HC Deb 30 June 1884 vol 289 cc1702-12

Order for Consideration, as amended read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."


criticized the action of the Attorney General in finally reverting in the Grand Committee to the principle of a maximum expenditure after having refused it before. He considered that there was one great error which pervaded this Bill—namely, that the penalties imposed by it were absurdly high. Punishments which were too great in proportion to the offences for which they were awarded had only the effect of shocking the moral sense of the country; and, in his opinion, the punishment of highly respectable solicitors under the Parliamentary Elections Bill had done a great deal to shake the faith of the public in it. Were members of Local Boards or Improvement Commissions, Guardians of the Poor in Ireland, or members of a School Board, to have their elections hedged in by the terrific penalties of this Bill? He maintained that it was their duty to oppose a Bill which they considered bad, without regard to the fact of its having passed a Grand Committee. This Bill was an attempt to carry on the experiment of last year, without giving them any time to see how the Bill of last year had worked. He objected to this legislation in the dark.


called attention to the absence of the Attorney General from the Treasury Bench, and declared that it was impossible to proceed with a measure of this kind unless the hon. and learned Gentleman was present. When the Bill had been brought in by the Attorney General, he himself had maintained that it would be likely to promote bribery. In the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act there was a clause fixing a maximum expenditure; but in this Bill there was no such clause. Upon that point the Attorney General had laid great stress, on the ground that if such a clause were introduced, it would be impossible to put down bribery. What would have been the result of the difference in this respect between the two Bills? They knew that a great amount of bribery took place at municipal elections, with a view to influencing Parliamentary elections. He had himself endeavoured to have the clause inserted, but had been defeated. Now, the At- torney General had inserted the clause after all in the Grand Committee. He thought that some explanation was due to the House as to how this great change had come about. With respect to the question of a maximum, it was agreed that such an amount of expenditure should be permitted as would enable a candidate to make known his views. This was a question of such importance that, in the absence of the Attorney General, he had no alternative but to move the adjournment of the debate.


, in seconding the Motion, expressed his surprise to find Ireland included in the Bill after the promise that had been made to exclude it.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." — (Sir R. Assheton Cross.)


said, that in the absence of the Attorney General he did not think the first Order was one with which the Government could ask the House to proceed.


, before the Motion was agreed to, thought the House should know what Business the Government intended to take. It was obvious that the House was placed at great disadvantage, as the hon. Members who were interested in the opposed Bills on the Paper could not have expected that they would be reached at all that night. He hoped the Government would not proceed with any opposed Bills that evening.


said, that before they agreed to the adjournment of the debate they ought to have some statement from a Minister of the Crown as to what Bill they would next take. There were several very important Bills on the Orders. For instance, No. 5 was the London Government Bill, and he asked the Government to say that they would not proceed to-night with that Bill. No. 9 was the Merchant Shipping Bill, and he should like a similar assurance from the Government with regard to that measure.


wanted to know what was to be done with the Police Superannuation Bill, which had been before the House for some years?


said, it was true that they had unexpectedly come to the Orders of the Day; but that war, true of any other night. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes." It was always possible that circumstances might occur to place the House in a similar position to that in which it was that night. Any Member who had been in the House for 10 years knew that, such circumstances had happened a hundred times. The natural and proper thing was to go on with the next Order. The Government were now quite prepared to go on with the first Order, the Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill. The Attorney General was in his place, and he hoped the Motion for the adjournment of the debate would be withdrawn.


said, in the peculiar circumstances they were placed, it would be neither natural or proper to proceed with the Orders on the Paper in the absence of their supporters.


appealed to the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir B. Assheton Cross) to withdraw his Motion. The right hon. Gentleman was one of the leading Members of the Grand Committee on the Bill, and he had a large influence in moulding the measure.


asked whether it was the intention of the Government to carry out the promise made to the Irish Members to leave Ireland out of the Bill?


denied that any such promise had been made. What had been said was that inquiry should be made among the Irish Members, and that the Government would be guided to some extent by their views on the subject.


We have never been consulted.


apologized for not having been present when the Order was called. He had been engaged elsewhere on business connected with the House; but there was no reason why the debate should not proceed, as he believed there was no substantial objection to the Bill.


said, he had omitted, in replying to a question put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), to state that it was intended to proceed with the second reading of the London Government Bill on Thursday next.


said, that he should object to the Bill being pro- ceeded with at the present moment, after the pledge given by the hon. Member for Oldham. (Mr. Hibbert), who represented the Government a few minutes ago before the return of the Attorney General. A pledge was given; because it was understood in the House that when a Member sitting upon the Treasury Benches said a thing he would keep to it, and that the hon. Members who sat behind him would support him. [Dissent] He quite agreed that occasionally there were exceptions to that rule; and he believed that there had been instances when very high officials—aye, all the Cabinet—had been voted against by their obsequious supporters. ["Question!"] That was the Question. He begged to say—


said, that the hon. Member must confine his remarks to the Question of Adjournment.


said, his reason for speaking was that the answer given by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert), who had represented the Government a few minutes ago, was a pledge; and in consequence of that pledge several of his (Mr. Montagu Scott's) Friends left the House, because they considered that the Bill would not be proceeded with after the pledge of the Government. He called upon the Government to stand by their pledge. His Friends left the House, he repeated, in consequence of the pledge of the hon. Member for Oldham; and it was a gross breach of faith, after that pledge, that the Government should resist the Motion for Adjournment.


asked leave to withdraw his Motion, which, he said, he made solely on the ground of the Attorney General's absence. He wished, however, to have an understanding from the Government that the opposed clauses should be dealt with on a future day.


complained of the want of courtesy shown by the Attorney General to the Irish Members.


said, before the Motion for Adjournment was withdrawn they were entitled to know what the Attorney General was going to do with reference to Ireland.


said, that nothing which might occur that evening should preju- dice the pledge he had given, that there should be the same opportunity of obtaining the opinion of the Irish Members as if they were not proceeding that evening.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 139: Majority 104.—(Div. List, No. 140.)

Original Question again proposed.


regretted to have to oppose the Motion for the consideration of the Bill. Irish Members had been treated very badly. It was absurd to apply the cumbrous provisions of a Bill like that to wards in Irish municipalities which contained only 15 or 20 voters. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that he had consulted Irish Members on the subject. Whom had he consulted? Certainly none of those who sat near him. Was the Chief Secretary in favour of those provisions? The Irish Members had relied on a half-promise of the hon. and learned Member which precluded the necessity of their moving Amendments, which they would now have to prepare. It was absurd for the hon. and learned Member, who knew nothing of Ireland, to frame a Bill of that character to be applied to Ireland. He should divide against the Motion that the Bill be considered.


moved the adjournment of the House, alleging as a ground for his so doing that they were totally unprepared to enter upon a discussion of a series of Bills which they had, on coming to the House, understood there was no chance of being brought on. He thought that after the character of the defeat sustained by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, the dignity and character of the House would be best consulted by their not longer prolonging that day's proceedings.


cordially seconded the Motion. The Government got a very unfair advantage by having a number of Orders down which no one expected to be reached.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Eardley Wilmot.)

The House divided;—Ayes 32; Noes 85: Majority 53.—(Div. List, No, 141.)

Original Question again proposed.


said, he wished to fulfil the pledge he gave on the second reading, which was that the Government would endeavour to obtain the opinions of Members for Ireland as to the application of the Bill to Ireland. He wished if he could to obtain such opinions; and if the House would consider the 1st clause, he would move the adjournment of the debate, and would not bring the Bill on again before Thursday, when he should probably be able to state whether or not it was proposed to proceed with the Bill in relation to Ireland.


said, he was gratified with the statement which had just been made by the Attorney General; and he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to announce on Thursday that the Bill would not apply to Ireland.


said, he hoped the Attorney General meant to consult all sections of the Irish Members.


said, he thought it would be much more becoming of the Government if they would at once adjourn the House than attempt to go on with the Business. He, therefore, moved that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Hicks.)

Thereupon Mr. SPEAKER, having stated his opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Forms of the House, put the Question forthwith.

The House divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 83: Majority 61.—(Div. List., No. 142.)

Original Question again proposed.


These proceedings are of a somewhat curious description. I should like it to be generally known that a course has been taken this afternoon which is worthy the attention of the House. The Leader of the Opposition stated, when the Motion on the question of Egypt was negatived, that he should not be a party to the moving of the adjournment of the House, or obstructing in any way the Business of the country. That was the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. But, Sir, proceedings have been taken since that statement was made, which I will not characterize on this occasion. But you, Sir, have just declared from the Chair that such proceedings are an abuse of the Forms of the House; and, you having made that declaration, I wish the House to know that the hon. Members for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Rowland Winn), for West Suffolk (Mr. Thornhill), and East Kent (Mr. Akers-Douglas), who are officially connected with the Party opposite, voted with the minority for the adjournment of the debate. While some Members who sit upon the Front Opposition Bench voted in the majority, these three Gentlemen voted in the minority.


wished to know whether Members on his side of the House were more bound to vote with their Leader than Members opposite? He had not the good, fortune to behold the wondrous scene; but he was informed that a Division took place in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone), and those who sat upon the Government Bench, went one way and his followers went another. ["Question!"] He was speaking to the Question. He had as good a right to speak of that Division as the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had to speak of the other. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed astonishment that three Gentlemen officially connected with the Opposition should have voted in the minority. No doubt they did so because they were not satisfied—no one on either side of the House was satisfied—with what occurred. The House had got into a muddle. They were accustomed to muddles; but such things were not creditable. When a great many Members thought that no disputable Business would be brought on, it ought not to be persevered with.


said, that as one who voted with the Government in the late Division, being anxious that Business should proceed, he should like to protest in the strongest manner against the language of the right hon. Gentleman, who had no right to speak as he had done. Hon. Members, in the exercise of their duty, had a right to vote for the adjournment on the last occasion, and they had broken no pledge whatever given on this occasion. He was quite sure the only reason why his hon. Friends voted against the Government was, that the Government would not tell them what Business they were going to take. It was quite understood that the Bill now before the House would be adjourned immediately—as soon as the House resolved that the Bill be considered; and it was because the House was left perfectly uncertain as to what was to be discussed for the rest of the evening that the late Divisions had been taken.

MR. GLADSTONE and Mr. WARTON rose together—


I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker—["Order, order!"]—a point of Order, Sir. ["Order, order!"] I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker, and my point is that the observations of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles W. Dilke)—


I rise to Order, I Sir. ["Order!"]


rising, the Prime Minister resumed his seat, leaving Mr. WARTON standing.


The hon. and learned Member should resume his seat when the Speaker is on his feet.

MR. WARTON (resuming his seat)

I Certainly, Sir; certainly.


The right hon. Gentleman rose to a point of Order.


So did I. I was first.


What I desire to know, Sir, is whether a Member can rise to Order on account of observations made by my right hon. Friend near me (Sir Charles W. Dilke), another hon. Member having since spoken?


If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Warton) has risen to a point of Order I should like to know what it is.


said, that the Speaker had power, under one of the Rules of 1882, to refuse to let a Question be put if it was not regular. He submitted that as the Speaker had allowed the Division it was regular; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman opposite was not in Order in the remarks he had made.


No question of Order has arisen.


The hon. and learned Gentleman actually rose on my rising—[Mr. WARTON: Before.]—and said he wished to speak to Order; and yet he was going to call attention to a speech made by another person; since which a second speech in the regular order of debate had been made by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Stanhope). A more dis- orderly proceeding I never saw. My object in rising was not to mix in the controversy; but to inform the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney) that I have never seen a more egregious mistake in point of issue than that into which he fell. He appeared to think that my right hon. Friend near mo (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had called the attention of the House to the fact that some hon. Gentlemen on that side had voted against their Leaders. That had nothing whatever to do with it. He says he was not in the House at the time of the former debate; but he might just as well not have been in the House now. It is a totally different matter, and I will not go back upon it. I rose to meet the wish of my hon. Friend opposite, who desires to know what Business the Government are going to proceed with. We propose to take No. 2 on the Paper, the Police Bill; No. 3, the Revision of Jurors and Voters Lists (Dublin County) Bill; No. 6, the Intestates Estates Bill; Nos. 11, 12, 13, and 14; No. 17, the Universities (Scotland) Bill; and No. 21, the Crown Lands Bill. I hope no one will complain that that is not an ample bill of fare.


said, that there would be great opposition to No. 2 Bill—not so much that the money should be taken for the police as to how it would be applied for their superannuation.


The noble Viscount would be out of Order in referring to the provisions of the Bill.


said, that if the right hon. Gentleman should go on -with the Bill he would move the adjournment of the House.


said, he would make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. When they came down to the House it was supposed that no other Business would be taken but the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), which would naturally have led to a debate. Many Gentlemen might be absent who took an interest in those particular Bills. The Government would do well and reasonably, therefore, if they would not take that night any of the Bills which were seriously opposed. It would be rather a strong measure if Bills to which there was serious opposition were taken under the peculiar circumstances.


said, he hoped the Government would not proceed with the Police Bill that evening, as there were many hon. Members absent who were interested in it.


said, the Police Bill had been before the House for a very long time, and it was somewhat unreasonable for hon. Members to endeavour to prevent the Order being taken. 336 Members were in the House when the Motion to postpone the Orders of the Day was defeated, and therefore 336 Members had notice that other Business would be brought on.


rose to Order. He wished to know whether hon. Members were in Order in discussing the Police Bill?


said, the discussion was out of Order.

Original Question put, and agreed to

Bill considered.

Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, deferred till Thursday.