§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I have no wish at all to abuse the indulgence of the House by calling attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; but I think we must take notice of the fact that, as he has himself remarked, we are placed in remarkable and peculiar circumstances; and the consequence of that is that certain measures which the Government are sorry not to proceed with must be laid aside; and the right hon. Gentleman also tells us that it is necessary to call Parliament together at an unusual period of the 697 autumn for the purpose of proceeding with one particular measure—the Franchise Bill. It is very desirable there should be no misunderstanding on that point. I confess there were expressions of the right hon. Gentleman which I did not fully understand, and I was anxious that those expressions should be cleared up. The right hon. Gentleman says he proposes we should meet in October for the purpose of proceeding at once with the Franchise Bill; and he states that it would be the desire of the Government to proceed immediately afterwards with the Redistribution Bill.
, interposing, was understood to explain that he had said he proposed to proceed with the redistribution scheme at the time he had already promised.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
What I really wished—and I think the Government will consider it reasonable that we should have an understanding—is that the scheme of redistribution should be before us in the form of a Bill—["Oh!" and cheers]—before we are called upon to pass the Franchise Bill. I am sorry if that is not the feeling; the words of the right hon. Gentleman were capable of that construction, which, I thought, was the correct one. I will go so far as to say, if it is the desire of the Government that a complete scheme for the representation of the people should receive the assent of Parliament, I am satisfied there is no other way in which that object can be so well and so properly secured. I earnestly trust that course may be adopted. I cannot help calling to mind that early in the Session, when the question was raised why the two could not be proceeded with, the right hon. Gentleman gave as a principal reason that if he brought forward a Redistribution Bill with the Franchise Bill he would be unable to proceed with other measures, such as the London Government Bill. Now, we see the result—the London Government Bill has to be laid aside, and neither object has been attained. [Cries of "Why?"] I believe the right hon. Gentleman will find that much greater facilities will be offered to the passing of the two measures, if they are brought in together as a complete scheme of Reform. I will not dwell upon this portion of the subject, beyond saying that it is my earnest desire to press upon 698 the House and the Government my own conviction that this is the best and most promising way of dealing with the question. There are two questions I wish to address to the right hon. Gentleman. The first is a matter of detail, when and in what part of the autnmn he contemplates the House being called upon to meet? It would be convenient for us, and for the country also, to know, as the usual Recess is to be shortened, at what time Parliament is to meet. The other question has reference to the remainder of the Business of the present Session. I want to know what is to be done with regard to any debate on Egyptian affairs? The right hon. Gentleman made no allusion to it; I do not know that it was necessary for him to do so; but it is our duty to ask what is to be done in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman may be able to tell us—I hope now—what is the position of the Business that is being laid before the Conference, and at what time it may be expected we shall receive any communication as to the decisions of the Conference? Or, if any circumstance should occur to prevent a decision being given, he may be able to tell us in what form we may be allowed to express our views on the great and important questions involved in the Egyptian policy of the Government. These are the two questions I want to raise. I do not desire to go into other matters; and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take in good part, and understand and appreciate the spirit, in which I have made these suggestions. To put myself in Order, I move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
I need not say that when the right hon. Gentleman makes an important suggestion, as he has done to-day, and states that in his belief it is a suggestion which, if adopted, would conduce to the despatch of Public Business, I receive that assertion with the most implicit credence. I have no doubt it is his judgment, but the right hon. Gentleman is, of course, aware that our judgment has, unfortunately, been entirely at variance with his, and, great as has been the difficulties which have beset us in the course we have endeavoured to pursue during the present 699 Session, yet we were able to obtain the most emphatic support of this House with respect to the Franchise Bill, and to send the Bill disposing of that which is the basis and the essence of every question of Parliamentary Reform to the House of Lords in ample time for the House of Lords to deal with it. We did that upon very full consideration, and I am bound to say that though the belief of the right hon. Gentleman, as far as it goes, is a favourable factor, we are bound to have regard to the materials of which this House is composed, to the relation and discipline of various Parties, and to the absolute duty of the Government to recognize its responsibility with regard to the Procedure of the House—a responsibility with which no other person or Party can be chargeable. We cannot wholly avoid looking back to the experience of 1866, when the process suggested was attempted. We then judged it more convenient to pass a Franchise Bill without its being complicated by a Redistribution Bill; we endeavoured to take that course; the feeling of the House, upon the whole, was averse; we deferred to the feeling of the House, and we brought in our Redistribution Bill. But so far from finding that we were better off for that concession, it was quite evident that the appetites of our opponents was whetted by partial success, and from the moment of the bringing in of the Redistribution Bill, every chance of the passing of the Reform Bill vanished. Since that time the field of redistribution has been greatly extended. Considering the progress the franchise has made, and may make, it is absolutely necessary that there should be something like systematic and methodical redistribution; but, independently of that, something approaching to a methodical Redistribution Bill must be made in order to present a fair promise of durability. Besides that, the wits of men scientific and others have been to work since 1866 upon every description of question with regard to modes of voting. The changes introduced into the aspects of this subject, and the enormous widening of its field by the various schemes of voting of minorities, by the various theories of proportional representation, and the undoubted right of Members to have a fair hearing for their views, convinced us that the burden which redistribution 700 would impose upon the Franchise Bill was not less, but far more formidable than ever it was. With these facts before us, it is impossible for me to hold out to the right hon. Gentleman any expectation of our changing our course. I had certainly thought that my own words had been clear and expressive, because I said that in our view our paramount duty was to promote the earliest passing of the Franchise Bill, and next to endeavour to redeem the engagement under which we had already come with regard to a Redistribution Bill, that engagement being to take the earliest opportunity of introducing it, should we continue to be the Government. [A laugh, and "Hear, hear!"] If we are relieved, and I shall be much obliged to that Gentleman, if he will show me a short way out of my anxieties—[An hon. MEMBER: Dissolve!]—if we are relieved of our function, that settles the matter; but if we are not relieved, we are engaged from the beginning of next Session, so far as depends upon us, to devote that Session, in preference to every other subject, to pressing forward the Redistribution Bill. It may be that that course may be rendered difficult by circumstances beyond our control; but my own earnest desire is to keep that engagement. Well, so much on the subject of the Redistribution Bill, with regard to which I must say that it would require evidence far more conclusive and reaching to a far greater extent than any that is now before me to produce any impression on the deliberate conclusion of my Colleagues and myself that to mix the two questions would be an effectual way of preventing progress with either of them. With regard to the two questions of the right hon. Gentleman, I stated that the Autumn Session would be in the month of October. Certainly, our view of it is that it should be in the second moiety of that month; and if I might venture, without committing myself to a date, I would say that about the 20th of October would be most convenient in the general view of the Government. With respect to the second question, the right hon. Gentleman was not only quite justified in putting it, but if it had occurred to me I should have made mention of it. Of course, any arrangement that could be made for clearing the decks of legislative measures in our own hands cannot possibly 701 weaken any pledge we have given with regard to affording opportunities for a discussion or a vote on the conduct and the policy of the Government with regard to Egypt and the Conference, should there be a desire for such a discussion and for such a vote. I consider that to remain wholly unaffected by anything that has been said with respect to legislative subjects. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to know, I think in a practical way, what I can tell him with regard to the progress of the business before the Conference. I will go as far I can in that respect. He will quite understand that we cannot give a binding account or a binding estimate of the time which will be taken by the Representatives of the European Powers in prosecuting particular business with the same confidence as if they were matters which were being carried on within the precincts of the Government itself. There are two Bodies engaged in the work to which we have to look. First, there is the Commission, which is subordinate to the Conference, and the business of which is, I believe, derived chiefly from the Conference. With regard to the Commission I can give a favourable report. Our confident hope is, great progress having been made in its business, that early next week, probably in the first moiety of next week, the Commission will close its labours. That Commission represents in general a class of men better known on the Continent than here, perhaps, by the name of experts. But, in point of fact, it is a solid and difficult work of detail which they have to prepare and elaborate for the purpose of easing the labours of the Conference. We make no doubt that the Conference will meet on the earliest possible day—that is to say, a day or two after the Commission has closed its work—and our belief is that the matter for the consideration of the Conference will be so carefully and thoroughly prepared by the Commission that we may reasonably expect that the labours of the Conference will not require them to extend their proceedings over a great number of sittings. I should not, however, like at the present moment, before the Commission has concluded its labours, to speak of a day for the conclusion of those of the Conference; but we are sanguine that the whole matter will be concluded in such time as in no 702 degree to abridge the liberty of Parliament to consider the conclusions that we may present to them before arriving at a period of the year beyond that to which we are accustomed ordinarily to prolong our Sitings. I think that this is as much as I can fairly be expected to say at the present moment.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I do not think anyone would for a moment suppose from the tone of the Prime Minister that we were, as all the newspapers, Liberal and Conservative, inform us, in the midst of a great Constitutional crisis—for anything more meek and mild than the attitude of the Prime Minister, and anything more meek and mild than the attitude of the Liberal Party on this most critical occasion, it has certainly never been my good fortune or the good fortune of anyone else to witness. But, Sir, perhaps I may say—and perhaps the House will pardon a little discussion at this moment, because it is probably about the only opportunity we shall have—that the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made is, to my mind, and I think will be to the mind of many in the country, the most complete and utter exposure of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and the most complete, and, I will say, unlooked-for and unhoped-for defence of the House of Lords that it would have been possible for the mind of man to have offered. What has the Prime Minister told us is to be the plan of the Government? He tells us that the House is to meet in the autumn in order that we may deal with the Franchise Bill and that the Government may redeem its pledges with regard to redistribution. [Cheers, and cries of "No!"] That, Sir, is the statement of the Prime Minister absolutely. ["No, no!"] Those hon. Members who contradict me upon that point will look very foolish to-morrow morning when they read the reports of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the newspapers. The Prime Minister said—"We will call Parliament together in the autumn in order that we may deal with the franchise and redeem our pledges about redistribution." [Cries of "No!"]
I may perhaps be excused if I set the noble Lord right. It is quite possible I may have used the expression "dealing with redistribution next Session," but it was perfectly un- 703 derstood that I did not mean the Autumn Session.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I must say that I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman in what he says. No doubt, he stated the matter in that extremely confused way to the House, and if I had not remarked upon it my understanding of what the right hon. Gentleman said would have been in the minds of everybody—[Cries of "No!"]—except, perhaps, of the Members of the Liberal Party who have been taken into the Prime Minister's confidence this afternoon. It could have occurred to no other human mind who heard the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government had any other intention than to call Parliament together in the autumn to deal with the Franchise Bill and to redeem their pledges with regard to redistribution. But, Sir, if that is not so; if Parliament is to be called together in the autumn merely to deal only with the Franchise Bill, what a monstrous and, I say, a criminal and dissolute waste of public time it will be. I cannot, of course, hope hon. Members opposite will agree with me on this subject; but there are others out-of-doors who will be inclined to take a more impartial view of the question. What is the position of the Franchise Bill at the present moment? It is one of suspended animation. It is perfectly open to the other House of Parliament to proceed with that Bill to-morrow or at any time before Parliament is prorogued. The Prime Minister has only got to get up in this House and to follow the course that was pursued in 1882—to adjourn Parliament until October, and then, to introduce his Redistribution Bill. The result of such a proceeding would be that the whole question of Parliamentary Reform would be dealt with before the close of this year, and the Prime Minister, if he liked, could take an Election under the new constituencies before Christmas, 1884. In no way whatever could the position of the House of Lords, from the original point of view, be strengthened. I should think it extremely probable that there would be no difficulty whatever in that Bill being read a second time, if he got up and said—"I will adjourn Parliament till October, when I will bring in my Redistribution Bill." What can be the reason why the Government do not 704 take that plain and simple course? From what we have witnessed to-night of this wholesale massacre of measures, such as no one in this House has ever before had any experience of, it is perfectly obvious to me that the whole legislative programme of the Government, which was set forth with so much pomp in the Queen's Speech, was nothing but a gigantic humbug, a stupendous imposture, and a prodigious fraud, and was put forward for no other purpose than to delude Parliament and the country, and to serve for the concealment of a revolutionary attack upon the House of Lords. I ask the House to observe the extraordinary amiability of the Prime Minister upon the present occasion; and, at the same time, to carry their minds back to a certain Friday night, about three weeks ago, when the Prime Minister moved the third reading of the Franchise Bill. On that occasion, the Prime Minister warned the House of Lords to—BewareOf entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,Bear't that th' opposed may beware of thee.But, having given this warning, the Prime Minister immediately proceeded to set it at nought; and, having entered into a quarrel, so far from his opponents having to beware of him, they merely laughed at him. Anything more humiliating on the part of a powerful Government than the attitude which they took to-night, compared with their attitude on the third reading of the Reform Bill, I am at a loss to imagine. The right hon. Gentleman defied the House of Lords to mortal combat before the bar of the constituencies in the country; he denied the independent legislative rights of the House of Lords. ["No, no!"] I say that was the speech of the Prime Minister—he denied the right of the House of Lords to act as an independent branch of the Legislature, and he threatened them with the consequences of their throwing out the Franchise Bill. He threatened the House of Lords with practical abolition unless they consented to serve as a Registration Office for his own personal acts. Having thrown down that challenge, and the House of Lords having taken it up, the Prime Minister runs away. So far from challenging the House of Lords before the bar of the constituencies, the Prime Minister has taken every possible step 705 to avoid an appeal to the country. Nothing has amused me more, or interested me more, than to observe what I dare say hon. Members opposite have observed—because they have been intrumental in the preparation of the documents—that all the documents which have been carefully sent up from the various local Caucuses of the country have made it their special prayer to the Prime Minister on no account to dissolve Parliament. No doubt, these local wire-pullers and managers are very competent to give advice to the Prime Minister as to the state of public opinion in the country, even if the result of the various bye-elections had not told him what that feeling is. Then, I say, if the Government are going to take up this extremely prudent, not to say pusillanimous, line, the speech which the Prime Minister delivered on the third reading of the Reform Bill was utterly out of place. It can only be called a piece of Falstaffian braggadocio, because this much must be said—that a person who threatens nearly always discloses that he has a weak case. And, further, the fact of the Prime Minister having made that speech almost necessitated the present action of the House of Lords. While the Reform Bill was before this House I did not by word or deed hinder its progress in any way. I say that with our Constitution unwritten as it is, and, in many respects, shadowy and vague as it is, but, at the same time, for practical purposes definite and tangible—I say that a denial in Parliament of Constitutional rights by a person in the position and with the authority not only of the First Minister of the Crown, but of the Leader of the Liberal Party, absolutely necessitates the immediate assertion of those rights in the strongest manner, and on the broadest basis, or else those rights will infallibly perish. I mean this—that if the House of Lords, after the speech which the Prime Minister made in this House, had tamely submitted to the construction of their duty which he proclaimed from that Table, the rights of the House of Lords as an independent Legislative Body would have been almost infallibly at a point where they never could have been taken up again. Anxious as I admit I was that there should not be this division of opinion between the Lords and the Commons, still every hope 706 I had of averting that was shattered, and the hopes of many others were shattered too, when we heard that speech of the Prime Minister. And this I will deliberately say, so that the public may know it, even if hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like to hear it—that from my own knowledge of what was the opinion of noble Lords in the other House belonging to the Conservative Party, many Peers of influence and position, whose opinion on this question I had the good fortune to learn—I say deliberately, many of them, before the third reading of the Reform Bill, impressed by the undoubtedly conciliatory attitude which the Prime Minister had adopted, impressed by the line which had been taken on this Front Bench, impressed by the statement of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) that the Bill as it stood was in many respects a Conservative Bill, were prepared to approach the consideration of the Bill with open, unprejudiced, and impartial minds. I make that statement deliberately, because I know it of my own knowledge; and if the Prime Minister on the third reading had addressed this House and indirectly the House of Lords in the tone and manner which he has so carefully made use of to-night, that Bill would have been well on its way, in my sincere and earnest judgment, towards receiving the Royal Assent. Now, just let me notice the statement made by the President of the Local Government Board in a very wild speech which he delivered last night. The President of the Local Government Board stated to his audience that I had said that if a date was inserted into the Bill, the House of Lords would not dare to reject it. Now, Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity of qualifying that statement as the most monstrous misstatement which I think was ever made even by the right hon. Gentleman, and of giving to that statement the flattest and the most direct contradiction which you, Sir, in your capacity of presiding over these debates may think Parliamentary. I never said anything of the kind, and I altogether deny the right of a responsible Minister of the Crown—I would deny the right even of an ordinary Member of Parliament—to go and traduce an opponent in a place where that opponent cannot answer him; because I say it is traducing an 707 opponent to put into his mouth a sentence which he never uttered, and, moreover, a sentence which I venture to say—and this it is which makes it so annoying to me—was the most imbecile and stupid sentence which could possibly have been uttered by a Member of Parliament. I never said anything of the kind, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to get up at that Table and quote any expression which, by the wildest exercise of his most romantic and romancing imagination, can be twisted into such a meaning as he stated last night; and if he cannot, I call upon him to retract what he said, and to express his regret for having misquoted—I will not say wilfully misquoted—an opponent. As the matter stands at the present moment, the Constitutional crisis is evidently not in this House. The Liberal Party are evidently not prepared for a Constitutional crisis. I know that there is at the present moment a silly person of the name of Schnadhorst who is meeting somewhere with his myrmidons in the back slums of Westminster in order to devise and concert measures for supporting their great master and their great friend. But I do not think they will be encouraged by the tone of the Prime Minister this afternoon. Nothing could be more discouraging, I imagine, to those faithful myrmidons, for, instead of indulging in denunciations of the House of Lords for daring to thwart him, the Prime Minister did not venture even to name the House of Lords for fear of incurring a debate in this House. I know that there are hon. Gentlemen—particularly the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) and right hon. Gentlemen—and very likely I see two of them sitting there together—who are very fond of getting up in this House and careering about the country and calling themselves the people of England, threatening with the direst vengeance all or any who may hinder them in their way. Well, I do not know whether, Mr. Speaker, you recollect a collection of fables which has been handed down to us from the earliest times under the name of Æsop, and with which hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their vast stores of practical knowledge, are no doubt, familiar. But there is one of those fables, the most delightful and instructive of them all, 708 which relates how a donkey, in the course of his morning's peregrinations, came across a lion's skin, and it immediately occurred to his asinine mind—["Question!"]—that if he were to clothe himself in the lion's skin great power and dignity and profit would immediately accrue to him. So he put it on and he careered about the country, and he frightened a great many old women and children; but, unfortunately for himself, he came across a party of men in the neighbourhood of a town who were well acquainted with the elementary facts of natural history, and who quickly detected the disguise, with the result that the unfortunate donkey was soundly beaten and cuffed and kicked. The history does not tell us whether the donkey learnt wisdom, or whether, having been a donkey once, he remained a donkey always. But this I will say—that whenever I see hon. Gentlemen opposite and right hon. Gentlemen getting up in this House and careering about the country and calling themselves the people of England, I think of the lion's skin. I remember Æsop's fable, and I desire to remind the First Lord of the Treasury of what no one can know better than himself, that there is nothing more easy than to detect the difference between the demagogue's bray and the people's roar.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Mr. Speaker, I shall not attempt to follow the general remarks of the noble Lord, or take up the points which he has laid before the House in a style so peculiarly his own. His mock heroics and his not very tasteful speech may be left to others to deal with. I present myself before the House only in answer to the challenge which the noble Lord has addressed to me. The noble Lord told me at Question time to-day that he intended to make allusion to this matter, and to do so by way of personal explanation. I at once made myself as rapidly acquainted with the speeches of the noble Lord during the debates on the Franchise Bill to which I referred last night as I could do in the time. But I took down only a very few words from his speeches, because I was not aware that reference would be made by him to the subject on an occasion giving an opportunity for debate. I can, therefore, only refer Members who desire an expansion of the passages to his speeches generally 709 upon the Franchise Bill. The noble Lord made a great many speeches on the Franchise Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
On two afternoons, I find, when there were matters of great importance being discussed the noble Lord came down. The noble Lord on the 23rd of May—I will ask hon. Members to read the whole speech of the noble Lord. ["Oh, oh!"] lam very sorry to inflict the task upon hon. Members, and if it had depended upon me I would not do so. On the 23rd of May the noble Lord made a very bitter attack indeed on his own Front Bench. The Motion before the House was the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley), which was to prevent the Bill coming into operation until a Redistribution Bill had been passed. The noble Lord made two speeches on that Amendment. He attacked the Front Bench opposite. Speaking of the pledges given by the Government, made in words less strong than have since been used, he said that he was completely satisfied of their binding force; and he then attacked the right hon. and gallant Member, and said that he supposed the right hon. and gallant Gentleman must have some motive in the Amendment, but he could not conceive what that motive was; but that at last he came to the conclusion that the motive must be to damage the chances of those who wished to see this date put into the Bill; and by "this date" he meant the date proposed by the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey). The noble Lord, in one part of his speech, spoke of "the date," in another of "this date," and in another of "a date sufficient to give time" to pass a Redistribution Bill. The noble Lord attacked the right hon. and gallant Member—thus, by implication, speaking of himself as one of those who desired to pass the Bill, and of the Front Bench, as not desiring to pass the Bill. He repeated over and over again that there were those who did not wish that this Franchise Bill should become law—talking of his own Front Bench.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Does the noble Lord, in the face of this 710 House, mean to tell the House that that speech of his—both those speeches of his—were not a direct attack upon his own Front Bench?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I will ask hon. Members to read that speech. I trust that the newspapers throughout the country will reprint that speech. The noble Lord, after distinguishing between those who wished to damage the Bill—those who did not wish the Bill to become law, and those who did wish it to become law, said that the former knew that if this date was put into the Bill the Bill would become law.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord used the words "this date," and in another sentence "at a date sufficient to give time"—I suppose for the passage of a Redistribution Bill. He said they knew that if this date was put into the Bill, coupled with the pledge of the Government to introduce a Redistribution Bill, it would hardly be possible—it would certainly be in the highest degree dangerous—for the House of Lords to throw out the Bill.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that is not the expression he quoted last night. The words he then purported to quote were—"The House of Lords would not dare to throw out the Bill."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I maintain, and I believe it will be the opinion of the majority of the House—of the House as a whole—that if these words mean anything, they mean nothing more or less than that. I was using a short form of the noble Lord's words in saying that the House of Lords would not dare to throw out the Bill. I spoke last night by my recollection. I have applied to many of my Friends, and they all think the words were some such words as I have quoted.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I cannot. But I assert that nothing could be stronger than the form of words used by the noble Lord in the only report of them that I have had time to consult—namely, that it was hardly possible, and would be in the highest degree dan- 711 gerous, for the House of Lords to throw out the Bill.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
May I say one word? [Cries of "No!"] The date I alluded to was 1887, the date proposed by the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey).
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I heard the hon. and learned Member who sits by the noble Lord, and who so frequently gives him good advice, which he does not always follow, suggest that the words should be "this date;" but the noble Lord sometimes said "a date," and sometimes "a date sufficient to pass a Redistribution Bill." At all events, the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Member was negatived by the House very largely at the instance of the noble Lord. He attacked the Amendment.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Well, I am much surprised to hear the noble Lord say he did not attack the Amendment. The noble Lord is reported in The Times newspaper—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I must rise to Order. I ask you, Sir, whether it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman, or for any Member of this House, although he be on the Treasury Bench, to make an assertion as to the conduct of another hon. Member when that hon. Member has flatly denied that assertion, and when he directly repeats that he made no such statement.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is putting his own interpretation upon what the noble Lord said.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I wish, Sir, to point out that the right hon. Gentleman, by implication, accuses me of having told a direct falsehood. Is that in Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If I had thought there was anything out of Order I should have called the right hon. Gentleman to Order. The noble Lord has made a charge against the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to answer the charge by giving his own interpretation of what passed. I see nothing disorderly or irregular in what the right hon. Gentleman is doing.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Well, I will only repeat my statement that I hope every hon. Member will read these two speeches, and that every newspaper in the country will reprint them at full length. The noble Lord has drawn a distinction between the date then proposed and the date ultimately inserted in the Bill. I will allude to no matters that are not public. At all events, there was a second debate upon this Bill when a good deal of time had elapsed—namely, on the 17th of June. On that occasion the date moved was that of the hon. Member below the Gangway—my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). That date was universally accepted by the House. ["No!"] The Leader of the Opposition appealed to my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) to withdraw his Amendment, and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was inserted without any opposition.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord did not divide against it. That has no bearing upon my case. I am only concerned with the noble Lord. The noble Lord made a speech on that occasion, and I will ask the whole House again to read that speech. The noble Lord expressed himself as being favourable to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and said not one word about any other date. He expressed himself completely satisfied with the pledges given by the Government.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I will remind the House of the tremendous storm of cheering from the noble Lord's own side. I cannot quote ironical cheering. On that occasion the noble Lord was not only pleased at our agreeing to the insertion of a date in the Bill; but he made a speech in which he said that only one thing more was wanting to its completeness.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I should keep the House till Doomsday if I were to quote all the speeches of the noble 713 Lord; but he said that the only thing wanting was a Boundary Commission. That proposal was accepted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and the noble Lord ceased from troubling, and from that time forward he appeared to support the Bill.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
It is not at all my duty to interfere in the dispute between the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord is well able to defend himself; but it is within my own recollection, and within the recollection of all those who sit on this side of the House, that my noble Friend distinctly expressed his objection, not to the Amendment of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) upon its merits, but simply on the ground of the time at which it was proposed. No doubt my noble Friend voted in favour of that Amendment. There is a dispute between the right hon. Baronet and my noble Friend as to the speeches of the noble Lord. I prefer to believe the word of my noble Friend to that of the right hon. Baronet. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has unintentionally expressed a doubt as to the veracity of the right hon. Baronet, and I trust he will not persist in the use of the expression. I am further called upon to interfere on other grounds. The noble Lord, upon a Motion that the matter was of urgent public importance, was perfectly within his right in making a personal explanation; and in the course of that personal explanation he made charges of a certain kind against the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman has replied to those charges; and I am bound to say that I do not think the personal question between the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman ought to go any further. I hope the House will not continue to discuss the personal question; but that the right hon. Gentleman will confine his remarks to the Question of Adjournment. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw any expression which implies a doubt as to the veracity of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Most certainly; I at once follow your ruling. It was not my intention to make any imputation against the veracity of the right hon. Baronet; but it was my intention to dispute the accuracy of the statement he has made. I will give the House some reasons for doubting the accuracy of the statement of the right hon. Baronet upon this point by a reference to another statement in the same speech which my noble Friend has quoted. The right hon. Baronet does not, at any rate, follow the example of my noble Friend, who, when he has anything to impute to his political opponents, does it to their faces and on the floor of this House; but the right hon. Baronet, when he wishes to do so, does not do it on the floor of this House, but goes down to a Liberal meeting in Middlesex and makes his attack there. The other day he made a statement to which I am anxious to call the attention of the House. Now, Sir, the right hon. Baronet, in very different tones from those which the Prime Minister has, if I may venture to say so, with great honour to himself, assumed this evening, directly threatened the House of Lords yesterday at the meeting to which I refer. He said that they had not exercised their powers with due regard to common decency; he threatened them with destruction if they persisted in that course; and, having done that, he proceeded to make a direct charge against the Conservative Party in this House of Obstruction. Well, now, charges of that kind have been very often made, but hitherto by irresponsible Members of the House, or by junior Members of Her Majesty's Government; but, so far, no attempt has been made by anyone to produce proof of their accuracy. But what did the right hon. Baronet say? I quote his words from an organ which represents his own opinions, and which, therefore, I have no doubt, accurately reports him. The right hon. Baronet is reported to have said that, in prophesying the course the Conservative Party have now taken, he had formerly described the policy of the Conservative Party as a policy of Obstruction in the House of Commons, and of rejection of the Franchise Bill in the House of Lords; and he added—Charges of Obstruction have been somewhat dangerous, because, although we were all 715 perfectly acquainted with the facts, they could not be sufficiently proved.That is a very wise maxim, and, perhaps, before I have done, the right hon. Baronet will be sorry he did not himself bear it in mind. He went on to say—That has ceased to be the case. A few days ago we had an example of Obstruction which has been officially proved.The right hon. Baronet went on to quote from the official entries in the Journals of the House with reference to the Motions for the adjournment of the debate on the Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, the ruling of the Speaker that one of such Motions was an abuse of the Forms of the House; and he stated that Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Mr. Sclater-Booth, Members of the late Conservative Government, voted for that Motion. Now, Sir, I shall state fairly the purport of these observations if I sum them up thus—that my right hon. Friend and myself were guilty of direct Obstruction in voting for a Motion which you, Mr. Speaker, had ruled to be an abuse of the Forms of the House. If this had been merely a personal charge against myself, I should not have cared to trouble the House upon the matter; my conduct is to be judged, principally, at any rate, by my constituents and my own conscience. I will say more than that—that even if my right hon. Friend and myself had voted for this particular Motion nothing could have been more unfair than to charge the whole Conservative Party with Parliamentary Obstruction on that account. It would have been as fair to have charged the whole Liberal Party with Obstruction in the late Parliament, on account of certain proceedings on the part of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet, however, professed to quote the Journals as to a certain action, which he attributed to my right hon. Friend and myself as official proof of a policy of Obstruction on the part of the Conservative Party. Now, Sir, what are the facts? I refer to the Divisions of the House. Here is the record of the Divisions; I, Sir, was not in the House when the Question on this Motion was put; I never heard your ruling, and I took no part in the Division. My right hon. Friend was in the House; he took part in the Division, and he voted against the Motion. This is a specimen of the way in which such charges are manufactured by a Member 716 of the Cabinet for political consumption among ignorant people. I do not wish to impute to the right hon. Gentleman that he has knowingly made an untrue statement with regard to myself and my right hon. Friend; but the statement is untrue for all that, and I hope he will have the manliness to avow it, and to express his regret for having made the charge. For my own part, I would sooner have voted for half-a-dozen Motions of Adjournment than, in the position of the right hon. Gentleman, have made personal charges recklessly against my political opponents, without first taking the trouble to prove their accuracy. Now, have I put nothing before the House which should justify me in preferring the statement of my noble Friend to that of the right hon. Baronet? I hope the right hon. Baronet, if he refrains from taking the wise and Constitutional course recommended by the Prime Minister, when next he descends into the streets, will at least take care that the charges he makes against political opponents are true.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have no right to address the House again; but I trust I may claim its indulgence after the direct attack which has been made upon me. The right hon. Baronet has made three distinct statements, as far as I understand him. First, that I charged the Conservative Party with Obstruction on a recent occasion which could be distinctly and officially proved; that I did so out of this House, at a meeting, instead of doing it in the House; and that in the charge I included his name and that of the right hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth). The third statement I at once withdraw; I was mistaken, and I express my extreme regret for having made it. The argument upon which the right hon. Gentleman wastes such an extraordinary amount of indignation—["No!"]—I say "Yes"—was that for the first time there was official proof of Obstruction by the Conservative Party. The right hon. Baronet contradicts that statement, and says I ought not to have made it outside, but inside the House. But the official record exists, and I will read it to the House. As to the statement that the charge was first made outside, I rose in my place the moment after the Division. I called the attention of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the 717 Front Opposition Bench to it, and the matter was the subject of a debate that lasted a considerable time; but no regret was expressed towards Mr. Speaker for the defiance of his authority. On that occasion I find that the first Motion was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross); the second Motion was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Warwickshire (Sir Eardley Wilmot); and the third was made by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks). On the third Motion the Division List states—Thereupon, Mr. Speaker, having stated his opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Forms of the House, put the Question forthwith:—Ayes 22; Noes 83.And in the Division List I find the names of three of the Conservative Whips.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
What has that to do with the official proof of Obstruction? It shows that those who are responsible for the management of that Party in this House supported a Motion which was declared by the Speaker to be an abuse of the Forms of the House. Mr. Akers-Douglas, the Member for East Kent, Mr. T. Thorn-hill, the Member for West Suffolk, and Mr. Rowland Winn, the Member for North Lincolnshire, voted in the minority; and I thought the matter was so important, and so worthy the attention of the House, that I immediately rose to call attention to the fact at the time. I can only regret that I, unfortunately, included the names of two right hon. Gentlemen which were not there.
§ Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH
I have not had an opportunity of reading the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and I had no idea that he alluded to me in it. My conduct was somewhat marked on the occasion, and I am surprised that he should have fallen into the error he did of saying that I voted in the Lobby with the minority. After the expression of regret on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, I have not a word further to say on the subject; but I think it rather hard that any Gentleman should have his name brought prominently forward in a public meeting, in this manner, either in London or elsewhere, and be represented as voting in 718 a certain direction when he did not so vote. There is, however, nothing discreditable in moving Motions of Adjournment, only the practice, unfortunately, is too common. Having said so much, I will venture to recall the attention of the House to the question raised in the earlier part of the discussion. I certainly fell into the same error as the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). I thought from the statement of the Prime Minister that it was the intention of the Government to introduce, not only a Franchise Bill, but also a Redistribution Bill, at the beginning of the new Session. I understood the Prime Minister to say that we should meet in October in order to take the Franchise Bill, and to enable the Government to fulfil the pledge they have given to bring forward a Redistribution Bill. That was my understanding of the language of the right hon. Gentleman; and I must confess that I fell into the same error as my noble Friend. If the next Session of Parliament was to commence in October, how the House was to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of a Redistribution Bill in connection with an adjourned Session after Christmas, I really do not know. I have been entirely misled; and I only allude to the circumstance to express my regret that such is not their intention, and a hope that they will reconsider their decision. I am satisfied that if the Government desire to make progress, and to induce Parliament to pass this measure of Reform as a whole, they will act wisely if they not only bring forward the Franchise Bill in October, but, simultaneously, introduce with it their Redistribution Bill. I should not have alluded to this, but for the questions which have arisen between my noble Friend and the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board. I followed my noble Friend in that discussion, and I must express my opinion that what my noble Friend said was, that if the Prime Minister desired the House of Lords to look favourably on a Franchise Bill, he must insert a date in the Bill. Nothing could be more different from the language used by my noble Friend than that which has been imputed to him, that the House of Lords would be afraid to deal with a measure in which a date had been inserted.
§ MR. T. THORNHILL
As my name has been mentioned with regard to the Division which took place a few nights ago, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in my defence. I know I am supposed to be one of the Whips for my Party; but I do not consider myself an official, because I suppose that an official means a person who receives some pay. I may say that I have received no pay up to the present time; indeed, the case is rather of a contrary character. I thought that on the occasion in question I had a right to vote as I liked, without being liable to be blamed by the right hon. Baronet opposite for having done so, especially as a great many hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches did not vote with the Prime Minister. I protest against my name being brought forward by the President of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. HICKS
After the very marked manner in which the right hon. Baronet has alluded to me, I think I shall not be transgressing the bounds of moderation if I ask the kind indulgence of the House for a few minutes, even from hon. Members who sit below the Gangway, while I make a few observations upon the subject. After the reference to myself, I beg to draw the attention of the House to what the state of Business was on that occasion. We had all come down for the purpose of listening to a great debate on a Vote of Censure upon the Egyptian Question. The Prime Minister moved that the Orders of the Day be postponed in order that the Vote might be discussed. What took place afterwards? The Prime Minister's own followers, by the direction of the Whips of the Party—the paid officials—went into the Lobby and voted against him. The House was then called upon to discuss questions which they were not prepared to deal with; and after discussing a Bill in regard to which there were a great number of Amendments on the Paper, they proceeded, in defiance of the Votes of this House on previous occasions, to make progress with a Bill, which, instead of diminishing the burdens of local taxation, proposed to add to them. We were here without our Leaders—withont those who had been in the habit of taking a prominent part in the discussion of these questions; and I and other Members had to consider whether it was fair and just and 720 right to the ratepayers of the country that we should go on with the measure under the circumstances to which I have alluded. We were told that there were 330 Members present in the early part of the evening, but many of them had never been in the House since; and, among the rest, our Leaders were absent, not having had the slightest idea that the question was intended to be brought on. In moving the adjournment, I had no notion that I was doing anything out of Order. The power to move the adjournment is the only weapon which the minority have to protect themselves against the action of a tyrannical Government. My action was taken after consulting with a few agricultural Members sitting around me, and it had nothing whatever to do with the Conservative Party in this House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I hope, at least, that we have now got rid of personal questions. I have no desire to take part in the controversy any further than to say that the last two speakers have entirely overlooked the point of the charge made againt them—namely, that they continued to support that vote for a Motion for Adjournment after the Speaker had declared—as it is entered on the Journals—that the Motion was an abuse of the Forms of the House. If a man is a paid official or not—and it is a fair subject of comment, and also of censure—at all events, I am fully of opinion that if he votes for a Motion, declared from the Chair to be an abuse of the Forms of the House, he is a person who may be fairly charged with Obstruction. [Cries of "Oh!"] That is my opinion. The point is, that Gentlemen opposite do not think that that is Obstruction, and they support that policy now by their cheers. They accept the doctrine that to vote for such a Motion, declared by the Speaker to be an abuse of the Forms of the House, is not Obstruction. [An hon. MEMBER: Who accepts it?] I assert that to support a Motion which is declared to be an abuse of the Forms of the House is Obstruction. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite deny that proposition. They think it is a proper Parliamentary way of supporting the dignity of the House to vote down the opinion which the Speaker gives. I am content to leave the matter as it stands; and if a large number of Gentlemen did not take 721 that view on that occasion they show by their cheers now that if they had been there they would have taken it. [Cries of "No!"] Then, why do they shout against my assertion that it is Obstruction to go against the ruling of the Speaker? [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] I accept those cheers as an absolute confirmation of the statement I have made. I will now proceed to other matters, for I do not desire to pursue that any further. The country is now in a position to judge of that view, and I am happy to see that it is endorsed by the cheers of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), one of the leading Members of the Front Opposition Bench opposite. [Mr. GIBSON: It was not.] Now, I go to a more important matter, and it is the assertion coming from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that he had joined in the extraordinary misapprehension, as he calls it, which was entertained by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill)—namely, that the Prime Minister, by his language, had intimated that the Government had ever contemplated introducing a Redistribution Bill in the Autumn Session. Nothing can be more contrary to the intention of the Prime Minister or of the Government, and I do not myself understand how that idea could have prevailed in the mind of anyone who heard him. Perhaps we, who know so well what the view of the Government is, saw it clearer than hon. Gentlemen opposite did. From the very first, we have always maintained it to be absolutely necessary that the Franchise Bill should be passed first. That is the view which we stated at the commencement of the Session, on which we acted all through the Session, and which we propose to act upon in the Autumn Session of this year. We are of opinion—and when the words of my right hon. Friend are reported it will be found that he said—that the Government will be prepared to introduce the Franchise Bill, and the Franchise Bill alone, in the Autumn Session. In our opinion it is necessary that that Bill should be disposed of in the year 1884, in order that we may fulfil the pledge which we have given to devote the year 1885 and the energies of Parliament to the passing of a Redistribution Bill. That is distinctly our view, and it is de- 722 sirable that there should be no misapprehension about it. It is for that purpose that we have most reluctantly sacrificed a great deal of useful legislation. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, Sir; we have done it with great regret. We think that it is a great sacrifice, and the country will have to understand that, so far as the Government are responsible for the conduct of affairs, no Business of importance to the nation, no Bills or legislation of any kind of importance can be proceeded with until the Franchise Bill has been disposed of. Let there be no mistake about that. It is for the Franchise Bill that all these measures now and hereafter are sacrificed. We will keep before the country the Franchise Bill, and the Franchise Bill alone, until that matter is disposed of; and I hope there is no ambiguity about that statement. The noble Lord was dissatisfied because he thought the Prime Minister was too tame in his language. He said—"Are we not in the midst of a Constitutional crisis?" The noble Lord told an admirable fable from Æsop which is capable of more than one application. In his attitude he reminded me of another familar story—that of the Irishman who walked through Donnybrook Fair trailing his coat, and asking if anybody would tread on the tail of it. The noble Lord seemed extremely distressed that the Prime Minister had not made a violent speech. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: No.] He said it was pusillanimous; but I would describe it as not being violent. The noble Lord is a great critic of style. He has criticized two speeches of the Prime Minister; one of them as being so violent that it lost the Bill, and the other as so tame that he is afraid it will lose the Ministry. The noble Lord is difficult to satisfy. He thinks the Prime Minister is too violent at one time and not violent enough at anothor. And I suppose that when my right hon. Friend, having acquired the ripe experience of the noble Lord, has become a master of style, he will learn not to outstep the juste milieu which is characteristic of the oratory of the noble Lord. The noble Lord is mistaken if he thinks that the Prime Minister or his followers have departed from the spirit of that passage of Shakespeare which was quoted in the speech to which he referred. We are not anxious to enter into a quarrel; but 723 the noble Lord will find that when a quarrel is forced upon us we shall not retreat from it; and the question whether or not there is a Constitutional crisis rests not with us, but with another Body altogether. The noble Lord has yet to learn that it is not the people who use the biggest words who are always the most resolute. If the noble Lord should ever be placed in a position of responsibility, I hope he may not deserve the taunts that he has addressed to-night to the Prime Minister for having, in circumstances as grave as I venture to say as any which have ever occurred in this country, used moderate language befitting the responsibility of his Office. I do not think that his Conservative Friends either in the House or out of it will thank the noble Lord for the inflammatory language he has used tonight, or the attempt he has made to exasperate the spirit of Party, and to endeavour to taunt those who are opposed to him into language, and into courses of violence, on which they are most reluctant to enter. That is all that is necessary for me to say with regard to the speech of the noble Lord. I would not have risen except on account of the serious misapprehension that seems to have arisen in reference to the attitude of the Government. I wish it to be clearly understood—and I speak on behalf of the Government—that from this time forth, with reference to the House of Commons, in the House of Commons, and out of the House of Commons, we have only one object; and that is to prosecute, before all things, to one end—to its legitimate end—the passing of a Bill for the enfranchisement of 2,000,000 of the people.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
From the somewhat pompous and inflammatory style of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, I think he must, during his remarks, have forgotten for a moment that he was addressing this House, and have thought that he was already engaged in that campaign against the Tory Party and the House of Lords to which he is looking forward with such satisfaction. He accused my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) of using inflammatory language, and he praised by contrast the Prime Minister for his moderate utterances in this House. Unless public re- 724 port has much falsified what occurred at the meeting of the Liberal Party to-day, we shall get a very different idea of the moderation of the Prime Minister when we read to-morrow's newspapers from that which we may gather, either from the Prime Minister's speech in this House this evening, or from the general tone of the advice just given to us by the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman taunted the Conservative Party with Obstruction. It would be easy to quote from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own career very gross instances of Obstruction. Similar instances might also be readily cited from the career of the right hon. Gentleman who now sits next to him. [Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: No.] And I would ask whether any more obstructive proposal, in the strictest sense of the term obstructive, was ever made than that which has been made by Her Majesty's Government to-day? Obstruction is a waste of the public time, by which measures of public utility are imperilled; and I say that the Government, by coming down to the House to-day and throwing over all their Bills, and announcing an Autumn Session, have gone through the most obstructive operation ever performed by any Ministry. Every hour which has been spent by either House upon any Bill, and even upon the Franchise Bill itself, will be absolutely thrown away by the action of the Government. Nor is that all. But how will the time be spent when you have got your precious Autumn Session? I presume that the House of Lords will do just what they have done now. And the Autumn Session will be as absolutely wasted as the Spring Session. And why do I think that the House of Lords will do that? Why, because every argument which should induce them to do it in July will exist in October or November; and there will be this additional argument—that the Government, by having an Autumn Session, will show that they are afraid to do what the House of Lords has declared they ought to do—namely, appeal to the country. I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen should doubt that the Franchise Bill must meet with a similar fate in the Autumn Session. Do they think that the other House will be frightened by the loud talk of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite? By 725 their manifestations they seem to say they think so. I decline to believe that any assembly of English Gentlemen are to be frightened by such bluster as that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), or ribaldry such as that of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers). No man on the Conservative side of the House would support an Assembly which was incapable of performing its primary function; and if the House of Lords were to continue to exist under such circumstances it would only exist by the contemptuous indifference of its enemies. I rose, however, to point out to the House and the country, as clearly as possible, that the course which the Government have determined to adopt of dropping every measure of public utility in this Session and wasting the next Session of Parliament deserves the name of wilful and persistent Obstruction.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has thought it right to apply the word "bluster" to language that I have used. I can only say that I have never used any language outside the House which I am not prepared to use in it. I claim that I have said nothing elsewhere about the House of Lords which is not fairly within the mark of criticism, and, as I think, of just criticism. I am not, however, going now to argue this question. I will only say one thing, and that is, if I wanted a good argument against the House of Lords—if I wanted an argument to justify that contemptuous indifference to which reference has been made, I should find it in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. He is like the executioner in Barnaby Rudge, who was delighted with hanging and scourging other people, but when his own turn came to be hanged his screams were more heartrending than those of his victims had been. The noble Lord can find nothing more original, nothing more witty, nothing more high bred, than to compare a political opponent to a donkey.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I never called him so. I never imagined that the hon. Gentleman would put the cap on.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
This is surely a rather juvenile kind of irony; it is a 726 species of youthful sarcasm which I hope the noble Lord will get the better of. I am not sure that there are not fables relating to lower organisms than donkeys which, if one wanted to do it, might be applied to the noble Lord. But the point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is an argument and a statement of facts on the part of the noble Lord. He said that had it not been for the language used by the Prime Minister in moving that the Bill be read a third time, certain Peers among noble Friends of his own would have voted in favour of the Bill.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I said that, to my knowledge, I sincerely believed that there were many noble Lords who would have approached the question of Reform in a different way, and with open and impartial minds.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
The noble Lord distinctly said the Bill would have been well on its way to the Royal Assent by this time. Does the noble Lord deny that he said that?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I said that I believed it might have been on its way to the Royal Assent. ["Oh, oh!"]
MR. JOHN MORLEY
I am not going to argue this question with the noble Lord. I am speaking in memory of the words which are in the possession of the House. Whatever the noble Lord said hon. Members in the House heard it; and, at all events, he attributed very important action on the part of noble Lords in the other House to resentment of the words spoken by the Prime Minister. Does the noble Lord deny that?
MR. JOHN MORLEY
The noble Lord admits that important action was taken in the other House because of their resentment.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
I cannot go into these metaphysical distinctions of knowledge, and belief, and opinion. I want the noble Lord and his Friends to consider what that statement means. It means that the House of Lords, or an important section of it, in a moment of crisis, is going to plunge affairs into confusion, is going to provoke irritating discussions, and is going to throw the 727 Business of the Session out of gear, not out of public spirit, but out of pique. Let the noble Lord say what he pleases; let the words of the Prime Minister be objected to as much as he or his Friends like; let them be charged with petulance if you choose. I say that even if they were petulant—which I, for my part, by no means admit—yet they were only a few words; and to think that the Members of a great Party, the Members of a great and august Chamber, are to produce all the confusion we see for the sake of a few petulant words—I want no stronger argument than this when I next have occasion to go careering about the country. I did not rise for the purpose of noticing the noble Lord's fables—Æsop's and others. There is one matter of much greater importance in regard to which I wish to make a suggestion. I think what has happened since the Prime Minister traced the probable course of Business in the Session must make it more doubtful even than it was whether that programme is likely to be carried through. What I wish to suggest is that it would be much better to take all the time between now and the Prorogation in order to push on the remaining Business of the Session.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was sorry that the strife and quarrels of Parties had resulted in wrecking the Franchise Bill. There was not one of the Three Kingdoms which so much required a measure of enfranchisement as Ireland. Nowhere did there exist so much as in Ireland the necessity for granting to an important but unenfranchised class a voice in the legislation which so closely concerned their welfare. He believed that the vast majority of the electors of the Three Kingdoms were in favour of household suffrage in the counties, and he believed that the House of Lords would discover that that was the case; but, at the same time, he could not understand why the Government shrank from accepting the challenge of the Lords. The Tories had openly defied the Government upon the question of the extension of the franchise; and instead of taking up the glove which the Peers had thrown into their face, Her Majesty's Government fell back upon the refuge of an Autumn Session. What did they expect from an Autumn Session? As a matter of course, unless the Peers were as contemptible and cowardly as their 728 bitterest opponents alleged, the proceedings of the other evening in the House of Lords must simply be repeated in October or November, when the Franchise Bill was again before Parliament. The only manly and the only wise course was to accept the challenge of the Peers, and to demand the verdict of the constituencies. The Irish National Party, at any rate, were not afraid of a Dissolution. And, in the meantime, how did it fare with Ireland that day? Why, if there were no other reasons, the proceedings of the Imperial Parliament today too clearly proved what a farce, what a delusion, what a mockery was Imperial legislation for Ireland. What had become of the Government measures which professed to remedy even admitted defects in the Government legislation for Ireland? What had become of the boasted Land Purchase Bill, which was to have been the parent of so many magnificent possibilities to Ireland? It had been dropped, it had been abandoned, because the Government, instead of meeting the challenge of the Peers, had preferred to cling to Office for a few more miserable months under the pretext of a useless Autumn Session. What was now the prospect for the remainder of the present year, for the whole of the coming year, and perhaps for another year into the bargain? Instead of any remedial and useful legislation being introduced for Ireland, English attention and English politics would be occupied with the sterile recriminations of the two English competitors for Party and for place. He called upon his countrymen in Ireland to reflect upon the spectacle of to-day. It showed how once more the dearest wants of Ireland were sacrificed to the miserable exigencies of English Party ambition. It was only the other day that the columns of the Irish National Press were filled with heartrending accounts of the cruel evictions in Donegal, in Mayo, in Kerry, and in a dozen other Irish counties besides. How many more helpless families would be cast upon the roadside during the months and during the years that the two English Parties would be fighting out their quarrels by mutual vituperation upon a hundred English Party platforms? The manner in which all useful Irish legislation was thus cast aside was another and crowning argument in favour of a Party in Ireland, and among the Irish 729 race, which he was glad to see increasing day by day—a Party which taught the Irish race that not on the floor of that House, but on a wider area, must the great struggle for Irish National independence be fought and won. He equally condemned the anti-Irish attitude of the Tory Party, for if there was one thing more conspicuous than another in all their speeches to-day, it was their utter indifference to and their utter oblivion of the fact that there existed such a place as Ireland. He called upon his countrymen to meditate upon its lessons, to fortify themselves in the firm resolution to trust in themselves and in the millions of their countrymen throughout the world to win for Ireland Ireland's right to National Self-Government.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
pointed out to the hon. Members for Ireland that the interests of their country were as much involved in the passing of the Franchise Bill as the interests of England. He regretted the remarks of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), because he hoped even now that the House of Lords would defer to what was certainly the general wish of the country. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) seemed disappointed at the courtesy and moderation of the statement made by the Prime Minister, and surprised that no violent speeches had been made from that side of the House. This was not, however, from any want of conviction or determination; but they entered into the contest—if enter into it they must—coolly and with calmness, because they had the certainty of ultimate victory. As regards the Bills now before the House, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would state what course he proposed to take with reference to the rehabilitation of the coinage. The Coinage Bill only dealt with one part of the question, and he supposed the Chancellor would proceed with the rest of the scheme. He trusted the Savings Banks Act Amendment Bill would not be proceeded with this Session, for it had only recently been printed, and its details would require much consideration. Although anxious at all times to preserve the rights of private Members, yet as no useful legislation could now take place he would impress on the Government the desirability of taking the whole of the time of the 730 House for the purposes of the necessary Business.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
pointed out that they had heard a great deal of warm language used with regard to the House of Lords; but when the Peers rejected the Ballot Bill some years ago they were threatened in exactly the same way. And in the following Session an improved Ballot Bill was brought in, which the House of Lords then agreed to. In the same way the present delay might lead to an improved Franchise Bill, and that next Session a complete scheme of Reform would have passed both Houses. He believed that in the near future, when the franchise and redistribution had been satisfactorily passed, the Liberals should agree with the Tories in their satisfaction at the action of the House of Lords.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, that on other occasions the House of Lords had taken up positions antagonistic to the views and wishes of the people of this country, but had found it advisable to alter their minds and their votes. Noble Lords might adopt a similar course in the Autumn Session. It was a significant sign that one-half of the Bishops had abstained from voting on Tuesday, and the other half had supported the Reform Bill. No doubt the Notice which had been given by an hon. Member of his intention to move a Resolution declaring that the Bishops should be removed from the House of Lords had had some effect in bringing right rev. Prelates into sympathy with the wants and wishes of the people. The majority of Peers in favour of Earl Cairns's Motion was not so large as had been expected, and 30 votes would be sufficient to alter the verdict of the Lords. It was asked what would happen if the Lords threw out the Bill a second time. He could only say the supporters of the Government were perfectly satisfied with the prospect. The Prime Minister had given universal satisfaction to his own Party by the course he had taken, and had spoken in strict moderation in explaining the policy of the Government. If there were a protracted agitation in the country the responsibility must rest on the House of Lords. He doubted the professions of Lord Salisbury and his friends as to their anxiety to pass the Franchise Bill, looking at the declarations of the Conservative Leader antagonistic to organic 731 changes; and with regard to the coming struggle he was sure it would be a short one. Though the agitation might not take the form it did in 1831, still, with the increased direct power the people had over the House of Commons, and the increased indirect power they had over the other House, there could be no doubt as to how the struggle would end than there ever had been as to the issue of any struggle which had been finally settled, and in which the popular cause triumphed. They would find opposed to the action of the House of Lords all those whom the Bill had proposed to enfranchise, and the great majority of those who already possessed the franchise.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, there was one Bill in the Orders—namely, the East Indian Unclaimed Stocks Bill—to which he had a very strong objection. Although he supposed it would not be proceeded with, he hoped some Member of the Government would be able to say so. He also wished to know, as a matter of convenience, about what date the Prorogation would take place? The House was aware that the Government was pledged to give full discussion with respect to Egyptian affairs; and, of course, on his side of the House they would wish to know the probable date, so as to make their plans for that discussion. It was very desirable that a full House should be present on the occasion.
§ MR. BRYCE
, as a Metropolitan Member, complained of the conduct of the Government with regard to the London Government Bill—conduct which, he said, had greatly discouraged the municipal reformers of the Metropolis, and had correspondingly elated the enemies of the Bill. He expressed no opinion regarding the Bill itself, but desired to point out that if they had doubted their power to carry it this Session they had better not have brought it in, and, anyhow, ought not to have moved the second reading unless they were resolved to get the second reading. If the Government did not intend to press the second reading, why had time been occupied which might have been devoted to useful work? They knew last Thursday, when the second reading was moved, as well as they did now, that the Lords would throw out the Franchise Bill. He believed that considerable discouragement had been given to the cause of municipal reform in Lon- 732 don by the action of the Government with regard to that Bill, since its withdrawal before a second reading had been obtained would be claimed by its opponents as being practically a victory.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said, the scene that they had witnessed that evening was extremely humiliating to the English nation. If his dusky Majesty the Maori King occupied a seat on the Gallery and inquired what was the cause of all this excitement, he would be surprised to find that it was a petty personal quarrel between an English Lord and an English Baronet. What occurred that afternoon? They had been listening to the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), and the foolishness which he was indulging in appeared to have been contagious, for the Home Secretary followed in his usual ponderous and weighty manner, and his speech was little less foolish. If the Members of the House had paid for their admission to a theatre they might have been amused at the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock and the Home Secretary, and might have found some enjoyment in them. But the feelings of an average Irish Member of Parliament who had spent the afternoon listening to such speeches must be and could not be otherwise than profoundly sad. There were a number of Irish measures on the Paper which should be proceeded with, instead of having the whole afternoon occupied with silly speeches and the settlement of personal quarrels. It was intolerable that the Irish Members should be compelled to sit there listening to these personal assaults by one English Gentleman upon another English Gentleman, while they were impressed with a great sense of the fact that their country was being neglected. He regretted the intention of the Prime Minister, as stated by him that night on behalf of the Government, to abandon many of the measures which were to have been got through that Session in order to discuss the Franchise Bill. If the Government were not afraid of the House of Lords they should have accepted the challenge which was flung down by them and gone to the country. He protested against the conduct of the Government in abandoning the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Bill in order to have an Autumn Session for the purpose of 733 again discussing the Franchise Question in that House. Such a determination on the part of the Government would be viewed in Ireland with pain and regret. It was a monstrous thing that such a Bill should be abandoned simply through fear of the House of Lords. He protested against the practice of turning that Chamber into an arena for the settlement of private quarrels while the interests of Ireland were being neglected.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that the debate had been worn so thoroughly threadbare that he rose only to answer one or two questions. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) asked what was to be done with the Coinage Bill and the Savings Banks Acts Amendment Bill, and the East Indian Unclaimed Stocks Bill had also been mentioned. These were Bills of the third rank, and were not of sufficient importance to be included in the list with which the Prime Minister dealt. While the Government would be glad to proceed with those Bills, if there was no serious opposition to them, yet, on the other hand, they should have to consider that it was their chief duty to close Supply; consequently, if the opposition to any of these Bills was likely to cause a great expenditure of time, they would have to share the fate of the more important measures. His hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) had made a remark which he was bound to take notice of in one or two sentences. He complained of the action of the Government with respect to the second reading of the London Government Bill, for he said they must have known that the Bill could not be proceeded with, as they must have been aware of the threatened action of the House of Lords on the Franchise Bill. The hon. Gentleman complained of the Government having commenced that discussion. He (Mr. Chamberlain) must say he thought his hon. Friend a little ungrateful, because it was at the strong desire of himself and other hon. Members primarily interested in this question that the Government commenced the debate. So far as the Government were concerned, at all events, they were perfectly bonâ fide, and they hoped to make real progress with the Bill. It was too much of his hon. Friend to say that the Government were 734 aware of what would be the result of the action of the House of Lords. It was impossible for the Government up to the last moment to know, although undoubtedly threats were uttered by Members of the Conservative Party, what the action of the House of Lords would be. There were many who believed that the House of Lords would be wise in time, and would not take the extreme course they had pursued with regard to the Bill. With regard to the last question put to him by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bourke) whether they could give any idea of the date of the Prorogation, the Government would be delighted, he could assure the House, to make a prediction if they could do so with any confidence; but the date of the Prorogation depended on the course of Supply. They should do all they could to advance it, and nothing except the promised debate on the Egyptian Question would be allowed to interfere with progress with Supply. The Government hoped, though they could not give an assurance, that Supply might come to an end earlier than it had done lately, and that the Prorogation might take place in the early part of August.
§ Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, in reply to the challenge of the Home Secretary, that the Conservative Party and the House of Lords were not afraid of an appeal to the people. They challenged the Government to come to a Dissolution, to which, no doubt, the Government did not wish to have recourse. The Government had deliberately swamped more than 20 Bills, which they might have carried to a successful conclusion in the ordinary manner, and they did that in order to get up a Party agitation, which might serve them in their contest with the House of Lords. If they were so anxious to pass a Franchise Bill and a Redistribution Bill, why not call Parliament together a few weeks earlier in 1885, instead of having an Autumn Session and throwing all the blame on the House of Lords? Probably the result of the agitation about to be got up would be that they would spend a good deal of money on drums and banners, and then send round the hat to pay the expenses. The House had heard from the Home Secretary that the Franchise Bill was to take precedence of everything. But that very 735 Home Secretary told the House a few days ago that he would not answer for the cholera if the London Government Bill did not pass. And so they had been told by the President of the Board of Trade that the preventible loss of life at sea was terrible; and yet, in the teeth of these declarations, both the London Government Bill and the Merchant Shipping Bill were dropped. One word with regard to the charge of Obstruction brought against the Opposition. The proceedings the other night were very exceptional. The Conservative Party on that occasion found themselves jockeyed out of a great debate, and several measures were brought suddenly on while a number of Gentlemen who were interested in those measures were absent. He was not present at the time; but he understood that the House was confused, and neither side knew what to do. Three Divisions took place. He was aware that the Speaker ruled that the last Division was a breach of the Privileges of the House; but he would respectfully point out that that was a case upon which there might be a difference of opinion. As had been stated before, the President of the Local Government Board and his Colleague the President of the Board of Trade adopted tactics in 1878 which, if followed by Gentlemen on the Conservative side, would have called forth expressions of reprobation from Members on the other side. The Conservative Party need not be in the least alarmed by the wild but calculated menaces of the Radical Party, who would probably find the House of Lords more popular than they imagined. There had been two or three significant elections lately—in the populous constituency of Mid Surrey, and in the very important manufacturing and populous constituency of North Warwickshire. In both the cry of the franchise against the House of Lords was raised, and the result was the return of the Conservative candidates by bigger majorities than ever. He hoped the House of Lords would stand to their guns, and would insist on the Government bringing in a fair, honest, and complete Bill. The country understood the case very well. It understood that the Prime Minister had only to insert a clause in the Franchise Bill to insure that it would not come into operation until the Redistribution Bill was passed, 736 and the Franchise Bill would be passed, not only in October, but now in July. The object of the Government was to go to the country on the new electorate without redistribution, in which event the Radical faction, the men of the Caucus, would not only have the Conservative Party at their mercy, but, in addition, their own more moderate Colleagues in the Cabinet.
§ MR. WARTON
said, with reference to the charge of Obstruction on the day when the House met to discuss the affairs of Egypt, that the Government ought not to have taken advantage of their own wrong, but ought to have adjourned the House instead of bringing on Bills when Members interested in those Bills were not present to discuss them.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the House was not now discussing what took place on a previous debate, but the arrangement of Business for the future.
§ MR. WARTON
submitted that though the Speaker ruled on the occasion in question that what had been done was an abuse of the Forms of the House, that did not make it wrong for a Member to vote according to his conscience.
§ MR. BIGGAR
, as a spectator for a considerable time, wished to point out to the Government the manner in which time had been wasted by them. The Government had alleged that they could not pass both a Franchise Bill and a Redistribution Bill this Session; but he was strongly inclined to controvert the statement. Much time was lost over the Egyptian Question. They knew, as a matter of fact, that Members on the Front Opposition Bench were never anxious to challenge a discussion on such a subject unless they felt the ground sure under their feet, and they were perfectly justified in what they had done, because there never was more gross mismanagement from first to last in any country than that of the Government. They went first to Egypt on account of the bondholders, and now the only thing they could promise them was a reduction in the rate of interest.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not in Order in discussing during this debate the details of the Egyptian Question.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he only wished to show that the Government had wasted time in a manner which made it impossible for them to deal with matters which they ought to have dealt with. They wasted time by not giving information, and that led to a system of Questions and cross-examinations day after day. Then there was the case of the London Government Bill. One would have imagined that the Government meant to pass it; but they wanted it only as an Election cry. It came very badly from hon. Members opposite to threaten an agitation against the House of Lords, because he believed if the question of the Franchise Bill was to be decided by ballot in that House a larger majority would be found against it on the other side than there was the other night in the House of Lords.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he wished to offer a few remarks about the general conduct of the Government in regard to the management of Irish Bills. Before doing so, he thought it right, as one who had voted in the Division to which the Home Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board had taken exception, to protest against the extraordinary dictum that because he had voted in support of a Motion which the Speaker had declared to be an abuse of the Rules, therefore he was guilty of Obstruction. The Government were attempting to set up the Speaker as a species of fetish. He had great respect for the Speaker and his rulings; but so long as the Rules of the House permitted them to vote despite the ruling of the Chair, it was futile to describe that voting as Obstruction. It did not lie with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to speak of Obstruction, for in the last Parliament he was in continual conflict with the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Raikes), and defended the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) by the hour for Obstruction. He had heard with astonishment the cool statement of the Prime Minister that the Land Purchase Bill was to be dropped. The Government had promised, on the 4th of March, to bring in that Bill; but they did not introduce it until June, and then, on the 738 10th of July, it was dropped, as being of no consequence. The truth was, that the Government never intended to carry that Bill, and merely intended to dangle it before the eyes of the Irish people to amuse them. Yet two Morning Sittings had been wasted on the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and three nights on the London Government Bill. These five Sittings would have sufficed to pass the Land Purchase Bill. It was atrocious that right hon. Gentlemen who had shown themselves so incapable of measuring out the time of the House should make a charge of Obstruction against another Party because of a Division which occupied five minutes. The cry was purely factitious, and intended for the General Election. Having listened to the speeches of the Prime Minister and of the Solicitor General for Ireland as to the necessity for curing the defects of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act, he was surprised at their not even shedding a tear over the coffin of the Government measure. He did not think Public Business was advanced by bandying about charges of Obstruction. It was a pity that the time of the House should be spent in wranglings of that kind. The Government intended to pass measures to which the Irish Members entertained a strong objection, and to refuse to pass measures in which they were deeply interested. In that quarter of the House there was the strongest objection to the Law of Evidence in Criminal Cases Bill, and he warned the Government that if they persisted in pressing forward that measure the Session would not be brought to a close by the 1st of August. He would give to that Bill the same amount of opposition as to the renewal of the Crimes Act, because he regarded some of its provisions as fatal to the liberties of his country. Supply must be passed, and in Committee of Supply the Irish Members would have to debate the history of a number of Government officials—the tastes of gentlemen like James Ellis French, Gustavus Cornwall, and Corry Connellan. The Government pretended that they were now going into a struggle with the House of Lords. For his own part, he had not the slightest confidence in the bona fides of the Government with regard to this matter. He had no confidence in the House of Lords; but knowing, as he did, that the Cabinet 739 was stuffed with Lords, the notion of the Government getting up an agitation against the House of Lords was ridiculous. The House of Lords was absolutely safe to throw out the Bill as many times as they pleased. They would be great fools if they did not. They were not such fools as to take a pig in a poke—to take the Bill without a Redistribution Bill. He would gladly take part in an agitation against the House of Lords; but it was absurd to talk of it. But the Caucus of Birmingham would pass its resolutions, the penny newspapers would talk about a tremendous crisis. But their Leaders did not believe a word of it. Would anybody tell him that the Home Secretary was not quite satisfied with things as they were? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Not everything.] Not with Irish Members, perhaps. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman were in the House of Lords he would do the same thing as the House of Lords. He was glad the House of Lords had thrown out the Bill. There were some sincere persons, like the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who really desired to get up an attempt at such an agitation; but it was too ridiculous.
§ MR. PARNELL
I wish to express my dissent from the Parliamentary law which was laid down by the Home Secretary some hours ago, that everybody who votes for a Motion of which the Speaker has expressed his disapproval is guilty of Parliamentary Obstruction. This dictum of the Home Secretary is decidedly new, and it is also a distinct advance upon anything we have heard yet with regard to the Law of Obstruction. It is in my judgment the most audacious statement I have over heard proceeding from the Government Bench on this question.
§ MR. PARNELL
It would simply lead to this, that the independence of Members would have to be surrendered to the Chair and the Government Bench. For my part, if I had been in the House the other night I should have been too glad to have voted in the minority as a 740 protest against the waste of time by the Government in persisting with the Bill in question. To set up such constructive Obstruction is, I trust, a long way in advance of anything which will ever be thought of for suppressing the independence and liberties of unofficial Members in this House. There has been much talk about Obstruction in this and other Sessions. The term Obstruction has been generally applied to the opposition of Irish Members to measures of an unconstitutional character which the experience of their working has shown to be against the interests of their country. The charge of Obstruction now made against Conservative Members was then made against Irish Members. The Conservatives now see the result of their foolish and ill-judged action in joining with the Government against the Irish Members. I consider that the charges of Obstruction which are now made against Gentlemen sitting on the Conservative Benches have just as little foundation as the charges of Obstruction made against the Irish Party. The charges against the Opposition and the other House of Parliament are made because they have asserted the rights which the Constitution gave them. Then we are told that because the Franchise Bill was opposed there is no time for other measures. Although I have been a fervent well-wisher of the Franchise Bill, I am bound to say that the charges of Obstruction which were sought to be trumped up against the Opposition in regard to it are most unfair, and entirely unfounded. The House of Lords had a Constitutional right to throw out the Franchise Bill or any other Bill—just as much right as hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial Benches had to pass it—and it is unfair Party conduct, in my judgment, to make charges founded upon their action against a Body which is recognized in the Constitution, and which has equal rights with this House in the Constitution. So long as this House chooses to tolerate the existence of a Second Chamber constituted of hereditary and irresponsible Legislators the Government is certainly not entitled to make charges of Obstruction against that Body for their action within the Constitution. If you wish to do away with them act in a straightforward manner, and take steps which are necessary to get rid of them. 741 These charges of Obstruction are absolutely unmaintainable, and the common sense of the country will see through them and judge how unfounded they are. I am not very much concerned with regard to this struggle which we are told is about to take place between the two Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords has always been an enemy of the Irish people during the 82 years which have elapsed of the Parliamentary connection between England and Ireland. It will be to a certain extent to our advantage, of course, if really Radical measures are taken as a result of the present position. But I do not believe that these Radical measures will be taken. My hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) has told us that it is impossible to expect that any real axe will be directed to the root of the evil, in view of the fact that the present Cabinet is stuffed with Lords. I join with my hon. Friend in his belief. No doubt, the people of England will do their part; but it will be much cry and little wool, and in the end we shall find things will remain as they are, and the foundations of the Constitution will still be unshaken. Whatever is done the Parliamentary outlook for Ireland is hopeless. During the whole of this Parliament there was no real desire on the part of the Cabinet to give any time that they could possibly help to the consideration of Irish Business. That Ireland has benefited has not been because of the Cabinet, but it has been because agitation in Ireland rose to such an extent that it was absolutely necessary to meet it by remedial legislation. Had it not been for this agitation we should have been left to whistle for legislation during this Parliament. Parliament is overburdened with work, and Governments are obliged to take refuge in the cry of Obstruction because there is not time for one-tenth of the urgent Business that ought to be done. Yet no influential section of politicians has any idea of doing the only thing that would remove the block. Irish Members, therefore, have practically no interest in facilitating the Business of the Government; and there is no reason in the world why we should abate our attempts to lay bare the infamy of English misrule in Ireland and the iniquity of Dublin Castle. We have not had one single measure passed for our coun- 742 try this Session, and there were only one or two small ones at the end of last Session. The Government have scandalously mismanaged the time at their disposal. They brought forward the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, which nobody wanted. I wish to express neutrality with regard to that question, but at the same time I am bound to say nobody in Ireland that I could discover wanted it. They spent two days discussing it. These two days devoted to the Irish Land Purchase Bill, amended in a way to meet the views of all Irish Members belonging to every section of the House, would have been sufficient to pass that measure, and we should have had something of utility for the country. The Poor Law Guardians Elections Bill passed its second reading without opposition. I am speaking in the interest of Public Business when I say it would be right to devote some time to the Committee stages of those Bills belonging to private Members which have passed second reading. Why should not the Government, between now and the end of the Session, give to the perfecting of these Bills two or three Government nights? I regret exceedingly that we should have lost this Session; but having carefully watched the conduct of Parties, I do not think there is any ground for the charge of Obstruction. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan in protesting against the Law of Evidence Bill. That is a measure we should not feel justified in assenting to without serious consideration and extensive discussion. It is not fair to persist with a measure of this contentious character. I trust that we may have some reassuring statement from the Government with regard to this Bill and the Poor Law Guardians Elections (Ireland) Bill.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, the Peers had thrown out the Franchise Bill, and the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) threatened that they would do it again. That was an important statement, coming from him. The rejection of the Bill had been accompanied by a speech which, for contempt of popular will and popular opinion, had, perhaps, never been equalled. It would be childish for this country to occupy its time in any agitation to induce the House of Lords to pass the Franchise Bill when again introduced. 743 The crisis which they were now entering upon, and which had been created by the other House, was a very serious one. It was no more nor less than a conflict between a few hundred gentlemen and the people of this country. The question was, whether the people now living in England were to be a self-governing people or not? It would be a waste of Breath to try to induce the House of Lords to pass the Bill. There was an amount of latent anger in the country at the idea of the popular will being controlled by any power not of a representative character which would insist on that power being removed out of the Legislature of the country. This was the only thing he was concerned about. He would have been glad if the Bill had been passed; but, as it was not passed, remembering how former measures had been emasculated or thrown out, he said the country had borne this long enough, and this feeling must be the key-note of any agitation which might take place. It was useless for the Government to complain of Obstruction, or that measures were delayed. They were under Party government—a form of government which he believed in. It meant government by a majority, and that majority should be used freely and with effect. He should not complain, if he was in a minority, of the majority having their will; but he claimed, when he was in a majority, that that majority should have its will. He thought that the simple remedy for Obstruction would be for the Government, at the commencement of each Session, to bring forward a limited number of measures, and keep the House sitting until they were disposed of.
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
admitted that if the House of Lords were an anomalous Institution, out of harmony with the spirit of the times, it would be better that it should be reformed; but, in his opinion, their recent action was within their power, and had the approval of the country. The hon. Member who spoke last seemed to want to govern the country by means of the Birmingham Caucus of 900, as against the 500 Members of the House of Lords. So far as he was concerned, he was quite content to set the 500 of the Upper Chamber against the Birmingham Caucus, and let the country decide between them. He failed to see why redistribu- 744 tion should not be dealt with as well in October as it could be in January. He was quite ready to go to his constituents, and support the action of the House of Lords.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, he objected to the scheme of government by majorities proposed by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), and said that if minorities were to be trampled on as he desired, there would be an end to all respect for the decision of the House. He advised the Government, who themselves, when in Opposition, originated the existing form of Obstruction, to cease making such a charge against their opponents, because it was apparent that under that charge they desired to hide their own delinquencies, their own delays, and their own inefficiencies. If the Motion had proceeded from the Irish Benches, they would have been told they were occasioning Obstruction; while this waste of four hours of the public time was allowed without any protest. The Irish Members had a special reason to complain of the manner in which Irish Business was put upon the Notice Paper of the House. The Government put forward upon the Notice Paper measures which were most objectionable in their character to the Irish people, while they left in the background questions upon which there would be no dispute. After a Coercion Bill, they were shown some measure of practical good to Ireland, and they were told that they must first swallow the Coercion Bill. This Session the Government had put forward the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, which had been simply jockeying every measure of real importance to Ireland, and then they were told that they could get no legislation until that was passed. The Government simply offered a premium for Obstruction by their action. With regard to the Constitutional question, he maintained that if they were to have government by Party, they must have a Government in which the minority should have some voice as well as the majority; and it would be highly detrimental to the interests of the country if, whatever Government happened to be in power for the time, it should have an absolute and uncontrolled 745 exercise of their will. As to the rejection of the Franchise Bill by the House of Lords, he was one of those who thought that it would confer a great boon upon a large class. It had been said that the House of Lords had exercised their Constitutional right in rejecting it. While no one would deny that, he contended that they would not have exercised that right if the Government had really been in earnest about the Bill. They had been told that the House of Lords would throw it out again, and they would be safe in doing so, unless, in the meantime, the Government took the trouble to press upon them the fact that it had really the support of the people, and so force it through Parliament. While there were so many Members of the House of Lords, and expectant Members, there would be no idea of reality about the intentions of the Government.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
regretted the empty condition of the Treasury Bench and the absence of any Cabinet Minister. The Government had told them that they intended to call the House together on the 20th of October, that Her Majesty had been pleased to take that advice, and the discussion of the question of an Autumn Session was therefore of no avail. What he wished to impress upon them was that if they were to be called together again on that date they had a right to ask that the present Session should be brought to a conclusion at the earliest possible moment. He appealed to the Government to deal with the matter in a practical, common-sense way, and not to nibble at one or two Bills and to say that they would try to pass this Bill and that Bill. If they were going to sacrifice all the larger measures of the Session it would be idle attempting to get the minor measures passed, and it would be far better at once to sweep from the Order Book every Bill of a contentious nature. The House was bound to sit till Supply, which was greatly in arrear, was passed, and he would suggest that if the Session was to be brought to an end at the time the House desired it was absolutely necessary that the Government should at once take possession for the rest of the Session of every working day in the week. Therefore, in the Motion which the Prime Minister would make on Monday or Tuesday he thought the right hon. 746 Gentleman ought to ask the House to extend the Rule which enabled the House to go into Supply on Mondays and Thursdays without any questions being raised to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so that they might set to work and finish the Session. If independent Members as well as official Members were to be asked to come there on the 20th of October, they had a right in return to ask the Prime Minister to put an end to all those disputable Bills and to afford facilities for passing through Supply, which must occasion great discussion, in order that they might bring that Session to as early a close as possible.
§ MR. MACIVER
said, he had the strongest objection to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He thought that in asking the Government to deal in a practical, common-sense way with any subject, that hon. Member was reckoning without his host. There stood on the Notice Paper for next Wednesday a Bill relating to shipping which could not receive the discussion which from its importance it deserved, if the Government were allowed to appropriate the remaining Wednesdays of the Session. The hon. Member was proceeding to quote opinions expressed by Sir Thomas Farrer, the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, when—
§ MR. MACIVER
said, he disclaimed any intention to discuss on the present occasion the details of any Shipping Bill; he would, however, conclude by respectfully but earnestly protesting against next Wednesday being taken by the Government instead of being devoted to the consideration of a measure of vital public importance, which really involved no question of Party.
§ MR. GREGORY
wished to second the appeal which had been made to the Government by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton to clear away from the Order Book the mass of Bills which they could not now hope either to pass this Session or to discuss for any practical purpose, and to wind up the Session by proceeding only with such Business as was absolutely necessary for the interests of the country.
said, the development of circumstances, since he made his statement earlier in the evening, showed that probably the Government 747 would not be justified in spending the time of the House in dealing with the Law of Evidence Amendment Bill, and, though reluctantly, he should be prepared to withdraw it. He would also consider what had fallen from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and also from the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), who, he must say, always spoke with much authority on questions relating to the Business of the House, because he brought to them not only a very intelligent but also a very dispassionate and impartial mind. The Government and the House were in this position. There were five working days in their week, and of these, speaking generally, two were available for the purposes of Supply. With regard to the other three days, any legislation being out of the way, it would be a very great solecism if they destroyed a large number of Bills of great importance, some of which had made considerable progress, and also Bills of private Members which had likewise made some progress, for the purpose of nominally putting forward Supply, but really of spending the day in the discussion of preliminary questions. He therefore thought it was evident that if the destruction of those Bills proceeded much further it would be necessary, in order that the House might consistently attain its own object—namely, the rapid termination of the Session, to apply, as a temporary measure, the Monday and Thursday Rule to some further portion of the week.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, that they would, no doubt, all wish to get away as fast as they could; but as there seemed to be some confusion in the minds of hon. Members below the Gangway, he wished to ask the Prime Minister whether the Autumn Session would terminate by Prorogation before Christmas, and whether they would start with a new Session at the beginning of the year, or whether there would be a continuous Session from October until the next year, with an Adjournment of Parliament instead of a Prorogation?
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he would appeal to the Government to take into consideration a Bill which the Scotch people were greatly interested in—the Police Bill. He thought it did not contain much controversial matter, and the Bill promised to be of great advantage to Scotland.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
appealed to the Home Secretary to bring in a Bill with regard to the office of Public Prosecutor. A Committee had been sitting considering this matter, and it was hoped that by the change the Committee had recommended a largo saving would be effected to the public, and also that justice would be administered in a much more satisfactory manner than hitherto. He believed that but a very short Bill was necessary to enable that change to be made; and he, therefore, hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would still be able to introduce one.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to add his appeal to that of the hon. Baronet as to the Scotch Police Bill. The Committee had nearly finished its labours, and the Bill, after it passed the Select Committee, was not likely to lead to any contention. Another Bill which the Scotch people were very much interested in was the Secretary for Scotland Bill, and although he had heard that this Bill was to be sacrificed he hoped that would not be so. He suggested to the Government that it would be to the benefit of Public Business to consider the necessity of doing away with the Half-past Twelve o'Clock Rule.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, the reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had placed the proceedings as to the Autumn Session in an altogether new light. They were only beginning to understand now what was intended by the statement which the Prime Minister had made to the House with great temper and reasonableness in the earlier part of the evening. Many Members on the Opposition side of the House were under the impression that it was intended to present the two measures of franchise and redistribution together. ["No, no!"] That was an erroneous impression. He believed it was now clear that the Autumn Session, which was to begin on or about the 21st October, and was to close before Christ- 749 mas, was to be complete in itself, and that in the following year there was either to be a new Parliament or a new Session. Was the House to understand that the Autumn Session, beginning on the 21st of October, was to be confined to the isolated transaction of the Franchise Bill, that the Government did not intend to introduce any other Business whatever, and that as far as they were concerned this was to be the sole Business? Private Members who brought in Bills, or who dealt with other topics, would have to leave them in an incomplete condition when the Session closed at Christmas. He desired, in these circumstances, to know what the precedent of the Government was for this course of action? If there was no precedent to produce, the Government would then have taken on this occasion a course of procedure entirely without precedent, entirely exceptional; and they would be in the position of having deliberately abandoned their measures because they had found that they were not calculated to meet with public approval, or because they had not nerve and courage enough to go on with the measures which at some time or other they thought were good.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I believe that I have the right to say a few words in reply; and I must express my great astonishment that the question of my right hon. and learned Friend has met with no answer at all. It would have been perfectly easy for some hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench to give an answer; or, if there was no one who had not already spoken, the indulgence of the House would have been gladly extended upon so important a matter to any Minister who had addressed the House. We have not had the advantage of being at the Foreign Office to-day. I do not know what the hon. Gentlemen who have had the advantage of being present at the Foreign Office to-day can have known. They have probably known all through a great deal more than we have known; but so far as the Members on this side of the House are concerned, we have been arguing the whole evening that the Autumn Session was to be of a character such as we have known in former years. There have been some Autumn Sessions which have been in 750 continuation of the Session in the earlier part of the year. I quite understand that that is not the Session now proposed by the Government, because it is intended to bring forward a Bill which has already been before the House, and to enable the Government to bring it forward again there must be a new Session. Therefore, I perfectly understand that after the Prorogation, which is to take place in the course of a few weeks, there is to be a Session in October which is to be a new Session for the purpose of taking up the Franchise Bill. We have had a good many other cases in which the Session has commenced in the autumn, and gone into the following year; but I never remember to have known or seen or ever to have read of a Session that was to be adopted at the end of the year, to be complete in itself in that year, deliberately undertaken as a new Session, to be called only to deal with a single measure, and which is expected to last only a few weeks. I think we have a right to know upon what precedent this proposal is founded. If there is no precedent, we have a right to know, at least, the reasons for the peculiar mode adopted. I think the House has not been fairly treated. The right hon. Gentleman began with what seemed to us a very moderate statement, made in thoroughly good temper and in good spirit, and one which we so accepted; but I am bound to say that we have not been treated fairly in having been allowed to continue the discussion during the whole of the evening under an impression entirely different from that which is really the fact. I think we ought to have an answer to the question of my right hon. and learned Friend. I wish, therefore, to know whether it really is the intention of the Government to call Parliament together in October, to begin the Session with a regular Queen's Speech, to discuss a particular measure, and then, when that measure has been disposed of, to close the Session altogether; afterwards to take a new Session, beginning with another Queen's Speech—a waste of time quite unnecessary—for the purpose of going on with the other Business closely connected with the Franchise Bill? The Government have, no doubt, much to consider with regard to the course they ought to take with respect to this Bill; but I do think also that the House has a right to be informed 751 with regard to this matter at the earliest period.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has invited someone to answer the question. The uncertainty may have arisen, and I take the blame upon myself, through my not having expressed myself as clearly as I should have done. I intended to say, as clearly as I could, that it was the intention of the Government to have two Sessions of Parliament—and I used the words "two Sessions" advisedly—one Session this year, to be devoted exclusively to the Franchise Bill, and another Session next year in which we are to fulfil the pledges given about redistribution. Hon. Members cannot now complain that I have not distinctly told them what we intend to do. The right hon. Gentleman also asks about precedent. It is not easy to quote precedents off-hand, as I have not had occasion to verify them; but my recollection is that in the days of the first Reform Bill, Parliament was called together to consider the sending up of the Reform Bill a second time to the House of Lords, and that no other Business occupied the attention and time of Parliament. But as to precedents for the course we propose to take, Parliamentary precedents are always made when the occasion is adequate for them, and I venture to think that this is an adequate occasion on which we are entitled to make any precedent which the condition of affairs requires. As to Bills, to my mind it is very difficult to make a distinction between one Bill and another, or to give satisfaction to everybody, for any distinction which did not include the Bills in which other hon. Gentlemen took a special interest would not by them be regarded favourably. There is a good rule in bankruptcy that there is to be no favour shown to any creditor, and it would be a species of fraudulent preference to favour any particular Bill in our present state of bankruptcy of legislation. This bankruptcy of legislation, and the impossibility of proceeding with any measure of legislation, is part of the penalty we have to pay as the result of what has occurred. Those who suffer from the absence of that legislation must bear in mind the cause and who is responsible. That is the answer the Government make to all appeals of this character. I may go further, and say 752 that I refer not merely to past Bills, but to Bills in the future, and I wish to repeat that in the opinion of the Government, so far as they can direct the Business of this House, there can be no other Business of any importance undertaken now or hereafter until the question of the franchise has been finally disposed of. As far as we are concerned, the House of Commons can and will do nothing until that Business has been disposed of. I hope that declaration is distinct, and that it will not mislead the House as to our intentions or as to our view of the situation. We have desired to pass the Bills which have been mentioned, and others which have not been mentioned. That being the case, we say that, as far as we are concerned in the conduct of Public Business, we cannot advise the House to transact any other Business whatever in the way of legislation until our primary and supreme object has been attained by the passing of the Franchise Bill into law.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
It seems to be quite clear that there is no precedent for the course the Government are taking, and I think, that before they adopt this course, they should search for precedents. [Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Members may object, but I am entitled to discuss the matter, and to discuss the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister has always shown the greatest deference to Parliamentary precedent, and whenever he has been able to produce a precedent, he has always done so in favour of the course he was adopting. I think I am therefore justified in saying that the Government have searched for precedents in support of the course they are pursuing, and have not been able to find any, or they would not have put up the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to say that they are not bound by precedents. The right hon. Gentleman tells us the Government do not want a precedent, and that they are going to act without one. We now have the full meaning of the course which Her Majesty's Government are about to adopt. In the present controversy the greatest watchfulness will have to be exercised, and care must be taken that the proceedings of the Government are strictly within the lines they are entitled to take. There is one thing more. If the action now proposed to be taken 753 by Her Majesty's Government is adopted, we shall, at the end of the present year, have had six Sessions in the present Parliament, and I think hon. Members will recollect very well that in the course of the last Parliament they heard, over and over again, animated attacks upon a Conservative Government for entering upon a seventh Session. After telling us that we were acting in a manner almost unconstitutional, for the right hon. Gentleman to propose now to take a sixth Session in the course of the present year, and then to come to Parliament again next year to wind up the Business in a seventh Session, is, I think, a matter deserving the attention of the House.
§ MR. RYLANDS
I cannot say that I attach much weight to the last statement of the hon. Gentleman. It is proposed that there shall be an Autumn Session for about two months, and to urge that as a ground of complaint against the Prime Minister because that Autumn Session will make six Sessions is hardly a matter worthy of the notice of the House. The Prime Minister, in his reference to this matter, alluded to Annual Sessions. I rise now as an independent Member to express my gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for rising to the position I think the nation has demanded of them. Hon. Gentlemen, opposite talk about precedents; but whether there are precedents or not—and I believe that practically there was a precedent in regard to the great Reform Bill—but whether that was so or not, I think the Government are perfectly justified in the course they are taking. With the majority of the House of Commons at their back, and the public opinion of the country in their favour represented by the majority in this House, they have been treated with contempt by another branch of the Legislature, and we, the majority of the House, would be perfectly justified in making a new precedent if we thought it right and necessary to do so. I have heard the determination of Her Majesty's Government with the greatest satisfaction. I believe, until this issue is decided, it will be perfectly futile to attempt any other legislation; and I shall be glad indeed if Her Majesty's Government will recognize that as fully as possible with reference to all the various measures which are now upon 754 the Table of the House. I trust that, as soon as they have had an opportunity of obtaining Supply, they will adjourn the House, in order that hon. Members may take council with their constituents. As to the Government establishing a new precedent, if it be a new one, their only object is to carry out a measure which the country is anxiously expecting; and I believe their action will ultimately result in the triumph of the majority of the House, and of the opinion of the people.
§ MR. MOORE
I do not think there is any considerable amount of interest taken in the question of the franchise in Ireland, although, no doubt, we do anticipate in the future considerable gains from the passing of that Bill. At present there is an absence of interest in the question, and I think it is impossible to point to a single meeting, or to a single resolution in Ireland in favour of the Franchise Bill. I do not know whether the number of Members representing Ireland is likely to be increased under the new franchise. At present we have 103 Members; and all that I can point to at present is that there have been very important questions which the Government have promised to deal with and have failed. So far as Ireland is concerned the Session has been a perfectly barren one. There is one question which affects that country most nearly—namely, the permanent settlement of the Land Question on a lasting and satisfactory basis; and I must say that the postponement of the Purchase Bill is a severe blow to peace, order, and security in Ireland. As a supporter of the Government, I deeply regret that that measure has been abandoned; and I should like to ask whether that portion of the Bill which deals with the constitution of an Appeal Court under the present administration of the Land Court is likewise to be abandoned? Because, whatever may be said of the measure itself—and I am not here to say that in every clause it is a desirable measure, or that it is not a measure that requires considerable amendment—still I must say that it is a measure in the right direction and based on sound principle. I wish to ask the Government if they are prepared to throw over the Bill which proposes simply to carry out the law effectually in Ireland? The clauses referring to the 755 Appeal Court, which this Bill contains, are of paramount importance, because everybody knows that the Appeal Court is at present blocked. I do not wish to discuss the principle of the Bill; but I must say that the measure contains certain clauses which are absolutely necessary in order to remedy the dead-lock now existing. [Cries of "Order!"] Hon. Gentlemen may cry "Order!" but the simple question is one of definite and immediate importance in regard to the administration of the Land Act, and I regret to find that Her Majesty's Government are about to allow this House to disperse without passing a measure to improve the condition of the Land Court in Ireland. We have also had an important discussion on a question which is now of secondary importance—namely, the Labourers' Bill. The Chief Secretary has raised objections to that Bill, some of which are of a weighty character; but when that Bill was thrown out we were given to understand very clearly that either a Royal Commission would be issued, or a Select Committee appointed, not to inquire into the measure proposed by my hon. Friend opposite, but into the working of the Act of last Session. The case was one of pressing importance, and I contend that the settlement of the Purchase Clauses, involving, as it did, the condition of the labourers in Ireland, was a question of paramount necessity. [Cries of "Order!"] I think the question is peculiarly one of Order. We are discussing the state of the Public Business and the "massacre of the innocents," as it is commonly called; and among the Bills abandoned I cannot help expressing my regret that these two important measures should have been included, when a very few hours would have served to complete one, and the appointment of a Committee, or the issue of a Royal Commission, would have paved the way for the settlement of the other. All the work of legislation has now been thrown into arrear, and when we come to Supply we shall, undoubtedly, lose our grip over the Executive Government. No one will deny that these are most important questions for the Irish people, who are now living under the stringent provisions of a Coercion Act; and it is also desirable that some means should be afforded for discussing the appointments which have been made in Ireland. Recent inves- 756 tigations have shown that we cannot keep too strong a check over Irish officials. I deeply lament the course the Government feel themselves bound to take. So far as regards the interests of Ireland, whatever hon. Members may think, and whatever amount of abuse in reference to another Assembly may be thought to condone the shortcomings of Legislative Pusiness, I can only say that the Session, so far as Ireland is concerned, has been a most barren and unfruitful one.
I should not have intruded upon the time of the House but for the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). His manner of viewing the majority of the House is quite different when the majority happens to be a Liberal one from that which he adopts when the majority is composed of Members who now sit on this side of the House. When the Conservatives were in Office, the hon. Member was fond of speaking of them as a tyrant majority, who did not represent the people of England; but now that the Liberal Party are in a majority he sees everything from a couleur de rose point of view, and does nothing but express his gratitude to them for throwing over the measure they are now abandoning, endeavouring all the while to throw the blame upon another Assembly. It seems to me that the Government were only too anxious to get rid of these puny measures, or, as some hon. Members have characterized them, those "miserable measures." Personally, I should be very sorry to apply those words to them; but I must allude to the extreme despotic tone which has been assumed by the Liberal Government. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down alluded to the coercion under which Ireland is at present suffering. No doubt, Ireland is suffering from coercion; but, if she is, it is not for want of provocation, for it was the action of a certain section of the people of that country which brought about the coercion of which they now complain. But I deny that this House has been guilty of anything that would justify the act of coercion it is now threatened with. A fresh Session is to be appointed for the latter part of the year, and during that Session we are told that no measures will be allowed to be brought forward, and that the House 757 will consider nothing except what the Government chooses.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I said that, so far as the Government were concerned, they would promote and encourage no legislation except what was necessary for settling the question of the franchise.
The words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman were—"We cannot and will not allow any other Business to be brought in."
If I misquote the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I shall be glad to be corrected. I certainly understood him to say that no Government Business, except the Franchise measure, would be undertaken; and I suppose if any hon. Member on this side of the House were to introduce a Bill, or to endeavour to press one forward, he would be looked upon as an Obstructive. May I ask whether, if allusions are made to Egypt or South Africa, or other matters which interest the public, it will be regarded as Obstruction, and that nothing will be considered except this darling pet of the Government—the Franchise Bill? It is just possible that the next Session may be brought to an end without a Franchise Bill being carried. If so, when a third Session is summoned, is it the intention of the Government that no Bill of any kind shall be introduced until the Franchise Bill is passed? The Government certainly appear to be acting as if they had the ball at their feet, and they are treating with complete contempt all those who do not agree with them.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
There is one matter which has not been alluded to, but which is a matter of great importance. We were promised last Session that the Indian Budget should be brought forward on an early date. It was generally admitted that it was discreditable to bring the Indian Budget forward at the fag-end of the Session, and I have risen now to ask what steps the Government propose to take in regard to bringing that Budget forward?
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
I should also like to ask when the Government intend to bring in the Navy Estimates? I put that question in consequence of the short discussion which took place with the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War the last time the Estimates were before the House. It was then understood that the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was to be the means of partially correcting certain defects due to the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts; but it is more important now to have an understanding as to the course proposed to be taken in reference to these Acts, in consequence of the announcement made by the Government to-night of their intention to withdraw the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. The noble Lord will recollect that a deputation waited on him not long ago, when he told the deputation that the Contagious Diseases Acts would be dealt with by the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. I think it is desirable, having regard to the results which may follow, that the Government should give the House an opportunity of discussing the question at large now that the Criminal Law Amendment Bill has been withdrawn—I believe the noble Lord will confirm what I say—that an opportunity may be given for raising the question either on the Army or the Navy Estimates. I therefore wish to know whether the Army or the Navy Estimates are to be discussed first? Perhaps, if the noble Lord is not able to answer the question now, he may be in a condition to make a reply to-morrow.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
I trust that I may receive an answer to the question I have put in regard to the Indian Budget.
§ [No answer was given.]
§ Question put, and negatived.