§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday next, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply."—(Lord Richard Grosvenor.)
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
asked why the Government had departed from the practice carried out every Friday since the House met this Session—namely, to move at once that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply? If this new practice were continued, it would he in the power of the Government to burke every Motion on the Paper, and the rights of private Members would be reduced to a perfect farce. The present occasion was a strong case in point, because before dinner that evening the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave hon. Members expressly to understand that the Government would endeavour to get some Votes in Supply, and several Members had in consequence come down to take part in the discussions upon those Votes. It was against all understanding on which it was possible to carry on the Business of the House that certain arrangements should be made, and that late in the evening the noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury should rise and upset them without Notice. It was, he repeated, perfectly understood that the Government would endeavour to get Votes in Supply up to a certain hour that night, and it was too bad that that understanding should be upset, because, probably, some little thing had occurred which was not satisfactory to the Government. He therefore moved, as an Amendment, that the House at once resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
§ MR. WARTON
seconded the Motion, on the ground that the House ought to have had some intimation of what the Government really meant to do, and because he was exceedingly anxious to get the opinion of the House on the way Business was done with regard to Bills brought down from the House of Lords.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'upon Monday next' stand part of the Question."
said, he declined to endorse the doctrine that the Government were bound to renew the Motion to go into Committee of Supply. It was not supported by authority, and no precedents had been adduced. On the present occasion there was a strong reason why the Government, so far as they could control the time of the House, should now proceed with other Business. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland desired to proceed with the Motion for introducing the Constabulary and Police (Ireland) Bill, the debate on which had been adjourned after the important division that morning. This was a matter of great importance at present, and it was the absolute duty of the Government to take the earliest opportunity of laying it before the House. The engagement the Government entered into had been strictly kept. It was that the Government would endeavour to obtain Supply if they could do so before 11 o'clock, which hour had passed. The time was named with the object of consulting the convenience of hon. Members from Ireland who were specially interested in the Bill. He hoped the noble Lord would see the reasonableness of conforming to the understanding which had been come to so distinctly, even to the naming of the hour.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
thought he could cite authority in support of the doctrine repudiated by the Prime Minister. This question of the obligation of the Government to repeat the Motion for Supply was one he had raised on former occasions. In 1861, under the Leadership of Lord Palmerston, arrangements wore made which were favourable to the Government, and which abrogated the rights of private Members. Up to that time, Thursday night was a private Members' night, and they had the right to raise any question on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House. Lord Palmerston took Thursday nights for the Government, and provided by Standing Order for the adjournment from Friday to Monday, so 1917 that no discussion could take place on the Motion to Adjourn; but, as a compensation, he gave private Members fuller rights on Supply. It was distinctly held out to private Members that Government should be bound to renew the Motion of Supply. It was obvious that if the Government assented to an Amendment, and did not renew the Motion for Supply, as they abstained from doing both now and last week, private Members were deprived of the opportunity of bringing on Motions. He voted against the change then proposed, but the Opposition were defeated. Some years afterwards, when Mr. Denison was Speaker, the Prime Minister endeavoured to encroach on the rights of private Members, and the Speaker distinctly decided that it was the custom of the Government on Friday to repeat Motions of Supply. It was very singular that the debate on this point did not appear in Hansard, although it was in The Times. He did not wish to use un-Parliamentary words; but he must say that the sharp practice of the Government in bringing in Bills from the House of Lords without Notice, and putting them on the Paper without any power of discussion, was very unusual. He should be slow to impute sinister motives to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, but there could be no doubt that he had a strong idea of limiting the rights of independent Members. If this were permitted, the rights of private Members would be at an end, and all that would remain for them to do would be to register the dictates which proceeded from the Ministerial Bench.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the Prime Minister displayed a most remarkable anxiety to take the Police Bill at a very early hour that night, in order to give an opportunity for its full discussion, although they were quite ready to rush it through at a late hour on the previous night, when no person could discuss it. Of course, it would not be right for him to say that the Prime Minister wished to suppress a discussion on jury-packing in Ireland, a Motion in reference to which stood in his name; but as the right hon. Gentleman was not generally supposed to be a statesman without guile, persons would be inclined to regard his Motion in that light. Only this week the Government, interfering with private Members' nights, made a 1918 seizure for a purpose, the true value of which was duly appreciated on a recent occasion. They now came down and at tempted to appropriate Friday. They must take this present proposal of the Government in connection with the other proposal to take Tuesday night. To night, however, was a private Members' night, and the course taken by the Government in refusing to set up Supply again would be regarded both within and outside of Ireland as a device to prevent the discussion of an important branch of maladministration there. Talking of Government maladministration in Ireland might be very inconvenient to the Ministry at the present time; but there was no doubt whatever that in Ireland the policy of Her Majesty's Government—
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, it was quite evident that the Premier, with the evident concurrence of his Chief Secretary, was most anxious to press forward this Police Bill now, at a time when the Irish Members would have had an opportunity of bringing forward some important grievances, of which Notice had been given. Of course, if the discussion was now suppressed, they should take another opportunity to bring those grievances under the Notice of the House. In his opinion, the time had come for private Members to form combinations to defeat the continual conspiracies which, if not hatched on the Treasury Bench, were certainly hatched in its immediate vicinity.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he must protest against this additional manœuvre on the part of the Government. The Government, which had itself passed Rules for the better transaction of Business, was obliged to resort to a trickiness which was unworthy of it.
I rise to Order. The hon. Gentleman says that the Government are obliged to resort to trickery. I ask, Sir, if that language is in Order?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
, on the point of Order, asked whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire had not the other day charged the Government with having resorted to a despicable trick, and not been ruled out of Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to hear the expression of the hon. Member, but I cannot say that he is out of Order.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
thought that the Government wore rather thrown off their balance by recent events. In Sir Erskine May's work it would be found laid down that Fridays were reserved for private Members. Now they proposed to postpone Supply, on which the discussions of private Members usually took place, until Monday, when, under the Now Rules, no subject not connected with the Navy Estimates, which wore then to be brought on, could be discussed.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the House ought to consider the situation without regard to the special Motion or measure which was affected. If the Government wished, to introduce an important Bill, they had sufficient facilities, by means of a Morning or Evening Sitting or a Saturday Sitting, of doing so without interfering with the rights of private Members or infringing the Standing Orders. It was a dangerous principle to set up that it was desirable to do evil that good might come, and the Hon so were bound to protect the safeguards which secured to private Members their few remaining rights and privileges. He could conceive no occasion which would justify the Government in setting at nought the Standing Orders of the House. The House were willing to assist the Government in pressing forward any measure of public importance; but the Government ought to avail itself of facilities they already possessed without infringing on the Standing Orders.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
declined to follow the right, hon. Gentleman into a discussion as to the boundless amount of time at the disposal of the Government. That time consisted 1920 of Monday, Thursday, and as much of Friday as they could get. Moreover, although the Government had the power to settle the order in which the Business should be taken on their own night, they had no control over the amount of time which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends might occupy in discussing that Business. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken as if the Government were doing something in. transgression of the Standing Order; but, surely, he could not have read it, as, in point of fact, it said nothing about the necessity of renewing the Order for Supply after it had been superseded by an Amendment. Again, Sir Erskine May's work, to which reference had been made, went against the contention raised on the other side, inasmuch as it stated that it was the exception, and not the rule, to set up Supply again on the same night. As to the particular case, he would point out how much foundation there was for the assertion that the Government were attempting to deal unfairly with the House. If it had not been for the special exertion of the Government no House would have been kept that evening at all. The Government had been simply endeavouring to carry out the undertaking given by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland last night to bring forward, at a reasonable hour that evening, the discussion on his Motion for leave to introduce an important measure relating to Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
thought it very unfortunate that this question had come up in so unexpected a manner in a very thin House. The action of the Government really amounted to a second attack in the course of the week on the rights of private Members. The usual practice was perfectly well understood. The Government put down Supply on Friday as the first Order of the Day, and up to any reasonable hour of the night private Members wore allowed to discuss Amendments on the Motion for going into Committee. If the Government, by the mere fact of accepting the first Amendment, had the right to burke private Members' Motions, he should like to know what the privilege of private Members was worth? It would be convenient if some Member of the Government not only gave them a general view of this question, but also cited the precedents on which that view was founded. He un- 1921 derstood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it had been the habitual practice of the House. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Then he repeated his challenge to the Government.
§ MR. CAUSTON
said, hon. Members opposite came down to the House, and from time to time expressed their anxiety to preserve the rights of private Members. He (Mr. Causton) was a private Member, and he was anxious his rights should be preserved; but he was bound to say that, in his opinion, the way to preserve his rights was not to abuse them. Night after night, and week after week, the rights of private Members were abused by those who professed a desire to preserve them. He wished to ask any Member of the House whether the rights of private Members had not been abused that night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) and the right hon. and learned Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), and also by hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway opposite? The hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. A. J. Balfour) came down to the House, and, without having heard at all what was going on, charged Her Majesty's Ministers with great neglect, and with abusing the rights of private Members. He (Mr. Causton) trusted that the time of the House would not be wasted by such unsatisfactory discussions as now proceeded night after night; and that, if they did continue, the Prime Minister would, at the earliest possible moment, take away some of the nights which at present belonged to private Members, and devote the time to the benefit of the public: service.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, Her Majesty's Government must be very much encouraged by the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Causton), because it evidently marshalled them in the way they were going. They were interfering that night with the habitual rights—he did not say the rights as defined by the Order when it was read, but with the habitual rights of private Members on Friday nights; and they were doing it at a time when they had, by their own action, provoked an examination of their conduct. On Tuesday evening, by an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the majority, the rights of private Members 1922 were taken away. The Government were complaining that they were unable to make progress with Public Business. They had themselves deliberately wasted four nights in discussing a Bill which they knew had no chance whatever of being placed in the Statute Book; and now they came down on a Friday, and, early in the evening, when there were two matters of considerable importance down for discussion, suggested that the House should pass to the discussion of a Government Bill. The Bill might be a good one, and of considerable importance; if so, let it be brought on in Government time. It was clear that, if the present Motion were adopted, Friday would go the way Tuesday had already gone. The Government had more than half the House amongst its followers, and it only required that in the ballot one or other of their supporters should get first place, in order that a Friday should be useless so far as private Members were concerned. It was not a question respecting the relative importance of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill and the Motion on the Paper with regard to jury-packing in Ireland; it was not a question affecting that night only, but one affecting every Friday night. He hoped a division would be taken, in order that some distinct and definite protest would be made by the House against the action of the Government.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, he thought it would occur to the Speaker that they were now entering upon one of those technical discussions upon the Rules of the House which generally ended in making the Rule more doubtful than before, without any satisfaction resulting to either side of the House. Looking at the matter from a practical point of view, he had come to the conclusion that, so far as Business was concerned, there was very little chance of any good purpose being served by the present Sitting being prolonged. Holding such a view, and considering the late nights they had all kept of late, he thought it would be well for them to seek rest, and stop this useless discussion upon old and new Rules, which, he freely admitted, he never did understand, and never could. With that object, he would move the Adjournment of the House.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion, 1923 There were many reasons why the House should now adjourn. A chief reason was that last night the Government were in a small minority; and it was only fair and proper that the Prime Minister should have ample opportunity of consulting his Colleagues, between now and Monday, as to whether the House should be asked by them to transact any other important Business. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland might introduce his Bill to-night; and, for all they knew, on Monday they might find that he and they had simply wasted their time.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is the Adjournment of the House. The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to that Question.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he wished to afford Ministers an opportunity of consulting, between now and Monday, as to whether or not they would ask the House to support any other measures which they had introduced, or which they intended to introduce during their tenure of Office, which they must now expect to be very short.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Molloy.)
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he supported the Motion for Adjournment; and he was extremely glad that the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) had, by the Motion he had made, afforded the Opposition an opportunity of putting its foot down at once against the tyrannical proceedings of the present Government. It was a long time since they had had an opportunity of endeavouring to resist the manner in which the Government arranged the Business of the House, and for that reason he was inclined to support the Adjournment. He supported the Adjournment, too, because the Prime Minister had proposed to the House a course which was unprecedented, for which the right hon. Gentleman had not cited a single precedent. The Prime Minister was content to give his own ipse dixit to the House, and to say—"You must take that at my bidding." He (Lord Randolph Churchill) supported the Adjournment, because the House of Commons was not accustomed to be treated in such a way until the advent of the present Parliament. The 1924 Prime Minister must learn, and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) must learn, that the House of Commons might be led, but that it was not to be driven. ["Question!"] That was the Question, and that was the reason he was giving to the House for supporting the Adjournment. He supported the Adjournment for another reason; and that was, that it was extremely questionable whether hon. Members on his side of the House were not thoroughly justified in resorting to all the Forms of the House in order to prevent Her Majesty's Government proceeding with Business after having been placed twice in a most discreditable and disgraceful minority. He supported the Adjournment, because it had been proved that, for the last three months, on no question of public importance could the Government command the confidence of the House of Commons.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he wished to give his reasons why he should vote against the Motion for Adjournment. He should oppose the Motion, in order that they, on his side of the House, might enter their protest against the unholy alliance which had been formed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. There were three Parties to that unholy alliance, and the present Motion for Adjournment was one of the consequences of that alliance. He should take the liberty of reverting to a few facts that had taken place within the last week. On Monday last—
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
rose to Order, and submitted that the hon. Gentleman was not talking to the Question before the House.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he was endeavouring to give his reasons for opposing the Adjournment; he was endeavouring to show that the policy of the Party opposite was the justification of the opposition to the Motion. On Monday last, they listened to a speech from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill)—
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, his reason for opposing the Adjourment was that it was one of the consequences of the alliance formed on the opposite side of the House. That unholy alliance con- 1925 sisted of hon. Gentlemen sitting above and below the Gangway, of the Irish Members, and of that small Party led by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock himself. The Irish Members had lent a helping hand to the Opposition, and so had discharged their duties in the alliance. Now the noble Lord, in return, had come to the assistance of his Irish Friends, and was about to fulfil his part of the compact.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that, to justify himself in opposing the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Buchanan) referred to what he was pleased to call an "unholy alliance" which had been formed on the Opposition side of the House. Doubtless, the hon. Gentleman had forgotten the very unholy alliance to which he and his hon. Friends had been parties of late. If the hon. Member had no better argument for opposing the Motion before the House than the fact that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House were for once united in resisting the continuous encroachments that were being made upon the rights of private Members, he did not go far to look for arguments. The Motion made by the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) was a very rational one, and must commend itself to the judgment of the House. He (Mr. Harrington) had no doubt whatever that, if it was put to the vote of the House, the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) would find that the alliance to which he had pointed was a very powerful and formidable combination, and that, no matter how widely hon. Gentlemen in that quarter of the House might differ on political questions, they still had some respect for the rights of private Members. The hon. Member would find that the different Parties composing the Opposition, or the "unholy alliance," had some contempt for the alliance that had been witnessed during the past few weeks between the Government and Mr. Bradlaugh. He would find, too, that there was a great contempt for the efforts which were being made, from time to time, to deprive private Members of every right they had of drawing attention to their several grievances.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is the Motion for Adjournment. The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to that Question.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, he was about to appeal to the Government to agree to the Motion that had been made. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government must see that, instead of gaining time by the manœuvres with which of late he had surprised the House, he would only lose time, and that the most rational course to adopt with the view of promoting Public Business would be to agree to the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had charged the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) and himself with being parties to some alliance. He desired to give the statement the flattest contradiction. If the hon. Member for Edinburgh had been in the House when he (Mr. Cavendish Ben-tinck) addressed some observations to the Chair, he would have heard that he simply argued that, according to precedent, the Government were bound, on Friday nights, to renew Supply when it had been once negatived. He recommended hon. Gentlemen opposite to study a question before they expressed an opinion upon it.
§ COLONEL KINGSCOTE
, as a Member of the House of over 30 years' standing, trusted that the House of Commons was no longer to be a bear garden. He had no desire to impute motives; but hon. Gentlemen who came in late and only heard a few moments' discussion did impute motives to the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) tried to throw some oil on the troubled waters; but, at the same time, he endeavoured to sting the Government. He (Colonel Kingscote) did not believe that what the Government had done that night was at all unprecedented, and yet an hour and three quarters had been wasted in discussing what they had done. The motives of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the course they were pursuing, was quite evident. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland desired to introduce a measure regarding the Irish Constabulary, and that was the real reason why hon. Members from Ireland were now opposing the Government. He blamed those hon. Members above the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House who, 1927 on that occasion, had supported the endeavours of the Irish Members, and thus added fuel to the fire. At 10 minutes past 10 o'clock, when the debate on the Railway Rates Question was brought to an end, no one was ready to bring any other Motion forward; and between that hour and the present (10 minutes past 12) the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant would have had ample time in which to introduce his measure. Some work would then have been done. He believed the Government were quite right on the present occasion, and that there was precedent for what they were doing.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Kingscote) that it was most desirable the House of Commons should not lapse into a bear garden; but he could not conceive any better means of avoiding that undesirable contingency than a scrupulous adherence to the practice of Parliament. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) had charged him (Mr. J. Lowthor) with having misled the House as to the Standing Orders of the House. The noble Marquess said the Standing Orders of the House contained no dictum upon the question now under consideration, and he proceeded to say that the interpretation of the Standing Orders to which they were in the habit of refer ring—["Question!"] He was perfectly in Order in referring to the Standing Orders in replying to the observation that the interpretation—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The observations of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) were made in the debate on the Main Question. The Main Question is not now before the House, therefore the right hon. Gentleman is not in Order. The Question now before the House is that of Adjournment.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he would endeavour to confine himself to the Question, and would not further allude to the speech of the noble Marquess. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Kingscote) talked of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House being actuated by the object of retarding the introduction and passing of a measure which the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland desired to bring forward. So far as he (Mr. J. Lowther) 1928 was concerned, that was a most unwarrantable charge. The hon. and gallant Gentleman could scarcely have been in his place, when he (Mr. J. Lowther) most emphatically said he should most earnestly support Her Majesty's Government in promoting, in any legitimate manner—in a manner in consonance with the letter and spirit of the Orders of the House—the measure to which reference had been made. He thought he was in Order in repudiating in terms, he would not say of indignation, but certainly in terms which could not be open to misconstruction, his emphatic repudiation of the charge which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had made, no doubt unwittingly, so far as he (Mr. J. Lowther) was concerned. He trusted the House would consider the question wholly apart from the merits of the particular proposals which stood in the name of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) and of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and would regard it entirely as a Question of Adjournment, as a protest against the unprecedented action of Her Majesty's Government in setting at naught the letter and spirit of the Orders of the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was sorry the example of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Kingscote) was not as good as his precept; for, while complaining of the imputation of motives, he imputed motives to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House. The principal motive the hon. and gallant Gentleman imputed to the Opposition was a desire to retard the introduction of a certain Bill, to which he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) could not now allude to in detail. He would tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that as to the Irish Constabulary Bill hon. Gentlemen from Ireland had expressed no opinion whatever. At the proper time they would be prepared to discuss the merits of the Bill. They were fully aware that the Bill would be introduced at some hour of the night, and that, in what they were now doing, they were only keeping themselves a little longer out of bed; for they would be obliged, in the performance of their duty, to wait until the measure was introduced. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and his hon. Friends were not, intentionally, at least, retarding the introduction of 1929 any particular Bill; but they were resisting what they considered an attempt on the part of the Government to filch away whatever opportunities private Members had of discussing what were to them matters of importance. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Question!] He was surprised the right hon. Gentleman should give an example of bad manners.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Galway Borough has made use of an expression which is un-Parliamentary, and will probably wish to withdraw it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he begged to withdraw the hasty expression which had been used by him. He thought, however, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in interrupting him by cries of "Question!" at a moment when he was endeavouring to address himself to the subject under discussion. Were they not then discussing the power of the Government to take away the right of private Members, in respect of bringing forward their Motions on Friday?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is addressing himself to the Main Question, which has been superseded by the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
, in answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), said, he repudiated the accusation that he and his hon. Friends had concluded a kind of Kilmainham contract. The Prime Minister had interrupted his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), when he said that the word "general" did not imply that the practice had been habitual in the House. His (Sir H. Drummond Wolff's) object in rising was to find means of avoiding the Adjournment if possible. If the right hon. Gentleman would point out to the House whether it had really been habitual for the Government to act in the way they had done that night the question was at an end. The right hon. Gentleman, in interrupting his hon. Friend, said that the practice was habitual. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) merely asked the right hon. Gentleman to state whether it was to be a permanent arrangement of the Government to take precedence after one Motion 1930 had been disposed of, or whether the Act of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Baitington) was merely accidental or exceptional? And he thought if some assurance were given on that head it night tend to allay the excitement which existed.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 83: Majority 34.—(Div. List No. 83.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'upon Monday next' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, a short time ago, when he was called to Order by Mr. Speaker, he was endeavouring to point out the serious consequences of the precedent now being set up by the Government. As he understood the effect of the action which the Government were now urging on the House, it would be that the Government could, on Friday nights, absolutely destroy those rights of private Members which the Rules of the House bestowed upon them. The Motions of private Members were brought forward on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply; and all that the Government would have to do was to propose that they should be postponed to another day, which was, practically, to postpone them till the Greek Kalends. He could not understand why they had adopted the course they were taking that evening, unless it was that they were anxious to defer the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Dun-garvan (Mr. O'Donnell). But why did they shrink from meeting the charge of jury-packing in Ireland? The Government had trampled on the rights of private Members by taking last Tuesday away from them for the purpose of the debate on the Affirmation Bill; but, then, that had been done in accordance with precedent, because due Notice was given, and the Prime Minister rose in his place and moved, and his Motion was subjected to discussion. But, on the present occasion, without any precedent, at least of any importance, in recent times, the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to destroy the rights of private Members as to Friday night. That appeared to him (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) a most improper and pernicious course for the Government to adopt. ["Oh, oh!"] It was all very 1931 well for the thick-and-thin supporters of the Government to affect political warmth, and try to divert the House from the real point of discussion. The reference to an "unholy alliance" by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) was an instance of that. But he would remind the House that hon. Members opposite, and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, had been very indignant when they were accused of the alliance known as the "Kilmainham Treaty;" and, therefore, it would seem that all hon. Members on those Benches were to be treated as political lepers, whom all decent politicians were to avoid. His only reason for rising, however, was to ask for some sort of reply from the Government on this matter. The real question was as to whether they were to allow the Government to set up a precedent for filching away the rights of private Members; and, on that question, hon. Members were perfectly justified in making a firm and determined stand against the action of the Government. The course taken by hon. Members on those Benches was based solely upon the merits of the particular question before the House—it was dictated solely by the desire to preserve the rights of private Members. They had no ulterior object with regard to any measure which the Government might have to bring forward; they were quite ready to discuss that measure fairly, and upon its merits; but they would not allow it to be reached until the House had had an opportunity of discussing fully the extraordinary action of the Government.
§ MR. WILLIS
said, that hon. Members from Ireland had made several attempts to dissolve the House in the course of the evening. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had asked him (Mr. Willis) to stay away, for the purpose of putting an end to the debate.
§ MR. WILLIS
said, for a few minutes he had been inclined to acquiesce in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), who told him there 1932 was a private reason why the House should not continue. But as soon as he found what the object of the hon. Member was—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Sir, I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Willis) have anything to do with the Question before the House?
§ MR. WILLIS
said, in that case, he would conclude with one observation. From what he had noticed that evening in the House, he thought the Government had earned the right to select a particular subject for consideration; and he trusted the House would assent to the Motion for Supply being taken on Monday.
said, he was not sufficiently informed in the niceties of technical manœuvring to offer any opinion on what an hon. Member had described as a "trick" on the part of the Government. But, on the ground of the rights of hon. Members generally, and particularly the very limited rights of Irish Members, he thought hon. Gentlemen on those Benches had every justification for protesting, in any way open to them, against this proposal of Her Majesty's Government. On Tuesday evening last, they had been deprived of the opportunity of discussing one Irish subject; and to-night an attempt was made to deprive them of an opportunity—a clear right—to discuss another question of the very highest importance and urgency. It was all very well for the Government to assume an air of injured purity; but if it was to be said that the Irish Members wanted to rid themselves of the Police Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Trevelyan) was to introduce tonight, they might fairly retort that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ministers of the Grown to shirk the discussion of a very inconvenient Irish subject, and that they would have had a discussion on the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) only that their complaint was much more easily made than answered. There was only one other subject to which he wished to refer. He desired to say that if this Motion were persisted in, what- 1933 ever might be thought in the House, the people of Ireland would think that they preferred the interests of the Irish Police to the privileges of the Irish Members, or to the rights of the Irish people in a very important matter; and that there was an attempt, at one and the same time, to obtain better pay for the policemen, and to guard their officials from the charge of jury-packing.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member (Mr. O'Brien) that he is not adhering to the Question before the House.
said, he was sorry to have wandered in any way from the Question. He only desired to say, so far as the excuse went, that if the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland wished to do some Irish Business—even though it were Police Business—he could only say that the Irish Members were willing to wait up to any hour to take it. They were there to do the Business of the Irish people, and were prepared to take these measures at any hour; but they were, at the same time, entitled to remind the House that there was Irish Business to be done more pressing and more important than giving more pay to policemen.
§ MR. E. S. HOWARD
asked how they were to believe what hon. Members opposite were saying? ["Order!"]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to Order, Sir. I wish to ask whether the hon. Member (Mr. E. S. Howard) is entitled to attribute falsehood to other hon. Members of this House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member intended—which I cannot imagine he did—to impute want of truth to any body of Members of this House, of course he is out of Order.
§ MR. E. S. HOWARD
said, he did not wish to attribute untruth to anyone; but he would ask if hon. Members from Ireland were in earnest in saying they wished to discuss the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), seeing that no less than four of them had that evening endeavoured to count out the House?
§ MR. GRAY
said, the House had been occupied t we hours on this subject, showing the marvellous capacity of the present Government for starting propositions which wasted the time of the House, with the intention, or under the pretext, 1934 of saving time. He would not go into the arguments which had been very strongly urged and fairly put in defence of the rights of private Members; but he would like to ask the House to consider for a moment what the precise position was with regard to the Business upon the Paper for discussion that evening. If the Motion of the Government were carried, all the Notices of Motion which stood on the Paper for discussion, of course, went by the board. They knew the anxiety of hon. Members to secure evenings for the discussion of their Motions. They balloted for them month after month, and a Member considered himself extremely lucky if he secured even a chance of bringing forward a Motion. The Motions which would, in the natural course, have come on that day would practically disappear, not only for that night, but for the Session, if the proposition of the Government were carried. If the proposal were withdrawn, or negatived, would the course of Public Business be delayed by one single day? Certainly not. All that hon. Members could be possibly deprived of would be a full statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. They would have a concise statement, instead of a full one, as the period of the night would render brevity desirable. Last night the right hon. Gentleman had been perfectly prepared to introduce his Bill without any lengthened statement, and if he could have secured a first reading he would have done so. Tonight, however, no matter how late the period at which it was brought on, it would not be in the power of the small section of the Members who might be opposed to the measure to prevent its being proceeded with, and to prevent the right hon. Gentleman securing for it the only stage he could secure. It could be taken, therefore, at whatever hour it was brought on; while the effect of the Motion of the Government would be to stifle discussion, and prevent a subject coming on which they could not deny was of the greatest importance, however unpalatable it might be to the right hon. Gentleman, and however embarrassing it might be to find an answer to what might be said upon it. The Government had not ventured to deny that the Notice of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was of great importance; and 1935 whilst the Government Motion would stifle discussion on it, the resistance of the Irish Members to the Government Motion, if successful, would not interfere in the least with the progress of Public Business. Let that be thoroughly understood. The hon. and gallant Member for West Gloucestershire (Colonel Kingscote) declared that, from his 30 years' experience in the House, he knew perfectly well what the motive of the Irish Members was. It was, he said, to prevent the bringing on of the Police Bill. Well, that certainly was not his (Mr. Gray's) motive. He desired to see the Bill brought in. He did not want to discuss it; but he had no hesitation in saying that the position of the police in Ireland required improving, and he should be glad to see it improved. It was not right to impute unworthy motives to hon. Members as the hon. and gallant Member for West Gloucestershire had done; but, even assuming that they desired to impede the Bill, it was not in their power to do so. The Government did not wish to take t we stages of the Bill that night—they did not wish to pass the first reading, suspend the Standing Orders, and pass the second reading that night. And it could not be contended by them that they did not desire to take the measure at a late hour because the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not be reported. At whatever hour the right hon. Gentleman spoke he would be reported. Everything that fell from his lips was always well reported. The position he occupied in the House was such that he was certain of full publicity for any statement he made. The proposal of the Government was not merely a serious device—perhaps not unprecedented, although it was unusual—but it was one involving an interference with the privileges of hon. Members, and involving a stifling of discussion, without securing any sufficient advantage. The Government, if they carried their Motion, only wanted to deal with the Police BUI. Well, let them deal with that after the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungar-van had been disposed of. No blocking Notice could prevent them taking it at a late hour. It could be taken at 2 o'clock in the morning as easily as at 7 o'clock in the evening. If the Government had not started the present debate, 1936 in all probability the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan would have been disposed of by this time, and the House would have been considering the Police Bill. That was not the first time he had known the Government provoke angry feeling by Motions of this kind, and then complain of waste of time, which was solely owing to their own want of discretion. He would appeal to the Government to leave to the Irish Members the privilege and right they should enjoy of discussing an important question, particularly seeing that that discussion would not delay the matter the Government wore interested in.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, he wished to offer a few observations upon the importance of insisting upon the privileges of Irish Members not being done away with in the manner in which it was now proposed to do away with them. He had hoped that if the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had had an opportunity of bringing forward his Motion that evening, they would have been able to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a state of things existing in Ireland which, no doubt, he would not sanction if he were only as intimately acquainted with it as hon. Members from Ireland were. ["Question!"] He would not endeavour to speak on the Motion of which the hon. Member for Dungarvan had given Notice; but he must protest against the persistent manner in which Her Majesty's Government endeavoured to stifle discussion on every subject which was raised in the House of Commons by Irish Members. Irish Members now could only raise matters affecting their country by putting Questions occasionally to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and it very often happened that the information they received in that manner was of so scant and untrustworthy a character that it conveyed anything but an accurate impression to the House of the state of things in Ireland. If they were further advanced in the Session, there would be some reason for the proposal which was now made on behalf of the Government; but, as they were at a very early period, he confessed he could see no justification for the course which had been adopted. He did not see the urgency of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was to in- 1937 troduce that evening, m regard to which, for himself and for his hon. Friends sitting near him, he wished to disclaim any spirit of opposition. It was not the intention of hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies to offer any opposition to the introduction of the Government measure. All they were protesting against now was the continued interference of the Government with the rights of the Irish Members. They were in no way animated by a spirit of opposition to the Police Bill; on the contrary, they were anxious to see it discussed; but they would be unfaithful to the interests of their constituencies, if they allowed the Government to filch away their rights, and stifle discussion on matters of importance to Ireland, without strongly protesting. It was the duty of hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies to seize every opportunity to enter their protests against the action of the Government in endeavouring to stifle discussion, and slur over the present Administration in Ireland, which, he (Mr. Harrington) firmly believed, if it were properly explained to the House and examined into, and the attention of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government were called to it, would neither receive the sanction of the House, nor that of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 76; Noes 40: Majority 36.—(Div. List, No. 84.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday next, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply."
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he wished to confirm the accuracy of what he had previously said with regard to the practice of the House. On the 5th of May, 1871, a precisely similar case occurred. The hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence) was about to proceed with a Notice of Motion which he had on the Paper; but he was stopped by the then Speaker, and, the Motion having been negatived, he did not proceed. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) himself then rose to Order, and advanced similar arguments to those he had put forward tonight; and, in consequence of the arrangements made, the Government were bound to renew the Order. The then Speaker stated that— 1938The adoption of the Amendment supersedes the Question that I now leave the Chair. But, certainly, it is a course which has "been followed on previous occasions, that under such circumstances the Government should revive the Motion for the Committee of Supply."—(3 Hansard,  323.)In pursuance of that decision, he proposed to give Notice that, on going into Committee of Supply, if, on a Friday evening, an Amendment was carried to the Question that the Speaker should leave the Chair, it should be obligatory on the Government, before proceeding to other Business, to move that the House should again resolve itself into the Committee of Supply. He now, therefore, wished to propose again that the Speaker should leave the Chair, as he thought it was necessary to make a stand in support of the small residuum of independent Members' privileges that still remained, before the time had passed for Members to raise objections. He was very sorry to see that the independent spirit had gone from hon. Members below the Gangway, and that they were nothing but mere followers of the Government.
I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), having begun his observations in a very becoming tone, should have ended by making a most unnecessary reference to hon. Members on this side of the House; and, after we have spent t we hours and a-quarter in this discussion, he should propose to make a Motion which would commence another wrangle of the same kind. With regard to the citation the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made, I must trust to my recollection; but I think I have a recollection of what occurred. He says that Mr. Speaker declared that, under such circumstances, it was the duty of the Government to set up Supply again on Fridays. But under what circumstances? Everything turns on the meaning of that phrase, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not able to throw any light on that point. My impression is, that that judgment was given by Mr. Speaker Denison at an early hour of the evening. The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not appear to recollect that; but that is a most material point in the case. There is a very recent declaration from the Chair on this subject; for, so late as April 6th, 1883, 1939 you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that you were not aware of any Order or practice which, rendered it obligatory on the Government to set up Supply a second time on Friday, any more than on any other day. That is what I stated early this evening; and I again convey, in perfect consistency with that ruling, and, as I think, with the ruling of Mr. Speaker Denison, that there is no fixed Rule on the subject, and no absolute or habitual practice. I fully admit that it would be an abuse on the part of the Government if they were to so manage this matter as to deprive private Members of their opportunities on Friday evenings; but there is no fixed Rule as to the hour at which it would be right for the Government to set up Supply when there is important Business to be begun. We gave full Notice that at 11 o'clock we should cease to prosecute the Order for Supply, and it was three minutes before 11 before the Motion was made. I will not refer to this debate of this evening; for, although it may be necessary to do so on a formal occasion, I do not wish to adopt a retaliatory tone. We have no intention of assorting that the main portion of Friday evenings ought to be taken from private Members; but I am bound to say I think this is a case in which, as Notice was given, we were right in proposing that this important Irish Business should be taken. But whether we were right or wrong has nothing whatever to do with the supposition that, at an early hour of the evening, we intended to avail ourselves of our advantage.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had given very ample justification for the protest which had been made that night. He had made it perfectly clear that the use of the Friday evenings for setting forth grievances depended wholly on usage, and not on Rule; and the Government, when they chose, might come and take away the whole of private Members' time by a Motion of their own. That being so, it was essential that the House should make an emphatic protest against any innovation on the custom and tradition of the House. Every Government might not be so well disposed to recognize tradition as the present Government; and they must contemplate Governments which would be arbitrary, and would 1940 not listen to the claims of private Members. Supposing that time not to have come now, there yet was a very significant phrase made use of by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) in the early part of the evening. He endeavoured to define the rights of the Government and the rights of private Members. The noble Marquess said the time of the Government was Mondays, Thursdays, and as much of Friday as they could got. Exactly—as much time as they could get; and he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) thought he saw in this attempt to-night the beginning of an attempt to got a great deal more time than they had previously got. But the noble Marquess had not quite accurately described the amount of time they already got. They had Monday and Thursday, and as much of Friday as they could get; but they had frequently taken Tuesdays. After Whitsuntide, they would probably annex all the time of private Members; and if, under those circumstances, they were to be allowed, without a protest, to take as much of Friday as they could get, private Members would be unworthy to have any time of their own, or any claim on the hearing of the House. He thought hon. Members were justified in making vigorous remonstrance against the action of the Government, if only in order not to allow innovation to become usage.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he hoped that when the Motion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) came on that day four weeks, the Government would not try to get rid of it by a manœuvre.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, a fair reason for extending the Rule that Friday should be given to private Members, and for the Government setting up Supply a second time, when they had accepted an Amendment, was that, since that ruling was given, all the other opportunities of moving Motions on going into Committee of Supply had been taken away. That was a reason why they ought to oppose all possible resistance to what they considered the shortcomings of the Government. They had no longer any opportunities; and when the Government now attempted to appropriate Fridays, by applying a Rule which they might have applied 1941 with a certain amount of colour in past years, hon. Members felt that the Government wore trying them by a Rule which was no longer applicable. They had monopolized other opportunities, and private Members must insist upon maintaining their rights.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House will, on Monday next, resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.