§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister a Question as to the Business to-night; and, at the same time, I wish to call attention to what took place at the Sitting of the House on Friday last. At the beginning of Business on Friday last, I asked the right hon. Gentleman what Business was to be taken, and drew his attention to the fact that no Notice had been given to take effective Supply; and, therefore, presumed that other Business would be taken. I was informed that the Government intended to proceed with the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill; in fact, that they were very anxious to go on with that measure. We proceeded with the discussion of the first Motion that had been given Notice of on the Motion to go into Committee of Supply. That was disposed of at an early hour, and there was reason to suppose that there would have been ample time for the consideration of other Business. The House was, however, counted out; and, as far as I am able to understand, no effort was made on the part of the Government to keep a House. In view of the many innuendoes and suggestions that are thrown out about Obstruction, it is just as well that attention should be drawn to this subject.
Sir, I do not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's mode of proceeding. I suppose I must understand his remarks as being in the nature of a Question, and that I must myself cast them into the form of a 964 Question, though they were rather in the nature of a charge.
The right hon. Gentleman did what he seldom does—he forgot the object for which he rose. With regard to the Business of this evening, we propose to go on with Supply, and then to proceed with the Irish Constabulary Bill. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether any efforts were made to keep a House on Friday. What happened was this:—At 8 o'clock I rose to address the House on the subject of Armenia. The House was counted immediately after my rising, and the number present was, I think, a little over 40, of whom 18 were Members of the Government—not, I think, a bad proportion; of the remaining 24 or 25, two belonged to the Opposition; the other 23 being on this side of the House. Under these circumstances, I think that is a tolerable indication that efforts were made by the Government, and that it was their misfortune, not their fault, if the House was counted. I admit that I myself left the House at half-past 8. I was not, therefore, in the final count; but I understand that the number of Members present in the final count was 35, of whom 16 were Members of the Government. We regretted the count very much. We set up Supply a second time immediately. The reason why we did not put down effective Supply was, because we were under a strong impression that the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) would be discussed for nearly the whole evening.
§ MR. RITCHIE
asked whether they were to understand that the promise of the Government to keep a House was limited to the attendance of the Members of the Government only, or were they to understand that the Government had no power to obtain 40 supporters when they desired to keep a House?
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
asked if it would be possible to record the names of Members present when the House was counted out. If that were done, he thought it would be found that soma Gentlemen who were very fond of talking about Obstruction were very often absent when the House was counted.
As to the question of printing the names, that is a matter which depends upon the machinery of the House, and not on the will of the Government. With regard to the Question put by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), I do not understand that the engagement of the Government is confined to official Members; but the hon. Gentleman must know that my noble Friend near me (Lord Richard Grosvenor) is able to bring stronger pressure to bear on official than on non-official Members. My noble Friend reported to me on Friday night that, from the strong feeling of the independent Members, as they are called, he should have the greatest possible difficulty in keeping a House.
wished to point out that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had forgotten to answer the Question which the Leader of the Opposition forgot to put.