HC Deb 09 November 1882 vol 274 cc1130-77

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main 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.)

Main Question, as amended, again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, that illness in his family, as well as personal illness, had prevented him for a long time from taking any active part in the general Business of the House; and he had not, therefore, been able to express any opinion on the question of the clôture, which was now under discussion. This was far more than a Party question. It was a question of the highest public moment, and he would endeavour to look at it solely from the public point of view. If, indeed, he were to regard it from a Party point of view he should not be sorry to see the Resolution passed, as it was proposed by the Government, because he was confident that when the next appeal was made to the country the Conservatives would be benefited by the circumstance that their opponents had made this experiment. Moreover, if he had any hostility to hon. Gentlemen opposite—which was not the case—he might also wish the Resolution to be passed, because he was confident that when hon. Members opposite had to give their account to their constituencies the Liberal Associations in the various boroughs would regard with suspicion those who had voted for this great sacrifice of freedom of speech, and who would be found to be such tainted candidates that they would have little chance of being again returned. This was, however, only a prediction which might or might not be justified by the event. But, putting aside the Party advantages which might accrue from the passing of the Resolution, he could not help feeling real and genuine alarm at the probable result of the change proposed by the Government. There was very great confusion in the House and the country as to the real position of the Conservative Party in regard to this great question. Hon. Members opposite had asked them what plan the Conservatives had to suggest for dealing with acknowledged Obstruction. Well, the real position of the Conservative Party with regard to Obstruction was simply this. In any National emergency, when the lives of their fellow-citizens were in possible danger, and the Government of the day declared that they could not be responsible for the public safety and peace, or if any question affecting the security of the Realm from outside was involved, the Conservative Party would always be willing to vote Urgency. As regards the personal misconduct of Members, they were willing that a Member who used offensive expressions and who insisted in making irrelevant remarks or indulging in needless repetitions for the purpose of Obstruction should be silenced. Again, they were prepared to strengthen the Resolution originally passed by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon that any Member who wilfully disregarded the authority of the Chair, or was, in the opinion of the Chair, guilty of Obstruction, should be suspended for a considerable period. On these points, therefore, the policy of the Conservative Party was clear, sharp, and defined. Over and over again the Leader of the Conservatives had announced that they were ready to consider favourably all the subsequent Rules of Procedure proposed by the Leader of the House. It was, therefore, most incorrect to state that the Conservatives were not prepared to deal effectively with Obstruction. They had never yet had an explanation why the Government, knowing that these were their inclinations, had not consulted frankly and fully with the Leader of the Opposition. If the Prime Minister had taken that step, he would have had the apportunity of carrying, not only the Opposition, but the whole House with him; while, without that general assent, he believed no Minister, however powerful, would, in the long run, be able to carry his measures. Then there would have been no need of an Autnmn Session nor of any interruption of Public Business. Every proposed modification had been refused, and they were now brought to the last discussion on the principle of doing away with freedom of speech in that House. The Members of the Government had taken very diverse lines on this question. Some had jested with the fears of the Conservatives, some had treated them with contempt, some had solemnly adjured them to give way; but one thing was indisputable, that the Government considered the matter one of the gravest importance, and not slight and trifling. What could be the meaning of the Prime Minister's extraordinary declaration yesterday afternoon? What could be the meaning of his reversing all the habits of former debates, and coming down on Wednesday, in the middle of a long debate, and delivering his speech there and not at the end of the discussion? What was the kernel of that speech? It was one which should be pondered well, and which showed strikingly the importance which he attached to this Resolution. Speaking in answer to an hon. Member from Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman said— There are two currents of feeling in the Party which is called Home Rulers. Their object is to establish, in some way or other, what they sometimes call a National, sometimes an Independent, … it may be a separate, Legislative Assembly. There is a portion of that Party who wish to make the transaction of Business in this House impossible. There are unquestionably others who, believing it to be vital to the existence of their country that they should attain legislative independence, still turn to the machinery which exists to attain their purpose. Again, the right hon. Gentleman said— I have my own opinions upon the interests of Ireland. I have had to do for many years with Irish affairs; I believe a complete and effective system for the Business of the House is essential for meeting the wants of Ireland. If there is no time for English and Scotch legislation, there will be no time for Irish legis- lation. …. Well, Sir, I tell the hon. Gentleman there is not a subject which I could name on which I personally feel a more profound anxiety than on the establishment of local self-government in Ireland, and local self-government upon a liberal and effective basis. Could anyone in his senses believe that this allusion, vague as it was, to local self-government in Ireland—coming as it did after a definition of the Home Rulers—was not meant to hold out hopes to that Party of the gravest and most serious kind? It was almost surprising that some hon. Gentleman did not get up and move the adjournment of the House with a request to the Prime Minister to explain the grand new scheme with which he was about to convulse Ireland, or to calm the anxiety of the Home Rulers. That was the most important declaration that had been heard in that House for the last two or three years, and showed the intense gravity and importance which the Prime Minister attached to the Resolution which was now hanging in the balance. But there were other Parties who seemed to attach importance to it. A Circular had been issued by the National Liberal Federation early in the present year. What was the occasion? The hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) was bringing forward a Motion, not on the Resolutions generally, but against the clôture by a majority. The Federation remarked upon the threats of opposition from another quarter than the Conservative Party, and said that the Government must receive the united support of the Liberal Party. Liberal organizations had expressed their determination to put forward the whole strength of the Liberal Party on behalf, not of the Resolutions generally, but of the clôture in especial. That enormous importance attributed to the Resolution justified all the discussion and all the alarm of the Conservative Party. It was thus agreed on all sides that the change was an enormous one, and it was almost preposterous for the Government to blame them for the want of confidence shown in refusing to pass that Rule. They were asked to put confidence in the safeguards by which the Resolution was surrounded. What were the safeguards? First there was to be adequate discussion; adequate discussion was to be the watchword of the Liberal Party. But how was it to be interpreted? From the nature of the case the authorities of the House would be disposed to look upon a very short discussion as adequate. The Minister of the day whose policy was impugned, or who had charge of an important Bill over which many hours of labour and many Cabinet Councils had been held, or who was accused of extravagance, would be disposed to regard very cursory debate as quite sufficient. The first authority to whom the Prime Minister would look to get through the Bill was the Whip, and would he not be inclined to suggest to that official that a limited interpretation should be given to the word "adequate?" Was it not also only human nature that the authorities who sat at the Table, wearied with a long discussion, should help to increase the official feeling that there had been an adequate discussion. To go to a still higher authority, it was not unlikely that future Speakers, failing to imitate the strict impartiality of the present occupant of the Chair, would feel disposed to shorten debates. Even in a Speaker weary human nature might succumb to influences which ought to be resisted. Then there was the highest authority, because it was the most energetic—namely, the majority, which would certainly be in favour of curtailing discussion. The fate of the Prime Minister might be in the balance; the promises given at the hustings were to be fulfilled; and it was only human that this greatest authority should be in favour of curtailing discussion. Then he came to the "evident sense of the House." To his mind, it would have been much more straightforward if the Prime Minister had used the words "evident sense of the majority," instead of those which appeared in the Resolution. That was really the meaning of the whole thing. He rejoiced at the Speaker's famous ruling, which would certainly become historical hereafter, that the evident sense of the House meant the evident sense of the House at large. The Speaker had thus declared himself in favour of freedom of speech, as the occasions would be rare on which both Parties would unite to put down freedom of debate. But the Government had refused to insert words into the Resolution which would embody the Speaker's interpretation of the Rule, although they might have done so had they wished. We had, therefore, a right to say that the Government did not agree with that interpretation. Then they were told that they ought to trust the Government, and believe that they would do nothing in an arbitrary spirit, and that they would be tender to minorities. On what grounds? They might be asked to display such confidence in a Government which had adhered steadily to its principles. But was the present Government stable in its principles, and had it adhered to the professions under which it took Office? They professed principles of retrenchment and great economy; but they had been proved to be the most extravagant Government on the face of the earth. The Government said repeatedly our responsibilities in the Colonies were too vast and great, that they must contract instead of expand them, but they annexed North Borneo; they said that the whole principle of the Liberal Party was never to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, but they asked the House to pass a Vote of Thanks to a victorious Army for putting down a rebellion in Egypt of the subjects of the Khedive. If there was one thing in which the Conservative Party most trusted the Liberals it was as regards political morality. But they had seen, almost within a year, the Duke of Argyll leave the Cabinet, on account of its defections from the principles of political economy; and another, the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), because it had tampered with the principles of political morality? The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), too, had deserted his Colleagues on account of their desertion of the ideas of international justice. How, then, in the face of such facts, could the Government ask the Conservative Party to feel confidence in the principles of the Government, when these principles resembled quicksands rather than rooks? He would not even trust his own Party with such arbitrary powers. With respect to the Speaker, there could be no doubt that hereafter the Speaker would be chosen on strict Party principles, and would be a partizan, and would naturally be disposed to assist in the curtailing of a debate. Then they were told that the system worked so well in foreign countries. As regarded that point, he could not help alluding to a remark of the hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Mellor), who quoted the case of M. Guizot in the French Chamber. M. Guizot had said that he rejoiced in the clôture—in fact, he did not see how French Business was to be managed without it. But what happened in that Chamber? That which exactly exemplified what would happen here. Other times came under the Reign of Napoleon III., and, the clôture being still in force, the whole of the Orleanists were constantly subjected to it, the effect being that the free voice of some of the best men in France was entirely closed. That was what was got by the clôture in France, which was introduced by the well-meaning, but not far-seeing, M. Guizot. As regarded America, there were two famous instances of the application of the clôture in recent years. In the one case, the Civil Eights Bill was passed by the President's veto, independent Members begging to be allowed to discuss it, but permission being refused; and in the other case, a lawyer of the Southern States—which were, of course, in the minority—was precluded by a Bill from carrying on his profession. In this case, the Democratic Party begged to be allowed to discuss the Bill; but the Member who introduced it, relying on his Party, only granted them 10 minutes. He hoped the Liberal Party would take these matters much to heart. His own view was that whether Liberals or Conservatives were in power, their only safety lay in keeping in their own possession the key of freedom of debate. But he should like to ask, whom did they expect the Rule would affect? Who had spoken most in the last few years? He found, on reference to the pages of Hansard, that in 1880 the Conservatives had spoken 2,080 columns, the Home Rulers 1,540, and the Liberals 4,170; and that in 1881 the Conservatives had spoken 3,280, the Home Rulers 4,400, and the Liberals 6,300 columns. The Rule was not to affect the Home Rule Party for what he might call obvious reasons; and the Prime Minister had stated that it was not to affect the Liberal Party. So recently as on the 1st of November the Prime Minister was reported in The Times as follows:— The chief business is to get rid of tedious speaking. Those who are opposed (in politics) to the gentleman who thus offends express more or less inarticulately that the debate should close; but the party friendly to him remains silent, and, if a division is taken, they cannot afford to vote against him. Therefore, it was clear that it was not to affect the Liberals, at any rate while they occupied those Benches. Whom was it, then, to affect? There was only one Party left whom it could affect. Was it possible that an arrangement such as that could work? Another question he should like to ask was—Was the rule to be applied frequently or not, and to what sort of Business was it to be applied? A great part of the Business of the House consisted of small matters. Was it proposed to apply the clôture in money matters, or on Members' Motions, or upon crotchets brought forward through associations out-of-doors? Was it to be brought into requisition in Committees on Bills or upon Privilege questions? He ventured to assert, should this power be used frequently, that the state of the House would be one of such intense irritation that no Minister would be able to advance one foot or the other. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) told them the clôture would create a sort of terrorism in the House, though the Prime Minister, on the other hand, said it would be so gentle that no hon. Member would know it was operating at all. Would it silence the bores, or the bold, fearless, ambitious men who were climbing the ladder, and who were determined to make themselves a name? It was perfectly absurd to suppose it would. The class of men who would be silenced would be those men who had given a lifetime to commercial affairs, and, therefore, the most valuable Members in the House. As for the young men, what probability would there be of a modest young Member coming to the front under pressure of the Government Whip, and the frowns of the Minister of the day, backed by the clôture? Would the clôture be confined to great occasions? If so, what had we to expect? We had had a good deal of drastic legislation of late years which there was reason to hope we should not have in the future when we should consider such matters as the Bankruptcy and Patent Laws. The President of the Board of Trade, however, the other day, after lightly dismissing the question of improvements in our commercial law by remarking that he had 20 commercial measures ready for introduction, proceeded to observe that we were on the eve of great political changes. When the Ministry got the clôture, then, said the right hon. Gentleman, they should be able to proceed with these 20 measures. There was reason, he (Viscount Sandon) believed, to fear that the discussion of these questions, when they came, would be conducted only by adequate discussion, and not that free and fair discussion which had hitherto distinguished the debates of this House. When a Minister of the Cabinet went to his constituents and made these statements, he (Viscount Sandon) thought it was only just and proper that they should ask the country to consider whether the people would like to have these great political changes discussed with only that discussion which might be doled out to the House under this Rule, or that free, fair, and unfettered discussion which had made this House so prominent an example to the world. But he would go further than the President of the Board of Trade in that congenial atmosphere of which he announced himself as being a Member, and cite the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). What did he say? He said that he "represented not only the Radical ranks but the new Democracy," and that when the House had ousted the Moderate Members of the Treasury Bench they had a hundred and more measures they were about to propose. Now, was this a time of day, when we had these prospects of political change in view, affecting, as they would, doubtless, affect, our political institutions, to dispense with full, free, and fair discussion? He thought that even in the ranks of the supporters of the Treasury there was beginning to be a little dread and fear of over-legislation, for the Postmaster General himself had warned the people against trusting too much to legislation instead of helping themselves. The whole proposal of the Government appeared to him to be based upon erroneous appreciation of the situation. From beginning to the end in the course of the Premiers' speeches he thought it would be admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had greatly exaggerated the position. As a Conservative, he even ventured to say that it was the grossest exaggeration in the world to have de- signated the last Session a barren one. It was far from being so. Many and important measures had been passed last Session. In the first place, rightly or wrongly, they had passed two great and grave Irish measures, and, further, they had passed the Conveyancing, the Settled Land, the Scotch Entail, the Scotch Educational Endowment, the Bills of Exchange, the Bill of Sale, the Electric Lighting, the Corn Returns, the Artizans' Dwellings, the Boiler Explosions, the Beer Dealers, the Retail Licences, the Parcels Post, the Government Annuities and Assurance, the Married Women's Property, and the Public Offices Site Bills. Surely it was an exaggeration of no ordinary kind to describe the last Session in those circumstances as being a barren one. Had it not been for the time consumed in passing the Irish measures, several other English measures of importance might have been passed without the necessity for this vast change in their procedure being felt. In his opinion, it was undesirable that legislation should be applauded for its quantity. He would just ask the House for a moment to listen to the words of the Prime Minister himself—words of singular wisdom, and well worthy of attention—made in a speech with regard to the Divorce Bill, in which the right hon. Gentleman exhibited a great and keen interest. Speaking in 1857, the right hon. Gentleman, pleading for delay in the case of that Bill, said— My noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), who seemed to know a great deal more about our motives than we know ourselves, told us most ingenuously that his reason for not wishing to delay the Bill was, we might be able to show that we had done something, that we should not be compelled to present a blank roll of legislation to the country. …. But we have no right, I maintain, to make a character and reputation for the House by passing a most important measure without the full consideration and importance it demands, simply because it is pressed upon us by the Government."—[3 Hansard, cxlvii. 828.] And the right hon. Gentleman went on to observe— We are not to hurry on an important subject lest it should be said out-of-doors that we are idle, and lest in the estimation of the public we should lose caste. Are we likely to recover or preserve our estimation in the country by such an attempt to keep up appearances? No! Believe me, our estimation in the country depends, not on the quantity and rapidity, but on the quality and wisdom and stability of our legislation."—[Ibid.] They should consider, moreover, what the effect of this attempt to tether freedom of speech would be out-of-doors. The procedure of that House was usually looked upon as an example to be followed by Boards of Guardians, Vestries, local Boards, and Municipal Councils; and the result of this change would be to create a new feeling of bitterness in discussion in all those assemblies by inciting the majorities to use their brute force of numbers rather than to rely upon arguments and free discussion. What effect would this example have upon the Colonial Legislatures? Would not such a measure be likely to inflict a great wound upon the cause of freedom of debate, and create, as in England, an inclination to subject the minority to the intolerance of the majority, and thus crush a healthy, full, and free discussion? What would be the effect in Egypt of the adoption of the Rule? The Prime Minister had said that there was no such thing as a Chamber of Notables now. [Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: The noble Lord is mistaken.] Then it appeared that there still existed a Chamber of Notables. Well, what would be the effect of the Rule upon that Chamber? The following was one of the Rules of that Assembly:— The Chamber must respect the opinion of the minority and hear their observations. In Committee Members may speak as often as they may wish. When the Rule should have been passed, one of the first things the Government would have to do would be to instruct Lord Dufferin to induce the Chamber to alter the Rules under which they now acted, in order that they might no longer respect the opinion of the minority, and no longer listen to their observations. Despotism, he admitted, had its advantages. It was probably a better ædile than freedom, and it was often a better general. Long since, however, our fathers had decided that liberty of speech possessed paramount advantages, which, in their opinion, could not be again said. Let them remember that liberty had always raised its voice for full and free discussion, while despotism had ever murmured, "Let discussion be adequate only." He could not but hope, and almost believed, that when the Liberal Party pondered and thought over this very great issue, they would hesitate before they put their names for ever to an Act which would destroy freedom of speech; and that, as on former occasions, the instinct of a great Party had acted in supreme and critical moments to save the Government from making great mistakes, so now it would prevail in preventing the Government from taking a fatal step, which would not only damage their Party, but be prejudicial to the country to which they belonged.


said, in reply to some observations that had fallen from the noble Lord, that, in his opinion, Members who had special knowledge of certain subjects would be in a better position than at present when the New Rules should have been passed. Now they were often silenced by the operation of an informal but very severe clôture, and there was great difficulty in making constituencies understand the state of the case. Under the proposed Rule, if anyone were prevented by its operation from giving his opinion, he would be able to explain the reason of his silence, and thus remove from the minds of his constituents the idea that he was himself responsible for his reticence and deficiency in pluck and enterprize. The noble Lord had drawn a terrible picture of the Speaker of the future. The noble Lord might, however, derive some comfort from the thought that a person such as he had imagined, endowed with such an abnormally nervous organization would not be able for a single month to endure the anxieties and labours of the Speaker's Office. The Speaker of the future must possess common sense, tact, and discretion, so as to be able to collect from all sides of the House its evident sense, and he would be chosen for his possession of those qualities. Much had been said in the course of the debate about that time-worn theme the Caucus, and he had himself been alluded to in connection with it. He might therefore be pardoned for saying that he represented a constituency which acted in the wholesome belief that every constituency ought to be able to manage its own affairs, and which resented any dictation from a distance. He believed the House of Commons was doomed to a decrepid and inglorious old age if for one moment it lost touch with the democracy or constituencies or people of the United Kingdom. In order that the House might do its work as in the past, it seemed to him that the democracy should be in full sympathy and harmony with its Representatives in the House. In the first place the constituences should be able to believe in the dignity of the House; and, secondly, in its efficiency. He thought the dignity of the House bad been guarded with equal fidelity by both the great Parties of the State, and the debates had formerly been conducted in a manner such as might have been expected from an assembly of gentlemen; but of late years they had witnessed an unwonted departure. They had become accustomed to unseemly struggles and trials of strength, and the object of these New Rules was to make those scenes no longer possible and so restore, at any rate, the dignity of the House of Commons. As to the efficiency of the House, that had always been the special care of the Liberal Party ever since 100 years ago, when Mr. Pitt brought forward his Motion for Parliamentary Reform. He was one of those who deeply regretted that that efficiency had in recent years become grievously impaired. The country had displayed great patience during the three years that had been occupied with Irish measures; but that stock of patience was rapidly running out, and the confidence of the constituences in this House would be rudely shaken if any further delay took place in passing those measures which their Members were sent here to discuss. In order to have these measnres passed, it was necessary that the House of Commons should have more command over its own time. The Rules now introduced with that object had been recommended by the Prime Minister and all those who were associated with him in the work of Government, and he could not believe that with a consensus of opinion like that the deliberations would be fruitless. He supported this Resolution, because he believed it would conduce to the desirable end of restoring the dignity and efficiency of their debates; that it would enable them, by crushing disorder and terminating indecency, to walk worthily of the illustrious traditions they had received, and by giving them fuller command over their own time, and more scope for legislative activity, it would enable them to use their time for the greater advantage of those who sent them to that House.


said, he must congratulate the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. George Russell) on having approached the subject from a National, and not a Party, point of view; but he differed from him on one point. The hon. Member seemed to think there would be nothing so advantageous to hon. Members than that they should at all times and all seasons be called upon to go and consult their constituents, and explain to them the course they would have adopted had they succeeded in obtaining the ear of the House. The hon. Member had, however, afterwards supplied the negative to his own argument, because he said the country was ignorant of the Bills which were introduced into Parliament, and, therefore, it had acquiesced in the shelving of certain Bills of the advantages of which they were ignorant, and had preferred Bills not, perhaps, so desirable. He (Mr. Brodrick) did not, therefore, perceive the advantage of explaining to constituencies their views on the clauses of a Bill which was perhaps not understood or read by their constituents. With regard to this Resolution, he did not believe it would have the effect anticipated. The only result would, in his opinion, be that some hon. Members whom the House did not care to hear would occupy the time of the House with speeches of inordinate length to the exclusion of other hon. Members whose views the House would be glad to hear. He was sorry to see that the matter had been placed in so many different points of view by the Government, and the speech of the Prime Minister on the previous night had been a direct attempt to neutralize the importance of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had been anxious to show that the Opposition had been instrumental in bringing the gag to bear on the Irish Members last Session, and had argued that, because the Conservative Party had been instrumental in placing a severer gag on the Irish Members last Session which had been efficacious, they might, therefore, be invited to co-operate with him in putting a less generally efficient check upon the whole of the House. If the Prime Minister's argument were true, there was no question that it was pro- posed they should adopt a practice which was not efficient. If debate was to be shortened, he thought it would be necessary to adopt more stringent Rules as regarded individual Members. That was the form of clôture to which he would confess he entertained very much less objection than the one contained in the Resolution, which, in his opinion, would not meet the real evil—that of Obstruction. He did not believe that the country would acquiesce in an Autumn Session merely for the purpose of enabling Rules to be passed to stop discussion. The strong feeling of the country was, in fact, directed not so much against the prevalence of discussion as against persistent Obstruction. There were many ways in which the Government might use the Resolution, without any persistent Obstruction being displayed. They might make the debate a one-sided affair as they were doing now, by taking no part in it, and so induce the Speaker to suppose that the debate could be legitimately closed. The President of the Board of Trade was one of those who had used the Forms of the House for the purpose of forcing his way into the notice of the House, and upon the principle, he supposed, of a poacher making the best keeper, the Liberal Party considered him the best man to introduce these Resolutions. Throughout the whole debate the matter had been strictly regarded in the light of how it would affect the Party. There was absolutely no independent testimony on the matter; indeed, he had heard the clôture described as an ingenious machine for keeping the Radicals in power. The key of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was—"If you desire to put down Obstruction, you must vote for the 1st Resolution." That was to say, if you desire the end you desire the means; but it was possible to desire the end and yet dislike the means proposed to be employed. Hon. Members opposite did not see that they were putting a log round their necks which would most seriously hamper them if anyone holding such opinions as the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) came into power. They would then wish they had considered the future a little more, and had not for a Party advantage surrendered their consciences to the dictates of the Caucus.


said, that the hon. Member had alluded to the silence of the Radical Members; but though they were silent, he could assure him they had not accepted the Resolution without much consideration. The fact was, the arguments against the Resolution had been so often answered that to go on repeating the same line of thought was simply a waste of time. The reason why they had accepted the Resolution was because they were wholly dissatisfied with the present position of the Business of the House, and. because they felt that they were at present sent there for very little purpose and without fulfilling the duties which the constituencies desired them to perform. He was therefore perfectly convinced that any step which the Government might take, and he believed the one they were now taking was sufficient, would commend itself alike to Members and constituencies who wished to see the present unsatisfactory condition of things removed. Very few speakers on the other side of the House had refrained from asserting that there was no evidence as to large constituencies being in favour of the clôture. He should like to know what hon. Members considered to be evidence. In his own constituency political action and political thought were exceedingly lively, and whenever any step was taken by the Government with which they were not in accord they had a very plain way of making their objections known. Their dissent was expressed by personal interviews and deputations to their Members, and at public meetings; but no such dissent had been expressed in regard to this Resolution. On the contrary, all the expressions he had heard had been entirely and heartily in favour of the step which the Government were now taking; and, further than that, there was no real or substantial evidence of dislike to these Resolutions on the part of the large body of Conservative electors. A desperate attempt had been made during the recent holiday to whip up some indication of that sort; but it had been a signal failure, and he thought they might conclude without the slightest misgiving that the whole body politic of this country was in favour of the application of some remedy for the present state of things. The constituencies at large did not understand the intricate Rules by which Business was conducted in that House, nor the arithmetical puzzles which had been imported into these debates—probably very few Members of the House understood them—but they did understand that measures in which they were concerned were brought forward without result, and that other measures in which they would be interested were not brought forward because it was utterly hopeless to gain for them any adequate attention. With regard to the argument that under the clôture the private Member would become little better than a nonentity, he contended that the private Member was little more than a nonentity at present, his position being most disagreeable and almost of a useless character. He was not a little surprised to hear, and he should certainly bear the admission in mind, that a prominent Member of the Front Opposition Bench was satisfied with the work done by the Government during the last Session. He would, however, ask the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) to remember not only the measures that had been passed, but the number of measures that had been withdrawn and slaughtered. He (Mr. Slagg) had a lively consciousness of the measures which he and his Friends connected with commercial constituencies would be only too glad to bring forward if they had the opportunity of doing so. The hon. Member for Mayo, (Mr. O'Connor Power), in the course of this debate, assured them that there was no attempt, so far as his experience went, of an organized kind to stop the Business of the House. It occurred to him (Mr. Slagg), when he heard that declaration, that the hon. Member had a very short memory indeed. He did not refer at that moment to the pressure put upon the House in various ways at various times by the Irish Party. He considered that their action, directed mainly as it was to an opposition againt coercive policy, was insignificant, nay, even praiseworthy, compared with the conspiracy to defeat the Business of the House by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) and his Friends. He (Mr. Slagg) had occupied a rather active position in the politics of large constituencies for a great number of years, and he could honestly declare that he knew nothing whatever about Caucuses. The Caucus had not influenced any section of constituencies, and had not influenced him in the slightest degree. He begged the House to accept that declaration, and he believed he was in the same position with regard to Caucuses as other hon. Members whose constituencies were near his own. His own sense of duty was cordially to support the Resolution, believing that there would always be ample and sufficient opportunity for fully expressing opinions in that House, and that it would help to place their affairs on a better and more business-like footing, and add not only to the dignity of the House, but in a very large measure to the advantage of the country.


said, he objected to the Resolution as going far beyond the necessities of the case. It was not merely a restraint upon licence, but an attack upon freedom of speech, which was important, not only because it enabled subjects to be threshed out, but because it gave all parties perfect confidence in the decisions of that House. He believed that the introduction of the clôture would do a greater injury to the country than would be caused by any delay in the conduct of Business. What had been the result of the clôture in France? It was this—that no minority ever thought of appealing to the Chamber, but invariably had recourse to other means, so that the whole apparatus of Constitutional Forms had no force whatever. He was certain that if this Rule were applied, the decision of the Speaker would be called in question all through the country, and his person, which ought to be held in respect, entirely independent of all Parties, would be exposed to attack, which would be almost intolerable. They had been told by Liberal Members that there was no danger of the Rule being harshly applied; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) on one or two occasions assured the House of his belief of the extreme moderation of the Liberal Party. Everyone who knew the right hon. Gentleman knew his amiable disposition. But it was strange that a right hon. Gentleman who had filled so many public positions and spent a year at Constantinople, should have taken so rosy a view. The right hon. Gentleman must in his studies have been impressed with the political importance of the part played by mutes in the Turkish Empire. They had been employed to carry out the most drastic form of clôture. They did not silence opposition; they strangled it. And it was strange that the vacillation of the Turkish Government should have coincided with the relaxation of that wholesome institution. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, actuated by a mandate which, apparently, nobody had received, but which everybody obeyed, maintained a solemn silence during the greater part of these discussions. He was not doing Liberal Gentlemen a great injustice in assuming that they would rather hear their own voices than those of others. But if the power which they obeyed was great enough to prevent them from speaking, it would be great enough to make them prevent their opponents also from speaking. He had been struck with the difference of opinion expressed by Gentlemen who represented the Liberal Party of the past or present as compared with those who represented the Liberal Party of the future. They had been told by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) without any hesitation what was the use he and his Friends would make of this measure, and in a very interesting and able speech the hon. Gentleman described what the Parliament of the future was to be. It was to be like a huge sausage-machine, whose business it was to turn out a certain quantity of indigestible food out of any materials at hand for the moment. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broad-hurst) made the statement that this measure was not imposed by the Prime Minister upon his Party, but was urged by his Party upon the Prime Minister. That was very likely, because the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his great career, had accustomed the country to many surprises, some of which appeared to bear the impress of a less experienced mind. He had observed that the Home Secretary, whose wide sympathies laid him open to every impression, went further than the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He regretted that the Prime Minister, who, during the 50 years he spent in the House, had taken a large part in all the great measures that had been passed, and, perhaps, in the most active period in the history of the House, had amply availed himself of the right of full discussion, should have thought it necessary to bring forward a measure which was fraught with the greatest danger to the Assembly he had so long adorned.


rose to say why this Resolution had been spontaneously and warmly supported throughout by one at least who did not regard it as a stepping-stone to the Radical Millennium which was contemplated with so much delight by that sanguine and guileless enthusiast the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere.) Even the calm vision of the hon. Member who had last spoken was haunted by the spectres with which that debate had made them so familiar—the spectres of a partizan Speaker, an overbearing Minister, and intolerant majorities voting in bondage to the wire-pullers of a Caucus; and after all that had been said on these topics, it was vain ;o hope that any argument which he (Mr. Wodehouse) could use could remove those apprehensions from the minds of hon. Members opposite. But he would remind them that this was not the first time the procedure of the House of Commons had been altered, nor was it the first attempt that had been made to reduce redundant discussion. When the right of making speeches on presenting Petitions was taken away, Mr. Brougham declared that with that innovation freedom of debate in the House of Commons had ceased to exist. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) had commenced the discussion that evening with an eloquent speech; but its first and its latter parts were inconsistent with, and contradictory to, one another. The noble Lord began by saying that from a more Party point of view he desired nothing better than that this Resolution should be passed, because it would be fatal to the political existence of every Member who voted for it. But the noble Lord devoted the latter portion of his speech to demonstrating that if the principle of the clôture were once introduced into the House of Commons, Municipal Councils, School Boards, and all other similar public bodies throughout the country would soon be infected by this hateful principle. Was not the one part of the noble Lord's speech answered by the other? If the clôture was as hateful to the English people as the noble Lord represented it to be, they would not adopt it in all their assemblies, but they would return a House of Commons pledged to rescind the Resolutions at once, and banish the clôture for ever. He (Mr. Wodehouse) was not more enamoured of plébiscites and imperative mandates than hon. Members opposite. He agreed with them that the House of Commons was the Grand Inquest of the nation, and that its floor was the proper area for the settlement of great political controversies. But it would be folly to close their eyes to what went on outside their doors. As an arena of political discussion Parliament no longer stood alone; its once conclusive ascendency was now shared by the Press and the local council or public meeting. If it was to retain an undisputed pre-eminence it could only do so by the quality, and not by the quantity, of its debates, and by the unquestioned superiority of its discussions to all discussions elsewhere. Now, what was it that worked like a slow but sure poison on the excellence of their debates and sapped away their prestige—what made the most repulsive burden of Parliamentary life—what threatened to drive from the House in weariness and disgust men of high station, and wealth, and culture, and practical capacity—what was it but tedious, insufferably tedious, repetition? On great occasions the debates of the other House were admirable models of discussion; but would not their quality deteriorate, and their effect on the country diminish, if they were doubled or quadrupled in length? There could be licence in the quantity of debate as well as licence in the quality, and it was licence in respect of quantity with which they were then concerned. The 5th of the proposed Rules would strike at tedious repetition by the conscious Obstructive who repeated the same arguments and assertions over and over again for the palpable purpose of wasting time; but it would not reach those more innocent or more artful and scientific Obstructives who persisted in sustaining a stale discussion long after the subject had been completely thrashed out, to the entire exclusion from discussion of other topics which were fully ripe for Parliamentary deliberation. Against these Obstructives nothing would avail except a power of closing debate. No individual clôture could be made an adequate remedy except by stretching the principle of constructive and cumulative Obstruction to the widest possible limits; but such an individual clôture would generate more exasperation than a general clôture. Hon. Members opposite had said that legislation would be less stable in the future; but if it were so, it would be owing to other causes than the clôture—the change would come because instability of legislation was a common infirmity of democratic communities, and whether their destinies were to be shaped by a great Tory or a great Radical democracy, more and more democratic they would undoubtedly become. It was said that the clôture would inflame political passions, and increase the friction of Parties, and injuriously weaken the sense of responsibility felt by the Opposition; but they might depend upon it that means and opportunities for mutual exasperation would never be wanting when political Parties were disposed to use them. The temper of Parties was determined by other conditions than Rules of Procedure; and while the British people retained their temper of political moderation, and their spirit of political compromise, those qualities would never disappear from their own Representative Assembly. Then, what did the responsibilities of the Opposition for the conduct of Business amount to? He would answer that question by a reference to the events of last year. The Opposition had then cooperated with the Government as regards coercion for Ireland; but would they ever have granted Urgency for the Irish Land Bill? He did not believe they would ever have done so. Anyhow, the Opposition refused Urgency for Supply. It was true that the Supply was obtained without Urgency, and the Opposition were able to taunt the Government with having made unnecessary and unreasonable demands. But the Supply was obtained without Urgency, only because there came a lull and respite in the dilatory tactics of the Irish Members. If there had been no such lull, and the Supply had not been obtained within the requisite time, would the Opposition who refused Urgency have had the candour to take upon themselves any blame for that failure in the conduct of Business? Not they; they would only have made it a fresh charge against the Government. He was far from denying that the Opposition acted under a certain sense of responsi- bility; but what was its source? Was it not the consciousness that they acted in the presence of a public opinion which called both majorities and minorities to account; and that if they surrendered themselves to passion or resentment they would alienate public opinion, and remain in a minority at the next General Election. From that restraint the clôture would not liberate them. They would remain bound by the inherent pressure of their own interests, hopes, and aspirations to court the favourable judgments of public opinion. They must never forget that the House of Commons was not a mere debating society whose sole function was futile talk. It was more than a place for the discussion of grievances; by the absorbtion of vast powers it had become the most vital part of the Imperial Government; and if, through the unchecked flow of superfluous speeches, the House were smitten with a creeping paralysis, there was not a corner of the Empire, however remote or secluded, in which their fellow-subjects would not learn to curse its impotent existence. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who said, in 1880, that of all the fates which could await such an Assembly as the House of Commons the worst would be to sink into contempt, and of all the deaths which it could die the worst would be to die because it had come to be despised by the people of this country. He (Mr. Wodehouse) believed that the proposals of the Government were well devised to avert that calamity, and, therefore, they should have his hearty support from the 1st to the last Resolution.


said, if he now ventured to trespass for a short time on the indulgence of the House, it was with a view chiefly to protest against the assumption that those who would vote against the 1st Resolution were to be held to be opposed to any measure which might have for its object the facilitating of the progress of Public Business. He admitted at once the gravity, the nature, and the extent of the evils from which Parliament was at present suffering. But he should vote against this Resolution for three reasons. In the first place, he should vote against it because he had not yet been satisfied that the proposal would be entirely effectual against that particular form of Ob- struction which had for its ultimate object the entire paralysis of Public Business; in the second place, because, while he believed it would be ineffectual to attain that object, it would have possibly, and even probably, an injurious effect in limiting discussion on subjects of great public interest; and in the third place, because if it was necessary at all, he believed it should be, not the first remedy, but the last resort. To obtain an accurate idea of what this delay in the proceedings of Parliament resulted from, the causes must be considered, and they were chiefly three. These three causes he believed to be distinct in their origin, their object, and their character, and, therefore, required different treatment. In the first place, they had wilful Obstruction, which presented this novel and very grave feature, that it was aimed, not at one Party, not at one policy, not at one class of measures, but had for its sole object the paralysis of all Public Business whatever. But while that was, no doubt, a very important cause in the delay of Public Business, they must not shut their eyes to the fact that there were two other causes of very great importance which also tended to produce the same result. There was a delay in legislation which was the natural and legitimate result of the existence of Party in the country and in the House. This fact of Obstruction or delay in Public Business, arising from the existence of Party, was not a new thing. It was one of the disadvantages—or inconveniences, perhaps he should say—attending the existence of free Representative Institutions. It would be found in every part of the world, and in every age where there had been even an approach to Representative Institutions. They would find it in the Senate of Rome, and they would find it in the records of the House of Commons frequently occurring. More than 100 years ago, in 1771, a notable instance of it occurred, when the then unprecedented number of 23 and 24 divisions were taken in one night on the question of printing reports of discussions in the House—an event which caused no less an authority on political matters than Burke to say, in his place in this House, that posterity would bless the pertinacity of that hour. While Party in the House had certain inconveniences, it would be wrong and improper to deny that it had certain very great practical advantages, and he was not sure that this same delay in legislation, was not itself rather an advantage than a disadvantage. During the 50 years that had elapsed since the passing of the Reform Bill, the country had undergone the great changes that had occurred with perfect safety, while changes not so fundamental in France had brought about the collapse of the French Monarchy, merely because these changes had been introduced in France suddenly, before the country was prepared for them. There was another important result from the action of Party. Measures assumed to a certain extent the nature of a compromise, and the result of it was that when measures became law they were assented to by the whole country. That arose from the fact that when in this House these measures received not only adequate, but full and fair discussion. There was a third cause which he thought went to make up a diagnosis of the political disease under which they were suffering. There was no doubt that now there were a greater number of hon. Members who desired to take part in the debates of the House. Those who looked back to a period of 25, or 30, or 50 years ago would find that most of the Business of the House was transacted by 30, 40, or 50 Members; but now, from causes which he did not require to particularize, because they were perfectly well known, a larger number of Members desired to speak, and a larger number of constituencies wished their Representatives to take active part in the Business of the House. If any measure passed by this House had a tendency to check that legitimate and proper and laudable desire, it would be, to a certain extent, a political misfortune. These were the three principal causes which, in his opinion, went to form a diagnosis of the political disease under which this Assembly was suffering, and to deal with them they had the proposition of the Prime Minister that in certain circumstances, and under certain conditions, a majority, and not only a majority, but even a bare majority, and possibly only a mere Party majority, might have the power of stopping a discussion altogether. That proposition had come upon the country and upon the House to a certain extent as a surprise. While it aimed at dealing with the first symptom of wilful Obstruction to which he had referred, it appeared to be to some extent uncertain in its operation; because those who had been in the House, and had seen the ingenuity and perseverance displayed by the hon. Members who usually sat below the Gangway on that side of the House, could hardly doubt that even though this measure were in operation they would be able still to seriously impede the necessary Business of the country. But his objection to the measure went further. Not only did he believe it would be ineffectual, but he believed it would seriously interfere with that amount of delay in legislation which proceeded from legitimate causes; and one reason why they should pause before accepting as efficacious the remedy suggested by the Prime Minister was to be found in the reasons adduced in support of it. The reasons which had been given in support of the proposal of the Prime Minister divided themselves into two classes. The Prime Minister had derived part of his argument from political reasons, and part of it from practical experience. That part of the argument derived from political experience was mainly founded upon this—that it was a sound principle of this House that the majority should prevail. Now, he (Mr. Cochran-Patrick) thought it would be admitted that if this principle was in itself valid, it went very far to strengthen the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. On the other hand, if this fundamental reason were found wanting in any part, then it went very much to weaken the position of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to this proposition, that the majority should prevail, he ventured to Bay it was not a proposition of universal application. There was a large and well-known class of subjects with regard to which this proposition was not only unsafe, but perfectly unsound. But it might be said it was sound in legislation at all events, and in active politics, and so it was; but it was not sound there merely by reason of the majority, but by reason of an implied compact, or understanding, consciously or unconsciously, that after the minority had been fully and fairly heard the matter should be decided by the action of the majority. He was the more surprised that this argument should have fallen from the Prime Minister, because it was not a new argument in the history of politics. It was an argument which had frequently been heard, and which had often been exposed. Even The Westminster Review, which was an advanced Liberal organ, had pronounced against that argument. It had, in a recent number, said that it was one thing for the opinion of the majority on a particular question to prevail over that of the minority, but it was quite another for that majority to decide that the minority had sufficiently expressed their views, in spite of their assertion to the contrary. With regard to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, two questions arise. In the first place, was it the only means of meeting this evil; and, in the second place, was it the best means? He ventured to say that no one who had listened to the debates on this subject would be prepared to assert that this was the only means that could be suggested to meet this evil. Wilful Obstruction had been analyzed, and it had been shown that it could be summed up in three forms—speaking against time, raising frivolous points of Order, and continued Motions for adjourning the House. All these three principal forms were dealt with by the other Resolutions which were to be proposed, and therefore he might say that the 1st Resolution was not necessarily the only means. But even if it were not the only means, perhaps it might be said to be the best means. That raised the question, what was the criterion or standard by which, in matters of this sort, they were to judge better or worse; and he thought it would not be denied on any side of the House that the only criterion they could admit in dealing with the privileges of an ancient Assembly of this sort was that they should endeavour to achieve the maximum of efficiency with the minimum of disturbance. Judged by this standard, the proposition of the Prime Minister did too little, and it did too much. It did too little, because it failed to touch the principal object it was meant to attain; and it did too much, because it would inevitably or, at least, probably have effects which were not contemplated, and were not desirable. It was perfectly open to anyone to say that it was the desire of the country. He admitted at once the force of the argument; but he doubted whether the argument really existed. What would be an indication of the feeling of the country would be if the Prime Minister could show that any Municipal Corporation, or other representative body whatever, who, hitherto having accepted the Rules of the House as a model for conducting their deliberations, had now resolved that, when this measure came into law, they would be prepared to carry it out in their own deliberations. There was one other consideration to which he would allude before he sat down. No one who had wielded the destinies of England could afford altogether to ignore the ultimate judgment of posterity. No Party in the House, and, above all, that great Party opposite, to whom the country owed so much, who had done so much for freedom and for humanity, could afford to ignore altogether the verdict of history. But history dealt with causes; it dealt with results; it looked at and brought into prominence great effects; it took little heed of arguments, and it ignored altogether specious excuses. History would record, when the annals of this time had been written, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had achieved a certain success. History would record that he had succeeded in doing that which cost Charles his Crown, and Cromwell his character—the attempt, namely, to abridge the Privileges of the Parliament of this country. History would record that the first blow which had been made at the liberties of that House came, not from the tyrant or the usurper, but from the greatest Minister of modern times—every word and every act of whose long career would be the most lasting and the most effectual protest against the measure which he was now forcing upon an unwilling House and an unfortunate country.


thought the time had come when it was absolutely necessary to do something towards facilitating the passage of legislation through the House, and to remove from the House the stigma which had fallen upon it. He should support the Resolution, not merely on account of Obstruction and the monotonous prolixity of talk from one quarter of the House, but because the disease had become general, affecting in a most painful degree the Liberal Benches, as well as those which had been the object of special animadversion,

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


proceeded to observe that the adoption of these Rules was the only way to put a stop to the scenes that had disgraced that House last year. While admitting that hitherto the Party opposite had not resorted to actual Obstruction for the purpose of delaying measures which they disliked, he pointed out that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) had in his letter, which appeared in the newspapers a day or two ago, suggested that in the future sections of the House other than the Irish Party might resort to it. Another noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) had that night praised the work of the Liberal party last Session; but he did not think that the country was satisfied with it. A further argument in favour of these Rules was the action which the Speaker deemed it expedient to take against the Irish Members during the Session. Although the House approved of that action under the circumstances, it was necessary that it should protect itself against its recurrence. He would only add, in conclusion, that a change in the Procedure of the House was rendered necessary in order to enable the Ministers, who were responsible for the government of the country, to pass those measures which were demanded by the constituencies.


said, he did not wish to occupy more than a few minutes, while he referred to one or two objections which he held to the Resolutions before the House. Before doing so, however, be would like to refer to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg), who, speaking on the part of a large constituency, stated that he found a large portion was in favour of this Resolution. He (Mr. Jackson) did not know what might be the feeling in Manchester; but he was quite sure, so far as he was able to gauge the opinions of the people of Leeds, whom he represented, that there was not a large majority in favour of the Resolution as it stood. The hon. Member had gone on to say that he believed the Conservative Party in Manchester were in favour of the proposal; but if he had said that the Party were in favour of assisting the Government in making such alterations of the Rules of the House as would enable it to get on with, the Business in a more efficient manner, he believed that the hon. Member for Manchester would have represented the feelings not only of the Conservative Party of Manchester, but of the Conservative Party of a great many other towns. Speaking on behalf of Leeds he might say that a meeting, not actually called for the purpose, but attended by nearly 4,000 persons, had unanimously adopted a resolution, approving the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) and the other Members of that House who were strenuously opposing the introduction of the clôture by a bare majority. An hon. Member, who spoke a short time previously, referred to the action of the Conservative Party in that House last year, when they assisted the Government in a time of very great difficulty to pass the Rule3 of Urgency. It was not the first time that allusion had been made to the matter, and he (Mr. Jackson) would like to take that opportunity of saying that he considered the action of the Conservative Party on that occasion had been rather ungraciously referred to. He thought the Prime Minister had been rather ungrateful to the Conservative Party for the action which they had taken on that occasion; because he (Mr. Jackson) was not overstating the case, if he said that the condition of Ireland was such that, unless the Conservative Party had come forward and aided the Government, they would have been unable to have carried out those measures which they deemed necessary for the restoration of peace and order in Ireland. He, therefore, thought it a little ungracious that the Conservatives should be taunted with that action, which was as distasteful to them as it could have been to any Party in the House. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had gone pretty well over the whole question, and bad pointed out the great delay which had taken place in the Business of the House. He (Mr. Jackson) entirely agreed with the hon. Member that a remedy for that state of things was wanted, and he was prepared to support the hon. Member and the Party opposite in so altering the Rules as to prevent further waste of time. The hon. Member also referred to a point which to him (Mr. Jackson) was a matter of very great difficulty, and that was the question as to how the "evident sense of the House" was to be taken, or, to put it in another way, how the Rule as at present constructed was to be, and would be, interpreted in the future, and how it was intended to be interpreted by the Government themselves. With regard to the question immediately under discussion, they had been chided for what had been called their unnecessary alarms as to the operation of the clôture; and he quite believed that hon. Members opposite were sincere in their belief that those alarms were groundless. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had, in fact, taken great pains to allay their fears, by assuring them that if passed in its present form the Rule would very seldom be put into operation; but they could not help feeling alarm when they remembered the refusal of the Prime Minister to accept the Speaker's own interpretation of the phrase, "the evident sense of the House." It had been one of the great influences held out to them to induce them to approve of the Rule as it stood, and their position resembled that of a patient. Fears were not shared by the dentist; but when the wrong tooth was pulled out, it became difficult to remedy the mischief which had been done. The question before the House was really whether the clôture should be passed by a bare majority; and they were told, on the authority of the Prime Minister himself, that if a proposal had been put before the House, asking it to consent to this Resolution without some safeguards, it might have been considered an unfair Resolution, and likely to work injustice; but his difficulty with, regard to these so-called safeguards was this—that the other night, fortunately for the House, his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) asked the Speaker how be would interpret the Rule as it was at present constructed, and the Speaker favoured the House with his opinion, for which hon. Members on that side of the House would for ever feel grateful. He (Mr. Jackson) thought he was not alone in thinking that that question was far from being clearly and definitely settled; at any rate, they were far from any positive or satisfactory knowledge of what was the intention of Her Majesty's Government in the matter. The Leader of the Opposition desired to obtain some recognition of the Speaker's interpretation of the Rule; but the Prime Minister distinctly refused to accept that interpretation of the Chair as being in accord with the views of the Government. He (Mr. Jackson) considered they were entitled to have an interpretation of the Rule from the Government; and he thought it would have relieved the anxiety that existed in many people's minds if the Prime Minister had given them the assurance that "the evident sense of the House at large" would be the interpretation of the future; and he was confident that, by his refusal, the Government had lost many votes which they would otherwise have gained. The Prime Minister desired them to rely on another safeguard—upon the traditions of the House—but he (Mr. Jackson) could not help thinking that the Resolution itself was a distinct declaration that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the traditions of the House must no longer govern the action of Members, except the Member who occupied the Speaker's Chair and the Chairman of Committees. They had heard that this Rule was, in the first place, designed to put down Obstruction; but he was one of those who believed that the subsequent Rules would tend much more to facilitate the conduct of Business than this Rule. He believed it was on record that the Prime Minister, speaking on this question, said he was not aware that he could put his finger on any case to which the word Obstruction could apply. Besides, it had to be borne in mind that the Business of the past two Sessions had been of a very exceptional character, and that the measures introduced had been likewise exceptional; but now, as far as he was able to judge, the measures which were of pressing importance were measures which would come under the category of non-Party questions—measures for the relief of restrictions upon trade, and measures relating to our social and commercial relations. For such measures no clôture was necessary. He believed that, without the clôture, but with certain Amendments in its Procedure, the House was quite competent to carry out the Business of the country, especially as regarded measures about which it was in earnest, and that was another reason why be felt bound to oppose the Resolution. He would remind the House of an old saying in Yorkshire, that "Bad workmen always found fault with their tools;" and he was afraid that the Prime Minister, in asking for an axe to cut away the obstructions in his path, would use it to clear away trees that interrupted his view. Reference bad been made to America in the course of the debate; and though he (Mr. Jackson) did not want to trouble the House on any opinion of his own, yet, having just returned from a brief visit to that country, and having had an opportunity of conversing with some of the most prominent men in connection with the political Parties there, as well as of seeing the working of what was formerly termed the "Caucus," but which was now termed the "machinery of Parliament," he wished to express his belief that the people of this country, if they bad had the same opportunities of judging, would hesitate before, in any sense, copying the system which was in operation there. He could not vote for the Resolution, because he maintained that it would not facilitate the Business about which the country was in earnest; because, if granted, the power might be abused; because no safeguards were afforded which were reliable; because the Prime Minister had refused to sanction the interpretation which had been put upon the Rule by the Speaker; and because he believed it was an encroachment upon the rights and liberties of minorities in the House which was calculated to work great mischief in the future, and bring ruin upon and reduce the House from that proud position it had hitherto occupied as a Legislative Assembly which had been without an equal in the world.


said, that as the problem of the Irish difficulty was to remove the causes of discontent in that country, and as their removal was to be obtained by full and fair discussion in the House, any proposal affecting the freedom of debate had a special interest to an Irish Member. The first thing to be remarked in the proposed Resolution was, that it was aimed, not against the Irish minority or any small minority, although the Conservatives had tried to turn it into one of that nature, but against each of the great Parties in turn, when they were in a minority. The clôture which the Opposition wanted was a far more invidious, more offensive, and more dangerous affair than the general clôture proposed by the Government. Both sides were in favour of a clôture. The Conservative Party, through the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), demanded a clôture by two-thirds' majority, avowedly for the purpose of affecting an Irish minority. ["No, no!"] Then, he repeated, they were in favour of a far more invidious and dangerous thing—individual clôture directed against small minorities. When that had been rejected by the Liberal Party and the Irish Representatives, the Conservative Party objected to the proposed general clôture altogether, and, without any concealment, said that a system under which the mouths of individuals could be closed would be sufficient as a clôture against the Irish minority, and that nothing more was wanted. He (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) believed such a system, directed against the individuals forming a small minority, was the most facile and dangerous form of clôture. It might be said that the Government Resolutions included these proposals against individuals. But they would operate very differently, according as they were with or without general clôture. If unaccompanied by general clôture, they would be used as clôture. If, as the Resolution proposed, accompanied by general clôture, there would be no necessity for using them for purposes of restriction, but only for the purpose of keeping hon. Members within the Rules of Debate and Procedure. On the whole, as between the Conservative clôture, aimed avowedly and exclusively against the Irish Representatives, and the general clôture, available against the great Parties, he preferred the larger measure, because he believed it would be less frequently put in force than the smaller one, owing to the fear which each of the great Parties would have in Office that if they enforced the clôture against the other Party it might be put in operation against themselves when they in turn were in Opposition. As to the practical effect of the proposal, it would be absolutely impossible to pass the reforms required by Ireland, as well as by England and Scotland, which could not always be neglected for the sake of Ireland, with the present Procedure. The House had to choose between admitting its inability to do necessary work, or reforming its Procedure so as to make legislation possible. It was said that clôture would weaken the defence against unjust Coercion Acts. But the Coercion Bill of 1881, which the Irish people were assured would never be allowed to pass, was passed, although no Rule for clôture existed. The presence or absence of clôture could not affect the certainty of any Bill, just or unjust, supported by the vast majority of an Assembly, passing. Prolonged discussion might delay for a day or a week, but could not stop it. The clôture, therefore, could not add to the certainty of such Bills passing, if introduced. But, on the other hand, the clôture, by rendering reforms possible, would remove the discontent which led to the circumstances that caused coercion, and make coercion a thing of the past. The Bill of 1881 recalled to mind the grave precedent created at that time by the Speaker and confirmed by the House. It amounted to this—that the Speaker, of his own motion, without consulting the House, stopped a debate when he considered it had passed fair limits. That precedent was now a law of the House, and was the clôture in its most absolute form. For other times, under other circumstances, it was a precedent of the most perilous kind. It was impossible to annihilate it. In the absence of a more regular form of clôture, the House would refuse to condemn it, would uphold it, and would thus empower future Speakers to use it. The only way to save Parliament in the future from its dangers was to substitute for it a clôture under the control of the House, which would take its place, and render it unnecessary and impossible. On the whole, Irish Members had to choose between clôture directed against the Irish minority, which the Conservatives would enforce if in power tomorrow, and the general clôture applicable to the two great Parties. He preferred the latter. Some restrictive proposal was necessary, if necessary legislation for any part of the Empire was to be obtained. The present plan would not make coercion a degree more practicable than at present; but it would make it much more unlikely by securing reforms that would remove the discontent which led to coercion. For these reasons, he was prepared to support the proposal of the Government. He felt it would hardly be respectful to some of his Colleagues representing Irish constituencies, whose ability and common sense he respected, and of whose services to their common country he had a due appreciation, to record his vote without giving his reasons. If there was to be clôture at all, he would prefer that it should be the clôture of a majority imposed on a minority, because it would be exercised on rare occasions and with a sense of responsibility.


Sir, upon some of the topics entered upon by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) I have no desire to enter; but the main argument of his speech, like that of other hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, is certainly based upon a thorough and complete misapprehension as regards the present proposal. He declared the Conservative Party to be in favour of clôture, and only desiring a two-thirds' majority to bring it into operation. I deny that statement entirely. The Conservatives, as has been said over and over again by them, are opposed to the clôture altogether; but it would have been obviously foolish to wait until the Resolution was put in its complete form before the House before endeavouring to obtain some modification of, and some relief from, so severe a measure. Again, it is said that the Tory Party are in favour of individual clôture. But it is idle to talk about an individual clôture. Clôture means closing a debate, and the term cannot be applied to disciplinary Rules, such as the 5th and 9th, which are intended for the purpose of silencing an individual Member who has abused the privileges of debate which have been given to him. We have no objection to them. I do not wonder that the Government are not at all anxious to hear speeches from their own side of the House, because nearly all their speeches have two characteristics. They begin by insisting on the difficulty in which the House is placed with regard to legislation, and with charging the Opposition with sympathizing with that difficulty, or, at all events, with not being sufficiently eager for its removal. I cannot, of course, speak for the whole of the Conservative Party; but I believe fully and sincerely that there are many men on this side as anxious and desirous that the Business of the House shall be properly conducted as any who sit on the Treasury Bench. Last Session cannot be called a satisfactory Session. I quite agree that some good Bills were passed; but they were smuggled through in the early hours of the morning, when they could not be discussed, or, if they should happen to have been discussed, were not able to be reported in the newspapers. That, I think, is a scandal to Parliament. It ought to be equally as necessary to discuss them as to insure their passing. My objection to the Rule is, that it does not really touch the root of the difficulty, and that it is likely to create mischiefs worse than those it remedies. The speeches, which begin as I have described, always go off to the point that the great difficulty we have to deal with is wilful Obstruction. I know that the Resolution has two objects—first, to prevent wilful Obstruction; and, secondly, to prevent the prolongation of useless discussions. I question whether it will be effective; and in regard to the Prime Minister's remark, that it is a contest of likelihoods, I have to say that, on our side, we have indications to guide us, which justify, I will not say our fears—because I have no great fears as to the results, even if it is adopted—but our remonstrances. The indications of its working which justify the protest hon. Members on this side of the House have thought it their duty to make are to be found—first, in the form of the Resolution itself; and, secondly, in the unbending attitude in which the Government have met proposals for its alteration, and also by the spirit in which Liberal Members below the Gangway show it is their intention to apply the Rule. It is said the Resolution was recommended by all the authority of the House; but that is far from being the fact, the proposal of the Speaker has been departed from in several important respects. When last year the Speaker drew a Rule for the guidance of our proceedings, he used the words, the "general sense of the House," and the Resolution could only be carried by a three-fourths' majority. In the Government proposal the word "general" is altered to "evident," and the three-fourths to a bare majority. Those alterations clearly show that the intention of the Government is not to put down a small obstructive minority, but to enable the majority at its command to clamour successfully for a dis- continuance of the debate; and the adoption of the principle of the absolute majority lends force to that view. It is not enough that the Government should be able to silence one Party among its opponents; it must be able to silence all its opponents put together. Then, in the Rule framed by the Speaker, the Motion was left to the responsibility of a Minister of the Crown; whereas, under the present proposal, the Speaker is left to discover the "evident sense of the House." Again, when the Government were asked that certain safeguards should be inserted in the Rule, the Prime Minister answered that the minority would want no safeguard, as it might appeal to the public or the Press. But what can be more reasonable than that a defeated minority should have the right of recording on the Journals of the House a protest, drawn up by their Leaders with the greatest care, in order that the case may be put fully and fairly before the country? There is one other important incident in the debate; it was when the Speaker declared that, in construing this Resolution, he should hold the "evident sense of the House" to be the "evident sense," not of a Party, but "of the House at large." What is that but declaring that the Speaker, as long as he is in power, will put the Resolution in force as if the word "general" still remained part of it? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the other night, offered rather a curious prospect of the administration of the Rule, when he said that no one would think of stopping a debate if the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) wanted to address the House. So far as the administration of the Rule is concerned, I think, judging from that, it seems highly probable that, in the future, both sides of the House will have to hand up to the Speaker a list of those Members who wish to speak, and leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to make his selection, and say at what name he will draw the line, and declare that the "evident sense of the House" is that the debate shall proceed no further; but how the Speaker shall decide who is to be heard, I would like to hear some Member of Her Majesty's Government explain. I have no doubt that men of the position and stamp of the hon. Mem- ber for Mid Lincolnshire will always obtain a hearing; but there are many hon. Members without his authority and position in the House, and without his power of speech, who will not be allowed an opportunity of doing so. Indeed, Members of Her Majesty's Government make no secret of their intention to make use of the Rule in order to sweep all such men aside, for the purpose of promoting legislation of a Party character. Only a day or two ago the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) gave a list of the measures to be passed next Session—household suffrage for the counties, improved government for the Metropolis, some legislation dealing with the City Companies; and, with the true instincts of a Radical, he smacked his lips over the mention of the £20,000,000 which belonged to those Companies. The hon. Baronet also spoke of the decayed Corporations throughout the country which had to be dealt with; how county government was to be transferred from the Justices to County Boards; how the Patent Law was to be reformed, a Corrupt Practices Bill to be passed, electoral reforms, and a new Ballot Act to be carried through. Having dealt with that rather comprehensive list of measures for a single Session, he added—"With these, and a few other important subjects, there will be ample work for the next Session." In that case we shall get a little further than the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) or the ideal Millennium comprising that complaisant Parliament which the hon. Member had shadowed forth would propose to go, because he and it would be content to carry measures which have been discussed by the constituencies, while the hon. Baronet would push forward measures which have not been discussed either in the constituencies or elsewhere. But the hon. Baronet has been forgetful of the fact that were it not for the discussion of the two Bills with respect to Ireland, and the time wasted by the Government itself on a frivolous Motion of Censure upon the House of Lords, the Corrupt Practices Bill and a Patents Bill might now have been a part of the law of the land. The hon. Baronet mentioned a Bankruptcy Bill as a measure which had been delayed by Obstruction. No doubt, there was Obstruction; but it was Obstruction by that practised Obstructionist the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain). A Bankruptcy Bill, which had been discussed year after year by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, was brought in, having upon the back of it the names of three Members of the Liberal Party as well as mine. Early in the Session that Bill passed a second reading in opposition to the President of the Board of Trade. Directly after its second reading, the President of the Board of Trade blocked it, and only took off the block on condition that the Bill should not be pressed forward until he had brought in his Bill. I do not say that the Bill in question was perfect; but, at all events, there were two clauses in it which would have been of some value to a commercial community, and would have made a greater improvement in the Bankruptcy Law, and given greater satisfaction to the country, than any that has been effected since 1869. The sole person responsible for the circumstance that that improvement was not made this Session was the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that the prolongation of this debate is a substantial service to the country and to the authority of Parliament, as it shows that there is no justification for this violent Resolution in the fantastic and cumbrous form in which it has been laid before the House. The argument as to justification from the practice of foreign countries and the Colonies has broken down, because no one has ventured to quote instances of the satisfactory application of the clôture in foreign countries, while hon. Member after hon. Member has pointed out the mischiefs which have resulted from it in France and the United States. The Prime Minister has said that foreign countries which have adopted the clôture have not given it up. The reason that foreign countries have not given up the clôture is, that it is an instrument in the hands of the majority; and the majority for the time being is always in the enjoyment of it. A parallel case is to be found in the administrative patronage of the United States, which still remains in the hands of the Government of the day, in spite of all the talk there has been about Civil Service reforms for the last quarter of a century. How narrow is the majority in support of the Resolution was seen by the division of the 30th of March, on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott)—the largest since the memorable division of 1873, when the Prime Minister found himself in a minority on the question of Irish University Education. On the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton, when 612 Members voted, the Government had a majority of 39; and that was obtained by the Government pleading that support of the Amendment meant opposition to their Resolution altogether. But of those who formed that majority of 39, 13 voted against the Government on the question of a two-thirds' majority, and that represents 26 votes on a division, which would leave the Government a majority of only 13; and how was the Government majority obtained? I am not much troubled about Caucuses; for, so far as they are good, the Conservatives have something like them; but we keep clear of the mischievous importations from America, which, by alienating independent thought from the Liberal Party, will do it as much harm as the organization will do it good. In the debate there have been three curious repudiations of outside influence. It is not to be expected that the people of Ripon would dictate to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen), who does them the honour to represent them. Nor will the Liberals of Durham try it on with the hon. Baronet (Sir Joseph Pease), who provides so much of their political machinery. As for the electors of Stoke, they could not dream that there is any chance of inducing one of their Members (Mr. Broadhurst) to abandon his obedience to the Government. But the most remarkable repudiation of all came yesterday from my own Colleague in the representation of Plymouth (Mr. Stewart Macliver). Fortunately, in that hon. Gentleman's case, we are able to see what has been the nature of the influence brought to bear upon him. In The Times of the 11th of February, there appeared a leading article which contained this remark— If the clôture by a bare majority is proposed in any form, we shall give it our uncompromising opposition. As it now stands in the 1st Rule, it is not only objectionable, but ridiculous. On that, the hon. Member for Plymouth wrote a letter to The Times, which was a good résumé of the arguments now being used by Opposition speakers. That letter was as follows:— Your timely and forcible article on this subject should make the Government pause ere it proceeds further in a course which, if continued, will certainly issue in discomfiture and defeat. By the 1st Resolution the Government, with the aid of the Speaker, could stop any debate by a bare majority, if the minority consisted of less than 40; and they could also stop a debate in which the minority consisted of any number, provided they—the Government—had a single vote more, and had 200 in all. I believe the Liberals would have fought to the last against the establishment of such a Rule had it been brought forward by Conservatives in a House in which there was a Tory majority. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Tories should oppose it. The whole object of these Rules is, or should be, to resist Obstruction and prevent wilful waste of time. They are not directed against the ordinary Opposition, and the Opposition will not believe that they ought to be included in penalties which should fall on the offending Obstructionists only. There are several reasons why it is desirable to give the Opposition greater power than is contemplated in the 1st Resolution. 1. It is true Liberalism to require the fullest and freest debate on important questions, whatever may be the objections raised by either the Speaker or the Government of the day. This would be admitted by every liberal if a Tory Government were in power. 2. It is desirable that the Rules should have a permanent character. The House cannot be always tinkering its Procedure. Therefore, the Rules must command the approval of both sides. 3. There is not the slightest reason why the question should be made a Party one. To give the question this aspect is to risk a defeat that a skilful captain would avoid. 4. What injury would be done if it were enacted that a debate could not be stopped unless, after the initiative had been taken by the Speaker, there was a majority of 2 to 1 in a House of not less than 300, or where the Motion was opposed by less than 40? It may be said that this would enable the Opposition to continue a debate in spite of the majority; but nobody has hinted that these Rules are to check the Opposition—they are to check Obstruction. The Opposition, whether Tory or Liberal, ought not to be denied the right of fullest criticism. 5. The Speaker would be much more likely to put the Rule in force if he knew it had the support of both sides. It is the interest of the House, and of the country, that he should on no occasion appear in the aspect of a partizan. The upshot of all this is this—that the 1st Rule is a proper subject for a conference between the Leaders of the two sides. This would be of especial advantage to the Liberals, as it would avoid the risk of a defeat. I do not believe the Government can carry the 1st Resolution in its present form. Their position would be not only awkward but ridiculous if they should be defeated on their chief Resolution. From that it would appear as if, on the 11th of February, the hon. Member was not under the painful consciousness of his own weakness and the strength of the influence which might be brought to bear upon him. It was, however, only a short time after the appearance of that letter that a communication was sent to the hon. Member from his Association at Plymouth, requesting him to support the Government; and he then wrote a very humble letter to Plymouth in reply, in which he declared that it was his intention to follow the Prime Minister. That is an admirable and instructive illustration. Here you have the true Liberal "before and after" the application of the screw; before the screw he uses the arguments of the Opposition in favour of free speech; after the screw he is the obedient servant and follower of the Government. The case of the hon. Member is a conspicuous instance in which the reluctant support of a follower of the Government has been brought to their side; and it is an explanation of the fact that, with all the pressure they have been able to exert in this way, they can only, in a House of 612 Members, get a practical majority of 13. Condemned by experience and by the sense of the House, condemned by the Speaker's example in framing his Rules, and condemned by the reluctant support of their supporters, the Government may achieve a triumph in the coming division; but they have failed to show that their proposal deserves the support of the House, or the approbation and the sympathy of the country.


said, he could assure the House that he had heard nothing on the subject of the Resolution from his constituents except a hope, proceeding not from a Caucus, but from independent voters, that it would receive his support. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth who spoke last (Mr. Edward Clarke) had referred to the causes of legislative inaction in the House, and especially to the question of bankruptcy, during the last Session. But the measure introduced by the hon. and learned Member himself was an incomplete one; and, there- fore, he (Mr. W. Fowler) thought his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was perfectly right in not allowing it to pass. There was no doubt, however, and he would freely admit it, that an abundant crop of legislation was expected when the present Government came into power; but the fulfilment of that expectation had never occurred. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had often twitted them with not having carried more measures, and it was quite true that some Bills had been "rushed through" the House, simply because there was no possibility of adequately discussing them. A vast amount of Business came before the House apart from legislation; and, as had been admitted by both sides of the House, that fact made it necessary that their Rules should be readjusted in order to meet a state of things which did not exist when they were framed. A good deal had been said with regard to this being a one sided debate; but he thought there had been a good deal of unfairness of another kind. The Prime Minister had been accused of advocating Home Rule in his speech yesterday; but the right hon. Gentleman had not said a single syllable about Home Rule in that speech. He had spoken about local government for Ireland, which was never intended to mean anything of the kind suggested. He (Mr. W. Fowler) was inclined to think that Conservative Members were far more afraid of this Rule than they had need to be, that their fears were extravagant and baseless, and that they were exceedingly alarmed at phantoms of their own creating, of which they could not rid themselves. For his own part, although he supported the Resolution, he would admit that he did not like clôture, and would rather have seen it done without, if it were possible. Indeed, if he thought freedom of speech were in danger, he would do everything in his power to defeat the Resolution. He did not believe that the anticipation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) would be realized, that Party feeling in the House would become more violent, and that there would be strong irritation on the part of silenced Members. There were in the present House a large number of silenced Members who never found an opportunity of speaking. Nor did he agree with, the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) that a Speaker would not venture to go against the majority. There were, moreover, so many opportunities of debate that there was no danger of any real interference with freedom of discussion. His only fear was that the Rule would be put in force very seldom, and that it would not effect so great a saving of time as was hoped and expected from it.


said, there were many reasons which prevented him from supporting the Motion for the adoption of the Resolution, although he did not believe that freedom of debate would be destroyed by it. The succeeding Resolutions were really aimed at that end more than the 1st, and would do more harm. The 1st Resolution, if carried, would, however, make the Government the sole arbiters of legislation, and would break down all the barriers of Opposition; that was why he disapproved the proposal. A change was involved subversive of the Constitution of the House and the country. The position of the Government was that the minority ought not to have a veto on legislation. But during the last 600 years the minority had always had the power of veto, and because that power had been a safeguard. It made the minority responsible for legislation as well as the majority. The effect of this Rule would be not to remove individual Obstruction, but to maintain the absolutism of an individual—not to secure the dignity of Parliament, but its sub-serviency. The privileges and powers of the House were not the property of the temporary Assembly of Gentlemen who formed the present Parliament. They were the property of the whole country. The House, it was argued, was represented by the majority, the majority by the Ministers, the Ministers by the Premier. He, and he alone, would, in future, represent the will of the British people. What ought he to be called? Certainly, "Optimus Maximus" must be among his titles. He had already made himself familiar—rather too familiar—with the constituencies at the last General Election; and it was well known that no gentleman could appear before the electors in the Liberal interest unless the mark of the right hon. Gentleman was upon his forehead. The way in which the majority were treated reminded him of the story of the visit paid by the late Dr. Cumming to the Pope. Dr. Cumming asked—"May I argue?" His Holiness replied—"No, you mustn't argue; but you may kiss ray toe." It was by resistance that Magna Charta was obtained, that the Bill of Eights was obtained, that the Hanoverian Succession was established, and that every one of their rights had been gained and retained. It was clearly the duty of the Opposition, if they supposed that hon. Members opposite were being coerced, or were acting from ignorance or stupidity, to resist the passing of these Rules of Procedure with all their power. That Resolution would be a death-blow to the moderation of the moderates among the Liberal Party, and to the responsibility of the Opposition. There would be an end of compromise, and they might as well eliminate charity from religion as eliminate compromise from the government of freemen.


said, he could assure the House that he, for one, had not been coerced to support the Government in opposition to his conscientious convictions. The Liberals were charged with voting for the clôture contrary to their wishes, and contrary to their convictions; and he had to frankly confess that, though he should vote for the clôture, he should do so with a certain amount of unwillingness, for he very much disliked the innovation. It went much against his wish, and against the wishes of the whole Liberal Party; but he felt there was no hope for it, if they wished to bring back the House of Commons to its original character as a Legislative Assembly. The change was absolutely necessary, for the House must have more control in the future over its own Business than it had at present. That was the chief reason which induced him to give his support to the 1st Resolution; for while he believed that its adoption would not have the slightest effect in preventing the fullest and fairest discussion, it would enable the House to perform its Business more effectively and rapidly. It was an honour to have a seat in that House; but the honour was dearly paid for by the pain of listening hour after hour, and day after day, to long and interminable speeches, which hindered the performance of work. It was impossible for anything to be more dreary, or even dispiriting, for many hon. Members spoke merely because they felt it necessary to say something. Among other things that had been referred to, mention had been made of the fact that the Colonial Legislatures in general had not adopted the clôture; but that was because they had never experienced anything like the persistent Obstruction that had been witnessed in that House during the last few Sessions. He believed that the proposed measure would prove very effectual in facilitating the conduct of Business in the House, and that was why he supported it.


said, that believing that the Resolution under discussion, and, indeed, all the Resolutions, were calculated to give the majority an unfair advantage over the minority, he wished to enter his protest against them. A minority had a right to delay, and to defeat by delay, any measure to which they objected. It was because that Resolution would interfere with the right of the minority to use the Forms of the House, which had been handed down to them by tradition, in order to delay a measure, that he would vote against it. He voted for the Rules of Urgency last Session, because they were temporarily required to meet an exceptional difficulty; but that was no reason why he should now support a more stringent Rule, which had the great disadvantage of being permanent. It was nothing short of hypocrisy for the Members of the Treasury Bench—he did not see any Member of the Government upon it at present—to talk about putting down Obstruction. Whenever there was any charge of Obstruction against the Members of the Treasury Bench, there was always one, and that was the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who got up and said that he never obstructed; but the President of the Board of Trade was the first and chief Obstructionist in that House. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman meant, when he said it was not Obstruction, that it was only a Brummagem kind of article. The present introduction of the clôture was compared to the Speaker's action in putting an end to the debate; but there was no real similarity between the cases. One was a temporary expedient, and the other intended to be permanent. The Prime Minister had been guilty of many inconsistencies in relation to these Resolutions. He had begun by saying that the "evident sense of the House" was to be the "general sense of the House;" and at last he had narrowed the expression down to the barest Party majority, so that the Resolution might be said to rest on false pretences. It was the irresponsible will of the Prime Minister that was forcing this measure through a reluctant House. Every argument had been answered, every fallacy exposed; but the imperious will of the Prime Minister they could not change. It was his (Mr. Warton's) candid opinion that the right hon. Gentleman would content himself with nothing short of being the Dictator of the country.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. O'Shea,)—put and agreed to.

Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.

House adjourned at five minutes before Twelve o'clock.