Standing Order No. 98 read, as followeth:—
There shall be a Committee, to be designated 'The Committee of Selection,' to consist of the Chairman of the Select Committee on Standing Orders, who shall be ex officio Chairman thereof, and Fire other Members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every Session, of which Committee Three shall be a quorum.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, that, in rising to move the appointment of the Committee of Selection, he wished to explain why he brought forward the Motion in its present form. On the first day of the Session, in conformity with established usage, he had placed a Notice on the Paper for the nomination of the Committee of Selection. The proposal then made was that the Committee, as in former years, should consist of five Members; but, knowing at the time that the attention of the House was about to be called to the question, instead of giving the usual Notice he gave five days' Notice. It was then represented to him by several hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House that it was desirable a little further delay should take place, and he had acquiesced in that desire. He now came forward to move the appointment of the Committee, and in deference to the opinions entertained in many quarters of the House he proposed to increase the number from five to seven. There could be no doubt that new and important duties would be imposed upon the Committee by the Resolution passed by the House upon the 1st of December; and it was considered desirable, having regard to these new duties, that there should be an addition to the strength of the Committee. At the same time he was sure that the Committee, whether it was large or small, would be prepared loyally to discharge whatever duties the House might impose upon them. There could be no question that the duties of the Committee of Selection would not be lightened by the decision arrived at by the House in December last; but, a additional duties had been thrown on them, the Committee would be quite prepared to discharge them. The only 973 question now for the consideration of the House was, what was to be the number of Members to constitute the Committee of Selection. There appeared to him to be, on the part of several Members on both sides of the House, a desire to enlarge the number. Speaking for himself, and from the experience he had had in connection with the Committee of Selection for the last 10 years, a small Committee would work together better than a large one. But he had no objection to a moderate addition. His hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had proposed the addition of three Members, but he thought that an addition of two would be quite sufficient. He, therefore, proposed to increase the Committee of Selection from five Members to seven. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) proposed 10, but he thought that number would be too large for the discharge of the duties which the Committee would have to perform. It was undesirable to enlarge the number to any considerable extent. In the debate in December last it was urged that the Committee consisted of Gentlemen who were too exclusively devoted to the Front Benches. Personally, he was not conscious of any such devotion, and he had certainly never seen anything in the nature of partizanship exhibited in the proceedings of the Committee. On the contrary, the Committee had invariably devoted themselves to the simple discharge of their duties. He might say that he had come to an understanding in regard to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and he had placed the present Motion on the Paper. If his proposal were agreed to, the Committee of Selection would virtually consist of eight Members, because the Chairman of the Standing Order Committee was always a Member also of the Committee of Selection. What he proposed now was to add the names of the junior Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) and the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drum-mond Wolff), who were Gentlemen of independent character, and could not be said to be animated by partizan views. He hoped that the experiment of appointing Standing Committees, which was sanctioned by the House last year, would work satisfactorily; and one important duty which would fall to the lot of the 974 Committee of Selection was the appointment of the Chairmen who would have to preside over the Standing Committees. He begged now to move to amend the Standing Order by leaving out "five" and inserting "seven." If that were adopted, he should then move the names of the seven Gentlemen whom he proposed to nominate upon the Committee.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he rose for the purpose of seconding the proposition of his right hon. Friend. This was, to some extent, a continuation Committee. He admitted that the Committee had very important duties to perform, and that they would be much heavier under the New Rules. It was, therefore, more desirable now than ever that the House should adhere to its old practice of appointing, as far as possible, those who had acquired a special knowledge of the work to be performed. Under the New Rules the duties would be very much enlarged, and the powers of the Committee would be very much altered and extended. Under the old state of things it was only necessary to appoint the Committee of Selection with special reference to the Private Business of the House; but they would now be called upon to select a very large Committee, which would have very important functions to perform. He believed there was a general feeling that the Committee should, therefore, be increased in number, and the proposal now made was intended to satisfy the feeling of the House. So far as he was aware, there had never been any dissatisfaction on the part of the House as to the manner in which the old Committee had done its work. For his own part, he thought the results which had been brought about showed that they had done their work very well. He had certainly never heard any complaint of the Committees which had been appointed for investigating Private Bills. The duties imposed upon the Committee of Selection were now very largely increased, but he had no doubt the Committee would still continue to give the utmost satisfaction. The Order as to Grand Committees was temporary only. Perhaps, if it had been other than an experiment, and if the Grand Committees were to be appointed permanently by a Standing Order of the House, it might have been desirable to take a different course. He did not 975 think the House would have been satisfied to grant these very large new powers, if they were intended to be permanent, without some further addition to the number of the existing Committee. As, however, the experiment was only temporary and for one year, he thought his light hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) had done well to confine the addition to two. If his right hon. Friend had proposed to increase the number largely it would have taken up much of the time of the House to settle and arrange not only the numbers, but the duties. That inconvenience would, he thought, be avoided by the plan of his right hon. Friend. He was satisfied that the names which had been added would be accepted by the majority of the House; and, therefore, the delay would be avoided which would have been involved if a larger addition had been proposed. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Bylands) proposed to increase the number to 11. As a rule, a large Committee was not a desirable Committee for the performance of such very delicate work as this Committee would have to perform. He certainly preferred the number which had been suggested by his right hon. Friend. It was quite a sufficient number for trying the experiment; and if at the end of the year it was found that the experiment was successful, and it was resolved to continue the Standing Committees, the House would have some experience before it of the manner in which the Committee of Selection had done their work. He thought the number proposed by his right hon. Friend was a better number than that which they now had; and he had, therefore, great pleasure in seconding the proposition.
§ Amendment proposed thereunto, to leave out the word "Five," in order to insert the word "Seven,"—(Sir John Mowbray,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Five' stand part of the said Standing Order."
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he must confess that he had heard with some disappointment the statement which had been made by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray), because he had rather hoped that the House would have received from 976 him a little information as to his views in regard to the functions to be discharged by the Committee of Selection under the new Order passed last year. It was recognized that some change in their functions was contemplated, because it was proposed to enlarge their number, and that in view of extended duties. What he thought the House would like to know was, whether the Committee of Selection intended to confine themselves strictly and entirely to the mere duty of selecting the names of the Members to serve upon the Standing Committees, and the cognate duty of selecting a Chairman's panel to act as Chairmen of such Committees, or whether they intended to take any steps, such as he gathered from the answer of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) the other day, the Government were rather disposed to throw upon the Committee of Selection. Were they to have from the Committee of Selection or from the Chairman's panel any suggestion as to the regulations which were to prevail in these Standing Committees? He should be told, he supposed, as he had been told already, that the House had decided that the procedure of these Standing Committees was to be the same as that of the Select Committees of the House. Perhaps he might be forgiven if he reminded the House that there were, at least, three different sorts of Select Committees known to the House, and that the procedure in each of those different Committees varied more or less from that adopted in other Committees. They had Select Committees on Private Bills; and those Committees had a practice of their own, which was largely concerned in the examination of witnesses by counsel. Then they had Select Committees to whom Public Bills were sometimes referred; and they had Select Committees to whom particular questions were sometimes referred. In all of these Committees, as far as his experience went—and he had served on more than one of such Committees—the practice was simply adopted to suit the convenience of the Chairman of the day. He remembered serving once on a Select Committee where an important question arose as to a clause in the Bill referred to the Committee. It was a question upon which he and another Member entertained opinions adverse to those of the Chairman. They 977 reached the clause upon which there was a difference of opinion at one Sitting, and then adjourned the Committee; but when the Committee re-assembled he was told that there had been an informal gathering of the other Members of the Committee behind the Chair, and that they had gone through 24 clauses of the Bill. Now, he did not suppose that that would be practicable in a Standing Committee; but it indicated the loose view which a Chairman of a Select Committee, who happened to be a leading Member of the Government of the day, had been known to take as to the mode of procedure. He was anxious to know, and he hoped his right hon. Friend would be able to explain, whether the Committee of Selection could by themselves, or jointly with the Chairman's panel, create or formulate any Rules with regard to Standing Committees and submit them to the House. No doubt, there were some points of no great importance which might occur in regard to Standing Committees which might be settled by the Standing Committees themselves after they had gained experience he believed, however, that there was more than one important point that had not yet been determined; he might, perhaps, suggest one—whether any Member of the House would be eligible to serve on both of the Standing Committees, or whether the fact that a Member was appointed to serve on one was to exclude him from serving on the other. He did not think it would be fair to call upon the Committee of Selection to determine an important point like that by themselves in their room upstairs; and it was desirable that they, or Her Majesty's Government, should submit some scheme for the regulation of the procedure of these Committees to the judgment of the House. It was quite possible that there were many Members in the House who might be well qualified to serve on Committees relating to matters of commerce, and also relating to the amendment of the law; and such Members might be appointed on both Committees, unless the House was told that one Committee was to be exclusively confined to merchants and the other to lawyers. There were many merchants who were well acquainted with questions of law; and, no doubt, there were some few lawyers who knew something about questions of com- 978 merce. He therefore presumed that it ought not to be an insuperable bar that a man's knowledge of one subject should exclude him from acting upon a Committee with the Business of which he had more or less knowledge. He hoped, therefore, to hear, if not from his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray), who had already addressed the House, at least from the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who was well acquainted with the conduct of Business by the Committee of Selection, whether it was intended by him, or any other Member of the Committee, as was now proposed, to take any steps to obtain the sanction of the House to any Rules for regulating the procedure of Standing Committees?
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he believed that it would now be a convenient time for him to move an Amendment to the proposal of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) which he had placed upon the Paper—namely, to amend the Standing Order No. 98, by leaving out "five," and inserting "ten." The effect of his Amendment would be that, instead of having a Committee of eight, the Committee of Selection would consist of 11. He dismissed at once any argument of his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Dillwyn) as to the policy or impolicy of appointing a large Committee. They could not, if they so wished it, have a large Committee; but it appeared to him that the Committee of Selection were about to undertake work very different from that which they had performed hitherto, and, therefore, that the House might properly consider whether there ought not to be some material alteration in the constitution of that Committee. He would remind the House that the Committee of Selection appointed in former years was appointed simply in connection with Private Bills. It would be observed that the Standing Order they were about to modify was a Standing Order relating only to the Private Bill Business of the House; and the Committee of Selection was, no doubt, very properly and efficiently constituted for the purpose of dealing with Private Bill legislation. But it was now proposed that this Committee of Selection, instead of being a Private Bill Committee, should be a Committee of Selection 979 that would affect very considerable interests in that House; and it was, therefore, desirable that the opinion of the House should be represented upon it as far as possible. However indefatigable they were in the discharge of their duties, it could hardly be expected that five or six Gentlemen would represent the general view of the House—at any rate, as well as a Committee consisting of a larger number. It appeared to him that the argument of his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Dillwyn), in which he proposed that they should have a small Committee because it was only an experiment, was an argument that scarcely deserved the consideration of the House. What they had to do in making this great experiment of the appointment of Grand Committees was, that they should start with every possibility of their successful working; and one of the first steps they should take was to take care that the Committee of Selection fairly represented every section of feeling in the House. In order to do that it was necessary, in his opinion, that there should be a larger Committee than that proposed by his right hon. Friend. The Committee on Standing Orders, which had just been agreed to at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John R. Mowbray), consisted of 11 Members; the Public Accounts Committee also consisted of 11 Members, and he did not see any reason why this Committee should not follow that precedent and consist of 11 Members also. He begged, therefore, to move the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper to amend Standing Order No. 98 by leaving out "five" and inserting "ten."
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out to the hon. Member that the Question before the House is that the word "five" stand part of the Question. When the House negatives that proposition, then the Question will be put that "seven" be inserted, and the hon. Member will then be in Order in moving his Amendment.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he was glad to think that an Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper, immediately the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) gave Notice of his intention to move for this Committee, had received such general en- 980 dorsement from all sides of the House. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, in making successive postponements of the Motion, and now presenting it with an alteration of its terms, had never done him (Mr. O'Connor) the honour of communicating to him in any way that it was his intention to alter the original proposal. When this Motion was first put upon the Paper, it occurred to him (Mr. O'Connor) that it was absolutely indispensable that some alteration should be made in the constitution of the Committee of Selection. That Committee was charged, and always had been charged, with very important duties. Every Private Bill was referred to them, and they had to nominate the Members of the Committees, both upon opposed and unopposed Bills. They had also to nominate the General Committee upon Railway and Canal Bills. To them was referred every Provisional Order Bill which was not sent to the General Committee on Railway and Canal Bills. Those Bills, affecting very varied and very important interests, were properly committed to a number of Gentlemen of very great experience and of high character, whose names would at once secure the acceptance and respectful recognition of every quarter of the House. They were the names of Gentlemen who had been up to this time Members of the Committee of Selection, and he should be very sorry to say one single word in disparagement of any one of them; but the duties of the Committee of Selection from this time forward, in consequence of the Standing Order of December, 1882, would be very much more important, and very much more delicate than they had ever been before. As the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Rylands) remarked, their duties had been taken from mere Private Bill legislation, and made to apply to matters of a public character. What were those duties? From a House consisting of 650 Members it would be the duty of the Committee of Selection, hitherto numbering only five with the Chairman, of whom three form a quorum—it would be their duty to select some 160 Members, or something like one in every four of the Members of the House; and, having made that selection, they would have to proceed with the distribution of this selected body into two smaller 981 bodies; and, in making that distribution, they would have to consider not only the constitution of the House, but the personal and professional qualifications of every single one of the Members constituting the Committee. But that was not all. They would have to consider the nature of the Bills to be submitted to the two new Standing Committees; and, seeing that those Bills were of more than usual importance, it would be at once perceived that they would be entrusted with a very delicate and difficult duty. Even that was not the entire extent of their duty; but they might be called upon to select 15 special Members to be placed upon each Standing Committee, in order to supplement the normal strength of the Committee in exceptional cases. And that was not all; the Standing Committees were not to be allowed the right of selecting their own Chairman; but the Committee of Selection was to appoint a small panel of four, five, or six Members from among whom the Chairmen of the Standing Committees must perforce be taken. Well, the selection of the Chairmen and Members of the Standing Committees, in the manner he had described, appeared to him to be a duty so important and so delicate, not to say invidious and undesirable, that he could very well understand many Members naturally shrinking from undertaking so serious a responsibility. Indeed, he thought that the Members who consented to serve on the Committees now appointed were well entitled to the thanks and grateful recognition of their fellow Members; but in future it would not be sufficient that the Members of the Committee of Selection should be men of weight, high character, and experience. If their Standing Committees were to work successfully, if their Committee of Selection was hereafter to escape criticism and observations, it was indispensable that the Committee should be enlarged so as to secure a varied and representative character, which, with all respect to the present Members of the Committee, it did not possess. Since he had placed his Amendment on the Paper, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray), who had moved, the appointment of the Committee, had adopted his suggestion and had altered the original Motion so as to include a Resolution for 982 the enlargement of the Committee. The right hon. gentleman had also adopted, at the suggestion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Party below him (Lord Randolph Churchill), the name of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff). He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had overlooked one considerably larger Party which sat higher up on those Benches, and which was desirous of placing on the list of Members the name of Mr. Justin M'Carthy. When he (Mr. O'Connor) placed his Amendment on the Paper, it was neither his desire nor his duty to propose more than one name, and the Members who sat on those Benches were not desirous of asking the House to give them more than one place on this Committee; but they did respectfully and hopefully ask that they should be at least allowed one Representative upon a Committee of such signal and unusual importance. In order that they might be able to move the insertion of that name he had proposed his Amendment, which would have enlarged the Committee by a single Member. Of course, it might not be desirable that the enlargement should be so limited. All he could say was that the Irish Members would be satisfied with one Representative upon the Committee, but they would not object to an increase to the extent of 10, 11, 13, or even a larger number. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) now proposed two new names, those of Mr. Illingworth and Sir. H. Drummond Wolff, one representing one side of the House and the other the other; and the Irish Members were told that they were represented by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry). Now, personally, he had no hesitation in saying that he had the most implicit reliance upon the candour and intelligence, the information and the impartiality of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry); but he had no hesitation also in saying that the Irish Members did not consider that by reason of that hon. Member's presence on the Committee of Selection they who sat upon those Benches and had generally acted together would be adequately represented. They felt that they would be adequately represented by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), and 983 he trusted that the House would be prepared to accept the addition of his hon. Friend's name, which, at the proper time, he should venture to move.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
wished to call attention to the fact that the Chairman of the Committee of Standing Orders had proposed that in future the Committee of Selection should consist of eight Members the right hon. Gentleman's proposal was that the number of the Committee should be increased from five to seven; but the Chairman of the Committee of Standing Orders (Sir John R. Mowbray) himself would, as before, by virtue of his Office, be a Member of the Committee, thus making eight. The Committee would therefore be composed of four Conservatives and four Liberals. It had hitherto been the practice to appoint Select Committees with a majority on the side of the Government of the day. Now, this Committee of Selection was a very important one, and would have much more important functions to discharge than it had ever discharged before, and he thought that it ought to have at least a majority of one on the Government side. He should, therefore, at the proper time, propose that the name of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) be added.
said, he did not intend to detain the House at any length, but some of the questions raised in the course of the debate were of considerable importance; and, as his right hon. Friend, who knew the alteration of this Standing Order, and who was himself the Chairman of the Standing Order Committee (Sir John R. Mowbray) was unable to reply, he would ask the House to give him its attention for one or two minutes while he endeavoured to do so. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) asked if it was the intention of the Committee of Selection, should they be appointed that evening, to suggest, or to frame any Rules for the procedure before the Grand Committees. Now, he confessed that it appeared to him, as the labours already imposed upon the Committee of Selection were of a sufficiently onerous and grave character, it was undesirable to underrate the difficulty and delicacy of the additional task the House was imposing upon the Committee. It was a task of great difficulty and of the utmost 984 delicacy, and would require the bearing in mind of numerous and complex considerations, which of themselves would be almost enough to dazzle any Committee. Then he would ask his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University not to begin by attempting to tie the hands of the Members of the Committee. He should imagine that the ordinary and uniform course would be this that when the Chairmen were appointed, being—as no doubt they would be—men of great experience and weight in that House, they would naturally meet together and consult among themselves whether they would suggest any course of procedure or any Rules for the government of these Grand Committees. The House was not about to commit to a body of total strangers the duties which the Grand Committees would have to perform. The Members of the Grand Committees would all be Members of the House, all of them accustomed to the course of procedure in Committee of the Whole House, and of the procedure before Select Committees; and surely it was not necessary to suppose at the outset that bodies of men so constituted would not be able, if the necessity should arise, to come to the House and suggest some Rules for their own guidance. His right hon. Friend said there were several very difficult questions which the Committee of Selection could not decide for themselves, and he had instanced two; one was whether it was competent for the Committee of Selection to appoint the same Member upon both Committees. In reply to that he had to say simply that there was nothing in the Resolutions passed by the House, so far as he could see, to prevent the same Member being nominated upon both Committees. But he should like to go further, and he thought that unless strong cause arose for it, such a practice would be highly inconvenient, and for this reason—the two Committees would probably be both sitting at the same time; and it would be obviously inconvenient, and a waste of power, to appoint one hon. Member to attend the two Committees. He could conceive it possible, under special circumstances, to appoint a Member upon both bodies; but it would be a very rare and exceptional occurrence. His right hon. Friend asked if one Committee was to be composed entirely of merchants, and the 985 other entirely of lawyers. Now, the composition of these Grand Committees was largely gone into when the Resolutions of the Government were introduced; and it was pointed out then that it never was the intention, either of the Resolution or of the House, that these Committees should consist entirely of experts. The very terms of the Resolution showed that that was not the intention of the House, because hon. Members would observe that after the General Committee had been appointed, bearing in mind the composition of the Committee and the Bills to be brought before it, there was even after that a power given to the Committee of Selection to add 15 Members to any one Committee. What he understood to be the wish and intention of the House was that the great body of the Committee should be representative of all the Parties and sections of the House; but that in regard to particular Bills which might properly be brought under the notice of a Committee the Committee of Selection should have the power of adding 15 Members who were specially acquainted with the subject to be discussed. Now, one word about the odd and even number which had been referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms). With regard to the question of number, it was an invidious task for any Member, when a name was proposed of any Member of the Committee, to raise an objection to the name of any particular Gentleman being on the Committee, and he hoped the House would clearly understand that in any remarks he was about to make he had no such intention. He could have no personal feeling in the matter, and what he would say to hon. Members who advocated an extension of the Committee was this—it was very desirable that the Committee of Selection should not be a Committee of divided opinion. Up to the present time, in all the years that he had been a Member of that Committee, he never remembered that there had been a division among them; and he thonght it was of great importance, if it were possible, that they should continue to keep out of the Committee anything in the nature of a division. It would be remembered that in olden times a very important Committee was appointed in that House—namely, the General Committee upon Elections, which selected the Members to serve, 986 and try Election Petitions. Well, that Committee consisted only of six; and what to his mind was a wise rule in the working of that Committee was this—that no decision should be come to unless four were agreed. That absolutely prevented the possibility of any partizan decision being arrived at either on one side or the other. On the Committee of Selection the same number of six had been previously the rule. His own opinion was that if they could get a common agreement among a small number of men, it was useless, in matters of this kind, to nominate a large number. Every one added to a Committee would make it, of course, more and more difficult to arrive at an agreement. With regard to the number which the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) proposed to add to the Committee, he would suggest to his hon. Friend that it would materially facilitate the presence of a division, and that it would be far better to leave the matter as it stood. They would go into Committee and consider each other's opinions and arguments, and not with any preconceived views, and there was always this safeguard that the Chairman himself would never vote except when the numbers were equal. He hoped that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) would not press the Amendment of which he had given Notice. He certainly failed to see how 10 men would be better able to judge of the selection of Members of that House than eight. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) had fairly met the wish of the House by increasing the Committee from five to eight; and he hoped the House would be content with that, unless it could be shown that the feelings and wishes of every section of the House had not been fairly considered in the appointments which were made to the Grand Committees. If such a case were to happen it would most certainly be taken notice of by the House. He had taken great interest in the question of these Grand Committees, and he was anxious to see them work successfully. He was not without the hope that if the House remitted the duty of nominating the Members of the Grand Committees to the Committee of Selection they would be able to persuade even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor) that, in common with 987 all Parties in the House, those who acted near him would receive full consideration, and that the appointments would be made without fear or favour.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he hoped the House would be persuaded, by the speech they had just listened to with so much interest, to acquiesce with the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee in adding only two Members to the old number of the Committee of Selection with which they were familiar. He agreed with all that had been said as to the great importance of leaving the Committee of Selection email and select; but beyond this he had taken this objection at the time when the matter was discussed, and he had put it to the Prime Minister, who was then in charge of this question of the Grand Committees, whether they were to understand that it was to be the old familiar Committee of Selection with which they were acquainted, or whether anew Committee of Selection was to be appointed or arranged—he would not say packed—for the purpose of nominating the Grand Committees. The Prime Minister replied that it was the intention of the Government, so far as they were concerned, to submit the matter to the Committee of Selection. It would certainly complicate the understanding then arrived at if a large enlargement of the Committee of Selection was now to be made, in order that all quarters of the House should find representation upon it. He believed that all quarters of the House would have due consideration given to them, and he earnestly hoped the House would be content with the alteration proposed by the Chairman of the Committee of Standing Orders, who was certainly better informed upon the whole matter than the House could be. He trusted that the House would not insist upon going further, but would be content with the two names which his right hon. Friend proposed to add.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he quite agreed with the observations which had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth). His right hon. Friend on his right, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray), had filled the Office of Chairman of the Committee of Selection for nearly 10 years, and not one single complaint had ever been made in 988 regard to the formation of that Committee. There had never been a dispute brought before the House with regard to an appointment which had been made by the Committee, and that was the best and surest guarantee that the Committee had endeavoured honestly and faithfully to discharge the duties entrusted to them. He would go one step further, and would appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House whether a small Committee on delicate subjects of this kind would not do their duty far better, far more efficiently, and far more satisfactorily to the House than a large Committee. The very remark made by his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), that they had done their work without any division, clearly showed that they had taken into account all the different phases of which the House was composed, and that they would continue to do so. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] An hon. Gentleman said "No!" Now, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) ventured to say they would. The House had never been able to impugn any of their decisions before, and he was satisfied that no hon. Member would come there and impugn them in future. But, be that as it might, they had a guarantee, at any rate, now that the duty would be well and properly performed. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) had agreed to the addition of two names. That would raise the number to eight, and if the names proposed by his right hon. Friend were accepted by the House he was quite sure that they would satisfy every requirement of the House. He was satisfied that a small number would be best; and they would have a guarantee for the future, as in the past, that the new duties imposed upon the Committee would be efficiently performed.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was quite sure that the House and the country would scout even the possibility of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) being inspired by any offensive or hostile intent towards the Irish Party or towards the Tory interests. He was quite certain that they would not take the possibility into consideration. But there was a possi-bilit3r that the House ought to take into consideration—namely, the possibility of 989 persons outside the House, and interests outside the House, and constituencies and millions of men outside the House, taking strongly into their consideration the possibility of this Committee of Selection having been proposed without any regard to the interests of the Irish people. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just spoken said they possessed a guarantee for the future in the fact that in the past there had been no complaint made against the action, of the Committee of Selection. Now, the fact in this case supplied no analogy whatever to guide the House in regard to the future. There was all the difference in the world between the Private Bill Business which had hitherto alone been the subject of the supervision of the hon. Members composing the Committee of Selection, and the Public Bill Business which was, to a large extent, to be committed to their care in the future. For instance, the Bills that were to be brought before Standing Committees would include questions relating both to commerce and the amendment of the law. He wanted to know what interest, public or private, was not touched by so vast a measure as the codification of the Criminal Law? Above all, it was of importance to the Irish nation, threatened as they were threatened, with all kinds of pains and penalties in future, even after the expiration of the present Coercion Act, that they should know that some safeguards were in existence for the selection of the Members who would deal with the all-important Committee stage of the consideration of the Bill for the codification of the Criminal Law. Last night they heard appeals made by the Government to the Irish Members to assist in forwarding the despatch of Public Business. Surely that appeal from the Government Benches must sound very strangely when it was compared with this entire ignoral of the claims of the Irish Members to supervise the despatch of one of the most important branches of the Public Business. If they were to be excluded and outcast from such important branches of the Public Business there could be but one conclusion. He altogether left out of consideration the intention of the right hon. Member who had introduced this Motion, because it was for the House to consider, after they had heard all that could be said on the subject, in what 990 light their action would be regarded outside the House, and it was that aspect of the question that he ventured to impress on hon. and right hon. Members. If he were to lay stress upon the subject-matter of the Bills to be put before the Grand Committees, he might remind the House that in most important branches of penal legislation, and legislation connected with the penal law in such matters as the Prisons Act and the form which the military law should assume, most important Amendments had come from the Benches of the Irish Party. Nevertheless, they were omitted on the present occasion, and all assistance from them discarded. Literally speaking, there was no Representative for Ireland upon the proposed Committee. He was perfectly aware that the hon. Member for the County of Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was included in the list of Members proposed to be nominated by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John E. Mowbray). Now, the hon. Member for the County of Galway had not even addressed a meeting of his constituents for some years, and he believed that the hon. Member had not addressed a meeting of his constituents for very sound political reasons. And yet the hon. Member was the only Gentleman even nominally connected with Ireland who figured in this most extraordinary proposal. As he had said before, the procedure of the Committee of Selection in relation to Private Bill Business offered no guarantee whatever in connection with the Business now before the House. Members of the Committee of Selection would have to choose out of the 650 Members of the House some 160 Members to sit upon the Grand Committees. It was to be presumed that some Irish Members would be chosen by the Committee of Selection among the 160. He wanted to know how the Members of the Committee of Selection, when the Irish Members were excluded from it, were to know or to decide? By what test of capacity or convenience were the Members of the Irish Party to be selected to serve on the Grand Committees, if the Committee of Selection were to act without regard to the convenience of the Irish Members? And if they acted without regard to the wishes of the Irish Party as to what Members were to represent the Irish Party on the Grand Committees, it 991 would undoubtedly be in their power to commit a serious injury to the interests represented by the Irish Party. There was only one possible guarantee, or approach to a guarantee, and that was the introduction of some Member in the interests of the Irish Party who would act in conformity with the policy of the Irish Party, and give that assistance as the real position of such a Member in Irish politics would enable him to give. He regarded the question now under consideration as one of the most important parts of the Business of the whole House—as one vitally affecting the rights of Ireland—as one which, if it were decided in a wrong manner, would most seriously affect the interests of Ireland, and most seriously injure those interests. He could only regard this proposal, if it were passed in its present unamended position, as the beginning of that threatened disfranchisement of Ireland which had been so often held out as a terror to the Irish National Party. At a later stage they might make objections to individual names; but at present it was evident that, except in a purely technical sense, there was no Representative of Ireland, North, South, East, or West, proposed to be nominated on the Committee of Selection. He said that with the greatest possible respect for the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry); but as a politician the hon. Member in no way represented the opinions of the Irish people, and he might add that it was quite impossible to leave out of consideration the fact that a Committee of Selection of this kind ought, above all things, to consist of Members who had not taken a distinctly hostile part towards that section of the Irish Party sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House. If they had any power of choosing, they would certainly not select the most aggressive and unpopular Irish Member to act for the Irish people on a Committee of this kind. It was a matter within the public knowledge that on every possible occasion the hon. Member went out of his way to attack, in the most prejudiced and hostile spirit, the Members of the Irish Party in that House. Of course, if the Committee of Selection was to be based upon its present constitution, the Irish Party could only regard it as an insult to their requirements, and a deliberate challenge to them to be guided by principles and 992 motives which they desired to avoid. The proposed composition of the Committee of Selection showed an apparent confederacy on the part of the two Front Benches, and he could assure the Government that the proposal was not calculated to further or promote the despatch of Public Business in that House. He observed that, apparently in compliance with the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), one of the intimate supporters of the noble Lord was to appear upon this Committee. Well, he did not grudge the hon. Members who sat below the Gangway on the Front Bench their share of recognition. It was only due, if not to their number, at least to the manner in which they had led the Conservative Party. In his conscience he certainly thought that that regard to the Members of the Fourth Party contrasted very strangely with the total disregard shown towards all the Members for Ireland. If he were not mistaken, even the tried services of the Ulster Liberals had been totally neglected on the present occasion, and all their faithful devotion to the Government had only been rewarded, as usual, with calm indifference and total oblivion. He was sure the Irish Members of that House would not be doing their duty to their constituents, but would be neglecting and sacrificing the interests of Ireland, if they lost a single legitimate opportunity of opposing this deliberate exclusion and partial disfranchisement of the Irish vote on one of the most important stages of the Public Business—namely, the Committee stage in the discussion of Public Bills of supreme importance.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, that, while he agreed in the main with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), he regretted that the queries which had been put by his hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) had not been answered. What he now understood to be thrown out was the suggestion that the General Committee of Selection, or some other authority in the House, should frame Regulations, and submit them to the House for its approval. Last year the House, with every formality, decided that in regard to certain Bills, the stage known as the Committee stage should be relegated to a Committee sitting upstairs, which 993 should be very much larger than an ordinary Select Committee. He certainly thought that a great deal of confusion would be created, unless some understanding were come to with respect to the Rules which were to regulate the proceedings of the Committee, when a Bill went before them upstairs. He had himself served on large Committees appointed to consider important questions of public interest, and there was no order and no regularity of procedure whatever. Very frequently half-a-dozen persons were speaking at the same time. If similar disorder prevailed in the Grand Committees, when they came to the consideration of important public measures, he thought the result might be most lamentable. Then, who was to settle the hours at, and during which, the Committees were to sit? Was the hour of meeting to be settled by the small rump of a Committee, after a protracted sitting of three or four hours? Was it to be possible for the customary hour to be changed in order to suit the convenience of the Chairman, or some other prominent Member of the Committee? If that were done, the Members of the Committee, and the persons most interested, might not attend, and certainly the public would have no opportunity of attending. If Her Majesty's Government, for very good reasons no doubt, thought it right that the old course of procedure upon the Committee stage of a Public Bill should undergo so great a change, he did think that either they or some other body should take the trouble to draw up some simple Rules, and submit them for the approval of the House. He wished distinctly to know whether these Grand Committees were to be conducted in the same form as ordinary Select Committees? If they were to be conducted in the conversational tone, and informal manner, in which Select Committees usually discharged their business, he thought the result would be highly unsatisfactory. The legislation would not be the legislation of the House at all, but the legislation of a mob upstairs. He quite approved of the Questions which had been put to the Government by the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms), and hoped that an answer would be given to them.
§ MR. CUBITT
said, he did not wish to prolong the debate. He had simply 994 risen to explain one matter connected with the Committee of Selection, as one who had served on that Committee, which he thought was misapprehended by hon. Members in various parts of the House. They had heard a good deal in the course of the debate about the duties of the Committee of Selection being limited to the nomination of Members to serve upon Private Bill Committees. No doubt, that was the original purpose for which the Committee of Selection was appointed; but hon. Members who had studied the Votes of the House and had attended to its proceedings, would be well aware that the Committee of Selection had another and even more important duty to perform, and that was to nominate the special Members of any important Committee appointed by the House. That practice had been adopted for some years and had worked satisfactorily even in regard to questions which had occasioned considerable excitement in the House and the country. This he conceived, if possible, to be a much more difficult duty to throw upon the Committee of Selection than that now proposed to be imposed upon them in the appointment of the Grand Committees. He, for one, felt that the new duty would be a difficult and delicate one; but he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whit-bread), that if he (Mr. Cubitt) had the honour to be upon the Committee he would have no right to shirk the duty thrown upon him. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), he thought they had already been mainly answered by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). As far as the Committee of Selection were concerned, he (Mr. Cubitt) thought they would be going beyond their powers if they attempted to lay down any Rules for the guidance of the Grand Committees. As his hon. Friend had stated, it would be for the Chairman's Panel to make regulations if they thought it necessary to do so, or for the Chairman of the Grand Committees to make a proposal to the House. For his own part, he did not think that any new Rules were wanted, because the Rules for the ordinary guidance of Public Business would be in the main and on the whole adequate for the procedure of the Grand Committees.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, he did not agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt), that the duties of the Committee of Selection were formerly as important as they would be now. It was proposed that the new Committee should consist of four Conservatives and four Liberals, and the complaint of the Irish Party was that there was no Irish Member nominated upon the Committee who would really represent the interests of the people of Ireland. He knew very well that Englishmen and Scotchmen always thought they were better judges of the legislation suited for the grievances of Ireland than Irishmen were. He feared there was a considerable chance of the Irish Members being ignored altogether upon the Committee. He did not know whether the counsel and advice of hon. Members sitting upon those (the Irish) Benches had proved altogether fruitless even to Her Majesty 's Government in the Committee stage of the Land Bill, and lie doubted if the Government would find that they would expedite the progress of Public Business by excluding them from Committees of this kind. Various attempts had been made in the course of the last two or three years to expedite Public Business, but all of them had assumed the form of a proposal to limit the influence of the Irish Members. Yet every attempt had failed. It might be said that the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was an Irish Representative, but the hon. Member no more represented the Irish people than any English Liberal did. The hon. Member had always been opposed to the Irish Party, and had always been one of their bitterest enemies. Would anyone pretend to say that the hon. Member would be one whit more anxious to support the views of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) or the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. J. M'Carthy) than any other Member of the Committee? There ought to be some guarantee that the views of the Irish National Party should be fairly represented on the Grand Committees; but even at this very early stage the Government were showing their teeth. The course they were taking proved conclusively, that since the Irish constituencies of Mallow and other places had not been found willing to endorse the policy 996 of Her Majesty's Government, the Government were determined to exclude the Irish Members of the House from ail share in the work of legislating for their country. Well, they might exclude the Irish Members if they pleased; but he should like to know what would be the character of the legislation for Ireland which would come from these Grand Committees without any Irish Members upon them? He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor) would persist in dividing upon the Question, although at the same time he must confess that he should view the result with perfect indifference.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was very anxious to hear what the opinion of the Government was with, regard to the views which had been put before the House by his hon. Friends sitting near him. He believed that this was the first time the position of the Irish Members sitting on that side of the House below the Gangway had been ignored in the selection of one of these Committees. He had certainly expected that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), the temporary Leader of the Government, would have had something to say as to what ought to be done in regard to the omission pointed out by several of his (Mr. Parnell's) hon. Friends, who had spoken previously. The Committee of Selection appeared to be nominated by the Chairman of the Committee of Standing Orders, and, therefore, it did not fall properly within the list of nominations for which the Government were directly responsible; but, looking at the state of the Notice Paper, he could not help feeling almost sure that the Government Whips on both sides of the House were consulted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray) with regard to the nomination of the Committee. [Sir JOHN R. MOWBRAY: No.] Then that was not so. He was glad to be told by the right hon. Gentleman that he had not consulted the Government Whips, or the Whips of the Opposition, and that fact strengthened his argument, because it rendered it still more desirable that they should have some declaration from the Government as to what their opinion was in regard to the proposed change which the right hon. Member for the University of Ox- 997 ford suggested by his Amendment. The change as it stood, if it were adopted by the House—namely, the extension of the number of the Committee from six to eight, would practically exclude the Irish Members sitting in that quarter of the House from any representation upon this most important Committee; and it ought not to be urged that, because the nomination on this Committee of Selection had not up to the present proved a subject of contention, that, therefore, it should still be nominated free from criticism and free from remark. By the Standing Order which was passed last Session, the duties of this Committee, which had been previously almost nominal, were enormously extended, and rendered of the utmost importance. They found that now the Committee would have intrusted to it the duty of nominating the Members of the Grand Committees, and also the Panel from which would be selected the Chairmen of these Standing Committees. Now, that alteration in the functions and duties of this Select Committee entirely altered the old position; and the strength of his argument was increased by the fact that, although, nominally, the House would have the supervision or the right of alteration or veto over the powers of nomination exercised by the Committee in respect of these Grand Committees, yet that power would only nominally exist, and would not be effective either for the purposes of criticism or debate. By an Amendment of the 18th February, 1879, to the Order commonly known as the Half-past Twelve Rule, it was provided that Motions for the appointment or nomination of Standing Committees should be exempted from the operation of that Rule; consequently, when they parted with the nomination of this Select Committee, they, practically speaking, parted with their last control over the proceedings of the Government and this Committee as regarded the nomination of Members composing these most important Grand Committees, because everyone knew that when the Government had the power of bringing on a Motion after half-past 12 at night, that, practically speaking, they were in a position to disregard everything except their own wishes and ideas, and to treat the House as though it were non-existent. He had said that the duties which these 998 Standing Committees would have to perform would be of vast importance, and it was most desirable that they should approach their task with the confidence of all sections of the House. They had been told that there would be committed to these Standing Committees the Committee stages of Bills regarding Bankruptcy, and the Codification of the Criminal Law, and other measures of considerable importance, and they were also told by the Prime Minister during the passing of the Rule under which these Standing Committees would have their power, that he (the right hon. Gentleman) looked upon this arrangement in the nature or light of an experiment from which he hoped to obtain great results. He looked upon it in the nature of an experiment in the hope that something greater and more important—some additional power or increase of power—under the Rule might, in a future Session, be added, by which the House would be enabled to cope with a considerable portion of the work which now oppressed it. Nothing that fell from the right hon. Gentleman, when he was asking the House to give this experiment a trial, would have induced them to believe that it was his intention to deliberately pass over the Irish Members sitting in that quarter of the House when the time for the nomination of this most important Committee of Selection came. He (Mr. Parnell) believed that if the right hon. Gentleman had been in his place during the days of this Session, he would have so directed matters as to have given them that which they claimed—namely, the addition of one Member of the Irish National Party as a Member of the Committee. That, he believed, was not an unreasonable request. They had always been accustomed to receive a proportion of one-seventh of the total number nominated upon the Committee as the proportion which should belong to them for nomination, and he did not see why the custom should have been disregarded on the present occasion. The explanation might, perhaps, be found in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir John E. Mowbray), that he had not consulted with the Whips on either side of the House. It was very much to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not done so, and he (Mr. Parnell) thought that if he 999 had taken the usual step—he did not mean to say the usual step as regarded the nomination of this particular Committee, but the usual step as regarded the nomination of other Committees of equal importance—the result would have been the saving of a considerable amount of the time of the House. He could not suppose that any section of the House desired to deprive the Irish Members of a right which had already been conceded. He would conclude his observations with the expression of a hope that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) would be able to dispel their apprehensions at once—this being the proper time to do so.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I had hoped that this discussion would have concluded without my being called on to take part it. It bas not been the general practice for the Government, or, I think, the Front Opposition Bench, to take part in the nomination of this Committee. It bas been thought desirable—and the practice has worked well—that the nomination of the Committee exercising such important functions should be left as much as possible to the judgment of the House, uninfluenced by those accustomed to lead it on political and Party questions; therefore I considered it unnecessary for me or any right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take any part in the discussion. But as the hon. Member who bas just sat down has appealed to me to know what view the Government take on the question that has been raised, I have only to say that the Government are of opinion that it is desirable they should—as they have done on past occasions—abstain from interfering in any manner whatever, direct or indirect, with the operation of this body. The Committee of Selection was appointed for the discharge of these new duties, because it was a body already in existence, and because it has always exercised its functions with great impartiality and great satisfaction to the House. It is not at all the practice, nor, indeed, bas such been alleged, that the duty of this Committee has hitherto been solely in connection with Private Business. Frequently, on very important questions, when the House has felt itself incompetent to discharge the delicate duty of the selection of Gentlemen to serve on certain Committees, the House has delegated that delicate duty to this 1000 very body; therefore we have some experience of the Committee's discharging duties analogous to those that will devolve upon it under the New Rules. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends have complained that there is no representation on the Committee of the Party to which they belong. Well, I have to point out that if the Committee only consists of eight Members, no Party in this House of less than 80 are by right entitled to a Representative on the Committee; but what I would rather point out to the hon. Member is that the appointment of this body has not proceeded hitherto upon strictly representative principles. What, I think, the House has desired in the appointment of this Committee has been the selection of Gentlemen of great Parliamentary experience, of great knowledge and acquaintance with Members of the House—possessing knowledge of the particular class of Business which individual Members desire to apply themselves to, and the qualification of Members for considering a particular kind of Business. These, I think, are the qualities the House looks for in the appointment of this Committee; and we have not in past times, nor do I think it desirable we should proceed now, to give to every section or body of the House that exact amount of representation which, numerically, it might be entitled to. We have thought that the appointment of the Committee and its composition might, with great advantage, be left to the judgment of those Gentlemen who have already served with so much satisfaction to the House upon it. If they had desired that the number and composition should remain precisely that which it has hitherto been, I should have boon disposed to support their proposition. They have come forward, after due consideration, and have said that they believe they can discharge their duties with greater satisfaction to the House and themselves if a slight addition is made to their number; and I have no doubt that in that they are making a judicious recommendation that the House will do well to accept. I cannot imagine for a moment that there would be the slightest possible risk if the Committee is appointed as proposed, that the Irish National Party, or any Party in this House, will be ignored by them. I have no doubt that they will 1001 discharge their duties with the strictest impartiality, and that they will consult the wishes of every section of the House in the selections they make. I do not know how far the Irish Party will desire to take a leading part in the deliberations of the Standing Committees; but I am quite certain that the body now proposed will give fair and adequate considerations, not only to their claims, but to the claims of every section in the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, they were about to confer on this Committee a more onerous task than had ever been conferred upon any Committee of Selection before, and he should consider it a grave omission if no Member from Ireland had been selected by the House to serve on it, increased and important as its functions had become. But the hon. Member for the City of Cork would forgive him for reminding him that, when he claimed representation for the particular section which he led, in a matter so deeply affecting the Order of the House, he should have recollected certain recent utterances of his own which, as his near neighbour, had, by accident, reached his [Mr. Newdegate's) ear. The hon. Member had declared, three or four nights ago, that he was not guided in his conduct by any reference to the opinions of the House, but only by the opinions of the particular section which he himself led. That was what the hon. Member had said. The passage had been erased from the reports; but he (Mr. Newdegate) had risen to say that he did think it absolutely necessary, considering the constitution of the House, which was representative, that some Irish Member who could command the general confidence of the House, and who was thought to deserve it, should be placed upon the Committee. He should, therefore, certainly vote for the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John R. Mowbray.)
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he should have thought the noble Marquess, with his great experience of the House, would have been able, even on this novel occasion, to suggest some way out of the difficulty which he confessed, as a Member returned by an Irish constituency, he felt. He did not in the slightest degree question the 1002 fairness and impartiality of any Member nominated for the Committee; but on this occasion it unfortunately happened that the only Irish Member nominated was abroad, and would not, probably, return to this country before the most critical stage of the action of the Committee of Selection had passed. The Irish Party would, therefore, be, so to speak, left out in the cold. Irish Members, personally, no doubt, would not object to that, as they would be saved a great deal of trouble, and, perhaps, disagreeable work; but it was necessary that the Irish people should see that they had a Representative on the Committee—someone who would watch over their interests. If his hon. Friend the Member for County Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) were at home, he should be glad to acquiesce in his nomination as one Member of the Committee, and perhaps it might follow from that that the Irish Party were not entitled to claim another Representative. But his hon. Friend was away; therefore, in appointing him to the Committee, they were—to use a well-known though, perhaps, not a very Parliamentary phrase—appointing a dummy to represent Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman who had made the Motion would consent to nominate, in the place of the hon. Member for Galway, some other hon. Member who was at present in the House.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Seven' be there inserted.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "Seven," in order to insert the word "Ten,"—(Mr. Rylands,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Seven' be there inserted."
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, he did not wish to prolong this discussion; but there had been one or two things said in the course of it to which he felt bound to advert. First of all, the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) had suggested the addition of the name of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). He had known that hon. Member for 30 years in this House, and 1003 had often served on Committees with him. He knew him to have always acted for the public good, and no doubt his assistance would have been valuable on the Committee of Selection; but the hon. Member had declined to serve. As to the Committee being guided by Party considerations, if the hon. Member for Paisley could attend a meeting of the Committee of Selection he would find the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who had always been a consistent Liberal, working most harmoniously with him (Sir John R. Mowbray); and he should doubt his own identity if he ever ceased to be a thorough going Tory. Since he had been Chairman of the Committee, and, so far as he could recollect, during the time of his Predecessor, there had been no acrimony or contention amongst the Committee. Everything was as fairly and as calmly considered as it could be; and that, he believed, was pretty generally known in the House. There was another point made as to the representation of Ireland on the Committee. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Leamy) had said that the hon. Member for County Galway did not represent the Irish people.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, that all he could say on the matter was this—that some three years ago, when he moved the appointment of the Committee of Selection, it was suggested that another Irishman should be put on it, objection being taken to the Member proposed on the ground that his Liberalism was of too weak a type. It was on the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the other Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan)—who at that time acted as one of the Whips to the Irish Party—that the name of his Colleague was added to the Committee. He (Sir John R. Mowbray) could not understand how the Irish Members could come forward now in 1883 and declare the hon. Member for Galway unfit to represent them when his fitness was so abundantly recognized by them in 1880. With regard to the hon. Member's (Mr. Mitchell Henry's) absence from the House on the first day of the Session, he had received a letter from him say- 1004 ing that he should be glad to continue to serve on the Committee if it was the wish of the House. The hon. Member begged him (Sir John R. Mowbray) to communicate with him if he were reappointed, and stated that a telegram would at once bring him home. If he were wanted he was to be telegraphed for, and he would instantly return to England. He (Sir John R. Mowbray) had written to the hon. Member twice; and, no doubt, if the House did him the honour to re-appoint him—and it could not do better, as he was a most efficient Member—a telegram would be at once despatched to him, and he would return. This it was only fair to say of the hon. Member in his absence. As to the action of the Committee, when appointed, in regard to the selection of Members to serve on the Grand Committees, of course he could not say anything with authority. He was not himself even a Member of the Committee until the adoption of the Resolution before the House; still, he could speak for himself, and, he thought, for the other hon. Members who might be appointed, that they would endeavour fairly and properly to carry out their duty in relation to the Resolution of last Session. They would have the advantage of all the light thrown upon the subject by the discussions which had occurred in the House; and it would, in the end, be for the House to say whether they had performed their duty satisfactorily or not.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that for himself, and he thought likewise for his hon. Friends who sat around him, he could disclaim any desire to cast a doubt upon the good faith and candour of the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken in regard to the nomination of the Committee of Selection. And the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) had clearly shown on the part of the Government that they had taken up a neutral attitude in this matter; therefore, he trusted the question would be discussed without anything of personal or political acrimony on the one side or the other. The noble Marquess had pointed out that the Front Opposition Bench, no more than the Government, had ever taken an active or prominent part in the nomination of the Committee of Selection; but he (Mr. O'Connor) wished to draw the attention of the House, and especially of the 1005 Front Opposition Bench, to this, that when, during the Autumn Sitting, these Standing Committees wore under discussion, the Conservative Leaders laid stress on the fact that Committees on Public Bills as they were before, and as they would be under the Grand Committee Rule, were totally different. They laid stress upon the fact, that hitherto the work of the Committee, of Selection had been mainly the selection of Members to serve on Select Committees, and that, of course, in that matter, there was not much likelihood of anyone being charged with being actuated by Party considerations. But the Front Opposition Bench were careful to explain that in the selection of Members to serve on the Grand Committees, the Committee of Selection would have a far more onerous and important duty to perform. He would respectfully point out to the House how the Irish Party would be affected. He had asked the Prime Minister during the Autumn Sitting whether an Irish Fisheries Bill would come before the Grand Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman, without hesitation, replied in the affirmative. He (Mr. O'Connor) had refered to another Bill which he believed he was correct in saying the Government intended to refer to the Grand Committees—namely, the measure dealing with a Codification of the Criminal Law. Now, any Bill having for its object the Codification of the Criminal Law would embrace the consideration of a large number of existing Statutes in Ireland upon which the Irish people entertained very strong opinions. For instance, the Committee on the Criminal Code had recommended that the Whiteboy Acts should be removed from the Statute Book, and that prisoners who would otherwise come under those Acts should be tried by Common Law under some other Statute. It was clear, then, that Bills might come before the Grand Committees in which Members sitting on those Benches took the very greatest interest. What was the composition of the Committee of Selection at present? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir John R. Mowbray) had referred to the hon. Member for the County of Gal way (Mr. Mitchell Henry), and had pointed out that his hon. and gallant Colleague in the representation of that county (Colonel Nolan) had recommended him for nomination to the 1006 Committee. Well, he (Mr. O'Connor) would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not a fact that the hon. and gallant Member's recommendation was so far back as 1880? [Sir JOHN E. MOWBRAY: Yes.] He thought that was so. Surely the right hon. Gentleman had been a sufficiently careful observer of affairs in that House to know that very great changes had taken place in the relations between the hon. Member for the County of Galway and Gentlemen belonging to the Irish Party. He (Mr. O'Connor) returned thanks to the noble Marquess for his remarks that evening relative to the position which the Irish Party held in the House. The noble Marquess had referred to it as "The Irish National Party." It was gratifying to see that the noble Marquess recognized the fact that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) represented, not a section of Ireland, but the national feeling and aspirations of that country. What did the hon. Member for Galway represent? It had been said that Members of the Committee of Selection were appointed because of their large Parliamentary experience, of their weight, and Parliamentary influence. Well, although the hon. Member for County Galway was unfortunately absent, he (Mr. O'Connor) could not refrain from saying this with regard to him, that if he were asked to select a Member of the House whose Parliamentary weight was in an inverse proportion to his pretensions, he should select that hon. Member. As a matter of fact, he (Mr. O'Connor) did not know who in the world the hon. Member—at present airing himself in Algiers, and destined, as far as they knew, to air himself there as long as it might suit his taste—represented. He did not represent the Liberal Party in that House; he did not represent Ireland; he did not represent the House generally, if they might judge by the fact that no hon. Member was so successful as he in despatching the House into abuzz of general conversation whenever he attempted to address it. Who or what did the hon. Member represent? He represented no one but himself, and only on the ground that one individual could claim to be represented on a Committee of seven, taken from the Whole House, had he a right to the present nomination. What connection had the hon. Member with the 1007 Irish Party? There was not one Member of the Party who was on even speaking terms with him. All the conversation he (Mr. O'Connor) had ever had with him had been across the floor of the House. That conversation had been of a character that could hardly be called amicable; and he hoped that before long, when the Government submitted its position to the verdict of the constituencies, he would have another conversation with the hon. Member in County Galway, which was very likely to be more agreeable to him (Mr. O'Connor) than to the hon. Member. The Irish Members asked that they should be represented on the Committee. Said the noble Marquess—"The Committee is not representative of the numerical proportions of the House, for, if it were, 80 only would have a right to be represented." But who did the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) represent? Did he represent a Party of 80? He (Mr. O'Connor) had heard it said, over and over again, especially from the Treasury Bench, that the Party to which the hon. Member belonged at the most could only rally four of its Members—and sometimes the four were so divided that it was hard to know which was the head and which was the tail. So that, if they went on the principle of the representation of Parties, or of proportion, the Party of 40 which followed the lead of the hon. Member for the City of Cork had a much greater right to be represented than the Party to which the hon. Member belonged, which sometimes followed and sometimes disobeyed the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). He (Mr. O'Connor) was sorry to say that this matter would be understood in Ireland in a very different manner to that represented by the noble Marquess. It would be regarded there as very much like an insult to that country to keep as far as possible from the deliberations of this House the views of those whom the noble Marquess himself had called the Irish National Party.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 54: Majority 159.—(Div. List, No. 12.)
§ MR. AETHUR O'CONNOR rose—
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
Before you put the names, Mr. Speaker, I wish to move a further Amendment to Standing Order—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House is now engaged in considering the names of the Members to be on the Committee. Does the hon. Member object to the name of Mr. Cubitt?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
No, Sir; but though you did not observe me—though I was not fortunate enough to catch your eye—I rose to move an Amendment before you had actually put the Question. Having risen to address the House before you put the Question, I submit that I am entitled to move a further Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House has affirmed by the vote just now taken that the Committee of Selection shall consist of seven Members. No further Amendment can be moved except to the names as put to the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir Charles Forster be one other Member of the Committee."—(Sir John Mowbray.)
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That Mr. Mitchell Henry be one other Member of the Committee."—(Sir John Mowbray.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry and substitute that of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justice M'Carthy). He regretted that the House, in its wisdom, had not seen fit to agree to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), which would, probably, have had the effect of saving them from the necessity of objecting to the name of an hon. Gentleman representing an Irish constituency. Such a duty was, of course, an odious one, and one which he, personally, should be very glad to be excused from; but, as the matter now stood, the only way in which the Irish National Party could possibly secure a Representative on the Committee of Selection was by objecting to the name of the Member whom they con- 1009 sidered—having regard to all the circumstances of the case—the least entitled to serve on the Committee, and who would make the least serviceable Member of the Committee. There were many reasons, in the view of the Irish Party, why the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry should not be included on the Committee. In the first place, not a single Irish Conservative or National Member had been selected to serve, and it was a fact that by far the larger number of Irish Members sat upon that (the Conservative) side of the House. Why should the minority of Irish Members who sat upon the other side of the House have the hon. Member for County Gal-way to represent them, while the majority of Irish Members who sat on the Opposition side were deprived of any representation whatsoever? It would, in his judgment, have been much better if the number of this Committee had been extended. The functions of the Committee were of the most important character, and he should have thought everybody would have been struck—on the most elementary rules of common sense—with the fact that for the sake of ordinary convenience an Irish Member should have been nominated who was at least on speaking terms with the rest of his Colleagues in the House. But that was not the case with the hon. Member for County Galway, who was not even on speaking terms with any of his (Mr. Parnell's) hon. Friends. He himself was certainly not on speaking terms with the hon. Member. It would, therefore, happen, if the hon. Member for County Galway were appointed, that he "would be entirely deprived of the advantage of consulting with the Irish Members—42 in number—who sat on the Opposition side of the House in regard to the nomination of Members to serve on these very important Grand Committees which were to be tried for the first time this Session. He could not imagine anything of more importance than the due consideration of the feelings and wishes of every section of the House in the selection of hon. Members to compose these Grand Committees, and yet the last chance for the Irish Members making their wishes known would be gone if the name of the hon. Member for County Galway were included. Coming on after half-past 12 o'clock at night, as the nomination of 1010 these Grand Committees would come on, it would be practically impossible for the Irish Members to put their views before the House or to have any effective voice in the matter. He regretted, therefore, that the Government could not see their way to announcing an opinion in this matter, and following the rule which had hitherto been always observed of giving the Irish National Party proportional representation on Committees. He begged to move that the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry be omitted and that of Mr. Justin M'Carthy substituted.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member, that though he can move to leave out the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry—or can oppose the Motion before the House—he cannot move to substitute the name of Mr. Justin M'Carthy without Notice.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the name of "Mr. Mitchell Henry," in order to insert the name of "Mr. Justin M'Carthy,"—(Mr. Parnell,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That 'Mr. Mitchell Henry' be one other Member of the Committee."
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that if the hon. Member for County Galway were in thi3 country now, and if he were satisfied the hon. Member would attend the Committee, he should be very sorry to vote for the hon. Member being left out. He had every faith in the hon. Member's impartiality; but he understood from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford that he had communicated twice with the hon. Member, but not to say that he had had any reply to the effect that the hon. Member would attend at once to the duties of the Committee. Therefore, as it was the earliest stage of the Committee that was the most important, he should, with great reluctance, be obliged to vote for the omission of the name of the hon. Member. These were circumstances which ought to weigh on other hon. Members as much as they did on himself. It was right that the Irish Members should be represented in some shape or other; but as to the hon. Member, they hail only evidence that two 1011 communications had been sent to him, and had received no intimation that he was likely to be back in time to be of service.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
regretted that he had failed to make himself clear. To remove the misapprehension in the mind of the hon. Member, he would repeat that the first communication which had passed between himself and the hon. Member for County Galway had come from that Gentleman he had forgotten on what day he received it, but, he thought, on the day Parliament mot. The hon. Member had informed him, that if he were put on the Committee, he should be quite ready to serve, and he had requested that after the appointments were made a letter or a telegram should be sent to him he (Sir John Mowbray) had, accordingly, written, telling the hon. Member that the appointment of the Committee had been put down for a week ago to-day, and then, when it was postponel till today, he had written again. As he had said just now, if the hon. Member for County Galway were appointed to the Committee to-night, he (Sir John Mowbray) should feel it his duty to at once telegraph to the hon. Member to acquaint him with what had taken place, and there could be no doubt he would soon be in his place—at any rate, on the 9th of March. In the last Parliament, he (Sir John Mowbray) had had the honour to serve with The O'Conor Don; but when that Gentleman lost his seat and was lost to the House, it became his duty to find another Member to servo in his place on the Committee. He had had a certain hon. Member in his mind, but on receiving an intimation from the hon. and gallant Member for County Galway (Colonel Nolan) that his Colleague (Mr. Mitchell Henry) would be a more fitting person, he had nominated that hon. Gentleman. All he could say about the hon. Member was that he had always performed his duty with zeal and fidelity, that he had been a constant attendant at the meetings of the Committee, and that there had never been anything like partiality in his action. He (Sir John Mowbray) thought he should not be acting loyally towards his Colleague if he did not put his name down again.
believed that the selection of the hon. Member for Galway 1012 would be accepted in Ireland as a clear proof of the intention which the noble Marquess a few minutes ago disavowed. He (Mr. O'Brien) was not sufficiently acquainted with the machinery of Business in the House, to understand the full importance of the functions of the Committee of Selection; but, after this discussion—however it might have been intended—nothing was more certain than that the selection for the Committee of Selection of the hon. Member for Galway would be interpreted in Ireland as part of the attempt—the gross and unscrupulous attempt—that was being made to take advantage of the prejudice of the moment, to ignore and discredit and disfranchise the Irish people and their Representatives. For himself, he did not greatly value privileges in that House; but if the attempt were made to deprive the Irish Party of a position on which so much depended, and, above all, if that position were handed over to a Gentleman—and he could wish that Gentleman were present, for it was a disagreeable thing to have to say this in his absence—whose selection, of all Irish Members, would be most offensive to the Irish people, and if this selection were enforced contrary to the obvious wish of the Irish Representatives, all he (Mr. O'Brien) could say was that he believed Her Majesty's Ministers would gain less in this House than they would lose in Ireland by their discreditable stratagem.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, they had heard from the right hon. Baronet (Sir John R. Mowbray) a very fair explanation of the manner in which it had been proposed to put the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry on the Committee of Selection. The right hon. Gentleman, though responsible for the nomination, though not responsible for the decision of the House, had explained that he had put on the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry three Sessions ago, because he understood that the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry was the one most pleasing to the Irish Party at that time. Since then, the only ground on which, on the showing of the right hon. Gentleman himself, the name of Mr. Mitchell Henry at all appeared on the Committee had been cut away by the hon. Member for County Galway himself. Since that time the hon. Member had distinguished himself on every possible occasion by attacks on 1013 the Irish National Party, and he had contrived to make those attacks of such a nature that it was not only a severance of political relations, but of social relations between him and that Party, which had resulted. The selection by the House of such an hon. Member, in the face of the knowledge of these facts, would, he had no doubt, be universally received in Ireland as the expression of a deliberate wish on the part of the House to make itself as offensive as possible to the Irish National Party. That was the issue which would go by the deliberate decision of the House before the Irish people. He might very much regret that such a decision should go before the Irish people; but the House would know, and did know, and the cheers that greeted the declaration that the hon. Member for County Gal-way had severed even personal relations with the Irish National Party, would entirely confirm the opinion of the Irish people—that it would be the conviction of Ireland that a true interpretation had been put on the vote of the House. As he had said, they had had a fair explanation of the manner in which the name of the hon. Member for County Galway had originally got upon the Committee of Selection. He had been placed on the Committee as being really the Representative of the Irish National Party; and they had also received with candour and fairness an explanation of the manner in which his name had now been put upon the list. The hon. Member had sent what was, under the circumstances of the case, a fishing telegram from Algiers to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John E. Mowbray), declaring his readiness to go on the Committee of Selection again, although the hon. Member was fully aware, when he despatched the communication, that he no longer, in any sense, represented the Irish National Party. He (Mr. O'Donnell) could fully enter into the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman, who felt that, under the circumstances, it would be most ungenerous on his part to throw overboard an old Colleague who evidently was so anxious to be on the Committee, and, accordingly, they had the candid statement that as soon as the hon. Member knew that he was elected, he would hasten home to take part in the work of the Committee; and, no doubt, his enjoyment of the position to which the House 1014 would have elected him would be much increased by his knowledge of the fact that he had been elected in direct opposition to the wishes of the Irish National Party. The House would decide this matter presently; and he (Mr. O'Donnell) could only hope that its decision would be known throughout Ireland to-morrow, above all other places, in the borough, of Portarlington, where the voting was to take place. The selection made tonight would be taken as a crucial test of the feeling of the House towards the Irish National Party.
§ MR. CALLAN
(who arose amidst cries of "Divide!") wished to know whether hon. Members desired to delay the dinner-hour, because, if they did not, they would hear him without interruption? He was one of those who would not be put down by even before-dinner noises by Saxon Members on the other side of the House. He had a distinct recollection of the manner in which the hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry) became a Member of the Committee of Selection. He was nominated at a meeting of the Irish Party, and at his own special request. He canvassed individually the majority of the Members of the Irish Party, and asked that he should be nominated by them, and that his name should be sent in to the senior Government Whip as the nominee of the Irish Party. The hon. Member eventually went on to the Committee as the nominee of the Irish Party. There was a record on the Minutes of the Irish Party of the nomination of the hon. Member. There was a note made of the fact, that he was moved by one Gentleman and seconded by another, and named as the Representative of the Party. He (Mr. Callan) must say, in justice to the hon. Member, and in justice to the Irish Party, that the nomination was not made unanimously. He (Mr. Callan) had voted against the nomination. At any rate, the hon. Member was selected substantially as the Representative of the Irish Party; but he had now not only left that Party, but had made himself obnoxious personally, and politically, to every Member of it, by never losing an opportunity of attacking and traducing them. Whenever the hon. Member rose to address the House, the Irish' Party were almost as ever present to his mind, as Charles I. was to one of the characters in one of Dickens' celebrated 1015 novels. They found that hon. Member, far away in Algiers, still wishing to retain his seat on the Committee of Selection, just, no doubt, in the same way as he would wish to retain his seat in the House if there were to be a General Election. The hon. Member would have just as little chance of being elected by the Irish Party as their Representative on the Committee of Selection, as he would have of being elected again for County Galway. There was on the Committee a Scotchman—a genial Scotchman—one of the few genial Scotchmen—and a Conservative, whose political faith probably accounted for his geniality. The Committee had been enlarged. Why was that? Was it to keep the hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry) on this refugium peccatorum? Did they wish the Irish Party not to be represented at all, while they allowed a representation to the Scotch Members? The hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was a Representative of the English manufacturing classes, and he sat on the Ministerial side below the Gangway. He was an Irish proprietor—an Englishman—a chance visitant to Galway, having no other connection with the county than a summer residence in the wilds of Connemara. Was he an Irish Representative? The Irish Members emphatically answered "No." It was proposed to enlarge the Committee. Well, the Irish Party, however they numerically reduced it, were 40 men standing shoulder to shoulder. The House could not give them a Member to the Committee, and yet they added to it one of the Party of four (Sir H. Drummond Wolff). Talk of English fair play! Was that fair play? The hon. Member's (Mr. Mitchell Henry's) sole recommendation to the Committee was that he was nominated by the Irish Party; but would any hon. Member get up in his place and say they considered the hon. Gentleman a Representative of the Irish Party? His Sponsor might now come and do penance in sackcloth and ashes for having proposed him. Then, they put on the Committee a Member (Mr. Illingworth), whose only qualification was that he was a Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). It was said that he was a very different kind of man to the right hon. Gentleman; but he (Mr. Callan) believed that there was 1016 six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 22: Majority 135.—(Div. List, No. 13.)
§ Mr. ORR EWING, Mr. WHITBREAD, Mr. ILLINGWORTH, Sir HENRY WOLFE, and the CHAIRMAN of the SELECT COMMITTEE on STANDING ORDERS, nominated other Members of the said Committee.