HC Deb 27 October 1882 vol 274 cc289-361

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Main Question, 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 De-hate, to be the evident sense of the House, or of the Committee, that the Question he now put, he may so inform the House or the Committee; and, if a Motion he made 'That the Question he 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 shall not be decided in the affirmative, if a Division he 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. And which Amendment was, To insert, after the word "House," the words "not being the Committee of Supply."—(Mr. Sclater-Booth.)

Question again proposed, That the words 'not being the Committee of Supply' be there inserted.

Debate resumed.


said, he desired to call the attention of the Speaker to some consequences of his ruling which appeared to have escaped his attention. The Amendment he had placed on the Paper was by no means the same as Rule 5. That gave the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees the power of silencing Members; but his Amendment placed the power in the hands of the House. In the second place, the Amendment was proposed not as an addition to the 1st Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, as was Rule 5, but it was proposed as an alternative, or, as a substitute for it. It was quite true that the 1st Resolution dealt with the question of clôture; but there was a difference between the clôture proposed by the Government and the clôture pro- posed by his Amendment. Many Members, while they did not yield to the Government in their desire to restore efficiency to the House, had said that the 1st Resolution, while it would prejudice seriously the liberties of the House, would not be effective in checking Obstruction, and it was only by some system of individual clôture that that object would be accomplished. If the ruling of the Speaker were to prevail, the unfortunate result would be that they would be precluded from taking the sense of the House on the question of individual clôture as a substitute for general clôture. At the beginning of the Session, when the Leader of the Opposition called attention to Amendments on the Paper and asked whether they would be shut out by the form of putting the Question, the Speaker said the Question was put in a particular form for the purpose of not shutting out other Amendments. He trusted the Speaker's ruling in this case would be modified by a consideration of the facts.


said, the question he rose to discuss was one of very serious importance to both sides of the House. That was the question of Committee of Supply. It was the peculiar Business of the House to go carefully into the Committee of Supply and see that the Votes were proper and right; and if he understood the argument of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) on the previous night, which was replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), the noble Marquess admitted that he had never known the Opposition pure and simple, as distinguished from the Third or any other Party, wilfully and knowingly obstruct Committee of Supply, and that he should think it was only a very small section of the House that had at any time obstructed Committee of Supply. This Obstruction to the Committee of Supply commenced about the year 1877. If he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) recollected right, the present Prime Minister having given up his position as Leader of the Opposition, was never at that time in the House. He was never there to raise his voice in support of the then Leader of the House, with a view to prevent the very same kind of Obstruction which he was now endeavour- ing to put down. If abuse could have been put down with a little firmer hand at the commencement by the then Leader of the House, and if the then Government had had the assistance of those now sitting on the Front Bench, which they never had, things would never have arrived at their present position. The fact was that some of the most flagrant cases of Obstruction were aided and abetted by three right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench. He ventured to say that when the Prime Minister aimed at putting an end to freedom of speech in Committee of Supply, he was doing the most mischievous thing which a Prime Minister had ever done in the House of Commons. Could the Government show that the Conservative Opposition had ever wilfully prevented the progress of debate with regard to any Bill or Vote of Supply? ["Oh, oh!" from the Ministerial Benches.] He should be glad if hon. Gentlemen opposite would follow him, and name the occasion on which the Conservative Opposition had wilfully obstructed the Business before the House. But there was something far more serious; the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had pointed out, in the pleasantest manner, what he intended to do with Committee of Supply. One of the main things he proposed to do was to take away Tuesdays from private Members and devote it to Committee of Supply. ["Oh, oh!"] He saw the Prime Minister shako his head; at all events, the right hon. Gentleman said he meant to take Morning Sittings on Tuesday much earlier than heretofore—perhaps in February, if the House would allow it, but certainly in March. Thus, if Members allowed it, they would have early Morning Sittings for Supply, and the clôture as well. What chance, he should like to know, would a private Member have of bringing forward a subject or a grievance on Tuesday evening after a Morning Sitting which had, perhaps, succeeded a late and exhaustive Sitting on the Monday night? After a late Sitting on Monday and a Day Sitting on Tuesday, the House would be counted out at 9 o'clock. That deserved the serious consideration of the House. The Prime Minister had pointed out a way in which Committee of Supply might be indefinitely obstructed by moving successive reductions of different amounts in the Votes, and there was nothing to prevent that being done; but he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) did not think that even the Irish Members below the Gangway would attempt to put those tactics in operation, if they were not provoked to do so by the application of the clôture. He had attended Supply as much as most Members, and ho unhesitatingly affirmed that the last portion of the 1st Rule would defeat the object of the Prime Minister. If ever there was a time when this subject should be carefully considered and discussed it was the present. There was, indeed, a way out of the difficulty; and it was strange that the Prime Minister, knowing the feelings of his own supporters on the subject, would not afford the House some indication whether he intended to give way in the slightest degree on the 1st Resolution. He hoped everyone had read the leading article in the leading journal of that morning. [Laughter on the Ministerial side.] It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh; but the leading journal placed the matter exactly as it stood. He was himself, he confessed, against the clôture in any form; but it was certainly a very different thing whether it was applied by a large majority of both sides of the House, or, as now proposed by the Government, by a majority of 1. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had refused to discuss this question, and had left the Government to flounder, as they did yesterday and the day before, stating different things at different times, and meaning different things at different times; but their supporters were quite willing to swallow anything the Government chose to offer them, absolutely forgetting that this was a question which ought not in any sense to be a Party question, but that it was one which involved the well-being of the nation as well as of that House, and that if they did not give careful consideration to everyone of the questions raised by these Resolutions, they were gravely neglecting their duty to their constituents. They had received warning from that discussion of what would happen, or might happen, if the clôture was in force. If a Prime Minister who had determined to pass a particular measure could command the silence of his followers, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed at present able to do, then there would be a one-sided debate. The Opposition would lay their views before the House without any rejoinder from the independent Members, whose duty it was to consider these momentous questions; and the result would be that it would be said that the "evident sense of that House" was in favour of terminating the debate, and the clôture would at once be applied. The House was now about to lay down that which would for years, and, perhaps, for generations, be the rule for their guidance, and that because some things had been done which would not have been tolerated in former days. They were going to sacrifice more than they could possibly gain. They were going to sacrifice that freedom of speech and that freedom of debate which the Speaker demanded in their names at the commencement of every Parliament, and which was asserted to be the right of every Englishman. It was particularly important that they should enjoy this freedom of speech during the proceedings in Committee of Supply; and it was his clear and decided opinion that if they did not exempt the proceedings in Committee of Supply from the operation of the clôture, they would be found to have done a most mischievous piece of work, unless the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would give way in reference to the majority by which the clôture was to be imposed.


said, that, as the hon. and gallant Member had made a personal charge against him, he wished at once, with the indulgence of the House, to meat it, though he would not now rectify what he had said on the subject of Committees, but would reserve to a future occasion his remarks on that subject. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had asserted that he never attended the House during the late Parliament to give any support to the proposals of the Government about Obstruction.


explained that he did not say that. ["Oh, oh!"] What he said was, that the right hon. Gentleman had given up his position as Leader of the Opposition, and that he had neglected to come down and support the then Leader of the House, and to discharge in his high position any of those onerous duties which he would have had to discharge as Leader of the Opposition.


said, that if that were the charge, he would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he did support distinctly the proposal of the late Government with regard to Obstruction. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman charged him with being a negligent attendant in the House during the last Parliament. Upon that he would only say one sentence, and that was that, when the hon. and gallant Member had sat for 45 years in that House, perhaps he would consider that he had a right to give himself a little relaxation.


said, he was sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should think that the Government would not endeavour to meet his argument. He claimed to repudiate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman had said—namely, that the present occupants of the Treasury Bench did not, when they sat on the other side of the House, assist the Government in resisting Obstruction. He himself sat up night after night doing all he could to assist them in resisting Obstruction when it first developed itself in the celebrated fight on the South African Bill, and also on the Army Discipline Bill. He then did his best to assist the Government in getting through the Business which he deemed essential to the welfare of the country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was extremely dissatisfied because hon. Members did not talk enough on the Ministerial side of the House. Let him consider arithmetically how the matter stood. Upon that side of the House he believed there were 10 speeches made on one Amendment on a single line. If that did not satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman, how many did he wish for? If he was not satisfied with 10 speeches on that side and 20 on the other, what was his opinion of the number of speeches that would be necessary for each Amendment? Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, "Your argument is a bad one." If that were the case, so much the better for the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who had twice as many arguments, which were twice as good as those of his opponents. Then there was the accusation that the independent Members on that side of the House had spoken, not in favour of the propositions of the Government, but against them. Again, he said, so much the better for the hon. and gallant Gen- tleman. Then the Hon. and gallant Member charged against them the worst thing of all—namely, the silence of the Irish Members. How in the world could the Government be responsible for that? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: The Kilmainham Treaty.] It seemed to him (Sir William Harcourt) that it was a very one-sided Treaty, for he found that in the remarkable division of last night the greater part of the supporters of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock were those very Irish Members. Therefore, the argument seemed to be that the Irish Members were to be silent in favour of the Government, and were to vote with hon. Gentlemen opposite. That was not an arrangement of which his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Shea) would have been proud. He (Sir William Harcourt) expected, though he had to speak delicately on a matter of which he knew nothing, that perhaps the Irish Members might be sitting in amused silence, astonishment, and admiration at finding that in the Conservative Party they had got their superiors in debate; and, perhaps, they wished the country to see that they could be excelled by others who understood the arts of debate better than themselves. He thought that that was a very obvious policy, and it might turn out to be a very wise one. He would now say a few words on the Amendment. If the clôture were good at all, it was, above all things, necessary in Committee of Supply. To prevent by Obstruction the passing of measures of legislation might, no doubt, cause injury to the nation. But Supply stood on a different ground. It was not only important; it was essential and vital. If Supply were stopped, the whole machinery for carrying on the Business of the State would be destroyed. Supply was the life-blood of the State. The Amendment took no notice of proportionate majorities. Obstruction in Committee of Supply would be absolutely unlimited and unrestrained on the part of a minority, however small. If they obstructed the Votes for the Army and Navy, what would become of the strength of the country? And if they stopped the Votes for the Civil Service, what would become of the police in England and Ireland, and all the machinery for the safety of the country? Supply must very often be passed by a particular day; but supposing there were a small minority who were determined to obstruct the Vote of men for the Army, how long could they go on? Why, as long as they liked, and their Obstruction could only be put an end to by a coup d'état. In the case of a great emergency, on which a Vote of Credit was required, in the present state of things an extremely small minority might indefinitely postpone the Vote, and bring the country into imminent peril. There was an extraordinary inconsistency in the proposal that in the Whole House a debate should be summarily closed and a decision arrived at for the carrying out of which a Vote of Supply should be absolutely necessary, while in Committee of Supply a small minority might prevail over the voice of a majority and prevent the execution of the policy which had previously been determined upon by the application of the clôture. It was in Committee of Supply, above all, that Obstruction was to be feared. Wilful and malignant Obstruction was far more injurious there than in any other part of the Business of the House. A Bill might be lost owing to Obstruction, but it might be brought in again. But the loss of Supply could not be repaired. It was monstrous that the purse-strings, which were held by the House of Commons, should, as they would be if that Amendment were carried, be placed under the control of a minority which chose to abuse its power. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: Getting the money in is the first thing.] But the right hon. Gentleman opposite had had experience of the enormous importance of the question of giving the money out. The Parliamentary phrase for keeping in the money was "Stopping the Supplies;" and it had always been considered a very strong thing, even for a majority, to stop the Supplies. What would be the case if such a power was given to—say, 20 Members? The argument might be stated in another way. A minority might desire to stop a Government Bill. Obstruction during the debates in the House would be put down by the clôture. But the same object would be attained by indefinitely prolonging the debates in Committee of Supply, so that the Government should have no time left for its Bills. The Amendment was like locking the back door and leaving the front door wide open. It was perfectly impossible to make an improvement in the transaction of the Business of the House unless an effectual restraint upon Obstruction were applied in Committee of Supply; and all the objects of Obstruction could be accomplished in Supply in a manner far more injurious to the public interest than in the House itself.


said, that he had never heard an argument more boldly and skilfully stated for depriving the House of Commons of the power and the duty to carefully consider the proposals of the Government with regard to that question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of keeping the money in. It was not the duty, nor was it in the power, of the Opposition or any minority to propose the expenditure of public money. But it was precisely the duty of Parliament, and of the Opposition in particular, to criticize with the greatest possible care the Government proposals for the expenditure of public money. The question was whether there was any present necessity, from what had passed during the last two or three years, for a change in the nature of a grave limitation of the liberty and power of the House of Commons to discuss Supply. What had occurred last year? The Secretary of State for War came down at 1 A.M., and asked for a Vote which he said was of the highest importance to the Public Service. The Vote was given. The present Irish Secretary had asked for Votes in a precisely similar way, and had got them; and on no occasion did he remember, after a considerable experience, that a Vote had ever been refused or delayed if it was shown that that Vote was necessary for the Public Service. No doubt, there had been delay and Obstruction; but he had come deliberately to the conclusion that, on the whole, it was a saving of time to bear patiently with occasional Obstruction, when that Obstruction did not bring itself within the Rules which many of the Opposition were prepared to enact as against those who made use of the Forms of the House with a view to obstruct Business of all kinds, and to bring the House itself into contempt—men who were rebels against the system of government under which we lived. Such were the men who were to be dealt with under the Rules. But it would be most inexpedient, and would tend to the waste rather than the saving of time, to repress men having strong opinions with regard to a particular policy of the Government, but who had no such motives, merely on the ground that they were guilty of repetition and prolixity, and because their arguments became, perhaps, intolerable, and the loss of time a serious injury to Gentlemen who sat on the Government Benches. What had been the experience of the last seven or eight years? There had been Obstruction. But Obstruction, like a fire, burnt itself out. But the real Obstruction had been in Public Business, which had prevented Supply from being put on the Paper early in the Session. It was certainly the case that less time had been occupied in the consideration of Supply during the last two Sessions than at any former period within his experience of 14 years of that House. Was this, then, the time to take away opportunities from Members of considering Votes in Supply? He could not imagine anything more likely to increase delay than the operation of that Rule. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had taken the illustration of a Vote of Credit, upon which might depend peace or war.


explained that what he said was that after the question of peace or war had been decided in the House, there might he Obstruction by a small minority.


said, that, no doubt, such a thing might occur; but he should like to know whether anything of the kind had ever occurred? He thought they ought to legislate from the experience of what had happened, and from what they believed to be necessary to meet the circumstances of the case at the present time. He believed that the proposal before them was totally unnecessary. Instead of discouraging discussion in Supply, it was the duty of the Government to encourage it. He believed that the Secretary to the Treasury would far better discharge his duty if there were more discussion than there had been. In his opinion, the result of checking these discussions would lead to a larger waste of public time than was at present the case. If a discussion was closed on one Vote it would provoke retaliation on others, for it was not in human nature that men should have their mouths closed without finding some other opportunity to bring forward their grievances. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India referred, during the previous Evening Sitting, to a case where his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had occupied the Chair until 7 o'clock in the morning, when the House was counted out. Perhaps, if an appeal had been made to the good sense of the House, a better result might have been produced. But what would the clôre have done in that case? Was it to be supposed that at any time there were 100 Members present? The occasions on which that number of Members was present in Committee of Supply were exceedingly rare; and, therefore, this Rule could only be put into operation by sending out for Members, who would have to come in and vote on a question the discussion of which they had not heard. Any procedure of that sort would be a scandal. He still felt that the old ways were better than the proposed new ones, and that personal influence and authority and appeals to the good sense and responsibility of Members would tend much more to facilitate the discharge of Public Business than an attempt to enforce a law which, because it was a law, would have excluded from its operation everything which did not come strictly within it.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman concluded his remarks by referring to the good sense and good feeling of the House in these cases. But surely the right hon. Gentleman must remember the frequent occasions on which appeals after appeals had been made by both Front Benches and many independent Members, without any effect whatever having been produced. There was one fallacy which seemed to underlie the argument of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Conservative Party—namely, that the intended or actual operation of the proposed Rule was to stifle and prevent discussion. That, he need hardly say, was not the case. The evil they had to deal with was this. It was not that there was not ample discussion, but there was exaggerated discussion on minor points, so that really important matters were neglected. Frequently in Supply a lengthened debate took place on the 1st or 2nd Vote, and the remaining Votes were passed, without discussion. He was disposed to think that Secretaries of State for War and other Ministers were not thoroughly displeased with that proceeding; but it was obvious that in such cases many Votes were passed over that ought to be discussed. He believed that the effect of the Rule would be that there would be a more equal distribution of discussion over important subjects, and that protracted and wearying discussion on minor points would be avoided. The Conservative Party could not think that the Liberal Party were likely to stifle discussion in voting public money. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.] Under the excitement of the moment, it was possible that hon. Gentlemen opposite might work themselves up to that belief; but it seemed to him absolutely incredible that the bulk of the Liberal Party would allow Votes to be taken without discussion. [An hon. MEMBER: Last Session.] If it was done last Session it was because the Government and the majority were driven into such a corner by Obstruction that it was impossible for them to escape. The object of the Rule was clearly not to stifle discussion, but rather to encourage fair and proper discussion of the different Votes. He believed that if the closing power were not applied to Committee of Supply, the effect would be that the whole of the Obstruction would be concentrated upon those Committees.


said, the right hon. Gentleman asked whether they really could be of opinion that the Liberal Party would ever interfere so as to stifle discussion on the expenditure of public money. He hardly ventured to stand up and say what the Liberal Party were capable of, or what they were not capable of; but, so far as his own experience went, he was inclined to say that the question must be answered with reference to the side of the House on which the Liberal Party were, for the time being, seated. It was certain that some distinguished Members of the Liberal Party—notably the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands)—when they sat upon the Opposition Benches, had criticized with much severity the Estimates of the Conservative Government; and they ought, when they sat, as they now did, upon the Ministerial Benches, to be criticizing the Estimates of a Liberal Government, though they failed to do so. He could quite understand that the Members of the Liberal Party drew a distinction, satisfactory enough perhaps to themselves, between the Estimates of the one Government and of the other. They would say, perhaps, that when a Conservative Government proposed pernicious measures, their Estimates ought to be severely criticized; but that when a Liberal Government was in power, everything was sound and right, and that there was no necessity for them to exercise the powers of criticism which they had so freely exercised when that Party was in Opposition. Indeed, the line taken up by the Liberal Members on this point reminded him of what was said of the Highlanders in an amusing sketch of the Highlands that had been recently published, that whenever any accident happened to others they called it a judgment, but that whenever it happened to themselves they called it a trial. Thus, whenever any expenditure was proposed by a Conservative Government it was characterized as monstrousextravagance, but when a much higher expenditure was proposed by a Liberal Government it was described as judicious and praiseworthy. Therefore, it was impossible, with regard to such matters, to place implicit reliance upon the instincts of the Liberal Party even as it existed now, and still less could they trust to that Party as it might be constituted in the future. The late Mr. Hume, whose name was still highly honoured in that House and would be regarded with respect by the Prime Minister, would have been unable to have continued his valuable efforts in favour of economy if the provisions of this Rule had been enforced against him by an impatient majority, and it must be recollected that the results of his efforts were felt not so much in that House as throughout the country. Under the provisions of this Rule, however, the country might be precluded by the majority from hearing arguments which, if uttered, might have a most important effect upon the national mind. He must remind the House that these Rules would give the Ministry who possessed a majority in that House an enormous advantage over their Predecessors in bringing forward their Estimates. Thus they would be able to go into Supply without being delayed by previous Motions, continued Motions to report Progress would be prevented, and precautions would be taken against Obstruction. Surely the Liberal Party ought to be content with achieving such advantages as those without seeking to prevent free discussion in Committee of Supply. He had certainly been surprised—although people were ceasing to be surprised at many things now—at the action of the Government in this matter; and until he had seen the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) actually walk into the other Lobby he should still trust that this Amendment would have his support.


said, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that the Liberal Party were perfectly aware that these Rules might be used against them whenever they were in the minority, and that they were not so short-sighted as to propose Rules as applicable to others which they were not prepared to abide by cheerfully when they were applied to themselves. Reference had been made to Mr. Hume, but Mr. Hume was a friend to economy in days when economy was less popular than now. He (Mr. Dodson) did not say that economy was exceedingly popular in these days. Mr. Hume fought an up-hill battle in its favour, and fought it with firmness, courage, and pertinacity, no doubt; but neither he individually, nor yet the small body with whom he acted, had ever carried on the fight by means of that system of Obstruction which the House had witnessed in recent years. There was a marked and sensible difference between bonâ fide resistance, however protracted, obstinate, and pertinacious it might be, to a measure or a Vote, as long as it was carried on with a reasonable hope of amending the proposal, of convincing opponents, or even of making a sufficient protest in the face of the House and of the country, and resistance which was carried on after all such hope was extinguished, merely for the purpose of delay, of annoyance, or of self-display. It was against Obstruction of the latter kind that these Rules were framed. The present Rule provided that after a subject had been adequately discussed the House should not be prevented from coming to a decision in regard to it, and the necessity for arriving at a practical conclusion with regard to a subject was just as clear in the case of Committee of Supply as it was in that of any other Committee or Sitting of the House. By a subsequent Rule the Government had provided the greatest possible opportunity for discussion in Committee of Supply, because they had proposed that the House should be able to go into Committee of Supply without being stopped by antecedent Motions. It had been said that the Rule would not be efficacious for its purpose. If so, it could not be so dangerous as hon. Gentlemen supposed; and as to the argument that accepting it would be laying down a Rule which would be binding, and making a precedent which could not be reversed, the real fact was that it was nothing more than a Resolution adopted by the House of Commons, and only binding within these four walls; it was not even an Act of Parliament the repeal of which would require the assent of the other Branch of the Legislature. If, therefore, it was found to be abused, to require amendment or repeal, nothing more was required than another Resolution of the House. Under these circumstances, he trusted that the House would not be prepared to accept the Amendment, which would weaken the Rule by taking the check away in Committee of Supply, where it was so legitimately necessary.


said, he had heard with a good deal of astonishment the question of the Estimates argued simply as if it were a question of the "ins" and "outs" of Party, losing sight of the fact that it was the country which was interested in the due discussion of the Estimates that were laid before the House. Suggesting that it would be the turn of the Conservatives at some time to be in power was a very inadequate and low way of looking at the matter. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and many speakers had said that the Rule was aimed at Obstruction; but he failed to find any internal evidence in the Rule itself to support that assertion. As a matter of fact, it would put an end to all discussion by a bare majority; and private Members must recollect that such a Rule would bear far more hardly upon them than upon official Members of the House. If the Prime Minister really aimed at putting down Obstruction, he should consent to accept the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), which would effectually dispose of anything of that character. He confessed there was much in the speech of the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) with which he agreed, for he had seen very considerable Obstruction in Committee of Supply; such, for instance, as, on one occasion in the last Parliament, of a night being devoted to the question whether a charwoman in a public office should have 2s. 6d. or 2s. 9d. a-day. Due discussion of the general Estimates might be and had been interfered with by prolonged debates on such trivialities. That was the opinion, he was sure, of everyone on the Conservative Benches. The only difference, therefore, between the two sides of the House was how such Obstruction should be put an end to. He regretted that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), which would have dealt with the difficulty as an alternative measure to the proposal then before the House, had been ruled out of Order. If his hon. Friend was not permitted to propose his Amendment, he would be debarred altogether; and, therefore, it was to be hoped that the decision of the Speaker would be reconsidered. While acknowledging the Obstruction, the Conservative Party appealed to the Government to take care that in remedying one evil they did not create another and far greater evil—that of closing discussion by a mere majority. That Rule would be especially liable to abuse in a most important class of Business in which, as a rule, few Members took part—he referred to the Business in Committee of Supply. If free discussion was to be precluded by the bare majority Rule, the confidence of the constituencies in the discharge of their duties by Members of Parliament would be greatly shaken. He was surprised that right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not see the matter in that light, or understand how they would throw discredit on the financial arrangements of the Government. Late in the day as it was, he would even now venture to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government to reconsider his decision and consent to abandon clôture by a bare majority; and he would also appeal to hon. Members opposite to break the silence they had maintained and avow their disapprobation of it.


said, he was quite willing to accept the challenge of hon. Gentlemen opposite; and, although he thought enough had been heard on the subject, he would ask leave to intervene for two or three minutes before the division, which he hoped would soon take place. Members who, like himself, sat behind the Ministry had been twitted with their silence, and their silence had been misunderstood. He would tell hon. Members opposite the reason of their silence. They had been silent, because the issues of this whole matter were so distinct and so plain, and because the necessity for the clôture was so obvious to all who had sat in the House only for the last three years as he had. For example, what could be plainer than the issue just raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith)? He stated that there was no necessity for the clôture in Committee of Supply. Did an argument such as that really require a serious answer? Supposing there was clôture in the other Departments of the Business of Parliament, what would become of Supply? Why, the floodgates of Obstruction would be opened upon Supply? The most important portion of all the Business of the House would be subject to the greatest amount of Obstruction. If there was any part of the Business of Parliament in which there ought to be clôture, it was in Committee of Supply, and for two special I reasons—first of all, because that was the occasion, above all others, when persistent Obstruction could do the most serious damage to the nation at large; and, secondly, because that was the very occasion when the Chairman would be most unlikely to feel bias of any sort or kind. It was becoming clearer, as these debates proceeded, that the central point on which the discussions had been focussing themselves was this—the amount of confidence and trust which they could place in the presiding authority of the House. It was among the Opposition that mistrust of the Speaker and the Chairman had been shown, and not upon the Liberal side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), in introducing this Amendment, argued that the initiation of the clôture should not be allowed to the Chairman of Ways and Means; because, with the aid of the Government of the day, "money might be extorted thereby." He copied these words down as they were spoken. He begged the House to mark the indirect insult to every independent Member of the House. No one, except a Member of the House and a Representative of the people, could be Chairman of Committees. [Mr. WARTON: Hear, hear!] Did the hon. and learned Gentleman believe that there could be imagined a Government so base, or that there could breathe in the House a man with heart so base as to be guilty of such portentous perfidy? Hon. Members opposite had a far worse opinion of the individual honour of their fellow-Representatives in that House than he (Mr. Borlase) had. Outside those walls hon. Members of that House, in virtue of their position, were often called on to preside at public meetings. Was their fairness then called in question? The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had alluded to the present Chairman of Committees in terms which must have been most painful to all who heard him. What would the hon. and gallant Member's conduct have been had he occupied the Chair? Would his temper have been equal to the occasion? He (Mr. Borlase) thought not, if the hon. and gallant Baronet's recent speeches supplied any indication. The hon. and gallant Baronet said there was no Obstruction on his side of the House. If that were so, there must be another split on the other side, and the hon. and gallant Baronet must have disowned "the Fourth Party." He (Mr. Borlase) never could forget that, during his first Session, it was "the Fourth Party," under the Leadership of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), which was most engaged in the manipulation of the tactics of Obstruction, which had done so much to render this measure necessary. ["Oh, oh!"] He believed the measure was necessary, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be able to pass it in its entirety. If there was one thing more than another he would say about these Rules—if there was one objection he had to them—it was that they were not strong enough. He believed that that was the best measure that could at the present moment be devised, although he only wished he thought it would have any real effect in stopping Obstruction, which he candidly told the House he believed to be an impossible task.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, referring to him, had stated that he should be much surprised to see him walk through the Lobby against the Amendment. The reasons why he should certainly do so were very simple. He having watched the course of Supply for many years, when both Parties were in power, was impressed with the necessity of adequately discussing the Estimates. As things were, the most trifling matters were often discussed at inordinate length in order to secure the postponement of more important questions; and the result was that Votes of the utmost consequence were frequently passed without debate at the end of the Session. He believed that if the power was granted that was now asked for such waste of time for the purposes of Obstruction could be prevented, and a more full discussion of the whole of the Estimates could be secured.


said, some allusion had been made to the silence which had been observed by the Irish Members during this discussion. On that side of the House it was accounted for by the supposed existence of a mysterious Treaty between the Irish Party and the Government, and the explanation given of it from the other side was not much better. To his mind the silence of the Irish Members was to be accounted for by the fact that they looked with a mixed feeling of indifference and amusement upon the debates in which the House was now engaged. Their indifference proceeded from the confidence that though the New Rules were evidently aimed at the Irish Party, they would not succeed in suppressing its Parliamentary energy and influence. But the feeling of amusement was still stronger, because of the spectacle of the Liberal Party attacking freedom of debate and the Conservative Party endeavouring to uphold it. He had endeavoured to recognize the fact that the Rules were aimed against the Irish Members. He believed that was not denied; but he did not think the Irish Members need have the least apprehension of the result. He believed, in spite of any Rules they might make, the Irish Members would always find it possible to discuss adequately all matters in which they were interested, though to deal with Obstruction they did not need Rules at all. It had been proved already that when Obstruction was carried on in the House, it could be dealt with without any Rules at all. He would endeavour to look at the matter, not from an Irish, but from an impartial point of view. If he looked at the matter from an Irish point of view, he could hardly be partial when he said that the Rules were aimed at his Colleagues. There were two things which were aimed at in the original Resolution. Not only would it strike against Obstruction, but it would strike against persistent and legitimate criticism. The late Mr. Hume was never guilty of Obstruction; and yet his mouth would have been closed if such a Rule as the one under discussion were in force in his time. There was a difference between legitimate persistent criticism and Obstruction. As soon as persistent and legitimate criticism passed into wilful Obstruction, then the House was able to deal with it by a power which had been exercised more than once by the Chairman of Committees and the Speaker to summarily suppress any individual or bodies of individuals who were guilty of the offence. The paper of clôture which was now contended for in Supply could only be required in order to put an end to criticism which, though it was not obstructive, was inconvenient to the Minister in charge of the Estimates. The President of the Local Government Board had said that if the Rules were unjust the Ministers now in Office would suffer when they got into Opposition. But he did not think that was the idea that hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House had. They believed that with the assistance of the clôture Rules they would be able to pass the franchise measure, and thus obtain a permanency of Office. There was nothing so good as discussion of the Estimates. In every Department of the administration of Irish affairs it was admitted that there was abuse at the present moment. How were the Irish Members to bring home to the Legislature and the country those grievances if not by continued discussion? He regarded the Rules they were about to make with indifference. For himself and his Colleagues he could say that they intended to support this and every other Amendment which sought to curtail the monstrous and tyrannical powers the Government were about to confer on the Chair- man of Committee of Supply. There was no means whereby the Irish Representatives could bring home to the House the grievances of their country so effectual as the discussion of the Estimates. He was not so dishonest as to pretend that he supported this Amendment out of a desire to support the dignity of the House or the Chairman of Committees. He had no such feeling in his heart. The feeling there was very different, and although it was not strong enough, to induce him to vote against the Amendment, still he could not help saying that he felt no little satisfaction at finding that, in attempting to strike at the Irish Members and Irish representation in that House, they were obliged to strike down those Privileges which had been the proudest boast of the British Constitution.


said, if he thought the Government were going to accept the two-thirds' majority, he should feel bound to vote for the Amendment of the right; hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), because then the surest guarantee for the minority would at once and for ever be gone; but, assuming that they adhered to their proposal as to a bare majority, he could not support the Amendment. They were all aware, as a matter of fact, that there was but a very limited number of Members who took part in discussions in Supply; and the Amendment to which he had referred would, if there were 60 Members present in Committee, enable 40 to close the mouths of the other 20. But under the Rule, as proposed by the Government, small minorities in Supply had an amount of security guaranteed to them which would practically render it impossible for the clôture to be put in force against them, except in case of persistent Obstruction. There was no part of the duties of the House discharged in a more mechanical manner than the voting of Supply, and none in which a mechanical majority would have greater force. Therefore, the guarantee of the Government that where there were fewer than 40 Members there should be 100 on the other side, and where there were more than 40 there should be 200 on the other side, before the discussion could be closed, was a good one. As for the objection that Liberal Members did not discuss Votes in Supply when a Liberal Government was in Office, the fact was that of late years the House had practically been denuded of its functions of Supply. That Votes taken in Supply might be challenged on Report, and that when the Appropriation Bill was passing through Committee any Member might move to strike out any item in the Schedule, were additional guarantees so far as Supply was concerned. He could not see why Committee of Supply should be left as a sort of Land of Goshen for Obstructionists. The result of exempting Committees of Supply from the operation of the Resolution would be that all the forces of Obstruction would be concentrated in such Committees. For the reasons which he had given, he should vote against the Amendment.


said, he did not think that the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) was right in attributing wholly to Obstruction the fact that Supply came on for consideration so late during the present Session. His right hon. Friend would recollect that, during the time he was First Lord of the Admiralty, Supply was often very late owing to the legislative measures of the Government. It had been pointed out that Chairmen of Ways and Means were Gentlemen who looked for promotion to the Party in power; but he (Mr. R. N. Fowler) wished to remark that, in addition to dependence on the Members of their Party, they were peculiarly dependent on the constituencies, as they generally held uncertain seats. The three last Chairmen had all lost their seats. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) sat for East Sussex when he filled the Chair. He then removed to Chester, and, finally, owing to circumstances with which the House was familiar, had to take refuge at Scarborough. He was preceded by a very courteous Gentleman (Mr. Bon-ham-Carter), who lost his seat for Winchester, and disappeared from the scene. His right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Raikes) had been driven from Chester by Liberal corruption. He would cordially support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth).


said, that although the Committee of Supply was usually conducted with a small attendance of Members, yet there was nothing to prevent an unscrupulous Minister bringing in a large number of Members and applying the clôture. He hoped the Government would consent to mate separate arrangements for the control of Committees. They would then know whether the right of independent Members to criticize Votes in Supply was to be maintained in its integrity.


said, it was but a few months since the Conservative Party in that House gave their aid and assistance to the Government to pass a Coercion Bill for Ireland. It had come to their turn to have a little coercion applied to themselves now, and they did not seem to like it. They believed that the honour and dignity of Parliament were involved in this matter, and that if these Rules were passed the prestige and position of that ancient Assembly would be lowered. In that contention he entirely agreed. The Home Secretary, in defending this new arrangement, drew an alarming picture of the perils to the Constitution and to the Legislature that were possible under the existing state of things. No one saw better than the Home Secretary the absurdity of that argument, because if they examined the whole scheme of the British Constitution they could discover unnumbered possibilities of danger and peril under it; but it did not follow that these were to occur. They were asked to trust to the impartiality of future Speakers and Chairmen of Committees; but the British Constitution went on the very opposite principle, and he certainly should object to trust to the impartiality of any Chairman or any Minister. A powerful and unscrupulous Prime Minister was one of the possibilities of the future, and one day he might make the House regret that they placed in the hands of one man the power of stifling discussion and destroying liberty. The House would yet regret this work, and in its day of degradation it would have but the poor consolation of remembering that— 'T was self-abasement paved the way To villain bonds and despot sway.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 166: Majority 64.—(Div. List, No. 349.)


said, he rose to move an Amendment to the proposed 1st Resolution of the Prime Minister by adding, after the word "Debate," the words "not being a Debate on Privilege or the Business of the House." His main object was to prevent the application of the gag, supposing it to be adopted, to the discussion, in the first place, of the remaining Rules dealing with the Business of the House; and, secondly, of debates upon Privilege. He thought it would be extremely dangerous for the House, when approaching discussions of such importance, to have the "evident sense of the House" manufactured by Her Majesty's Government at any opportune or inopportune moment. Powers of this description should not be intrusted to any Ministry, whether Liberal or Conservative. Suppose a question of Privilege should arise with regard to the introduction of a Member whom the majority considered to be disqualified, but who happened to be a favourite of the Liberal Party, and suppose the Ministry had the power of cutting short a debate, then, when they had their numbers fully arrayed, they might snatch a vote from the majority unawares, and thus a false vote would be obtained. Not long since a four-line Whip was sent out for the Government ostensibly for the purpose of summoning Members to consider the Lords appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the Land Act, when in reality it was intended to be used to secure support in the Bradlaugh debate; and in that case if the clôture had existed the consequences would have been very serious. Again, the proposed innovation of Grand Committees was one which required to be very carefully and thoroughly discussed; and it should be remembered that they had not yet before them even the substance of the Ministerial proposals in regard to those Committees, which might be "packed" by the Whips. He objected to any Government, whether composed of Liberals or Conservatives, applying the clôture to an innovation of that character. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In line 3, after the word "Debate," to insert the words "not being a Debate on Privilege, or the Business of the House."—(Mr. O'Donnell.)

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


said, he would not answer the speech of the hon. Gentleman at any length, because it consisted of a resort to his usual method of describing in the most offensive language the actions of those who differed from him, and imputing to them motives of fraud and dishonourable conduct.


I rise to Order. I imputed no motives of fraud or dishonourable conduct to the actual Ministry, but applied what I said generally to any Ministry, whether Liberal or Conservative.


said, that was not a point of Order. The hon. Member had employed his usual tactics, and had risen to a point of Order where he only desired to contradict. He had no doubt the hon. Member believed he had risen to Order, or what he believed to be Order. He (Mr. Gladstone) had not referred to that portion of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but to his cool reference to the noble Lord the Member for Flintshire (Lord Richard Grosvenor), who, he said, had untruly inserted in his four-line Whip one motive for calling the House together when his real motive was to bring them together for another purpose. He would, however, deal with the Amendment on its merits, and without reference to the speech which introduced it. The House had already determined that it would not except from the proposed Rule the Business of Supply, which undoubtedly touched the most important privilege of the people—namely, that taxes should not be laid on them without the fullest opportunity for discussion. He contended that the fullest opportunity for all reasonable discussion would be preserved unimpaired under that Rule; and, that being so, the House could not consistently exclude from the operation of the Rule discussions on Privilege or on the Business of the House. There was no greater difficulty in regard to debates on Privilege and on the Business of the House than in regard to other debates, and there was no ground for establishing any such special distinction in respect to them as that which the hon. Member sought to draw. He must, therefore, meet the Amendment with a direct negative.


said, he did not know the exact meaning that would be attributed to the words "Privilege" and "Business of the House" in connection with the consideration of the remainder of the Rules on the Paper; but he thought it of great importance that the House should be given clearly to understand whether or not the 1st Resolution, if passed, and immediately it was passed, would be made to apply to the discussion of the remaining Resolutions. He thought it very advisable that they should insure for these discussions the most perfect freedom of debate. He did not know whether the Prime Minister had been discussing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) with reference only to the effect of the Resolution on future debates, or whether he had present to his mind the point which he (Mr. Gibson) had present to his, and whether he thought the Rule under discussion would, as soon as it was passed, become applicable to the remaining Resolutions as to the Procedure of that House. If this was meant, it was, of course, for the right hon. Gentleman to give effect to that view; but this was certainly a view in which he (Mr. Gibson) could not agree, and which he should feel bound to contest. He therefore hoped the Prime Minister would state exactly what was the view he held on this matter.


, interposing, said, that was a matter on which it was no part of his duty or that of the Government to come to any special conclusion. He believed that, according to the general Rules of the House, a Resolution, when arrived at, took special effect. He did not believe that if that Resolution took special effect it would have any influence at all on the subsequent Resolutions; but it would be open to the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, if he pleased, to raise any discussion as to the time when that Resolution would take effect.


said, he held that this was a point of very considerable importance. The distinction pointed out last night by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) between proceeding by Resolution and proceeding by Bill was worthy of their attention. In dealing with matters by Bill they had repeated opportunities of discussion, and if mistakes were made they could be corrected; but, in the case of Resolutions, they had only one opportunity of considering them, and they must speak on them once for all. He must, therefore, enter a grave protest against that 1st New Rule passing in a shape that would enable it to be applied so as to fetter the absolute freedom which they ought to enjoy in the discussion of the remaining Resolutions. He should have been extremely glad if the Prime Minister had made it clear that it was the intention of the Government that, whatever might be the case hereafter, at any rate during the present Autumn Sitting, while these Rules of Procedure were being debated, hon. Members should have the same freedom that appertained to them in other matters. He hoped, therefore, that, before the debate on the Amendment closed, something would be said that would clear up the matter.


said, he might remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there would be another opportunity for discussion when the Question was put that the Resolutions be made Standing Orders of the House. Unless that were agreed to, the Rules would be absolutely futile, as they would have no effect except for this Session.


said, the point was to prevent them being put into operation this Session.


said, the Prime Minister had urged the inconvenience of moving an Amendment of a temporary character to a Rule which was to be permanent. He wished, therefore, to ask when such an Amendment could be moved. He understood that it would take effect as soon as it was carried, and that, therefore, there would be no opportunity of raising the question except in the form of an Amendment. What he wanted to know was, when the Motion would be brought forward to make the Resolutions Standing Orders? Would it be made at the close of the whole series?


said, that when the Motion was made that the Resolutions should be Standing Orders, it would be open to any hon. Member to raise the question whether they should come into operation in the present Session.


asked when that Motion would be made? It would seem to come naturally when all the proposed Rules had been considered. They wished to exclude the consideration of the remaining Rules from the operation of the 1st Rule. One good reason for raising this point was found in the attitude displayed on the Ministerial side of the House, from which, over and over again, cries of "Divide!" had come in the course of these discussions. If that conduct were repeated during the consideration of the subsequent Rules, they would, perhaps, be taken as the evident sense of the House, and the clôture could then be applied. The importance of the remaining Rules could not be overestimated; and there ought to be a distinct understanding that, at all events, the House should be allowed to discuss them, without any fear of the application of the clôture.


said, he did not think there was any ground for saying that any unusual haste had been manifested on the Ministerial side of the House; and he was not aware that the supporters of the Government had in any way tried to force on divisions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) said that Members could only speak once on these Resolutions; but he had himself spoken six or seven times in the last few days, and in that time there had been about 100 speeches in all against the clôture. With regard to the 1st Rule, he did not think that there was the smallest chance of its being applied to the discussion of the remainder. From the point of view of the Government it could not be applied if a Rule had not been adequately discussed. As the Government did not believe the Rule would in any case prevent adequate discussion, they could not acquiesce in the exemption from it of a particular class of Business. To make that admission would be absolutely fatal to all their arguments.


said, that the New Rules were either disconnected suggestions for the improvement of Procedure, or were a consistent and regular Code. If they were a consistent and regular Code, it would be inconsistent and incongruous, and against the precedent of all civilized and intellectual Business, that the ancient state of things should cease till the new state of things was completely and fully cast into its final shape. If the 1st Rule were to be applied to the discussion of the remainder, and any row or wrangle occurred, the new system would be brought into disrepute. He hoped that the Government would, out of regard to their own credit and the popularity of their proposal, accept so reasonable an Amendment.


said, he thought the House had a claim to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Head of the Government fairly to indicate what course the Government purposed pursuing. It appeared, however, that the point whether the Rule was to be applied immediately it was carried had not yet been considered by the Government. The Prime Minister now, however, appeared to indicate, by way of interjection, that he was prepared to propose that Resolution No. 1, as soon as carried, should be made a Standing Order of the House.


said, he intimated that there would be no difficulty in raising the question immediately on the passing of the 1st Resolution.


wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that he would move that the 1st Resolution should be made a Standing Order of the House? He thought that, before they considered any Amendment dealing with this matter, they ought to be clearly informed as to the views of the Government respecting it. He thought the House had some right to complain about being left in the dark.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 93: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 350.)

Amendment proposed, In line 3, to leave out the words "to be," in order to insert the words "that the subject has been adequately discussed, and that it is,"—(Mr. Storey,)

—instead thereof.

Question, "That the words 'to be' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the words 'that the subject has been adequately discussed, and that it is,' be there inserted."


said, he was glad that the Government had accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), and he proposed to add words which he looked upon as the necessary consequence of the adoption of that Amendment, He would move to add, in line 3, the words "and that the discussion is being prolonged for purposes of Obstruction." If the Amendment were accepted, he should propose a subsequent one, which would make the Resolution read thus— That when it should appear to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of Ways and Means in Committee of the Whole House, during any Debate, that the subject has been adequately discussed, and that the discussion is being prolonged for the purposes of Obstruction, he may so inform the House or the Committee," &c. He thought the opinion of the House was fairly expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), who said that he believed no one would vote for a Resolution which would stifle discussion. It would be observed, on reference to the Resolution, that the ruling factor of it was "the evident sense of the House;" but there was no attempt at defining that term. The evident sense of the House could only be expressed by noise or interruption; and, as a majority of 1 in a large House could close the debate, the Speaker would inevitably become the instrument of the noisiest and most intolerable Members of a majority of 1. It was on the assumption that the Speaker was a judicial authority that that power was to be vested in him; but if the Resolution remained unchanged, he ventured to say that in future years a serious complaint would be made against some Speaker that he had not immediately taken notice of the noise of the majority, because, when the Resolution was passed, a Speaker who refused to do that would be depriving the majority of their legal right of silencing the minority. They would probably be told that that was a strained construction to put on the Resolution; but it must be remembered that a Resolution when passed was interpreted very much according to the Parliamentary exigencies of the moment. He remembered the opposition to the Resolution of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon in 1880. Did anyone suppose, at the time of its passing, that under cover of it 15 Members could be suspended for constructive Obstruction, when a certain number of them had been absent from the House more than 12 hours? He was not going to contend that what was then done was illegal; all he said was that at the time of the passing of that Resolution it was never intended that such action should be taken under it. It was because of such interpretations as that that it was important that no words having a double signification should be left in a Resolution of that kind. He believed it to be the case that, at any rate during the last 20 years, Obstruction had never been carried on by a very large body of Members. But the Resolution proposed that whenever there was a majority of over 200 they should be able to silence any minority whatever. It was a remarkable fact that during the whole of the last Parliament, when the Party now in power were in Opposition, they were never able to muster 200 votes in condemnation of the foreign policy of the late Government, which formed the chief object of their attack at the last General Election; and it was quite conceivable that many Members of the then Conservative majority might have been tempted to enforce with stringency the provisions of this Rule if it had been in force against those who so persistently attacked the foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield. Why should the House put it into the power of a few persons to declare the evident sense of the House by making a noise? Let them depend upon it that if they allowed the noisy few to interrupt a debate, the so-called "evident sense of the House" would not comprise the common sense of the House. He put forward this Amendment in a spirit of conciliation, and he trusted that the Government would accept it, because then the Speaker would not be compelled to yield his better judgment to mere noise, while the amended Rule would carry out the exact intentions of Her Majesty's Government. If his Amendment were adopted, the Rule would read as follows:— That when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of Ways and Means in Committee of the Whole House, during any Debate, that the subject has been adequately discussed, and that the discussion is being prolonged for the purposes of obstruction, he may so inform the House or the Committee.

He begged to move his Amendment.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, To leave out the words "it is," in order to insert the words "the discussion is being prolonged for the purposes of obstruction,"'—[Lord George Hamilton,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'it is' stand part of the said proposed Amendment."


said, that it was remarkable that the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen who acted with him should only have thought of this Amendment that afternoon. But although the Amendment might have come by surprise upon some Members of that House, it had not come by surprise upon the Government, because they had already fully considered the propriety of adopting some such words as those proposed by the noble Lord, and had come to the determination to reject them, for the reason that they considered that in accepting the words "that it has been adequately discussed" they had really secured the object they had in view. The noble Lord's Amendment introduced, besides adequate discussion, the idea of motive; and the Government thought that to adopt these words would be imposing upon the Speaker a duty which he had no means of performing—of diving into the minds of Members in order to discover what was their motive in going beyond adequacy of discussion. To his mind, moreover, the motive which dictated a course of Obstruction was entirely beside the question, because Obstruction might result from motives of personal vanity or of spite, and not merely from a desire to delay the debate being brought to a conclusion. If Obstruction existed from whatever cause it ought to be put down; and, therefore, he thought that the Amendment of the noble Lord would weaken the effect of the Rule, and ought to be rejected.


said, he agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down that it would not be desirable to impose upon the Speaker the duty of diving into motives; but he thought that the real reason that the present Amendment was not accepted was owing to the absence of the Prime Minister. He greatly regretted that the Prime Minister had not been in his place to hear the very convincing arguments of the noble Lord, because, whatever conclusion the Government might have come to, he presumed that they were open to reason and would adopt an Amendment if it were clearly shown that it was an improvement upon the Rule as it stood. He thanked the noble Lord for having brought forward this Amendment, because it clearly showed that the Opposition were as sincere as anyone in their wish to put down real Obstruction. Hon. Members opposite were in the habit of accusing those who sat near him of saying that they wished to put down Obstruction, while their actions showed that they did not want to do so; but the action of the Opposition, in assisting the Government to put down Obstruction on former occasions, had shown that they were really desirous of putting an end to it. It was clear, however, that the Government, under colour of wishing to put down Obstruction, had something else in their minds. He believed that a very large majority of the country would feel more acutely than almost anything else the stifling of legitimate discussion in that House. Now, the noble Lord said, take away all suspicion of any such thing. If the Government really desired merely to put down Obstruction, why would they not write down clearly what their meaning was? The Government, however, knew well enough that their object was not to put down Obstruction, and that they were making the abuse of the Rules of the House by the few the excuse for punishing and putting to silence the many. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the subject had been considered by the Cabinet; and it was clear that the Government had rejected these words, not because they would not put down Obstruction, but because they would not bring about the something else—the evident sense of the House, when it was fatigued, perhaps, or wearied at the end of the Session—which the Government desired should be brought about. It was that something else to which the Conservative Party objected, and which they would oppose by all means in their power. They were perfectly willing to do away with Obstruction, but they would not have the proper functions of a Parliamentary Opposition destroyed. They therefore said—"Insert these words in the Resolution and make the duty of the Speaker in regard to the clôture a judicial one." The Government were not prepared to do that, because they wanted the noisy sense of the House and crying for divisions to weigh with the Speaker; and they knew perfectly well that if cheers and pressure came from below the Gangway they would back it up with their own cheers and almost compel the Speaker to interfere. Let them leave the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees to exercise the judicial Office which they now held, and then their dignity and impartiality would not be questioned. Mr. Frederick Harrison, a gentleman who had the confidence of a large portion of the working classes, and who had studied that question, and had very carefully discussed it in a leading periodical, had not hesitated openly to espouse the clôture; but he had also fully accepted the natural conclusion which, in his opinion, must come from it. In his article Mr. F. Harrison said that under it they must bid farewell to all the judicial Speakers they had heretofore had; and they would find, though he deeply regretted it, that the Speakers for the future would lose their judicial position, and would rapidly become political partizans more than judicial officers. That result Mr. Harrison held to be inevitable; but he was prepared to face it because of the advantages he expected to get from the clôture in other ways. If the object of the Government really was to put down Obstruction, let them adopt the words proposed by his noble Friend. If they rejected those words the inference would be drawn that they had ulterior objects beyond that of putting down Obstruction. Did they mean by the present form of the Resolution to take advantage of the noisy clamour that might be made in some parts of the House during a debate to press the Speaker or Chairman to apply the clôture so as to put an end to legitimate discussion? The Home Secretary said that the words suggested by his noble Friend, or words substantially the same, had been carefully considered by the Cabinet, and rejected; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked how was the Speaker or the Chairman to dive into the motives of Members? The right hon. and learned Gentleman represented that it would be practically impossible for the Speaker or the Chairman to give effect to those words if they were inserted in the Rule. He would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary that in the Rules placed on the Table by the Government those very words to which that objection was taken actually occurred. The 10th of the proposed New Rules ran as follows:— That if Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of a Committee of the Whole House, shall he of opinion that a Motion for the Adjournment of a Debate, or of the House, during any Debate, or that the Chairman do Report Progress, or do leave the Chair, is made for the purpose of obstruction, he may forthwith put the Question thereupon from the Chair; So that the words which the Home Secretary said the Cabinet had carefully considered and rejected, because it was impossible that they could be carried out, appeared in another of their own New Rules. He should like to know how the right hon. and learned Gentleman could reconcile that fact with his present argument?


said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had indicated in his speech that there was something or other from which the Government could not escape. The right hon. Gentleman had attributed to him, as the organ of the Government, something totally contrary to what he had said from first to last on that matter. Now, in introducing those Rules to the House, he had plainly stated that there were two matters which were perfectly distinct to be dealt with. One of them was wilful Obstruction made use of absolutely for the purpose of impeding the House in the transaction of its Business with that motive present to the mind of the man who committted the offence; and the Speaker, perceiving an act of that character, would recognize the motive of the Member, and bring his judgment to bear on it before the House as a penal offence, and as a penal offence it would be dealt with. Had the Government ever said that their sole object was to deal with that penal offence, for which, indeed, they proposed a different Rule? The right hon. Gentleman opposite played upon the double sense of the word Obstruction. Obstruction might be wilful, being practised with the desire and for the purpose of impeding the Business of the House. Obstruction, again, might simply be the act of a man who spoke vainly, foolishly, idly, and opposed himself to the will of the House; willing to please his constituents, or from any other light and frivolous motive. The Government wished to provide for the future, and had always been of opinion that it was not enough to deal only with the offence of wilful Obstruction; but that preventive measures were necessary in order to check that idle prolongation of debate which had become so serious an evil. Otherwise, if he adopted the construction placed by the right hon. Gentleman upon the words before the House, he should have a great deal to escape from and retract. The case being as he had stated, it was obviously impossible for him to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord. The Amendment implied that no other evil had to be dealt with but wilful Obstruction, and his contention was that many other evils and abuses had to be swept away. In fact, the whole position had been well described by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) a night or two ago. As the hon. Member had said, the House had undergone an unhappy change. Formerly there was an unwritten law of the House which gave an ample power to bring a debate to a close, because such was the reverence in which each individual Member held the House that he did not care to oppose himself to the informally but intelligently expressed will of the House as to the prolongation of a debate. Much of that reverence, he was glad to think, still remained; but the change was so great as to call for the proposals that the Government now made. It had been said that the House had ceased to exercise its old power of informally closing debates; but the House had, as a matter of fact, made many attempts to put down frivolous speaking, but without success. When a Gentleman was reminded that it was the will of the House that the debate should cease, he, generally speaking, folded his arms and assumed an attitude of ease and tranquillity, said he could wait; and, in fact, the more the House expressed its disinclination to hear him the more determined he was to inflict upon it every word he could possibly screw into the debate. That was the present position of affairs, and, as he had endeavoured to explain, he invited the House to consider whether the quantity of debate on certain subjects had not reached such a point as to make judicious measures necessary to restore to the House its capacity for legislative and executive work. The Amendment of the noble Lord struck at the very root of the whole proposal, and was altogether unaccept- able. Besides, as there was already a penal scheme for dealing with wilful Obstruction, he failed to see why a rival and a contrary plan should now be introduced. Serious as were the changes proposed, the evil itself was still more serious. He had even read that a certain Member of the House was chosen to be a candidate for the constituency which he now represented, on the strength of the singular faculty he was known to possess of inflicting suffering on any audience he might happen to address, or on any Assembly of which he was a Member. That was a quality against which the House had a perfect right to defend itself. All he asked was that the House would exercise its right of self-defence. It was perfectly true they could not say that any one of the particular forms of mischief which they were now suffering under was fatal to the discharge of their duties. It was the aggregate of them which was fatal. The House had already often done its best with its existing weapons to counteract those evils; but the obstinacy of the offenders had been too strong for the mere expression of collective opinion, and it was now a question whether the House would allow its time to be wasted or would regain its old efficiency. It had been stated that no Vote in Supply had ever been refused when it was asked for. That might be perfectly true; but what had it to do with the matter? The unfortunately altered position of the House had brought about a double evil—in the first place, it had thrown the Business of the country into the most discreditable confusion; and, in the second, it had imposed the penalty of silence and of apparent failure to do their duty to their constituents on many of the best and ablest men in the House. He emphatically re-echoed the assertion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that Gentlemen interested in political economy had not been afforded the opportunity which was their due of urging in the House the views they entertained. As for the Business of the House, while a monstrous length of time bad been occupied by certain Business, many important measures had been shuffled through the House in the most indecorous manner. Thus the work of the House was neglected, and not only one or two measures, but the great mass of legislation required for the practical purposes of the country remained undone; and if the House ever made an effort to do special justice to a special want, as was done last year in the case of Ireland, it was a cruel consequence of the act that the other parts of the United Kingdom had to wait till their needs could be supplied. When evils of such magnitude had to be redressed, the inconvenience suffered by hon. Members who wished to deliver unnecessary speeches ought not to deter the House from its purpose. At the same time, the substantive and positive interference of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees would probably be rare. He relied more on the preventive effect of the Rule, and that was the main benefit which he expected to gain from its adoption. As he had said before, the Rule was aimed, not specially at wanton Obstruction, and not at all at legitimate debate, but rather at that needless prolongation of discussions which had now become notorious in the face of the whole country.


said, it was impossible not to perceive, in the extreme animation of the right hon. Gentleman, his sense of the force and justice of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman had stated at the beginning of his speech that Obstruction of a penal kind was invariably suppressed by penal measures; but that was scarcely a correct assertion, considering the length of time that had elapsed on a recent celebrated occasion before resort was had to penal regulations. But penal Obstruction was not the only offence for which provision was to be made. Some hon. Members were foolish enough to wish to please their constituents; and theirs, he supposed, was the misconduct that had lessened the deference formerly paid to the collective sense of the House as to the closing of debates. The right hon. Gentleman's argument, in saying that a vast majority of Members still paid deference to the unwritten law of the House, was destructive of the reason he assigned for his proposal. By his own showing there was only a small minority to deal with, and yet he proposed to deal with it by a measure by which he proposed to silence the whole Party which was in a minority in that House. The right hon. Gentleman drew a picture of Gentlemen who stood with folded arms defying the House, and threatening that if they were not heard they would keep the House up all night. That was an evil which was admitted; but the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was not fitted to deal with it. They were agreed as to the evil, but differed as to the remedy. The right hon. Gentleman, on first introducing his Resolutions, spoke of the great increase of speeches and the want of power to control individuals. But now the Government was trying to control, not individuals, but a whole Party. Suppose there was individual Obstruction, was the Government going to close debate because some individuals persisted in obstructing? And yet that was what was proposed. The great merit of the proposal, said the right hon. Gentleman, was that it would be preventive. But how? By silencing a whole Party.


said, he was glad to hear the noble Lord declare that the use made of some of the Rules passed against the Irish Members was not such as was originally contemplated by their framers. A very important moral was to be derived from that circumstance—namely, that if Rules be employed against a minority, however unfairly, they would be further stretched by the majority. They learned now that these Rules were to be employed in putting down not merely Obstruction, but the needless prolongation of debate. The right hon. Gentleman would be reminded hereafter of the pledges implied in these words. The attitude of Irish Members would be very much modified if they thought that Government would honestly make use of the Rules they were to get. What the Irish Members feared was that these Rules would be used not for the purpose of facilitating legislation, but of putting down a weak minority. If the Rules were going to be used for facilitating legislation for all parts of the country, the course which Irish Members would take with regard to them would be made very easy. He feared, however, that the Rules in their present shape would not give the right hon. Gentleman that power. They were told that formerly there was less discussion in the House. The reason of that was because discussion then was almost monopolized by Ministers and ex-Ministers. The franchise was limited, and Members did not think it necessary to speak so frequently in the interests of their constituents. The change which had taken place marked the greater interest which the people took in the political affairs of the country, owing to the extension of the franchise. The House might be right or wrong in shouting down Members. But there was no sacredness in the shouts of the House. There were some who were shouted down because they made idle or frivolous speeches, others because they spoke against "the evident sense of the House." Edmund Burke spoke against the evident sense of the House on the American War, and he was shouted down; but Burke was proved to have been right and the evident sense of the House wrong. With regard to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), he thought the Prime Minister had "smashed and pulverized" the first part of it; but he thought the noble Lord brought forward very fair arguments in favour of the second part. The noble Lord had asked this very pertinent question—What was the evident sense of the House? What was the organ of the evident sense of the House? The loud throat of some individual. The evident sense of the House must, as the noble Lord had said, express itself by noise. In other words, they were to be ruled by clamour. That was the reductio ad absurdum of this proposition. It was not always the most sensible Members who were most impatient of the speeches of others. He had seen the Prime Minister listen with patience and forbearance, while some howling nobody behind him was shouting at the Speaker. The Gentlemen who signalized themselves as the organs of the evident sense of the House were the men of irritable temperaments, of narrow mind, of intolerant disposition, the men who waited for the omnipotent smile of the Prime Minister, and these would be made the masters of the House if this proposal about the evident sense of the House were retained.


said, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had thrown, a great light upon the Resolution before the House; and if it was passed they would be in great difficulties indeed as regards the general conduct of debate in that House. It had been said that the Resolution would be seldom in force; but even if that were so, the "evident sense of the House" would, at any rate, be frequently brought to bear upon discussion.


said, he did not understand that to be at present under discussion at all.


explained that he proposed to amend the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) by leaving out the words "it is," in order to insert the words "the discussion has been prolonged for the purpose of Obstruction," and with the intention of subsequently proposing to omit the words "the evident sense of the House."


pointed out that the only Question now before the House was that of the omission of the words "it is."


said, he would not, in that case, pursue the subject at present, but support the Amendment. The Prime Minister, it was true, had declared that nothing but Obstruction and frivolous debate was to be touched. But if the Speaker were to interpose, and make use of the Resolution in such a case, he would be bound at the same time to stop all debate, although there might be present many hon. Members perfectly ready and willing to address the House with great advantage to Parliament, and thus the services of those hon. Gentlemen would be lost, merely because they had not been so fortunate as to attract the Speaker's attention. It should, therefore, be considered whether the Government wished to stop debate, or, by accepting this Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton), that they only desired to put down Obstruction. Indeed, in future, the whole system of debating would be altered. He had often watched with approval the practice now adopted by the Leaders of the House of allowing the younger Members to address the House first; and then, when they had finished, and the Whips of the Parties had arranged that a division should shortly take place, themselves to wind up the debate, which had often strayed somewhat from its starting-point before coming to a decision. That plan would now have to be changed, and the Leaders on both sides, who would naturally wish to speak on a question under discussion, must, for fear of being gagged in consequence of some frivolous Member rising, speak in the early part of the debate. For these reasons, he could not approve the Rule which the Government proposed to adopt.


said, he had had some experience in the House, and had witnessed with great regret the very great change which had taken place for the worse in the manner in which debates were conducted in that House, and fully agreed with what the Prime Minister had said, in respect to the great change for the worse which had gradually taken place in their mode of transacting Public Business. He fully admitted that something must be done; the only point was whether what the Government proposed was the proper way of proceeding. He thought not, and should cordially support the Amendment of his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton). He thought a wide distinction ought to be drawn between frivolous and factious Obstruction and legitimate debate prolonged to a considerable extent, to enable the public out-of-doors to form and to express its opinion upon some subject of great public importance. He would give an instance of what he meant. In 1860, Lord John Russell introduced one of his Reform Bills. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House disapproved of that Bill, but did not like to vote against it, as they did not know what their constituents thought about it. It was therefore determined to prolong the discussion to enable them to ascertain that point. The debate was adjourned for some weeks, no Amendment was moved, and the Bill was read a second time without a division; but their object was attained. The more that measure was considered the less it was liked. There was no feeling whatever expressed for it in the country, and Lord John Russell wisely withdrew it. Now, that could not have happened with the clôture. In future, measures of the greatest importance would be hurried through the House at the bidding of the Minister. That was no gratuitous assumption on his (Sir Rainald Knightley's) part. That very Session the Prime Minister told them that one night's debate on the Arrears Bill was sufficient; and if they had had the clôture with a bare majority, and an accommodating Speaker, that was all that would have been vouchsafed to them. It was often said from the other side—"Oh! but you will be sufficiently protected by the action of the Speaker; the Speaker will never do anything unfair." He admitted that so far as the present Speaker was concerned; but Speakers were not immortal any more than anyone else. Indeed, they were much more mortal, as they generally committed suicide; and he feared it was very likely that before long the present Speaker would follow the example of so many of his Predecessors. Whenever that event occurred his retirement would be cause of great regret under any circumstances; but their regret would be increased ten-fold if the clôture was passed, for in that case he would be the last of the long line of Speakers who had adorned the Chair by the dignity and impartiality with which they had presided over their proceedings. For many years past Speakers had been selected not only on account of their high personal character, but their presumed impartiality; but under the clôture they would be chosen because they were well known to be thorough-going partizans of the Government of the day, who would help them in a difficulty, as was the case in nearly all Parliaments on the Continent and in the Colonies where they had the clôture. And he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that Liberal Governments were not immortal any more than Speakers. It was true, they did not voluntarily put an end to their own existence, but that was done for them by a vote of that House; and if the present Government were able to maintain their position on the Treasury Bench, after an appeal to the country, it would be the first time such a thing had happened in the whole of his Parliamentary experience. For the last 30 years there had never been a Dissolution of Parliament which had not been almost immediately followed by a change of Government. In 1852 Lord Derby was turned out within a few weeks of the meeting of the new House. In 1857 Lord Palmerston appealed to the country. It was true, he obtained what appeared to be a good majority; but at the commencement of the next Session he also was defeated and had to retire. In 1859 Lord Derby again dissolved, and was beaten almost the first night on an Amendment to the Address. In 1865 Lord Palmerston again dissolved. He died before the House met; but the Government, of which he had been the head, was turned out the first Session; and since the last Reform Bill the retribution attending a dissolving Minister had been even more sudden and more striking. In 1868 Mr. Disraeli appealed to the country; the majority against him was so overwhelming and so crushing that he did not dare to meet Parliament. Precisely the same thing happened to the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1874, and again to Lord Beaconsfield in 1880. Whether that long string of precedents would be followed next time he could not say; but it was probable they would, and he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the clôture was even a more formidable weapon in the hands of a Conservative Minister than a Liberal one. He referred, of course, to the action of the House of Lords. As a rule, the Lords passed nearly all the Bills they sent up to them; but why did they do so? Because those Bills had been amply and fully discussed in that House, the country had had time to express its opinion, and if that opinion was favourable the Lords did not oppose it. But that would not be the case with the clôture. The Lords would say with truth—We do not resist the will of the people; but we do not yet know what that will is. We will therefore postpone the consideration of the measure for a year to enable us to ascertain it." Whether their Lordships would be equally sceptical with a Conservative Administration he could not say; but he thought it a matter well worthy the consideration of independent Members sitting on the Benches opposite.


said, that one great value of the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) was that it was a practical test of the intentions of the Government in proposing the Resolution to the House. Was this Resolution intended to defeat Obstruction, or was it not? It was only justice to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to say that, from the first, he had stated that the 1st Resolution was not intended to meet Obstruction, but that it was intended to deal with it by a subsequent Rule. His followers, however, throughout the country had taken up the cry for putting down Obstruction; and nine-tenths of the Members of the Government, and every Liberal Association, had assumed that the object of the 1st Resolution was to put down Obstruction. Was the Resolution intended to put down Obstruction or not? If it were intended to deal with Obstruction in the ordinary sense of the word, he (Mr. E. Stanhope) could not understand why the Government did not accept the Amendment. The Prime Minister had informed them that the Rule was only intended to deal with Obstruction in a certain sense of the term. He had instanced the cases of determined individuals persisting in making themselves heard when the House was not disposed to listen to them. But if those were the cases to be dealt with, there was no necessity for the clôture by a bare majority; those cases could be as well dealt with by a clôture of two-thirds. But that was not all. They had a definition of Obstruction given by the Prime Minister himself, in his first speech on the subject. The definition was almost exhaustive in its terms; it defined Obstruction as "a disposition either of a minority of the House, or of individuals, to resist the will of the House otherwise than by argument." It would be of inestimable value to put the term "Obstruction" in the Resolution, as the Speaker or the Chairman would know what he had to deal with. Without the use of that word in the Resolution he would not know when it was that he was to take the evident sense of the House that the debate should be brought to a close. A case might occur where a Chairman, after a three or four nights' debate on an important question, because a Motion for Adjournment was defeated by a considerable majority, might consider it was the evident sense of the House that he should at once bring the debate to a conclusion. But if the Amendment were adopted, he would know that he ought not to act, unless he were dealing with Obstruction. It was impossible for any Chairman to misunderstand that the force at his command was only to be called into operation for the purpose of putting down Obstruction. But the House knew perfectly well that it was not the object of the Resolution to put down Obstruction. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not disguise the fact that the Resolution was aimed at the minority; and, as a Member of the Tory minority, he resisted it. No one would have been more anxious than himself to assist the Government to put down Obstruction, if the advice of the House had been asked as to the best means of effecting that object. The House, however, had not been consulted, and when those who sat on his side of the House endeavoured to argue the case, they were told that they were offering unjustifiable opposition and obstructing the Government. The object of the Government had not been to win the House to discuss the matter from a nonparty point of view. Their legions were ready, and the Government were determined to lead them to the attack, and to have their proposals forcibly carried into effect. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) had been good enough to tell the Opposition that "it would be sometimes their turn." What a nice way of speaking of what was supposed to be the best means of upholding the dignity of the House! He (Mr. E. Stanhope) was anxious to uphold the dignity of the House; but he was by no means desirous for himself, and he hoped earnestly that the time might never come when those who sat on his side of the House should look forward to having their turn at the exercise of the proposed power. He had marked the temper already exhibited below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House, and its exhibition had determined him more than ever to offer a stern resistance to the Resolution. He felt certain that the sole object of many hon. Members was to endeavour to crush the Tory minority; and that being the case, the Tory minority would struggle with all their strength to achieve what they held to be success.


said, that as reference had been made to some proceedings in the last Parliament in which he had participated, he wished to refer to the proceedings very briefly. He thought an argument might be founded upon them against the restriction of freedom of speech. He believed it was the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) who first directed attention to the fact that in 1877 the Vote for the maintenance of the Volunteer Force was met with considerable opposition on the part of the Irish Members, and who credited him (Mr. O'Connor Power) with a very important share in the obstructive proceedings with which it was resisted. He wished to confirm the historical accuracy of the noble Marquess, and to state what was his motive for the action he took on that occasion—a motive which, he believed, was shared by the few Irish Members who sustained him in recording a protest against that Vote. The noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) was then Secretary of State for War, and it was between 12 and 1 o'clock in the morning when they reached the Volunteer Vote. He (Mr. O'Connor Power) ventured to call attention to the fact that, though the people of Ireland did not possess the right to enrol themselves in any Volunteer organization, they were yet subject to the tax imposed alike on all parts of the United Kingdom. In the mildest possible tones he ventured to ask for an explanation of that state of things. He did not want to disparage the manner in which the distinguished statesman to whom he had referred transacted Business here or "elsewhere." The Tory Party had reason to be proud of his magnificent abilities; but a conciliatory disposition was not conspicuous amongst the qualities of that Nobleman, and in reply to the question he simply declined to give any explanation whatever. He (Mr. O'Connor Power) mentioned this fact because he thought it bore out what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) that a great deal of the unpleasantness in the House arose from the want of a spirit of conciliation on the part of those who on both sides were responsible for the conduct of Business. He felt at the time that whatever title the Nobleman had established on the consideration of the House, he had established no title which justified him in refusing a straightforward answer to a straightforward question. He did not say that the noble Viscount wished to be disrespectful to him or to his countrymen; but for some reason he declined to give any explanation. That moment the question of the importance of the Volunteer Vote was absorbed in the greater question of the right which belonged to every man, of having an explanation of any Vote in the Estimates which he felt called on to challenge. It was then that Irish Members moved the omission of that Vote. On that Motion being disposed of, they moved alternately that Progress be reported, and that the Chairman leave the Chair. It was past 7 o'clock on a bright summer morning that they walked out of Palace Yard, a night having been wasted which would have been better occupied if the Ministry had condescended to give to a mere Irishman an explanation he had a right to demand. The reasons which made him (Mr. O'Connor Power) disposed to minimize, as far as possible, the proposals which the Government had made for the purpose of restricting liberty of debate were too numerous to be at present stated; but, in his observation of political action in Great Britain and Ireland, he had noticed a tendency towards the destruction of all deliberation, and a tendency towards more "counting of heads." Deliberation was disparaged, and appeals were made to public feeling and passion, and to the promptings of popularity and temporary expediency for the settlement of questions. Where should they find a refuge for deliberation if not in the Legislature? It appeared that if, being a Member of a political Party, one now took an independent attitude, it was at the peril of one's influence and popularity, and at the peril of misrepresentation even from political friends. Where should they find, then, in future a platform on which questions could be examined on their merits, and with liberty of discussion? Certainly not in the House of Commons, if the proposals of the Government were accepted in the form in which they appeared on the Paper without any restriction. They were encouraged by various arguments to accept these proposals. They were told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that at present it was quite possible for a small obstructive minority in the House to use its powers effectively to prevent the Executive Government from getting the Supplies necessary to carry into effect a determination to make war against some foreign Power. That might be so; but the argument was of little value, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when asked for a reference to any ocasion when such an extreme course was taken, was obliged to acknowledge that he could not point to one. Reference had been made to the Mutiny Act. They were told—and great stress was laid upon the point—how necessary it was that it should pass every year; but the Gentlemen who talked about this were the very same Gentlemen who appealed to the electors of Great Britain two and a-half years ago successfully, because of what the Irish Obstruction had accomplished in amending the Mutiny Act by abolishing flogging in the Army. He was sorry that the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), who, for 15 or 16 years before the abolition of flogging in the Army, had devoted his attention to that question, was not in his place, because he (Mr. O'Connor Power) recollected his publicly apologizing to the Irish Members, because he had begged them to modify their opposition to the Mutiny Bill. That hon. Gentleman said— I have been working 15 or 16 years to obtain the abolition of flogging; but this would not have been possible within any reasonable time had it not been for the protracted discussion on the Army Discipline Bill, commenced by a few determined Irish Members, and carried on by the assistance of some of the most prominent Members of the Liberal Government, and pertinaciously persisted in, until the abandonment of that system of discipline was wrung from the common sense of the House. Those were advantages which might be referred to as having accrued from the pertinacious prolongation of discussions. He did not deny that even that action might be pushed too far; but he recalled these circumstances to show how much remained to be said on the other side of the question, which hon. Gentlemen were disposed to forget. They had been reminded that a time would come when the Liberals would be in Opposition, and would feel the effects of the stringent regulations they were now making. Unquestionably that day would come. They were not making temporary Regulations. They were assenting to Resolutions which would destroy, for all time, some of the greatest privileges which had been defended for ages by the House, and defended because it was conscious that the preservation of these privileges was necessary to the preservation of liberty, for without them, undoubtedly, that liberty would have been sacrificed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had sought to encourage them to assent to these Resolutions, because he had faith in the anxiety of the Liberal Party to insist upon a full discussion of public questions, especially as regarded the Estimates. There was no use in trying to gain support for these Resolutions by the argumentum ad hominem. It was about the most unreliable method by which to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. He knew that strong opponents of the policy of foreign aggression defended the late war in Egypt, simply on the strength of that argument. They said—"We should never have thought it would have been justifiable if the Tory Party had invaded Egypt; but it has been done by a man in whom we have confidence." He had had, in fact, a long argument about it with an ardent supporter of the Government, who finally acknowledged that his approval of the policy in Egypt was based on his belief that the Prime Minister could not possibly engage in an unjustifiable war. In the same way they were assured that it was not within the bounds of possibility that, under a Liberal Government, coercive Resolutions could be arbitrarily put in force. But these guarantees would not stand a moment's examination. The hon. Member for Oar-lisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had apologized for having said, two years ago, that a Liberal Government would not make an aggressive war. This Resolution must stand or fall by its intrinsic merits, and not on arguments of this kind. His opinion was, that where you had a Government supported by a large majority, no matter what Government it was, the tendency was to be impatient of criticism—the tendency was to use whatever powers they possessed to put an end to the discussion. It was not necessary to suspect them of passing these Resolution is merely for the love of suppressing freedom of speech. They might give right hon. Gentlemen opposite credit for all the good intentions avowed in their speeches; but even that should not satisfy them. There was a certain place of evil repute, which they were told was paved with good intentions; but he had never heard of anybody being anxious to go there. He would appeal to the Prime Minister that with this Amendment, and those which would follow it, an attempt should be made to offer some acknowledgment of the disposition which he thought was prevalent in all parts of the Opposition, at the present time, to aid the Government in the legitimate and proper trans- action of Public Business. The House had passed during the last two or three years through a time of such grave political excitement that no one could wonder if on occasions liberty of speech had been exercised to its fullest extent. But, surely, they should not make Regulations, dwelling exclusively on the memory of partizan warfare, and the bitterness of Party strife. There was a better feeling among Parties in and out of the House, and he had not abandoned the hope that the Government would show a spirit of conciliation and compromise towards many of the important Amendments on the Paper. At the same time, he would suggest that the despatch of Business was hindered not so much by the number of speeches as by the length of speeches, some limitation of which, he believed, would be acceptable to many hon. Members. Many hon. Members, unfortunately, measured the effectiveness of a speech by its length. He should rejoice at some proposal which would limit the duration of speeches, and compel men to sit down, as he now did, because he had nothing further to say.


said, he did not agree with the remark of the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. E. Stanhope) that nothing they could say or do could have any effect in resisting the legions of the Government. It was in the power of the 245 Members of the Tory Party, if they were in earnest in the professions they made, if they believed the clôture would be fatal to the rights of Parliament, to force the Government to appeal to a higher tribunal than the present House of Commons on the question; and he did not know that the Prime Minister was the man to shirk the challenge. It was not by talking of inconvenience, it was not by walking out of the House, it was not by short speeches, it was not by bandying compliments, that they could resist the proposal they believed to be dangerous; but it was only by evincing a determined opposition, and presenting a strong numerical front, and by taking advantage of all the Forms and Privileges of the House, that the Opposition could hope to have any of their Amendments carried. He did not think there were many who knew, from the declarations of the Government, what were the objects of the Government in pressing the clôture. The Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) hit the blot on the 1st Resolution which had been pointed out over and over again from the time it was first put on the Paper, and he (Lord Randolph Churchill) therefore thanked him for proposing it. That blot was that it was felt that there was a gross and glaring inconsistency between the "evident sense" of the House and clôture by a bare majority. Nothing could be more fatal to the position of the Speaker than to leave these words in the Resolution. It was impossible to say that he would at all times, or at any time, detect the evident sense of the House. It meant a proportionate majority, and it could mean nothing else. Where would be the reverence and respect which they all owed to the Speaker if, after having declared that the evident sense of the House was in favour of the clôture, this evident sense was only declared by a majority of 1? This Amendment was the test and touchstone of the intentions of the Government—whether it was to strike at fair Parliamentary opposition or at organized Obstruction. The latter the Prime Minister defined as being opposition to the will of the House otherwise than by argument. If that were so, he (Lord Randolph Churchill) should accept the Amendment; but if the object was to put down fair Parliamentary opposition, which, though obstinate, might be fair, the Amendment would be rejected. He took that opportunity of declaring his unalterable and undying hostility to this Rule as it now stood. Was their supposition correct, that opposition and Obstruction were synonymous in the mind of the Prime Minister? Much had been said in the course of this discussion about Irish Obstruction; but, for his part, he would say that he had not always been against Irish Obstruction. What was more, he could tell hon. Members opposite that he was not more against Irish Obstruction in the last Parliament than he had been in this. From the time when he was first able to form an opinion on political matters, he had held the belief that if we had not had Irish Obstruction, we should have had Irish rebellion. The Obstruction of Irish Members had been the great safety-valve of rebellion, and had turned the exuberances of Irish Nationality into a surer and a safer channel. If we sat on the safety- valve of Irish Obstruction, we should have before long a very blood explosion. Against wilful, organized Obstruction, the Conservative Party had never been slow to help the Government of the day, and if the 1st Resolution were confined solely to that object it would be harmless. Those who voted for the Amendment would be in favour of the liberties of the House of Commons; but those who voted against it were, undoubtedly, and beyond all possibility of contradiction, against freedom of debate, and unworthy of the traditions of Parliament. They were again witnessing to-night a portentous and unnatural silence on the part of the Liberal Members. Of course, it was hard for men to be talkative or cheerful, when they had been told by their Leader, on the first day of the Session, that they had lost all their character and all their honour. It would have been creditable even to Mr. Mark Tapley to be cheerful in such circumstances. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) supposed they were keeping quiet on this occasion because they felt they were assisting in the capacity of mutes at the funeral obsequies of freedom of speech.


said, that, sitting on the Liberal Benches, he certainly, for one, had received no mandate from the Prime Minister not to speak. If the right hon. Gentleman had issued such a mandate he had certainly left some of them out, and if he (Mr. Marriott) had received it, he did not suppose he should have felt called upon to obey it; and in speaking now he was sure he was not going against any mandate from the Prime Minister to himself or any of their Party. But with regard to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), he did feel in some difficulty, and had also felt some with regard to the Amendments that had gone before. He had listened with great attention to the different speeches made, all directed to this—whether Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees were to have the same power. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and he fully admitted the logic of all his arguments; but the only question was about his premises. His arguments were enlarged upon by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and were carried to greater length by the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase); but, taking all those speeches together, they might be boiled down and put with a very old proverb—and, in making use of it, he meant no insult to the House—those speeches came to this, that "what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander." What they wanted to know was, what sauce they were going to give the goose? He felt quite certain the House would not object to that term, and he said seriously, in regard to all these Amendments, that they were simply groping in the dark. There were now some 30 or 40 Amendments down, which would not have been given Notice of if they really knew upon what the House was going to decide—whether the clôture by bare majority; or by a proportionate majority, whether a majority of two-thirds or three-fifths. At the present time, how did the House stand? According to what was said in the late debates, all that the House had decided was that there was to be a clôture by a majority. It was the intention of an humble Mover of an Amendment to raise the question of bare majority; but the word "bare" was inadvertently left out. The real point to decide now was what that majority was to be, for when that was decided it made all the difference to the Amendments they were to discuss and were discussing. If the majority was to be a proportionate one, which he thought was generally agreed—["No, no!"]—there was no need of the Amendment. Hon. Members said "No, no!" He was quite willing there should be no clôture at all. His own belief was that there were a number of these Rules which were now proposed to the House which would put down Obstruction, quite independently of the clôture. He was struck with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), and what he said had not been answered. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) spoke as if the sole object of the clôture was to put down Obstruction by a small number, such as was sometimes carried on by 20 Members, and he said—"We are willing to put down the Obstruction of 20 Members." Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) used words that would show that the House could easily put down the Obstruction of a small Party; and he (Mr. Marriott) felt certain that if they had the clôture by two-thirds or a proportionate majority, when the two Front Benches were agreed, Obstruction would be put down. ["Question!"] That was the Question. Obstruction was the whole Question. The speech of the right hon. Member for Ripon seemed to carry out entirely the views of a two-thirds, or a proportionate majority, because, if the two Front Benches were agreed, the Obstruction of a small minority would be put down. "But," said the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex, "can anybody give an instance when the whole or the greater part of the Conservative Party have obstructed?" All he (Mr. Marriott) could say was that since he had been in the House the Conservative Party never had obstructed as a Party. There might have been some Members of the Party who had joined together for that purpose—some Members of the Party not altogether under the whip and control of their Leader. No doubt, the Leader, like the driver of a four-in-hand, had some little difficulty in keeping his team well together; but their coach was not, therefore, necessarily upset. ["Question!"] Last night they had an instance of the younger Members kicking over the traces. ["Question!"] "What was the question of the Amendment? The question was whether the Speaker was to interfere when a debate was carried on for the purpose of Obstruction. Obstruction had existed in the House, and the weapon was to be left to the House to use to put it down. The responsibility rested with the House, and it was no longer a Vote of Confidence in the Ministry. The great point was the putting down of Obstruction, and he believed the great majority of the House had that object in view. The real question was, how was it to be done? If the Amendment of the noble Lord was carried, that intention was expressed in words, according to which power was given to the Speaker or Chairman of Committees, and they could leave it to them to say whether a debate was being carried on for thrashing out the subject, enlightening hon. Members by every scrap of argument, or whether it was merely Obstruction. He was sure it was easy to tell the difference. The Amendment of the noble Lord simply added, "when the debate is carried on for purposes of Obstruction;" and surely that was the only time that the Speaker or the Chairman ought to interfere. If the Government meant to say they could interfere at any other time, whether the debate were long or short, which must depend on the nature of the subject, then what they wished to know was, were debates to be closed when there was no Obstruction? They knew there had been debates resumed Session after Session, each debate adding to the knowledge of the House and the country; and measures had, as the result, been passed and accepted in a very different form to that in which they would have been passed had the debate been hurried and quickly closed by means of the clôture. All he wished to say was that he did wish most earnestly that the Government would give them some indication of what they intended to do, what was the main point of their Resolution, whether they wore going to insist on a bare majority, or whether it was to be a proportionate majority?


said, that they had the authority of the Prime Minister that the purpose of the Resolution was not to put down Obstruction, but to expedite legislation. What legislation? Why, of course, the legislation of the Ministry. Thus, we should be led to a system of Ministerial absolutism. He objected to the absolutism of any Minister, to whichever Party he belonged. The fact was that Ministers and hon. Members cared less and less for that House, and addressed themselves more and more to the constituencies. The House was being reduced to a contemptible position, and its Members were becoming mere delegates of the constituents. An hon. Member on the other side had recently been rather roughly told by his constituents that they did not want him to speak in the House; he spoke too much, they said, already. What they wanted him to do was to vote with the Prime Minister.


believed that the Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) would considerably improve the wording of the Resolution. He thought that a provision should be inserted in the Resolution to the effect that the occupant of the Chair must be satisfied that the debate was being prolonged merely for the purpose of Obstruction; and he looked upon the Amendment as a sufficient substitute for the words, either of the Government, or of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). He believed there was an absolute confusion of ideas among most of the Members on the Liberal side of the House as to the issue upon which they were about to vote. The words were "it is," and if they were ruled out of the Amendment, the words "the evident sense of the House" must fall with them, because they would become grammatically impossible. In the future the clôture might be voted, simply in consequence of feelings of fatigue, hunger, or indigestion of a large section of the House, and a vague, illogical sensation on the part of the majority that the debate had better come to a close. There ought, in his opinion, to be the double safeguard of the initiative of the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of the House, before they allowed a debate to be summarily closed.


The House, Sir, is at the present moment much fuller than when my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) moved his Amendment. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members understand perfectly the nature of it, and the grounds upon which it rests. By the Resolution now proposed, if it is passed in the form the Government desire—namely, the clôture by a bare majority—very great responsibility is cast upon the Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means; and it therefore seems but reasonable, when the House decides upon casting such a responsibility upon its Officers, that it should give those Officers full and proper directions as to the conditions under which they are to act in the matter. But according to the Resolution, as proposed by the Government, one instruction, and one only, is to be given to them. If that instruction is to be that which is sufficient merely to close the debate by a bare majority, I think the direction is eminently unsatisfactory—namely, that the power should be exercised when it should appear to the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means to be the evident sense of the House that the Question ought to be put. That is a difficult direction, and not a very intelligible one. If it is understood that the sense of the House means an overwhelming majority, or, say, two-thirds, it would be intelligible; but if by the evident sense of the House is meant that which would be sufficient to close the debate by a bare majority, the direction would be most unsatisfactory. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) saw the difficulty when he proposed, by his Amendment, that the Speaker or Chairman of Committees should be satisfied that the debate had been adequately conducted. So that we have before us two tests—the one, the opinion of the Speaker or Chairman of Ways and Means that the debate has been adequately conducted; and the other, that of the decision of the majority of the House upon a division being taken. It certainly does appear that if the object of this Resolution is to put a stop to Obstruction, you are imposing Rules that will be inconsistent one with the other, and not well qualified to obtain that end. The object of the Amendment of my noble Friend is to direct the attention of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means to the question, not whether there happens to be a majority, but whether the majority wish to divide, because the debate has been fairly and adequately conducted, and ought to be brought to an end, and is only being carried on for purposes of illegitimate Obstruction. I venture to say that nine-tenths of the people of this country are under the belief that we are now engaged in an attempt to deal with and put down Obstruction, and they know perfectly well what they mean by Obstruction. But it appears that the meaning which they attach to the word "Obstruction" is not, at all events, the meaning which the Prime Minister attaches to it. My observation, which is merely echoing what the Prime Minister said—[Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!]—is met by a challenge. We seem now to be getting more mysterious than ever. There have been two or three very curious revelations made in the course of this debate. In the first place, we have had a very curious revelation, which, I am bound to say, we were not at all prepared for; and that is the revelation made by an important Member of the Cabinet, who has taken a very large part in these debates, that he does not understand at all what the grounds are on which the Rules were framed, and does not know the Resolutions themselves. The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir William Harcourt), when he got up, in the first instance, to answer the observations of my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton), took objection to the introduction of the words "carried on for the purpose of Obstruction" on this and no other ground—that it was an attempt to go into motives, and that it was quite impossible or unfair to call upon the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means to judge what the motives of those who were carrying on the debate were. But that was not the light in which the Prime Minister understood them. [Mr. GLADSTONE: There were two grounds, and that was one of them.] Then it was one of them. If that be so, I should like to ask the Prime Minister, who is in his place, what I should have liked to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has left the House, what explanation he can possibly give of the justice and value of the 10th Rule he intends to propose? If it is impossible to go into the question of motive, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify the Rule which the Government themselves have placed upon the Paper, and which reads thus?— That if Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, shall be of opinion that a Motion for the Adjournment of a Debate, or of the House, during any Debate, or that the Chairman do Report Progress, or do leave the Chair, is made for the purpose of obstruction, he may forthwith put the Question thereupon from the Chair. In the 1st Rule, you are to have an impossibility of diving into motives; but by the time you have advanced to the 10th Rule—and it is an indication of the sort of advance that will take place—you will get far beyond all that, and find yourselves perfectly able to call upon the Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means to divine motives. But the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who now accepts that solution, gave us also another answer which, to my mind, was inconsistent with it, though perfectly consistent with my recollection of what the Prime Minister has all along said. His objection to the word "Obstruction" in the Amendment moved by my noble Friend is, that he never intended, and that he always said he never intended, by these Resolutions to deal with the case of wilful Obstruction. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the speech in which he first introduced the Resolutions, that that was an offence that ought to be dealt with in a different manner, and he has repeated to-night the same opinion, that it is an offence which ought to be dealt with in a different manner, and that, therefore, we ought not to introduce words for the purpose of bringing it into this Resolution. But I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman is to take these two objections to the words of my noble Friend—in the first place, that they are words which deal with an offence the Government do not intend to deal with here; and, in the next place, that they imply a diving into the minds of hon. Members. We have the whole of the Resolutions before us, and I think it is desirable we should note the fact that they are not aimed at wilful Obstruction. But if that be so, why should there be an objection raised to the introduction of the words moved by my noble Friend? If these words are objectionable, it is because the Resolution is aimed at something else, and we want to know what that something else is. I do not know that I need detain the House with many further remarks, because this is really the kernel of the whole question—namely, the question whether the Resolutions are intended to keep within bounds tendencies which we have all, more or less, observed, or whether they are intended to do something very different. I must own that I have looked at these Resolutions from the beginning with great suspicion, and the more the debate proceeds, and the more I hear about them, the more my suspicion becomes increased. I regret very much that we are engaged in a contest which may even seem to give the impression that there is any indifference on the part of Gentlemen who sit in this part of the House—even the slightest indifference on their part—to the necessity for promoting the proper conduct of Business in the House. But I do say that if you introduce such a Rule as this, and make it depend on what is called "the evident sense" of the House, even modified as it is—and it is an important modification—by the words introduced by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), you expose yourselves to very great danger. I saw today a curious account of some proceedings which have been taking place in one of our Colonial Legislatures, where the system of clôture is in force. I refer to the Assembly of South Australia. I do not know whether the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) is in his place; but if he is, he will probably be aware of what has taken place. In the Assembly of South Australia there appears to have been a question raised as to the proper site of the Parliament Buildings in Adelaide. It was a question of no small importance, because it has now been before the Assembly for some years, and has been the means of the turning out of one Ministry, and the introduction of another. A Motion was brought forward recently in regard to that matter. The speech of the Mover was delivered, and it was a speech of some considerable length; yet, immediately that speech was concluded, a Member got up, and, without a single word having been said in reply, moved that the House should divide. The Motion was at once put; there was a division, in which 18 voted for dividing immediately, and 13 against. A division upon the Main Question accordingly took place, without a single word having been uttered in answer to the speech of the Mover of the original Motion, notwithstanding that, at the time, the question was a burning question which had long agitated the Colony. Within a week, in the other House of Assembly—the Legislative Council—the same Motion was brought forward. It was fully discussed, and eventually carried; whereas, in the other Assembly, it was never discussed at all, and was thrown out without any answer having been made to the speech of the Mover of the Resolution. I see that proceedings are now being taken to obtain some municipal action in the matter, in order that the question may be brought to a further solution. Well, that is the sort of thing you may expect under the clôture, when passions are excited and Party feeling runs high. I have no doubt that the true explanation of such action is this—that the majority, who had obtained power in the House of Assembly, were determined not to hear anything more on the question, because they were quite satisfied that they were in the right, and that the Mover of the Motion was altogether in the wrong. But the same would be the case here. We should have the Ministry coming forward and laying down certain propositions that would command the assent of their followers; and if anybody got up to argue against them, he would be put down, and put down very summarily. It reminds me of the story of the Caliph Omar, who ordered the destruction of the Alexandrian Library. He said— If these books contain matters that are in accordance with the Koran, they are superfluous; and if they do not, then they are more than superfluous—they are mischievous and pernicious; and, in either case, they ought to he destroyed. In the same way, if the arguments of hon. Members are in accordance with the views of the Ministry of the day, the majority will say—"They are superfluous, and can be much better expressed by Her Majesty's Government than by you;" but if, on the other hand, they are in opposition to the views of the Ministry of the day, then the majority will say—"They are more than superfluous—they are mischievous, and we ought not to allow them to be heard; we will therefore put them down." If the Chairman of Ways and Means was to be guided by the sense of a bare majority of the House he would feel himself obliged to put this Rule in force. I am glad that my noble Friend has brought forward this Amendment. I think that it will be an extremely useful Amendment in itself, if it is adopted by the House; and if it is not adopted, then, at all events, the discussion which has taken place upon it will have thrown a great deal of light on the true character of these Resolutions, and on the true nature of the action Her Majesty's Government are taking, and I hope that the lesson will not be altogether lost either upon the House or upon the country.


I am not quite sure whether I am able to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) through the whole of his argument; but there are one or two observations in what he has just said in regard to which I should like to say one or two words in reply. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by referring to a case which occurred recently in one of the Colonies, and he argues from that case that the majority in this House, if these Rules were passed, would be able to use their power in a very tyrannical and summary manner. But the right hon. Gen- tleman, in the observations he has made, has entirely ignored all the precautions we are endeavouring to set up against any abuse of the powers we propose to confer. He ignores altogether the initiative of the Speaker or of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and he ignores the directions which are to be given to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees as to the exercise of the initiative. He absolutely ignores the words which have just been accepted—that the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees is to be guided by what appears to be the "evident sense" of the House, and that he is also to entertain the conviction himself that the subject has been adequately discussed before putting the Rule in force. The right hon. Gentleman assumes that it would be in the power of a tyrannical majority to put a stop to a debate, even before it had properly begun, and to call for a division whenever that tyrannical majority might think lit. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the refusal of the Government to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) shows that in their idea and intention this Resolution is not aimed at Obstruction. Now, I entirely deny that assertion of the right hon. Gentleman. The main purpose of the Resolution is to put down wilful Obstruction. We have endeavoured, over and over again, months ago, and now also in this debate, to show that the main purpose of the proposed Rule is directed against wilful and deliberate Obstruction. We have also always maintained that it was not sufficient to contend against wilful and organized Obstruction alone. A good deal of attention has been paid, in the course of this debate, to a speech which I made several months ago on the subject. If any hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to refer to that speech, he will find that at that time I did not base my argument in defence of this Rule on the case of deliberate and wilful Obstruction. I endeavoured to show that what I thought was necessary for the decency and good order of our debates was that the House should assert the right, which I believe it to possess, of regulating, under certain conditions, the length of time to be devoted to the discussion of a particular subject. Obstruction, no doubt, would never have attained the proportions which it has attained in. this House if it had not been aided by the great change in the tone and custom of the House which has lately taken place. We may regret it, but we cannot ignore the fact. We must all of us he very well aware that there is a great disposition, without any wilful Obstruction, to discuss subjects at wholly disproportionate lengths. Everyone will be able to call to mind the number of hours which have been wasted in the discussion of matters of comparatively trivial importance, and the great many more hours which have been wasted in the mere repetition of arguments in debates on more important subjects. In our opinion, what we now propose will have a tendency, by preventing that waste of time, to secure, in reality, the freedom and the perfection of our debates. What are we trying to meet? Is it an imperious and intolerant majority? No; what we are really trying to contend against is something more than an imperious and intolerant majority; we are trying to contend against a physical impossibility. The time of the House is a limited quantity; but the assumption on which you are proceeding is, that there is time enough for the House to discuss, at whatever length any of its Members please, any of the multitudinous subjects which are brought before it. My contention is, that if you discuss minor subjects, or even important subjects, at disproportionate length, you will find yourselves unable to discuss other subjects of equal importance and equally worthy of discussion. Therefore, there should be some power to enable the House to regulate the length of its debates in some manner that shall be proportionate to their importance, and I should regard such a regulation as really tending towards securing freedom of debate. For this reason, I say it would be unwise for the Government, although I own that no doubt the primary purpose of this Rule is to put down Obstruction, and although probably but for the point of abuse of debate which we have lately reached, we should never, for some years, at all events, have heard of this Rule at all, still, when we are taking the character of our mode of Procedure into full consideration, it would be a mistake on our part if we were to limit the exercise of this legitimate and reasonable power on the part of the House to cases in which the Speaker was satisfied that there was an evident intention to obstruct. An unnecessary debate might constitute Obstruction, and the power ought to be used, and, in my opinion, it would be advantageously used on many occasions where there was no Obstruction at all—such, for instance, as when, in the opinion of the majority of the House, a subject had been adequately discussed, and time was only being wasted in order to satisfy the vanity of individual Members.


said, he wished, before the House went to a division, to ask one question which appeared to him to be somewhat pertinent to the matter. The noble Marquess who had just sat down (the Marquess of Hartington) had said, as he (Viscount Folkestone) understood him, that the Members of the Government with whom he sat had always contended that these Rules were not only necessary for dealing with deliberate and wilful Obstruction alone, but for dealing with other kinds of Obstruction. Now, he presumed that the noble Marquess meant by that remark that the Rules were to affect that kind of action on the part of hon. Members which had a tendency to delay the progress of Public Business unduly. He wished to know what would happen in the case which he was about to put before the House? They were told, and they knew very well that it was so, that Mr. Speaker was always impartial; and they were told, further, that the Chairman of Ways and Means would always be impartial. The case he wished to put before the House was this. On going into Committee of Supply and in Committee of Supply last Session, the Liberal Party occupied in speaking 58 hours and some odd minutes. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, only occupied some 20 hours and odd minutes. That meant that the Liberal Party occupied one-third more time than they were rightly entitled to, supposing that each individual Member of the House was entitled to a certain amount of time. He presumed that that was one of the kinds of Obstruction to which the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India had just alluded; and he (Viscount Folkestone) wanted to know if it was the case whether, if the Chairman of Ways and Means was always to be as impartial as the Speaker, he would put this Rule in force against his own Party in a case of that kind? If he were assured that that would be the case, he was not at all certain that it would not be the best course to adopt the proposition of Her Majesty's Government.


said, he did not intend to trouble hon. Members with many observations on this matter; but he understood the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) to arrogate for the majority the right of stopping debate, not only when the debate was being prolonged for purposes of deliberate and wilful Obstruction, but when, in the opinion of the majority of the House, the debate had lasted long enough, and was being prolonged simply to satisfy the vanity of individual Members. He (Mr. O'Donnell) wanted to know whether what were regarded as merely superfluous statements in the view of one side of the House were always, and in all cases, to be rigidly choked off? He should like to receive an answer to that question from the noble Marquess. Let him take the case of the Indian Budget for an example. That Budget invariably appeared in the public journals, reprinted from the Indian official Gazette, say, in the month of April. Everyone, consequently, became thoroughly familiar with that Indian Budget; and yet, in the month of August, they found, as a rule, the Secretary of State for India occupying some three hours some evening with a recital, generally word for word, of all the statements which had appeared in the official Gazette three months before. Surely, many persons would hold that to be a superfluous statement. It was perfectly certain that, if the Leader of the Opposition ventured to inflict a similar three hours' needless repetition of notorious documents upon the House, judged according to the opinion just expressed by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, the gag ought at once to be put into operation. What he (Mr. O'Donnell) was afraid of was that, when the noble Marquess made that magnificent declaration, he made, in his own mind, a reservation which was intended to cover his own case.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 177; Noes 97: Majority 80.—(Div. List, No. 351.)

Original Question put, and agreed to; words inserted accordingly.


, in moving as an Amendment to the proposed 1st Resolution, in line 2, to leave out the words "the evident," and insert "evidently the general," said, he must apologize to the House for appearing on that occasion with another man's child. The Amendment which he had proposed was one which had been placed on the Paper originally by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson); but he (Mr. Gorst) was given to understand that the hon. Member for Glasgow, whose absence from the House they all greatly regretted on that occasion, because the hon. Member was always disposed to exhibit a certain amount of independence in regard to the rights and privileges of the Members of the House, was not there to move the Amendment. And as none of the hon. Member's Friends were anxious to take up the Amendment, he (Mr. Gorst) had ventured to put it down in his own name, so that he might have an opportunity of bringing it forward. If he might borrow, for a moment, the phraseology of the Resolution, it was "evidently the sense" of the Prime Minister that the words which appeared in the Resolution now were not very felicitously chosen. He, therefore, thought the right hon. Gentleman might feel inclined to look on the Amendment with some degree of favour. At present, one of the conditions for the interference of the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means was to be that the "evident sense of the House" was in favour of the debate being closed, and several of the speakers in the course of the evening had drawn a graphic picture of the noise and confusion which would arise from giving vent to that general sense of the House. It was not necessary that they should draw upon their imagination for the scenes which were likely to ensue; they need only tax their memories. He (Mr. Gorst) remembered very well, at the beginning of the present Parliament, when hon. Members opposite were rather fresh to the duties of their position, and were unaccustomed to hear their own views assailed by argument or contradiction, that whenever anybody got up on the Conservative side of the House, and ventured to express an opi- nion which was at all in conflict with, their own cherished notions, they were accustomed to receive him with howls and incoherent noises, and scenes of that description. Therefore, if hon. Members would only recollect the state of the opposite side of the House in the early part of the Session of 1880, they would be able to form a conception of what would be the state of the whole of the Ministerial side of the House, when it became necessary, on any particular occasion, to express the evident sense of the House. He might add that he the more readily proposed the Amendment because he looked upon it as being exactly in accordance with what the Prime Minister had stated, in the early part of the evening, to be the purpose of the Resolutions. He had listened very carefully to the speech of the Prime Minister, and he did not think he was misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman when he said that what the right hon. Gentleman had stated to he the object of the Resolution was to give the House the power of checking the oratory of hon. Members, if hon. Members were disposed to inflict that oratory upon the House at a time when the whole House was indisposed to hear them. Of course, his (Mr. Gorst's) Parliamentary experience was very much shorter than that of the right hon. Gentleman; but he remembered a time when, if an hon. Member on either side of the House ventured to address the House at a time when the House was indisposed to listen to him, it was sufficient to express the will of the House, not by any scenes of disorder or tumult, but by a few murmurs of disapprobation and a few cries of "Agreed, agreed!" "Divide, divide!" Such an indication of feeling, proceeding from all parts of the House, was sufficient to induce any hon. Member who was addressing it to resume his seat, and to leave undelivered the speech he had intended to inflict upon the House. No doubt, there was a very great change in that respect now. He was not disposed to attribute the change to the less virtuous and the less modest disposition of the men of the present day. He did not think that any deterioration in the manners of individual Members was the cause of this change in the practice of the House; but he was of opinion that it was largely to be attributed to the greater interest which the constituencies took in the proceedings of Parliament, and to a general demand on the part of the constituents that their Representatives should not merely vote, but should occasionally express their opinions in the House. He was sure that it was very often the pressure of the constituencies—a pressure which he understood the Prime Minister to look upon as a piece of great vanity, and a thing to be very much ashamed of—he had no doubt that, in many cases, it was the pressure of the constituencies that induced a modest Member of Parliament to obtrude himself on the attention of the House. There was another reason which induced many Members to speak much more frequently now than they were in the habit of doing in former days, and that was the practice of the local Press of reporting the debates in extenso. He had been told that a speech was often delivered in the House of Commons, because it was already in type, and the Member was obliged to deliver it, because he knew that it would appear in the local newspaper, whether he delivered it or not. Even if on all occasions that practice was not carried to the same extent, there was no doubt that there was much greater temptation for the Member for a country constituency to deliver a speech in that House, when he had every reason to believe that any speech he might deliver would find its way, in all its full eloquence, into the columns of his local paper. Therefore, without joining with the Prime Minister in lamenting over the deterioration of manners on the part of the new Members of the House, he (Mr. Gorst) thought the fact of the circumstances in which they were placed induced them to be more persistent in addressing the House, and much less willing to yield to the expression of the general sense of the House than the Members of former days. The Amendment which he proposed to move, and which, as he had said, was originally placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), exactly met the view which had been expressed by the Prime Minister; because, if it was necessary, before the clôture was put in operation, that it should be evidently the general sense of the House that the debate should be closed, it would restore, by the vote of the House, the very same power which was formerly exercised by means of a mere expression of feeling on the part of all sides of the House. Those Members who had sat in the House two or three Parliaments ago would bear him out when he said that what was done in those days amounted to an effectual clôture. Whenever it was considered that a question had been sufficiently discussed, there were murmurs all round the House, which indicated to any person who intended to continue the debate that the House had had enough of it. When murmurs of that kind took place, they were received as a significant hint in all parts of the House, and the debate was at once brought to a close. Now, if the Speaker was to recognize an evident indication of that sort of the general sense of the House that the debate should come to an end, he would, by putting the Question, "That the Debate be now closed," substantially give effect, by Resolution of the House, to that which was formerly effected by the voluntary yielding of the Members of the House. He, therefore, ventured to express a hope that, as this was evidently the intention of the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had spoken.

Amendment proposed, In line 3, to leave out the words "the evident," in order to insert the words "evidently the general,"—(Mr. Gorst,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'the evident' stand part of the Question."


said, he was very much indebted to the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Gorst) for having, according to the statement he had just made, framed the Amendment on the remarks which had been made by him (Mr. Gladstone). But, whenever he heard a reference of that kind in a speech from the hon. and learned Member, he was sorry to say it caused him to examine with more anxious scrutiny what followed. It would have been quite possible to frame the Resolution by saying that when the Speaker observed certain things which induced him to believe that the subject under debate had been adequately discussed he might appeal to the House; but the Govern- ment had endeavoured to place on the Speaker an additional responsibility, and that was the responsibility of estimating, as well as he could, the sense that prevailed in the Assembly over which he presided; and that they had ventured to describe under the phrase "the evident sense of the House." "The evident sense of the House" was a phrase which had been much considered; and it was a phrase which, unless he was much mistaken, in the judgment of the best authorities, was a practical working direction. The hon. and learned Gentleman, not satisfied with the words "the evident sense of the House," desired to put at the back of them the word "general," making the phrase "evidently the general sense of the House." He was reminded of the old and apposite phrase of the Profession to which the hon. and learned Gentleman belonged—"Dolus latet in generalibus;" and he must decline to accept the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The word "evident" was perfectly sufficient for its purpose, as an indication to the Speaker or the Chairman of Commitees; but the hon. and learned Gentleman, in his (Mr. Gladstone's) opinion, had in view, in the exceedingly artful Amendment he had contrived to frame, not a mere decision upon the present Motion, but the making of a convenient introduction to a Motion which was to follow, and which would get at the Government fairly on the sly, and bring them down to a level on which it would be hardly possible for them to argue the case against the proportional majority without having a counter-argument drawn from their own conduct, in reference to their having been deluded into the acceptance of a proposition to the effect that it was to be evidently the general sense of the House. Now, putting these two things together, he was quite sufficiently sensible of the strength of the tie between them to request the hon. and learned Gentleman to excuse him if, while retaining all possible gratitude for the courtesy he had shown towards him, and quite delighted with the sympathy which he felt towards the Prime Minister, and the evident nearness in which they stood to one another, with an occasional difference now and then, he felt that his duty called upon him to endeavour to strip away the cloak in which the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to conceal his real plan, and to adhere to the words which the Government had themselves proposed.


said, it seemed to him that the speech just made by the Prime Minister darkened the prospect which the Government had before presented to the House. At the commencement of the discussion of the Resolutions, they had been told that the Speaker would never put this Rule in force unless the majority was much greater than 1; and, if that argument meant anything, it was that the "evident sense of the House" could only be shown when the majority were drawn from more than one quarter of the House. That was the argument of the Government, when they wished to inspire the House with the belief that there was no danger in the Resolution; and it was the desire of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), and those who supported him, to place it in a clear light. They were the more strongly urged to do that, because the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) had refused to admit the parallel drawn by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) from the proceedings of the Australian Parliament. The value of the protection which could be given by the Speaker depended on the precision and clearness of the Rules by which he would be guided; and they were told that he was only to put the Rule in force when the "sense of the House was evident." He contended that if the meaning of this was not that the House should be generally, and on the whole, of one opinion, it was manifest that the Resolution was intended to be used in a tyrannical sense. On the other hand, if that were not the meaning, they asked no more than that the Government should introduce into the Resolution a word which would adequately express the construction which they themselves declared the Rule was intended to bear. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had suggested that under the phraseology of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) there lurked some deep and dark design; but it seemed more likely that that was to be found in the conduct of the Government, who declined to introduce the one word which would make the meaning of their Resolution clear beyond all question.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 74: Majority 56.—(Div. List, No. 352.)

Main Question, as amended, proposed.

Debate arising.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.

House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.