HC Deb 05 November 1884 vol 293 cc1035-42

said, the House had, at that moment, an opportunity of doing a piece of useful legislation. That was a Bill supported by Her Majesty's Government, and it was most extraordinary, he ventured to submit, to find Her Majesty's Government taking advantage of and seizing on this technical point and plea, to put off the second reading of the Bill, in face of their loudly-advertised zeal for "practical legislation" in that House. He would hope that the Prime Minister would maintain the dignity and independence of his character, and say a word now in favour of practical legislation, by allowing the Bill to pass the second reading. The House had been informed, in no ambiguous terms, that very drastic measures would be taken, if necessary, to further practical legislation, and enable the House—


The Question before the House is, "That the Debate be adjourned;" and the hon. Member has no right to travel into other subjects.


The Business before the House, I submit, is the proposal to adjourn the debate, and thus adjourn the consideration of this important piece of practical legislation; and I appeal to the Prime Minister, who says that practical legislation is the chief object of Parliament, to give us an example and proof of his sincerity on that point, and of his well-advertised zeal on that subject, to throw over his subordinate, and support the just claim of the Irish Members to have this most important reform proceeded with on the present opportunity. I would on that question, as an additional argument for proceeding with the Bill, remind Her Majesty's Government that, in this Session already, a most important Irish Bill was swept away, owing to their having taken away from the Irish Members their last Wednesday.


Again I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he is travelling from the Question before the House, which is the adjournment of the debate. I beg that he will not repeat it.


I wish, then, to consult you on the question of Order. What I am endeavouring to bring forward, as a reason why the Government should not adjourn this Bill, is that the Government have already taken an important day from the Irish Members. Am I not allowed to use that argument in support of the views which the Irish Members put forward on this question? Surely, Mr. Speaker—


It is not the Question. The hon. Gentleman has again travelled from the Question. I am to judge as to whether the hon. Member is, or is not, confining his remarks to the Question, and if the hon. Gentleman deviates, in my opinion, from the Question, it is my duty to tell him so. I have already twice told him that he is diverging from the Question.


I am absolutely convinced that I was bringing forward arguments in support of the plea that this Bill be not adjourned, and I respectfully protest—[Cries of "Order!"] I respectfully protest—




Sir, I respectfully protest against your interference with the legitimate course of the discussion. ["Order, order!"]


I must call upon you to resume your seat, on account of the irrelevancy of your observations to the Question before the House.


Mr. Speaker, Sir, I protest—I would say—[Cries of "Order!"]


Again I must call upon you to resume your seat.


Sir, I wish to protest against this use of the power of calling on Members to sit down when using legitimate arguments, and thus stop their observations—["Hear, hear!" and "Order"]—and as you have taken that step, I wish you to—[Cries of "Name him!"]


I have twice—three times—called the hon. Member's attention to the fact that his observations were not relevant, and that he was wandering from the subject of the debate.


I was not. I was not.


I did so in terms which are before the House. You have not thought proper to pay any attention to my ruling — [Ministerial cheers]—and I now Name you, Mr. O'Donnell, as disregarding the authority of the Chair.


You, Mr. Speaker, having Named the hon. Member, I consider it my duty, upon that Naming, to move that Mr. O'Donnell be suspended from the service of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. O'Donnell be suspended from the service of the House."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


The Question is, "That Mr. O'Donnell be suspended from the service of the House." As many as are of that opinion say "Aye;" the contrary, "No." I think the "Ayes" have it. ["No, no!"]


You have played your expected part, Monsieur le President.

The hon. Member then withdrew.

The House divided: — Ayes 163; Noes 28: Majority 135.—(Div. List, No. 7.)

Question again proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The following is the Entry in the Votes:— Mr. SPEAKER called the attention of the House to continued irrelevance on the part of Mr. O'Donnell, Member for Dungarvan, and directed the honourable Member to discontinue his Speech:— The honourable Member, nevertheless, having persisted in speaking:— Mr. SPEAKER named him as disregarding the authority of the Chair. Motion made, and Question put, "That Mr. O'Donnell be suspended from the service of the House."—(Mr. Gladstone.)— The House divided; Ayes 163, Noes 28.


I wish, Sir, to point out to the House that the Bill, the adjournment of which is now sought by a coalition of the Front Government Bench and Front Opposition Bench, was read a second time last Session in this House, and passed through all its stages without any practical opposition whatever, and was sent to the House of Lords, and then thrown out on second reading. In the Session before last also, this Bill received the second reading; so that it cannot possibly be contended, in support of the Motion for Adjournment, that the House is un- acquainted with its contents. A pledge has been given by my hon. Friend who brought in the Bill (Mr. John Redmond) that it would be, and is, the identical Bill which last Session left this House and was thrown out by the House of Lords. I ask, under these circumstances, what can the Government be in doubt about? If they have agreed to the principle of the Bill, why should they support a Motion for Adjournment, on the ground that they do not know what the Bill is? [An hon. MEMBER: The new Chief Secretary for Ireland.] If they believe that the Bill is the Bill of last Session, and has been stated distinctly, the tenability of the position taken by the Front Government Bench and some of their followers entirely disappears. If the Bill is not considered to-day, and if the adjournment is granted, all chances of its passing this Session will have gone by. I addressed an appeal towards the close of last Session to the Prime Minister with reference to the Bill. After it was thrown out, I asked him, would he include this measure in the list of subjects to be brought forward during the Autumn Session? The right hon. Gentleman stated that he desired to see the measure passed, when asked, at the close of last Session, to bring it forward as well as the Representation of the People Bill. He could not, however, see his way to including the measure in the Government programme. We do not, however, ask the Government to take up the Bill and make it portion of their programme—we simply ask that the opportunity which we have obtained by chance should be given to us of obtaining another stage for the Bill. I do not believe that we have been met by the Government in a candid way from first to last. I cannot see why they should assist the hon. Gentleman who has moved the adjournment of the debate (Mr. Elton). The Chief Secretary for Ireland said that he would not have moved the adjournment of the debate; but, its having been moved by a Member upon the Conservative side of the House, he felt bound to support it. I cannot see the force of that argument; for, if it was right that the adjournment of the debate should be moved, he should have been prepared to move it; but, if it was not right that the adjournment should be moved, I do not see how he can escape the odium of having obstructed the measure by leaving to others the adoption of that course. The action of the right hon. Gentleman in supporting the adjournment gives colour to the suspicions entertained in Irish circles last Session, that the Government would be glad to see the Bill opposed and thrown out, although they did not wish to incur the odium of opposing it themselves. Hon. Members on these Benches are moat anxious to see the measure passed into law.


said, he deeply regretted that the adjournment of the debate should have been moved, though he did not believe in the aspersions which had been cast upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). If ever there was a case in which the Rules of the House should be departed from, this was one; and he therefore trusted that the Government would see their way to allow the second reading of the Bill, although it had not been printed, and, therefore, not presented to hon. Members. The Government should remember that the opposition was made from the opposite side of the House. He hoped sincerely that even still the Government would see their way to allow the Bill to be read a second time. It was argued that the Bill was not printed; but still they should remember that it stood in peculiar circumstances, for it was exactly the same Bill as had been so thoroughly discussed and passed last year. There was, moreover, a general consensus of opinion in Ireland that the main features of the Bill should be passed into law.


said, that after what the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had said, that the Government were liable to incur the responsibility of joining in the negative on the Motion now before the House—that was, supporting the Motion for the adjournment of the debate—he felt it impossible to leave his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) under that responsibility. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had done what he (Mr. Gladstone) thought it was always a pity to do—that was to say, he had given a painful and odious colour to the act of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. He accused the Government of a secret desire to oppose the Bill, which they were unwilling to display openly. He (Mr. Gladstone) might say, however, that it appeared to him that the whole matter was one which concerned the Forms and Rules of the House, respecting which it seemed that there were a great number of questions in which hon. Gentlemen might exercise their own discretion as to standing or not standing on a point of Form or Rule. The hon. Member had laid down the doctrine that it was impossible to be I right in acceding to a demand from another quarter to do what one would not do himself. But he (Mr. Gladstone) could not assent to that doctrine, for he had sometimes acceded to demands from the hon. Member for the City of Cork himself. He should be very glad, he might tell the hon. Member for the City of Cork, if, under the circumstances, that objection were not taken—namely, that the Bill was not printed. At the same time, he must say that he thought hon. Gentlemen who were interested in the Bill, and especially hon. Gentlemen who desired to oppose the Bill, and who read that morning on the list of Orders of the Day—"Poor Law Guardians (Ireland) Bill"—knowing the Bill had not been printed, were perfectly justified in the assumption that it would not come on. That was a point of Form with regard to which he must, in all fairness and equity, say that all those hon. Gentlemen who took an interest, and especially those who took a hostile interest, in the Bill, were justified in the assumption that it would not come on at all, because it was not printed, and they had, therefore, absented themselves from the House. Under those circumstances, it was a point of equity to acquiesce in the objection so taken. He was very sorry that the hon. Member for the City of Cork also laid upon him (Mr. Gladstone) the disagreeable imputation that he was a concealed enemy of the Bill, and dared not avow his hostility to it. He must bear the ill-will and odium of that imputation, such as it was, trusting to his general character that he might be able to survive it. If hon. Gentlemen should think it necessary to insist upon the objection that the Bill had not been printed, he could not vote against them, although he should have been glad if the objection had not been raised.


said, he could not see the ground for the objection on the point of equity. All the opponents of the measure were present and had spoken; and it was, in addition, the identical measure which had been passed through the House last year. It could not be urged that in this case any person had been taken by surprise. He was unable to see the slightest equity in the objections of the Prime Minister, who, in the course he was taking, was simply doing what he yesterday complained that others were doing—putting obstacles in the way of practical legislation.


said, he regretted extremely that the Bill was not printed for second reading. It had, however, been brought forward unexpectedly, and they had been unprepared; but the objections which had been raised on that account were both both flimsy and technical, for he could assure hon. Members there was not the slightest variation in any details of the Bill from that of last year.


said, he had come to the conclusion that the positions taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Gladstone), in supporting the Motion for an adjournment, were purely personal ones. The Prime Minister had stated that he had reluctantly come to the conclusion to support the Motion for Adjournment. By that, the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Gray) presumed, intended to convey that he could not see his way to vote against the adjournment, for he could understand the Prime Minister not wishing to put himself in direct opposition to the point raised. He believed that the common sense of the House, especially of hon. Members below the Gangway who advocated Radical principles, would see that, upon this occasion, they were free to vote according to their consciences. He could quite understand the position of the Prime Minister, who did not wish to oppose the Motion on a point of equity. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Members of the Treasury Bench to allow the Members of the Radical Party to vote on this question according to the dictates of their consciences. If the permission were given, the obstructive Motion, which had been brought forward by a Member whose constituency were not interested in the subject-matter of the Bill, would be defeated. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Walker), who had expressed himself in favour of the Bill, was free now to vote as he desired. He thought even the hon. Member for Dublin City (Dr. Lyons) might, under the circumstances, see his way to vote with the Irish Members.


said, that, no doubt, a keen sense of the iron discipline under which the hon. Member for Carlow himself spoke and voted, explained his sneer as to the freedom of Members on that side of the House to vote as they liked. But he (Mr. M'Coan) assured the hon. Member that, for one, he required no such permission, but intended to vote against the adjournment without asking the leave of anyone, and notwithstanding anything the Prime Minister might have said. Having in two successive Sessions supported the Bill, he would now do so again, as his opinion of the measure remained unchanged.


said, he would ask what they were to vote upon, as there was not even a Bill in manuscript before the House? He would suggest that hon. Members should take the Bill which passed that House by a large majority last Session, and endorse it with the names of the Mover and Seconder; the House, then, would have something to proceed upon. But to call upon them to vote for an imaginary Bill was only trifling with the House.


said, he rose to a point of Order. A copy of the Bill as it was when sent to the House of Lords had been placed in the hands of the Government.


That is not a point of Order.

Question put.

The House divided: — Ayes 130; Noes 97: Majority 33. — (Div. List, No. 8.)

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.