Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the working of recent legislation with reference to cottages and plots of land for agricultural labourers in Ireland; and to Report whether it has been established that any amendments of such legislation are at present necessary."—(Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that, before the Question was put, he wished to draw Mr. Speaker's attention to the fact that if the form in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had moved for his Committee with regard to Westminster Hall was correct, the form in which the Solicitor General for Ireland was now making his Motion was not correct. The First Commissioner of Works held that the course he had pursued was the right one. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) had not received Notice that it was intended that night to ask him to serve on this Committee.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, it was not a re-appointment, because he had left the Committee before the end of last Session. It was a sudden and rather arbitrary method of procedure to put Members on a Committee without saying a word to them about it.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALKER)
It is merely a re-appointment, and I thought the hon. Baronet's name was on the Committee last year. I, of course, had no idea that he would not be ready to serve again now.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, he objected to the Committee being reappointed this Session. He had thoroughly understood, at the close of last Session, that the Committee reported in favour of re-appointment; but, certainly, it was not in the least intended or 1342 believed that it would be reappointed during this extraordinary Session, which, it was understood, was to be devoted to one particular purpose. It would be exceedingly inconvenient if the Committee were re-appointed now. He could not conceive why that course should be taken—why the Committee should be reappointed for the very few days the House might sit. He failed to see why this particular Committee should be called together whilst no other Committee of the House was re-assembled. A great many Members—some, no doubt, who had served on this Committee last year—had made their arrangements, and were going away directly the Session was over. They were not prepared to call their witnesses, or to go into a matter of such importance, and it would be a breach of faith to call upon them to do it. It would be in the recollection of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland that the question of meeting during this short Session was discussed at the end of the last Sitting of the Committee, and that it was not seriously contemplated that the inquiry should proceed before the Session of 1885.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. and gallant Member was putting an interpretation of his own upon what occurred at the end of the Summer Session. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of a "breach of faith;" but he (Mr. Sexton) declared that the Government would be guilty of a gross breach of faith with the Irish Members if they refused to appoint this Committee now. He recollected what occurred at the close of the Sitting at the end of the Summer Session. It had nothing to do with the re-appointment during the present Session; but the question was whether they should Report. Some of the Members of the Committee, of whom he (Mr. Sexton) was one, had made strenuous efforts to get a Report, but had failed. The urgency which then existed, and the endeavour made to obtain a Report, was the best argument for re-appointment now. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had, by a prophetic inspiration, pointed to the end of the Session—had stated that it would not last more than a very few days. To his (Mr. Sexton's) mind, however, the hon. and gallant Member would have been more likely to be right if he had 1343 said a few weeks. He did not think there was a chance of the Session being brought to a close much before Christmas. In the meantime, the condition of the labourers in Ireland was miserable in the extreme. It would be inhuman to delay the reappointment of the Committee a day longer than was absolutely necessary.
§ MR. BERESFORD
said, he could support what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for the County of Dublin (Colonel King-Harman), having been a Member of the Committee last Session. The subject was a most important one, which required careful investigation; and, to enable all its Members to attend, the Committee should not be called upon to meet before the early Spring. It would be very inconvenient for him—and he might speak for many other Members—to sit now; and he, therefore, hoped the Solicitor General for Ireland would not press the matter.
§ MR. GRAY
said, it might be inconvenient to the hon. Member who had just sat down to sit; but it would be much more inconvenient for the unfortunate persons whose lot in Ireland it was attempted by this inquiry to alleviate to remain in their present condition of misery for many months, and they should not be required to do this merely because it might be inconvenient to some hon. Members to attend to their duties. If the performance of the ordinary duties of a Member of the House were inconvenient to the hon. Member (Mr. Beresford), there was a very simple mode of relieving himself of the inconvenience. Even if the hon. Gentleman did not care to go the length which the adoption of that simple mode would involve, he could relieve himself of the inconvenience of attending on the Committee by having his name struck off the list of Members to be appointed, and enabling it to be replaced by the name of some Gentleman who would find it convenient to discharge the duty his constituency elected him to perform. He (Mr. Gray) earnestly protested against the proposition to leave the Labourers' Question in Ireland, which was recognized to be an extremely urgent one, and which there was a complete—
§ MR. WARTON
I rise to Order. I wish to call attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
§ House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, that his recollection of what occurred at the last Sitting of the Committee did not coincide with that of the hon. Members opposite (Colonel King-Harman and Mr. Beresford). The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends had been extremely anxious that the Committee should report forthwith. It was objected, however, by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel King-Harman) that sufficient evidence had not been taken; and it was pointed out by other hon. Members that if the Committee sat during the Autumn Session it would make no difference in the matter of legislation, as no Bill could be brought in this year; and that, if the evidence was completed during the short Autumn Session, legislation based on the Report could be promoted in the beginning of the Session of 1885. To that end it had been understood that an effort should be made to secure the re-appointment of the Committee in the Autumn Session. That was his recollection of what had occurred; perhaps other Members of the Committee could confirm him in it.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, he wished to observe—[Cries of "Spoke!" and "Order!"] He merely wished to offer an explanation. His impression of what had occurred at the last meeting of the Committee differed from that of other hon. Gentlemen. It was that it was generally understood that sufficient evidence could not be taken before the commencement of the Session of 1885.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Committee do consist of Twenty-one Members:—Mr. HERBERT GLADSTONE, Colonel KING-HARMAN, Mr. VILLIERS STUART, Mr. BRODRICK, Mr. ILLINGWORTH, Mr. ELTON, Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON, Sir HERVEY BRUCE," put, and agreed to.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I rise to a point of Order. Is it competent for us to go into the names of the Committee, when they have only been brought before us to-day?
§ Motion made, and Question, "That Mr. SHAW, Mr. BERESFORD, Mr. THOMAS DICKSON, Mr. MACNAGHTEN, Mr. GREER, Mr. HEALY, Mr. PARNELL, Mr. SEXTON, Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR, Mr. GRAY, Lord ARTHUR HILL, Mr. CHEETHAM, and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, be added," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That there be power to send for persons, papers, and records; Seven to be the quorum," put, and agreed to.
§ House adjourned at half after One o'clock till Monday next.