action a year ago. As regards the question of clôture or no clôture, that is a matter which is still before us. Our vote upon that question is free, and is our own. It is not prejudiced one way or the other by the action which we intend to take to-night; and when the time comes for voting on the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon to reject the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, we, as a Party and as a body, will be free to consult together and to take such action as we may consider right for the interests of our Party and our country.


Sir, I intend to detain the House as short a time as possible in the observations I propose to address to it; but it is impossible for me altogether to keep silence in this discussion. I have listened with due attention to the speech—the short, but very significant speech—of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). I understand him to speak, not only in his own name, but in the name of the Party with whom he usually agrees and acts, and in accordance with a resolution taken recently by that Party. I do not think it would be at all becoming in me to attempt to pry into any secret understanding that may have taken place. For my own part, I entirely respect the decision, and I am not altogether sorry that, if we are to be defeated on the present occasion, we shall be defeated, amongst others, by those who are generally supposed to have brought this Motion upon the House of Commons. I said that I did not wish to pry into the counsels of the Party whom the hon. Gentleman represents. I think there is a little too much prying into the proceedings of those who act together, and who occasionally consult together. I have read with considerable surprise—I suppose it is an uncorrected account, and therefore I must not assume that it is a literally true one—but I have read a report of some observations made by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself this very day to a deputation of Liberal Members, in which he was pleased to express his opinion not only upon the particular matter upon which they came to him, but he also gave some information upon what he understood to be the state of the Conservative Party. He was good enough to inform the deputation which waited upon him this afternoon that his belief was there would have been a manifestation of differences in the Conservative Party in this House but for the rigour with which the screw had been applied. He condescends to particulars, and he tells us that in the Carlton and elsewhere the pressure of the Party has been applied in its extremest form.


I stated according to my belief.


I am stating the right hon. Gentleman's belief; but I would appeal to my own Friends whether there has been any pressure of the screw upon them at all? The fact is, the right hon. Gentleman is very susceptible to a hoax of that kind. I could not help taking notice of it, because it seems to be a very extraordinary statement to be made by such an authority, at such a moment. But I must apologize to the House for detaining them with a matter not immediately connected with the question they have to decide. The question that we have to decide is, as the right hon. Gentleman himself, and many others, have freely admitted, one of the very gravest importance. I do not speak so much of its importance in relation to the question between a proportionate and a bare majority. That is an important point; but it is not the one to which we have to address ourselves at this moment. The question at the present moment is one connected with the larger and more important question of the introduction of the clôture at all. And I wish again, as I have done many and many times in this House and out of this House, to repeat what I have expressed—my own strong feeling that the clôture, in any form or shape, is a measure against which we ought to offer the strongest opposition in our power. In supporting the Amendment of my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson), I do so not because I think the Resolution, as amended by him, would be a good Resolution, but because, if we are to have it at all, it would be less mischievous than having the clôture pure and simple. Now, Sir, the first observation I would venture to make upon this great question is that, undoubtedly, it is, as the Prime Minister himself said the other day, the largest and most important change ever proposed in the Procedure of the House. [Mr. GLADSTONE: The whole Code.] Well, the whole Code is important, no doubt; but this particular Resolution is, I think, by far the most important and the most significant part of it. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the condition of Business in the House of Commons had, for a long time, been such, and increasingly such, that it was recognized by all authorities that some changes were required in order to enable us properly to get through the work that lay before us. He said, with truth, that this had been the subject of inquiry before a large number of Committees—I think he mentioned as many as 14 Committees of the House of Commons—within the time during which the Reformed Parliament has existed, and many excellent and wise suggestions have undoubtedly been made by those Committees. "But," said the right hon. Gentleman, "there is the want of a motive power strong enough to induce the House to act on those suggestions. It is not that we are in want of counsel; but we are in want of a motive power to induce us to adopt and act on the counsels that we have received." If that be so, I wish to know by which of those 14 Committees was the clôture recommended? It is not here, as is the case with many other parts of this Code, that they have made suggestions which may have never been sufficiently pressed. The clôturt is a suggestion which has not been made; and not only has it not been made, but it is one which, having been proposed and considered by a Committee, and by a recent Committee, has been deliberately negatived. And, therefore, it is not from the assistance or by the advice of any Committee of the House of Commons that this part of this great change is now proposed to us. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) sat with me, only two or three years ago, on a Committee to which this particular proposal was made by a Member of the Liberal Party—the present Lord Brabourne—who pressed the subject on the attention of the Committee, and he received next to no support. I think one Conservative Member was disposed to support him; but, generally speaking, the whole Committee, including the noble Marquess opposite, felt that the matter was not one which they could recommend. Well, if there was nothing in the recommendations of that Committee, was there anything about this matter in the charge that was given to this Parliament when it was elected? Not at all; the question was not before the constituencies; it did not originate with them. Therefore we have none of these authorities for it. Is there any other authority for it? Certainly, there is one very high authority which we have to consider, and that is the authority of the Prime Minister himself, who comes forward, I admit, with great and various claims on our attention; for not only his great position in this House stands in the account in his favour, but also his great abilities and power, and the very large experience he has had of the working of the House of Commons' system, must cause his authority to be regarded as of much importance. Therefore, as far as authority goes, I very willingly admit the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. But that authority, I would remind the House, is weakened by one or two considerations to which I must call attention. In the first place, it is weakened very much by the course which the right hon. Gentleman himself has taken with regard to these Resolutions. There has been, from first to last, an amount of hesitation and uncertainty in the mode in which he has dealt with these Resolutions, which has very greatly weakened the authority with which he has put them forward. I might mention, as one small evidence of that hesitation, the fact that when he first brought forward his Resolutions he did not propose to make them Standing Orders. He said— We do not propose, at first, to make them Standing Orders, but to adopt them, for the present, experimentally; and if they are found to work well, we shall propose to make them Standing Orders of the House. That was not a very strong form of recommendation. Nothing has happened since then that has very greatly affected the question; but now we find that he has taken a step forward, and he proposes to make them Standing Orders. There were points which would naturally be considered when the Resolutions were brought in. One great question was, how we are to proceed in Committee; and we had a proposal made that the initiation of the clôture should rest with the Speaker and the Chairman of any Committee. Then the suggestion was made, that that ought not to be extended to the Chairman of any casual Committee. That was accepted. Then we were told that there is to be a special provision made for these casual Chairmen; but that is not to be done at present; it is laid aside for a time. Now, considering how important a part the Chairman of Committees will bear in the operation of the clôture, it is altogether astonishing to me that that point should not have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman, and that he should not have considered it carefully and maturely. I am almost ashamed to refer to it again; but there is next his letter of May. I am not mentioning it to throw the slightest blame on the Government, or on the right hon. Gentleman, for having withdrawn their offer; but only to show that, at one time, and very recently, the right hon. Gentleman held quite a different opinion with regard to clôture with a two-thirds' majority from that which he holds now. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman, I see, shakes his head; but I do not see how he gets out of the dilemma, which was put very forcibly a little while ago—I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—but, at any rate, by some speaker to-night. If he held then the opinion of the two-thirds' majority which he holds now, he then distinctly agreed to accept a proposal, which he himself says would deteriorate the Procedure of the House of Commons, and make things worse than they are. Was there any necessity for that? It would be worse with a two-thirds' majority, he says, than to have no clôture at all. Well, he wanted to get on, and to take the other Resolutions, and he says—"There may be a good deal to be said for that." But why did he propose to accept something that he thinks worse even than the present state of things? It would be better to leave the present state of things as it is, if he was anxious to get on with the Business. I do not deny that many of the Rules I see here will expedite the Business of the House, and command pretty general assent from all Parties, and he might have said—"I am prepared to lay aside for the moment, without surrendering my opinion, that Rule which causes all this doubt and embarrassment." But he has not done that, and, therefore, it is evident that at that time he did not hold that strong view of the mischievous character of the clô ture by a majority of two-thirds that he does now. His conduct is altogether unintelligible. There are other circumstances also, which seem to me to weaken the authority of the right hon. Gentleman; and one is the obvious impulse which is driving him on to adopt some measure or other, which will enable him, before the close of his great career in this House, to pass certain legislative reforms which he is anxious to bring about. I will not inquire into what the character of those measures is. I have no right to charge the right hon. Gentleman, or to impute to him that he desires to introduce legislation of the Socialistic and Democratic character mentioned by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). That is not what I suppose the right hon. Gentleman intends; but he is most anxious, and not unnaturally, to wipe away the sort of reproach which has been undoubtedly cast against his Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!!] Well, I will withdraw the word reproach, if you like, and say disappointment—a word used, I think, by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler)—felt by many of the constituencies at the non-fulfilment of some of the great promises made to them at the time of the General Election. Well, that anxiety on the part of the right hon. Gentleman is such, that it leads him to make all these feverish movements in endeavouring to bring about this change, and to adopt some plan or other in order to obtain the power he seeks. He told us himself very frankly when he brought forward the Resolution, and he has told us again since then, that he did not really value this proposal of the clôture for its power of putting down what is commonly known as Obstruction; for that, he said, it was not intended or adapted. It was a different kind of measure that was wanted in order to deal with wilful Obstruction; but he said very plainly—"What I want it for is to enable me to get on and to pass some of my measures." Even his definition of Obstruction shows this. What was the definition he gave us of Obstruction? He said it was "the disposition of individual resistance to the will of the majority of the House by means other than argument." That is, generally, what we understand by Obstruction, and for that purpose the effect of the two-thirds' majority would be just as good as a bare majority, because there is no doubt it would be the "general sense of the House" that a persistent and unreasoning Obstruction is not creditable to the House and ought to be put down. But that is not what he is aiming at and is not what this Resolution is calculated for. What he aims at is entirely different—namely, the stifling of fair discussion. We cannot, therefore, attach all that value we might otherwise be expected to attach to the opinion and authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and we have to look a little to some of the recommendations and some of the views of those by whom his measures are supported. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) and others of his Colleagues appear to hold views somewhat different from those of the Prime Minister—that is to say, that they attach very great importance, and avowedly so, to the power of stifling discussion. I need not remind the House of what the noble Marquess said at the beginning of the Session, with regard to the way in which hon. Members who did not please his fancy, or the fancy of a considerable number of hon. Members, were to be quietly extinguished by the application of the clôture. I am not surprised at that on the part of the Members of the Government. They are anxious to get on with Government measures, and any device by which they can secure the rapid progress of these measures may naturally be allowed to commend itself to them. But what are we to say to the Members of the Radical Party, of whom I will take, as a Representative, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), who spoke yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman speaks now from an independent position. The right hon. Gentleman is just one of those who ought to have considered what effect this measure of the clôture will have on the kind of Motion which he is himself so anxious to bring forward. There are hon. Members of this House like the right hon. Gentleman—like the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and others, who have taken up opinions which are not favourably regarded by the great majority of the House, but which they feel them- selves bound to press forward, and to recommend by repeated arguments and by repeated discussions. Are they aware that, by the introduction of this system of absolute clôture, they run a very great risk of finding themselves shut out and precluded from expressing those opinions by the impatience of the House? ["No, no!"] I hear murmurs. Is Obstruction such a thing that it never can happen? I say, wait until you see. This is just one of those cases in which impatience grows by what it feeds upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) represents another school, and he says it is inconceivable in this, that, or the other case—it is inconceivable that the Liberal Party could ever be supposed to interfere with and stop and stifle discussion. Well, Sir, I only hope the right hon. Gentleman is right. He ought to know more of what the Liberal Party are capable than I do; but his view is not, I confess, in accordance with my experience. Then we have another authority, on the present occasion, to consider and to strengthen the Prime Minister, and that is a very high one indeed—one with whom I feel some little difficulty in discussing matters, because he looks at matters from so very high a point of view. I mean my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). He has, somehow or other, managed to elevate himself into a position, from which he finds himself capable of looking down upon the Front Benches on both sides, and of regarding all Parties in the House with an impartiality which is quite sublime. I do not know what can have taken my noble Friend up into such great heights, or whether he went there to consult the Angel Gabriel, or—what is sometimes suspected—to look for the lost principles of the Liberal Party, some of which have gone to the Planet Saturn, and some, I think, to the Planet Mars. But, whatever may have become of them, his argument seems to me to have been completely answered by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who sits near him; and I do not think it necessary to dwell further upon it. It certainly appears to me that my noble Friend has overlooked, from the great height from which he regards these matters, the real importance of those safeguards which he treats as little lights, which would very quietly be swept away. I can only say that if he is right, and they would quickly be swept away, we should not then be in a worse position than if we never had them at all; but I do not believe that they will be so soon swept away, because, as the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said, it will take some little time to do that, and, in the meantime, the voice of the country will pronounce on the propriety of the sacrifice that is demanded. I am glad to think that my noble Friend, at all events, agrees with me in that which is the real root of the matter. He does not like the clôture any more than I do, and I hope that when the time comes for deciding on the Resolution finally I shall have his support—and I can assure him I value it very much—in the resistance which I shall offer to the Resolution as a whole. I will not attempt to go into the recondite reasons that may act upon the Irish Party. I suspect that they are under a delusion, and I fancy they have been taken in—though to do that is not very easy, for they are not easily taken in—by all this talk about small minorities. It is no part of my right hon. and learned Friend's (Mr. Gibson's) proposal to diminish the securities to be given to small minorities at the close of the Provisoes of the Government Resolution. These will remain just the same, even if my right hon. and learned Friend's precaution is taken. But they have been taken in by the fine words of the Prime Minister, who has been quite gushing over small minorities. I can remember nothing to compare them with, except the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, a good many years ago, on behalf of small boroughs. There are not many present in the House who will remember them; but those who do will remember how very powerful and very touching the words of the right hon. Gentleman were on behalf of the small boroughs. Just before small boroughs were extinguished, we had a very powerful and interesting speech from the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of them, and his expressions on that occasion remind me of the touching way in which he has spoken of small minorities. My own belief is that it will not be very safe for hon. Gentlemen to rely on the tenderness of the right hon. Gentleman, as the reason for this tenderness towards a small minority is to be found in the fact that the Government know they can sweep it away without difficulty, and so can afford to speak kindly of it. The rights of small, minorities, which are not strong enough to protect themselves, can easily be swept away, if the Government find that they are in the way. But the real difficulty is the large minority. That is the enemy with whom they cannot deal in this way, because it represents the Constitutional Opposition in this House; and a large minority is an abomination in the eyes of the true Ministerialist. We are told that we are perfectly safe, because a large minority can defend itself. But bow can it do so? In two ways—either in the House or out of it. If the Members of a large minority are to defend themselves in the House, as far as we can make out from the explanations that have been given, it is by throwing themselves into every form of Obstruction; so that the right hon. Gentleman, in order to put down Obstruction, is going to encourage the further and more ingenious development of it. That is a very wrong way of regarding the matter, and it will have the effect of demoralizing those who are driven to take such a course in order to get anything like a hearing for themselves. But if they are not to defend themselves in the House itself without Obstruction, how are they to defend themselves out-of-doors? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is very candid on the whole subject. He says—"It is perfectly absurd 'that we should have discussions in the House of Commons on any questions on which the country has made up its mind. Discussions of an academical character may be all very well—the discussion of crotchets may be all very well in this House—but real discussion must take place out-of-doors—it must take place in the Press, and it must take place on the platform." "And then you are to have," says the right hon. Gentleman, "Parliaments elected every three years, and an imperative mandate is to be given to the Minister in power;" and, I suppose, although the hon. Member did not say so, also to the Speaker and the Gentleman who may act as Chairman; and, having got these mandates, we are then to be told that discussion in the House is useless. We are to have a good Radical Democratic Millennium; that is the prospect which the hon. Gentleman holds out to us. But he gives us a safeguard. He treats us very much as if we were a small minority, and he says he will give us a good fair half-hour to put on record our objection to these delightful Democratic and Millennial measures; and so, he says, we should soon put ourselves in harmony with the spirit of the age. I do not know how hon. Gentlemen opposite like that prospect; but they will have to accommodate themselves to it, if they do not take care. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. G. Russell) said that he did not share these views; but I do not quite understand what is the distinction between his position in principle, and the position of the hon. Member for Northampton. He would not go as far as the hon. Member for Northampton; but if he is going to lend himself to proposals which will have the effect of diminishing our freedom of debate, he will find himself in a very slippery position, in which it will be difficult to stop short of the Radical Millennium into which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) invites us to enter. I feel very strongly the force of some of the appeals that have been made to us on the present position of the House of Commons. I know that we are heavily weighted, in some respects overburdened, by the work that falls upon us, and I feel very strongly that it is of the greatest national importance that we should adopt any measures that can be reasonably devised for maintaining the efficiency and high character of the House in the eyes of the country, I wish to adopt any measures that may be necessary or that can be presented to me to improve our methods of doing Business; and I cannot help saying that I see in the Code which the right hon. Gentleman has put before us several proposals which will have a beneficial effect in enabling us to get through our Business. But, after all, the great thing we have to rely upon is the good feeling of the great body of the House. Make what Rules you please, shut up what outlets for Obstruction you please, you will never succeed in doing any good, unless you get at and deal with the good feeling of the great body of the House. I am quite sure that the tendency of the clôture, as a whole, will be to diminish that good feeling. It will make us more bitter than we have been; and I say it with very great sorrow, and with the greatest respect for yourself personally, that I do believe the effect of the adoption of this system and its working, if it is worked in the spirit of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) desires, will be to diminish that which is so exceedingly valuable an element in the conduct of the Business of this House—it will diminish the confidential and friendly relations between the Speaker or the Chairman and the Members in all parts of the House. I am sure that the loss of the kindly and moderating influence which you, Sir, exercise upon every Member of this House, without regard to Party or position, would be a most serious loss. I do not intend to go into the question, which the right hon. Gentleman says has been threshed out over and over again—that is to say, the position of the Speaker of the future; but I would venture to say a word with regard to the Chairman of Committees. The really difficult part of the Business, and particularly of the Business conducted in this House, especially if we are to have what we are told we are to have—great legislative measures of a character which will provoke great contention—will necessarily fall on the House when it is in Committee; and the great strain will be thrown upon the Chairman of Committees. Now, there are many ways of evading the control of the Chair which cannot be resorted to in regard to the Business which is conducted in a full House. In Committee you can move any number of Amendments; if you are stopped at one point, you can bring on another; and the difficulty which will beset the Chairman of Committees will be largely increased if he be called upon to exercise this power. You may say that he will not exercise it; but he will have the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) at his back at once, telling him that it is his duty to do it, for that has been very plainly laid down by the hon. Member to-night. I cannot say that I look with the slightest comfort to any of the qualifications or safeguards which are proposed if you adopt the clôture. If there are occasions—unfortunately there have been, and may be again—when a small number of Members set themselves deliberately to impede and obstruct the Business of the House, then, I say, we ought to co-operate in any endeavour to put that down, and to prevent that kind of interference; and I say that the moral effect of a large vote in doing that will he much greater than the moral effect of the mere casting vote of a majority tinged with a Party character. There would be very little moral value in the general feeling of the House, if you so call for it, as to make it the expression of the feeling of only a bare majority. I will not detain the House any longer; but I could not help saying a few words on the present occasion. I would desire to impress upon the House my own sense of the gravity of the whole question in which we are engaged. I do not for a moment say I am satisfied with the suggestion that we should have the clôture guarded by a two-thirds' majority; but I think it will do something to materially diminish the evils I otherwise apprehend, and on that ground, and that ground alone, I give my support to the Amendment.


Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Sir Stafford Northcote) has, in his speech, consoled himself, in anticipation, for the defeat which he sees imminent, by some reflections upon the attitude of those who, at some former time, were found among his allies—that is to say, the Members from Ireland. [Cries of "No!" and "When?"] An hon. Member asks "When?" The right hon. Gentleman said he did not want to pry into secret counsels, or into any secret negotiations which have taken place with the Irish Party. If the right hon. Gentleman has any means of prying into their secret counsels, I should not have the slightest objection to his doing so. As to his prying into any secret negotiations that have taken place between the Government and the Irish Party, that is beyond the powers of the right hon. Gentleman, because no such negotiations have ever taken place. The right hon. Gentleman says the Prime Minister has the habit of prying too much into the private affairs of Party, and is peculiarly liable to be hoaxed. I am not quite certain whether the right hon. Gentleman is himself not liable to that infirmity, and whether he has not been hoaxed by some reports made to him of secret negotiations between the Government and the Irish Party. Of course, the Irish Party, I suppose, in this or in any other critical Party division, must vote one way or the other. ["No!"] Well, they may walk out of the House; but probably a few of them would wish to assert their weight in the House by voting either with the Government or the Opposition. I do not see why it should be absolutely necessary, in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, that some secret negotiations should have taken place in order to account for the fact of their voting on this occasion with the Government. An hon. Member asked me just now when the Irish Party voted with the Opposition, or when the Irish Party supported the Opposition. If you think that secret negotiations account for all these proceedings, I may ask, what secret negotiations took place before the Irish Party voted with the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends in support of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) on this very question? The right hon. Gentleman devoted the greater part of his speech to an examination of the authorities by which this measure was supported, and a depreciation of the authority of our proposal. I do not want to follow him by vindicating our authority. I do not think, in this case, we rely upon authority; what we rely upon is the state of Public Business in this House, and the proved necessity for some action. What we rely upon is the arguments we can adduce in favour of the efficiency of this measure, and the want of efficiency in any other that has been suggested. But if we want an authority, I might appeal to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he had the difficulty of leading the House and coping with Obstruction, and the difficulty of conducting the Business of the country in the state in which the House was then placed. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking in the year 1879, on the subject of Obstruction, said—"There was one measure, and only one measure, which could ever be an effectual remedy against Obstruction, and that was the power of closing debate." The right hon. Gentleman, however, put that aside at the time, because he said it was a remedy which the House would never consent to agree to. Well, we have had much more experience since that time, and we have come to the conclusion that that is the remedy which, as the right hon. Gentleman said at that time, will be an efficient remedy, and which the House is, in our opinion, prepared to accept and adopt. I am much mistaken, indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman himself, with certain modifications, would not be prepared to support the principle of a closing power. I do not know that it is necessary I should follow at any length the course the debate took yesterday and on Tuesday, and which it has taken this evening. I think that we on this side of the House, at all events, may well leave one matter for the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) to settle among themselves—namely, that question which appears to have such interest for them, whether the principle of a two-thirds' majority will tell most in favour of the Conservative Party, or of what they are pleased to call the Radical Party? They all start from the assumption, which we entirely deny, that the Party in power has no other desire than to suppress and silence its opponents. They also start from the position that it will be in the power of the Party in power so to silence and so to suppress the Opposition. Now, as we have no intention or desire to silence the arguments of those who are opposed to us, we are not much pressed by the arguments that are used; and though we are asked to believe, even on the authority of hon. Members opposite, that when they are in power they will use that power against us, yet, as we believe that, under the proposals which we make to the House, no such power will be conferred on them, we are not at all alarmed by the prospect they hold out to us. Therefore, we can, with perfect confidence and composure, let the matter be settled between themselves, for we do not think this proposal will either inflict any injustice or injury upon the Opposition, nor do we expect that we shall suffer in any degree from it when we find ourselves in Opposition. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) admitted that one reason why he supported a two-thirds' majority was that it would be inoperative, because, in his opinion, there existed so little sympathy at any time between the Government and the Opposition that it would very seldom happen that they would act in concert with each other.


I did not say that it would be inoperative, but that it would be very seldom used.


In that the hon. Member is flatly contradicted by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who spoke a little later, for he said that, for all practical purposes, a two-thirds' majority would be as good as a bare majority; and that, in all cases where the closing power should be used, the two Front Benches of the Opposition and the Government would be found acting together in harmony. I am not surprised that considerable use should have been made by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Sir Stafford Northcote) of the remarkable speech delivered in the earlier part of the evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). I admit that, if I thought it probable that the closing power would be used by the Speaker, or by a majority of this House, in the manner shadowed forth by my hon. Friend, I should have very great doubt about being a party to any such measure. But, although my hon. Friend may be, as he professes to be, a faithful exponent of what he calls the Democratic opinion of the country—and I have some doubts on that subject myself—I absolutely deny that my hon. Friend can, in any sense whatever, be held to be an exponent of the Liberal opinion represented by the great majority of the Members of this House. It is perfectly true that on the occasion of a General Election Members are returned, pledged to support a particular Party and particular men in Office, or to turn particular men out of Office, and they are pledged also to support certain measures; but I am very much mistaken if my constituents, or the constituents of the great majority of the Members on these Benches, had any idea whatever in returning us to Office that any measures, however much they might desire them, were to be passed or ought to be passed in any particular shape, without undergoing the fullest consideration and discussion. Therefore, I altogether disregard that argument. We have in this country no such thing as an imperative mandate for certain measures to be passed without full and free discussion. Sir, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) referred to the total absence, in his opinion, of argument against the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). I had thought that a considerable body of argument had been adduced against that proposal. But if I wanted any of what he calls valid argument, I can supply it from a source with which the hon. Member will not quarrel. I find in a speech delivered in the country not long ago this statement— I am not one of those who look with much satisfaction upon this proposal, and I will tell you why—because, if it were carried, you may he certain the day is not far distant when all security will be swept away. And for this reason it seemed to him a good and fitting answer to the Government when it was supposed they were going to accept this proposal. If," he said, "you require a two-thirds' majority to carry clôture, you will always be placing the power of using the clôture in the hands of the Opposition, instead of the Leader of the House of Commons, because, unless the Leader of the Opposition gave his sanction to the proposition, the Leader of the House would have no earthly chance of carrying the cloture on any occasion by a two-thirds' majority. That, I presume, is an objection to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is an objection which ought to be considered a valid one by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, because it is one made by himself, in a speech delivered on the 14th of October in the present year. If the hon. Member has been struck by the absence of any valid argument against the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, I must say that I have been struck by the absence of any argument whatever in its support, except from certain terms contained in favour of the Resolution itself. In the anxiety of the Government to protect, and not to press hardly on, small minorities, we have introduced certain provisions, certain numerical checks, which can possibly, by the exercise of extreme ingenuity and by strained legal acumen, be twisted into the semblance of the principle of a proportionate majority. But, Sir, that is really not the case. All that we have done has been to provide that this novel power shall not be exercised in a House of the ordinary quorum. We have provided that the power shall only be used in a special manner. We have provided that a special and exceptional quorum shall be necessary. Sir, it is altogether contrary to the fact, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that any extraordinary power can be exercised as against a large majority. The right hon. Gentleman said that we require a majority of 200 in order to enforce the Rule against a minority of 40. Then, he says, you require a majority of 5 to 1. But he did not go on to say that that majority was equally effective against 50 or 100 or 150, or against 199; and, therefore, there are no such sudden leaps as the right hon. Gentleman indicated in the case of large minorities. A great deal has been made of the terms which we have used in the Resolution with respect to the evident sense of the House. It is urged that the direction to the Speaker is inconsistent with the provisions by which the ultimate decision of the House is to be obtained. But the term "the evident sense of the House" is a direction to the Speaker or Chairman, given for his guidance. It is a direction to him as to the principle upon which he is to act before allowing this power to be put into operation. It is impossible to leave so great a power as the actual decision of the question—it would be too great a responsibility to be placed in the hands of any hon. Member of the House, to have the decision of the question rest with himself. There is only one way in which the decision of the House can be taken, and that way is well known to us—namely, by division. And now I come to the monstrous proposition now put forward to us for our adoption—When we have resorted to the usual and ordinary form of the House for obtaining the evident sense of the House by division, unless the majority amounts to a greater proportion than 2 to 1, it shall not be held to be the evident sense of the House. The House has divided for the purpose of ascertaining the evident sense of the House, and after the division has been taken the evident sense of the House is to be declared to be, not the opinion of the majority, not the opinion of two-thirds, but the opinion of one-third. Is it possible to have a greater inconsistency? Could anything more inconsistent with the principle on which we are accustomed to act be introduced? But, Sir, leaving altogether aside the arithmetical calculation into which many Members have been drawn, what appears to me to be the practical question is whether or not the evident sense of the House is to be declared to be as we propose it should be—by a majority ascertained in the ordinary manner, and without unduly limiting in any degree the freedom of debate. Now, Sir, the answer to that question depends in a great degree on the sense you attach to the term "freedom of debate." If, some three or four nights ago, or some six months ago, we could have arrived at some general understanding as to the meaning of that term, the debates might have been greatly curtailed. We mean by freedom of debate that every subject which is brought before the House should receive full and adequate discussion, but no more than full and adequate discussion. There is no subject upon which there is more than a certain amount that can be said. When certain arguments have been urged, when certain points have been stated, no more in the way of discussion can usefully take place. Repetition of the same arguments, endless reiteration of the same points do not tend to strengthen the arguments or to mate the points clearer. On the contrary, they rather tend to dilute and weaken the force of the arguments, and to obscure the clearness of the points which have been raised. That is the practical view taken by hon. Members of the House in their individual capacity. When an important debate is begun, Members listen with attention to two or three of the first speeches, and return to the House when some speaker, who they know is likely to interest, rises to address the House. But during the greater portion of the debate Members absent themselves altogether, and only return, as I have said, to listen to some Member who they know will raise some new point or advance some new argument. That is what has happened in the course of this debate itself. Hon. Members opposite say that we are debating a subject of most vital importance, affecting the efficiency and freedom of the House of Commons, and they are horrified if anything is said about limiting the length of this discussion, or if anything were to happen to bring the discussion to an abrupt close. But what have they done themselves? They listened with attention while the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) addressed the House in support of his Amendment. They listened to the reply of the Prime Minister. But what happened during the remainder of the evening, while my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) and my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) were addressing the House—the last hon. Member even arguing your cause? Even while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), one of the Leaders of your own Party, was addressing you in support of the Amendment, there never were on the Opposition Benches, or on the Benches below the Gangway, at any moment during that evening, more than 30 Members present. On the whole of the Opposition Benches above and below the Gangway there were never more than 30 Members present. What interest did you have in that form of freedom of debate, and what impression did that discussion produce upon your minds? It was much the same yesterday, and on that occasion the original sentiments of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) were listened to by an audience of only 40 Members. Perhaps you think you are informing the country and that you are informing yourselves of what is going on during this debate? Sir, one passage there was in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) with which I agree, and I think it is almost the only one—I do not believe that the country does take any interest in these protracted debates, and I think the estimate of from 5,000 to 10,000 throughout the country of the readers of Parliamentary debates is probably an extremely exaggerated one. To what purpose, then, does this unlimited prolixity of debate tend? Is it for your own instruction, or for the instruction of the country; is it for the purpose of raising arguments which require to be raised, or for another purpose? This prolixity of discussion, or, as you call it, freedom of debate, consumes the time of the House, which is a limited quantity, and, in respect of the Business which the House has to transact, an extremely limited quantity; and although, the arguments used may do little to instruct Members of this House or the mind of the country, a debate unduly prolonged has this effect—that it imposes a physical obstacle to legislation of which the minority does not approve. Taking up the question of freedom of debate, I ask, which of these views does the House take of it; does it regard it as the means of instructing its own and the public mind, or merely as a means of wasting time and preventing legislation? I believe there is but one answer to the question so put, and that we must all acknowledge the only object of legitimate debate to be the complete discussion of the subject; while any object beyond that is an excrescence, and an abuse which has arisen from the forms of our Procedure, and which ought to be disallowed by this House. We are told by many hon. Members who have spoken in the course of this debate, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, who has just sat down, that the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would, in practice, afford greater protection to small minorities than the proposal of the Government. We all admit that the great difficulty in the way is the case of small minorities. We all admit that small minorities have done a great deal in times past in preparing the public mind for beneficial legislative changes, and we all admit that there is great danger lest, in the alterations we are about to make in our Rules of Procedure, minorities should be unduly oppressed. On such a point as this, however, it is not at all unfair that we should appeal to the opinion of the Representatives of the small minorities themselves. And what do the Representatives of the small minorities tell us? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), who has been, during a great part of a long Parliamentary career, and who is still the Representative of one of the small minorities in this House, told us in his speech yesterday that he held the opinion that the proposal of the Government offered greater protection to small minorities than that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Again, the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), who has just spoken, and who is pre-eminently a Representative of a small minority, unfortunately opposed to the opinion entertained on both sides of the House, also agrees that our proposal affords more protection to the opinions which he represents than that suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, apparently in their interest. Sir, the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) appeared to me altogether to misapprehend the argument of the right hon. Member for Halifax. The noble Lord appeared to think that the right hon. Gentleman claimed that every Member of a small minority should be heard. That was not the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, nor is it necessary, in the interests of any minority, that each of its Members should be heard; all that is required being, as was a short time ago well stated by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), that the opinions of that minority should be stated; and, so long as these are fully laid before the House, it does not signify whether they are the opinions of a large minority or a small one. But what would be the practical effect of the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman? It has been admitted on all hands, and stated alike by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, and other speakers, that its practical effect would be to place the power of closing a debate in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition. Reference has been made to a speech which I delivered on this subject some time ago, and I should have been glad if some Member of the Opposition had attempted to answer the argument I then made use of, and which seems to me to be fatal to the proposal to place this power in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition. I will not repeat the argument I then laid before the House. My position, however, was, that by placing such a power in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition, you place it in the hands of one who has no responsibility for the exercise of it. What are you to do in a case where the Leader of the Opposition refuses to allow the Question to be put upon some subject which, in the opinion of the Ministry, and in the opinion of the majority of the House, is of vital importance to the interests of the country? In such a case you cannot make the Leader of the majority responsible for the failure of legislation or policy, if he has done all that lay in his power to carry it into effect. Nor can you make the Leader of the Opposition responsible, because he is not in a position to assume responsibility in the matter. The result of accepting the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would therefore be that, for the first time in the history of your Procedure, you would place power in the hands of one whom you cannot hold responsible for exercising it. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock says that the Liberal Party have always been much more factious in Opposition than the Conservative Party, and had more unsparingly used the power of Obstruction. I do not know what may be the conduct of the Liberal Party in future; but when such a charge is brought against the Liberal Party in the past, it would, I think, have been more to the purpose if some instance had been brought forward in which they had obstructed the Conservative Party when in power. [An hon. MEMBER: The Educational Endowment Bill.] I recollect a debate of some length upon a most objectionable measure, introduced by a Conservative Government; but I should be surprised to learn that the opposition we felt it our duty to offer on that occasion took up one-half the time which has been consumed in the discussion of this Amendment. But, whatever may be the use made of this power in future, I have no hesitation in saying that the power now sought to be conferred on the Leader of the Opposition would be a baneful and, perhaps, a fatal gift. I do not see how it would be possible for a Leader of the Opposition to use it without placing himself in a dilemma, because its exercise must lead either to a waste of public time, or to the discredit and destruction of his own Party. Sir, that is a position which would seem to be undesirable for any Opposition to occupy; and the power so placed is, therefore, in my opinion, one which would not in the slightest degree conduce to the order of our debates, or to the interest of the public. But there is another point which has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen)—namely, that this power, if permitted to be used by the Leader of the Opposition, would have an inevitable tendency to promote a most objectionable practice of compromise between the two Front Benches. The Government would go, upon occasion, to the Leader of the Opposition, and say—"Are you prepared to assist us in the matter of this debate, which, in our opinion, has been unduly protracted?" The Leader of the Opposition would reply—"It is possible that the debate has been extended to somewhat too great a length; but it is a great concession you are asking from us. What will you give us in return?" And he would probably ask for the abandonment of some measure, or of some course of action which the Government proposed to follow. In fact, he would be almost bound not to give such great assistance to the Government unless something in return were obtained. I need hardly observe that compromises made in this House, in consequence of open argument, are very different in their character from those which we might expect to see extorted from the Government in return for the exercise of this power by the Leader of the Opposition. I have already referred to the speech which I made on this subject in March last, one part of which seems to me to have received a very unnecessary and unfair amount of attention. It is charged against me that I not only indicated the measures which the Government seek to pass by means of this Procedure, but also the Members of the House against whom it is to be used. Now, I think that charge would never have been urged by anyone who took the trouble to read attentively the speech I made. I was not attempting to indicate in any way the manner in which this Rule would be put in practice, but was arguing against the position, maintained by some Members of the House, that the closing power was unnecessary, and that Obstruction should be dealt with by penal Procedure. I was arguing that the time of the House was unduly consumed by Members acting perfectly within their rights, against whom it would be unfair to proceed in any penal manner, but who were, from a mistaken sense of duty, often guilty of occupying an inordinate share of the time of the House. I may have been mistaken, and if, in so speaking, I offended any hon. Member of this House, I beg to express my most sincere regret for having done so; but I was endeavouring to show that the House should have the means of defending itself against unwarrantable intrusion upon its time, without resorting to penal Procedure. I have no difficulty in understanding the position, and I can, to some extent, sympathize with the feelings of those who are offering a decided and direct opposition to the proposal of the Government. I can understand that those who are not directly responsible for the conduct of affairs do not feel as strongly, perhaps, as we do, all the inconvenience, all the actual danger of the delay and difficulty which now besets the progress of almost every kind of Public Business. And I can also understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are not in general of opinion that any considerable legislative changes are required, are averse from alterations in our Procedure which are apparently intended to render those legislative changes possible. But I ask whether they think that the barrier in which they place so much reliance—the Obstruction which can be offered by delay, concealed under the name of discussion—will ultimately prove to be a strong and valid barrier against legislation? The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock told you yesterday that the dyke to which right hon. Gentlemen attached so much importance would soon be swept away. Do you think that the process of delaying measures by the simple method of talking against them, the barrier you now possess, would really stand against the strongly-expressed desire of the people for any measure of legislation? That feeble barrier would, undoubtedly, be swept away by any strong current or wave of popular opinion, and to rest upon the contrary belief would be to dwell in a fool's paradise. I believe you will find a stronger and firmer security in raising the character of the debates in this House, and in restoring to them the interest they once possessed, and which of late has unquestionably abated. But, Sir, whatever may be your opinion on this subject, whatever may be your opinion as to the Rule itself which the Government is proposing, I cannot believe that the House of Commons, prepared, as it is, to assent in principle to a Motion of this kind, will, at the same time, introduce into it conditions which will, while destroying the efficiency of the Rule, import into our proceedings an innovation hitherto unheard of—which will destroy the sense of responsibility of those who are responsible for the pro- ceedings in the House, and place in the hands of those who are not responsible a power which they will have no means of exercising for the public good.


said, he could not give a silent vote in the division which was about to take place. He must confess he was an unwilling and reluctant participator in that decision. He quite agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), who spoke yesterday, that a two-thirds' majority was much more objectionable than even a bare majority. He (Mr. Callan) would prefer a three-fifths' majority, because, in that case, the clôture could not be applied to either side in the House without the sanction and the complicity of the Irish Party. He remembered that the last time they were asked to vote as a Party was on the second reading of the Irish Land Bill—a Bill beneficial to the Irish people—and upon that occasion they were asked to abstain from voting because of the arrest of one of their Party. They were asked to vote to-night, and he and many of his Friends were, in consequence of the mandate of their Party, to be dragged at the wheels of a coercive Government. In the Session of 1880, when they took their place in the House, they were a Party of upwards of 60; but now he found, in consequence of a number of their Party having gone gradually to the ranks of those whom the Prime Minister so happily called "the nominal Home Rulers," there were, in fact, only one or two who might be called "the Last Roses of Summer." Some of the nominal Home Rulers, or Whigs, who sat on his side of the House, still professed to belong to the Irish Party. There need be no secrecy observed, because it was stated to-night, in the newspapers, that the division, on which 23 votes in the forthcoming division depended, was carried merely by the casting vote of the Chairman of the meeting (Mr. Parnell). The Irish Party would have been abstainers from the division to-night, but for the votes of one or two nominal Home Rulers. It was well that the country should know that the Irish Party were so united that some of them would even consent to vote with the Government upon this question, rather than be disobedient to the decision of their Party, though that decision might be brought about by the votes of one or two arrant Whigs in their midst. He wished it to be quite clear that he and others were about to vote out of obedience to their Party's mandate, and not as supporters of a coercive and atrocious Government.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 238; Noes 322: Majority 84.

Alexander, Colonel Davenport, H. T.
Allsopp, C. Davenport, W. B.
Amherst, W. A. T. Dawnay, Col. hn. L. P.
Archdale, W. H. Dawnay, hon. G. C.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. De Worms, Baron H.
Aylmer, J. E. F. Dickson, Major A. G.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Digby, Col. hon. E.
Balfour, A. J. Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Baring, T. C. Donaldson-Hudson, C,
Barne, F. St. J. N. Douglas, A. Akers-
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Dundas, hon. J. C.
Bateson, Sir T. Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W.H.
Beach, rt. hon. Sir M.H. Eaton, H. W.
Beach, W. W. B. Ecroyd, W. F.
Bective, Earl of Egerton, hon. W.
Bellingham, A. H. Elcho, Lord
Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C. Elliot, G. W.
Beresford, G. De la P. Elliot, Sir G.
Biddell W. Emlyn, Viscount
Birkbeck, E. Ennis, Sir J.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Estcourt, G. S.
Boord, T. W. Feilden, Major-General R. J.
Bourke, rt. hon. R.
Brise, Colonel R. Fellowes, W. H.
Broadley, W. H. H. Fenwick-Bisset, M.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Filmer, Sir E.
Finch, G. H.
Brooke, Lord Fitzpatrick, hn. B.E.B,
Brooks, W. C. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Bruce, Sir H. H.
Bruce, hon. T. Fitzwilliam, hn. H. W.
Bulwer, J. R. Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J.
Burghley, Lord Fletcher, Sir H.
Burnaby, General E. S. Floyer, J.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Folkestone, Viscount
Buxton, Sir R. J. Forester, C. T. W.
Cameron, D. Fort, R.
Campbell, J. A. Foster, W. H.
Carden, Sir R. W. Fowler, R. N.
Castlereagh, Viscount Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Freshfield, C. K.
Chaine, J. Galway, Viscount
Chaplin, H. Gardner, R. Richardson-
Christie, W. L.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Garnier, J. C.
Coddington, W. Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Cole, Viscount Giffard, Sir H. S.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Goldney, Sir G.
Collins, T. Gooch, Sir D.
Compton, F. Gore-Langton, W. S.
Coope, O. E. Grantham, W.
Corry, J. P. Greene, E.
Cotton, W. J. R. Greer, T.
Courtauld, G. Gregory, G. B.
Cowen, J. Grey, A. H. G.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Halsey, T. F.
Cubitt, rt. hon. G. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Dalrymple, C. Hamilton, I. T.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Harcourt, E. W. Onslow, D.
Harvey, Sir R. B. Paget, R. H.
Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D. Patrick, R. W. Cochran-
Herbert, hon. S. Peek, Sir H.
Hicks, E. Pell, A.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Pemberton, E. L.
Hill, Lord A. W. Percy, Lord A.
Hinchingbrook, Visc. Phipps, C. N. P.
Holland, Sir H. T. Phipps, P.
Home, Lt.-Col. D. M. Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.
Hope, rt. hn. A. J. B. B. Price, Captain G. E.
Hubbard, rt. hon. J. G. Puleston, J. H.
Jackson, W. L. Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.
Jenkins, D. J. Rankin, J.
Johnstone, Sir F. Rendlesham, Lord
Kennard, Col. E. H. Repton, G. W.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Knight, F. W. Ritchie, C. T.
Knightley, Sir R. Rolls, J. A.
Knowles, T. Ross, A. H.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Ross, C. C.
Lawrance, J. C. Round, J.
Lawrence, Sir T. St. Aubyn, W. M.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Salt, T.
Legh, W. J. Sandon, Viscount
Leigh, R. Schreiber, C.
Leighton, Sir B. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Leighton, S. Scott, Lord H.
Lever, J. O. Scott, M. D.
Levett, T. J. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Lewis, C. E. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Lewisham, Viscount
Lindsay, Sir R. L. Severne, J. E.
Loder, R. Shaw, W.
Long, W. H. Smith, A.
Lopes, Sir M. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Lowther, rt. hon. J. Stanhope, hon. E.
Lowther, hon. W. Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F. A.
Lubbock, Sir J.
Macartney, J. W. E. Stanley, E. J.
Mac Ivor, D. Sykes, C.
Macnaghten, E. Talbot, J. G.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Thomson, H.
Makins, Colonel W.T. Thornhill, T.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Tollemache. hon. W. F.
March, Earl of Tyler, Sir H. W.
Marriott, W. T. Wallace, Sir R.
Master, T. W. C. Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Miles, C. W. Walter, J.
Miles, Sir P. J. W. Warburton, P. E.
Mills, Sir C. H. Warton, C. N.
Monckton, F. Welby-Gregory, Sir W.
Morgan, hon. F. Whitley, E.
Moss, R. Williams, Colonel O.
Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R. Wilmot, Sir H.
Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Mulholland, J. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Murray, C. J. Wroughton, P.
Newdegate, C. N. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Newport, Viscount Yorke, J. R.
Nicholson, W.
Nicholson, W. N. TELLERS.
Noel, rt. hon. G. J. Crichton, Viscount
North, Colonel J. S. Winn, R.
Northcote, H. S.
Acland, C. T. D. Agnew, W.
Acland, Sir T. D. Allen, W. S.
Amory, Sir J. H. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Armitage, B. Craig, W. Y.
Armitstead, G. Creyke, R.
Arnold, A. Cropper, J.
Asher, A. Cross, J. K.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Cunliffe, Sir R. A.
Baldwin, B. Currie, Sir D.
Balfour, Sir G. Daly, J.
Balfour, J. B. Davey, H.
Balfour, J. S. Davies, D.
Barclay, J. W. Davies, R.
Baring, Viscount Davies, W.
Barnes, A. Dawson, C.
Barran, J. Dickson, J.
Bass, Sir A. Dickson, T. A.
Bass, H. Dilke, Sir C. W.
Bass, M. T. Dilke, A. W.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Dillwyn, L. L.
Beaumont, W. B. Dodds, J.
Biddulph, M. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Biggar, J. G. Duckham, T.
Blake, J. A. Duff, R. W.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Earp, T.
Bolton, J. C. Edwards, H.
Borlase, W. C. Edwards, P.
Brand, H. R. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Brassey, H. A. Errington, G.
Brassey, Sir T. Evans, T. W.
Brett, R. B. Fairbairn, Sir A.
Briggs, W. E. Farquharson, Dr. R.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Fawcett, rt. hon. H.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Fay, C. J.
Brinton, J. Ferguson, R.
Broadhurst, H. Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.
Brogden, A. Findlater, W.
Brooks, M. Firth, J. F. B.
Brown, A. H. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C. Flower, C.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Bryce, J. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Buchanan, T. R. Forster, Sir C.
Burt, T. Fowler, H. H.
Buszard, M. C. Fowler, W.
Butt, C. P. Fry, L.
Buxton, F. W. Fry, T.
Byrne, G. M. Gabbett, D. F.
Caine, W. S. Gill, H. J.
Callan, P. Givan, J.
Cameron, C. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. B.
Campbell, Sir G. Gladstone, H. J.
Campbell, R. P. F. Gladstone, W. H.
Campbell-Bannerman, H. Glyn, hon. S. C.
Gordon, Sir A.
Carbutt, E. H. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Carington, hon. R. Gourley, E. T.
Cartwright, W. C. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Causton, R. K. Grafton, F. W.
Cavendish, Lord E. Grant, A.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Grant, D.
Chambers, Sir T. Grant, Sir G. M.
Cheetham, J. F. Gray, E. D.
Childers, rt. hn. H.C.E. Grenfell, W. H.
Clarke, J. C. Guest, M. J.
Clifford, C. C. Gurdon, R. T.
Cohen, A. Hamilton, J. G. C.
Collings, J. Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir. W. G. V. V
Collins, E.
Colman, J. J. Hardcastle, J. A.
Colthurst, Col. D. La T. Hartington, Marq. of
Corbet, W. J. Hastings, G. W.
Corbett, J. Hayter, Sir A. D.
Cotes, C. C. Healy, T. M.
Courtney, L. H. Heneage, E.
Herschell, Sir F. Nolan, Colonel J. P.
Hibbert, J. T. Norwood, C. M.
Hill, T. R. O'Beirne, Colonel F.
Holden, I. O'Brien, Sir P.
Holland, S. O'Connor, A.
Hollond, J. R. O'Connor, T. P.
Holms, J. O'Donoghue, The
Hopwood, C. H. O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The
Howard, E. S.
Howard, G. J. O'Kelly, J.
Howard, J. O'Shaughnessy, R.
Illingworth, A. O'Shea, W. H.
Inderwick, F. A. O'Sullivan, W. H.
James, C. Otway, Sir A.
James, Sir H. Paget, T. T.
James, W. H. Palmer, C. M.
Jardine, R. Palmer, G.
Jenkins, Sir J. J. Palmer, J. H.
Jerningham, H. E. H. Parker, C. S.
Johnson, rt. hon. W. M. Parnell, C. S.
Johnson, E. Pease, A.
Jones-Parry, L. Pease, Sir J. W.
Kingscote. Col. E.N.F. Peddie, J. D.
Kinnear, J. Peel, A. W.
Labouchere, H. Pender, J.
Laing, S. Pennington, F.
Lalor, R. Philips, R. N.
Lambton, hon. F. W. Porter, A. M.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Potter, T. B.
Lawrence, W. Powell, W. R. H.
Lawson, Sir W. Power, J. O'C.
Lea, T. Price, Sir R. G.
Leake, R. Pugh, L. P.
Leatham, E. A. Pulley, J.
Leatham, W. H. Ralli, P.
Lee, H. Ramsay, J.
Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S. Rathbone, W.
Leigh, hon. G. H. C. Redmond, J. E.
Lloyd, M. Reid, R. T.
Lusk, Sir A. Rendel, S.
Lymington, Viscount Richard, H.
Lyons, R. D. Richardson, T.
M'Arthur, A. Roberts, J.
M'Arthur, W. Robertson, H.
M'Carthy, J. Rogers, J. E. T.
M'Clure, Sir T. Rothschild. Sir N.M.de
M'Coan, J. C. Roundell, C. S.
Macfarlane, D. H. Russell, Lord A.
M'Intyre, Æneas J. Russell, C.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Russell, G. W. E.
Mackie, R. B. Samuelson, B.
Mackintosh, C. F. Samuelson, H.
M'Lagan, P. Sellar, A. C.
Macliver, P. S. Sexton, T.
M'Minnies, J. G. Shaw, T.
Maitland, W. F. Sheil, E.
Mappin, F. T. Sheridan, H. B.
Marjoribanks, E. Shield, H.
Martin, P. Simon, Serjeant J.
Martin, R. B. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Maskelyne, M. H. Story- Slagg, J.
Matheson, Sir A. Smith, E.
Maxwell-Heron, J. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Meldon, C. H. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Mellor, J. W. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Molloy, B. C. Stanton, W. J.
Monk, C. J. Stevenson, J. C.
Moreton, Lord Stewart, J.
Morgan, rt. hon. G. O. Storey, S.
Morley, A. Stuart, H. V.
Morley, S. Sullivan, T. D.
Mundella, rt. hon. A. J. Summers, W.
Noel, E. Synan, E. J.
Talbot, C. R. M. Whitbread, S.
Tavistock, Marquess of Whitworth, B.
Tennant, C. Wiggin, H.
Thomasson, J. P. Williams, S. C. E.
Thompson, T. C. Williamson, S.
Tillett, J. H. Willis, W.
Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury- Wills, W. H.
Wilson, C. H.
Trevelyan, rt. hn. G. O. Wilson, I.
Verney, Sir H. Wilson, Sir M.
Villiers, rt. hon. C. P. Wodehouse, E. R.
Vivian, A. P. Woodall, W.
Vivian, Sir H. H. Woolf, S.
Waterlow, Sir S. H.
Waugh, E. TELLERS.
Webster, J. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Whalley, G. H. Kensington, Lord

Main Question, as amended, again proposed.

Debate arising;

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.