moved—That the Order for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill have precedence this day of the Notices of Motion and the other Orders of the Day.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
expressed his deep disappointment at the Motion made by 1580 the Prime Minister. His disappointment was, no doubt, a small matter; but the disappointment of the large number throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, whose attention was turned to the matter of the Vaccination Laws, was a much more serious thing to contemplate. He regretted that the Government had not dealt with the question in the past, as they might have done. It was now three years since they had sought, by a Bill, to modify cumulative prosecutions in support of compulsory vaccination, and then the attempt was but feebly made. It was not pressed forward as it might have been, and was soon dropped. He was, however, perfectly aware of the pressure under which Her Majesty's Government now laboured, and on that account was not disposed to lend himself to any opposition to the present Motion. With regard to the matter which he desired to lay before the House, at this moment there were many thousands of people in the country who were awaiting the next order to vaccinate their children, and who resisted the enforcement of the law, accounting it better to pay the penalty; and, in consequence of their objection, people had been imprisoned, and many had been sold up by distress warrants. And then, when they came to that House to secure an opportunity of redressing the grievance, it was taken from them. He only hoped that if they brought it forward on the Estimates the Government would secure to them an opportunity of discussing it then. This question had grown and was still growing, and would not cease to grow so long as the just cause of complaint it gave rise to was unremedied. He felt that the evening would have been much better spent in the consideration of this interesting and grave subject, rather than in hearing the series of speeches to which they were doomed to listen from the Opposition on the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill, which did not contain one grain of salt, and which were nightly delivered for the purpose of satisfying Party rancour and religious bigotry.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
observed that, when he gave Notice of opposition to the Motion of the Prime Minister, he did so with the full intention of taking the sense of the House upon it in the interest of private Members. But he was 1581 not aware of the amicable arrangement which appeared to have been made between the Government and the hon. and learned Member for Stockport.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he must say it gave him the idea that the hon. and learned Member had no great zeal in favour of the Motion standing in his name. But though you might take a horse to water, you could not make him drink, and so it was not possible to force the lion, and learned Member to proceed with his Motion. He must, however, enter his protest against the action of the Government. It might be true that a procedure had lately been established enabling the Government to proceed de die in diem with their measures; but that was a practice peculiar to the present Administration, and the sooner it was put a stop to the better. No matter what the cause was, whether the Government were introducing some measure for the confiscation of property in Ireland, or were desirous of proceeding with the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill, the excuse was always the same—namely, the great pressure of Public Business and urgency for the question under discussion. But who was responsible for Public Business if not the Government? He totally denied either urgency or necessity for the measure now before the House; on the contrary, he regarded the measure as the most wilful waste of public time. No Government within his own experience had ever consumed a larger proportion of the public time than the present Administration, or had made a worse use of it. He protested strongly against this encroachment on the rights of private Members.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said he did not think the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport indicated any indifference to the subject of his Motion; he was rather in the position of the man who declined to contend with the master of many legions. There would be deep disappointment and discouragement at the decision of the Prime Minister in tens of thousands of British homes. All those who saw their children suffering from disease or sinking into death under a barbarous superstition would regret that the opportunity for debate on the subject had been re- 1582 moved by the action of the Government; and he hoped the Government would consider that there was a certain moral claim upon them to afford facilities for bringing the question before the House before the end of the Session.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, the House had not heard a single word from the Government as to the course they intended to pursue in regard to the Vaccination Question; and he thought it was desirable, for their own sake and in the interest of those who strongly supported, as well as of those who objected to the Acts, that such a statement should be made.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I should have been very happy, indeed, if my hon. and learned Friend had had an opportunity of bringing the matter before the House; and I should have been fully prepared to state the views of the Government upon the subject. But I apprehend that it would be wholly out of Order to make such a statement at the present moment.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he thought the proposal of the Primo Minister was without precedent. Appeal was often made to private Members to give way in favour of any Motion that was popular with the House; but he never knew, in his experience, of postponing the Notices of Motion for an Order of the Day. Orders of the Day, on the other hand, were frequently postponed for Notices of Motion, because they were on Government nights. The House should consider well the action of the Government. It was one which would put an end to the rights of private Members. If, on the Motion of a, Minister of the Crown, the Government were able at any time to put down a Motion of a private Member, there was an end to all rights of private Members. If other hon. Members who had Motions for to-night were in the pliant humour of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport, he (Sir Edward Colebrooke) had nothing further to say; but if they were not all agreed, then there was the very important question he would ask, whether the rights of private Members did not rest on the Standing Orders? If they rested on the Standing Orders, the Motion of the Prime Minister was quite out of Order. If they did not, then lot hon. Members know that their title to bring their 1583 Motions forward rested on the will of the bare majority of the House.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, the usual course was to bring pressure to bear upon individual Members to get them to give way. He had no recollection of a similar Motion to that made by the Leader of the House under the same circumstances. He himself had given Notice of a Motion for to-night with reference to the annexation of territory in different parts of the world, and he did not know what future opportunity he should have of bringing forward the Motion. There was not the smallest suggestion that the Prime Minister would endeavour to recoup private Members the opportunities now lost. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport took the opportunity of lecturing the Opposition as to its style of speaking on the Parliamentary Oaths Acts (1866) Amendment Bill. Personally, he felt that he ought to thank the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Edward Colebrooke) for his independent and manly protest against this now system which was to be commenced. He should divide the House on the subject, in order that the public and the House might know that this case was not to become a precedent merely because of the exigencies of Her Majesty's Government under particular circumstances. Any interference with the rights of private Members on these Tuesday evenings they ought to resist to the uttermost.
said, he hoped the House would, by a division, express its protest against this extraordinary Resolution. He had always understood the procedure of the House to be regulated by the Standing Orders, and by those Orders Tuesdays were allotted to private Members, the Motions of private Members taking precedence of the Orders of the Day. If the Motion was acceded to, it would set at defiance the Standing Orders of the House. So tame, so abject had hon. Members sitting below the Gangway opposite become, that the Government did not even pay them the compliment to ask them if they would postpone their Notices of Motion to the interests of the public service. The Prime Minister had come down with a Motion in the teeth of the Standing Orders, by which their rights were summarily to be taken away. Unless the Prime Minister could produce a prece- 1584 dent or some reason for this most unusual and extraordinary proceeding, he should, if he could procure a Teller, take the sense of the House on it.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought there was a good deal in what had fallen from his hon. Friend behind him (Sir Edward Colebrooke) and the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken. His recollection was that on such occasions it was the custom to inquire from hon. Members who had Notices on the Paper whether they would be willing to give way to the Government. He had frequently heard appeals made to private Members from the Front Bench on such occasions. The House should remember that the Government had an alternative, for they might have taken a Morning Sitting. He believed it would have been desirable for them to have taken that course. He did not wish to stand in the way of Public Business; but unless a precedent were produced he should, as a private Member, look with very great dislike on a change which would, he feared, seriously infringe the rights of private Members.
said, his hon. Friend who had just sat down, his hon. Friend behind him (Sir Edward Colebrooke), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), spoke of their recollections of this subject, and recollections were very good things to go by when there was nothing better to go by. Records were better than recollections. It was the usual practice to appeal to hon. Members to waive their rights of discussion, and to obtain a voluntary renunciation from them; but it was also perfectly usual by Notice to bring the question before the House. He was surprised that the recollection of his hon. Friend behind him and his hon. Friend who had just sat down should have completely excluded that view of the case. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Gorst) gave them to understand that no such thing could ever have been dreamt of in the time of the late Government—that it was quite impossible. He was not going to censure anybody; but the late Government might have felt in a considerable degree the pressure which the House now felt to be overwhelming. He had instances of a Motion of this class having been made, two of them remote, and two of them recent. On 1585 Tuesday, May 6, 1856, on the Treaty of Peace. On Tuesday, March 3, 1857, on the China Question. On Tuesday, May 8, 1877, on the Eastern Question. And on Tuesday, one week after, May 15, 1877, on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Bill. He should be extremely sorry to introduce an innovation of this kind; and he hoped he had given facts to the House which had shown the error of his hon Friends.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to inform the House whether, on the occasions to which he referred, any appeal was made to hon. Members who had Notices standing on the Paper. [Mr. GLADSTONE: The Motion was made.] Of course, it was necessary that a Motion should be made, as a matter of form, whether there was or was not an understanding upon the subject of such a Motion. He could not, however, recall to mind, during the time he had been in the House, any occasion on which the rights of private Members had been taken away, without their being asked, first of all, to concur in the adoption of that course.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he had only been able to refer to one precedent, which had already been mentioned by his right hon. Friend—namely, that of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Bill. On that occasion the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Northcote) moved that the Notices of Motion be postponed till after the Order of the Day for going into Committee on that Bill. A protest of exactly the same description as that then before them was made by Sir Colman O'Loghlen, who objected to the form in which the thing was done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply, said that the effect of giving up the day would probably be a curtailment of the Whitsuntide Recess. There was no appeal made to hon. Members; and his impression was that there were several similar precedents for the course then proposed.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I cannot remember the precise incident to which the noble Marquess refers. No doubt, there have been many occasions on which a desire has been felt to continue on the Tuesday a debate which has been continued over the Monday; but, undoubtedly, the large number of cases in which that has taken place has 1586 been dealt with by appeals made to Members having Notices on the Paper. I cannot but think that that is the better and fairer way to proceed. After all, it is for the convenience, not of the Government in particular, but of the whole House, that the request is made. I believe that in this particular case, as far as I understand the circumstances, the general convenience of the House points to the conclusion of the debate on the second reading of the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill in the course of this week; and also there is, as is well known, a very large number of Members who are extremely anxious, and who have a right, to take part in that discussion before it closes. Looking at these things, it did not seem unnatural that the Government should desire or suggest that Tuesday should be taken for the continuance of the debate. As has been remarked, it would have been in their power to have put down a Notice for a Morning Sitting to-day; but I am bound to say that I think such a proposal would have been a much more objectionable proceeding than to ask for the Evening Sitting, for this reason—that Morning Sittings are now extremely inconvenient to Members who are serving upon Grand Committees, and who ought to be considered. As far as I am concerned, I have always expressed my opinion that on occasions like this it would be better to take the Evening Sitting; and I think the present occasion was one on which the Evening Sitting might very fairly have been asked for. But it should have been asked for in the manner which has been most usual, and it would have been in accordance both with precedents and with the good feeling of the House that it should have been done in that way. I do not know whether I should suggest to the Government that they should oven now adopt that plan. I believe it would not be at all too late that they should ask leave to withdraw the Motion, and appeal to hon. Members to allow the debate to be continued. As to the continuance of the debate, I feel very strongly that it would be for the convenience of the House that it should be allowed to be proceeded with.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, that he would not enter into a discussion as to whether the Resolution was in accordance with precedent or not. That was 1587 a matter for the two Front Benches, and they could settle it between themselves. His recollection was that whenever Government took a private Members' night they always asked for it, and if the case was urgent they always got it. That was the practice in the last Parliament. He wished, however, to put in a plea for independent Members, whose privileges were vanishing very fast, and would soon, he feared, disappear altogether. The Government ought not to be surprised at the reluctance with which hon. Members relinquished the nights they had secured. There were only 20 or 25 nights in the Session on which private Members had an opportunity of submitting Motions, and for many of these nights there were often 20, 30, or even 40 competitors. When a man got the first Order on the Paper it was a considerable sacrifice to him to have to abandon it. The subject might not be of much interest to the Government; but it was of great interest to the Members concerned. There were Members in that House who had balloted nearly every night for the past two Sessions, and had never got first place. But he believed it was the general wish of the House to go forward with the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) had no alternative but to withdraw; and he had done wisely in acquiescing, without more ado, in the inevitable. But, apart altogether from this special case, the course of affairs in Parliament was seriously deserving the attention of the few independent Members who remained. There never was a Parliament where what was commonly called crotchets—he did not use the word in an offensive or invidious sense—had more advocates. There never was a majority that was more indifferent—he might almost say antagonistic—to the rights of private Members, and there never was a Government that had made so much encroachment on the time of private Members. Hon. Gentlemen behind him consoled themselves with the reflection that if they did not get their Motions discussed the Government got their Bills forward, and that was sufficient. That might do well enough for the time; but they should remember that the Liberals would not always be in Office. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh, yes!] The time would 1588 come—and it might come soon—when hon. Gentlemen on the other side would occupy the places the Liberals now filled, and the precedents that the Ministerialists had set during this Parliament would be used against them. They would be made to suffer for the Rules they had called into existence. The position of the Conservatives was different to that of the Liberals. If the Conservatives had a majority in the Commons, they could always carry their measure through "another place." But the Liberals, while they had a majority in the Commons, were in a permanent minority in the other place; and they would see that the regulations and practices they were now initiating and countenancing would be put in operation against them. This was a reflection that did not appear to have struck many of his hon. Friends. The Government knew their own policy best, and he did not presume to offer an opinion on it. But the anxiety they had for making progress with Business did not altogether coincide with the manner and time in which they had put forward the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill. It was desirable for the House to pass it, and he hoped they would be able to do so; but it would have been well if they had allowed further progress to be made with Supply and some of their other Bills before interjecting a measure that involved so much opposition. They could have done this without detriment to the Public Service or to Mr. Bradlaugh. But, for reasons which, no doubt, appeared to them sufficient, they had decided otherwise; and he thought it was in the interest of the House to allow the discussion to proceed. But, at the same time, it was equally the interest of independent Members to record their protest against the arbitrary manner in which their privileges were appropriated and their Motions set aside.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that they were asked to give up the rights of private Members in order to consider a measure which the Government had introduced, but had not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. The Government had now discovered that that measure was opposed to the general feeling of the country; and they were now about to proceed as Governments proceeded on the sudden outbreak of a war or on the 1589 apprehension of insurrection at home. That was the position in which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government seemed to feel himself placed. He could only say that if the right hon. Gentleman did feel himself to be so placed, that might be an excuse, in the right hon. Gentleman's view of the case, for this infraction of the rights of private Members; but it was no excuse for it in his opinion.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, the Prime Minister had told them there were two precedents for this Motion of somewhat old date, and two which were more recent. He had had an opportunity of referring to the two precedents of the 7th of May, 1877, and the 15th of May, 1877, and neither of them supported in the least degree the proposal which the Prime Minister was now making. The House, at the time, was engaged in discussing a Resolution of Censure upon the then Government, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman himself; and on the 7th of May, when the question arose as to the day on which that discussion should be continued, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford North-cote) made an appeal to the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms), who had one Motion on the Paper, and also to the right hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen), who had another Motion, to give way and allow the debate to be resumed. The hon. Member for Hackney, a Member of the present Government, declined to give way, and then the noble Marquess the present Secretary of State for War remonstrated with him on being so unreasonable. The right hon. and learned Member for Clare yielded to the request made to him, and after discussion and protests from individual Members the hon. Member for Hackney at length gave up his claim to precedence, and with the consent of those two Members the debate was continued on the following day. The same thing happened on the 15th of May, when there was another question raised in regard to the continuance of the debate. An appeal was made to Members who had Motions on the Paper, and they yielded, after a strong protest from the hon. Members for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and one or two other Gentlemen below the Gangway, against private Members being asked to waive their claims. But 1590 it was not pretended in any quarter that the Minister of the day was to come down at his own will, and in disregard of the will of private Members, to extinguish their rights.
§ MR. THOMASSON
deprecated the conduct of the Government in shelving the Motion on the Vaccination Question. They had spent much time last year in elaborating a new Standing Order in reference to the closing of debate; and he could imagine no occasion which would be more fitting for the application of that new Rule than in regard to a subject which had been discussed both in and out of the House usque ad nauseam.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
pointed out that all the precedents quoted by the Prime Minister occurred when their Rules were still unreformed. They had spent the whole Autumn Session in reforming their Rules, and they were told that the results of the change then made would be—first, the more adequate discussion of Supply; and, secondly, that the rights of private Members would be no longer interfered with in the arbitrary manner which had become so habitual under successive Governments. Let the House recollect that the Government were not transacting exceptional Business. There was no crisis to be dealt with at home or abroad; and he failed altogether to see what justification there could be, at this time of the Session, for infringing the rights of private Members. Did they think that the House had already had too much discussion on the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill? [Cheers from the Ministerial Benehes.] Was that the opinion of the Government? The cheers died away. If that was their opinion, and the opinion of the majority of the House, let them have the courage of their opinion, and apply the Rule they had spent so many weeks in. passing, and apply the clôlure to the debate which the Government had initiated on that question.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke) had demolished the last precedents quoted by Members of the Government. As to the others, he asked whether the Government considered the question of peace with Russia, of war with China, or the settlement of the Eastern Question of no more importance 1591 than the admission of an Atheist to the House? If they thought the admission of an Atheist of such great importance, why did they not put it in the Queen's Speech?
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he was glad that he had succeeded in attracting the Deputy Speaker's notice. The Prime Minister and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War had defended the form of that Motion; but the substance of it, so far as the Government were concerned, remained up to the present untouched. When challenged on the question of precedents, the Prime Minister was able to show that a similar Motion had been made four times in a quarter of a century. One might have expected that in such a case the Prime Minister would have afforded the House some reason for making such a proposal. He expected the appeal of the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) would fall on unsympathetic ears. He was glad the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had expressed his determination to divide the House; and it was not flattering to Radical Gentlemen that the only real protest on behalf of the rights of private Members had come from the Tory Benches. If the hon. Member for Londonderry had not decided to divide the House, he (Mr. Sexton) would have done so. There was nothing in the state of Business to recommend this proposal to the favourable opinion of the House. Two months had now passed since the Session began. What had the Government been doing with the time? Their legislation had been all of a leisurely character, the proceedings so far had been totally insignificant, and this was the most mismanaged Session of a Parliament in which Public Business had been exceptionally badly managed. What was this measure now before the House? It was a measure brought in for one man only—it was a one man Bill, to enable that solitary Atheist to sit in that House. They were asked to postpone all other Business simply in order to give urgency to a measure which was to allow a violent and turbulent Atheist to sit in that House. Private Members had a right to complain. A Motion in his name stood second on the Paper for to-night which gravely affected the lives of hundreds of peasants in Ireland. He had hoped for an opportunity of bringing this subject before the House to- 1592 night, and had intended inviting the House to express an opinion that it was unjust, in districts from which exceptional crime had disappeared, to impose special burdens upon the people under Viceregal Proclamations issued by virtue of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act. He should have been able to show that the Lord Lieutenant exercised his powers in a very harsh and injurious manner.
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
The hon. Member is not entitled, having regard to the Motion before the House, to discuss the Motion which he would have brought forward under other circumstances.
§ MR. SEXTON
asked if he were not entitled to argue the relative urgency of the Motion standing in his name and the Motion of the Prime Minister'? His Motion was much more urgent than the Prime Minister's, and he protested against the arbitrary use which the Premier was making of his majority in that House. It was revolting to place the claim of Mr. Brad-laugh to take his seat as a matter of greater urgency than the claims of poor, honest, law-abiding people to be relieved from unjust burdens of taxation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that of all modes of wasting time the worst was that of discussing what they were to discuss. The question before the House was a practical one. The Government had made arrangements, which, in their view, seemed to meet the desire of the House, and which were not unusual under such circumstances. The only result of not accepting the present Motion would be to carry over the debate into next week. The real fact was that these claims of private Members wore generally made more for the purpose of wasting the time of the House than in order to save the rights of private Members. ["Oh!"] At all events, they had had recent experience that when private Members had time devoted to them they did not avail themselves of it. The question was, did the House require the debate on the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill to come to an end on Thursday? If not, there would be a great interruption to Public Business. That was the question the House had to consider. The House must be master of its own time. The question was, whether, having regard to 1593 the progress of Public Business, would it be advanced or retarded by giving up that night to the discussion of that Bill? He ventured to think it would be materially advanced.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down could not have been in the House when the present discussion began, and could not have heard the observations of his hon. Friend who sat on that side of the House, otherwise he would have known that the question was not whether the House should go on with the debate on. The Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill, but whether the Government had taken the right course in bringing that result about. If they had, they might at any time interfere with the rights of private Members. He thought the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) would get the House out of the difficulty; and if the Prime Minister would withdraw his Motion, which was not in accordance with the wishes of a very large portion of the House, and would give way to private Members, he would gain the object he had in view, and would, moreover, not be setting a bad example.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) must himself have been absent from the House, because he evidently had not heard the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) warn the House that he would not postpone or withdraw his Motion that stood on the Paper for tonight. It would, therefore, be perfectly futile on the part of the Government if they were to withdraw the present Motion, when an hon. Member in another part of the House had distinctly warned the House that he would not withdraw his own Motion. He had looked at the precedent of 1877 cited by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke), and had found that the discussion to which he had referred took place on the 7th of May, when the Notice of Motion was given; but that on the 8th of May, when the Notice of Motion had become one of the Orders of the Day, the Motion was put at once and carried without opposition, for it was not a subject of debate at all. He thought they 1594 could not do better than follow that precedent.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had not succeeded in clearing up the difficulty. The Home Secretary, who was formerly such a champion of the rights of private Members, had now nothing but sneers for those rights. If the Government wanted to save time they could do so by no better process than abandoning the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill, which simply stood in the way of useful legislation, and was only provocative of ill-feeling and a scandal to the country. They seemed to disregard all the constituents of the Kingdom in the interest of the constituents of Northampton.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the Home Secretary had observed that the claims of private Members were only insisted on with the view of interfering with the time of the Government. He would suggest a compromise. It was clear that the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) cared very little about his clients and his anti-vaccination proposal in comparison with the wrath of the Olympians on the Treasury Bench. The hon. and learned Member's claims might, therefore, be safely thrust aside. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton), who had the second place, was convinced of the necessity of attending to the requirements of his clients. The Motion of his hon. Friend could be thoroughly discussed in three or four hours. He would propose, therefore, that the House should proceed with that Motion, and that the rest of the time might be occupied by the Government upon the savoury subject which they had chosen to obtrude upon the House. There was no reason why private Members should give way to the Government. Why did not the Government begin to bring on some Public Business? No one was interested in the Bill except the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the half Member for Northampton. There would be better reason for the course the Government were taking if they claimed the rest of the night for some other purpose—for example, the Government of London Bill or the Tenants' Compensation Bill, instead of the one man question which they were 1595 bringing forward. The invasion of private Members' rights was injurious indirectly, as well as directly, as the disposition of private Members to seek opportunity of bringing forward questions at all was destroyed. The conduct of the Government in respect of that Bill had more and more perverted and degraded the House, and even Members below the Gangway were beginning to recognize the degradation involved in that measure. He wanted to hear some assurance from the Government of their willingness to accept the compromise suggested, otherwise he challenged the Government to a private clôture. Lot the Government bring in their Atheist by brute force, which would be a fitting close to a policy of gradual and shameful condescension to violence and dictation.
said, that he should not be suspected of acting in collusion with the hon. Member who had just spoken, and his Friends. Nevertheless, he sympathized with the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), because an unusual attempt had been made to trample on the rights of private Members. After Whitsuntide the Government would be sure to require the sacrifice of all the privileges of private Members, and they had now come down to require that sacrifice for the sake of a measure which stank in the nostrils of the people of England.
§ MR. RAMSAY
wished to put it to the House whether the discussion in which they had engaged was not such as to degrade the House in the eyes of the country? He thought hon. Members would recognize that there was nothing that tended more to lower Parliament in the eyes of the constituencies than the occupation of their time in fruitless discussion. It might be, in this instance, that Ministers had given less heed to the letter of the Standing Orders than they might have done; but, although that were fully proved, it was the expressed wish of Members on both sides of the House that they should take the sense of the House as to whether they should go on with the discussion of the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill or not. Then lot the division be taken. It was the wish of the House that it should be taken, and why should they waste the time of the House with irrelevant talk? He felt he should not 1596 have made this appeal in vain if hon. Members would reflect for a moment, and, apart from Party spirit, consider what were the means by which they might best accelerate the despatch of Public Business.
said, he did not intend to discuss with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down questions regarding the degradation of that House; but he should join with the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) in his protest against the Motion of the Prime Minister, which had the effect of crushing out a most important discussion relating to Irish affairs. If the Radical Party, with characteristic independence, preferred to surrender their vaccination proposals in order to convenience the Government, that did not bind other hon. Members in that House who were not so pliant, who had matters of importance there to discuss, matters of more importance than the interests of Mr. Brad-laugh and his patrons. The Motion of the hon. Member for Sligo was one of extreme urgency—it was whether merciless police taxes should be inflicted on people in districts in Ireland, not because crime was committed there, but because they refused to take evicted farms. If they did not ventilate this subject now, they would have no other opportunity to do so, for this was the second private Members' night during the whole Session on which any Irish affairs could be discussed. Discontent was to be driven under the surface in Parliament as well as in Ireland. He really thought it was rather cool for lion. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House to pretend to be so indignant when the Irish Members objected to be victimized because the Government was not able to get through with its Business. If the Government found the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill somewhat of a white elephant the fault was their own. The Irish Members had the least of the talking; and if other Members exceeded the bounds of legitimate discussion, why did not the Government use the powers under the new Rule and bring this debate to an end? The fact was, the Government deliberately determined to prefer the interests of Mr. Brad-laugh and the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill to all the other Business of the country; and as the Government had sold the prospects of a whole Session 1597 for a mess—and that not a very savoury mess—of pottage, he did not think they could expect private Members to help them out of their bargain. If Mr. Brad-laugh was to be the hero of the Session let the Government keep him for their own nights, and let him not be sprawling like a centipede over private Members' nights.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, he very much regretted the position in which the House was placed. It was, he believed, owing to that fact that the present Parliament was much too mealy-mouthed in applying the power of clôture which they now possessed to lion. Gentlemen whom they did not wish to hear. If this had occurred in former Parliaments to-night would have been given to private Members, and the debate on the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill would have been brought to a close on Thursday in the regular way. In future he hoped the House would be more firm in applying the moral clôture with a view to putting down speakers when the House did not want to hear them.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
claimed that all the precedents quoted by the Prime Minister proved the contrary of what he desired to show. This, they were told, was not to be an Irish Session, and so the right which belonged to private Members of bringing forward Motions such as that of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) was the only opportunity left them of discussing matters affecting the welfare of the people of Ireland. The Government, however, seemed determined to trample on the rights of all private Members. But Irish Members were not going to follow the example of the lion, and learned Member opposite (Mr. Hopwood), who attacked so little importance to his Motion on Vaccination that he withdrew it to afford the Government an opportunity of performing their operation of vaccination, or rather circumcision, on the elect of Northampton.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided;—Ayes 157; Noes 105: Majority 52.—(Div. List, No. 78.)